Kaname gave up.

It had been a valiant effort, something the ancient Greeks or Scandinavians could have written about in their epics.

She knew when to bow her head and admit when she was defeated. She had tried. She really had. There was no way she could pay attention in class.

'I forgive you, Kaname Chidori.'

Remembering those words made her sigh.

She was free. Free of the terrible chains of guilt. They had wrapped themselves tightly around her, link by link, without even knowing they were there. When she finally realized what she had done, there was little hope of release. With those five words, Sousuke had won her heart. Once and for ever.

'Yes, Kaname,' he had said. 'And yes.'

Deep in his heart, he wanted to be with her. He had feelings for her. He couldn't deny it, not even to himself. But, he had hinted at more. As much as he might wall him off from his feelings and desires, they still existed.

He didn't want those other girls. He wanted her. Kaname Chidori. She mattered. She wasn't just some kind of prize or trophy.

'Didn't I tell you that when you were with me, I could do anything?'

Those words gave her hope. With her help, he might be able to break free of his own chains. She wanted that more than anything, even if she had to pull apart the chain by hand, one link at a time. It wouldn't be easy.She remembered how shy he had been in high school. He was so naïve… so clueless. How could she bring him close to her without frightening him away?

'When I'm with you, I feel like I can do anything. Catch a big one in a little bit of time, or escape a lethal situation.'

Kaname smiled. Sousuke's own words from a distant day offered a interesting perspective. They had been fishing together at the time. They had caught a big fish. Together. While she might not be an avid fisherwoman, she remembered what Sousuke had told her, as if it were yesterday.

No, she didn't recall what a drag system was or how it worked. She had no idea what pound test meant, or what kind of line to use for various fish. She didn't know the various different equipment needed for inshore, off shore, and bottom fishing. But, she remembered the basics. It would be somewhat apropos if any of the hints she remembered helped her land Sousuke.

TYING THE FISHERMAN'S KNOT

'Remember to use a slip-proof fisherman's knot.'

Yes, if she managed to set her hook in Sousuke, she didn't want to have him slip off of her line. This wasn't going to be some half-hearted attempt or a short-lived flirtation. While it was silly too think too far ahead, but Kaname had an undeniable feeling. She was going after the only fish that mattered for her. Now, and maybe forever.

HOW TO BAIT A HOOK

'The tricky part of baiting a hook is getting the worm to stay on.'

Well, before she worried about that, she needed to settle on the bait to use. That wouldn't require much thought. He was a guy. She had what she needed to attract his attention. It wouldn't be falling off of the hook any time soon.

Kaname blushed. It was easy to sound so brazen. She hadn't really had much opportunity to practice the softer arts, despite all of the dates that she had been on.

HOW TO CAST

'Everyone casts a bit differently, so don't be too concerned about form. An over-the-shoulder cast is traditional, but a sidearm cast keeps the swinging hook farther from the angler's face. The point of any cast is to get your bait where you want it.'

Mmmm Hmmmm That would be the first big challenge. She needed someway to bring Sousuke in close enough to see the lure, so she could get him to go after the bait. If she splashed her cast too violently, she might chase away her prey. A gentle touch and subtlety were required.

Ahhh. She had one thing in mind already. It was something simple that they could do together. It would be a way to grow accustomed to each other again, and start forming a common bond.

SAFETY

'If you're anywhere near deep or running water, wear life jackets.'

That was good advice, but Kaname wanted nothing to do with it. This might be her only real shot at Sousuke. She would throw caution to the wind. Protection was a different matter. If they ever got around to...

She would fantasize about that later.

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

'Ask other anglers or at the tackle shop where the best ponds and streams can be found near you.'

Uh uh. No. Not possible. What girls were there for her to talk to find about Sousuke's likes, dislikes, turn-ons, and turn-offs? Only those damn harpies, and she doubted that Sousuke gave them the time of day.

For all she knew, she might even be headed into virgin waters.

THINK LIKE A FISH

'How do fishermen find fish? By learning to think like one. Fish need food, but they also need protection from bigger fish. So in a typical site, try fishing where they can get both.'

Hmmmm. Having to learn to think like Sousuke? That was a frightening thought! But, seriously, if she was going to truly care for him, she would need to learn how he operated. She had ample experience with his conduct under fire. That was the professional Sousuke. She needed to grow to understand the personal Sousuke.

CATCHING YOUR FISH

Yes, the riskiest part, but also the most exciting. Half of the fun of fishing was being outside, near the water. The other half, of course, was catching the fish!

'Wait a moment for the fish to take the bait and hook into its mouth, then point the rod at the fish, reel in the slack and firmly pull your rod tip up to set the hook. Tug it again to make sure it caught. If so, reel in your fish.'

If Sousuke were foolish enough to take the bait, she would let instinct take over. When the time was right, she was certain she'd know what to do. She blushed again, thinking about Sousuke taking the bait into his mouth.

It wouldn't do to think about such things in class! At least, not too much...

'To reduce the risk of injury to a fish you plan to release, don't "play" the fish more than a couple of minutes...it can take a toll on the little creature'.

Too bad. Too damn bad. She was going to play with Sousuke as much as she could. Uh. Bad Kaname! Don't even think about 'little creature.'

REMOVING THE HOOK

Kaname didn't remember what Sousuke had said about that. It didn't matter, If she caught Sousuke, and he was the one for her, she had no intention of letting him go! Reality tried to sneak a word in edgewise, but she didn't want to hear it. Sure, he could be taken away from her again. That didn't mean he couldn't return. That didn't mean that he might not change his priorities in life.

The professor was still speaking. Kaname sighed. She looked down at her note pad, marveling at the doodles she had drawn. If this was high school, and the teacher confiscated her drawings...

Looking around, she made certain that no one else was looking at her work. It would probably be wise to destroy most if not all of the pictures. Then again, it might be fun to see what Sousuke thought of them some day.

When he was already firmly on the hook.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Kaname sat patiently in her chosen seat.

Her pocket book and school supplies were on the seat beside her, saving a space.

Sousuke should be arriving any moment now. At least, she hoped he would. She had his home phone number, but hadn't thought to ask for his cellular phone number, or give him hers. If he had run off on business, she wouldn't know until after class started.

By the time the room was almost full, she began to worry. But, she also saw something that had the potential to be fun. Sousuke's never tiring groupies were in this class. When they saw him sit down next to her, they would probably have an apoplectic fit! If that big idiot sat next to her...

He'd better! There was no reason to be shy or to keep anything a secret. They were college students, not high school kids. Kaname smiled. It was amusing to think what things might have been like if they had started dating in high school. She would probably have insisted that they keep things low key. But, there was no sense thinking about things that never were. She had something she wanted in the here and now.

Sousuke ran in, just as the professor was closing the door. He stood surveying the room. When he caught sight of Kaname, he smiled and waved. Kaname felt her heart start racing again.

Eyes only on him, she watched as he walked towards her. Wait! He veered to the left, heading right to where those girls were sitting. Kaname froze. Her eyes narrowed. If that idiot sat anywhere within five rows of those girls he would die. If he sat anywhere other than next to her, he would live a long and painful life.

Sousuke nodded his head politely to the clamoring young ladies, but didn't stop there. He took a book he had borrowed out of his handbag... gave it to a young man who had loaned it to him... and then traversed the row of seats until reaching the next stairwell. Moving ever so slowly, he made his way next to Kaname.

"You were in terrible danger, Sousuke." Kaname gave him a crooked smile.

"No, Kaname. I was in class last period." Sousuke took out his note book and writing utensils.

"That's not what I meant, Sousuke." Kaname looked over at the girls. Their reaction was everything she could have hoped for and more. Feeling rather impish, she leaned up against Sousuke and placed her hand on his arm. She hoped with all her might that Sousuke wouldn't object.

"Kaname?" Sousuke looked down at her hand, but didn't move or say anything.

"Never mind, Sousuke. You made up for it."

Sousuke had a quizzical look. That was fine with Kaname. There was nothing wrong with keeping him guessing. "So, did you miss me, Sousuke?" Kaname fluttered her eyelashes and put on her most winsome smile. Let's see how he reacts to that!There were more things than Calculus that she could take note of now.

"I was never aiming at you, Kaname." Sousuke took out a pencil sharpener and put it to use.

Kaname clenched her hands. Out of the corner of his eye, Sousuke took notice. Kaname noticed him take notice. He saw that too. "Never mind, Sousuke..." Kaname made herself sound sad and dejected.

"OK." Sousuke put the sharpener away and opened up a small package of replaceable pencil erasers.

Kaname bit her lip. Was Sousuke simply being clueless? Or, was he playing with her? "I see." Kaname was truly feeling a bit miffed.

"But I thought about you throughout class." Sousuke spoke very nonchalantly, as if discussing sports scores or the results of a minor international skirmish.

"Really!" Kaname cursed her response the moment it was done. She was the one who was fishing for him, but he had just hooked her big time. Idiot. Moron. Jerk. Same goes for him!

"What did you think about, Sousuke?" She couldn't help herself. She wanted to know.

The professor tapped his pointer against the podium, silencing the class.

"I will tell you after class," Sousuke said quietly.

Kaname almost bent her textbook cover in half. "Sousuke..."

"Shhhh..." Sousuke put his finger up on Kaname's lip.

Kaname was very tempted to bite him. Instead, she gave Sousuke's finger a lingering kiss. Sousuke swallowed hard, but didn't rush to move his finger away too quickly. The look on his face had been priceless. Kaname smiled. She gave Sousuke credit for trying, but he wasn't in her league. Her mischievous nature took over following that small victory. She knew she shouldn't do it, but she couldn't resist.

Reaching into her knapsack, she removed her notepad from the previous class. She flipped it open to one of her pages of doodles. Smiling, she placed it next to Sousuke's book.

Did he see it?

"Uh..." Sousuke's arm twitched. A number of small pink erasers bounced down the stairs.

He saw it.

No. He was definitely not in her league. That meant that he had catching up to do. When he was ready, she would give him some homework. There would be a final exam someday, and he had better be ready for it. Kaname would be a very strict grader.

As class went on, Kaname began to grow tired of mathematics. There was too much on her mind. Still, she needed to write down the problems that the teacher was solving. They were useful examples, and there was a chance that some of them would show up on the mid term exam.

The curve y ln(3x 1) has a tangent line of slope ½ at some point. Find that point.

Kaname worked to see if she could arrive at the answer before the professor did. Looking over at Sousuke's notebook, she wanted to see how he was doing. For someone who had not shown the greatest aptitude in high school, he turned out to be pretty sharp. She wondered what the story behind that was. For a moment, she pictured him being tutored by Tessa. Then, she pictured him being tutored by Tessa in panties.

"Sousuke..." She whispered to herself.

"Kaname?" He held his finger up again. This time Kaname ignored it. He paid no attention to her glare.

Shaking away her unwanted visions, Kaname looked at what Sousuke was writing. It wasn't calculus:

Tritium. Chemical twin of hydrogen. Scarce worldwide supplies. Research sources and production trends.

What was that crazy otaku up to nowShe couldn't spend too much time pondering. The teacher was moving on to the next problem.

For each positive number a, let V(a) denote the maximum value of (a/x) to the xth power on the interval where x 0. Find the an explicit formula for V(a) and prove that V'(a)/V(a) is independent of a and find its value.

That big idiot wasn't copying that down. Just what did he think he was doing? Hmmmm. Was he thinking that because she was his girlfriend now, that she could do all the work and he would just waltz in and copy it later? Oooooooooh. If he tried that...

Her curiosity getting the better of her again, Kaname looked down at Sousuke's paper.

Thermal Cycling Absorption Process inefficient. Separation factors of 10 compared to expected separation factors of 500. Japanese cold fusion experiments show that it is possible to create tritium as well as enriched uranium able to be substituted for plutonium.

Cold fusion experiments?

He was jotting down his thoughts about his mission, no doubt. That made Kaname feel a burning need to know just what his assignment was. Would he tell her?She'd give him her class notes if he did.

Dammit girl! Stop sounding so needy...

Suppose that the function f(x) is defined on an interval (a,b) where a 3 b. Express f'(3) as a limit.

Uh oh. She needed to stay focused. She scribbled down what the professor wrote, her mind too addled now to think through the problem by herself.

Would Sousuke share his secrets with her? It was a nagging question. Back when she was under the protection of Mithril, he told her a lot of things about the organization that weren't of the highest secrecy. He trusted her implicitly before. How about now? Would things be any different? Worse? Better? She smiled. It was never good to keep secrets in a relationship.

Leaning against Sousuke again, she read some more.

The same tabletop devices under development that may someday fulfill man's desire for creating abundant cheap energy could serve as a source for home-made H-bombs in the hands of terrorists?

Kaname swallowed hard. She had gotten so used to Sousuke in the past, that she sometimes took his job for granted. That last note he had jotted down made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. He was someone of great importance in his own way. Who other than her knew that, here?

It made her feel giddy for a moment. She had already started thinking of him as her boyfriend. She had a boyfriend important in world events! But, that was not necessarily a good thing for her. It meant he would frequently be at risk. Hew could be called away to a higher priority mission with short notice. The responsibility on his broad but young shoulders was tremendous. Kaname's heart swelled up with pride and compassion. If Sousuke could make the effort that he did, she could make an effort to improve his life and help him in any way she could.

We all serve in our own way.

She smiled warmly. It was simply amazing how different she felt after running across a certain young soldier again. A lot could happen, good and bad. But, she would be ready for anything as long as Sousuke was nearby, or she knew he would be coming back from wherever he went.

Sousuke, when I'm with you, I feel like I can do anything.

Find numbers A and B such that the derivative of Ae to -3x cos x Be to -3x sin x with respect to x is e to -3x cos x.

Damn. She hadn't gotten that one down yet. The teacher was already in the middle of another one.

A stalagmite has the shape of a perfect circular cone. Its height is 200mm and is increasing at a rate of 3mm per century. Its base radius is 40mm and is decreasing at a rate of 0.5mm per century. Is its volume increasing or decreasing, and at what rate.

Kaname wrote furiously, streaking her paper with chicken scratch in an effort to get everything down in time. Her wrist hurt. She ran out of ink.Noisily, she began pulling things out of her knapsack. She had brought only one pen. Wonderful! She turned to Sousuke. Without looking, he handed her a pencil.

Kaname blinked rapidly. How had he known? He had been busy writing his own thoughts down! "Thank you, Sousuke." Kaname took the pencil.

"Shhhhh..." Sousuke said, smiling.

Finishing the one problem, Kaname scowled and drew a gravestone on her paper, containing the words 'R.I.P. Sousuke.' Her scowl soon turned to a grin, though. When she had needed something, he was there to help her. She could do the same thing for him. Yes, he needed Kaname Chidori. And in a stroke of good fortune, he could have her. They had made a pretty good team onceShe hoped they could again.

Wordlessly, she reached over and squeezed Sousuke's hand.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Kaname couldn't believe it.

Sousuke was in her kitchen again. It had been so long since the last time.

She thought back to her old apartment with some nostalgia. This new one was not as nice, but was in a convenient location. The kitchen was larger, but she hadn't maintained her enthusiasm for cooking, despite all of the new gadgets and utensils she had bought when she moved in.

There was a reason to be enthusiastic again. He was standing just ten feet from her, methodically emptying the grocery bags they had both carried home form the market.

Kaname watched Sousuke, again. She was doing that a lot today. He was really there. It was not a dream. The two of them had finished their day at school, and then took a pleasant stroll over to the shops just off campus. They had held hands. For Kaname, it almost felt as if they had been going out together since high school, even though it had been less than one day.

She was still somewhat on edge, though. Part of her kept waiting for his cellular phone to ring. It was a feeling she would need to get over, ignore, or get used to.

After her last class, he had been waiting for her as he had promised. He was still somewhat quiet, but opened up to her more and more as time went on. Kaname smiled, looking at some cut flowers he had bought her while they were out. Some of the buds were closed or just in the process of opening. Looking at Sousuke, she smiled, thinking he was a lot like that himself.

"So am I," she whispered to herself.

"Kaname, I have removed all of the purchased items. I have sorted them into their common categories. Is there more you need of me?" Sousuke looked around the cooking area, familiarizing himself with the new surroundings.

No doubt he's looking for defensible positions and judging the level of threat inherent in the rooms one window. You can take the otaku out of the battlefield, but you can't take the battlefield out of the otaku.

"Yes, Sousuke. But we'll take about that later. Right now, we have some cooking to do." Kaname chuckled when she saw Sousuke's face. He was adorable when he was caught off guard like that.

"Cooking. Kaname? We?" Sousuke tilted his head some, looking at the tabletop full of various food items. "I am not proficient at that. Is there a manual?"

"Sous-kaayyy... everything doesn't have an instruction booklet, you know." Kaname walked over and bumped against him. Smiling up at him, she purred "I don't have a manual. You're just going to have to learn from experience." Giving him one last bump with her hip, she started unwrapping some of the items they would need.

"Uhhh... I will serve as your guard then… as you proceed with the mission." Sousuke was acting like a fish out of water. Kaname grinned, thinking that. But, there wouldn't be much fun in fishing if the fish simply jumped up onto the shore.

"I don't need guarding, Sousuke. I need help. You're going to cook with me. It's something we can do together. It's something I can teach you." Kaname took out a number of recipe cards from a drawer and placed them on the counter.

"But... what..." Sousuke looked skeptical.

"Sousuke! There are things in life that do not require bullets... a pin to pull... fuses... or an A.S. suit..." Kaname walked over and took him by the hand. She led him over to the counter. "But, if you're very nice, I will let you use a knife. Don't you want to do this with me?"

"It... uhhh... I..." Sousuke tried to get his thoughts out. "Food has always been a practicality." He ran his hand through his hair. "And I may not be any good at this. I do not wish to ruin your meal."

"Mmmmm Hmmmm. Let me tell you something, right now! Practicality is all well and good in its place. It's an important thing, but not the only thing. I'm not always going to be practical, and you better get used to that mister..." She kissed Sousuke briefly on the cheek. "Was that practical?"

"Uhhh... no..." Sousuke looked somewhat shocked, but not displeased. He touched his cheek with a couple of fingers.

"Was it good, though?" Kaname had asked a simple question. Why did the answer suddenly very important.

Sousuke looked away for a moment. "I... yes."

"See. You're learning already. And no matter what happens, you won't ruin the meal." The look she gave Sousuke had his eyes wide and wondering. She caressed his cheek ever so softly before continuing. "Tonight, this is more about cooking than eating. I would like to cook for you when I can, Sousuke. It's a gift that I can give you. This is something we can do together. That's a gift you can give me."

"I see." Sousuke was obviously wrestling with a whole new perspective. Kaname wasn't surprised, knowing what she did about his past. "I think..." He looked down at his feet for a moment, and then met Kaname's eyes. "I think I would like that."

Kaname's heart felt like it had swollen to twice its normal size. The look on her face had Sousuke staring unabashedly, wondering at her sudden transformation. "Thank you," she said in a quiet voice. She swallowed and began to tear up.

It wasn't just that it was Sousuke, someone who she had shared many difficult and wonderful times with in the past. He was still a guy, and he was a guy who saw her for who she was, not for what he wanted. Who else had ever given her that?

"It is not a problem," Sousuke said. His face looked open and a little uncertain. Kaname wondered what he was thinking.

Acting on impulse, Kaname walked over and wrapped her arms around Sousuke slowly. He flinched ever so slightly, but relaxed. Kaname could feel the tension flow out of him, until she pressed her body against him. Eyes closed, she tightened her arms, taking a deep breath of Sousuke's scent, soothed by the combination of his cologne and natural odor. She felt that she could stand like that forever. Letting go and stepping back, Kaname looked up at Sousuke and smiled. She gave him another kiss on the cheek and walked over to a bag that she had carried home. She took out an apron and tossed it to Sousuke. Walking to a hook on the wall, she took down a similar garment for herself. Opening a drawer, she took out a small flash camera.

"Kaname? An apron? I should wear this?" Sousuke held the apron, taking note of its structure and the location of various strings.

"Of course, you big idiot. All other clothing is optional." Kaname grinned. "Seriously, Sousuke. It will protect your clothing. And, it's OK for a guy to wear an apron. At least when he cooks." Kaname had an impish gleam in her eye. "It does have a lot of pockets, though. Think it might prove useful in battle?"

"Kaname!" Sousuke looked affronted for a moment. Then there was a calculating look in his eyes. He began examining the depth and location of the pockets.

"Don't you even dare think about it!" Kaname stamped her foot. She fought the impulse to run over and hug him again. They were bonding alright; but, she did want to get some cooking done.

When Sousuke had the apron on, he was startled briefly by a bright flash. He saw that Kaname had a camera in her hand. "Kaname?"

"It's for my scrapbook, Sousuke. Get used to it. You're going to be in a lot of pictures, I think." She held the camera up and started moving it back and forth, a nasty grin on her face. "And, it might prove useful for blackmail some day. I wonder what Melissa and Kurz might think about that picture." Kaname licked her lips and put the camera away. "That Mardukas guy would probably get a kick out of it too, don't you think?"

Sousuke stiffened up. It had Kaname laughing so loud that she covered her mouth in embarrassment. "So, don't let me down here tonight, soldier!" Kaname tossed her hair and picked up a packet of fish. She saw Sousuke smile, looking somewhat sheepish.

Kaname began arranging things the way she needed them. Sousuke was bewildered by a panorama of gadgets, appliances and tools piled on shelves, jammed into drawers, and hanging from hooks. He was surprised to find that nearly half of the unsightly clutter was devoted to making food appear more attractive; the remainder was meant to make food preparation more convenient.

As she worked, Kaname explained to Sousuke that the people of his homeland savor beautifully arranged food. "When I was very young, and when my sister was too, my mother would serve us snowy rice porridge dotted with bright, confetti-like flecks of carrot, chopped spinach, and jet-black hijiki." She put down a stirring spoon she had been holding, and sighed. "When I was older, she made me boxed bento lunches to take to school, making the cutest omusubi... she shaped stuffed rice "sandwiches" into cars, trains, rabbits, and pandas." She looked over at Sousuke, shyly. "I hope that I have children some day, so I can do the same thing for them."

Sousuke looked at Kaname's face and posture, seeing something new about her again. The sound of her voice was compelling---it seemed as if her soul was there. Blinking rapidly for a moment, he looked down at his shoes, not certain why he did such a thing.

"You see Sousuke, I told you that everything isn't practical." She explained the purpose of a dizzying array of utensils and other items: rice molds and razor-sharp vegetable cutters help that could help fashion food into decorative shapes; fancy foil cups and green plastic leaves help separate foods from one another; miniature screw-capped containers, enabling a cook to pack soy sauce or salad dressing in their children's lunches. That, and other items. She placed them aside, saying they would simply concentrate on the basics of cooking.

Kaname felt so open, so happy, just explaining things to Sousuke. "Deep-fried foods are a favorite lunchbox item for me," Kaname admitted as she sorted through the ingredients she would need for tempura. "Disposing of the cooking oil, though, can be a problem." Kaname looked over at Sousuke, to see whether or not he seemed bored or distracted.

He didn't.

"I see. There is a similar conundrum associated with the oil used in older model Arm Slaves, as well as spent hydraulic fluids and other toxic substances." Sousuke was nodding his head, a serious look on his face.

Kaname clenched her teeth. In the past, she would have smacked Sousuke over the head with her halisen and told him to stop being such an obsessive military freak. She relaxed and smiled. Sousuke was sharing his knowledge with her. It meant that he was paying attention to what she was saying.

"That's good to know, Sousuke. Pouring oil down kitchen drains invites plumbing problems and pollutes waterways; we can try soaking it up with paper towels, but that's really messy, expensive, and produces bulky waste that isn't fun to store in cramped kitchens... especially seeing how infrequent the garbage pick-ups are" Kaname thought back to the house she and her family lived in while they were in America. She wished she had that kind of space here.

"I assume that high temperature incinerators would be impractical in this living environment" Sousuke put in. "I would also presume that sophisticated recycling facilities would also be out of the question."

"Yes, Sousuke." Kaname smiled. What other boy would talk like that? Sousuke was certainly unique. That was OK with her. "Katameru tenpuru, a pulp powder that solidifies hot oil, and suwaseru tenpuru, a sponge-like pulp block that soaks up cooled-off oil, are items that are readily available to anyone going to modern stores."

"Thank you, Kaname. That is useful information. Your knowledge is remarkable. I am very impressed." Sousuke's comment had Kaname blushing. "Is it wrong for me to comment on practical things?"

"No, Sousuke. Not as long as you do it at the same time you are telling me that I'm remarkable. Do you really think that?"

"Affirmative."

"I see. How am I remarkable, Sousuke?" Kaname couldn't believe her good fortune. Sousuke would already be sharing some of his feelings with her.

"You were very brave and self-controlled under fire, Kaname. In the past, as well as recently." Sousuke kept his face rigid, but his eyes gave him away.

"Hmmm. I hope you remain the same way yourself, Sousuke." Kaname picked up a chopping knife and brought it down hard, trying to keep a smile off of her face. "Your mission tonight is getting more difficult by the minute."

"It is not a problem," Sousuke said. "You are also very efficient and well-ordered. Shopping went well, without casualties or loss of assets."

"I see..." Kaname picked up the knife. "Funny you should mention loss of assets, Sousuke..." Sousuke gulped, even though he was pretty certain Kaname was playing along. "Anything else?" Her eyes narrowed when she asked that.

"Uhhh... punctual. You are very punctual. Except for your first class this morning. Punctual and dedicated." Sousuke still managed to keep a straiught face. He looked at Kaname out of the corner of his eye.

"Wonderful. Just what a girl wants to hear. I hope you didn't say these things to your harem, Sousuke. I want them to be special just for me." Kaname was enjoying the game. Sousuke had certainly matured some, even though he lagged behind most other guys in many areas.

"They were not and punctual as you, Kaname." Sousuke grinned. He couldn't help himself. "They also did not have your ability to persevere through pain and discomfort."

"Great. I'm glad that you mentioned pain and discomfort." She picked up a meat mallet. "Get to the point, Sousuke."

"Ummm... Kaname?"

"How do I really seem to you?" Kaname's face made her look expectant and yearning. Sousuke swallowed.

"Beautiful, Kaname. More beautiful than before." Sousuke looked away.

"Oh. Thank you, Sousuke. You know, you can get away with just about anything when you tell me that." Kaname's eyes were wide. Her face was lit up with a huge grin. "How am I more beautiful than before? In the ways that I've... matured?" Hmmmpppfff! He didn't think I'd forget about that one, did he?

"Yes, Kaname." Sousuke was turning slightly red. His eyes darted to Kaname, and then quickly looked away.

"It's OK to look, Sousuke." Kaname struck just the pose she wanted. Sousuke's eyes grew larger. "Other things are permitted, too."

That ought to do it!

"Uhhh..."

Bingo!

"So, you were going to tell me how I matured, Souske. Now's a very good time." Kaname wanted to shout 'Yes!' This was all so much fun.

"Well... you..." Sousuke was actually beginning to sweat.

"Sousuke..."

"That is to say, that your..." He was sweating heavily.

"Sousuke!"

"You have no doubt noted yourself..." He looked at the window, as if considering it an escape route.

"SOUSUKE!"

"You have learned to control your anger and violent outbursts, Kaname!" Sousuke let out a sigh of relief. He found an answer that would delay things, and remind both her that he was indeed a Specialist.

Kaname's mouth fell open. She dropped the utensils and put her hands on her hips. Then, slowly she smiled. "Touche." She was not about to let him have a service ace. It was time to return serve. A forehand winner ought to suffice. "If you're having difficulty describing things, Sousuke. Let me show you a few things one by one... you can tell me if they're what you were talking about..." She purposefully knocked the spoon onto the floor and bent over to pick it up,facing away from him.

She took her sweet time.

"Uhhh..."

"See something that loosened your tongue, Sousuke?" Kaname felt wonderfully sinful at that moment.

"Negative... things have tightened up..."

Sousuke's answer had Kaname jerking forward, banging her had hard on the cabinetry. "Owwww..." She turned around and looked at Sousuke, facing him while rubbing her forehead. "Do you need some more encouragement, Sousuke?" She kicked the spoon over in front of her and bent over again.

"Ummmm... I remember, Kaname.

"I thought you would." Kaname wished she had the camera again. Sousuke's face was a study in emotions. There was unmistakable interest there. That was all she really wanted to see. "And?"

Sousuke straightened him self up. He had decided that he needed to be as bold as he could now, just as he made it a point to seize the initiative on the battlefield. It was a time for him to learn as well. There was much to find out about himself and his own feelings, not to mention Kaname and women in general.

An idea came to him."Your breasts have grown larger, Kaname. They are larger and more pleasantly rounded." He swallowed hard, but felt somehow satisfied when he saw the look on Kaname's face. "I believe they would serve as adequate flotation devices, were you to be adrift at sea. A standard inflatable life preserver or raft would be better, however."

Kaname's eyes went from dreamy to unbelieving.

"Your posterior also has a much more pleasing contour than before." Sousuke felt more in control now. He could learn this game. "It is larger too, but exercise should take care of that problem."

"Oooh!" Kaname didn't know whether to smile or kick Sousuke in the shin. It was wonderful seeing him tease her like this, but she had been hoping for something a little different.

"I should also comment on your legs. They are very attractive." Sousuke swallowed again, looking. "They are sufficiently muscled, and better suited for prolonged marching, compared to the legs of those other girls. I believe that they have nice legs too." He braced him self literally and figuratively.

Kaname was under control. She smirked. She still had the ace up her sleeve.

"Thank you for those helpful observations, Sousuke. I will remember the parts that I like. If you are very lucky some day, you just might have a chance to handle the parts that you like." She bent over again. "It is by no means a sure thing any more."

"Uhhh..." Sousuke stood with his mouth open and his eyes looking startled.

"Now, if you're done flirting, we should get back to cooking..."