Kaname stayed with a group of her friends overnight.

She was still frightened. Everything began to sink in as the drugs wore off. She couldn't help but think what could have happened. No. What would have happened.

If it hadn't been for Sousuke.

For a while there, she wondered if she would ever truly be safe again. She remembered what Sousuke had said. 'You should be safe from those boys in the future. I doubt they will act that way again.' Maybe so. But how could she be sure that the next guy she went out with might not do something similar? How!

Each of her friends took times talking with her, trying to make her feel better. They suggested that she see someone on the University staff that dealt with such matters, but couldn't convince her to do so.

'They did not have opportunity to harm you, Kaname',her rescuer had said. Kaname thought back to the past. There had been many times when Sousuke had stood by her and kept her safe. There had also been numerous instances when they had been separated and he had come to rescue her.

One part of her mind clamored for attention.

Why didn't she just admit to herself how she felt about him? Why didn't she let herself go? Life's a journey, not a destination, right? Shouldn't she take a chance... put her heart at risk... in hopes that she could find something special, no matter how long it lasted?

Another part of her mind didn't want to listen.

She had opened up before. Unknowingly, she had begun to take down the walls around her heart for that clueless otaku. Look what happened t because of that! There was no way she could forget how she felt when Sousuke told her he would be going away.

He could have made a stand for her, right? Of course not!Who was she trying to fool? She had never professed her feelings. Even if she had been able to do so, what would that mindless military marionette have done? What other life did he have?

What else did he know?

If they said 'Sit Sousuke,' he would sit. If they said 'Jump Sergeant,' he would say 'Not a problem.' 'If they said 'Run to your death Soldier,' he would run. If they said 'Leave the girl now,' he would say 'Goodbye Kaname.'

Didn't he say it himself? 'You are responsible for your own safety.' She couldn't always be looking for Sousuke to save her. She needed to find the strength within herself. She needed something that she could always depend on.

But, that was not the only issue. It was not just about having someone around to save her. She thought about that night in that park. She had put her hand out and touched Sousuke, needing to know there was someone familiar nearby. She remembered how she felt when he was there.

He had sounded self-satisfied when he spoke about the way he had punished her would be attackers. Did that mean he cared about her? Yes. He must. 'They should not have tried to harm you,' he had said in a near whisper. What more evidence did she need?

Kaname smiled briefly. That big idiot. He had avoided her questions after she had tried to pin him down. 'You have matured admirably in other ways too,' he had said. Was he talking about the way she looked, the way she had filled out? Did he notice those things now?

Her smile vanished. If he did take notice of womanly attributes, then he might well take way too much notice of that group of harpies that flew around him. If that big jerk was happy having a harem...

"Damn you Souske."

"Kaname? Did you say something?" One of her friends walked over to check on her.

"No. Thanks. I'm OK. I was just thinking out loud."

She shouldn't let her thoughts run too far ahead of her. Sousuke had been out of her life for three years. Who knows what might have happened. There was no way for her to know who he might have in his life.

Unless she asked him.

"Sure!" Kaname blushed when her friends looked over at her. She had out loud again.

Sure. She could ask Sousuke about his personal life. Who knows, he might even deem to answer her. But was there really a good to care about such things? When she came out of the Ladies Room at the hospital, he had been gone. Wasn't that a clear indication that he didn't have the types of feelings for her that she might want?

Probably!

Unless it meant that he had those kinds of feelings, but was afraid that she didn't.

Oh...

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What a difference a good sleep makes.

Sleep, and a burning question.

Kaname wanted to know how Sousuke might feel about her. No. She needed to know. One way or the other. As soon as possible.She couldn't possibly have any lasting peace until she found out.

Why did she feel so good, then? She had a goal! All she needed was the right opportunity. What should she do, though? She could simply walk up to him, tell him that she had really cared about him back in high school, and admit that she wanted to know if he had any feelings left for her.

Right! That would probably work with just about every guy alive. That automatically made the plan suspect when it came to Sousuke. Didn't it?

First, she needed to corner him some how. That might prove difficult. She was dealing with a Specialist. She would check the registrar and see if they would give out his address and telephone number. That would be simple enough.

It might also be possible to find out what classes he had. If the school officials wouldn't give out that kind of information, she could simply follow him at a distance. She could afford to arrive late at a class or two, if she learned something.

Once she knew what classes he was taking and when, she could place herself at strategic locations. Sooner or later, she would get him to talk with her. She was sure of it.

She could think of this as a game. A competition. A challenge.

Kaname Chidori hates to lose.

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No matter where Kaname looked, she couldn't find Sousuke.

That did not mean that everybody else couldn't find her. A fair number of girls came up to her and wished her well. They had heard what she had gone through. Many of them had carried around fear of just that type of event. . For others, it was a real eye opener.

Some of the well-wishers wanted to know who her rescuer was, not having heard any word of his identity. Kaname told them that his name had to be kept confidential for legal purposes. It wasn't true. She scolded herself for the illogical stabs of jealousy that she felt.

She didn't have any reason to feel that way.

One girl told the others that they should keep trying to finds out who the hero was. "That kind of guy should be on everyone's wish list. I know he's on mine!" Kaname had to fight the urge to strangle that tart!

Not everybody was kind or concerned. A number of boys from various sports teams had made it a point to glare at her or mutter angrily when ever she passed them by. It had Kaname feeling uncomfortable, wondering if she had to fear some kind of retribution in the future.

That understandable fear gave way to anger. She had been the one who had come close to being violated, but those jerks looked at her as if she were the source of the problem. That group loyalty and guy stuff was asinine!

A few boys went so far as to voice their displeasure. "Good job. Thanks to you, we won't have much of a chance in the regionals this year. You shouldn't have gone out with them if you didn't know the score. Now a bunch of good guys are in trouble with the law." That guy's buddies all nodded their heads.

Kaname saw red. "They wouldn't have any trouble with the law if they weren't guilty!You pathetic losers can't stand up on your own and speak up for what is right, can you? With that kind of attitude, I hope that every girl on this campus should stay a mile or more away from each of you." He put her hands on her hips, focusing on the boy who spoke up. "No doubt your mother would be really proud. Why don't you give her a call and tell her what you just said!"

The girls who overheard her called out encouragement. The looks that they turned on that small group of guys was unmistakable. The boys' names were passed amongst the women at the university. The word would spread.

"I wouldn't look to cause any more trouble if I were you," one boy said. "Your name is tops on a lot of shit lists now!"

"I didn't cause any trouble." Kaname practically bit off each word. "I simply went out on date with someone who asked me out." Kaname's anger triggered her mischievous side. "Besides, the real thanks goes to the guy who had the courage stand up for what was right. I doubt his attitude is going to change any. It sounds like those jerks wouldn't have been able to play again this year, even if the charges were overturned. He took them down pretty hard." She grinned. "Want to meet him?"

The guys made it a point to walk away after that. Even after they were gone, it took a while for Kaname to cool back down. Sitting on a concrete fence with a group of girls, sipping fruit juice, she thought about Sousuke.

She definitely needed to find some way to thank him.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

It was time for class.

Since Sousuke was in the other Biology course she had, his block of classes might have this one as well. She would choose her seating based on its value as a vantage point.

"This ought to do just fine," she said to herself, taking off her coat and arranging her books and note paper. When the class began, Kaname was disappointed. Seat by seat, person by person, she looked over each individual in the class. No Sousuke.

Those damn girls were there, but no otaku.

The teacher had begun to draw a diagram of the plasma membrane of a pancreatic cell on the chalk board. At that moment, Sousuke ran in, a large bag over his shoulder. Kaname immediately perked up, happy to see him.

The bag was rather large for a book bag. Were there weapons in there? She smiled. It would be fun to spill open that bag in front of the teacher.Not that she would ever do such a thing.

She forced herself to pay attention.

"Ahhhh.Mr. Sagara. The only one who wasn't present for roll-call. Why don't you find a seat, place you belongings there, and join me at the blackboard." The teacher pushed her glasses up on her nose.

Kaname swallowed. That woman looked too much like Cmdr. Mardukas for her liking. Given Sousuke's sudden twitchiness, Kaname figured that he might have made a similar connection himself. Good! He deserved to sweat some.

"Affirmative, mam!" Sousuke's response had the teacher scowling and the class chuckling.

"Here, Sousuke." One girl waved and pointed at a seat near her. "No, I saved you a spot next to me." Another girl held up a lunch bag. Kaname growled. Dirty pool! "Sous-kayyyyyy..." A third girl had unbuttoned her top button. Kaname would remember that slut.

For a moment, Kaname had to fight the urge to call out herself.

"Teacher!" Sousuke walked up front, and then snapped to attention.

The teacher just shook her head, wondering if the young man was making fun of her, or was just unbelievably polite. "Have you done the assigned reading, young man? It was listed on the board along with the books needed for this class."

"I have, mam. What is my mission?" Sousuke cringed slightly. "What is it that you would like me to do?"

Kaname took notice. Sure, he had done the military thing again, but he had actually caught himself. What did that mean?Again, she found herself obsessed with the desire to learn how he had changed.

"I would like you to take over the drawing of that cell. To speed things along, you may choose a partner from the other students, someone you think you can work well with. As you each add a structure, I expect you to explain its function to the rest of the class."

Sousuke began looking around the room. Kaname started blushing. Sousuke would no doubt choose her. They had been a very good team once upon a time. It might also give her a way to latch onto him as a result!

Methodically, Sousuke scanned the room. For a few moments, he had been looking directly at her. "You may select my partner, teacher." Sousuke walked over and picked up a piece of chalk. The girls who had been hounding him all started waving to the teacher. Much to their displeasure, a pimply-faced young man from the front row was selected.

"The back-bone of an animal cell membrane consists of two layers of phospholipid molecules with the hydrophobic arms of the molecule making up the interior of the membrane and the hydrophilic heads making up the two exterior surfaces of the membrane." Sousuke drew as he spoke.

"Backbone? I doubt he even has one." Kaname groused loud enough for one of the guys in front of her to change seats. "And if he does, I should snap it like a twig." A pair of girls moved as well.

That big jerk should have chosen her!Calm down, Kaname. View it as a challenge. Remember?

"Transport proteins allow for the passage of compounds into and out of the cell, while receptor proteins serve as communication devices for the cell." the other boy added the necessary structures.

"I knew that," Kaname muttered.

"Passive transport proteins transport small molecules or ions that do not require energy to enter the cell, but can not pass through the phospholipid bilayer. Passive transport of water, oxygen, and CO2 across the cell membrane, depends on the concentrations of these materials on either side of the membrane." Sousuke drew a number of arrows. "Movement is from a higher concentration to a lower concentration. Passive movement may be through the phospholipid bilayer for fat-soluble molecules or through protein molecules for others."

"There is such a thing as being too passive," Kaname said. If Sousuke still cared for her, he should be man enough to say something. "Damn you, Sousuke." Kaname spoke too loudly that time. A few other people changed their seats. One went clear across the classroom. That had the teacher frowning, wondering just what was going on.

"Active transport proteins facilitate the movement of large molecules or charged ions across membranes against a concentration gradient ... from an area of low concentration to an area of high concentration. This type of transport protein requires energy in the form of ATP. Active transport of larger molecules or charged ions moving against a concentration gradient requires the expenditure of energy in the form of ATP in conjunction with special membrane proteins." The other student sketched the necessary directional indicators.

"Looks like I may have to work against a Sousuke gradient. It is not a problem. I have plenty of energy." Kaname scowled. Kaname used to feel a certain thrill when she was given a new task by the President of the Jindai Student Council. She began to feel a little like that now.

"Hormone receptor proteins have specific shapes and chemical properties that allow them to bind to specific types of hormone molecules in the environment of the cell. Receptor proteins in the outer cell membrane interact with molecules outside the cell. Receptor proteins in the interior membranes of the cell interact with molecules already in the cell." Sousuke spoke confidently.

"Uh huh. Hormone receptors. Do we even know if you have such things, Sergeant?" Kaname smiled. It certainly might be fun to find out.

"That's very good, you two. Young man, you may take your seat now." The teacher sent the other boy to his seat. She looked at Sousuke favorably. "Perhaps we may make a teacher out of you young man. No doubt your talents lie in that direction."

Kaname began coughing. She had come close to choking after hearing that.

"It seems I have located your next helper. Do you need a glass of water... Miss Chidori, was it?" The teacher waved her hand over towards a water cooler. "Why don't you join Mr. Sagara for the next part of today's lesson…"

As Kaname walked down the stairs, she noticed the black look those girls were giving her. She smiled in return, lifting her nose in the air.

Too bad, ladies!

Not paying attention, Kaname tripped over an umbrella someone had left in the aisle. She started to fall. She never hit the floor. Sousuke had moved ever so swiftly, catching her. Kaname's instincts took over. She whispered. "You're my hero."

Sousuke dropped her.

"My apologies, Miss Chidori." Sousuke looked away from her. The entire class was laughing loudly. The girls were applauding.

"Don't... mention... it..." Kaname had acted out of instinct again.

Damn! Sousuke's face had hardened considerably.

"Cholecystokinin is a human protein that is secreted by the cells of your small intestine, when there are undigested food compounds passed on from your stomach." The teacher flipped a switch, turning on a digital projector. A finely detailed artist's rendition of a pancreatic cell was shown on a large screen.

Sousuke stared up at the image. Kaname stared at him.

"The cholecystokinin is secreted from cells in your small intestine into your bloodstream and finds its way to the surface of cells in your pancreas. There it acts as a hormone that combines with cholecystokinin hormone receptor proteins on the surface of the pancreas cells and signals your pancreas to secrete more digestive enzymes into your small intestine." The teacher used a laser pointer to highlight significant cellular structures. "Mr. Sagara... Miss Chidori... I would like you to describe and diagram the production and secretion of the cholecystokinin protein by the cells of your small intestine." The teacher stepped aside.

Kaname stepped up and took the lead, pulling the chalk out of Sousuke's grasp, letting her hand rest on his for a brief moment.

"DNA containing the information for the production of cholecystokinin... which I will call CCK... is stored in the nucleus of all cells of your body. As a reaction to the presence of food transferred to the small intestine from your stomach, the cells lining your small intestine initiate the transcription of the information of CCK DNA...or gene... to produce messenger RNA." She had said that in a very loud voice.

In a voice that only Sousuke could hear, she added "I want to thank you for saving me the other night, Sousuke. You really are my hero."

That ought to be an effective peace offering, and let him know that she was grateful for him.

"The mRNA then travels out of the nucleus into the cytoplasm, where the mRNA information is translated to form raw CCK protein on a ribosome which becomes attached to the rough endoplasmic reticulum." Sousuke adeptly picked up the discussion and carried it further. "The mRNA instructs the ribosome to put together the proper sequence of amino acids to produce the initial CCK protein."

He replied quietly to Kaname's remark. "You do not need to thank me for doing the right thing, Kaname. I would not wish to see any woman suffer in that fashion."

Kaname almost bit her tongue. That stupid head! Honestly!

"The new CCK protein enters the membrane spaces of the endoplasmic reticulum and is further chemically processed by enzymes and packaged into small vesicles by the endoplasmic reticulum. We should label them henceforth as ER." Kaname had sounded somewhat angry saying that. She admonished herself. She did not need the teacher of her classmates to think she was some kind of head case or lunatic.

"But Sousuke, I was glad that it was you who rescued me. I wouldn't have wanted any oneelse to be by my side." Kaname smiled. Perhaps that was laying things on a bit thick, but even Sousuke ought to start understanding that she was sending him a message.

"The ER vesicles move to and join with the membranes of a Golgi apparatus. In the Golgi apparatus the CCK protein is further processed by other enzymes to produce its final form and then packaged in a vesicle formed by the Golgi body." Sousuke took some colored chalk and highlighted the pertinent cellular component.

"That is understandable. You have prior knowledge of my skills as a Specialist. Having me there would assure success. My apologies if such a fact brought up memories you do not wish to recall.

Kaname stamped her foot. The teacher looked somewhat taken aback.

"Oooooooooh... the Golgi vesicle moves to and fuses with the cell membrane secreting the completed CCK protein from the cell into capillaries of the circulatory system. That... carries... the hormone... to all of... the cells of... your body." Kaname's growing ire affected her speech.

"You misconstruing military moron! I'm trying to say that I want to explore those memories... with you."

"The hormone interacts with receptor proteins on the surface of the cells of your pancreas." Sousuke blinked repeatedly. Then, his jaw tightened some.

"You were often kind to me, prior to..." Sosuke stopped for a moment. "No doubt you are trying to make me feel better for intruding on your personal life again. I will make certain it is not a problem. You have my word on that."

Kaname began trembling. That total... incomprehensible... insufferable...

"Idiot! Moron! Jerk!" Kaname bit her lip. That had come out way too loud. "The interaction signals your pancreas to secrete more digestive enzymes into your small intestine. Cells not having the CCK receptor protein do not react to the hormone. In essence, the CCK hormone activates more protein synthesis in pancreas cells which proceeds as just described before."

The entire class went dead quiet, and then exploded with countless conversations.

Sousuke looked over at Kaname. "It would seem that those words explain it all, Miss Chidori. I will say however, that you did an excellent job in describing the cellular actions and interactions. That was most commendable."

With that the young soldier walked his seat. The teacher took over after that, sparing a dark look for a certain blue-haired girl returning to her chair with a red face. After the lecture ended, Kaname tried to make her way to Sousuke to offer him an explanation.

He simply vanished, as he was apt to do.