A/N:

This story is not entirely canon. While it borrows from FMP, Fumoffu, End of Day By Day, and Dancing Very Merry Christmas, liberties must be taken for this set-up to occur.

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The sound of the alarm echoed throughout the room.

Kaname turned an evil eye at the clock, but the offending time piece would not retract its comment.

Throwing her hands up, she decided that her latest outfit would have to do. In a rush now, she left the other clothes scattered about her apartment.

There were blouses in the bathroom, tried on when she had gotten out of the shower. There were skirts in her bedroom, worn in front of the full length mirror. There were a fair number of accessories in the kitchen, evaluated between bites of toast, sips of soup, and swallows of tea.

She had originally set the clock to wake her up an hour earlier than usual. After that, she set it again, to let her know when she had to leave for school.

"It's today. It has got to be today!"

A frown creased her face when she looked at her Bonta-kun doll. It was almost as if she thought the oft-hugged stuffed toy doubted her.

"Hmmmpppfff!" Kaname tossed her hair. "At least Mom believes me."

The blue-haired girl looked fondly at the picture she had of her mother. She had lost track of the number of times she had wished that her mother was still alive. There was so much an older woman could have shared with her, sharing secrets and offering advice. Her father would not even want to consider those topics, and her sister couldn't keep a secret to save her life.

"Oooops!"

About to step out of her apartment door, she realized that she had forgotten her book bag. That would have been a monumental gaff. But, maybe she could have convinced Sousuke to help her retrieve it, just the way they did when that big idiot forgot her assignment book.

It felt as if that little vignette had happened a lifetime ago. If something like that were to happen again, she would hope that Officer Wakana was not invited!

"Oooh. Get it together girl."

This time, just as she was closing the door, she looked down at her feet and saw her toes nestled behind her stockings. Shoes were just as important as her book bag. Feeling pressured, she grabbed the first matching pair she found when she sprinted inside and threw open the closet door.

Waiting for the elevator, she mercilessly poked the down button again and again, as if that would make the mechanism move any faster. Obviously, logic wasn't particularly important at that moment.

As she was riding the lift down to the ground level, she straightened her blouse some. Breathing on her gold pendant, she polished it with her sleeve. Everything had to be perfect. If things didn't go as planned, it wouldn't be her fault.

The sound of her heels was staccato, as she walked at a metered pace across the recently waxed floor. The tune went from a stately clatter to building crescendo, as she walked faster and faster. She had actually begun running, just before she slid to a stop in front of the door.

"Hey. Calm down. It's not that big a deal!"

Kaname laughed one of her trademark laughs, and then strolled outside. Turning her face skyward, she mumbled unhappily. A few small raindrops hit her cheeks. She had wanted a clear sunny morning. The inconsiderate weather had better not be some kind of omen! For one day, Fate could give her a break, right? She hadn't committed any big crime in her life!

"You owe me!"

If anything, Kaname Chidori deserved a long period of calm and happiness. Ever since a certain Sergeant had showed up at her school, things had been a roller coaster ride. While some of it was exciting, most of it was aggravating, frightening, or anxiety-inducing.

How many teenage girls find out that they are freaks, having a head full of secret advanced technology? How many Class Representatives have to worry about shadow organizations wanting to capture them and squeeze that knowledge out of them? How many members of the student council or softball team have seen terrorists, Arm Slaves, assassins, and the like?

Well, in answer to that last question, quite a few had. The Jindai High School class had a bad habit of running across real or staged kidnapping attempts. Of course, that was her fault.

"No. Wrong. It's his fault!"

Kaname smiled. Sousuke was convenient that way. Because he the cause of some of her grief, he might as well get credit for all of it. And, because of that, he owed her too. He owed her big time, whether he realized it or not. It was time he started making up for it all.

Today would be a good start. The less work she had to do to get him to see that, the better things would go for him.

Images from the past flashed before her eyes. She alternated betweens sighs, smiles, a bitten lip, and clenched fists. The two of them had been through a lot together. It was amazing that they were both still alive. It was a miracle that she wasn't squirreled away in a padded cell somewhere.

"Yes. How many girls have to deal with Sousuke?"

She looked around for him. He should be meeting up with her soon, since he rarely let her walk to school unwatched or unaccompanied. Waiting, she answered her own question. There was only one girl who had to deal with that military miscreant they way that she had to.

Kaname wanted to make certain that it stayed that way. Whether she was crazy or not, she didn't want him to leave, and hated the idea of some other girl getting her hooks into him. So far, at Jindai, there hadn't been anyone to worry about. Butas Sousuke was learning to restrain himself more and more, his fellow students had been warming to him at an alarming rate.

He had actually gotten a number of notes placed in his locker again. At her insistence, he did not dress in camouflage clothing and hide out on the school grounds, as he had done before. If she had found him with a rifle sighted on some girl, she would have twisted the barrel around his neck like a pretzel.

By now, he should realize that the notes would likely never be from a terrorist. She had told him that they were from girls who were interested in him. He hadn't been pleased, as most boys would have. She almost wished that he had been, since his seeming apathy had her worried sometimes.

"Hmmmpppfff!" She buffed her watch to a gleaming shine. "Big idiot. At least I don't have to worry about any of those tramps."

There was no one at school that she truly felt threatened by. But, that didn't mean that there was no one that had her concerned. In the past, Sousuke had thought of one particular girl as a goddess. To him, she was someone who never made mistakes…… someone who was not human like everyone else…… and someone who was unapproachable.

She was his commanding officer. That was good, if it kept him from ever thinking about her romantically. But, she was the same age as Sousuke, and had an eye on Sousuke herself. That was bad. Even worse than that, she was someone who wasn't entirely beyond manipulating his assignments to bring him closer to her.

Tessa.

"Stupid…… shrimpy…… conniving……"

Kaname clenched her teeth. In any other situation, she would admire Teletha Testarossa. She had a very difficult job, and did it well. She also cared a great deal for the people who served under her. Furthermore, as the diminutive girl was Whispered, she and Kaname had a lot in common.

But, she was a rival.

The last time that the two of them had spoken, the commander of the TDD-1 had made it a point to tell Kaname what Sousuke had said after the Hong Kong mission. Tessa had apologized to him, since they had exchanged heated words brought on by her jealousy regarding Kaname. She told him that she had been weak, because of him. Saddened, she had wondered if they were still friends. That had lead to an apology from Sousuke, who felt that he was always causing problems for her.

But, he hadn't stopped there.

"Oooooooh. Stupid jerk!"

Tessa had almost been gleeful in her remembrance, even though she had to admit that Kaname still held a considerable edge. Sousuke had called her a 'wonderful girl', someone he really respected. He had said that she was more like a friend than a commanding officer. He had also told her that he would listen to whatever problems she had.

Tessa had danced around in her high heels, deliriously happy, after Sousuke had left the room.

The advantage still sat with Kaname, since she and Sousuke were in close contact with each other on a daily basis. On the other hand, Sousuke felt sorry for Tessa's lonely position, and the smaller girl couldn't look at Sousuke without stars in her eyes. The other girl also treated him a lot differently than Kaname did at times.

Kaname was much more forceful in her behavior towards the young soldier.

"He needs that!"

Kaname clenched her fist and furrowed her brow. Even though Sousuke had improved, he was far from what she would consider appropriate. It wasn't only her opinion. The teachers and officials at the High School were in complete agreement.

If she didn't keep Sousuke in line, who would? What would happen, if she shirked that responsibility? They should probably give her a medal!

'You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.'

That saying was a sticking point for Kaname, and not only because of her sense of right and wrong, and her allergic reaction to otaku things. There were some rough edges to her. That was no secret. While she could be kind and loving, she would never truly be someone that the other students would consider sweet.

Nonetheless, despite all that he had done in the past to make her miserable, Kaname still worked hard to tutor Sousuke, and habitually asked him over for dinner on a weekly basis.

She wasn't the only one who cooked for him, however. Tessa had taken that tack too, following a mission that took place just before the damn sea cruise. Gritting her teeth, she remembered how Sousuke, Kurz, Melissa and Tessa had shown up on board the Pacific Christmas, pretending to be terrorists. No, she didn't want to go over all of that again.

What had she been thinking about? Oh. Yeh. Cooking.

Tessa had run to meet Sousuke when he got back from a mission to Badamu Island. Breathless, she had asked him if he wanted to eat together, in the cafeteria. The dining facility had been closed, since he had gotten back late at night. Kaname suspected that Mao had called her younger friend, letting her know when everyone had returned.

"It's not fair. There's no one on my team." Kaname clenched her fists. She was quite certain that both Kurz and Melissa sided with Tessa. The only person on that damn sub that was against Tessa hooking up with Sousuke was that Mardukas guy…... and he didn't want his subordinate growing close to Kaname either! "Well, it just means I have to work harder, that's all. It's not like she's even in my league."

In any case, that needy little Captain had sequestered Sousuke alone…… cooked him Carbonara spaghetti…… and gotten him to admit that it was 'delicious'. That word alone had almost earned him a smack from Kaname when he told her about Tessa's kindness. That and the fact that he had said that watching his commander cook, he had gotten the same feeling he did when he watched her cook.

Of course, after that, Kaname had made it a point to read up on how to make the cream and cheese-based sauce, learning the proper amount of pepper and garlic to add before ever serving it to Sousuke.

She muttered under her breath again.

Sousuke had mentioned something else. When he had called the food delicious, Tessa had made a V-sign with her fingers. She had also gone on to mumble something to herself about 'Miss Kaname's underhanded tricks'.

"Yeh right. I'm the one who's underhanded."

After she had stuffed Sousuke with more food than he would ever allow himself to eat prior to a mission, Tessa had gone on to convince him to attend a general party for the Mithril troops, and a smaller private party in her quarters. He had found it hard to turn down the invitation, since there was never time to deepen his relationship with Tessa.

He didn't come out and tell Kaname the precise reason he was going to miss that blasted cruise, which was scheduled for her birthday, as chance would have it. She had learned about his reason from Wraith, the Mithril agent assigned to keep a distant watch on her.

Kaname kicked at a stone hard, sending it far across the street. She kept telling herself to be confident. Sousuke only wanted to feel closer to Tessa because he had always shrugged her off, thinking she was omnipotent, not human like the rest of them.

After all, Sousuke had shown signs of how he felt uniquely about her, as opposed to Tessa or any other girl. They had been subtle signs, but Kaname was pretty sure that she hadn't imagined them. All that she needed to do was get him to understand how he feels…… discover that she knows how he feels…… and realize in turn how she feels.

Simple, right?

"It better be. For his sake."

Hearing the sound of footsteps she turned. A smile lit up her face and she began to feel slightly flustered. This was ridiculous! She was Kaname Chidori, student body Vice President and veteran of multiple life and death situations. He was just a troublesome boy who happened to be a member of a secret organization protecting her from determined terrorists.

"Hmmmpppffff!"

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A stray cat walked lazily across the alley, until it caught sight of the two teenagers and took off like a shot.

Kaname let out a sigh of relief, glad that it hadn't been a black cat. She also made certain not to step on any cracks in the pavement.

"Well Sousuke…… how do I look?" Kaname smiled a big smile, despite being miffed. Sousuke hadn't ventured an opinion on his own. Even though that was standard behavior for him, it was unforgivable today.

"Healthy. That and well fed."

Sousuke's choice of words did not sit well with Kaname.

"Well fed?" She walked closer to him, her eyes narrowed. "Are you trying to say that I've gotten fat."

"Negative," the young operative answered calmly. "If I thought that had gotten fat, I would say that." He scratched the back of his head. "If I was going to answer at all."

Kaname couldn't help but grin. It was wonderful when Sousuke showed any signs of good judgment. She might mark it down on her calendar when she got home. But, her grin vanished. His answer was still unsatisfactory.

"So, Sousuke…… how do I look besides being healthy and well fed?"

Sousuke looked over at her, as if trying to discern the purpose of her repeated question. "I would say that you look cheerful, and properly equipped for class. However, you are not wearing the school uniform. Ahhh. I remember. Today must be Casual Day."

Kaname clenched her hands into fists. She tried hard to control herself. Why couldn't that moron say what a boy was supposed to say? It was maddening!

"Ooooooooh…."

Kaname stopped walking, and put her hands on her hips.

"Is there a problem, Kaname?" Sousuke stopped as well.

"Yes!" Kaname looked down at her clothes, looked again, and then glared at Sousuke. "Is…… there…… ever……"

"It is not Casual Day?" The young SRT member wondered if a mistaken claim such as that would qualify as a problem.

Kaname closed her eyes and willed herself calm. "No………… it………… is………… not…."

Sousuke pulled at a thread on his school uniform. When the edge of his collar began unraveling, he took out a large combat knife and sliced through the offending string. "You are upset, as your choice of clothing will gain you the disdain and reproach of the teachers? Something happened to your uniform, causing you to dress in that outfit?"

"Baka!" Kaname fought the urge to strike Sousuke. That kind of behavior was so yesterday. Taking a number of deep breaths, she pictured a field filled with sunflowers and a nearby clear mountain lake. It didn't help blunt her temper. "Don't you think that my outfit is attractive Sousuke?" She hated fishing for compliments. "Don't you think that I look nice?"

"Yes." That was all that Sousuke said.

Kaname stood tapping her foot with increasing frequency. "Well-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l…."

"Kaname?" The young soldier looked somewhat perplexed.

"Which is it, you big jerk? Do you like my clothes, or do you think that I look pretty?" At that very instant, Kaname's voice was more appropriate for a drill sergeant than a teenage girl.

Sousuke stood at parade rest. He eyed Kaname up and down. Then he nodded his head. "Kaname, you sound angry." He put his school bag down for a moment. He hoped that his companion did not hear the telltale clank of metal. "But, I am at a loss to understand why."

"I…… AM…… NOT…… ANGRY…."

Sousuke did something that he had started doing more often. He tried to work out solutions based on Kaname's abrupt changes in mood, tracing the alteration back to some occurrence, being as temporally precise as possible.

Often there was some clue, or defining event.

What were the crucial parameters? Yes. Her clothing. Her appearance. That was what she had been speaking about when she became disturbed.

Kaname stood quietly, still expecting an answer. The fingers of one hand were rhythmically pressing into her upper thigh.

"I judge your clothing to be fashionable for the times, Kaname. It serves to highlight your finer features, as you are no doubt aware. Otherwise, you would not have selected that outfit." Sousuke nodded, certain that he had hit on the crucial points. "And, you are beautiful. But, I have mentioned that before. You should recall. It was the only time I have seen you in a kimono. You appearance has not changed since that time."

Kaname's features softened. Sousuke liked her outfit! He thought she was beautiful! For a moment, it felt as if she were walking on clouds. She fought the urge to do a pirouette.

And, he had mentioned 'finer features'.

But, the full impact of his statement weighed down upon her thoughts. There were implications there that she did not like one bit. Sousuke may be improving, but he certainly had a long way to go. That was not acceptable. Not today.

"Thank you, Sousuke. A woman always likes to hear that she is beautiful." She shook a finger at him. "But, it's not a once in a lifetime thing!"

"Kaname?" Sousuke cocked his head. Just what could Kaname mean? "Are you saying that I should tell other women that I find them beautiful, too?" If that was indeed the case, it would indicate a much more mature attitude in Kaname than he had come to expect.

"OO-O-O-O-O-O-OH…" Kaname stamped her foot. "HOW…… CAN…… YOU…… BE…… SO….."

Kaname calmed herself down. She repeated to herself 'It's Sousuke, remember it's Sousuke' a number of times before speaking again. Shading her eyes from the sun, she scanned the tops of the nearby buildings, not really expecting to see anything. If Wraith was watching and listening in, he must be getting his fair share of chuckles by now.

"Sousuke, a girl likes to hear that she is pretty. Often. By someone she…… ummm, by someone she cares a great deal about…… you know…." She wasn't certain if Sousuke did know. "It makes her feel special. It makes her happy." She debated whether or not to risk Sousuke-speak. Hell. Why not? "It makes a woman better able to succeed in the day's mission."

Sousuke ran his hand through his hair, thinking. After a few moments, he picked up his satchel. "You are beautiful, Kaname." He took note of her blushing. "Do you have a mission for today? If so, should I be prepared to support you? Do you require back-up?" He wondered what exactly Kaname might view as a 'mission'.

Kaname blinked rapidly. She did indeed have a mission. And, Sousuke featured very prominently in it. But, she certainly couldn't come out and say it, otherwise she might as well go ahead and do things herself.

That just wouldn't do.

"Thank you Sousuke. I went to a lot of trouble today, trying to look nice." She looked down at her shoes a moment, feeling uncharacteristically shy. "You know…… there are reasons that girls try to look pretty…."

Sousuke joined Kaname, who had begun walking again. He thought a moment. "To receive preferential treatment in school?" Sousuke said. "Kurz said that pretty girls are serviced more often than ugly girls. I presume, by those words, that he means people are often more eager to help attractive women. I have noted that on occasion."

Kaname almost tripped. Serviced! She knew exactly what that lecher Weber meant by that. And Sousuke had better not notice anything to do with attractive women, unless the attractive woman was her.

"Or, perhaps it is your natural leadership skills motivating you. As Class Representative, you might wish to show the other girls the proper way to dress. If they all look more attractive, then it will reflect well on our school." He frowned a moment. "Sgt. Major Mao has often said that she would school the other bitches…… I mean women…… by the way that she dresses. But, that often means wearing skimpy clothing without undergarments designed to support the breast area."

That time Kaname did stumble a bit. It looked like Sousuke was scrutinizing her for the precise purpose of finding out whether or not she was wearing a bra.

"You have not replied, Kaname. Hmmm. I know. I have been delinquent again. You are beautiful." Sousuke waited a moment, and hearing nothing, continued. "Does your wishing to be beautiful speak of some competitive urge amongst women? Amongst soldiers, there is often bragging about the weapons they carry. That is foolish. Often it is the skill of the user that is paramount. Is competitive clothing another pointless custom?"

"OO-O-O-OH. BAKA." Kaname fought to keep from shaking with rage. "IT…… IS…… NOTHING…… LIKE……THAT." She almost blurted out everything, right then and there. "AH-H-H-H-H. HOW CAN ANYONE BE SO CLUELESS?"

Sousuke flinched, as Kaname had leaned over and shouted that in his ear. "You are Beautiful, Kaname."

Kaname's hands clenched into fists. She should have expected things to be this difficult. Even Sousuke's saying that she was beautiful was losing its value. He was doing it as if he was following orders or trying to increase the combat efficacy of a squad mate.

"Sousuke. Saying someone is beautiful is supposed to come from the heart. It is a way to express your feelings, not something designed to boost someone's morale. Geez!" Kaname's voice cracked ever so slightly. "If you say it like 'nice shot' or 'keep up the good work, soldier', then it won't mean anything."

Sousuke took out a small pad of paper and scribbled down some notes. "Anything else, Kaname?"

Kaname just closed her eyes and started counting backwards from fifty.

"Sousuke," she said in a quiet but steady voice. "Some girls dress up nice, as a matter of pride. Others want to catch someone's eye." She paused, and glanced at Sousuke for a moment, before inexplicably looking away. "One very important time for girls to dress their best…… and make every effort to look pretty…… is on a date."

She found it hard to swallow. Her heart was beating fiercely. The palms of her hands felt just a touch sweaty. There it was. She couldn't have dropped a bigger hint. Now, the big idiot only had to do his part.

It was a matter of principal. Kaname wanted Sousuke to ask her out on a date. She had no intention of being the one who did the asking. No. None at all! That big jerk might have been raised with freedom fighters, but that is not the same as being raised by wolves or hamsters or something.

"I see…." Sousuke said, staring at Kaname for a few moments. "Pride." He nodded his head, and shocked her by grinning. "You have many reasons to be proud."

Kaname was too stunned… and too disappointed… to manage even a meager shout. Instead, she threw her hands in the air and stomped off to school at a pace that had Sousuke hurrying to catch up.

Damn him!

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Most of the desks were filled in homeroom.

Before long, the teacher ought to arrive, and the students would settle down. The few visitors would be heading off to their own rooms. For now, everyone was talking, acting out, or sitting peacefully at their seats.

Everyone except Kaname.

WHAM!

The sound that Kaname's book case made when it slammed into the top of her desk had a number of students looking in that direction, until they saw who it was.

"Ka-naaaa-maaay…" Kyouko said to her best friend. "What's wrong? Did Sousuke do something again?" She looked around the room. "Where is he, anyway?"

SLAM! SLAM! BANG!

Clenching her teeth, Kaname threw books inside of her desk compartment. A number of students began muttering expectantly, wondering if the blue-haired girl was going to explode over something again.

"He's on the roof!" Kaname spat out. "I told him that I saw a suspicious character up there. That ought to keep him busy for a while!"

WHANG!

Kaname slammed her fist down onto her desk. The legs buckled ever so slightly. She winced, feeling the pain shoot up her arm. She knew who to blame for that pain.

No, she knew who to blame for everything.

"So, Kaname…… are you upset or something?" Kyouko's voice may have sounded innocent, but there was a knowing sparkle in her eyes.

Ever so slowly, Kaname turned to look back at her friend. The look on her face had Kyouko's eyes going wide. "Whatever………… makes……….. you……….. think………. that…."

Ryo and Maya hurried over to see what was wrong this time. They were joined by Mizuki, who had a rather hopeful look in her eyes. Ren slid over smoothly as well, ready to offer any reassurance that might be necessary before she went on her way.

"Kaname doesn't look upset," Ryo stated, rolling her eyes.

"No, not at all. I wouldn't call that look upset." Maya fought back a smile.

"She looks way beyond upset!" Mizuki rubbed her hands together. "I wonder if it has anything to do with what happened yesterday. Or what happened the day before that." That ought to be enough bait for the hook.

"Mizuki, we said we weren't going to mention that." Ren spoke in a very soothing but stern voice. "Remember?"

"I remember you, Ryo, and Maya promising." Mizuki looked like the Cheshire Cat. "I didn't!"

"I think it's time we all sat in our seats now…." Ryo offered. To back up her words, she went and sat down. It wouldn't do to be to close to ground zero. "You and Ren should hurry on your way." She knew that Mizuki wouldn't leave until she had a chance to cause more mischief.

"You're right. Only a couple of minutes left." Maya went to seat herself. She shook her head, wondering just how long Mizuki would harbor her grudge.

Ren gave Mizuki a pointed look, but the eager girl didn't pay any attention. Even though she had become more friendly with Kaname, she still held tight to some grievances suffered during the whole Shirai episode.

"So? Why don't we get this over with?" Kaname's look had everyone nearby listening in. "I'm certain it will be the high point of your week." Kaname was in no mood for any of Mizuki's nonsense. Still, her natural reactions took over.

Just what had Sousuke done this time?

"Ohhhh-h-h-h." Mizuki sneered. "I take it that you haven't been outside to see the Serenity Garden that a certain Student Council Vice President worked so hard to earn money for." Her smile grew by leaps and bounds.

Kyouko was waving her hands, mouthing 'no' to Mizuki, Kaname turned to look at her friend. She'd rather hear it from Kyouko than Mizuki.

"Well…." Kyouko looked up at the clock, hoping that the teacher would walk in. "Some girls were enjoying the flowers there." She looked over at the door. No teacher yet. "One of them said that 'the sunflowers are the bomb'." She sighed. "Sousuke overheard her."

"And-d-d-d-d…." Kaname gripped the side of her desk with both hands. She already had a good idea what prompted the trouble.

"He pulled them all up, looking for hidden explosives. He said that the gardening crew that planted the garden had a Middle Eastern look to them. And he said that the company name Floral Foundations was worrisome, since the word Qaeda means 'foundation' or 'base'." Kyouko cringed ever so slightly.

Nothing happened. Kaname just shrugged. She had bigger concerns that day. Mizuki looked rather miffed. But, another smile began creeping across her face.

"The next one ought to do it, though." Ryo nodded her head knowingly.

"You bet," Maya agreed.

Kaname glowered at her friends. Ignoring Mizuki, she looked at Kyouko again.

"I…… I wasn't there…… Mizuki and the others were." Kyouko slouched down in her chair when Kaname frowned.

"You know that girl who has been following Sousuke around lately?" Mizuki smiled. "The latest one who sticks those kind of notes in his locker…."

Kaname didn't say anything. She wasn't worried about some underclassmen transfer student. "Well, she collapsed in front of Sousuke yesterday, outside by the fence." Mizuki pretended to swoon. "Her friends cried out that she had stopped breathing and asked if anyone knew CPR."

Kaname bit the inside of her cheek. She could already see where this one was going.

"Naturally, Sousuke did!" Mizuke looked at Kaname's face expectantly. She scowled when her report drew no response. "He was busy working on her, for quite a while." Still, nothing. "You know…… lips on her lips…… hands pushing down right between her breasts…."

Kaname's desk moved a bit as she twitched.

"The best part came when the girl wrapped her arms tightly around his neck and pulled him down on her for a long kiss." Mizuki was positively beaming. Kyouko reached for her camera, but put it back down.

"I see…." Kaname kept a serene look on her face. "My friends were all there…… but none of them put a stop to the charade…."

"Well, you know…." That was all that Maya managed to get out.

"When I got there, I couldn't tell if there was a true emergency or not," Ren said honestly. Catching Mizuki's attention, she pointed to her watch. Sighing, she headed off for her homeroom.

"Hey, but it's not like Sousuke is your boyfriend or anything, right?" Ryo held her hands up.

"AH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH-H-H-H-H……" Kaname tossed her hair. "Of course not!" Under her breath, she said 'yet'.

"I suggested the idea to the girl," Mizuki said. She was still miffed at the kiss that Sousuke gave her when he was pretending to be Shirai. "It worked pretty well. I wonder if Sousuke enjoyed it?"

The wood at the edge of Kaname's desk cracked. It would have splintered off if she hadn't let go. Eyes narrowed, she managed a nasty smile.

"Still have a thing for Tsubaki?" She asked Mizuki, noting how the other girl blushed and brought her hands to her chest.

Mizuki didn't say anything.

"Well, he keeps pestering me. Even though I'm not interested in him, he doesn't seem to want to believe that. So-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o…." Kaname winked at Kyouko. "I can tell him that I would never have any intention of dating him if he ever paid even the slightest attention to…." She looked at Mizuki. "What was your name again?"

Mizuki went absolutely pale.

"Oh…." Kaname fluffed her hair. "Those stories about Sousuke were quite amusing. Thank you." She raised an eyebrow when Mizuki stood there with her mouth open. "Kyouko…… would you be a dear, and show our forgetful friend the way to the door…… her teacher ought to start attendance soon."

She watched as Mizuki gave her a nasty look as she hurried off.

"Hmmmpppfff!" For a moment, Kaname forgot that she was very upset. Her reminder arrived just before the teacher did.

"Kaname." It was Sousuke. He was wiping his hands with a rag that smelled strongly of mineral spirits. "Your concern was unfounded. The man on the roof was truly a painter. There was nothing suspicious hidden in any of the paint cans."

Kaname gripped the edge of her desk again.

"He didn't have any identification on him. And, the specific tattoo on his arm identified him as a former soldier. My actions were clearly justified." Sousuke didn't look concerned.

The tortured wood of Kaname's desk finally broke. She stared at the fragment in her hand. "What…… did…… you…… do…… Sousuke?"

Everyone in the class went silent, listening in. Even the teacher kept quiet, not making her presence known yet as she hovered at the doorway.

"The paint can should be easy enough to remove from the man's head. I approached the janitor. He will take care of it."

After Sousuke's words, the sound of a chainsaw could be heard outside. That was followed by the grinding sound of metal upon metal.

Kaname placed her face down on her desk.

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A cherry blossom felt off the branch, floating downward.

The petals landed in Kaname's drink, causing her to sigh and shake her head. It was shaping up to be one of those days.But why this day?

Was there some reason that nothing seemed to go quite right in her life? Sure, she was being a bit melodramatic, but she had earned the right.

Had she ever!

"I need your help, Kyouko."

"Kaname?" Kyouko put down her sandwich. "What's wrong? I hope it's not the Serenity Garden…… or that girl…."

Kaname shook her head.

"You guys have guessed how I feel about Sousuke, haven't you?" Her look was serious. "I guess that I've been somewhat more obvious lately." She squeezed her plastic cup too hard. Soda seeped out of the spider web cracks. "To everyone butSousuke!"

"Yes," Kyouko said, before wiping her mouth with her paper napkin. "Shinji, Tsubaki, Oonuki, and the other guys just laugh it off. But the girls believe, for the most part." She picked up a bean jam bun and nibble on it, crumbs falling from her mouth when she spoke. "Guys aren't too bright, I guess."

"You can say that again!" Kaname frowned, seeing the look on Kyouko's face. "What?"

Kyouko simply pointed. The sandwich Kaname had picked up was now a crushed ruin in her hand. Kaname hung her head.

"So, what did he do this time?" Kyouko looked sympathetic. "Or, is it something he hasn't done?" She finished off the bun in a few more bites, waiting for her friend to answer.

"Well, I like to think that I'm a normal girl." Kaname bit her lip, knowing that being Whispered was far from normal. But, that wasn't what she meant. "I want what normal girls would want."

Would normal girls want anything to do with a certain misguided military mistake-monger?

"Oh," Kyouko rubbed her fingers together for a moment. "Do you mean…… dating?" She looked down at her lunch bag. As a somewhat shy and awkward girl, she didn't hold out much hope for having anyone ask her out on dates.

"Yes. I know that it sounds crazy!" Kaname said. "Not that I would want to go on dates. Just…."

"Sousuke," Kyouko offered. "He does try really hard though. If he didn't…… you know…."

Kaname sighed. "See enemies behind every bush…… destroy more school property than a gang of vandals……misinterpret every other thing he hears… and bring cluelessness to new heights on a daily basis…."

"Uh huh. Those too." Kyouko offered her friend a homemade cookie. Seeing the despondent look on her face, she handed over the entire plate. "But, he is very dependable in his own way. And he's always looking out for you, even when it gets him in big trouble."

"OOOOOOOOH!" Kaname took a savage bite of one cookie. "That's just it. In his own way, he can be the sweetest guy you could hope to meet. And, he is definitely the bravest!" She finished off the cookie. "One minute I think he is really great, and is making some kind of improvement. But then, before I know it…."

"Boom!" Kyouko said.

"Yeh. Boom." Kaname took a moment to watch the clouds overhead. She checked her watch. It was almost time for their next class.

"So, what did you need me to do, Kaname?" Kyouko asked with a fair bit of trepidation.

"I thought you'd never ask." Kaname smiled.