Warnings of OOC-ness.


It was just another of those missions- that powerful fusion of blood, sweat, hatred and that aftermath of waking nightmares trailing behind you; the promise of guilt still deceptively quiet under the glare of dusty fluorescent light.

There is the report- official, rigid muscles and blissfully blank mind of ingrained routine, then the quiet, almost ruthless acceptance of your comrades who weren't there and who make such a point not to blame you you can almost hate them for it- why can't they see that you were the one who should have died, not Gray, not Bryant damndamndamn- then at last the lift home in the rumbling plane smelling of metallic sweat and too many times.

You don't speak to the other soldiers, and they spare you the same mercy.

It is only when your boots finally hit ground that doesn't shake or have undercurrents of tremors below you, the ghosts of memories clinging to your rifle, your hands, tight around your neck as you salute, unseen, as the helicopter takes off that you finally start to breathe again.

Take in that night air- clean, sharp and domestic, faint whiffs of fried squid and exhaust from the day. You smile, almost, from exhaustion and a strange sense of irony even as a voice in your mind- the one that has saved your lives and others countless times- warns you that familiarity is dangerous.

Your hous-hom- houses are made up of snapshots of missions, a jigsaw scattered across a map with red circles marking both wars and your splinter-houses at once. If Helmajistan is your backyard, maybe one day this can be your garden. Another mental flag on your chart across the world.

It surprises – and dismays- you when it's only from a distance of twenty footsteps that you realize there's someone waiting by the door, your revolver finding its way in your hand before your mind has a chance to think. The shadow is slumped beside your door, possible firearms in an amateur pile beside him and a glint of steel from his fingers. His breathing is deep, even-- the too-loud stillness that marks both the inexperienced and the indifferent professional.

Her fingers, the voice prompts belatedly.

You pause, tense, instinctively press yourself against the shadows of the corridor even as you hesitate. Your apartment across hers comes in a cheap block and the grainy wall of the corridor leaves imprints on the side of your face like miniscule bullets. Funny how your mind keeps going to her and all things her but no, hope can be dangerous too.

And yet… yet…

You waver now, a painful paradox of professionalism and unorthodox longing, the footnoted example of an amateur in one of the many military guidebooks you've read. Exhaustion slows your thoughts, brings out instincts by default, you know. You find yourself blaming it on that, then realize too late that it's a condemnation.

Then, she sighs.

It is a simple sound, echoed and made loud by the funneling of the corridor, soft and weary and just so her. Suddenly you find yourself smiling, relief and guilty pleasure too strong, too aching to deny even though there are a thousand ways how she could have been kidnapped, hurt, ambushed, open to attack just for that simple, direct gesture of waiting for you.

No one has ever waited for you before. You think, she is so naive, sometimes. You think, you love her so much, sometimes.

"Sousuke…" She breathes you in, salt-sweat and dried blood and dirt even as her head snuggles in the crook of your shoulder. You pause in your shifting beside her, terrified in waking her, in spoiling this moment of corridor shadow and half-ashamed neediness. She sighs, "Try to stay this time…"

Then she's asleep again, childish dolphin glimmering garish blue in the poor light, the chain entangled in her fingers. She is warm and alive and with you, and your heart swells and aches even as the voice in your head says simply, clearly: hope can be a dangerous thing.

Down the corridor, the light flickers, dims, fades to a subdued glow. Besides you, she is breathing the same breath as you, soothing your heart and everything back to normalcy, her normalcy. Fatigue finally clouds your head, drowsiness and customary headache throbbing over the memories and that cool, critical voice of survival. In the morning, everything will be clearer, sharper, harder with the focus of your mission objective and clinical rationale. But it's hard to believe it in the night when you can still smell the death on yourself, tainting her with it and bringing irrational anger and dread of another death at your hands when you've killed so many others because it can't be her, can never be her. Not when you're here, not when she's still yours to protect.

Her breath tickles your neck, her shoulder pressing uncomfortably into your side as she shifts in her sleep towards you. You don't move. She's tired too, from waiting for you in this windy building when you were due to come back 0900 this morning.

Try to stay this time, she'd asked. Try to stay this time…


The sound is forlorn in the smokescreen-darkness of the corridor, unheard and planitive and already with porcelain cracks in its mix of regret and tired belief. Tomorrow, you'd have to write the full report, attend a meeting and miss another day of school. Next week, you'd have a follow-up mission, another three da--

Your glance falls to your lap. The piece of stained glass has slipped into your hand, the rest of the chain slithering quietly from her fingers to pool in your own calloused ones. Kaname's head is tilted on your shouder, one hand in yours, and she is smiling at you in her sleep.

(…But maybe, something in you says quietly, as your breath tightens your throat again in a way similar to the moment of an ambush- maybe this time, you'd stay longer.

Maybe, and a promise of an amateur.)


as long as she doesn't find out.