A/N: Standard disclaimer applies. I don't own it, you know it, I know it, everybody knows it, but it ain't like I'm getting paid. I'm writing this because there is an extreme dearth of Sousuke/Tessa fics, and the couple intrigues me. I don't hate Kaname, this is not intended as a Kaname hate fic, so don't take it that way. Remember there are two sides to every argument, and love dies on both sides of the heart's battlefield.

Trust me folks, I'm no stranger to pain. Particularly the pain of military service killing your love life.

This assumes a relationship between Sousuke and Kaname has become a reality, and takes place approximately 4 years after the end of the series (Fumoffu nonwithstanding). Sousuke, Kaname, and Tessa are now in their twenties. Sousuke is a Master Sergeant.

'Nuff said. Hope you enjoy.

"Rain rain on my face. Hasn't stopped, raining for days. My world is a flood. Slowly I become, one with the mud. But if I can swim after forty days and my mind is crushed by the crashing waves, lift me up so high that I cannot fall, lift me up. Lift me up. When I'm falling. I'm weak and I'm dying. I need you to hold me, to keep me from drowning again. Downpour on my soul. Splashing in the ocean, I'm losing control. Dark sky all around, can't feel my feet touching the ground." -Flood, Jars of Clay

The Tokyo streets were silent as the dark grey skies overhead reflected a certain young Mythril soldier's mood. The morning was cool but strangely humid, the day appeared to be on the verge of a storm. He walked silently down the street, his seabag over one shoulder.

It began to rain, cold drops of moisture dewing his hair and soaking into his uniform.

How fitting, he thought to himself.

Contrary to what many believed of the stoic Sousuke Sagara, he was not a man without emotional depth. Rather, his lifetime of constant training and living life on the edge had left him without the experience at personal relationships to express truely how he felt. He was not a stone, he could be pricked, and if pricked, he bled.

Like most painful things in his life however, Sagara reacted to it with that same enduring, stone-like countenance that so aggravated those who cared for him.

Kaname Chidori. Simultaneously the greatest source of happiness and single most painful thing in his life. There was no middle ground with her, no cold war stage in their relationship. With Chidori, it was either heaven or hell.

Of late, it had more often been hell.

He frowned and considered the most recent in an ever expanding ripple of arguments that had troubled their lives together. Yes, together. He recalled the salad days, those first early days of the relatonship, after that terrible time on the Tuatha DeDanaan and Gauron's vicious attack. They were young, and deeply besotted with one another, but both of them were intellectual enough to realize that it would be best to actually live together before stepping into anything more permenant. He would always remember those early days with fondness... waking up suddenly panicked that he was under attack, only to see her sleeping form at his side, and remembering what was going on. He marveled that he could have come so far, so quickly. She was always like an angel to him... seemingly out of reach, so different, so much outside of his depth that he might as well have been a fish in the sea and her a bird in the sky. So much of what she did and said baffled and confused him, to her everpresent annoyance.

That wasn't what was killing them.

Of late he found himself more and more often being drawn back into his duties with Mythril. She'd accepted that part of him with forced patience at first... it was a part of his life, so integral to who he was that he almost didn't exist without it. He NEEDED that rigid structure, needed that discipline. She was always so much stronger than he was. So able to face life without guidelines, without rules. Unfortunately this very strength made it difficult for her to accept when someone she cared about, someone who was so important to her, was put in danger far away, and for, to her, no good reason.

It wasn't that he'd started to take her for granted. He'd still loved her with the same passion. Though his face didn't show it, his eyes certainly did. At least he'd thought so. He tried so hard to show her what she meant to him, to make up to her the time he'd missed, but his awkward, often clumsy attempts at displaying his affection, sharing his life with her just annoyed and embarassed her. Gradually, she must have realized, must have seen the pattern.

When duty called, Sousuke Sagara followed. Without question, without hesitation. He took his job, his responsibility, very seriously.

So he'd disappear in the middle of the night, or in the middle of a date, or at any time. He'd disappear, on that damn submarine, with that damn captain, and for god knows how long she'd sit there, wondering if he was alright, wondering when he'd return, or whether she'd get a nice form letter and a folded over Japanese flag, polite but awkward, stiff looking officers informing her, "We're sorry ma'am. He didn't make it. He died a hero. Your country cannot express it's grief and sadness for the sacrifice you must endure. His body could not be recovered, but we will hold a service in his honor."

She'd come to dread that day. The day she'd look at an empty casket and fill it with her hopes and dreams of the future.

It wore on her, he realized. Fear turned into concern, and concern prompted her to try to make him stay with her. Responsibility, duty sent him away, and concern turned into resentment. Of course he hadn't been blameless in all of this. When she began to snap at him and they started to bicker constantly, he'd found excuses to spend more and more time at work, striving to forget the pain and unpleasantness of his home life in the mindlessness of day to day military toil, which led to promotion, which meant MORE responsibility...

Which meant more time away.

She just didn't understand... didn't get why it was so important to him. He'd grown up on the battlefield, his first toy was a gun, his best friend a sniper rifle. He'd killed a man at the age of 6. He wasn't proud of it, but it had undeniably shaped him. Where she had her childhood memories, growing up at least part of the way with parents, he'd grown up surrounded by comrades, brothers in battle, lost gradually in this conflict or that. It wasn't just that he enjoyed combat... the sheer joy of living on the edge, although he was mature enough to realize that that was partly to blame. More often than not, in his early youth he was on the side that was losing.

Afganistan. Chechnia. Iraq. More often than not fighting oppressive governments, surviving, but for a cause.

When Teletha Testarosa had asked his Company to join her cause, and what they'd be fighting for, there really hadn't been a choice to be made.

Then came Kaname Chidori, and things got complicated. Things were slowing down. Finally, the world was starting to realize that taking what they wanted from the Whispered was a damn bad idea. Nobody wanted to get on the bad side of the mystery organization, with their unstoppable technological advantage, and their untrackable submarine base of operations. Kaname had hinted at first that maybe he wasn't needed anymore, then pleaded, cajouled, and finally, outright demanded that it was time to let the new recruits take up the sword. As Sousuke's 20th birthday came and went, it had been several months since he'd been recalled for actual combat duty.

He made excuses.

She didn't understand why it was so important to him. She didn't understand the words that rang in him so deeply they were like the striations in damascus steel, or the wavy lines on a japanese blade.

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

He was born a soldier. He never wanted to be anything else. He'd accepted that one day he'd die as a soldier.

She just couldn't accept that.

So it all came down to one last fight. One that had taken place not an hour previous.

He'd gotten up at the sound of his cell phone, conversed in quiet tones so as not to wake her, then was showered and half dressed before she blearily managed to rise herself. She was never one to wake up instantly in the morning, and she tended to get crabby if she was forced to become alert too quickly. He on the other hand, from years of training and hard won experience, had picked up the career soldier's trick of falling asleep and waking up instantly.

It was a habit that annoyed her to no end.

She'd grabbed his shoulder and leaned her cheek against his back.

"Sousuke, come back to bed."

He continued getting himself ready. "I can't do that Kaname. The call just came in, we're on alert status-"

"Damn it Sousuke! I'm sick and tired of this! You just got back from being gone for three months! You said yourself you mostly only perform training exercises... let it go!"

He paused, hesitated for a moment. She dared to hope.

His fingers resumed their motions. "I can't do that, Kaname. Mythril needs me."

"FUCK MYTHRIL! Damn it Sousuke! I'm tired of it! I can't... I can't DO this anymore." He was startled... shocked to feel hot wetness running down his back. He glanced back to see tears streaming down her angry, sad countenance. He stopped and looked. Really looked at her.

"I can't wait up at night and wonder if you're alright. I just can't anymore."


She kissed him forcefully, driving him against the wall. His shocked brain froze for a moment, then he returned to kiss. Fire lit in his veins.

She had his recently done up shirt half down when the cell phone rung again.

He froze.

"Don't answer it." She whispered.

His eyes remained riveted on her. Then they flicked to the phone.

She moved away from him bitterly, drawing the covers over her shoulders.

"God damn you." She muttered hoarsely as he answered it.

He finished the rest of his preparations in silence, almost ashamed of himself. Shame made him defensive, made him angry and more than a little resentful himself.

"Go run and play with your little toys, Sagara. Go play war with your Captain. Maybe she understands a military obsessed freak like you."

He KNEW she had spoken out of anger. Anger made her say things she didn't mean. It was always that way. Normally he accepted what she said with a grain of salt, weathering her storms with typical fatalistic patience. The accusation was there, however. Kaname was a strong girl, but she had the same frailties anyone had, and she'd never liked the fact that Captain Testarossa was his superior officer. Equally upsetting, though the socially awkward Sergeant had been clueless about it, Tessa had confessed that she too had feelings for him. Kaname had always secretly wondered why he'd chosen her over the shining example that was his superior officer, and had, in her more shameful moments, thought perhaps it was because Kaname WAS a mission objective. Protecting her came naturally to him... it was a part of his job.

A fact made worse by the fact that it was the Captain who'd ordered him to protect her in the first place.

He normally wouldn't have snapped back, but he was too tired, too hurt to let it lie. He turned on her and narrowed his eyes at her dangerously.

"How dare you." His voice was cold and stiff, formal in its intonations. It was the same voice he used to issue ultimatums to Terrorists, the same voice he used to drill discipline into the minds of the recruits he trained.

"Say what you want about me. I know what I am, I know what I'm capable of. I've tried to explain to you how important this is to me, how important this is to us. I can accept the blame you've put on me for being gone all the time, for making you worry. The Captain, however, does not deserve your scorn. She is responsible for all of us, for protecting you, and the life you live. I wouldn't even be a part of your life if it wasn't for her."

He hadn't MEANT anything deeper about that statement than it sounded on the surface. He was quite correct... logically, if he hadn't been in Mythril, he never would have been ordered to protect her, and therefore never would have met her to fall in love with her. Logic, at least while she was angry, had never been Kaname's strong point however, and this was the proverbial torch to the powder keg. To Kaname's already outraged ears, it sounded as though he was confirming her suspicions that he was ultimately only a part of her life to protect her. That she was a charity case.

She wouldn't STAND for it. She had too much pride, too much independance to let that stand.

She picked up the first thing she could find (her old penguin alarm clock) and chucked it at him with all the fury an outraged, embittered woman could muster. The clock glanced off his cheekbone, rocking his head back. It then smashed into the wall and shattered into a million pieces, one startled electrified squawk marking its passing.

Sousuke turned his face back to her, blood dripping slowly down from the shallow cut in his cheek.

"You want her so bad, Sousuke? You can have her." She growled.

The look in his eyes changed. Pain flickered in his gaze, pain and heartbreak. For all of his wooden expression, his eyes held the torment of a condemned man.

She felt a momentary pang of guilt, but quashed it under righteous fury and indignation. How dare he make HER the bad guy.

The pain in his eyes disappeared, became cold, calculating contempt that flickered into studious, icy calm.

She shuddered at the sight. He'd never looked at her with those eyes before.

He'd never looked at her like she was an enemy before.

"Sousuke." She whispered. Something was very wrong...

He reached down and picked up his seabag in a movement that startled her with its suddenness. She jerked involuntarily. With complete and utter military precision, he flipped the seabag onto his shoulder, about faced, and marched towards the door.

He never said a word.

The apology died stillborn on her lips. She lowered her head.

As his hand touched the door, she tried one last time.

"Sousuke... if you leave now... if you walk out that door, I won't be here when you get back."

He hesitated. He knew this girl... he LOVED this girl. She didn't lie. She didn't bluff. If he walked out of their apartment... she wouldn't be there.

Kaname Chidori, no longer a part of his life.

He closed his eyes. In an instant he imagined a long life with her, marriage... children... a house with a concertina wire fence and perimeter defenses, a trained attack dog for a family pet. He imagined growing old together, imagined their children growing up, and their children's children, his and her grandchildren, he imagined being there for his kids in a way that he'd never had the opportunity to experience on his own, he imagined it all.

It was very beautiful. It was also very fragile. Resentment would kill it. Regret... shame at having failed in his duty, for her making him make this choice, would turn everything to ashes.

Ultimately she asked him to sacrifice the one thing that made him the man he was. She asked him to give up himself for her.

There is a limit to how much one can allow one's self to change.

He opened the door and stepped outside. He turned back for one last look.

She was crying, hugging a pillow to herself miserably.

She didn't look up.

"I'm sorry, Miss Chidori." He whispered hoarsely.

She didn't answer.

He shut the door.

Turned his back.

And walked away.

He was expecting to see Master Sergeant Mao when he first approached the docks, seabag in tow. He was late, and a fast deployment warranted unprecidented speed. He wasn't expecting to see Sergeant Kurtz Weber, but then, the Special Response Team was pretty tight knit. Mao rolled the cigarette in her mouth to the side and looked him up and down, her gaze lingering on the dried blood marring his cheekbone.

She refrained from comment. It wasn't the first time he'd shown up injured in some way. Although the stiff, formal look to him didn't bode overly well.

"You're late, Sagara." She said after a moment.

He stiffened his posture. "I have no excuses, Master Sergeant. It won't happen again."

Mao cracked a grin and Weber rolled his eyes. "Geez, Sousuke, lighten up, will ya? You aren't the only one who's late... everybodies gotten out of practice. The XO's pissed... he's talking about a new round of fast response drills when we get back."

The three of them turned and walked through the security gate, flashing ID to the stiff postured PFC on guard. The M9 Arms Slave also on duty tracked them for a moment before turning it's ultramodern head back to the road. Sousuke noted that while the heavy HEAP rounds had been loaded into the M9's ammo canister, the links were disengaged and the safety was on. He frowned slightly, remembering a time when the M9 on duty would have been primed for combat, especially while the Tuatha De Danaan was in "port".

-We have gotten complacent- He thought to himself.

He pondered whether or not that was a good thing. This thought alone showed how far the young soldier had come along. The Sousuke of four years ago wouldn't have hesitated to answer that it was a bad thing, the worst thing, in fact.

"Geez, Sousuke... what are you... like still asleep?" Kurtz shook him on the shoulder and he started before turning to Weber.

"Sorry, Kurtz... I'm just... distracted."

Kurtz face turned sympathetic. "Kaname again, buddy? Looks like someone wasn't happy about her soldier boy leaving their nice, cozy love ne-"

Sagara narrowed his eyes. "That's enough, Sergeant."

Kurtz blinked. "Wow, touchy... must have been a bad one, wanna talk about it?"

Sousuke turned his attention back to the Tuatha De Danaan as they drew nearer, his face set in serious, professional lines. "No, I don't, Sergeant."

Kurz and Melissa gave each other a troubled look. They were aware that Sousuke's love life had taken an unfortunate turn, nor was it entirely out of character for him to be closed mouthed about it. However, he was reverting to his professional soldier facade, which was not a good sign.

They approached the Quarterdeck of the 218 meter long submarine the United States Navy had, in their frustration at their inability to track it, dubbed "The Toy Box". Last minute shakedown crews were performing various technical procedures that are the backbone of any modern war vessel, and the TDD-1 was a lot more modern than most. Equally mystifying was the onload of weapons.

Kurz whistled appreciately. "Wow... Tessa's loading for bear... I wonder what we're in for this time."

Mao shrugged. "I dunno, and I've been here since midnight. The brass is being real tight lipped about this one... and I haven't even seen Tessa all day. It wouldn't surprise me if our young Captain hasn't slept since yesterday."

Sousuke frowned. "If the upper command had advance warning of a threat requiring such a fast response... why wait until the last minute to put out the alert call?"

Mao shrugged. "I don't know... maybe this is some kinda response drill."

Sousuke shook his head, frowning. He speculated, but he didn't voice his speculations.

They were admittedly paranoid. Perhaps the upper command suspected that one of the crew was leaking information, and they wanted to catch someone off guard.

Which, of course, didn't make much sense. The captain, along with the Lt. Commander Kalanin and Commander Mardukas, had personally interviewed each member of the Tuatha De Danaan. Kalanin was former Speznaz, and Soviet paranoia ensured that they did not make mistakes like that.

Commander Mardukas was on the Quarterdeck inspecting the Officer of the Deck at work at his duties. He eyed the group of Sergeants coldly as they came aboard. Sagara stiffened slightly under the Commander's icy gaze.

"Sergeants. Deployment is in twenty minutes. Get your gear stowed and then get to your duty assignments. On the double."

The three enlisted men snapped to with cold precision, saluting. "Yes, sir!"

They started to rush off. The commander eyed Sousuke as he turned to flee.

"Master Sergeant... a word, if you please."

Sousuke turned and took parade rest. "Sir, of course sir."

The Commander shook his head. "At ease, Sergeant." He eyed Sousuke's face for a moment, then tightened his lips.

"Domestic troubles aside, Sergeant, when your home life starts interfering with the operations of this ship, it becomes my problem. I trust this won't happen again."

Sousuke stiffened, then shook his head. "No sir. I can assure you this won't be a problem in the future, sir."

Commander Mardukas nodded slowly. "Good. This is your first infraction so I'll be brief, as I don't expect this will become a habit. Secure your gear and then report to the Watchbill Coordinator. Inform him that you are to relieve the First Watch immediately. Corporal Takai has been here since yesterday, I'm sure he'll appreciate the opportunity to sleep in that was afforded to some individuals..." He paused. "Will that be a problem?"

Sousuke shook his head. "Sir, no sir."

Mardukas nodded curtly. "Good. Dismissed."

The Master Sergeant headed out.

Commander Mardukas watched him leave, sighing inwardly. -That's the best I can do. God forgive me for what I have to do.-

Sousuke was well aware that he was being afforded a somewhat harsh punishment for his infraction. First Watch was normally assigned as an honor guard position for younger soldiers, as the duties entailed being an escort for the Captain, as well as being the only armed crewmember on the bridge. For more high ranking enlisted it could be considered a punishment, as most of them were excluded from the more hands on watches like Gateguard or Patrol teams. It required a battledress uniform, along with Flak vest, rifle, and sidearm. Unless on battle alert or in the event of a security breach, the rifle was unloaded, although ammunition was on hand, and while the sidearm was loaded, it did not have a round chambered. Seeing Sousuke in full battledress, armed and escorting the Captain would inform anybody with a brain that Sousuke had screwed up.

Including the Captain, which Sousuke did not relish. She would want to know why he was being punished, and he wasn't entirely sure how she would take his response.

He reflected on this as he went through the motions of stowing his gear, then collecting the necessary equipment for the watch ahead.

Kaname's accusations about his intentions toward the Captain had angered him greatly. Partially because it displayed a lack of trust... of loyalty to the relationship he'd worked so hard at, and partially because of how unfair it was to Tessa. After the incident with Gauron the Captain had grown somewhat despondant, distant to those she was once close to. It had been something of a wake up call that the maniac had almost managed to destroy everything she'd worked so hard to create. As a friend, and someone to whom the Captain had, on occasion, turned to, Sousuke had done his best, within the realm of propriety of course, to be there when she needed someone to talk to. While the Sergeant was not exactly the best person when it came to social interaction, he WAS an excellent listener. Both of them were inveterate night owls, and the forward Mess near the vending machines was usually empty so late at night.

The situation had been confusing, to say the least. On the one hand, he loved Kaname with a fierce, slightly desperate passion that scared and disturbed him in ways that made him wake up in a cold sweat, despite the increasingly violent responses she lavished on him as her displeasure at his social cluelessness wore increasingly on her. Captain Tessa, on the other hand, inspired a warm feeling in him that, while not a burning passion, was at the same time, no less real. Tessa gave every appearance of being fragile, clumsy and frail looking, skinny, sparrow thin body and her pale, platinum hair... including her nervous habit of chewing on the end of it. You weren't a red blooded male if the sight of her didn't inspire feelings of protectiveness in you. Despite appearances however, Captain Testarossa had a core of steel... an indomitable will to succeed and the moral and ethical fortitude to do so on her own terms. The strange dichtomy made Sousuke simultaneously very nervous, sympathetic, admiring, confused, and awkward.

It didn't help that she liked to tease him.

Gradually she'd begun to build up her shaken confidence again, becoming more and more the self assured Captain she usually was, and Sousuke found himself in her company because he genuinely LIKED her.

Before he'd seriously settled down with Kaname, he'd found himself increasingly drawn to the pale haired girl, until one day he found himself looking into her slate grey eyes and felt an inexplicable urge to kiss her. Panicked and suddenly ashamed, because it felt like a betrayal of Kaname, because Tessa really needed a friend she could trust, not a scumbag with amorous intentions, and because such feelings bordered dangerously on fraternization as one simply does NOT feel such things for one's commanding officer. Sousuke had thrown himself into his pursuit of Kaname, trying to erase the awkward, dangerous impulses he felt toward the Captain. They'd never really died... they'd simply gone quiesant... helped along by her sudden distance when she learned he was "officially" with Kaname. They were still friends, but they seldom spent time alone together anymore, and their conversations had a thin veneer of distant, cold, politeness.

If it was a bit forced on both parts, neither mentioned anything.

She must have realized that he'd begun developing feelings for her, and had taken steps to insure that impropriety never became a potential hazard. He could respect that, even admire the decision, and was quite glad that she'd agreed with him on it, even though they never mentioned anything about it.

Even though a part of him, at the time at least, had been a little hurt at the sudden distance.

He marched through the P-ways on his way to the bridge, slinging the rifle in the rest position on his back as he did so. He pressed the call button on the hatchway to the bridge.

"Master Sergeant Sagara, reporting for relief of the First Watch."

A crewman answered the call. "Acknowledged Master Sergeant. You have leave to enter."

Sousuke braced himself, then hit the door release button and entered with military courtesy. He approached the dead on his feet looking Corporal on watch, and saluted smartly.

All eyes on the bridge turned to Sagara, varying levels of curiousity present. The Captain turned slightly from the launch orders she was preparing on the digital loadout built into her command chair and raised one delicate platinum eyebrow in askance. She too, looked like death warmed over, dark circles under her eyes and her normally impeccable hair style very slightly frazzled. Despite her worn look, she was still quite attractive. At 20 years of age she hadn't changed much... the Whispered seldom did. Whatever strange code locked into their genetics made most of them slightly wispy and ethereal, Kaname being the notable acception, and only because she was so vehemently physically active.

The Corporal noticed that Sagara had been standing at attention for some time now, gulped, then took a ramrod straight posture and returned the salute.

Sousuke dropped his hand and nodded curtly. "Anything to pass down, Corporal?"

The Corporal shook his head. "No, Master Sergeant. Everything's been pretty quiet. Busy, but quiet."

Sousuke nodded. "Alright. First Watch, you stand relieved. Get some sleep, Corporal."

The Corporal grinned. "Roger that, Sarge."

The Corporal departed hastily, and business resumed on the bridge. Sousuke took up his parade rest position on the watchstation (which was in a position to see the whole bridge, along with the entrance to the Bridge, but close enough to the Command Chair to reach the Captain if there was an emergency). Tessa spared him one lingering, quizzical glance before turning to the job at hand.

Sousuke did what any good watchstander does... his attention was on the bridgecrew, the door, and the situation around him. However, Sousuke was an experienced soldier, and could be perfectly in tune with the situation without devoting his entire attention to it.

Commander Mardukas and Lt. Commander Kalanin entered at the same time. Sousuke saluted and gave the rote greetings.

"Executive Officer on deck."

Tessa didn't spare them a glance, she was too busy finishing up the loadouts and electronically signing the various deployment orders. She mechanically answered him.


The Commander took up his customary position near the Captain and clasped his hands behind his back.

"All preparations are completed and all crew present or accounted for, Ma'am. We can leave as soon as you give the word."

"Thank you Commander Mardukas. I appreciate the speed at which the crew has assembled on such short notice."

The Commander snapped her a glance, then frowned slightly. "With all due respect ma'am, four hours is a far cry from what this crew should be capable of."

Tessa smiled slightly, fingering her hair. "Preparations for deployment weren't completed until a few minutes ago, Commander. I know the navy has a policy of hurry up and wait, but I think, considering the suddenness of our departure, they can be forgiven."

Kalanin raised an eyebrow. "Nevertheless, we should take into consideration drilling them so that it doesn't become a habit."

Tessa nodded. "I suppose so. I'll leave it to you then, Commander."

Commander Mardukas nodded shortly. "Very good, ma'am."

Captain Testarossa touched several keys on her datapad and opened up the 1MC, or main shipboard broadcast channel. A whistle sounded as she did so, informing the crew that the Captain was about to speak. She addressed the crew.

"This is the Captain speaking. I know all of you are probably wondering why there is so much secrecy as to the nature of our current deployment, and I apologize for the interruption to your lives this might have created. More information will be forthcoming after we have achieved cruise depth, I can assure you. In the meantime, prepare for departure. We leave in approximately five minutes."

The yellow status alarm came on aboard the ship and various crewmembers rushed to their assigned stations. The shoreside duty personnel secured the gantry way and decoupled the station power cables, air hoses, and various other connections. Crew members on the bridge began reciting information collected from their various stations.

"Paladium reactors one and two online, power console is green. Reactor three holding steady on standby."

"Dockside power secured, all power stations report nominal operation."

"O2 levels green, rebreather is online. Oxygen lines are detached."

All hatches and bulkheads secured, shore command reports we are clear for departure."

Mardukas turned to the captain. "All preperations completed, we are prepared for departure."

The Captain nodded. "Very well, XO take us out."

Mardukas turned to the bridge crew. "Aye aye. Come about to bearing three four niner, ahead 1/4th."

The dive offiver turned to the crew. "Bearing three four niner, ahead 1/4th aye."

The crew adjusted the heading accordingly, taking the ship out past the docks and outlying piers. The ship slid silently through the early morning gloom, a ghost wreathed in fog. It was unlikely any one watching from shore could see her low profile unless they knew what they were looking for. Once the ship had cleared the bay, Tessa made several notations into her datapad and turned to Mardukas.

"XO, take us to heading three zero three and bring us to cruise depth, then engage EMFC and keep her steady."

"Aye Captain. All hands, prepare for dive. Secure all gear adrift. Dive dive dive. Ten degrees down bubble."

The ship eased very quickly into the water, becoming first a shadow, then a wisp, then finally disappearing into the dark waters. Soon not even a wake could be distinguished.

"Bearing three zero three, depth one five zero meters and holding. Engage Electromagnetic Field Cancellation system and all head full."

"Aye aye. Bearing three zero three, EMFC engaged, all head full."

The ship's normal slight hum became a more polite whisper as the smoother EMFC system kicked in. The captain secured her datapad and stretched, yawning tiredly. The Commander looked sympathetic.

"Captain, everything appears to be under control. Might I suggest that you retire? You've been up at least 36 hours."

Tessa raised an eyebrow, then nodded quietly. "I think I'll take your advice, Mr. Mardukas. XO, you have the helm."

"Aye Aye, Captain. XO taking the helm."

Sousuke turned over the deckwatch to a crewmember who stood as the XO relieved the Captain and followed Tessa as she left the deck. The crewmember announced her departure. The doors opened and shut behind them, leaving them alone in the P-ways leading to the Captain's quarters.

For a moment they stood there looking at each other, thinking their seperate thoughts, thinking about what the other was thinking and wondering at how little the other had changed.

Of course, they hadn't exactly been at opposite ends of the globe, but neither had they been seeking one another out. Not because they wanted to, or because they couldn't. It had just turned out that way.

Sousuke was the first to break the silence.

"Captain." He said seriously, as though there was any other mode for Sousuke. Well there was, but you had to watch him very carefully to see his moods. Kaname had never quite caught the knack.

"Mr. Sagara." She said after a time, her eyes searching his face, lingering on the cut on his cheek and flicking back up to his eyes.

He turned rather than answer the silent question in her eyes, walking towards her quarters. She followed him with her eyes for a moment, her expression unreadable, then without a word she fell in step behind him. His boots made quiet clanging noises on the deck plating.

"It has... been a while." She said, falteringly. Something about this man always made her unsure of herself. It had eased with familiarity, but now she was unsure how to deal with his presence. Sousuke wasn't exactly a master of small talk.

"I was one of the personnel who arrived late this morning. Commander Mardukas corrected my error. I can assure you it won't happen again, ma'am."

"That's not what I meant." She said quietly.

His eyes flicked back at her for a second, then back forward.

"How is Kaname?" She asked, deciding to press on.

"Her health and physical wellbeing continue to meet acceptable levels." He announced.

They stopped outside the Captain's Quarters. She palmed the door, catching his eyes for the first time since he'd entered the bridge. She searched them for a moment, her face solemn. He focused his gaze distantly, unconsciously taking up an at attention stance.

She shook her head. "That's an awfully cold way to talk about your girlfriend, Mr. Sagara."

He winced. Not much, at least, not visibly, but she caught it. She blinked, astounded.

"Ms. Chidori and I are... no longer on personal terms, Captain." He said, a trifle hoarsely.

She shook her head. Just like him. Reporting heartbreak and misery like a bad battlefield condition. She was too tired to think about this right now, in fact, she regretted probing. Like the cut on his face, it was obvious the wound on his heart was still bleeding. She wondered what could have happened. No, on second thought, she she could probably guess.

A tingle of guilt ran through her. She reflected on her actions and wondered if she'd had some subconscious reasons for placing Sousuke in a position where he'd had more responsibilities.

-Guess you aren't as over him as you thought, Tessa- She berated herself.

"I'm... sorry, Sousuke. I didn't mean to..." She trailed off. Now wasn't the time. He needed to be alone. She forced herself to step back, adopt a professional mask, and move on.

Her heart yammered at her to comfort him, but her heart had betrayed her before.

"I'll sleep better knowing you're watching over me, Sergeant Sagara."

He tensed slightly, every inch a professional soldier. "I won't let you down, ma'am."

She entered her quarters and the door slide shut quietly behind her. She paused for a moment, considering the ramifications of Sousuke's personal life.

She loved him. It was undeniable. What had started as a crush during the days leading up to Gauron's attack had only blossomed during her dark time afterwards. He was clumsy, fumbling, and inept in his attempts to comfort her, but he was sincere. She'd gotten to know him in that short time, had been amazed that one man barely out of childhood had accomplished, endured, so much. Her analytical, logical mind wasn't prepared for the entirely illogical, emotional responses he evoked in her.

Big brother had said when she fell, she'd fall hard. Fall she had. She'd thought he was beginning to feel the same way, when something had changed. He'd made his choice, broken through some barrier with Chidori, and she knew how hard that must have been, how much it had to have cost him to let someone inside his protective armor.

How much he had to have cared to do so.

She loved him, she wanted him to be happy. She forced herself to react to him on a professional level, to put aside those feelings. Military courtesy made it all the easier.

She knew she'd get over him in time. She knew the regret and the hurt would go away. She too, threw herself into her work. It made things bearable.

She knew she'd get over him.

Four years hadn't been enough.

She slipped out of her uniform and put on her evening clothing, and slipped into bed, staring at the impenetrable darkness above her.

-What now? What do I do now?- She thought.

Seeing him again, so close, had brought it all flooding back. Her exhausted mind had been unable to keep up. She'd hurt him, she knew. Unintentionally, of course.

A small part of her raged at Kaname for making him hurt. She squashed it down as unworthy. She sighed.

What to do? What to do?

Everything was in place. Things were as fool proof as they were going to get. The agent paused a moment before proceeding, brooding on the good men and women who were going to die today.

He wished there was another way. The message had been undeniable, however. The Tuatha De Danaan was too great a liability, had flaunted its invinciblity too often in front of too many nations to allow to continue to exist.

He brought up the datapad and input four series of numbers, sending them to various workstations around the ship.

The Tuatha De Danaan was a doomed ship.

She just didn't know it yet.