The thought rocketed around his head even as the he could feel the landing gear set with a jarring click. He clung to the thought like a life ring in stormy seas, it sustained him, made him believe that for just a little while longer he would be safe. If anything, the simile between his thoughts and the weather were all but accurate. The plane he was currently taking home was rocking back and forth with the violent winds outside. Occasionally, a bolt of lightning would light up the small cabin followed by an immediate clap of thunder so strong that the floor would vibrate as if an earthquake. It was no wonder that he had gotten no sleep during this last leg of the journey.
Almost there. He repeated silently, a litany that sustained his consciousness. Suddenly, he felt the plane buck wildly, then settle. He was home, or at least as close to home as someone like him could get. Silently, he stood up, grabbed the small duffle of personal belongings that he took every where he went and waited patiently at the airlock that would be his exit. A few minutes later, the door was opened and a small stair was fit against the side allowing him the chance to get off the plane and glance around the large hanger he now found himself in.
It was empty of any living thing save for himself and the small crew of the plane he just got off. He hadn't expected anyone to be there anyway, especially when he had told no one that he took the earliest possible flight, pushing his body with the last amount of reserves he had to make it home, to make it away from the godforsaken place from which he had come.
A godforsaken place that used to be my home, he reminded himself, as if to ward any thoughts of becoming permanently attached to any one place for long. He quickly walked through the large cavernous hanger, listening as his footsteps echoed along the walls. It took no more than a half minute to get to the other end of the room at a steady pace and from there the door opened into a much more narrow hallway. The hallway, he noticed with more than just a little relief was as blessedly empty as the hanger. A quick check of the wristwatch he wore confirmed just how late it was, and that if anyone was still up they would be serving in an around the bridge area, and area he had no need of going near to get to the place he wanted.
Quickly selecting the right passageway, he made his way down the long corridors of steel, and empty expression on his face. All he needed was a bed, and some rest and he would be ready to report the mission's particulars to his superiors. They weren't expecting him until tomorrow anyway, another reason why he pushed himself as hard as he had to return to the submarine. When he moved down the last corridor, the door leading to his quarters and safety were in sight, he finally met someone, though. Someone whom he had never expected to be up as such a late hour and even sporting almost the same look as he was.
That was until she spied him. Grey eyes widened in recognition, and the young woman rubbed her tired eyes just to make sure she was really seeing what she thought she was seeing. Once she confirmed she wasn't hallucinating, she called his name, using a voice barely above a whisper.
Teletha Tesstarosa rubbed her eyes tiredly, trying vainly to hide the beginnings of a migraine from the man standing to the side of her seated form.
"Is that the last plan for this evening?" she asked tiredly to the man who stood with stoic attention at her side. Sadly, she remembered that there were normally two that stood next to her on the bridge, but Kalinin was still recovering from his wounds sustained from the Behemoth endeavor.
"Yes, Madam Captain." Came the short reply from Commander Mardukas, her other advisor. "That will be the last one for the evening."
Teletha, sometimes called Tessa by her friends, sighed with barely restrained relief. It made her cringe to use the word evening in this situation though, because a quick check at her digital readout told her that it was way past anything that could be remotely considered evening. She nodded her head briefly, and brought her attention back to the center console at which her chair was directly facing. Tonight, it was one of the few operating, as most of the other bridge crew had already been relieved of their duties. Skeleton crew was the only one necessary for the early morning hours, yet it was her duty to make sure that everything was alright before she left, and when she saw that there were a few 'early' arrivers scheduled this morning, she had elected to stay and supervise. Now she was beginning to regret it.
"If I may, Madam Captain, it's late, and we have nothing else scheduled until 1000 hours. You should get some rest." Mardukas told her from the side of his mouth, barely taking his gaze from the center console.
Tessa looked gratefully at her aide and smiled slightly. "I think I will do just that, Mardukas. Please take care and call me if you need me." She returned the crisp salute from the older man and walked off the bridge. As soon as the door closed, she let out a giant breath of air, and leaned tiredly against the door she had just closed. She wished fervently that she could take off the pumps she wore as a part of her uniform, they seemed to be too tight on her feet tonight, more than likely due to her feet being slightly swollen because she had been on them so long. However, she knew that it would be improper for her to do anything of the sort until she was out of the 'public' halls. As soon as she got into her quarters, though, the infernal shoes were coming off.
From the bridge it was a very short trip to her quarters. If there was an emergency she could be at the command bridge in a very short amount of time. Though she had never needed to test that safety precaution. She turned down the hall that would lead her to her own door when she suddenly caught sight of someone crossing the opposite end, no doubt in the direction of his own bed. Though, she began to wonder just who else would be getting off at this time, especially with the shift change happening over two hours ago. She wondered, that was, until she recognized the figure; all thoughts left her mind after that. He was staring at her, as if he wondered the same thing that had passed through her mind when he saw her. Her eyes widened slightly and her mouth opened on its own accord.
He stood before her shocked for a moment before he seemed to remember where he was and who she was. In a moment, he was at attention, duffle bag dropped hastily and using the previously occupied hand to throw a salute.
"Captain!" He returned smartly, if a bit tiredly.
"Relax, Sergeant, I'm off duty." She told him easily, making her way over to the young man. "I thought you were due in the morning? The itinerary did not list your report until 1000 hours."
"Affirmative, ma'am. I hurried, wanting a little bit of rest before I was scheduled to report. I caught the first plane I could."
"I see," Tessa merely replied, wondering if rest was the only thing on his mind to cause his haste. A quick look at his eyes, something he couldn't hide from her due to his superior height, told her a lot more than anything else could. Simply put, he looked like hell. His shaggy brown hair was even messier than usual, and his eyes, normally alert, were tired and bloodshot. His clothes had always been pressed and neatly worn, though now he looked like had just found any old thing and threw it over his head simply because going naked was the only other alternative.
Blinking after taking in the normally stoic officer's appearance, Tessa decided that the person before her wasn't the Sousuke she had begun to know a little better since first meeting him…this was a completely different person entirely. Idly, she wondered what could have happened to make this change in appearance happen. Her superior officers were being rather tight lipped over the circumstances of the mission that he had been assigned to and were not sharing a single detail with her, which wasn't altogether unusual. There was intense competition between the various branches within Mithril and it was usually only because they absolutely had to that they shared information freely.
"Well, I am glad that you have returned. I am sure you will be happy to return to your normal duties as soon as possible," she said in the intervening silence that was beginning to make her feel uncomfortable. Why did he look so distraught? It was beginning to worry the petite woman almost to a frantic level. Did something really bad happen?
"Yes ma'am," Sousuke replied crisply before his tired eyes dropped a little and a frown made it's way across his face. "Is that all, ma'am? I am a little tired after all."
Tessa's eyes widened a fraction as she suddenly remembered that they had both had long days and he probably wanted to see his bed a lot more than she wanted to see her own. "Yes…yes, of course, Sergeant. You are dismissed."
"Ma'am!" Sousuke gave her another crisp salute before he turned around smartly only to stumble a bit as an injury to his leg made it's presence known once again. He had received many injuries in the fights that had taken place on his mission and according to the doctors that had taken a look at him once he was rescued they would be a long time in healing.
"Sousuke!" Tessa called out worriedly when she saw him stumble and immediately situated herself under his arms to steady his body. She was suddenly surprised to find out just how light the Sergeant really was, then. She had virtually no physical abilities whatsoever and yet supporting the young soldier didn't seem to take much of what little she did have. "Have you seen a doctor yet, Sergeant?"
Sousuke sighed deeply before closing his eyes, supremely uncomfortable with the physical contact that was now taking place. "Yes, ma'am. It is not a problem."
"Bull," Tessa cried fiercely, making the young man draped over her shoulders gap at her sudden outburst. She colored slightly at his stare but continued on nonetheless. "What in the world happened out there Sousuke? I know you didn't have any injuries before you left, and though I acknowledge the fact that it was a mission, and a dangerous one at that, but to have garnered a serious injury as the one you seem to have begs me to wonder."
The young man opened his eyes and stared directly into the steely grey ones of his captain and realized that he was trapped in a corner. The petite woman did not seem to be willing to let him go without some sort of explanation. Embarrassingly, he could see the worry openly in her eyes. She seemed to genuinely want to help…would it be so bad to talk to her about it off the record? At this point, he was surprised to realize that he was too tired to care about protocol anymore. Everything that happened came flooding back into his mind suddenly and he had to fight hard to maintain just a normal facial expression. At that moment, through all the images of his comrades dying around him, of killing his once good friend, of coming into the clearing and finding the knife through Grey's AS, blood mixing with the oil on the ground he lost all his barriers completely.
"I…I…can't talk about it here," he told her quietly, his tone making the captain worry even more because he sounded as if he was about to break down into tears at that very moment.
What in the world happened? Tessa found herself wondering once again as she nodded her head in understanding of his quiet admission. She silently began to lead him to her quarters, as they were the closest to their current location. All the while her worry began to reach a feverish pace, as Sousuke appeared to be getting worse by the minute. Fortunately she had him in her office and on the couch in short order. Another few minutes and two steaming cups of tea were placed before them. Just as she was beginning to wonder whether or not Sousuke had actually fallen asleep he stirred violently and began to mumble something under his breath.
"What did you say Sousuke?" She asked quietly, and dared to reach over and touch his shoulder reassuringly.
"All dead." Sousuke repeated a little louder, his eyes staring straight up at the ceiling blankly. At first Tessa thought he was having a guilt trip over having to kill other people which wouldn't have been that uncommon if it weren't for the fact that the young man didn't seem to have any previous compunctions to do so. The he repeated his phrase once again, with only a single word in addition to his last sentence…a word that nearly made Tessa drop her teacup.
"Team all dead." Sousuke muttered in a tone that was now beginning to not only worry the captain but scare her slightly as well. But that was nothing compared to what came next: the full story, told in painstaking detail from beginning to end. Sousuke told the whole way through without pause, without emotion, and when the young man reached the end of his tale, Tessa was openly crying.
The horrors that he had just gone through, Tessa could not fathom because if she even tried to remotely come close to how she would feel if something similar had happened to her she would have long ago cracked her mind in two. How could he even be functioning after a traumatic even such as that?
Suddenly ignoring every piece of advice her rational mind told her to do, Tessa shifted herself over to the couch that Sousuke was lying upon and shifted his upper body into her lap desperate to give him some sort of comfort for his ordeal. It was a gesture that ultimately went unnoticed by the young man as he had fallen asleep immediately after his tale; too exhausted in both mind and body to register his petite guardian holding him throughout the night, crying for him, because of him…keeping the nightmares away all night long.
The incessant ringing of Tessa's phone woke her up suddenly the next morning and she frantically began to search around her quarters for any sign of Sousuke but he had apparently left quietly a while ago, knowing that if they had been found in the position they were in there would have been hell to pay. Though she worried about him greatly, it suddenly became apparent that answering the phone was probably a more pressing issue at the moment. On her way over to the device she stole a look at her digital clock and cursed silently. She was running a little late but was mostly in the clear, as she didn't have any appointments until the debriefing of Sousuke's mission at 10. Thinking of that brought back the dread within her as she knew she would have to listen to the whole story again yet this time would not be able to express her concern over him…would not be able to give him the comfort he so desperately needed right now.
Pushing her dread away as she reached her phone and picked it up, she was proud of herself for answering the phone without any more emotion than the understandable exhaustion that she would have normally been feeling after a day like yesterday.
"Madam captain? This is Mardukas. I was thinking that you would like to meet briefly before our ten o'clock appointment to discuss the possible outcomes of Sousuke's mission. Do you have time?"
"Of course, that would be wise." Tessa answered with only a slight waver in her voice. She could not let on that she already knew the full details of the mission and its horrible outcome. "Give me a few moments to freshen up and I will meet you on the bridge."
"Of course. I hope you had a good rest. I will see you shortly." Mardukas then hung up, not giving the young woman time to reply to his pleasantries, but it didn't bother her much. The stoic man had always been distant like that and besides, she had much more disturbing things on her mind at the time.
Her thoughts carried her all the way through her brief shower and subsequent dressing in a new uniform. But she received one more final surprise for the morning when she opened her door to exit and found Sousuke standing beside it, looking for all the world like a silent sentry. She was so surprised, in fact, that she forgot all protocol and the fact that someone could have been listening to them.
"Sousuke? What are you doing here?" She asked, the surprise in her voice carrying clearly.
The young sergeant made a few uncomfortable fidgets before he finally bowed to her reverently, only coming up after a few seconds spent in the ultimate gesture of gratitude.
"I…wished to thank you Capt-er- Tessa for what you did last night. You have no idea how much it helped."
Tessa merely stood in front of him, shell-shocked. He had called her 'Tessa!' Not "ma'am…or 'captain' or 'madam captain' but just plain Tessa. For the first time since she had met to young man, he had called her by her name and it was a moment she wanted treasure forever. Unfortunately for her, she remembered where she was all too soon.
"It…it was my pleasure Sousuke. I am glad I was able to provide some comfort," she managed to reply shortly after getting over her joy at hearing him call her by name.
Within moments, his neutral expression was back, though Tessa thought she noticed his eyes were a little bit softer when her regarded her, and in a louder, more formal voice he announced that if that was all he would return to duty.
Tessa caught on quickly and returned the formalities before dismissing him, watching as he smartly turned on his uninjured foot and strode away at a brisk pace. Only waiting until he was out of earshot before she muttered quietly, "I will always be there for you Sousuke, to provide comfort or whatever you need. Because I care for you."
Tessa smiled slightly at her quiet admission before she turned and headed in the opposite direction that Sousuke had gone, intent on performing her duties the same way she always did day in and day out…but this time it was a little bit different. This time, as she walked the familiar short route to the bridge, the day looked inexplicably brighter than it had before.End
Author's End Notes: Well, finishing this little one shot was certainly a surprise. I had it sitting on my computer ever since I began writing it shortly after I finished "The moment I First Saw You." This little piece is not meant to be really canon but I began to wonder what could have possibly happened between the time that Sousuke finished his mission to the desert of Tajikistan and when he arrived at his apartment. I knew he would probably have to attend some sort of debriefing before being dismissed back to his guard duties and slowly this idea began to form. I hope you all like it. It's pretty much just a small piece of fluff I wrote in between Wisdom chapters anyway. Until next time. Enjoy.