Epilogue What A Wonderful World

What A Wonderful World as sung by Louis Armstrong

The party was still going strong when Sousuke left the hanger to take in the sultry humid night air of Merida Island with a bottle of club soda in his hand. Kaname was deep in a conversation with Mao and the subject had sent him backpedaling to get away from the girl talk. The first question out of Melissa's mouth that night was her asking if the two of them had sex yet. It had Sousuke, Kaname and Tessa sputtering and red-faced , while Commander Mardukus was wide-eyed, Lieutenant Commander Kalinin raised an eyebrow with a smirk, and Kurz led the rest of the Uzru Team howling with laughter. The good natured ribbing that followed threatened to leave the couple blushing for the next two months. The going away party had been the idea of both Melissa and Kurz as modified by the Captain.

Sousuke and Kaname, along with Eleanor, had landed earlier that day in a CH47 Chinook, one of three that were being transported to the island for shipment to the United States. The trip was interesting for both Kaname and Eleanor as neither had ever flown on a military helicopter, let alone been on board during an in-air refueling.

After landing Eleanor was stored in the hanger in Al's old spot. The ARX7 had been transported by a cargo drone to Sousuke's new posting in the States two days ago. Sousuke and Kaname were given a pair of rooms in the BEQ's for the night. They were scheduled to fly out sometime tomorrow.

An hour before dusk, Melissa knocked on Kaname's door and Kurz just barged in to Sousuke's room. Like the well-oiled machine they were, they cajoled the younger couple into presentable clothes. For Sousuke, Kurz and Melissa this consisted of the Dress Mess Uniform, while Melissa loaned Kaname a gown that brought out her eyes. The senior pair then hustled them back into the hanger where off-duty personnel already had the party started. It was a 'Dining Out'. With the arrival of the 'Guests of Honor', things got into full swing. Kaname watched with pride as Captain Teletha Testarossa draped a medal on the chest of the confused Soldier.

Just before it happened, a burly Master Chief Petty Officer standing just behind and the right of the Captain called in a stentorian voice, "GROUP, ATTENTION." Instantly every uniformed person in the room snapped to. "SERGEANT SAGARA, FRONT AND CENTER." When Sousuke heard 'Attention', he instinctively snapped to the commanded position. By now all thought had ceased in his brain and he was running strictly on training. At the command 'Front and Center', he made his way to stand directly in front of the Captain and saluted. "M'am, Sergeant Sagara, reporting as ordered."

Tessa returned the salute and when Sousuke's right arm returned to his side, she ordered, "Sergeant Sagara, About, FACE."

When Sousuke turned to face the other guests, Tessa moved to stand just the right/front of Sousuke and nodded to the Senior NCO, who thundered again "ATTENTION TO ORDERS" The Master Chief Petty Officer opened a small flat velvet covered box and held it to the Captain. "M'am"

Tessa pulled out a blue and gray ribbon and an attached pendent, stood directly in front of Sousuke and said, "Sergeant Sagara, for far too many actions above and beyond the call of duty to list, it is my Honor, to present you with the Medal of Valor." She reached up and draped the Medal over the neck of the surprised Soldier, smoothing the ribbon and settling the medal just below his bow tie. She didn't look up as she said, "I want to personally thank you, Sergeant. Without exception, you have been an exemplary Soldier, and a good friend." She looked up now and grey met grey. "It has been my Honor to have been your Commanding Officer."

The only people in the room who didn't know it was coming was the recipient and his girl. Sousuke was stunned. Kaname felt like she about to burst with pride for her man. The rest of his comrades stood there at Attention, silently beaming for their teammate.

Tessa looked at the rank he was wearing and with a mischievous twinkle, she asked, "Sergeant, why are you out of uniform?"

"MMMM'am?" Sousuke was completly bewildered, it was all happening too fast.

Tessa glanced around. "Sergeant Major Mao?"

Melissa stepped up to the front and saluted. "M'am."

Still with the twinkle, Tessa returned the salute and asked "Sergeant Major, didn't you inform the Sergeant of his promotion?"

Although she had a perfectly straight face, you could just tell that Melissa was smirking on the inside. "My apologies, M'am. I guess in the confusion, it slipped my mind. No excuse, M'am."

"I see." She cocked an eyebrow at the other senior NCO. "Master Chief Richter?"

"Luckily M'am, I happen to have an appropriate set of rank insignia handy."

"Excellent, Master Chief. Sergeant Sagara, with the agreement of High Command and the Mithral Council, it was felt appropriate that since you are being transferred to the United States, we should use indigenous rank."

The thunderous voice of the Master Chief sounded again, "ATTENTION TO ORDERS." In a merely loud voice he continued. "Having reposed special trust and confidence in the fidelity, valor and Honor of Sergeant Sousuke Sagara, by order of the High Command, with the concurrence of the Mithral Council, he is hereby promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant. Signed Lord Edwin Mallory. Chairman of the Council."

Tessa was smirking badly as she pinned the completely inappropriate style of rank to his lapel. "You will get your uniform updated at your earliest convenience, won't you Sergeant?"

"Yeyeyes M'am."

"Good, then let's get the party really started." After saying that, Tessa removed her jacket. By custom, until the Senior Officer present removed their jacket, the party was still formal and no one was allowed to take off theirs. Afterwards was a different story. Once the Senior Officer de-jacketed, all bets were off and the party is truly launched.

That was a few hours ago. Every one congratulated, ribbed and generally teased the new Staff Sergeant. The young couple danced the slow dances, sort of. They just swayed to the music in each others arms. But he still wasn't really used to crowds, so he had take a break and stepped out into the night.

The night sky here on the island was always a source of wonder to the young Soldier. Without the light pollution that was forever present in Japan, he could clearly see the Milky Way painted across the heavens. The constellations hanging in the sky were old friends to him. Being alone like this was one of the very few times of peace for Sousuke. Most people renewed their sense of self by spending time with friends and family. But until recently, he never understood how being in a boisterous environment could do that. He never had many friends and no family left that he knew of.

I see trees of green.

Red roses too.

I see them bloom.

For me and you.

And I think to myself,

'What a wonderful world.'

So for the Soldier, it had always been spending time alone in nature that helped to stave off the madness. By a stream or the sea with a pole in hand. Walking through the wilderness after dark, listening to the sounds of insects calling or the animals that hunted and foraged at night. The birds flitting from tree to tree. This was the miracle of life that spoke to the young man. It revitalized him for the battles to come. It resurrected his sense of self that was worn away by Combat. Showed him that the world and the people in it was worth protecting, even at the cost of his own life if necessary.

I see skies of blue,

And clouds of white.

The bright blessed day,

The dark sacred night.

And I think to myself,

'What a wonderful world.'

Looking up at the moonless sky he easily picked out Orion and the Southern Cross. They seemed close enough to touch. He had tried for years when he was a child, never succeeded, but he had always tried. He even climbed the highest mountains he could find to try and get closer. When he reached the age of ten or so, he finally understood the stars were unreachable. It was the beginning of the walls around his heart that led to his perpetual cluelessness.

The colors of the rainbow,

So pretty in the sky,

Are also on the faces,

Of people going by.

I see friends shaking hands,

Saying 'How do you do?',

They're really saying,

'I Love You.'

He had always been alone, even in a crowded briefing room. Because of his past, he never learned how to relate to people. That was changing though. Thanks to one very special person. She was showing him life itself, and he would spend the rest of his life trying to find a way to thank her. He dimly understood that opening himself up like this had the potential to be unbelievably painful. If something ever happened to her, he thought he probably would go mad. But the benefits seemed to far outweigh the risks.

Brick by brick, Kaname was pulling the wall apart. Not always with the patience of a saint, but she was getting it done. He felt a presence. He didn't even have to turn around to know who it was. Her. He felt her wrap her arms around his torso and lay her head on his back. Laying his empty hand across hers, he looked over his shoulder, "Kaname?"

I hear babies cry,

I watched them grow.

They'll learn much more,

Then I'll ever know.

And I think to myself,

What a wonderful world.

Her voice wafted over his shoulder, "It's a beautiful night." He tossed the bottle into a trash can as she wormed her way around to his front and inside his arms. "I am so proud of you, Sousuke. And I know how you are. In the back your mind, your wondering what you did to deserve this." She touched the Medal hanging in the center of his chest. "Aren't you?"

"I only did what I had to do, Kaname. I just did my duty, that's all."

Smiling and with unshed tears, she looked in to his steel grey eyes and said, "Melissa said that's exactly what you would say. But trust me, Sousuke. You've earned this. Through fire and strife and blood. You've earned this."


And I think to myself,

What a wonderful world.

Reaching up she cupped his cheeks saying, "You've earned this too." And she pulled him gently down and kissed him. He moved his arms to better support her as she deepened the kiss. After a timeless interval, they broke for air and she laid her head on his shoulder, fingering the medal, running her thumb across the silver face and the word 'VALOR'. "You just keep doing what you've been doing, Sousuke. Your doing fine."

Ohhhh Yeeeaaaahh!