A/N: This is my first Full Metal Panic! fic but I adore the Sousuke/Kaname pairing. Their parallels (or lack thereof) are so fun to work with. I hope this will bring a few smiles to a few faces.
Dedicated to Mizaya for pushing the series at me.
Disclaimer: I don't own FMP! and am making no money off of this fic.
Tokyo was a city not unused to a mass of energetic high-schoolers and college-goers out at night looking for weekend entertainment. When breaks from studying were acceptable, the young people of Japan were out and ready for action. With this in mind, the students of Jindai High School took full advantage of it.
Spring break was fast approaching, and Chidori Kaname's class had set up a fundraising festival in the heart of the city to raise money for their upcoming class trip to Kyoto. Students could be seen running booths with various games; ball-throwing, fish-catching, duck racing, and so on. As class president, the highly enthusiastic Kaname had assigned her bodyguard, the socially dysfunctional Sagara Sousuke, to the rifle-shooting booth. She had decided it would make the most sense and be the most helpful to place him somewhere that he would both be useful in and enjoy it at the same time. Thus, the rifle-shooting. Where there were targets, there too would be Sergeant Sagara, teenage mercenary of Mithril…
"Now, you must place your eye closer to the firearm."
…and utter disgrace to today's youth of Japan. Kaname's eye twitched as she Kyoko approached the booth that Sousuke and fellow otaku Kazama Shinji were working at. "Sousuke… What is he doing?" she grumbled with irritation that steadily increased with each word. Hands clenching into fists at her sides, she began to stomp over to the somehow-offending sergeant's booth.
"Oh," gasped Kyoko, her pigtails swinging with delight. She lifted her mini-camera in anticipation of the impending temper eruption. "Make this a good one, Kaname!"
Kaname either did not hear her friend or chose to ignore her. Either way, she stopped with a treacherous pounding of her foot to the gravel-laden ground and set her hands threateningly on her hips. Her very presence demanded attention and several heads turned.
"And you must make sure to keep both of your eyes open at all times. Otherwise, the target might…" The brown-haired "exchange student" was kneeling on the ground. Noticing her, he turned his grey eyes up to the decidedly angry-looking Kaname. "Chidori," he said, his voice holding no more emotion than his usual monotone ever did. "You appear distressed. Is something the matter?"
"Sousuke…" Bringing one of her fists up, she had to concentrate very hard on not grabbing her classmate and pounding him hard on the top of his skull. "What did I advise you to do with the customers?"
Sousuke blinked, apparently finding her question to be obvious. "You suggested that I assist those new to aiming."
"That's right." The controlled vibrato to her voice was dangerous, but Sagara projected no sense of alarm, though he was incredibly alert to her actions. "When I said that," she went on, "I didn't meant for you to teach a five-year-old how to shoot a rifle!"
The little boy between them came up no higher than Kaname's hip, and he looked up at her with huge, innocent eyes. Her impatience grew upon seeing them, knowing that their would be a very loud complaint from a parent who discovered that their sweet little son now wanted a gun for their next birthday.
"It isn't alright?" asked Sousuke, his face blank with misunderstanding.
Kaname gaped at him, at the absurdity of his ignorance, and then her head hung in defeat. Why should she ever expect Sousuke to know what type of game was appropriate for grade-schoolers? He had probably handled grenades by the time he was as tall as that kid?
With an internal sigh she refused to allow out, she reached into the pockets of the jeans she wore and pulled out a string of ten cardboard tickets. Lowering herself to one knee the way Sousuke did, she held them out to the little boy. "Here you go," she said, putting them in his hand. "Why don't you find a less dangerous game to play?"
The boy seemed reluctant at first (Kaname guessed he was probably a little spoiled – otherwise it was doubtful that he would be wandering around by himself at all) but at the prospect of more tickets, he went off more or less happily. Kaname watched him go, and then turned a malicious glare to her common sense-impaired bodyguard. Sousuke broke out in a visible sweat, and they both rose to their full height at the same time. Kaname now felt at a disadvantage due to the inches he had on her.
From his place behind the booth, Kazama Shinji watched the exchange with undiluted fear staining his eyes beyond his glasses. "Is everything okay now, Chidori-san?" he asked nervously. When she looked at him, he notably cringed. In that moment, Kyoko took her picture. "I—I'll watch Sagara-san from now on, okay!"
Pinching the bridge of her nose with exasperation, Kaname shook her head. The sway of her thick blue hair might have been very pretty if her mood were far better. "No, Kazama. This booth isn't very busy, and your shift is almost over." Sending another piercing glare at Sousuke, she said, "I'm getting this troublemaker out of here before he gets a kid hurt or something."
"Kana-chan, that's too harsh!" admonished Koyoko, although it was true enough that she believed it possible.
"I will be more careful in the future," Sousuke promised, his face determined. "If you will allow me to stay, I am certain I can improve the aim technique of even the girls in the area…"
At the thought of him sidling up to a girl to help her place her hands just the right way on a weapon, Kaname felt something inside of her grow hostile. "Come on, Sousuke. March!" The words were said as an order, and since Sousuke responded best to military fashion, he succumbed to the merciless tug Kaname gave to his shirtsleeve, albeit a stumble here or there.
Sousuke seemed to want to remain at the booth, and she finally stopped pulling when they were a good distance. Out of sight, out of mind, she reasoned.
"I can't let you out of my sight, can I?" she asked, talking more to herself than to him.
"Strictly speaking," he answered, serious expression in place, "you should be the one in my sight, as it is my duty to protect you."
Duty, she thought, and the hostility faded. Reminding herself that being angry only led to unhappiness, she took a deep breath and exhaled slowly before facing him again. She gave a small smile, and it reached her brown eyes easily. Sousuke seemed to become confused at her sudden change of mood.
"Thanks for you help tonight, Sousuke," Kaname said at last. "But I sold a lot in the ticket booth tonight, and there's only an hour or so left before it's time to shut down. Kazama will be fine on his own. Your booth isn't very popular, and anyway, Kyoko will be there too." At least, she didn't think her friend had anywhere else to go. "You should have some fun while the festival is still going on."
Sousuke stiffened, a cord of tension wrapping around him from his shoulders to his feet. The word fun was something that tended to often set him on edge. Normally, when anyone mentioned that he should have fun, he always ended up in some sort of trouble. But Kaname currently looked peaceful enough to be around without having to worry about getting bruised simply by being near her. He supposed it would be within reason to go along with whatever she decided to do.
"What was it you wanted to participate in, Chidori?" The question was formal, but it was the only way Sousuke knew how to ask.
Kaname shrugged her shoulders. "I haven't been on a single ride yet, and the midway is pretty decent here. The committee did a good job… What about the Ferris wheel?"
Sousuke looked up at the giant, brightly-painted wheel that spun as light blinked around it jovially. "It was designed by George W. Ferris and build for the 1893 World's Fair. The wheel was supported by two 140-foot steel towers, and was connected by a 45-foot axle – the largest single piece of forged steel made at the time. Now they are made with much higher measures, such as this one. This Ferris Wheel holds up to 60 people at a time."
Kaname's face seemed to droop slightly. "Why do you know so much about them?"
"I did a report on them last semester when the teacher asked me to stop reporting about firearms." He only stared at Kaname's stunned facial response, but his eyebrows arched just slightly when she suddenly broke down in giggles.
"I know I've said this," she told him between mirthful peals of laughter, "but you're so weird, Sousuke!" When she was at last able to maintain a controlled face, she said, "All right, it's decided. Since you like them so much, we'll ride it."
They began walking as Sousuke corrected her. "I did not say I like them. I just know their history. I have never before experienced a turn on one."
The brown-eyed girl halted in mid-stride, and it was only after a couple of steps that Sousuke realized she was not with him and looked back. "Chidori?"
Kaname was staring at him with something akin to shock. "Do you mean to tell me…" She paused as though the idea was unthinkable, preposterous, and it took a second before completing her thought aloud. "You've never ridden a Ferris Wheel before?"
Sousuke was puzzled. As far as he knew, he had just told Kaname that, and he couldn't help but wonder if the body heat from the massive crowds was somehow affecting her ability to put together the proper understanding of things. "Yes," he answered simply.
You've got to be kidding me. Just when Kaname thought she could never be surprised by Sousuke lack of a normal upbringing, he once again succeeded in proving her wrong. A ball of tension in her stomach suddenly slackened, and her hands fell to her sides. It was sad, really. Recovering, she joined him and they continued their trek, but she was unable to not think of how sad it was that he had never been able to do something as common as take a ride of a Ferris wheel. And to think there could be others like him.
They approached the ticket taker, and Kaname gave Sousuke one of the ones she had purchased earlier. He uttered his thanks, and she was attacked by a mental onslaught. This…standing in line to ride an attraction at a little festival…it was very normal. A boy and a girl were waiting to ride a notoriously intimate vehicle together. It was almost like a date!
Shocked, Kaname hurriedly reasoned with herself that it wasn't a date. It didn't even come close to being a date. She had been around…and Sousuke had been around…he had never ridden a Ferris wheel! She was doing him a favor, wasn't she, giving him a taste of the most regular things in life? It was a good thing this had turned out. It was the last night of the festival, and Sousuke might never have known what it was like.
Their arrival at the front of the line brought her out of her private musings, and they faced an empty two-seater car. Sousuke went in first, and the rock of the car seemed to catch him off guard. He sat down hard, and the seat wobbled unsteadily.
Though he knew from his research that the Ferris wheel was one of the safest inventions ever to be designed, this particular model left him skeptical. "Chidori," he began, thinking to let her know that riding this was a potential danger and it was his duty to keep her from getting on.
She before he could say anything, Kaname had stepped inside and sat down, and the engineer was almost shutting the door. "We have to buckle up, Sousuke," she said, reaching for something at her side.
It was a leather belt, and Sousuke found one similar to it on his side of the car. Bringing it out, he inspected it quickly but thoroughly and disapproved of the frayed material. "Chidori," he started again, preparing to ask the engineer to let them out.
"Pass it to me." Instead of waiting on him, she took the buckle from him, her fingers brushing his momentarily, and she slid the filling end in with ease. Smiling up at him, she intoned, "Now we're safe."
It certainly didn't feel like they were safe, thought Sousuke, especially when the car jerked forward to allow current passengers out and new ones on. They rose in the air a few feet, and he decided it was now too late to abandon the car. His side had metal beams blocking an escape route, and they were too far up now for a leap to the ground. The impact would shocked, maybe even hurt her, and there wasn't enough room for Sousuke to hold her as he jumped. They would have to go all the way around and then disembark.
After a few more starts and stops, the Ferris wheel was full with new riders. The wheel began its slow turn upward, and Sousuke was further unconvinced by the car they sat in together. The slightest bodily movement caused them to tip back in a way that was almost precarious, but never far enough for him to detect any real danger. He supposed they would last long enough for the duration of the ride.
"My favorite place is the very top," Kaname told him cheerfully as they ascended. "I know everyone says that, but it's true. And since it's spring, so it should be very pretty at night." She decided against mentioning the full moon lest she sound overly romantic and Sousuke's opinion of her changed.
Not that it was likely he would notice, she thought, somewhat hopelessly. If she said something about the moon being full, he could probably go into detail about the Earth's orbit and whatnot. He would ruin the whole ride for her.
Sousuke managed to relax a little more as the constant motion of the Ferris wheel created a certainty within him. "I did not know there were so many strung lights," he commented offhandedly. "Lanterns or streetlamps would be more effective."
"That isn't the point, Sousuke. When people come to festivals, they…" Setting her hands in her lap, Kaname shook her head and decided explaining wouldn't be worth it. "Never mind."
Without warning, a pair of leather-wearing teenage boys beneath them began to wildly rock their car, going further back than Sousuke had as of yet seen. The motion they caused reached the beams and caused their car to wobble in turn.
"HEY!" Kaname shouted down at them. "Don't be idiots!" Taking out (Sousuke could never identify where from), her paper fan, she gave a violent lurch and hurled it down at the rowdy boys below. They shrieked in fear and ceased their irresponsibility. "Honestly," Kaname muttered as she sat back in annoyance. "Some people."
Sousuke could not say why, but the corners of his mouth turned upwards the slightest bit. "Do you feel it is your duty to punish those who overstep boundaries?" he asked without thinking.
"Huh?" Turning her face to him, Kaname was at once surprised by the semi-relaxed expression on the AS pilot's face. "Well, I…" She wasn't sure how to answer the question. "There are just lines that should be crossed. Misbehaving like that could be dangerous—Ugh!" Without warning, they undulated wildly.
It seemed the boys had been disturbed by her attack, and they had thrown something up at their car. Sousuke estimated it was a fair prize of some sort, probably a medium-sized ball or something, and they had managed to hit the bottom of the car in a place that unbalanced the equilibrium their positions had maintained.
As a result, Sousuke had been lurched forward and was now pressed against Kaname with one hand bracing the back of the car and the other pressed against the side of it father away from him, across Kaname's body.
The sudden reduced proximity brought a blush to both students' faces, but no quick jerks to increased distance were executed for fear of setting them off balance again. Sousuke did not want to alarm his charge any further, so he stayed in his current position.
This happened just in time as the wheel stopped to let the first passengers out at the bottom beneath them, with Sousuke and Kaname's car at the very top of the wheel's axis.
"So…uh…" Feeling extremely uncomfortable, Kaname hunted through her mind for something to say. The silence was beginning to choke her. "Did you notice the moon?" She mentally froze. Stupid!
Sousuke seemed undaunted, although there was still a faint shade to his face. "Yes," he replied after a moment's hesitation. "The last time I was able to see the full moon was over a year ago on the Danaan."
"Oh." So he wasn't going to lecture her on lunar science? Kaname was intrigued. "It's nice," she commented, feeling some of the heat fade from her face as she turned her head up to see the pale circle in the sky. The movement made more of a difference than she had expected it to, and something grazed her cheek. She realized all too quickly that it was Sousuke's lips.
He seemed somewhat shocked, but not nearly as much as her. In a nervous reaction, Kaname's brought her face down to look at him again, but this time when she misjudged the distance, it brought even worse effects.
She ended up kissing him.
As they had when they'd been jerked around without warning, both seemed afraid to move at first. After a moment which involved a surprised gaze meeting another surprised gave, Kaname simply let her eyes fall shut. It was embarrassing to look at him anyway, and…
And she realized she there was no and. In fact, she found herself unable to process any kind of thoughts well at all, and with the feel of Sousuke's lips against hers, she forgot all about embarrassment.
As for Sousuke, he too had closed his eyes. His reaction, however, had been instinct, but neither of them deepened the kiss.
Until the Ferris wheel began to move again, and inertia sealed them even closed together. It was not a natural kiss, and it was perhaps not even a good kiss or a romantic kiss.
But it was the first kiss for both of them, and when they finally pulled back, they shared a sort of stunned silence that hadn't had enough time yet to turn awkward.
As they neared the ground again, Kaname found it in her power to give him a very small smile. "You… There's some blue in your eyes. They're not just grey."
Sousuke finally was able to slide back away from her, though the seatbelt restrained him a little, and he nodded. "A physical examination I once took informed me of all the shades within my eye color."
His voice was absolutely steady. Kaname couldn't believe it! What an emotionless…! They landed on the exit platform with a slight bump, and she had half a mind to just leave him on the wheel and take off on him – if Sousuke knew so much about them, he could study this one all night and become a whiz.
Just as she was reaching to unfasten the accursed seatbelt that kept her so near him, his hand landed atop hers. She looked up with fierce eyes, but her aggression dissipated upon seeing the way his Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed...nervously, she realized.
"Can…" Sousuke's eyebrows lowered as though he was concentrating very hard on finding the right words. "Can we ride it again?"
Kaname blinked twice. After a recovering moment, she sat back and turned her hand upward to grip his.
It suddenly felt like the world was tipping backwards, and not just the Ferris wheel.