Ok, this is a first for me...I have never written anything outside of the Inuyasha-verse, so please be kind. In all the years I've been watching anime and reading manga, this is the first series that has inspired me to write outside of aforementioned genre! I'm searching for a beta to help with continuity, characterizations and such, so if you're interested drop me a line!

This is post TSR, picking up where the last ep left off...I haven't read the novels but hope to start reading them soon...so please keep that in mind as you read!

Disclaimer: I own nothing remotely related to FMP in all it's various mediums. Tho I wouldn't mind having Kurz all to my lonesome... (tee hee)

WARNING: This fic contains LEMONS of the extra-citrus-y kind in later chapters! The rating is M for a reason folks! Any attempt to read this by under-aged individuals will result in a possible Nuclear Holocaust! (or at the very least a flash bang on your monitor...j.k) Consider yourself warned.

Chapter 1:

Rules of Engagement

"I will never forgive you."

Those five words echoed through Sousuke's mind the remainder of the day, making it impossible for him to concentrate on his school work. Releasing a nearly silent sigh of defeat, he cautiously lifted his grey eyes to take in the dejected set of shoulders before him.

After Kaname's emotional breakdown outside of the faculty room, her friends had forcefully pulled the distraught girl away from him. Unable to defend his involvement in Kaname's crying, he accepted their accusations and glares without complaint as they dragged her away to the girl's bathroom. Kazuma and Onodera had been quick to come to Sousuke's aid, however, and pulled him in the opposite direction to their homeroom, all the while bantering about the impossibly unpredictable nature of the opposite sex.

Sergeant Sousuke Sagara whole heartedly agreed with his friends' lamentations.

Kaname, eyes still slightly swollen and damp, had entered the classroom mere seconds before the bell rang. Sousuke stood as she approached and opened his mouth to speak. She shook her head, gave him a sad sort of smile and whispered, "Later, okay, Sousuke?" Her chocolate brown orbs pleaded silently for his acquiescence.

Confused, but not sure what else he could do, he nodded curtly. "Understood." Aware that all eyes in the room were fixed on them, he quickly resumed his seat and began preparing his materials for the day.

At lunch, Kyoko had pulled Kaname away before he even had a chance to tap her shoulder. The two had moved to sit with a few other girls across the room while Shinji and Onodera had zeroed in on their forlorn friend. "Man, are you in deep," Onodera taunted. "Whatever you did, Sagara, you'd better make up for it quick!"

Sousuke frowned. "I do not understand."

Onodera rolled his eyes. "Chidori's seriously upset with you, pal. This is gonna require some serious groveling to get you out of the dog house."

"Dog house?" he murmured, at a loss as to what the boy was implying. "I don't see what canine domiciles have to do with-"

Taking pity on his idol, Shinji supplied, "He means a simple 'I'm sorry, Chidori' won't get her to forgive you this time."

"Oh," Sousuke replied, filing the new phrase away in his mind for later examination. "In that case, the mission has already failed. Chidori has informed me that forgiveness will not be forthcoming," he told them in a desolate tone.

"Ah, chicks always try to lay that guilt trip," Onodera said in a disbelieving voice before leaning forward. "It's just their way of making you squirm!" The boy lifted his head to make sure no one was listening to their conversation, unknowingly putting Sousuke on high alert. "Chidori wants to make you sweat a bit before letting you back into her good graces again."

"You mean she's torturing me?" Sousuke questioned while continuing to scan the room for any possible threat.

"Exactly," the other boy said in triumph. "The real trick is beating Chidori at her own game!"

The sergeant frowned and murmured, "Launch a counter offensive?"

Shinji sighed. He had a bad feeling about the track Sousuke was thinking of taking. "You need to show Kaname how sorry you are!"

"Wouldn't the sincerity of my words not convey that fact?" He defended in an almost petulant tone. "I tried that and she said it wouldn't 'cut it this time'! What else am I supposed to do?" Looking angrily at his desk he muttered, "Why couldn't she have just come with an operations manual?"

The younger boy patted Sousuke's shoulder in support. "It would certainly make the male's job a lot easier," Shinji chuckled, pushing the wide rimmed glasses back into place on the bridge of his nose. "But, since there isn't one, we're here to help! I don't know what happened between you two-"

"But everyone's dying to know, Sagara," Onodera leered.

Sousuke's posture snapped upright at what he thought was an inquiry of the latest mission of the TDD-1 in Hong Kong. "That information is classified," he informed the other boy, his slightly threatening tone leaving no room for argument. Intense grey eyes bore into brown, trying to intimidate the young high school student into submission.

"ANYWAY," Shinji inserted a bit forcefully, effectively ending the stare down between Sousuke and Onodera, "you need to express in actions how bad you feel about hurting her, Sousuke."

Dark brows drew together as he tried to assimilate the information. "I am confused."

"You've gotta butter her up, man!" Onodera grumbled in exasperation. "You know, buy her some flowers, and maybe buy her dinner. Girls love the 'wine and dine' routine!"

"Underage consumption is illegal," Sousuke informed them sternly. "It is my duty to protect Miss Chidori, not involve her in activities that would lead to her incarceration!"

"He didn't mean literally," Shinji explained. "All he's saying is you have to romance Kaname a little."

Having even less of a clue about romance than he did in apologizing in the manner they described, the sergeant asked, "And how does one procure these 'romance' supplies?"

"Spill it, Kaname," Kiyoko demanded of her best friend as soon as they sat down. "What's up with you and Sousuke?"

"It's nothing," the girl said and sighed heavily. Yeah, right, she chided herself. You can barely look him in the eye without crying! When the hell did you become so weak? It's not like you haven't just experienced the most harrowing four days of your life or anything!

"I'm not buying it," Mizuki declared. "First Sagara disappears, then the next day you vanish into thin air and no one hears a peep from either of you for four whole days!"

Maya nudged the morose girl with her elbow. "Was it a romantic getaway gone bad?"

Kaname hung her head. Leave it to her friends to jump to THAT conclusion. Honestly, don't they have anything else to worry about than what happens between me and Sergeant Sabotage?! From under her bangs she peeked at the three boys across the room. Poor guy, I really threw him for a loop this morning. But I meant what I said. If it hadn't been for him, Leonard would never have... She subconsciously wiped the back of her hand across her lips. No matter what she did, nothing would remove the cold feeling of those lips from hers.

"Kaname?" Kyouko queried in concern. "Are you okay?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah, I'm fine," she assured her friend.

"So," Mizuki intoned with a leer, "did he blow the hotel up or something? C'mon, Kaname!"

"If only it were that simple," she muttered distractedly. Well, I'm sure he blew up at least ONE hotel in that battle...

"Then what was it?" Kiyoko pressed.

Shooting another glance at Sousuke, she saw his spine snap to 'attention' stance. A small smirk crossed her lips when she read his lips. At least I'm not the only one being interrogated! "That's classified," she told them in her best Sousuke impression.

"Classified?" her friends asked in shock.

Mizuki was the first to recover and giggled. "I think Sagara's beginning to rub off on you, Kaname!"

"I suppose he is," she replied with a sad smile. If you only knew... "Anyway, I don't really want to talk about it, so can we just move on?"

The other three girls sighed in defeat. It was painfully obvious that they wouldn't be able to glean any further information from Kaname. Mizuki looked over her shoulder at the boys clustered around Sousuke's desk. "So, what do you think the three of them are talking about?"

Kyoko snorted and said, "Shinji's probably feeding them the latest info from the newest issue of 'Arm Slave'."

"And Sousuke's probably telling them how inaccurate the specs are and the best infiltration points to disarm and immobilize any given unit," Kaname added fondly. Seeing the odd look from her friends she blinked at them. "What?"

"You've definitely been hanging around him to long," they said in unison.

Sousuke glanced at his watch once more. Seven minutes, he groaned inwardly as sweat beaded on his forehead. This is worse than waiting for extraction from a hot zone!

All afternoon his mind had been frantically forming, discarding and re-formulating a plan based on the intel from Kazuma and Onodera. Finally deciding on a course of action that would satisfactorily achieve the mission objective, he was eager to commence with the operation. Sousuke glanced once more at the outline of the plan, and then carefully tucked it into his shirt pocket. When Kaname called out the order to "rise and bow", his shoulders sagged in relief for an instant before he complied.

As the other students filed out of the room, Sousuke waited by the open door and scanned the hallway. The other students just shook their heads, used to his behavior by now. He nodded his head as they called out, "See ya tomorrow, Sagara," when they passed him.

Finally, it was just he and Kaname in the room. She straightened her shoulders, plastered a warm smile on her face and rose to face him. "Ready to go, Sousuke?"

"Roger," he answered quietly, trying to asses the situation. "Chidori, I-"

"Uh-uh," she cut him off quietly. "Not yet, Sousuke. I just want to go home, okay?"

He sighed heavily, unsure if he was grateful or more nervous by the slight reprieve. Extending his arm to indicate she should precede him from the room, they walked side by side out of the school. A brief flash of light from the rooftop adjacent to the school caught his attention and his hand automatically reached for his gun. His senses sprang into high alert, eyes constantly scanning the groups of people passing by them. Once ensconced in the train station, Kaname tugged on his sleeve. "Yes, Chidori?"

She looked around to make sure that no one was in range to hear the quiet inquiry. "Is Wraith still watching me, too?"

"Affirmative," he assured Kaname.

"Does that mean you could be pulled out again?" she asked anxiety heavy in her tone.

"Negative, Chidori. I will still be expected to perform missions, but I will return when they are completed." Sousuke ushered her onto the train with a hand resting lightly on the small of her back. They settled into their seats and remained quiet for a time, each lost in thought. His mind kept wandering back two days prior, and he once again relived the all encompassing emptiness that gripped him after Gauron's revelation of Kaname's death. For the first time in his life, it all seemed so pointless: the battles, the danger, the orders, mission objectives, school, and just life in general. Until the moment he had met Kaname, he had never realized that he had merely existed. She had taught him so much in the six months since he had been assigned to protect her. Not so much the social skills needed to adapt to society in Tokyo. He freely admitted that he was still woefully inept at those! No, Kaname Chidori had taught him how to feel, how to appreciate those small moments in time that would remain with him forever.

Then in the blink of an eye, he had believed it was all gone; she was gone. It had felt like he'd been placed in a vacuum. No sound had penetrated his mind, and his heart had come to a screeching halt. Never again would her lilting laughter fill a room, nor the melodic tone of her voice as she chatted with her friends about absolutely meaningless things. Kaname's bright, expressive eyes would never shine on him again. He had actually found himself wishing that his comrade would just shoot him dead, right there in that deserted street in Hong Kong.

As the sun had dipped closer to the horizon he had heard Kaname's sweet voice calling out to him and for a moment he had thought his mind had cracked. But there she was, striding toward him, that serene face gently berating him for being where he wasn't supposed to be. The corner of his lips twitched a bit as he remembered her reaction - and the subsequent punishment he had received - to his first words to her. Sousuke was replaying the scene that had saved his life, and ultimately the lives of his fellow Urzu team members, when he realized something. Turning toward Kaname he said, "I just remembered something..."


"You were trying to tell me something back in Hong Kong, right? What exactly was it?"

"Well," Kaname drawled, "it was just..." She sighed, her shoulders slumping slightly as she thought about how to answer him. Turning to look into those slate grey orbs, the fading rays of the setting sun played over her features, casting them in a heavenly glow.

Sousuke's molten eyes didn't betray the thoughts that raced through his mind at the sight. I wish Tokiwa was here with her camera! I would love to have a picture of Kaname, in this very moment. She looks so radiant with the light hitting her like this; even more beautiful than she normally does...

Kaname pinched the cuff of his jacket, and briefly wondered how much longer they would be able to get away with not piling on layers to ward off the chill of winter. "It was nothing."

"Oh, I see," he said softly, unable to mask the note of disappointment in his voice.

"Hey, Sousuke," Kaname began hesitantly. "We really do need to talk about what happened. I just don't want to do it when other people are around."

"Understood, Chidori. It's not a problem," he replied in his usual monotone voice while staring straight ahead.

"We could talk at my place. I'll whip us up some dinner." Kaname sent him a shy smile, hoping he didn't notice the blush she felt warm her cheeks.

"That would be fine, Chidori. I have some...things to see to first. Is 1800 hours okay?"

Kaname chuckled lightly. "Same old Sousuke. Six o'clock it is, then." She rested her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes. "How does Tempura sound?"

Releasing a relieved breath at her action, he told her in a soft voice, "That would be perfect, Kaname." The doors to the train slid open and they rose to depart. He didn't see the serene smile that graced her features at his use of her first name.

Sousuke leaned against the door inside his apartment, a small smile on his face. Kicking off his shoes, he thought about the last words Kaname had said to him just a few moments ago. "I'm glad you're home again, Sousuke. I didn't realize how much I enjoyed your company until you weren't there anymore." It was different than what she said this morning. It had nothing to do with his duty as her bodyguard this time. She had missed him! A strange warmth enveloped him, and his grin grew just a bit wider. That was until he heard a scuffle and whispered voices from behind the door that lead into the main living area. He drew his weapon from the waistband of his pants and moved stealthily toward the door.

Turning the handle slowly while crouched low, he swung the door wide then rolled into the room. His gun swept the room and he nearly pulled the trigger when Kurz and Mao jumped up from behind the couch yelling "Surprise!"

Kurz leaned his arms casually over the top of the couch and chuckled nervously. "Whoa, there Sousuke! Put that thing away before someone looses an eye!"

Melissa Mao elbowed the blonde man in the head. "I told you it was a bad idea to surprise him like that! But no, you said "C'mon, Sis, he's not as bad as he used to be!"

"Actually," Sousuke interrupted as he put his firearm away, "Kurz is correct. My initial strategy would have been to toss a flash bang in first to disable you, then pull my weapon and enter."

"See?" Kurz crowed to the Sergeant Major. "So what do you think, Sousuke? Tessa sent us in to set up your base of operations again."

Sousuke assessed the living quarters that he had spent the last six months occupying, only to have to pack up and leave without a trace less than a week ago. When he had returned this morning, he had mealy thrown his bags into the main room, and left for school. He knew that the truck with all of the equipment would arrive later that evening, and figured there would be plenty of time to unpack then.

Now, however, the apartment appeared nothing like his previous habitation. Instead of the spartan furnishings of folding tables and chairs, there was actual, everyday furniture! A comfortable couch, end tables and lamps, an area rug, and a small entertainment center with a television and various other electronics on the shelves. Moving his gaze to the stretch of windows he found a large corner desk already set up with his laptop, communication system and books from both MITHRIL and school. Above the desk on the wall hung a few photo frames. Encased in the first frame was a picture of the Urzu team on the open hanger deck of the TDD-1. The clear azure sky and deeper blue ocean provided the back drop to the smiling faces of the team after a recent successful mission. Another held the picture of he and Tessa on the beach of Merida Island in front of the AS he had taught her to pilot. In yet another was the photo he had kept in his quarters aboard the submarine of his trip to the beach with Chidori and some of their school mates during the summer break.

Melissa came up behind Sousuke and draped her arm over his shoulders. "We figured that since you would be here more than on the De Danaan with us, you would like a few reminders of your old home. It was Commander Mardukas and Kalinin who procured the furniture and house wares. They thought you should start to at least look like a normal civilian."

"And," Kurz added cheerfully from the other side of Sousuke, "I took the liberty of getting you some regular civilian clothes."

"I already have clothes, Kurz," Sousuke retorted sullenly.

"Yeah, military issue fatigues, one black suit, two pairs of swim trunks and two sets each of summer and winter school uniforms!" The blonde sniper groaned. "We decided your wardrobe needed a serious upgrade!" When the sergeant shot him a withering glance, Kurz defended his actions. "Don't give me that look, Sousuke. Melissa made sure I didn't get anything real flashy," he assured his friend.

"It's too much," the sergeant finally murmured. "I won't use half of what you put in here. It's not practical." His protests were half-hearted at best, but the other two played along.

"No, it's not Sousuke, and that's exactly why you need it! This is our way of saying 'thanks for saving our asses'." Melissa smiled at her subordinate with genuine affection.

Sousuke turned turbulent eyes to her. "Then it's Chidori you should be thanking, not me."

Melissa led him by the arm to the couch and forced him to sit down. "Listen to me, Sergeant," she barked in her best commanding officer tone. "I understand why you fell off the deep end, and I thank my lucky stars every day that Kaname finally snapped you out of it! But she isn't the trained specialist that piloted the Arbelest that night, nor is she the one who battled against all the odds and won!" At his shocked expression, her face softened a bit. "That was all you, Sousuke."

He lowered his gaze to the floor, letting the words sink in. "No, Mao, it was Chidori who made me realize I was being an idiot. Again. Without her, I would have walked away from everything that night."

Kurz plopped on the couch with a sigh. "Well, then maybe you should be the one to thank her!"

Sousuke glanced at his watch. Still time...he thought. Should I ask them for advice? Deciding that the more information he had, the better, he looked at Kurz and blurted, "How does one 'romance' a girl?"

Melissa and Kurz both blinked stupidly for a second before they started laughing. "Whoa-ho-ho!! Sergeant Somber's finally making his move!" Kurz taunted the now furiously blushing boy. "Sorry, Sousuke," he apologized, sobering at the intense look from his team mate. "You kinda took me by surprise there, buddy."

Melissa sat on the floor before them and queried, "Why the sudden interest in romance?"

Sighing heavily, Sousuke ran his fingers through his hair. "Chidori is...upset."

"With you? But I thought you said-"

"It's because of those damned orders!" he shouted. "Something happened to her while I was gone, something bad. She had a breakdown when I saw her at school this morning. I was just about to tell her why I left the way I did when her friends found us and dragged her off."

Kurz was dumbfounded. "Why didn't she say anything before now?"

"I don't know. Whenever I tried to talk to her she would just tell me 'Later,' and walk away. At lunch Shinji and Onodera told me that she was just trying to make me squirm and that I had to 'wine and dine' or 'romance' Chidori to show her how sorry I was."

"Those two couldn't romance a blow-up doll," Kurz scoffed. "Amateurs!"

"Aren't you the one who took them on a 'recon mission' at the hot springs?" Mao teased the sniper who smiled sheepishly at her. She then turned her attention back to the distraught boy. "Kaname isn't the type of girl to play games like that, Sousuke. I think all you really need to do is give her a sincere apology and explain what happened." The Sergeant Major paused to pull out a fresh smoke and light it. After exhaling, she continued. "The important thing to remember is she is obviously shaken up about something, so you need to listen to her and comfort her. Let Kaname know you are here for her now."

Kurz had a sneaking suspicion that the clueless sergeant had attacked this situation in his usual, tactical manner. "Let me see the mission brief," he said while holding out his hand. When Sousuke placed the folded paper in his palm, the blonde sniper carefully opened it. " 'Flowers.' Well, that's a good start," he commented with a wink. "I suggest roses. 'Card.' Hmm, not so much. You need to speak for yourself on this one, pal. 'Pizza'?"

"Shinji suggested I buy her dinner," Sousuke informed him.

"I think you kinda missed the point there," Melissa informed the boy. "He probably meant at a fancy restaurant, but it's a bit late to try to get reservations..."

"It's not a problem. Chidori offered to prepare a meal for us at her apartment."

"All the better," Kurz told him with a waggle of his eyebrows and a lecherous grin. "She'll be more comfortable in her own environment, hence more susceptible to your advances! Okay, what else do we have?" The man perused the last item on the paper which was underlined and highlighted. A wide smile crossed his lips and the twin blonde brows disappeared under his bangs in surprise. "Whoa!"

"What?" Melissa cried snatching the paper from his hands and scanned the short list. Her eyes widened in shock on the last item. "You are serious about this, right?"

"Affirmative," was the curt reply as beads of sweat appeared on Sousuke's brow.

"Sousuke, do you know what this means?" she demanded. "I want to make sure this is not just something those morons told you to do!"

He blushed furiously, swallowed hard and answered, "Understood. It is something I feel needs to be done-" His sentence was cut short by the back of Mao's hand smacking him in the head.

"EHN! Wrong answer," Kurz laughed. "This isn't a 'do or die' mission, Sousuke! It's the first real kiss you'll share with Kaname, and it's not something you can just plan."

"Is it not customary after a date?" he questioned with a furrowed brow.

"Well, yeah, but-"

"Then what's the problem?" he cried in frustration. "Everyone keeps telling me that I need to learn to adapt to and emulate civilian society, yet now you tell me this is wrong!" He buried his face in his hands. "This mission seems to be failing before it even gets underway. Maybe I should just give up!"

"That's not what we're saying," Melissa told him in a desperate tone. "We're just telling you not to force it! If the timing seems right, go for it!"

Kurz nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah, just let nature take its course. Look for the signals from Kaname."

"And now there are signals?!" He threw his hands up in the air, clearly becoming exasperated with the situation.

Melissa patted his shoulder comfortingly. "Relax, Sousuke. Let things play themselves out. Trust me, you'll know if Kaname's receptive or not!"

"Now I'm confused again," he muttered. "There really should be an operations manual for this kind of situation."

So there you have it, the end of Ch 1! If you enjoyed it, or didn't, or wish to tell me how horribly OOC everyone is, plz hit the review thingy right below this! Reviews, good or bad, are greatly appreciated and inspire me to continue!! I'm not sure exactly how this is all going to play out, but I'm hoping to delve deeper into (at least my interpretation of) their feelings for each other. There may be some action bits later on, but I'm not certain when...