At last I have returned! I apologize to all of you wonderful readers for the long wait on this story. My comp died and as you all know with these tough economical times, the expense of a new comp was pretty far down on the budget list. I truly appreciate your patience and hopefully I will be able to continue this story. Chapter 7 is already in the works, but with two kids and another on the way, plus a part time job and my newly established anime merchandise business, it may be a little while before I can get it done!

Enough of my rambling.... hope you enjoy the chapter and don't forget to review!!!


Chapter 6:

New Beginnings

The morning was absolutely glorious in Kaname's opinion. The sun was shining brightly in the clear azure sky, the air was crisp with the faintest hint of fall, and she was in love with Sousuke Sagara! More importantly, he was in love with her!

Things simply just didn't get any better than this!

She waited patiently for Sousuke under the awning of her complex and simply breathed in the beauty of the day. A quick spark of light caught her attention as she watched a flock of migrating birds pass overhead and she lifted her arm slightly to wave at the top of the Sousuke's building. When Wraith let the sunlight reflect off of the rifle's scope in two quick flashes to acknowledge the greeting, Kaname giggled. The female Intelligence operative still refused to meet with her personally, but Kaname had determined to wear the woman's resolve down one of these days! The drastic change in her relationship with a certain Sergeant had given her a boost of confidence that she hadn't even realized was missing until now.

"Who were you waving at just now, Chidori?" Sousuke asked suspiciously as he approached.

"It's my new morning routine with Wraith," she informed him with a smile. "She flashes once to let me know she's there, I wave discreetly and then she flashes twice to inform me she's moving out to the next point. It's the only contact I ever have with her."

"Wraith is a woman? But you said-"

Kaname knew exactly what he was thinking and interrupted him. "That was just her disguise," she stated simply as they began walking toward the train station. "That's about the only thing that saved her life that night."

"I see," he murmured. He filed away the information for later introspection. "If you knew Wraith was still watching you, why did you ask me about it yesterday?"

Kaname sighed. "I was hoping that once you came back, she would be pulled out.

"Negative," Sousuke sighed, his tone tinged with both regret and anger. "Wraith will continue to observe your movements until the threat is eliminated."

She cast sad eyes on him. "Will it ever be over?"

"I- I don't know, Kaname," he answered truthfully while taking her hand firmly in his. "Even when it is all over, I'll still be here to protect you." His eyes bore the sincerity of his words and Sousuke fervently hoped it was enough to reassure her. After a moment passed, he smiled crookedly and decided a change in topic would be prudent and asked her, "Did you sleep well?"

Kaname's eyes instantly brightened and let the seriousness of the situation slide to the back of her mind once again. "I sure did! I only woke up once, but not because of the nightmares," she said in a sly tone while nudging his arm. When he blushed and began to sweat nervously, Kaname chuckled. Even though they had shared such incredible intimacy just two nights ago, he was still rather shy of discussing such things openly. This thought brought another question to her mind. "Are you nervous about school today, Sousuke?"

"Affirmative, Kaname. I don't understand how you can be so relaxed about this! There are simply too many variables in this situation!" His voice held a note of panic as he began to list the things that could go wrong. "Any one of our classmates could be captured and tortured for information on us, or they could use our relationship against us if one of us were to be captured, or-"

"Relax, Sergeant," she soothed. "The worst thing that could possibly happen is we both get interrogated by our friends to find out how good of a kisser the other is."

That statement did little to ease his panic. In fact, Sousuke's blood pressure skyrocketed. "Why would they do that? I would think that information would be something that should be kept between the people involved."

"Because that's just how high school rumor mills work. If they do ask, you can either tell them I'm a phenomenal kisser, or kill them." How Kaname managed to say all that with a straight face was beyond her.

Somehow, Sousuke knew that she was joking with him. She would never encourage him to kill someone! "Hmm, perhaps I should go back and retrieve a clip of live rounds from my quarters," he contemplated aloud. Two can play at this game…

Kaname's jaw dropped at his serious tone. "I was only kidding, Sousuke!" Seeing his smirk she promptly thwacked him viciously on the head with the harisen.

"Ouch," he muttered while rubbing the tender lump that was beginning to form on his crown. "That hurt, Kaname."

"Good!" Kaname yelled over her shoulder as she stormed into the crowded station.

Sousuke sighed heavily. Just when I thought she'd given up on using that damned thing on me… He followed her onto the train, unceremoniously brushing past people in order to catch up to Kaname.

"I can't believe you took me seriously," she huffed as they took their seats.

"I didn't, Kaname. I was merely joking about returning to my quarters for live rounds," he told her in his monotone voice. "I always carry a clip with me just in case." Sousuke tapped the case that was wedged between them on the seat with his fingertips. "You never know when any given situation can turn from a 'takedown' to 'life or death' in the blink of an eye."

Kaname growled low in her throat. The morning had started off so well, too! Her anger quickly dissipated when he took her hand in his and smiled at her. "Fine, whatever. Just make sure you keep the clip out of the gun at school! In fact, just forget you even have the gun! I know I'm going to try to." She leaned against him and rested her head on his shoulder, determined to enjoy the short ride to their stop.

A little old lady that sat across from them smiled warmly at the couple before gazing fondly at her wedding band. Ah... young love! Do you remember those times, my Issei?

Upon reaching Jindai High School's front gate, they were hailed by Kyoko. Sousuke took up a sentry position just inside the entrance while Kaname raced over to meet her best friend. He observed the two girls exchange friendly greetings much like every other day before Kaname cast a quick glance around her. Sousuke felt a rush of pride at the tactic. So she had been paying attention when I explained the best way to observe your surroundings without being obvious! He watched the pair exchange a few whispered words before Kaname led Kyoko back to where Sousuke stood. "Kyoko's gonna take some pictures of us, Sousuke," she informed him with a dazzling smile.

Sousuke looked perplexed. He had a bad feeling about this deep in his gut. "Why?"

"For posterity's sake," she said flippantly. "Relax, Sousuke! These will be our first pictures as a couple. Please, Sousuke?" Kaname pleaded sweetly.

He sighed with resignation, then nodded quickly. "We need to make it fast though, if we want to make it to class on time."

"Oh, it won't take long," Kyoko giggled excitedly. "Just a few shots under that tree over there."

The trio walked over to the location the girl had indicated. Standing stiffly with his back pressed against the rough bark of the desired tree, Sousuke asked, "Is this sufficient?"

Kyoko groaned. "No, no. You two should face each other and smile!"

At Sousuke's panicked expression, Kaname decided that she would have to take matters into her own hands. She draped her arms loosely over Sousuke's shoulders and moved in closer to him. "Wrap your arms around me, Sousuke," she instructed. When he hesitantly complied, Kaname beamed at him. "You see! This isn't that bad, is it?" She heard the click and beep of Kyoko's camera as she snapped one frame after another. But after a few seconds, her entire focus zeroed in on Sousuke's lips, remembering the feel of them moving across her flesh, the hot wetness of his tongue as it tasted her and the gentle nip of his teeth on her neck. Unconsciously shifting to ease the pressure in her groin, Kaname brushed the tips of her breasts against his chest.

Students began to gather round as they noticed the strange going's on underneath the tree, and started wide-eyed when they saw the compromising scene that was sure to make the rounds of the gossip mills before the end of homeroom!

Sousuke was oblivious to everything but the look of longing in Kaname's deep brown eyes and the feel of her body brushing his. His vision narrowed in a bizarre form of tunnel vision when her lips parted slightly, begging him silently for his undivided attention. Forgetting where they were, he leaned down to capture her lips in a soft, tentative kiss that left Kaname breathless. Nothing existed outside of the feeling of her lips and the way her fingers toyed with the hair at his nape. He dropped his case to pull Kaname flush with his body and smiled at the low moan of need that escaped her throat. There was no need to rush this, because time simply didn't matter in this bubble of sensation. He moved his mouth slowly, sensuously over hers; tasting, teasing and, finally, conquering in a merciless show of tender force.

When they reluctantly parted for some much needed air, wild applause erupted around them, making them both jump in surprise. Sousuke's reflexes jumped into action at the perceived threat, pushed Kaname behind him so that she was wedged between the wide trunk of the tree and his body and automatically reached for the gun that was concealed in his jacket lining, but stopped once Kaname placed a staying hand on his arm.

She smiled sheepishly at him when he half turned to face her. "I guess the cat's out of the bag."

"I believe that is an understatement," he retorted with a crooked smirk. "Was this your 'plan', Kaname?"

"Um, actually it wasn't. Well, not the 'you kissing me stupid' part, anyway. I really did want Kyoko to take some pictures of us. That alone was sure enough to grab some attention. You kinda blew everything else out of the water with that last bit." She blushed furiously as the applause continued. Stepping out from behind Sousuke, Kaname produced the deadly harisen from her bag and waved it threateningly at the crowd. "Don't you people have something better to do? LIKE GET TO CLASS?!"

The crowd scattered quickly. Kaname's violent temper was legendary among the students. None of them had any desire to be subjected to punishments similar to the ones they all chuckled over when Sagara was 'corrected', so they all hurried off to their designated homerooms, leaving the three friends alone once more.

"Hey, guys, what did I miss?" Shinji asked as he approached. He had noticed the crowd when he entered the courtyard, but the frantic way they had dispersed made him wonder if it was safe to approach.

"Oh, nothing," Kyoko replied with a teasing smirk. "Just Sousuke inspecting Kaname's lips for signs of terrorist infiltration!"

"No way!"

"Kyoko!"

"It's not a problem."

Kyoko smiled cheekily at them when they all spoke at once. Turning back to Shinji, she said, "Yes way! It was the most romantic thing EVER!" She sighed dreamily.

"I can't believe I missed it," the young boy groaned. "I mean, we've only been waiting all year for it to happen! It's just my luck that it happened on the morning I was late!"

"Don't worry; I've got it all right here." She waved the digital camera under his nose. "I may need your help though." The pair walked away, Kyoko explaining what she wanted to do and Shinji animatedly nodding and gesturing.

"I have a bad feeling about this," Kaname grumbled to Sousuke as they made their way to the north building.

Sousuke frowned. He remembered when that defeated Student Council candidate had published embarrassing photos of Kaname on the internet. "I will do some recon during lunch and find out exactly what those two are up to."

Kaname looped her arm through his. "Thanks, Sousuke, but don't be too hard on them."

"Roger."

"Still nervous?" She asked in a hushed tone.

"More than I was before. This could be a serious problem, Kaname."

"Don't start that again!" Kaname scolded.

"That's not what I mean," he sighed. He wracked his brain to find the words to express his distress. "When we kissed just now…." Sousuke swallowed hard and felt the sweat begin to bead on his brow. "I…."

"You what?"

"I couldn't think about anything else."

Kaname chuckled. "That's normal, Sousuke! I couldn't think about anything else either." Her cheeks warmed with the blush that crept into them. "It was like the whole world faded away."

"Exactly, and that is the problem." Sousuke stopped walking. "What if someone tried to attack you? My responses were nil! They could have knocked me over the head and grabbed you!"

THWACK!

Sousuke winced at the pain that shot through his skull. The impact of the harisen made his teeth clack together, narrowly missing the tip of his tongue. "Ouch…"

"For the love of God, Sousuke! Can't you get over that for just a minute and enjoy life for a change?" Kaname screamed.

"How can I protect you if I can't sense impending danger?" he retorted hotly.

"So you're telling me you want to break up?" she cried.

"NO! I'm telling you that I'm scared I will fail you!"

"How can you fail if you don't try?"

"What the hell does that mean?"

"You're already giving up! It's just like your problems with AL!"

"That THING is unreliable and annoying!"

"Just like me?"

"You're the one making comparisons, Kaname!" Sousuke's voice was hoarse from the sheer volume of his words. "I never thought you were annoying!"

"No, you just thought I was a burden!" Kaname rejoined venomously.

By this time, the once happy couple was leaning nose to nose, faces flushed with anger. Neither wanted to give the other any ground and each countered with an accusation more vicious than the last.

Leaning nonchalantly against the gate, a tall, elegant figure shook his head regretfully. He pushed off the wrought iron and approached the couple that continued to air their secrets for all to hear. "You two should hurry," Atsunobu Hayashimizu drawled while flicking his fan open to reveal the Kanji for 'harmony' and then snapping it shut again. He strolled past them on his way through the courtyard tapping first Sousuke then Kaname lightly on the shoulder with the fan. "You will be late for homeroom."

They blinked at each other for a moment as though they had been released from a hypnotic trance. "Kaname, I-"

"I didn't mean-"

They both smiled sheepishly. Kaname reached for his hand tentatively, sighing with relief when his calloused fingers curled around hers. "I'm sorry, Sousuke. I guess I panicked a bit."

"No, I'm the one who should apologize. I let my own fears get the better of me. It won't happen again."

"Yes, it will," she chuckled as they moved into the north building. "But that's okay, Sousuke. I don't get to see your vulnerable side very often."

"It's still a problem," he huffed in exasperation. "I'm supposed to protect you!"

Kaname leaned up to brush a kiss across his scar. "The only place I feel truly safe is in your arms." She couldn't help but laugh at the pride that shone in his eyes at that statement.

"Thank you," he whispered with a slight blush.

"It's not a problem," Kaname giggled as she moved to her shoe locker.


"Rise and bow," Kaname called as the final bell of the day rang. With a relieved sigh when the teacher left the room, she turned to Sousuke with a smile. "How do you think you did on that test?"

"It was Classical Literature. How do you think I did?" he huffed. "I simply don't understand why people feel the need to tell a story in metaphors and riddles! It was little wonder this culture was so far behind in tactical warfare until the late 1800's!"

Kaname laughed at his reasoning. She just couldn't help it; everything in his mind revolved around tactics and strategy on the battlefield. "Oh, Sousuke, you'll get it eventually. You just have to put yourself out of your world and into theirs."

Sousuke frowned as he thought about that. Gathering his books and placing them in his bag, he muttered, "Infiltrate their camp, gain their trust and become one of them."

Kyoko approached them with a snicker. "Face it, Kaname; Sousuke's a lost cause!"

"If it helps him understand and comprehend the work," Shinji defended his friend, "then what's wrong with strategizing?" He sent Sousuke a reassuring smile. "That's actually the same way I have to approach the calculus problems we've been working on. I work it out like a simulated battle plan."

The group made their way out of the classroom and toward the area that housed the shoe lockers. Since this was a short week, there were no club activities scheduled and the student council was taking a short break before preparing for the upcoming holiday season. "I just don't see how calculus and trigonometry and all that crap will be useful outside of school," Kyoko complained

"Well," Sousuke explained, "Without it, we wouldn't have even the most basic transportation systems, never mind advanced weapons capabilities."

"Which only proves that math is pure evil!" the bespectacled girl shouted in triumph. "If there was no math, there would be no weapons. No weapons mean there would be no war, no mass casualties or loss of innocent lives!"

Kaname laughed heartily. "That reasoning is a bit simplistic, don't you think? It's not math that created war, Kyoko," she said as she took Sousuke's hand and they exited the building. "Man created war in his idiotic quest for dominance. Isn't that what that last test was about?"

"Well, shit," Sousuke mumbled. "Got that question wrong."

Kaname sent him a sympathetic grin, making a mental note to ask him what he thought the story had been about. "The point is, Kyoko, man doesn't need anything more than a desire for power for there to be conflict."

"I suppose your right, but I'd still rather blame it on math!" the girl giggled. Before she could comment further, Sousuke's phone rang.

"Sagara," he said quietly as he walked a few feet away. Kaname frowned after him but continued to walk along with Shinji and Kyoko toward the gate. He wasn't scheduled for departure until Wednesday evening and that was only for a training mission. Mao had assured her yesterday that they expected things to remain quiet for a little while longer. Amalgam had suffered a considerable defeat that night in Hong Kong and would probably need time to regroup before launching another offensive. So why would they be calling Sousuke?

"Is everything alright, Kaname?" Shinji asked, noting the contemplative look on her face as she stared after Sousuke.

"Huh? Oh, yeah; everything's perfect!" she giggled nervously.

Sousuke stood with his back turned slightly toward them but kept Kaname in his peripheral view. "What is it, Sgt Major?"

"Relax, Sousuke," the voice on the other end of the line chuckled. "We're out running some errands for the captain and I'm not sure if we'll make it back to the safe house before you. Just wanted to check in and let you know before you called for reinforcements."

"Roger. What's your ETA for return to the safe house?"

"About an hour, maybe two; depends on if we find what we need. By the way, there's a communication from Kalinin waiting for you when you get home."

"Did you read it?" Sousuke felt his heart leap at the news. He sincerely hoped that it was the response to Kaname's request to accompany them to Merida Island.

"Nope; I figured you'd want the news in private, so I left it alone."

"Copy that. If that is all?"

"See you later, Sousuke."

"Roger, Urzu 7 out."