*All the standard disclaimers apply*

I'm a long-time lurker, first-time publisher, and would love if someone would like to beta this for me. Also, if anyone wants to point out errors/inconsistencies/stupid bits that would be great. I am definitely planning on extending this, and soon.

I've read up through the third novel, all the manga, and seen all three seasons. This is set sometime after the end of TSR.


"GAH! Sousuke, I don't get you! How can you be so apathetic! This is your future. Without a good education, you can't get anything in life." She flopped down on the embankment by the canal, huffing her bangs out of her eyes. The object of contention was Sousuke's abysmal Japanese Lit test score.

"It is not a problem."

"It IS a problem. Don't you care? Do you want to be a sergeant for the rest of your life?"

Sousuke sat next to her, his back stiff and straight. "As long as I do my job to the best of my ability, my career advancement is up to the discretion of my superior officers." Kaname frowned at the reminder that she was his 'job,' a stab of inadequacy darkening her mood.

"Besides, I have been a soldier far longer than I have been a student. It is the only thing I have known. I have not thought beyond that."

"What do you want? What do you, as a person, want from your life?" Kaname stared at him intently, as though she could see through him if she tried hard enough.

Sousuke looked away. "I... I haven't..." he paused for a moment, trying to find words for something he had tried not to think about. He tried again; "I try not to want anything. Wanting what you can't have does you no good. It distracts you on the battlefield and makes you miserable off of it." He looked at his scarred hands clenched on his knees, and self-consciously forced himself to relax. "When I think about the future, what I want from it- I want you to be safe. And happy. To not have this constant danger and fear hanging over you. I know how important a normal life is for you."

Kaname swallowed past the tightness in her throat. As much as Sousuke could be a destructive military nut, he could also be incredibly sweet and loyal. This made her all the more determined to press her point.

"You deserve a normal life too. You're a teenager! If Shinji and Ono-D can do it, you should be allowed to!" She finished fiercely, frustrated by the unfairness of it all. Sousuke risked his life in terrible situations to protect people who would never know. The least he deserved was happiness.

He shook his head at this. "I don't... I'm not like them. I was a killer by the time I was eight years old... I've done what I had to to survive, and to protect other people, but I don't think I can be normal." He shrunk in on himself a little; "I don't think I'm any good around civilians. Even with all your help, I still don't understand a lot of what our classmates are thinking. It's like trying to run a mission with everyone on different frequencies!"

"You keep wiping everyone out with friendly fire?" Kaname gave him a lopsided grin; the otaku-speak was her attempt to connect with him. She felt guilty over all the times she had screamed at his military idiocy, berating him without even considering how lost he must have been.

He grimaced. "I hate failing. I'm supposed to be a Specialist, yet I..." he growled in frustration.

Kaname thought for a moment. "How did you get to be a Specialist?"

Sousuke looked sharply at her, surprised that she was voluntarily venturing into a military conversation. "I was good at using the Arm Slaves during Mithril's boot camp. I had used them since my time in Afghanistan, and had an advantage over most of the other recruits. After Mao discovered this, she had me go through the SRT training and found me competent. My experience as a guerilla translated well to the strike-force style of the team." His tone had grown crisper, as though reporting to a superior.

"So if you hadn't grown up the way you had, you wouldn't have had the skills to be a Specialist?"

"Affirmative. Though perhaps intense SRT training would have accomplished as much."

Kaname had worked out long ago that the best way to appeal to Sousuke was through logic. "Well, think about it this way. Our classmates are "specialists" in emotions and relationships because they grew up with it all around them. Have you ever lived someplace where people talked about their feelings? Where they wanted to know how you felt?"

He picked at the grass introspectively. "In the orphanage..." his face grew dark; "I was old enough to survive it, but the little ones- the babies- died from loneliness, from no one touching them. We were lucky to get food, forget about affection. In the KGB camp..." He looked at her stricken expression, and changed tracks. "Once I joined Mithril, my comrades made fun of me for my social inadequacies, but they have also tried to help me. Commander Kalinin has said on several occasions that I should use my time here in Tokyo to improve my interpersonal skills." Sousuke blushed a little; "He also said that you were, um... 'good for me.'"

Kaname preened a little. "The Commander's a smart guy. But anyway, my point is, you aren't naturally defective. You're just... stunted from not having a normal childhood. I think you learn a lot about emotions and stuff when you're little, having people tell you they love you and things." She thought of her own childhood, before everything went so terribly wrong in middle school. She tried to imagine what it must have been like to have been not only utterly alone, but cold and hungry and frightened. What Sousuke had told her of his early years made her blood run cold, and she feared that there were far worse things that he kept from her.

It made her want to hug him and comfort him, to defend him from any further harm. She knew how ironic it was to want to protect someone who could kill with his bare hands, but the feeling was strong and undeniable. At that moment, she felt like a tiger defending her cub. Fortunately the passersby were too innocuous to merit a halisen-lashing.

Sousuke looked even more dejected. "Then there's nothing I can do. I can't go back in time or change anything that happened."

"That's not true! You just need some intensive training. I think we've been focusing too much on complicated things like teenage culture and manners. We need to get back to basics, to help teach you how to understand emotions and reactions." She gave him a threatening look; "That is NOT to say that I will tolerate you blowing up any more shoe lockers."

He straightened up. "Affirmative!" The effect was ruined by his stomach rumbling loudly.

Kaname giggled. "Okay then, our first lesson will be dinner."

Sousuke wrinkled his brow in confusion. "I do not understand. What does food have to do with emotions?"

"You have no idea. Come on!" She dragged him to his feet, and set off towards her apartment.


I promise, another chapter soon. Please let me know what you think!