AN: Temporarily neglecting my Negima fics to write for a different fandom, don't mind me...
Pretty blatant spoilers for episode 6 of the second season.
Eila could still remember, with sparkling clarity, the first time she looked into Sanya's eyes.
It hadn't really been anything out of the ordinary. Despite how important it felt, the stars hadn't aligned or anything. Eila had checked. Twice. Or, when defending her actions to people who apparently had the time to count how many times she looked the same thing up, possibly more than twice.
But really, it had been a simple little thing. One moment she was snickering at Shirley's impression of Perrine when she was fawning over the Major, and the next, she was noticing the very pretty witch the Commander was showing around base.
Caught completely off guard, Eila couldn't help staring at the other girl. Especially when it became obvious that her wandering eyes were going completely unnoticed. The girl was hanging onto the Commander's every word, completely oblivious to the surroundings that weren't being pointed at.
There was a very good possibility that she wouldn't have caught Eila staring at all if Hartmann hadn't been sitting nearby and decided Eila's lack of attention was to be punished with a swift poke to the chest. That alone wouldn't have attracted any notice. Unfortunately—or fortunately, Eila could never figure out which—due to Eila already leaning back in her chair to get a good look at the new girl, she lost her balance.
Through some small grace of whatever god existed, she managed not to fall to the ground, but her surprised shout made the new girl glance up in surprise.
For one startling moment, Eila found herself looking directly into the girl's eyes.
They were—well. Pretty didn't quite do them justice, and Eila would lately start thinking that it was a lacking adjective when describing Sanya, but they were very, very pretty. But more than that, they were possibly the most emotive eyes Eila had ever seen.
And the loneliest.
Eila wasn't really sure what changed in the split second of almost mutual, blatant staring, but where before there had only been an indefinable spark of attraction, there was a surge of protectiveness she didn't quite know what to do with.
She figured out what to do with it when the ex-newest member, Lucchini, decided to inspect the girl's chest. And then, really, really not knowing why, she found herself snapping at Lucchini for her bit of harmless fun.
As first impressions went, she thought protecting Sanya from Lucchini was a whole lot better than gaping shamelessly while trying to regain balance on a chair. Still, the more embarrassing one refused to leave her head. If it weren't for her noble aspiration of protecting Sanya, she probably would have waited a few more days to let the memory fade before approaching the girl.
Somehow, she didn't manage that. After a busy week that began with hijacking Minna's tour, Eila noticed that she was spending an inordinate amount of her time with a girl she'd just met. A little strange, but she liked Sanya a lot, so she couldn't mind too much. Within no time, they were spending every waking moment together. Sharing things. Soon, Eila even discovered the reason behind the crushing loneliness in Sanya's eyes, and it wasn't long before she was putting effort into banishing the emotion from her friend's heart.
And, a little guiltily, completely wringing her still-very-prevalent attraction from her mind. Eila wasn't completely blind—at absolute best, Sanya thought of them as sisters. Feeling or pushing for more would only hurt their relationship, and that was the last thing in the world Eila wanted to do. She loved Sanya too much for it to be right to love her.
…Then, of course, Miyafuji came along, all happy and eager to make friends with everyone. With her arrival, Eila's resolve not to think about maybe-possibly wanting more than a simple friendship with Sanya pretty much shattered. Sanya blushed around Miyafuji. Even her antennae blushed around the newest new arrival. Which was—not okay.
Eila didn't really mind Miyafuji, because she was not Perrine, and Miyafuji was someone she considered a friend, but…
Well, she managed not to be Perrine.
Besides, a lot of Sanya's immediate reaction to Miyafuji was probably (hopefully) admiration of the new girl's straightforwardness. Absolutely nothing to worry about. Sanya was friends with Hartmann too after all, and that hadn't changed anything about her relationship with Eila.
Those reassuring thoughts did little to help the jealousy. She was able to keep herself in check before their squad's (temporary) disbandment though. That was something. Something impressive, if she did say so herself. She really didn't mind Miyafuji, but—it was just—
Eila was almost relieved when they were all ordered to go their separate ways. She was thrilled to have them all called back together of course, but the time to relax and just be with Sanya helped her emotions calm down a lot, and she was honestly happy to see Miyafuji again.
Then this mission had to come up.
Eila had never thought that neglecting to hone her shields in combat would cause so much trouble. Or any trouble. She certainly never thought that it would keep her from being by Sanya's side. Not needing a shield was usually a good thing.
It became a very bad thing very quickly.
Especially when Sanya's partner for the mission was decided.
Miyafuji had the stronger shield.
Miyafuji was incredibly experienced with it.
Miyafuji could protect Sanya in a way Eila never could.
Eila minded not being with Sanya quite a bit, but… that last thought had been nagging her since the details of the mission were revealed. It came home when she found her body automatically dodging every shot before she could even think of shielding against Lynne's bullets. She hated it, but this one time—
She couldn't protect Sanya.
She hated to even think it, but she forced herself to accept it. Sanya would be safe with Miyafuji. That was the important thing, right? It didn't matter who actually kept her safe as long as she came back. It didn't.
It still hurt.
And then, just when she was making herself get used to the idea, Sanya—Sanya—
"I wish you were able to deploy shields, too."
Eila wasn't like Miyafuji. She wasn't skilled with shields, she wasn't flamboyantly open with her emotions—she—she couldn't do any of those things Sanya admired so much.
And that—that went beyond hurt.
She never meant to shout and make Sanya cry. She really didn't. She hated seeing Sanya cry. And she didn't even know how to make it better because they'd never had a fight like that before. So, repeating over and over to herself that Miyafuji would keep Sanya safe, and promising to fix things (somehow) with Sanya after the Neuroi was destroyed, Eila prepared herself for the mission without saying a word to her friend.
Everything went according to plan until Sanya, for whatever reason, looked down and met Eila's eyes.
Sanya—even all the way up there, even with Miyafuji—was looking straight at her.
And just like the first time she fell into Sanya's beautiful eyes, Eila felt very, very stupid.
Sanya wanted her there.
She really didn't remember much of what happened next—only that Perrine was shouting something disapproving at her and that she briefly remembered something about soldiers not supposed to be disobeying orders—she just felt the overwhelming need to be with Sanya. To be flying with her.
To protect her.
For a scary moment, she'd wondered if she'd be able to do that, but the warm pressure of Sanya's hand kept her from faltering. For the few minutes destroying the Neuroi took, Eila felt absolutely invincible. She even managed to tell Sanya—
Only Sanya didn't hear that, did she?
"What is it Eila?"
"I—well, you see, I kind of—uh, never mind."