Three clicks, and the silence – that sort of silence that could cut through conversations and leave one's body numb, that sort of silence that could create an insomniac, or perhaps sheer insanity, however one looked at it.

Words repeat themselves.


Four clicks this time, and yet the silence resumes afterward. It seems like it has formed into an invisible sort of shape, wrapping around and suffocating until neither of the two could breathe. It's the same with the hanging, lingering tension as well – captivating and yet devastating, promising and horrid.

"Lieutenant Vermillion!"

Voices raise, ultimately shattering that quiet veil that hangs over the two. Both are blondes with the same emerald optics, though their intentions and their needs and wants are entirely different. The faces they have seen and the memories that they withhold are of no similarity. One is cold-hearted and always differentiates with his subordinates while the other is timid and obedient, always determined to serve and make one happy.

But Noel Vermillion to Jin Kisaragi – it's another story from what they are both accustomed to.

The Lieutenant's eyes seem distant, as if she's looking at something past the balcony. Her arms are folded against it and her hair sways as the breeze brushes its non-existing fingers through it, soothing her and allowing her to think. Her gaze is stuck on nothing in particular – her thoughts have captured her and they squeeze her, comfort her like a lover's embrace.

It's something that makes the Major envious, as if he wishes that he were the one doing so rather than her stupid thoughts.

Jin? Envious? What connection does he have to Noel rather than her being his secretary and her face looking like his sister's? He's had his share of rage spurts, where he nearly killed her – slicing her, choking her, stabbing her. Yukianesa calls his name, taunts him and teases him, bends his will and fucks with his mindset to make him think that he really does hate Noel. But in the end, when he's sane and he can stare at her through crystal clear vision without a harmful intent, Jin knows better. He knows that deep within his heart concealed in a barrier of ice, he cares.

And maybe he's crazy, but he thinks that his Lieutenant cares too – even if it's just in the smallest way.

But no, why would he even think that? Jin Kisaragi is supposed to be uncaring and demanding, not soft and submitting.

He tries one more time, one more time to get her attention from whatever holds her down. His voice raises a few more octaves, louder than he ever screams her name within Library bounds – louder than he ever screams her name when he has murderous intents to slice her head off because of how much she looks like Saya.

"Lieutenant Vermillion!"

It snaps Noel out of her trance nearly immediately, but she doesn't seem to have changed. Her body tenses, and Jin's hand is set on Yukianesa almost like he's prepared to stab her because she's not listening to his orders, because she's not listening to him.

But why? Why? Noel is a beautiful person – disobedient at times or not.

No. Jin never thinks that. It's a ridiculous idea that passes into one ear and out the other. But deep inside of himself, he knows that he wants to admit to it. The other half of him says that he needs to set disciplinary rules on her, but that other half almost agrees with him, saying that if he does that, he'll get closer to his Lieutenant.

Jin's thoughts scramble, going from the yelling, demanding Major he usually is to a silent, contemplative man who had too many things to think about.

Too many things? No, one thing.

The silence sweeps over the small area once again, and the tension diminishes. Jin's posture seems as if he's prepared to fight, while Noel is leaning over the balcony, looking as if she's about to topple over and fall into the never-ending sea of clouds.

But Jin wouldn't let that happen. No – he would, because she looks so much like her.

But he cares.

Two sides within the Major have their conflict, screaming at one another while on the outside, the blonde stares. He stares at his Lieutenant, silently admiring the way her hair moves. He's envious of the wind, envious of her thoughts, envious of how simple her life seems to be. He's envious because he can't do anything about it – the wrong impression would seep into the minds of the rest of the NOL and then where would his reputation go?

But Noel Vermillion is one of those people Jin Kisaragi can't give up on. It's why she's his Lieutenant – she's no one else's, just his. And neither of them realize how much pride he takes in that aspect. He's proud to call her his Lieutenant most of the time, when he isn't batshit insane and when he isn't having an inner conflict with one side bellowing at the other.

Jin is proud to call Noel his Lieutenant, but he isn't sure if he's proud right now or not. She's not listening to him like she usually does. She's ignoring him as if he doesn't exist, and he can feel that envy deep inside the pit of his stomach stir, as if awakening from a deep slumber. It scares Jin – he doesn't know what to do with it, and the only thing he does is act.

Acting upon his instincts – he learned that back in his days at the Academy. And the regret settles in once the Academy is brought up to mind. How he treated Noel… She truly didn't deserve any of that.

No, Noel doesn't deserve the treatment she gets now. Not when he's captivated by Yukianesa. Not when he's screaming at her to get her attention when she's clearly caught up in something else.

But no, Jin acts on his instincts. He acts, shuffling forward and clamping his hand down on her shoulder. He thinks that'll startle her, he thinks that she'll give him some real attention now. But the fear hits him harder than anything – what is he going to say when she realizes?

And it happens, it all clicks together as Noel's head snaps up, and Jin's fears are set into stone.

"M-Major Kisaragi…?"

Her voice is so innocent, so quiet, so childlike that he doesn't know what to do. He merely stands there, inches away from her. Emerald eyes are locked and the stare is so strong, it can't be broken by mere means of turning their heads away. There's something deeper there, but it's on Jin's part and he can tell it's confusing Noel by the look in her distant gaze.

Jin shatters that temporary bond by twisting his head out over the balcony, staring down at the clouds as they slowly push against each other to float by. Oh, he understands now, and part of that envy that had been awakened dozes right back off. Whether she was captivated by the scenery or perhaps by the thoughts that came to be because of it, Jin understands – it all makes sense and more regret piles on top of him, eases into his veins and it almost makes him sick.

He isn't one to apologize, but he knows damn well that he owes his Lieutenant more than just a simplistic apology. He goes with it, knows that she probably won't understand, but it's what his heart is telling him to do and so he does it.

"My… My sincerest apologies, Lieutenant."

And his assumptions are right – he doesn't get a response, but Jin does get a confused stare and a couple of blinks in his direction. The only other thing he does is squeeze her shoulder reassuringly before he walks away.

It's as simple as that, but that apology was for so much more than just distracting her from her beloved trance, her collection of memory and oblivion. It was for every time he had been rash to her, it was for every time he nearly killed her, it was for every time that he mistreated her in ways that she didn't deserve…

It was for the words he wanted to say, but didn't.

All Jin knows, despite the regret and the envy and the fear, is that he's proud to call Noel his Lieutenant. And he's proud to say that she's beautiful, he's proud to say that she's strong, he's proud to call her his even though she doesn't know it.

He's proud. And he's never been more proud in his entire life.