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Re: :[:It Happened One Night (Private):]:


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Friday was Clare’s favourite day of the week. It was one day when she could come home and lie in a phone conversation to her father that she was going out with friends, and then lie to her friends that she had family business to take care of. In reality, she could spend the whole half a day only to serve herself. Solitude is a horrible thing, but it is more horrible still when you don’t get it. Friday was one day when she did not have to go anywhere, did not have to do anything, when she could spend hours on personal grooming, on watching novellas, on reading sappy romance novels, on studying the subjects she was interested in... Oh, the list went on and on, but best of all there was the knowledge that the alarm would not go off the next morning. Friday also gave her the time she could spend playing with her little pet.


Maybe it would be wise to pause here and describe this little creature. Clare’s ‘pet’ was a wonder of artificial intelligence, a prime example of state of the art technology, and the only present her father ever gave her that was not completely and totally useless. It was a tiny ball of fluff that resembled a brown-coat dwarf rabbit, except that on the inside of this coat it was filed with thousands of microchips and wires. Francois (the name that she gave to the robot and no one really knew whey she chose it) was soft like a real bunny, hopped around like a real bunny and looked exactly like a real bunny. On top of that, Andrew Clarick equipped it with a number of curious abilities. Francois had a personality chip installed that made him snide and sarcastic, but also allowed him to develop his own unique character and to change depending on the environment; he was given a sophisticated speech function, a three dimensional ‘vision,’ incredible level of comprehension, a built-in alarm, computer, clock, and everything else one could think of. Of course, this was also her work tool, but Clare could not help but love the little ball of fluff! To think that she could even wash him and brush his coat! They often bickered, often made fun of others, and somehow this amazing piece of machinery managed to make Clare a lot happier living alone than she could have imagined. Before moving to Plant she shared an apartment with her father, and although the two did not have much of a communication, there was still a human presence in her daily home life that seized to exist when she moved out. Francois, whose temper resembled Clare’s made a perfect companion for her.


However this Friday was a tad different from the rest. It was only nine o’clock, but Clare already did not know what to do with herself. She paced the lavishly decorated rooms of her apartment at an incredible pace and was truly grateful that Francois stayed out of her way. Several times she passed the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, and finally on her fifth or sixth round decided to stop by it. With shaking hands Clare opened the drawer and took out a bottle of pain killers. She had been taking the maximum dose for a while now, but the headaches would not stop. With a grunt she tossed the bottle into a trash can and slammed the drawer shut. The pills, the hot shower, the strong coffee - none of it helped. Headaches were becoming stronger and more frequent. Clare shrugged and turned off the lights - she might as well call it a night. A small shadow passed along one of the walls, making her smile against her will. Yeah, Francois was a huge pain in the gluteus maximums, but he knew when to keep quiet.


Tiredly she crawled into her insanely large bed and pulled the covers over her head. The throbbing pain was horrible It was as though someone tied a rope around her head and was now twisting it tight while slowly adding metal plates between the knots. However, little by little it seemed to pass. By midnight Clare no longer tossed around. She laid on her right side, curled up at a forty-five degree angle to the bed and wrapped up in a bundle of sheets and blankets. Her right arm rested under the pillow and her left hand was holding its corner for extra support. No sound was heard other than Clare’s even breathing until about three in the morning, and then...


An awful sound of a ringing phone cut through the dead silence of the room. Clare did not wake up right away, nor did she realize what was ringing. Instead she sat up on the bed in a half dazed state and began pressing on everything that could make noise on her bedside table. Finally she hit the receiver button of the phone, and instantly a bright, wide screen popped up. Clare rubbed her eyes in attempt to adjust to the light. She was more than sure that she’d kill whomever was calling at the moment. Of course, in her righteous anger she did not stop to think that the individual on the other end was getting a darn good view of her tiny yellow pyjamas with a blue kitten print. This realization came to her as soon as she was able to see and recognize Ryou’s face. Immediately Clare pulled the covers against herself and tried to wipe the embarrassed expression off her sleepy face.


“What the hell do you think you’re doing,” she yelled as soon as she could see that the young man did not look hurt, or like he's in a hospital, or some sort of trouble (why did she even care again?). This was the fist time she raised her voice above the tone of the normal conversation. “You moron! Do you even know what time it is!? I don’t even know what time it is!”


“Three hundred hours, your highness,” a sarcastic male voice came from underneath the bed - Francois was also up now.


“Three AM! Do you hear that!? It’s three AM!” Claire had a vein on her head you could tow a truck with. She never shouted and she never lost her temper, and yet somehow Ryou succeeded at getting her to do both. Aggravating young man! Why did she react like this to him? Had it been anyone else, she would have just hung up without even bothering to get mad or to ask what the issue was. “Do you know what NORMAL people do at three AM? They sleep! Do you know what I want to do at three AM? That’s right - I want to sleep! Now, give me one good reason not to hang up on you, you nocturnal lunatic! What is it that’s keeping you up at night? Lack of personal life? Lack of grey matter in the brain? Lack of work and abundance of boredom? All of the above? I guess what I’m trying to say is, what the hell do you want from me at three AM Saturday morning except for a possible nose job without an anaesthesia?”

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Friday was Ryou's least favorite day of the week. It was the only day he had and his father would be in the same house-No Sorry, Mansion- and under the same roof together. So this had meant that they were eating dinner together with no chatter coming from either one of them and a distasteful compliment from his father on the cooking that Ryou did. Somehow Ryou imagined that his father wished that his son didn't know how to cook and that he'd let the maid's to it themselves. Ryou couldn't share the same vision, having been taught by his mother which his father never mentioned again either.


Friday was the most boring due to the fact that Ryou didn't know what to do with himself at the time. He'd usually find himself just walking through the mansion and redoing little chores such as watering the garden if he could without drowning the flowers. Or he'd head up into the library and read up on some old books which PLANT's really didn't have much. As he sighed in the library and raised his head and arms to stretch he felt a sudden similar pain in his right foot and looked down to see the black cat biting down on his leg with no restraint. " Arthur...that..hurts.. " He hissed to the cat as it let go and then Ryou picked him up and leaned in close. " You have some attitude problem..now apologize. " He had said as the cat reluctantly took out it's tounge and then licked Ryou's nose with it's rough tongue and then wriggled himself out and ran off into the hallways. Leaving a blinking Ryou to sigh to himself as to wonder why that cat hated him so much.


His bedroom was rather large and held a giant bed for such a small figure as himself, it made him feel like he was 4 compared to how much room he had in the bed. His wall having had a Lacus Clyne poster before the second bloody valentine where she seemed to have completely changed and then later revealed that she was a fake. A computer had been placed near the corner of a window so he could see the outside in case of guests coming and so that he could look outside even himself considering the large view he had of the PLANT.  His wall having had a large tv as he was watching the news and then switched onto whatever could be better. A new video game seemed to have come out where one could pilot the Freedom and other mobile suits on ZAFT's side versing the EA; This would have made Ryou happier if he was 15. Some new movies had come out apparently about some PLANT suddenly appearing in space and then inside were nothing but zombies; Who the hell wrote these stories?!



There was a sudden knocking on the door all and Ryou reacted having said out. " Tv Off. " And the large screen flicked off with his voice. " Come in.. " He said as he was sitting on his bed and his father had come in in his usual black coat with his arms behind his body. " Shouldn't you be asleep? " He had asked the boy. It's too late for parenting now. " I'm not that sleepy, I'll go soon enough. " He said sharply to the man and looked over at him. " What do you want, I know you're not here to simply tell me that. " He had said and looked back over to the corner seeing Arthur's body laying in his bed with a weak smile forming on Ryou's lips as he hid it enough to not let his father see. " I have a job for you regarding the military. " He had said as Ryou's head turned fast towards the man and he stood up. " What is it? " He had asked in happy anticipation. The man simply smiled at him and stepped forward handing him a envelope. Ryou having titled his head and then opened it holding out a disc. " What's this? " He had asked with a blink as he looked past the shine that the thing gave off and to his father. " The Disc holds information that you'll need to send a few people in the city. I couldn't send it to them over mail or through any technology in case of it getting copied or anything else so we'll have to do it manually where you'll be sending it to them and they'll make a copy of the disc's information and then you go on to find the other. " He had explained. Ryou had twitched as he looked at the man; A Delivery Boy?! He was being degraded to the point where he was a delivery boy?!!?!?!


The man noticed Ryou's shoulders shaking from the inner frustration and turned around closing the door as Ryou raised his hand with the disc and prepared to throw it at the door as it closed. " Son of a...making me do something as stupid as..God...dammit.. " He whispered through clenched teeth and turned around sighing. Perhaps it was a good start to move up in ranks by doing these menial jobs but that didn't mean he had to like them.


He placed the disc back into the envelope and placed it on his bedside table that held a picture of his mother and his graduation from the pilot academy where he had noticed the prank the same girl had did to him even then with the bunny ears over his head with her two fingers. Having laid down and sighed he went off to sleep and dreamt of nothing considering the lack of time he had to even create a dream.


A few hours later and it was 3 am before his eyes darted open and his fear was realized. " I don't know how to get around the city... " He whispered and sat up blinking on how to do this. He had opened the envelope again and looked at the list of names and their locations. Only a few were in bases and the others were either at their houses or some other random location of work. He needed a city guide now or else he'd be in deep trouble and this would take years to deliver. Having wondered if he could ask somebody he knew would be too odd, suspicious also considering they were not in the military and this was supposed to be partly secret. Having then wondered if he could ask anybody in the military and then looked over to the envelope with thoughts passing his head with every second, his eyes raising to the picture of his mother and then over as he stared at Clare's happy face. "........Huh.. " He said as he blinked slowly and then walked over to his computer and clicked for his phone book address and the screen popped up, his hand moving down through the list as he clicked on her name and then called up her home phone.


He had wondered if she was awake even, having known he might have to call several times but luckily around the 5th ring her room had appeared in view and he wasn't even staring at her face either. Having titled his head and looked down he saw her pajama's and her face for a few seconds before she covered herself up and a miniature sweat drop went down the back of his head at the childish look she had given him. It didn't last long considering her voice had changed from half asleep to sudden witch like tone where she may have been cursing him but in truth was just screaming at why he wasn't asleep. He then heard her robot rabbit and recalled that one time he had gotten kicked in the face by that miniature virus infected thing. " Good..morning to you too. " He had said with a weak cough as he wondered how to phrase this in the proper way. There was no proper way and he knew it himself and she could probably tell that he wasn't asking if she wanted to come over or something else; A job. " I just wanted to...ask you out Saturday..for..um..sightseeing? " He had said to her with a weak smile as she could probably make out the lacus poster in the background and the semi dark room as he turned on a light in the corner, his cat coming into view as it hissed at him with it's tail raised up. Ryou ignored it for now as he waited for a response.

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Clare couldn’t believe her ears. This guy wasn’t serious! He couldn’t have been! She blinked a few times, dropped the covers (which once again showed her childish pyjamas), and tried to reply, but instead nothing came out but a cough. For a while she tried to masquerade laughter in this manned, but soon gave up, and fell backwards laughing in her usual mocking manner. Soft male chuckles could be heard from underneath the bed as well - Francois, although he did not like Ryou, had a good sense of humour. All her anger was long gone. In fact, if this guy was in the same room with her, she’d probably hug him and offer cake. Yeah, he just woke her up, but his announcement had made her day. She never met anyone else who was so hopelessly clueless and artless.


“Hey Ryou,” Clare finally sat up and turned his head towards him so that he could see her right ear, but just in case he missed it, her finely manicured finger was pointing to it. “You see this ear? This, my friend, is a finely tuned crap detector. Now, you need me for something, and I want to know what it is for. Quite frankly, darling, you have two options if you want something from me - either learn how to lie or start speaking the truth. So, call me when you make up your mind.” With that she hung up the phone and got out of the bed.


“You aren’t going to go with him, are you,” Francois hopped from underneath the bed and was now starring at her with what could be called a look of disapproval.


“Yes, I am, actually,” the girl replied as she threw off her clothes, pinned up her long hair, and stepped into the shower. She knew that Francois probably followed her into the bathroom to continue his protests - he usually jumped into the linen box and gave his speeches from underneath towels. “You do realize that this is probably something military connected, right? Remember who his father is? I am simply doing my job.”


“Yeah right! You’re just worried that something might happen to him on the road,” Francois chuckled as he dug deeper into the laundry basket just in case Clare decided to come and get him. The running shower water did not convince him that he was save - you never knew with this girl. “Or maybe you’re hoping that something romantic woke up in this moron and you are really expecting him to take you ‘sight-seeing...’ Oh, suicidal woman, what are you doing?”


“Get your microchips out of the gutter! Do you really think I’d spend time with this hopeless little whiner if it wasn’t for his daddy!? He is helpless, useless walking bag of issues! Something bad happened to him - so what? He could just get over it like everybody else does instead of stumbling around like a lost puppy! One of these days he will go down in a dictionary as a definition of clinical depression! I hate people like him - what good are you if you cannot help yourself? Why should anyone else feel bad for you? Why...” Clare broke off, not finding anything else to say. She just stood under the running water and watched her own reflection in the bathroom tiles. What made her say those things? Did she really feel this way? She knew that she should have felt it, but somehow the very thought that she might have made her sick.


“Is that what you really think, or is that what you’re trying to convince yourself to think?” Francois also seemed a little surprised by this outburst. He was a brilliant machine, but even he could not fully comprehend what made her say it. He had a database that helped him analyze human reactions, but Clare was sometimes difficult to read. She was not the type to fear a ‘workplace affair’ and the scandals that usually went with one. She certainly had no scruples about breaking orders either. Was she afraid of something? It couldn’t be that she truly resented him...


“Look, just stay out of my life and don’t talk to me about that wimp again,” Clare hissed as she turned off the shower water and went back into her room. At this hour she did not put too much thought into her appearance. A black sleeveless shirt with no cat-shaped silhouette on the front made out of little gems, tiny jean skirt with a white trim, a pair of black leggings, black high-heel sandals that were decorated with silver gems and tied around her shins, and a white cotton jacket. As always, she applied her make-up faithfully and put on all her usual jewelery, including her odd hairpin. “Just hop into my purse and be quiet. You might have to work today.” With that Clare sat down on the edge of her bed, staring at the phone, which she expected to ring any moment. Her good mood from Ryou’s phone call was all gone now, but she would have to do her best to pretend... She didn’t really understand herself anymore, at least not when it came to Ryou. She insulted him, she was mean to him, and yet all he had to do is ask (or not ask at all!) and she would do anything for him. She was convinced that she should despise him, and yet she’d never allow anyone to be mean to him. She couldn’t wait for him to leave and then was even more impatient for him to drop by again... It was a one big contradiction!

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Ryou's expression was curious as he saw her childish pajama's once more with a another weak smile formed as he thought it looked good on her but then he had seen her talk to him once more and the smile faded once more. The girl had a talent to ruin his thoughts of her rather well, a rather good talent indeed. Before he could have said anything he felt himself get disconnected and then gritted his teeth. " Annoying woman... " He whispered and turned around standing up. " Why do I even bother? " He had asked to Arthur who seemed to not even care and then jumped over to the lamp causing the light and swung his claws at it.


" I try alright! I try to make her go out more! " He had continued as the cat was trying to figure out how the machine worked and clawed at the switch. " At least shes getting out with me instead of getting into bed with some other soldier and then telling me about it! " He had said walking in circles. " She's infuriating, annoying, and charming! Why does she even bother to flirt when she knows I'm around in the first place?! " He had asked as Arthur meowed a desperate plea to the light and scratched even more at the switch wishing it worked for cats. " And then it's worse cause she knows I'm there and seems to just make it even more obvious! " He had said placing his hands on his head and rustling it through his hair. His mind was annoyed that she could get the best of him while he did the same to her, he wasn't getting on top of her on the ladder and they seemed to have been sharing the same seat with nudges towards one another trying to push the other off. " Still.. " He whispered more calmer all of the sudden as the cat was meowing over and over trying to get his masters attention with less success than Ryou was of lying. " She was..the first to approach me without asking about my eyes or hair.. " He whispered and sighed giving up as he looked over at Arthur and then stroked the cat's head. The creature staring at him with eyes of anger clearly showing as he didn't seem to notice still. " No matter..." He said smirking to himself as he felt a bit better now once he let out his own frustration. " She's a good friend. " He whispered and then shut his eyes closed feeling the pain in his hand as Arthur had finally bit his hand sick of the stroking and more in need of sleep.


Ryou had smiled slightly and pressed the button feeling Arthur having licked his wound and then jumped away into his bed, strange relationship there. He had taken the necessary shower himself which lasted pretty short and then walked over to the beside table, opening the cupboard and taking a pill for himself as he put on a blue sleeveless shirt with a black shirt on top with arm straps while having put on white pants also with black shoes. He placed the envelope with the CD in his pocket and then walked over to the phone once more.


He took a few deep breaths and redialed with his arms crossed as he heard the ring tone go off and waited for her cheerful or angry face once more. Though he knew that she didn't reject the offer to come with him either which made him smile once more, she was going with him it seems.

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As embarrassed as she was to admit it, Clare actually waited for his phone call with quite a bit of impatience. It’s not like she had any doubt that he would call, but still... What if he was mad at her for shouting at him and hanging up? What if he was like every other guy and disliked it when a girl showed him up? On this note Clare had to pause, thinking that if the later was true, Ryou wouldn’t be worth the dust on her boots. Yes, apparently she could stand a wimp, but not a pompous bigot... Anyway, I think you get the idea that by the time Ryou called, she was so impatient that she picked up the receiver half way through the first ring. Later it would dawn upon her that this sort of behaviour was a clear indication that she sat there like an idiot waiting for him to call, but at the moment that embarrassing thought did not cross her mind.


“Look, as long as I’m up, you might as well come over here and tell me everything you know, since I am guessing you aren’t very comfortable with the phone conversation, and then I’ll decide whether or not I am up to it. However, in any case I expect some moral compensation for being awaken at this hour. So, I guess I’ll see you soon.” With that Clare hung up once again and threw herself on the bed. It’s funny how seeing him for just a moment made her mood take a one hundred and eighty degree turn for the better. There was something open and sweet about him even when he did not say much, or perhaps most of all at those times... “It’s a wonder how that fiend can be his father... The are so different...”


“You think,” Francois questioned from inside a black purse. “How much do you know about him anyway? Something tells me that you did not press on this guy too much.”


“Not much,” Clare replied lazily, as if her mind was somewhere far away from this room. “It’s just bits and pieces that he dropped in conversations, but nothing that would give a very clear picture. He’s so closed in that it’s hard to find out much... I ask some questions and sometimes they are answered... I don’t think I would gain much by being too nosy. On the bright side, he doesn‘t know much about me either - actually, I know more about him. But that‘s nothing to brag about - you avoid answering questions by asking them.”


“But doesn’t he find it uncomfortable that you know more than most,” Francois continued to inquire. He also wanted to ask why she even bothered with this kid, but then thought the better of it.


“I doubt that he can tell for sure how much I know,” Clare chuckled softly, “I never ask too many and always make sure that they end up being in the middle of the conversation. That’s the way people are - they only remember the beginning and the end of a talk, but many things in the middle get lost in their memories, especially if these things were only mentioned in passing.”


“And you?”


“I don’t forget anything,” she smirked, quite proud of her superb memory and attention to detail.


“Then pray tell me, why did you give me this idiotic name,” Francois asked really hoping for an answer. Honestly, who names their bunny ‘Francois?’


“I recall it was a name of one of the individuals who died at the guillotine during the Reign of Terror,” Clare grinned and touched her hairpin, which, in fact, was a dagger, “get a hint, rabbit.” Oh, there really was no secret as to why she named him Francois, but somehow Clare just did not feel like telling.

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Ryou picked it up instantly, she had been waiting right by the phone and had picked it up rather in a fast pace, she seemed to have been waiting for him with hope it seems or else she wouldn't have been that fast. His thought was true considering when she answered she had just commanded him and then hung up once more not wanting any conversation between each other and opened his mouth to say something when he got cut off again, having then lowered his head and sighed out the air that he caught for a small bit of conversation, that dream popped rather easily. She was rude, but he was grateful that she didn't deny him the fact that she would come along with him. Even if it was this late in the first place, he had found himself smiling and then slapped himself a few times." Idiot.. " He whispered and turned around opening the door. " Good night Arthur, don't cause trouble. " He had said and heard a meow back to him as he shut the door and ran down the hallway and down the stairs until he had seen a familiar figure waiting at the door for him; His Father.


His hands were at his sides now as his face showed the usual strange calm and weak smile that was around his lips. The aura he seemed to give off him seemed to have demanded respect and nothing else, somehow Ryou assumed that he was speaking with the chairman of PLANT's half the time with the sensation that creeped up his body and settled around his stomach that made it tighten. " Ryou-kun...you seem rather in a hurry... " He had mentioned as the boy snapped back into reality from his father's aura and into reality that he was at the top of the stairs and the man was by the door blocking him passage. " Y-yah..I'm gonna head out early and deliver the CD.. " Ryou said with his voice much more weaker and submissive as he looked down at his father's feet being unable to look at the man's crimson eyes that were done by fiddling with his genes no doubt. " I know that you don't know this city at all and would get lost very easily. I expected a maid to be with you but....who are you meeting? " He had asked picking up his son's habit and already figuring out that the clothes were rather too proper for him to simply delivering them. " Clare...Charlotte Clarick, you know her...I told you before that she was the one that kept matching up with me in marks and achievements. " Ryou couldn't see it but Kaze's smile faded into an unwanted and serious face as he seemed to have been reminded of that last name and the fact that the girl matched with his son also; He couldn't accept that Ryou was getting matched with that 'Man's Daughter of all beings. His hands clenched a bit into fists and then opened once more as he lowered his gaze to the bottom of the stairs and couldn't object no matter how much he wished for it, for now he needed to swallow this insult of his greatest work to that man's own achievement of an experiment. " Ah, Yes...that charming girl....I'm surprised that she would be awake at this hour and accompanying you. " He had said as he had planned to give him the CD at late night to simply stop him and the girl to meet up but that had failed itself. Ryou had looked at his father once more and smiled softly that he wasn't objecting to her. " Alright..well..I'm going.. " He had said almost afraid to walk down those stairs and come close to the man but he swallowed down his nervous feelings and let it become accompanied to the knot that was still in his stomach from his father. He walked down the stairs and passed his father until he had stopped and opened the door. " Well..bye..Dad...I'll be back soon. " He had said and heard a soft sound made from his father as he knew that it wouldn't get any better than that and closed the door behind him leaving his father in the darkness as he was bearing his teeth and grinding them while his fists were clenched tightly. " Why did they have to meet.... " He whispered speaking to an invisible being and expected to hear an answer but heard nothing but the car that Ryou chose. His anger was calmed by the realization that she would have most likely come with him for a reason; The Disc. A small smirk was replaced again on his face, the girl served her purpose quite well even if she was was a nuisance to be wiped off with.


The boy had been rather free from any nervous sensation and knot the moment he had closed the door behind him, his knot untying as he felt like it was staying with his father rather than wanting to accompany him. His heart had now caught his attention as it was pounding fast on his chest as he started the black car that Clare always liked and left the garage and came into the streets. Even the night air in PLANT's were artificial but it felt cold enough to match the outside and yet Ryou didn't mind as his hair was ruffling with the high speed he was going. He had managed to leave his house and father and he preferred to not be in the same building as him or room if he could avoid it, he loved him but the same cannot be said or expressed from the other unfortunately. No matter, leave those thoughts behind until he needed to think about them. Clare was probably already tapping her feet and waiting for him with some insult prepared on how she made him wait and that he was lucky enough to have her around. A smile crept up on his face as he could picture it already but had sped up once more considering the streets were rather free and not filled with traffic to begin with.


Once he did stop in the front of her apartment he had pulled out a black cellphone with had a miniature dark blue 'Haro' attached to it as a keychain which had said out " I don't accept this! " and it's eyes glowed a bit with every word as he called for her number once more wanting to tell her that he was there and waiting. He had slightly pulled the phone away from his ear in case she was gonna scream first.

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Ignoring Francois’ complaints and whining about her guillotine comment, Clare went out onto the balcony and leaned over the railing. She had no fear of heights what so ever. Instead, she loved the night air, the lights of the night city, the cold breeze, and the spiralling feeling that you could probably fly if you were to step over the boundaries of the veranda. Francois and his comments stayed inside - he was a terrible coward. Usually she’d take him out here against his will, but this time Clare wanted a little time away from Francois’ constant whining.


There was quite a bit to think about. Clare was always mouthy, opinionated, and frank. However, those qualities never prevented hr from being the epiphany of politeness and charm. Until she met Ryou, that is! For some reason she felt a burning need to constantly cross the finely defined boundaries of etiquette every time she was with him. Clare knew full well that she’d never scream at anyone else, never hang up on anyone else, and never insult anyone without a good reason... Oh, the list went on and on! She only allowed herself those things when she was with him. Surely, Ryou had to have noticed that! Perhaps this strange behaviour of hers could be written off on intense dislike, but even her incredible powers of self-persuasion could not make Clare fully believe that theory. The two were practically attached at the hip. They did everything together! Hardly ever a day would go by when they didn’t talk or did not see each other, and if that happened, one of them would generally call to check up on the other. On the day that team roasters were up, Clare let out a sigh of relief when she saw Ryou’s name beside her own - this way she could make sure that the kid didn’t get himself killed. And had they not been on the same team, you can bet that Clare would be checking the killed/MIA (missing in action) lists daily to make sure that he was alright. Now, when you consider all this, you could hardly write off her bizarre behaviour on a strong resentment. But seriously, he was so artless, clueless, and helpless, that it would take a completely heartless person not to wish to take care of him in some way. Would you ever kick a lost puppy? Exactly! You wouldn’t.


Clare smiled to herself, happy with this explanation. Pity. She simply pitied him. For as long as she could remember herself, Clare placed resentment and pity in one compartment. She looked down upon those whom she pitied, and therefore disliked them. However, with Ryou it was different. She liked him, but at the same time felt a great deal of empathy towards him. This had to be the reason behind her strange behaviour, since the two feeling were so conflicting. The fact that there were several flaws in this theory did not bother her one bit - Clare found a way to explain the reality in a way that suited her conscience best, and although there was a small part of her that accused her of hypocrisy, it was quickly silenced. Clare highly doubted that Ryou had any clue about how protective she was of him, or about the little fact that she pitied him, or that she liked him as a person. He was not the type to notice affection towards him simply because he did not believe that it could exist. She could be violently in love with him, and he’d never get the clue, so there can hardly be a problem to hide a tiny bit of affection... Clare’s thoughts were interrupted when her eyes caught the shine from the headlights down bellow. There was no doubt that it was Ryou. She couldn’t really see the car outlines, but for some reason she clearly caught the sight of his white hair even from the thirteenth floor. A melancholic smile passed her lips - perhaps it’s a pity that he’d never know whether or not he was important to someone... Not that he was really important to her, mind you... Or something along those lines.


“Let’s go, Francois - he’s here,” Clare announced calmly as she went back into the room and grabbed her purse. Before exiting the apartment, she took a quick look in the hall mirror in order to make sure that she looked presentable - of course she did. Sure, maybe to Clare this attire was a tad too casual, but all in all she looked very good. Hey, what choice did she have? Clare was pretty sure that Ryou could see very well in the dark, so the last thing she wanted was for him to make a decretory comment about her appearance. And besides, four AM (it’s been an hour now) is no excuse for looking unkempt.


“So he’s the son of that guy, is he,” Francois asked a little worried. This was the main reason why disliked the young man. Was it not his prime responsibility to make sure that Clare was safe? And what good could ever come from the son of Kaze Mizaki? Even if the boy was alright, his connection with his father left to wish for the better. There was no way that the father did not know what his son was doing and whom he was seeing. “Don’t you think he’s a little unnerved about his son constantly meeting with a Clarick?”


“If he has paranoia, I suppose” Clare laughed and stepped into an elevator. “You know very well yourself that my name is in no way rare of uncommon. How many girls are there with the last name of ‘Clarick?’ Sure, I suppose the fact that I am from Orb and that my first name is ‘Charlotte’ could put him on guard, but still... Many people immigrated to Orb over the years, and I highly doubt that father’s grandma was also called ‘Charlotte.’” As always, Clare referred to Andrew as ‘father.’ Never ‘dad,’ or ‘daddy’ - it was always ‘father.’ “Let’s continue. From my father I only have the hair colour. I look almost identical to my mother. Sure, his eyes are also brown, but so were hers. To make any family connection between us, he would have had to known my mother. Even if he did know her, we never met. Ryou has only one picture of us together, but there were plenty of other graduation shots, so I highly doubt that he would keep that particular picture out. However, for the sake of it, let’s suppose that he does have it framed and on his desk, no matter how farfetched that theory is.  Let’s suppose that Kaze knew my mother and shows enough interest in his son to pay attention to the pictures in his room. So what? He will run an identity check on me and find out that I really am Andrew Clarick’s daughter. So what? He will also find a few very good reasons for me to hate Orb, the naturals, and to join ZAFT. In the end he’ll still have nothing. As for Ryou, I highly doubt that he knows who I am or who my father is - when you intend to use your children, you do not keep them informed.”


“And if he did know,” Francois asked out of polite curiosity.


“Then he would have never hung around me so much,” Clare chuckled softly. “Ryou is a nice guy, but he does not strike me as an independently thinking individual.”


“Why do you always underestimate people,” the creature shook his tiny head. “Can’t you ever give anyone the benefit of a doubt? What if he knew and did not care?”


“I do,” she laughed, “I consider all people to be perfectly amiable and honest, but I treat them all as though they were crooks... And I have yet to be wrong. As for your theory, if it was true then I would assume that he began to develop unwanted feelings for me and I’d make sure to nip them in the bud.”


“How cruel,” Francois muttered quietly. He never seized to be amazed by Clare’s cold calculations and practicality. Could this girl really be human? Everything about her was frigid... Perhaps it was best for her line of duty. He closed his eyes and became quiet on the bottom of her black purse. In the end he knew that Clare was right in her conclusions, and perhaps even kinder than most, only her kindness carried a strange sort of cruelty to it, and in the end it became increasingly hard to tell where one began and the other ended.


“Ryou! You’re late,” Clare shouted and waved at the young man, grinning from ear to ear. As always, seeing him made her mood jump up and attitude change from coldly-cynical, to cynically-ditsy.  Ignoring her initial urge to hug him and tell him that he looks adorable, Clare simply fiddled with his bangs to make it stand up higher and walked past him to sit on the car hood. “Well, I’m all ears, darling. So, what is it that you need from me at this hour? And, most importantly, what am I going to get for being your personal chauffer?”

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Ryou knew that she didn't pick up her phone from the first few rings and hung up instantly knowing that she must have seen him and was already traveling down to meet him. His cellphone placed in his pocket and then he leaned back sighing feeling a small breeze pass by. He now knew what he missed of Earth so much; The Breeze. Everything here was artificial and it annoyed him partially that he wasn't getting used to it.


Ryou had guessed that the reason he was spending so much time with her was due to pity for her lack of family or company. He had visited her house once and saw that there was no other sign of life except for a stupid rabbit that he wished he could have thrown off the balcony. Not that it'd do him any good considering Clare would have thrown him off the balcony to fetch her precious bunny. The thing had no love or affection for Ryou that he found it strange on why it hated him in the first place. He was sure that he never talked to it or insulted it but it had shown clear dislike for him the first time they met, either something Clare did or the thing heard of him and made it's own assumptions, he never paid much attention to the thing until the creature had kicked him with it's feet and Ryou was close to stabbing it with his fork and knife that he got for cake. Stupid thing...


He knew though she had nobody but that rabbit here but did manage to mention that her father was alive though she didn't speak of him. She mentioned it once during a middle of a conversation, assuming that Ryou must have not caught it. Her father must have stayed behind in ORB, but why didn't he come here with her? Even he could pick up the small bit of loneliness that she had even if she hid it behind so many covers of cynical insults and happy faces. He wondered why their friendship was strong to begin with, she had many friends during the academy and even now in bases and yet she seemed to hang around him the most. Did she feel pity for him also? Maybe, she had met his father before and then a few weeks after that had turned somewhat more affectionate towards him if not more caring. He wondered what to make of it actually; Who was Pitying Who?


After he heard a door close he had turned his head to catch the beginning of Clare's shout and knew that she was going to blame him for being late. Her hands were playing with his hair once more making him wish that his skin wasn't as pale considering he might blush but held that back as well, also he had held back the compliment of her clothing for the time being. " I'm supposed to deliver a disc to several people in the PLANT's, father's order, and well..I need a guide. " He had said as he knew that she was sitting on his car good but didn't mind as much as he inched over to the side allowing her to drive. " I guess..I'll...help you clothes shopping next time? 5 dresses enough? " This girl was all about how you can bribe her.

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Clare lifted an eyebrow when she heard his explanation. Oh sure, she expected that Ryou had to run some kind of an errand, but she couldn’t even imagine that he’d tell her everything so fast. She did not know whether she should be flattered by the trust he seemed to put in her or contemptuous of his gullibility. Had she been in his place, Clare would have thought up of a plausible life. A soft smile passed her lips. Clare did not smile this way often, and when she did, it was only around Ryou. It was hard not to be touched by his artless manner, his trusting nature, by the strange haunting expression she sometimes caught in his eyes... Most people would walk by him and not think much, but Clare, who also paid quite a bit of attention to appearances, looked in other places than most. She usually noticed the smile and the folds around the mouth, the outline of the chin, the posture, the shape and expression of the eyes, and the hands. Clare did not search for symmetry or appealing features when she looked at people - instead, she looked at everything that would give hints about the personality and the past. And so when they first met, she completely ignored his strange physical traits.


“You truly are a moron, Ryou,” Clare chuckled as she slid into the driver’s seat. “I don’t want you to take me shopping. Why can’t you think of something that will not sound like you had to pay me for this favour? Do something nice for me instead of waving your fathers money in my face... Although, why do I even bother? You can’t do anything right!” Although Clare seemed to be laughing at this, something in her expression signified that she was actually quite offended by his offer. She knew that she shouldn’t be, that he was just extremely awkward, and yet she couldn’t help feeling a tad hurt.


Meantime Francois was quietly working from inside her purse. Yes, he knew that Clare was upset; he knew that Ryou was being a moron, but did he care? Nope! Actually, he was quite happy by all this (if a mechanical bunny can truly experience happiness). Like it was mentioned before, Francois distrusted Ryou and did not think him a good company for his charge. He did not care what Andrew said - this boy could be nothing but trouble to Clare and nothing would change Francois’ opinion on that matter. Oh well, he was messing up quite well, so for now there was little to worry about. Right, what was it he was trying to do again...


“Alright, give me the address list and we will see how fast we can finish this,” Clare announced, quickly changing the subject from her earlier rant. She really did not want him to take it seriously.

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Ryou had known it was a mistake but didn't want to make her assume that he had any real romantic interest in her either, she was just a close friend and he tried to force his mind to think of her as that. He had actually wanted to take her out to dinner or promise another time when it'd truly be sight seeing with the both of them but the connections and thought that he had made him know that she would assume that he had some interest in her. Let's be in denial a bit longer.


" Then..next time..I'll take you actually sightseeing after we're done. " He had said with a weak smile to her as he took out the envelope and opened it looking through the list of names and location. " Many of these are in bases...but a few seem to stop off at houses or businesses..might as well do bases first. 4 Stops in the north sector. " He had said to her and folded the letter and placed it in his pocket.

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“Don’t bother,” Clare commented when Ryou offered to take her sight-seeing, “It’s free of charge.” Having said that, she started the car and pulled out of the parking lot. For a while they drove in complete silence. Clare didn’t even know why she was so angry at him, but she was. It wasn’t her usual habit to be picky about what others were saying, but with Ryou she seemed to do that a lot. Although she did not show it, Clare took nearly everything he said personally. And right now his offer reeked of charity. She did not want to have to beg to spend time with him - she shouldn’t have to! He should have offered this right away instead of telling her that he’d pay her in clothes like that was the only way she’d do something for him. Damn it! He woke her up at three in the morning, lied to her about why he wanted her, and yet she still agreed to help. Was this not some indication that she was doing this out of friendship?


:[:Francois Break Commence:]: “Yeah right! Like she would ever do THIS much for a friend! Let’s face it, this girl is a fair-weather buddy at best. Can you honestly see someone like her driving across the entire city only three hours after nearly passing out from a migraine for someone who is JUST a friend? Are we really so gullible to believe this? Although I still cannot see what she likes about this guy or why she’s bending over backwards for him... How truly stupid some intelligent people can be!” :[:Francois Break End:]:


But do you know what angered her most? The fact that he didn’t apologize! Anyone else, with any common sense and breeding would have apologized and not said anything else. Instead he should have simply been extra attentive to her for a couple of days. Of course, that’s what normal people did. Ryou, on the other hand, hurried to throw another, more suitable, offer at her and did it in such a manner and with so many awkward pauses that it sounded like it was the last thing in the world he wanted to do! Clare bit her lip - maybe it was true. After all, were they not bickering all the time? Did he not just wake her up simply because he needed something without any consideration for her wishes or wellbeing? Was it not painfully clear that he did not wish for more contact with her than was absolutely necessary? In thinking this Clare was completely disregarding the fact that the two hung out all the time, but then offended women are seldom reasonable.


“Alright let’s get this over with,” Clare broke the silence as she drove out onto the highway. This was another indicator of the tiny little fact that she was mad. Usually she never took the highway unless she was in a hurry. Clare liked to drive through the city even if it meant traffic jams and street lights, and she certainly wouldn’t have passed up the chance to drive through a nearly empty night city unless she was really ticked off at her companion and wanted to get free of him as soon as possible. “North sector did you say? I can get us there in fifteen minutes.”


:[:Francois Break Commence:]: “You idiot! I need time to break the security code!” :[:Francois Break End:]:

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Ryou was clueless but he could pick up the highway path and knew that he must have ticked her off. His eyes looking over to her once more and then sighed moving over his hand and petting her head. " Listen, I'm sorry for having made such a bad choice just now... " He had said apologizing as he knew that her mind must have been thinking 'About damn time!' or something similar so he had decided to blame his tension on what he had happen before. " My dad's just...slightly paranoid on why I keep bothering you with things instead of the maids or somebody else. " He had mentioned and looked back to the street and path she was taking, the high speed was making it hard to keep his eyes open a bit and his hair was getting ruffled completely.


Her angered mind was a closed off one and would think of several things things to say back in times of need. That was why when he usually did manage to get her angry he tended to hold himself back or if he knew that he could say something then he tried an half the time failed also. It was safe to say that he knew the battles he could stand his ground in and the others where he would just wait for her attitude to calm down and then expect her to forgive him the next day with some demand...and yet..he knew that it wasn't just her demand that made her forgive him. He was grateful that she was kind enough and he seemed to have gotten close enough to her to make any fight of theirs just a thing of the past. Perhaps they were both in denial as to why they forgave each other after fights but it wasn't something that needed to be brought up either.


He now wondered as to what to do after the delivery was complete. Would she think bad of him if he were to ask her out to dinner or lunch depending on the time actually, she'd probably assume it was just another bribe but he truly did want to thank her and spend the day with her. His father was still at home and he didn't want to return until the night if he could. " Seriously...this is too fast.. " He finally voiced out at her speed of the car and the changes in lanes she was taking just to pass other people. He'd think of this later, for now he'd worry about wearing his seatbelt and not turning even whiter for his hair.

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Clare sighed - she really did not want to scare the wits out of this guy. Honestly, for someone who held a rank in the military, Ryou was rather mousy. He flew a mobile suite, and yet he had obvious problems with speed driving! For crying out loud, they were on a nearly empty highway driving a perfectly aerodynamic sports car! Well, sure, she could have slowed down, but what about blowing off steam? Besides, they were pretty much by the North base. The highway was hugging its gates, so Clare would need another five minutes in order to get off on the exit and drive to the gates. She was no longer mad at Ryou, but mad none the less.  So it would seem that Francois was right when he suspected that things would not be easy with Kaze Mizaki. He obviously had a very good idea of whose daughter she was if he indirectly objected to Ryou seeing her. Now, did he follow the principle of “guilty until proven innocent,” or did he simply transfer the dislike he felt for the father onto the daughter, or was it something entirely different?


Clare had to find out. She had to find some way to meet with the man. It was hardly likely that Ryou would invite her over to dinner at his place, since the kid avoided being there as much as possible (let’s face it, to Francois’ dismay, he practically lived at her apartment). So, she would have to think of something to influence Ryou to introduce them, and do it in such a way so that he would think that it was his own idea. Why did it bother her so much anyway? She certainly did not have to meet up with him. Actually, it was rather undesirable. There was still a chance that he was not really sure whether or not she was Andrew Clarick’s daughter. Was it really necessary for her to give him a clear opportunity to make sure? Perhaps not, but Clare wanted to see him anyway. For some reason she could not stand the thought that this man would try to prevent the two of them from seeing each other before he even knew her. What gave him the right to dislike her anyway? Clare sombrely promised herself that these were only her secondary reasons, and that she wanted to see how the man treated his son first of all, and then find out about all those other things. Maybe that was true, but why did she even care? She had her own messed up father-daughter relationship to tend to, did she not? Was it not her personal rule not to involve herself too much in the lives of her friends? Of course, Clare did not bother to ask these questions, and the only one who could have asked them did not, for Francois did not have the ability to read minds. Currently he was cursing the kid and his psychotic father to hell - why did that man have to have a son?


“Alright, we’re here,” Clare announced as she parked in a clearing before the base. “I’ll take the city road for the other locations - will that make you happy, mon capitan?” She chuckled softly at the title she crowned him with and adjusted the seat so that she would be in a laying position. They have not discussed whether or not Clare would follow him, and she was not about to beg. She left it entirely up to Ryou to decide whether or not he wanted her to accompany him. Either way, she’d have something to do - inside she’d be studying Kaze’s contacts, and outside she’d be steaming about why in the world Ryou had to be that man’s son. What Francois thought we’ll never know, but I can safely assure you that this night he completely gave up all his attempts at understanding human beings - especially the female half.

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Ryou wasn't one to mind her fast driving actually even if he had made himself act so, he trusted Clare with his life and knew that she was like a older sister type that bullied him and protected him also. He found it odd how their friendship started and got so developed also compared to when he thought of his school days with her and recalled that anybody that did approach him was due to his hair and eyes or his father's identity but Clare seemed different and with an attitude to boot. He recalled that he cut her off in line once and then they had soon started off with insulting one another but it grew into a friendship by graduation. Having looked at her every now and then, he was grateful still that he met her even if she was the only one he could call his best friend. He had others but she was close to him in more ways than just spending time together.


He opened the envelope once more and looked over the names of the scientists and mechanics. A few of them he had known from his father's calls and papers that he glanced at as he was eating on the dinner table and his father brought his work with him once. Actually he may have met some of these people now that he thought about it, meetings in his mansion and escorting his father even in the current military status that Ryou was seemed no issue to his father so he had asked the boy to come with him a few times. It was a long and painful list and he knew this might go until noon until he was done actually. He didn't wish to drag Clare around considering the lack of sleep she must have had from the week's work in the military and the first day off was another morning adventure with him of all people.


As he felt the car stop he looked on over at her and noticed her lay down. He looked at her for a few seconds and then opened his mouth to say something and then stopped, opening the door and stepping out. " You can..come along if you want...unless you want to wait in the car. " He had suddenly added the last part just to avoid any suspicion that he had liked to keep her around. She'd most likely think that he was just afraid to be alone or something along those lines, even her mind was as in denial as Ryou's about these things that left them both wondering what was going on and yet neither questioned it or minded.

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Clare closed her eyes and laughed. Why did she even bother getting mad at him before? Ryou was so socially awkward that it was a sin to be mad at him for stumbling, slurring, and saying the wrong thing all the time. How could someone so intelligent be such a dope when it came to interacting with other people? He was the son of one of the first people at ZAFT, and yet he acted as though he had never revolved in society. Altogether Ryou gave the impression of a scared and lost puppy. He wanted love, affection, friendship, and yet was alone for so long that he was afraid to ask for it directly - actually, he did not know how to ask for anything. He wanted acceptance, but he was unable to accept himself. He wanted honesty, but could not be frank for long. What right did she have to be mad at him when he, in his social ignorance, was punishing himself? And yet why was it that Kaze had not taught him even the barest basics of etiquette and interaction? Was he not the least bit concerned that his son had all the social development of a ten-year old? A strange thought struck her - what if that was what he wanted? What if he found it useful to have a child who could not make a step without him? How awful...


“You really are an idiot,” she finally said and put up her seat. Her face wore the usual expression she had when she looked at him. Clare’s lips were curved in a condescending smirk, her eyebrows curved upwards slightly, and her head tilted to the side. Clare always looked at people this way when she spoke - a mocking interest. However, when she looked at Ryou, something warm sparkled in her eyes, making the overall image a little less severe, a little less insulting, and a lot sweeter. There was little doubt that Ryou did not realize that she looked at him differently than at anyone else, that she favoured him more than most, and that he was the only person whom she both genuinely liked and felt at ease with. Ryou did not believe that he could ever be truly liked just for himself, just for the way he was, and so he was bound not to see that warm glimmer in her eyes, and even if he saw it, he had no comprehension of it... And Clare... She could have easily recognized it in him, but she was so genuinely afraid of every feeling that she chose to close her eyes on both his and her own.


“If you wanted me to come with you, then why did you not just ask me to,” Clare chuckled softly and stepped out of the car. As if by accident she forgot to take her purse from the back seat where she had tossed it when she sat into the car. Questions would arise if the metal scanners at the door caught a large steal object in her purse, and quite frankly, Clare had no wish to be searched and to give explanation. “Why can you never say what you want? It is so obvious that you are scared to go there along, so why not ask like a normal human being? I can still say no, correct?” Her smirk widened and became a lot more mocking than it was before, but the glimmer in her eyes did not disappear. “Well, let’s go, you chicken.” She slipped her arm around his and let him lead her to the base checkpoint. He could handle escorting a lady, right?

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Ryou had taken a step back when she had raised herself on the seat from surprise and fear. Having been claimed that he was an idiot once more, he looked down and sighed expecting this to happen. Having looked at her once more and hearing her question made him wonder himself on why he never truly developed a backbone also. Having been pondering that for a few minutes he had decided that it was mostly have to be his past and repressed childhood on where he had to keep to himself that he was a Coordinator and then was beaten when others found out that he was one. Coming to PLANTs also didn't improve anything as he didn't have a good relationship with his father after his mothers death and his school life was an antisocial one also due to his eyes. Perhaps he was growing normally until he was isolated till now and met up with Clare.


Having now felt her arm around his made him snap back into reality and caused his eyes to turn larger and his cheeks to turn a weak shade of red from having been so close. His eyes darted straight to the ground as he started to slowly start walking and then faster escorting her to the inside of the building. His heartbeat was pounding in his head by now as his mind was having delusional fantasies about what he would do if somebody were to start a rumor of sorts from this public display. His eyes darting to soldiers as they saluted him with what Ryou assumed to be knowledge that he was the man's son. Having saluted back as he passed by and walked through the base with hangars having been lined similarly to Armory One, though he did stop and ask for Lloyd who he was supposed to be seeing. Having then entered one of the hangars as large Zaku's were lined up in different colors and packs for weapons.


He had heard the humming from 'Mary had a Little Lamb' from one of the scientists that was sitting on top of a large box with his legs crossed while he was typing on his computer. " Lloyd-san! " Ryou had said out as the man turned his body and looked at Ryou again with a large smile curving on his lips. Lloyd had worn a white robe that many scientists wore except that he buttoned it to the waist and then let the rest out considering his weird sitting position. He had short silver hair and glasses that he adjusted to stop the reflection of light and show off his blue eyes. " Ah! Ryou~! About time~~ " He had said in a high pitched voice as another woman that came by wearing a green ZAFT suit and blue hair had talked out to him. " Lloyd-san! Hurry up and tidy your documents! The luggage and equipment that had been sent over hasn't been sorted yet! " She said to him as he turned his attention to his assistant and continued typing though this time he faced Ryou and Clare. " I'll leave all the stuff here here to you. You should know my work style by now, right?~ " She had pouted slightly as he got off the box and walked over to the two with his laptop at hand. " Ah, Ryou you've grown a bit~! " He had mentioned leaning down and then suddenly leaned clsoer to the arm lock Clare had around his other arm. " Ohoooo~ I don't see a ring~ Dating is prohibited in the army but more exciting, eh?~ " He had asked to both of them as Ryou turned more red.

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Clare saw his worried reaction and could hardy help laughing. However, she thought better of it and bit down on her lower lip in order to contain herself. She had taken more than one swift kick at his already wounded ego tonight, so she felt no need to add more in the next hour or so. After all, everyone deserved a little break; a tiny one for him, since thanks to her insults and snide comments, Clare could spend time with him and care for him without being the least bit suspected. Oh, but Ryou was such a dope! Anyone else would have realized by now that since they were walking on an unpaved and very uneven ground, she’d have to hold on to him. Did he even see her shoes? OK, OK, to be brutally honest, Clare could walk in heels everywhere but at the beach, so it would be hard to believe that she’d need his help here no matter how difficult it might have been. And maybe, juts maybe, she simply wanted to walk under the arm with him. Why not? What was so special about it again? Of course, in these situations Clare as always ignored the little fact that Ryou was bashful, mousy, and awkward.


Walking pas several bases and checkpoints, Clare chose to become completely oblivious to the looks the two of them were given. Was it her problem that a good half of them have not seen any action on or off battlefield and were now plagued by unreleased adrenalin and testosterone respectively? Surely, she could not be bothered by the tiny little fact that their minds were further sucked into the gutter by the unchecked hormones? Unfortunately, Ryou lacked her security, and so he glowed like a Christmas light bulb. As if to make things worse, Clare “accidentally” chose to lean closer to him. She derived a childish pleasure from tormenting this young man; like a cat that liked to play with every mouse it catches, she loved to pounce on him and then release only to pounce again.


“In his dreams, maybe,” Clare replied with a mocking smirk when Loyd made an insinuation about a romantic relationship between the two, and just to make things clear, she threw up a sophisticated salute. “Ensign Clarick at your service, sir. I am accompanying this clumsy oath because he does not know the city although he lived here for a while now. However, if you wish to insinuate any romantic relationship with us, you are more than welcome to do so - after all, who am I to question Dr. Loyd in his infinite wisdom?” As always, wild mischievous flames sparkled in her eyes as she talked. Clare did not release his hand as they talked - that would only be a confirmation of Loyd’s theory. What Ryou had yet to discover was that the less concerned you seem about something unconventional do, the easier others will accept it as a fact. Blushing, coughing, stumbling, slurring, and avoiding direct eye contact would only convince people that you have something to hide or have something that you should be embarrassed of. Of course, you could get away with not making eye contact provided that you had enough gumption, but everything else on that list was a sin against individuality.

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Lloyd was an eccentric scientist that would act even younger that Ryou by playing keep away if necessary. He recalled the man doing the same to his father and got his job threatened to be taken away if he didn't return his father's belonging. Though he knew now by the gentle squeeze and pull of Clare's arm towards her even more now that she wasn't planning on letting him go. " A pleasure~ " Lloyd had said in his daydreaming tone and then looked back down noticing the heels that she wore and already came to the conclusion of why she was clinging onto Ryou. " Now then, you're not visiting me with the intentions of making me your best man...yet...so...what are you here for Ryou?~ " That thought was not what the boy needed to be running through his head. Though knowing Clare she would have probably worn a beautiful-MISSSION!


He had reached into his pocket and pulled out the envelope and managed to raise his other hand a bit to take out the CD as Lloyd leaned straight down to it. " Aha!! I smell Technology!~ It must be My birthday! " He had said and taken the disc and walked over to the box he was on and placed down his computer and the disc within. His usual humming of 'Mary had a little lamb' continuing as he was smiling and going through the CD until he reached his hand back out. " Alright now the password is? " He had said in a cheerful tone as Ryou blinked to himself and titled his head a bit nearly knocking his own to Clare's. " Password? I never got it..." Lloyd had looked back with a pout and sighed. " You're father's as paranoid as ever...50 passwords? Even moving the mouse needs a password and a wrong one just scrambles the order. " He had said in a rather casual tone and shrugged. " Ah well, you're father will probably give us a call or visit himself to open the locks.. " He had said as he copied the CD's contents onto his computer and then flicked the CD like a frisbee to Ryou.


Ryou had looked calm at the high speed frisbee that suddenly curved a bit and Ryou caught with one grasp of his hand. Smiling back at Clare and placing the CD back into the envelope he guessed the job was done here. " I'll talk to him about it...there's a lot of people on his list so I'll try to get him to open it for you first. " He had said as Lloyd smiled and bowed his head to Ryou and waved off both of them as they left. " A tad..eccentric.. " Ryou whispered while placing the envelope back in his pocket.

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“Yet,” Clare asked laughing. “You didn’t really say ‘yet,’ did you? My darling Doctor Loyd, don’t you know that marriage ruins a woman? Heaven forbid you should wish something like this on me! Besides, I wouldn’t get an offer from Ryou even if I was the last woman on Earth - he’s so heartless!” As she talked, her eyes continued to twinkle quite mischievously. Doctor Loyd was just the type of person with whom she liked to joke the most. People like him always understood when a person was serious and when not. Unlike Ryou, she thought. Although, now that she thought about it, he’ look amazingly cute in a tuxedo. Black, perhaps... No! He would have to wear white and only white (chances were, he was more than entitled to that colour at his wedding...)! A white tailcoat with silk facings, sharply cut-away at the front; white trousers with a single stripe of satin; white stiff-fronted shirt, with cotton pique dickie, heavily starched; white stiff wing collar; white bow tie; white low-cut waistcoat; and white patent leather shoes... Oh, and of course he would have to have a large yellow tea rose in his boutonniere - it would match his eyes... Here Clare had to cut herself off. She did not just imagine Ryou’s wedding, did she? Well, she tried to clam herself, the little wimp would absolutely have to marry one day - he’s so helpless and vulnerable that he’d need someone to take care of him. She was simply stating a fact, not volunteering... OK, definitely NOT volunteering. Although when she imagined Ryou in this flawless white tuxedo standing beside some random girl Clare couldn’t help feeling a cold chill run down her back. No, she would not have him - would not want to, but the thought of someone else beside him was insufferable.


“See you later, sir! It was a pleasure,” Clare called with a charming smile when the two of them turned to leave. “Hey Ryou, what was his problem anyway,” she asked as soon as they were outside. “He’s a scientist - shouldn’t he know how to hack the disk? I mean, I know that your father is a big shot, but I thought that if there is a way to make a security system then there is a way to break it.” Andrew Clarick would never whine about some stupid password (or fifty of them). Clare recalled many nights when he would come in with his equipment and sit down to crack multiple codes while she served him coffee, and it never took him more than five hours no matter how complicated the system security was. For the first time since they’ve met, Clare began to feel some pride for her father. He was pretty cool after all. In her mind that still held a lot of childish aspects it did not click right away that no everyone was like her father and that not everyone could do the things he did. Now looking back at those few years Clare began to see some of the things she initially took for granted. Andrew was very handsome. How many girls could brag that they have a stunningly handsome father whom, other than his work, belonged to them completely? He did not date, did not really go anywhere unless it was work or an important social event, and even then she’d be the one accompanying him. He never interfered in her life, but managed to know everything about it. Even when he found out about Ryou he was not mad. His only comment was that the boy did not look like Kaze, so he was rather cute. Not like she cared very much whether Ryou was cute in her father’s opinion, but this short and sweet consent for them to hang out was more than tactful. Wait, was she currently admitting to herself that she had a cool father? Yep!


“So, how many more people do we have to visit,” Clare asked without much enthusiasm. The pressure she was applying to his hand was ever increasing and she was clinging tighter and leaning closer to him. Now, it’s hard to tell what Ryou thought about it, but the rest of us know that the poor girl was falling asleep as she walked - she was definitely not a night person... Although, it was already morning... He owed her... Big time!

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If he could pair up anybody by attitude then it'd be Clare and Lloyd placed together; They had the same joking type pattern and teased as much as they wanted. Yet for Ryou he had noticed Clare's little blank off into space during the middle of her remark and then wondered on what she was daydreaming about now ; probably being him in a wedding or some other big joke to her. Once they did leave he had been asked about his father's over protective coding and how any scientist would have been able to break it over time.


" It's true...Lloyd could break it...but if he makes a mistake or the file notices that it's being hacked then it'll wipe out the whole computer and any data within it. Hackers can do it with not get noticed but there are precautions and password order also. He has a tendency of making his work over protective. " He muttered and sighed at the lack of trust his father had for people. Even the chairwoman had gotten passwords one day and had called for his father; Ryou answered the phone at the time to receive a very angry woman who he nearly told that he didn't want to buy insurance but luckily he picked up fast. Kaze was the only family he had and he couldn't complain about the man either, at first it was hard but over time he had adjusted and they grew close to one another. The man is an enigma if he had to define Kaze, nobody could figure out what he was thinking or planning at times. Even his own son...


Having been asked how many were left and feeling her hold harder onto him and even partially lean on him made the blood start to flow to his cheeks again. " I'll...drive the rest of the way... " He didn't even know why that came out even. Of all the things he could've said and that was the best. " Few more... " He replied to her and looked at her.

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“Good,” Clare exhaled and almost fell into the passenger seat. Somehow she managed to find the seatbelt and buckle up. Not like she’d need it! Ryou never exceeded the speed limit and had the driving habits of a mother hen. That thought made Clare smile. Yeah, Ryou was the worrying type. Out of the two of them she was a lot more masculine than he. Although that would be the wrong term to use. Clare was very feminine in her attire, in the way she spoke, in the way she acted, and yet there was some hidden vitality in her that made her do some things which most would consider being unladylike. When provoked, she spoke too decidedly for a young woman; she stood her ground tooth and nail, did not possess a trace of fear, and was strangely emotionless. Ryou was the opposite. Perhaps this stemmed from his many insecurities, or maybe he was born this way, but he did not possess her obstinacy and feared quite a few things.


Leaning back in her seat, Clare lifted her tired, half-closed eyes to the artificial sky and for the first time seriously thought about this young man. He was a lot more likable than she was for people seldom truly like anyone with strong self-confidence and personality, but his likeability was more of a hindrance for someone like him. He would trust anyone willing to show even a shadow of love and compassion to him. How easy someone like that would be used! Pity of it is, he’d never even realize he was being used - he’d submit knowingly like a calf that’s waling to the slaughterhouse and leading the butcher behind him. He’d think of it as something he’d have to do to repay for that ounce of affection. That thought made something cringe inside her. Ryou was a good person - he did not deserve that kind of life! But then was she not using him herself? Clare dug into her mind to try and find some excuse for what she was doing, but something self-hating in her did not allow her to find one. For every excuse she found there was a voice inside her telling her that it could easily be disproved. ‘Oh, Ryou, Ryou,’ she thought, ‘if only you weren’t his son!’ But she could not change that, now could she? All she could hope for was that perhaps he would find himself someone who would be selfless enough not to use him and willing to take care of him for the rest of his life. A friend, a relative, a lover - anyone! No... It would have to be a lover... Well, he’d find someone like that eventually right? Right, only that thought did not bring the joy it should have brought.


“Hey Ryou,” Clare whispered as the engine started, “if you were truly close to someone, what would you be able to forgive that person? And is there something you wouldn’t forgive?” Francois almost lost his microchips when he heard her ask that. Was she out of her mind? Why did she even care? She knew that eventually she would leave him and that it would be very ugly - she had to have known! She couldn’t be harbouring any illusions that something might continue to exist between them even after that! She just couldn’t! Clare was not delusional - she knew that no one forgave that... But then why did she still have the stupidity to hope? Francois already did all he had to and was currently once again preoccupied with Clare’s personal life. He was convinced that both Claricks belonged to him body and soul, and so he had to take care of them; especially of the girl. He remembered Andrew saying about how she needed to be watched over and how she was bound to make mistakes. Of course, to Francois the only mistake was this weird kid.

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Ryou had gone around the car and sat down in the driver's seat, having noticed that she was tired from it all. She was trying hard to remain happy and cheerful but it seems the her lack of sleep finally caught up to her and now she was dozing a bit. Having turned on the car and started to drive out he had heard her question and continued to drive wondering what she had meant by it in the first place; Oh well, perhaps it was one of those 'What Ifs' that people have these days.


He had given it little thought before having started to talk. " Worst thing would be is being used...I'd hate to get manipulated...even though its easy... " He mentioned having some sense of self and the way he acted. " Trust is hard to get and easy to break... " He whispered and looked over at her as he came to a red light. " Thats why good friends are hard to get also. Don't you think? " He had said with a weak smile and continued to drive for the time. The next area was a bit closer so he could've as easily told her to wait and rest for a bit while he went inside.  " If...you want to sleep then go ahead..I'll wake you up later.. " He mentioned to her as he changed gears and sped up the car a bit to make the drive more faster. Seems eve he broke a few rules and laws when in a hurry, the guy had some hope.


" What about yourself? " He had asked though he had wondered if she wanted to answer or sleep, either way it's pass some time along or make her attempt to stay awake if she wanted to. If she didn't then falling asleep was easy also to him, simply ignore and start dozing off.

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“No, I’m not that sleepy,” she mumbled. Clare never thought that this shapeless artificial sky could become any duller or any more lifeless. The almost tolerable night turned completely insufferable with just a few words from him. And so the artificial stars looked ridiculous, the flower-scented air stunk, and the light breeze became irritating. She turned her head away from him and pretended to be interested in the trees that zapped by. What was she hoping to hear anyway? Clare knew very well that she was just being delusional. It was obvious from the start that he would never forgive her once he’d find out. Happy people forgave betrayal, people with tons of friends and family forgave betrayal, people who were loved forgave betrayal. Ryou had no one, and so he could never forgive something like that. It was right, and she could understand him. But could Clare really help feeling the sudden pinch inside her? Of course not. She did not know what hurt more, the knowledge that he wouldn’t forgive her or the realization that he had the right not to. 

Clare was not the only one pondering over his words. Francois even went so far as sticking his head out of the purse to see how she reacted to Ryou’s words. He knew that she’d be upset by his words, but did not know how much. What he saw there was more than discouraging. Had Clare continued to look at him and smile, he wouldn’t have worried, but she actually showed signs of withdrawal... What was Andrew thinking! She had to be removed from here as soon as possible before it was too late! Once she realized what was going on with her... Why, she’d be crushed! This girl spent a lot of years covering every feeling inside her with a cold, hard, icy crust until nothing but numbness was left. And yet Ryou was changing that. Because of his constant presence in her life, something warm had found its way into her expression, something kind hid within her gaze. From time to time this icy-cold heart was releasing pulses of tenderness that both warmed her tired, lifeless soul and scared it further. With attachment came the painful realization that this would not be forever. Having nothing was bad enough, but having something fleeting, something so tangible and yet so distant, was even worse. Clare did not deserve this. Perhaps it was necessary that someone should melt this ice around her, but why did it have to be this boy of all people. Why did it have to be someone whom she could never have? What would happen after? What would happen one - heaven forbid! - she realized just how attached she’s become? This masquerade would not last much longer! What then? Chances were she’d close off to everyone completely...

“Oh, how cruel you are,” Clare replied finally. Nothing changed in her voice - it still sounded lazy and detached as if she was falling asleep. Only the fact that she was still looking away hinted that perhaps she had lost all her interest in conversation. Of course, Francois knew better. It was a sign that she was going to retaliate although she knew she had no right to, and quite frankly, he would have felt better if she did not try to defend herself. “Cruel and resentful. Have you ever thought that perhaps life isn’t as simple as one, two, and three? What if this said person did not want to manipulate you but the events forced him or her to do it? What if that person truly cared for you and went through a lot of self-blame and self-hatred every time he or she had to use you? Have you ever thought that sometimes people are forced by the circumstances to do something for which they know they’ll hate themselves for the rest of their lives? And what of your trust? What good is it to anyone? There will never be someone whom you trust completely, there will always be thoughts that you will keep to yourself, and even if you do trust someone, you will never have their trust. That is the way life works. As for good friends... Well, it depends on your expectations. To some everybody is a good friend, while others expect the impossible. I don’t want someone whom I could trust because I do not wish to trust anyone, but to me a good friend is someone whose presence alone makes you feel warm and at ease, and that is very close to an impossible expectation.” She chuckled softly when he asked her about what she could and could not forgive. A strange question to answer for someone like her... “Unlike you, I can forgive a lot of things. I have a lot of vices, and far be it for me to begrudge something that I myself possess. I could never forgive betrayal - something that was purposely done to harm me or someone I care for, or was an act of extreme selfishness where my pain was never considered. Other than that, I think I could forgive everything had I truly cared for the person in question.”

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He had felt like he had said something wrong, yet he didn't know himself until he felt like he was getting tongue whipped once more. Her view was right, his thought pattern was childish as he had thought of it once more, there were far more things in the thought than he first had said. " You're right... " He had said with a weak smile forming still, he couldn't feel pity or regret about what he had said as she was just informing him that there were far more things involved than he first assumed. Some old Clare....


" I guess being in the military changed me for a bit....I'm starting to think in black and white. " He had mentioned, something his father must have been surely proud of and yet Ryou had no self awareness of his changing attitude. Ideals and wishes of a person had no reason in the battlefield as he was concerned, he could only listen to orders and make sure to survive as well. Perhaps people fight for their ideals and wishes but in the end one person ends up ending the other's life and nothing will come of that. " I'd..have to give it some thought actually...a close person to me... " He had thought about it, his personal feelings may change the outcome but in the battlefield it would cost him his life. " As long as...I don't have to fight that person.. " He had said as the car slowed down to another red light, his head lowering to look down at his legs. " I don't wanna be put in a position where I have to attack... " He mentioned and looked over at her. " Anything else..I'd..forgive.. " Ryou mentioned and then blushed a bit and looked back towards the street and continued to drive.


He had wondered why a strange thought had crossed his mind, somehow looking at her made him think of several things. His heart had felt suddenly warmer and peaceful when he had looked at her and he wished to ask her out for another time, another one having been if they had fought and if she were to leave him alone. He felt crossed feelings at the time, having sped up the car even more now as he wasn't paying that much attention to driving as he should have. He was so lost and confused...

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A soft smile passed along Clare’s lips as she turned to take a look at him. Ryou never really grew up, and she found it charming. She herself was never much of a child, and so she loved to see in others that which she had lacked herself. He blushed, he stumbled, he could never finish a thought, he felt constant fear of being ridiculed, and was so dependent on those who chose to show him even a little affection. Some surge of warmth inside her made her wish she could embrace him right now and just tell him that she would never let anything bad happen to him. However, they were driving, the hugging was out of the question since she was convinced he’d never accept it, and the promise was silly since Clare knew all to well that she herself was something that could hurt him. Still, when they stopped at the light and Ryou looked at her with a faint blush, she could feel the same turmoil in him as she had in herself, and as the car sped up along the road, she leaned towards him and placed her hand on his shoulder. Then, her lips connected with his temple and she let go of him. No feeling, no passion behind it - just of way of letting him know that she was not angry with him and that she cared about him.

“Please don’t change,” she finally replied, but her voice sounded different as she spoke those words. Usually Clare’s words came out lacking all emotion. She usually just stated facts, and so her voice, although sweet and pleasant, carried no feeling within it. Yet now it seemed as though she genuinely cared. “Although no, forget what I asked of you - it’s silly. It would be cruel and unnatural to expect you to do something I know would bring you nothing but harm. You’re a soldier now, Ryou, so perhaps it is best that you learn to think like one - it makes life easier perhaps, and I guess I envy you for being able to do that. I wear this uniform only to humour those around me, because no matter how long I spend in the service, I know that I will never become a soldier in the full sense of the word. A soldier’s loyalties lie with his country, while mine lie with people I care about. I’m selfish, I guess - this whole world can go to bits for all I care as long as I still have something or someone to live for. And in the end, no one can force me to do anything, and that is something I’ve decided for myself. If there ever comes a time when I will stand against someone important to me, then I just won’t fight at all and come what may - I have no need for a life if to live I must betray myself and my own desires and feelings... That’s what I decided for myself when I entered into this; so, make sure you don’t do the same.”

Francois sighed and returned to the bottom of her black purse. Of course he knew about Clare’s resolution, and he knew that for a soldier she thought too much. Just like before Clare wondered why Ryou was in the army, Francois often wondered the same about Clare. If she saw Ryou in some nice Victorian mansion, indulging in music and expansive coffee, Francois saw her somewhere in a corporate building, working as a lawyer and quietly buying share after share so that she may throw off the president and take that place for herself.

“Hey Ryou,” Clare continued in her usual, detached, and lazy tone, “I’ll drive after the next stop, because you drive like I spit, and could you for god’s sake abide the damn speed limits?” As amazing as it might sound, Clare only tolerated speed-driving when she was the one doing the said speed driving. Somehow having Ryou rip down the night road did not make her feel safe. Oh, she trusted him and all (well, sort of), but she certainly did not like it when he drove this way... Yeah, she was a hypocrite.

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