She is a ninja.
She moves like a ninja: quick and efficient. Her body is graceful and hard, dealing death to her enemies when they least expect it, while at the same time giving the impression of performing an intricate dance: her actions flowing from one to the next, like an ethereal nymph.
Her senses are finely tuned, and she is aware of everything that surrounds her. Her perception is highly developed, allowing her to process her environment and use that sensory data to her best advantage.
No one would ever be able to approach her, without her knowledge.
Tonight, she is exhausted; utterly drained of energy. Her usually powerful body is depleted, and she has fallen into the deepest of all possible slumbers, preparing herself for the next inevitable encounter, when she will be required to call upon everything of which she is capable.
It is nights like this that allow me to keep going in this seemingly endless fight; to remind myself that there is something worth fighting for.
To remind myself that there is something waiting for me.
Today's mission was more than just difficult. It was an excruciating, exhausting endurance challenge, sending us into the face of death time and time again, as we fought seemingly endless waves of mecha and troops controlled by an evil madman out to conquer the world.
Of course, it's not like we've never fought Galactor before, but this was clearly something that Berg Katse had had in the works for months. His plan had been designed to wear us down to the bone, and then strike while we were at our weakest. Fortunately, by working as a team and capitalizing on our individual strengths, we were able to defeat our enemy and protect countless lives of innocent civilians.
But battles on this scale drain us all. It's always obvious when I look around the Bridge of the God Phoenix as we return home to the Crescent Coral Base. Most of the time we are in good spirits, anticipating a temporary return to our 'normal' lives.
But on days like this, no one has enough energy to speak, much less smile or crack a joke. The moment we are cleared from Docking Bay we all head straight to our on-base quarters where we can drop into bed, recharging our batteries for the next inevitable call to duty.
Everyone except me.
My body is exhausted too. Despite my reputation as the invincible White Shadow, I have physical limits, and I am at the end of mine. But I also know that this is a rare chance to recharge in other ways.
An opportunity I cannot let slip through my fingers.
This isn't the first time I've done this, but it happens so infrequently that I can count the number of occasions on one hand; each one burned into my memory. Each time I engage in this madness, it becomes more vital to my mental and emotional sanity, and I find myself taking greater and greater risks… risks that could jeopardize everything.
And yet, I'm compelled to try.
It's an addiction.
I know it's wrong, but what's left of that part of my mind is too tired to resist.
I've waited long enough.
With all of the ninja stealth I possess, I slip out into the hallway, padding on bare feet across the corridor, passing through the few meters of empty space that separate me from my destination. My fingers fly across the access pad, inputting the entry code. As team leader I could override the code, but that would be logged by Security. Instead, I use her own code, which I learned long ago through quiet observation. She hasn't changed it the entire time the Science Ninja Team has been active. I think it's her way of holding onto her own emotional sanity.
Her code is a shuffle-variant of a specific date: the day she and I first met.
A day I can never forget.
I don't know if she even realizes that I remember that date, much less the seemingly unimportant happenings that occurred on this particular day. But I do. That date is what started me on this path to madness, although it is this war with Galactor that propels me onward in the most twisted fashion imaginable.
The first time I thought of doing this, I wasn't able to go through with it. I just stood in front of her door, frozen with indecision. The second time, I only stayed for a few seconds: just long enough to berate myself for what I was doing. But I have stayed a little longer each visit, always pushing the envelope a little more. I know that eventually I will be on the verge of having her discover my actions, and that is when I will have to stop.
But I don't want to think of that day. All I can think of right now is her… and my need for her.
The entry code is accepted and I slip inside the darkened room, cringing at the sliver of light that falls onto the floor as I do so. On most other nights, she would be instantly awake, but tonight, she is all but dead to the world.
I silently move to the darkest corner of the room, the only illumination provided by a digital clock on the nightstand. But it is enough for my ninja-trained eyes, and after a few moments I can see clearly.
Deep inside, I know that I should never have embarked on this craziness. Yet it is inordinately fulfilling just to watch her sleep, her chest rising and falling as she breathes, her features smoothed into an expression of peace and contentment. Part of me silently thanks Berg Katse for running us ragged, allowing her to fall into a near-comatose slumber where I can observe without being observed.
She has thrown off the blankets and is sleeping out in the air, wearing her usual pink nightie. Once I heard her tell Jinpei that she needed something to make her feel like a 'girl'. Of course, his quick response was that she wore a tiny pink dress every day, in Birdstyle. She simply sighed that he didn't understand.
Jinpei didn't understand; but I do.
It's her way of having a tenuous handhold on a normal life, and being a normal person. It's completely incongruous for someone who just spent hours today killing hundreds of enemy soldiers, many in hand-to-hand combat, to come home and put on a flimsy baby-doll nightie. But she needs this link to normalcy. It's what gets her through the insanity of our day-to-day lives on the front lines.
She needs it; just like I need this.
I don't know how long I stand there, letting the aura of peace that surrounds her include me. Ever so slowly, I can feel it encompass me, drawing me in, pulling me closer to her with an ever-increasing force.
Barely conscious of my own movements, I step closer, moving forward, inch by inch, until I am barely a meter from the edge of her bed. I gaze down at her, desperately wanting to join her in the utter relaxation that has claimed her consciousness.
I am part of this, and yet I am not.
My knees flex slightly, and I feel myself gradually sinking down toward the floor, until my eyes are level with her body. A silent sigh escapes me, and I drink in the sight of her, savoring this intimacy that is usually denied to me. My lips move softly, mutely forming her name.
I can see her thick eyelashes curling gently against her flushed cheeks, soft and delicate like the rest of her, and I long to brush my mouth there, bringing her back to consciousness with gentle kisses.
But I can't.
I can't risk discovery. I'm not supposed to have these feelings; I'm not supposed to create these kinds of emotional attachments for myself.
I'm not supposed to be a man.
I'm supposed to be more than a man: an invulnerable defender against the terrorist forces of Galactor. I cannot afford to have vulnerabilities of any kind.
But God help me; I do.
I understand the inherent danger in this paradox, and it is this that fuels my restraint, allowing me to maintain an emotional distance from my Intelligence Officer.
Even if she is only dressed in a flimsy pink nightie.
I drop my eyes down, until they come to rest on the gentle curve of her breast, its shape molded by the thin material covering it, a tiny peak barely visible in the center. Holding my breath, I lean forward, drinking in my fill of the enchanting sight before me, only a small distance between my mouth and the sweet taste of her…
I throw my head back, feebly attempting to drag myself away from the intense pull of her innocent sensuality. But it is too late. In my mind I am reaching out, touching her. I am feeling the warmth of her skin beneath me, the curve of her hips in my hands, and the pleasure of drowning inside of her feminine core. It is a sensory overload…. too much to process…
And then, my vaunted control slips.
Without realizing it, my entire body tenses and relaxes, and a soft hiss of breath escapes my lips; a gentle rush of warm air in the otherwise silent room. She stirs slightly, and I begin to panic, adrenaline coursing through my veins as I berate myself for my carelessness.
I have to leave now.
But even as the nerve impulses to do this are forming in my brain, she opens her mouth, a soft moan coming forth. Under normal circumstances such a sound would be barely audible, but in the quiet of the darkened room, and with the heightened perception of the raging Red Alert making its way through my body, the gentle noise rings clearly in my ears.
This isn't the reaction of someone who has been disturbed. It's more of a pleased sound. A sound of…
I freeze, a deer in the headlights, no longer wanting to stay, but not wanting to catch her attention with my movement.
She moves slightly, a sense of restlessness about her. Her face turns toward me, and a bolt of sheer terror crackles down my spine.
But her eyes are closed. She doesn't see me. She is still sleeping.
But she moans again.
This time, I am less startled by her soft sound, and I am able to take it in. A thrill runs through me as I lean forward, eager to catch every nuance of her. She moans a third time, a soft 'mmmm' sound that sets all of my nerves tingling. I suddenly discover that my hips are completely rigid, as my instant arousal is crushed against the unyielding fabric of my jeans.
I gasp silently, stepping away. This has gone too far. I've run too much of a risk already.
My heart nearly stops beating with the electric shock of hearing my name. She has seen me.
But she hasn't. Her eyes are still closed, and her body is resting peacefully again, a contented smile on her face.
I take a deep breath, forcing my muscles to relax. The knowledge that she was thinking of me as she slept is enough to distract me from my near myocardial infarction. The scent of her fills the air, and I inhale, her essence strengthening me.
Reluctantly I move to leave, waiting for a few moments before I open her door to ensure that she has returned to the deepest possible state of rest.
I slip back out into the corridor and hurry back over to my own quarters, my legs giving way beneath me as I sink down to the welcoming embrace of my own bed, my thoughts and lusts still racing in reaction to what I have just experienced.
I cannot tell her how I feel, but I know that I will remember this moment for a lifetime.