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Ray was immediately admitted to the infirmary. He sat up in his rack. He only complained of being a little tired, but otherwise felt fine. Glenn, Jace, and Canis sat around him while he retold his experience with Shadus. Ashe was still in a deep sleep on the other side of the room.

"That was something." Said Glenn. "So you actually managed to defeat him with your bare hands?"

"Uh-huh. He pretty much managed to completely disarm me. Didn't have much of a choice."

Jace leaned back. "Whoa. And Ashe has been teaching you martial art techniques?"

"Yep. It was more out of a return favor. I didn't know she actually loved me until I'd left to confront Shadus."

Glenn was still leaning forward in his chair. "I know I joke about it pretty often, but to be completely honest I didn't actually know there was anything going on between you two. And what do you mean by 'return favor'?"

"You could think of me as her personal counselor. In return, she taught me her fighting technique."

Jace lifted an eyebrow. "Counselor? For what?"

"It's rather personal. Out of respect for her, it'll have to keep it secret. Let's just say she's had a bit of a rough life for the past several years."

"...she told you, didn't she?"

"Told me what?"

"She'd told you why she quit fighting?"

"...yes. It was shortly after you two were in that argument of yours."

"How on earth did you manage to convince her to open up to you when she wouldn't tell me anything?"

"She was just as unwilling. When I ran after her she wanted to kill me, I'm sure. Think I just shocked her a little bit when I actually scolded her for acting immaturely."

Canis tilted his gaze downward. "Hmm..."

"Gee. Now I feel pretty bad...I didn't know it was THAT personal. I just sorta got carried away when she just started yelling at me instead of saying 'I'd rather not talk about it'." Ray smirked. "Don't feel bad. It's just a sensitive topic because her personality changed over the course of her career. When she noticed those changes, she couldn't get herself to keep going, so she quit. It's actually quite a long story, but it's her place to share not mine. After she told me her tale, I just offered to help her bring out her old personality."

Canis closed his eyes. "It would seem you'd earned her respect. By breaking her down and making her feel small, she submitted to you like a pup to a pack leader. And after she had told you her story, you began to build her back up, into someone better. The kind of person that she could be proud of. That was when she started to become attached to you. She had told me that she once despised the sight of you. But after that incident, she began to see you differently. As a true friend who was concerned for her well-being, not just a goofy teammate."

Jace looked at him. "She didn't tell you did she?"

"No. When I'd first met you lot, I could sense that she'd had a rough past. Not that I could tell exactly what it was."

Glenn raised an eyebrow. "I'd thought I could tell she's been much more calm lately. She used to get pissed off at everything so easily...speaking of which, would you like to speak to her?"

"Nah. Just let her sleep. We've all had a long day."

Canis chuckled. "I doubt she'll need any more rest once she sees that you've returned safely. It's your choice, but I don't think you'll truly be bothering her. Personally I figured she'd rather be aroused upon your return."

Ray thought for a bit. He climbed out of his rack and walked to where she lay.

Glenn nudged Jace. They left the room, and Canis followed, closing the door behind them.

Ray hesitated for a minute. He patted Ashe's shoulder. She shifted a bit, but remained sound asleep. He gave her a light shove. She stretched a bit and sat up.

"Ugh......Canis? How long have I been out?"

"Do what?"

"Nurse....I need more water please..."

Ray laughed. She was still asleep. He gave her another light tap.

"Come on, wake up, sleepy."

Ashe stretched some more and rubbed her eyes. She blinked a bit before focusing.

"Hey, gal. Get a good nap in?"

Ashe frowned. She raised an eyebrow and reached out and touched his shoulder.

Ray smiled and took her hand. "Yes, I'm really here."

She snatched her hand from his grasp. Closing it into a fist, she punched his shoulder.

"Ow, hey? What gives?"

"That's for making me wait too long!"

She climbed out of bed and smiled, embracing him.

"And that for coming back alive."

He wrapped her arms around her waist. "I'm sorry, Ashe. I wasn't aware I was on a deadline. Did I miss it by much?"

"It expired as soon as you left us." She smiled and leaned up to kiss him. "I love you, Ray."

"I love you too, Ashe."




"For your valiant efforts, I hereby present Unit AE-Z with the new rank of S-Class. As well as, the Aegis Medal to each of you. I speak for the entirety of the military when I say I truly thank each and every one of you. The legend of you young heroes and the many warriors who gave their lives fighting for this planet will carry on for eternity."

Both the Admiral and Master Chief, along with several other commissioned officers, gave a salute. Ray, Glenn, Jace, and Ashe followed suit. They were presented with their medals outside near the beach area close to the Base.

"Thank you, sir. But it wasn't accomplishable by ourselves. We owe much to you, and our friend -- where did he go?"

The rest of the team looked around.

"There." Glenn pointed to a near microscopic figure in the distance walking along the beach. Canis had already left.

Jace folded his arms. "Not sure I'll ever understand that guy..."

Ashe looked a little hurt. "He was a great friend. A goodbye would have been nice..."

Ray shrugged. "Might just be too hard for him. I'm sure he has something important to do."

Glenn sighed. "To hard for him? Yeah, right. I recalled him saying he had a sibling. Probably takes priority."

He gave Ray a pat on the back. "Say we all go out for a round? My treat?"

Ashe frowned. "But I can't --"

Ray gave a fist-pump and smiled. "Count us in!"

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