A/N: Special thanks to FumiRevive, Shinn, Spirit of Justice, and Yukidatte1 for your reviews last chapter, and your support is much appreciated.
Also, we did it guys! Gaelio/Julieta is canon! They survived the show!
Anyways, I hope you all enjoy, and I hope to hear your thoughts in the reviews below!
Sitting through meeting after meeting and hearing after hearing about the battle on Mars began to grow tiresome to Gaelio, who wished they would stop playing politics and dragging this out and instead just go ahead and do what they all knew they would do and clear him of all charges. While things were less certain for Julieta, everything also seemed to be in favor of her being let off as well.
Things had progressed enough that they were allowed to resume their duties as Gjallarhorn officers, though in a limited capacity: Gaelio would be allowed to continue his work as an inspector, resuming his duties as a Specialist Major with word of a coming promotion for his role in foiling a traitor's plot, but unlike when he and McGillis worked together he was going to be doing it all on his own...save for his bodyguard, Julieta. Less personnel would mean less ability to actually do anything and have the resources to accomplish things, but it was what Gaelio would have to work with for the time being.
In the office assigned for his use in Gjallarhorn headquarters Gaelio was busy preparing for a trip the following day when Iok came in excitedly, making Gaelio learn that he shouldn't have left the door open a couple minutes ago thinking Julieta would be there soon.
The leader of the Kujan family smiles brightly at his fellow Seven Stars member from across the office as he comes over towards its desk where Gaelio was doing his preparation work.
"How are you doing today, Gaelio?"
Gaelio blinks at Iok as he tries to think of why the man would be dropping by and acting like this. He nods in affirmation of Iok's arrival, and fights the urge to tell the man to depart as hastily as he entered.
"Iok. Is there something you need?"
Iok laughs at the thought, which just confirms to Gaelio that he does want something, though what still remained unknown.
"No, not at all. I just wanted to see how my friend was doing after everything."
A word he used brings Gaelio to pause, staring forth at Iok in disbelief.
The one word said by Gaelio gives Iok some worry, as it was said without emotion either way. Did Gaelio not consider them friends after their battles together?
Silence hung for some time before Gaelio lowered his gaze from Iok down to the desk where atop it sat a picture frame of himself and the blonde haired man he once considered his best friend. The one who had spent years pretending and scheming before ultimately turning on Gaelio and attempting to murder him in cold blood...the man who now, as a result of those actions, lay dead and who was under investigation post-mortem to discern just how deep his conspiracies went.
Friendship came easily to Gaelio: everyone wanted to be his friend thanks to his status, and his personality fostered good relations with those around him. What did not come easily was possessing true friends who would be there for him even if he were someone else, even if he was from a background like Ein or had as little as he did in life.
Gaelio thought he had someone he could trust everything in, and that trust had been repaid with betrayal over something Gaelio agreed with McGillis on.
If only McGillis had the patience, then maybe they could have changed Gjallarhorn together without resorting to murder and what would amount to a coup.
How many would have died for McGillis' misguided ambitions to force change faster than the world was able to keep up? What had his murder of Carta actually accomplished?
"I once considered McGillis my friend. I thought I understood him. I thought I could trust him with my life."
Iok froze for a second before coming to frown as he heard Gaelio speak. The thought of what McGillis did to him did not sit well with the Seven Stars member who prided himself both on loyalty and in following Rustal, who had sat in opposition to McGillis. As such, while it was not as personal as it was for Gaelio, Iok possessed a deep hatred of McGillis for being essentially everything he could hate in a person.
Unlike Gaelio, Iok wasn't left with the question of why which now haunted the heir to the Bauduin family.
"I will not do you the disservice of what McGillis did to me..."
Gaelio shut his eyes to think a moment, then brought his blue eyes up to meet Iok's brown ones.
"We are not friends. Before I saved your life and defeated McGillis and the Mobile Armor you looked down upon me without knowing who I was. Perhaps it was a direct result of you not knowing, but it does not change that we were not friends before, we were not friends when I was Vidar, and we are not suddenly friends in spite of those facts."
Verbally dressing down Iok on his change of heart causes the man's expression to deflate and turn into one of sadness, for despite his naive nature Iok seemed to actually comprehend what Gaelio was saying and what he meant.
If he were to be honest, Gaelio did not know what to say or do next since things did not turn into an argument, so he was happily surprised when Iok knelt down and bowed before him.
"May I ask something of you though, Gaelio Bauduin?"
So he did want something after all. It seemed that dispensing with the pleasantries forced Iok to confront what he really was there about...
At least, that was what Gaelio thought until Iok spoke again in a manner which actually caught him off-guard.
"From what I have heard and from what I have seen, you are a noble man whom one would be honored to call friend. May I have the chance to become one to you?"
That brought Gaelio to think, as he was not the sort naturally to turn down friendship offered him if it was sincere, but he wasn't sure if it was just yet.
"I have lost my parents some time ago, but I have never lost a friend who I cared for above all others. I have known nothing but loyalty from those around me, and I know you have suffered the opposite. Had I known what had happened to you, I never would have doubted and disrespected you the way I have. A man who dedicates his life to avenge his friends and to protect his family is not a man any person has a right to judge or hold in contempt. You sacrificed everything to bring a villain to justice, and Gjallarhorn stands firmer and safer now in thanks to your actions."
Gaelio sighed as he felt his own animosity towards the snobby man begin to deflate. He was quite the charismatic speaker and his genuine nature was why others were so loyal to him, in addition to his family name.
Still kneeling down, Iok's face turned to one of hurt as he came to reveal what he sought from Gaelio, "I do not believe Lord Rustal has faith in me any longer. You have succeeded where I have failed, and I..." he lets out a breath and looks up at Gaelio over the desk, "I wish to learn from you so that I may best serve his vision."
Iok ends up not being the only one to let out a heavy breath, as Gaelio comes to realize that not only does this serve his political purposes, but that it would likely be better in general to be amiable with his coworker than begrudge him over his previous attitudes.
"I have many things I must attend to these days given all that has happened, but if you would want to follow my example from here on out, I only ask that you do so earnestly."
Hearing that his request to earn Gaelio's friendship was granted, ironically mirroring Gaelio's own courtship with Julieta, Iok stood up and bowed before him in barely contained excitement.
"Thank you, Lord Bauduin!"
Gaelio cracked a grin at how now Iok was being all formal.
"If you are serious in your intentions, you may call me Gaelio."
Inspired to come seek help from Gaelio by feelings of inadequacy and failure as his mentor ignored him, Iok found himself feeling relieved and comforted that Gaelio was not rebuffing him the same way Rustal was.
"You eat a lot, Miss Julieta."
It is a simple observation by Almiria at dinner which brings Gaelio to laugh at his last night at their estate before his coming trip, and Julieta blushes as she knows she cannot deny that what was said happened to be completely true. She didn't remember being this hungry in the past, but now...
"I like meat."
Gaelio cracked a grin at her, "I'm well aware of that, which is why I had our staff pick up the best cuts they could for you. We won't be able to eat so well for some time, so you may as well enjoy yourself while you can."
Julieta continues to nervously blush as she alternates between picking at and wolfing down her food in a quite unladylike manner, drawing even more amusement from Gaelio as well as his father, who knew she should probably learn proper manners but couldn't help but be amused by an entire steak disappearing in mere moments. Almiria was between the two members of her family both literally and figuratively, being amused like both her brother and father but not masking it as well as her father.
Seeing Julieta's second steak disappear completely prompted Gallus to grin at his guest, who seemed to like this way of living, "I take it you like the accommodations, Lady Juris?"
Julieta nodded as she gulped down a glass of water, only verbally responding after almost wiping her mouth on her sleeve and coming to eventually wipe it on her napkin awkwardly.
"I enjoy Gaelio's meat and sleeping with him, though it is odd having others wait on me."
Gallus choked on his food while Gaelio sighed and lowered his head in defeat, Julieta having had no idea what she just said.
Almiria, like Julieta, had no idea what was so wrong about what their guest just said aloud and so inquired concerning it, "Why are you blushing big brother?"
Her father cuts in once he settled out his brief choking spell, "When you two return from your duties, I will see about tending to your studies Lady Juris."
That didn't sound all too fun, Julieta thought. What could he mean by that?
"There are certain customs and practices you will have to abide by as a member of the Seven Stars," Gallus explained in a wise tone, as if adopting a persona, though it soon dropped as he opened his eyes to roll them at Julieta, "Practices which do not include publicly stating things which may be taken in a vulgar manner."
It took her another moment, but Julieta figured out the meaning behind his statement and just went back to picking at her food and then scarfing it down as Gaelio watched in amusement.
With that issue dropped, Gallus returned it to the original conversation point raised by Almiria, adopting a wry grin, "This being said, you do eat a lot. Is there anything you and Gaelio need to tell me?"
While it was meant to be a secret, Julieta mistook the meaning of his statement and came clean with her arrangement with Gaelio bluntly.
"We might be getting engaged."
Gaelio sighing and Julieta's deadpan face make Gallus actually think that she was serious...at least for a moment, at which point the man laughed and grinned at what he thought to be a joke.
Surely Gaelio hadn't managed to get her to agree to that so soon. After all, it was Gaelio who had always run away from marriage proposals and the whole subject when he was younger.
"You had me there for a moment."
Gaelio began to speak to explain that yes, she was just joking, since he didn't want Almiria knowing and accidentally spilling the secret sometime, but Julieta cut him off since she was beginning to feel that his father, IE his 'superior officer' should know about it.
"Gaelio proposed to me...or rather proposed to maybe propose to me, if I feel like it."
Admitting defeat, Gaelio was determined to have a talk with Julieta just to be absolutely certain she knew what 'do not tell anyone' meant. Sure, his father was no problem, but Almiria in her naivete could prove to be.
As such, Gaelio addressed her directly with a serious glance, "Almiria, don't tell anyone."
The grinning child nodded, not really having anyone to tell but her stuffed animals anyways, "Okay."
With the attention returning to her, Julieta blushed and looked down at her empty plate, "I haven't made a decision."
Gallus clears his throat, both as a speaking convention and because a bit of when he was choking came back to haunt him and he needed to actually clear it, "Well, it would be an honor to have you as a part of our home."
Almiria grins over at Julieta, still happy to hear that her big brother was engaged finally, or at least was close to being engaged, "Gaelio likes your big thighs, so keep eating meat."
While not one to normally engage in sibling violence given his age difference, Gaelio felt like tackling his sister to the ground and forcibly covering her mouth for what she just said out loud, "Almiria!"
His sister sticks her tongue out at him childishly before adopting a pouting face, "I can notice things! You like her legs and butt, big brother!"
The possible fight is cut off by Gallus clearing his throat again, his eyes shut in a zen-like state as he utters the simple statement of...
Gaelio and Almiria calm down and look away from one another, bringing a grin to Julieta's face. It seemed to be a natural sibling spat of sorts, and that felt good to see since Gaelio had been without normalcy for so long. She wanted him to be happy, and even though he was annoyed right now, it was better than shutting himself off from the world.
That, and it amused her that for some reason he liked looking at the only curves she had.
Eventually Gaelio turned his nose up in the air and gave in to his sister's accusation, "Fine, since you brought it up Almiria, I do think maybe, Julieta, you are a bit unhealthily thin and some meat on your bones wouldn't hurt."
It took a moment, but Julieta's response was a simple one.
"Do I get to eat meat?"
"What are these?"
Gaelio looked over to see Julieta climbing up on his bed to be beside where he was sitting at one edge, his nimble lover having escaped his notice in the room until then as he mulled over the pictures stored in a long forgotten book within his home.
He grins as he shows what he was holding to Julieta, who smirks devilishly at the sight of a younger Gaelio and pictures of purple haired babies. He really was a sap underneath his facade.
Julieta lets him continue flipping through them, catching sight of Gaelio at various stages in his life be it a child, where she had to say he seemed adorable, and even as a toddler, where she caught sight of a less familiar person.
Seeing Julieta's interest in the other person in a picture with him, Gaelio sighed as he explained it, "My mother and I."
Hearing that makes Julieta go from grinning to frowning, as she could hear hurt in his voice once again.
So that was why he was looking at these...he missed his mother.
The concept of a mother, of motherhood itself, was foreign to Julieta. She didn't remember her own, and while she had plenty of male role models for some reason it didn't seem like cutthroat mercenary deep undercover work was very popular with women and so she was always surrounded by the men Galan Mossa had on his various teams over the years. She never really minded, growing up as 'one of the boys', but it made her wonder just what it was like to have a maternal figure and to lose them...she knew what it was like to lose a paternal figure, but was their a unique bond between mother and child? The way people spoke of them, it sounded so, but it was not something she knew all too much about.
Gaelio sighed as he flipped a page and revealed a few photos more of his mother, who Julieta could see was likely where Gaelio got his softer features from.
The warm look on her face as she looked at her son struck a chord with Julieta, who found maybe some of her questions answered by seeing this. There was something pure and sweet, especially in a photo which had Gaelio as a young child sitting on his mother's lap as she sat beside her husband. Gaelio was more towards her knees that he might have otherwise been, as his mother's stomach had a swelling that was no doubt his soon to be born sister.
It also happened to be the last photo his mother was in within the photo album, and while pictures of baby Almiria were there afterwards, his mother was absent and that seems to be what Gaelio was focused on. Perhaps all this time with his family, of thinking of loss, was drawing him to it.
"She passed away after Almiria was born, but if you knew her before then she was full of life, and you'd think she would like to 100."
He's grinning, but Julieta can hear the sadness in his voice. She wraps her arms around him and tries to offer physical comfort, but she doesn't know what else to say, so out of her depth she was on the subject.
Going back through the album a bit, Gaelio pointed to a page where Julieta recognized a younger McGillis sitting beside Gaelio, he latter eating ice cream as the former read a book. Looking at his onetime friend, if he could actually have ever been considered that in retrospect, actually seems to amuse Gaelio since it was obviously a simpler and happier time.
"I remember that she used to tell me that McGillis was odd and that she wished I would make other friends, but back then I thought that maybe, if I just was a good enough friend to him, he would open up and show me who he was."
Gaelio shuts the album and sighed, at which point he comes to close his eyes and become lost in thought.
"I thought he did, for the longest time..." he's grinning again, though the sorrow remains, "A part of me wanted the kind of friendship I saw in our fathers. My father was like the right hand of Iznario Fareed, the wise and cautious counsel whose agreeableness kept Gjallarhorn from infighting."
He looks over to Julieta, still grinning, "We tend to idealize our idols, don't we?"
Julieta scoffs as she reads the subtext, "Are you trying to say Master Rustal is not as perfect as I think he is?"
"No-one is perfect," Gaelio looks back to the photo album, where happy and painful memories both lay within, "I certainly am not."
"I don't want you to be perfect."
Gaelio's sad mood was twisted to one of amusement as he grins at Julieta's odd statement, his voice sarcastic as he responds to it, "Oh? Is perfection too good for me?"
That wasn't it of course. No, rather it was that Julieta already felt insecure next to Gaelio. He was a skilled pilot, he was tall, handsome, kind, funny...but inside he was also hurt, broken. He could be cold because deep down he didn't want to open himself up to being hurt again. It made him Human, she felt, to not just be the great man who could one day be a major leading force within Gjallarhorn, but the vulnerable soul who had lost his innocence.
"You'd annoy me if you were perfect," Julieta explained in her own way, "I like you how you are."
"Which one? Vidar, or Gaelio?" he jokes, though there is some actual inquiry behind it. She had grown close to him when he had a persona, but now that he was trying to return to how he once was, at least in part...
That was actually something Julieta had pondered herself, since it felt almost like night and day when Gaelio alternated between cold revenge seeker and warm family man.
"I liked how serious you could be as Vidar, but..." she blushes in embarrassment at what she was about to say, "You're really kind as Gaelio Bauduin, and it makes me feel weird. I think you owe me an apology for being so confusing."
Gaelio laughs as he puts the album down and wraps his arms around Julieta, pulling her into a hug and kissing her, which Julieta returned and snaked her arms around his body while Gaelio pulled her around to sit atop his lap.
When their kissing session ending, Gaelio handed the photo album to Julieta to let her go through it as she pleased. The page she opened it to was one which instantly caught her interest, for whereas she had initially intended to mock Gaelio over his baby pictures, now she was left curious about a large photo of Gaelio's mother and father standing across from one another in some public place yelling at one another.
"Why is there a picture of your mother and father arguing?" Julieta questioned, not sure why such a moment would be worthy of being kept.
The reason why was one which amused Gaelio, and so he explained it, "It's a newspaper clipping. My mother was a staunch opponent of Gjallarhorn's direction and the corruption wracking it, so my father, as the public face of it at the time, had to deal with her criticisms himself."
The 'math' of how Gaelio's parents could have possibly become his parents did not check out in Julieta's mind. Didn't you marry people you loved or needed to for political reasons, rather than someone who was leading the organization you were criticizing?
"How did you happen?"
Gaelio chuckled at her way of phrasing 'how did your parents get together', "Well, in arguing with my father she actually came to realize that maybe he wasn't the problem but rather an internal force keeping back a lot more problems from rising up, so they got to meeting on better terms, and eventually my father came to privately reveal all of his agreements with her stances he could never say in public. From there, well..."
Julieta nodded, now understanding more completely his history. What she did not expect however was him to reverse the questioning on her.
"You never talk about your parents."
She frowned as she tried to think of how to explain it, eventually settling on just a bare bones explanation that would have to do for him, "I'm an orphan who the bearded man found. I don't remember all too much, but as far back as I remember he was looking after me," she still was sore about losing him to Tekkadan, but she was at least coming to terms with it, "He and Master Rustal were all I had, and I promised I would always do whatever I could to repay their kindness."
"Do you want to know more about your past?"
Julieta tilted her head as she looked up at him, "What do you mean?"
"Well, I could see about having someone look into your history and find out maybe some things you don't even know..."
Like who her mother was, or who her father was, or why she was an orphan Galan Mossa picked up...or maybe why he came to pick her up, if such a thing could ever be known now that he was dead...
All these possibilities were more than just exciting, they were scary to Julieta. What if she found out something which hurt her? What if her parents abandoned her? What if Galan Mossa hadn't taken her in out of the kindness of his heart? What-if, what-if, what-if...for every possible good thing that might come of unearthing the past, Julieta could think of multiple bad things.
"I don't know..."
"Are you sure?" Gaelio asks as a follow-up, just to be sure but not pressing too hard so as to not pressure her.
Julieta decided to make a joke out of the topic and grinned at him, "Just because I am accepting of your affection doesn't mean I want you to grow frivolous on my behalf."
"Except when it comes to food."
She stuck her tongue out at him like Almiria did before and Gaelio used the opportunity to do something silly and lightly catch her tongue with his teeth, trapping her lips right up against his. Julieta glared at him briefly before accepting the odd invitation and the two went back to kissing, which lasted a fair bit longer as they were growing more used to the process. When it did come to end though Julieta continued to look up at Gaelio, some uncertainty creeping into her voice.
Hearing another side to Julieta other than the serious, near arrogant pilot he knew so well now drew Gaelio's attention, and he gave her a concerned look in the hope that everything was alright.
"What is it?"
"I...I'll make my decision after this mission."
That was a lot sooner than Gaelio had expected...which could both be a good and bad thing, depending on her reasoning for shortening the period of time she had to agree to his proposal.
Julieta looked away sheepishly as she explained herself, "It will be a few weeks, and I know how you'll treat me when we're not on-duty, so all I have left to see is how we can manage when working together."
Gaelio felt relief wash over him as he realized that this meant that, as far as home life was concerned, he seemed to have passed whatever test she had in mind, "Okay."
"I have a question though."
"Oh? What is it?"
Julieta returned to grinning like a devil, "Was Almiria right?"
Gaelio knew exactly what she meant, but he tried to avoid the subject all the same, "About what? Knowing my sister, chances are the answer is no though."
"Do you really like my...appearance?"
He rolls his eyes as he senses a bit of insecurity to her question now, "If you are asking if I find you beautiful, yes, I do. You know that, and that opinion won't change," looking at her small body, he cracks a grin of his own, "Though I think the word I would use for you is 'cute'."
Being called cute makes Julieta feel like a child, and so she huffs at him, "Cute girls don't have large hips, and from the sound of things you like those."
Julieta sat with her arms crossed for about ten seconds before she realized she was not hearing a counter argument to this.
"Isn't this where you deny it and call your sister foolish?"
"Well...she's not wrong."
To try and compliment him back, Julieta poked his cheek with a finger while also looking away with a blush, "Well, you're handsomer than I had imagined..." a thought crosses her mind as she glances up at Gaelio's handsome, near beautiful, features, "I look kind of like a boy I've heard, and you look kind of like a lady, so what will happen if we have children?"
The odd places her mind could take her always managed to amuse Gaelio, and so he lowered a hand to her lower abdomen playfully to touch it, "A roll of the dice, I would say. We won't know until we try."
Looking downwards and thinking ahead, Julieta asked something that made Gaelio nearly choke like his father at dinner, "Will ten suffice?"
Julieta nods as she brings up the heir issue again, "One heir and if they are unlucky like Miss Carta or dumb like Iok and the bloodline would die out. Two, and McGillis could happen easily by killing one and marrying another, so the more the better."
Gaelio followed her logic, but still found himself a bit overwhelmed by her...generosity, "Okay, so why ten?"
"It's a simple number and I don't yet have a reason to want any less."
He really ought to have expected such a simple answer, but Gaelio cracked a grin all the same, "Try having a few first."
"If I am going to agree to marry you, I need to know the conditions. So ten?"
She sounded serious and so Gaelio shrugged, accepting whatever number she would choose that was above the number zero, "However many you wish for."
"Ten," Julieta stated in a final manner, as if the issue was settled and forever set in stone now.
"You sound determined."
Julieta turned her nose up and crossed her arms, "There's nothing wrong with being prepared."
The sudden seriousness in Gaelio's tone in what had been a serious conversation snapped Julieta's attention up to Gaelio, who was no longer looking amused.
"I lost my mother. I am not going to lose you too."
So he was afraid that she would die...funny, given their line of work.
Julieta shook her head and pointed over at Gaelio's pillow on the bed in the dark room.
"You should sleep."
The deliberate attempt to dodge the conversation with a non-sequitur amused him a bit even if he had been serious moments before, "What?"
"When you are tired you get sadder. You have to report back to Gjallarhorn tomorrow anyways, so sleep."
Gaelio dragged Julieta down with him on the bed, at which point he placed his head against her chest playfully, "Only if I can do so on the softest pair of pillows I've slept upon."
With him acting juvenile, Julieta was left at a loss of what to do, especially since she didn't mind per say...
Soon she'd know whether or not she wanted this to be permanent...but if Julieta were to be honest, she already knew the answer as she wrapped her arms around Gaelio and curled up into him to sleep. His dragging of the nicest blankets she had ever slept with over them both only made the warm feeling in her chest grow deeper, and she found herself actually a bit reluctant to leave this behind the next day to instead return back to military duty. Still, it was her job and so she would fulfill it...right alongside the man she loved.
A/N: I hope you all enjoyed, and I hope to hear your thoughts in the reviews below!