Disclaimer: All characters and specifics of "Kidousenshi Gundam SEED" are copyrighted Sotsu Agency, Sunrise and Mainichi Broadcasting. All rights reserved. This fanfiction is property of Shikami Yamino and is not intended for any monetary purpose nor an infringement of copyright laws. No one is to post/host/use any aspect of this fanfic without explicit permission from the author.

Notes: I hate my muses!! They always do this to me during exams!!! /punts muses deep into orbit/ But otherwise, I offer my little take on Athrun and Cagalli's relationship. Set after the series... so, obviously spoilers from about episode 40-ish onwards!! Hopefully not too OOC though...

For those of you who are waiting for the continuation to Blind Descent, I can only extend my apologies and say that this semester has been hectic in a way that no other semester has been. And my muses, as you can see, are both vindictive and fickle beings. I will get to BD after exams!

Kidousenshi Gundam SEED: "Stay" -- Part 1 of 3
by Shikami Yamino

She was nothing like anybody he'd ever encountered.

Ever since their first meeting, she'd contradicted almost everything he'd ever known.

Athrun Zala gazed tenderly down at the blonde tucked against his side, sleeping peacefully, an arm thrown around him for good measure.

In fact, Cagalli Yula Athha was practically contradiction personified.

Her tomboy-ish mannerisms; her feminine sensitivities. Her worldliness; her innocence. Her strength of character; her hidden frailties. Her bull-headed determination and her moments of painful indecision.

They called her the Goddess of Victory. They called her Orb's Princess. She was a leader and a mobile suit pilot. But to Athrun, she never seemed more than that girl-child who had shamelessly enjoyed a simple rain storm on a deserted island. One who had blushed as she realized how far she'd pulled up her shirt to get at a stray crab. One who had cried as she held his gun, desperate to stop the slaughter but unwilling to pull the trigger. One who had been gentle as she'd bandaged his wounds, determined not to be indebted to him.

She had fascinated him; most likely captured him from that moment. All without ever meaning to do so.

She stirred, her nose wrinkling as she mumbled incoherently under her breath. Around his waist, her arm tightened, checking to see that he was still here as he'd promised.

Smiling, he ran his fingers through her hair, muttering quiet words of nonsense that soothed her back into a dreamless sleep.

She'd barely let him out of her sight since they returned from the final battle.

After leaving an exhausted Kira in Lacus's capable hands, he'd escorted her to her stateroom aboard the Kusanagi. From the way she'd leaned into his supporting arm around her waist without protest, he knew she had to have been as equally exhausted as Kira. But when he'd deposited her on her bed and moved to leave, she had latched onto his wrist and told him in her most stubborn voice that he wasn't going anyplace where he would be left alone to think.


He blinked at her uncomprehendingly.

Honey brown eyes fought desperately against the sleep that was trying to force them closed before she was ready. "You think too much when you're alone with nothing to do. And you always think bad things." In her exhaustion, she never realised how much worry she'd projected into her voice. Or how much her voice betrayed her years. "Stay. Sleep."

It was amazing how well she knew him after only a brief acquaintance. But in his current fatigued state, he wasn't at all opposed to the idea of not having to think. Especially not about what had happened in the last few hours.

Athrun's lips turned up in a wan smile, resolutely pushing that thought out of his mind. "Is that an order?"

She pouted, her voice turning petulant as she repeated more firmly, "Stay. Sleep."

His smile finally touched his eyes and he couldn't resist adding a teasing "But Justice isn't under Kusanagi's command."

Glaring sleepily, Cagalli tugged resolutely on the wrist she held. "Well Strike Rouge is. And since you came in on her, and I'm her pilot, what I say goes!"

Athrun chuckled quietly but obeyed her summons and returned to the bed. Sitting down, he watched her scoot over to make room for him on the wide bunk. Without further prompting, he laid down on his side facing her in the vacated space, tucking a curled arm under his head.

Realising he was now staring at her, a quick blush spread over Cagalli's cheeks. "What?" she demanded.

A corner of Athrun's lips quirked upwards before he shut his eyes. "Nothing."

Silence reigned for a fleeting moment. Then her sleep-fuzzed voice drifted into his ears. "'Night..."

Emerald eyes opened briefly; just long enough for Athrun to catch his bunk-mate's peacefully sleeping visage before Morpheus claimed him as well. "Good night..."


They had slept like the dead that night. But no matter how deep, or how exhaustive a sleep, the nightmares always found a way to sink their claws into vulnerable emotions.

There were so many things he could have done differently in the year they'd been at war. It plagued him -- whether any of the other paths he could have chosen to walk would have led him to a different conclusion; would have made a difference. He was well aware that it was useless. There was no way he could turn back time to do things over. But still, the thoughts teased at him, threatening to break him under the sheer weight of the possibilities.

Fortunately, she was always there to shoulder a little of the weight before he could stumble.

He remembered jolting awake that night to the feeling of moisture on his cheeks, his harsh breaths deafening in the silence that permeated the room. Before his eyes still floated the apparition of the gun that had been pointed at him. And no matter how irrational his brain told him it was, he'd still found himself clutching at his right shoulder.

The wound had long since healed, leaving not even a scar behind to mark its existence. But the image of his own father pulling the trigger of a gun aimed at him was one he would never forget. Nor, he doubted, would he ever be able to exorcise the little dagger that twisted in his chest everytime he remembered how his own father had refused to listen to anything he had to say; preferring instead to brand him a traitor.

That night, those thoughts had viciously ripped any hope of more sleep from his exhausted mind. After glancing over at Cagalli's quietly slumbering form, he'd slipped silently from the bed and the room, not wanting to disturb her with the irrepressible antics of his inner demons.

It hadn't taken long for her to come find him.


"There you are."

Glancing away from the window on which he was perched, Athrun smiled sheepishly in the face of the blonde's palpable ire. "You should still be sleeping." As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he felt like kicking himself.

Judging from the way her scowl darkened, it had evidently been the wrong thing to say.

"So should you," Cagalli retorted, coming to stand beside him. "I told you you weren't supposed to be left alone to think."

Dropping his eyes from hers, Athrun returned his gaze to the window. "There's a lot to think about..."

Neither spoke for a moment, the heavy silence only broken when her quiet, almost wistful murmur floated to his ears.

"You don't have to do it alone, you know."

He looked up at her, startled, only to find her gaze no longer focused on him. Instead, it was turned outward. To the wreckage of Jachin Doue and GENESIS that lay on the other side of the glass. And to the carnage that drifted in scattered clusters around them.

Belatedly, he remembered that he wasn't the only one who'd lost friends and family to this senseless war. Reflected in her russet eyes were the flames that had consumed her home, her friends, her life as she knew it, and her father.

He reached out hesitantly for her hand in silent apology. "Cagalli..."

She bit her lip, closed her eyes and took a deep, calming breath. Then she tilted her head and regarded him with exasperated eyes that hid a spark of grudging affection. "You give yourself entirely too much credit Athrun Zala."

Athrun frowned at this total turn-around in the topic of conversation.

"You think you can carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. That everytime something goes wrong, it went wrong because you didn't do enough, didn't get there in time, didn't make the right decision."

She turned to give him the full brunt of her irritation. "You need to get it into that thick Coordinator skull that you can't take responsibility for everything that went wrong."

Athrun averted his eyes, attention wrested back by the destruction that lay almost close enough to touch. "He was my father... I should have - "

A hard poke in his chest effectively stayed the rest of that sentence. And by the time he turned back to her, her expression had already changed from mildly-annoyed to fierce.

"Stop that!" She growled at him. "You're not anymore responsible for that," she gestured imperviously at the view, "than I am for the destruction of Orb! Our fathers made their choices! What we have to do now is make our own, not shoulder the burden of theirs!"

He stared at her; at the angry tears she was defiantly holding back, and felt a weight lift off his heart. It was uncanny how she could always manage to put him at ease; to quell the little voice in the back of his head that fed his guilt and inadequacies. But he was thankful for it. Appreciated it. Appreciated her.

Tugging at the hand he still held in his grasp, he rose from his seat to enfold her in his arms. Turning his face into her hair, he was gratified to feel her arms come up around him just as tightly. "I'm sorry..."

Her voice, when it reached him, was muffled from where her face was buried in the crook of his neck, but determined. "I wasn't going to let you die out there... I'm not going to let you do this to yourself either."

He smiled faintly, feeling himself calm as the scent of her wrapped itself around him. "I know. I'll do better, I promise."

"You'd better."

At the half-hearted threat, he chuckled soundlessly, and then was content to simply hold her.


When they'd finally returned to the bed that night, she'd made sure to keep a secure arm around him. On pain of another barrage of Cagalli Yula Athha's formidable temper, her annoyed scowl had warned him away from any more late-night sojourns around the ship with only his thoughts to keep him company.

Since then, it seemed she'd created a permanent space for him in her stateroom. Or was it more correct to say that neither of them had objected to the arrangement that had initially been based solely on exhaustion? Certainly, she'd never made clear any intention other than to be there for him at night when the demons were prone to come knocking. And if Kisaka had anything to say about the propriety of the arrangement, he kept it to himself.

Though he could never say the words, he had a feeling she knew how grateful he was of her presence.


"..thrun! Athrun!!"

Blinking away the apparitions of friends long since gone, he opened his eyes to focus Cagalli's face staring worriedly down at him. Slowly, he took stock of his surroundings as his senses returned to him one by one.


Forcing his tense muscles to relax, he swallowed convulsively, attempting to wet a throat that was both dry and hoarse from screaming.

"It's all right. I've got you," she murmured, gently coaxing his hand from where it was tangled in the sheets to press a drink bulb filled with water into it.

As he drank thirstily from the bulb, she continued to murmur softly to him, gently brushing away the soft blue strands of hair from his sweat-soaked forehead. "I've got you. It was just a nightmare..."

When he at last felt some semblance of speech capacity return to him, he loosened his grip on the water bulb, allowing it to drift away. Taking in a shuddering breath and managing half a rueful smile, he whispered, "Sorry... Did I wake you...?"

She shook her head, concerned eyes still fixed on him searchingly in the semi-darkness.

That was enough for him to dredge up the other half of that smile. "Liar," he accused tenderly.

Cagalli blushed, scowled, then blushed some more; wanting but somehow unable to find her temper in the face of his open affection. She finally settled on "I was getting up anyway," then scrambled to climb over him and off the bunk.


She turned when he caught her hand and looked down at him as he struggled for words. Smiling softly, she bent to brush her lips over his forehead before detangling her hand and heading for the washroom.

End Part 1... to be continued.

Author's Notes: Thoughts?? /runs off to study for her property exam tomorrow/