I apologize immensely for the delay. This epilogue just evolved into a whole new chapter in itself. One of the longest chapter I have ever written. Phew.
This is a very important chapter for me because this shows how I would have wanted Asucaga in GSD to end. True, they couldn't be together at the end of GSD (just like what happened in this story's last chapter) but I am confident that give them 5 years or so to arrange their lives, they would still find their way back to each other :)
Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Seed/Destiny
Six Years Later
4 years 11 months and 3 weeks Later
It was one of those ordinary days in her job as the Head Representative of Orb. She woke up at 6AM, showered, swiftly brushed her short hair, donned her Maroon dress suit, pinned her father's old Attha crest at the collar of her white dress shirt, ate a hearty breakfast while browsing through her files, brushed her teeth, was driven by her head bodyguard Kisaka to the Congress Building for a Meeting with the different representative of the Earth's Nations and PLANTs. The meeting would take up the whole morning and, if she were unlucky, would extend up to Lunch.
This was an ordinary and unlucky day. The sun was still up high in the sky but she was already exhausted. And hungry. She could never eat well in a Lunch Meeting.
If there was any consolation, at least the meeting ended at half past two. That gave her at least an hour break before the next agenda on her list. And so she sat, back heavily leaning against the high chair at her office, eyes closed in an attempt to steal a few moments to relax. She debated whether she could call Kisaka to order her a Kebab but even reaching for her phone seemed too much of a hassle.
There was a beep on the said phone and Cagalli, with a grimace, had no choice but to reach out for the button. "Kisaka, good timing. Is there any way you can please bring me a Kebab?"
"You and Your cravings." Kisaka sounded amused. "Very well, I'll have it delivered in half an hour."
Grinning, Cagalli replied, "You're the best!"
There was an indignant huff in the background and Kisaka spoke again. "Actually, someone is here to see you."
Cagalli thought for a moment and her grin widened. "Of course! Send him in!"
The line was cut and there was a knock on the door. Without waiting for her reply, the door opened, allowing a silver-haired coordinator in. Lips set in a thin line, his arms were crossed in front of his chest as he stalked towards her and sat in one of the cushioned seats in front of her desk.
Cagalli watched him with curious golden orbs before grinning apologetically. "I really did not mean to be a bother, Yzak."
Yzak scowled. She knew he disliked her calling him by first name. Still she continued to do it until he finally realized that correcting her was just wasting his time. "You've always been a bothersome naive princess."
Waving her hand dismissively, she replied, "You know I'm not a princess. Haven't been one since four years ago. I'm just Head Representative Attha."
The coordinator crossed his legs, his scowl alleviating a little. "I still find it ironic that Queen Attha's first decree was to dissolve the Monarchy of Orb. Why do such a foolish thing?"
She shrugged her shoulders. With everything that happened almost five years ago, she knew it was too dangerous to put Orb's power in just one Monarch. Athrun Zala had made her realize this grave mistake painfully. Suddenly she jumped out of her chair, the action even startling Yzak. "I almost forgot!" She smiled brightly as she walked towards the coordinator and slapped his back.
The latter seemed almost horrified. "What the hell are you doing woman—!"
"Congratulations Yzak!" She beamed at him. "You know I would really be sad not seeing you as often but... CONGRATULATIONS for winning the elections!"
Yzak brushed her hand away. "I still don't know what he sees in you, but you're really too loud woman."
Cagalli laughed as she moved to lean against her heavy table. There was pride in her eyes as she looked at Yzak. "The newly elected Supreme Chairman of PLANTS! I always knew you would get that position and I know you'll perform excellently in it. Still, I would definitely miss you during meetings, Ex-Vice Foreign Minister Yzak Joule."
A soft blush of embarrassment colored his cheeks as he muttered, "It still isn't official until two weeks from now. Plus it was a close fight with my opponent Eileen Canaver."
"Silly! That's just because you were younger but everyone knew you've always been the best candidate to replace Athrun after he served his final term!"
There was a pause as Yzak remained silent and looked at Cagalli, watching her reaction. He was a delicate subject during their conversations, but always inevitable.
Cagalli bit her lower lip. Sadness briefly flashed through her eyes which she quickly blinked away. She smiled. "Really! Athrun's really hardworking but I think you're more hardworking than him!"
Yzak's gaze did not waver as he spoke in a neutral tone, "So how long has it been?" He did not need to finish it for her to understand what he meant. How long has it been since you've talked to him?
She shrugged and tried to remain nonchalant. "Talked to him two months ago. The time difference between Orb and PLANTs is really quite challenging you know."
Yzak continued to prod, "And you last saw him when?"
Bowing her head a little, she replied, "During the last Earth and PLANTs Summit in Carpentaria."
Yzak raised his eyebrows in disbelief, "That was SIX months ago! I was with him and I knew you barely greeted each other before we left!"
Cagalli shrugged. "That's just the way things are. It's not like we could do anything about it."
Letting out a frustrated huff, Yzak slapped his forehead. "That bastard. That stupid Chairman!"
"Tsk, tsk, if I hadn't known better, I would think that you want me to end up with Athrun," Cagalli mused.
Yzak growled. "I have long since accepted that the best way to suppress Zala's cold-hearted bastard side and stop being his Errand boy was for you two to end up together!"
Cagalli blinked. No one would really understand what relationship she and the silver-haired coordinator had. They had the oddest of friendship, born from a mutual acquaintance with Chairman Athrun Zala. After the tragic events of her Coronation and Wedding, the coordinators returned to PLANTS. Athrun Zala remained as the Chairman for a few more terms, being re-elected for his exemplary performance. Dearka Elsman became a top ZAFT Commander, replacing Commander Rau Le Creuset following the latter's sudden retirement. Last she heard, Dearka and Miriallia were engaged to be married next year. As for Commander Le Creuset, no one really knows where he was.
Yzak Joule was appointed as the Vice Foreign Minister. As such, he visited Orb a lot. This started her weird friendship with him when she discovered that the silver-haired coordinator also doubled as, what he himself refers to, Zala's Errand Boy.
He reached inside the pocket of his jacket and threw a metal bracelet which Cagalli expertly caught. They've done this a number of times that she wasn't even surprised anymore. "What is it now?"
"A blood glucose monitor. He said it was to prevent you from developing hypoglycemia when you deliberately or unconsciously skip meals." He answered as he watched her trace a finger on the bracelet and clasped it on her left wrist. "It comes with an alarm which I have already given to your kitchen staff. It will alert them when your blood glucose falls below baseline necessitating them to feed you." He added as an afterthought, "Forcefully, if necessary."
"It sounds like I'm an animal or something." Cagalli examined the bracelet on her wrist. It was made of a delicately engraved silver metal band ornamented with a single green jade. It may pass off as just a normal bracelet. A small frown graced her lips, "If Athrun had time to do something this pretty, then he should have just visited me."
Yzak chose not to answer as he thought the same thing.
Exhaling, she glanced back at the coordinator an apologetic smile now on her lips, "Thank you Yzak. I'm really sorry that Athrun had to trouble you to give this to me." Everytime, she had wanted to add.
Yzak sniffed as he uncrossed his legs and stood up. "Now that's done, I should leave." Cagalli nodded and she walked with him to the door. Just as he was about the open it, he stopped and faced her. "Lacus is having a party later. You will be going, I presume?"
The blonde nodded. "But I will be late. I need to finish some paperwork before then." She tilted her head to the side, "You?"
Yzak pulled a face, evidently irritated, "Dearka forced me to be there. He said that his fiancée told him that Lacus was making an important announcement at the party."
Eyes lighting up in excitement, Cagalli gushed, "Miriallia said that? Really? Am I going to be an Aunt soon? I mean, clearly Lacus will be announcing that she's pregnant right? She and my brother had been married for three years now, of course they would be in the way to start a family right? What do you think they'll name him? Or her! Of course it would be a girl! Beautiful like Lacus—"
Yzak shrugged. He quickly exited the room, ignoring Cagalli's excited chatter about babies and baby names.
Daydreaming about babies, while highly adorable, did not help her finish the mounds of paperwork on her desk early, and instead forced her to go overtime again for the third time that week. With a tired yawn, she placed the last document on the pile and rested her head on the cool wooden surface of her desk. She enjoyed a few moments of solace before she pulled herself up and glanced at the digital clock on the wall.
It was half-past nine in the evening. Lacus's party should have started hours ago. Her body was begging her to pass, to just go home and sleep but her mind dictated she go. Grabbing her cell phone, she checked her inbox for ten new messages: 2 from Lacus, 1 from Murrue La Fllaga, 1 from Mwu La Fllaga, even Yzak sent 1 message and of course 5 from her brother, all worded differently but with the same question of where she was.
There were also 10 missed calls. Trust Kira to barrage her until she answered. 'Sorry, my phone was in silent mode. I'm on my way,' she replied back.
Scrolling down to Kisaka's number, she almost hit the call button before she remembered that he had mentioned that he would be attending a wedding of a family friend that afternoon and would not be back until tomorrow.
Sighing, she grabbed her purse, checking for her car keys. She then looked at her reflection on the glass windows, noting that she was still wearing her uniform. She would have preferred to at least change into a comfortable pair of jeans and tank top but there was no time to go home. Instead, she opted to smooth out the creases and run a hand through her hair, attempting to tame her stubborn golden locks. Satisfied, she went out and drove to Lacus and Kira's house.
Half an hour later, she found herself outside the Yamato's home. She rang the doorbell twice and waited. No answer. Puzzled, she turned the door knob, surprised that it was unlocked.
"Kira? Lacus?" She called as she carefully went inside. Her mind was slowly filling with panic. Was there an attack? Where was everyone? Her steps were light, making sure not to make a sound, as she examined the kitchen and Dining area. Her eyebrows furrowed. Everything was in order, the dining table filled with various plates laden with food. She walked over to the pot on the closed stove and examined its contents—Stew. And the pot was still hot, indicating that the fire was turned off not long ago.
She then proceeded to the Living Room. The pillows on the plush couches were haphazardly arranged, the television still turned on. Cagalli frowned as she crossed her arms in front of her chest. She might just have an idea what was happening—really, trust her brother to be so childish at times.
She plopped down on the couch and glared at the windows. Outside, it was pitch black save for the reflection of the moon on the sea surface. She was ninety percent sure that this was Kira's idea. Just because she was late, he would think of something like this to get back at her. He must have persuaded everyone to join his plan of scaring Cagalli. She was sure they were hiding in one of the rooms or even outside, waiting for the right moment to surprise her.
Well, she wouldn't give them that pleasure. She was stubborn like that. She would just sit here and wait until they get tired of hiding. This was sooner than later if Yzak was involved—the silver-haired coordinator was known for his short temper after all.
And so she casually leaned on the couch, her eyes surveying the room. Kira and Lacus had definitely made an effort to make their home as warm, inviting and comfortable as possible. The windows were draped in soft pale yellow curtains to match the wooden walls and floors. The cream couches were livened up by decorating them with pillows of different colors. But Cagalli's favorite part was the wall on the left where various photographs were hung, almost filling the space. Kira and Lacus had kept their friends close to their hearts as evidenced by the photographs. She stood up and walked towards the wall to examine them.
At the center of the wall was a big beautiful framed photograph of Kira and Lacus's wedding three years ago. Both were smiling brightly. Beside Lacus, she stood as the Maid of honor while on Kira's side stood Athrun, his Best Man. Around them were the children from the Clyne Orphanage who served as the flower girls, dressed in pink princess gowns. Cagalli chuckled as she remembered that day. Even Matt, one of the boys from the orphanage, was shocked by the amount of pink that flowed.
Beside this photograph was a photo of Cagalli and Kira smiling widely in one of Orb University's Engineering Laboratories. Cagalli had an arm slung around Kira who was dressed in a white Laboratory gown with safety goggles tucked on his hair. Kira continued his studies to obtain his PhD in Robotics Engineering. Now, he works in Morgenroete. The company had long shifted from manufacturing weapons to manufacturing industrial polymers and machineries.
On the right was a picture of Lacus, eyes closed, a spotlight focused on her form as she sang soulfully on the stage of the Vienna State Opera. Lacus used her songs to be an Ambassador of Peace while maintaining the Clyne Orphanage.
On top was a recent picture of Miriallia and Dearka taken on a famous restaurant on the night the coordinator proposed. Miriallia was in tears as she hugged Dearka. Theirs was a whirlwind romance that blossomed from their associations at work. Cagalli smiled. With all the emails she received from Miriallia from PLANTs, she was glad that the two were finally settling down.
There was also a picture of Yzak scowling as he arranged the cap on his head, eyes glaring at Mwu La Fllaga who was dribbling a basketball. On the bleachers sat Murrue Ramuis-La Fllaga holding their one year old son. Cagalli remembered this photo. It was during one of Yzak's official visits to Orb where he was encouraged by Mwu to learn how to play basketball. Needless to say, not even a coordinator like Yzak could defeat Mwu at one of his favorite sports.
On the far right was a picture of Nicol Amalfi playing the piano in one of the Galas hosted by PLANTs. Beside it was as picture of Afhmed and Kisaka on the former's graduation from the Orb Military Academy. Afhmed was currently stationed with the 45th Naval fleet.
There were also pictures of the children from the Orphanage. In particular, there was a picture of Lenore Zala, Athrun's adoptive sister, graduating from University at the age of 12. Lenore was now working as a junior Agricultural researcher in Junius City. Her passion, however, lies in cultivating flowers, evident from the little girl's present for Cagalli on her last birthday: a potted Yellow Tulip that could survive Orb's tropical climate.
Beside Lenore's photo was a framed postcard from Andrew Waltfeld and his wife, Aisha, posing in one of the Coffee Plantations in Brazil. The Waltfeld Coffee Roasters and Brewery was fast becoming well-known for their unique coffee. Even Cagalli was addicted when the Waltfelds hosted a unique Coffee Party ("Because Wine is not the only beverage that can be given the honor of having its own party!" Andrew reasoned) during their visit in Orb almost a year ago.
The photo on the far left was a curious one because it was clip from a newspaper. It showed Athrun, clad in his purple ZAFT Uniform, during the proclamation of his re-election as the Chairman of PLANTs. Cagalli traced a finger on the edge of the frame, a sad smile on her face. They barely saw him these past few years. He was a very busy man, a young man with the wisdom of an elder, making him one, if not the most, loved Chairman the PLANTs ever had. She sighed. She had long accepted that Athrun was tied to PLANTs as much as she was tied to Orb. It was here where she drew her strength—she knew Athrun was working his hardest for PLANTs and for peace, thus, she would do the same here in Orb.
"Still, it seems like you've been a better leader than me," Cagalli whispered wistfully. "Even Yzak follows your orders, no matter how mundane they are because he respects you that much. Not that he would tell you that upfront."
"Ladies and Gentlemen! Let us welcome, Chairman Athrun Zala!"
Cagalli whirled around and her eyes landed on the television set just as the camera focused on the said guest. There sat Athrun, arms relaxed on the armrests of his chair, a pleasant smile on his face. Five years had done good to him, the angle of his jaw was more defined, his shoulders broader, his form lean and tall.
The camera shifted to a pretty brunette whom Cagalli recognized as a well known host both in PLANTs and on Earth. This was her famous talk show. "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to have you on set, Chairman Zala."
The Athrun on screen nodded. "The pleasure is all mine." In the background, she could hear the screaming of several fan girls.
"Ooh! It seems everyone is really excited to see you here today and so I'm not going to beat around the bush." The host angled her head to better survey the blue-haired coordinator with her inquisitive eyes. "I'm going to ask the question that's been on everyone's mind since you announced that you are retiring from politics."
The set fell silent, even Cagalli could feel her heart hammering in her chest.
The brunette host leaned forward, "What does Athrun Zala plan to do from here on?"
Cagalli held her breath and she was sure everyone in the audience did too. She stood, unmoving as she watched Athrun's unfaltering pleasant smile. When he replied, she unconsciously leaned closer. "I am going to fulfil a promise."
There was a collective gasp from the audience. The brunette host leaned back, eyes curiously fixed on the Chairman. "A promise? Is this.." She looked around for emphasis before zeroing back to the Chairman. "A promise of marriage perhaps?"
Cagalli clutched her chest just as the audience buzzed with talk. The response grew louder, some crying in the background when Athrun opted to answer with a mysterious smile.
The brunette host cupped her ears and leaned from side to side. "What is this I hear? This is the sound of a thousand hearts breaking, Chairman Zala!"
Athrun continued to smile pleasantly.
"In the past, you were engaged with Miss Lacus Clyne but she had long married. And then, there were rumors that you were involved with the princess of Orb—"
Cagalli dived down to turn off the television, her heart thumping against her chest, her face burning. She couldn't take it anymore. Her mind raced. Was he talking about that promise? Athrun said five years. It was almost five years! Was he going to come for her? Was he returning to her? She clutched her heart, trying to calm down. She stood up and ran towards the glass sliding door leading out to the gardens. She needed fresh air.
She ran, blindly making her way down the steps until she collided with something—or someone. She gasped just as that someone grabbed her elbow to prevent her from falling.
Kira looked confused. "Why are you running?"
She grabbed his shoulders, her voice breathy as she asked, "Where's everyone?" She then grimaced and slapped his shoulder. "I swear Kira, if this is some sick prank of yours—"
Her brother quickly shook his head. "No!" He squeaked. "I mean everyone's just at the beach, we're.. we're lighting fireworks, that's why!" He looked back at the house. "I was about to find you and bring you there."
Cagalli sent her brother a suspicious look. Kira laughed and raised both his palms in surrender. "I swear, Cagalli, I came to pick you up!"
The blonde twin sighed and ran a hand through her hair. Concerned, Kira bent down to examine his sister. "Cagalli? Are you alright?" he asked worriedly. "Hey, is there something wrong?"
Cagalli took a deep breath and shook her head. "I'm fine, Kira. It's just... a lot of things has happened."
Kira nodded as he slowly guided his sister through his wife's flower garden. It was composed of large hedge walls akin to a labyrinth. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Glancing at her brother, she thought for a moment before replying softly, "It's almost five years since, Kira."
She watched as Kira's eyes widened in understanding. She had shared what transpired between her and Athrun the day before he left five years ago—their agreement. Her brother's violet orbs considered her for a brief moment, "Cagalli, don't you want Athrun to come back?"
Of course she wanted him to come back—heck, she would be happy to even see him for just a while. But she was afraid. She really didn't know what to feel. They had barely seen each other since—Did she still feel the same way she did five years ago? Did he feel the same for her?
"I.. I don't know what to feel Kira.."
"But you want to see him again?" Kira gently asked.
Cagalli bowed her head, her fists clenched at her sides, "..Of course I do."
Kira briefly glanced down, lost in thought. His eyes had an odd glint when they returned to glance at her. "Then perhaps you're afraid of what he will do once he comes back?"
Cagalli held her breath. Kira continued delicately. "Perhaps you're afraid if he asks you to marry him?"
Trust her twin brother Kira to read her just like an open book.
"Kira! You know that's too fast! We haven't seen each other for half a year! Last time we talked was two months ago and that was just a brief greeting! How can I marry a person who spends so much time making gadgets that he assumed would make my life easier when he could just visit me and I'll be so much happier!" Cagalli panted as she cried furiously, all her bottled emotions bursting from where she had kept it for so long. She collapsed on her knees down the soft earth as she clutched her chest.
Kira knelt down and rubbed her shoulders. He hesitated but chose to continue. "If you feel that way, Cagalli, by all means, if he asks, you can say No." He managed a small smile. "I'll even punch Athrun for you as a bonus."
She couldn't help but laugh. At this moment, she considered herself as the most fortunate girl for having a twin brother like Kira. She was such an emotional wreck—with all her work piled, all the lack of sleep and food, and the threat of things moving for the worse. Thank heavens Kira stood at her side, always a quiet support pillar she could lean on. She briefly enjoyed the comfort of her brother's loose hug as she closed her eyes, blinking back the tears that threatened to fall.
They were silent as Kira continued to rub her shoulders. Finally, he looked down uncertainly, "So, you'll say No? I mean, if Athrun asks, that is."
Closing her eyes, Cagalli considered the question in her mind. Now that she was calmer she could think more clearly. Can she confidently say No to Athrun? Or the more pressing question was does she really want to say No?
She looked back to the events almost 6 years ago, from the day they first met. Her first impression was that Athrun was a sadistic Pluto-caged in PLANTs. All the things he had forced her to do which pissed her greatly: the meeting with the Earth Alliance, the Naturals-Coordinators Ball; and yet there were the good ones: meeting Kira and Lacus, meeting the children from the orphanage and finally their transition to being friends.
Yes, from enemies, they became friends and she learned who Athrun Zala really was. Slowly, he opened up, and she understood him better—he allowed her into his life and, when they first kissed, she realized that she had fallen, hard. By the time her duty called her back, vanishing from his life almost seemed impossible. But tragedy just had to lend her a hand to separate them.
She had always believed that he was innocent, that he did not kill her father. She held to it and no matter how angry she wanted to be, she just couldn't force herself to hate him completely. He persisted while trying to prove his innocence, he saved her from Yuuna and even risked his life to protect her.
Five years ago she knew what she felt. It was palpable, undeniable even. But fate dictated that they would have to walk parallel paths—his path was for PLANTs while hers was for Orb, with no guarantee that their paths would cross again.
Now, there was a chance. Would she take it? Was she willing to take that leap?
Slowly, she opened her eyes, a sad but hopeful smile on her lips, "No, Kira. I can't say No to him."
Kira furrowed his eyebrows, "But you just said.."
She shook her head. "We might not have the most conventional of relationships—heck, I had eaten imported Kebab more times than I had talked to him the past month—but you know what's funny? My feelings for him haven't changed." She sighed. No matter how much she tried to rationalize, it just wasn't logical but it was the glaring truth. It was undeniable, even now. "I love him, Kira, as much as I have loved him five years ago."
Kira examined her face for any contradicting reaction but he found none. His sister was calm and contented. Finally, he sighed, shaking his head. "I understand." He smiled and nodded, stood up and offered an arm to help his sister to her feet.
Kira guided Cagalli until they reached the exit arch of the labyrinth garden. Beyond that was a short set of steps that led down the beach.
He stopped walking and faced Cagalli, a hesitant smile on his face. "Cagalli?"
The said person also stopped walking. "Yes, Kira?"
Gently, Kira pulled Cagalli to him in a hug. "I'm proud of you, Cagalli. You've grown so much, both as Orb's leader and as a woman." His voice was soft, and weighed down with emotion. "If Mom and Dad were here, I know they too will be so proud of you."
Surprised, it took a moment before Cagalli was able to return her brother's hug. "What's the matter with you, Kira? What's gotten into you?" she asked jokingly.
Kira released her and then patted the top of her head. He was smiling oddly and it raised Cagalli's suspicion. "Go. He's waiting."
"Go? Who's—?" But she wasn't able to finish her words as Kira gently pushed her out of the Labyrinth garden where she came face to face with the person plaguing her mind.
Cagalli blinked, once, then twice, disbelief evident on her face as she stared at the person standing at the bottom of the few steps that led to the beach. The said person was staring back at her, his emerald orbs focused on her golden ones. She glanced up and down his white dress shirt and black slacks clad form, reminding herself to breath. Against the backdrop of the full moon, he looked absolutely dashing.
Many questions bombarded her mind all at once, and yet the one she voiced out was probably the least concerning of all.
"Where are your shoes?"
Athrun's eyes widened as he was caught off guard. He too wasn't expecting that to be the first thing she would ask. Glancing down his barefoot, he answered, "My shoes? I left them inside the house because I did not want to get sand in them."
Cagalli slowly nodded. She opened her mouth but no words came out. She glanced over her shoulder but her brother had vanished. Slowly, she returned her gaze back to the blue-haired coordinator.
There was a pregnant pause.
Athrun glanced back at Cagalli and slowly, he raised both his palms up in surrender. "Cagalli," he began, his voice soft as he shook his head solemnly, "I have no excuses."
He took a step towards her before continuing. "I know I have been a jerk these past five years. I was too focused on the future—on this day— that I forgot how to live the present."
Cagalli remained silent, her eyes remaining focused on him. She clenched her fists to prevent herself from trembling.
Athrun took another step forward. "I've always thought everything would be okay because I promised you that I would come back." He bowed his head. "I worked my hardest with only that promise to keep me sane even if we were apart."
He managed a small smile as he took another step forward, "But it wasn't enough. The gifts I made you—don't worry, Yzak clearly told me they never were enough and that I was a jerk for not noticing what you truly wanted." Unconsciously he rubbed his jaw where Cagalli could vaguely see a forming bruise. No doubt, it must have been Yzak's way of making a point.
With Athrun only two steps away from her, Cagalli could clearly see the vulnerability and honesty in his eyes as he looked at her, his breathing measured as he tried to quell his uncertainty. "But trust me Cagalli, all I ever wanted was to create a world where I can be assured of your safety and happiness."
Cagalli could feel the stinging in her eyes from threatening tears.
His shoulders slumped as he bowed his head. He just looked very tired. "Right now, I don't know if you would still accept me." His eyes focused back at her, hopeful, "I hope you do, but I will understand—"
"I missed you."
Athrun's words died on his lips as Cagalli spoke softly. He watched as the tears fell from her eyes and he swallowed. "Really? Even if I'm a jerk?"
Cagalli rolled her eyes as she chuckled. "You've always been a jerk so what's new?"
He looked at her, relief washing over him as the wide smile he couldn't stop formed on his lips. Softly, he brushed the tears that traced her cheeks. "Cagalli, I'm back."
Grasping his hand on her cheek, she nodded, a similar wide smile on her lips, "Welcome back, Athrun."
Carefully, he retracted his hand, his eyes never leaving hers, as he reached inside the pocket of his slacks. "I also promised that after five years, I wouldn't allow you to refuse me any longer." There was an almost confident grin on his face as he slowly went down on one knee.
Cagalli furrowed her eyebrows, her heart thumping fast against her chest. She had an idea what he was planning to do. "Athrun—"
Between his thumb and index finger was an intricate silver-banded ring adorned with a single blood red ruby and six small diamonds that seemed to branch out from it like wings.
Eyes wide, Cagalli looked at the ring and back to Athrun who was smiling softly. "Cagalli, marry me."
Taking a sharp breath, Cagalli trembled as she replied, "Are you forcing me?"
Athrun's grin widened a little. "Only if you want me to."
Suddenly, she flung herself against him, her arms wrapping around his shoulder. "You arrogant man!" she accused jokingly.
"Cagalli—wait—we're going to—" Just then a soft thud resounded as Athrun, with Cagalli in his arms, lost his balance and landed on the soft sand of the beach, narrowly missing the hard steps. "—fall—Ouch.."
But Cagalli did not mind as she snuggled against the crook of Athrun's neck. He could feel her tears as she continued to cry, her fist pounding against his chest. "Jerk! I can't believe I'm marrying an arrogant man like you!"
Athrun brought his arms around Cagalli's frame sprawled on top of him and endearingly ran his hand on her short golden hair. He looked down at her. "So... I guess it's a yes?"
Cagalli, still revelling in the comfort of feeling Athrun's chest rumble when he spoke, smiled and nodded. When Athrun did not reply, she propped herself up with her elbows and looked directly into his deep emerald orbs. "Yes, I'm going to marry you, Athrun Zala."
Athrun grabbed her shoulders and pulled her against him for a kiss. His lips vigorously sought hers, teasing, biting, stroking the flame within her as he kissed her in a way he had never done before. His arms tightened around her, entangling in her hair.
Just as suddenly, he pulled away, slightly breathless. He marvelled at the adorable flush of her cheeks which he traced with his finger. "Cagalli, I love you," he whispered.
She smiled as she pinched his cheek affectionately. "I love you too, Athrun."
Athrun sat up carefully, taking Cagalli with him to sit on his lap. Gently, he took her left hand and slipped the engagement ring on her finger. She examined it and nodded her approval.
Curiously, Cagalli watched as Athrun averted his eyes to glance back, his voice hesitant when he spoke, "Cagalli? There's another thing I would like to ask."
She tilted her head, "What is it?"
Athrun's emerald orbs returned to look at her, suddenly determined. He squeezed her hand. "Cagalli, I hope you don't mind marrying me now?"
Cagalli's jaw almost dropped. "Now?" she echoed disbelievingly. "How—"
The 'How' part was suddenly answered when the once darkened part of the beach behind Athrun flooded with light as several brightly colored paper lanterns sprang to life. At the center was a simple makeshift wooden arch adorned with white daisies and light blue and yellow paper lanterns where Reverend Malchio stood.
She gasped as she recognized her friends and those close to her standing on either side of the arch.
Mwu La Fllaga whistled beside his wife, Murrue, who was holding their already sleepy-looking four year old boy. "I was afraid you'd skip the wedding and go straight to the honeymoon!"
Both Athrun and Cagalli blushed.
She then noticed Kisaka. "Kisaka! I thought you were going to a wedding of a close..." she trailed off, her eyes widening when her loyal bodyguard merely nodded and smiled at her.
"We wouldn't miss your wedding, Cagalli," Kisaka replied as he patted a solemn Afhmed beside him. Afhmed sighed deeply and offered her a thumbs-up and a small smile.
Cagalli blinked back the tears that threatened to fall.
Miriallia was crying as she tried to steady her hands holding a camera. Trying to console his fiancée was Dearka. Beside the tan commander was Yzak who wore a satisfied smirk and gave her an encouraging nod. Beside Yzak was Nicol who was sitting behind a portable piano, waving happily at them.
Slowly, Cagalli looked back at Athrun who was watching her reaction closely. She shook her head and bit her lower lip, "B-but Athrun I can't marry you right now—I mean, what about Kira? I need to at least have my brother's permission—"
She felt a hand on her shoulder and when she looked up, she found the smiling face of her twin brother. "Cagalli," Kira said as he helped his sister to stand. "I'm allowing you to marry Athrun."
She faced her brother disbelievingly. "That's it? You agreed too easily!"
Kira glanced at Athrun who stood beside his twin. "Well, Athrun had sincerely asked for my blessing at least two weeks ago. After a serious talk, I gave in. "
"Two weeks ago?" Cagalli slapped a hand to her forehead and glared at the blue-haired coordinator. "You've planned this all along?!"
Athrun merely smiled.
"Still!" Cagalli threw her arms exasperatedly. "I can't marry you now— I'm still wearing my Representative's uniform! And—And.. don't you have traditions like the bride must have something old, blue and borrowed?"
"Don't worry about that!" said a woman's voice behind her.
"Lunamaria! Stellar too!" Cagalli gasped.
Stellar bowed slightly, an apologetic expression on her face, "Stellar apologizes for not having a wedding dress prepared! Stellar and Lunamaria did not know that today was Miss Cagalli's wedding. But Stellar promises to make Miss Cagalli the most beautiful gown for your public wedding!"
Lunamaria rubbed hair mousse against her palms and she ran her fingers in Cagalli's hair to smooth out the ends. She offered a sheepish smile. "We are really sorry Cagalli that this is all we can offer." The magenta-haired woman snuck a glare at the Chairman before continuing in a whisper. "We are just surprised as you are! If it were up to us, we would have brought a whole trailer of dresses and make-up!"
Clapping her hands together, Stellar suddenly lightened up as she tugged on Cagalli's maroon jacket. "At least let Stellar remove Cagalli's jacket! Cagalli would look better without it!"
Cagalli nodded and removed her jacket, leaving her in her white dress shirt and maroon pants. She shook her head and bit her lower lip. "B-But—"
"Here's something borrowed," Lacus suddenly joined in. On her hands was a long white veil with lace detailing at the edges. She smiled as she secured the soft silk tulle on the blonde's hair. Cagalli did not protest. "This is the veil I used when I married Kira."
"Lacus," Cagalli whispered, her eyes unsure.
The pink-haired songstress smoothened the veil to fall fluidly on her sister-in-law's frame. She squeezed her hand. "Everything will be fine."
Cagalli closed her eyes and squeezed Lacus's hand back.
When Cagalli opened her eyes, she was greeted by a beautiful bouquet of light blue and white daisies wrapped in a silk ribbon. She glanced up to meet the beautiful green eyes of the girl—no, she was now a young lady—who was holding the flowers. "Lenore.."
The blue-haired adoptive sister of Athrun grinned widely as she took Cagalli's hand to place the bouquet. "Here's your something blue! I cultivated these myself just for this day! Brother said you loved Daisies and then I reckoned that he loved the color blue so I tried to merge those two."
And Cagalli couldn't help but bend down to hug the young lady. "Thank you, Lenore."
"You're very welcome, Cagalli!" Lenore replied as she returned the hug, her eyes watering. "I only wish happiness for you and my dear brother."
From the sides, Lacus rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "Now, we are only missing something old."
"I have one," Cagalli answered as she absentmindedly touched the crest she had pinned on the collar of her white dress shirt that morning. "I have my father's old Attha crest."
Lacus nodded with a smile. "Now you're set."
Under her veil, she looked around and saw the encouraging smiles of Lacus, Lenore, Stellar and Lunamaria. When she turned around, she saw her brother Kira giving Athrun a light shove towards her.
Athrun walked towards her and offered his hand, his emerald orbs warm and gentle. "You look beautiful."
Cagalli averted her eyes, her cheeks pink as she accepted Athrun's hand. "I'm not even wearing the most proper wedding attire."
"It doesn't matter." Athrun replied as he pulled her closer to him. "I would still marry you no matter what."
"So, we're really going to do this?" Cagalli asked, a contented smile on her face.
Athrun squeezed the hand draped on his arm, as he gazed at his fiancée and—in a few moments—soon-to-be wife, a similar contented smile on his lips. "I think five years is already enough, I wouldn't be able to wait much longer."
Cagalli stifled a laugh from under her veil just as Nicol began playing a familiar tune on the piano—a tune she first heard on a night like this played on a violin. Cagalli paused, allowing the notes to linger as memories from long ago came back to her.
Gently, Athrun led her towards the arch where Reverend Malchio waited. She matched his footsteps, a smile on her lips as she sighed, "Let's get married then."
Athrun smiled in return, a beautiful true smile.
It was far from the grandiose wedding she almost had with Yuuna Roma Seiran. Only Miriallia had a camera compared to the televised event five years ago. Their wedding rings were carried by Mwu and Murrue's little boy who almost ran away screaming for sleep instead of the top official of the ORB Military. After, they would be eating the late dinner Lacus and Murrue prepared instead of a fully catered banquet.
But on that warm summer night of the full moon, Cagalli Yula Attha, still clad in her Orb Representative uniform creased from sitting all day, was married to a barefooted Athrun Zala in a simple ceremony by the beach, attended by their family and close friends.
And it was perfect.
Six years later
Small footsteps echoed though the carpeted hallways of the Attha Mansion as the four year old Elizabeth Zala made her way to her mother's office. She stopped in front of a set of Mahogany doors, not intimidated by their size, and knocked hard with her little fist. Upon hearing her mother's voice, she tiptoed and grasped the golden doorknob and pushed the doors open.
Her mother, Chief Representative Cagalli Yula Attha-Zala, stood up behind her desk, her attention shifting from her documents to her little daughter. "Is there something you need, Lizie?"
Elizabeth nodded as she stood in front her mother, her emerald orbs determined. "Mama, I want to go horseback riding."
Cagalli's eyebrows furrowed as she peered at Elizabeth. "You know your father wouldn't allow that." She watched as the younger blonde bit her lower lip."Now, why don't you just go and play with your cousin? I'm sure Mana can accompany you to your Aunt Lacus."
"But they're at PLANTs!" Elizabeth wailed as she fisted her green dress. "Hiro said he and Aunt Lacus and Uncle Kira were going to Junius City this week for Aunt Lacus's concert!"
"Oh." Kneeling in front of her daughter, Cagalli tucked a strand of Elizabeth's blonde hair that escaped her pigtails behind her ear. "How about playing with the kids at the Orphanage? Reverend Malchio must be there."
Her daughter adamantly shook her head. "I don't want to!"
"How about playing the piano? Or violin?" Cagalli tried. "You were studying a piece for your father's birthday right?"
Emerald eyes just like her father's widened in alarm. "That was supposed to be a surprise, Mama!"
Quickly, Cagalli placed a hand on her lips. "Then it will be our secret!"
Elizabeth pulled on her pigtails as she whispered, "Don't tell Papa but I've finished practicing already!"
Cagalli nodded and smiled. There was no need to tell her daughter that it was Athrun who discovered their daughter's sleeping form hugging her violin, surrounded by music sheet with the words "For Papa's Birthday!" scribbled on every page.
Still, if there was one thing Elizabeth Zala inherited from her mother aside from her blonde hair, it was her stubbornness. "But Mama, I really, really, really want to go horseback riding!" Her eyes were wide and pleading. "Please Mama, I really want to learn how to ride Aegis as soon as possible!" She sniffed, her small hands holding on to her mother. "Grandpa will be really sad if he learns that I haven't taken Aegis out for months!"
Aegis was a beautiful white pony given by Elizabeth's grandfather, Patrick Zala, during her fourth birthday. The gift had surprised both Cagalli and Athrun because Patrick Zala never called nor visited even once. She knew he was not happy when Athrun married her and chose to stay in Orb but the older man never voiced his protest and instead opted to continue living quietly in December City.
Aegis was delivered by a messenger, only accompanied by a simple note that read: 'Happy Birthday, Elizabeth. From Your Grandfather, Patrick Zala.' Athrun had immediately called his father. It was a short conversation between father and son, Patrick even refused to speak to a thrilled Elizabeth, but Cagalli knew that something had changed for the better after that. Cagalli was hopeful that little by little, Patrick would open up to them.
Stroking her chin, Cagalli tried to think of another option. "Okay, how about this? Why don't we wait for your father so that he can teach you?" She knew how to ride a horse but Athrun was a better teacher.
Elizabeth shook her head. "But Papa's always busy!" Her eyes lit with excitement "Mama, why don't you accompany me? We don't need to bring Aegis, we can just ride Akatsuki!" Akatsuki was one of the handsome brown horses in the Attha stables. "Let's just ride through the forest, Mama! You don't even need to teach me anything!"
Furrowing her eyebrows, Cagalli considered the idea. She was getting bored of reading the documents and a good exercise might just help her get back on track.
Elizabeth pouted, her emerald eyes wide with unshed tears. Cagalli tried her best not to give in but even Athrun, the more Disciplinarian of the two, had difficulty when faced with their daughter's puppy eyes. "I'll hold on to you really tight, Mama, I promise! I'll be a good girl, Mama!"
The little girl continued, clasping her small hands together. "Please Mama? Just an hour? We'll be back even before Papa comes home!"
Finally, Cagalli massaged her temples, sighing in defeat. Athrun would be mad if he finds out. "Don't tell your father,okay?"
Elizabeth squealed in joy.
"On the other hand, we should have told your father," Cagalli muttered, holding her trembling daughter closer to her as they sat underneath a big tree.
They were enjoying the ride through the forest behind the Attha Mansion, both blondes laughing happily when suddenly, the first pitter patter of rain fell—slowly at first— that immediately gained strength. Cagalli tried to maneuver the horse back to the mansion but suddenly, a bolt of lightning struck a tree near them, causing Akatsuki to panic and bolt away, throwing both riders from its back.
Cagalli held her daughter tightly against her chest as she shielded her from the hard landing. The woman grunted painfully, her back hitting a protruding root, her ankle twisting on impact. Carefully, she dragged herself and her daughter towards the tree where they currently sought shelter.
"Mama," Elizabeth cried, her wet hair splayed on her face, free from her pigtails, framing her wide emerald eyes. "I'm scared."
Rubbing her daughter's back soothingly, she whispered softly, "Hush now, Lizie. Everything will be alright."
Elizabeth sniffed and nodded.
Cagalli glanced at the sky. The rain was now reduced to a drizzle. They should really start walking back home now before it became too dark once the sun sets. Carefully, she tried to move her legs but instantly winced. Her left ankle was starting swell, it would be a challenge to walk.
"Will Papa come to save us?" Elizabeth whispered.
Cagalli continued to soothe her daughter. "Of course he will." Silently, she prayed for Athrun to come.
The sounds of hooves were heard by both blondes and they sat straighter, straining their ears to locate its source. Relief flooded Cagalli as a white horse came into view, galloping towards them purposefully.
Elizabeth jumped to her feet, her hands waving excitedly. "It's Justice! Papa! Over here! Papa!"
Athrun pulled the reins over Justice, stopping in front of his wife and daughter. Promptly, he disembarked, knelt and caught the running form of his daughter in his wide open arms.
"Papa! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" Elizabeth sobbed, her face buried against her father's chest. "I'm sorry Papa!"
Gently, he pushed his daughter to look at her, his eyes stern. "This will not happen again. Am I understood, Elizabeth?" Athrun only called his daughter by her full name when making a point.
Head bowed in apology, Elizabeth answered in a small voice, "Yes, Papa, I promise."
Briefly, his eyes flickered to Cagalli, as if directing the question to her. Cagalli swallowed thickly, and nodded. She knew he would be dealing with her later.
Athrun searched his daughter for any injuries. Upon finding none, his eyes softened. "I'm just glad you're alright. Although," his eyes searched Cagalli and he grimaced upon observing her awkward sitting posture. "Your mother is injured."
Instantly, Elizabeth's emerald orbs widened and she ran towards her mother, hugging her. "Mama! I'm sorry! I love you, Mama! I'm sorry!"
Cagalli hugged her daughter back. "It's okay, Lizie. Mama will be fine in no time, okay?"
Both parents gazed at their daughter silently as she continued to sob, her grip tight on her mother. Cagalli continued to rub her daughter's back until her sobs quieted down, her grip slipping, and slowly silenced. Suddenly alarmed, she peered at her daughter's limp form draped against her, eyes closed.
Athrun came over and gently laid Elizabeth's small body beside her mother. "Don't worry, she just fell asleep from exhaustion," he assured her.
Nodding, Cagalli refused to meet his searching green eyes. He sighed as he looked down and brushed a strand of blonde hair from his daughter's forehead. "I was so worried," he spoke, voice soft with a bare hint of fear. "I come home finding my wife and daughter gone—and no one could tell me where they were."
She bit her lip and finally met his eyes. Slowly, she reached forward and drew her husband into her arms. "I'm so sorry, Athrun."
He shook his head against her shoulder, his arms tightening around her, pulling her closer as he inhaled the minty scent of her hair she has loved since long ago. "I'm just glad you two are all right. He shifted and placed a soft kiss on her forehead.
Pulling a handkerchief from his pocket, he then carefully wrapped Cagalli's swollen ankle. Satisfied with his work, he carried her back to the awaiting horse and went back for his daughter, placing her in her mother's arms. He mounted the horse behind his wife, his arms encircling Cagalli and Elizabeth.
The rain had finally stopped and they made their way home slowly. Cagalli was contented with the silence as she leaned back against Athrun's strong chest, his heartbeat drumming steadily against her ear. She inhaled the distinct scent of laundry soap and gun powder on his Orb Military Uniform, and she smiled.
She felt more than heard Athrun clearing his throat. "Lizie is getting lonely, isn't she?"
Cagalli glanced at the sleeping little blonde in her arms—marvelling at how someone could be so much like her and yet so much like Athrun too. She was a bubbling ball of pure energy, naturally inquisitive, her big emerald orbs looking at the world always curious. She ran a hand on her daughter's long blonde hair. "She misses Hiro, he is like her older brother, after all."
The relationship between Kira's son Hiro and her daughter Elizabeth had always made her think that it must have been the same relationship she and Kira could have shared if they hadn't been separated at birth.
There was a pause, before Athrun spoke again. "Maybe she would like to have a younger brother? Or sister?"
Cagalli glanced up to meet Athrun's warm emerald orbs, the corner of his lips quirked in a smile. Her eyes widened. "Y-You don't mean to say...?"
"I'm saying," and he leaned down, his mouth close to her ear, teasing her with his warm breath and blue hair on her cheeks. "I think it's time to give Elizabeth a sibling."
Her mouth hung open for a moment before breaking into a grin, her eyes sparkling. Athrun held his breath—she was beautiful. "Alright."
Athrun grinned and adjusted his grip on the reins. "Hold on tight, we should hurry." He winked, "We do want to get started as soon as possible, don't we?"
Athrun laughed as he watched Cagalli blushing brightly, their daughter Elizabeth sleeping soundly in her arms, not minding her mother spluttering—even after six years of marriage—that Athrun Zala keep your perverted thoughts to yourself!
And Athrun had never been happier.
I can't believe we have finally reached the end. I am forever grateful to everyone who read, reviewed, PM-ed, followed, favorited, found me on YM/Friendster/FB through this story's 9 year roller coaster journey. Thank you very much! Special thanks to the AsuCaga Forever Facebook groups for always keeping the fandom alive.
Thoughts on the last chapter:
I have always dreamed of writing a Cagalli-Yzak friendship scene. Thank goodness the almost 5 years time skip allowed me to do just that.
This epilogue evolved a lot from what I had previously envisioned. Originally, it was just supposed to end with Athrun and Cagalli seeing each other at the beach. Instead, it mutated to a sappy. cheesy end. I hope you're still with me. :)
Sadly, None. I had wanted to wrap everything up with this chapter that I see no reason to write a sequel. I am quite satisfied with this ending :)
Future AsuCaga projects?
As of this moment, I am now semi-retiring from Fanfiction writing. Life has decided to move forward even years before, only I kept going back because I didn't have the heart to leave this story hanging. Now that it is done, I am ready to move on :)
I will still be reading Fanfiction (I don't think I'll be able to function normally if I don't read). Maybe I'll pop in a one-shot once in awhile, who knows?
Again, thank you thank you, thank you very much for all your support! :)
Cue in Ending Song: Find the Way by Mika Nakashima~