Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam SEED.
She tiptoed quietly; stealth was very important for a mission such as this. She heard shuffling from the east wing and after a moment's contemplation, quickly ducked behind one of the wide columns in the vast hallway and waited with bated breath.
The sound of footsteps came closer and she pressed herself on the column and covered her mouth to drown out the sound of her heavy breathing.
"Spread out. Search every room in this mansion."
She heard more shuffling and after a few seconds, all was quiet. She risked a glance behind her hiding place and she was happy to see that the guards were gone. She strained her ears for movement and after making sure that there were no more guards in the vicinity, came out from behind the column and walked towards the door.
She was mentally congratulating herself for having evaded those sentries, when someone grabbed her hand. She yelped in surprise and punched the man on the shoulder.
She was preparing to run for it when the grip tightened and she was forced to look in her captor's eyes.
Amused, emerald orbs met her defiant, amber-colored ones. "Athrun?"
Athrun Zala was wearing an amused expression on his normally stoic face. "There you are, Cagalli."
Cagalli Yula Athha flashed him a weak smile. "You almost gave me a heart attack," she croaked.
"Come, on. You're going to be late," Athrun stated. She felt Athrun gently tug at her hand, and feeling the after-effects of the adrenaline rush, let herself be led back into her room.
She took a deep breath to calm her nerves. After regaining her composure, she pulled back. But Athrun's grip was strong. "Hey! You're supposed to be siding with me, not joining forces with them!"
By them, he meant the other staff that was hell-bent on forcing her to wear a dress. Athrun stopped walking and turned to regard her with amused eyes.
Cagalli felt uncomfortable. He was looking at her like that again. "What?" she asked irritably.
"Mana's waiting for you," he said simply. He gestured at the door in front of them and she was surprised that they already reached her room.
She stared dumbly at the door. Athrun chuckled and opened the door for her. She gulped nervously when she saw a very furious Mana standing at the doorway. But what made her even more wary was the dress laid oh-so-innocently on top of her bed.
Mana pulled her inside the bedroom. "Let's go, Princess Cagalli. We need to hurry up if you want to catch the parade. Thank you, Alex."
Cagalli was amazed at Mana's strength. But to hell with it, now was not the time to ponder on where the heck Mana got her strength. She threw a helpless gaze at Athrun, but he just smiled and waved at her before closing the door.
"Athrun!" That blue-haired Coordinator was so dead.
"The dress looks good on you," Athrun commented as she stomped into the waiting car.
She ignored him completely. He practically delivered him into the enemy's arms! She slumped in her seat and stared stonily ahead.
Athrun slid in the car and chuckled. "We can go now, Kazuma," he told the driver.
"Very well, Mr. Alex," the driver nodded and drove out of the Athha estate. The scenes blurred around them and Cagalli couldn't hold her mouth anymore.
She opened her mouth, when Athrun beat her to it. "You look pretty in that dress, Cagalli," he said quietly, with a faint blush on his cheeks. She was wearing a green dress similar to that which the Desert Tiger himself gave her. She didn't know how Mana was able to get this but she could care less. Heck, her hair was in an up-do like that time, too.
"I'm not supposed to look 'pretty'," she grumbled. "I'm supposed to look respectable, serious, calm and level-headed ... like a Prime Minister. Not ditzy and glamorous like a Princess."
Athrun laughed at that. "I'm sorry, Prime Minister Athha. But in my opinion, the purple suit that you have come to love is not suitable for an occasion such as this."
Cagalli turned to look at him. Well, he was partly right. They were going to a celebratory parade, not a political one. But still... "I'm just worried that people won't take me seriously if I dress like this," she admitted in a small voice.
"Your people love you very much, Cagalli. They put their trust in you completely," he assured her as he shyly held her hand.
She looked at their intertwined fingers and smiled genuinely at him. "I forgive you for delivering me right into the enemy's hands."
She laughed at the highly confused look that appeared on Athrun's face.
Cagalli was having fun, despite herself. The warm welcome that her people gave her made her forget that she was wearing a dress in the heat of the sun. She stole a glance at the person beside her. Athrun, or more appropriately, Alex, still as handsome as ever, was playing the role of the perfect bodyguard.
Athrun looked at her and gave her a smile. His smile that was reserved only for her.
She blushed and forced herself to look away. She pasted a reverend smile on her face and went back to waving to the parade-goers.
Suddenly, she heard several people scream, "You Coordinator-lovers should also go to hell! For the preservation of our blue and pure world!"
There was a commotion and she heard gunshots. It all happened so fast. One minute, she was standing, the next she was practically kissing the ground.
Another gunshot. And then she felt a dead weight on top of her. Blood was pouring from an open wound on Athrun's stomach.
"Cagalli... s-sorry..." he managed to blurt out before he lost consciousness.
"Athrun!" she looked around desperately for help. "Help! Please!"
A man clad in black approached her. "No need to worry, ma'am. We have the situation under control. The suspects have been apprehended."
"Call an ambulance!" she pleaded.
The man gave her a confused look. "Are you injured, Lady Athha?"
Cagalli felt like pulling her hair out. "Are you blind! My bodyguard is injured, not me! He got hit in the stomach!"
The guard looked at Athrun and, realizing his mistake, immediately called for the medics.
The EMTs rushed to their side and quickly attended to Athrun. They loaded him in a stretcher and put him in the ambulance.
She was about to enter the vehicle when one of the medics stopped her. "We'll take it from here," he said curtly.
Then the ambulance revved forward leaving her behind. She felt someone's hand on her shoulders and when she looked up, she saw Kisaka standing there with concern written all over his face.
She couldn't control herself anymore. She broke into tears.
'This is not happening...' she thought despairingly. She was sitting in the lobby of the hospital, waiting anxiously for the doctor to tell her about Athrun's condition. She was still wearing her green dress, but it looked anything but pretty. It was torn in some places; dried blood was caked in the fabric, along with dirt and ash. Her hair was disheveled and her eyes were red and puffy from crying.
To say that she was worried would be an understatement.
She looked anything but a Princess or even a Prime Minister, now. Kisaka and the others insisted that she change first before going to the hospital but she stubbornly refused. A couple of her other bodyguards were waiting with her in the hospital lobby. Kisaka was busy answering questions from the press. Questions that she, as the Prime Minister, should be answering.
'Well, so much for being calm and level-headed,' she thought dryly. She knew that it wasn't her fault, that Athrun was just doing his job. But still, she blamed herself. If only she'd been alert enough to sense that something was wrong. If only she saw that gun aimed for her. If only she'd been quick enough to move out of the way. If only... if only...
She immediately stood up when she heard the door to the emergency room open. She rushed to the doctor's side. "How is he?"
The doctor gave her a tired grin. "Don't worry, Princess Cagalli. Your bodyguard will be fine. He's still unconscious from the anesthesia. But I'm guessing he'll come to by this time tomorrow," he assessed. "You seem terribly concerned about him. Well, I guess maybe it's because you're almost the same age, huh?"
Cagalli nodded mutely. Only one thing invaded her thoughts. 'Athrun's gonna be okay...'
After much persuasion on Kisaka's part, Cagalli finally agreed to go home and get changed. Now, she didn't look as disheveled as before. She stared uncertainly at the door to Athrun's room.
"What are you waiting for, Cagalli?" she heard Kisaka ask her. She was contemplating whether it was okay for her to enter or not. "The doctor said it was alright," Kisaka added, as if reading her thoughts.
She sighed and pushed the door open. She saw Athrun, flipping through the channels. When Athrun saw her, he broke into a relieved smile. "Thank God, you're okay. I was so worried about you."
'You're the one lying in bed covered in bandages and all this time you were worried about me?' she thought in disbelief. She stood there unmoving, near the doorway. She didn't trust herself to speak.
Kisaka gently pushed her towards Athrun. "I'll be heading out, now. I'll visit again sometime. Take care of yourself, Athrun."
Athrun thanked Kisaka as he went out the door. Athrun then turned to her. "You're awfully quiet today."
She stared at him and felt herself flush at the sight of Athrun's well-toned chest. She mentally reprimanded herself. 'Get a hold of yourself, Cagalli! It's not like this is your first time seeing him half-naked. And he's injured, for God's sake!' She shook her head to clear her thoughts.
Athrun looked at her, puzzled at her actions. "Cagalli...?"
She looked at Athrun's torso and this time, instead of blushing, she frowned. Athrun's pale skin was flawless, save for a few scars marring his features and the bandages covering the nasty wound.
She bowed her head in guilt and shame as she recalled how he got those scars.
'Great. Just great! I'm stuck in a god-forsaken island with no supplies and no connection to the outside world!' she thought angrily as she made her way to the forest.
She had just been shot down on her second sortie. Oh joy. 'Commander La Fllaga must be laughing his butt off by now.' It was all because of that ZAFT transport plane. 'Why can't they just sit still and let me shoot them?'
She was surprised to see sunlight streaming in front of her. Only a few minutes' walk and she was out of the forest. 'It's a small island...'
She walked towards the light. 'What the hell? It's that mobile suit!' "ZAFT!" she whispered. She quickly took out her gun and aimed at the soldier. Without hesitation, she shot him, hitting him on his left shoulder.
"If you don't pull that trigger, I will," he said threateningly.
She couldn't kill him. Not when he'd been so nice to her. He could've killed her, right from the start. But he didn't. He even went as far as to untie her and give her food. "Kuso!" she yelled, throwing the loaded gun in the process, not thinking that the gun might fire.
Well, fire it did. She heard a gunshot and felt someone push her to the ground. "Are you stupid? Why would you throw a loaded gun? Geez!" he exclaimed exasperatedly.
'He saved me from being hurt? Why? Is he that stupid? Is he that nice?' Only one word came out of her mouth, "G-gomen..."
He rolled off her and that was when she noticed blood on his left side. 'He took the shot for me... why?'
"Does it hurt?" she asked tentatively.
He turned to look at her. "No... Your necklace saved me."
She sighed inwardly. 'What an idiot. And Coordinators were supposed to be smart.' She wasn't talking about that. "It must hurt... to be shot by one's own father..."
And now, another scar was forming in his stomach because of her. He took another shot meant for her. He risked his life because of her.
Cagalli looked at Athrun's confused stare. It was her fault. Almost all those scars were from her. There was even a bruise forming on his right shoulder where she punched him yesterday.
"G-gomen!" she blurted out, just like the way she did on the island, one year ago.
Athrun blinked. "For what?"
"For all the scars that I gave you!" Cagalli cried. She knelt beside Athrun's bed and buried her face in the sheets. "Ever since we met on the island, all I ever did was hurt you. You almost died yesterday because of me! I feel so bad!"
"I'm sorry," Athrun said softly, while stroking her hair.
This time, it was Cagalli who was dumb-founded. She whipped her head up and stared quizzically into his eyes. "Huh?"
"For making you feel so bad."
"Now wait just a goddamn second. I'm the one who should be apologizing here, not you. Stop doing that! Blaming every little thing on yourself!"
Athrun chuckled. "I should say the same to you."
"But, I gave you those scars... I hurt you, countless times..."
Athrun sighed and looked deeply into her eyes. "Cagalli, I'm a soldier. Scars and wounds are normal, everyday occurrences," he said seriously. There was no mocking in his tone, only a plea for her to understand that none of it was her fault.
She pondered the thought for a moment.
Athrun, sensing her hesitation, took on a different approach. "But as for hurting me... well, my body's trained for all the physical torture that you subject me to," he teased.
"I'm sorry, Athrun," she said softly. "Really, I am. Just say that you forgive me and we'll forget this happened."
Athrun sighed. "Okay, I forgive you... But Cagalli, remember what I said before? In space? I'll protect you, Cagalli. And I did just that."
Cagalli wiped the tears in her eyes with the back of her hand. How could she forget. "Yes, I remember that."
"These scars, I don't want to have them erased Cagalli. These are memories... promises. They are very important to me, they make me remember. They make me remember the time we first met and the promise I made, that I'll protect you," he explained. "So put your pretty little head to rest. I'm not blaming anyone, so why should you?"
At that realization, Cagalli decided that the soon-to-be scar on his stomach should also be a memorable one. And she knew just how to do that. "I love you, Athrun."
From then on, Athrun would always remember the first time she said those three words. Then, as an afterthought, she shyly brought her lips to his.
And he'd also remember the first time she initiated a kiss.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Just a litter AC fluff that's been playing around my mind!
Reviews would be nice! (hint, hint)