Title: I Ran Away from You
Author: the Black Rose
Pairing: Athrun x Lacus
Fandom: Gundam Seed
Theme: #11, Gardenia
Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Seed. This fanfiction has no commercial value and I am not making any kind of profit or income off of this story, or the use of characters owned by Sunrise and Bandai.

I Ran Away From You
By the Black Rose

Rain fell in a grey curtain just beyond the edge of Lacus's umbrella. Drops of water clung to the ends of the umbrella's metal spokes for several seconds before the PLANTs gravity pulled them down - only to be replaced and begin the cycle anew. The grass practically sang while it soaked up the nutrients. A fresh, green scent filled the air, and reminded the young woman that rain didn't have to be sad….

'It's not just an end. It's a beginning as well.'

Lacus stepped forward; her shoes splished through small puddles near her feet. She bent over the left side of the grave and placed the bouquet of gardenias at the foot of the headstone.

"It's very nice to see you again. Mrs. Zala." She straightened up, taking the umbrella with her. "I'm sorry it's been so long since the last time."

The world inside the umbrella felt calm and cool. A gentle tap of raindrops against the protective fabric was really the only sound she could hear.

"I couldn't bring Athrun again. But I know he misses you, and thinks of you often…." She swallowed and tightened her grasp on the umbrella. "I'm afraid he spends too much time alone."

The sound of water spraying – from rubber slicing through the puddles of rain – invaded her tiny haven. Lacus turned her head and saw his car come to a quick stop in the parking area for the gravesite. Her breath caught in her throat. "Athrun…"

She glanced down. Long blades of grass stood still; their stalks gathered beads of water until the drops ran together and flowed to the heart of the plant.

Running footsteps beat against slick concrete. Splish splish splish splish splosh! They stopped.

"Lacus! I've been looking all over for you."

She swallowed air and it burned all the way down her throat. The young woman opened her mouth to say something in response, but the words fled from her mind before they were even fully formed.

"What are you doing here?" He sounded like he was far away. She looked up. The rain continued to fall in silvery sheets between them - at times it was so thick, Athrun almost disappeared.

"Answer me, Lacus. What are you doing here?"

He sounded so angry. What was there to be angry about?

'The letter.' Lacus thought. She blinked and Athrun's face came back into focus. He wasn't a great distance away after all. She could see his green eyes glaring right at her. His dark eyebrows pinched his face into a frown. Blue hair plastered itself to the skin of his cheeks and his forehead. He wore his maroon-colored uniform jacket, but she knew it was made of cloth – not something that would repel the rain.

"You said you were leaving." He took a step closer. "Leaving to go where?"

The curtain closed again; only the watercolor outline of her former fiancé remained visible.

It was peaceful…It was like standing under a waterfall; the only sound was the quiet rush of the rain…. She moved closer to Mrs. Zala's final resting place. Athrun was angry with her. Angry because of the letter. But what had she done but finally tried to tell him—

"Dammit, Lacus - say something!"


Athrun's voice cracked on the last word. How long had he been searching for her? Two hours? Three? And when he finally found her… He grit his teeth at the faraway look on Lacus's face, and felt the urge to grab her by the shoulders and shake.

He stepped forward, but her voice stopped him cold.

"I have always felt alone."

Athrun blinked. Water trickled down his face. "Wha—?"

"My parents were both wonderful people. I know they loved me." The ends of her pink hair stuck to the back of her navy dress. The color, he thought, looked too somber on her - her skin appeared to be almost white by comparison.

"My father, whenever he could be around, would tell me how important I was to him." She bowed her head. "How much he cared about me."

"He gave his life for me."

"Lacus, I…" Athrun swallowed.

"My mother… I know she still looks down and watches over me from heaven." Lacus raised her head to stare up at the sky. The umbrella tilted back, and he could see the raindrops hit her cheeks.

"I never really knew her, but I like to believe I could always feel her love, too." Her voice sounded patient, detached – as if she was in another world. Another world where everything was perfect and calm, while he felt like the ragged survivor of an emotional storm.

"Why are you—"

"And so I grew up, with two parents that loved me, and many people who proclaimed affection for me at some point in my life. I believed them." The umbrella was back in place – protecting her from the drizzle. "And I felt their love for me. How could someone want or need more?" Lacus held out her left hand; her fingers beckoned raindrops to land on their tips

'She sounds…so sad.'

"But even though I knew how loved I was, I was never very good at convincing my heart to believe something other than what it felt."

'What does that mean?'

"And so I was still alone."

The rain continued to fall in dismal, grey sheets. Drops of water collected in the crevices between his eyes and the bridge of his nose. He blinked them away. She lowered the umbrella and let it rest on the ground. His fiancée, ex-fiancée, whatever she was…propped the handle up on the stone that marked his mother's grave.

No longer protected, the rain wasted no time in assaulting her hair, her skin, her clothes… "Lacus?"

"You were a gift to me in many ways."

Athrun felt all the air rush out of his lungs.

"Even just the knowledge that you existed was an unexpected offering. My father told me that I would marry you, and it was so startling… I felt elated! Like someone had just given me the gift I wished for most in the world."

His mouth went dry.

"I was so young then… But for the first time, it was as if I wouldn't have to be alone. There would be someone beside me. Someone to listen, to understand…

"I became impatient to meet you. That day…that first day I remember… You became real."

-

"I'm…I'm Athrun Zala. Your…that is…I mean… I'm your fiancé."

Lacus Clyne, the pop idol and very pretty girl gave him a beautiful smile. "It's nice to meet you, Athrun Zala. I'm delighted, really."

"Y-you are?"

"Of course!" Her eyes brightened, and Athrun couldn't help but feel…something tug his own mouth into a grin.

"It's so exciting to meet someone for the first time. And especially someone who I'll be seeing so much of." She tilted her head and seemed to be observing him. Her smile fell away. "Well, I suppose that won't be for a while, though."

"N-no. Not for a long time. At least, I hope."

"You…hope?" Her eyebrows pinched together in the center of her forehead. She didn't look angry, just…

"I! I-I didn't mean it like that. I just meant—"

"I understand." Her features relaxed again. "We're still both very young."

"Thank you," he said as she turned to lead him inside her house.

"For what?"

"For understanding…what I meant."

-

"You were amazing then."

Athrun stared. 'Then? What was I then except a tongue-tied idiot who was mad at his father for making that decision for me? It was you—'

"You're still the same…"

'No. No, I'm not. I've changed. But, so have you.'

"…and yet so different, now. I admired you - how honest you were. About everything." She wrapped her arms around her and spoke to something in the distance he couldn't see. "It didn't matter if you said the wrong thing at times or even very often. I admired that you always tried to speak what was in your heart. It never hurt my feelings. Because I knew you wouldn't hurt a single person."

'That isn't true, either. I've hurt…many people in my lifetime.'

"You wanted to help them. You wanted to protect them."

"But, I—"

"I saw immediately how kind you were. I listened to you speak of your mother and father…the people you knew at school. It was all so amazing to me, though you often apologized for boring me." Her voice fluctuated; at times, it sounded strong – like it was straining to be heard. Then, it would drop to something low and melancholy.

"It was a life I didn't have."

Athrun shut his eyes and felt some powerful emotion with sharpened claws tear into his chest.

"Perhaps one that should have been given to me – the everyday challenges of school, wondering if people liked me or were different… But that wasn't my life."

'Lacus…' Athrun opened his eyes again. She had turned around, finally, and stood facing him. Drops of water traced paths down her cheeks, and he couldn't tell if all of them were because of the rain…

"I envied the normalcy your parents gave you. At least, the life your mother tried her best to give you. I know you said that losing her broke your father in ways he could never be repaired. Not just his heart, you said, but also his soul.

"You forgot it did the same to yours."

He looked away and his eyes found his mother's headstone.

"It killed a part of you - that you hadn't been there; that you didn't die when she was killed. She took part of you with her, and for the longest time…" Her voice lowered to something he could just barely make out over the constant hush of the rain. "I thought she'd taken your kindness."

Athrun'shead snapped back to look at her, but she had turned away from him again.

"The way she took your father's."

"It wasn't her. He was the one—"

"But when I saw you again… I knew that it was still there – buried beneath the guilt and the anger. You didn't want to see it. And you didn't want to see me…"

-

"Athrun…" Lacus's voice sounded gentle, and she touched his arm just as gently. He wrenched out of her grasp.

"The people of Earth – do they have no heart? No conscience? They complain that Coordinators aren't really human. BUT WHAT ARE THEY?"

"They say that anger is an important part of the grieving process. I…cannot possibly imagine the way you're feeling right now. But I'd like to try…"

"They're monsters! How does anyone kill thousands, no, hundreds of thousands of peaceful civilians?"

"Athrun…"

He glanced up at her. "We didn't do anything wrong! Why, Lacus?" He grabbed her shoulders. "Can you give me an answer? Because nothing makes sense anymore. Nothing!"

"I'm so sorry." Tears slid down her cheeks. "I'd do anything to change it. I'd do anything to bring her ba—"

"You can't bring her back." He released her and turned away. "No one can bring her back. But I can make the people who killed her suffer."

"Athrun, that's not you speaking. You know that she'd want you to forgive—"

"You don't know me," he snapped. Athrun glared at the pink-haired girl beside him. "And I have nothing to say to sympathizers."

Her eyes grew wide. "Sympathizers?"

"I joined Zaft." Athrun snarled. "The entire Earth and its inhabitants are now my enemies. I advise you to remember that if you think we're going to be married someday." He turned on his heel and stomped away.

-

"Those words hurt me so deeply… I never told you."

"Lacus…"

"You were my gift. You gave me, whether you knew it at the time or not, you gave me companionship. You gave me hope. I believed in you from the moment I heard your name, till even now. I never lost my faith in you, in having a future with you. But I was sorry that day – at your mother's funeral – when I found out you had no such faith in me."

Athrun grit his teeth. 'I never apologized to her for that?'

"You said I didn't know you. But you were wrong.

"I knew exactly how many steps you took from your car to my front door. I knew every time which flowers you'd bring me – and that you would bring them, faithfully, whenever you came to visit. I knew by heart how many times you'd stammer your excuses why you couldn't stay. I knew which tie was your favorite, that you hated peas; I knew how much literature homework bored you, and what sonnet you had taped inside your locker door at school."

He stared at her.

"I knew what you dreamed of. And how much it hurt when your father turned away from you – precisely when you needed his support the most. I knew the lullaby your mother sang you as a child…."

Sleep my child and peace attend thee,
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee…

"I listened all those years. Whenever you spoke to me. I listened to the words you said, but more importantly, I listened to all the things you didn't say."

'I didn't say?'

"You never said you loved me. You never said you wanted to marry me."

"That was because—"

"I was…an inconvenient convenience. And the day your mother was buried was the same day I thought I buried my heart. Because whether you were beside me or somewhere, safe, 'out there'…as long as you belonged to me, then I wasn't alone." Her voice wavered and he could hear tears straining her words.

"From the day I found out you were mine…that I would be yours…"

"Lacus…"

"I didn't feel so alone anymore."