Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Seed/Destiny.
A/N: This chapter was written a long time ago, but I was initially dissatisfied with it. Honestly, I still am, but I do not have time to re-write. I feel that the characters seems so OOC and its teetering on the brink of sappiness. Please review, I love constructive criticism. Italicized texts are flashbacks.
Chapter 4: Repos Pour Les Fatigués (Rest for the Weary)
"Have you been here all this time?" Cagalli's head shot up at the sound of the voice and smiled apologetically to her new visitor.
"Why have you been looking for me?" Her question earned her a slight frown from Athrun.
"Only the whole household has been looking for you, Cagalli," he raised a finger, halting Cagalli's question from leaving her mouth. "That's what happens when you skip lunch."
"Sorry," she mumbled, moving her eyes away from his disapproving glance, and returning them to the half-written speech on her desk. "I just didn't have much of an appetite. Lately, the pills have been making me more nauseous."
"That's why you rest," Athrun replied somberly, his eyes hovering around her pale face until they followed her line of vision to the scattered paperwork around her. She glanced at his approaching figure and grinned cheekily, trying to hide the frustration she had been feeling. She hadn't realized how hard it was for her to let go of her position until she had began to draft her resignation and to search for a viable candidate to be her replacement.
"Ever the mother hen, Athrun" she said teasingly at his serious behavior, but immediately stopped upon receiving a dry look from him. "And I appreciate it very much," she added quickly, then, paused as she followed his gaze. "But I need to finalize my resignation and announce it. It's only right that I do this as soon as possible."
"You think too much about other people but not enough about yourself," he retorted, his voice rising a bit. Her forehead scrunched in to a frown, eyes narrowing a bit, trying to discern the source of his behavior.
"What is wrong with you? Why are you getting so angry?"
"Because you're not taking care of yourself! Like always you're working yourse--," he halted, unwilling to finish his sentence. He turned away from her, but her somber voice drew his attention back to her.
"I'm sorry," he replied timidly, his hand scratching the back of his head. "I didn't mean it like that."
"It's alright. I know everyone is worried about me. But it's…I don't know…" she gazed down at her hands, which have seemingly become thinner—from inside of her, she could feel it, something was slowly eating her away. At the thought, she felt a part of herself basked in sadness, the other cowered in fear, but a small part of her felt nothing—numbed by the irony of everything. "It's bound to happen," she said between thinned lips. Athrun saw a ghostly smile slip in to her features, and his face looked questioningly at her. "Everyone dies."
The words pricked him and frustration began to boil in him. "Don't say that!" Athrun's face reddened with anger. "Why have you given up already?!"
She slammed her fists at the desk and pushed herself up, leveling her eyes to his. "Who said I wanted to give up? I don't have a damn choice about this." She grounded out harshly, her vision of him slowly melting in to tears. God when did she start crying this much?
"Don't you think I want to live a little longer? Enjoy this peace we've worked so hard for!" With head bowed, her voice suddenly dropped in to a mere whisper; cracked and hollow. "After everything we had sacrificed for, don't you think I would want to make the most of it?"
He slipped his finger underneath her chin, and lifted her tear-streaked face towards his. "Then let's," he whispered back, drying her tears with his other hand. The sadness written in her face subsided to confusion as she furrowed her brows at him. He smiled mysteriously and leaned in a bit closer.
"Let's make the most of it." His lips breathed in to hers, though not touching only a breath separated them. It was far closer than Cagalli had initially thought it to be, and the realization brought color to her cheeks. Suddenly, he stepped back and offered his hand to hers. "Come on," he said enthusiastically, tilting his head to the door, a smile spreading in his lips.
She lifted her hand towards his then hesitated; her gaze coming across of her unfinished farewell speech lying on top of more paperwork. "I can't. I'm not done yet."
"Cagalli," the young man said more sternly. "Your work will still be here when we get back," he paused, before adding more thoughtfully. "And a change of scenery always helped a writer's block."
"You promise?" she said almost child-like, her hand sliding on top of his outstretched ones.
He grinned. "So I've heard. But in case it backfires, don't worry I'll help you with it."
"Have you written speeches before?" she glanced at him curiously as he opened the door for her.
He turned to her and shrugged. "No, not really. It can't be that hard, right?"
"You're kidding me, right?" she said exasperatedly and attempted to head back to her study room, but Athrun easily tugged her back to his side.
"Don't worry," he smiled reassuringly. "I took a speech class in military school."
"Athrun! The military only drafts ultimatums!"
He chuckled at her protest and proceeded to pull the irate woman away from the door.
"It's better than nothing."
"Where exactly are we going?" she questioned, impatience flaring in her voice, and the car halted in response.
"We're here," he announced grandly, before stepping out of the car with hands gesturing at the area. Cagalli sighed, exiting the car and her eyes surveying the trees that surrounded them. Athrun slightly bended to his car, rummaging in the backseat for the picnic basket Mana had happily prepared for them. He could remember how the old woman's eyes twinkled at his as she handed him the basket.
Cagalli returned her gaze to Athrun, who had walked up beside her, clutching a basket in one hand and a blanket in the other. "Where is here?" she asked suspiciously, her eyes returning to her companion.
"We're along the shorelines of a beach, couple miles away from your summer house," he said staring at her then, chuckling softly at her surprised look.
"What are you staring at?" she demanded, fuming furthermore at the sound of his amusement. "Are you laughing at me?"
"It is quiet interesting how you're quiet unfamiliar with an area that you not only rule but live so close by." Athrun smothered his chuckles, not wanting to provoke the blonde-haired woman any further.
Crossing her arms in front of her, she upturned her nose away from him and answered back haughtily. "Point exactly. Rule not tour." And for that moment as Athrun gazed at her rebellious stance, it retrieved images of her former livelier self, he felt himself smile.
Cagalli glanced back at him, only to find him gazing at her. She felt her cheeks redden, while quietly scolding herself for her childish reaction and hoping that he had not noticed it. Athrun quickly looked away like a caught little boy, color slightly rising in his face. He shook it away and beckoned to her.
"I think you will like this place. Come on."
For a few minutes, they pushed through branches and bushes, when Cagalli noticed the change on the texture of the ground as more and more sand enveloped the soil. She suddenly stopped in her tracks as she felt a bout of dizziness overcome her. With closed eyes, she leaned against the trunk of the tree and began massaging her forehead, trying to will it away.
"Are you ok?" Athrun asked, eyeing her worriedly and placing a hand on her shoulder.
"Yes. I just feel a little dizzy right now," she managed out, opening her eyes to look at him. "This happens sometimes," Cagalli smiled reassuringly at him, "no need to panic. I'll be fine. Just need to let it pass."
"Would you like to sit down?" Athrun pressed on, already reaching for the blanket to spread it out. She again closed her eyes and shook her head, pinching her nose for some relief. The sound of crashing waves dominated the silence between the two until Cagalli announced that her dizziness had passed and she began to unsteadily trudge back to their path.
"What?" she craned her neck behind her as the hand in her wrist pulled her back. Athrun pointedly ignored her question as released her wrist and placed the blanket on top of the picnic basket, securing it with the basket's handles. He turned his back to her and slightly crouched. Cagalli's mouth gaped open and stared at him incredulously.
"I know you are not pleased at my suggestion," he began somberly, tilting his head towards her. "But I can't let you walk."
"Athrun," she protested, her cheeks coloring. "This is ridiculous! I can walk on my own."
He straightened his posture and faced her. "You looked tired. It's just a precaution and I won't tell anyone."
She hesitated, shifting her weight from left to right, her eyes staring at her feet. Her hand clutched her forehead, feeling still a bit lightheaded. She finally moved her gaze to him and sighed. "Fine if you insist, but not a word to anyone."
He grinned, "I promise, princess."
She watched in silent awe as the blue sky gradually turned grayish while skirmishes of orange and red followed its wake. The death of the sun was always beautiful—a natural watercolor masterpiece that few could imitate. But death…death was never beautiful; it is tragic and full of grief. Tears slowly filled her eyes, her mind wandering to her father's words.
…be strong Cagalli...
Live a happy life…
Happy? Was she ever happy?
"What's wrong?" He asked. He scooted closer, wrapping his jacket around her frail body. She stilled his hand with hers and looked up to him.
"Athrun," Her voice quivered. "Were you happy?"
He frowned. "What do yo—"
"I meant when you were here with me at Orb…after the first war…were you happy?" Her eyes moved away from his, half-afraid of what his reply would be.
His face softened, thinking of the years passed. When he was in that cockpit ready to detonate himself, her words stopped him and gave him hope.
To live is an even greater fight
And he knew that with her, he had found a kindred spirit: someone who would share with him the same pain of losing a father. But unlike him, she was far stronger than he as she wasted no time to follow her father's footsteps, while he continued to stumble behind the shadows of his memories. He was so full of guilt, that behind his polite smiles a brooding mind existed. But she, she saw through it and tried to lighten his burden as she carried hers, offering him a second chance in life with her at his side.
Earth was very different from the Plant. It was fuller with life, just like she was. Her sudden outbursts of impatience had the most adverse effect on him as it would bring a smile to his face, which in return would earn him a glare. But what he liked most about being at Orb were those quiet, albeit handful, moments they had together, when she would have that small shy smile on her lips and a red streak of blush across her cheeks. It made him forget the memories that would resurface in the dead of the night.
He felt tears gather around his eyes as he turned her to face him again. "I was Cagalli. You didn't even have to ask." He tucked away her falling hair to her ear and pulled her closer to him. "I was always grateful to you for asking me to stay with you. You helped me chased away my doubts…even if it was for awhile." She leaned in closer to him, hearing his voice quiver.
"I'm sorry for not fully giving you a new life." She said fighting through her tears.
"No..no..what you did for me…it was enough. I just had so many questions after the war, and I was too busy trying to find answers, when in truth, I already had the answers."
"Athrun," She reached out and put her arms around his neck. "You should have told me."
"I—You had more important matters to worry about." She struck his chest with as much strength she could muster.
"Athrun Zala! Don't ever think you are not important to me!"
He clutched her small fist mid-stride and slowly intertwined their fingers. "I know. I never said that." He said placatingly—softly kissing her forehead. "But I would never ask you to choose between me or your country."
Cagalli glanced back towards him, eyes full of tears. With her other hand, she softly touched his cheek. "Were we foolish then?"
Her question caught him off guard, he had always wondered it himself, but could never bring to answer the question. He frowned slightly. "I don't know. Do you think we were?"
She glared at him. "You're a bad liar as always. You're evading the question."
He smiled slightly and leaned closer to her face. "So are you." Her cheeks reddened at his actions and she turned to look away, but he gently placed his hand underneath her chin and tilted her face to his. "Cagalli?" he asked rather shyly, his eyes boring through hers, "may I kiss you?"
Cagalli could feel her cheeks become warmer than it already was and found herself entranced by his hooded eyes. They were beautiful, often mysterious and silent, but now they were looking at her full of longing. Cagalli felt her throat dry and her heart throbbed faster against her chest. Her eyes fluttered shut, feeling Athrun lean in closer to her with his arms sliding around her waist.
His lips were cool against hers and she felt a shiver run through her spine. Cagalli wasn't sure how long their kiss lasted, but to her it felt like an eternity. Her fingers absently ran over her reddened lips, trying to catch her breath, eyes a bit distracted. Was this what she wanted? Was this what he needed?
Athrun's worried voice called out to her as he carefully tucked her hair behind her ears. "Is everything ok?"
She dismissed his worry with a small smile that Athrun knew did not reach her eyes. "I'm alright," she kissed him lightly in his cheek before standing up, dusting the sand from her clothes. "We should get going. I think I can hear my little brother worriedly calling out my name," she added jokingly, her hands already putting their things away.
She ignored the worried look Athrun gave her.
The ride back was full of awkward silence, and Athrun was beyond loss as to what had caused her sudden withdrawal from him. Did he push it too far? Was she not ready? These questions bounced back and forth in Athrun's mind as he gave Cagalli the space she apparently needed.
It wasn't until they reached the front door that Athrun couldn't hold himself back. Before Cagalli could knock on the front door, he stepped between her hand and the door, eyes looking down at her questioningly. "Did I do something wrong?"
She turned her eyes away from his, bowing her head a bit, uncertain of how to convey her thoughts. "Was it the kiss?" Athrun asked quietly, placing his hands on her shoulders, his heart quivering at the thought. "I didn't mean to be too forward."
Her eyes snapped back at him, staring back at him pleadingly. "It's not that Athrun," she averted her eyes again, and took at step back from him, his hands slipping from her shoulders in the process. "I don't think it was a good idea," she said in small voice, straightening her posture as if she had finally made up her mind before looking up again, her voice more certain. "I'm sorry."
"Where have you guys been?" the door swung wider, and Athrun took his eyes off Cagalli, who seemed at loss. "Dinner is ready."
"I took her to the beach," Athrun answered distractedly, watching Cagalli walked passed him and her brother making her way towards the dining room.
Kira noted this odd exchange and felt something wrong. "Is everything alright?"
"Yeah. Everything is fine," his friend replied, walking passed him and following his sister's footsteps. And even as Athrun gave him a small smile, Kira knew that inside it was another story.