"I'm sorry I had to drag you over here. I hope it isn't too much trouble."
It was Sunday afternoon and the chairman of PLANT was apologizing to the young, green-haired man walking beside him. His name was Nicol Amarfi, Athrun's childhood friend and headmaster extraordinaire of the Academy for Etiquette and Social Graces. After Athrun explained about his 'situation' (i.e. the millions of rabid fangirls stalking his every move and the fake fiancé), he had asked Nicol to come over to his mansion and lend his expertise.
Poor, innocent Nicol. Instead of running screaming in the other direction, he actually agreed.
"You mean, about giving a crash course on training your fiancé into becoming the perfect lady?" Nicol laughed and waved his hand dismissively. "No problem. I don't see why you need my help though. Knowing you, your fiancé is bound to be the loveliest, sweetest and most gentle woman in all of Japan."
Athrun almost keeled over.
Lovely, sweet, gentle...
The chairman coughed and smiled weakly. "Well...she IS cute."
They made it to the front door and Athrun's hand was just over the doorknob when the door suddenly swung open by itself.
"Master Athrun!" The head chef blubbered, staring at him like his employer was the savior of mankind, tears running down his face. "Thank God you've finally arrived! The woman...she is a monster...a she-devil..."
Athrun sweatdropped. Now why did this sound so familiar? "Let me guess. It's Cagalli, right?"
The head chef nodded his head indignantly. "Imagine the nerve of that beast in woman's guise when she practically took over my kitchen simply because I said I couldn't cook her meat! After all, only vegetables are allowed for our meals. And then that SAVAGE forced my poor workers to buy two live chickens. LIVE CHICKENS! And you know WHY? I'll tell you why! It's because she wants to surprise you by cooking 'fresh' lunch and---"
This was getting more and more confusing by the second. Athrun quickly cut short the chef's angry outburst and raised his hands in a stop gesture. "Wait a minute. What do you mean LIVE chickens?"
"See for yourself!"
Taking a deep breath, Athrun took one brave step into the living room and then---
The whole mansion trembled and shook at the loud eruption. The three men started coughing and pinching their noses as they inhaled the choking smoke pouring out of the kitchen.
"Oh, my poor kitchen!" The head chef wailed as he made a mad dash for the kitchen doorway, with Athrun and Nicol close behind.
The kitchen was the product of pure chaos. What had exploded? Well, it was a stove (the super-expensive one Athrun had ordered specially from London). And who had caused the explosion? Well, the culprit had to be that blond woman trying to douse the flames with a fire extinguisher.
Everywhere he looked, it was a disaster area. Two chickens were squawking and running up and down, successfully avoiding the two clumsy chefs who were trying to catch them. In the background, cooking utensils and cleaning equipments were scattered all over the place.
Nicol's mouth fell open.
Athrun's eye twitched.
"MY KITCHEN!" The head chef cried out, rolled his eyes, and fell backward in a dead faint.
As soon as the fire was put out, Cagalli finally noticed their gawking presence and grinned sheepishly at them. "Hello, Zala. Hello, Zala's friend. You're back early."
Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale...That's right, just breathe normally. Going ballistic over this is not going to change anything. The green-eyed chairman plastered a huge, fake smile on his face as he regarded the blond who had apparently lost her mind. Being the gentleman he is, instead of screaming What the hell is going on?, he graciously asked, "Cagalli, would you please explain why there are chickens running around in my home and why my kitchen look like a tornado had hit it?"
"Ah, sorry about that, Zala. I was attempting to cook myself dinner. But the chickens were too energetic, so the chefs had to catch them and someone had to look after the boiling water---namely ME," Cagalli said matter-of-factly, as if that explained the total mayhem and bedlam that had just occurred.
FIVE muscles started twitching in Athrun's temples. "Let me get this straight. You were trying to boil WATER and that caused the stove to blow up?"
For a long moment, Nicol was struck speechless as he stared stupidly at the grimy blond who was holding a fire extinguisher, with the hyperactive chickens and two chasing chefs in the background. Then he slowly turned to the chairman and politely asked, "Umm, Athrun, would you mind telling me who this...lady is?"
In a deadly calm voice, Athrun said, "Nicol, meet my sweet and gentle fiancé, Cagalli Yula."
"Gotcha, you little chickens! You can't escape us this time!"
The two chickens-in-distress jumped into Athrun's surprised arms, followed by the two Dumb and Dumber chefs who were running after the chicken. Athrun's eyes widened and he yelled, "STOP! STOP BEFORE YOU---"
Undercover Fiancé Wanted, Desperately
THE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO BECOMING THE PERFECT FIANCE
Lesson One: Talking the talk!
Two caught chickens and one resuscitated head chef later, Nicol and Athrun stood surrounding the golden-haired woman of whom they had sworn to convert from vulgar, destructive Amazon into bona fide lady of infinite grace and beauty in time for the party---or die trying. Somehow the chairman sensed it would be the latter...but hey, on the bright side, at least he already paid for his life insurance.
Hmm. Note to self: Pay for life insurance A.S.A.P.
Nicol Amarfi, blissfully unaware of the life-threatening jeopardy the innocent little blond posed to his health, was speaking to her. "Miss Cagalli, please repeat after me: How now brown cow."
"How...now...brown...cow?" Cagalli echoed and then rolled her eyes. "This is ridiculous! I'm not sure if any fat woman wearing brown clothing would be happy if you bring attention to their weight problems."
"No, you misunderstand. This is to practice your vocal cords. You have to train your tone and articulation to resemble those of an educated, sophisticated lady," explained the green-haired man.
Her tawny eyes sparked electricity. "Are you implying that my voice isn't ladylike?"
Insert looks of horror.
"MOVING ON!" Athrun quickly interrupted, throwing the sweatdropping Nicol a look that said keep your big mouth shut or experience a broken ribcage later courtesy of Cagalli's fist. He cleared his throat importantly. "It's time for the art of conversing!"
She blinked. "Eh?"
"Conversation topics leave a big impression on the upper crust," clarified the chairman. "They can sniff out a faker from the start just by listening to you talk. So it's important that you pick the right issues to discuss."
WHAT? "But...all I know is the usual stuff...like the latest news on basketball!" Cagalli exclaimed.
Nicol frowned and shook his head. "No, no, no. Sports are definitely NOT a good subject matter. Think culture, arts, literature..."
"You mean like the Harry Potter conventions?" she asked innocently.
He sweat dropped. "Okay, forget what I said. Just remember there are three subjects that always work: Food, family and philosophy. As long as you use them, you will never be at a loss for words." Nicol clapped his hands. "Alright, let's practice. Athrun, you pretend to be one of the guests. Let's make believe we're all presently at the engagement party and you two are striking up a conversation. Cagalli, please initiate the discourse."
The blond took a deep breath. Alright, I can do this. I am Cagalli Yula Athha and I can do anything I set my mind to. Her forehead creased as she searched for the right thing to say.
Food. Let's start with food.
"So...do you like spinach?" she blurted out.
Athrun smiled politely. "No, I'm afraid I don't."
Okay, time for the second item on the list. Family, wasn't it? Cagalli thought deeply for a moment and then asked, "Do you have a brother?"
"No, I'm afraid I don't."
She glowered at him. Jeez. Can't he saying anything else? He's beginning to sound like a robot on autopilot! She rolled her eyes. Oh, forget it. Let's focus here. Food and family didn't work...so what now?
A super-duper brilliant brainstorm struck her head with a flash of inspiration. It was nothing short of genius! With a big smile on her face, Cagalli asked, "If you had a brother, would he like spinach?"
Athrun and Nicol sweatdropped.
Weeellll, it WAS philosophy...sort of.
There were a ka-billion things Miriallia could be doing right now in her spare time. Like reading one of her romance novels, or pigging out with fatty ice cream sundaes, or brainwashing her mind with MTV...
So why was she kneeling down skulking behind a bush in the park like a prowler, you ask?
Two words: Tolle. Koenig.
Today was the day Milly had promised herself that, come hell or high water, she would finally summon the guts to ask her crush out. Ah, she had waited so long for this moment! After weeks and weeks of following Tolle's Sunday afternoon routine (i.e. his daily stroll in the park for approximately half an hour before going home. And NO, she was NOT stalking him!), then changing her mind at the last minute because she was a big fat chicken, Miriallia finally decided she couldn't put it off any longer.
Her plan was simple: First, she would 'happen' to bump into him and oh-so-casually confess her undying love for him, in which her Sir Lancelot would smile and respond: Really? Why, that's exactly how I feel about you too, Milly. I've never felt like this before for any woman before. She would then swoon and fall into his arms, followed by a long and passionate kiss. Later, they would date for a month before settling down into marital bliss and having four wonderful and adorable children (two boys, two girls).
Her heartbeat accelerated when she heard heavy footsteps.
It's got to be HIM. Okay, this is it. Take a deep breath, Milly. He won't bite. What's the worse he could do? Sure, he'll break your heart into a million pieces if he rejects you. But what the heck? Just get out there and face him!
Wearing a sweet smile on her face, she jumped out of her hiding place. "What a nice surprise!" Milly exclaimed.
She nearly had a heart attack when she saw, not Tolle's face but---you guessed it---Dearka Elthman's!
'Nice surprise'? Hah! Try 'Nightmare on Elm Street'
"Milly, what a coincidence!" Dearka's surprise wore off in an instant and he reverted back to his charming ol' self.
"Oh, it's you." She sighed. "I didn't recognize you for a minute. It was one of the happiest minutes I've ever spent."
His grin widened. "Well, don't worry. I'm about to make you even happier."
"Why, are you leaving for Nebraska?"
He ignored her put-down. "No. Since it's such a fine day, why don't we take advantage of it and have a leisurely walk together in the park?"
Milly blanched and then glared lethally at him. "Between jumping off a twenty-story building to an uncertain death or strolling with you, I'd rather take my chances and jump!"
The blond sighed. "Sadly, there's not a twenty-story building in sight, so we'll have to settle with the second choice then. Unless, of course, you're afraid you can't keep your hands off me?" He leered at her.
"Oh, rest assured. It's a violent struggle to keep myself from grabbing your neck and shaking your brains out," she spat acidly.
He tsk-tsked and wagged a finger. "Such brutal thoughts run in your head, Milly. That's no way to endear yourself to your strolling partner."
She narrowed her eyes. "Endearing myself to you is the last thing on my to-do list for the day. Why don't you wait a century later and we'll see."
He folded his arms over his chest. "Fine then. I'm a patient man. Just remember your promise when your reincarnation meets my reincarnation."
"Oh, I never believed in that superstition. But after meeting you, I've changed my mind. You make me believe in reincarnation. Nobody can be as stupid as you in one lifetime." She rolled her eyes and threw up her hands. "And why am I wasting my valuable time talking to you of all people?"
"Because my conversation is stimulating?" Dearka suggested.
She snorted. "I guess it's rather stimulating...that is, for a talking monkey."
"That's not surprising considering our ancestors are apes."
"Elthman, we all spring from apes, but you didn't spring far enough!" She glared harder. "Now GET LOST! Or is your English comprehension limited to the vocabulary of the 'Beavis and Butthead' show?"
In the midst of their verbal joust, Tolle Koenig was innocently strolling down the path, humming to himself. He stopped when he encountered a homicidal-looking woman shouting insults and death threats at a smirking blond. Wasn't she the one he bumped into yesterday at the café? Her name...It was Miriallia Haww, wasn't it?
"Ah, good evening, Miss Haww!" he greeted.
"Buzz off! Can't you see I'm--- Oh, it's you..." Milly blushed a bright red when she realized it was her beloved Tolle she was screaming at. "I-I'm sorry, Mr. Koenig. I didn't know it was you."
"There's no harm done. Please call me Tolle." Tolle frowned, looking a little concerned and curious. "Miss Haww, is this man bothering you?"
"Yes, he is!" she promptly snapped.
"No, I'm not," Dearka said simultaneously.
She glared at the blond. "Shut up! Whenever you open your mouth, you never fail to irritate me!"
He raised an eyebrow. "Well, if it bothers you so much, I can always attempt to communicate through clairvoyance."
"Clairvoyance is for people with TALENT! And the only possible talent you have is the natural gift of repulsing women!"
Dearka sighed dramatically. "I'm afraid I must argue with that. Ladies find me rather good-looking."
Arrogance, thy name is Dearka. She rolled her eyes. "Good looks are nothing to me. You see, I want to date someone who doesn't have solid concrete from the eyebrows backwards."
Dearka placed a hand over his heart, looking deeply hurt. "Milly, you're the cruelest woman alive. What have I ever done to deserve such harsh treatment?"
She smiled sarcastically. "Oh, I don't know. By breathing?"
Sensing an impending battle of brutal proportions, Tolle loudly cleared his throat and said, "Err...so I'm guessing he's a stalker."
"That's right!" The auburn-haired girl nodded her head furiously. "This Neanderthal crawled out of a cave somewhere and has been harassing me since the day I met him!"
"I'm not harassing her. I'm just following her around," was Dearka's casual reply.
She grounded her teeth together. "Don't listen to him, Tolle. He's obviously suffering from halitosis of the intellect. Of course, that's assuming he HAS an intellect."
"I do. I can add one plus one without a calculator, can't I?" drawled the blond lazily.
"That just proves you're at least smarter than the average bear!"
Squabble, squabble. Bicker, bicker. They were so absorbed in their little 'conversation' that they flat out ignored the sweatdropping Tolle's presence. He could have grown three heads, stripped naked and ran around in circles while screeching like a crazy lunatic and they STILL wouldn't notice him.
"...Milly, if you would just give me a chance, you'll get to like me."
"Hah! I doubt that. You are the kind of person who, when one first meets you, one doesn't like you. But when one gets to know you better, one hates you!"
Tolle sighed and left the arguing duo, shaking his head all the way.
THE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO BECOMING THE PERFECT FIANCE
Lesson Two: Dressing the dress!
"I'm not wearing it."
"Yes, you are."
"No way in hell!"
"Please put it on..."
"Over YOUR dead body!"
In Cagalli's temporary bedroom, our blond heroine was throwing an Antarctica-freezing glare at the most gruesome, horrifying, appalling and nightmarish creation mankind had ever created in the history of pain-inflicting tools. Redundancy, be damned. She looked fully prepared to grab the THING, throw it into the nearest incinerator and then bury the leftover ashes for good measure.
It was a dress---an innocent, pretty little dress. Light green in color, sleeveless, complete with frills and trimmings. Cagalli had personally selected it from the clothing store, but now she was having second thoughts and seriously questioned her sanity when she chose it.
The chairman's jaw clenched. His patience was slowly being shredded into pieces with each passing minute. Only years of Yoga and Tai Chi lessons kept his temper and sanity intact. His inner-self was acting like Mahatma Gandhi, sitting cross-legged while chanting over and over: Don't start screaming in frustration, Athrun. Screaming is a violent thing to do. Remember, a calm discussion can solve any problem...
"I want to wear jeans and I don't see why I can't."
...Unless the problem is a grumpy, mule-headed, sadistic blond with a gorilla punch!
He took a deep, calming breath. Then he smiled tightly. "Please understand, Cagalli. This is an engagement party! It's customary and practically compulsory for a woman to wear a dress!"
"But," Cagalli aimed a disgusted glance at the dress she so fondly nicknamed 'the devil's brainchild', "it looks like something the medieval people used as an iron maiden torture device. I'm getting claustrophobic just looking at it!"
"Nonsense. It's perfectly comfortable for human wear," said Athrun exasperatedly.
She snorted. "How would YOU know? YOU never wore a dress in your life!"
Just when Athrun thought he was going to completely break down and BEG her on his knees to put on the stupid dress, Cagalli finally relented. "Fine!" she snapped. "I'll wear that evil suit of armor. But I'm warning you, this will increase my salary later!"
At that moment, the desperate chairman ('desperate' seems to best describe his mood for the last three hectic days, doesn't it?) was willing to pay her 100 million in hard cash if she'd wear the dress, so with immense relief he simply nodded.
The blond reluctantly grabbed the dress and ordered Athrun to get out of her room before she kicked his butt.
Then came the next problem.
Five minutes later, the chairman heard a loud gasp and a crashing noise. Without thinking, he flung open the door and entered the bedroom, looking shocked when he saw Cagalli writhing on the floor like a fish out of water, struggling to breathe. He kneeled down and touched her gently.
"Cagalli, what's wrong?"
"I-I c-can't b-breathe..."
Indeed, Cagalli's face was turning blue after she put on the gown and pulled up the zipper. Apparently the dress was too tight. She grabbed his shoulders and pleaded, "Z-Zala...unzip...the dress..."
Athrun hesitated. "But it isn't decent to---"
"Zala, just do it before I die of oxygen shortage!" she managed to burst out.
"Fine!" Squeezing his eyes shut, he quickly reached out and touched the zipper. Then, thinking he might accidentally zip off her skin if he wasn't looking (and she'd probably skin him alive in return), Athrun reluctantly opened his eyes again and unzipped the dress carefully.
Nicol was passing by the room, curious to know what was taking them so long. Imagine his utter shock, therefore, when he saw Athrun was 'undressing' Cagalli in what looked like an M-rated moment!
His jaw practically dropped to the floor. Then the green-haired man slapped his hands to his burning eyes and began to intone, "See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil..."
Athrun heard his loud mantra and looked up. "N-Nicol! What in blazes are you doing here?"
Eyes still firmly closed, Nicol flailed his hands up and down, yelling, "I-I didn't see anything! I swear! I'm sorry for interrupting. You guys just go ahead with...whatever it is you guys are doing."
Athrun looked as if his face had been smacked by a frying pan. "A-Are you actually implying that she and I...that we...?" He sputtered and choked at the very idea. "Get your mind out of the gutter, Nicol! It's not how it looks like! All I did was assist Cagalli in zipping her dress. That's ALL! We didn't DO anything!"
Cagalli was gasping for breath, trying to regenerate her respiratory system while communicating exactly how YELLOW Nicol's brain was.
"Alright, I believe you," Nicol said with an expression that clearly stated: 'If you really think I believe you, then I must be a better liar than I thought'. Wanting to give them privacy (for whatever naughty things they're secretly up to), Nicol politely excused himself and exited stage right.
Athrun helped her up from the floor and inquired, "Cagalli, why did you pick this dress from the store when you know it's too tight for you?"
Good question. Why DID she pick a dress with an inch smaller waistline? Because I'm an idiot. Because males usually go for women with small waistlines. Because I wanted to impress you. "Because...JUST BECAUSE! Do I have to explain everything I do to you?" she snapped, blushing and crossing her arms defiantly.
Alright, so he shouldn't have asked her that question. Getting her riled up wouldn't help him for his next far more difficult obstacle (Not impossible! Think positive!): How to make Cagalli put on high heels without suffering from her special combo 'super-kick-uppercut-gut-punch-and-knuckle-sandwich' attack.
Okay, I can do this. If I can resolve delicate issues like raising stock markets, calming on-strike employees and increasing my network, what can one small woman possibly do...besides breaking my arm and twisting my body into a pretzel? Right. The chairman cleared his throat. "Umm, Cagalli, have you ever worn high heels?"
Her amber eyes narrowed. "Oh, you mean the shoes with the killer heels that look straight out of an episode of 'Torture Devices of the Strange and Deranged'?"
"Well, the gown would never be complete without the right shoes, so..."
Cagalli's reply was a no-brainer. "NO WAY! The dress already feels like the second level of hell. High heels would kill me for sure!"
Alas, she wasn't budging an inch.
Athrun rubbed his aching forehead. Oh, boy. Here we go again...
"Why am I SURROUNDED by incompetent imbeciles?"
Yzak's volcanic explosion vibrated throughout his entire office as he slapped his hand on a mass of Mount Everest-sized paperwork. He looked stonier than a biblical execution---and the target of his sulfurous glare stood shaking opposite his desk.
The poor secretary was practically cowering under his superior's intimidating (not to mention scary) wrath. "I-I'm so sorry, sir. I'll do better next time. I swear!"
"Next time?" The silver-haired man smiled---and it was a smile that screamed 'WARNING! Danger of death'. "And what makes you think I'm going to give you a 'next time'?"
For once in his life, the secretary showed some backbone when he puffed out his chest proudly and announced, "Sir, I've been a boon to this company..."
"Hmm, more like a baboon," Yzak cut in sarcastically. "It would explain why your paperwork has so many spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Only a moron with an underdeveloped primate's brain and the attention span of a cockroach could possibly make this many blunders!"
"But sir, I have a perfectly valid excuse..." For example: Today is Sunday. Sunday equals day off.
Then again, this is YZAK, his mad and sadistic boss. Could he even understand the words 'day off'?
The secretary was proved right when the Joule held up one hand. "Save your breath. I already know your excuse." He smiled coldly. "Aliens zapped you with stupidity ray---twice."
"B-But sir, I---"
"Do shut up. You should never argue with higher intelligence." The silver-haired man rolled his eyes. "As of now, you may cease calling me 'sir'..." The implication was obvious: You're being FIRED because you're a sub-literate simpleton and I'm your boss, therefore more superior to you. So you have the right to remain silent while I play around with your puny mind and insignificant life and there's nothing you can do about it. Ha-ha.
The pathetic secretary burst into tears and practically went down on his hands and knees. "Please, sir! Give me another chance! I promise I'll work extra hard on the paperwork this time!"
He bent almost inhumanly backwards when his employer's dark face loomed ominously over him. The hapless man gulped, quickly making the sign of the cross.
Yzak gave him a malicious smirk. "Oh, don't worry. I won't kill you today. It's 'Be kind to Animals' week."
Ah yes, he loved this part. This was when he would deliver the coup de grace, in which he would stomp his secretary's fragile ego into itty bitty pieces and fire him to Kingdom Come.
But then his damn phone HAD to ring!
Yzak glared at the phone in annoyance, wordlessly cursed Alexander Graham Bell, then sighed and answered it. "What?" he snapped.
Athrun Zala went straight to the point. "Yzak, I need your help."
Oh God, there it was again---those infamous five words that always bring about hell and eternal suffering. The silver-haired man groaned, barely resisting the urge to drop his head and bash it a couple of times on his desk. Good grief. Will the torture never end?
"All right, Zala. What sort of traumatizing, gut-wrenchingly pathetic problem are you undergoing this time?" he asked flatly.
"Well, I'm going to have an engagement party..."
"I see..." Yzak paused. "Do you want my congratulations or my condolences?"
"Neither. This isn't a real engagement party. Remember Dearka's undercover bodyguard slash fiancé idea? Well, amazingly, it's actually working. But I accidentally told the paparazzi that I'm arranging an engagement soiree and now I'm committed on making one. I'm too busy right now, so I need someone else to organize the party and since you're available..."
The Joule didn't bother to hide his incredulity. "How can you accidentally tell the paparazzi you're throwing an engagement party?"
"Yzak, please FOCUS! I really, really, REALLY need you to organize this party for me! You're the only one I can trust with this responsibility. Of course, I could always ask Dearka to handle it but..." Athrun thought of the ten hundred ways the tanned blond could cause chaos, panic and disorder in an engagement party, shuddered, and decided not to think about it.
"Let me get this straight. You're asking ME to organize an engagement party?" Yzak narrowed his eyes dangerously. "Zala, do you have enough oxygen on your planet?"
From his side of the line, Athrun rolled his eyes. "This is not the time to be sarcastic, Yzak. Just organize everything and have the party ready by Wednesday next week."
"But...isn't that three days from now? That's impossible!" The silver-haired man had had it up to HERE with his friends' ridiculous favors. First Dearka and his stupid girlfriend problems---and now this! Well, there was no way in hell he was playing any part of this latest soap drama. "Forget it, Zala. Ask someone else. I'm NOT doing it!"
He really did put his foot down. Really, he did. So like one of those baffling mysteries (like why women are so moody with PMS and men are so obsessed with ESPN), Yzak was somehow tricked into taking on the task. He seethed as he slapped his handphone shut and glared into thin air. Decreasing his small circle of friends to zero suddenly sounded awfully appealing...
"...So am I fired, sir?" Mr. Secretary asked meekly.
The Joule sighed, realizing all the fun of torturing his secretary was totally obliterated now that he was once again responsible for cleaning up another of his idiotic friend's messes.
"Listen up, you groveling half-wit. I want you to finish this paperwork you failed to complete." Yzak gestured to the piles and piles of paperwork on the desk in desperate need of alteration. "By the time I come back, I expect nothing short of perfection. This is your LAST chance to prove your brain isn't running on empty, so don't screw it up. Do I make myself clear?"
His subordinate nodded, relieved that he was spared of further mental torture.
"I'll be back." With that threat, Yzak gracefully stood up and headed for the door.
The secretary looked surprised. "B-But sir, where are you going? Y-You have a conference with a major company in an hour's time!"
Yzak's reply was to slam the door behind him, muttering something about "stupid friends, stupid favors, and stupider men who give in to stupid friends."
THE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO BECOMING THE PERFECT FIANCE
Lesson Three: Dancing the dance!
After the miracle of finally persuading the unwilling Cagalli into putting on 'the freakishly mutated shoes from hell', the couple stood in the center of the manor's ballroom (which greatly resembled the magnificent ballroom from Disney's Beauty and the Beast).
Now Athrun's question was a simple one. "Do you know how to dance?"
The blond responded by screwing up her pretty nose in disgust as she glared down at her high heels. "Well, I can tap-dance 'Yankee Doodle' without missing a beat...as long as it's not in four-inch stiletto heels."
Athrun's lips twitched. "No. What I mean is: Can you dance the waltz?"
"Err...I can dance but I can't waltz." When he gave her an exasperated look, Cagalli squeezed her eyes shut and confessed, "Alright, I admit it! I...I'm a LOUSY dancer!"
Athrun's eyes widened, and then he laughed. "A lousy dancer? Is that all? Well, it's perfectly fine to feel nervous about your first waltz. I was quite a klutz the first time too." He tapped his chin thoughtfully. "I remember when I was fifteen my mother forced me to take dancing lessons for this party she was throwing. On the first day, while I was training with my dance instructor, I tripped over my own two feet, broke a vase, sprained my ankle and then accidentally stepped on her foot. She was promptly sent to the emergency ward."
She winced. "Ouch. That's got to hurt."
"Yes, it did. So for the sake of other people's personal protection, I decided to train my footwork behind the closed doors of my bedroom and got myself a handy little guidebook for step-by-step self-help on dancing. It worked. In a month's time, I could actually waltz without smacking into people or endangering their foot. Since then, my mother has never needed to call an ambulance to go on stand-by mode in our garage."
"That's great!" Cagalli felt extremely relieved. Phew! Glad to know there's antibiotics for awful dancing. "But...what happened to your dance instructor?"
"Oh, she's fine. But I think she quit giving dancing lessons because of her permanent limp..." The chairman smiled and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. "So, you see, you're not the only one with two left feet."
Cagalli looked at him, then exhaled sharply. "You still don't get it, do you? I'm a really, REALLY rotten dancer! If you think Goofy is clumsy, then you haven't seen me on the dance floor yet. It's like watching Big Foot trying to dance the salsa! Can't we just stick to tap-dancing? I'm good at that." She gave him an adorable puppy-dog look.
Athrun rolled his eyes. "Don't give me that look. It's the Zala's family tradition to dance the waltz at the beginning of every engagement party we have. Besides, I think you're exaggerating. You feet aren't huge..."---he paused---"...are they?"
She bared her fangs like a saber-tooth tiger. "Do you want me to hurt you?"
Luckily, Nicol sidetracked her burst of anger when he called out, "May we begin?"
"Oh yes. Let's just get down to our dancing lesson. Just follow my lead," Athrun hastily added. He bowed slightly and held out his hand to her, his lips curving into his I'm-sexy-as-hell smile. "May I have this dance?"
She accepted his hand while silently praying 'Please God, if you don't let me make a fool of myself, I promise I'll never lose my temper again...Well, okay, so it's not very likely. How about this then? I promise not to break any more of Athrun's stuff...Fine, so it's ALSO not very likely. Err, I promise not to do physical harm on Athrun...unless provoked. There, I can do that.'
He led her to the dance floor, then turned to take her in his arms. Their gazes locked when he pulled her close to him, the jolt of physical awareness as apparent in his expression as she knew it must be in hers. They stared at each other for a spellbound moment, before they began to move.
Taking his cue, Nicol started to play a familiar melody on the piano.
"'I Can't Help Falling in Love with You'," Athrun whispered, making her blush tomato red.
Thump-thump-thump. Did he just say what I think he just said? Holy cow! I think I'm dying from cardiac arrest...
So you can understand Cagalli's immense disappointment (not to mention the sudden inclination to whack Athrun over the head) when he continued, "It's a famous Elvis number and one of my parents' favorites. They loved to dance."
She scowled. Jeez. Just because of one stupid romantic song, I'm beginning to think like one of those Athrun-obsessed fangirls. A curse on wishful thinking!
"Careful! You're losing your focus," warned the chairman when he glanced down and saw her feet almost stamping on his. "Yes, that's right. You're getting the hang of it. One, two, three...one, two, three..."
He looked up, only to realize she was staring at him like she was on a chocolate diet and he happened to be a giant Kit-Kat bar.
Athrun raised a dark brow. "You're doing it again."
"Looking at me strangely. If I didn't know any better, I'd swear you have a crush on me..."
He meant it only as a teasing comment. But Cagalli was so shocked she stumbled backward and accidentally stepped on the hem of her dress. She felt herself losing her balance and began that hopping, arm-windmilling thing people do (usually when cartoon characters are at the edge of a cliff and going to fall to their doom). Athrun grabbed hold of her, but unfortunately he also fell victim to the waves of unbalance. Seeing the disaster in the making, Nicol stopped playing the piano and swiftly tried to grab Athrun, but he too got caught up in the current. They swayed back and forth for a few agonizing seconds until the head chef stepped into the room.
"Ahem. Lunch is served!" he announced.
"FORGET THAT! HELP US!" Nicol, Athrun and Cagalli bellyached.
The astonished head chef ran over and tried to stabilize them, but the combined weight of the three of them was too much and, in slow motion, the four people let out a helpless scream as they toppled to the floor.
And so, for the second time that day, the entire household staff was alerted to the sound of a loud (and painful) 'CRASH'!
From beneath the suffocating pile of tangled limbs, Athrun's head popped out and he moaned. "Alright, someone call the ambulance. And tell them to be there for my engagement party too. Let's be safe rather than sorry..."
Everybody else responded with a groan. And for once, Cagalli didn't fly into a blazing rampage.
But then when Cagalli's feet accidentally knocked into his face, Nicol couldn't help but notice something extraordinary: "Miss Cagalli...you feet...begging your pardon, but they're rather...huge!"
I spoke too soon...