By: elanor tinuviel

Disclaimer: All characters and basically the whole world of Gundam Seed/Destiny is the respective property of Sunrise Inc. and BANDAI ENTERTAINMENT. If I was the owner of GS and GSD, I wouldn't be writing this to set things straight for one of my favourite pairings. So no copyright infringement is intended…just some peace of mind.

Prologue – Hesitant Responsibility


A gentle breeze blew as the moon continued in its rise. The young brunette, who'd matured beyond his years during the passed war, smiled slightly as he leaned against the wooden panels of Reverend Malchio's house, listening to the hustle and bustle of the daily ritual of putting the children to bed. His attention shifted slightly as the door creaked to his left, revealing his childhood friend, who made his way to lean on the railing opposite.

"Hey Kira. Hiding from the children again?" Athrun asked jokingly.

Kira smirked. "No. All the children do when I'm around is play. Lacus said I'd just be making the task of making them go to sleep more difficult. Besides, she and Cagalli are better at that sort of thing, anyway."

They smiled at each other knowingly. It had been three months after the self-destruction of Jachin Due, and the crew of the Three Ships Alliance had silently sought refuge away from all the diplomatic negotiations and military regrouping – not sure of how they'd be accepted. Most had returned to their home countries, but Kira, Athrun, Lacus and Cagalli had chosen to stay with Reverend Malchio in the Marshall Islands, helping him take care of the orphans. The outside world and who they really were didn't exist there. They were free to enjoy what peace they could. All knew of the responsibilities that would befall them once they returned to their respective home countries – the longer they each decided to stay, the longer that responsibility would be put off. One of them in particular had an enormous amount of responsibility to shoulder.

"He called again, you know." Athrun's tone was hushed slightly, getting more serious, as he kept his eyes trained on the shadows on the window curtain, showing the distinct figures of the girls busy at work capturing the children.

"She didn't speak to him?"

Athrun shook his head. "She was conveniently nowhere to be found again."

Kira sighed, leaning his head back against the wall. "How long is she going to keep avoiding her duty?"

"She's your sister. Haven't you talked to her about it?"

"You know how she is. She won't listen to me. I've asked Lacus to talk to her too, and I don't think she's having much luck either. What did Kisaka say?" Kira asked as he moved to be adjacent to Athrun, his voice, too, lowered.

"He said that nearly all citizens of Orb have returned and begun to rebuild their lives, now that the peace discussions are well underway. And Orb really needs their Chief Representative – the people need Cagalli back as their leader. She does know that, doesn't she?"

"Of course she does. But she's changed. She used to shout at me every time I brought up her being Chief Representative and now she just walks away. She's different. You've noticed, right?"

He sighed. "Yeah I noticed. I know I should say something, but I don't know what." Athrun frowned.

"Doesn't she confide in you, though?" Kira asked, a sad smile appearing on his friend's face.

"You'd think she would. She used to, but I don't know anymore. I've never had the chance to talk to her alone about it. It's as if she's avoiding being alone with me for that reason."

Or for other reasons, the brunette smirked, like her feelings. "In any case, maybe you'd have more luck. She usually just sits in her room once the children are asleep. You could try talking to her then."

"Yeah I will." A nod of both heads ensued a momentary silence between them, as they observed the noise of the children die down a bit, Lacus lulling them to sleep with a melody. Kira curiously eyed Athrun, as he continued to stare at a particular shadow in the window.

"Hey Athrun. You and Cagalli…are you…?"

Athrun lowered his eyes. "I don't know. Well…yes we are, but not like you and Lacus."

"Uh…about that," Kira hesitated. "You're not…I mean, are you sure…?"

"Don't worry about it. I'm completely happy for the both of you. Our engagement is in the past and I have someone else now." A small smile grew on his lips. I have Cagalli…or at least I hope I do.

- - -

Athrun ran his hand through his blue hair, swallowing nervously before softly knocking on the wooden door. I hope she doesn't get the wrong idea about this, he thought as he felt a bit of heat crawl into his cheeks. Receiving no response, he slowly opened the door to see if she was actually in there. The door creaked slightly, but Cagalli remained in her position, curled up on a chair by the window, with nothing but the light of the moon to illuminate the room.

"Go away, Kira," Cagalli said softly before turning to gasp. "Athrun!"

He closed the door behind him. "Shh…you don't want to wake the children up, do you?"

"What are you doing here?" she swallowed nervously, quickly brushing her fingers over her eyes.

"Cagalli, we need to talk." His voice was hushed, but serious as he crossed the room to her slowly, sitting down on the window seat.

She kept her eyes away from him. "What about?"

"Kisaka called again today." Athrun watched her carefully for a reaction.

"He did?" The blonde haired girl feigned innocence. "What did he want?"

"Cagalli, you know what he wanted. He wanted to talk to you."

"Well I don't want to talk to him."

Her monotonous tone surprised him. As of late she had become less feisty – less full of spirit. What happened to you, Cagalli? "He thinks its time you went back. The new year is about to begin. Kisaka thought it'd be good for the citizens of Orb if they started the new year with a new leader, you."

"Athrun, I can't go back. Not yet. It's still too soon," Cagalli said, her voice just barely a whisper as her breathing quickened slightly.

"But they need you. Orb needs you."

"I can't. I'm not ready." Tears began to fall, receiving a look of concern from the boy opposite her. "If I go back…then it's real."

Athrun went to kneel in front of her as she leaned forward, head bent, her tears falling onto her knees.

"Once I go back – once I take his place…then he's really gone."

"Cagalli…" He said softly, placing a hand on her's.

"I know it was six months ago. But the reality only just hit me. There was so much happening then that I didn't get a chance to deal with it…but now…" Athrun moved to close the gap, wrapping his arms around her. "…There's nothing else I can think about. I spent most of my life running away from him and now I feel nothing but regret. I never got the chance to really know him. And now I hate myself because of it." Cagalli buried her face in his chest.

"No matter what you did and what happened, your father loved you," he started slowly, cautiously. "He left you this responsibility because he did. You have to go back. You have to do this for him."

"I know," she said, pulling away ever so slightly so that Athrun could still hear her unmuffled. "But what if I fail him? I don't think I'm the most capable person. How could I possibly lead a nation? I know they'll all think I'm too young to be Chief Representative. They all think I'm just some spoilt little princess who doesn't know anything. All I've done is run away. Would the people of Orb want to even trust me?"

"They will trust you. You're the daughter of the Lion of Orb. No one could overlook that fact. Kisaka and the other Council Members are all there to support you. You'll make a great leader, Cagalli. I know you will."

She shook her head as she continued in her outpour. "But I can't be there…I can't be there in that house all alone," she whispered desperately.

"Then I'll go with you. You won't be alone. I'll stay with you. I'll protect you."

Cagalli pulled back from his hold slightly to look at him questioningly. I want to believe you, Athrun. Her amber eyes searched his green eyes for some sort of hesitation or regret for what he'd said. She found none, and almost smiled.

"I'll be there for you, Cagalli. I promise," he asserted, as if sensing her doubt. Swallowing nervously, Athrun leaned forward to press his lips against her's briefly, as if to seal the promise with a kiss. I don't want to lose you.

Cagalli took a deep breath as the gap between them reformed, trying to regain composure as she wiped her tears away with her fingers. "I'll call Kisaka first thing in the morning." Athrun watched as she let out a breath, a small smile forming on her lips. "I'm going home."

With you

A/N: Hi there! So this is my first attempt at a GS/D fic and I'd really love to know what you all thought, even though it's just getting started and may seem a bit slow at the moment. Next chapter it'll be post GSD so I hope you all will check it out. But until then, I would really appreciate it if you reviewed. thanks for showing interest! Have a nice day!

-- ela