Written before the OAV came out.
Disclaimer: Gundam Seed Destiny does not belong to me. If it did I would've written it completely differently. This is a nonprofit fanwork.
by Fushigi Kismet
She is speaking on the monitor, back straight, eyes clear, voice steady.
He is slumped wearily in a chair.
Medical staff bustle about tending the walking wounded. Athrun feels that he should stand and help but he tried a moment ago and his legs buckled underneath him. Kira pushed him down into a chair, shoved a can of hot coffee into his hand, and told him absolutely, positively not to move until he came back, before floating off to see Lacus, tiredness etched into every feature. Athrun drinks his coffee and thinks that Lacus will think Kira looks like hell but won't care. At least he is alive and in one piece unlike so many others. With that thought he tries to rise but his body refuses to listen. He thinks perhaps he should give himself another moment.
So instead, he watches the monitor, watches Cagalli speak, her voice carrying across the world, across the void of space - not quite so empty now, filled again as it is with bodies and debris and shattered lives and dreams – and he thinks that he wants to go home.
He is tired of fighting.
This time, he would like to make an end of it.
Home is where she is. Or, rather, she, Cagalli, is home.
He has known this for a year. Two. Forever. No, not quite forever. Once he'd believed home was a place you returned to, but that had been before Bloody Valentine . . . that had been before he'd watched his father die. No, home wasn't a place.
Once it was his mother.
Once he'd tried to make it his father.
And now, only now, does he know that home needs two people reaching out to one another to give one a place to belong.
Home is Cagalli.
He can't stand it, he thinks. Meetings and meetings and nothing getting done. No, that wasn't true; that was a lie. Plenty was getting done. Lacus got things done. People listened to that quiet voice and only after they sat nodding and smiling facetiously for long enough did they realize that the quietness belied the steel underneath. Then they learned to shut up and listen.
But still, meetings and meetings and clean-up and body retrieval and flying guard for supply runs and heavy armaments dismantling . . . He'd thought the last war had taken its sweet time to be over, but he sees now that even though he'd been at Cagalli's side he'd missed out on the reality of it all. And the reality is meetings and meetings.
ZAFT is a mess. Earth is possibly even more of a mess. ORB is the only remaining nation with a stable government and the world has reluctantly turned towards it to set the example it had previously refused to follow, to guide it and lead it and help it to rebuild. Athrun thinks it's about damned time. And in between thinking that and going to meetings, he wonders how Cagalli is holding up. But he knows that those thin shoulders won't bow under the pressure. They've both learned something this time around.
And for the first time, they're really standing, both of them, on their own two feet.
It's two weeks before they speak to one another over the monitors. He'd tried to get a message through earlier but it hasn't been easy to even get a free screen. Official lines have been taken up with negotiations and relief efforts and sudden emergency actions and he feels guilty even trying to make a personal call. He knows she knows that he's all right because Captain Ramius told him she sent a report through before things got too hectic, but he can't help wanting to tell her himself and he can't help wanting to see her.
It's especially difficult to be parted from the one you love, he thinks, when your ex-fiancée and your best friend are wandering everywhere together arm and arm. It's just a little frustrating.
Meyrin isn't helping much either. She's someone to talk to and she does her best to help out, but she worries constantly over her sister, and when she does he can't help wondering about Shinn and Lunamaria and what happened to them after the battle. His mind spins around and around from Cagalli to Shinn to meetings to worry until he just needs to escape, take a breather, grab a number in the endless line of people trying to make a call, to get through to loved ones dead or alive, to know if their homes are still standing, if there's anything left, if they have the strength to go on.
He clutches the number in his hand and is only ten people away before the intercom calls for him to report to a meeting he's forgotten about – it was three hours away when he got in line – and he groans and gives his number to a little girl and her mother and wishes them luck before floating off to his next interminable meeting.
The next day he's back in line and the next and the next and finally, finally, he gets to the front of the line. Ten minutes, the operator says sympathetically, and he looks up and realizes that it's Milliaria and she's taking her turn manning the call station screens.
"Thanks," he says. She waves and moves off to give him some privacy with a "Say hi to her for me, won't you?" and then he is alone.
He enters the connection and prays that she's not in a meeting or asleep. What time is it down there anyway? He's long since lost track. But the screen clears - though the connection is riddled with noise - and it's her face on the other side and her eyes are looking, not at the world, but at him.
"Hey," he says, his hand against the screen, and feels stupid.
"Hey," she says back, smiling, and touches her hand to his hand on the screen, and he can almost feel the warmth of her fingers.
"Milly says hello," he says and she blinks in confusion.
He is feeling similarly confused as this is not at all what he wanted to say to her. So he says, "I'm sorry. I meant, how are you?"
She responds with half a smile, and says, "As tired as you look, I imagine."
"Do I look tired?" he asks, surprised.
"Like you haven't slept in weeks."
Then he tries to think of the last time he slept, really slept, and he can't remember. "Sounds about right. They're keeping me pretty busy with meetings and meeting and-"
"-meetings?" she finishes wryly and they share a laugh as he thinks she's busier than he is and when did this conversation become all about him?
"You're eating?" he asks and imagines that he sounds like her mother, his mother, any number of mothers who can't think of how to express their concern in any way other than asking 'Are you eating properly?' and what is he? Not even twenty.
She gives him that half smile again and he thinks that maybe she can't answer, maybe she doesn't have time for food the way he doesn't have time for sleep, maybe she's worn out and has a meal waiting and instead here she is squandering her precious time talking to him. He wants to say 'I'm sorry' again but thinks that if he does he will spend all ten minutes apologizing for his failures.
"I'll try and eat something," she says finally and he notes how thin she looks, how worn.
He wants to take her in his arms and never let her go. But he's a thousand miles away and in outer space and he has five minutes left on the clock and he thinks, I'm being selfish. I'm stealing time, from these people behind me in line, from the world, from Cagalli.
So he says the only thing he can say. "I love you."
"I know," she says, her eyes softening. "I love you too."
And then he wants to ask her, wants to ask if she'll wear it again – the ring he gave her, maybe one day when this is all over, maybe now because maybe it'll never be over, but surely, surely, it's all right now. It's all right, isn't it? Because you and I are walking steadily towards the same future.
But then the intercom blares his name and he looks at the clock and he still has three minutes - why! - and it looks like a light is flashing on her side and they say together, miserably, "I have to go."
He rests his forehead against the monitor and she does the same and he says again, huskily, "I love you, Cagalli," and she whispers back, "I love you, Athrun," and then they straighten and it's time to go.
"Stay well," he says.
"Good-bye," she replies, and as her hand reaches over to switch off the connection, his eyes catch the glint of metal around her neck.
Ah, he thinks, looking at the screen gone dark. It's all right. And as he turns, he permits himself a smile.
So they finally locate Shinn and Lunamaria on one of the big carriers dealing with recovery. They're mixed in with a bunch of refugees and some crew members recovered from the wreckage of both ZAFT and Alliance ships and almost got away with being safely anonymous except one child pulled his mother aside and said, "I saw that boy on television, Mother."
So fame, fleeting as it was - Shinn's fifteen minutes had seemed like both and age and an instant – brings Meyrin and Lunamaria back into each other's arms. Sobbing together, there are no recriminations, only tears of joy and relief. Explanations will come in time, perhaps bitterness as well, Athrun can't say, but that is all later. This moment, at least, is sacrosanct.
He turns to look at the boy sitting with his head against his knees. "Hello, Shinn."
Shinn does not look at him, does not, in fact, look up. Instead he says, dully, "Is it over then, the war?"
"Yes, Shinn," Athrun says. "This war is over."
That is all he can say; that is all he can promise him. This war is over. Will there be a day when another will come? Who can say? Probably. The Chairman had been right about a great many things, and his view of humanity had not been incorrect. It had not, some will argue, even been misguided. But the Chairman's view leaves no room for humanity to better itself by itself – it leaves no room for natural evolution. And that is a view Athrun rejects and will continue to reject.
Humanity is not, as the Chairman believed, wholly stagnant. Athrun himself has, in as miniscule a fashion as it was, evolved through the course of this conflict. Evolution, he thinks, is rarely comprised of leaps and bounds. Mostly it comes about as a result of a thousand and one tiny steps forward and a thousand steps back. Evolution takes time.
Will war come again? If it does, Athrun prays it will not be in his lifetime. His generation has had enough of death. It is time for them to live.
And it is only through living, he thinks and wants to tell Shinn someday when he is ready to hear, that we all fashion our own destiny.
Athrun is living.
He knows this. As a fact it is fundamental. He breathes, he sleeps, he eats, he dreams. He is a living being.
Sometimes he forgets. Those times are the worst. It means that he is existing in a state between here and there, waking and sleeping. It's tough, he thinks, to live.
But as a soldier he knows the times you feel most alive are the instants when you are closest to death. When you live from day to day, instant to instant, when you stare death in the face and cheat him so often you know your streak of luck is about to run out – those are the times you will think back on and say, Ah, I surely lived then.
But there are other things that make you feel almost the same. And they are better.
He steps out of the helicopter and onto the lawn. The twirling blades stir up the wind and his hair and his collar flaps against his neck. The grass on the lawn ripples but he has no eyes for that, he has eyes only for the woman with gold hair and amber eyes who stands waiting, hands clasped. He looks for the chain around her neck and does not find it. But then he sees it, the band around her finger.
He drops his bag to the ground; they come together in a rush, their eyes meeting for just an instant before they are engulfed in each other's embrace. He says against her ear, low and solemn and heartfelt, beneath the whir of the helicopter blades, "I'm home."
Tears in her eyes, she answers, "Welcome home."
Living is all fine and good, but this is what it means to be alive.
They sit, content in each other's company, she on his lap. It's fine, she says, there's no one to see, and he thinks, it's not me indulging her, it's her indulging me. He thinks she weighs less than a year ago and he'd rather she didn't. Thinks he probably looks too tired for her liking. They'll take it slowly; they'll walk together; they'll make it work somehow. This new world, and them.
"Maybe," she whispers unexpectedly.
"Maybe?" he repeats, bemused, his cheek against hers.
"Maybe there is no such thing as a happily ever after."
"Then what's this?" he says to her softly.
She leans against his shoulder, raises her left hand, and looks at it against the light. Two bands gleam on her ring finger. "A new beginning."
Her eyes are clear and her voice is steady and he thinks of the war and he thinks of being alive and he thinks of his destiny which he will shape with his own two hands, together with her in this new world they are helping to create, and he thinks, fiercely, wholeheartedly, This is why I love you.