The 'Right Way'
It was a quaint setting. The full moon was shining, surrounded by thousands of stars and wisps of clouds, and they were sitting in many of the small tables for two out on top of a second story veranda. Formal setting was a must in place like this, and the elegantly decorated room inside and the soft tunes of violins and clarinets traveled through the wide, open glass doors.
The waves of the beach just below them, crashing on the shores, also added to the effect.
Of course, Athrun was more than just surprised to find out that Cagalli was enjoying herself in a place like this. It was her birthday, after all, and he wouldn't want her bored on that special day. Although dressed in a vibrant and stylish long red dress made her look more in place than ever, the restaurant was just screaming out refinement, one of the qualities that she had a hard time grasping.
It was one of the characteristics of her loud and opinionative personality that drew him towards her in the first place.
So far, it had been a quiet meal. That worried him somewhat. She usually loved to talk, and enthusiastically as well, and most of the conversations that they had so far were pretty neutral.
She twirled her fork around her spaghetti, lifting to her mouth and biting it off. Chewing, she looked towards the ocean thoughtfully.
"You know," she started, taking a sip of her water. "Do you remember when we first met? At that island? You know, the place with the sand and the water and my broken down jet..."
Athrun, who was taking a delicate bite of his chicken teriyaki, stopped. He raised his eyebrows. "That's not the kind of thing a person would end up forgetting."
"Of course, that is what a person who forgot would say," Cagalli stated.
She gave him a pointed look. The one that he learned simply meant: Just tell me already, I do not want a long winded answer. I like straight to the point kind of people.
He sighed. "Yes, I remember."
"I want to ask you something..."
He chewed on a piece of lettuce. "Sure."
"Why didn't you kill me?"
He choked. "Excuse me?"
Setting down her fork beside her plate yet again, she clasped together her hands, looking at him straight into the eyes.
He wondered if she got that cut throat politician look from all those pointless and exhausting meetings that she often complained to him about.
"You and I both know that if it was Kira-" she stopped, and reconsidered. "Ok, maybe not Kira, but if it was someone else that you didn't know, like, say, Asuka or something, you would've stabbed him without a second thought."
"I really don't see how th-"
"Are you sexist, Athrun Zala?" she asked, her voice dead serious. "Because you had no problem rushing me and getting ready to kill me until I screamed, and obviously my voice was feminine, because you said, 'a girl?' From that specific anecdote, we can see that you had no hesitation of killing, or at least, physically hurting me, until you found out that I was, in fact, a woman."
It took a while for him to process all that. Since when was she one to give talk using such words that no one else uses? He wouldn't be surprise if she used espionage from now on rather than just spy.
It was weird.
And, where Cagalli might be a tomboy and all that, and he was all for women's rights, since when was Cagalli such... a feminist?
"Cagalli," he began, a whole different look crossing his face. "What are you tal-"
"I just want to know," she said, her voice clear. "Did you not kill me because I was a girl?"
"And don't say that it was because I wasn't part of the Earth Alliance because we both know that you knew nothing about my status concerning politics or military at that point in time."
He folded his arms across his chest. "Do you really have that little faith in my morals about life and death?"
"Well," she said, in a firm and stubborn voice. He started to wonder what happened to the Cagalli that he drove down here with. "I did shoot at you first, and you were at perfect liberty to defend yourself from further harm from the attacker, which was me."
She started eating again.
Athrun was speechless.
"I would still love you, if the answer was: yes, you didn't hurt me because I was a girl. I'd think it was quite gentlemanly, actually. Hell, it's because of that that I'm alive right now, and we're having this dinner. Although, I was hoping more along the lines of an all you can eat buffet..." She smiled at him, the candle light adding more of an effect on her bright yellow hair and unique eyes.
She was beautiful.
"Wait a minute, you don't like this place?"
She frowned, that ever famous spark of impatience lighting in her eyes. He had to admit he was impressed that she was able to hold it in that long. "Of course I like it. I'm with you, aren't I? Now will you just answer the stupid question?"
"If the question is so stupid, do I really have to answer it?"
A-ha, so he was right. Athrun felt a fond, endearing smile spread over his face as he saw Cagalli's wrist moving in a rhythmic motion. This was so, totally, completely, her. Unless he was mistaken, and he'd like to think he wasn't, she was squeezing hard on the stress ball Kira and Lacus had wisely given her, along with the entire first season of Masters of the Forbidden Art (her favorite show on television). The latter gift took away the fury the first one caused.
He raised his hands in mock defeat, and said in a subdued, humble voice, "Yes, Cagalli, I didn't kill you for attacking me because you were a female, and I was taught by my mother not to hit girls."
He hoped she caught on by now that he wasn't sexist. Being raised by someone as sweet as his mother taught him to respect women, and meeting someone as cool and sophisticated as Ezarzia Jule a few times solidified his opinion.
He stiffened slightly as he felt a foot a rubbing slowly against his own. Each time it traveled further up his leg. Blood was rushing up his face so fast that he wondered just how it was possible.
Well, it was pretty hot in there...
He loosened the tie around his neck, and shifted slightly, unnoticeably, in his black jacket. Looking up, his curiosity was peaked as he saw her looking at him with an almost mischievous look.
She was never this forward.
Unless, of course...
Realization dawned upon him, and the redness in his cheeks and ears faded.
"You know," she whispered, her voice low and soft, but with a little bit more of something. It was like she was trying to be seductive.
"If I were to attack you again," her leg was doing a fine job in keeping him interested. He might be a man who looked for the personality, and not just physical lust, but he wasn't one to be complaining in a beautiful woman's attempt to seduce him.
Well, he would, actually, mostly since he already was in a pretty good relationship with the most charismatic woman in the universe. But... seeing that it was her doing the seducing...
"Would you," her voice dropped lower, and her heavily lashed lids lowered.
Oh, he loved Cagalli to death, but this was just too funny.
"Would you stop me, Athrun?"
A small smile played on his lips.
His leg locked onto hers, and he reached for her hand. Drawing slow, small circles, on her palm, he whispered, "Of course not, my lady. Anytime that you want to..." he kissed the back of her hand in a romantic gesture, feeling his heart thump faster as she blushed shyly, no matter how long they've been together.
He trailed a finger down her arm, and saw the goose bumps arise there. "I'll not stop you from attacking me with your utmost strength."
He leaned in towards her, his dark hair just missing the flicker of the candle. "Of course," he said, making his voice low and husky. "I will have to fight back with all that I have..."
There was a silence.
At first it was a giggle. But it wasn't long till full blasts of laughter came out of her mouth. Although it was loud and rich, and drew lots of attention, looking at her, with her face pink with laughter, and tears almost coming out of her eyes...
It was the best part of his day.
He was laughing too, but not as loudly. As she calmed down, wiping her face, an occasional giggle still escaping, a waiter came by.
Clearing taking their plates on a tray, he stood tall and dignified as he addressed Cagalli. "Miss, we would like to ask you to stay quiet. This is a refined place, and we would like to keep that reputation up..."
He walked away stiffly.
"Immature youngsters... think they're all that just because they can afford to eat here and they're under thirty..."
Cagalli gaped. "What's up his a-"
"He was only doing his job," pointed out Athrun. But he too was wondering what the length of the pole was.
"Screw him," said Cagalli, sticking out her tongue, and gesturing with her hand, as she leaned back and looked up at the sky. Finally she was relaxing. Even at the beginning of the dinner she seemed oddly quiet. Of course, she was probably just thinking of that plan... He was just happy that she now had a chance to be Cagalli, not Representative Attha, and was grasping it fully.
"Ooh," said Cagalli, seating back up. "I have the best blond joke."
Athrun raised an eyebrow, but did not say anything.
"Yes, yes, I know that I'm a blond," said Cagalli carelessly. "But as I know that I really am not that kind of person, I have nothing to care about." She snorted slightly. "Besides, it really is funny. And it could be a redhead joke, or a brunette joke. Blonds just happened to be the unfortunate people who got picked for this stereotype. I mean c'mon, look at Mika Hannen and Sasha Berades... They are prominent examples that contradict the bias against blondes. They are the last people you'd see going like," she pulled a thick lock of hair from her right side, and started twirling it around her finger. "Yeah, so, um, what are you, like, wearing to the party, like, tonight?"
He laughed softly (a grin spread across Cagalli's face), and motioned with his hand, looking at her directly. It was rude not to that when people were talking to you apparently, even though you were listening just fine. "Go on, then."
She leaned forward excitedly. "Ok! So, there was this redhead, a brunette, and a blond, who all worked under the same boss."
"Anyway, they all noticed that their boss always left a little early. One day, they decided that they would leave early too."
"Ooh, nice, chocolate éclairs." She bit into one, savoring the sweet taste.
Athrun took a bit of his chocolate mousse. It seemed that they both had a fetish for chocolate. "This is a good place. We have to come back sometimes." Cagalli nodded. "Anyway, the joke...?"
"Oh, right. Well, the brunette went home, and turned in early so she could go to work fresh the next morning. The redhead went on a long date with her boyfriend."
"The blonde went home, and opened her bedroom door. She saw her boss in their, sleeping with her husband. She quietly closed the door, and sneaked out of her house."
Athrun raised an eyebrow, for what seemed to be the tenth time that day. Why didn't the woman just go and slap them both? "Okay..."
She swallowed her food before continuing. "So, the next day, the brunette asks to the blond, 'Are we leaving early again, today?' The blond gets a scared look on her face and says, 'Are you kidding? I almost got caught!'"
Cagalli cracked up, placing her hands on her stomach.
Athrun contemplated silently for a moment.
"...Um, don't take this the wrong way Cagalli, but I don't get it. At all."
Her laughter died.
"I don't get it," he deadpanned.
"Oh my..." she looked at him with utmost astonishment, as if she had never met anyone as incompetent before. She spluttered, "Her husband was cheat... the boss was... and she... holy shit Athrun! The husband was cheating on her with her boss, and she was worried that she almost got caught by her boss!"
He still did not get it. It wasn't his fault what she said was a crappy joke...
Cagalli rubbed her temples exasperatedly. He was pretty sure her stress ball was out as well. "That was such a good joke! Completely wasted..."
"Oh, don't worry about it," she waved it away, as she leaned back on her chair. "This has been a great day. I loved the military themed teddy bear you won me at the theme park. I could've done it myself, of course," she threw a cheerful smile at his direction. "But cotton candy called for my attention..."
She sighed, and closed her eyes.
"This has been the nicest day I had in such a long time. I mean, you are always great to me, but this... This was just... great. It can't get any better."
He reached into his coat pocket and got up from his chair. It was now or ne- well, it was now till the next perfect opportunity came. And he'd rather do it now, when they were both so content.
Cagalli looked at him surprisingly.
He smiled. "I think I found a way to make it better."
He got down on one knee and took her hands. "Athrun..."
"Is this the right way to give a girl a ring?" he asked teasingly, impressed with himself for not seeming nervous, holding it out in from of her. Her face started heating up to match the color of her dress. He felt a flush of warmth on his cheeks too.
"It's called an engagement ring," he said, looking slightly to the right of her legs, trying to keep his voice steady. "It's the ring that one person in a romantic relationship, usually the man, gives to the other, usually the woman, when they... when they think they're ready to get married."
"I know what an engagement ring is!" she cried out.
Her shout drew a lot of attention, even more so than her laughing did. But, it didn't matter to him right then, as his heart started beating faster, and the only person he saw right now was Cagalli.
He looked up from her white sandaled feet. "Do you accept, Cagalli Yula Attha?"
Her face glowed even more, and she looked down shyly. He barely caught the nod, and the softly whispered, "yes."
Athrun smiled, the same smile that Lacus once told him made him look like Prince Charming. The same one that Cagalli once told him made him look like he knew exactly what he wanted, and he had no doubts, and admired him for it. The same one his mother, the beautiful Lenore Zala, told him when he was young, it would show people the strong, kind, and caring person that he was.
He slipped the ring onto her finger, and pulled himself up slightly, his hand resting on her cheek. She glanced at the beautiful ruby stone on her hand and looked at him happily, her eyes moistening. Reaching out, she weaved her fingers through the strands of his hair, pulling him forward, so their lips met half way. He felt her lips mouth, 'I love you,' when they kissed.
This time, the both thought firmly. No wars or crazy politicians were going to get in between of them, and their happily ever after.