Title: Whistle-stop (1/1)
Disclaimer: Whistle-stop is based on characters and situations that belong to Sotsu Agency, Bandai Studios, and TV Asashi (and other production affiliates that have the right of ownership). No money is being made, and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Considerations: Similarities to other stories/events/passages are purely coincidental unless otherwise cited.
He watched her. Everyday for the past few months, he watched her. She joked. She smiled. She laughed. She talked with the wit he hadn't known was natural to her. She practiced authority like he'd never seen her do before.
She breathed. She dreamed.
A casual observer would conclude that she was happy. That she was content. But he wasn't some casual observer, and he'd seen what she'd gone through in the three years he'd known her.
She chuckled openly at a joke a friend cracked, but he'd seen through her façade. She'd brushed off his concern the first time he'd tried to comfort her, lied in his face, assured him that she was all right. For myriads of times she voiced out that she was perfectly fine. But she'd used the same re-assurance one too many times, and he'd seen past her words. He'd seen past her comforting assurance. He was much too experienced to not descry what it was she was hiding.
She laughed again, her eyes seemingly twinkling, her laughter seemingly unhindered, her grin seemingly so blest. But he knew better. Behind those amber eyes that tried to display unequal mirth was a sorrow so elaborately concealed that he'd almost missed it. Behind that crystal laughter was a painful cry so intricately hidden that he'd almost not heard it. Behind that joyous grin was a smile so beautifully melancholic that it was almost painful.
Behind her unyielding image was a crumbling bravado she couldn't even begin to try to fix.
The first time he'd met her, she showed him a fiery disposition he never thought would be gone. He'd witnessed her cry, but even then the fire in her eyes never died, never wavered. When her father perished, those amber eyes held so much sadness but still they shone with raw determination. When a secret about her self was revealed, she allowed herself to appear uncertain, but even then she glowed with a spirit he'd envied.
In the middle of a senselessly bloody crossfire, she'd lost a multitude of friends, allies killed by a race she never learned to hate, and would never learn to hate despite everything. She witnessed deaths of her kind in the hands of his kind, but when the lights of death glared brightly in space, she never paused to think of herself before risking her life to stop the nukes from hitting the home of those who'd offended her.
It was always there. Her fiery disposition was always there.
She was such a brave individual that there were times when he envied her strength. But now she was breaking. From the inside. Where it hurt the most. And he couldn't do anything to help her rekindle the flame that was dying inside her.
That night he chanced upon her at the sun room, glancing out the glass window into the inky night sky. He walked in, careless of his footing, alerting her of his presence. But he didn't care that she caught him, because he invaded her solitude for the purpose of talking to her.
She smiled at him, her face aglow of pale and streaming moonlight. She invited him closer, and he found that he had no way of telling her his thoughts. Despite how much he wanted to talk to her, he couldn't think of any coherent thing to say.
He smiled in return, having so much to say but never grasping the right words to phrase them.
She turned back to the window, her blonde hair falling gently over her shoulders. Her hair, she'd let it grow once down to her shoulder blades, but she had it cut after realizing that it didn't suit her.
A symbolism in its truest form.
She shifted slightly, and he glimpsed a little glint from something suspended from her neck. Then and there he knew what it was. She'd asked him once to return it to its owner, but he'd refused and given it back to her.
When he'd told her that it wasn't his place to return it, she'd taken it back and worn it on her ring finger, just like the way he had meant for her to wear it when he had given it to her. Everyday after that, he'd see it sitting there, settled so comfortably on her fourth finger like it had always belonged there…
…Until the day she'd decided she couldn't wear it anymore.
At least not on her finger.
He'd thought she stashed it away, and he knew that he, too, thought that. But they'd been wrong. She'd chosen to wear it on a chain around her neck, and he learnt of that not too long ago. He, on the other hand, never found out.
He'd been given a few times to witness the chain around her neck when she had to wear those dresses she swore she'd burn but had never gotten the chance to. He'd witnessed how it fell past her neckline, and he was sure it lay near her heart.
"If I ask you to return it to him, will you do it? Even if you've refused my request before?" she spoke, almost startling him at the calmness with which she conveyed her words.
This time around, he was more than willing to do it. Leaving that memento for her to keep was destructive, and he didn't like what was happening to her. He loved his best friend like how a loyal friend would, but he also hated him with a passion he never knew he could muster.
He caused everything. He had left soon after the peace had settled with the reason that Orb was not for him to stay in. She'd been the perfect host then, housing him then waving him goodbye with the warmest of smiles and wishing him all the best in his endeavors when he deemed it right to leave.
He didn't think she'd be this much affected by it, but he should've known better. After everything she'd gone through, a broken promise was certainly not something that would keep her from reaching her limit.
"Yes," he replied with so much conviction in that little word.
She allowed a rueful smile to play on her lips. "What if I tell you that I want you to refuse?"
Her silent inquiry threw him off his rhythm. Why would she possibly want that?
"You want me to tell you a story?"
He frowned, not quite following her. For the three years he'd known her, this was the first time he'd seen her act so…differently. So placid, so calm, almost knowing.
She glanced at him. "Come on. It's a nice story. It's about Athrun and Cagalli."
He didn't quite know how to react, and was subtly surprised when he found himself nodding his head in silent acquiescence.
She smiled that mirthless smile again. "Athrun and Cagalli met on a small island when her skygrasper had been shot down, and his carrier had been gunned by her skygrasper in a last attempt to take down the enemy." She paused, her brow furrowing as if in thought. "Hm, I really don't like talking about myself in third person." She shook her head and grinned at him. "All right, on with the story. It was a funny experience, but I'll skip on the details," she continued, a wistful lilt in her voice.
He didn't want to pry, so he let her advance in her own pace.
"Things happened, and the next thing I knew, we were telling one another that we'd protect each other," she said, deciding to do away with the third-person narration. "He said he'd protect me. And he did. He protected me. He stayed by my side. But then he had to go. He left me this ring, and I want to think that it's his way of telling me that he'd come back. That he'd return to me. Do you think he returned?"
He remained silent as he figured how rhetorical her question was.
"He did. He returned to us. He once again fought on our side."
He easily understood her play of words. Athrun didn't return to her. He returned to them.
"By doing that, he protected me again. He came back, but then he had to leave again. Do you think he broke his promise to return to me?" She gave a noncommittal shrug. "Well, he didn't. Because he never said he wouldn't return. And I still have his ring, don't I?"
He could feel that she was hurting. That every word was a dagger through her heart. But he couldn't do anything to stop her. Because he knew she needed this.
She placed a hand against the cool surface of the glass. "We were so different, and yet we had a connection. Have a connection. We have different dreams, we take different paths, but I know we'll end up at the same junction. I know it. In my heart, I know it. We'll end up catching the same train. One way or another. Know why?" She let out a soulful sigh. "Because we get off at the same whistle-stop."
He never took his eyes off her, and for the first time in a long while, he saw her smile a real smile. A smile that lit up the darkness of the room like how a thousand candles would.
"Athrun…he's so beautifully broken. He needs time to himself. I know you know him very well. He'll try to look for the answers by himself, but he'll return. Not to us, but to me. He'll return to me. I'm sure."
Then and there he saw what he'd been too blind to see. Despite all her anguish was a flicker of hope that would never be killed. She trusted Athrun, and she even made him re-gain the trust for his best friend that he'd lost because of a misunderstood betrayal…if it could even be called that. Her tone had assured him that Athrun would return to her, and this time, he trusted that his best friend would do just that.
He'd forgotten the amaranthine flame that burned within her, and he'd almost come close to snuffing out her spirit by his easy agreement earlier on. She wasn't crumbling down or hiding; she was coping…believing. All this time he'd led himself to believe that she was breaking, that she was stretching her limits. But, it turned out, he didn't know any better.
She fingered the ring that meant to her more than he could ever imagine. "Now you understand. I'm all right. All this time, I've been all right."
Then Kira Yamato nodded…because finally, he understood that Athrun's destination, all along, was Cagalli's whistle-stop.
Whistle-stop - title inspired from Last Whistle-stop on the Nowhere Line, a novel written by a character in Susan Elizabeth Phillips' book Ain't She Sweet?
Had to try something new to pin my muse down. So, what do you think? Good? So-so? Should never see the light of day again? Please review and help me chain down my wandering muse. And yes, I accept flames as well.
Ooh...i wrote "day of light" the first time...XD