Disclaimer: I don't own Gundam Seed
Full Summary: They say amnesia is curable by a sharp blow in the head. But what if that sharp blow on the head is actually necessary for the heart. Especially when you don't have amnesia at all.
A night to remember…
Athrun and Cagalli arrived at the entrance to the ballroom, where Athrun was greeted by the shininess of the rich people's world. The chandeliers above sparkled with rich crystals that looked like dew threaded down with spider silk, the stonewalls were played with different splashes of color that gave the effect of being surrounded by beautiful opal walls and the floor looked like a surface of a mirror.
Athrun of course had been to hotels for business purposes, but this hotel made even the Stilton hotel look like a cheap rundown tavern.
Well enough of that. Athrun turns to his side and can't help but blush a bit. Cagalli had chosen a lovely chiffon dress in a sea foam color; it was very flattering and sophisticated. She wore a pair of simple stud earrings and nothing else. Simple but lovely…
Feeling his gaze, Cagalli looked to him and said. "You ready?"
Athrun sighed and nodded. Cagalli smiled as Athrun offered his arm. She accepted and they slowly descended down the stairs, they stuck close to the banister so they wouldn't draw attention. Thankfully by sheer luck, everyone was too indulged with the food and dancing to pay heed to them.
"Thank God." Cagalli exhaled with relief. "Okay, Alex. Luck seems to be on our side. The paparazzi fell for the bait that Stephen Spielberg was partying in a dance club with Mel Bibson, which explains why no one flashed our pictures when we arrived here. And also, no one noticed the guest of honor arriving. All we have to do now is blend in. Stick close –but not too close or people will give unwanted speculations, clear?"
Athrun took blinked, smiled and replied with an affirmative.
"I gotta go, the host just saw me. Remember what I told you." With that, she turned and walked away, the sight of her engulfed in the ocean of people. Athrun panicked for a moment but relaxed when he caught her in his sight talking to a group of important-looking people.
Smiling, he moved to the buffet table, keeping her sight in his radar. He poured himself a flute of sparkling wine. He was very parched and took a long sip when he almost choked and died when a familiar voice spoke behind him.
"Hello, Mr. Zala."
He twisted around and prayed his smile would hold.
"Hello, Mr. Durandal."
"Ah, I see that you are enjoying this little shindig for Miss Athha's honor." There was something about his half-smirk smile that disturbed Athrun but when it came to his boss, he was able to conceal his emotions very well.
"Yes. Yes, I am. I'm surprised to see you here, Mr. Durandal."
Somewhat surprised at Athrun's statement, Gilbert smiled, but the sincerity of his smile was betrayed by his voice. "I'm disappointed Athrun. Surely you know that ZAFT has working connections with medical facilities. It would be a wonder why I wouldn't be invited." He chuckled darkly and took a sip from his drink.
Athrun felt like a rug had been pulled from under his feet. Why, oh why did Durandal had to come here?! Better question yet, why was he here in the first place? He glanced at his surroundings and then his gaze fell on a certain woman and that answered Athrun's question.
Gilbert followed Athrun's gaze and smirked upon seeing who was the recipient of Athrun's stare.
"She's quite the woman, isn't she?" Gilbert's words forced Athrun to reluctantly tear his eyes away from Cagalli.
"Miss Athha, contrary to what people might think, came from a very poor family that gained a sudden fortune when her father won a large sum of money. With it, they invested it wisely and were able to multiply it a hundredfold, bought a land that bordered the sea and they struck gold with their shipping lines.
"Sounds like a fairytale come true doesn't it? But this is one is different. Although they became wealthy, they were still nouveau riche and society couldn't bear to taint themselves by associating with the Athha family. They were shunned. Miss Athha, I imagine must have had a hard time in the prep school her father sent her to. But that topic is debatable…"
Athrun's mouth opened slightly at this information while the rest of his face was schooled to look indifferent.
"Is that right?"
A slash of Gilbert's brow rose, his smile that of amusement. Another sip of his wine and then Gilbert continued.
"Her father strove very hard to be accepted in the newfound society. Going as far as setting up an engagement between his daughter and some son a very rich notable family, he was that insistent in his goal. And the man he wanted his daughter to marry was rather pleased with the idea of being married with such a young intellectual woman that he didn't care if they were nouveau riche or not. You see, he was older than her by forty years."
This time Athrun couldn't hide his emotions. His mask dropped and revealed a face of shock and anger. How could Cagalli's father do such a thing?
"Isn't it? That's what Miss Athha had in mind also. She was eighteen when her father sprang up the engagement. Miss Athha refused to become married to someone out of her own father's selfish choice. But her father, single-minded in his pursuit of acceptance, would have none of her defiance and threatened her. If she would not accept his wishes, she would forfeit everything. Her inheritance, her home, everything. He would disown her."
He smiled at the furious rage playing Athrun's face. He placed his glass midway to his mouth.
"I think you know what Miss Athha chose…"
Different emotions welled up inside Athrun. He had always believed that Cagalli was born lucky but if what Gilbert said was true, then he had been wrong all along. Cagalli's father was a terrible man, using his own daughter as a pawn for his gain. He felt sick thinking about how Cagalli must have suffered just because of him.
When Gilbert's thirst was satiated, he continued in finishing his tale.
"Miss Athha was driven out of her own home, losing everything, she was disqualified from being the heiress to her father's wealth. She was alone and lived in unstable places for about half a year. Her godfather, Uzumi Nara Athha came back from abroad when word about his goddaughter reached his ears and adopted her as his own. From then, she studied medicine and became the person she is now."
For a long time, both Athrun and Gilbert said nothing. Gilbert watched Athrun's serious expression and spoke aloud.
"She's quite fortunate to have you by her side, Mr. Zala."
"You're probably the best thing that's happened to her since Uzumi rescued her. That's what I'm saying. I'm sure, without a doubt, you're curious where I learned all this. You see, Mr. Zala, Miss Athha's father happens to be one of ZAFT's richest investors, Mr. Ulen Hibiki."
Athru stiffened at the mention of that name. Ulen Hibiki. God! That was the man he was laughing and having a good conversation with during a previous informal business gathering. At that time, he had thought Mr. Hibiki was a great man. How wrong he was.
"As you know, Mr. Zala, I always make it a point to know everything and everyone that is associated with ZAFT. I learn their ways, their states, stories and secrets. I learn what our rivals' strengths are and how I can manipulate it for our benefits and how to use their own weakness against them."
"In short, I am nosy." He laughed a bit.
"Err—sir, why would you tell me all this?"
At that, Gilbert smiled, his eyes assessing him.
"Congratulations, Athrun. You have been promoted to vice president."
Cagalli nearly ran the way to where Alex was. He looked like he was in a serious discussion. His face seemed to change like scenes in a kaleidoscope. She hoped that the man wasn't provoking Alex. People with amnesia can sometimes be unpredictable.
The moment, she reached Alex, she clung to his side immediately thus earning a look of surprise from Athrun and an amused one from the other man.
She smiled sweetly at the other man. "Would you mind if I borrowed him for a second?" Cagalli didn't notice the panicky state Athrun was in and didn't seem to heed his trembling.
"Of course not. He's yours."
Cagalli smiled even more, not realizing the heavy implication in his words. "Thank you very much, Mister"—
"Gilbert Durandal, ZAFT corporations," he took her hand and kissed the back of it. "At your service, Miss Athha."
Cagalli frowned and had the impulse to wipe off the kiss on her hand but restrained herself to do so.
"Oh. From ZAFT, huh?"
A twinkle of pleasure lit Gilbert's eyes. "Yes, I am."
"Well, if that's the case, I want to talk to you about a certain Athrun Zala"—
"He is now vice president of the corporations, if that is your inquiry." Gilbert cut her off, thinking that's what she had in mind.
That didn't please Cagalli at all. "That's wonderful for him but the thing is"—
This time Athrun cut her off when he took hold off her arm and pulled her to the direction of the open doors leading to the gardens.
"I'd like some fresh air, won't you, Cagalli?"
"It was a pleasure talking to you, Mr. Durandal!"
Athrun was able to get Cagalli at a distance where she couldn't hear Durandal replying
"Likewise, Mr. Zala."
"Alex, what is your problem? I wanted to talk to him about the issue of Athrun Zala!" She spouted. The gardens were filled with red roses full in bloom, the hedges manicured; everything was perfect with nothing out of place. The trees where straight as an arrow, the trunks slim and the tops providing perfect canopies.
Athrun looked at the audacious beauty before him. Her blonde hair looked like silver gold under the moonlight, her eyes sparkling brightly. He couldn't help remembering the words of Gilbert and his hands fisted unconsciously. Cagalli's father was a fool to try to bend Cagalli to her will, no father should ever to that to their own children, at least when the intentions are purely selfish.
"Alex, what's wrong?"
"Huh, oh nothing. Everything's fine…"
Cagalli's eyes narrowed. "I don't believe that for a second. Now tell me, what's bothering"—
"Cagalli, my honey!" An oh-so-familiar-annoying voice cut in.
"Yuuna…" Cagalli seethed.
The purple-haired man appeared before them, looking as arrogant as ever. With him was another man who was brandishing a camera.
He ignored Athrun and talked to Cagalli as if she was the only one who was there besides his hired hand.
"Cagalli, you look as beautiful as ever. The color brings out your delicious complexion." He leered at her. Athrun tried to control the urge of connecting his fist to the man's face.
"Yuuna, what are you doing here?" She questioned vehemently. Yuuna chose to be deaf to the tone of her voice.
"Well, sweet muffin. Pierre here would like a picture of us together for a magazine. Isn't that lovely?"
The oddest thing happened. Pierre broke into tears and ran off crying. They stared after his retreating figure with crickets making noises in the background. Yuuna turned to Cagalli with a pout.
"Look what you've done! You hurt Pierre's feelings."
"I didn't mean to but if that's what it took for him to not take a snapshot, I'd do it again."
Athrun chuckled then stopped when he saw the feral look in Yuuna's eyes.
"You're quite the hellion, Cagalli. I don't know what's up with you." He looked at Athrun with evident disgust.
"Cagalli, you degrade yourself by leading me on then by sleeping with two men named Alex Dino and Athrun Zala"—
Athrun's fist cut him off.