Title: After the Storm
Author: the Black Rose
Pairing: Athrun x Lacus
Fandom: Gundam Seed
Theme: 20, The Road Home
Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Seed. This fanfiction has no commercial value and I am not making any kind of profit or income off of this story, or the use of characters owned by Sunrise and Bandai.
AN: Dedicated to idyllicdarkness. Written for the 30kisses livejournal community.
Set post-Destiny; rough draft written prior to the extended footage released for episode 50. Quotes from the series were done entirely by memory and may not be exact. Thank you to those who will read it. Love, Rose
After the Storm
Waves thundered like the guns from a warship against the shore. An army of dark clouds hovered on the horizon, but the bright hues from the setting sun held them off with brilliant swords.
Athrun took a deep breath; the tang of warm, salted air filled his nose. She stood beside him, her long, pink hair tossed loosely around her shoulders and tangling with the breeze. She no longer wore the captain's uniform of the Eternal's warship. Instead, she wore a simple, green dress and clutched a shawl around her arms. Her blue eyes fixed on something in the distance. The light from the setting sun touched the skin of her cheeks and settled across her features like a mask.
The Earth and the PLANTs were once again at peace. But Lacus Clyne...
"I don't mind if you want to laugh at me." Chairman Dullindal bowed his head as he spoke. "It's somewhat of a deception. But, I need her power. She has the ability to influence the people of PLANT. More than I do."
Her mouth curved up in a small smile, and the thought occurred to him: 'When would those who fought for peace feel…' She glanced at him and her eyes glittered in the waning sunlight. Did she…in all her ability to lead and find those answers that seemed to elude him, did she know…
He opened his mouth to ask her, but all that came out was: "Will you…" He cleared his throat and tried again. "Will you go back to singing, Lacus?"
"I…" She glanced away. Her head tilted down like she was speaking to the sand at their feet. "I never thought it was really that important to people. But…I will go back." She straightened her shoulders. Her head rose. "If I can help people…Yes." She nodded. "I think I will."
Her voice floated on the breeze as she spoke. It had a soothing quality to it like the sound of breakers slapping against the shore. 'How can she know all the answers, when I still don't know anything?'
She turned to look at him again. Her features still a mask, that small smile widened and her blue eyes smiled with her mouth. "What will you do, Athrun?"
He stuffed his hands in his pockets and stared at the receding water. "I'm not sure. But. How?" Something burned in the back of his throat; his stomach dropped. "How can you just overlook the past?" He turned to face her. "Do you really think you're blameless? That you had no share in the responsibility—"
"It's not that I don't have regrets, Athrun." The smile was gone. Her eyes turned down and her eyebrows rose. "I don't think I'm blameless. I gave orders that resulted in people's deaths." She shook her head. Her eyes turned glassy. "I killed to protect – the same as your father once preached." She looked away.
He pulled his hands from his pockets and grabbed her shoulders. Her eyes met his. "Then how—"
"Can I go back and face it?"
The burning sensation in his throat caught fire and worked its way down his chest. "Yeah." He released her and took a step back.
Her mouth curved up again, but her eyes…her eyes brimmed with tears. She didn't have his answers after all. "I can't. I ran away for a long time. Waiting for someone else to come along. Hoping someone would take it all away or make it better. That I'd wake up one day and be…forgiven."
"Then…" The burning sensation inflamed the rest of his body then turned ice cold.
"Life…doesn't stop." She grabbed his hand and held it with both of hers. "It keeps happening. One minute at a time." One hand moved to touch his cheek. "An hour, a day…"
She tucked a piece of hair behind his ear. It was a gesture that reminded him of his mother…. He took a breath. His body shook with the effort.
She smiled at him with those tears in her eyes. "If I can face one minute, can't I face a lifetime?"
He pulled away. "That makes far too much sense. Your optimism…" He sighed and returned his hands to his jean pockets. "You're a stronger person than I am."
"Yeah. All that time. I was fighting to protect you. And-and you didn't even need me." Wind gusted in from the direction of the sea. Athrun turned and watched the dark clouds steal across the sky.
"That's not true. A person's strength doesn't mean…" He saw her move from the corner of his eye. Her hand touched his elbow, then slid to the inside of his arm. "Of course I need you." Lacus laid her head on the outside of his shoulder. The warmth of her touch, the warmth of her skin…
"Who will fix my Okapi and make sure my dear Mr. Pink is always around to keep me company?"
He sighed. The sun gave up its battle for the day. "Yeah. I guess I always have a place as your haro mechanic." 'My only place.'
"Of course." Her voice sounded cheerful, like she was teasing. His chest tightened. Athrun closed his eyes and bowed his head.
"But, that's not the only reason…" Her voice sounded hushed, fragile. "…I need you."
"Lacus?" He opened his eyes and stared down at the girl still nestled against him.
"Mmmmm…" She looked up, and she was smiling. "Just one of many."
"One of many?"
"Yes." She lifted her head. "And I'm sure there's even more people on the PLANTs that need you, too." She retracted her arm and began to walk away – towards the path that led back to the house. Lacus glanced back over her shoulder; she met his gaze. "You'll always have a place to go home to. Athrun Zala." She took another few steps.
Away from him.
The night air stole the residual warmth of the day – piece by piece. He shivered and watched her leave. Like so many other times…."I'm not a Zaft soldier anymore," he called out after her. And then the terrible voice in the back of his head asked: 'So, what…who am I?'
His stomach clenched into a fist and pulled.
She didn't turn around. Just kept walking… "I'm glad."
'No!' The air ignited in his lungs and he exhaled, desperately. The fire burned up his throat. He choked when he tried to breathe again. 'Don't…' He sunk to his knees in the sand, gasping for air. "But…I've been a soldier so long…I don't…I don't even remember…. How?" Sand cut the palms of his hands. His fingers slipped through the pieces of earth – trying to grasp, trying to hold on… "How can I go back and live a normal life when everything and everyone I knew…It's all gone, Lacus! My mother, my father…" He righted his upper body and stared at the back of the young woman, her long pink hair tossing in the breeze.
The wind stilled for just a moment, and he managed to choke out: "Even you."
"I'm still here." Tendrils of her hair floated off her shoulders.
"Yes, but not—"
Lacus turned around. "Athrun."
"No, let me."
"All right." She tilted her head. "Say what you want."
He spoke to the sand he held on to in the palm of his hand. "I lost you, too." The wind gusted in from the direction of the ocean to his right. "You're, you're alive, but I…" Athrun glanced up and found her…closer than she had been just seconds ago. "You…I couldn't even fight for you." She moved to stand in front of him. "I had no right when my father…"
"Lacus Clyne is a traitor. It goes without saying, Athrun, that she is no longer your fiancée."
Pain gouged holes in his chest with sharp, claw-like teeth. "…when he caused you so much pain."
Her face crumpled and he'd never seen her…He never knew her until that moment. Tears trickled from the corners of her eyes. "Kira, my…my father…"
Night finished stamping out the fire of day. Embers sat beyond the edge of the horizon, cooling in the dark ash.
Lacus reached for him; her hand slid across his cheek and tilted up his chin. His eyes met hers and he watched her lean forward to press her mouth to his. The kiss was gentle at first, and warm – just Lacus's mouth parting to caress his bottom lip. Her eyes slipped closed…He didn't dare. She began to pull away, and that's when Athrun's body un-froze. He grabbed her around the waist and clutched her against him. His lungs burned for air.
She stroked the hair away from his face, curling pieces behind his ear. Her lips brushed soft, tiny kisses against his cheek.
"I…I still have nightmares." He closed his eyes and spoke in a whisper next to her ear.
"I know." He felt her breath on his skin. "Ever since your mother died."
"I used to see her. Then, it was my father." He buried his face into the hollow between her shoulder and neck. "Now, it's you."
She pressed her left cheek against his temple. "When you have nightmares, it means—"
"Yeah, I know." He lifted his head and stared at the wood railing that led back to the house. "I'm still alive." She leaned back; he had to loosen his embrace. Lacus's hand found his cheek again.
"You still have things to lose. Important people you care about that are still here." Something wet his cheek.
"Whereever you go, Athrun," she whispered. Her voice sounded fragile, again. It wavered and broke.
He choked and tightened his grip. And for once, she wasn't slipping through his fingertips. "I just want to go home." He drew a shaking breath. "But, I don't know where that is."
"It's all right. We don't have to know…all the answers." He felt her breathe. "We just have to keep looking." Her fingertips on his skin…
"Take one minute. Remember how you feel at this moment, and you won't—"
"I feel like…" His heart pitched wildly in his chest. A strange, cold heat rolled through his body, and then like magic…everything inside him settled. Cool air tangled in his hair and ran its fingers down the heated skin of his back. He loosened his hold on her waist and sat back on his heels in the sand. "I just feel… " Athrun turned away. He folded his legs to sit on the beach and just stared out at the dark water. It rippled and moved with the wind. Waves formed, crashed, receded…The water took so many shapes. And it changed forms without really changing at all.
"I think…I should have told you a long time ago…th-that I— " She sat down beside him. He took a deep breath and continued. "I love you." He smiled at the sea. "That's…how I feel right now." Athrun closed his eyes. He felt Lacus lean against him and he opened his eyes. Her head settled on his shoulder. Her hand came to rest in his palm and she tangled her fingers with his. He placed his arm around her shoulders. She shivered and huddled closer.
The night air turned cooler. The breeze picked up. Lacus pulled her shawl from her arms. Water splashed somewhere off in the distance, and the waves continued to roll in from the sea….