Title: Daddy's Sleeping
Pairing(s): Athrun/Cagalli, implied Kira/Lacus
Genre: Romance/Fluff
Rating: K+
Spoilers: none
Summary: A mother and daughter have a heart-to-heart concerning a certain man in their lives.
Author's Notes: Written for the Athrun Zala Dorky Birthday Post Project 2006 over at Livejournal (link to fic over at livejournal along with other project posts). Take on the future assuming the relationship of Athrun/Cagalli continued through Destiny. I guess you can consider it AU-ish? This is really not a birthday-ish fic but it does deal with Athrun since mother and daughter talk about him. I wasn't going to post this but once milchstrasse over at livejournal read it she just said and I quote "OMG I DON'T GIVE A DAMN IF THIS DOESN'T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH BIRTHDAYS GODDAMMIT THIS WILL GET POSTED OR SO HELP ME I WILL BURN EVERYONE WHO SAYS OTHERWISE" unquote. :p
Disclaimer: The characters and lullaby, "Lullaby and Good Night," used in this fic aren't mine. They belong to Johannes Brahms, Bandai and whatever other company has a say in their fate.

"Okay, so if I give you two more cookies, then how many will you have?" Athrun watched the blue-eyed girl intently as she screwed up her face, thinking.

"Five?" she finally responded. "Right! Very good! Three plus two is five." He handed his partner two Oreos. "Here you go...and that makes one, two, three, four, five Oreos," he said, counting them off.

His daughter looked up at him. "If you give me one more, then we'll have six," Lenore said.

"That's right." Athrun looked at her, puzzled. "Are sure you can eat that many?"

Lenore shook her head. "Then we can each have three. We can share."

Athrun smiled. "That's a good idea. Thank you." He pulled another cookie out of the bag. "There, that makes six." They began munching on the cookies as they lay on the rug of their family room.

Cagalli smiled to herself, momentarily distracted from the pile of documents splayed across the kitchen table. Athrun had been more help than she could have imagined while she was acting leader for Orb during these summit meetings. Not only did he work full time with the military, he somehow found time to take care of their three-year old daughter, giving her the opportunity to do her tasks without worrying too much about doing her part during these times.

He'd been insistent: "You're gonna need every spare moment to get ready for these meetings since you're Orb's leader," he'd said, "and that means somebody needs to take care of Lenore when you can't. Hey," he'd grinned, "she's three years old now. How hard can it be?"

She shook herself and went back to reports on the conflicting opinions on various issues, but a corner of her mind still marveled at her husband. It could be very hard, she thought, to look after an active three year old girl. How many times had she after a two week trip heard the latest calamity? How Lenore had knocked out a front tooth in preschool? Or had gone hunting for frogs at a friend's birthday party and covered her new party dress in mud? Athrun would sometimes grind his teeth in frustration as he recounted the day's adventures, but every time he ended up laughing and smiling. And never, not once, did he get angry at Lenore. Cagalli imagined he had patience but not at the level of giving infinite time to their daughter.

Kira once mentioned that with someone like him around during their childhood Athrun would have to learn a lot of patience. In which she made some smart-ass comment about Kira "still acting like a three-old brat with nothing better to do" when they got together.

He just grinned cheekily at her and mocked-whispered to Lenore: "She just doesn't know how to have fun. I've been trying but I need some help. What do say?" Lenore nodded eagerly while she spluttered which in turn made Athrun and Lacus laugh heartily.

"And the airplane flies over the mountains – WHEEE!!" Now Athrun was swinging Lenore around in a circle, flying her over the furniture as she giggled and squealed in delight. Cagalli heard them finally collapse on the sofa in an exhausted heap, giggling and laughing hysterically. She glanced up at the clock. She furrowed her brow, nibbling on her lip as she contemplated the papers in front of her.

"Whew," said Athrun, "it's gonna be your bedtime soon, sweetie."

"I'm not sleepy," Lenore said through a wide yawn.

"Then how come I can see your tonsils," her father replied, smiling. "C'mon, let's lie down here for a minute or two..."

When Cagalli glanced up at the clock again, it was eight o'clock. She took off her reading glasses, stretching her arms to get rid of the tension that was in her shoulders.

She passed by the sofa in the living room. Lying on it was Athrun, his arms wrapped around Lenore, holding her to his chest. Both were fast asleep.

Cagalli stopped in her tracks as a shiver washed over her; a soft "ohhhh" passed through her lips. Basked in the soft, yellow light of the single lamp on the end table, her child and husband looked positively angelic. Their hair formed two perfect halos around their heads. A tiny smile played at the edge of Athrun's lips as he snored lightly. Lenore sucked her thumb contentedly. She could feel a lump forming in her throat. They were beautiful.

Without knowing why, she slowly sank to her knees, almost as if to worship before them. They really are angels, she thought. After a few seconds, she pulled an afghan out from under the sofa and draped it over them. As she tucked it under Lenore's chin, the little girl's blue eyes popped open.

"Shhhhh," she said in a hushed whisper, "daddy's sleeping."

Cagalli smiled. "I know," she whispered back, "I thought you were, too."

"I was." Lenore frowned a little. "Mommy, do you love daddy?"

Cagalli' mouth popped open. "Yes, I do," she said, a little surprised. She looked at Athrun, still asleep. "I really do love daddy."

Lenore still frowned. "Lots?"

She reached to stroke the little girl's cheek. She thought before answering. "How much do you love daddy?"

Lenore screwed up her face. "I can't count that high," she whispered finally.

"I can't count that high, either. Because when you love someone like we love daddy, or we love Uncle Kira, or Aunt Lacus, you can never count that high. It's like trying to count all the grains of sand at the beach – there's so much it's like it's endless." Her face turned to one of concern. "Why are you asking about this?"

Lenore's blue eyes grew sad. "My friend Sara doesn't have a mommy. She left when she was really small." She looked at Cagalli earnestly. "Why would her mommy do that?"

Cagalli bit her lip. "I don't know," she said finally. "Sometimes mommies and daddies get confused, and they forget how much they love each other."

"Will you and daddy ever forget?" Lenore looked up, a hint of fear playing on her face. Cagalli took Lenore's hand and squeezed it. "I promise you right now we will never, ever forget," she whispered. "I will always love daddy just as much as I love you."

"Wow!" Lenore said, her eyes widening. "That IS a lot!" They were silent for a few minutes. Then Lenore asked, "Why do you love daddy?"

Cagalli sighed and smiled. "I love daddy because he's kind and gentle and funny...in that dorky kind of way like Aunt Lacus told us one time," Lenore giggled. Cagalli began to run her fingers through his blue hair. "He's always, always there for me...he cheers me up when I'm sad...and he gave me you," as she moved to tickle Lenore's belly delighted to here her giggling softly. She sighed again. "He's my best friend in the whole world, Lenore. I could spend the rest of my life hugging and kissing and holding him, and I'd still never be able to thank him for all he's done for me."

Athrun let out a gentle snore as Cagalli continued to stroke his hair.

Lenore thought again for a few moments. "We're lucky to have daddy, aren't we?"

Cagalli could feel her voice catch in her throat. "Yes. We're probably the two luckiest people in the world."

"Don't cry, mommy," Lenore said. She had caught Cagalli' eyes misting over.

Cagalli shook her head. "I'm fine. And you should be getting to sleep. Do you want your pillow?"

Lenore curled up on Athrun's chest. "No. I'm okay here." She closed her eyes. Cagalli began to rub her back. She began to softly sing a lullaby:

Lullaby, and good night,
With pink roses bedight,
With lilies o'erspread,
Is my baby's sweet head.
Lay you down now, and rest,
May your slumber be blessed!
Lay you down now, and rest,
May thy slumber be blessed!

Lullaby, and good night,
You're your mother's delight,
Shining angels beside
My darling abide.
Soft and warm is your bed,
Close your eyes and rest your head.
Soft and warm is your bed,
Close your eyes and rest your head.

Sleepyhead, close your eyes.
Mother's right here beside you.
I'll protect you from harm,
You will wake in my arms.
Guardian angels are near,
So sleep on, with no fear.
Guardian angels are near,
So sleep on, with no fear.

Lullaby, and sleep tight.
Hush! My darling is sleeping,
On his sheets white as cream,
With his head full of dreams.
When the sky's bright with dawn,
He will wake in the morning.
When noontide warms the world,
He will frolic in the sun.

As she kneeled beside them, gazing over them, Cagalli once again fell breathless. Still stroking Athrun's soft mane, she realized she was singing to both of them.

Lenore's eyes were now closed, her breathing steady. Cagalli kissed her gently on the cheek. She reached over and turned the lamp off with a click. With one hand, she propped Athrun's head up, and tucked a pillow under it with the other. She moved her hand to his cheek.

Cagalli leaned over and touched her lips to his, lingering for a long time. When she finally pulled away, he was looking up, smiling at her.

In the half light, she could still see his moist eyes, shining with thankfulness, with a deep, endless love. Somehow, just by looking into his eyes, she realized he had heard everything she and Lenore had said. The smile seemed to quiver on his lips. "I love you," he whispered.

Cagalli bit her lip again, and touched a finger to his lips. "Shhhh," she whispered back. "Lenore's sleeping."