So this is incredibly late, but at least I finished it.
"You know, tomorrow IS your birthday." Cagalli looked up and pointed the pen she was holding at the Orb-uniformed, midnight-sky-haired man across the room from her, who was just about to leave.
He looked up from the folder he was reading, and turned around to face her. They had just been in one of those achingly formal meetings that never failed to feel awkward between the two of them. Just having to discuss national matters already made the air tense. Often it helped to have someone else in the room, to make it seem more like a meeting. Otherwise they'd sit there and stare at each other from opposite sides of the desk, feeling like they should and shouldn't be closer or more casual. Usually they opted for something in the middle. Discussion along with a few side comments or conversations to recalibrate the atmosphere and loosen it up.
But today was by far the worst. It was just the two of them, and it was a conference call. Making it the two of them alone in a room, yet forced to concentrate on formal discussion and clearly in each other's presence.
In any case, he was just on his way out after the conference when she had interrupted his steps with her sudden interjection. And judging by the look on his face, he was quite taken aback.
"Uh... Yes, I am aware of the annual re-occurrence of the day I was born."
Cagalli glared at him through amber eyes and raised a blond eyebrow. "Well I'm just saying, you're taking the day off, right?"
"Not really." He responded, shrugging. He was now leaning against a heavy, red velvet plush armchair, folder closed and at his side, head turned to the side to face her, but still on the other side of the room.
"Why not? You can you know. If anyone protests, just tell them I'm letting you. They won't argue."
Another shrug. "It's just a birthday. Somehow, I don't really feel up for a lot of celebration. Kira wants to have a get-together this weekend anyways, so it's not like I have to take the day off."
Cagalli frowned. "You know... I COULD just declare it a national holiday and then force you to take the day off."
Athrun chuckled and flicked his bangs out of his eyes with the brisk toss of his head. "But then what would you call it? Athrun Zala day? Real discreet Cagalli."
"Two days before Halloween day. Gives the people who haven't bought stuff for Halloween a whole day for last minute preparations." She declared with an eerie air of casual formality.
"You're kidding." He stared.
"Well obviously. No, wait... Yes I'm kidding about two days before Halloween day. No about you taking the day off." She stood her ground firmly.
"All right then." Athrun nodded, seeing an easy way to take advantage of the situation. "I'll take the day off, if you do too."
"Why aren't you taking the day off?" Cagalli's eyebrow twitched lightly, as the familiar man came striding into her office just past noon, the next day.
"I told you, I'd take the day off, if you do." he smiled, still dressed formally and clearly doing something productive or work related.
"And I told you to stop dreaming." She glared.
"I'm not kidding. You could use a day off just as much as I could. Besides, what would I do all day without you? Come on." Athrun persuaded.
Warm blood rose to her face, bringing out the bright caramel of her eyes. She mumbled something about catching up on sleep, then continued in a louder voice. "Well unfortunately, I have work planned for today, so until I get it done, I can't leave. Just go ahead and take the day off. If I hurry, I can get out of here at a decent hour and we can have dinner or something." Cagalli responded curtly, not even redirecting her gaze from the document in front of her.
She looked up only to almost fall out of her chair. He was hovering just above her, looking over the papers that she had been perusing, apparently skimming the material.
"Wha-What are you doing!?"
"If I help you, you can get out of here faster. Right?"
"Ri-Right... But I don't want-"
"And if you leave, I already promised that I'd leave too. Right?..."
"Yeah... Athrun I can handle-"
"Then it's settled."
"I'm helping you." He casually pulled a chair around to the other side and sat himself down beside her. "Now where were you?"
Cagalli's face was rapidly turning color and her hands were falls up into shaking fists, either out of anger or embarrassment, or a combination of both. "Athrun, leave!"
"No need. You'll need another copy of this for records, right?" He held up a document. Cagalli blinked, leaned forward and squinted.
"Well, yeah but... But I don't need you to copy it for me, ATHRUN!" She cried, reaching forward to snatch the paper with the last sentence. He stood up and was quickly out of her range, then walked over to the copy machine.
"I... I can make my own copies! Besides, my Xerox machine's been broken for a while... Dunno why..." She mumbled. "Just go outside and use the secretary's."
Athrun regarded the infernal contraption for a moment, then looked back at her. "Are you sure it has paper?"
"YES IT HAS PAPER! I know that much!" She protested hotly.
"I can fix it you know." He noted, still staring at the machine, hand on his chin as if in deep thought. He removed a pocket toolkit form his jacket pocket.
A purple clay paperweight came flying inches from his left cheek and hit the machine. Athrun turned to face a steaming Head Representative.
"No! No you cannot fix it because I won't let you! For heaven's sake just go out and use another-"
"It's probably because of abuse like this that the machine stopped working." He mockingly scolded her, while bending down and rolling up his sleeves, apparently about to start dismantling.
"Athrun! If you take apart- GAH! PUT THAT BACK! DON'T TOUCH- Ooooh if you break it I'm going to KILL you!" She threatened.
"It's already broken. How much worse could it get?" He rolled his eyes in a mockingly tired tone, then turned to face her. "Besides I'm good with machines and stuff. You know that. I made all those haros didn't I?"
"For better or worse." Cagalli mumbled under her breath, reluctantly returning to her work. Suddenly, her eyes widened. "Athrun, if you make that thing bounce and ask me how I'm feeling every 30 seconds I'm going to wring your neck!"
Again, her blue haired companion looked up and grinned. "Do you want me to?"
"Just teasing..." He chuckled to himself, turning back to the machine and continuing to fiddle with it.
Hours later, the Xerox machine was humming happily in tiptop shape and Athrun was proudly admiring his work. "Sorry it took a while... I'm not really used to fixing office machinery." He smiled sheepishly.
Cagalli stared at him, her facial expression a mixture of exasperation, disbelief, admiration and ultimately the fact that she had conceded and let him tinker with the damned thing. Besides, he seemed to have been having fun while he was ripping out pieces of the thing that she didn't know existed.
"Well thank you very much. You didn't really have to do that, and you didn't help me with any paperwork, but I didn't want you to anyways... Go wash up. Your arms are covered in ink. Then take the rest of the day off."Her head was propped up by her left hand, which was supported by her arm leaning on the desk, and she seemed to speak with all the emotions her expression held.
"Are you done your work?"
"Well then I'm not going."
She sighed. "Go wash and then we'll see."
Athrun smiled, then carefully left the room for the nearest restroom, trying very hard to ignore the semi-horrified and bewildered look on several worker's faces when they saw how dirty he was.
By the time he was clean, and on his way back, there was another person in the room. And judging by the look on Cagalli's face, this person was not terribly welcome.
"I know that the press has a right to know sir, but I'm afraid that I can't tell you that sort of thing. It's classified information." She replied sternly, presumably in lieu of some demand.
"If you can't tell us, then WHO CAN? You're the leader of our nation! Take responsibility!"
Athrun could see her patience wearing down with every word the person who he could only assume to be a reporter spoke. Giving an interview was one thing. Criticizing and blasting was another.
"What's the problem?" He casually spoke aloud, to interrupt the converation.
"Colonel Zala! Perhaps you can answer some questions!" The young male reporter scurried over, notebook in hand. "Recently there have been talks of the possibility of another invasion, if the current peace treaty breaks down. Is Orb prepared for another war? The last one severely deprived us of many important resources, and many speculate that our military is depleted of essential aircraft such as-"
"This is not a press conference, nor do we have an obligation to answer these questions." He cut him sharply.
"But I have an appointment with the Representative! And she refuses to answer my questions-"
"With very good reason. Such information IS classified and will NOT be disclosed. That much as always been true."
"Then you leave the public in the dark about-!"
"The public knows the current peace treaty will NOT dissolve because we are all working very hard to maintain it. Both sides. Two wars in a lifetime is two more than anyone should have to live with. Nobody wants another war. Therefore, military condition is not our priority." He replied, before ushering the man out of the room.
"Can I quote you on that?" The reporter asked, scribbling furiously while being forcibly pushed out. "Despite how attractive the Head Representative is, she didn't really say anything quotable. Simply putting up picture of Orb's goddess isn't going to be enough... We're also doing an article on the most prominent bachelorettes of the world. She is still single right?"
Athrun blinked, then thought about what he just said. "No. Now for your sake, don't come back here. Ever again." He frowned, giving him a final shove out of the office, before shutting the door firmly. He then turned to face Cagalli, who had her hand in her hands, slouched over the desk, still sitting in her chair.
"Sorry." She began, lifting her head, looking exhausted. "I'm fine, really. It's just.. it's hard for me to pull words together in that sort of situation. I like to prepare my speeches. First he started hitting on me, and I thought he was mental. Then he was just blasting me... and honestly, I thought I'd canceled that guy's 'appointment' with me ages ago. The magazine he works for lost its credibility when they published an article babbling about how my father was spotted discussing the possibility of inter-species reproduction with Dullindal in Hawaii. Something about breeding... Baboons and Jellyfish."
"Maybe that's what he is, and he took personal offense?" Athrun offered. Cagalli laughed, music to his ears.
"So.. back to the point. How much work do you have left?"
"It's already 5pm... And I've probably got another two hours or so. By then we won't really have time to go change, make reservations somewhere, or do anything...And besides, I think we're both pretty tired..."
"Well then, you do your work for two hours, and then we'll go home together."
Her eyes widened, and she stood up, taking long strides over to where he was standing and beginning to push him towards the door. "Ohhh no! I already told you to take the day off and you didn't. I'm not making you stay overtime! I'm tired of arguing with you all day about this! I don't want you to stay! Go away, right now!"
Athrun smiled. "But I don't want to. And you don't really want me to either."
"You're really annoying me, you know that?" She glared, clearly peeved.
"And you're a really bad liar." He shot back, flashing her a glimpse of two perfectly straight rows of teeth.
"Li-? You're delusional."
"You're still lying."
"You just think I am, I assure you I'm not."
"Then why are you still talking to me?"
"Ah-...Tha-..." She trailed off, then turned abruptly and began to stalk away. "You REALLY annoy me."
"Only because you look really cute when you're annoyed." He shrugged. She stopped in her tracks, refusing to turn around for fear that her face was a red as it felt.
"You look cute when you blush too."
"That's it!" She spun around, arms pinned to her sides, shaking with god knows what emotion.
"Most people would take that as a compliment." Athrun smiled, inclined his head a bit towards her, as if to accentuate his point.
"I'm not most people." Cagalli's glare intensified.
"Evidently." He smiled, taking a step forward and wrapping his arms around her. "But it's the things that make you not like most people that I find most endearing."
Time passed as she settled comfortable into his embrace, neither really saying a word. Both simply waited, as her heart rate stopped racing, calmed down, then synchronized with the steady beats of his heart. Neither of them knew how long they'd stayed like this, without saying a word. Merely that it seemed to be only a blink of time.
A blink of pure bliss. Like your favorite seven seconds to a song, that you keep replaying over and over. You try to stop the tape and replay that moment, and when you can anymore, you play it in your head. It was short, and just seven seconds of the whole song. But in those seven seconds, you'd feel so happy, just caught up in the music of the moment.
And then the song would play on...
"This was supposed to be your birthday. The day where you celebrate and relax... But you've just been working all day now, no thanks to me." Cagalli sighed.
"Well that also means that I've been able to spend all day with you, which I'm happy about." Athrun responded.
"We haven't done anything, like going out to eat. Nothing special like we were supposed to." she added.
"We can do something special later tonight." He followed, with a obvious grin. At that moment, he could swear he felt her blushing.
"Thanks for fixing the Xerox machine."
"No problem. It was actually kind of fun."
"And thank you for chasing away that weird reporter."
"Any time. That was really fun."
Cagalli let out a brief gasp of laughter, then sighed. "You're a total idiot, always doing more that you have to and getting yourself into more trouble than you have to. And you're stubborn. And sometimes I can feel like a real idiot when I'm around you. In fact I could think of several very stupid and frustrating things about you." She began to mumble with her face buried against his shoulder, unwilling to look up and face him. Athrun wasn't really sure if he liked where this was going, but the words were still hers. So he just stood there, if only to hold her a moment more. If only to hear her voice a little longer...
"In the end though, I always end up saying thank you. For fixing things, and helping me, and even if I do feel like an idiot sometimes when I'm around you, I'm still an incredibly happy one and perfectly okay with it. I feel okay being whoever I am when I'm with you... So most of all Athrun, thank you... for being here. Happy Birthday..." Cagalli spoke softly, moving her head slightly so that her voice was now muffled by his shirt collar. A smiled spread gently on his face as he leaned his head into hers.
"You shouldn't thank me... Because being with you is one of the joys of my life."
Cagalli blushed and laughed. "I probably look like a fire hydrant now..."
Athrun chuckled. "I told you, that's really cute."
Thank you Cagalli,
Happy Belated Birthday Athrun!
I have no idea when I'll be able to update my other fics. I have midterms and finals to deal with, so I don't really have the luxury of prioritizing my fics anymore. Fear not, they will be finished eventually. Until then, I can only readers to be patient and accept my utmost apologies.