Disclaimer: I own nothing of GS/GSD. R&R please.
This is the final chapter after the entire saga. Thank you again to those who have reviewed so consistently and so helpfully, I really appreciate it. Twilight's Conspiracy, SamuraiGirl7, cottongreentea, Athyra, Teca no Shinju, The Wayfarer 2000, shiloah18, Freyis, cara410, 15transcends, ghikJ and a whole host of other reviewers out there, there are so many to name. I hope you like the last bit of this. ASUCAGABANZAI!
To my Dearest Lacus,
I've lost count of dates. Athrun says it matters very little, and yet, he watches the calendar like a month will pass by if he only blinks. I cannot help but laugh when I am with him, although he maintains the fact that he has not gone out of the way to make himself a clown for my amusement, only that I find everything a riot nowadays.
We've promised to see you, and Kira is waiting as well, I'm sure. But I cannot seem to get away. Kisaka handles most of the work, he is an idiot when it comes to things like these, and Athun encourages him. I still manage to do a little here and there, albeit Rainie conspiring to send me off with Athrun on a sort of retreat, she claims. It was successful, the air here is a little colder than usual, but I am enjoying myself immensely. The snow here is beautiful, the landscape looks like a uniform blouse of pure white cotton against the black lining that is the forest line.
I tried to call you, but each time I call, you cannot seem to get away either. But there's something about letters that is more convenient and something more poignant, isn't there? I suppose you'd read this while bouncing Leon on your lap, or since he's grown so much, Kira would be instead. Say hello to both of them for me. Athrun sends his love as well.
But congratulate Yzak Joule for me when you do see him, for his promotion and his soon-to-be marriage . I know he'll take on the role as the Chairman of ETERNITY with dedication and his supreme capabilities. Shiho will probably make sure that he doesn't lose his temper with the subordinates too much. I do not doubt that I will not see them soon, or will Athrun, for that matter. Athrun minds very little; he says he'd rather not meet up so soon with his friend, in case Yzak hasn't recovered fully from the prospect of working even longer hours yet.
The newspaper reports are flying wildly all over the place, and I suppose PLANT must be engaged with the same sort of things. They've finally had the field day they've always wanted, what with Yzak Joule announcing his marriage, although it's been a sort of conspiracy for a long time already, hasn't it? It seems to me that they've been planning it in secret for a long time. We'll be there soon enough to watch Shiho blush like a young girl on her wedding day. Send our congratulations to both of them!
I laugh whenever I read the conspiracy theories that say PLANT took such a godforsaken length of time dealing with the military developments that Athrun Zala got utterly fed up with being in space and away from ORB that he threw in the towel a week before the developments were finally finished. Mind you, nothing denies that a splendid job was done. He laughs with me as well, he says the newspapers have got their conspiracy theories right. But he doesn't care, he's got a lot to deal with, he says. Heading the ORB military is difficult when there are a so many mixtures of Coordinators and Naturals in every sector, and besides, he claims he has a more important task at hand. I hit him every time he tries that tomfoolery with me.
I'm sorry I ever hid so many things from you. But I'm living in a reality that he's sharing with me. The past haunts me still, but perhaps not so much. It won't, I suspect, once things happen.
The tests have shown them to be both boys, identical, most likely.
Wish us luck!
With all my love,
Lacus turned to Kira, who had been reading over her shoulder. "What do you think?'
He grinned, boyishly handsome even in his white uniform. She looked as if she hadn't aged since she was eighteen, although her hair did not have a white bow any longer, as if to prove she was no longer a girl but his woman, and there was a new, rich grace in her fine features. And yet-
"Let's not tell anyone," He said simply to Lacus, "We'll wait until Athrun and Cagalli come."
"Alright," she agreed, "Our secret then."
He let go of her and picked up a haro that had been lazily humming and swimming in the air. Leon was at school, and they would fetch him after work. Life wasn't perfect but it was perfect in its imperfections still. Strange.
"They found a way in the end, didn't they?" He whispered into her hair, quite aware that nobody would look into his office to ruin the tranquil moment he had shared when she had came in to show him the letter she had received, quite beside herself with excitement at the rumors being confirmed by Cagalli's own handwritten words. Athrun would make a wonderful father.
"They did," Lacus answered peacefully.
Then she laughed merrily as they surveyed the drawings Leon had done and those that Kira had pasted with some tape around the place. Haros and flowers were peppered on the papers, a brown shape that was distinctively like his violin to look at, and alternate black and white strips of a piano drawing.
Leon's violin teacher had been impressed by his inherent talent, although not quite with his singing. Lacus had tried hard, to not laugh, but his singing voice resembled a cat in distress. But he was clearly so intelligent, even in the mechanical toys he had loved to tinker with, and Kira had once remarked that there was something more like Athrun in there than anything else.
He smiled wordlessly, his hands still planted on Lacus' waist. Leon, four now, would have cousins and a sister soon, perhaps one with Lacus' eyes again, and a daughter with her beauty and grace.
They had thought of a name. Vea, named for Via.
It meant 'way'.
Athrun turned to observe the officer. A young recruit no doubt. Was he a coordinator? Perhaps. Or perhaps not. He simply couldn't tell these days, not after peace had become more than a deepened tolerance, it had become a fixture. And Kisaka had mentioned once or twice that a few of his soldiers were getting hitched to Coordinators when they were Naturals. The lines were blurred now, but that was the outcome they'd been working for so long.
The young officer looked dazed, as if coming close to Athrun Zala was a milestone in his life. It probably was, Kisaka observed. Not many people could say they weren't awed by his very presence. Not that the General was a overtly dominant person, rather, he was a born leader with the quiet, strong aura that was effortless. And the officer looked a bit embarrassed that Athrun Zala was smiling directly at him, in his unassuming, polite manner. Embarrassed, but very pleased nevertheless.
"Very well. Dismissed."
He turned to Kisaka. "What were you saying before this of their performance today?"
"Splendid, as usual." Kisaka said thoughtfully, "And I can safely put my head on the chopping board in saying that I cannot detect much of a difference in the ORB troops abilities in their defense maneuvers.. I'm assuming, however that the mobile suits have been suitably modulated to go hand in hand with each man's abilities. It's not so important though, especially when half our new recruits are of mixed heritage. I can't foresee the modified genes having any part to do with their performance today."
"Yes," Athrun replied briefly, acknowledging some passing soldiers who trembled as they dutifully saluted. He scanned the surroundings as the troops left, talking and swarming excitedly. The grounds would be bare for the afternoon. "And we have Morgenroete to thank."
Kisaka gave a short bark of laughter. "How is Cagalli?"
"Much better," Athrun smiled, "The two apologised with the usual package, flowers and the lot. They didn't mention uprooting the gardens the poor gardener worked on. But he didn't mind, he said if it'd help them get into the Princess' good books, then he'd willingly let them pick as many posies as they wanted. "
The burly man gave a bark of laughter. "Sly. How old are they now?"
"Five," Athrun replied with the faintest hint of pride. "Although Alex always seems to be elder by a few years and not a few minutes."
Kisaka grinned, a frightening smile with his bulk, but on closer inspection, it was a warm one. Athrun scarcely noticed, he was thinking of other things in the general heat of the summer. His uniform had thinned slightly with the passing of years, although Kisaka had re-issued him a new one, claiming that generals did not wear threadbare uniforms. So he had a new one which was as thick as the first one he had worn.
Kisaka ambled off, shouting that he wanted to speak to some soldiers. And Athrun stared as his retreating back, noting how much Kisaka had aged recently. He wasn't young anymore, although he was rather sturdy and threatening still. But his dark hair was peppered with grey now, and his eyes were a little dulled. He had announced his retirement soon, much to Cagalli's half-dismay and half-joy that he would finally receive the rest and unhurried lifestyle he'd deserved for a long time.
"Since I met you when you were a child, that is," Kisaka had mocked. She had scowled and then laughed.
Athrun stared at the skies. It would rain today; it was bound to, what with the humid weather. A voice shook him out of his thoughts.
He turned around, just in time, for two speedily-moving blurs of midnight to slam into him. Laughing, he hoisted Aiden on his shoulder, and the boy gurgled happily in a sound imitation of a stream, while Alex stubbornly clung to his leg, shouting childishly, "The cat scratched me!"
"It's not like the cat to do that to you," Athrun mused, mock-thoughtfully, "Isn't Aiden supposed to be the regular scratching post?"
"She scratched me too!" The younger twin piped up excitedly, his tiny arms tight around Athrun, threatening to strangle the very breath out of him. "And Alex scolded her and then, only then, she scratched him!"
"You teased the cat, didn't you?" Athrun asked dryly, ruffling Alex's hair as his son turned slightly red in being torn apart from having to keep quiet about his younger brother's misdemeanors and his own need to tell the truth. Aiden shrugged with every drop of nonchalance a five-year-old could pull off. "She was fat. She needed exercise."
"Enough of that," another voice said laughingly, and the three turned around to see Cagalli walking forward, her blonde hair whipping in the wind, giving her the appearance of someone who had just walked on the beach. She hadn't lost her willful vitality, although that had mellowed to a fierce beauty with the years, and she was as desirable as ever, not only to Athrun but the rest of the world. Just the other day, Athrun had caught a foreign minister staring for too long at her and the man had quite accidentally, landed up on the floor, tripped by somebody he couldn't quite detect in the mass of people in the hall. Athrun had looked around in surprise, his conversation with another person disrupted for a minute as they paused. But his mouth had twitched, and Cagalli, as unassuming as ever, had wondered how her guest had even tripped.
The sweet features of her face was still as susceptible to blazing anger and her jaw still held the slight mould of stubbornness, and she had lost nothing that had made Athrun love her increasingly by the minute as they'd sat down, drenched and miserable, by the fire on the island so long ago. Her bearing was very proud even with her stature, and she walked forward with the authority of someone who knew the power she held and how to yield it.
'Quite different at home,' Athrun thought vaguely, entranced by her. She had changed out of her uniform and was wearing a cream cotton dress to meet him, possibly once the nurse had sent the boys to the office for her to bring to him. Now, she knelt and gently uprooted Alex, and she swung him in her arms, not quite as strong as Athrun with her comparatively more petite frame next to his lithe one, but still very strong even if her hands weren't very much larger than the boys' ones.
Alex squealed and he clung to his mother, suddenly kissing her on her cheek and she coloured rapidly. Aiden struggled to reach her too, and with mounting amusement, Athrun held him closer so he could make his mother blush an even deeper shade. Their hair was kept short, somehow like Kira's to look at when he had been sixteen, and a wispy midnight. Already, people could see that they had Athrun's pale skin and a mixture of their parent's sharp beautiful features although they looked almost like Athrun when he had been their age, and their clumsy running would become a lethal, feline grace that Athrun possessed.
But how different they were!
Alex was well and truly, the spitting image of his father, and Cagalli was sometimes disconcerted with how alike they were in their quiet ways and silent strength. He lost his temper very little and never cried, because he never liked to cause trouble to anyone. But Aiden, he was a little terror, always getting into trouble and dragging his twin along in it, and his face always held that fierce brilliance and curiosity that Alex's face never showed as much as his twin did. She had named Alex for his emerald eyes, so reminiscent of Athrun's, glowing and like jewels in his face, but Athrun had named Aiden for her even as she had lifted him to her, stroking her second child's head and murmuring to him as he had feebly reached for her. Aiden, the little fire, one half of ORB's joy, one half of the two scions, and his elder twin Alexander, the defender of men, the other half of the revered children Cagalli had given birth to. When Athrun Zala and Cagalli Yula Atha had stood before their country and lifted the twins to the sky, the nation had rejoiced and the cheers had been defeaning. She had given them twin scions. Lady Sahaku had been present, and her eyes had been sad although her smile was warm, perhaps for the twin she had lost. But she was the past, and they the future of the country.
The twins had his hands, their fingers were long and slim already, and they had started their piano lessons already. Leon was already adept at the violin and was eagerly waiting for them to accompany him. The three of them were troublemakers when they were together, always as thick as thieves, much to Lacus' chagrin. She once remarked to Cagalli that Leon became a little devil with the twins, getting into all sorts of mischief, and his clothes, muddied and torn, often bore testimony to this.
If Athrun wasn't wrong, his sons would have been subjected to the daily and quite usual standards of being squealed over, petted and fondled by everyone in her office, and from the looks of Alex's and Aiden's bulging pockets, they had received their daily dose of chocolates and such things. He made a mental note to confiscate those later, as he did everyday.
He viewed Cagalli, her eyes wide and golden, and her mouth lovely and bright. At home, she lost the edge and sureness she displayed like a sword in her office, she became shy and unsure around her children sometimes, unsure of what to say when they presented her with little things they had made at their school, unable to say how much she loved them. But it didn't quite matter because she showed it willingly with as much eagerness as them. Really, they were all children in that respect, Cagalli and the twins.
But when they got into mischief, Aiden willingly and Alexander not so willingly but mostly in the need to make sure his younger brother wouldn't get into too much trouble, she would simply roar and send them quaking. Athrun often watched in amusement. But the twins were possibly more afraid of angering him than their mother, because they had seen him lose his temper once, and they had hid under the table in their fear. Cagalli had tried to hide the poor broken shell, semi-crushed on its black string, but he had found it anyway.
All was forgiven eventually, and the twins had apologised quite thoroughly for not heeding their mother's instructions not to play with her things.
There was one thing they were still very curious about, however. The locked drawer was a looming presence in their minds.
The key, they were aware, was in their parent's room, a good distance away from their playroom.
That evening, Aiden said quietly to his brother, " Leon said he heard Uncle and Aunt talking about a drawer that's always locked."
"W-What's that for?" Alex asked in semi-fascination and semi-fright, because he was wise enough to know what Aiden wanted to amuse them with for the rest of the day.
His younger brother giggled. "We'll find out."
They crept to their parents' room after tuning several corners and walking down a few corridors. They had gotten lost once, in this house, but Alex had guided them out by sheer deductive thinking. He had left things around the places they'd been to, and when they had finally found their way into the main corridor, they'd been left with nothing but their shorts and shirts on. Their shoes and such had vanished. And when Athrun and Cagalli had returned, they had been irked to find that their sons had left their things all over the place.
Aiden peeked in; a wicked little smile on his cherubic face, so like Athrun's to look at. His brother shared his face and their father's, but their very range of expressions and the variations always separated them apart. His twin's was serious and solemn; he was a handsome boy in his quiet, grave ways, although he was capable of losing his temper, cold and furious, so like his father's. And Aiden was very different, he was always inquisitive, always asking questions and demanding answers, and he had a courage and love for trouble that Athrun teased Cagalli for giving to their second son. And his eyes were not Athrun's or Alex's; his were amber and golden like a cat's. Like Cagalli's.
And Alex prodded his twin. "Well?"
Aiden turned back to him, their midnight hair mingling as their heads came close to each other's, and their matching white shirts making them appear angelic and innocent. Which they were regrettably not quite. "The key's in a drawer."
Alex noted the crestfallen expression and grinned, running a hand through his brother's hair with his soft, slim fingers, strangely elongated for his age when most children had chubby fingers. "It's fine, I can get it. Stay here and watch."
He snuck in, pausing only to grin at his mother, who had curled up like a cat a while after they'd returned and was slumbering peacefully, very beautiful to look at with her golden hair glinting with the slight light. It had entered with the tiny parting of the magnificent lengths of the curtains in the gigantic room, behemoth even, for a small child. His father was nowhere in sight, although Alex was quite certain that he was working in the drawing room once their mother had fallen asleep.
And Alex knew that his father watched his mother sleeping quite often, because he had snuck out of bed once, without Aiden just for that time, to the kitchen, hungry for something. And he had passed by his parent's room and looked through the little keyhole, and observed curiously, his father sitting by the bed, fondly stroking his mother's hair as she breathed lightly, deep in her dreams. He had kept this a secret without even knowing why it was one, or why his father only went to sleep a while after his mother each time, almost as if to make sure she didn't wake and run off or something to that extent. All this was muddled in a five-year-old's head, but an inherent wisdom told him it was a secret, even from his twin.
Now, Alex carefully tiptoed and pulled a drawer out, wincing as it creaked a little, and his twin, who had been cheering him with hushed cries, fell silent. But he took the key, lifting it out of its resting place, and closing the drawer, but not quite properly, he skidded out of the bedroom, afraid his mother would wake to realise that they were up to mischief.
Cheering silently, they linked hands and ran, Alex leading the way this time, because his sense of direction was infallible compared to his brother's, onwards to the drawer that had always been locked. They halted, panting slightly, faces sparkling with mischief, and Aiden found a stool and noisily dragged it over to aid them better.
Alex glanced fearfully around, always a careful boy he was. And then Aiden hoisted himself up boldly and unlocked the drawer. In a minute, they had gotten all its contents out, between them; they'd opened a few envelopes, brown and thin, with white papers a bit wrinkled in them. And most of the words were not comprehensible to them, as they stared and looked at each other with questioning eyes. And in another beautiful mahogany box, Aiden pulled out a red, glowing stone, attached to a string that he put around his neck, and he exclaimed, "It's blood!"
"Don't be silly," Alex said solemnly, "Remember that day when Vea got cut by the blade of grass and Leon worried over her like anything? Blood's watery."
"I thought you'd know that."
"Be quiet," Aiden said irritably at his twin, "I know you like Vea."
They considered their younger cousin for a minute. She was four this year, with blossom-coloured hair that fell slightly below her chin-level and eyes like her brother's blue. But her round, lovely face was like Lacus', somewhat like Cagalli's even with the shape of her eyes, although her mouth was Lacus', soft and pink, mewling and her voice clear and like a song. Her bangs were delightfully heavy; her skin like milk, and naturally, Kira was the envy of the entire ZAFT. She was a bit shy, her hands were usually hidden in the large hanging pockets of her quaint, pastel floral dresses, but Vea always hung around Aiden, trying to match up to his wild ways with her own daring. And although she got into more trouble than he ever did because of her clumsiness, she always managed to keep up when her brother and her cousins disappeared into the woods. They did not meet quite often, perhaps once a month, but when they did, the trouble they got into would last them an entire year.
And Vea cried a lot, although she didn't mean to, but she had a sort of reckless courage that Aiden had grudgingly acknowledged. Her elder brother was always trying to teach her how to play the violin, but she would lose interest quickly and run into fields as quickly as a frightened rabbit, hiding in grass that was taller than she was. For she was a tiny child, like a fairy, petite and easy to fall in love with, and there was not a single man or woman alive who did not love her upon first sight. All three boys adored her, although they were often exasperated when she tried to come after them, half-delighted at her company, half-irritated because she would come back with her frock muddied and her blue eyes shining, and Kira would sigh and Lacus would laugh but scold them for letting her roll around in the mud. And Leon was protective of her, always trying to make sure she didn't imitate the twins' fence-climbing antics, although he did that quite often as well.
"Anyway," Alex said quickly, repeating himself to mask the fact that he had a soft spot for his younger cousin, "Blood's watery."
"Quite right," Athrun said placidly, from behind them, "And your mother would have yours if she knew about this."
His sons promptly fell over from their squatting position and scrambled to their feet, bleating with fear as he towered above them. His face was very difficult to read, that bit they both understood. With their mother, they would know when she was softening or when she was downright boiling and thirsty for their blood, but their father- he was a tough nut to crack.
"Father! We-," Alex began to stammer. Aiden's eyes were huge amber pieces in his face, and as his father glared at both of them. But Athrun's emerald eyes, if they held no expression when they passed over Alex's face, began to soften slightly at Aiden's golden ones, so like Cagalli's to look at. Alex noticed this and wondered if his father was reminded of their mother. But Aiden, not as observant as his elder twin, merely looked hopefully into his father's face with awe. They weren't too young to know that he was a revered person in this country. When they walked in streets, people stopped to bow and he always responded with a quiet dignity even while their mother blushed as her people came forward to meet their princess. But when they'd asked her if she was a princess, she'd shook her head vehemently and insisted that she wasn't one.
"I'm more than that," She had told them gently, holding them to her proudly and with a fierce love in her face, "I'm your mother."
"Imagine what she'd do," Athrun now said calmly, leaning on the wall he had been standing behind, trying hard to not burst out with laughter as he had secretly observed his sons scrambling and carrying things out of the drawer with as much diligence as the worker ants they'd found the other day.
"Lock you boys up, take away your dinner, throw a few noisy haros in the cellar you were both locked up in, maybe a few more for good measure," He paused, smiling a grim smile. The possibilities were endless.
"Don't tell her," Aiden begged, and Alex looked horribly guilty.
He considered their faces, but Alex spoke up after a minute's hesitation. "Father, I-," a terrible pause, "I did everything."
Aiden looked shocked. "What are you saying?"
His eyes glowed with an irritated fire that looked suspiciously like his mother's.
He yelped as his elder brother pinched him, and his lower lip trembled as he massaged his arm. He was helpless to say no, but he couldn't say yes either, not while their father's face was so unreadable and his words so hard to predict.
Athrun lifted an impressed brow. "In that case, I'll have to punish Alex. Aiden, you can go."
Aiden stomped his foot childishly, and his face was filled with a passionate anger. "He's lying!"
"I am not!"
"Silence," Athrun said simply, he had the gift of not having to raise his voice to obtain immediate silence. "And in that case, I suppose I'll punish both of you for opening things you weren't allowed to."
"But you didn't tell us we weren't allowed to!" Aiden protested, crossing his small arms over his chest in the way he had picked up from Cagalli as a sort of defensive measure. Athrun's mouth twitched as he survey his children. She had given him beautiful boys, so perfect and like two individual diamonds next to other children, both bright and innocent and clever. And then he sighed and knelt on one knee so he was level with the twins.
"Here's what we'll do then," he said lightly, although he took a bit of effort to maintain the stern, leveled gaze. "Both of you have to return me a favour when I call for it someday. And you won't be allowed to not say yes. Agreed?"
Aiden immediately nodded, cheered by the prospect, rash in his eagerness to save his twin for saving him. But Alex was frowning, considering all the alternatives or anything horrible the returned favour would entail. Athrun understood and smiled, knowing this son was almost like knowing himself all over again, and he smirked a little. "Would you rather deal with your mother?"
Alex quickly rounded up his considerations and offered a tiny hand. "Deal."
Aiden, still wearing the haumea, protested. "I still don't know what this is!"
Athrun sat down, tired of squatting, and the twins crowded around him, their hands curious on his shoulders, and he looked carefully at it, inspecting it for cracks and lifting it up so it cast a brilliant ruby glow on the floor, and he replied simply, "It's a Haumea. A blessing."
They remained in silence, Athrun in a peaceful one, a smile already unconsciously on his face, and the boy in an awed one. They had never seen a stone like this before, although their mother wore one remotely like it on her hand. They had seen, or rather, peeped into their parent's room once after a dinner party they'd had at their godfather's sprawling home, possibly even larger than the maze they had been born in, a place filled with a hundred or so important people who they had addressed as Uncles and Aunts.
And when they'd peeked into their parent's rooms, after they'd been changed out from their matching, miniature suits and bowties that had caused a mass outcry of loving sighs and squeals, they'd seen their father and mother standing by the curtains.
Their silhouettes had been the only thing visible, black against silver and blue in the moonlight, and they'd seen their father kiss her hand as the ruby glinted. They hadn't understood, but they'd been strangely comforted to watch.
The envelopes lay on the floor, and Athrun looked at them, relieving the days when they'd been in another drawer, bitterly forgotten while waiting for his signature. And they were useless papers now, just worth keeping for old times' sake. Another envelope hadn't been brought out yet, and he carefully tipped its contents out. Dozens of photographs spilled out like a disconnected series of films, one by one, on the white marble of the floor.
There was one of Cagalli smiling at Athrun as he sat on the arm of a chair she was resting in, their newborn sons lying in her arms peacefully. There was something distinctively like Via Hibiki to look at, in the way she smiled and the way she held her sons, except that her eyes were on her children and Athrun was beside her, his eyes focused on their sons as well. Another showed Cagalli was sitting in her drawing room, smiling shyly at the something in the distance, not quite looking at the camera, beautiful and golden in a resplendent white dress, resembling something of an ethereal dryad with her golden eyes and golden hair. She had been pregnant with them at that point, and Athrun had stood a distance away as the shutter had clicked.
The photographer had been dismayed; he had tried to insist that they take another portrait so she would be looking directly at the camera, but she had taken one look at the faraway expression in her eyes, laughed, and said that it was good enough. There were a few more of Athrun speaking to people, in his uniform, addressing the troops as the edges of the picture showed the dozens of flashes as cameras had clicked in the instant when he'd been making his statement. And there was another of Athrun standing next to Cagalli as their faces turned, like their bodies, to the side, appearing before their people.
"You," Athrun said abruptly, bringing his hand upon Aiden so suddenly that the boy flinched, but relaxed upon realizing his father's touch was firm but gentle, "Stop letting your curiosity get the better of you."
"And you," He continued, drawing his first son closer, "Stop being so indulgent with your younger brother."
"Sound advice," Cagalli's voice rose behind the wall that Athrun had been standing behind so recently, "And what are you all doing?"
She came forward, her hair lovely and softly-tousled from her sleep, her eyes soft and inquisitive and her lips pink with natural vigor and youth. She slipped near them, and Athrun watched her, re-familiarising himself, for the umpteenth time, with her frame beneath the slightly gauzy dress she wore. The umpteenth time still felt like the first. He nearly laughed aloud, imagining how she would have rose in color if he had expressed his thoughts.
She took another step forward, bare footed and smelling faintly of the flowers that grew outside in the gardens, wild and a complete mesh of colours, and the citrus freshness of her shampoo.
The twins gulped, but Athrun smiled.
"Is that all?" She asked curiously, stretching a little to reveal that she was not quite awake yet, "I woke up because you weren't there, and then I saw the drawer a bit open, and assumed you'd all come here. You opened it, didn't you?"
She looked carefully at them, as if silently daring them to say anything else, and Athrun nodded confidently, and the twins looked slightly less tense.
But the photographs were all over the place, and she picked one up, smiling slightly as she looked at the two-year old Alexander and Aiden carrying an old, rather startled cat. Her tail was bristling with indignant rage.
She looked around and her eyes were questioning, "What were you all up to?"
"Nothing much," Athrun replied smoothly, standing up and the twins tottered around his waist, grabbing his knees to steady themselves, "Do you remember this?"
He held up the haumea, and her lips parted in surprise. "Yes, but I haven't taken it out for so long."
"Now's a good time," Athrun said simply, and he hung it around her neck, one end still in his hand so she was bound to it and him, and then he shooed the boys off. They scampered off, for they did not need a second warning. Later, they would come back to neaten the things, he would make sure of that. For now-
He brought his face closer to hers, relishing her widened eyes and her sweet mouth as he kissed her, glad that the twins had already scampered off to meet their cousins who would come later in the growing evening. Her soft arms closed around his neck as she tiptoed a little, welcoming his touch while the slight drizzle of rain began to sound from outside in the growing evening. The clouds had finally given way, and the rain pattered softly, revitalizing the flowers, scattering diamonds among the grass and quenching the land's thirst.
A window was open and the wind blew and whistled its song, and he brushed the hair off her neck, allowing the wind to tease their skin. She laughed, a bright, contented sound, and he murmured that the rain would become heavier soon. In response, she reached out and opened the window wider to invite the sweetly-scented, crisp air in, made cold by the new rain.
And the future spread before them, glowing and beckoning to both of them and the years to come.