I don't own Gundam SEED or any Cosmic Era Gundam series.
Chapter 3: Final
Despite their victory, the Archangel's mess hall had been silent and empty for the past couple hours. Leaning against the entrance, Miriallia Haw easily understood why.
Dearka Elsman sat in the middle of the room, grasping a cup of coffee in deep thought. He looked immensely troubled, staring down at it like it carried all answers within. A sense of gloom seemed to fill the air, one she hadn't anticipated. She'd kept an eye on him during the battle and knew his clash against the Forbidden played a pivotal role in rescuing Flay. She'd expected to find the Buster's pilot bursting with pride, sharing a story with an excited group about greatly exaggerated exploits. Something he'd done frequently. Briefly reflecting, she remembered the first week of his stories, and afterward had actually believed their opponents on the Vesalius were called the Elsman team by all of ZAFT. Fortunately Athrun, who Dearka considered the official "stop having fun guys" type refuted his fables and set plenty of records straight. Without him, numerous people aboard the Archangel would've believed Dearka capable of outrageous feats, accomplishments that ranged from cooking exotic dishes for parties to slaughtering a bear with only a coconut and some random girl's thong.
Compared to now, he looked happier back in the brig. Something was clearly wrong.
Miriallia approached slowly, slightly surprised by his lack of response. Whenever she usually entered a room with Dearka, he could hardly keep his gaze away from her. Her eyes or frustratingly her posterior had always been a beacon for his sights anytime they were close by. But now, the scorching hot cup held all his attention. She sat in the stood beside him.
He looked and met her gaze, his expression unchanged.
Miriallia pursed her lips, "You ok?" When he didn't respond, she switched tactics with a small smile, "You're paying more attention to that coffee than me. What I'm about to say doesn't leave this room, but it shouldn't be that way. One Waltfeld is enough."
His chuckle gave her a sense of triumph, "Well come here and sit in my lap. I wanna have a shot at the best of both worlds."
Mir laughed, but stopped when Dearka didn't join her, instead choosing to continue his coffee staring.
"Dearka," She reached out, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder, "What's wrong? Talk to me."
A number of seconds passed in utter silence.
"How'd Kira do it?" He asked suddenly.
"Huh? How'd he do… what?" She was unsure where this was headed.
"You were there from the beginning right?" At her confused nod he explained further, "How did he fight against…" he trailed off before saying Athrun's name. Since leaving Orb, Dearka had gone to great lengths to avoid mentioning his other defecting comrade from the Le Creuset team in Miriallia's presence.
Her hand had slightly trailed downward, tightly gripping his forearm further than intended. Weakening her grip, she looked down. "To be honest, we didn't know about it at first. It wasn't until he returned Lacus to ZAFT that Kuzzey," she paused, remembering Dearka never met that particular friend, "another friend of ours from Heliopolis, overheard him mentioning it to her. We were just glad he didn't leave us behind for him."
She took a deep breath, filled with enough bitterness to completely grab Dearka's attention. The Buster's pilot instinctually followed her earlier gesture, resting a hand on her shoulder. "What happened then?"
"After the Archangel landed on Earth, most of us were too busy with our own situations to deal with Kira's problem. Well, other than Flay," she snorted.
"Flay? Another friend from Heliopolis?" Dearka asked.
"Yeah. Actually," she looked uneasy, "you two have met before. Remember back in the infirmary when I went ballistic on you?"
Dearka looked away, "Yeah, I remember. I'm sorry about what I said." He didn't like remembering, but at least now he could give a real apology.
Despite her discomfort, she smiled, "I forgave for you that a long time ago. It's obvious now that you didn't mean it." She gently squeezed his arm tenderly enough to make him blush. The moment didn't last long. "Anyway, Flay was the other girl, the one who tried to shoot you." Dearka reflexively scowled at the memory, "She wasn't always like that. Back to what I was saying, when we landed on Earth Kira and Flay started dating, even though she was actually in an arranged marriage with Sai."
"Yeowch," Dearka winced, "That's some grade A soup opera shit."
She chuckled, "It was pretty bad. I shouldn't be laughing about it, but surprisingly enough, she actually helped Kira through the tough times."
"I see." It sounded hard to believe, given his first and only impression of the girl, but Dearka knew his thoughts of Miriallia could've been similar if events had gone differently. Silence resumed again for a few minutes, each person content with the company.
After taking another sip of coffee, Dearka's explanation began, "Yzak, the pilot of the Duel, has been my friend for years. Both our parents are on the ZAFT Supreme Council, so we saw each other pretty often even when we were young. It was pretty awesome being together at the academy, and afterwards when we were part of the Le Creuset team. Side by side. Back to back. Not once did I ever think we'd fight each other." He shook his head, ignoring Mir's concerned gaze. "After everything that's happened, I thought it'd be unfair if I didn't tell you what was bothering me. But I'll be alright now. All because of you."
"That should be my line." He smiled, "Come to think of it, I never did thank you for saving me that day either." Dearka turned so his body completely faced Miriallia, "Thank you."
"You're welcome." She said brightly, cheeks sporting an unmistakable crimson.
"And not just for that. But also this," he gestured around the room, "right now. Caring about me and cheering me up and just being there. I really appreciate it." He reached over, tan hands gently grasping her smaller white ones, pulling her close enough to feel his breath. "Miriallia Haw, thank you." He whispered.
"Dearka…" She spoke softly with baited breath.
Taking a gamble, Dearka leaned forward. Her closed eyes and complete reciprocation equaled hitting the jackpot.
As Kira rested his weary mind, those standing by his side felt a myriad of emotions.
Kneeling at his bedside, Flay Allster clasped his hand with both of her own. She paid no attention to the others nearby, her focus entirely spent on Kira's well being. It had been too soon since she realized Kira was not dead, and she'd go through hell and back before losing him again. The redhead's panicking state ensured missing the important detail that the Gundam pilot's life was in no danger.
Behind her stood the famous pink haired princess, Lacus Clyne, who felt surprised more than anything. Seeing the girl who adamantly claimed strong dislike for Coordinators fervently tending to the one she loved shocked her beyond belief. While she felt pleased in knowing Flay overcame her anti-Coordinator prejudice, a small part of her desperately hoped the redhead's affection for Kira was a one-way street.
Standing next to Lacus, Athrun impassively watched his friend resting, keeping his inner worry within. His former commander's words did indeed trouble him, but he wasn't overly concerned. It didn't matter if Kira was a Natural, a Coordinator or a crazy flesh-eating panda bear with a liking for wooden guitars. The Kira he knew was his best friend, and that fact couldn't be changed so easily. If anything, Athrun mainly contemplated the identity of the girl desperately attending to his closest friend with mixed emotions. Last he checked, if Lacus and Kira weren't an item yet, they would be soon.
Behind the trio was Cagalli, holding two identical photos while trembling slightly. She'd put her father's powerful and shocking revelation behind her. With another copy of the picture of a mother sharing unmistakable resemblance of Kira in the teenager's own quarters, the problem returned full force. Did her father tell the truth? Was this the final nail in the coffin? What was going on here?
Sai Argyle stood beside the exiting door. He need not touch her or even speak to her. Seeing Flay alive, her simple presence was enough for him.
A tense silence enveloped the room, and did not ease up until Kira stirred.
"Kira!" At his side in an instant, Flay hovered over him with her hands placed on his shoulders. He would live after all! Her face became the first thing his opening eyes encountered. Forcing his eyes shut, he waited seconds before reopening them.
"Flay… you're really here. It wasn't just a dream." He did it. He really did it. He saved her. Leaning back, Kira offered no resistance as the redhead gently pushed him back in a resting position. "I'm so glad."
"Kira…" Now confronted with him, Flay was unsure what to say. Should she apologize? Ask for forgiveness for the reason she initially pursued him? Should she simply hold him and care for him and save that conversation for another day? Her thoughts whirled a mile a second as tears started forming in her eyes.
"I'm so glad you're awake Kira! We were so worried about you." Lacus Clyne smiled at him, genuinely pleased with his recovery and silently hoping his attention would shift to the others in the room.
"Sorry." He apologized, looking from Lacus to Athrun, the latter shrugging with a smile.
Just when Flay tried to form a coherent sentence, Cagalli beat her to the punch. "Kira! Do you know what this is all about?" The blonde asked, the photograph she received from Uzumi and the one found in Mendel flapped wildly in her waving hands.
The pictures darkened his mood immediately, turning away with a sharp increase in breathing. The memories came back. Ultimate Coordinator. Experiments. Clones. Bone-chilling ravings of a masked madman. Kira wanted it all to just go away!
"Kira!" Flay cried, his hand reaching for hers reflexively. She angrily turned to Cagalli, face contorted in a scowl Lacus found disturbingly familiar and couldn't halt her frightened jump. She'd spent so much time afraid as a prisoner of ZAFT. Always scared, always meek, always submissive. Not anymore. Reunited with Kira, she'd protect him no matter what. "What are doing to him? Get the hell out of here!"
His ex-fiancé's reaction concerned Athrun greatly. 'This girl… Kira, who is she to you?' He easily noticed the way Kira reached out for her, as if she alone could fix his problems. As if his best friend and possible sister and girl who loved him lacked the ability to comfort him like she would.
It seemed so wrong.
Still, the redhead had a point, though her delivery could use some work. He looked around discreetly, brainstorming ways of diffusing the situation. In all likelihood, Cagalli wouldn't listen to reason. Her stubbornness nearly ensured it and this wasn't the time or place. If Lacus hadn't shown a brief display of terror he would have escorted her out of the room already.
"Don't tell me what to do!" Cagalli wasn't having it, "this is way more important than watching you put your claws back inside him!" She hadn't forgotten that first impression. Of a girl arrogantly scowling directly at her before coldly dumping her betrothed and hanging on the Coordinator pilot like a conquered prize, making him lash out at the man currently standing behind her. Nor did Cagalli forget the way she consistently kept Kira away from her company and mocked her with undisguised jealously.
"More important than making him miserable?" Flay snapped, gesturing her head to Kira who was clearly waging war against tears threatening to spill. Lacus winced.
The new leader of Orb's retort died before it left her mouth.
"Alright everyone, let's calm down for a second." The guys had remained quiet throughout the conversation, but Sai decided to break that silence. Far from the most confident individual, he gulped upon realizing so many important people giving him their undivided attention. "I think it would be best if we left Kira alone for a while," he took a deep breath, struggling to finish his message, "Flay's got this under control. She's comforted Kira many times before."
The other three stared at him incredulously, each preparing their own protest. He could feel the sweat trickling his brow, but Sai wouldn't back down. So what if he wasn't a leader's child? So what if he wasn't an ace pilot? So what if he wasn't a universally recognized pop idol? So what if he wasn't in charge of a warship? He disliked it, but Flay and Kira's mutual affections were reality. If Kira brought her happiness, he would help. If standing up to some of the most prominent fighters in their army was required, so be it. He'd grown tired of believing he couldn't compete with the others.
The first to buckle, Athrun hadn't missed the fact that Kira hadn't focused on anyone but Flay during the entire exchange. "Very well, Sai," he nodded, "I've got some questions of my own." Carrying through with his earlier plan, he grabbed Cagalli and lightly escorted her out of the room, her protests falling on deaf ears until they left. Explanations could occur later, for both of them.
Lacus pursed her lips, hesitant at leaving Kira. They'd recently gotten closer and closer, but his current fixation sent her hopes crashing into dust.
Flay spared her a glance, feeling no thrill at the Coordinator's poorly hidden fear. The girl obviously shared similar feelings for Kira. On that subject, Flay only felt pity. She was not at fault. The pink pop idol simply tried to grab what was totally, completely, undeniably out of her reach. Lacus had no idea her attempts at Kira's heart were no different than participating in sports without knowing the rules, or becoming a greater mobile suit pilot than the young Coordinator in question overnight. Nor should she have known. A popular singer she may be, a mind reader she most certainly was not. Contrary to popular belief, Lacus Clyne was no goddess. No embodiment of unarguable perfection.
Sighing, Flay looked down, "I won't hurt him. Not anymore. I know I've wronged you in the past, but please believe me when I say that I will never hurt Kira again."
A generally optimistic person, Lacus still had trouble wrapping her mind around that, her own feelings for Kira and the memories of a anti-Coordinator girl wanting nothing to do with those having genetic enhancements strongly interfering.
"I'll be fine, Lacus," Finally focusing on someone else, Kira made eye contact with her, "Sorry to worry you, but it's just… Flay," he couldn't find the right words to complete his thought, tightening his grip on the girl he liked since before Heliopolis' destruction.
Understanding, Lacus nodded and turned around, waiting until the door closed before furiously wiping her eyes. Sai followed her on the way out, steeling himself for a shitload of questioning.
"It's alright now Kira," Flay cupped his face with her hands, "My thoughts will protect you." She repeated the line from before, her own sincerity behind it made her feel much better. No ulterior motive this time.
Kira sniffed, averting his eyes, "I told myself I would never cry again, but right now, it feels right."
Leaning forward, she responded with a deep kiss. Separating, her smile only grew larger at Kira's blush, "Kira, you know I've no problem with your tears," she leaned again, foreheads touching, "I'll never judge you for that. All I want is to be with you… and keep loving you."
For the first time since acquiring the Freedom, Kira cried. Embracing, the girl holding him also shed tears. But despite the earlier troubles of the day, the droplets of salt water represented happiness, not despair.
Her journey was far from over, but for the person in her arms, it was worth it.