Authors Note: Please Read!

This story is taken and altered from a story I read a while ago called "Unwilling Bridlegroom." It follows basically the same plot as the book, only with the characters of Gundam rather then the books originally, cliched characters. I felt the characters of Gundam would make the plot a little bit more interesting, and quite frankly, I felt it fit an Athrun/Cagalli story quite well. So lets set things straight. This fanfiction differs from the original plot line of GS. Cagalli's father did not die in episode 40, but rather in the way I see fit, which will be explained rather shortly. Due to her father's predicament, Cagalli's life was changed drastically and she did not participate actively in the GS plotline which followed the wars. This plot, as you will see is set shortly after both GS and GSD. Both wars are over. Cagalli did not participate in the wars, Athrun assumably did, and is now Chairman of ZAFT. They did not meet on the island in episode 24, nor did Cagalli participate in the final episodes of Gundam Seed and the battle of Jachin Due. Up until this point in time, they are complete strangers. As you will read in this first chapter, Cagalli is no longer the princess of ORB. Hopefully things will be more clearly explained as the plot goes on. So in short, I can say that yes, the plot is somewhat "AU" (aka. alternate universe), but relates back to terms and events that happened during both GS and GSD. Things basically went the same, rather without the active participation of Cagalli. You will see how her life turned out instead.

Chapter 1

"Daddy, Daddy, don't let them take you away!"

The child's cries rang out in the sparsely furnished vistors' room and the man's face contorted with grief. Bending down to the little girl, he caught her close.

"I'm innocent, Cagalli! Remember that."

"I will," the child sobbed, and was still crying as she was led out of the prestigious Law Courts of the United Emirates of ORB to a car waiting to take her back to the orphanage.

The dour-face woman beside her experienced a twinge of compassion. It was the first time the child had cried since her father had been arrested four months ago, and she hoped these tears were a good sign. Cagalli Yula Athha would find life very hard unless she learned to conform. Unfortunately, she was not a normal eleven-year-old—if normality meant mixing with children her own age—for she was, or should say had been, ORB royalty until her father had resigned as Chief Representative of ORB prior to his incarceration. She had been taught by a tutor and had spent her free time exclusively with her father, acquiring no interests other than his. And no one could say politics and wine was a suitable interest for a child, the woman thought grimly.

"You won't find it easy, Cagalli," she said aloud. "But once you learn to mix with children of your own age—"

"I hate children of my own age!"

"Maybe you do, but you will be living among them till you're eighteen. Make up your mind to that and it won't be so bad."

"My father will be free in five years," the child said fiercely. "Then he'll come and take me away."

The women said nothing and contented herself by raking the streets for a sign of familiar landmarks.

"Here we are," she said at last. "Wipe your eyes, Cagalli. You don't want everyone to know you've been crying, do you?"

"I don't care," the little girl said, and followed the women across the pavement and into a large ball hall smelling of disinfectant.

They had reached the foot of the stairs when the telephone rang. Motioning the child to remain where she was, the women hurried to answer it. The words she uttered into the receiver were terse, but the look she gave her charge boded ill for what was to come.

"Cagalli," the woman's voice was unusually soft. "Come into the office. I have something to tell you."

The women went on talking and though Cagalli took in what was being said to her, it was impossible for her to feel any more emotion. All she knew was that her father had been assasinated within a few moments of saying goodbye to her.

"I will arrange for you to have supper alone with me," the woman said, for thought she did not understand this child, she was not unkind. "Perhaps you would like to sleep in my room too? Just for tonight, that is."

"No, thank you," the little girl said. 'I want to be alone, and I don't want any supper either."

"Very well. But normally you're not allowed to miss a meal. We have rules here and you must obey them. If you don't, you'll be unhappy here."

"I expect to be unhappy."

The woman sighed more sure than ever that her new charge was going to be difficult. But in the following months she was proved wrong. The child, at first was a hell-born spitfire, but after a few weeks of raising hell within the orphanage, did as she was told with the minimum of fuss and could be likened to a little ghost as she walked silently down the corridors in the blue serge dress, her golden hair in a tight plait, her thin legs encased in brown wool stockings and black dress shoes. She was scrawny and tom-boyish, and as predicted, did not fit in well with the other children. However, academically she was far ahead of the other children in her class, and the teachers talked among themselves to see if there was any way in which they could further her education.

"It will be an awful waste if she doesn't have the chance she deserves," her form-mistress said, the day her charge turned twelve.

"Not many of us have the chance we deserve," the matron said drily, "and daughters of criminals…" She did not finish what she was saying, knowing the words should have never been said. Her father was after all, the former Chief Representative of ORB. And despite what crimes had been committed, the man deserved more respect then she accredited him for. "I will talk to the Board," she continued brusquely, "but I doubt if they can do anything."

Once again, fate played a part in Cagalli's life, entering it in the personage of James Howard, a Coordinator, and a lawyer who, in official jargon and with many legal documents bearing the Home Official seals of both ZAFT, the PLANTs, the Earth Alliance and ORB, made it clear that Uzumi Nara Athha convicted of fraud in his lifetime, had been pardoned of it in death.

"I always knew my father was innocent," Cagalli said. "They were fools not to have believed him."

"It was a matter of evidence."

"The evidence was wrong, wasn't it?"

"Yes, but—"

"Then why were fools not have known it themselves!"

The lawyer looked into the contemptuous amber eyes.

"You are a lucky girl," he said stiffly. "In order to right some of the wrong, Chairman Zala wishes me to—"

"I don't want anything from the Chairman."

"You are a ward of the court and must do as they say. Happily they have accepted his offer."

For the first time Cagalli looked afraid and, with a pang of conscience, James Howard realized she was only a child.

"You will be going to one of the most exclusive prepatory boarding schools in Copernicus City," he said. "The Chairman wishes to take over the cost of your education."

"I won't let him!"

"He regards it as his duty."

"You mean he has a guilty conscience!" she nearly shouted at him.

Wisely, the lawyer refrained from comment and instead said he wanted her to leave with him within the hour. If anything, he felt the Chairman himself felt little or no regret towards the child's current state of welbeing, a natural child none the less, however, politics within the PLANTs and relationships with both the Earth Alliance and ORB dictated that he take responsibility for the girl's state of affairs. Silently, the child went out, looking surprisingly young for her age, though this might have been because her dress was too long and her short hair, still worn in a messy plait looked childish and out of place.

Only during the shuttle journey did she start to talk again, asking careful questions about the new school and about the Chairman and her father.

"How did they discover he was innocent, and why is the Chairman of ZAFT still involved?"

"He isn't involved," the lawyer said choosing his words quite carefully. "But naturally, he was distressed that your father had been wrongly convicted. The discovery was made when Earth Alliance soldiers were engaged on another inquiry involving a weapons dealer in Belgium. They noticed certain similarities to your father's case and re-opened the file. It took months to piece things together, but they were finally able to prove he had never illegally trafficked nuclear weapons through neutral states."

"Anyone who knew my father knew that," the girl said scornfully. "That's why I hate the Chairman. He was my father's political ally: the countries were all in truce. He should have known the truth rather then accuse the Head Representative of Orb, a peaceful and unarmed country of trafficking nuclear warheads!"

"He knows it now. ZAFT intelligence uncovered the truth and your fathers name was cleared."

"It's too late."

"Not for you, Cagalli. You are being given a chance to make a new life yourself."

"On the moon?" she asked skeptically. Her eyes hardened and took on an icy glare. "By the man who destroyed my other one!"

"You must learned forgiveness," the lawyer admonished. The child looked away from him.

"Will I have to remain at school until I am sixteen?"

"Longer still, if you wish to go to university. The PLANTs are home to world renowned university's Cagalli…it would be wise if you attended them."

"You need money for that," Cagalli said pointedly.

"There will be sufficient funds for you to continue your education as long as you like."

"Then perhaps I will go to university. I want to grow up to be very clever."

"A commendable ambition. Do you have any particular career in mind?"

"I wanted to take over my fathers' position as Head Representative and be involved with the politics of running my people's country…" she began softly. "However, seeing as how that right was stripped from me when my father resigned and had his noble birth right taken from him…I have no clue. But whatever I do, I am going to be the best."

It was not, the lawyer reflected, a childlike comment, but then Cagalli Yula Athha was not like any child he had ever known.

It was a thought that returned to him eight years later when he received a polite note from her asking if she could come and see him again. He had immediately agreed to meet her, and now she was waiting in the visitors' room. He pressed the buzzer on his desk and his secretary opened the door and stepped aside to let a tall, slender, and certainly not tom-boyish creature come in.

The lawyer stood up and cleared his throat. This couldn't be Cagalli Yula Athha, the little girl with the messy plait! He shook his head, and as though she knew his thoughts, the rose-pink mouth in front of him curved into a smile, and the large amber eyes visibly lightened to the color of pools of warm honey. Oh yes, the thought hastily, this was undoubtedly the same child—women, he amended to himself, and held out his hand.

"Delighted to see you, Miss Athha. Please, sit down."

With ungainly grace, learned from her childhood as royalty and her many years in finishing school, she did so. He noted with approval that she did not cross her legs, but sat demurely, hands folded in her lap. But there was nothing demure in the confident tilt of the head of the long stem of the neck, nor in the look that flashed from her steely amber eyes.

"You haven't changed, Mr. Howard," she said rather politely. "You are exactly as I remember you."

"You aren't." She smiled at this, laughing a little, showing small, pearly white teeth. Beautiful, he thought, a truly beautiful young woman. He had not expected this much to turn out from the scrawny, tom-boyish twelve year old he had escorted to Copernicus City all those years ago. She had aged well and bloomed beautifully. It was a shame she was no longer royalty, for her looks certainly played the part well. "I take it you received my letter?" he said.

"That's why I'm here." She took a cheque from her handbag and placed it on the metal desk. "Please send this back to the Chairman."

"But it was a gift for your twenty-first birthday." The lawyer looked askance. "And also from your graduation from Sorbonne. You know the Chairman himself graduated from that school—"

"I happen to see it as the Chairman's conscience money," she said cutting him off. "From now on, he will have to learn to live with his guilt."

"The Chairman has done nothing for which he need feel guilty," the lawyer instantly rhymed off, echoing the late Chairman's sentiments. However, he promptly held his tongue and waited for the young girl's response. Coldly, she regarded him.

"The way he behaved towards my father was—"

"Exemplary. No one could have done more than the late Chairman once he discovered your father had been wrongfully accused. As a political ally, he understood this and did everything in his power to right your fathers' name."

"What about the way he behaved when he thought my father had been embezzling from ORB's defense finances and accused him of planning an attack on the PLANTs? They had been friends for years, yet without any warning, he went to the United Nations and accused him of criminal behavior!"

The lawyer frowned as this and decided to choose his next words very carefully. Friends might not have been the best way to describe the relationship between the late Chairman and the former Representative of ORB. The nation of ORB and the PLANTs had been in a very aloof truce since the young princess had been born, and due to the long standing peace between the two countries, the media had portrayed the Chairman and Uzumi Nara Athha has friends. However, this was as far from the truth as possible. The late Chairman, a callous, yet powerful man disliked the Representative of ORB as he did most of the Naturals on Earth. However, the Representative gave the Chairman no reason to warrant his full out political power against his country, seeing as ORB was small, defenseless and most importantly, neutral. To secure ORBs neutrality after the One Year War, the former Representative and the Chairman signed a treaty agreeing to if either country was attacked by an aggressor country, they would stay clear of said countries affairs and would not intervene unless said aggressor country was to attack the opposing party's country as well. The main purpose of this was to avoid an all out Inter-galactic war between the PLANTs, the Earth Alliance and ORB. ORB had similar treaties with the Earth Alliance, and thus peace was maintain between the three major countries.

So to classify the former Representative and the Chairman as friends? No, they certainly weren't friends. Political allies, yes. Friends, no.

"The Chairman was forced to do it," he said rather calmly. "There were other people involved—many of them—and they wouldn't allow him to keep quiet. The safety of the citizens of the PLANTs were at risk and it was his duty as the Chairman of ZAFT to keep that safety. He had no choice in the matter."

"Well, I do have choice," the girl said hotly. "So please return this money and tell the Chairman he can never make amends for the way he destroyed my father."

"It is not the same Chairman of ZAFT," the lawyer idly said. "He resigned some years ago. Shortly after, he died after the Second Battle of Jachin Due during the Bloody Valentines War. His son took up his fathers mantel and has been paying for your education ever since. Surely you were aware of this?"

Angrily she stood. "No," she almost shouted. "I was not! You should have told me!"

The lawyer looked perturbed by the girls recent statement. Surely she was joking. How could she not be aware of the resignation and the death of the former Chairman? It had been all over the news. Was she simply ignorant to the recent political world or was she simply playing dumb? He sighed.

"What difference would it have made?" he finally asked. "The present Chairman considers himself as responsible as his father for your wellbeing."

"I'm no one's responsibility now!" she said hotly. "I have my degree and I'm ready to start work. When you write the Chairman, I would like you to tell him I will repay every penny he spent on my education."

"He will never accept repayment," he said instantly. "Besides, don't you think it childish to consider doing so?"

"Because he's rich as Croesus?" she spat bitterly, making reference to the historical king of Lydia. She came close the desk. "That doesn't alter the way I feel. I hate him and everything he stands for. His wealth, his power, and his ability to build up a man then destroy him. You can't imagine the pleasure it will give me when I personally throw that money back in his face!"

The lawyer stared at her, disquieted by such bitterness and stubbornness.

"It's a great deal of money for you to save. By the time you have done so, I hope you will have changed your mind." Her schooling had been expensive, far more then the girl could probably ever hope to imagine. He wondered if she knew the magnitude of the task she was hoping to accomplish.

She shook her head, then bent to touch a slender finger to a fuchsia that bloomed on the desk. The color was so vivid that it over empowered every other piece of décor in the room. She guessed it was genetically altered, like everything else around here. Unknowing to the young women, a shaft of sunlight aureolled her head, giving her the look of a Botticelli angel, for she had the same rounded forehead and softly curving cheeks. But it was her hair that completed the final illusion, being the same rich shade of gold that the famous Baroque artist had always loved.

"Your hair…" he said slowly. "Why keep it so short when surely it would look equally, if even more so lovely if you grew it out?" The lawyer had hoped to flatter her if possible, and perhaps make her resilent attitude more relenting.

She smiled, wistfully at first, but slowly it turned into a malevolent look of reprimand.

"Lovely you say?" She scoffed. "By experience I can tell you that women with longer hair are often vain and somewhat self-involved with the wrong ideals. Appearance is not important, Mr. Howard. My hair will not empower the idea that I am a weak, self-involved woman too futile to look after herself. I am not some princess in need of saving."

The lawyer did not miss the bitterness in her words as she mentioned the word "princess", a former title she no longer had. Then, without another word, she held out her hand. "Thank you for seeing me. It was nice to meet you again."

He took her hand and glanced at the cheque in front of him.

"I do wish you would reconsider what you are doing, Miss Athha. Twenty thousand Euros would make a nice nest egg if it were wisely invested."

"No, thank you. The Chairman's generosity towards my schooling was quite enough, thank you." She went to the door.

"Where can I get in touch with you?" he asked.

"I'm at the Saint Jeromes Women's Hostel in ORB," she said with a sugary smile plastered across her face. She seemed proud of the fact that after her time spent on the moon she would finally be returning to her home country. "It will do until I can afford a decent apartment."

"If you used the money—"

"No," she said firmly, and closed the door behind her to cut short any further comment from him.

With a sigh, he picked up the cheque. It was made out in the Chairman's firm handwriting. Athrun Zala. Regretfully, Mr. Howard drew a sheet of paper towards him. When contacting the Chairman, he always penned the letter himself. He paused, and then wrote quickly. There was no point being flowery about. The Chairman had a concise mind and saw through verbosity.

"Miss Athha is unwilling to accept any further financial help from you," he began. "She feels you have done more than enough for her already. She is well educated--thanks to your generosity—and has made the most of the opportunities you have given her. Added to this, she is personable and intelligent and will, I am sure, go far in whatever profession she enters. I do not feel you need to worry about her any longer."

That should do the trick, Mr. Howard thought, and signed his name at the bottom of the page. Happily, he had no precognition of the consequences his letter would set in motion.