Discern and Perceive

Chapter 12



For as much as December City is an old world idyll, the long deserted road that winds its way between the northern, metropolitan hubs of the PLANTs and out into the country leaves much to be desired. Muddied snow lines the shoulders of the lanes, and heavy, hauling trucks travel on either side of them for the first thirty or forty kilometers.

However, eventually, as the early Saturday morning begins to fade and the midmorning sun cracks the cloud-cover, pieces of a new world begin to become more easily visible. On either side of them extend thick forests of pine and other assorted species of tree. Wide trunks create impenetrable walls around the roads. The snow begins to retain its soft, white originality as they meet less traffic and the path in front of them turns from main roads to quieter lanes.

Their journey hadn't been subdued by any means, however, no matter what the natural world outside of the car reflected.

"I'm telling you, that sign back there definitely said Silvermoon Lake," Cagalli says with exaggerated slowness.

Athrun waves her off stubbornly. "I know it's a left hand turn, we've just got to keep our eyes out for it. What does the map say?"

Cagalli shakes the closed atlas with sharp, pointed jolts. "I don't need to read the map because I saw the sign. With my own two eyes. Which I have because I'm human and not blind."

"Cagalli, you're not familiar with the area…"

"Because I have to be a native to be able to read a sign—?"

"—we used to come out here all the time when I was a kid—,"

"—Athrun, the damn sign was two miles back—,"

"—relax I know exactly where we are—,"

"—we're going to run out of petrol and be eaten by a moose, and then what will Kira say?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Pride is an awful virtue. I know, I've been told multiple times before—,"

"—Cagalli, for the love of—can you just, wait no, just hand me that atlas—,"

"I'm sorry, did you say put the atlas out the window because I'm a stubborn ass and I can't admit when I'm—?"

"Cagalli, put the window back up!"

"I'm telling you I'm righ—!"


The car slides the last few feet as Athrun breaks hard. His cheeks are reddened with frustration, but Cagalli feels no remorse at riling him. As she eyes the flush that spreads from his cheeks to his neck and ears she can't help but feel a small tendril of satisfaction. With a grin, she leans over the gear shift and plants an obnoxiously loud and cartoonish kiss on his cheek.

"I'm right aren't I?"

Athrun grumbles, and with Cagalli's nearness he begins reddening for an entirely new reason. Pulling the car into a smooth, and a much less frenzied 'u' shape he turns them back in the direction that they had come.

When, just a couple miles down the road, they find the correct turn off that they had passed in the first place Cagalli kindly doesn't gloat, though she does hum her satisfaction the entire remaining ten kilometers to the cabin.


Orb has sites that are described time and time again as exhilarating. Orb has wonderfully majestic mountains with breathtaking calderas topping dormant volcanos. The beaches of Orb are famous world-wide, as is the lush flora and fauna that dominates most of the island nation. Orb is gorgeous, and more than once Cagalli has traveled away from the urban areas of the capitol city and been newly surprised to rediscover just how beautiful her home nation really is.

But, Orb doesn't define beauty. Cagalli realizes this as she opens the car door and stands to her full height, finally taking in the full breadth of their destination. For all that December City was picturesque the sight before her is shattering. Where Athrun had described a cabin along the lake Cagalli saw a different sort of sight entirely.

The cabin, as Athrun had called it, more accurately resembles a modest chalet, built into the receding hillside of the lake's northernmost border. The winding, sloped driveway had looped them around to the back of the building where a sturdy looking wrap-around deck connected the cabin to an entertaining space and a multi-bay garage.

Now standing, Cagalli could see out and over the rail of the cabin's deck, and around its A-frame face. From her vantage point alone Cagalli can see out over the frozen lake and can clearly make out the embankment and forests that ran parallel to them. And, like everything else Cagalli had seen since arriving in the Northern Hemisphere, everything was covered in a powder perfect layer of snow.

"Athrun," Cagalli turns her eyes to Athrun where he's closing his car door and turning to face the cabin. "This is amazing. I'm not exaggerating; this whole place is gorgeous…"

Cagalli trails off and her enthusiasm slows and drains as she attempts to parse the look on Athrun's face. His faintly aristocratic bearing, chilled angles exacerbated by the weather and setting, is turned towards the cabin and frozen in distaste. His lips are twisted downwards in an obvious frown, and his arm still hangs from the car door.

In the split second it takes Cagalli to follow Athrun's gaze towards the cabin she feels her own stomach drop in dread, expecting the worst as she has become want to do.

What she finds when she ignores the view and sweeps back towards the garage is a second vehicle parked innocuously in front of the first bay. She realizes that it can't have been there long as there is only the lightest of snow accumulation atop the sleek, black, expensive looking frame.

Cagalli's hand finds the bulge in her pocket that is her mobile phone. "What is it, Athrun?" she asks, voice hushed unnecessarily.

Athrun tears his eyes away from the vehicle and looks at Cagalli with apology. "I'm sorry, I thought we would have the cabin to ourselves. But, it appears that my father is here as well."

From bits of earlier conversation Cagalli can easily deduce that this is not a pleasant surprise, and the way Athrun's voice constricts when pronouncing 'father' confirms it for her. "We can just go back," Cagalli offers gently, unable to shake a defensive edge from her voice. She feels resentment towards anyone that can make a kind and noble person like Athrun feel miserable.

"No," Athrun shakes his head. "We've driven all this way, and finding our way back out of the woods and down towards the cities would be foolish in the dark, when the temperatures have dropped."

"A reason is a reason is a reason," Cagalli says flatly, prodding with a bluntness that's meant to be subtle. "You don't have to stay here on my account."

"No, Cagalli," Athrun drums up a smile for her after a moment and crosses in front of the hood to reach her. He tugs the front of her coat to bring her closer. "My father is a perfectly polite man, even with his other faults. I'm just surprised, my father never liked to come out here after my mother passed, I come on my own. It was really her cabin, you see; her sanctuary."

Cagalli returns his statement with a suspicious look, not enjoying the forced reassurance in his voice. She does feel adrift in the current circumstance. Athrun has hinted at and explained some of his family situation but anything Cagalli did or said now, in this moment, could easily stray into uncharted waters.

"If you're sure," Cagalli says instead. She's compelled by his closeness and lays a gloved hand on the arm that's holding onto her coat. Unwitting satisfaction easily wells within her at their proximity. She drops her hand a moment later, trying to stave the urge to smile for no reason at all.

"Of course."

Athrun trails through the snow and around to the backside of the car, easily drawing out their small luggage. After a brief struggle in which Cagalli demands to carry her own bag, and wins, she takes the initiative to start walking towards the back deck, and the door nearest to them.

Casting an eye across the drive where they're parked and onto the cabin itself Cagalli recalls Athrun telling her that a service keeps the driveway cleared during the snowy months. Cagalli thinks the cabin's extremities and it's neat appearance suggest that it's played host to Athrun's father more than he probably realizes. The cabin certainly doesn't appear as though it's been uninhabited in any lengthy way.

Athrun catches up to her after a moment. He coughs and clears his throat, eyeing their goal with reticence.

"This door here?" Cagalli points as she climbs the few steps.

Athrun nods once and tightens the grip on his bag's handle.


The inside of the cabin is reflective of every picture, film, and media scene of winter warmth that Cagalli has ever seen. The French doors that they had entered through open into a grand, open-plan living space. A recessed floor makes several small couches and chairs come together more intimately in front of a large, ornate fireplace. A pristine and modern kitchen is in sight as is a matching set of French doors across from them leading, from what Cagalli can tell, onto the other side of the wrap around porch.

Athrun shifts uneasily next to her as she continues to take in the sparse but luxurious décor. Faux fur rugs and large wooden and iron furniture decorates most of the rest of the space. Calm landscape portraits, of Silvermoon Lake itself, adorn each wall, a different season and light giving each of them unique personalities.

"This is lovely, Athrun."

Cagalli smiles, sentimentality at the beautiful cabin softening her gaze, and looks over her shoulder at her dark haired partner. He catches the smile and, just for a moment, the anxious set of his shoulders rounds out and relaxes. He opens his mouth to say thank you, but it's not his voice that fills the room.

"Thank you."

Natural reactions make Cagalli jolt, and she spins, eyes surprised and searching, until she finds the source of the noise.

A man, leaning over the grand rail to the mezzanine area, is responsible for the words and he is without a doubt Athrun's father.

The two share more than their features. While Athrun's father is more burly and broad than Athrun will ever be Cagalli is more unnerved at his gaze. Athrun's father looks at her analytically, and Cagalli feels déjà vu as she compares the laid bare feeling that she experiences when Athrun looks at her as well.

They are intelligent, and knowing, and moreover they have the same graceful stubbornness apparent in the complex glance they share.

"Father," Athrun greets the man.

"Athrun." His father nods, and without further comment moves to descend into the main room and join them.

"It's a pleasure to meet you," Cagalli says, feeling the compulsion of years of training kick in amidst the awkward silence. "My name is—,"

"Cagalli Yula Attha, and I am Patrick Zala." The elder Zala supplies, not unkindly. "Your recent notoriety precedes you."

Cagalli feels her cheeks redden at the implications that the word 'notoriety' suggests. Scandal is scandal, no matter where you are.

"We didn't realize you were here," Athrun says, sidestepping their introductions. "We didn't mean to bother you."

"You're not bothering me," his father replies briskly, "and there is more than enough room, here, for all of us. The lake is stunning this time of year."

Athrun looks uneasy. "Thank you."

Athrun's father turns dismissively. His tone is ambivalent more than cold, but still Cagalli is taken aback by the treatment between the two. Her relationship with her own father had it's peaks and declines, but there was always warmth between the two of them. She feels almost embarrassed to witness the lack of emotion between the two Zalas. Unsure how to act she clutches her luggage tighter in front of herself, bites her tongue in precaution, and rocks nervously back onto her heels.

Athrun's father is removing wine glasses from a high cabinet when he uses one to gesture to the mezzanine level. "Get settled and show your guest around Athrun; I'll pour us some wine. The housekeeper left dinner."

If it's possible, which Cagalli thinks surely isn't true; Athrun's frown deepens even further. He doesn't respond to his father's words, frustration and confusion staying his voice. Instead, he guides Cagalli with a hand at her waist and leads her upstairs.


"You don't have to tell me what's going on," Cagalli says after a loud expulsion of breath. Feeling pressure with every step they ascended, she hadn't taken a full breath or relaxed the hunch of her shoulders until Athrun had shown her into a tastefully decorated bedroom suite.

"But?" Athrun prompts with an ironic grin. He sets his own luggage down and turns to Cagalli with a self-deprecating shrug.

"I'm willing to listen if you do want to tell me. Not my finest quality I've been told. But I can manage to stay quiet for a few minutes."

"I really am sorry about my father being here," Athrun says instead of replying directly. "I'm shocked that he's here. I convinced him not to sell the property after my mother died, but he swore he wouldn't ever step foot here again."

"I don't care if your father is here, Athrun," Cagalli reassures, still trying to tip-toe around the obvious questions. "If I can put up with half the backstabbing parliamentarians back in Orb, I can put up with your father."

Athrun is mostly silent in response. He flicks his gaze away from her and after a moment he hauls his suitcase up onto the bed and begins gathering his toiletries. He moves about the room with an easy familiarity, but Cagalli only lets him get away with the silence for a few moments.

When Athrun begins tucking bottles and pouches into vanity drawers in the bathroom Cagalli sidles up to the doorway, leaning against the casing resolutely. "Hey," she says sharply, forcing Athrun's eyes up to meet hers in the mirror.

"Tell me what you're thinking about," Cagalli suggests, "tell me why your father seems to piss you off so much."

Athrun bites the inside of his cheek and grips the granite edge of the vanity. His gut reaction is to wave off the issue, to be the peacemaker and worry about everyone else before himself. He planned on giving Cagalli a relaxing and peaceful weekend, one so tranquil that she wouldn't hesitate to agree to his assertion that they remain together. Instead, he feels shame that this unexpected obstacle is so clearly getting in the way of the point of them being at Silvermoon Lake in the first place.

Instead of saying it's nothing Athrun takes another look at Cagalli's determined face and says "It's a lot of things."

Cagalli nods, and stares at him until he continues.

"Sons always seem to fight with their fathers when they're almost grown, but my issues with my father never stopped. If it wasn't one argument it was another. My father and I have disagreed over every significant event in my life."

"Too bullheaded and similar or too different?" Cagalli prompts. She steps forward until she's in front of Athrun, and she picks up one of his hands absently, supportive.

"Has Dearka not told you the whole tale?" Athrun tries to joke, but is genuinely curious. While Cagalli and he had spent a lot of time learning about one another the past couple of weeks he had steered clear of his family at every opportunity. Cagalli had heard the bare minimum from him, but it honestly surprised him that someone else hadn't seen fit to mutter a story or two into her ear.

"I'm not above prying or gossiping," Cagalli retorts, "it can be dead useful. But I haven't asked anyone about your family, and your friends are good friends, Athrun, they haven't hurried to say anything either."

Athrun nods. He flips Cagalli's hand over because he finds that tracing the lines in her hand distract him from having to look her in the face.

"When my mother died, she had been ill for a long time like I told you, but when she died…my father wasn't with her."

Cagalli hums a sympathetic note.

"My father had chosen not to be with her for a reason that I never learned. I had gone back to school…my mother had wanted me to. She was alone, and she died."

"You blamed your father?" Cagalli asks. It's the natural response. She thinks she understands where Athrun's story goes.

"I did. As you can imagine the fallout from an event like that…it was pretty dramatic. I was devastated and I blamed him. All he did was scoff and go back to work. My father was always very good at that; shrugging off the problems we all had at home and simply going to work. He's high up in the interior ministry here in the PLANTs so there was always an excuse to work."

Cagalli didn't have anything to say in response. Her own father had put his duty and his job first many times, but he had loved and cared for his family and he had always been there when Cagalli needed him. She had never felt cheated of his love or his care, and she couldn't empathize with Athrun in that way.

"I guess it was just everything," Athrun continues. He lets out a breath and his speech becomes easier and quicker. "We argued about my schooling, we argued about my college choice, we argued about my course of study. Then, when I graduated, we argued about my future. I joined the military because my father wanted me to."

Finally, Athrun meets Cagalli's eyes and, to her surprise, he gives her a smile that is somewhat smug. "But I ended my military posting, moved to December City and joined Minerva Tech with Kira – all that I did for me. I wasn't going to be happy living the life my father envisioned for me. It's a disappointment he's never quite recovered from. For the last few years we've generally spoken by phone around one holiday or another, and we lay flowers at my mother's grave. But that man downstairs? He and I are only family anymore in the strictest sense of the word."

"Are you happy with it that way?" Cagalli asks, curious.

Athrun tugs the bottom of her shirt to pull her close, a gesture he's fond of. "My family is Kira and Lacus, and Dearka, Yzak, and Shiho. Lacus had an upbringing similar to mine in a way, and we both decided that our family would be what we made it, not what we were given."

Athrun leans forward for a quick, chaste kiss. "Don't worry about me, Cagalli. My father may be our roommate for the weekend, but we're here for more important things."

Cagalli sighs. "I can see you want to steer the attention away from you. That's fine. I don't relent that easily, Zala."

"I hope that's true," Athrun says quickly, taking advantage of the opening, "because I don't want you to give up on us. I told you I'm going to convince you that we can still be together even if you have to go back to Orb—,"

"There's no if Athrun, I do have to go back to Orb."

"We can still be together, still be you and me, when you go back to Orb," Athrun amends.

Cagalli isn't as comfortable or used to sentimentality as Athrun is, a fact he knows well enough. He's using the weakness against her. As much as she knows it could be a very bad idea, one that just ends up hurting the two of them, she doesn't say no. Instead Cagalli says, "So convince me then."

Athrun smiles and tugs her back into the bedroom. "Let's start our weekend then. We'll have dinner with my father, and then we can focus on what's important."


Dinner with Patrick Zala resembles the State Dinners Cagalli occasionally has to attend in Orb in almost every way. The three of them are very cordial and polite, the food is tasteful and elegant, and topics of conversation steer away from anything remotely controversial, at least to begin with.

Cagalli only barely catches herself from nodding and saying 'yes, Minister,' on reflex when Patrick asks her a question about Orb. She coughs politely and turns purposefully wide eyes on the elder Zala. "I'm sorry?"

"Do you have much family left in Orb, now that your father has passed?" Patrick slowly repeats his question. Across from Cagalli, Athrun has paused, a horrified look on his face. No doubt he finds his father's question intrusive and bold. Cagalli had once had a senior male colleague ask her, in very casual terms, about her sexual history while seated across from an African trade delegation. Patrick Zala, in comparison, doesn't do much to raise her ire.

"No," Cagalli says simply. "I have no other family in Orb, although no one is truly without a family, not on Orb's islands. We believe very deeply in community, and the idea that not all of our family may have been born to us."

"A very noble sentiment," Patrick agrees with a nod. "But it must be hard sometimes; the current situation you are facing within Onogoro's seated Parliament for example."

"Father," Athrun interrupts, cutting quickly through the words.

Patrick accepts his son's reprimand without a significant show of contrition. "I just wondered. You'll forgive me if I've offended you."

"Not at all," Cagalli says politely. In truth, she's rather amused. Patrick Zala speaks as one would expect a man such as himself to speak. He is polite and refined to a fault, and far too intelligent to care much for propriety, truly. Cagalli wonders if it would be possible to shock him, and if anyone had ever bothered to try. She suspects only Athrun comes close to doing so.

Cagalli lifts another forkful of their excellent dinner to her mouth and chews slowly, replying when she's finally swallowed. "I did come to December City as an escape; I'll admit that, Mr. Zala. But being here has helped to clear my head, and I can't say that I'm nervous about what's going on in Orb. I've been scared and apprehensive for sure, but I can't change what will happen. I can only do my duty to my country."

Patrick makes a noise, deep in his throat, but shows no outward sign of being taken aback.

"You sound like your father, Ms. Attha."

It's Cagalli who is surprised. Her knife ceases it's cut and she gazes openly at Patrick Zala. "My father?"

Patrick's brows crease. "Of course. I had reason to hear the former Head Representative speak frequently. Our two countries do have a long relationship after all."

"Of course." Cagalli says quietly. "Thank you. I always admired my father; hearing that I speak like him is a compliment to me."

"As it should be," Patrick replies. His tone is one of finality, as if all that is needed to confirm or commence is his word.

After that Cagalli finds that much of her attention is taken up with observing Athrun. The conversation at the table flows easily, and Cagalli is finding it hard to understand how Athrun and his father don't get along. They've spent the better part of a quarter hour discussing Lacus and Kira's wedding, with Athrun's father politely expressing his delight at the couple's happiness. Cagalli pays attention to the line of Athrun's shoulders though, they're strained and stiff, and looking at Athrun it's plain to see that despite his casual tone of voice he is far from relaxed.

"Cagalli is Kira's sister," Athrun is telling his father when Cagalli chooses to follow the conversation fully again. "They were separated and adopted by different families at birth."

"Really?" Athrun seems to have been the one to finally change the expression on his father's face. The man is clearly curious.

Cagalli grins into her wine. Yes, she has a twin brother that she ran into in a bar three weeks ago.

"How extraordinary," Mr. Zala concludes when Athrun explains the longer version of events to him. The man turns and levels Cagalli with a speculative gaze, clearly he is re-evaluating his knowledge of her. "I hope you don't share in your brother's more fanciful notions."

The mood at the table changes instantly, and Cagalli feels the air between the three of them shift and thicken. While she would take Patrick Zala's sentence for gentle teasing it's obvious that his son does not.

"Kira is an amazing person," Athrun begins firmly, leaning back in his chair and facing his father, "and his 'fanciful notions' as you always call them are brilliant ideas, the product of a highly intelligent person."

Patrick's jaw tenses, but he sets his silverware down without an outward sign of displeasure. "I will not have this argument with you again, Athrun. Kira Yamato's parents may approve of him running away from duty to play at science, but I do not approve of you choosing to do so as well."

"My duty and your duty have never been the same, father. I don't feel that a military or political life would have suited me the way it has suited you. I like creating; Minerva Tech helps this country in other ways."

"Yes," Patrick's cool tone loses a bit of it's tranquility and begins heating, "Producing medical technology that no one can afford to buy, signing contracts with countries that work against the PLANTs interests, and wasting government grants on defense projects that don't defend!"

Athrun pushes away from his chair and stands, his father matching the move. Cagalli feels her lips twist wryly. She never would have expected that Kira Yamato would prove the catalyst of tumultuous anger between Athrun and his father. Maybe she should have let Athrun drive them back to December City. They could have been eating take out on the floor of Athrun's apartment, a plan that sounds a thousand times better than this family showdown.

"Minerva Tech does wonderful things every day," Athrun argues heatedly, "I have seen world changing ideas come to fruition thanks to Minerva Tech. They do more and more for our world each day. We are making more progress in science and technology at Minerva than most privately funded think-tanks or government initiatives combined!"

"They act as though they are above the law, Athrun. Each year they fight with government oversight boards and refuse external investigators."

"That's untrue! Minerva protects the privacy of its clients and complies with every law it's required to."

"How do you explain, then, Minerva's unwillingness to share it's data with the PLANTs?"

"It's not required to be micromanaged," Athrun says in exasperation. "Minerva's achievements are for the PLANTs and they're for the rest of the world as well. Minerva doesn't see knowledge as requiring exclusivity. Minerva will always support PLANTs, and it will always support medical and technological advancements. Many of the cyber programs I work on every day go towards making the PLANTs' defense stronger."

"You are content with the knowledge that your work might be doing what you say, with no guarantee of fact?"

Athrun hesitates, not wanting to be trapped. "I believe that Minerva Tech's leadership makes choices that are in the best interests of our clients, our society, and our government."

Patrick grips the edge of the table. His eyes are fierce, but in contrast to Athrun Cagalli thinks he looks closer to concern than fury. "You are content to spend your life in such a way?"

Athrun swallows. His lips are twisted back and his eyes are wide and alert. Cagalli has rarely seen him so impassioned. She finds the look overwhelmingly attractive. It makes her own body fidget and sing, she remembers fighting for causes in Orb that she believed in just as passionately. It makes her wonder if she had stopped fighting, as Athrun, and even Miriallia, had implied since she came to December City.

Cagalli steadfastly ignores the thought, and clenches her hands in her lap.

Athrun doesn't look at her, but Cagalli feels his attention when he says "I am," to his father. The words are weighted, and it shows the type of person that Athrun is. He studies his actions and his options, but he doesn't do anything by halves.

When he makes a choice he's all in.

"Fine," Patrick sits and immediately resumes his dinner, not sparing the argument another word.

Cagalli is taken aback by the abrupt end of the exchange and across the table she can see that Athrun is as well. Cagalli nearly grins when Athrun appears to physically waiver, clearly not prepared for his father to end the argument there. She wonders how their arguments normally go, though she is grateful that it doesn't appear as though she will have to find out.

"Forgive me," Patrick says to Cagalli, not to Athrun. "My son and I occasionally disagree."

Cagalli can't help the grin that blooms over her face this time. How uncanny these PLANT citizens are. "It's alright," she says, "I hear most families do."

Patrick pauses in surprise, and smiles back at Cagalli. "I expect you're right."

Athrun seats himself and regains his composure. Cagalli nudges her ankle against his from across the table. If this confrontation is what Athrun was concerned about she thinks he shouldn't have bothered. She's seen Dearka and Yzak go for knives with more genuine ferocity than Athrun and his father. She supposes it must just embarrass him.

"You are grown," Patrick says suddenly. "And you are right to do as you wish. I worry about you because I am your father, but I forget that you are also Leonore's son. And, Leonore would be very pleased with the man you have become."

"Ah, thank you," Athrun says, rushing to reply in his shock. His eyes are the greenest Cagalli has ever seen them. She averts her eyes politely when she realizes there is sheen of emotion on Athrun's eyes. Cagalli is very aware that Leonore Zala must have meant a great deal to both her husband and her son.

"I'm retiring at the end of this year," Patrick tells his son, suddenly. His throat works hard, once, trying to find the words to convey his meaning. "The idea of not having to argue and politick anymore has been very appealing."

"Congratulations, father," Athrun says, smiling genuinely and returning to his seat. "You've had an accomplished career."

Patrick returns the smile. "Thank you, son."

Cagalli gets the feeling that what she is seeing is a quite unexpected, but pleasant, first.


Later, with Athrun's arm curled possessively around her naked side, their skin still heated and flushed from moments before, Cagalli remembers her thought at dinner. She looks at Athrun and she knows that he's a person that doesn't do anything by halves. She can count on that fact, and she can count on Athrun.

"I like that you fight," Cagalli whispers into Athrun's hair, his head resting on her bare chest, rising and falling with each of her breaths.

"Hm?" Athrun mumbles into the dark. On reflex his hand tightens against her side, his thumb brushing against the swell of her breast, silently assessing and asking.

"Nothing," Cagalli grins, wrapping a sheet more closely around the two of them.

Cagalli enjoys this moment in a way that she has so rarely enjoyed things. These past few weeks in December City have done more to convince her of her own happiness than the years in between her father's death and coming to December City combined. What she thought she had lost, she is content in the knowledge of having found it again.

"You make me happy," Cagalli whispers, this time quieter.

Athrun doesn't make a noise in response. He's breathing deeply and evenly, now, and is asleep.

Cagalli congratulates herself. In a cabin, at Silvermoon Lake in the PLANTs she feels more like herself than she has in a long time. Entwined around Athrun Zala, Cagalli feels more certain and sure of herself than she has since long before she left Orb.

"Yes, Zala," Cagalli says, suppressing the urge to laugh, carefree and bold. "I think we owe ourselves a chance."

Cagalli Yula Attha feels like fighting for it.