The idea for this story has been sitting in my hard drive for years and I found it while cleaning my documents folder. I decided to continue it but, since it has been a while since I've watched GS/D, I'm not very confident about my characterizations of the characters. I did what I could though. I adored GS/D so much that it would be blasphemy if I didn't contribute anything to its fandom.
Summary:They could not continue like this. They could not pretend forever. They would crumble. They wanted to love too.
Disclaimer:I don't own Gundam Seed, Gundam Seed Destiny, and any of its characters.
Cagalli Yula Athha, the Lioness of Orb, furrowed her golden brows at the documents she was supposed to sign. "Petitions for Increasing the Reconstruction Budget," was its title. She stared with a tired anger that she tried to suppress. These kinds of documents did not need to be signed by the head representative.
What were those people in the financial department doing?
She sat back on her executive chair and massaged her forehead.
Someone's trying to kill me and they're doing it very slowly.
As much as she loved Orb, she knew that these documents (stacks of them) would kill her one day.
Groaning due to stress, she started to knead her stiff shoulders and looked at the digital clock on her desk.
6:30 PM. Ugh…half a dozen petitions to read and sign in thirty minutes.
Picking up the "Petitions for Increasing the Reconstruction Budget" once again, she continued working. She signed the document and stuck a post-it saying, "Send this to the Financial Department next time."
It was then that Ledonir Kisaka, her ever trusted bodyguard, entered, "Cagalli, you are to spend the day tomorrow in the orphanage." He said firmly.
Cagalli was about to nod her head out of habit, as if Kisaka had informed her of business she must attend to, but caught herself and just sat there staring at the large man, "You're kidding right?"
Kisaka only stood there unmoving, "No."
Cagalli growled, "Please tell me that you're not blind and you're seeing all the papers here on my desk." She placed the newly signed petition on a stack and smacked it a couple of times in an irritated manner.
"I can see them perfectly, Representative. So well, in fact, that I can see that your skin is paler, you're losing weight, and there are knots of tight muscles on your shoulders. Not to mention the uneaten lunch on the tray your secretary carried earlier today." Kisaka said in an almost scolding manner.
Cagalli blinked, "I—what? So you're kicking me out?"
"You do know that I have to do these, right? I can go to the orphanage on Sunday." Cagalli reasoned.
"No, Kira asked that you should come. Besides, you have a press conference this coming weekend and a late night cocktail party with the ambassadors from Western Europe. You can't come this weekend." He stated in a matter-of-fact tone.
"Okay..." Cagalli sighed, feeling defeated after remembering her appointments for that day, "So what does my brother want with me?" She asked. Her 'younger' brother never bothered her in her work even if he was dying.
"Zaft Commander Kira Yamato requests you to come on his brief visit here in Orb. Supreme Chairwoman, Lacus Clyne will also be present."
"Kira and Lacus…?" Cagalli thought for a moment and said, "About time…" with a grin on her face.
Kisaka looked at her questioningly.
"It's nothing. I knew Kira will take his sweet time but a year?" Cagalli sighed at her brother's hopelessness, "Then again it was all in due time."
The Lioness only smiled and shook her head, "Nothing. Alright, I'll be there tomorrow then."
"No, now…" Kisaka said.
"I'm taking you there now. Lady Lacus has invited you to dinner tonight too."
"You never said that! I still have stuff to finish!" Cagalli yelled at her caretaker and smashed her hands on the pile of documents in front of her.
Kisaka stared at her blankly, "You're to spend the night at the orphanage too. You have to remember Cagalli, Lacus is one of highest officials in the PLANT's government. Some people in the PLANTs might take any sort of refusal personally."
She hated it when he was right. Cagalli groaned, "Even though I think Lacus wouldn't mind me not being there tonight, I'll go. I'll just take these remaining papers with me tonight."
"Alright, the driver is waiting for you at the courtyard."
"But wait, I can't go there in my uniform." Cagalli protested.
"I had Mana put a bag of some of your clothes in the car…" Kisaka said nonchalantly as he started to walk to the door.
Cagalli sighed and narrowed her eyes. Everyone was in this, she could feel it. None of them would dare drag her out of her office single-handedly so Cagalli assumed that they collectively have planned all of this. Her wild imagination even dared suspect that they even rehearsed it. The recurring joke that only the brave could drag the Lioness out of her den wasn't missed to Cagalli.
Staring at the papers begging for her attention, Cagalli snorted defiantly even though she knew that they were only looking out for her.
How long has it been since I've seen them…?
A whole year, her tired mind answered. She had been keeping contact with Kira and Lacus through phone and other media but they have never seen each other since negotiations started a year ago. It was high time for them to meet again.
She stretched her arms in a very unladylike manner, gathered the papers into her briefcase and went outside where the driver was waiting for her.
"We're here Miss Attha."
Cagalli blinked a few times before she realized that they were indeed in front of the orphanage Lacus once helped run. The driver opened the door for the Head Representative of Orb.
"You can leave now and go home. I can handle it from here." Cagalli told the driver while hefting her briefcase and her bag over her shoulder. The driver moved to offer his assistance but when Cagalli motioned that she didn't need any, he merely bowed in respect and got on the car. He left soon after.
Cagalli found herself standing in front of the doorway, unsure of what to do. It had been a year since she last saw her own brother. She wondered for a moment how Kira looked like now. A year ago, her brother looked too mature for his age. She worried, of course, but knew that Kira was still suffering from his ordeal during the Wars. Cagalli wished that the Kira she would see now was a happier one.
Even by just a bit.
She knocked on the hardwood door. She then waited a few moments but nothing came. She knocked again, harder this time, "Oi, Kira! Open the door!"
Minutes went by but still she did not get a response. Cagalli was about to bash her fist on the door when it was opened by Kira Yamato himself, "Hey Cagalli watch it!" The Freedom pilot narrowly dodged his sister's fist.
Cagalli grinned, "Suits you right, you didn't open the door on the spot."
Kira smiled, "Long time no see, Sis." He offered his twin a welcoming hug.
"I know," Cagalli hugged her 'younger' brother, "You should come down more often."
"Cagalli!" a chorus of not-so-angelic children exclaimed. Cagalli was barely able to say hi to them before she was tackled with hugs.
"Now children, I know you've missed Cagalli but that's no reason to suffocate her." Lacus' soft voice said.
"I missed you guys too!" Cagalli said while she ruffled some of the children's hair.
"Come on in, we've been waiting for you." Kira ushered his sister inside the orphanage.
"Sorry I'm late. Kisaka never told me about this dinner until he dragged me out of the office."
"No need to apologize, we're glad that you're here. Lacus cooked something I know you'll really like."
Lacus giggled, "I made kebabs, extra hot just for you."
The rest of the orphanage population groaned. Apparently only Kira and Cagalli were fans of spicy food.
Cagalli laughed, "That's awesome but let me change out of this stuffy uniform first okay?"
"Alright, you have your usual room, Cagalli." Lacus amiably smiled.
Kira watched his sister hastily go to her temporary room. He scratched his head, confused and amused about how Cagalli, the Lioness of Orb, had so much energy even though she just endured an hour drive after working for God knew how long. Of course, being an awkward person that he was, Kira had been raking his Coordinator brain on how to tell his one and only sister that he was now engaged to be married to the songstress of the PLANTs.
He sighed; there was no telling how his spitfire sister would react. It wasn't as if she would be angry but he was worried about how she will handle the excitement.
Knowing Cagalli, it would involve a severely damaged eardrum.
Lacus, watching her fiancé's nonexistent dilemma, only smiled. She knew Cagalli already had an idea why two of the most important figures in the PLANTs were in Orb. Lacus could even remember the time when Cagalli had alluded to her brother's proposal. The songstress only hoped Kira would calm down because even though Cagalli outwardly looked like a simple-minded person, she would, ultimately, be happy about their union.
"Come Kira, help me set up the table. The snacks we gave the children are wearing off. They'll be hungry soon." Lacus said as she herded the orphans to the living room where Reverend Malchio listened in at the cheerful welcome the Orb Princess had received.
"Do you really think she'll accept being the Maid of Honor?" Kira asked his fiancée as he fetched the plates from a nearby cupboard.
"And why do you think she'd refuse? You're her brother. Do you think that she'll miss it?" Lacus asked back.
"I suppose not but that role requires a dress and –"
"So? You've seen Cagalli in a dress, haven't you? She absolutely looked beautiful in one."
"It's not the matter of how she looks but about how we can convince her to wear one." Kira inwardly shuddered, remembering the amount of effort needed to get his tomboyish sister in a gown.
"She's not the 16 year old rebel anymore, Kira." Lacus said firmly.
"Yes, I know that," Kira sighed as he placed the plates for each of the children on the table, "I'm worrying too much, aren't I?" he asked pathetically.
"Yes and no…" Lacus said thoughtfully, "What we don't know is if she'll be alright with our choice of best man."
"That's true," Kira said, "We might as well tell her who is it so that she doesn't go ballistic at our wedding."
"Ballistic? Why? Is she mad at Athrun?" Lacus asked as she put the roasted beef and chicken on a serving plate.
"That's the thing, she's not mad at him but I can tell they're avoiding each other for some time now. I've kept in touch with Athrun, and whenever I asked him if he was keeping an eye on Cagalli, he'd say that he's trying to but their jobs are getting in the way. I doubt that they have had a decent conversation ever since the war ended."
"Should we be worried about them?"
"I don't know but the last time I checked they were engaged too. And if there's nothing wrong with those two they should've been married by now."
Lacus nodded. She saw the ring that Cagalli gave to Kira to return to Athrun a year ago. She just smiled thoughtfully and said, "We'll see when Athrun arrives tomorrow morning. We have to understand that their relationship is a lot different than ours. They'll get through this in their own way at their own time."
"You know I'm right." Lacus giggled and kissed him on the cheek, "Now call your sister, I'll get the kids. Let's eat."
Dinner came and went. Stories and gossips were exchanged at the table. Cagalli remembered when she and Athrun came here just after the First Bloody Valentine War ended. It was almost the same as it was tonight, save for the extra spicy kebabs. She was surprised that Lacus knew how to make them but perhaps the reason was Kira's love of spicy foods. If there was one trait the twins shared, it was the love of chili doused kebabs. Cagalli faintly reminisced the first time she had her brother eat the dish that consisted of roasted meat in flat bread. Poor Kira had to eat the kebab wrap soaked in yogurt and chili sauce. Even now, Cagalli still blamed Captain Andrew Waltfeld for that little incident almost three years ago.
"So, spill you two. What's the news?" Cagalli grinned after they had finished their dinner.
Kira answered as he tidied his plate and silverware, "We're getting married."
"What?" Cagalli frowned, unable to understand her brother's mumbling, "Say it louder!"
"We're getting married!"
Cagalli blinked a couple of times, and then grinned again, "What? Louder Kira!"
Kira glared while Lacus chuckled beside him. It was obvious that Cagalli was playing around.
"I said we're getting married!" Kira practically shouted in the orphanage.
The orphans' reactions were mixed. The girls squealed while the boys groaned in disgust. Happy for her brother, Cagalli cheered like a young girl who hadn't seen two cosmic wars.
"It's high time you had the guts to ask her, my dear little brother." Cagalli laughed, "Let me guess, Lacus, the proposal was lame?"
Kira paled and turned away while Lacus chuckled before answering Cagalli's question, "It was cute. The ring was in a document folder he gave me to check."
Cagalli crossed her arms and scowled, "Lame, big time. That's even worse than Athrun's." She then sighed and continued, "Just our luck to be proposed to by the two most hopeless guys in the galaxy."
"We're too lucky." Lacus laughed.
Kira wanted to shrink from the embarrassment his sister was putting him through.
"Hey Kira, I'm glad that you've found your well deserved happiness. You too, Lacus. I give you two my blessing." Cagalli flashed one of the smiles that won the whole nation of Orb.
"And since when did I have to ask for your blessing?" Kira asked as he raised a brow.
"Since we both discovered we're twins!" the blonde responded enthusiastically.
Her brother could only sigh.
"Who knew that you'd be my sister-in-law?" Cagalli said cheerfully to Lacus before asking both, "Do you know how Earth and the PLANTs would react?"
"If anything, it'll be a good scandal." Kira chuckled, "The Princesses of Orb and the PLANTs becoming sisters through marriage, can you see the headlines?"
Lacus shook her head as they started clearing the table, "Not a scandal but it might oust security for the Earth Alliance. Our marriage would result in strong ties between Orb and PLANTs, alienating EA. That is what I am worried about."
Cagalli leaned at the table by her elbows and gave it a thought, "Maybe I could marry some random old geezer from the EA to stop their whining." She frowned.
Kira looked at her incredulously, "You're doing no such thing, Cagalli."
His twin sister shrugged, "I just said I could, it's not like I'm going to. I don't have much time to think outside the box, or in my case, outside the office."
Kira frowned as he handed the orphans' plates to Lacus near the sink. He heard that excuse a million times it seemed. Cagalli never had time for herself. Kira knew that Cagalli was, first and foremost, the Lioness of Orb, the Head Representative, and the Golden Princess of the Nation in the Indian Ocean.
Unfortunately, he hadn't seen his sister for a very long time. He hadn't seen her simply as Cagalli without the mantle of the Lioness. He was worried; there was no denying that he cared about his sister almost as much as he cared for his fiancée. Cagalli was his only living blood relative. She was his only family.
Cagalli, noticing Kira's solemn gaze on her, tilted her head and scooped up the remainder of the dishes left on the table, "What?" she asked.
Torn from his train of thought, Kira shook his head and answered, "Nothing. Oh, Cagalli, now that you know about our engagement, I want to ask you a favor."
"Sure, what is it?"
It was Lacus who responded, "I wish for you become my Maid of Honor, Cagalli."
Inside some twisted part of her mind, Cagalli somehow knew that was coming. She sighed, "Well, since I only have one brother, sure I'll do it. I waited a year for you two to get married, what's a few hours confined in layers of hot cloth and heels?"
Lacus' sky blue eyes softened, she knew how Cagalli disliked dresses, "Thank you."
"Just so that it wouldn't be awkward," Kira said, "I'll tell you now, Sis. Athrun will be my best man."
Cagalli just sighed again and said, "I know. Who else would you pick anyway?"
"Are you alright with that?"
"Yeah," she answered, "I don't remember having problems with Athrun. It's weird for you to ask that question."
"Cagalli…" Kira didn't dare finish his sentence.
You haven't spoken to him ever since we left Orb before the Battle of MESSIAH, he thought.
What was he supposed to think?
"Kira," Cagalli interjected, "…I really don't want to linger on that subject. It seems that whenever someone speaks his name when I'm in the same room all conversations die. We have had our time." She said, "And I think it was enough. There is no need to make a conversation about him so difficult."
Kira was about speak when Lacus rested a hand on his shoulder and shook her head. Understanding what she meant, Kira didn't follow through what he had in mind and said instead, "We called him to come by but it seems that he had some business with Morgenroete. He said he will drop by tomorrow morning."
Cagalli bobbed her head, "I know." She said. She was his superior officer after all. Athrun Zala remained in Orb after the Second Bloody Valentine War. His reasons escaped Cagalli but she merely put it off as an urge to stay away from the PLANTs where people saw him as his father's shadow. He currently served as one of Orb's Admirals, despite the promise of peace
Unwilling to remain in such a tense conversation, Cagalli changed the subject while drying the clean plates and placing them neatly in the racks. She asked about their plans for the wedding and where it would take place. The couple rarely had an answer, since both of them had busy schedules as well and have little time to plan anything. At that, Cagalli shook her head and told them to hire a planner soon. After Kira said that they might plan the wedding themselves and that getting a planner was unnecessary, Cagalli retorted that they might not get married in this lifetime. Besides, she told them, wedding planners would kill to plan the biggest post-war wedding. Kira, unsure about how weddings go, looked to his fiancée for support. However, his sister had already convinced Lacus before he could even protest.
Cagalli relayed her triumph over her brother with a grin.
After everything was cleaned and all the children were herded off to bed after hours of games, Cagalli went outside the orphanage to enjoy the chilly breeze coming from the ocean. She gazed at the palm trees and appreciated how wonderful they looked with only the pale glow of the moon illuminating them.
It was so quiet and peaceful that she wondered if this was all just a dream.
Just a year ago, she was fighting for the lives of countless people. Just a year ago, humanity was at its worst. Not only did humans fight a self-destructive war a couple of years prior, they dared repeat it under the guise of justice once again. The faces of the enemies were different, the philosophies differed as well, but the Second Bloody Valentine War was identical to the first.
She stepped onto the white sands of the beach and promptly removed her shoes to feel the rough grains between her toes. She slowly sank as she walked but she didn't mind. She had no trouble lifting her feet from the shifting sands.
Not anymore, at least.
She was stronger now, fully capable of carrying herself and her country. It had been a long arduous trek through the sands but she managed. As she walked, Cagalli savored the breeze blowing through her hair for it was gentle now, unlike the whipping cyclones of the battlefield.
Pushing a lock of hair behind her ear, Cagalli chuckled to herself. Here she was again, thinking of the past when she promised herself to focus on the future.
The blonde young woman stretched and inhaled deeply before she dropped her sneakers on the sand. This was not the time to linger on those memories, she decided, she would just enjoy tonight and listen to the soft waves of the sea. Perhaps it would even lull her to sleep.
Her momentary freedom calmed her nerves and relaxed her soul. Out here, far away from her office, wearing a simple tank top and pants, and not caring if it was cold outside, she felt like herself again. She felt like Cagalli again after nearly three years of being the Lioness of Orb. Of course, she didn't necessarily think that she wasn't herself when she wore the Lioness' mantle. The Lioness was still her. However, it was only in these rare times when she didn't wear that purple representative's uniform that she could truly identify herself simply as Cagalli.
She sighed as she flopped down on the soft sand, "I think I know where I'll be going on my next day off." She chuckled to herself and made a promise to return here when she got that well-deserved day for herself. How long had it been since she last swam in Orb's waters?
Far too long…
Cagalli hugged her knees, smiling contently by herself while she watched the rolling waves under the bright illumination of the full moon. Entranced, she cleared her mind and just observed how the sands shifted under the will of the waters. Once upon a time, those waters were treacherous, beguiling, and certainly powerful while she was merely a grain of sand, lost and powerless under the torrents. And yet, somehow, she conquered it after many setbacks and mistakes, after losing many important things.
She was now an island. She might not be invincible but she was now resilient to the waters. She wouldn't just bow to the waves.
When did I start to sound so… old?
Amber eyes softened before they closed. The sound of the ocean breeze and the rolling waves were lullabies to her ears making her just want to curl up and sleep there. But she wasn't exhausted. She was used to the work load but there was something about the peaceful environment that sung to her.
Is this what Peace feels like?
Undeniable warmth tore her from her peaceful stupor.
"Do you want to get sick…?"
Cagalli blinked her eyes open, although she didn't need to see the person to know who it was.
"I thought you weren't going to show up until morning."
"It's technically morning."
She huffed, "Smart aleck."
"Well, it is…"
"How was your meeting with Erica?"
"Do you really want to talk about that here?"
The blonde girl looked to her side when she felt Athrun Zala sitting down beside her.
"See…? But to put your mind at rest, the AI research is going well."
Cagalli shifted and pulled the white Orb jacket Athrun placed around her shoulders closer to her body. It wasn't until she felt warmth that she realized just how cold it was out here.
"I'm still against that research—"
The green-eyed man interjected, "Let's not talk about this right now."
She looked at him from the corner of her eyes and sighed. And, thus, there was silence between them again. In this last year she and Athrun had never had a decent conversation. The words they exchanged were usually professional in nature and, even then, they were few and far between. They have been busy. She ran the whole country while he made sure that Orb's defenses were in tip-top shape.
This recent Morgenroete research project consisted of advanced AIs for more efficient mobile suit handling for Naturals. Cagalli had been against such a thing and reasoned that they did not need it. Athrun, on the other hand, was unwilling to risk anything in their still fragile world. He had been reluctant but he valued the ability to defend one's self if necessary.
It was only because of a distant lesson from her father that Cagalli even agreed to such research.
Deciding to forget about that ordeal, Cagalli spoke, "Aren't you cold?"
"I'm fine. You're the one barely wearing anything."
Silence once again.
It was he who spoke after a minute, "It's dangerous to be alone out here. There might be assassins."
"It's fine," she replied, "Lacus has her bodyguards around the perimeter. I need to breathe once in a while, you know."
Another period of silence.
Here they were, unguarded and out of the office yet still they couldn't talk to each other.
Irritated, Cagalli spoke again, "What happened to us, Athrun?"
Athrun Zala sat on white sands with a knee propped up to support his elbow and, partially, his upper body's weight. He looked at her with a quiet question in his eyes but he did not answer.
Miffed that he didn't provide a response, she returned her gaze towards the sea once again. She was affected, yes, but she already knew that he wouldn't answer.
She should have known that they would never truly find closure.
"Wars happened to us, Cagalli."
His delayed response prompted her to return her attention to him but he didn't enlighten her any further with his thoughts.
She chuckled, "I guess a vague question deserves a vague answer."
"It is what happened to us."
Cagalli glared at him for that but promptly let her temper dissipate into the midnight sky. She didn't want to get angry about something so trivial.
Sighing, she allowed herself to lie on the soft sands.
"The war is over…" she murmured to the stars above her.
With his sharp Coordinator hearing, Athrun caught her every word, "Indeed it is. So what does that make us?"
She snorted and chuckled, "The hell if I know. Guardians of peace? Or some other cheesy group like that."
"Peace is quite a slave driver, isn't it?"
"You think?" Her voice oozed sarcasm.
"You are too."
"…I resent that."
It was his turn to chuckle. His amusement made Cagalli scowl and, out of childish revenge, she threw a handful of sand at her companion.
Athrun barely saved himself from the onslaught by blocking his face with an arm.
"You're lucky I don't have proper ammunition, Zala."
He merely laughed at the threat.
"What's so funny?" The Lioness' temper could only take so much of his cool and passive demeanor. She sat up and forcefully dropped a heavy hand onto the sand to display her anger.
"Nothing, nothing at all." Athrun chuckled and smiled at her, "I missed you—this you, that's all."
She sputtered in whatever retort she had ready as she felt her face burn. "What…?"
"We haven't been to the beach for a very long time."
Cagalli was still stuck on his declaration of longing that she didn't quite get what he meant when he actually responded to her question. So, she tried again, "What…?"
"When was the last time we both had sand under our feet?" He offered her a chance to understand.
Cagalli searched her memory and found nothing. So many things had happened that she couldn't possibly remember something as vague as what Athrun was asking for.
"I don't understand." She admitted.
"You shot me."
She blinked then it dawned on her, "Oh…"
Their first meeting.
"It's sad, isn't it? To know that it's been so long since then."
"Did we never go to the beach since then?"
"That is… sad."
"Like I said, wars happened to us."
She finally nodded in agreement. They never had breathing room. After the First War, it was all about reconstructing Orb. Then the Second War came along and now they're once again stuck with rebuilding peace from the ground the up.
It was certainly the worst time to build a relationship.
Cagalli found herself at a loss for words. She always considered herself to be a slave to her mouth because she couldn't control it at times and it dictated many things that happened to her life. However, as she sat there with only the sound of waves and the whistling of breeze to urge her to speak, she couldn't utter a word.
She stared down at the white grains of sand at her feet.
"But we're not on shifting sands anymore…" She said. It was the only thing she could say.
"I hope so."
"We're on firm ground now." She continued.
Athrun looked at her with an unreadable yet gentle gaze.
"Are we really?" He asked tentatively.
Cagalli firmly nodded, determined, "Yes. I won't let this world shift again. Lacus wouldn't let this peace be shattered again. Twice is more than enough, heck, once was more than enough." She clenched her fist, "Never again…"
"I don't want to fight again."
"I won't let you fight again!" She snapped.
Even though her outburst was rough to his ears—he didn't expect her to shout—Athrun couldn't help but appreciate what she meant.
He reached out and took her fist in his hand. He held it, wrapped his fingers around it, and eased the emotions out.
Cagalli's fierce gaze was still fixed on him but it immediately softened at the touch. Her ambers orbs looked down at his hand and then realized that hers had been trembling. She relaxed her cold fingers under his palm.
She didn't pull away.
He didn't let go either.
"I want to move on." He said.
Her eyes snapped up to meet his, panicked. His statement was sudden and she was unprepared.
"But… Athrun, I… I'm not holding you back on anything. You're free to go! Do you want to resign, is that it? I'll take care of it as soon as I can. I—"
Athrun Zala roughly shoved her down on the sand as if to shake her out of her train of thought.
The sudden impact and the sensation of the sand under her back felt painfully familiar to Cagalli. Wide-eyed, she stared at the man who hovered above her but he didn't speak and merely smiled. Athrun's smiles were never obvious, they were merely slight tilts on the corners of his mouth that prompted many to think that he never smiled but smirked. She could beg to differ though, because to her, Athrun's smiles were very much real.
"Athrun…?" She asked, wanting some sort of explanation for what he said and for the sudden attack.
All she got was a kiss to her forehead.
Confusion then turned to vexation.
"What was that for?"
"For not letting me finish."
"We have been through so much. Gunfights, deserted islands, battlefields, betrayals, numerous life and death situations, and, god forbid it happening again, near marriages." Athrun calmly began, "Do you think I can move on with my life without you? No, I can't do that. Everything I did, I did in hopes that, after everything was said and done, I could return to you. Obviously, many things went wrong. We went wrong."
He shifted to free one of his hands from the sand. Gingerly, he traced the thin chain around Cagalli's neck and pulled its pendant out of her shirt.
A red stone glittered under the moonlight.
"I waited…" He continued as he fingered the ring he had given her what felt like an eternity ago, "I tried not to think of it but I waited. I believed that we had the same goal even though we walked different paths. We've reached that goal, correct? You've said so yourself, we're on firm ground now. Has my wait come to an end?"
"I know there's a rift between us. I know that. I won't even blame the fact that we're busy. We just never tried. I didn't try again. I wanted you to do what you had to do. I didn't force myself back into your life so that you may serve Orb without hindrance. But you're horribly mistaken if you think I've given up on us."
He fell into stillness after that as if absorbing what he just said. To Cagalli, his silence was deafening. The pulsation of her heart was deafening. She didn't know how to respond. A part of her didn't want to respond. Cagalli Yula Athha made world-changing decisions since she was sixteen years old and yet right now, lying on the sands, she couldn't decide whether to let her heart reach back out to the only man she ever loved.
She had been prepared, waited even, for Athrun to give her any signs that what they've had was over. The moment she took his ring off, Cagalli knew that they would never have another chance. Truth be told, her nerves got the better of her when he returned and decided to stay as Orb's Admiral. She was so sure that he would return to the PLANTs where he belonged.
But he didn't. He stayed and now he had told her the reason why.
"Have you?" He whispered into the wind, "Have you given up?"
His eyes told her that he too was prepared for whatever answer she had for him.
"No…" She breathed then immediately regretted her word, "But, Athrun, there's no room for us. We tried already. I can't think of how we'll make this work. What would the EA think if they found out about our relationship? Even though open-minded people run it now there's still a chance that—"
Athrun shook her, disturbing her sputtering speech once again, "When did you start caring about that, Cagalli?" He hissed, belying the frustration he kept hidden for so long.
Insulted, Cagalli snapped back, unable to control the flaring sting in her chest, "Since I became the leader of this country. I've learned the hard way that I can't keep following my heart! Look what happened to Orb at the start of the Second War. Even you told me to stop mindlessly following my self-righteousness, Athrun!"
She always trusted her instincts and her instincts were always right. However, in the real world, Cagalli had long realized that she must also ignore her instincts for the sake of the greater good. She betrayed feelings to get a better outcome and it was difficult, very difficult, for her. And now he had the gall to accuse of her forgetting who she was?
His lack of words angered her further. Seeking a physical outlet for her temper, Cagalli shoved Athrun off her. Amber eyes flaring, she grabbed the collar of his shirt and pressed him against the sand. "I've worked hard for our stability now. I know you did too, Athrun, and I know you're smarter than this. Why are you making me choose again?"
He averted his eyes for a moment before he returned her burning gaze, "I'm tired of being the martyr and I know you are too. I want to be selfish, Cagalli. Just this once, I want to be selfish. I've already given up so much for other people. You have already given up so much for other people as well."
The weight of his words made it hard for Cagalli to breathe but she tightened her grip. She wouldn't allow herself to be defeated by emotions. She couldn't.
But she knew she loved too much to win.
Her grip slackened and tears fell from her eyes.
"We're not on shifting sands anymore, right?" He repeated what she said as he took her hands into his, "We're on firm ground, correct?"
"Don't you dare use my own words against me…" She growled even though the intended effect was ruined by her sobbing.
He merely smiled up at her and pulled her closer, "This world won't shift just because you love, Cagalli."
She choked but allowed herself to be enveloped by his embrace. "How can you be so sure of that?"
"I've fought against the world twice in your name. And, both times, I won."
Cagalli shifted her head on his shoulder, burying her face to ebb the flow of her tears. "If you don't start making sense, I swear I'll shoot you." She threatened but her voice was muffled, losing its edge against his shirt.
Athrun couldn't help but chuckle, "I stopped making sense ever since I met you on that island." She fought and challenged his beliefs, then turned them upside down with her stubbornness. Things that made sense to him dissolved into questionable ideas while those that didn't suddenly made perfect sense.
It was time for him to do the same.
Because they couldn't live on like this.
They couldn't pretend forever.
They would crumble.
They wanted to love too.
Cagalli stilled for a while, calming herself and conquered the tears dry in his arms. She still had her fears. The last thing she wanted was to ignite another conflict even at the cost of her own happiness. Many depended on her after all.
But was she not allowed to depend on someone?
The Lioness pushed herself up from Athrun's chest. She searched his eyes only to find that the midnight sky reflected on them. "I don't want to choose between you and Orb again."
"I never asked you to. You don't have to. You never had to…"
"We're both idiots."
"No one is wise. Certainly not us."
She huffed, "Especially not us." She dusted her arms to remove the sands that clung to her skin.
"Then stop grumbling to yourself and kiss me."
"W-what? I thought we're having a very deep and serious discussion here!"
Athrun chuckled, amused, "We were. And there are still so many things we must talk about, catch up on, but we'll have time, won't we? You're bound to leave your office at one point or another."
She pointedly looked at him and furrowed her brows, "You're quite serious about this, aren't you?"
"Even when you can have any woman you want?"
"Yes, and I want this woman right here."
His smile widened a bit more.
Defiantly, she tried to counter, "Well this one requires a lot of patience. She is very busy after all."
"I already knew that." His tone sounded a little too smug for Cagalli's taste, as if he knew something she didn't.
"Hmph. Fine… I might as well get along with my brother's best man."
"I knew it." He chuckled.
"You did too, huh?"
"Through simple deductive reasoning."
They fell into silence once again but this time the atmosphere was lighter. She sat next to him with a hand over his chest while he lied there on the sand basking under her amber gaze. Their once failed relationship would still require more care to mend but at least now they had less to fear.
They could look forward to tomorrow.
Curious, Cagalli moved her hand to where his heart would be and chuckled when she found what she was looking for.
"You still wear it."
The necklace she had given him.
He closed his hand on hers, "It's my treasure."
She didn't say any more words. She merely held his hand and leaned down to meet his lips. And just like the first time they kissed, a heavenly body was their passion's only witness.
We live our lives on shifting sands.
And never steady.
Even our beliefs are easily swayed by the torrents of circumstance,
Our emotions shaped by the winds of happenstance.
It is only through experience that we learn how to navigate through the grains without stumbling.
It is only by falling that we learn how to stand.
So dare to stumble,
Dare to fall,
Because it is only then that we realize we stand on solid ground after all.
Prompt:Learning from Experiences
AN:Forgive the pointlessness of this story's nonexistent plot.
This story is a birthday present for an amazing writer and friend I met in this very fandom. Happy Birthday Athyra!
I thank AdrenaVeris and LifeSong-SoulLove for beta-ing this story.