Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Seed and Gundam Seed Destiny.
A/N: Hurrah! Another one down (finally managed to squeeze this out of my head). Sorry for the mess. I'm not a writer and I'm not planning on pursuing it as a career, but I do put in the effort.
Now, having said that... I apologize for bad grammar. Feel free to correct errors. This chapter turned out longer than I expected. I hope it doesn't get confusing.
To Athrun-chan, missfk21, Anon, Xx Meisha xX, d, and to everyone else who reviewed the story: You guys are ever so awesome! Thank you very much for reading and reviewing! :D
" " for speech
Italic for flashbacks, thoughts, and opinions.
Cucumber & Cantaloupe: Chapter 7
That darn Athrun Zala was proving to be far more an user than he had ever anticipated. Not only did Athrun never have the time to hangout anymore; the bastard only calls him when he needs something. And what's more annoying was: Yzak Joule couldn't believe he actually slipped out from a substantial business seminar and drove all the way across town as a response to the bastard's cry for help. Then upon arriving at the Traditional Japanese Restaurant, despite the urgency of the situation, he was nagged by the hostess to remove his shoes first. It was only after then did the hag allow him in.
There were two doors at the front of the hall. He ignored the dinning area and headed-straight to the private shoji-rooms, recalling how Athrun said he was in the fourth one. Yzak turned quickly; found the fourth-door that had been left slightly ajar due to carelessness. The voices within sounded familiar. He recognized Cagalli Yula Athha's voice immediately.
"Con-grats-sulations to mehhh!"
Yzak slid the door open at the exact moment Cagalli Yula tripped over her own feet, obviously drunk.
As a matter of fact, with the exception of Athrun who was preoccupied with trying to keep his tomboy of a girlfriend to stay still, everyone else in the room appeared to be high in alcohol. For a start, Dearka Elsman was drunk as well, —no surprise there. Lacus Clyne was surpassingly drunk though. Miriallia Haw? —intoxicated. Kira Yamato? —well, he had the bangs of his hair covering half of his face and was chuckling at the low table like a nutcase.
Eventually, it was Dearka who saw him at the door first and rose in one lithe movement; Athrun, on the other hand, jumped up and quickly went to cushion his girlfriend. Yzak concentrated on Athrun, wincing.
Bastard. "So this was the big emergency." He announced with a hint of threat in his tone.
It was so obvious to him now why Athrun had called him over... The guy needed his help taking everyone home because rich, poor, drunk or not, that relentless hag at the entrance probably wouldn't let anyone spend the night here in her restaurant. And what was even more irritatingly easy to figure out was— how these sloppy bunch ended up having a drinking party together without inviting him! ... Obviously, this was Cagalli Yula's party. She must have invited the girls and her friends brought the guys.
"Yo buudddy—" Waving a bottle of sake around, Dearka slung a failing arm around Yzak's shoulder with a grin. "Who's the chick?"
Yzak turned to Shiho Hanenfuss standing right behind him. It should be customary that he introduce her at this point yet at the same time he wondered if it even mattered since his friends were practically not themselves at the moment... Before long, he sighed. Fine. For the sake of politeness. He'd make it quick though.
From left to right. "Shiho, meet Kira, Lacus -girlfriend, Athrun, Cagalli Yula-girlfriend, Dearka, and lastly Miriallia -girlfriend. Everyone. Shiho." There. Done. Now, back to business. "You said you wanted to help, right? You know how to drive?" He turned to Shiho again. He was being serious, obviously.
The brunette in question reacted by blinking once, surprised, while Dearka, who still had an arm slung over his shoulder, and probably the only one who had been able to follow his informal introduction earlier, greeted the girl with a flimsy- Hi.
Fortunately, the woman just answered the question.
"Yes, of course."
"Good. Take Dearka's car. You'll be driving Lacus and Miriallia back to their dorms. Dearka, give her your keys." Behind him, the blond casually surrendered his keys with a amused chuckle. "Kira and Dearka will be coming with me. Athrun, I trust you can handle Cagalli Yula." Yzak finished, slinging Dearka off him so that he could go over to Kira, pull the brunet to his feet and get this over with. That was until Cagalli Yula made a scene by abruptly elbowing Athrun on the chin causing the guy to fallback onto the wall behind them. Damn. Ouch...
Well, sucks to be Athrun right now.
"No!" Cagalli demanded, stomping a feet forward. "Noo one'sss hic leavin' the partey until Flllay hic getsss here, do yaa hic hear mehh!" The blonde hysterically slurred causing the rest of the girls to frown at her as the rest only stared.
"Cagalli, Flay already apologized that she couldn't be with us tonight... And it is getting late and I am really tired." Lacus reasoned.
Sadly, the tomboy stubbornly shook her head. "No, unacceptableble! Call her, Milly, call her now!" Barely able to even stand straight, Cagalli whipped a finger to Miriallia like a boss. "Flay hazzz to come celebrate with mehh. Tell her that! because hic... Tell her hic I jusss purffected meh Polisssical Swai-ianze Ezzam 3 hic!"
A sensitive silence...
Cagalli blinked suddenly recalling her brilliance.
"Con-grats-sulations to mehhh!" Cagalli cheered, reaching for another sake cup while hiccupping some more. She emptied the content in one gulp.
Athrun, of course, had to quickly jump and break her fall again when the woman toppled over her own feet again.
Watching this mess of a scene, Yzak mentally slapped his forehead. This was going to be one hell of a long night. And it was all Athrun's fault. He'll remember to return the favor in the morning.
"This Flay... Could she be referring to Flay Allster, by any chance— pretty red-head, usually wears her hair in a half-ponytail?"
Everyone who actually heard Shiho and cared turned their attention to the girl still standing by the door with surprise. Cagalli was the one who openly reacted first.
"Youuu." Violently, prying herself from her boyfriend once again, the very drunk blonde swayed over to where Shiho was until the two were close enough to look each other in the eyes with the blonde leaning in. "I donno know who hic youuu are, but hic whazzz's your relatiiiionsship with Flay!"
Shiho looked at Cagalli Yula. Cagalli glared at Shiho, jealousy with a hint of drunken violence spewing out of her tone and expression.
Probably hoping for a babe fight, Dearka did nothing but stare.
Don't know how to stop his unstable girlfriend, Athrun gaped at the scene.
Senseless, Kira was still laughing at that blasted table.
Fortunately, typical girl next door even when intoxicated, Mirallia managed to slip in-between the two, re-widening the dangerous gap between them.
"Now, now Cagalli, let's not go attacking friends of friends now."
"Milly's right, Cagalli," Lacus chipped in from across the room. "I miss Flay too, but acting out of annoyance and rash violence would not bring her closer us."
Unexpected, Cagalli began to emotionally tear, over-dramatically. "Lacus..." she cried, running into her friend's arms for comfort. "I duhno whaat hic happpend... why she hic suddenwy 'voiding mehh hic?"
Back to the door, "Sorry about that." Miriallia giggled insensitively from being unable to properly control her emotions. "It's just- Cagalli is convince that our good friend is purposely avoiding us recently. Why? I don't know. I mean— sure, we have been seeing Flay a lot less lately... and sure... she has stopped calling to catch up. And sure... she has been turning down all our invites lately... I mean— is that really avoidance? Here. Have some sake."
Miriallia pushed her cup to Shiho. And Yzak couldn't help but roll his eyes at what he had just witness.
Great. Now he'd seen everything. Even Shiho Hahnenfuss was offered to join-in and have a drink but Yzak Joule, long term friend with the guys', was not!
And then Dearka, seemingly to have some psychic ability, just had to play the hospitable friend, of all the times, which made him even more irritated. "Say— doo ya want ssome ssaake too, Yzak?" The blond chuckled, finally offering to share the bottle glued on his grip. This was Dearka Elsman. Certified Idiot and his best friend.
Yzak gritted his teeth; fisted his right hand.
"Are you stupid! Who do you think would drive you all back if I were to get drunk too! Have some common sense!" He uppercuted the idiot.
Half a hour of unnecessary mayhem later; after all the messed-up drama; after Cagalli Yula had fallen asleep... —About time too; And after paying off the bills along with all the property damages, he managed to get everyone out into the parking lot in one piece and then get Lacus and Miriallia into the backseat of Dearka's car— with Shiho's assistance as Kira and Dearka were completely useless.
The things he does for friendship! Yzak couldn't help but roll his eyes at his own reliability. No wonder Athrun didn't think twice about calling him!
Yzak slammed the back door shut then unconsciously tapped the car twice. "Okay, the girls' are good to go. Shiho, I'm counting on you to take care of them." Yzak watched Shiho move to the front.
"Right. I understand." She confirmed. Then it came back to him. An itch that had been crawling on him since it had been brought up.
"Oh, and Shiho, about before..." He managed to add before the girl could enter the driver's seat. She looked up at him expectantly.
"You know Flay Allster?"
"Oh," Shiho paused, glance down at the car roof then back up at him. "Well, sort of... I don't really know much about her, but— remember the day when we first met? Flay Allster was actually the one who left me by myself at A&A's, you know, the person I was waiting for, before you hostilely kicked me off from our table."
Dearka heard and subsequently burst out laughing causing Athrun to invite himself over out of curiosity, and Kira free to mindlessly look about the parking lot in a daze.
"What's so funny?" Athrun asked as he approached the group with a sleeping Cagalli Yula on piggyback.
"It's Yzzzak! He findss en attractive geerl like her sitting by herself and the feerrs thing he doesss is steal her table!" Dearka went on laughing.
Yzak felt his cheeks warm at that. Now that Dearka was telling the tale, it did sound somewhat foolish of him. But in his defense, "well, she was on our table! What else was I suppose to do!—?"
"Hold on." Athrun injected. "Are you guys talking about our table, the one at Andy & Aisha's, that table?"
"Exactly!" Yzak pointed.
"Well, no wonder Yzak got territorial on you." Athrun turned to Shiho with a sigh. "You see, the shop owner is a friend of ours, the godfather of a close childhood friend, Nicol. And that table is exclusively for Nicol, Rusty, Dearka, Yzak and my use only. It's been like that since the shop opened. I'm surprised uncle and auntie actually allowed anyone else to use it."
"The owners didn't seem to mind though." Shiho frowned at Athrun. "In fact, they were quite accommodating."
Unconvinced, Athrun frown right back at Shiho. Of course, the situation made no sense to Athrun. It made no sense to Dearka and it definitely made no sense to Shiho. But dammit, suddenly, did it made perfect sense to Yzak! And to be frank, he was bewildered!
Flay was trying to set him up in spite he had clearly told her not to! That meddling woman!
"Self service... must have made a mistake..." Athrun again.
"... owner assisted us herself..." Shiho again.
For the love of— gad! Yzak couldn't keep it to himself anymore.
"That's because she was with Flay!"
"Flay?" Athrun continued, doubtful. "Even so why would Mr. & Mrs. Waltfield let Flay—"
"Because we've been using it as a meeting spot for months!" There. He said it! Athrun gaped at him when some things began to make sense. Dearka on the other hand, went hysterical. The blond couldn't believe it.
"You've been letting a girl use our man-table?—!"
Shanel, Ghucci, Praba, Luvberry, Versaece, and just about 30mins ago, Frendi. Flay contentedly left the last store with four shopping bags on each arm. Retail therapy. Wasn't this what practiced professionals called it? But as for Flay, she preferred the term— the joy of maxing-out her credit card.
Oh dear, dropped a bag.
Flay backtracked, struggled to bend down on tube skirt and high-heels when a sweet passersby gathered the stuff on the ground for her.
"Here you go miss." He smiled politely; she gaped at him.
No doubt about it, the guy's cute with his turquoise eyes and green hair combed back. Women probably chased after him all the time, being tall, broad-shouldered, good-natured and all. His smile could cause quite a considerable havoc too.
"Ah." Flay reached for her bag. "Thank you." Their hands touched. Oh my gosh, this could be love at first sight! Flay felt her cheeks blush and then watched the gentleman nod his head in acknowledgement.
"No problem. You should be more careful next time." He said. And then... simply, just like that, he went back on his way without a look back, and disappeared around the next corner...
This- this was not exactly like the movies... Flay slumped her shoulders with a sigh. Maybe she'll have better luck attracting men when she's thirty.
Finally, her stomach grumbled. Recalling how her friends were now in a relationship and she wasn't made her remember that it was nearly six in the evening and she haven't even had lunch yet.
Dinner... Right. Flay searched the shopping district for a place to eat. Eventually, she passed through Luvberry again. She could have sworn she had spotted a nice little restaurant around here somewhere this morning. And then, there it was. December City. Flay looked up at the sign and then down at the glass windows that gave her a clear view of the elegant interior and— she hesitated— at the undeniable happily customers inside— most, of course, were either on a date or with friends or family, but Flay tried to ignore the details as she felt her stomach sound again.
Come on, Flay, the place looks really nice. Plus, there is absolutely nothing wrong with fine dining alone. Nothing at all! She just had be brave and then get used to it, that's all.
Singling her out as a likely customer for standing there, the restaurant host approached her with a smile. "Table for one, ms.?"
At that, Flay fastened her grip on her purchases. This was it. A daring step forward. She took in a breath and smiled back. "Yes, please."
The host acknowledged her answer with a curt nod, guiding her inside when someone coincidentally showed up and decided to join her.
"No. Make that for two." The tone was dry and familiar. Footsteps sounded in the corridor, his footsteps, and at last Flay's eyes opened to the refined air, his sterling hair shade, his penetrating cold gaze, and his signature scowl.
Yzak... What was he doing here?
Paper bags under the table; Yzak Joule in front; waiter to her right.
Quickly, Flay dropped her gaze back onto the menu she was holding up after sneaking a glimpse at the male sharing the table with her. He is in a bad mood. Flay couldn't help but uneasily notice. He's angry at something. She didn't know at what or whom though. Maybe Heine upstaged him in class again; or maybe he and Shiho had a recent quarrel; or maybe he found her out...
But aside from her hesitation upon him seeing her, his bearing was more self-assured than she remembered. It wasn't arrogance, but a quiet confidence that left her uncertainly tense... Or maybe it was just her guilt playing tricks on her brain.
"I'll have the House Special and water. She'll have the Peppercorn steak, a Strawberry Chiffon Pie and water as well." Yzak said, folding his menu shut before handing it back to the waiter.
Struck speechless, Flay fluttered her eyelashes at Yzak then at the waiter with surprise. Astonishing coincidence. Was it really coincidence that she was kind of aiming for the Peppercorn and the Chiffon pie?
"Would the sir and ms. like an appetizer? I would recommend Coconut Shrimp, Stuffed Mushroom, Soup of the day..."
"We'll share a Cucumber and Cantaloupe salad." Yzak added instantly.
Flay gawked at him yet again. So why was she still holding a menu here?
The attendant bowed. "Yes, excellent choice, sir, right away." He said, quickly leaving them and disappearing into the kitchen.
Flay didn't drop the stare.
"What?" Yzak frowned up at her.
"How did you know my order?" She asked, raising a brow.
Rolling his eyes, Yzak broke off the eye contact and folded his arms. Tsch. "I didn't, but since I'm paying for dinner," was he? "might as well order what I want! And don't you dare say you're on a diet!"
"I'm not..." Flay defended.
"Good." Yzak finished.
And the two of them became intensely silent. Not the nice kind of silence, or the comfortable kind of silence. But the awkward kind of silence. Yzak pushed back into his seat, watched her with intense scrutiny, cringing, impatiently, tapping his index finger, waiting for her to speak first. With a sigh, Flay decided to let Yzak have it his way. It didn't really matter to her who starts the conversation... She was just eager to know how she'd added magic to Yzak's love life.
"So how are you, Yzak?" How long ago was it that she had started avoiding him? Three weeks? Four? A month and a half? She couldn't remember. "I heard you managed to finally found yourself a gir—"
"Shiho and I are not dating. Never dated. I could have easily told you that if you haven't stop showing up for breakfast!" Yzak pounded a fist on the table. "Don't think I don't know what you're trying to do! I clearly told you not to set me up!"
Never... dated? Flay was genuinely shocked. Could she have made a mistake somewhere? Had she not done her homework right? Shiho Hahnenfuss was a pretty brunette, wasn't she? The girl was tall, only a half head shorter than Yzak was. She was physically fit, talented, practical, and well-reserved. Yzak's ideal girl. And since Yzak was a yeller, by nature, she had even went out of her ways by stalking Shiho first and making sure that they were compatible and the girl wasn't one of those easy to burst into tears types.
"You don't like Shiho?" Flay managed to ask.
Yzak looked ready to argue, but eventually reconsidered. He was watching her with an expression she could not read, but his eyes were narrowed.
"I like Shiho. She's a good friend. And so I thought— why should a nice girl like her carry the burden you've caused! My best friends are all too busy now that they have their girlfriends because of you, so take responsibility for it by keeping me company!"
Yzak's words registered, but slowly. And that's when she begun to catch the small tell-tale signs of his honest feelings towards her on his face. His eyes gave everything away now. Then she'd noticed other things: he was too tense, too unsmiling, and too sensitive beneath that tough exterior.
Her heart began to beat in slow, heavy strokes.
To be honest, she had never thought of Yzak in that kind of way before, at least not with her! Yet now, with them like this— him and her sharing one table like they used to..., she was drawn more to the man seated across from her. How was it possible that such an accustomed habit could feel so unfamiliar yet amazingly different?
Flay flushed crossly, suddenly realizing how easily she had allowed Yzak to bait her, and with the most obvious ruse in the world. Tonight, she had intended to learn more about him, but instead it was he who had prodded her into an unwary disclosure.
"I- I'll try my best to keep you company..."
"Damn right you should!" Yzak straightened in his chair and leaned toward her. He was now consciously blushing too. His eyes never leaving her face for a moment until the waiter returned and set down their first course.
"Hey Yzak, ..." Flay began, clamping her hands together under the table as she continued to blush.
"Wha- what is it now?"
Flay pressed into her chair and allowed her gaze to wander over the restaurant. Well, thought Flay, she would find no flaws in this room. Music floated in the air. The restaurant wasn't fancy, but it was elegant and comfortable. The furniture was of good quality and well cared for. Their salad looked lovely too. If this was to be where they have their first date, she had no complains.
"Has... anyone ever told you how exceptionally sweet you are? I really like how you try to act tough most of the time, but, inside, you're a real softy."
Hearing this, Yzak react by blushing harder, positive-embarrassed before feinting annoyance.
He stabbed the salad with a fork.
"Just- Just be quiet and eat!"
/ Don't just believe in "coincidence". :p