Disclaimer: GS/GSD, not mine.
You know, if I could, if only I could, I would abandon Electronic Engineering without batting an eyelash, because no matter how much of life I sacrifice for this degree, I always fall short. And it gets tiring, so tiring, knowing that I will never amount to anything.
Anyways. Thank you ever so much to all those who reviewed. MTG related notes at the end.
Station Two and a Half: February, still
He didn't understand her at all.
During their chance encounter back in January, there in her eyes, he clearly saw how apprehensive she was towards him. That if he had gotten off her from that horrifyingly compromising situation a second too late, she would wring his neck without reconsideration. But then, now, roughly a month later, she did not seem too eager on sending him to his deathbed. If anything, her reaction bordered on being disgusted and horrified, as if he carried an infectious disease. Her attempt to keep him from a distance was a blinding white in colour, made all obvious from the way she sat herself on the edge of the seat, from the way she dug her feet forcefully on the floor whenever the train would sharply turn.
He had known her for ten years, alright. All of her. From her favourite colour, to her feigned dislike for dresses, to the contained jealousy she had always felt towards her twin brother, and to - everything else. He knew her more than he would ever let on, perhaps even more than she knew herself. All this knowledge, however, didn't mean he understood her.
"…Before you and I separated ways, I punched you remember? Then Kira punched you too, right? I punched better than him, yes, yes?" she rambled.
For a moment, Athrun allowed himself to marvel at how much Cagalli had grown over the years they spent knowingly apart. The fire in her eyes was still ever present, although it now seemed muted, a little bit tinted with maturity. He allowed his thoughts to wander a little further, but stopped when her eyes started widening and he soon realised what they were truly discussing.
"No," he replied, when he meant to stay quiet. But surely a 'no' wasn't anything dangerous was it? Though in all honesty, this, he would never admit to her: the punches hurt like fucking hell. Not because it was her punches that gave him a broken nose, but because it was her twin brother, his alleged bestest friend, good-natured Kira who couldn't walk straight after a can of beer, who turned him into a bleeding frenzy all those years ago.
"…I need to be better than Kira at something, you know."
Grown, she had. Athrun inwardly smiled, amused. Changed, not. He could still see that ugly head of inferiority, marking its power on those deep lines settling on her forehead.
If the distance between them had not evolved into this kind of awkwardness, if they had been friends who had simply lost contact with each other over miles and years of absence, perhaps he would make an attempt to mock her a bit, about how aging failed to nurture her self-confidence, about how little she had changed and could still even masquerade as a fifteen year old. Soon, they would ease into a conversation so reminiscent of the old days - him, offering his usual knowing smile, and her, displaying overzealous dramatics at everything he would say. He would be Athrun and she would be Cagalli and they would exchange phone numbers and email addresses before disembarking from the train with renewed bonds.
But who was he kidding? So he replied, "Neither of them hurt."
He is still Athrun just as much as she is still Cagalli, but neither of these retained facts meant a magical rebirth in their companionship or friendship orsomething else he still struggled to define. This newly instilled reminder had him experiencing that sinking feeling in his stomach again, coupled by the unexplained painful throbbing in his chest, which hurt more than Kira's fucking punches. And by the time the faintest of expression appeared on Cagalli's face - an alarming No, don't say anything - Athrun wasn't so sure if a chainsaw was ran through his torso or if he fell from a mountain so high, but goddammit, he felt so hollow inside.
"It hurt though," he said, pausing to recollect his thoughts before saying something even more damaging. He failed. "When you left me."
Maybe he couldn't fully explain what he was feeling, but anyone with half a brain would know what Cagalli could possibly be feeling at that moment. He didn't have to understand her, or know her for ten years, to notice that she had stopped breathing and that her hands, which were still clutching the edges of her seat, had fallen limp and weak. She probably wanted nothing more than to be swallowed by the earth and die.
"…humm," she murmured, the corner of her lips arching to a half smirk or a half smile or a half assed attempt not to cry. Goddammit, when was the last time he fully understood her?
Slowly, Cagalli turned her face halfway, until he could only see the tip of her nose and the bump of her lips. This, Athrun expected; the next thing she did, he didn't. She laughed. "HAHAHAHA! Athrun, you could have just admitted that Kira's punches hurt! He would bask in the glory of you admitting defeat!"
His jaw hardened. This definitely was a half assed attempt not to cry, wasn't it? Yes, what else could there be?
"You shouldn't do that," he said, carefully examining any changes in her facial features at the intrusion of his voice. When all Cagalli did was to slightly face him with raised eyebrows, Athrun continued, hoping to alleviate the tension between them, "If word reaches Yzak Joule's ears, I cannot assure you the safety of your twin brother."
It somehow… worked. Overpowering was her cheeky grin when she came face to face with him again. "Well, I suppose I could risk Kira's safety for one moment in his life," she said, and shortly added with a wink, "Teach him how to man up or something."
He gave her a hearty smile, a far cry from the small ones he gave her before. This seemed to have encouraged her to talk more, laughing every now and then as she re-enacted some of Kira's most embarrassing dates with Lacus. It was comforting to see her smiling after the stunt he pulled, and yet somehow, he couldn't comprehend the continuous sinking feeling that robbed him of full complacency. As far as reality was concerned, it wouldn't take him a good 10 minutes to fall from the precipice of a roller coaster ride, wouldn't it? So how come Newton never made sense at times when he should? And when was he this bad at physics? And when - ?
"You think you know me Athrun?" mocked Cagalli, taking shallow and quick breaths in between.
"I do," he said, quiet in his approach amidst the horde of objects flying his way.
"That's what you think, dumbass!" she argued, this time, with a roasting pan hitting him square on the face.
"I do," he repeated, ignoring the shooting pain on his forehead.
If there was ever a time Athrun Zala truly knew Cagalli Yula Hibiki, it was during a time when she cried.
"When you cry, the first teardrop always comes from your left eye."
He wondered why he didn't see it before, the dried trail of tear on the left side of her face. Not even the brimming red in her conjunctiva or its growing puffiness.
"Cagalli," he began abruptly, causing the bumbling blonde to swiftly look at him. "Don't -"
"Good evening passengers, this is your train manager speaking, we are now approaching Februarius. Februarius, our next station stop."
Just then, Athrun could see the world spinning before him. People wearing their coats, people tiptoeing to reach their luggage on the overhead rack, standing passengers making their way to empty seats, and Cagalli, probably crying inside, who was still looking at him intently.
He extended his right arm slowly, his fingers curled halfway. He didn't quite know what she was seeing on his face at this moment, because she began to tremble, but showed no signs of moving away.
"Hey Zala! It's my stop!" said the irate, ruby eyed young man across the aisle.
As the train made its infamous sharp turn towards the main line leading to Februarius' train station, the world stopped spinning, people headed towards the door and Cagalli, still probably crying inside, stood from her seat to make way for him.
"This, is Februarius."
"Have fun," she said, above a whisper, as his shoulders brushed against hers.
"Stay warm and safe," he said.
She nodded once, before occupying his seat and looking out the window with her face hanging downwards. The snow had created a crispy, frosty layer from the outside, which made it difficult for him to see her reflection. Shinn Asuka cocked an eyebrow at him, baffled at his actions, before urging him towards the door.
"I thought you were going back to Januarius?" asked Shinn, while they fought the stream of people getting off the train.
"I am," replied Athrun, keeping a firm look ahead. "I'm taking the next train."
From his peripheral vision, he could see Shinn look back at the train as the wheels started rolling.
"You're a dumbass."
Athrun let out an airy snort at his companion.
"Boy do I need reminding."
The food stared back at her, seemingly unappetising.
Within a minute of arriving at Kira and Lacus' flat, Lacus had kindly shoved a plate full of kebabs and chilli sauce with her standard sweet smile. Cagalli grew to love Lacus' culinary obsession with spicy foods, much thanks to Kira, just as much as she found Lacus' smile infectious. Tonight, however, everything looked so bleak and dull.
Athrun the jackass didn't event spare her a glance upon reaching Februarius. Sure, there was the stay warm and safe sentiments, but what good would that do when he, he -. And what was that it hurt when you left me? Good grief, she was the one left behind!
"Screw you," mumbled Cagalli.
"Language, sis," said Kira, plopping down on the seat next to her. Lacus had gone to the kitchen with her friends from the music department, leaving the lounge in a familiarly quiet state. There were times when the turntable screeched as it played a soft instrumental, which reminded her of autumn. When Cagalli felt that Kira's usual comforting nature had surged through her system, she brought her legs to her chest and rested her chin on her knees.
"I want to kill Athrun," she said.
"And?" prodded Kira.
"He told me it hurt when I left him."
"The relevance with your previous statement being?"
"Now, it's you I want to kill."
Kira chuckled and Cagalli shot him a glare. Annoyed, she bonked him in the head. "Listen mop head, your twin sister is confessing matters of the heart here. It wouldn't hurt to just shut up and listen and stop imposing logic that only you would understand."
There are times when Cagalli really wanted to kill Kira. Not take his life, but more like, pummel him to death until she could impart even the smallest of hurt she had felt because of him. Kira, the genius. Kira, the great. Kira, the next Jesus (blasphemy be damned). He never had to compete for anything. His love for Lacus was almost immediately requited. He probably wouldn't need to fill in a job application form, not when he was personally sought after by the largest corporations. While she, pathetic Cagalli Yula Hibiki, tumbling down faster than the speed of light, and should she surrender now, without putting up a fight - she didn't want to think of the consequences.
"I hate you Kira," she said, voice quivering.
But even so, she really couldn't hate Kira and Cagalli understood this when he began ruffling her hair like always.
"Athrun cried to me, did you know?" said Kira. "Back then, he cried and said, he wasn't sorry that he used you."
Cagalli bit back her tears, feeling mixed anger and helplessness. "Why would he be? When he got what he wanted?" If this was Kira trying to defend his bestest friend, god help his brother, because she would surely kill him.
"Did you know why? Because if he didn't, it would take him another ten or twenty years or a lifetime, to realise he loves his best friend."
Kira squeezed her hand tightly, before giving her a kiss on the forehead. "I'll just get that."
Cagalli didn't know what it was, but her heart was pounding. Athrun loves her. All this time. Does he still?
"Yo Hibiki!" screamed an obviously drunk Dearka, momentarily distracting Cagalli from her bout of teenage angst. "Can you knock next door and tell Zala to get his sorry ass in here now?"
"Next door?" asked Cagalli, incredulously. The sound of her heartbeat pounded in her ears, bile rose to her throat and whatever drama she was feeling before her outburst miraculously escaped to some place, dammit, she would look for it later.
Dearka laughed and Kira tried to keep him at bay. "Dreary me, Cagalli! All this time you've been visiting your brother, you never knew Athrun Zala lived next door?"
This isn't chapter three. I was supposed to upload chapter three, but I read through chapter two again, after which, I sat for four hours and wrote this in one sitting. Hence, this chapter is all over the place. Sometimes, I am surprised at how much my brain activity fluctuates every now and then.
I regret to inform everyone that I think, this is the point where Mind the Gap becomes a proper fan fiction. When before, I only think as I write along, now, I reserve a portion of my time thinking about it, writing notes, before actually writing the chapters. The advantage is, the narration will become more unified from this point onwards but, on the expense of losing that almost fleeting and airy feeling that riding a train gives.
Also, I hope it was obvious why I refer to Kira as Athrun's bestest friend and never settling for just 'best friend'. And the fact that Athrun lived next door to Kira will come into play in the next chapters to come.
I cannot promise when the next chapter to this or The Puppet Show will come out, but I am not dead nor are these babies.
Thank you very much for your patience. Let me just get through my dissertation and finals, and I'll be free.
Hope you enjoyed reading. Now, review and shoot me in the head and tell me the many problems with this chapter.