"Who are you?"
There was a tall, tanned guy with a scar running down his left eye in front of Cagalli, and she couldn't help but step back in fright.
"My name is Andy." The man cracked a grin. "If I may see any form of identification?"
"Wow, you guys are real thorough, huh?" Cagalli stifled a chuckle while pulling out her driver's license, a license she has yet to use as neither she nor Milly owned any sort of vehicle. "Wouldn't the other customers be weirded out to see you standing by this door for two hours?"
"Well, it's all part of the job, and besides, would you rather I spend those two hours inside the room as opposed to not knowing anything that's happening within?" Andy arched an eyebrow, switching his glance from Cagalli's license to her person.
"I suppose you have a point." Cagalli pursed her lips thoughtfully just as Andy gave her back her ID.
"And I would really rather stay out here." Andy gave her a knowing look, opening the door to the private room for her.
When she had her first look at the room her brother reserved for them at Michelle's, the newly opened French restaurant, she didn't see the rectangular table that was draped with a pristine tablecloth. She didn't see the four dainty chairs that complemented the auburn walls. She didn't see the mini chandelier that brightened up the room. She didn't see the delicate place settings that she sure didn't want to break. Nope, the first thing Cagalli saw was her brother exchanging saliva with a pink haired girl. Okay, now, that was putting it grossly – it's true, though. Her brother, Kira Yamato was kissing a girl with long pink locks.
"You mind if we switch places?" Cagalli whispered towards Andy.
Andy chuckled before closing the door. "Too bad you're the reason why we're in this fine establishment in the first place."
Cagalli heaved a huge sigh before clucking her tongue at the pair who abruptly parted as their guest made her presence known. "And you tell me she was just a female friend of yours."
The girl with blue eyes blushed while Kira smirked. "She was when we last spoke to each other."
"Things sure escalated pretty quickly, eh?" Cagalli retorted, shaking her head.
Kira and his 'friend' stood up, and the girl walked towards Cagalli enthusiastically, her baby pink sundress swishing around her legs as she walked, and she extended a hand, "I am Lacus Clyne. It's such an honor to finally meet you! Kira's told me so much about you!"
"Cagalli Yula Athha, and I should be the one who's honored." Cagalli took Lacus' hand in hers. "Never in my life would I have thought that I'd meet the Lacus Clyne, though I can only hope that Kira's been generous with his words."
"Oh, he has!" Lacus nodded, clapping her hands together.
"Sis." Kira was in his usual casual state: a long sleeved v-neck, dark jeans, smiling brown eyes and a boyish grin.
"Come here, you." Kira embraced Cagalli, laughing. "I missed you."
"Missed you too." Cagalli wrapped her arms around her brother. "Two months is too long for a business trip, though at least you got something out of it."
"Yeah," Kira said, blushing. After his hug with Cagalli, he took a step back and wrapped an arm around Lacus' waist. "Cagalli, Lacus and I – well, how do you say this? We're together."
"Yeah, I kind of gathered that from the kissing." Cagalli laughed.
Their food was already served when Cagalli wondered the presence of a fourth setting. She glanced up from her delicious smelling Coq au vin and looked at the couple across her. "Are we expecting someone else?"
"Oh yes!" Lacus chimed. "I hope you don't mind, but I've invited an old friend of mine."
"Lacus and I thought we'd kill two birds with one stone," Kira explained, taking a spoonful of Baeckeoffe in his mouth. "She'd get to meet you, my sister, and I'd get to meet her childhood friend. We'd get the introductions over with, and you know, who knows? You two might even hit it off, and we'd go on a double date someday!"
"You do realize that I've just come out of a messy break-up, and you're already shipping me with someone I haven't even met?" Cagalli asked, pointing her spoon at Kira.
Lacus bit her lip in embarrassment. "I am so sorry, Cagalli. I did not – "
Just then, the door opened. The three turned their heads towards the door, and Lacus' face broke into a dazzling smile. "Speak of the devil!"
Cagalli's eyes widened, and she tried so hard not to let her jaw drop. She slapped herself inwardly. She should've known! She should've known when Lacus said "old friend"! Lacus jumped up and rushed towards the handsome newcomer with blue hair and emerald eyes. "Athrun! It has been far too long!"
Cagalli made a face, and she placed a hand beneath her cheek, grumbling, "You have got to be kidding me."
Yzak Joule was a man with straight-laced principles, and the most significant of those principles he was so proud of was to always, always be a gentleman. There were absolutely no exceptions, lest his mother would have his head, and never in his life had Yzak Joule so much trouble following his own principles; however, Shino Hahnenfuss proved to be that one loophole to his otherwise perfect record. But then, Hahnenfuss herself defied his very definition of what a woman is and should be, unless one dared to say that his mother was mistaken in her lessons.
Yzak Joule was taught that women were gentle, frail creatures, and therefore, he must treat each and every one of them with kindness and patience. Women were graceful, timid and shy, often reserved. Long story short, Ezaria Joule taught her son that he, as the man in the story, should never fail to become any lady's knight in shining armor. He followed his mother's word dutifully, and not once did he question her orders, but then in came Shiho Hahnenfuss, the female who got into Yzak's nerves and won't quit. It didn't matter that she was loud and stubborn and feisty or that she did not wear dresses or skirts or that she was not afraid to stand up for what she believed in – even though most of the time, she was clearly wrong. It did not matter that the very essence of Shiho Hahnenfuss made Yzak Joule wonder if women were not as delicate as he thought them out to be.
Yzak Joule was a man of principles. It was never a difficulty to follow these principles, especially when he was called to be a gentleman. If Yzak saw a woman sitting on a park bench by herself, evidently despondent, more so if that said woman was an acquaintance, Yzak would not hesitate to approach her and ask her what's wrong. Now on the other hand, if that said woman was Shiho Hahnenfuss – well, that changes everything.
From the above explanation, one would surely understand the internal struggle Yzak was constantly faced against. He was about to turn away when the image of a lonely Shiho sitting on the bench would not leave his mind. He gritted his teeth in annoyance and cursed himself for being raised a perfect gentleman.
He stood in front of Shiho's bent form, and he crossed his arms. "Why the glum look?"
The brunette before him slowly raised her puffy eyes, and when she saw silver hair, she immediately turned her face to the other direction, glaring at the grass. "None of your business."
Yzak narrowed his eyes. "Do you have any idea the trouble I went through to get here?"
Shiho looked at him, confusion laced in her features before realization dawned in. She rolled her eyes, "Yes, it must have been a great amount of trouble to have you see me and then walk towards me. I do apologize for the inconvenience."
Yzak was never a fan of sarcasm, particularly hers. He scoffed. "Why I even bothered to come here is beyond me."
"Nobody asked you to in the first place," Shiho deadpanned, glaring at him.
Yzak glared back, and for a while, they had a glaring match going on, but then Shiho lowered her eyes and turned away. It was awkward. Yzak stuffed his hands in the pockets of his trench coat. "So why were you crying?"
"I told you, it's none of your business." Shiho huffed.
"Alright then, fine, whatever." Yzak took a step backwards. "Forget about it."
Just as Yzak was about to walk away, Shiho had a sudden change of heart. She grabbed Yzak's sleeve. Yzak turned around in surprise. "You – "
"I'm sorry," Shiho mumbled. She let go of Yzak's coat. "You don't – you didn't deserve that."
"Finally!" Yzak slumped down on the bench beside her. "About time!"
"Don't push it," Shiho snapped and promptly sighed. "There's this guy. I've been seeing him for a week now."
"You've been seeing a guy?" Yzak almost guffawed. "You mean to say a guy is actually willing to date you?"
"You know what? This was a bad idea!" Shiho stood up. "Goodbye, Yzak."
"No, wait." Yzak grabbed her hand before she could leave. "I'm sorry. That was insensitive. You were seeing a guy. And?"
Shiho lowered her eyes. "And he just dumped me."
"Oh. I'm sorry."
"Don't be." Shiho shook her head. "I should've seen this coming. I mean, he was a jackass."
"Then why were you crying?" Yzak asked.
"Because I was embarrassed," Shiho told him. "I knew he was bad news, and still I tolerated him. I went out with him, and even though I knew I should have pulled back, here I am, dumped by an asshole. Pathetic, right?"
"Well, when you put it that way," Yzak said. "You do kind of sound stupid."
"You'd think that would piss me off." She gave out a painful laugh. "But I'm all maxed out."
"So why don't you just go for a more decent guy?" Yzak shrugged.
"Because I can't." Shiho was exasperated – with Yzak, with her stupid boyfriend, with herself, she didn't know. "I just have to go for the bad boys, and even I don't know why. Well, I have an idea, but – meh."
"I have time," Yzak said casually.
Shiho gave him a small smile. "Thank you, but that's another story for another time." She got up. "You know, Yzak, you're not half-bad. I always thought you were this incurable jerk, but maybe you're not."
"I'll take that as a compliment." Yzak stood up as well.
"It is." Shiho assured him. "And, as a reward for not being a jerk, I, Shiho Hahnenfuss, swear not to mess with you for a whole working day."
"You have got to be kidding me."
"Fine. Two days."
"No? Okay, a week. Happy?"
Yzak smiled approvingly. "That is much better."
Shiho rolled her eyes and walked away, raising a hand as a sign of farewell. Thank you.
Yzak Joule was a man of principles, and the most important principle of his was being a gentlemen. There were absolutely no exceptions, and yes, even Shiho Hahnenfuss was not an exception.
It didn't take long for Kira and Lacus to find out the nature of Cagalli's relationship with Mister Zala – the professional relationship, mind you. Cagalli was not just going to announce to the whole world – especially not to her beloved brother – that she used Athrun, his sweet girlfriend's childhood playmate, as a tool to get over her scumbag ex-boyfriend, and she could only sigh in relief that Athrun was also unwilling to go about dealing with their one night stand that way.
Kira attempted to open a discussion about Yuna, but Cagalli did not want to entertain his questions. She'll tell him all about it some other time. In front of Lacus and Athrun, she was self-conscious. Granted, Athrun already knew some parts of the story, but still. Athrun, however, did not seem to mind much, or at least, he did not show it.
With a delectable selection of crepes, crème brulees, macarons, madeleines and éclairs in front of them, the mouths of the four watered as if they just hadn't had a scrumptious meal a few minutes before. Lacus took a bite of one of the golden madeleines. Suddenly, she snapped her head up. "Oh, Athrun, by the way, on Meer's behalf, I am so sorry."
Athrun was taken aback by the sudden change of topic, acutely aware of Cagalli and Kira's eyes on him. He put down the éclair he was holding on his plate. He gave Lacus a smile. "Lacus, you have nothing to apologize for."
"But I feel that I must," Lacus insisted, sighing. She shook her head. "Honestly, I can hardly believe the sudden turn of events. I have always believed that Meer loved you so."
Athrun considered that for a while before shrugging. "Well, you and I both know that Meer has a knack of getting tired of things easily and wanting stuff that isn't hers. I guess it was all in due time."
"Still though, I feel bad." Lacus bit her lip.
"Lacus, really, there's no reason for you to feel bad," Athrun assured her friend. "And besides, I'm fine."
"That's good to hear." Lacus sighed.
Kira tapped Lacus on the shoulder. "This Meer – is she the same estranged cousin you were telling me about? The one who went through cosmetic surgery just to look like you?"
Cagalli let out a not-so-silent snort while Athrun suppressed a smile. Lacus chuckled. "The way you put it sounds so awful, Kira, but yes – she's one and the same."
Kira noticed Cagalli smirking at him. He raised both hands in defense. "I'm not being judgmental or anything. I just wanted to clarify."
"Whatever works for you." Cagalli failed to hide her smile behind a half-eaten macaron. Her conscience told her that she was being a hypocrite, given how she reacted when she first met Meer, but Kira didn't need to know that little bit of information.
Kira's eyes narrowed, not noticing the amused expressions on Athrun's and Lacus' faces. "Don't be a pest, Cagalli."
"I didn't do anything," Cagalli pointed out, sticking half of her tongue out afterwards.
Kira rolled his eyes at his sister, and the two spectators laughed at the scene. In an attempt to steer the conversation to another direction, Lacus slipped her arm over Kira's. She turned to Athrun. "Oh, Kira works for Athha Corporation as its main foreign sales agent, so unfortunately, he travels quite a lot." At this, Lacus' smile fell.
Kira entwined his fingers with Lacus', a gently smile on his face. "Don't worry, I'll try to have the company assign me to the PLANTs as much as possible."
"Aren't you guys sweet?" Cagalli rested her chin atop her clasped hands. "Are you sure you've only been together for a week?"
"Well, we have known each other far longer than a week," Kira stated.
Athrun's eyebrows furrowed, glancing from Kira to Lacus then back. "How did you two meet, anyway?"
"You remember the pen pal I've told you, right?" Lacus said.
"No way!" Athrun exclaimed, a huge grin on his face. "So you mean to say that this is the, and I quote, 'charming pen pal whose brilliant mind captures me' unquote?"
"Athrun!" Lacus' cheeks reddened.
"Oh it's okay, Lacus." Cagalli waved a hand in dismissal, chuckling. "I do distinctly recall Kira saying something along the lines of 'the sweetest girl I have ever known – must be an angel!'"
"Cagalli. You. Are. Dead." Kira used the coldest voice he could muster, but the tone was eclipsed by how flushed his face became.
"Whatever." Cagalli laughed, and Athrun laughed with her.
At first, Lacus noted, Cagalli and Athrun were awkward around each other during the first few minutes, and Cagalli seemed embarrassed to be eating lunch with her boss – although that was Lacus' fault. She admitted that she should have consulted them on the matter beforehand. In any case, as the minutes ticked by, Lacus could feel the tension lowering, and only a friendly, comfortable atmosphere remained. Lacus observed as Cagalli cheerfully regaled Athrun a tale from her and Kira's childhood, using large gestures to emphasize her points. Lacus looked at Kira – annoyance was clearly written all over his face, and he spat out retorts. Lacus smiled to herself as Kira, Athrun and Cagalli threw comebacks at each other's witty comments, and Lacus couldn't help but glow. Her precious friend, Athrun was getting along very well with the man she came to know and care for, as well as his sister.
Lacus knew that it would take so much more for them to take down their barriers than just a simple lunch, but this was a good start. She knew that Athrun – and Cagalli – was still healing, but Lacus had absolutely no regrets in setting up this little meeting. Indeed, Lacus felt devil's horns sprouting from her temples, and she giggled to herself. Who knows? Maybe she'll finally have the opportunity to play matchmaker.
Lacus sighed inwardly. Oh, Lacus, what naughty thoughts you have.
Finally! Words cannot express how sorry I am for suddenly disappearing on you all like that. I just became really busy with school and everything. I practically held off writing. But anyway, since I am now officially a high school graduate, I dare say that I can update more often. Yay!
I am probably rusty, and I can only hope that my writing didn't worsen, so please bear with me during this phase. Thank you!
I hope you all enjoyed this chapter! Reviews are very much appreciated!
Thank you for reading!