Disclaimer: (Unfortunately...) I don't own Gundam Seed or Gundam Seed Destiny.
Author's Note: First of all, I'd like to thank everyone who read and reviewed 'Elevator'. I know I didn't reply to any of the reviews (and I typically won't reply much...) but I do read them and take them to heart. So, thank you and I'm glad you all liked it. (:
[This is for AC-VDP] Hope there aren't any mistakes...I have OCD and have probably read this 101 times before posting it. X) Anyway, I know the first half looks intimidating because it's mostly in paragraphs but I promise there are bits and pieces of fluff in there.
On the Line
She sat in a quaint cafe, engulfed by the aroma of fresh coffee and sweet pastries. Cagalli gazed blankly out the window to her left, watching the light flurries of snow. The sun had set long ago but there were still people out and about. A waitress walked towards her and gave her a smile while setting down the cinnamon latte Cagalli had previously ordered. She thanked the waitress and held the cup in her hands, feeling the warmth seep into her. She was glad the cafe was relatively empty. There was a table with an old couple, talking quietly and enjoying their tea. Another table, with a young man typing furiously on his laptop, likely trying to meet the deadline of his school work. And lastly, there was a table with a young couple, holding hands and probably celebrating Valentine's Day.
Cagalli was grateful she didn't have to watch teenage couples and their exaggerated public displays of affection. She was already annoyed at being surrounded by pink and frilly decorations everywhere she went. It wasn't that she hated Valentine's Day; she just ...disliked it at the moment.
One would think she would simply stay home to avoid this lovey-dovey fiasco and undoubtedly, she would...if she could. Cagalli had forgotten, of all days, to take her keys with her before leaving the house in the morning. Usually, when that happened, she would just ring the doorbell and her best friend would open the door for her. But tonight, said friend, Miriallia, was on a date with her boyfriend, Dearka, and Cagalli just didn't have the heart to call her for something so trivial. And so, she was stranded in this little cafe.
Cagalli watched as people walked by and she couldn't help but feel a little...lonely. She hated the fact that she was feeling lonely on Valentine's Day; it just seemed so pitiful. She couldn't help it though. It's been a long time since she had to spend Valentine's Day alone. Suddenly, she couldn't help but think back to her last few Valentines. She had spent them with him.
For most of her childhood, she had known him as 'Kira's best friend'. They went to the same elementary school together but were never in the same class. Although he and her brother were close, Cagalli never really hung out with them as kids. She was a tomboy, but she had still stuck with her girl friends, the less popular and less snobbish ones anyway.
When they entered high school, she began to acknowledge him as 'Athrun'. It wasn't as if she didn't know his name before then, but it had always seemed more appropriate to label him as 'Kira's best friend' since they weren't close. In high school, she shared classes with him and they got to know each other due to having common friends. By the end of her freshman year, she realized she had a crush on him.
Cagalli was confident that he didn't like her in that way though. Athrun was a shy person and didn't interact a lot with others, especially not with girls. That's why she was sure he had just seen her as a sister since he had absolutely no trouble teasing her and joking around with her. It made sense anyways, since she was his best friend's sister. As a result, Cagalli had been determined to try and see him in the same light as well. But it was difficult because he always left her heart fluttering with his kind gestures. He would give her his scarf as they walked home on a cold and snowy afternoon. When she was having problems with school work, he would be the one patient enough to tutor her. Despite her efforts, Cagalli couldn't help but feel like she was falling deeper and deeper in love and a part of her had felt a little miserable.
It wasn't until the near-end of their high school years did Cagalli find out she was wrong. She remembered being at prom, feeling highly self-conscious and nervous. It wasn't common for her to be in a pretty dress with her make-up and hair all done up. She knew she looked fine but she had felt uncomfortable, like she was out of her own skin. And for some reason, the entire ordeal made her want to avoid Athrun, so she did.
She had been talking to a friend on the sidelines as people danced to the irritably loud music. However, as the upbeat music came to an end, a slow song was played to replace it. People began to disperse from the dance floor, finally deciding to take a break and leaving only a handful of couples to dance to the sweet melody. Cagalli had unconsciously glanced around as her friend spoke and surprisingly, her eyes had met his. Athrun was standing halfway across the room, dressed smartly in formal wear and giving her a look she could not describe. She quickly looked away, trying to refocus on what her friend was saying while ignoring the rapid beating of her heart. As she finally remembered what they were conversing about, her friend gave her a knowing smile and dismissed herself, leaving Cagalli slightly confused.
When she turned around, she came face to face with the boy she had been trying to avoid. Athrun held his hand out towards her and asked her for a dance. She stared at him blankly and gave a small nod, unable to even voice out her consent. Cagalli remembered she had been blushing as he held her hand and led her to the dance floor. As they danced, she tried to look anywhere but at him though she knew he was staring at her with that look she couldn't quite describe.
As the last chorus of the song began, Athrun held her closer, leaning in to whisper a quiet confession against her ear. He had told her that he harboured feelings for her, that he liked her. In return, she had smiled like the giddy schoolgirl that she was and told him she liked him too and that had led to their first kiss. After that, their friends had teased them relentlessly at being slow but it didn't matter. Even though their high school years were ending, they were going to the same university anyways.
Cagalli took a sip of her latte and smiled, watching the memories play through her head. Their memories had always been so simple and innocent, yet they were etched deeply in her heart. She remembered how busy they had been as they began post-secondary education. Nonetheless, they made time to see each other, and study together despite being in different programs. And without a doubt, they spent their Valentine's Days together even if they were without fancy celebrations.
On their first Valentines together, they went on a very traditional movie and dinner date. It had been like any regular date except Athrun had bought her a bouquet of flowers. She remembered scolding him and telling him not to waste money even though she secretly liked them. It was the first time she had received flowers from anyone. He had laughed, and told her to just admit to liking them. The flowers stayed in a pretty vase in her room for a while. Eventually, she had to throw them out because she found out they were the reason why she was sneezing non-stop. It was unfortunate, but Cagalli was terribly allergic to the flowers Athrun had given her. He apologized to her repeatedly and told her he'd get her chocolate next time.
On their second Valentine's Day, she had fallen ill and wanted to isolate herself so she wouldn't get other people sick. Despite her warnings, Athrun came to visit her anyways. He brought a box of chocolate like he promised, and stayed to cook dinner for her. She sat at the breakfast counter, watching him move naturally in the kitchen. Unlike her, he was a skillful cook and Cagalli had a sudden thought that he would be a good husband. Then he caught her staring and asked her what she was thinking about, causing her cheeks to instantly turn red. They spent the rest of the night snuggling on the couch in her apartment and watching old movies.
On their third Valentines, Cagalli made plans to cook dinner for Athrun in return. He had been reluctant but regardless, she showed up at his apartment with groceries and her trusty cookbook. He kept trying to help while she kept trying to shoo him away. He resorted to making off-hand comments like: "Maybe you should lower the heat now". But eventually, he kept quiet because she threatened to throw the steel spatula at him. In the end, they had to eat at a local fast food restaurant because things didn't turn out quite right. Athrun nagged her in an 'I-told-you-so' voice that she should have let him help and she had retorted that he should just be grateful his kitchen was still intact.
On their last Valentine's Day, both of them had been too lazy to get up. They spent almost the entire day in bed at his apartment, making love and whispering sweet nothings to each other. Cagalli remembered the way Athrun looked at her as they lied there, staring at each other like idiots from a mushy romance movie. He always gazed at her in that particular way with his bright green eyes; it was a tender and affectionate gaze that, she learned, conveyed how much he loved her. And it always reminded her how much she loved him too.
Cagalli was jolted out of her thoughts as her cell phone started to ring. She took it out of her handbag and smiled after reading the display. "Hello?" She answered, as she unconsciously fiddled with the ring on her left fourth finger.
"Hey, it's me." The voice said.
She rolled her eyes even though her fiancé couldn't see it. "I have caller ID, you know?"
"What're you up to?" Athrun asked, after laughing at her irritation.
"Latte," She answered simply and beamed at the mere thought of caffeine. She had acquired the addiction from him. Although she liked the more sugary concoctions, he favoured black. She had once tried to force him to taste the different lattes with her but he'd always say he preferred the plain black coffee instead. Nonetheless, they both held the same liking to the cafe. He was the one who first brought her here, saying how he liked the decor and homey yet elegant feel of the place. She couldn't agree more.
"What? Isn't it nine o'clock over there? Why are you drinking coffee this late at night? You're gonna have trouble sleeping." Her fiancé said.
"Actually, it's eight," Cagalli corrected. She hated how he was scolding her as if she was a child. "Look, I probably won't have a place to sleep tonight anyways. I forgot my keys and Mir's not home."
"Why don't you call her then?" He suggested.
"She's on a date with Dearka. I don't want to bother her... It's Valentine's Day, after all."
"Well, what's wrong with my place?"
"Idiot. Why would I carry multiple sets of keys? I keep my keys together so obviously, if I don't have mine, then I don't have yours either," Cagalli reasoned. And she thought he was the smarter one...
...But not surprisingly, he replied without missing a beat.
"I know," He paused. "I also know that you can be quite a klutz and tend to forget or lose things, which is why I hid another key in your handbag."
"Hey, who're you calling a klutz?" She asked, not sure if she should be angry or happy with him. She rummaged through her bag, looking for the key he was talking about. "...Are you playing with me? I can't find it. Where did you put it?" She continued to dig through the many things occupying her bag. The voice on the other end sighed tiredly and she assumed it was because the impatience in her voice was a little too evident.
"It's in the inside pocket where you keep your ...spares," He answered hesitantly.
"What? Why would yo-" She halted, realizing what she was about to say. She lowered her voice and tried again. "Why would you put the key in the pocket where I keep my pads?" She asked, incredulously.
He replied in a rather sheepish manner. "I figured it'd be the safest place..."
Cagalli laughed at her fiancé's cluelessness. "Alright! I can go home now," She announced happily as she fished the keys out of the pocket. She then signalled the cafe waitress for the bill. The waitress, who was waving to the old couple as they left, walked over to attend to her. Cagalli watched as the old couple walked through the snow outside the window, their footsteps in sync. They were talking as they walked hand in hand in a loving manner. She couldn't help but smile at that.
"Wait, did you eat dinner yet?" Athrun asked suddenly.
"...There's ramen in the cabinet." He told her.
Cagalli paid the waitress and made her way to the door. As she stepped outside, she felt the frigid air pierce her skin. Luckily, it was going to be a short walk; his apartment was only a block from here. She was also sure the place has got better food than just ramen.
"So?" She countered.
"So...don't try to cook anything, okay?"
Her feet were rooted in place as she felt annoyance seeping into her. It was strange how he could make her feel so many emotions at the same time. Disbelief. Amusement. Irritation. Happiness.
"Wow. You're amazing, you know that?" She said sarcastically while walking with heavy footsteps.
The man on the other line chuckled, then replied: "I know. I'm just concerned about your safety, love."
She laughed at the unfamiliar term of endearment. "You're really enjoying yourself over there, aren't you? It'd be nice if you came back with an accent. I like British accents."
"I'll try. I don't think I'll be very good at it," He responded, somewhat seriously.
Cagalli watched as the snow continued to fall, covering the ground in a blanket of white. She didn't mind though; it was the type of flurry with large, slowly-falling snowflakes which she had always found to be strangely romantic. She smiled like the giddy schoolgirl that she no longer was as she held the phone to her ear, listening to the comfortable silence that fell between them. She wondered what he was up to, for it was awfully quiet on his side of the line. Even so, she remained quiet because it was enough just knowing he was there. Although he wasn't physically with her, she could still feel his presence and it made her feel a little warmer.
She turned around to take one last look at her footsteps in the snow. She smiled, but then realized he would probably tease her for being childish if he knew what she was doing. Rolling her eyes at the thought, Cagalli entered the apartment building and pressed the elevator button. It opened immediately and she stepped inside, pressing the button for the 20th floor. As it began to move, her caller finally spoke again.
"I'm sorry I couldn't get back in time for Valentine's Day. The weather here is horrible. Hopefully, things will clear up in a day or two and I can take the first flight back. We can celebrate it then." Athrun told her thoughtfully.
"It's okay. It's not like we really celebrate Valentine's Day anyways." She said as she impatiently watched the floor display increase.
"Well, I like how we celebrated it last year." He replied slyly.
She blushed as the elevator door opened again. "Pervert. I'm gonna kill you when you get back."
He chuckled again, choosing not to respond to her violent remark. He must've heard her shuffling to find the key since he asked: "Are you home yet?"
"Almost, maybe in 10 seconds?" She informed him, finally locating the object from within her handbag.
"Remember to lock the door," He instructed.
Cagalli rolled her eyes. "I feel like purposely not locking it just to spite you. You know what? I'm not going to lock the door tonight. Ha! Can't do anything about it, hm?" She teased, as she entered his home, closed the door, and turned the lock.
Her fiancé laughed at her childishness. "I love you." He said, out of the blue.
"Mm," She responded, in an off-hand manner as she took off her boots and jacket and plopped down on the couch.
"What? That's all I get? 'Mm'?" He asked in amusement.
Cagalli lied down on her left side, holding the phone to her opposite ear. She was home, and it suddenly made her feel very tired. She was tempted to tell him how wrong he was about the latte but decided against it.
"Well, I'd kiss you right now if you weren't so far away," She told him earnestly. She could picture him smiling right now.
"I guess that will have to wait a bit."
"Mm," She repeated, sleepily.
"Happy Valentine's Day."
"Happy Valentines, Athrun."
I hope this turned out okay. It feels a bit strange since the first part is just their memories which are not too relevant to the present. To be honest, I wrote that part with another ending in mind. The original ending was much more depressing but after a long time of debating, I decided to write this ending instead. I just wasn't too satisfied with the original ending. Perhaps, I will use the idea elsewhere. Anyway, after the original plot was abandoned, this turned out to be just random-ish fluff which, I guess, is perfect for Valentine's Day. (:
The title 'On the Line' has a double meaning of how our two beloved characters are on the phone and also how I was indecisive on what to do with this story. X)
Due to the two different ending ideas, I was wondering if it's allowed for a story with two endings (or two stories where the first halves are identical) to be posted. I feel like this kind of blurs the line with the "choose your own path" kind of stories. o_o If anyone could let me know, that would be nice. (:
Sorry for the double, not-so-short author's notes. I used to blog, so I have a horrible habit of ranting. I think my author's notes will usually consist of a 'how-this-story-came-to-be' or a bit about my thoughts through the writing process. Perhaps that'll make up for my lack of response to my reviewers? X)
Anyway, Happy Valentine's Day!