DISCLAIMER: I do not own Gundam Seed/Destiny. This is just a fanwork. If I did I'd be much wealthier!
Thank you guys so much for the reviews, I'm slowly going to respond to you and apologies about this taking so long! I also cosplay in my spare time so...I got swamped with AX; but now I'm back and with another chapter! I hope you guys like it! It's formatted a little different from the previous two chapters-because my epiphany came a bit late but everything is coming together and I've got a clear sense of how I'm moving forward *^*.
September 17, 63 CE
Dear whoever you are,
How come you haven't written to me yet? Everyone else in my class has gotten their letters and they're starting to give me a hard time. I'm the last one—and I was wondering if you sent me a letter but it got lost? Or are you embarrassed? Is it cuz you can't spell? Or are you afraid? Papa, always says you don't have to be afraid no matter what. I'm nice I swear, I don't bite too hard.
Anyway. I hope you write back.
Because otherwise I'd feel dumb.
81 CE: Present Day
It had been a long and excruciating week for Athrun, what people always neglected to tell you about running anything was the overwhelming amount of paperwork that he constantly found himself trying to stay on top of. He was at this moment up earlier then everyone else wondering why he'd let himself be talked into a telephone meeting with the head of the EA, he supposed he was lucky that all his military training allowed him to run efficiently as he made notes on his laptop and eyed his empty mug of coffee wondering if having two cups of coffee in less then an hour was a good idea. Maybe everyone was right, he was too polite—he needed to put his foot down, especially when it came to early morning conferences and calls that were so early that the sun hadn't even appeared on the horizon yet.
"Yes, we are definitely looking forward to a good outcome at the anniversary of the peace talks. Vice-Chairman Dullindal has been working overtime preparing everything he needs and has expressed his confidence that everything will go well." He responded with his patience wearing thin, the EA and Plant's relationship were still a tense but he reminded himself that even if they were no longer at war—the prejudices that had led there took time to fade. Nodding even though Dullindal couldn't see him, he rose and turned to look out his window. The sun had risen and was starting to paint the sky in fantastic shades of pink and blue. Maybe mornings weren't too bad if he got rewarded with the scenery—but the phone call on the other hand, he was definitely putting his foot down. Everyone was probably right—he was too damn polite for his own good and had to stop letting others push him around.
Out of the corner of his eye he noticed a movement and suddenly a vibrant flash of gold caught his eye. Blinking he focused on the anomaly as his instincts jumped into action, making sure that it wasn't an intruder before relaxing almost instantly. He'd forgotten about his new houseguest completely, in fact he hadn't spoken to her since she'd arrived two weeks ago, guiltily he winced and already imagined his mother's disappointed voice as she admonished him about his manners. He eyed her comfortable workout clothes and absentmindedly watched as she continued along what was obviously her morning jog through the gardens of his estate. Her head tilted upwards and their gaze met through the glass her eyes staring into his fiercely, unsure of what to do he was about to turn away awkwardly when her face broke out into a wide and friendly smile, her arm waving happily at him.
Before he knew exactly what was happening he had already raised his own hand in a more reserved wave of his own. Her smile grew even wider, pleased at his acknowledgement of her and he started to realize that maybe her face just seemed to be fierce when she wasn't paying attention.
"Are you listening Chairman Zala?" an exasperated voice cut through his thoughts and he turned automatically realizing he'd completely forgotten about his phone conversation.
"Chairman Djibril, I'm listening. I agree this will be a great opportunity for both our countries. If all goes according to plan, Vice-Chairman Dullindal will be leaving at the end of this month and we will be prepared here in Plant for the arrival of Ambassador Azrael. If there's anything else I will send it to your people, but I think we're good for today." He replied smoothly and with an inner sigh of relief quickly ended the conversation. Talking with the EA always left him exhausted, he always felt like he'd expended all his patience. Turning around to see if the Princess of Orb was still outside, he found the view empty of the blonde he was looking for and he wasn't quite sure that it was appropriate the amount of disappointment he felt.
Sighing he just sat back down to his work, determined to finish his notes on the meeting with Djibril and get that all settled and handled before he would allow himself to go refill his coffee. He also made a mental note to check in with Kira's sister to make sure she was getting used to everything, it was the polite thing to do and aside from the fact that she was his best friend's sister he'd like to stay on good terms with the Orb Union—they were one of the most powerful nations in the world after all.
A firm knock on the door distracted him momentarily from his thoughts, but determined to finish his sentence he didn't look up calling out, "Come in, it's open."
Typing quickly as he got his thoughts down he didn't look up, assuming it was one of the maids or even Meyrin dropping off letters for him. He noticed the cup of steaming coffee that was placed on his desk and his eyes traveled up the mug of coffee and bemusedly he realized he did not recognize that hand—and then it slid up the arm to see blonde hair, a confident smile, and fierce but warm brown eyes staring at him.
"I thought since it was the first time I've ever seen you up this early you might need this." She said as he blinked at her, his mind racing to catch up and form coherent words. "Let me know what you think of it. I'll let you get back to work, you look busy—but seriously don't worry it's not poison. It's just coffee."
Laughing she turned to leave the room clearly pleased that she had accomplished her self-appointed mission. He noticed that she had her own cup of coffee in her hand and was sipping it with a pleased and relaxed air about her; completely unlike the Princess that he had sat across a formal parlor with as they traded niceties. Her hair was damp and wavy and she was dressed in a pair of comfortable sweats and a fitted white shirt that showed off her curves—her skin glowing and a little flushed from the shower she must have just taken. Automatically he reached over to pick up the steaming cup of coffee and inhaled the aroma, sipping it curiously.
"This…is amazing." He blurted out, the rich flavor of the coffee filling his mouth and he saw her stop and turn just before she reached the doorway, her smile brilliant and excited.
"Isn't it?" She beamed at him. "It's actually my special blend, made just for me. No one else in the world has it! Consider yourself lucky Chairman—not many people have had the pleasure of tasting my personal blend of coffee. Even Kira only gets to have some on special occasions."
The arrogant words were belied by her wink and smirk, and he found himself grinning back at her lifting his cup in thanks. "I consider this the finest honor the great Orb Union could bestow upon Plant, Princess Cagalli."
She raised her own cup in a similar gesture, and he found that he didn't want her to leave. "Would you like to stay a little bit? If you're not too busy. I'm just finishing up and I could go for some breakfast to go with some of this rare coffee."
He watched as she paused, hesitation clear on her face as she studied him curiously—if not suspiciously. He smiled at her, finding the idea novel that he might have to convince her to go get food with him—it'd been awhile since he'd had to do the pursuing—not that he was pursuing. Hoping that the smile on his face was charming, he tilted his head. "There's this great bistro on the way to the University, it's got a highly-rated breakfast menu. My treat, in return for the coffee and neglecting you these past couple of weeks."
"It's not a big deal." She responded with a shrug. "You're the Chairman, you've got things that you gotta get done."
He watched her as she hesitated a bit longer before the wrinkle in her forehead smoothed out and she grinned at him with a nod, "Alright. But I'll pay for myself got it? This place better be as good."
"Kira and Lacus both love it." He responded with a quiet smile that was hiding the startling wave of relief that he felt that she had agreed. It made sense she'd want to pay, he liked that independence. As he busied himself cleaning up she turned to leave, calling back to him as she headed out, "Meet you in front in 15! Drop me off at school afterwards?"
"Sure." He called out in response and she tossed him a thumbs up before she was gone and he was hurriedly finishing up his work and preparing his briefcase to take with him to work. He didn't have time ponder too heavily about how well they already seemed to get along, and as he sipped his coffee on his way to the front door he found himself making a note to try and figure out at least who was its maker.
"Is the disguise really necessary, Princess?" he was seated across from her in a quiet, secluded part of the bistro—partially hidden from the street by a screen of plants and other tables. He was used to the looks that usually accompanied him whenever he went out, but he couldn't help the exasperated tone in his voice as he contemplated the blonde in front of him. Her back was to the public, but it was obvious she was trying to be in disguise as much as possible. A thick brown cap covered her face, a matching brown jacket covering her shape and she looked distinctly unlike the usual well groomed Princess facade she usually put on.
She tossed him an amused glance from over her menu, which she had been studying as carefully as if it was the constitution of Orb, her mouth spread into a wide teasing grin—actually more like a smirk as her gaze traveled across the obvious pained chagrin on his face. "Is this bothering you, Athrun?"
He didn't respond as he put the menu down, trying his best to keep his face passive in the face of all the paparazzi. Perhaps choosing to eat outside had been a bad decision, they would have had a bit more privacy inside at least. When she finally put down the menu, a waiter appeared as if by magic to take their orders before disappearing. It was at that point that she finally fully trained her gaze on him, meeting his eyes boldly and even a little bit cheekily. Direct, confident, and just shy of confrontational—but fascinating. He found himself intrigued and itching to test himself against her—like a particularly intense engineering problem. When she spoke it was teasing and jaunty, the warm richness of her voice softening and changing the way she sounded as she continued the conversation from where she had left off, "Ah! I know what it is, you usually prefer to have those types of society ladies about you, pretty and sweet with hair in various shades of red and pink who look oh so elegant as they accompany you, looking at you with those big innocent eyes. Tell me does it make you feel manly and strong to have girls like that around? It must absolutely validate your ego."
He raised his eyebrow, smarting as she echoed what all his friends usually teased him about. Clearing his throat he sipped his coffee, irritation working its way into his response despite his best efforts, "You seem to care a lot about my love life, for someone who insists we aren't on a date."
"It came with your case file and briefing that I got sent, part of the job you know. I'm supposed to do my best not to offend the Chairman of Plant after all." She responded easily with a shrug. "And Lacus talks about you a lot. She's constantly worrying about you."
"Well Lacus and those files should have made it clear that it's the ladies throwing themselves at me. I can't help it if that type likes me." He responded defensively, inwardly making a note to call Lacus as soon as possible to find out just what she had been telling people about him, and who exactly she had been voicing her concerns too.
"Just because they throw themselves at you, doesn't mean you have to catch them." Cagalli responded smartly, her eyebrow raised as she lifted her coffee cup in salute at him before sipping from it. He bit back the irritated and defensive remarks that had almost slipped out under her quick fire and savage responses. Reminding himself that he was under public scrutiny, he schooled his face into a soft smile as his eyes traveled her face before finally saying, "You seem to have a lot of experience in this arena then, Kira's not overreacting whenever he talks about all your prospective suitors."
"Kira is exaggerating, and no. My only experience is in dodging bullets." She responded as she muttered the last part under her breath, irritation clear on her face as if she was thinking of a particularly bad experience. Feeling satisfied that he had gained some ground, he wondered what someone could have possibly done to create such a look of disgust on her face. Briefly she met his eyes and for a brief moment he glimpsed a wistful sadness reflected back at him.
"When you are who I am, you learn very young that it's not you they supposedly fall in love with. It's the job and title they love, it's what I represent. That's what they love, the 'Princess'." Her hands fluttered over the single white flower that decorated their table, and her voice was soft with something vulnerable and young that he wanted to comfort and protect. Then the wistfulness was gone and she was joking again as if to cover her momentary lapse, her voice loud and he winced when the other tables glanced at them, startled by her cursing, "Besides I'm a fucking pain in the ass, and guys seem to prefer quiet girls with long hair who wear pretty things like floaty dresses and dresses. I'm really not that in demand."
Liar, he thought immediately, unable forget that split-second flash of vulnerability that he'd seen. He lapsed into quiet contemplation. She rested her chin on her hand and peered about their surroundings curiously. The quiet companionship was nice, and he thought to himself that he shouldn't have waited so long to ask her out to breakfast.
"Athrun Zala is that you, darling? You should have told me you'd be here too! I would have gotten here sooner. I do so adore the breakfast menu here, as you know." Cagalli's head flew up at the overly cheerful, peppy voice that sliced through the quiet lull in conversation that Athrun and her had just lapsed into as they finished their meals. It had been surprisingly pleasant for her, and she had found herself liking his company. If she were being honest with herself, it was like meeting an old friend after years of being apart—but that made no sense, she was sure she'd have remembered meeting him before. His perpetual calm was relaxing, and his almost stiff manner endearing. Was this really the 'heart throb, lady killer, most eligible bachelor of Plant—destined to leave behind thousands of broken hearts"?
She stifled her snort at the thought, rolling her eyes at the obvious hyperbole that all those damn tabloids seemed to reach. Athrun was charming in a stiff, polite way; his general manner was affable, and he was definitely handsome in the classic sense of the word—but devastating stealer of hearts? She almost felt bad that she had treated him so poorly earlier—her personal crusade to slash the ego's of all overly confident men seemed to be misguided when it came to the Chairman of Plant. She'd make it up to him later, he wasn't really all that bad after all.
Then a bubblegum pink voice exploded into their space and Cagalli found her pleasant morning invaded by a person who was altogether too lively for her taste. She did her best not to cringe at the invasion to her senses. Perfume accompanied the voice cloying and sugary getting lodged in her nose, and long, silky pink hair flowed beautifully on the cool morning breeze. She had porcelain pale skin, large crystal blue eyes wreathed in long sooty lashes and was dressed within an inch of her life. The woman was pretty but the wrongness of the person before her was causing Cagalli to grit her teeth to hold back a grimace.
Lacus Clyne was beautiful, self assured in her space and part of that was that Lacus Clyne knew exactly who she was. The unseen strength and depths of kindness that the pink haired coordinator possessed shone through her already beautiful features to purify and illuminate her even more adding a depth to her that transcended just physical perfection, but it was the gentleness of her nature that made Lacus easy to be around. Cagalli had grown to love Lacus as a sister over the year she had been assigned to Orb, and this woman who was now before her caused her to cringe and even feel a visceral sense of disgust running down her spine.
Meer Campbell. Everything about her was fake, a copy, an attempt to be great at the cost of her own individuality. Cagalli eyed this woman before her and wondered if Ms. Campbell could remember who she was before she became so infatuated with Lacus that she had done all in her power to not only become Lacus but replace her. Once Cagalli, after first learning of Meer, had asked Lacus how she felt about the woman and had seen sadness and pity on her friends face. Lacus had shaken her head, and just smiled at Cagalli, "It seems that great success can sometimes cause such things to happen. I am flattered by how much she cares for me—I only hope that one day she sees what she wants to see in the mirror. I don't hate her Cagalli, truly I don't. I pity her, but I wonder if that is not just as insulting and wrong as hate."
"Athrun, really. It just seems so silly to see two gentlemen eating breakfast without the company of a beautiful woman. You do know that I am always available for you, my darling." Cagalli's attention was dragged back to the present by the intensely cheerful voice, chirping away while the pink haired diva motioned for a waiter to bring a chair over—clearly determined to join the table despite the obvious signs that their breakfast was just about over. Her eyebrow quirked as she raised her coffee cup to her mouth to hide the look on her face, gentlemen? Did Meer Campbell think she was…male? Her lips twitched as she was lost somewhere between being offended and amused, but her eyes met Athrun's mortified gaze and the ridiculousness of the situation shifted the balance towards hilarious. He looked like he wanted the floor to open up and swallow him, and Cagalli wasn't sure if it was because of Meer Campbell's company or Meer Campbell calling his guest, the Princess of Orb, a man.
She could almost see his mind going into overdrive on how to best handle the situation, as Meer plastered herself against his side, insistently taking his full attention. Debating whether or not to step in or just sit back and watch the show her decision was made for her when her phone suddenly buzzed and a quick glance at the screen caused her eyes to narrow momentarily and she stood up smoothly. Pocketing the phone she adjusted her cap, ensuring it was secure on her head and that her jacket was still buttoned. Pitching her voice a bit lower than usual she nodded at Athrun and Meer, "This was nice Athrun, we should do this again sometime—but it looks like I'm going to be late for class. I'll see you around. Ms. Campbell, it was truly an experience to meet you, one that I don't think I'll forget any time soon."
As she turned to leave, Athrun attempted to rise out of his seat before Meer's stranglehold only allowed him to rise awkwardly. In the meantime Cagalli lightly shook the hand that Meer offered her before turning to leave with one last jaunty smile and wink at Athrun, "Oh and Zala? Nice catch. Truly an honor to see you in action."
He rushed out of the café, just barely maintaining his usual façade of calm as he brushed a hand through his hair feeling a little bit harassed. Then again, he wasn't sure why he was so surprised about that, any time he was in the company of Meer it felt like a harrowing experience. Straightening his coat that she had knocked askew in her hurry to kiss him goodbye—again a narrow escape as he had managed to turn his face just in time so that the kiss landed on his cheek—he peered about in hopes he could still catch sight of the blonde he had been having a remarkably good time with.
Trying to catch sight of her worn and oversized cap he had to acknowledge that he was still smarting a little from her parting quip. It wasn't his fault couldn't she see? What was he supposed to do? Shove Meer off of him? Tell her off? That would have been rude and unnecessarily mean. Besides she was Dullindal's adopted daughter, and still suffering from the wounds she had suffered in the previous war. He couldn't just shove her off and let her fall, it would be distinctly ungentlemanly and unkind!
As he turned the corner he finally caught sight of her familiar cap, watching as she put away her phone with a wrinkle between her eyes and a small frown on her lips. Curious to know what could have happened to cause such a look, he hurried over and placed a hand on her shoulder in what he thought was reassurance, "Hey, Cagalli is everything o-?"
Before he was completely sure of what was going on he suddenly felt himself pulled off balance and a fist flying towards his face. His own military reflexes kicked in and he just managed to dodge, getting out of the line of fire and catching her fist in his own. The force with which it slammed into his palm started him, her form was skilled and practiced and to his own eyes displayed years of training in self-defense along with the assurance of someone who had used it successively several times. "Cagalli! It's me, Athrun."
"Huh?" Her eyes lost their intensity, widening as her whole form relaxed once she realized who she was with and who he was. "Oh shit. Sorry Athrun! I was thinking about something. Man stupid Kira, this is what happens when he freaks me out and tells me too many of his crazy theories about people who are out to get me. Did I hurt you?"
She was all concern now as she studied him carefully, genuinely upset and bothered that she may have hurt him. Grabbing his hand in her own to study she started to examine it and he was finding himself distracted by the feel of her hand in his and what it would feel like to hold her hand. Clearing his throat, he fought down the blush on his cheeks as he smiled at her and pulled his hand from hers, meeting worried brown eyes, "It's fine. You weren't kidding when you said you could take care of yourself, but I think I'll live."
He laughed and then decided to just go for it and grabbed her hand to tug her along back to his car that was waiting for them. "Come on, if we take any longer you'll be late for class. Sorry about the interruption earlier, Meer can be quite relentless when I'm involved."
"W-what?" He glanced back to see a glorious red blush on her cheeks as she grasped his hand, and he decided that he like seeing it. He half expected her to yank her hand from his but instead she just let him pull her along as she pouted. "I-I mean, it didn't look like you weren't enjoying it. She's your type right? I don't mind going to school on my own, Zala. Like I keep telling you boys, I'm a big girl I can take care of myself."
"Yes, yes. You're a big girl, but sometimes it doesn't hurt to accept help from people who want to help." He chided good-naturedly, and glancing back at her noticed the guilty expression on her face that let him know that he had hit a sore spot. He didn't acknowledge the rest of her words until they were in the car, to be honest he'd never really thought he had a type. He'd been too busy and girls were just girls, maybe he'd had a type—but he wasn't sure he'd call it a type so much as one person in particular, but that had been a long time ago.
"She's not my type. Meer is just really fond of me. Her father says she likes being around me because it helps her forget about things and ground her. I put up with her as a favor to the Vice-Chairman." He smoothly pulled the vehicle out onto the road, glancing over as she finally pulled her cap off and started to mechanically tidy herself up into what he was starting to privately refer to as 'Princess Cagalli' mode. When they reached a stoplight, he turned to ask her nonchalantly, "So who was on the phone? Is everything alright—you seemed troubled."
He just barely caught her hands stiffening for the briefest moment as they twisted her hair back, but it was so short that he wondered if he was seeing things. She simply finished pinning her hair down and then turned to smile at him, her eyes fond, "Oh it was nothing. My old friend Sahib just sent me a message to tell me that he had come up with a new chili sauce. He wanted to know if I'd be willing to taste test for him—that's all."
Chili Sauce? But why had she looked so troubled over chili sauce? She couldn't be some weirdo that had an obsession with it right? She must have noticed the look on his face because she started laughing and lightly punched his shoulder, "Hey, stop thinking weird thoughts. It's just been awhile since I saw Sahib, though I do passionately love my Chili Sauce. It's really the best compared to that disgusting thing known as yogurt sauce."
And then she was off on some rambling story telling him about someone named Andy who always seemed to ruin her kebabs, and the best places to get whatever the hell kebabs were—and that Kira for some reason refused to ever take her to get kebabs any more. By the time he pulled up to her school and she was getting out, the only thing he managed to keep a track of in her long excited story was that Cagalli a. loved kebabs, and b. would destroy him if he ever dared to put yogurt sauce on kebabs in her presence. A tiny part of him kind of wanted to try it out to see just how red she would turn and if the chili sauce would burn him more or her rage.
"Thanks for the ride Athrun, it was fun. Send me how much I owe you for the food this morning got it? I'll see you around. Don't get too caught up in every political crisis and forget to take a break, k?" She peered back at him admonishing him in a tone that was so easy and familiar that he had a vague suspicion this was the way she lectured her father and Kira. Throwing him one last smile as she shut the door, he paused for a moment to watch as she quickly and efficiently made her towards class. Just before she got out of earshot he suddenly remembered what he had meant to say earlier, and rolling down his window he called out, "Cagalli!"
She turned to look at him curiously, her eyebrow quirked questioningly. He couldn't help the grin that spread on his face, "I only catch them so that I can let them down gently. I'll see you tonight!"
Her eyes widened at him and as he drove off he kept thinking about her irritated smile and how she had shook her head, rolling her eyes at him. When was the last time he'd smiled this much? His phone buzzed briefly and glancing over he saw her name pop up along with a brief message, Point taken, Zala. Temporary truce, we'll continue this later.
September 21, 63 CE Dear Miss Yula, My name is Alex. I did not know what to write. I'm sorry. I felt silly writing to someone I'd never met before. I didn't know where to start. I know how to spell, and I'm not afraid. You're not dumb, I think you're brave. Sincerely, Alex P.S. Thank you for writing to me. P.P.S. Who did you bite?
R & R Please! Please be patient with my slow self on responses ^, I apologize in advance. But really...who did she bite? We may never know :'D!
September 21, 63 CE
Dear Miss Yula,
My name is Alex. I did not know what to write. I'm sorry. I felt silly writing to someone I'd never met before. I didn't know where to start. I know how to spell, and I'm not afraid. You're not dumb, I think you're brave.
P.S. Thank you for writing to me.
P.P.S. Who did you bite?
R & R Please! Please be patient with my slow self on responses ^, I apologize in advance. But really...who did she bite? We may never know :'D!
R & R Please! Please be patient with my slow self on responses ^, I apologize in advance. But really...who did she bite? We may never know :'D!