A/N: This was written for whitesymphony, the Livejournal AxL community. I am a KxL and AxC fanboy by nature, but I'm also a bit of a canon Nazi. Seeing the end of Destiny (spare me how you feel; Destiny did different things and might not have been the best, but it's still canon) really threw me for a loop and made me think about what the dynamic might be between Athrun and Lacus.
Upon reading some really good AxL, I realized that this had some serious merit, so when whitesymphony ran their June fic/pic challenge, the theme being "Kiss."I took it as a good reason to get cracking. I wrote this and worked extensively with Lakewood to make it applicable to canon and character, and now that it's posted on the LJ community for voting, I wanted to get it on the site.
This is set after Destiny, there are a few spoilers out there, and constructive criticisms are always welcome. Thanks to Lakewood for his fantastic, as always, beta work.
On with the show!
The Lucky Ones
Twelve hours. Twelve hours and we'll finally have made it through everything.
Twelve hours and we'll finally have made it through everything.
Our supplies were delayed six months due to union renegotiations, our initial contractors were indicted for racketeering, and our exhibits were kept in orbit due to arms control regulations, she thought with a sigh. Her breath steamed into the night air as she ran a hand through her tied-back hair. Now that it's opening two months behind schedule, it opens in the middle of an early winter.
She shivered through her windbreaker as she walked down the first few wide, low marble steps on the staircase of the new Peace Museum, down to the street. There was no traffic since the local police had cordoned off the streets save for contractors, but she didn't mind. Down on Earth, they sold hot chocolate from street vendors. Too bad we haven't opened yet. They'd be everywhere once everything gets under way.
Another shiver. Hot chocolate really sounds good right now.
"Isn't it lovely out?" a voice with a smile to its tone asked from somewhere over her shoulder.
"Oh!" Lacus jumped a little, startled. She turned around. "Athrun, what a surprise! I wasn't expecting you here!"
Athrun Zala had been sitting with his back on one of the marble columns for the colonnade to the front. He was surprisingly overdressed, wearing a tuxedo with its bow tie undone, but it wasn't his clothes or his steaming breath in the cold air that drew her attention...
"You're still worried about tomorrow, right?" Athrun got up and dusted off his impeccably-creased pants with one hand, setting aside a large bouquet in the other. "Join the club. The rest of the Board of Directors is scrambling to get things set up over at the catering hall."
Lacus leaned against a banister on the staircase. "We've worked so hard for so long," she said with a singsong sigh. "After everything that happened, I never even thought that the Three Ships Society would get our initial startup, let alone build the museum. Now that we're opening tomorrow, it's a huge mess with all these electrical failures."
"I wouldn't be so surprised about last-minute messes." Athrun headed over to Lacus, taking off his tuxedo coat and holding it out to her. "It's a little big and not the best match for what you're wearing, but it is pretty cold out."
She smiled at him, tilting her head a little. "Athrun, you'll freeze. Don't worry about me."
"No, really, I'll be fine." He draped the coat over her shoulders; since she was hugging herself against the cold, the jacket almost wrapped entirely around her body without much effort.
"Now I'm cold and I look silly," she giggled. "Thank you, Athrun."
"It's not a problem." He blushed, not an infrequent event, and he shifted the bouquet of roses to his left hand as he leaned on the banister next to Lacus. "The admiral couldn't make it?"
"Kira is still back at the Society offices, putting the finishing touches on our third-quarter finances. I thought you were-"
"Yes," Athrun jumped in. "I was at the reunion gala, and I was bored out of my skull after ten minutes." He made a face. "Even Dearka was yawning. He didn't even bother to make a crack at all the higher-ups who were giving speeches. Nobody who was ranked below Major really wants to go to these ZAFT events anymore. All the grizzled old warhorses get together, get drunk, and blather about some faded glory. It's always the ones who would order us to fight rather than take the controls themselves." Silence for a moment. "It would have been better for everyone if Kira was there."
"So, who gave you the flowers?" Lacus grinned a little wryly. "I don't suppose Yzak has taken a liking to you, no?"
"Yzak? Have feelings for anything or anyone?" Athrun laughed jovially. "I think I'd pay money to see that. I just stopped on the way to get these really fast. I was hoping to leave them here."
"Here? Why at the Peace Museum?"
"Well... I had two reasons." Athrun took a deep breath. "Tomorrow is the anniversary of the end of the Second Bloody Valentine War, which is why we're opening the Museum, after all. I wanted to do something for the people who died... the people I fought against... the people I fought with. I wanted to remember them the same way I remembered my mother..."
He trailed off, breaking eye contact with Lacus. Athrun looked aside and down towards the deep red roses he held.
"I wanted to leave flowers for them, but I also wanted to give them to you."
"Yeah. I haven't really done that for some time."
"Athrun, it's been years since we were betrothed. You don't have to bring me flowers." She turned more towards him, a question in her eyes. She saw him blink a few times and take a deep breath, as if to steady himself.
"I know. But I didn't have to bring them back then, either." He smiled, his jade green eyes a little luminous with leftover tears. "It's because I want to, not because I'm obliged to."
"But why now, though?" She turned, holding herself against the cold. She tilted her head a little, still a bit confused.
"A huge part of the memories of the people who died is the honor that you've been able to bring to them." He held his right hand out as if to highlight the museum. "This is something that couldn't have been done without you, without your persistence, your strength, and your honest sincerity. Lacus, you're the glue that's held Earth and the PLANTs together after all this fighting. I think I'm just one of the lucky few who really knew you through it all."
Lacus shook her head. "Athrun, I'm not really that special. I just did what I wanted to do and didn't want to let go of it."
"That's why these are for you." Athrun held the flowers in both hands, cradling them with the flowers facing her. "That desire, that humility, that grace - those are why people look to you, those are why people donated their time and money to the Three Ships Society. Those are why people look up to you. Those are why people admire you. Those are why people like you, why they've been attracted to you and your ideals." He took a deep breath. "You know what? From day one, either from the start of the Society or when you and I were first introduced, I don't think I was ever excluded from those people."
"Athrun..." Lacus trailed off. "I think I see what you're saying, but I'm - "
"Engaged to Kira. I know." He nodded, the smile on his face replaced by a neutral, almost saddened look. "But if there's one thing that's remained constant through everything that's happened, through war and through peace, it's that I wanted to at least be able to bring you flowers."
He held out the roses, as stiff as he used to be when they were still fiancées. As awkward as he used to be. He's been different when I was with Kira, but now he's like he used to be, like Athrun before everything happened. Athrun as Athrun, Athrun before his father and Genesis... before Chairman Durandal's rise to power... before Cagalli and Orb...
Lacus took the flowers, smelling their heady fragrance in the cold wind, mixed with the scent of cologne from Athrun's jacket. The sharpness of the air was rounded by the mix, causing goosebumps to shiver into being on the nape of her neck.
"Thank you, Athrun." Lacus smiled at him, smelling the flowers again. "They're beautiful."
Without warning, he leaned in towards Lacus. Her eyes went wide as she felt his breath on her cheek, then his warm lips. It was the briefest moment of contact, almost electrical in its sudden sensation, but after his kiss, as he moved away, she felt the warmth and electric tingle all through her body, running down her back.
"You're the reason we're all fighting, either on battlefields or boardrooms" he said carefully, intoning his words. "You're the reason why we're so inspired, so willing to wait, to fight, to debate, to seek something bigger than who or where we are. I've been part of those people from day one, but I'm the lucky one because I got to be there with you… because I get to be here with you."
He turned around and started walking down the big steps of the Peace Museum. He put his hands in his pockets to keep them warm as he strode down, blinking away tears.
"Athrun!" Lacus' voice rang out on the wind as she called out to him.
He turned to see her clutching the flowers close to her chest, trying to smile gratefully. He didn't bother to dissuade her, nor did she bother to say anything. Her engagement ring wasn't visible, thankfully covered by her other hand, so for a moment, it was as if they had been spared the entire event.
For this moment, I was the lucky one, Athrun.