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Chapter 1 Main Chapters Chapter 3

Chapter 2 - Sowing the Seeds

Kira woke up the next morning, discovering that he had been having a strange dream loosely based on the stories Kuzzey's bride had been telling about their honeymoon cruise. The last part of the dream had ended with the cruise ship somehow having been the Archangel, and everyone on the ship had mobile suits and were swimming in the water, though for some reason, it felt more like flying. Then, Kira awoke, confused.

Kisaka was standing by his bed, a hand on his shoulder. Kira sat up slowly, shaking off the last remnants of the dream. "Is there a problem?" he asked.

"Not one of physical danger," Kisaka told him. "But I believe Cagalli needs your presence at this time."

Kira slid his feet out of the bed, stood up, and headed for his dresser. Kisaka was leaving, but Kira stopped him with the words, "I should be ready in a few minutes. But, you're sure it's my presence she needs?"

"Yes," Kisaka affirmed. "I am sorry to wake you like this, Kira."

"No, that's not it, I had meant to get up soon." This triggered a thought, and he turned off his alarm clock just before it went off. He continued, "It's just, well, you are her friend, too. You do a lot for her."

"I suppose so. One of the more important duties is the one I'm doing now. Cagalli needs the assurance of not just one, but many people she trusts."

He left, and Kira dressed quickly, then strode down the halls to the wing where Cagalli usually was. The servants directed him to the Chief Representative's office.

Kira could see the blue sky through the tall windows in the room, as small white clouds hovered, almost stationary. The room was richly appointed in predominantly dark brown colors and mahogany wood, and carried seals of Orb and portraits of its past leaders. A large one of the previous Chief Representative Attha hung above the desk where Cagalli was working. Her back was to him as she read through dense documents on her computer screen, and repeatedly cross-referenced them to other documents, presumably treaties or official recommendations from the other Representatives or her personal advisors.

Stepping into the room, Kira turned to close the door behind him, and as he turned back to face Cagalli, she turned her head towards him. She smiled when she caught sight of him, and said absently, "Kira, good morning!"

"Good morning, Cagalli," Kira said hesitantly.

Cagalli had now swiveled her chair fully around and asked warmly, "Did you sleep well?"

"Yeah, even though I had a crazy dream, I slept very well, thanks," Kira told her. "Uh, did you sleep well?"

"Fine, thank you," she told him in return. She waited a beat, then asked, "Did you need something, Kira?"

"Well, no," Kira admitted. He desperately tried to think of something to say next, but nothing was coming that seemed quite right.

For a moment, Cagalli stared at him, not understanding, then understanding dawned in her eyes, to be quickly followed by a quiet growl in the back of her throat and an irritated expression directed at the closed door, past Kira. Kira felt sorry for Kisaka. "Okay," huffed Cagalli, going for the heart of the matter, "what did Kisaka tell you was going on?"

"Nothing," Kira said honestly, considering that it was very wise of Kisaka (for Kisaka's own sake) not to have done so. "You know he's just taking care of you, Cagalli," Kira reminded her, not wanting Kisaka to get in trouble just because he, Kira, was not very good at this sort of conversation.

"I know that, and it's not that I don't appreciate it," grumbled Cagalli, "but, it's annoying!" Her eyes roamed absently over the empty room and she added, "Besides, I'm fine. I'm focusing on Orb's problems."

Kira looked closely at her, at her tense hands and the tightness around her mouth. He said slowly, "You don't need to worry. I know you and the Council have gone over everything, and you're familiar with it. You can relax," he tried to add encouragingly, though he felt awkward, having meant to take a different tone. He'd meant to be encouraging, not dispensing obvious generalities. From her expression, he guessed that she'd already heard similar things.

"It'd be an insult to Lacus if I didn't show up prepared. You don't have to feel the need to babysit me," Cagalli said with finality. "You should go and be with Lacus," she said as she hurriedly rotated her chair and turned back to her computer, "you two hardly have any time together. I'm sure she's fully prepared for today's meetings, and they'll be long. You should be talking to her."

Kira blinked. Her voice had caught. "I intend to see Lacus, of course," he said, not sure how he could be more encouraging, "but don't forget, Cagalli, I'm also here to visit you and all my friends. It's good to take the time to talk with you."

Cagalli spun her chair around suddenly, slamming its wooden legs against the hardwood floor, and shouted, "My country has suffered enough because of my weaknesses! I don't need you to suffer, too! You love her, don't you! You should go be with her, while you can!"

Kira held up his hands, palms facing her. "I," he started to say, then stopped. He was simply out of words. Cagalli was hunched in her seat, scowling at him, hating him for forcing her to reveal how she was feeling. Then she dropped her head and clenched her fists tighter, saying, "I'm sorry, Kira, I- I!" She growled in frustration, then banged her fists on her knees and shouted, "Fine, I'll just go ahead and say it! You want to know what's wrong?" Her head lunged up again for a brief moment.

"I'll be old and grey by the time Athrun ever even thinks of speaking to me again!" Cagalli shouted at the ceiling.

Her head collapsed then, as she began to sob, "And he'll be right, too!" For a moment, her tears flowed unchecked, before she began to angrily rub them out with her fists.

Kira quietly came to the side of her chair and put his arms around her. Cagalli went on, "I can't believe I did what I did. I was everything I hated! I despised those people I met in my life, the people who judged everyone by how much money and power their families had, the people who said one thing and did another, the people who threw away their principles for gain!" She became almost hysterical upon these last words, and it was a while before she went on to say, "I thought after I'd fought with Desert Dawn, I'd proven I was different from them, but no, I am everything I hated! I was ready to marry Yuna, just because it was politically expedient!"

Cagalli looked up at Kira, her voice croaking from the tears and shouting. "I don't deserve to ever even see Athrun again." She coughed, then told him, "You and Lacus are perfect together, I, I just couldn't help but think of what I threw away. Clearly I'm not the sort of person who could be worthy of that kind of happiness."

"Oh, Cagalli," Kira sighed. Tenderness and regret colored his words. "You saw the way that Flay Allster and I carried on, didn't you? What I did to Sai at that time? I'm the one who's not worthy, Cagalli. But I got a second chance."

Cagalli made a face - clearly she did recall how he'd acted at that time - but the tears were still flowing from her eyes. "You got a second chance. I won't. Athrun never will forgive me. He won't even talk to me. Kira, he doesn't even say much to you anymore, does he? I haven't got a chance," she said hopelessly.

Kira shook his head. "I'm convinced that he will. Especially if you reach out to him, even a little bit."

"What do you think I've been doing?" Cagalli asked in frustration, finally looking Kira in the eye.

"I know, but, at least no answer is better than a refusal, right?" Kira told her.

Cagalli swallowed. "It feels the same," she muttered. She took a deep breath, then told Kira, "Thank you. Myrna will be in here any minute, to prepare me for the meetings. I'll be fine."

"Right," Kira agreed, squeezing her shoulders before releasing her.

Cagalli's maid Myrna bustled into the room at that moment, nodded at Kira, saying, "Master Kira," then rushed at Cagalli, exclaiming, "Oh, my dear, you've been crying, haven't you! This will never do." She began rummaging in a bag for some cosmetic to remove the evidences. Kira took the opportunity to slip away.

"I apologize," Cagalli told Myrna. "I know this'll mean more work for you."

Myrna said with certainty, "Not at all, Lady Cagalli." Cagalli looked at her in surprise. Myrna continued, "You've had so much to cry about, ever since your father died, and you haven't. It's about time you did so. This is a relief to me."

Cagalli smiled at her.

An hour or so later, Mu looked up from his book to see Kira enter the sitting room. "Kira!" he hailed him. "I trust you and Lacus are well this morning."

"Yes, Mu," Kira agreed. "I just came from her. We're both fine. How's Murrue?"

"Entangled in preparations for the crew's luncheon, preparations which I cannily evaded." Mu clapped Kira on the shoulder. "But, never mind that, there's something I've been meaning to ask you. When are you and Lacus going to get married?"

"Mu?" Kira asked, surprised.

"It's a simple enough question," Mu insisted.

"Yeah, but," Kira said in disbelief and shook his head.

"Oh, no, I was afraid of this," Mu put one hand on his hip and the other questioningly in the air. "You haven't even asked her yet?"

Kira grinned, deciding to draw out the suspense, and took a seat, Mu reluctantly sitting across from him. Kira then went on, "Now, assuming that I had been discussing it with her, I wonder what you would think of this idea? Seeing as Lacus is a public figure, a huge ceremony is practically a given. But we might not want to start our lives together under too intense a spotlight. So what if we had a big ceremony right as she's leaving office? It'd end her term as Chairman on a high note and be a natural transition to her new life."

"Oh, no," moaned Mu. "That far from now? Kid, with an attitude like that, she's going to get away!"

Kira laughed, sighed, and shook his head again.

"Youth is terribly wasted on the young," Waltfeld observed, entering the sitting room and guessing the subject of conversation.

"Isn't it, though?" Mu concurred. "I mean, you know it's bad when an old guy like me has been married a year, and the kids haven't even set a date!"

"What are you two, matchmakers?" Kira teased them back.

Murrue entered the room. "Are you three at it again?" she asked with a laugh.

"I just want everyone to be as happy as we are," Mu told her as he put an arm around her.

"Even so," Murrue agreed, pecking him on the cheek.

The dining hall of the palace of Orb was a large affair, with high ceilings painted with scenes from Orb's history. White tablecloths and napkins were on the tables, as well as fine silverware and expensive cups. Between them moved waiters, skilled in their work and, perhaps more importantly for this gathering, possessing more than enough discretion to not be overly talkative about the presence of the crew of the notorious renegade vessel Archangel.

Seated at the tables were nearly all of the surviving Archangel crew members. Some wore their old dress Earth Alliance uniforms, others dress Orb uniforms, while still others wore their best civilian clothes.

Murrue stood at the podium and addressed the seated crowd. "I'm very honored, and very fortunate, to be able to stand before you all today. Before we proceed further, however, I feel it appropriate to have a moment of silence to remember all those crewmembers who are unable to join us today."

She and the other people in the assembly removed their hats and bowed their heads for a moment.

Murrue then replaced her hat and began to speak again, but kept it short, and soon she rejoined Mu at a table and everyone began their meals.

At a table with Murrue and Mu were many of the bridge crew members, along with spouses. Kuzzey and his wife, Sai and his fiancee were there, as well as bridge personnel Arnold Neumann, Jackie Tonomura, Dalida Chandra, and Romero Pal. Kira Yamato sat at the table, Lacus briefly absent to finish final details on a similar luncheon for the Eternal's crew. Meyrin Hawke was seated with them as well. The group greatly enjoyed catching up on what the others had been doing.

At one point in the conversation, Sai's fiancee remarked, "You know, Sai has been telling me the most incredible story, about how he and the others from Heliopolis got caught up in all this adventure."

"Goodness, I wonder what you've been telling her!" Kuzzey's wife joked, and they all laughed.

"No, it's all true," Kuzzey confirmed. "Kira protected us during the evacuation, and we all ended up aboard the Archangel because the shelters were closed."

Sai's fiancee nodded, and then asked, "And Lady Cagalli, sitting there in the lab, waiting for your professor who never came, that's true too?"

"Yes, it's true," Kira confirmed.

"It certainly is," Cagalli said, drawing up a seat.

"Cagalli, I didn't expect you'd be able to make it," Mu said, pleased.

"I wasn't sure I would either. My schedule is free right now, which means everyone's crowding into my office for a few minutes of my time," Cagalli told them wryly. "I had to get away."

"You're the first person I've ever heard admitting to hating an 'open door'" policy," Sai noted playfully. Cagalli rolled her eyes but took it in stride.

Noticing that Sai's fiancee and Kuzzey's wife, and the others at the table to some extent, were adopting more formal manners, Cagalli added, "And I'd prefer it if we kept things as informal as they were on the Archangel. I need to get away from formality for an hour or two as well."

Sai noted lightly, "You refused to tell us your full identity for weeks. That's why we were so informal."

"Smartest thing I ever did. Never been so free in my life," Cagalli sighed.

Sai's fiancee, respecting her wishes, moved the conversation along. "There was one point I was a little confused about. Sai mentioned that you were there, Cagalli, to see the professor, but he never came?"

"That's right," Cagalli remembered. "Sai, you told me at the time you expected him in, but he never did show up, did he?" Kira and Sai nodded.

Kuzzey recalled, "Yeah. I wonder whatever happened to him. I hope he made it out of Heliopolis OK!"

Sai laughed. "Oh my, I completely forgot! I meant to tell all of you. He did make it out, I ran into him by chance at Morgenroete the other day."

"That's a relief," Kuzzey said, brightening.

"Yes," Sai went on, "it turns out he was unavoidably delayed that day. You remember, Kuzzey, how he always took the bus. That day, it broke down on the side of the road. Not only that, but the bus that the bus depot was sending out also got extremely delayed."

"So that's why he never made it to the office," Cagalli nodded.

"That's pretty bad," Kuzzey noted.

"You'd think so, but as it happened," Sai went on, grinning, "the bus had broken down only a few streets away from one of the shelters! When the alarm went off, he got into one without any trouble."

Kira chuckled. Kuzzey shook his head and said, "Oh no."

"And a few hours after the Archangel left the area, the Orb rescue ship was able to pick up him and the other lifeboats. When he returned to Orb, he easily got a job at Morgenroete, since they had been funding our research project. And so he's worked there ever since, through both wars!" Sai finished.

"You're kidding!" Kuzzey laughed ruefully.

"So I guess he wasn't the one who needed to be worried about after all," Sai's fiancee noted amusedly.

"Yes, he actually was worried about us all this time," Sai confirmed.

"Well, it's good to hear that he's OK," Kuzzey concluded.

"Maybe we should go visit him sometime," his wife suggested.

Kuzzey thought a moment, and agreed, "That sounds like a good idea."

Sai smiled at his friend.

At this moment, Chief Murdoch wandered by, their table the latest leg of his boisterously cheerful tour 'round the dining hall. After some enthusiastic greetings and slaps on backs, he promptly began embarrassing reminiscences. "Well, well, Kuzzey and Sai, you two have done very well for yourselves. Ah, I still remember the day we first took off from Heliopolis, and they all showed up on my hangar deck with Kira. All of you looked like frightened rabbits!" He punctuated this with a laugh.

"Hey, I wasn't on the hangar deck, remember, Chief?" Cagalli challenged his recollection.

"Yeah, when you did come aboard, I could hardly keep you off the hangar deck!" the chief waved his hand. He fixed Sai's fiancee with a mischievous stare. "Say, did Sai ever tell you about the time he piloted the Strike Gundam?"

"You piloted a mobile suit?" his fiancee said in surprise, then hesitated as she saw Sai push on his glasses with a sheepish grin.

Chief Murdoch went on with a remorseless smirk, "Tried to pilot, he barely made it a few steps!"

"Chief, cut the kid a break!" Mu interceded cheerfully. "We've all gotta start somewhere."

"It's harder than it looks!" Kira told him.

"Well, I guess that's true," the Chief relented. "All right, Sai, since I am embarrassing you in front of your girl, I'll make it up to you by relating a much better story. How about it?"

Kuzzey suggested, "I bet he hasn't told her that he helped Lacus Clyne escape."

"Yeah, that's a great one," Kuzzey's wife clapped her hands. Kira nodded enthusiastically.

"You helped Lacus Clyne escape? From where?" Sai's astonished fiancee inquired.

"He hasn't told her!" Murdoch grinned. "These punk kids stole a mobile suit right under my nose to smuggle her off the Archangel!"

"That's a good tale," Cagalli agreed, then added teasingly, "although we'll have to get Sai and Kira to tell you the real story after Chief Murdoch's done."

The chief smiled from ear to ear as he related the tale.

Chapter 1 Main Chapters Chapter 3