Phase 01 - Bittersweet

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY - Golden Goddess

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Disclaimer: Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED ASTRAY, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED MSV and SEED DESTINY MSV are the property of Bandai and Sunrise, not me. I make no money off this little venture. This is purely for entertainment purposes, and no copyright infringement is intended.

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I think Gundam SEED and, more specifically, Gundam SEED DESTINY suck. I have made this known to people. Some of DESTINY's most ardent fans have, in their own way, challenged me to do better.

So I will.

This fanfic covers a few plot holes left in my rewrite of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY, focusing on Athrun and Cagalli and their friends and foes. The events herein are nestled within the timeline spanned by DESTINY itself, so reading this at the same time as you read, say, Phase 15 and Phase 16 of DESTINY might be pertinent. This is meant to be a brief look at the characters at a different point in the timeline.

I will post a new chapter every Friday, or the soonest day thereafter should something arise on Friday to keep me from posting.

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Phase 01 - Bittersweet

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November 6th, CE 73 - Orb Raiders dreadnaught Megami, Pacific Ocean

Cagalli Yula Athha was not by nature an organized person, but even by her standards, her office had reached a new level of horror in disorganization.

Athrun Zala cast a weary eye over the array of papers, books, files, blueprints, maps, and a staggering collection of what he could only describe as stuff littering the office, covering bookshelves, the desk, and in some parts, the floor.

To be fair, of course, some of this stuff must have been knocked loose during a battle and Cagalli just had not gotten around to cleaning it up yet. That persistent Archangel-class that had chased them for most of June and July probably had something to do with this.

Cagalli herself stood before the mess, running her hands through her hair anxiously, her back to Athrun. He touched her shoulders gently耀he whipped around in surprise, startling Athrun as well, staring at him with wide eyes for a moment.

鉄-Sorry, she said awkwardly, relaxing only slightly.

典he operation is tomorrow at dawn, Athrun warned solemnly. 添ou have to calm down so you can lead the Loyalists.

Cagalli turned away, looking through the coating of maps and charts on the floor. Athrun watched uneasily, thinking that he should be doing more, but knowing that Cagalli most likely did not want help.

The Revolution was scheduled to begin tomorrow. Cagalli Yula Athha, the warrior princess of Orb, would return with five gleaming Gundams, a wing of battle-hardened Murasames, and a shining battleship, to lead the ragged guerilla fighters still loyal to the Athha family in a coup d弾tat that would dethrone the Seirans. Cagalli was still immensely popular耀urely the people would rise up to support them.

Or, at least, that was what everyone was banking on.

Cagalli emerged from the typhoon of loose papers with a large map of Orb痴 capital city, Aube. She swept her desk clean of everything on it and began to spread the map out on it. Athrun took her by the shoulders again, this time not letting her swivel around in surprise.

添ou need to rest, he said authoritatively, wheeling her around towards the office door. 的 have the battle plan committed to memory. Yzak does, Dearka does, Commander La Fllaga does, Commander Bartfeldt does, Captain Ramius does, everyone does.

鄭thrun, I致e worked since July to get this thing going! Cagalli protested, trying to halt herself and finding Athrun subtly overpowering her as he shoved her through the door. 的 can稚 just leave it now! Every detail has to be in place!

添ou池e the one who痴 going to lead it all, Athrun countered. 展e have to have you at your fullest, and that means being fully rested and relaxed. Captain Ramius and Commander Bartfeldt can handle all the details.

Cagalli wrenched herself out of Athrun痴 grip and spun around to face him. 的 can稚 do that! she insisted. 的知 the leader, I have to take responsibility濫

鄭nd part of that responsibility, Athrun interrupted, turning her around, 妬s being well-rested and well-fed enough to lead. He turned her down a corridor and shoved her towards the galley. 哲ow eat. I致e been with you all day and you haven稚 eaten since last night.

鄭thrun! Cagalli sputtered.

The galley door opened and Athrun nudged Cagalli inside.

摘at, he said, 殿nd you値l be able to work better.

The few occupants of the galley sprang up from their seats to salute. Cagalli looked around helplessly and awkwardly returned their salutes.

鄭lright, Cagalli said unhappily. 的値l take a break. A short break.

Without waiting for Athrun, Cagalli headed towards a vending machine. Athrun blinked in surprise預 moment later, a snicker caught his attention, and he turned towards the source of the familiar voice.

Dearka Elthman was slumped comfortably in his chair, feet propped up on the table. He offered Athrun an amused grin.

擢inally got your girlfriend out of her office, I see, he chuckled.

Cagalli quickly swept past Athrun with a soda can in hand, and was gone before he could register a protest. He blinked again helplessly as the door shut behind her, and Dearka snickered again.

填nfortunately, he continued, 妬t looks like you missed your chance.

From nearby, Miriallia Haww glanced at Dearka and shrugged. 的 don稚 think Athrun would do that, she said helpfully, glancing back at Athrun, looking for confirmation.

的 just want Cagalli to be in top condition for the operation, Athrun said, feeling defeated.

的 know sexual tension when I see it, Dearka scoffed.

典hat痴 because you have so much experience with it, Miriallia shot back with a triumphant smirk, drawing a scowl out of Dearka.

Athrun shook his head and made his escape as Dearka tried to come up with a sassy retort.

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Murrue Ramius stretched her legs and groaned as she felt the muscles strain. She had been sitting in this damned chair for far too long.

添ou know, Mwu La Fllaga痴 amused voice said from near the back of the bridge, 妬t wouldn稚 kill you to get up and walk around every once in a while.

Murrue looked up as he came down along the bridge stairwell with his usual cheerful smile, a water bottle in hand. 的 have to stay up here on the bridge and oversee everything, she said, feeling awkward, knowing that she was on the bridge but also knowing that she was talking to Mwu and could not easily enforce an air of military discipline between them. 添ou know that.

哲eumann doesn稚 need you to hold his hand, Mwu said with a shrug. He looked over at the helm. 迭ight, Neumann?

Arnold Neumann hunched down closer to the Megami痴 helm controls. 鏑eave me out of this, he muttered.

Murrue stood up and stretched her arms behind her back uncomfortably, staring out the bridge windows, at the calm afternoon sun reflected in the Pacific Ocean.

泥o you think we値l win at Orb? she asked softly, looking over at Mwu, just loud enough for him to hear. His smile vanished.

的 don稚 know, he said with another shrug. 的知 just going to go out, give it my best, and hope that helps.

Murrue looked back at the ocean. 鼎agalli痴 pushing herself hard, she said, a little louder.

添eah, Mwu agreed. 笛ust ask Athrun.

Murrue blinked and looked back at Mwu. 展hat do you mean?

Mwu shrugged a third time. 鄭sk me again sometime, he said, taking a swig of water. 鄭nyways, Captain, if you値l excuse me, I知 gonna go play with the Strike some more. He turned and headed off the bridge.

Murrue sat back in the captain痴 chair, draping one leg over the other, and put her hand to her chin, deep in thought.

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Athrun ran through his mental checklist of things to do. He had the strategy committed to memory, but it would not hurt to go over it again. He had the Justice痴 systems prepared for battle, but it would not hurt to go over them one more time. He had already planned out his next meal and measured down to the second how much time he could allot himself to consume a small sandwich and a bottle of water預fter all, he needed energy, but could not take so long to acquire such energy as to miss the reason why he was acquiring energy.

As he trotted towards the hangar, he paused at the sound of a familiar voice. He rounded a corner, and found Lacus Clyne in a doorway, looking shrunken and withdrawn in the protective embrace of Sai Argyle.

Athrun felt a blush rise to his face and turned to leave, but before he could, Sai and Lacus noticed him and awkwardly released each other.

鄭thrun! Sai exclaimed awkwardly. 展hat, uh, what are you doing here?

Lacus looked at Athrun carefully as he momentarily fumbled for a response.

的知 just going to the hangar, he said uneasily. 的知, um, sorry for disturbing you.

He turned to leave, but Lacus glanced furtively at Sai and followed Athrun.

鄭thrun, she said, as Athrun opened one of the hangar doors. Athrun turned around in surprise, and Lacus smiled politely at him. 展e haven稚 talked in a while.

...I致e been busy, Athrun said cautiously. 的致e been helping Cagalli set up the coup...

的 know, Lacus said gently, 澱ut you and Cagalli have been working very hard. It痴 starting to get worrisome.

的t will all pay off tomorrow, Athrun said, trying to sound confident. 展e have to take back Orb from the Seirans, so that we can all have a country where we don稚 have to fight to stay alive.

鄭re you alright? Lacus asked suddenly. Athrun blinked and looked at her.

的知 alright, he said, feeling defensive. 釘ut... He trailed off and shook his head. 哲ever mind. I should go work on the Justice.

Athrun turned and disappeared into the hangar. Lacus watched him go in surprise; Sai walked up next to her.

的s Athrun alright? Sai asked, watching Athrun as he climbed up into the Justice痴 cockpit.

徹nly Athrun knows that, Lacus said quietly.

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適isaka reports that he has nineteen M1s in position to the north, Andrew Bartfeldt said, towering above Cagalli in her dismally messy office, maps and reports in hand. Cagalli sat at her desk, poring over more maps and more reports.

哲ineteen?! Cagalli exclaimed, looking up with wide eyes. 的 thought he had thirty!

適isaka had twenty-five, Andy corrected, easily and patiently. 滴e lost six yesterday during an ambush.

泥ammit, Cagalli growled. 典hat means we lost fighting strength in the northeast quadrant. She heaved a sigh. 典his whole thing is coming apart already.

哲o it痴 not, Andy said, attempting to be encouraging. 展e still have almost two hundred mobile suits in place to attack Aube, and we may be able to convince some of the Orb army to defect.

Cagalli stared despairingly at one particular part of the map of Aube. 的値l take the Strike Rouge and attack the National Defense Headquarters, she said. Andy blinked in surprise.

釘y yourself? he asked. Cagalli shook her head.

的値l take Athrun with me, she added, almost as an afterthought.

徹nly Athrun? Andy asked, pressingly.

展ho else is there to take?! Cagalli asked desolately, looking up imploringly at Andy. 的 need you and Commander La Fllaga to direct the Murasames, and I need Yzak and Dearka to clear a path to the Assembly Building!

徹f course, Andy said easily, 澱ut what do you hope to do at the National Defense Headquarters with only yourself and Athrun?

的 don稚 know, Cagalli said unhappily. 釘ut we have to do something. Maybe we can take over the military from there. We have to do more than just stand there and play cheerleader.

典here痴 only so much you can do, Andy said. Cagalli looked up in surprise at him. 鄭thrun is a good pilot with a powerful machine, but he痴 already committed to protecting you. You have the Strike Rouge and you can hold your own in a fight, but the Strike Rouge isn稚 exactly cutting-edge anymore. We have enough trouble with our Gundams as is, even with all the upgrades we pumped into them at Heliopolis.

Cagalli looked back down at the map. Andy held back a sigh.

的 hate not being able to do anything, Cagalli muttered. 的知 setting this entire thing up, now I have to fight in it and make it work.

典hat痴 why you池e going out at all, Andy said. Cagalli looked back up at him. 溺ost people who organize these kinds of things only come in and take the reins of power after all the fighting痴 over. He unfolded another map. 哲ow, stop worrying about that and I値l show you what Lieutenant Kuramoto set up at the port...

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Yzak Jule glanced tiredly up at the slumbering Duel Gundam from the boarding gantry, as the Assault Shroud was fitted back on. The Duel had a lighter set of Assault Shroud armor, but it was still heavier than the rest of the Orb Raiders mobile suits, even Athrun痴預nd the Justice Gundam had that giant backpack and everything.

展e致e done about all we can do, Kojiro Murdoch said wearily as he climbed out of the Duel痴 cockpit. 的t痴 as lightweight and responsive as it値l ever get with that Assault Shroud on. He wiped his oily hands off on a grimy rag. 溺aybe you should get something to eat.

Yzak looked down at the ream of papers in his hand. The lists of output statistics from the Duel痴 thrusters were starting to blur together, and his stomach registered a protest of its own.

泥on稚 push yourself too hard, kid, Murdoch warned, doing his best to put a paternal a hand on Yzak痴 shoulder. Yzak almost jumped in surprise. 添ou and Dearka are gonna be in an important spot tomorrow.

的 know, Yzak said, a tad more testily than he would have liked. Murdoch might have been a bit overbearing at times, but he was always looking out for the pilots best interests雄zak just had to remember that.

笛ust go take a break and get something to eat, Murdoch said, smiling. 敵od knows we all need to put the tools down and relax for a bit anyways.

Yzak looked back up at the Duel. 典he Duel has to be in perfect condition for the battle tomorrow, he said resolutely.

鉄o do you, Murdoch countered. 敵o eat. We値l take care of this thing for you.

Yzak sighed and surrendered his lists of thruster outputs, before heading off down the gantry, towards the galley.

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Orb Navy supercarrier Takemikazuchi, Pacific Ocean

A wicked smile spread over the face of Jona Roma Seiran as he sat back in the captain痴 chair on the Takemikazuchi痴 bridge, reports in hand.

典he Princess is planning to attack Aube tomorrow, he said amusedly, 殿nd launch her little coup d弾tat.

From nearby, Captain Todaka痴 eyes widened in disbelief, and he stopped directing the bridge crew to turn and stare in shock at Jona.

典he Princess?! he echoed disbelievingly. Jona smirked over at the shocked officer.

典he Princess, he repeated. 鉄he痴 a rapacious little thing, isn稚 she? He glanced back at the report. 典he Athha family loyalists are finally making their move.

Todaka said nothing. Jona, of course, knew exactly why裕odaka himself was a man torn between his sympathies for the Athha family and their warrior princess, and his duty to the current rulers of Orb and the citizens of Orb. So long as he remained torn between those two masters, Jona knew he had Todaka under control. Todaka turned slowly back towards the bridge, as the men around the bridge stared in stunned silence at Jona.

展ill we be recalled to Orb? Todaka asked quietly. Jona smiled. Todaka knew his place.

哲ot yet, Jona said, glancing up at Todaka and casting a look over the bridge. 鄭ll intelligence indicates that the forces protecting Aube should be sufficient to crush the attackers.

The bridge went sullenly back to its work. Jona sat back and smiled at it all. The men were torn, and Jona knew exactly why. Cagalli was the heroine, the warrior princess that the men adored...and yet here she was, fighting against them, fighting against the government they had sworn to serve, fighting against the people they had sworn to protect. And yet she was the Princess, the Goddess of Victory, the shining symbol of Orb. What to do? What to think?

Jona silently thanked his good fortune for giving him a foolish little girl for an opponent. This was easier than infanticide.

典he Takemikazuchi Fleet, he began loudly, catching Todaka痴 attention, 努ill continue pursuit of the Megami. He smiled. 典he terrorists will be defeated at Aube. And when they try to retreat, we will be there.

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Orb Raiders dreadnaught Megami, Pacific Ocean

The ocean breeze was cool and comforting as Athrun emerged onto the Megami痴 open-air deck. He was in search of Mwu, who was reportedly on the deck. He stopped in surprise as he found Mwu and Andy leaning against the deck, piping mugs of coffee in hand.

的 still want to know where you got enough beans for a cup of joe, Mwu said, shaking his head. 展e haven稚 been in port for weeks.

鄭ny true coffee enthusiast maintains an ample supply of coffee beans of any type for any situation, Andy shot back with mock snobbery.

填m, Commander La Fllaga, Athrun began uneasily. Mwu and Andy turned in surprise and lifted their mugs cheerfully towards Athrun. 鼎agalli wanted to talk to you about濫

典ell Cagalli to take a break, Mwu interrupted, turning back towards the ocean.

Athrun looked sullenly at the deck. 的 tried, he said quietly. Andy arched a knowing eyebrow as he took a sip of coffee.

展ell, Mwu answered, 鍍ry harder. It won稚 do us any good if she has a stroke from overworking before the operation.

的 know, Athrun said, defeated, 澱ut she won稚 listen.

泥oes she ever? Andy asked, turning around to face Athrun and leaning back against the railing. 擢or what it痴 worth, I tried to convince her to take it easy, and she ignored me too.

Mwu sighed. 展hat does she want me for, then? he asked resignedly, turning around as well.

鉄he wanted to talk about your half of the Murasame squadron, Athrun said. 鉄he thinks濫

滴ow池e you holding up, Athrun? Andy asked suddenly. Athrun blinked in surprise and looked between Mwu and Andy.

展ha謡hat do you mean? he asked helplessly.

撤retty simple question, Mwu said, pausing for another sip of coffee. 添our girlfriend is driving herself into the ground for a purpose larger than all of us, and while you support that purpose, you also want to save her from the self-destruct sequence she痴 putting herself through.

Athrun looked anxiously between the two men, feeling helpless and vulnerable, and none too pleased that he had been so easily figured out.

敵ood way of putting it, Andy said with a chuckle, raising his mug approvingly.

鉄o? Mwu asked, looking inquisitively at Athrun. 典alk.

鼎-Commander, I濫 Athrun began.

的f it makes you feel better, we won稚 tell her, Andy added, sharing a smirk with Mwu. Athrun felt himself blush and looked in defeat at the deck again.

鄭ll the angst on this ship is starting to get annoying, Mwu said. 的値l lock you two in a room with all of Dearka痴 porn if I have to, but for Christ痴 sake, both of you, lighten the hell up. You池e kids. You can稚 do everything. Let the adults do some stuff. That壮 what we喪e for.

Andy looked inquisitively at Mwu. 鄭nd how do you know about Dearka痴 porn?

Mwu glanced back at Andy and took an indifferent sip of coffee. 展hat can I say? Kid needs to remember to lock his freaking door.

鼎ommander濫 Athrun began again, before cutting himself short. 的...I値l just tell Cagalli that you池e busy.

He turned and made a hasty escape before Mwu and Andy could stop him. Andy shook his head with a sigh.

展hen we finally push the Seirans from power, he said, 的 hope there痴 enough left of that kid to enjoy it.

Mwu leaned back against the railing. 擢ighting for a place where you don稚 have to fight anymore is all well and good, he said, 澱ut they池e starting to forget why they池e fighting in the first place.

Andy nodded in agreement, taking another sip of coffee. 鄭nd that, he said quietly, 妬s why we are fighting.

Mwu sighed. 鉄omeone痴 gotta screw their heads back on right.

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展hat do you mean 礎usy?!樗 Cagalli roared, her hands coming down onto the desk with a frightening crash. 展e have work to do! What could he possibly be doing?

鼎agalli濫 Athrun began helplessly. Cagalli sat back in her chair, groaning and wringing her hands through her hair.

泥ammit, she grunted, 的 need Mwu痴 half of the squadron to support Colonel Yamamoto痴 mobile suits濫

鼎agalli, Athrun interrupted, feeling strangely bold, 電on稚 worry about it.

Cagalli blinked and looked back at him in surprise. 展hat do you mean 租on稚 worry about it?樗 she asked, sitting up. 鄭thrun, I知 the leader, I知 supposed to濫

添ou can稚 do it all by yourself, Athrun countered, feeling unsteady but knowing that he was committed now. 鼎ommander La Fllaga and Commander Bartfeldt are experienced commanders. They値l know what to do tomorrow. He circled around the desk and took Cagalli by the shoulders, forcing himself to ignore her protests. 添ou need to eat and you need to rest, or else you値l be in no condition to go out tomorrow. Part of your responsibility as the leader is to keep yourself in a condition to lead.

鄭thrun Cagalli began angrily. She sighed resignedly as Athrun put too much distance between her and her desk to get anything done. 添ou know I致e worked hard to get this going

鄭nd what痴 the point if there痴 nothing left of us to do anything afterwards? another agitated voice added.

Athrun and Cagalli looked in surprise at the door, finding Dearka Elthman standing there, arms crossed, looking annoyed. Not far away, Miriallia sighed and buried her face in her hands.

徹h yeah, Dearka added sarcastically, straightening up and saluting. Commander.

展ha what the hell are you talking about?! Cagalli demanded, shoving Athrun aside and glaring at Dearka. 展e池e not doing this for ourselves! We池e doing it for

展hat痴 the point of leading a revolution to return the Athha family to power if the only Athha left is too burnt out to lead the country? Dearka shot back. Cagalli broke off, speechless. 的 never thought I壇 live to see this, but Athrun is for once the voice of reason here. There痴 no point in fighting for a better world if you can稚 realize when the world is any better.

Dearka stormed off in disgust. Cagalli glanced back at Athrun; he only shook his head and left.

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The sun was finally beginning to set, and Athrun found it comforting as he stepped onto the deck, into a breeze that was considerably cooler. It was a remarkable sight, but Athrun was used to the sun and its lazy shimmering reflection. He walked up to the railing and leaned against it tiredly. Mwu and Andy were at least partially right someone needed a break.

There was a pall of smoke rising up from an island on the horizon, and for a moment, Athrun heard the dull roar of explosions. But it was very far away even with his enhanced Coordinator vision, he had to squint to see it. It was definitely a battle of some kind given the proximity to Carpentaria, it was probably ZAFT and the Earth Alliance trading blows on a tiny, insignificant island. But it was too far to affect the Megami as it sailed lazily towards Orb.

Somewhere, out there, he thought, Kira's fighting.

He remembered his old friend, apparently now his bitter enemy, on the cherry-red surface of Junius 7 as it plunged through the Earth's atmosphere. The Freedom Gundam stood above him, beam saber drawn and pointed at him; Kira screamed accusations at him.

He shook his head. Had he really killed that girl, Fllay Allster? He couldn't have; he could see it all clearly in his head. He watched himself line up to fire at Rau Le Creuset's Providence Gundam, he opened fireand Rau skirted aside, letting the shot plow into a tiny escape shuttle. And one explosion later, Fllay Allster was dead, and Kira once again was after Athrun's blood.

But hadn't they moved past that? They had both fought to the death in the Marshall Islands, where Athrun had launched to have revenge for Nicol's death. In the heat of battle, he smashed a fighter and killed one of Kira's friends, and in their mutual bloodlust, Athrun sacrificed the Aegis to finally kill Kira. And it had failed somehow Kira had survived the point-blank self-destruction of a mobile suit. Somehow Athrun had survived too. Neither of them could die that day they had been saved, somehow, for a special purpose. And Lacus Clyne brought them together for that purpose, to stand in defense of Orband when that failed, to join Lacus in trying to end the war. They had fought, they had battled, they had believedand in the end, it had all gone back to the way it was that one day in the Marshall Islands. They had been friends, but now they were enemies. Kira had spent two years alive, in the clutches of ZAFT, his strings held tight by Rau Le Creuset. Now he was ZAFT's tool; now he was Rau's tool. Now Kira Yamato, as Athrun and Lacus and Cagalli knew him, was gone.

Athrun looked ahead, in the direction the Megami was sailing. Orb was in that direction; it was a speck of darkness on the horizon, but it was there. There they would fight against the Seirans, the wicked rulers that had turned Orb from a paradisiacal haven into a base player in the dirty games of international politics. They would be overthrown, Cagalli would take over, Cagalli would return things back to the way they were, and Orb would once again be a haven. It would be a place where they didn't have to fight, where they didn't have to kill each other's friends, where evil mask-wearing lunatics couldn't ruin friendships for personal amusement. It would be a place where they could be safe; a world they wouldn't have to protect.

It was what Kira would have wanted.

Athrun clenched his fists. Kira Yamato was dead now; that was what he had to think. Kira was deadand so Athrun was fighting in his memory.

He stood up and headed back inside. Tomorrow would be the day when Kira's work would be finished.

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Dearka Elthman heaved a sigh as he leaned against the wall of the Megami's observation deck, staring at the ocean. Milly stood next to him, silent.

"Well," Dearka said quietly, shrugging, "someone was gonna say it at some point anyways."

"What kind of reason is that?" Milly asked, eyeing him in surprise. He shrugged again.

"We all need a kick in the ass to get us back into the real world," he said, standing up. "I could live without all of Athrun's angst, though."

Milly smiled. "I bet you were the same way when you were younger," she said teasingly. Dearka smirked.

"You don't wanna know how I was when I was younger," he replied. "Besides, I'm not like that now and that's all that counts."

Milly sighed and paused for a moment. "So do you think we'll win tomorrow?" she asked.

Dearka looked back at her and sighed himself. "I'm trying not to think about whether or not we'll win tomorrow," he said. "I'm just going to go out and fight. Like I always do."

Milly looked dourly at him. "So in other words," she said, "you think we'll lose."

Dearka arched an eyebrow at her. "And what do you think?" he asked.

"I think we'll do fine," she said. "We have good pilots, good commanders, good weapons, and the support of the people." She smiled. "You have to count your blessings, not your curses."

Dearka leaned back against the wall. "We'll see," he said quietly.

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Athrun was still on the deck as the sky turned a brilliant shade of pink and the sun dipped below the horizon. He glanced over at the deck door as it opened, and found Lacus Clyne making her way out.

"Athrun," she began, polite but still sounding somewhat surprised. "I thought you were asleep."

Athrun shook his head and looked back out at the pink sky. "I know," he said, "but I can't sleep right now."

"Why is that?" Lacus asked, coming up next to him and putting a hand on the rail.

"I'm still thinking about what we're doing," Athrun said somberly. "I keep thinking back to what happened when Junius 7 fellwhen I met Kira again."

Lacus' face did not change, but her eyes flickered for a moment. Athrun fumbled and tried to spit out a ready-made apology, but Lacus shook her head before he could.

"I suppose everyone is thinking about it," Lacus admitted, looking off towards the sky. "After all, we all thought we had moved on and put his death behind us." She shook her head. "But we mustn't let this unfortunate circumstance stop us from finding our place in the world." She looked back at Athrun. "Kira has lost his way, but he'll find it again, one way or another. It is up to us to create the haven that the path he finds will take him to."

"We're doing this for Kira?" Athrun asked, looking at her in surprise.

"We're doing this for everyone who is like Kira," Lacus answered with a kind smile. "We're doing this for everyone who fights because there is no place where they don't have to; for everyone who fights because they know no other way. We must create a place where there is another way." She turned to face him. "And that is why we need your help, so you can help erect this place where Kira will be healed."

Athrun nodded slowly. "Then we'll fight for Kira," he said.

"Yes," Lacus agreed, and for the first time, Athrun saw tears in her eyes. "For Kira."

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To be continued