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The Lair of Dragonwiles
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After Gundam SEED Destiny, how is the world to be repaired? It will be done, person by person, through the restoration of what has been broken.
Disclaimer: The author does not not own, and does not claim to own, anything copyrighted, trademarked, or otherwise owned by anyone else. The author does not claim to own Gundam SEED, or Gundam SEED Destiny, their characters or events or jokes or concepts or dialogue, despite any usage of the above. All intellectual properties, copyrights, trademarks, and other items are the property of their respective owners.
Replanting the Flowers
Dedicated to Chihiro, who inspired me with the idea for this story.
Chapter 1 - Preparing the Ground
Year 76 of the Cosmic Era - 2 Years After Destiny
Lacus and Cagalli hugged tightly.
"Welcome to Orb, Chairman Clyne, we're very glad you could come," Cagalli told her friend.
"I thank you for this invitation on behalf of the PLANTs and all free people, Chief Representative Attha," Lacus replied.
They disengaged, and talked in low voices while the cameras followed their every move. To Lacus' right, Gen. Kisaka and DaCosta were shaking hands, while on her left, the PLANT Representatives Joule and Ellsman were greeted by Orb's Representative Homura and another Representative.
After the initial exchange of pleasantries, they turned and walked down the broad halls of the palace of Orb. Orb soldiers in dress uniforms stood by the open mahogany doors of the conference room and saluted. Cagalli and the others in her party returned the salute as they entered.
The reporters trailing them, as per security protocol for this sensitive and important visit, waited outside the doors, but just before they were closed, one of them called out, "Chief Representative, any comment on the demonstrations?"
Cagalli wheeled around, a fire in her eye, and the reporter flinched. When Cagalli spoke, her words were passionate but controlled, as she said, "The people of Orb are free to express their opinions. I am disappointed, however, that some of the protestors refuse to acknowledge the common humanity of people whose genes have and have not been enhanced. Many, I'm glad to say, no longer blame people with different genes for the problems all humans face. I ask Blue Cosmos to show us the same patience we show them, and I ask everyone to judge this summit by the results we produce."
She walked inside the room, and the guards closed the doors.
"Sorry about that," Cagalli said to Lacus, sighing as Kisaka helped her into a richly adorned chair. "I hope I haven't blown the PR plan out of the water."
Lacus shook her head. "No apology is necessary. At least the media in Orb is mostly sympathetic nowadays. I faced many hostile questions before my departure from Aprilius One, and fear I will face more when I return."
"Then we should make this last as long as possible," Cagalli jested.
"That would be pleasant," Lacus agreed.
"The groundbreaking meeting of Orb's Chief Representative Cagalli Yula Attha and the PLANTs' Supreme Council Chairman Chairman Lacus Clyne is still in session," the Orb newscaster said on the air. "They'll be joined in two days by the Eurasian Federation's Premier, representing a rare break in the Earth Alliance, as the Atlantic Federation still officially refuses to attend. The negotiations are scheduled to conclude at the end of this week, and will include a wide range of issues, from armaments to trade."
"This is easily Orb's largest diplomatic meeting with the PLANTs since Operation Fury, and the first series of major talks between Orb, the PLANTs, and the Earth Alliance since the fall of Logos."
"The negotiations with the PLANTs have sparked protests by Blue Cosmos," the reporter went on as the footage cut to a sparse gathering holding signs and shouting angrily, "but initial police reports put the crowd much smaller than any recent Blue Cosmos gathering in memory. The extremist group has lost members, financial backing, and public support since Logos' destruction two years ago."
The meeting came to a close after several hours, and Lacus and Cagalli walked down a hall with a smaller entourage than before. Some of the representatives were going to side meetings, others to rest in their quarters or see the sights in the palace vicinity. Cagalli lead Lacus and the rest of their reduced group towards the more private royal quarters of the palace. Cagalli couldn't help but smile at Lacus. Though the Coordinator was as serene as usual, she had turned on the spherical robot Mr. Pink, who had quickly resumed his normal frolicking, and she had picked up her pace slightly. Cagalli couldn't blame her. They both knew who she was going to meet.
"Kira!" Lacus called happily.
Kira broke into a grin as he said, "Lacus."
They ran the short distance into each other's arms, then looked at each other a moment, as though they hadn't seen each other before.
"Your trip back from the PLANTS went well?" Kira asked Lacus.
Lacus nodded. "Yes, and Cagalli has made us all feel quite at home."
"I think we ought to have these meetings more often," Cagalli said, finally getting their attention off of each other. "I don't see enough of all of you."
Kira digested that, then offered, "It will be good to see everyone again. This could be our biggest gathering in years."
They all continued walking down the hall together.
Mr. Pink burbled, "No problem, no problem."
Lacus asked Kira, "I trust that you've also been enjoying the palace?"
"Yes," agreed Kira, "Mother and I walked around the maze garden. It was very lovely. Also, I was making sure that I had the freedom to move appropriately here."
Lacus and Cagalli didn't visibly react to the latter sentence - actually a code phrase that meant Kira had been checking over the Strike Freedom, still one of the most advanced weapons anywhere. If there had been a problem, they would've been informed. Hopefully it would not be needed anytime in the near future, but they had all learned the wisdom of preparation.
Among those preparations were those that Kira and Lacus had made to be apart for some time. Part of the problem of being known to both the Earth Forces and ZAFT as an enemy at various times was that he was just as much a target as Lacus. Compounding matters, if they were seen together too much, her political opponents could make much of it. In order to reduce the danger to either of them, he stayed away from the PLANTS and out of the spotlight. Only when privacy could be arranged were they together. That was one of the many reasons they had looked forward to Cagalli's invitation.
Kira and Lacus and Cagalli walked down the corridor further, the whole group chatting and laughing amiably. They arrived at Cagalli's private quarters and continued the conversation in comfortable chairs, until there was a knock at the door which Kisaka answered.
Mu LaFlaga said to them all, "It's good to see you all. My wife sent me, and her apologies. There's still a few things to look into back at the ship."
Cagalli leaned forward, asking, "Is anything wrong?"
Mu waved her off kindly, "Nothing to worry about. Murrue just had to see to a few last-minute details. Even after our discharge into unofficialdom, there's a surprisingly large amount of administrative work to do." Then he added mischievously, "Well, maybe you wouldn't be surprised, Cagalli, but I bet the kid would."
"Why me?" Kira laughed. Mu shrugged.
There was a large formal gala that evening. Cagalli had given a few reporters access in exchange for forbidding cameras, so that Kira and the Archangel crew would be able to mingle with some degree of freedom.
Kira caught side of a familiar blonde man in a ZAFT dress uniform heading his way. "Dearka, what are you doing here?" Kira asked, happy but somewhat surprised to see him.
"Oh, the usual," Dearka said with his sardonic grin. "Yzak's mom brought him, and Yzak brought me."
Mu had approached with Murrue on his arm, and now Mu put in, "I see, and you don't think your mother, kid, might've had anything to do with it?"
"You may be right, pops," Dearka allowed, as he took a sip of his drink with a twinkle in his eye. Mu rolled his own eyes at the mention of his least favorite nickname. Before he could protest, Dearka went on to say, "Ms. Murrue, you're looking lovely tonight. I hope that the old man is treating you well?"
Murrue Ramius shook her head. "Thank you. And we're having the time of our lives. Probably we should be letting the young people get back to theirs." She directed this last part at Mu.
"Or maybe we should be showing the young folks how we do dancing in the Atlantic Fed'," Mu suggested. "Later, kids. Don't stay up past your bedtime," was his parting shot.
Kira turned back to face Dearka. Though Kira was glad to see him, he'd only meant to get a quick refill for Lacus' beverage before the next dance, in which he hoped they'd be participating. He hoped this conversation wouldn't interfere.
Dearka asked, with an overly casual front, "So, you wouldn't happen to have heard from Miriallia lately, would you?"
Now the conversation felt even more awkward for Kira. He and Murrue and Cagalli had tried to get in touch with her, as they had hoped to get as many of the surviving members of the Three Ships Alliance together as covertly as possible, to talk about old times and generally enjoy the fruits of the peace they'd helped forge. Unfortunately, they'd gotten a formal apology from Miriallia, in which she explained she would be on a photo shoot in the Amazon for some time. She had said nothing, but Kira couldn't help but suspect that she wanted to avoid even the possibility of meeting Dearka.
He told this to Dearka, sans suspicions, in as upbeat a manner as he could, though he felt it didn't come off quite right. From Dearka's resigned expression, Kira gathered he had already had the same suspicions. Dearka sighed and asked to confirm what he already knew, "And Athrun isn't here either, huh?"
"Yeah," Kira confirmed with a nod. They'd kept in touch to some extent, and it wasn't as though Athrun could safely travel out of Orb, but with things the way they were between Athrun and Cagalli, some awkwardness in Kira and Athrun's friendship was bound to result. Since Athrun resigned his commission as an admiral in the Orb military, Athrun and Cagalli hadn't spoken, and Athrun and Kira had spoken only infrequently. Athrun had been noncommittal about attending any portion of the events planned.
Dearka shrugged elaborately and said, "Well, what can you do? We'll have to catch up sometime soon, Kira."
"I'm looking forward to it," Kira said sincerely as he returned to Lacus.
Cagalli fidgeted in her seat. She glanced at Kisaka on her right, then at the crowd beyond her table. She pushed her drink about on the table with a finger.
Waltfeld approached their table from behind, then came to stand slightly in front of them. "Good evening, Cagalli, Kisaka," he announced himself.
"Waltfeld, good evening," Kisaka returned.
"You can sit down if you like," Cagalli offered.
"Suppose I will," agreed Waltfeld as he did so.
"How have you been?" Cagalli asked with interest.
"I've been well," Waltfeld agreed. "How have you been?"
Cagalli noted, "Better than I would've expected. It took forever to get all the details for this hammered out, political and logistical. And I'm still not finished with the negotiations." She laughed shortly. "I'm surprised I've relaxed as much as I have tonight."
Waltfeld nodded, and a companionable silence stretched across the table briefly. Flagging down a passing waiter, Waltfeld exchanged some whispered words. Shortly afterwards, Waltfeld had one donel kebab, and a squirt bottle of yogurt sauce. He smiled at Cagalli, "Nice to know I'm being thought of."
"I got those for myself," Cagalli smiled back ferally, "but you can have the yogurt sauce. All of it, in fact."
Waltfeld chuckled as he slathered the yogurt on, and had a few bites. He then mentioned, "I hear they're having some problems over there. In that region of the world."
Cagalli said, "Not nearly as many as they could be having. Not as many as they were having back when armies blew back and forth through the desert like sandstorms." She frowned and finally said with a slight glare, "You know, if anyone had told me back then that I'd be sitting down and eating civilly with the Desert Tiger, I would've said the idea was crazy."
"Same here," Waltfeld said ambiguously, with a sparkle in his eyes. Cagalli shook her head but gave him a rueful grin.
"On a more serious note, though," Cagalli told him shortly thereafter, "I've been a little worried about your situation." Waltfeld looked inquisitively at her, and she went on, "Well, I guess I mean what we can do about your situation. I don't want you to feel trapped here, in Orb. It's one thing if you want to be here. I simply wasn't sure that was what you wanted. It seemed to me like there's a chance that you could return to the PLANTs. You could be part of Lacus' staff, or you could remain in retirement like you have."
Waltfeld sipped his drink and said thoughtfully, "I don't know, though, that the PLANTs will be ready for my return. At least not in my lifetime," he joked. "I haven't gotten any death threats lately, but maybe Patrick Zala's faction is trying to lull me into complacency. Even leaving them aside, it is still hard to welcome a traitor back. And the rest of the world, well, the one good thing those anti-Coordinator immigration laws do is tell everyone how much trouble a Coordinator would get in any nation besides Orb."
Cagalli had obtained her own donel kebab by now, as well as chili sauce, and bit into it with an unhappy expression. "I didn't think of it like that," she said after chewing.
"I'm happy enough here," Waltfeld told her. "And with the princess of Orb so solicitous towards me, I haven't got many concerns."
DaCosta approached the table and hailed them, raising the mood of the table. Unfortunately, at just that moment, an aide came to Cagalli's elbow and whispered something. Cagalli whispered back, then turned to the table with a sigh. "The Atlantic Federation is on the phone again. Don't wait for me."
Kisaka made to get up, but Cagalli waved him down, "This is your night off, Kisaka. That's an order." Without further ado, she went off with the aide and several guards.
"She's worried about me?" Waltfeld said with surprised sadness after DaCosta had taken a seat beside him. "Kisaka," he turned to the man, "has she enjoyed herself at all this evening?"
Kisaka hesitated, then said, "She's at least enjoyed being away from her work. She mingled at the start, when she sensed I wanted her to. Then she sat down here where you found us. Just being away from her work for a time is helping her. She'd say that what bothers her most right now is that we think she isn't enjoying herself."
Waltfeld sighed. "What is wrong with Athrun?"
Kisaka said sadly, "I actually has some sympathy with his position. Of course, also with Cagalli's position as well," he added, for the sake of the DaCosta's scandalized, and Waltfeld's unexpectedly amused, expressions.
"Some sympathy with Athrun's position?" DaCosta said in amazement. "You're Cagalli's officer, aren't you?"
Waltfeld chuckled, "Come on, DaCosta, imagine if, after you had gotten engaged, the woman you loved had gone and married someone else."
"I have thought of that before, of course, and I guess I should try to see it his way," DaCosta agreed with some reluctance. "Kisaka, it just seemed so odd that you'd have any sympathy for Athrun."
Kisaka leaned back in his chair and admitted, "It's hard to see two young people with such promising futures drift aimlessly. Especially after everything we went through together."
Waltfeld concurred, "Yes, Kisaka, you're right. An unenviable position for them both."
DaCosta nodded, and the three of them looked at the evening sky.
Later that evening, Lacus said to Kira, "Shinn and Lunamaria were in excellent form this evening."
"I'll say. I don't think I've ever seen footwork quite like that," Kira agreed.
Lacus looked at someone over Kira's shoulder. "Sai Argyle, good evening," she greeted him.
Kira turned around eagerly and stood up, taking Sai's hand. "Sai, it's so good to see you!" Kira enthused. Lacus rose as well to stand at Kira's side.
"Kira, Lacus, I'm glad to see you both, too, but we only just saw each other last month, at Kuzzey's wedding!" Sai smiled at them.
"But, it seems like it was so long!" Kira insisted.
Sai chuckled and told them, "I was just going to say it seemed like the time flew."
"I take it you're still at Morgenroete?" Lacus asked.
Sai nodded, "I'm working under Erica Simmons now. It's excellent work - I think we've got some big prospects ahead of us. Speaking of which, there was something I wanted to tell everyone. I hope you all don't mind my taking advantage of this gathering - I know there's lots of important affairs of state and all, but it seemed like an excellent time."
"You've got my curiosity piqued now," Kira told him, "go ahead."
"I got engaged," Sai beamed.
Kira blinked as Lacus said, "That's wonderful." Then Kira added, "Yeah, that's great - congratulations, Sai!"
"Thanks, I really appreciate it, both of you," Sai said, looking them both in the eye. He extended his hand to Kira, and they firmly shook.
Lacus inquired, "Will we be able to meet your fiancee?"
"Unfortunately she had to be somewhere else this evening, but she'll be able to fly in tomorrow," Sai went on, joy pouring out of him. "I know she'll get along well with everyone."
Kira shook his head. "I didn't even realize you were dating anyone. We will all be very interested to meet her."
"I know, I know, I've been busy with so many things, her being one of them," Sai laughed. "Now that I got a few days off at last, I'm finally getting a chance to tell everyone."
At that moment, Mu and Murrue joined the group, intrigued, and soon were congratulating Sai on the news as well. The Archangel crew at the gala started to flock around him, and they all talked and laughed together.
Kira noticed that Lacus seemed a bit tired. "Shall I walk you back to your room?" he asked.
"I had intended to speak more to Kuzzey and his wife this evening," Lacus said.
"Let's do that, then," Kira said, and they headed over towards the couple.