Pairing: Kira Yamato x Athrun Zala (switchable)
Archive: www.boysdorm.info/home.html , punkakauntan(at)livejournal
Feedback: Much appreciated as always, either here or email me at punkakauntan(at)gmail(dot)com.

Disclaimer: Gundam SEED / Gundam SEED DESTINY belongs to Sunrise, Bandai and Sotsu. No trademark infringement intended and no money made from this fanfic.

Author's Notes: Genre - Bildungsroman. Generally defined as the story of a single individual's growth and development within the context of a defined social order. The growth process, at its roots a quest story, has been described as both "an apprenticeship to life" and a "search for meaningful existence within society."

This wraps up the main story of Between Friends. I started this story back in July 2004, long before GSD started its run. The writing experience had been both educational and enjoyable. Needless to say your feedbacks really helped me to improve a lot. Almost all the chapters were self-edited; my apologies if there were any mistakes and/or grammatical errors that may have spoiled your reading enjoyment. Thank you for reading Between Friends and sharing my love for AsuKira. Cheers!


Between Friends ◊
Epilogue

The twinkle of thousands of tiny lights that formed the orderly lines of streetlights and buildings in Orb's capital city never ceased to fascinate Kira. He had lost track of time as he leaned against the railings of the hotel's balcony. Set on a buff overlooking the ocean and the lesser islands beyond, it gave him a clear view of the cityscape across the bay.

It had been five years since they last set foot on the homeland and they were back on Cagalli's invitation. She had spared no expenses and had put them up in a suite in the capital city's poshest hotel.

"This place is pretty impressive and brand new too," Athrun wandered up behind him, a mug of coffee in hand. "Want some?"

Kira nodded and took a sip. The coffee was tepid and far too sweet. He made a face.

"Still tastes horrid, huh?"

Chuckling softly, Kira said: "Right." No matter how hard Athrun tried, cookery just wasn't his forte. Kira would have gladly given him an A-plus for effort, but the results were often something totally unexpected. It became their private joke -- anything that Athrun whipped up was called generically as "Athrun's Surprise". Nevertheless, it never did deter him from trying, and Kira was glad of that. Athrun's determination was a reflection of his willpower in making their relationship work.

In the five years since they made their relationship known to his mother, only a handful of close friends had been let into the secret. Some were initially dumbstruck, while others chuckled and ribbed them good-naturedly for finally finding the courage to come clean.

Despite what happened, they maintained regular contact with Mrs Yamato, and she in turn with them, never once forgetting their birthdays, although the subject of their relationship was never brought up for discussion. Kira regarded this as something positive; he knew Caridad had a soft spot for Athrun since he was a child back on Copernicus. Perhaps there was still hope for a reconciliation.

"So, what time do we have to leave?" Athrun asked, stretching out his hand over the railings. Torii swooped out of the skies and settled itself on his palm.

"Latest by eight-thirty."

Glancing at his watch, Athrun asked innocently: "Game for a quick cuddle?"

Kira rolled his eyes and snickered. 'Cuddle' was their private code for an invitation to make love. Early on in their relationship they had been going at it like a couple of don't-know-what in constant heat. Surprisingly, as their relationship matured their desire for each other grew even stronger. They became totally in tune with each other and knew instinctively when to take or relinquish the lead.

"Not unless you want to walk funny at the dinner reception."

"Come on," Athrun egged him on. "Endorphin's good for you. Look at you, all tensed up from this morning. You need to relax so that you don't screw up your little speech. You're giving one, right, as brother of the bride?"

"Athrun," Kira said solemnly. "Even if I am, nobody will pay attention anyway. They'll be too busy freeloading on the drinks and food."

He peered over the balustrade and watched the traffic trickling through the main entrance of the hotel. Guests have started arriving. Six months ago Cagalli had contacted him, telling him of her intention to get married and asked for his permission to do so. He was dumbstruck -- not so much by the thought of her settling down, but by her simple act of asking for his blessing.

"You asking me?" He had asked her incredulously over the long distance vidphone.

"You're my blood relation," Cagalli answered grumpily. "and your approval is important to me."

"I don't even know the guy!"

"Just say yes then."

"Then why bother asking? You've made up you mind."

"Told you. You're still my brother although you are rather dumb sometimes."

"Cagalli, insults will get you nowhere." Cagalli scowled at him for a second, then looked at him pleadingly. Kira gave in. "Alright, if you're sure he's the one for you."

"Well, unlike you, not everyone is blessed with a soulmate. He may not be Mr Perfect, but he's perfect for me." She answered tartly.

Something dawned upon him, and he spluttered: "He lets you control him!" To which she had shot him an innocent 'who me?' look and he knew he had hit the nail on the head. "Uh, good luck to you both then."

And the reason they were back on Orb was because she had insisted that as her brother he had the duty to give her away. The nuptial service had been a private ceremony, with a few very close friends in attendance. Kira was relieved when it was over. The evening reception on the other hand was going to be a full blown, very formal affair with more than a thousand guests attending. It gave him the willies just thinking about it, although Athrun seemed relatively unconcerned or better at hiding his anxiety.

"Where are we supposed to be seated?" Athrun called out. Kira turned to see him sprawling indecently on the sofa, studying the reception hall seating layout with a bored expression. He stepped into the room, drawing the curtains before strolling casually towards Athrun.

"Main table with the bride and groom and the rest of the VVIPs."

"Huh?" Athrun sat up with a jerk. "You can't be serious! With all those blustery fogeys and their insipid wives?"

"Fogeys or otherwise, they are important allies of hers." Kira pointed out.

"Still! I hate politicians, and I can't stand their wives. They are boring, incredibly nosey and so full for themselves." Athrun tossed the layout on the floor and folded his arms. "Why can't we sit elsewhere?"

"Because I'm family. And Cagalli insisted we sit with her."

"Find an excuse. Make one up of you have to." Athrun demanded petulantly.

Kira scratched his head. "I don't get you. It's not like you have to entertain them or anything. This is important to her, can't you see? She'd even gone through the trouble to suit us up." He waved a hand towards their matching tailcoats.

"No, Kira. It's you who can't see." Athrun got off the sofa and grabbed him by the shoulders. Kira puzzled at him. Athrun chewed his bottom lip, and said: "You have a legitimate right to be there as her brother. But what about me? How do you explain my presence?"

It took a while for the point to sink in. "Oh dear."

"Oh dear? Oh dear?" Athrun rolled his eyes, as if talking to a particularly dim-witted child. "Is that all you can say?"

"Oops?"

Athrun dropped his hands, staggered towards the bed, spun face down and groaned. Kira sat on the foot of the bed and clasped his hands loosely on his lap. He gazed sideways at Athrun. "Kira, you can be very dim sometimes. Those nosey parkers will want to know how I'm related to the bride." Athrun's complained, his voice muffled by the duvet. "What am I supposed to say?"

"Stop being so pessimistic. They might not even ask anything."

Athrun rolled on his back, poked him in the ribs, saying: "What if they did? Should I tell them the truth and see if the shock finishes them off?" He scrambled to his knees, gave a slight bow and said in a mock serious voice, "'Hello, I'm the brother-in-law of the bride. Her twin brother's my common law spouse.' I'm sure that will go down famously."

"Great, now you got me worried for nothing." Kira shot him a withering look and got up in a huff. Athrun, not willing to let the matter go made a grab for his waist and pulled him down.

"Aunty Caridad and the rest of our old buddies, will they be there too?"

"I believe so."

"Listen. It's one thing for us to arrive together, or to sit together at any of the guest tables," Athrun said, as he played absently with the corner of the duvet cover. "-- but to sit at the Main Table ... you know how the seating arrangement in these kind of formal function goes, right?" Kira shook his head, his curiosity rising. "They usually seat couples together and alternate the gender, so it'll be husband-wife-husband-wife. Guess what happens next?"

Kira felt slightly ill. The thought of being put on display as a couple at Orb's high profile wedding of the year made his stomach turn. His face paled. "I see your point ... but surely if we go in earlier we can grab any seat we want at the table."

"Hmph, they probably have those fancy name cards at each setting. Especially at the VVIP table, they can't risk having fogeys who don't get along to sit next to each other. It might spark an incident."

Realising that they were caught in an awkward situation, Kira gazed at Athrun helplessly. "But I can't bail out. Cagalli will be furious!" He looked around desperately. "What about Lacus? Can one of us swap places with her?"

Athrun ran a hand through his thick shock of hair. "I don't know where she'll be seated."

"Arrrrrgh. Call her, now!"

"What's up? Why aren't you two dressed yet?" Lacus asked a few minutes later as Kira let her in. "Why the long faces? Did someone die?"

"Lacus, we have a problem." Kira said glumly.

"Really?" Lacus tilted her head to one side and listened with rapt attention as they quickly filled her in on the worst case scenario. "So you want me to swap places with one of you?" she asked.

"Please. We can't think of anyone else"

Lacus gazed at the mini chandelier set in the entrance hallway, as if mesmerized by the light reflecting off its many facets, and tapped her chin thoughtfully. "I can't help you out this time. I've got a date. A political date, you understand ... and I can't just dump him on a whim. It won't be appropriate." She looked at them apologetically. "I got to go and get my hair done. I'm sure things will be fine. Now, cheer up. You're going upset Cagalli if you turn up looking like a pair of pall bearers."

As she turned and left the room, it occurred to Kira that the time had arrived for them to quit relying on her whenever they were caught in a jam. He closed the door behind her as softly as he could. He turned to see Athrun studying him quietly.

"I guess we better get ready now," he said, giving Athrun what he hoped was a confident smile.

"Yeah." Athrun reached out, brushed his hand against his cheek, but his fingers were quite cold. "Maybe there's nothing to worry about," he said. Kira nodded, hoping that their fear was unfounded.


The walk to the Grand Ballroom seemed to take forever. The foyer, where the pre-dinner drinks were served was packed with guests dressed to the nines. For Athrun, who hated being in a crowded place, the experience was claustrophobic. Waiters, their trays laden with pre-dinner drinks and aperitifs moved discreetly amongst the guests. The smell of cigars and perfumes combined to form a noxious cocktail, and he was dying for a breath of fresh air. He grabbed a drink at random and swallowed it down in three gulps. The alcohol burned his throat and he coughed.

"Slow down." Kira warned under his breath. Athrun smiled apologetically as Kira steered him to a less crowded area. They watched as photo journalists worked through the crowd, snapping away for the local society pages. Nearby, a group of bejewelled and bedecked middle aged women was preening for the cameras. "There's your insipid political wives." Kira chuckled, jerking his thumb towards them.

Anxiety temporarily forgotten, Athrun snickered, "Someone should send for the Fashion Police. What on earth are they wearing?"

Kira shrugged, dazzled by the gaudiness. "Get a load of that woman with the purple hair. Her hairdo's so huge it deserves a postcode of its own."

"Kira!" Athrun doubled with laughter. Kira joined him.

"Hey, stop bitching, boys. They can't avoid their nature." A familiar voice from the past interrupted them. Athrun looked up to see the zoom lens of a serious looking camera pointing at their faces. "Mind if I take a picture of you two?"

"Miriallia! What are you doing here?" Kira and Athrun exclaimed in unison.

"Wow, you even talk in sync," she said, clearly impressed. "Oh, I'm covering this wedding for the local society magazine. So, do you mind posing for me?" She peered at the little screen on her camera. "Can you get closer together? That's great!"

Still half-blinded by the flash, it suddenly occurred to Kira to ask: "Have you seen the rest of the old gang?"

"They're over there." She pointed towards the area close to the elevators. "I'll catch up with you later. See you."

As they watched her disappear through the crowd, camera clicking away, Kira nudged Athrun gently. "Let's go say hello." Athrun protested weakly but allowed Kira to steer him nonetheless.

Coming in contact with the old familiar faces, and their mild amazement at seeing them together caused his anxiety to return with a vengeance. Kira seemed to be at ease; perhaps because he was better acquainted with them than he was. He hung back, clutching his empty drink and feeling jittery.

"Hello, Athrun." A soft voice said by his ear. He turned to see Caridad smiling at him.

"Aunty," he managed to croak weakly. After what happened five years ago, the last thing he expected was for her to greet him with gentility. At a loss of what to say, he gabbled, "Kira's over there. I'll go fetch him."

She must have sensed his nervousness, and her eyes softened. "It's okay. I'll talk to him later. Will you accompany me for a bit? I'm not good with big crowds." He followed her obediently through the impressive glass doors which led to the open air terrace. A cool breeze tugged at her shawl, and she drew it tighter around her shoulders. Athrun gazed at her expectantly. "How are you? Are you keeping well?" she asked, breaking the silence.

Athrun nodded mutely. He couldn't trust his voice. Caridad studied him a bit longer without a saying a single word. A waiter came up to them, and Athrun quickly helped himself to a drink, anything to keep his hands from shaking. He couldn't help feeling nervous in front of Caridad. It must have shown, because she graced him with one of her gentle smiles.

"I'm happy to know that you two are still together." Calida told him quietly. "Five years ago, when you told me you were a couple, I didn't react too well. I had my reservations. I was afraid that it was just a crazy phase, and it would somehow ruin your friendship." She took a sip from her glass, and continued, "You mean a lot to Kira, and I didn't want him hurt if the relationship didn't work out. You two have been so close together since young and I've come to regard you as my own son. You understand why it was a shock to me when I saw you in the garden?"

Athrun swallowed a lump in his throat and admitted: "Yes, it complicates everything because we're both males. When I told you that I love him, I really mean it, Aunty."

The familiar childhood address of 'aunty' was not lost on Caridad. She gazed at him fondly. "I know. It took me a long time to come to terms with it, but now I'm able to understand it so much better. It's pretty obvious that Kira is very happy from reading his letters. I can tell that you two have a happy and very stable relationship, and that's a rarity nowadays."

A surge of hope rose in Athrun's heart. "Are you saying ..."

Caridad reached out and touched his shoulder. "I couldn't ask for anything more. I trust him into your hands now, just as my sister put her trust in me a long time ago. You promise to take care of him, won't you?"

"Your sister?"

"His mother, Via, was my sister." Athrun's eyes widened. That was news. He stood stock still, digesting the information. His mind was still reeling when he heard Caridad say quietly, "Kira's looking for you."

He looked up to find Kira staring at them in bewilderment. When Kira finally spoke, his voice was shaky. "Mom ... Athrun?"

Athrun turned towards Caridad, and saw her nodding her head briefly. "Go to him," she mouthed silently. He couldn't move, as if he had been riveted to the spot. He couldn't take his eyes off Caridad, or even blink, in case it would break the spell and everything he heard was just a figment of his imagination. Caridad sensed his hesitation and patted his arm reassuringly. "Don't keep him waiting," she said.

As he crossed the short distance towards Kira, the anxiety that had been lurking deep within his heart evaporated. His heart soared with happiness, and it must have shown on his face for Kira was staring at him oddly. He hesitated for a second, then folded Kira in his arms, not caring if people were staring.

"Athrun?" Kira sounded confused.

"Everything is alright, everything is alright." Athrun repeated like a mantra, his eyes moist.

"You mean?" Kira puzzled at him, then looked past his shoulder towards his mother. Caridad was smiling. There wasn't a single trace of the misery or rejection that he had come to associate with their parting five years ago. In its place he saw the understanding and acceptance that they had been searching for all these while.

They hugged each other like long lost lovers newly reunited; and when they looked up again, the terrace was empty. In the background, the opening strains of the wedding march was playing. They listened to its splendour and shared a moment of bliss.

FIN

P.S: Now that it's over, I am free to write hentai yaoi AsuKira (switchable) side stories, nyahaha!

Zeddy a.k.a Punkakauntan © 2007

Published: April 13, 2007