Qui Vive (English Meaning: Watchful)
A/N: I thank Moop-chan for beta-ing this.
Warning: Alternate Universe. Athrun x Kira.
Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam SEED.
The red kettle on the stove whistled frantically as the water vapors rose rapidly into the air. With swift decisive movements, the young blue-haired man closed off the electricity feeding the appliance and removed the kettle. The steaming water poured easily into the blue spotted white ceramic cup and the tealeaves unfurled, floating on the top. The Asian man inhaled the aroma deeply, his hands cupped gently around the ornate demitasse and he carefully made his way towards the living room whilst watching the hot liquid, now changing into a faint green, slosh dramatically against it's container.
Setting down the cup on to the circular coaster, he sunk deep into the cream sofa and curled up his legs underneath him. A comfortable sigh echoed in the small room and Athrun reached upwards with his arm to flick on the reading lamp. The tea steamed out visible water vapors; it was flickering in a whip-like fashion but still retaining an eloquence of a snake, and it rose into the pale pink lampshade. The blue-haired man took the thick book off the mahogany table beside him, flipping it to the flower-pressed bookmark. He stared at the dried violet, touching the fragile petals, as the small smile indicated the drifting of his mind…A humid summer evening…in the park with three others…delicate hands grasping the stem…the dreamy smile that lifted on his face as he sniffed the lilac flower…amethyst met emerald…the flower…he took the flower offered to him and he felt the surge of warmth enclose his mind… a peaceful, exuberant smile directed solely on him…
He exhaled a breath he unknowingly held and fused this prized memory within the violet flower. With care, he placed it upon the same surface the teacup sat and stared blankly at the page lined with text that was sitting open on his lap. Even books held the vague memories of a day long lost in time...
"Athrun," he said as he sat on the stony steps of the college institute.
He inclined his head in acknowledgement and sat down beside Kira. "Hey, how did your first class go?"
Athrun watched Kira shrug who was trying his best not to let his evident distress show, and he brought out a thick book from his bag, passing it to the blue-haired youth. "It was, to say the very least, an utter horror for me. I didn't understand a single thing the teacher was lecturing us about…" Amused, he observed Kira bury his face into his hands and he took a glance at the title of the book: Mechanical Manipulation.
"You took M.M.?" He tried to speak lightly as to obscure his surprise, but it didn't work.
Kira nodded despondently, placing a tired hand over his forehead. "I'm going to fail this class…"
He smiled kindly at the boy, passing the book back to him. "I'm sure you won't. You always tend to over exaggerate things anyway."
"I do not!" He tried to hold back a chuckle as Kira glared at him half-heartedly. "…Unless I do something about this, I won't make it through this semester." Athrun's eyes widened considerably when Kira leaned in, "Of course you wouldn't let that happen, right?"
Nodding, Kira agreed with his semi-question statement, a grin flitting across his face, "You can tutor me. You already took this course after all."
He noted the hopeful expression that dawned on his face while observing the curved angles of his cheeks, the eyes glittering and waiting impatiently for a response. He started, "Well…I can…"
"Great!" Kira tackled him in an uncivilized manner and gave him a hug before letting go. "My grades are in your hands Athrun…but I trust you…"
"…I trust you…"
His pale fingers wrapped themselves around the cooling, fired-clay cup, taking a sip of the contents. He relished the green tea flavor that burst into his mouth, causing the same, but enjoyed, sensations that caress his taste buds lovingly. He placed the cup down, the tingling not leaving his mind as he gazed at the words, stringing them into sentences, and he read out a line from the book:
'…to love and to have lost is better than to not have loved at all…'
A wry smile formed and the unbidden musing floated in his mind's eye, "Is it really better? Obviously the person who wrote this phrase has never truly lost before, where their love is there but unreachable…they have never experienced a time when all they could think about was their missing lover…"
He murmured quietly under his breath, "But I will wait…I am a patient person…"
His fingers flicked towards the next page, the edges of the paper yellowed and frayed from wear. He paused yet again; rubbing the thin pages with care, remembering how much Kira had loved to quote to him from this very novel…
"I'm trying…" came the upset, but with a bordering, underlying humored, reply. "But it's rather hard catching a dozen budgies with your hands."
He threw his arms upwards, hectic, "My kitchen!" He watched in horror as the birds rid themselves of their uric acid.
Kira smiled, patting Athrun on his back, "Well, as Fenrir would have said to Er-"
A loud knock followed by several urgent raps on his door jolted him awake from his reverie. He was quite annoyed and affronted by the noise that disturbed his peace, but a certain degree of curiosity bloomed at the back of his mind. "Who would come by so late?" He instinctively checked the clock on the wall, reading the numbers to 9:45 PM.
He rose up from his warm seat, sighing quietly in his mind, and walked towards his front door. His hand paused on the lock, a sudden gripe catching his heart and he burrowed his eyebrows. Nonetheless, Athrun shook off the heavy feeling, a feeling of foreboding, and turned the lock open. His pale hand twisted the golden knob and he pulled back, the door widening its mouth and he glanced outside the doorstep.
There was no one waiting for him on the other side.
Frustrated, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath in. He should've expected that. For nearly a month now, there were pranks flying around the whole community he lived in and he was one of the many unlucky targets.
But he had hoped he was wrong and it had been the one person he was waiting for.
His hand easily slipped around the knob once again and edged the door shut, but he was stalled. As the door nearly closed, something blocked it and a hand immediately shot through the crack that was left open, resting on top of his wrist.
"…wait…" Athrun heard a hoarse, muffled whisper and he stared down at the hand, maimed by many cuts and scratches that were inexpertly healed.
"I-" Athrun hesitated. He felt his heart tug uncertainly and he formed the only word in his mind, "…Kira…?"
The hand around his wrist tightened and slowly, the door was pushed back on the other side, revealing the short shadow of a person. A young man, his clothes sodden with dried blood, stared quietly at him, his face marred by cuts and bruises above the papery white skin. Athrun felt his breath catch in his throat, trying his best to discern what had happened to the man in front of him. He reached forwards, unwilling to see the flinch in the other's eyes, and touched his cheek, tracing a cut that still oozed drops of blood.
"What…happened? Kira-!" He gazed at the other urgently.
Kira withheld his stare and spoke meanderingly, "It has been awhile, hasn't it?"
"Yes, a year. You were gone for a year!" responded Athrun shrilly. "But Kira – answer me. Where were you? Why didn't you…? Kira! What happened-?" From utter exigency, he took the shorter man in a breathtaking hold, his skinnier frame molding perfectly within his hug, just like he recalled it to be.
But this Kira tugged away from his grip gently, and with his voice trailing a fine line, he spoke, "May I…come in?"
"Yes, of course," spoke Athrun absentmindedly, disturbed by the lack of response, and he steered away from the entrance, giving the other more room. He promptly closed the door after the two of them.
"Just like…I remembered it…" muttered Kira when he observed the hallway.
Athrun continued to stare at his broken face, noting that he was trying to give a tiny grin but his muscles were too tense. He wasn't able to smile. But he quickly blinked away and trying to respond, he voiced his thoughts, "I like to keep it like that."
Athrun continued to glance at the not-so-illusion of Kira. The terrible feeling hadn't left him yet and seeing Kira didn't make him feel any happier, only more despair when he found that there was no crying affection for him. Kira fiddled slightly in the silence before breaking it, "I should go."
"No! I mean-" Flustered, Athrun pointed in the direction of the living room. "Please, go sit down. I'll get you a cup of tea." It felt bizarre and empty to treat your lover like a stranger.
He seemed to be having an internal struggle with himself before nodding obediently. Athrun watched Kira stalk off towards the living room, failing to notice the tired, limping gait.
His hand shook faintly, whether from anxiety or joy, he didn't know, and he offered the cup towards him. He watched as Kira thanked him quietly and took a small draught from the cup, and something inside stirred. He was afraid that Kira had left, without telling him again, while he was busy in the kitchen trying to calm his nerves after the shock.
"Kira…How have you been?"
The man twisted the cup in his hands, and he watched as his face showed the expression of slight contemplation, "…Aren't you going to sit down?"
Athrun didn't take kindly to the diversion but complied with the question by sitting across from him. Sitting rigidly against the sofa, he tapped his index finger against his knee and started again, "How have you been?"
There was a faint longing on the other's face, and a grim, humored, reply was made, "There's no way in deterring you from asking me questions, is there? But…it was to be expected I suppose…" His eyes focused onto Athrun, a sincere answer forming on his lips, "I am now as well as I could not have been. As you can see for yourself…"
He allowed himself to steal glances at the battered body, assessing the damage in his mind. The drop of blood that was resting on Kira's chin curved into the shape of a tear drop just before it fell onto the back of his hand. "How injured…are you? Does it hurt?" wavered his voice.
Kira bore a stare at him, eyes unblinking, and in an almost cold, but controlled, voice, spoke, "I don't know how injured I am. And pain? It's noth-" He winced and clutched his side lightly, all pretense of lying forgotten. "…the pain is still there."
The host started, "Why are we still sitting here? We should get you to the nearest hospital!"
"Athrun," he growled uncharacteristically. "If you force me to go there, I'm leaving right now."
"I'm going to be fine," interrupted Kira gently, but it didn't ease Athrun's worries.
A frown marked his face but he didn't try to contradict him. Instead, he asked another question, "…why did you go?"
"Ahh…I can't tell you that," murmured the brown-haired man softly. "But I am…sorry."
"You didn't say anything, Kira. You disappeared…and-" Athrun paused, looking up imploringly at the other, "Why can't you tell me? Is it because…those wounds. This probably has to do something with your injur-"
But it seemed as if Kira wasn't listening to him as he continued talking, "I didn't say good bye because I knew that I would come back…but now…I wasn't sure…not anymore."
"But it's alright, Kira," soothed Athrun, after the dawning moment of realization smacked him across the face; he knew why he came back. He got up from his seat to kneel in front of him, peering up at the darkened face while clutching onto the scarred hands, "I was waiting. I was always waiting for your return…"
"What if I wasn't…going to?" A sigh escaped between parted lips and Kira returned a squeeze, "I wasn't strong enough. I wanted to at least part on good terms with you…"
The words echoed in his mind: I wasn't strong enough. Athrun knew that Kira was once dancing close to death but he had pulled through so that he could at least part on good terms with him. He traced the scar tissue with his thumb, "Kira…you're so silly sometimes."
Kira made a noise which Athrun identified between an annoyed grunt and dignified rumble. "What do you mean?"
He stared up, his jade eyes tearing slightly, "You should know that I would wait for you no matter what happened. I had faith in you."
"…and that's a reason enough for me to come back and tell you to stop." Kira sunk deeper into the chair. "You nearly had to wait for eternity."
Athrun shook his head, "I wouldn't have cared."
"But your happiness-"
"-is filled to the brim by just knowing that you were concerned enough to come back here," he finished. "Stay, don't go."
"I have to." Kira didn't elaborate and he didn't press for more.
"…" Athrun leaned upwards, planting a soft kiss on his cracked lips, tasting the blood and the subtle hints of tea. The familiar craving that was thought to have died during the long year roared back to life but he subdued it by pulling away.
Kira gazed blankly ahead. The kiss had elicited nothing visible from him and he spoke in a small whisper, "I wish I hadn't come…"
"But you did."
The other responded mechanically, his eyes darting on Athrun's smooth face, "Yes, I did."
"…" The two observed each other in silence and Kira averted his gaze away first. He got up carefully, leaning his hand on the armrest to pick himself up. Athrun followed suit, letting go of Kira's hand.
"I have to go, Athrun."
"But you just-"
"-came back?" finished the other. "I shouldn't even have been here in the first place. I've stayed too long. I've overstayed my visit."
Emerald eyes gazed at the shorter man, "You can never overstay a visit…You-" He swallowed. "-belong here."
Kira looked up, the diminished violet reminding Athrun of the flower-pressed bookmark in his novel, "Yes, I probably do."
He walked towards the door and Athrun saw just how frail Kira had become. Regarding him for one last time, Kira spoke, "Good bye."
"I can't tell you what happened." He turned away, gripping the doorknob firmly. "…Not yet. But…if I'm finished, I'll come back. I promise."
"…and I'll wait…"
The door flung open and he stepped outside into the brisk air. Athrun watched as his shadowed form disappear into the night. He closed his eyes in agony…
…where all that is right, much like his violet flower, was lost from the world…where the only sound he would hear is the silent, faraway scream of the knife that pierces through his heart.
Outside, Kira saw the flash of a silver dagger-