Disclaimer: Gundam SEED characters belongs to Sunrise, Bandai and Sotsu Agency. However, the plot of this story is mine.
Pairing: AsuKira, implied AsuCaga
Genre: Angst, Romance, Shounen-ai
Warning: Kira-Athrun-Cagalli love triangle. May not sit well with AsuCaga fans. I was moved to write this after watching GSD ep45 to 47. This fic departs from the known GSD canon after ep.47. Unconventional character interpretation and it takes place sometime after DESTINY timeline. While feedback is much appreciated, there will be no flames tolerated by the author. If you have nothing nice/encouraging to say, don't say anything at all. It is as simple as that. If the fic theme doesn't float your boat, DON'T READ IT!
◊ Ties That Bind ◊
The persistent buzzing of the hand-phone woke Athrun up from his sleep. He rolled over, eyes barely open, his fingers scrabbling blindly on the side table for the phone. Stifling a yawn, he rubbed sleep from his eyes, and through the open window floated the noise from mid-morning traffic.
"Yes?" he muttered, voice thick with lethargy as he answered the phone. Quietly he listened, not once saying a word. A few minutes later, he hung up with an inscrutable expression etched on his face. He cast a glance at the bedside clock and realized it was just past ten, but he settled back against the pillows and stared unseeingly at the ceiling. There was a movement to his left, and he smiled as a warm hand wrapped itself around his upper arm.
"Anything important?" his companion asked drowsily.
He shook his head. "Nope. Just some family matters."
A short silence ensued. "I see."
"Nothing to worry about. She wants to know where I am."
"She jerks you around." A sullen pause, and then, "How could you stand it?"
"I guess I loved her."
A pregnant silence filled the room.
"I suppose so." A soft resigned sigh.
He rolled onto his side and drew the other towards him. Their limbs automatically wrapped around each other in a mutually possessive embrace.
"We've still got a couple of hours to kill," he said with a wink. "Breakfast or me? Your choice."
"You." The reply was instantaneous.
He chuckled and ruffled his lover's hair adoringly. "Somehow, I know you'd say that."
Everything else faded into the background as their bodies entwined, lost in each other's affection.
Cagalli tapped her foot impatiently as she waited under the shade of a pergola in the park on the outskirts of the city. She glanced at her watch, a frown creasing her brows. Kira was late. Presently, a dark green two-seater came into view, and stopped directly across the street. Kira flashed her an apologetic smile.
"About time," she muttered under her breath. She crossed the street and got in the car with him.
"Been waiting long?" he asked, eyes fixed on the road as he eased the car into the traffic.
She grunted in response, collapsing into the bucket seat.
"So, where do you want to go?" he asked after a while.
"I don't care. Just drive."
They took the long winding coast road, cruising leisurely with the wind whipping their hair. The skies were overcast, with a promise of rain later in the day.
"Stop there," Cagalli said suddenly, pointing towards a grassy verge.
Kira brought the car to a standstill. He turned to look at his twin and couldn't help but notice the way she was fiddling distractedly with the band on her ring finger. Cagalli's head was bowed, her face hidden. Looks like something's not right in Paradise, he thought shrewdly.
"You okay?" he asked, words tinged with concern.
Not replying, she wrenched the door open, went down the slope and wandered towards the water's edge. Kira followed her and they walked side by side without talking. Eventually, she stopped, and gazed towards the horizon.
"We need to talk," Cagalli said, not turning around.
"What about?" asked Kira, stopping alongside her.
Cagalli took a deep breath, and said simply, "Athrun doesn't love me anymore."
Her words were met with a long silence.
"What makes you say that?" Kira said at long last, not looking at her.
"He's changed … he seems so distant nowadays." Cagalli's voice was very quiet.
"What do you mean?" When Cagalli remained quiet, he went on. "Did you two fight?"
Cagalli shook her head. "How could we? We hardly see each other, and when we do, he barely talks to me."
"What happened? I thought the two of you were happy together." He peered at her.
She turned her face away and laughed, a hollow, humourless sound. "Does he look happy when you see him?" she asked instead.
"He looks the same," Kira said. "If he's unhappy, he doesn't show it. Or else, I don't notice."
Cagalli dug at the sand with her toes. "I see."
Do you? He wondered silently.
Cagalli went on. "Maybe it's my fault. I'm far too occupied with my work; we hardly spend any quality time together." Her voice faltered. "Lately, he disappears for days on end, and I have no idea where he is or how to contact him." She walked right up to the water's edge. Slouching a little further forward, she gazed unhappily across the open sea. "Call it intuition … or whatever … but, I think there's someone else."
Kira stared at her. "I'm sorry, I don't get what you mean."
Cagalli wandered off, arms limp by her sides. Kira sprinted after her. He gripped her shoulder, and turned her towards him.
"Cagalli, wait. What are you saying? You're not making any sense."
"Isn't it apparent?"
Kira shook his head, bewildered.
"He's in love. Just not with me."
Kira reeled in shock as the full import of her words sank in. Cagalli looked fragile in the weak afternoon sunlight that filtered through the dark clouds. She looked at him through unhappy eyes.
"That's rubbish. He loves you, and you know it."
Cagalli inclined her head, and smiled wanly. "He's changed, Kira. He's not the man I knew before." She bit her bottom lip, eyes downcast and continued in a whisper, "Seems like he fell out of love, and this time it's for real."
"What do you mean?" Kira had a feeling he was treading on a slippery slope.
"He never really loved me, did he? I never was his real love."
Kira was aghast. His eyes widened fractionally, before quickly narrowing into slits. "How can you say that? I find it hard to believe that he'd asked you to marry him out of friendship or kindness. Athrun's not like that."
"Pathetic, is it?"
"What if," Cagalli continued in a hushed whisper, "what if he did it because I'm your sister … and he didn't want to risk his friendship with you if he was to break off our relationship?"
"Cagalli, that's just plain stupid." Kira admonished. "Don't ever think that way."
Cagalli offered him a watery smile and brushed his cheek gently. Kira hesitated briefly, and then hugged her tightly. She pressed against his chest, laid her head on his shoulder. They remained entwined for a long moment.
"What do you expect me to do?" Kira asked resignedly.
"Talk to him. Ask him if he's seeing another woman. Ask him … ask him …" she trailed off, her face reddening.
Cagalli said in a rush, "Ask him why he kept his chronic impotency a secret from me."
"Wh-what?" Kira drew back, appalled. "He'll kill me!"
"He's your best friend!" Cagalli grabbed his wrist, her nails digging into his skin.
Kira shook his head. "He's your husband. You talk to him."
Cagalli shook his hand off and folded her arms. "Some brother you are," she sniffed, not backing down. "I should have known you'd side with him."
"That's not true," Kira said indignantly. "I love you, but I can't do that."
"Ask him for me."
Kira remained resolute. "That's too personal. He'll get mad at me."
Cagalli's lips disappeared into a thin line. "Since when did he ever get mad at you?"
Kira couldn't answer. That was true; no matter how many times he and Athrun disagreed – even to the point of trying to kill each other – all was forgiven and forgotten within seconds of them reconciling. But deep inside he knew there was a limit to everything. He grabbed Cagalli by the arm and spun her around.
"Cagalli, listen. I'm not putting my friendship with Athrun on the line," he said curtly. "Not for you, not for anybody. If you have an intimacy problem with him, you work it out between yourselves. Go see a counsellor of something. You're the one married to him, not me."
"Sometimes I wonder which one of us he loves more," Cagalli said, words laced with sarcasm.
Kira was stunned into silence. He gaped at her for a moment. When he found his voice, it was faint with shock. "What do you mean?"
Kira became aware of the hairs prickling at the nape of his neck. "That's just crazy."
"Is it, Kira?" She stared unflinching at him. "He confides in you. He runs to you whenever he needs company. You, not me!"
Kira's blood thundered in his ears. He felt cold all over.
"Wait. Stop right there." Kira shot his twin a warning glance. "Are you telling me I am the problem here?"
Cagalli remained silent. Kira's words of reproach died unspoken as he caught sight of her face.
"Fine, if you want me to ask him, I'll do it." He spun on his heels and strode towards the car.
Behind him, the waves crashed against the rocks, but it couldn't drown out the noise roaring in his head.
"So, she suspected did she?" Athrun leaned against the railings of the balcony, watching the twinkle of a thousand tiny lights beyond the trees. He found the orderly lines of Orb's streetlights and distant buildings fascinating; it never ceased to amaze him how fast the small island nation had rebuilt itself after the war. He could spend hours watching idly as the city pulsed with life after dark. Behind him, the curtains billowed through the open French windows in the cool night breeze.
"Yes." Kira drew alongside him and passed him a mug of coffee.
"Took her long enough," Athrun said, cradling the mug in his hands. "Did she ask you to talk to me?"
Kira nodded as he sipped his coffee slowly. "Pressured me more like it."
"You could say no."
Kira shrugged. "You know how persuasive she can be. Anyway, I'm curious, too."
Athrun glanced sideways at him. "About what?"
"Your chronic impotency."
"My what?" Athrun said, staring into his friend's eyes. "Kira …"
Kira looked at him straight-faced. "Since when, Athrun?"
Athrun turned and walked away towards the other end of the balcony. Kira watched him go, then started to follow him. They stood side by side without talking for minutes, the coffee cooling in their mugs.
"Since forever," Athrun confessed, and took a sip from his mug.
Athrun shrugged. "If you must know, we never did consummate the marriage. I thought it would be mechanical, but I realized I couldn't do it if I didn't truly love the person."
"I never knew," Kira said hoarsely, disbelief apparent in his voice.
"Shocked, Kira?" Athrun sounded amused. "Could you? Could you have a physical relationship with someone you don't truly love?"
Kira remained mum, not looking at Athrun. His one off folly was best forgotten, erased forever from his memory. A small knowing smile curled Athrun's lips but there was no malice in it.
"Should have bailed out when I had the chance, but I didn't have the guts to tell her back then." Athrun said wryly. "The war took a lot out of her, and when it was over she needed both of us to help her back onto her feet."
Kira couldn't help but agree. "She loves this country."
"Yes." Athrun lifted his face, and looked up at the stars. "When she wanted to resume our relationship, I relented. Time passed pretty quickly, and I carried on with the charade even though I knew deep down my feelings for her was strictly platonic. People had always labelled us as a couple; it was impossible for me to back out."
"Not without hurting her." Kira said in a matter-of-fact voice.
Athrun nodded. "So I did what was expected of me." A pause, then Athrun said quietly: "Are you mad at me?"
"Should I be?" Kira asked instead. "It's really none of my business."
"Is that so?" Athrun looked sideways at him. Kira gave a small shrug. Athrun continued, "Then why are you asking me now?"
"Because it took you too long to come to your senses," Kira said. "You got into a loveless marriage, and now you're stuck neck deep in your own shit."
Athrun laughed. "I told you I'm hopeless when it comes to women."
"You're pathetic, Athrun." Kira took a step closer towards him. "So, what do you plan to do now?"
"Move to one of the neutral colonies," Athrun said without hesitation. "Like we planned to do years ago."
Kira rubbed his temples. "I see. You're serious about this, aren't you?" He moved closer to Athrun, brushed an errant stray of hair out of his face with his hand. Athrun didn't move to stop him. "You're really leaving this time?"
Quiet fell between the two. Kira rested his arms on the railings, brooding over Athrun's decision. He lowered his eyes as Athrun slid an arm around his shoulder, squeezing it lightly.
"What about you?" Athrun asked quietly.
Kira reached up and grasped Athrun's hand in his. "I'll come with you," he said.
"Kira … are you sure?" A flicker of hope lit Athrun's face. His fingers tightened around Kira's. "Are you really, really sure?"
Kira took a deep breath, glanced up for a second, finally looking at Athrun. He drew closer to Athrun and his eyes softened. He nodded his affirmation.
"My work here is done," Kira said in a low voice. "I never want to be separated from you again, Athrun. Ever."
Athrun look startled. "Kira …" He closed his eyes, crushing a tear onto his cheek. When he looked up, his eyes were brimming with happiness. Kira smiled in return.
Wordlessly, Athrun pulled Kira towards him and hugged him tight. When they eventually broke apart, both were smiling gently. Athrun reached for Kira's hands and squeezed his fingers lightly.
Then, hand in hand, they retreated into the warmth of the bedroom, the love that was inside both of them finally free to escape.
Cagalli rushed down the stairs of her official residence and swung the door to her study open, heart beating nineteen to the dozen. A solitary figure stood by the ceiling-high casement window with his back towards her. She fought the urge to sprint towards him, and forced herself to walk slowly instead.
Kira turned at the sound of her approaching footsteps, and flashed her a sober smile.
"Did you manage to talk to him?" Cagalli got directly to the point.
Kira ran a hand through his thick shock of hair. "Yes," he answered simply.
"You're right. There is someone else," Kira said, watching Cagalli's face intently.
Cagalli's face went first white, then crimson as the words sank in. "He admitted to you?" she spluttered after the initial shock wore off.
Kira nodded, crossed the room in a few long strides and sank into the couch. He stared at the chandelier, as if mesmerized by the light reflecting off its many facets, only dimly aware of Cagalli's hand gripping him by the shoulder.
"What else did he say? What was his excuse?"
"Do you want the gist of it or the epic version?" he asked, looking past Cagalli at the huge decorative mirror set on the far wall. His reflection stared back at him. He steeled his heart against the unpleasant task ahead.
"Just get to the point."
"He fell out of love. He said he is sorry for causing you unnecessary heartache." Kira delved into his pocket. "He asked me to return this to you. He said he doesn't need its protection anymore. He hopes you'll find someone else worth your affection just as he has found his."
Cagalli froze as he pressed a pendant into her hand, then closed her fingers over it. It was the same pendant she gave Athrun long ago, and she was shocked to find that he had kept it all these years.
After a long, uncomfortable silence, Cagalli choked out: "Is this his way of telling me it's over between us? Doesn't he have the guts to tell me face to face?" Her voice rose in a desperate wail, "Kira, what the hell is happening?"
Kira stood up abruptly, and pried her fingers off his arm. "I'm sorry," he said. "I've done what you asked of me. I'm sorry things turned out this way."
Head bowed, he strode towards the door. His hand closed on the knob.
Kira closed his eyes as he struggled to keep his expression neutral. Taking in a deep breath, he opened his eyes and turned slowly.
Cagalli looked at him through red-rimmed eyes and pleaded, "I want to see him. Please, Kira … take me to him."
"I can't. He left earlier today for somewhere unspecified."
"That's a lie. Tell me where he is." Cagalli clung to his arm.
Kira shook his head resolutely. "Cagalli, do you think it makes me happy to tell you this?" Cagalli stared at him, speechless. Kira continued, "Let him go, Cagalli. If you love him, let him go."
"This is not happening," Cagalli said in a broken whisper. "Tell me this is just a bad dream. Kira!"
Kira looked away. Cagalli buried her face in his chest, her tears, hot and desperate, seeped through the fabric of his shirt. He remained unmoved. After what seemed like an eternity, he pried Cagalli off, holding her at arms length.
"I'm sorry. Forgive me." He planted a kiss on her cheek, turned around abruptly and walked out of the door.
Kira barely made it to his car before the tears he had been holding back shattered its barriers, escaping him with a howl of misery.
"Kira? You okay?"
Athrun's voice, underscored with concern brought Kira back to the present. Kira tore his eyes away from the window of the shuttle and the vastness of space outside, and turned slightly to face Athrun.
"I'm alright." He smiled gently.
"Do you have any regrets?"
Kira shook his head, reached for Athrun's hand and squeezed his fingers lightly. "No regrets. I feel sorry for Cagalli, but …" he trailed off.
Athrun looked at him, anxiety evident in his eyes.
"I figure this time I have to put myself first before others." Kira said, his eyes veiled.
Athrun nodded, and slid an arm around Kira's shoulder, squeezing it tightly. They remained quiet for a long while.
"Forgive me," Athrun said in his ear. "Forgive me for sending you to break the news to her … I'm sorry I hurt you inside." He turned his face away hurriedly so that Kira could not see the tears welling up in his eyes.
Kira stared at him dumbfounded, words failing him utterly. He reached out and touched Athrun's cheek, willing him to turn around. Athrun submitted, the unshed tears casting a glassy sheen in his eyes. He started to say something, but Kira cut him off by placing a finger against his lips.
"No regrets, Athrun," Kira said solemnly. "We are in this together, for better or worse."
Athrun nodded silently, and gathered Kira in his arms.
For better or worse.
They held onto each other, clinging to their hope for a better future.
Zeddy © August 2005
Beta by: LBx and Passo
First Published: 11 Sept 2005