Title: Ever the Same
Author: the Black Rose
Pairing: Athrun x Lacus
Fandom: Gundam Seed
Theme: 15, Perfect Blue
Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Seed. This fanfiction has no commercial value and I am not making any kind of profit or income off of this story, or the use of characters owned by Sunrise and Bandai.

Ever the Same

By the Black Rose

Dancing with her felt like he was holding a stranger…

Cool air slicked against the back ofAthrun's neck. It was a sharp contrast to the warmth of her hand on his shoulder. Even through the satin gloves Lacus wore…her skin was warm. Her forehead burnt the flesh at his throat, where her head laid against his chest.

Sweat formed a thin layer underneath the fabric of his tuxedo. The night air might have cooled it away, but holding her against him…so close… He felt like he was burning…

Why was everything about her so warm…Or was everything about him just cold?

Dancing with her felt like he was holding a stranger…

And yet, Athrun knew her…had always known her. Hadn't he? He glanced down at the woman he held in his arms. She lifted her head from his chest, but continued to sway with him to the soft music that filtered outside. Her light blue eyes, strawberry blond hair…that gentle smile. It was all Lacus Clyne. And he had known Lacus Clyne since he was fourteen.

So, why didn't he know—

"Athrun?"

He blinked and she came back into focus. Her smile was gone. Despite the makeup she wore, he could see the shadows under her eyes. "Yeah."

Her eyebrows pinched together. "You look like you're somewhere else." Her head tilted forward; she stopped looking at him, but she continued to sway in Athrun's sad attempt at dancing.

"S-sorry. I was…just thinking."

"Oh? About something interesting?"

"N-no!"

Lacus's head jerked up. Her eyes widened and she stared at him like he was a fish just out of the water – and about to give a speech.

"I-I mean, uhhh…"

A smaller version of her smile returned to her lips. She stopped dancing and retracted her left hand from his shoulder. "It's all right. You didn't have to ask me to dance, Athrun." She stepped back, out of his loose embrace. "Even though it did make me happy that you offered." Her right hand released his left. He felt the satin of the glove slip against his palm.

Athrun tightened his grip on her hand. She stopped her retreat.

"I asked you to dance because I wanted to." He stepped forward and gathered her back into his arms. The silk of her perfect blue dress hadn't lost any of its heat – or electricity.

Her left hand found the back of his right arm, and they returned to their leisurely pace, rocking forward and back.

A cool breeze swirled and mixed with the silent air hanging over the balcony where they danced. It slipped inside the collar of his shirt, turning the layer of sweat into a casing of ice. The music changed. The string quartet playing for the partygoers in the main ballroom began the next movement. It became a low, haunting sound…

The silence was familiar. Athrun recognized it. It was the chaperone in the room every time he and Lacus crossed paths. Keeping them polite in their conversation…always afraid that silence might somehow overhear.

A burning sensation began in the pit of his stomach. 'I just still…don't know what to say to her.' The feeling grew and forced air out of his lungs. Pain shot through his chest. He shut his eyes and willed the nameless emotion to subside.

"Athrun?" Her voice trembled. "What is it?"

He opened his eyes to find her staring up at him again. The burning feeling touched his throat. "I…" He swallowed. "I couldn't help but notice…How." His tongue searched for words, but the breeze seemed to sweep them all away. "How different things are."

"Hm?" She tilted her head as she looked at him. But she didn't leave…

"How different you are, Lacus."

Her eyebrows rose. "Oh? You think I've changed?"

He shifted the position of his hand at her waist, and glanced down. The gas lamps on either side of the doorway to the ballroom dusted her bare shoulders with yellow light. "Yeah."

"I see," she said. Athrun's heart fell into his stomach. Shadows moved and silence came to stand beside them again.

"I don't feel like I have." Her voice made his heart skip. "But then, I suspect most people don't notice the changes in themselves whereas changes in others are more apparent."

He felt like smiling. "You're probably right."

"So." She looked up and met his gaze. "How am I different?"

"I! I-I don't know. You…you just are."

"That's really not much to go on. How can I tell if I've changed?" Her mouth curved up. "Or do I only have your word that I have?"

"Well. Ms. Chairman, you didn't used to be in politics."

"All right." Lacus frowned, and her eyes dimmed. She looked tired in a way he'd come to know too well as a soldier. "So. My job has changed. But, my job isn't who I am, is it, Athrun?"

"N-no. But…" He found himself searching again. "…you're more serious." His heart pounded so loud he could hear it in his ears. "You don't smile…as often."

"Oh." She bowed her head. Lacus's hand slipped from his.

Athrun placed his left palm on the right side of her waist and pulled her closer. "You look tired sometimes. And others, your eyes glaze over and you look…"

She looked up at him again. Tears wet the ends of her lashes. His heart shattered. "How do I look then?"

His tongue felt thick in his mouth; he had to force the words to leave his lips. "Lost." He bent his neck and touched his forehead to the crown of her head. "Lonely."

She stopped dancing.

"I…" He felt pressure from her hands against his chest. But, Athrun had no intention of letting her go. "I don't think it's me that's changed."

"You don't?"

"No." She paused in her struggle against his embrace. "I was…always those things." Lacus moved a step back. He didn't remember letting her go, but his arms were back at his sides, and she—

"You're just more observant these days, Athrun. You stopped seeing me…" The corners of her mouth lifted up, but her eyes remained dim, shadowed. "…the way the world wants me to be." Lacus turned and started towards the door.

"Lacus…"

She halted her step and pivoted halfway around to look at him. "Thank you for the dance, Athrun." Her smile seemed a little brighter. She spun back towards the door. "I really enjoyed—"

Athrun stepped forward and caught her arm. "Don't go."

"I am the guest of honor," she said in a tone that sounded more like his former fiancée. She turned to face him again. Moonlight touched strands of her hair and reflected on the surface of her mouth. Her lower lip seemed to protrude just a fraction more than the upper one. She was talking…but.

"I can't hide out on the balcony all night. People will—"

He leaned forward and brushed his mouth gently against her lips. She stared at him a moment while his heart pounded a mile a minute in his chest. Lacus blinked, parted her lips as if to say something, then stopped. She closed her eyes. Athrun's left hand gripped her waist and pulled her close. He settled his mouth over hers. The fingers of his right hand stroked through the long, loose pieces of her hair.

She fit against him, soft and warm. He felt his body heat rise everyplace they touched. Her lips scorched his. Her fingernails dug into the top of his shoulders. She smelled of something sweet and clean – like a spring day he'd experienced once or twice on Earth. The ground under his feet faltered; he clung to Lacus for support and devoured her lips.

The world slipped away. Athrun felt himself fall. But the ground was soft where he landed.

He wanted—

And then she was out of the circle of his arms. Her body withdrew…and she moved again beyond his reach.

Athrun staggered forward to regain his balance. "Lacus…"

"You've changed, Athrun." Her voice came from the direction of the door. He looked up and found her – turned away from him again. Leaving him again.

"Yeah. I have."

She glanced back over her left shoulder. Her eyes gleaming in the moonlight. "I'm glad." She opened the door and stepped back into the ballroom.

"Lacus?"

She stopped. "Yes."

"Will…" He gulped down a breath of air. "Will you dance with me again?"

She didn't move. It looked like she didn't breathe. For an eternity she stood there…Silent, even though he no longer felt silence in between them.

Lacus moved. The ballroom door closed. Athrun held his breath as she crossed the remaining distance between them. She folded easily back into his arms. Her breath on his neck…Her satin hands on his skin.

"I thought you said you had to go."

"That was before you asked me to stay."

The breeze picked up again, swirling and dancing around them. He gathered her back in his arms….

Again, they began to sway.