Notes: Takes place during SEED episodes 39-40, after Athrun came aboard Archangel at Orb. The MS system setup and jargons mentioned here are mostly contrived for the sake of storywriting.
Warning: You may want to give this a miss if you find it inappropriate to use Gundam cockpits as a venue for romantic fluff.
"...all appear as random numbers 'cause they obfuscated the code. Hold on..."
Kira leaned forward to briskly type on the keyboard, his side pressed against the Justice pilot seat.
"...There. Now, let's see... this would be the module you're looking for."
He pulled back and Athrun took over, paging through the subroutines. "Astro-navigation... cosmic particle detection... these can be disabled, right?"
"Yeah." Kira watched the modification taking place onscreen. "Also, you don't really need atmospheric auto-calibration here. Just set the values directly."
After they were done going through the numbers, Athrun checked the power consumption monitor. "Wow, it has really dropped a lot."
"Response time should improve too. But this only works on Earth, so don't forget to reconfigure if you're going into space."
"Okay." Athrun closed the module, then turned to him. "Thanks for the help, Kira."
Kira leaned back on the cockpit wall, smiling. "It's not much."
"Ah, right, that sensor problem you mentioned, you want me to take a look?" Athrun got up from the pilot seat.
"Oh, that's okay. I ran into Murdoch-san on the way here, and he said he'd take care of it."
Athrun sat back down. "A very efficient man, isn't he? He scolded me yesterday for putting away the tools in the wrong compartments."
Kira laughed. "Really? I didn't expect him to be so particular."
"I get his point, though. You can't waste time looking for your equipment in the middle of a battle." Athrun swept his gaze across the bustling activities at the docks below. "I'm not familiar with this ship, so I'm not being very useful."
"Not true. It boosts everyone's morale that you're here to help."
Athrun waved. "I'm an extra. It's you they rely on."
Kira looked out at the hangar, focusing on nothing in particular. "If I'm reliable, it's only because I can rely on you... instead of worrying that I might have to fight you."
Athrun fell silent, no doubt thinking back to the unpleasant past.
At length, Kira turned back to him. "I heard from Cagalli."
"That when you told her you killed me, you cried, and you went semi-catatonic."
Athrun reddened. "Well— of course it's painful... to think that I've killed... a friend."
"I know. It's the same for me," Kira said softly. Then he smiled. "But it's refreshing to see you blush, Athrun."
Athrun reddened some more. "You...!"
A companionable period of silence passed, then Kira asked, "So I'm a friend?"
Athrun looked up. "...Of course. I can no longer think of you as an enemy."
Another brief silence. "Only a friend?"
Athrun's expression hardened. "I'll fight by your side in this place, but after that, I still can't say for sure—"
"I don't mean as comrades," Kira interrupted. He left the wall to lean over the control board as he did earlier, but this time he wasn't looking at the screen. "I mean..."
Closing the distance inch by inch, he watched the entire progression of Athrun's gaze from serious to confused to astonished.
They heard a loud clack, and looked down to see that Kira's hand had accidentally knocked the keyboard aside.
Kira paused. In his peripheral vision, the ZAFT logo hovered on Justice's standby screen, a disconcerting reminder of the ongoing war.
He bit his lips and retreated. "I guess it's not a good idea right now... sorry."
Athrun's eyes were fixed on him, wide and intense. "You... You mean... that."
Kira hesitated. But he couldn't undo this now. "...Yeah. Is it okay?"
"But we... you and I are..." Athrun trailed off.
"Do you find it troublesome?"
Athrun didn't answer.
Kira exhaled. "It's just that my head is full of you. I chalked it up to regret back when we were on opposite sides, but I have no excuse now that I can see you as often as I want to."
He glanced at Athrun uncertainly. "And you've always been watching out for me, so I thought perhaps..."
Embarrassed, Athrun averted his eyes. "I think of you a whole lot too, but never in that way... before."
Hope flickered. "You need time to get used to the idea?"
"I— don't know." Athrun looked troubled, fingers clasping over his mouth. "There are a lot of things to consider... our affiliations, and..."
Kira watched him for a few moments, then broke into a chuckle. "You're the same as always, Athrun. You don't give your word easily, do you?"
Athrun looked up, probably sensing his resignation. "Kira."
Kira straightened. "I'm sorry. With all that's going on... But it's probaby too late to tell you not to think about it now, huh..."
He made a move to leave, but Athrun blurted, "If it were Cagalli—"
Kira turned back, eyes dimming at the mention of that name. "You... like her?"
"—she would say, 'Stop brooding so much and just go with your gut feeling, idiot!'"
Kira needed a moment to process the non-sequitur. "Um, yeah, that sounded like something she would say..."
Athrun met his gaze. "So, uh, it's... it's okay."
His mind spun. "...Really okay?"
Athrun's face was drenched in an uncharacteristically boyish blush, but his eyes didn't waver, and his lips carried the hint of a smile. Kira thought it fortunate that he was that sort of a hopelessly straightforward guy.
Slowly, Kira reached out to place his hand on the other side of the pilot seat, and leaned down.
Athrun panicked a little. "K-Kira! People can see us here!"
"Ah," Kira said. Smiling, he turned to the controls and pressed a button.
Athrun was bewildered. "What? I don't mean—"
The rumble of the cockpit closing echoed through the hangar. They heard Murdoch yelling, "Oy, kid! I told you to wait until tonight's drill for your test launch!"
Athrun hastened to shout in response, "It's fine, I'm not—"
The cockpit had closed completely before he could finish the sentence.
Kira pressed another button, and the system powered off. "That should assure them," he said.
Athrun started to protest, but Kira had only a little distance remaining to cover, and when their lips were making contact it was difficult to articulate anything.
Pulling back —just slightly— Kira asked quietly, "It's okay, right?"
And Kira smiled, bright, and moved a knee to straddle the seat, and pulled Athrun in for a more involved kiss.
"You—" Athrun gasped for air. "Seriously, this is the machine I fight in—"
Kira withdrew at that, mildly aflush. "Ah, you're right. We'd better take the rest somewhere else."
Athrun stared at him, then sighed. "Didn't think your plan through as usual, I see."
Kira ran his fingers through Athrun's disheveled hair to smooth it somewhat, before turning to the cockpit control once again. "My bad. I'll make sure to run it by you the next time."
When Athrun landed at the feet of the Gundam, Murdoch was already waiting for him.
"What the hell were you doing up there?" the mechanic thundered.
Athrun bowed hastily. "I'm really sorry."
Murdoch looked him up and down, then glanced up at the descending cord carrying the second-round passenger. "...Whatever. Just don't get distracted the next time you pilot it."
"You can get killed, you know? Getting flustered like this?" The man chucked. "Geez, that boy! If that happens he'd better save you!"
Kira touched down beside Athrun, conveniently saving him from the failure to stutter a denial. "I'm sorry, Murdoch-san."
Murdoch dunked Kira's head readily, then snickered as he turned to leave. "Sure is nice to be young!"
Athrun covered his face with a hand, mortified.
Kira scratched his head sheepishly. "Sorry, Athrun."
Athrun glanced at him, then started to walk away. "...I've said it's okay."
Hopelessly, unfailingly straightforward. Kira grinned, and quickly followed.