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The Brothers Zala Chapter 1: Fiance

November 26, 2014

Beautiful rolling hills covered the countryside, dotted by cows in farms. The world was at peace and the stench of bloodshed was nowhere to be held. The light of day had claimed the sky for another fragment in time’s eternal torrent flow. Everything was so peaceful. It was the kind of day where nothing could go wrong and nothing could dampen the spirits of the populace. Shapely clouds of white cotton could be seen to lazily dance in the sky of endless blue, like fairies floating carelessly over a magical land.

The meeting of blue and green on the horizon was such a tranquil and benevolent contrast that it could only bring smiles to the faces of those who stared out into the distance. The world was an artist’s pallet of blues, greens and yellows. Under such a calm backdrop, it would only seem fitting for the occupants of the blue sedan to share in the same disposition. All was well in the world and all flowed on like a river as though the colors of red that stimulate such anger and passion without reason did not exist.

As the sun burned brightly in the pleasantly perfect sky, the car below would continue on its travels until it at last reached its desired destination.

Via Hibiki drove flat out along the empty highway, eager to reach her destination, and enthralled by the prospects that the future would hold for not only her, but also her children. She glanced over to her son, sitting in the back seat with a serious look on his face. She couldn’t help but smile whenever she saw him put on that face.

“Is something wrong Kira,” she asked.

“It’s just… this guy. I still don’t know what he’s like,” her son answered.

“Well, that’s why we’re going there, so you can get to know him.”

“I know, but wouldn’t it be better if we all met him before going to stay at his house?”

“Yes, I suppose it would. However, it would have been impractical.”

“Impractical?”

“Yes, Patrick was on a business trip for a long time. He’s only just come back.”

“Then why is everything moving ahead so fast, why can’t we slow things down a bit? I mean, we haven’t even met, and besides that, Cagalli isn’t even here.”

“I know. It’s all a muddle. I’m sorry that everything’s becoming so complicated for you.”

“No, that’s alright.”

“Did you know he has a son?”

“No, I didn’t know that.”

“He’s a little older than you, so you and Cagalli will have an older brother to take care of you. That’s a plus, right?”

“I guess… but Cagalli already has an older brother to look after her.”

“Well, now she’ll have two. You’re not jealous, are you Kira,” the brunette asked with a slight laugh.

“No, it’s not that,” Kira attempted to convince her.

“Alright then, why don’t you tell me what you want to know about him?”

“Well, it’s nothing in particular. I just don’t know anything about him.”

“You’re right, that’s just too bad. Well,” she said, thoughtfully, “he’s like an old fashioned gentleman, and his son seems to have grown into a polite, charming young man.”

“What’s his house like?”

“Well, he used to have a bigger house near the shore but he’s renting it out now. His house in the city isn’t quite so roomy and it only has two bedrooms.”

“Two bedrooms… but he already has a son.”

“I know. That means you will have to share with Patrick’s son. You don’t mind, do you?”

“I’d rather share with Cagalli,” Kira absentmindedly admitted.

“It’s best for boys and girls to sleep in different rooms. We don’t want anything unsavory happening now, do we?” Via grinned to herself, watching her son in the rear view mirror. She knew that wasn’t much on an excuse.

“No… but we wouldn’t do anything like that. Cagalli’s my sister,” Kira defended, more than a little disturbed.

“I know, I know; but even so, it’s an advisable rule, don’t you think? No matter how close you two may be, you undoubtedly want some privacy from one another.”

“I guess… but this other person, I won’t even know him.” Via smiled expectantly.

“You’ll soon warm up to one another, I’m sure of it.

“I hope so,” Kira answered. “So, what do I call him; Patrick, I mean.”

“I don’t think there’d be a problem with using his name.”

“But what about when you’re married? I won’t have to call him Otou-san, will I?” Via smiled.

“I didn’t know you were thinking that far ahead, Kira, but I suppose I should have expected it.”

“Well, you are engaged.”

“Yes… I don’t think he’ll demand that from you. Unless he commands it, you may address him however you wish, as long as you are respectful.”

“Okay, I hope you’re right.” I really hope he doesn’t command that of me. I will do what is demanded of me, but I won’t like it, the boy said; offering his mother a verbal translation of only a censored portion of his actual thought-stream. “So why doesn’t Cagalli have to come?” Via sighed. She had been both expecting, and dreading this exact question.

“Cagalli is staying over at a friend’s place. You know this.”

“Does he,” Kira enquired, referring to Patrick, his mother’s fiancé.

“No… I’ll have to tell him when we get there.”

“I think he’ll be expecting to see all three of us.”

“Yes, but I’m afraid he’ll have to wait until after the weekend. That will also give you time to get to know Patrick’s son.”

“Oh, good,” Kira answered unconvincingly. He hadn’t thought of that. Knowing nothing of his future Onii-san, he was unsure of how to take the news.

As the journey dragged on, Via pulled off the countryside Highway and made her way along the built-up urban city streets, packed with cars heading in all directions. At first, Kira had been thankful that his mother had chosen to indulge him by taking the scenic route, but now he was beginning to feel anxious about meeting Patrick.

It was a rather strange and unsettling feeling. It was like a mix of fear and excitement. Part of him didn’t want this happen at all, but another part of him wanted to get it over with, like a doctor’s appointment. He felt both positive and negative feelings towards the inevitable encounter, but rather than cancel each other out like some would expect, they slipped and spun, churning his stomach, flying about like malevolent butterflies made of solid lead that dive-bombed and kamikaze attacked the lining of his stomach, acting more Banzai than metaphor.

He felt nauseous. It was like a wave of anxiety, of fear. Fear of the unknown, of the uncertain, like the unfounded irrational fear of the dark found to be contained deep within the skulls and hearts of young children.

Of course it remained as an uncomfortable feeling but wasn’t nearly enough to cause him to black out or hyperventilate. Kira had never been a big panic. This was only a slight case of nerves. Moving was always a stressful time. Meeting up with the other half of one’s family was surely just as complicated a crisis.

He soon took to gazing intently out the window at the passing houses, counting off each one that they passed, striking it off the list of potential homes, until the car slowed and turned in to one of the driveways.

“So this is the house,” Kira thought aloud.

“Yes,” Via answered him, expressing the obvious. “This is to be our new home from now on, what do you think?”

“Well, it looks smaller than our old place,” Kira judged, condemning it for its superficial flaws alone. “Couldn’t we have stayed home? Then they could come and stay with us.”

“Hm, I suppose we could have done that, but I doubt your bedroom at our old home would accommodate for two.”

“Oh, I suppose you’re right,” Kira conceded as the car drew to an eventual halt. Kira removed his seat belt and opened the door, stepping into the fresh air to stretch his legs while his mother busied herself with applying the cars brakes and turning off the engine.

It wasn’t long until the temporarily single mother stepped out and unlocked the back of her car, and by that time, their gracious host had come out to greet them.

“Kira, do you think you could take my suitcase and put it by the door for me?”

“Okay,” the boy replied.

Kira pushed through the various bags and cases until he found the brown suitcase containing his mother’s garments. Once he had found the right case, he lifted it out of the car and carried it by the handle in both hands. Despite containing only clothes, it was exceedingly awkward and heavy.

As he walked up toward the house, he saw a man walk toward him, a tall man with distinguished features and more than his fair share of grey hairs.

“So then, you must be Kira.”

“Ah, yes… sir, I am.”

“Patrick Zala,” the man said, holding out his arm to introduce himself. Kira allowed the suitcase to rest beside his feet so he could shake the man by the hand. “Would those things you are carrying be your own?”

“No, this case belongs to Okaa-san.”

“I see, just place your mother’s case by the door for now.”

“Thank you sir,” Kira replied, hurrying to do as he was instructed.

Kira carried the brown suitcase onto the house’s front porch and carefully placed it on the cementitious ground near, but not touching the wall. Once he had put the suitcase down, he checked to ensure that it wouldn’t fall and returned to the car to get his own belongings.

Kira returned to the car and fished out his own suitcase, containing his wardrobe and personal assets, including his toothbrush, cell phone and other such items of personal significance.

He turned around to see Patrick standing behind him. In the distance, a further young man could be seen traversing the expanse from the house to the car. He seemed a tall, slim boy with blue hair. He casually strolled down the driveway. Hands in pockets, and a dreary look on his face as he sauntered down to meet them at a slow, easy-going pace. Kira knew that this person had to be Patrick’s son.

“Kira, have you met my Son Athrun,” the older man asked, confirming it.

“Oh, yeah, I’ve seen you at school,” Kira remembered as he held out his hand in pleasant fashion to greet his future brother.

“I’m sure you have,” Athrun stated in a bored monotone, merely examining the brunet’s hand but not reaching out to take it. “Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about you. Evidently, you don’t seem to make much of a lasting impression. An inherent trait from a bland bloodline, I suppose.”

“Athrun, do not be rude,” Patrick scolded.

“Forgive me, Otou-sama. I was merely stating a fact as I saw it,” the bluenette apologized. He turned back to Kira. “Could it be that you are unpopular at school?”

“No,” Kira stated. “I have a regular group of friends that I’ve always hung around with.”

“Oh, and whom might this group of yours include?”

“Do you happen to know a person going by the name of Sai Argyle?”

“No, but I suppose I will have to meet with him.”

“Athrun, this conversation can be continued later. For now, please show Kira where he can put his things.”

“Hai, Otou-sama.” Athrun produced a hand lazily from his pocket and clicked a finger, as if summoning a servant. “Come,” he said, speaking to his soon-to-be younger brother as though ordering a dog to follow. “I’ll see to your… accommodations.”

Kira followed the bluenette through his house as he showed his soon-to-be brother around.

“So that’s the kitchen,” he informed him in a dull voice, “and that’s the living room. “At the end of the hall, the first door on the left is the bathroom. The second is Otou-sama’s study. On the right is the stairway. I’ll take you upstairs.”

“Okay,” Kira agreed, following the older boy with suitcase in hand.

They walked along the cream colored hallway, following it until they reached the stairs, and ascended them to the upper hallway, which was a similar color. The entire house seemed to be an off-white color. The result was a plain and formal atmosphere. It was more like an office or some other place of business than a home.

“Here is my room,” Athrun said as he opened the door and stepped inside. Kira followed him in and found that to his surprise, the entire house didn’t happened to be a creamy white color like he had at first glance assumed.

Athrun’s bedroom walls were a dark green. The carpet was a matching color, only several shades darker. The curtains seemed to match the walls and the ceiling was a light grey neutral.

There was a bookcase on the far wall filled with books of various sizes. There was also a television on a wall-mounted bracket, the screen of which pointing to the single bed.

“Just put your things in the corner,” Athrun instructed. Kira did as he was told, complying within minimal time. “Good, now close the door.

Again, Kira hurried to do as he was told, only to turn around and look back, to be met with Athrun’s scrutinizing gaze.

“Sit down,” the bluenette said, gesturing to a seat on one side of his desk, while taking a slightly more luxurious seat on the other. It were as though this boy’s room were a study; No, an office. Kira got the distinct impression that he was about to be interviewed.

As Kira sat under Athrun’s watchful gaze, he couldn’t help but feel as though he were under some kind of interrogation. It seemed as though this older boy were watching him for something, as though he were suspicious about some yet-uncommitted deed.

“Um, what is it,” he asked nervously. The bluenet’s coming smirk would only lessen the comfort Kira could feel in his chair.

“I hate you.”

“…What was that,” Kira asked, perplexed, certain that he must have misheard the young man.

“You heard what I said before, didn’t you? I am merely stating truth.”

“But, why?”

“I loath to use such a feeble excuse as chemistry, but I’m afraid I can find no other way to explain it. You make a very bad first impression. To be honest, I’m kind of curious about the company you keep, and of this sister of yours. I hope for your sake that at least one member of your family can leave a positive impression.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’ll tell you the truth. The only reason you’re here, is because our parents insisted on moving in together. Fortunately, I intend to leave this dwelling within a year or two, after that, you’ll be out of my hair. In the meantime, however, if you plan to live in Otou-sama’s home, you’re going to have to make it worth my while.”

“Wait, what does that have to do with anything,” Kira asked, understandably confused.

“You may be living here, for now, but if you intend your existence to be bearable, you will do everything I tell you to, alright? You will obey my every word as law and fulfill my every whim without question or fail. Do as I say and keep out of my way, do that and we’ll get along just fine. Deviate from my instruction, and… well… Do I make myself understood?”

“So you basically want me to do all the work around the house for you,” Kira assumed.

“Perceptive… Something like that, yes,” Athrun admitted. “And the same goes for that sister of yours.” Kira sighed.

“I’ll agree to go along with this, but leave her out of it, okay? I’ll do whatever you want, but only if you promise me that Cagalli won’t get involved.”

“Noble of you… very well. You do as I say, and your family all get a somewhat pleasant life here. Do we have an understanding?” Kira paused to consider the proposition. No matter how he looked at it, this blue haired boy was taking advantage of him, but it probably wouldn’t be that bad, and it would likely make things easier. It was his only option, if he aspired to discover what this older blue haired boy was up to.

“Yes.” Athrun extended his hand.

“Then we shake on it. No going back on your word now, got it?” Kira took his future Onii-san’s hand and shook it.

“Yes,” he answered simply, assuming that the true intention behind this one-sided deal would make itself known in due time.

-S-K-I-P-

The living room was modestly extravagant, if there were even such a thing. The walls were covered in photographs of family members, as was seemingly customary to show how normal a family was, even if it were broken. Even if it were structurally falling apart, tearing apart at the seams. Even if there were only one parent, even if there were no parents at home for the majority of the time. No matter how ruptured the ties of family may be, as long as the pictures survived, the physical evidence of memories would keep the superficial dream alive.

As was customary in such a room, the television was emitting light to the already bright room. The girls inside were enjoying the usual lazy Sunday morning as it bled into afternoon. They were lazed about on the couch, their blonde hair meshing together as one lazed upon the other, resting her head upon the other’s shoulder.

The more submissive of the pair had long since given up feelings of awkwardness or hostility toward being the other’s pillow and lazily draped her hand over the more dominant entity’s abdomen. It was merely something that the two had developed long ago, a habit of sorts. Something that had once appeared cute, but now perhaps frowned upon by upstanding citizens and parents alike.

Cagalli sighed and took her eyes away from the television screen. She was feeling restless and had so easily grown tired of the movie. Her sighs of exasperation came out almost as grunts, they were so forceful.

“Caggi-chan,” one blonde girl asked her friend, out of concern.

“Must you call me that,” Cagalli asked, feigning annoyance.

“Caggi-chan doesn’t like it, then why does Caggi-chan smile?”

“Shut up,” Cagalli softly snapped, pushing the blonde away, but she couldn’t keep the smile from her face.

“What’s wrong with Caggi-chan?” the blonde asked, peering through her friend with a pair of wide magenta eyes.

“Oh, it’s just, Okaa-san. She’s getting married soon and we’re moving into his house.”

“His house?”

“Yeah, the guy she’s marrying.” The other blonde’s eyes widened in horror.

“Caggi-chan-chan is leaving,” she wailed, holding onto her friend possessively, as though such an act would stop her from moving, as if such an act could prevent the inevitable. She closed her eyes and held her friend so tightly that it was painful.

“Stella, let me go,” Cagalli complained, trying to force her friend off as though she were a dog using her leg for inappropriate purposes. She managed to stand and initiated her feeble attempt in shaking the pest off “Let go, I can’t breathe.”

“No, Caggi-chan must promise not to leave Stella! Caggi-chan must not move far away!”

“What is all this commotion,” a woman asked.

“Uh, Loussier-san, help!” Cagalli pleaded to her friend’s mother.

“Stella,” the older blonde woman uttered in an exasperated tone. “How many times do I have to tell you about other people’s personal space?”

“But-“

“Let her go, Stella.”

“But-“

“No, I don’t want to hear it.”

“But-“

“No Stella, no excuses. Let Cagalli go right now.” At that instant, Stella broke into hysterical tears.

“But Caggi-chan-chan is leaving!”

“Considering your current behavior, I can’t blame her. Stella dear, you can’t just keep your friends locked up in a cage.”

“Whf nff?” Stella asked. Her words muffled by the unscented cotton of Cagalli’s t-shirt as she buried her face in her friend’s shoulder.

“Excuse me dear, I didn’t quite catch that.” Stella lifted her head and turned towards her mother, tears still leaking from her eyes like miniature undammed rivers.

“Why not?”

“Because they won’t like it. Remember your pet rabbit from long ago?” Stella’s eyes widened and shed new tears. She was now weeping over two departing friends.

“Cotton-chan!” she cried.

“Cotton-chan,” Cagalli asked, unsure as to whether or not she really wanted to know what Stella was talking, or screaming, about.”

“Stella once had a pet rabbit,” the girl’s mother explained, “but one day she escaped from her hutch and ran away.”

“Oh, I see.”

“Now Stella, you don’t want that to happen to Cagalli, do you?”

“B-b-but, Caggi-chan-chan already wants to leave Stella!”

“I’m not going far,” Cagalli managed to choke out, despite the restricted oxygen her lungs were able to get their hands on.

Miraculously, at that exact moment, Stella’s tears stopped.

“You mean Caggi-chan isn’t leaving Stella?” The question came out as a barely audible, weak whimper.

“No, I’m not even leaving the city. We’ll still be able to see each other at school.”

“You mean it?”

“Yes, of course. Would I lie to you?” Stella thought about this for a minute before squeezing Cagalli tighter than ever, in what only she could call a friendly embrace. Cagalli’s amber eyes darted helplessly toward her friend’s mother.

“Help… me…?”

“You see Stella,” her mother admonished, “all this childishness for nothing. You should wait and think things through before you act.”

“That doesn’t sound like fun though.”

“Growing up isn’t always about fun, Stella. It’s about responsibility… and in your case, sensibility.”

“But but but, Stella doesn’t want to grow up.”

“You don’t have a choice, Stella. Everyone has to grow up at some point. You’re fifteen already.”

“But Stella doesn’t want to grow up!” the young blonde practically screamed.” Her mother gave a worn-out sigh and retreated back to the kitchen and Cagalli took her chance to sit on the couch before –

Stella backed onto the couch, lazing ungraciously once more in her friend’s lap.

“I’m sure you’re glad I’m not leaving now, right Stella?”

“Yep, Stella would miss Caggi-chan. Stella would have no pillow!”

“Uh, thanks.”

“Caggi-chan can never leave. Stella would miss Caggi-chan too much.”

“I must be crazy…” Cagalli replied, as her vision of the television screen was suddenly obscured by tresses of gold and twin orbs of magenta, “but I think I’d miss you… this, too.” Stella smiled and allowed her head to rest in its rightful place, upon Cagalli’s left shoulder, and the two began watching the movie once more, each feeling strangely content with the seating arrangements.

“So what’s this guy like?” Stella asked in a rare moment of clarety. She’d been known to have them now and again.

“What guy,” Cagalli questioned in turn, trying to once more engross herself in the movie.

“The guy Caggi-chan’s Okaa-san is marrying.”

“Oh, his name is Patrick Zala. He’s some rich tycoon or something.”

“So Caggi-chan will be rich?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“Then that means Caggi-chan will wear pretty dresses!”

“Hey, wait,” Cagalli said, now beginning to worry. Would he seriously expect her to dress up on formal occasions, or worse, for dinner? If the family truly wished to humiliate her then surely there were other ways to do it.

“Caggi-chan would look so cute in a gown,” Stella drawled, as though deep in thought, as if picturing it in her head.

“I don’t wear gowns,” Cagalli huffed. “What’s wrong with a t-shirt and jeans anyway? If this is where it’s going then I don’t want them ever to marry. They didn’t even consult me about it. Why should I have to dress up and dance through hoops for that old man?”

“Huh,” Stella asked, as though just tuning in to her friend’s complaints, “did Caggi-chan say she is dressing up in skimpy clothes to dance provocatively with hoops and poles in front of randy old men?”

“What, how the hell did you-“

“Ohmygod… ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod! Caggi-chan-chan is working in a strip club!” Cagalli’s eyes widened and she immediately clapped a hand over her friend’s mouth to shut her up, a fearful eye darting in the direction of the kitchen…. Luckily, the immature blonde’s mother had seemingly relinquished her role as parent for the time.

“Be quiet, that’s not true Stella, you just made it up.”

“Mmf, nyf?” Cagalli removed her hand. “I did?”

“Yes, we were talking about Okaa-san marrying some old fart and making me-“

“Oh, right, now Stella remembers.”

“Yeah, well… like I was saying…”

“Stella’s bored,” the child-like blonde interrupted, picking up the remote and turning up the volume to the television as if to drown out some unwanted noise. Cagalli let an exasperated groan escape her lips, although it wasn’t long before her expression of frustration turned to one of amusement. It was simply impossible to stay mad at Stella.

Just then, the older woman returned to the room once more, her eyes narrowing at the unnecessarily close proximity of the two girls. She had thought… she had hoped her daughter would have grown out of this silly habit of hers. Why was it this way? Why these two specifically? Whenever these two got together, Stella would always curl herself up into Cagalli’s lap and laze upon her like a young child in her mother’s arms.

Of course, Stella could only share so much of the blame. Half of the fault resided within Cagalli’s refusal to put an end to it. It was as if the two enjoyed their abstract positioning.

The woman had to admit, there was a time when it had appeared cute, but that was when the pair were young. When a child reached a certain age, certain things could no longer be considered cute. Some things became wrong. Some things needed to be fixed, to be repaired, to fill the role of normalcy. Now they were teenagers, reaching puberty. They were no longer adorable little girls. They were beginning to develop. They were becoming less wholesome. They were becoming young women… and women didn’t behave that way.

“Uh, girls…” She said. Her watching them had gotten her all flustered and distracted. “I’m going out now. I won’t be back until late. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Good, I’ve left some money on the fridge, so you may order a pizza tonight.”

“Pizza,” Stella asked, her ears picking up as though her mother had just said some kind of special word.

“Yes… and, do behave yourselves while I’m gone.”

“Don’t worry, we will,” Cagalli assured the woman.

The older blonde’s eyes narrowed slightly at the girl. “Yes, I’m confident that you will.”

-S-K-I-P-

Athrun lay on the couch with his feet up, arms behind his head as he relaxed. He opened his mouth wide as he expelled a yawn. Today had been a tiring day. He’d met his future family, the people who would be from now on, so consistently dragging him down. He’d met his new stepmother as well as his new stepbrother.

What was worse, the two soon to be married, currently single parents had decided to go out alone for dinner, leaving the boys to remain home and entertain themselves, leaving the bluenette to babysit his hapless oaf of a younger brother.

Athrun wondered what his new sister would be like. He wondered what she would look like. She’d probably share the family’s brown hair. Athrun felt sure she’d be rather plain in appearance, and lacking in intelligence.

Or maybe she’d be a ditzy airhead, someone easily taken advantage of.

Great, she sounds even more burdensome than this dopey big brother of hers.

Kira had already agreed to do whatever Athrun told him too, on the condition that that his sister be kept in the dark about it. That was quite the noble sentiment, but what brother doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

Athrun smirked as he plotted out the possible good points of this arrangement his father had made.

While Athrun lay on the couch, he wasted no time in putting his soon to be younger brother to work. Their parent’s marriage hadn’t even officially taken place yet, but Athrun was no fool. He would use this opportunity as he saw fit. He would use it to test out the capabilities of his new slave.

While Athrun lay on the couch, Kira busied himself in the kitchen, bustling with pots on the stove, chopping ingredients on wooden boards on the countertop residing between oven and sink. He had water boiling on the stove for the cooking of vegetables.

He steadily began chopping carrots and celery into small, thin circles; short and cylindrical in shape, before lifting the chopping board and tilting it above the pot, forcing the ingredients into the boiling water below, with the others. A mixture of orange, green and red.

Kira quickly salted the pot, causing the contents – for the shortest duration – to flash an opaque white as the sodium dissipated, before returning to their regular transparency. Kira gave the contents a slight stir before placing a lid on the polished aluminum pot.

He looked over to the pot beside it, where resided more boiling water, giving off a feint trail of steam, as if to prove the fact. He looked into the pot as it continued to cook the pasta within, the scalding heat causing irreversible chemical changes to the softening morsels within.

Once cooked, Kira wasted no time in serving the vegetables up onto three plates. He placed equal portions on two of the plates, putting the remainder aside on the third, covering it and placing it aside in the fridge, leftovers for the next day.

With that having been taken care of, Kira took two steaks from the grill below the stove and placed one on each of the two plates; one for Athrun, and the other for himself.

He took the two plates into the dining room and placed them down on the polished oak table built for eight. Once having set places at the table for both he and Athrun, he made his way into the dining room where resided his future brother.

“Are you sure it was alright for us to use that meat,” he asked the lazy bluenet.

“It’s a little late for that kind of deliberation now, don’t you think?”

“Uh, yeah. I guess so, but I just got here, and now I’m using up all the ingredients. It seems as though I’ve settled in and made myself at home just a little early.”

“It’s fine. There’s enough there for a week’s worth of meals.”

“Wait, a week’s worth?”

“Yeah, we go shopping once a week.”

“You don’t eat meat every day, do you?”

“Why wouldn’t we,” Athrun asked, as though Kira had just suggested something impeccably stupid. He stood up and walked past the brunette, stopping before reaching the doorway. “I assume it’s ready?”

“Ah, yeah,” Kira hastily answered.

Kira walked side by side with his blue-haired soon-to-be-brother as the pair traversed the long, narrow hall on their quest to the dining room.

Actually, truth be told, that was merely how it had started, but the speeds of each of the two youths were traveling along two different gradients. With the increased acceleration of Athrun’s movements, he was soon more than a few paces ahead of Kira.

It made sense, the brunet thought to himself. After all, it was his house. It was only natural for him to lead the way.

Kira modified his pace so that he wouldn’t fall any farther behind the leader. He increased the speed of his momentum until he was about three paces behind the bluenet, and then followed obediently, not quite at his heels.

When they reached the dining room, Kira waited for Athrun to choose whichever meal he preferred, and then sat down in the respective unoccupied seat near the neglected meal.

Seeing that Athrun had already wordlessly begun consuming, Kira decided to follow suit, picked up his utensil and began to eat.

They did so wordlessly, not speaking, without noise. They were silent, as the dead. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. In all honesty, Kira had been expecting to be probed full of questions by Patrick. Being alone with the man’s son, he felt as though he’d dodged a bullet, although the interrogation had likely been postponed only, and not cancelled.

He must have had more important things to do tonight… no, I’m sure he’s just waiting for Cagalli, so he can do both of us in one go.

To be eating the current style of meal came off as just a little strange for Kira. Athrun though, was seemingly used to such cuisine as grilled meat and ate without word or thought of complaint.

“Uh, Athrun?” the brunet asked, looking curiously over to the boy sitting opposite him, but rather than look back, he merely gave a weary sigh.

“Must we talk?”

“Ah, what?”

“Trust me, you’re going to have a chance to ask questions aplenty tomorrow when Otou-sama is here, as well as answer them. I’m sure it’ll be a very informative evening for us all. Do me a favor and wait until tomorrow. You can ask me all the questions you want then.” As he spoke, Kira couldn’t quite conclude whether or not Athrun was looking forward to the evening.

“Why do you say that?”

“When instructed not to pose any questions, one’s first thought should not be to ask why.”

“Oh, sorry,” Kira laughed, considering the absurdity of such a contradiction. “Can I just ask you one thing though?”

“You promise it’s just one? I won’t allow any follow up questions, even if you don’t like the answers I give, so be careful because I won’t give you a refund.”

“Okay,” Kira thought, putting down his eating utensils. He opened his mouth to ask his question, when suddenly he felt a vibration against his leg, followed soon after by a beeping sound. “Excuse me,” he said, as he drew his ringing cell phone. He promptly stood and left the room to answer the call.

S-K-I-P

“Hi Kira,” the blonde greeted, speaking into her cell phone.

– “Wait, you mean they went out!?” She looked over to the other blonde in the room; who stared at her through a wide, curious eye, a pizza slice in her hand, having stalled somewhere along the journey toward her mouth.

­– “Right, so what do you think of him?”

– “Oh, that’s it?”

– “Well, you didn’t really tell me anything. That’s not much to go on you know.” She looked over to Stella once more to see her coming over. She raised a querying eyebrow but was met only with the girl’s friendly grin. It was as though the girl had a perfect poker face. Cagalli wondered if Stella was any good at cards…

– “Wait, what did you say? No one told me about getting a new brother! God, didn’t Okaa-san think that maybe that was an important fact to mention?” Cagalli looked back to Stella again, just in time to see her arm moving toward the phone.

Cagalli managed to jerk away to avoid the blonde’s thieving grasp, much to her friend’s disappointment and displeasure.

“So, what are you eating tonight then?”

–“What?!”

“What is it, gimme the phone. Let Stella talk, let Stella talk!” Cagalli ignored the childish complaints of her friend.

“Grilled meat? What kind of meal is that?”

– “We’re having pizza.”

– “And what, may I ask is wrong with that?”

“Its de-licious,” Stella loudly and comically proclaimed, taking an excessively large bite from the slice in her hand and somehow managing to get sauce all over her face.

Cagalli couldn’t help but laugh at the child-like blonde’s antics. She took a tissue from her pocket and wiped the thick liquid from around Stella’s mouth.

“Um, I think Stella wants to use the phone. Is that alright with you,” Cagalli asked. She waited patiently for a reply, amber eyes locking with those of Stella.

Moments passed, until finally, Cagalli nodded and relinquished the phone to her friend, who swiped it from the outstretched hand and held it up above her head in triumph.

“You might want to talk before he hangs up.”

“Oh, right.” Stella put the phone to her ear. “Hi Kira-kun!” she all but bellowed. Right then, Cagalli could only feel sympathy for her unfortunate brother’s hearing.

“Uh… hi, Stella,” the boy answered.

“What is Kira-kun up to?”

“Well, I was eating when Cagalli called.”

“What was Kira-kun eating?”

“Well, grilled meat.”

“What kind of meat?”

“Beef, actually.” On her end of the phone-line, Stella gave a loud, excruciatingly audible gasp.

“Kira-kun is eating a cow!”

“Well, not a whole one.”

“Oh, why not?” Stella’s excitement could be heard to audibly drop.

“Because, ah… that’s too much for one person to eat.”

“Oh, that’s too bad.” Cagalli placed her hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle. She didn’t know what she would do if it weren’t for Stella.

“So then, what are you girls planning to do tonight?”

“Stella and Caggi-chan are watching movies and eating pizza.”

“That sounds like a standard sleepover to me. Pizza’s kind of salty though, don’t eat too much of it.”

“Don’t worry Kira-kun. Pizza is good. Stella likes pizza.”

“That’s not quite what I mean. If you eat too much… you might get sick, just remember that.”

“Aw, but pizza is delicious.”

“Sometimes too much of a good thing can be bad. Do you understand?”

“Stella thinks…”

“Good, have fun. I should probably get back to Athrun.”

“Who’s Athrun?”

“He’s… the person who will become Cagalli’s and my Onii-san.”

“Kira-kun has a brother?”

“He will… I mean, I will, soon.”

“Stella’s excited. Stella can be friends with Caggi-chan, Kira-kun and Athrun Onii-san!”

“Well, we’ll see. I should go now, Konbanwa Stella.”

“Okay, Stella has to go now.” She looked at the phone and disconnected the call before handing it back to Cagalli. “Now Stella and Caggi-chan can watch a movie.”

“Actually Stella, do we have to watch another movie?”

“What does Caggi-chan mean,” Stella asked, confused.

“We’ve been watching movies all day. My ass is starting to hurt from all this sitting.”

Stella had been about to open her mouth to protest when the doorbell rang.

Cagalli raised an inquisitive eyebrow at her friend, but Stella’s mask was one of glee as she headed in the direction of the door to let in her second houseguest.

While Stella walked over to the door to let in her second houseguest, Cagalli watched with curiosity abound from her position near the couch.

Stella opened the door and her grin escalated to a squeal of glee as she ushered in her visitor, who sauntered in and slumped himself down on the couch, sitting next to Cagalli – who had taken a seat for herself – but leaving suitable space for a third person to sit between them.

Cagalli watched the greenet as he entered, wondering what he was doing here.

“Shani,” she asked. The older boy looked over at her to show he acknowledged her. “Why… why are you here?”

“Stella invited Shani,” the blonde replied, walking over to sit smugly between the two.

“Yeah, but I didn’t know you would be here also,” the greenet admitted.

“I’m sorry to intrude,” Cagalli apologized, as if preparing to excuse her presence.

“It doesn’t matter,” Shani answered.

Before anything further could be said, Stella sat down in her place between her two close friends. Cagalli was almost expecting the other blonde to perform her usual trick of using her as a life sized, human shaped pillow to laze on, however she was proven wrong when Stella’s head rested not on Cagalli’s shoulder, but that of Shani as blonde hair meshed with lime green.

Shani responded by placing an arm around the younger girl in what appeared to be a half-hearted, one armed embrace. At that precise moment, Cagalli felt neglected. She knew it was a silly thing, but having Stella so close to her but not touching, she couldn’t help but feel ever so slightly left out. She felt as though she were imposing on the two of them.

“Stella,” the blonde asked her friend. “Do you still want to watch a movie?”

“Caggi-chan can decide,” was the only response. She looked over to Shani. She knew the chances of the greenet sensing her eyes upon him were high but regardless, she didn’t want to look away.

She watched as Stella nuzzled against him. Her eyes were drawn to Shani’s face, the neutrality of his expression made determining his mood and thoughts impossible. She couldn’t no easier tell whether Shani enjoyed Stella’s closeness, than she could assume whether it was just something he put up with; a burden which had to be bared, a necessary cost to be paid in return for Stella’s friendship. She narrowed her eyes thoughtfully just as Shani’s gaze switched to her.

“What about you,” she asked him, “Do you want to watch anything?”

“It doesn’t bother me,” Shani replied, looking away.

“I’ll l leave you guys to it then,” she drawled, standing to her feet and heading upstairs.

“Where is Caggi-chan going,” Stella asked.

“Hey, don’t let me get in your way,” Cagalli replied, not stopping. “I’m just going out for some fresh air.”

She left them alone together and ascended the stairs. She didn’t know whether or not that was a wise move, but Stella seemed to trust him. That fact was both a plus and a minus. Stella was certainly naïve, but Cagalli couldn’t see Shani doing anything to harm her. Of course, she also couldn’t help but feel just a little hurt that Stella might prefer Shani over her.

Wait… Was that a good thing or not? It meant she wouldn’t have to deal with the child-like blonde using her as a security blanket anymore, but part of her almost enjoyed their closeness, didn’t she? Did she?

As Cagalli slid open the glass door and stepped out onto the balcony overlooking the driveway and road, she let out a loud, undignified sigh.

“I don’t even know what I want,” she uttered to no one.

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