Can't Ever Be
Title: Can't Ever Be
Fandom: Gundam SEED VS Astray
Disclaimer: No implied ownership, no financial gain, only fanwork.
Characters/Pairings: Athrun & ND HE (Hyi) main, Erica, Full Cast
Rating: T Overall
Summary: A rewrite/reversion/alternate end of VS Astray. Hyi has come to 'work' at Morgenroete. Athrun Zala tries to piece together the puzzle that is his new companion.
Notes: Whew - going with the (slightly-awkward, I know) romanization of ND HE's 'nickname' here. This is basically a 40k word love letter to Astray...
The next morning, Hyi wasn't anywhere in sight when Athrun stepped into Erica's office. But Erica was there, as was Elijah.
"Am I ever going to find out what's going on?" Athrun asked flatly, staring at them both.
"With what?" Erica questioned. "I'm still figuring out just how many messes we have on our hands."
"That's not what you said..."
"I hadn't talked to Elijah yet," Erica interrupted. "But we're going to sit down and handle what needs to be handled with Veia first. And then we'll worry about Hyi and whatever may still be going on in space."
"All Hyi says is that things are complicated," Athrun told her. "That's not really helpful at all."
"Hyi might not actually know," Erica noted. She reached for her coffee. "Veia might not know, either."
"There was a group of... these guys..." Elijah started, shaking his head. "And they made..."
"They carefully selected a handful of people - political figures, mercenaries, Junk Guild members, and more -- all influential within their own circles -- and made copies of friends or relatives of those people and used those copies to attempt to destroy them," Erica explained. "At least as far as I can gather."
"What?" Athrun was stunned. That was just... unfathomable.
"Except they failed to consider one thing," Erica continued. "A copy of a person who has all that person's memories and thoughts and emotions... is going to behave just like the person they were copied from."
"So Veia came to get me..." Elijah explained. "So we could stay together this time. But I refused, because... even though his life had stopped, even though I was what he remembered, that was years ago and I... moved on. But he still gave me Vent Saviour and..."
He'd teared up again. Erica handed him a box of tissues.
"That's why I need to find him and help him."
"Wait... There's some weird group out in space...?" Athrun started. This was kind of overwhelming and if he didn't already know a pair of human research experiments, along with a trio of clones, he'd think both Erica and Elijah had gone crazy.
"Not anymore," Elijah replied with a headshake. "They've been taken care of. However..."
"There are still the copies out there," Erica said. "For Elijah, there's Veia. For Lady Sahaku, there's her brother with his own Socius."
"Hyi's a copy?" Athrun questioned. That made everything make a lot of sense, aside from exactly how that sort of copy would be made. But the details weren't really the important thing this time around.
"Yeah," Elijah said, frowning.
"And I assume you've already figured out who he's a copy of," Erica added.
Athrun nodded. His newfound friend was a copy of one of the most famous mercenaries in space.
No wonder Hyi was so awkward. No wonder he seemed so lost at times.
He already existed, after all. He...
"Serpent Tail sent him here to learn what he can and then decide what he wants to do with himself," Erica explained. "Aside from his origin, he's not poorly adjusted or anything. He just needs to decide what he wants to do with himself."
"Because he can't stay with us," Elijah said flatly. Athrun was surprised. When interacting with Hyi, Elijah seemed much more fond of him. But that had to be awkward, too. Because it was very possible to like someone but not want to be around them all the time.
He tried not to think of Yzak. And failed.
"And he's painfully aware of all of this," Athrun concluded. "He's a good guy..."
"He hasn't stopped talking about you, actually," Erica said with a soft smile. "Ever since you went out in Justice originally."
Athrun knew he had a blush on his face. He looked away. "That was just Justice. Besides, he's good too."
"We're all going to look for Veia today," Elijah said after a long moment that mostly involved Athrun glancing back towards Erica and trying to stare her down. It was impossible.
"All of us," Erica added. "I haven't had a day 'off' in ages, so I'm going to tag along. There are a few resort towns near where you three found the Zaku, so hopefully he's just trying to blend in."
"Should I change?" Athrun questioned. He had his usual Morgenroete uniform on again.
"Lose the jacket," Erica ordered. She stood and headed over to the coffee maker to refill her cup. "Want some?"
"Yes," Elijah and Athrun said together. They paused, and chuckled. Athrun slid his jacket off and hung it on another chair.
By the time Hyi arrived, courtesy of the hotel's shuttle, they had the day's plan thouroughly in place. And if they ended up doing any sight-seeing or other relaxing, well, it happened. Veia was likely going to be watching for any military vehicles as well, so Athrun volunteered his own car. And Erica hers.
Hyi didn't even hesitate before walking over to Athrun's car.
"Hey..." Athrun said while they were waiting in line for the ferry to the mainland.
"Hmmm?" Hyi looked a little tired. Athrun wondered if he'd been up reading again. If he really had all of Gai's memories up through his teenage years, and then had missed the last decade, then catching up would be both addictive and daunting.
"Erica told me."
"Told you?" Hyi frowned.
"What you are."
Hyi was silent and Athrun didn't want to push. But it was better to get this sort of thing out in the open. Because now that Athrun knew why Hyi was so awkward, well, he was going to react differently.
"You don't mind?" Hyi asked cautiously, once they'd been waved on to the ferry.
"Why would I mind?" Athrun questioned. "I know... well, people with all sorts of different circumstances. Even some who were born in labs..."
"But I'm... not even anyone on my own," Hyi said. "Did Erica tell you my real name?"
"Designation," Hyi corrected. "ND HE - No Data, High Error. I..."
Athrun swallowed hard.
"You can pick a new name. It's... not easy, but..."
"Alex Dino?" Hyi asked.
Athrun nodded. "Yeah. You know, that one's available now. You can have it."
"No... but thanks."
"You're just 'Hyi' to me," Athrun said, pulling into a spot with a good view. They'd gotten separated from Erica and Elijah at a traffic light, but he was sure they were around somewhere. "I just understand you better."
"I've done a lot of reading," Hyi admitted. "I'm not sure that I understand you at all."
"You want to?" Athrun questioned. He didn't look over, instead looking out at the channel that separated Onogoro from the main island.
"I think so," Hyi said. "I... have and haven't met a lot a people. And the people I've met..."
Athrun glanced over just in time to see him shake his head.
"It's hard to sort out," Hyi explained. "The things I know because I remember them and they're not really... me. But they are. Like driving. I have the memories but I've never actually done it. And... I remember things that... I have dreams about things that I don't remember but since it's apparently all in there, I just don't know what to think at all."
"You'll get there," Athrun said softly. He reached to rest a hand on Hyi's shoulder. Hyi looked like he was about to tear up, but he didn't. Which was good. Elijah was enough to handle.
Armed with Hyi and a blurry photo on his phone of what Veia currently looked like, Athrun tromped through a busy central market. Anything that anyone could want could probably be bought there. Between groceries and trinkets were mobile suit parts and a few other things that Athrun didn't think were actually legal to be selling second-hand. But that wasn't why he was there. He could overlook them.
"Think Erica and Elijah are having any luck?" Hyi asked after about a dozen blocks. He'd perked up a bit from the ferry ride. Apparently even talking about things a little had been exceptionally cathartic.
"They would have called," Athrun replied. He checked his phone. He had a full signal and no missed calls. And while there was indeed a message, it wasn't from either of them and there was really no need to be checking other messages while on a mission. Work could wait. Everything could wait for just a little while.
"You're right." Hyi looked around again. "I've never seen anything like this before. At all. Ever."
Athrun chuckled. "It's because this is a tourist spot," he explained. "Most of this isn't aimed at the locals, but at anyone else who happens to come through. If there's anything you want, I do have cash on me today."
"I... do have some money," Hyi admitted. "I'm just trying to hang on to it til I know what I really want to spend it on. I may need it for a place of my own, if I stay. Or for something for Gale Strike..."
Athrun chuckled. He'd seen Hyi looking at some of the mobile suit parts just as extensively as he had. It wasn't a bad way to look for Veia, either. While Athrun doubted that Veia would have been trying to fix that Zaku, on the off chance that he was planning something, he'd be looking for the same parts that Athrun had seen.
"Are you thinking of staying for awhile?" Athrun questioned. "I don't think anyone minds you staying in the hotel. Morgenroete pays for the rooms whether anyone is in them or not. Sometimes they just offer them up for romantic getaways or random employees who need a night away from whatever."
"I don't know yet," Hyi admitted. "I just want to find my own way. Whatever that is."
"And you don't have much experience anywhere, so... visit some other places first," Athrun instructed. "You're a coordinator - you could go to the PLANTs, too. Even without paperwork, I know people there who'd still listen if you were interested."
"I..." Hyi looked at Athrun a bit oddly.
And then gestured quickly down the block, where a slight young man in a hooded sweatshirt was apparently bartering for his lunch.
"Veia," Hyi said softly.
Athrun was already busy sending a quick text message.
"He'll recognize you," Athrun said once he'd finished. "Stay here and I'll follow him until Elijah and Erica arrive."
"I'll come back, don't worry," Athrun said quickly. Veia had started to move farther down in the market, casually eating something wrapped in wax paper. He had sunglasses on, but his hood was down and with his hair uncovered, he was blindingly obvious. Perhaps because he wanted to be...
Athrun moved away from Hyi, who sort of wilted against a nearby wall. As bad as he felt, Athrun didn't want Veia to run and depending on how his comraderie with Veia had ended, there was always a chance of that.
Keeping his distance, Athrun followed Veia for a few blocks, stealthily, until he felt a hand on his shoulder.
Glancing quickly back, it was Elijah.
"I think he's looking for someone," Athrun whispered. "He's moving slowly and obviously... Or he has someone looking for him. Who isn't us."
Elijah nodded, keeping half-behind Athrun. "I guess we'll see? Give him a moment or two?"
There was strong enough hesitation in Elijah's voice that Athrun could tell that the merc just wanted to run after his friend. After the copy of his friend. That had to sting worse than anything. He didn't know what he'd do if confronted with a copy of Rusty or Miguel or... Nicol.
He didn't know how he'd react at all. And it would be even harder for said copy, he imagined. That was what Hyi was going through.
The context didn't fully fall into place until he considered Nicol. But he couldn't keep thinking about it. Not when he had to stay on Veia's tail.
"Any sudden movements and I'm on him," Athrun said flatly.
They lingered back far enough to stay unnoticed, even as Veia finished eating and tossed the empty wax paper into a garbage can on a corner. He paused, looked around once, and veered left to meet two hooded men approaching from the other direction. One gestured at an alley and Veia nodded.
Athrun swore under his breath. If they were going to get off the main streets, following them would be far more difficult. And if those men in the hoods were...
He had a gun with him, something he hadn't mentioned to Hyi. He hoped Hyi didn't have his. Elijah had better have one...
"C'mon," he said, gesturing that they needed to run. Elijah was on his heels until he had to clear an oncoming car to keep going. Cars had never been much of an obstacle.
Luckily, the trio hadn't ducked far off the main street. Instead, they'd settled onto a handful of discarded wooden crates to chat.
And a trio they truly were - with hoods back, the other two members revealed pale blue hair just a couple of shades off of Veia's.
Athrun came to a full stop. They all stared at one another for a long moment before Elijah caught up and skidded to a halt.
"Elijah!" both Socius exclaimed in unison.
"You came for me?" Veia questioned. Elijah nodded.
"Of course I did," Elijah said softly. Athrun stepped off to the side. His work was probably done and...
He had to go get Hyi.
Veia smiled. Elijah smiled.
"Handle this," Athrun said to Elijah as he turned to go. While there was a chance that the Socius were up to no good, he doubted it. And he passed Erica on his way back around the corner. No worries now.
"Where are you..." she started. But he just shook his head.
Hyi, thankfully, had just moved to sit on a bench and had gained a newspaper as well.
"You got him?" Hyi questioned.
"Elijah has him," Athrun replied as he sat down. "I'm sure he'll call if he needs anything."
"Do you know why he's still here?" Hyi questioned.
Athrun nodded. "Not exactly, but he's with his own kind."
"Hmm?" Hyi looked at him quizically.
"Socius," Athrun replied. Hyi's eyes went wide.
"And you let him go?" Hyi grabbed for Athrun's hands to tug him back in the direction that Veia had gone.
"I'm not really worried," Athrun said carefully. "They're Socius..."
"Right!" Hyi tugged at him again. People were beginning to stare.
"Okay..." Athrun said quickly, not wanting to cause more of a scene. He let Hyi pull him up. "Let's wander that way and you can tell me why they're so bad..."
Hopefully, Hyi was just overreacting -- any Socius that Athrun had met had been about as hazardous as a teacup. Unless provoked, of course.
The mental image that Hyi painted of a rogue Socius was nearly hilarious and definitely impossible to reconcile against the demure, quiet young men that he'd met.
But considering who and what Hyi was... Athrun couldn't not believe him. And Erica had mentioned one of the copies having a Socius companion.
"The two who were with Veia both know Elijah," Athrun added, once Hyi was done explaining. "And Erica was there, too. She may even know them. Though I don't think they were Lady Sahaku's attendants. They normally wear uniforms."
Hyi frowned. "But Finis might still be out there. That I don't know..."
He sighed. They were nearly back to the crossroads.
And there was Erica, watching with a smile as both Socius were apparently attempting to explain something to Elijah. He had a strange explanation on his face, while Veia hung back just a bit.
Though Veia was the first one to see Hyi, and backstepped.
Erica was the one who caught his arm. Athrun could just barely hear Erica's words: "He's okay."
"So what's the plan?" Athrun questioned.
Hyi was watching the trio carefully, silent.
The Socius had diverted to look at Hyi, and after a long moment they glanced at each other and offered him little smiles.
"You're a pilot?" One of them asked Hyi.
Hyi nodded. "Of course I am."
"A good one," the other Socius added with a bit more of a smile.
"Perhaps you'll honor us with a duel," the first said.
Elijah sighed. "He's not... Well..."
"It's okay," Hyi said softly, looking to Erica. She nodded.
"If I can use the data from his machine and yours, I'm fine with it," she said. "Morbidly curious, to be honest."
Athrun gave her a strange little look.
Elijah echoed the look, and then began gesturing. "Okay, that's Veia, Seven and Eleven Socius - Eleven answers to Lucky Blue, Erica, Hyi and Athrun."
"Athrun Zala?" the first - Seven Socius - questioned.
"The boys need some repairs done on their machines," Erica said quickly. Athrun was grateful for the interruption. He felt ridiculously out of place amongst the group. "So we'll take Veia back with us and they'll meet us at Morgenroete."
Hyi was keeping a close eye on Seven and Eleven. "Just two of you?" he questioned.
Eleven nodded. "Yes. We're a pair. Though there were three..."
"Not Finis," Veia said firmly, as if reading Hyi's mind. "Don't worry about him. He's not here."
Hyi just nodded, choosing to keep silent.
"We'll head back," Athrun announced. At least Hyi hadn't held on to his hand the entire time they'd walked. That had made him feel awkward in only a few seconds.
And then he'd thought about Nicol.
Would he accept a carbon copy of Nicol? One with all the memories and expressions, all the inflection and optimism. If he was a perfect copy, then...
"Enjoy the town," Erica suggested. "We won't get anything done before tomorrow anyway."
Athrun knew she was lying. If she made it back to Morgenroete. Though just maybe Erica would take some time to enjoy herself as well. Unlikely.
That was just how she was.
Athrun was quiet as he and Hyi walked back to where they'd parked, far across the town.
"What are you thinking about?" Hyi asked midway. "If... it's okay to ask?"
"Yeah..." Athrun sighed. "And if you want food or anything, let me know. We should probably get something, since we still have to drive back and wait for the ferry. At least we're going the right way... More people work on Onogoro than live there, so everyone will be leaving when we're heading back."
Hyi nodded and waited, until Athrun realized he'd dodged Hyi's question. Which was nearly a block later.
"I had a friend... I had a lot of friends who died during the wars... And I was thinking that if I had the chance to have them back, like Elijah has with Veia... if I'd want them. How I'd feel..."
"Don't think about it," Hyi said quickly. "Just... don't think about it. The process isn't perfect or easy and everything would have had to have been preserved..."
Athrun wanted to ask how to find out - how to find out if the technology even still existed or if it had been destroyed. If he could be told that there was no way, it'd be better than seeing Hyi and seeing Veia and wondering...
"No, it wouldn't be the same," Hyi said firmly. "Your friend would know what he was, and never stop thinking about his original. It would haunt him. Especially that you felt so strongly for the original and he'd always wonder if he's good enough..."
"Hyi..." Athrun knew that Hyi was telling the truth. And he hated that he'd even considered it, but to be able to listen to Nicol play piano, or go drinking with Heine, or listen to Miguel tell stories about the battles he'd fought...
Or Rusty telling everyone to stop fighting and be a team.
"I don't want to be Gai," Hyi said. "Gai is Gai. Even though I'm not someone else, I am. And I need to figure out... who I am. Don't wish this on someone else."
Athrun nodded. Maybe grabbing something to eat wouldn't be a good idea. Unless they kept walking while they ate. He didn't think he'd be able to meet Hyi's clear blue eyes for a bit.
Not without feeling so very full of guilt.
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