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Can't Ever Be

Title: Can't Ever Be
Part: 4/8
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...

Athrun didn't want to ask who or what the Socius had tangled with, but their machines were definitely worse for wear because of it. Erica explained a bit about Seven and Eleven the next day as they worked. Their story was fascinating, and midway through the day, they both arrived to help, along with Elijah and Veia.

Only Hyi kept his distance, deciding instead to work on his own machine. Athrun wasn't sure what the Gale Strike could possibly need, but he didn't question. If Hyi wasn't comfortable, Athrun didn't want to push him.

The night had been miserable. Of course he hadn't been able to stop thinking about the possibilities, and when exhaustion finally overtook him, nightmares wracked him. Hyi was so very correct; he had to not think about it.

"You two could have just come and asked for repairs," Erica chided, when the Socius, dressed in Morgenroete gear, wandered in. They looked far better than they had the day before. Sleep and warm meals had apparently been good for them. For Veia, too, who was in his own clothing and even had his headphones dangling around his neck.

"You're Athrun Zala?" the one Socius questioned him again as he settled to help pull out a hydraulic hose that had gotten nicked.

"I am," Athrun replied. "Is... that a problem to you?"

The Socius shook his head. "Not at all. Just a name one never expects to meet the person it belongs to. Though I can say the same about..." He gestured to Veia and Athrun nodded quickly. That had to be pretty intense, too. While Athrun had never thought that Lady Sahaku's trio showed much emotion, these two had a greater range of expression and were more talkative already.

"I can't begin to imagine," Athrun admitted. He couldn't. And even stranger since Veia wasn't their original but instead also a copy. But different.

"No..." The Socius gave him a little smile and reached to undo the end of the hose. "This one is mine, by the way."

"What were you fighting?" Athrun questioned.

"Which time?" The hose was discarded and Athrun reached for the new one he'd cut. At least the machines had M1 Astrays as bases, and despite the numerous modifications that had been made, the basics were still the same and Athrun could cut hoses for both Astrays and Murasames with his eyes shut.

"Any of them," Athrun replied with a chuckle. That would be like naming the dents on Justice, after all. The big ones got repaired, the smaller ones were eventually taken care of, once there were bigger ones. But there was no chance he could identify all of them.

"Bandits, mostly. Eleven finds other work for us sometimes as well," the Socius - Seven, obviously - explained. "Sometimes there are dozens of them."

"Against only two of you?"

Seven nodded and took the end of the hose from Athrun. He threaded it up inside the machine and attached it.

"It wouldn't be difficult for you, either," Seven said firmly.

"You sound like Hyi. He didn't know who I was one day and then yesterday, he was rambling off my battle records on the way back to the ferry..." Athrun sighed.

"He's interesting." Seven moved with such efficiency that Athrun couldn't help but wonder how many times he'd fixed the same things. Maybe Athrun could see about some re-inforced hoses, or coated, or maybe make something all new that would do the same thing but different. There had to be a way...

"Hyi? Yeah..."

"He's something that we never considered," Seven admitted. "There's no benefit to fighting him, but it would be interesting anyway."

"Erica told me about your fights with Gai Murakumo." Athrun attached the other end of the hose and clipped everything in. Probably knocked into rocks and trees and whatnot in dense areas. In a proper battle... No, there were no proper battles... Not anymore, thankfully.

So there would be rocks and trees and damaged ankles. Athrun could fix those. Happily.

"At the time, there was great meaning to those fights," Seven said firmly. "It's difficult to explain..."

Athrun nodded. "I won't pretend to understand, but I know what it's like to have things that... well, matter to me that I can't justify to anyone else."

"Is that why you're here, now, doing this?"

"Yes." Athrun smiled. "Exactly."

Seven echoed the smile, though on him it seemed out of place. They continued to work on his Astray, however mostly in silence. That was more than fine - it gave him a chance to listen, which was far more interesting anyway. He enjoyed being just another pilot and mechanic.

And he also enjoyed figuring out all the little tweaks and augmentations each machine sported. Seven was a ranged fighter, obviously, and Eleven was better with close combat. Athrun was fairly sure he just had way more machine than Eleven, but was going to ask about a match, definitely.

With that many hands on familiar machines, the repairs to the Astrays were finished before sunset.

By then, Athrun had gotten to say a few words to Eleven, and Veia had settled with Elijah, deep in some conversation that the outside world never needed to know about. Just the expression on Elijah's face made Athrun long for Nicol.

Mentally, he kicked himself.

"Let's go," Eleven said, tagging Athrun's sleeve quickly. "We have clearance."

"Huh?" Athrun blinked at Eleven. Then it made sense. "Really? Tonight?"

Doing rounds with the Gale Strike had felt good. This would be better. And not that he'd ever been terribly competitive, but Eleven was one of the best pilots in... One of the best pilots. Period.

Eleven nodded. "Erica is at home, having dinner with her family. However, everything is set to record remotely. Seven will observe."

"About time," Athrun commented. "I was starting to think that Erica was living here."

Eleven gave him a strange little look and headed for his machine.

Athrun stretched and headed off towards Justice.

In motion, Eleven's M1 Astray was much more interesting than the standard machine. Every joint had seemingly been modified to change the range of motion. Athrun paused and watched Eleven put it through a quick routine that reminded him almost of a fighter stretching before a match. Beautiful.

There was also a certain irony in Eleven having a mass-produced variant of the machine of his greatest rival. It seemed almost insulting, though Eleven didn't seem to see it that way. He had explained that he was a part of his machine, and in order to be his best, he simply needed to know how to work with what he had.

Gai had freed him from many things. Perhaps the constant mention of the mercenary's name was part of why Hyi kept away. Athrun hadn't even seen him during the afternoon. Which was perfectly understandable. Possibly, he just had other things to do.

Athrun wasn't worried - especially not when he was getting a rare chance to show off his skill.

Mobile suits, however, were crafted for fights to the finish. At the far end of the runways, Eleven pulled out a beam saber and waited. Athrun was on him without hesitation. Each movement was fast, and Athrun found himself not thinking at all and just reacting, figuring out Eleven's patterns and anticipating his moves as best he could. Eleven was skilled and fast and nearly overwhelming him with every movement. In a real battle, he'd be terrifying. But Athrun knew he could adapt and while Eleven matched his movements, he kept trying.

The sun was setting, though Athrun barely noticed as he twisted and parried and tried to keep up to Eleven. The Astray was a good match for Justice, which surprised Athrun. He'd have to ask Erica exactly who had done the modifications on the machine. It was fascinating. Amazing.

The Astray had to be running as hard as it ever had and then some. Whatever hidden modifications had been done to it, Athrun wanted to know them. He was enthralled.


And just when Athrun had missed a block and expected to be batted across the runway, the M1 slowed.

"Out of power...."

"We'll finish later," Athrun said with a chuckle.

The Astray was dark for a moment before the auxillary emergency system fired up and Athrun got Eleven back to the hangars. Only once Eleven was back did Seven come back in his own machine. He hadn't said a word, but Athrun knew he'd been watching carefully. If Eleven would have been in any true danger, Seven would have jumped in instantly.

Hyi was there once Athrun descended. His presence was a pleasant surprise.

"That was good," Hyi said. "Close..."

"Yeah..." Athrun needed a shower, badly, he realized, once he stepped into the cool air blowing through the hangar. He'd been sweating.

Eleven had the strange smile that all of the Socius seemed to get. It was unnerving in its own way... Lady Sahaku had once told him that they had been made to be expressionless. Athrun had been horrified at first even though he'd seen far worse.

Perhaps because he had seen worse - because he'd seen things like Lodonia first hand - made him sympathetic to the Socius more than he would have been otherwise.

Athrun held out his hand. Eleven took it and gave it a firm shake.

"Rematch," Athrun agreed.


Seven descended a moment later and just watched them. But Athrun could tell that he, too, was pleased.

Veia and Elijah had disappeared, but Athrun could imagine. However...

"Time to head back?" Hyi questioned. He was still hesistant around the Socius. Understandable, but frustrating.

Athrun nodded, then looked to Seven and Eleven. "Do you two need a ride?"

"We've been loaned a vehicle," Eleven replied. "We're both capable of driving."

"Have a good night, then," Athrun commented. While a shower would be nice, it'd probably have to wait. Food would be good... and he knew he was going to be running on adrenaline for a bit. The crash would be bad. But it had all been so very much worth it.

"You too," Seven said. Both young men offered him an OMNI salute. He gave them the ZAFT salute in response. They all smiled.

Halfway back out of the facility, Hyi spoke up.

"I want to learn to drive."

"I thought you knew how..." Athrun wasn't really thinking about Hyi and driving. He was thinking about Eleven and that M1. Amazing.

It was keeping him from thinking about Nicol, which was an added bonus.

"But I've never done it. Not me..."

"Tomorrow," Athrun said quickly. He could tell from the tone of Hyi's voice that this was very important, so... "You can use my car. We'll just get some space on the runways. There'll be room and if you're good with the basics..."

"Thank you."

"You have to let me look at Gale Strike more," Athrun said a moment later. They got to the first traffic light.

"You're hungry?"

"A bit..." Hyi reached to fidget with the radio. He seemed to like the pop station, which amused Athrun. "Somewhere different tonight?"

"Okay." Now he had to think of somewhere... Maybe Chinese? Athrun thought Chinese sounded good.

"He's strong," Hyi managed a couple of minutes later, just before the last turn before the better of the local Chinese places.

"Eleven?" Athrun questioned. "Yeah... Good to have him on our side."

"We're not really a 'side'," Hyi replied. "But..."

"Well, he's not hostile." Athrun wondered what Hyi was getting at. He trusted Erica, after all, and if Erica had brought them in, they had to be okay. "They're not hostile..."

Hyi spent most of dinner asking more about the decor of the restaurant than anything else. It was a nice break, really.

"Want to stay for awhile?" Hyi asked as Athrun was pulling up to the hotel.

"Well..." Athrun didn't want to refuse, but the adrenaline was fading and he was exhausted.


"Oh, but... I'd like to," Athrun admitted. He wanted to ask more questions, because he'd heard more things from Elijah, about others, about them heading further into space. But Hyi came back...

Hyi needed something. A greater purpose, not to hide.

Athrun understood that so very well.


"I'm just worn out," Athrun explained. "I'd fall asleep on your sofa again."


Athrun chuckled. "If that's really what you want. But I get a blanket this time."

Hyi nodded. Athrun pulled around to the parking garage. It wouldn't be too different from sharing rooms with other pilots, teammates, comrades, friends.

"There's room on the bed," Hyi said, causing Athrun to tap the brakes a bit hard while looping through the garage to find a spot. Hyi was red when Athrun looked over at him.

"Not like that," he said quickly. "It's just... better than the sofa. I don't... I mean... I haven't... um..."

"Sure," Athrun said softly. He didn't even want to think about untangling Hyi's sexual history, because if he had any memories of that sort of stuff that weren't his own...

That wholly killed any further thoughts Athrun wanted to have about Nicol.

Athrun found a parking spot and turned the car off.

"I'll have to borrow something to wear, though," he said. His current clothing was both smelly and dirty. He'd prefer to leave it in the trunk, but he doubted the hotel would appreciate him streaking to the elevator.

"I have stuff," Hyi said quickly. "You can borrow whatever you want. We're about the same size."

Athrun nodded. "Thanks."

"Would you tell me more about the wars?"

"Yeah..." They made their way in through the lobby and to the elevators. "Sure."

Hyi's room looked like it was only clean due to the benefit of housekeeping. Clothing was hung neatly, clean, and everything on the desk and tables was in neat piles. But it looked artificial. If it wasn't the maids, it was just how Hyi had taken to organizing. And it just wasn't quite right yet.

"I have a lot of food, too," Hyi said, showing off the fridge. Definitely had made breakfast into an art form. And there were coffee packets. Athrun nodded.

"You can shower first if you'd like," Hyi continued. "I know you were concerned..."

"That I look and smell like I just went through a war?" Athrun asked. "Mmm, it'd be worse if I'd had a proper suit on, to be honest. But yes... thank you."

"I'll find you something to wear. There are always towels..."

Athrun nodded and watched Hyi as he started to rummage around. While at first it looked like he'd accumulated things, they were mostly the hotel's things - glasses and notepads and reference books...

"Thanks," he said as he pulled off his jacket. Maybe if it was aired, it'd be okay.

"Just on the floor..."

When Athrun glanced his way, Hyi was already undressing. Either he hadn't realized that Athrun hadn't moved into the bathroom or he just lacked modesty. Not that Athrun really cared, after years of sharing rooms and showers. But with Hyi it was different.

He ducked into the bathroom and finished undressing there, tucking all of the important stuff from his pockets onto the sink counter, as far away from the sink as possible. He'd move it before he went to bed. Maybe.

Athrun turned on the shower and waited a moment before sticking his hand in. The water temperature and pressure were perfect. When he stepped in to feel the full spray, he relaxed instantly. Wonderful. Closing his eyes, he could feel the whole day washing away - at least all the sweat and the feeling of that battle. In actual combat, when they weren't being careful and staying on the ground, he didn't doubt that Eleven would have done some serious damage.

And that was nearly a good thing. As long as everyone could be kept in check -- including himself. Erica had already told him how to keep Eleven in check, just in case, though Athrun hated the thought.

He fell into a bit of a trance, going through the motions of cleaning himself even though his thoughts were wandering all over the place. More than once they wandered back to Hyi and just what he was going to end up doing. Athrun knew what it was like to feel so lost and confused about purpose. But was Hyi really going to find himself here, under Erica's wing?

Athrun nearly jumped when the bathroom door opened.

"Just putting some clothes in," Hyi called softly. "Sorry... it took a minute to change and straighten up."

"Thanks," Athrun replied. The door closed again. The maids had taken care of most everything, but Athrun supposed that if Hyi had things he wanted to tuck away, there was nothing wrong with that.

He rinsed quickly - hopefully the hotel conditioner wouldn't do anything too awful to his hair. He ran his hands through it again - it was getting pretty long and needed to be trimmed one of these days. Just something he hadn't really thought about.

Everything in the bathroom had steamed up, and once he'd gotten dried off enough to walk across the the floor, he turned on the vent fan. And resisted the urge to draw little stick figures and whatnot on the bathroom mirror like he and Kira had done as children. Of course, he'd also started adding wiring diagrams when there was enough steam and space, which annoyed Kira, who was much happier drawing birds and his family and Athrun.

Athrun was pleased to find that Hyi had left him a pair of swearpants and a dark t-shirt. Either he had more of a wardrobe than Athrun knew about or he'd been picking up a few things here and there. Either was likely, Athrun supposed.

Once his hair wasn't dripping, Athrun dressed quickly. He'd already taken longer than he'd intended...

Hyi had transformed the room. Not entirely, but there were enough changes that Athrun noticed them immediately. It wasn't just 'picked up', it was 'picked up with a purpose'. There were drinks out, and ice brought from the machine in the hallway. The bed was turned down, but thankfully Hyi was over in the room's lone easy chair, datapad propped on his lap. Even the miscellaneous piles on the desks had been neatened up.

Athrun chose not to comment.

"Sorry I took so long," he said as he wiggled his toes against the plush carpeting. So much nicer than the short pile he had in his own apartment. "The hot water felt amazing on my muscles. Of course, I'll probably fall right asleep on you..." He chuckled, and Hyi gave him a little smile.

"It's okay," Hyi replied. He closed whatever he'd been working on and pushed down the computer's screen. "I just picked up a bit and got some ice. This isn't too weird, is it?"

Unable to help a bit of a wince, Athrun wasn't quite sure what to say. "A bit," he admitted after a moment. "But don't worry. I know what you're intending, so I'm not going to take anything the wrong way. You can't help living in a hotel, after all."

Hyi nodded. And looked like he wanted to say something. But he said nothing.

And he tried again, but nothing.

"Mmm?" Athrun hoped he'd really just spit it out.

"You're my first friend... mine, that I made on my own," Hyi said softly, looking down and unwilling to meet Athrun's gaze. "We are friends, right?"

Athrun blinked a couple of times, wondering how he'd ended up in such an awkward situation. He was definitely fond of Hyi, but they hadn't known each other for very long. Still, that fondness meant something, so...

"Yes," Athrun replied firmly. "We are."

However, as far as being Hyi's first real friend? He just didn't feel quite up for the honor.

"Go ahead and sit," Hyi managed, scrambling up. "I'll wash up, too. I won't take long."

He was in the bathroom with the door closed before Athrun had poured himself what he thought looked and smelled like ginger ale. As much as Athrun thought of checking for a minibar with something harder, he resisted.

He settled into the chair that Hyi had vacated only to hear his jacket ringing across the room. A second later, he answered. He didn't expect to see Kira's name on the display and didn't even consider where he was when he flipped it open.


"Athrun! Guess where I am?"

Athrun pondered for a moment. "Earthside, if you're that clear," he replied.

"Just landed in Orb! Can you come out?"

"Really?" Athrun was surprised. "I..."

Kira. In Orb. It wasn't impossible, after all. Both Cagalli and Kira's mother still lived here and Kira was close with them both. Normally, nothing could keep him from Kira, but...

Athrun heard the shower running. He'd already promised his time.


"I have plans tonight," Athrun said quickly. "I want to see you, but tonight..."

"Eh? Really, Athrun?" There was a teasing tone in Kira's voice. "You've never had any trouble there..."

"It's not like that." Athrun was terse with his tone. He didn't want to upset Kira, but Kira said some dumb things some times. Besides, at present, the entire entourage that he was gathering were not at all what he would think of as...

Well, take that back... Hyi was...

His friend. Right.

"Tomorrow then? I'll stay with Cagalli tonight anyway."

"In the afternoon," Athrun said quickly. "Give my best to Cagalli, would you?"

"She might come see you tomorrow too," Kira said. He was laughing. "You two should really talk things through."

"We have," Athrun reminded him. "Anyway... I should let you finish with whatever you were doing..."

"Yeah, getting everything settled. We just got in, actually."

"We?" Athrun questioned. He hadn't heard about any visiting dignitaries - there was going to be something just for Orb that would bring Lady Sahaku from space, but otherwise...

"Me and Strike Freedom," Kira explained. "Don't worry, there's nothing going on. Well, I'm supposed to check on a couple of things but I don't think there's anything to worry about. Just follow up on some weird activity months ago."

Inwardly, Athrun groaned. If Kira was there after Hyi, he didn't know what he'd do. Hope Kira would listen to reason, he supposed.

"You could have brought a Zaku or borrowed a Murasame," Athrun noted. "Strike Freedom is..."

"Mine," Kira replied firmly. "Don't worry. I'll keep her locked down when I'm not around. Besides, Freedom was sort of a symbol of Orb... I'm sure having her around Morgenroete will be fine."

Sometimes, Athrun thought, Kira missed the obvious entirely.

"I need to get going," Athrun told him quickly as he heard the shower turn off. "I'll see you in the afternoon, okay?"

"We'll have dinner, too," Kira added. "Have a good night, Athrun."

"You too," Kira," Athrun answered before ending the call. And turning his phone off.

The timing was awful. He'd barely managed to toss his phone back into his jacket when Hyi opened the bathroom door.

"Were you talking to someone?" Hyi questioned. He was trying to towel-dry his hair.

"Phone rang," Athrun replied. "Don't worry, I'm good to stay and then give you your driving lessons in the morning."

"And after that?" Hyi questioned.

"I might have a princess chasing me around with her-- well, a good friend."

Hyi nodded. He slung his towel over the top of the bathroom door.

"That's right. You fought along side Representative Athha in both wars," Hyi noted.

"She's a good pilot too," Athrun said. "Not quite an ace, but strong. She could hold her own against you for awhile, I'd bet."

"I was surprised that she'd be allowed to fight on the frontlines in a mobile suit," Hyi commented as he crossed the room to sit on the bed. "But the same could be said of you. You had a very high standing in the PLANTs."

"It's not at all fun," Athrun told him. He leaned against the dresser and desparately wished he'd gone for something harder than ginger ale. "I was happiest when I lived with my mother on the Moon. When I went back to the PLANTs, I found myself with a fiancee and a war and a form to sign up for the military. I didn't properly sign it til the week after my mother died..."

The ginger ale was fine, nothing would be strong enough. Ever.


"Everything I did there was either politically motivated or arranged," Athrun said. He kept his gaze down. "I became friends with my squad-mates, but it wasn't easy at first. I was angry at being separated from my best friend."

"Best friend?" Hyi questioned.

"Kira Yamato, Freedom's pilot. He..."

"He has an article much like yours," Hyi noted. "Though your friendship is barely mentioned."

"Well... it's been awkward..."

The more they talked, the more they settled, until they'd both ended up sitting on the bed - Athrun leaning against the pillows while Hyi sat cross-legged at the end of the bed, listening intently.

Though as the hours passed, Hyi started telling his own stories, starting from the divergence of his own existance. And where he knew the errors were...

Athrun didn't know why the young man thought he was so flawed - he was fine. ZAFT would have taken him in an instant. He was half-tempted to suggest it to Hyi, and send him straight to Yzak. Though perhaps that would be cruel. For both of them.

Athrun wasn't sure when he'd fallen asleep, but he thought it might've been somewhere in between the two wars, when he was explaining about Cagalli. Though explaining anything about Cagalli involved censoring himself. Not that Hyi would know that. Cagalli was usually the one who gave things away.

It was a bright, sunny day when he woke, and he mentally cursed that neither of them had closed the blinds. But the glowing cityscape had been such a nice backdrop that Athrun had hated to do it. And Hyi apparently just liked knowing what was going on outside, even if the view was mostly of a subdivision and in the distance, water.

The bed wasn't huge to begin with, though Athrun didn't feel terribly awkward about having Hyi so close. There had been plenty of times that Nicol or Rusty had flopped into bed with him and chatting his ear off til he'd fallen asleep. And more than once Rusty had still been chattering when he'd woke up later. Perhaps he was just trying to input all the information subconsiously.

Hyi made Athrun think about the past far too much. It was not putting him in a good place at all. But he couldn't blame Hyi for it, either. That wouldn't be fair in the least. Hyi was just trying to be... friendly, and get to know him.

Considering how close Hyi had gotten during the night, 'friendly' was an understatement. In the morning light, Hyi was handsome when asleep. He certainly didn't look like the merciless enemy mobile suit pilot that he'd found fractured reports about. No, he looked young and harmless and like he needed a friend.

Athrun gently de-snuggled from Hyi and rolled out of bed. His muscles were sore, but not as much as they could have been. He stretched. The hotel would have breakfast, something he'd forgotten that first night when he'd sent Hyi home with leftovers. Hopefully Hyi had eaten all of that, otherwise Athrun figured he could help clean the fridge out. He probably needed to do his own. Especially if Kira was going to stop by and stay at all. The last thing he needed to do was show off an award-worthy mold collection.

"Athrun?" Hyi's voice was soft and sleepy...

"Yeah, I'm here..." Athrun wasn't as well-rested as he would have liked. Probably a combination of the battle yesterday, a strange bed and a strange bedmate. He wouldn't say no to another couple of hours if Hyi suggested it. But first, he needed to draw the curtains at least a bit. It was far too bright for his liking.

"It's early..."

"Isn't that when your should be getting up?" Athrun teased.

"Going to be a night person," Hyi announced before rolling over. And then feeling around for the edge of the bed. He rolled back quickly and opened his eyes. Bright, clear blue staring straight at Athrun. "I took the whole bed!"

Athrun chuckled. "A bit, yes. You were curled right up with me."

"I didn't mean to. I've never, um..."

"Never slept with anyone," Athrun said as he pulled the curtains mostly-closed. There was still enough light to see, but he could sleep through that.

"No," Hyi confirmed. "There are a lot of things that I've never done. It's going to be so complicated when..."

"Hey, don't worry about that stuff yet," Athrun told him as he sat back down on the bed. His back protested a bit, but the rest of his body thanked him as he settled, adjusted the pillows and settled again. "I hope you're good with going back to sleep."


"Good. Don't worry, I'm sure we'll still have time to cruise all over the runways, too," Athrun said as he closed his eyes.

"What if I need more than a few hours of help?" Hyi asked softly.

"You'll be fine," Athrun told him. Hyi fidgeted beside him for a moment before settling down.

And Athrun was right back out like a light.



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