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...
As Athrun had expected, Hyi had no trouble with driving. He was a bit awkward at first, but it seemed to come naturally and between his memories, even if they weren't his, and his ability with a mobile suit, a car was well within his grasp.
Which left them zipping back and forth a few times anyway, until Athrun caught a glimpse of a matched pair of spectators over near where the hangars with Justice and the Socius Astrays. And Gale Strike, of course.
"Let's head back," Athrun said. Hyi had the radio up. Today was heavier, with a bit of a techno beat. Good for driving, Athrun supposed.
Hyi nodded, and Athrun leaned back. It was weird to be a passenger in his own vehicle, but Hyi hadn't given him anything to worry about. He pulled perfectly into Athrun's parking spot.
Before Athrun made it out of the car, they were both over to him.
Athrun nearly fell back against the car from the force of Kira's hug. It felt good, and Athrun hugged him back, not at all concerned that he was clinging a bit. Kira needed to visit more often. Talking about him so much the night before had brought that ache right back to the surface.
"Good to see you, Kira," Athrun said. Neither one of them had let go yet. "Lacus is well?"
"Yeah, she wanted to come but she's so busy now," Kira replied.
Kira's partner coughed and Athrun looked over. Cagalli was wearing a hooded sweatshirt with the hood up, and sunglasses. As if she looked anything like herself in that get-up. But if it let her move around easier, so be it. It definitely signaled that she didn't want to be bothered.
He followed Cagalli's gaze over to Hyi, who had gotten out of the car and was standing there awkwardly, staring at the group.
"Ah..." Athrun pulled away from Kira and gestured to Hyi. "This is Hyi. He's a friend of Erica's that I've been working with."
"Yeah, that I know," Cagalli said flatly.
"And this is Kira Yamato and Cagalli Yula Athha," Athrun continued.
"I've been hearing about you running around in Justice," Cagalli said, looking squarely at Athrun. "Told Kira all about it last night, actually."
"He's who you were with last night?" Kira asked, looking Hyi over carefully.
"Yes," Hyi said firmly. "And it's very nice to meet you both."
Athrun was surprised that Hyi had spoken up. Though he thought he knew. Hyi was jealous, upon seeing them all together in person.
Cagalli smiled, finally. "Yeah... Hey, I want to see your Strike, okay?"
"A Strike?" Kira questioned. "Here?"
"I told you that." Cagalli gave him a strange little look. "You were mostly asleep by then, weren't you?"
Cagalli shook her head. "He complained for a few minutes that you were busy, asked me a few things and then fell asleep. You didn't miss anything."
"That's not quite how it happened!" Kira exclaimed. The blush on his face said that it had happened exactly like that. Travel had never done anything good for Athrun either, so...
Athrun chuckled and reached to put a hand on Kira's shoulder. "Hey, we can talk all night tonight if you want."
"Do you have anything planned for the afternoon?" Kira questioned. "I want to show you the stuff I was sent down here with."
"I'm yours," Athrun replied. He looked back to Hyi. "You've got tests to run for Erica?"
"Yeah..." Hyi nodded. "And..."
Luckily Hyi caught the little headshake Athrun gave him.
"And I'll see you later?" Hyi questioned.
"Yes. And ask Erica if she can get you a company car." Athrun thought that would be perfect. Though he'd rather miss driving Hyi around, to be honest. But getting Hyi out of there in the first place was important. Before Kira could start putting pieces together. That Cagalli had told him about the Gale Strike might be a problem already, but until that came to a head, Athrun was going to cross his fingers and hope for the best.
"Eh? Don't you need a ride?" Cagalli looked at Hyi.
"How did you two get here?" Athrun questioned.
Kira gestured at a jeep.
"Go ahead, take my car," Athrun told Hyi. "I'll pick it up later."
Hyi's eyes went wide. But he nodded and got back in, quickly starting it.
Neither sibling said a word til Hyi was halfway back to the main gate.
"You just let him take your car!" Cagalli exclaimed. "You wouldn't ever let me drive it!"
"He was just practicing in it," Athrun told her. "He'll be fine."
"You two seem pretty close," Kira commented. "You sure your overnight was just friendly?"
"At present, he's firmly in the untouchable category," Athrun said. He hoped he wasn't blushing. Because he did not want to be damning himself. "Ignoring some very good personal reasons, he's a guest of Erica."
Kira and Cagalli looked at one another. And then at Athrun. He swallowed hard. That aspect of his relationship - past - with the siblings was always the part that was the most awkward. Especially since he'd known at the time. And hadn't cared...
"I can show you that Strike," Athrun continued, gesturing for the hangar. "There are actually a few guest machines on premises, including a Savior variation that another friend just acquired."
"Savior..." Kira repeated softly. "That one..."
"I need to give him lessons," Athrun said with a chuckle. The past needed to stay in the past. It was their little rule, even though they needed to remind each other of it fairly often. Less so when they weren't in close-proximity, but... "Every time I see him transform it... It's bad. So bad."
"We're not all you," Cagalli commented. She took his hand and practically dragged him into the hangar.
Kira was on their heels. But he stopped short when he actually saw the Gale Strike.
"That's..." he started, but trailed off.
"It's called Gale Strike," Athrun said. "Erica's analyzing data on it at present."
"This belongs to the guy you were with?" Cagalli asked. "Look at those blades!"
"I think it's one of the mobile suits I'm looking for," Kira said quickly.
"And Orb was looking for the Vent Savior," Athrun retorted. "Except its original pilot abandoned it and it was acquired by a mercenary group."
"Is Hyi a mercenary too?" Cagalli questioned. She was circling the feet of the Gale Strike, staring upwards much as Athrun had. And Kira had a certain sparkle in his eyes as he appraised the build and weapons.
"Of a sort," Athrun replied. "He's been hired for testing right now. I'm not sure why Morgenroete is using outside sources, but..." He stared right at Kira. "They've done it before."
"It's nice," Kira commented. "And even if it is the machine, there's no way to prove he was the pilot, huh?"
"That's the best way of looking at it," Athrun told him firmly.
"Gotcha." Kira nodded. "I have a couple others that I might want to ask him about, though. He's good. But if he's..."
"I let him take my car," Athrun interjected. "He's... just a little lost right now. But he's not up to anything. You have my word. There are a handful of others around that I can vouch for as well. It's been busy."
"You know there's a bunch of big annual meetings this week, right?" Cagalli asked him, frowning. "Security is going to be ridiculous."
"I'll warn everyone."
"You'll be my bodyguard." She stared straight at him, and despite her harsh tone, he could hear the underlying need. "Please?"
"I'll help," Kira added. "I mean, I've got a couple of weeks down here and I don't have any idea if I'll even be able to get any information."
"I'll get guest rooms ready for you both," Cagalli said with a smile. And then she turned her attention back to the Gale Strike.
"Lacus wants you to come visit," Kira said softly, sliding close to Athrun. "She'll take care of all the permissions so you can travel freely."
"I don't know," Athrun admitted. "I'll think about it."
He didn't think he'd be able to face Nicol at all, nor any of the others. Not for awhile, at least. And he really couldn't explain why, ever, to anyone, except perhaps Erica or...
Both Athrun and Kira turned. Despite neither the Vent Savior nor the maimed Zaku being housed in the hanger with the Gale Strike, Elijah and Veia stood in the open doorway. Athrun glanced around again. Murasames. Perhaps Erica was trying to hide the machines for...
Of course. With all of Orb's important political figures in once place, there would be military tours. And with the main hangar doors open, the Murasames would block Gale Strike from easy view. He wondered if Justice had similar cover, and the Socius M1's. Though those were far easier to pass off as Orb machines.
"Hey," Athrun offered them a little wave. "Just giving a little tour."
"We were looking for Hyi," Elijah explained. "I have something he really needs to know about."
"He took my car back to the main building," Athrun said. He frowned. If it was important enough that Elijah was hunting him down, then it couldn't be good. "Try calling Erica?"
"Already did," Veia interjected. "She hadn't seen him yet."
"He should have gotten back there by now." It was Cagalli, who had apparently finished her inspection and was watching Elijah and Veia. "Aforementioned mercenaries?"
"Yeah," Athrun said. "Don't worry about them." Cagalli nodded.
"No problem," she said. "At least I'm familiar with them. Especially with Lady Sahaku coming -- you're her advance guard?"
Elijah shook his head. "She'll have her own attendants, though... yes, we'll be down. All of us."
Athrun swallowed hard and hoped his wince wasn't too obvious. That was probably why Elijah was looking for Hyi. If Gai was going to be around, then things might get awkward for Hyi. Perhaps frustratingly so.
A phone rang and Veia grabbed for his pocket. He wandered out of the hangar for a second and then came back quickly.
"Hyi made it to Erica. I guess he had a little trouble finding a parking spot, but don't worry about your car," Veia announced. "Erica has the keys."
Athrun couldn't help a small laugh, which was half amusement and half relief. "We didn't really go over parking when other cars were around," he admitted. Hopefully Erica already knew what Elijah and Veia did and could warn him.
Cagalli frowned. "I won't stop any of you, unless you're here for me. In which case, you have to go through Athrun."
"And me," Kira said, physically stepping between them for half a second.
"You're fine," Veia said with a handwave. "We're after someone else. But..."
"Understandable," Athrun answered quickly. "Don't worry. Do what you need to."
"But..." Kira started, but Athrun held out a hand.
"They wouldn't tell us that much if they were after a politician," Athrun explained. "Whomever they're hunting needs to be hunted."
"And we should get going," Elijah added.
"We'll get those lessons in another day," Athrun told him. Elijah nodded, and taking Veia's hand rather quickly, they left the hangar.
"Mmm, new guy's cute," Cagalli commented after a moment. "He's..."
"A new guy," Athrun said. Hopefully that would be the end of it. Neither Kira nor Cagalli needed to poke more into Hyi or Veia's past. Especially Hyi's. Veia's could be written off as an erroneous missing persons report or something. Hopefully Kira wouldn't investigate too much.
It was there. Of course it was there. It was silly to expect Lady Rondo Mina Sahaku to go anywhere without her mobile suit, the same as it was silly to expect her to go anywhere without her three Socius attendants and their mobile suits. But they didn't bother Athrun - Athrun rather liked them, actually.
And with both Seven and Eleven there as well, confused mechanics were starting to compare notes on sightings of a guy who could apparently be everywhere at once.
But Athrun was back in uniform and wandering around with Cagalli most of the day, every day. The food was better than he'd expected, but everything else was boring. After sneaking away, while Kira took a proper turn, Athrun found himself staring at Lady Sahaku's mobile suit.
The black Astray was referred to as Gold Frame. Amatu. But all that Athrun saw was its grafted right arm. He'd asked Lady Sahaku about it the first time he'd seen it, but she'd simply shook her head and said that it had been added before she'd acquired the machine and the systems had accepted it so completely that she couldn't actually remove it and match an arm to the left while keeping the mobile suit's effectiveness.
For as much as Athrun had been thinking about Nicol, it was a like a shot through his heart to be standing there, staring up at a machine that was so unabashedly using a piece of Blitz. Though it was like a living memorial as well. Blitz was living on.
A stray mechanic wandered over to Athrun.
"How can you just stand there?" he asked softly. "You're not creeped out by it?"
Athrun blinked once. "Huh?"
"It's always watching..." The mechanic shook his head and kept going. "Like it's alive."
Athrun stood there for another few minutes, trying to make eye contact with the machine. He failed. But if, perhaps, there was something, then...
He almost felt a little better about the arm. And everything.
His phone rang. Break time was over. There was boredom to be had.
Even his evenings were monopolized by Cagalli and Kira, which Athrun didn't find to be bad except that he was starting to worry. He'd retrieved his car without issue, but he hadn't actually seen Hyi after that. Just dropping by the hotel was easier said than done, especially since a chunk of the hotel blocks were filled with reporters covering the annual meetings. Everything was a mess and even with his clearance, the hassle turned him off.
And despite Cagalli having given them each their own rooms, there hadn't been a night that Kira hadn't spent in Athrun's room, in Athrun's bed. Which Athrun couldn't say anything bad about.
Athrun was out on the room's balcony, enjoying the morning air. Perhaps Hyi had managed to become a night person. It sounded kind of nice, but there was still the threat of being awoken by sunbeams straight in the face.
"Call for you."
Athrun reached for the phone, expecting possibly Erica or even Hyi. It was Elijah.
"How about those lessons? I wouldn't ask, since I'm sure you're busy, but Reed keeps teasing me..." He was whispering. Likely, he had slipped around a corner to make the call.
Athrun wanted to laugh. He had no idea where Serpent Tail stayed when they were in Orb, which was apparently just what they did. However, he suspected this time around that at least Veia might be holed up with the rest of his family at Lady Sahaku's family residence. Athrun had been there once, a couple of years previous, when Cagalli had been invited. But Athrun didn't even think he could get there without a map and guide. It was large, sprawling, and isolated.
"I have the morning free," Athrun replied. "Meet me in an hour?"
The phone disconnected, and Athrun wandered back in to see about coffee and proper clothing.
"You have the morning free?" Kira questioned, chuckling. "I guess I'm watching Cagalli."
"I need to do this," Athrun said. "Remember what I said about the Vent Savior? Those lessons?"
"So that wasn't Hyi..."
Athrun shook his head. Either he had been talking about Hyi more than he thought or Kira had picked up on something...
Elijah was waiting for him when he arrived out at the hangars. But he wasn't alone. Veia was there with him, and also Serpent Tail's leader, Gai Murakumo.
While Athrun had never really spoken with Gai, he did know a decent bit about him. Or thought he had, before Hyi filled in some unpleasant details. Gai had saved Cagalli's life once. At least once. His respect for the man was huge.
But if Gai was around, that meant Hyi wouldn't be, almost by default. Athrun could understand it - though he was surprised that Veia was so easy-going with his own small army of clones. But those circumstances were very different.
"Hey," Elijah waved as Athrun headed over. He'd suited up, just in case, in his usual purple and white.
"Hey," he echoed. "We have an audience."
"Yeah..." Elijah gave a little half-wince. "I'm still trying to trade back, but Veia..."
Veia shook his head. "I gave it to you, Elijah."
"Besides," Athrun said quickly. "That machine changing hands is what is keeping it safe from ZAFT. You need to be its pilot, Elijah."
Gai simply caught Athrun's gaze. Athrun nodded. There was really nothing to say to him. Athrun would take good care of Elijah.
"Let me put it through its paces first," Athrun said, heading towards the Vent Savior. It looked so much like the Savior, and yet so different. The colors were striking, and painted up as a Serpent Tail machine, it was nearly as menacing as Gai's Astray Blue Frame.
"Go ahead," Elijah replied.
Even the cockpit felt right. Everything was pretty much the same, which was wonderful. And everything was properly maintained, which meant that it only took a few button-pressed to get the machine in the air. However, it was set to a percentage of its performance specs. Holding the mobile suit steady with one hand, Athrun quickly pulled up the OS and the level settings and changed everything. He saw what had been done, but there was a better way. And there was also the option of working with the pilot until he could handle the insane power the machine was capable of.
If Elijah could stay in Orb long enough, Athrun would teach him. Otherwise, he could reset things to where they'd been. But the thought pained him.
At least what he was doing wasn't hurting the battery at all. He wasn't using any of the weaponry, after all, and wasn't trying to block attacks. He was just flying and reveling in the feel.
A trio of Murasames closed up on him.
"That you, Admiral?"
Athrun recognized the voice of one of the young ladies he'd instructed in the recent past. He knew there were Murasame patrols covering the political meetings and he knew that they knew he was instructing a student and the Vent Saviorís IFF was friendly.
"It is," he replied. "Think you can catch me."
And without waiting for a response, he threw open the throttle and surged forward.
"No, sir," came as the quick reply, though the Murasames rushed after him anyway. The machine performed amazingly, and only when he'd looped around to where they'd started, hoping the trio wouldn't get in any trouble for the assistance and fun, he dipped his wings and dropped back to the runway, transforming quickly and then going through a routine of movements to feel out all the joints and how things were weighted.
He didn't want to get out of the cockpit. Damn, did he miss the Savior. But that was an insult to Justice. Maybe he could see about a building project...
There was silence on the ground when he descended. It was hard to tell expression behind Gai's orange sunglasses, but both Veia and Elijah were smiling.
"That was great," Elijah told him. "I don't know how I'll ever..."
"You'll get it in no time," Athrun interrupted. "And I was just flying. It wasn't combat. I'm not sure how I'd do in it against another machine. Especially not against someone like Eleven."
"I've got a headset," Athrun said as he unzipped his pilot suit and pulled it off his arms. "It's a bit difficult to deal with when I'm wearing something without pockets, but we'll do what we can. I'll be right back."
He tied the top of his pilot suit around his waist as he walked back over to his car. He'd borrowed a headset from a groundscrew and had it charged. But it had a bulky antenna and control box to manage different channels, so it wasn't really meant to go along with pilot suits. He grabbed his sunglasses as well. Veia had been wearing his, with bright frames - red.
Elijah was in the cockpit when Athrun returned.
"You up there?" Athrun asked.
"Gotcha," Elijah replied. Athrun adjusted the volume.
"Good. Don't go too far, or you'll get a trio of Murasames tailing you. They're fine, of course, but they're trying to work," Athrun explained. "I think we can cover pretty much everything in this are anyway. At least for today. I can borrow a Murasame tomorrow if I need to."
"Hey... you rewrote..."
"It can go back," Athrun replied. "But I want you to try it as it is. I have a few other changes I can make if it's overwhelming. But it shouldn't be. You have a very powerful machine and need to learn to make use of it. It's worthless otherwise. If you have that sort of power, you need to use it."
Elijah was quiet for a moment, likely strapping himself in. Athrun glanced back and both Gai and Veia had amused little smiles on their faces. Athrun thought about what he'd said and hoped the bright sun was washing out any blush he might have on his face.
"I think I'm ready," Elijah finally said. "You know, I just had to get in this and start flying..."
"Then we're going to start over," Athrun replied. Sometimes it was easy to get in a machine and go. He'd never had any trouble. But he'd been asked to help students, including Coordinators, who didn't have mobile suits come naturally to them. They'd ended up being skilled pilots - same as the ones who could hop into anything and figure it out.
"Well, I can..."
"Move forward," Athrun instructed him. "Slowly. And feel how the weight is different from your Zaku. Everything is balanced differently and you'll need to adjust how far you move and with what purpose you're moving."
There was silence from the cockpit - but also a hand on his arm. Veia's.
"He's..." It was difficult to hear Veia over the headset, which covered his ears entirely.
Athrun let go of the switch that allowed him to broadcast.
"He's going to learn," he told Veia. "And since I'm helping him, he's going to learn my way. I know he's not good with this sort of thing, and this is probably really embarrassing for him. He was probably teased in the academy... I had a friend who was small and not terribly skilled at first. He got better, faster, but... Some things still made him feel awful."
The Vent Savior moved forward, slowly. It moves each arm, each leg, feeling out the weights and how easy it was to move them. Ankles, knees, hips, waist, shoulders, elbows, wrists, each finger.
"When he gets it, it's going to be amazing," Athrun continued.
He flipped the switch back on. He hadn't turned off Elijah's end, so there was no reason that Elijah shouldn't be coming through except that he wasn't saying anything.
"How are you doing up there?"
"Fine," Elijah replied quickly. "You're right... this does feel different. Instead of tuning it down so I didn't make a mess, I should have... but there wasn't time to do this then."
"I know," Athrun replied. "Don't worry about it. We're doing it right, right now. And I know that you've had a lot of instruction over the years, and been in a lot of battles. It doesn't matter. You're not going to get in and pick up every single mobile suit instantly."
He knew if he was going to borrow a Murasame, he wouldn't have any trouble at all. But he'd worked on the OS in his spare time, too. Not that anyone besides Erica and Kira knew that little fact.
"Can I take off?" Elijah questioned.
"Yes," Athrun told him. He explained exactly how to time the transformation and not to hesitate. The hesitation, along with the strange tuning, were what had been causing all of the jerky movements. "Now go."
Elijah went. Veia was still lingering very close to Athrun, probably worried, while Athrun just shaded his eyes and watched. Much smoother - there was the twist and the transformation, perfect, and Elijah just kept going upwards before looping and shooting across the base. But before he went far enough to attract Murasames, he turned back and came in.
"Landing is the same way?" Elijah questioned.
"You're not landing yet," Athrun told him. "How's the battery doing?"
"It's still above half," Elijah replied.
"Transform back," Athrun instructed him. "But you're going to stay above the runway, maybe a few hundred meters. Feel out all the motions of the mobile suit in the atmosphere. Pull out your beam sabers and make sure you understand how to attack up there. If one of those Murasames was to engage you and transform, you'd be fighting up there."
"Gotcha," Elijah said.
Athrun didn't think Elijah tended to atmospheric battle. As far as he'd heard, he'd either been in space or on land for most of his best stories. So working in the air was going to be difficult and interesting. Of course, fighting against an imaginary enemy wasn't terribly easy either and Athrun tried not to chuckle as he watched Elijah flailing against thin air.
"Good," he managed. "Now you can come in. And then go through the same moving routine before heading back to the hangar."
"For today, yes. There's no sense in rushing," Athrun told him. "We'll do maintenance, and then get it charged up for tomorrow."
Elijah managed a much better landing than even Athrun expected. He was a good pilot, after all. Just unsure, and in a machine that did outweigh his skill. But skill levels could change. And Athrun would see to it that the Vent Savior and its pilot matched one another.
Athrun flicked the headset back off and looked over past Veia, to Gai.
"Can you tell me who you were trying to draw out?" he asked. Veia made a strange little squeaking noise and eyed Gai as well.
"No," Gai replied. "Good observation, though not unexpected from you, Admiral."
"Mmm, it's too public," Athrun admitted. "And having me do a test run probably frightened them off. Sorry about that. But it did help Elijah out quite a bit."
"Yes." Gai nodded and adjusted his sunglasses. "Perhaps tomorrow we can try again?"
Athrun nodded. He wasn't terribly keen on being part of a plan that he wasn't fully aware of, but there wasn't much he could do about it, either. If it was to keep Orb safe, then it was okay.
Elijah came running from the hangar.
"That was great!" Veia told him. Elijah looked straight at Gai, seemingly aching for approval. Gai just nodded and gave him the barest hint of a smile, which was apparently enough.
Athrun pulled the headset off and tried to play everything off. But there was one thing he wanted to do.
"Veia? Can I talk to you later?"
Veia blinked, looking confused by the request, but ultimately he nodded.
"Good," Athrun said. "It's... actually about ZAFT. So..."
"I understand," Veia said. "Probably some other things, too?"
"We can go now..." Veia motioned back to where Gai and Elijah were chatting a few paces away. Mostly Elijah was chatting. And making hand motions.
"I want to walk him through maintenance," Athrun replied with a little headshake. "It's pretty much the same as his Zaku and I'm sure you showed him a few things, but if this machine is going to be his, he's going to have to deal with it. Constantly."
Veia smiled and nodded. "Understood."
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