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...
In retrospect, Athrun really should have picked a different restaurant to take Veia to than the friendly family diner that he and Hyi had started to frequent. The curious stares were as polite as they could be, though, and at Athrun's request, they had a nice booth away from most of the other clientele.
They didn't get to the real conversations til after they'd ordered.
"Is this really about ZAFT?" Veia questioned. "Or..."
"Yes and no," Athrun admitted. "You were a favorite of my father."
"Yes," Veia said. "He was a good commander, from what I can remember. However, that changed after I died."
Athrun blinked. How nonchalantly for him to throw that around!
"Well, I can't deny that's what happened..." Veia took a drink of his glass of water. Unlike Hyi, who had ordered pretty much one of everything, Veia had made a small order and promised to order more if he was still hungry. Far healthier, too. But comparing builds, if Hyi was going to be the same size as Gai, he was still growing. Veia, however, was already the same size and weight as the Socius, so he was likely as big as he was going to get.
"I know," Athrun replied. He reached for his own water. "I just wasn't expecting you to say it so bluntly."
"Maybe it's because I can't remember it," Veia said. "Maybe it's because even though I missed a few years and so many things have changed, everything is better. I can see Elijah, and I'm feeling so much better than I ever did. Because..."
Veia pulled out his headphones, which Athrun had indeed noticed that he always had with him.
"I'm sick," Veia replied. "Horribly, but not how I was. Before, I'd change and... Before, because of how I'd been made... I was so full of rage, and only beautiful music would soothe me. Like Lacus's songs. I wish she'd still sing."
Athrun was quiet for a long moment. This made most of his current circle of acquaintances into test subjects of some sort. Kira. Cagalli. Hyi. Veia. The Socius. Gai...
Did he have a sign on him? Was there something about himself that he should know?
"I could ask her," Athrun half-mumbled. He could, if he really wanted to. And she wouldn't refuse him. She'd sing...
"No! I..." Veia's eyes went wide. "I mean... that'd be amazing, but it would inconvenience you both..."
"It's something to keep in mind," Athrun said with a little smile. "And you're feeling better, right?"
"Yes," Veia replied. "I've been good for this last little bit."
He took another drink and glanced out the window at the sunset between buildings.
"Elijah told me about the end. About when I died, and what he did... I guess I was going off to Jupiter, to try to live peacefully and never pilot again. I must have gotten so bad..." Veia shook his head. "That's the hardest thing to think of - that I was so sick that I begged him to kill me."
"He repaired his own GINN with parts from mine so I'd always be with him." A single tear made its way down Veia's cheek and he reached for his napkin. "Sorry..."
"Don't be," Athrun said quickly. He wished he knew what to do. "I mean, this has to be so hard for you."
"Not really," Veia said. "Because it's like I woke up and this awful fog was gone. Sure, I was working for some strange people, but I figured if they'd managed to make me feel that much better, I owed them something. And then I found out the truth and didn't care. If that's what it took, then I'd move forward. I got a second chance, you know."
"And as soon as they said Elijah's name, nothing was going to stop me from seeing him. And being with him. I've just had to take a bit of a roundabout way," Veia continued. "He's gotten to be really strong, you know."
"Yes," Athrun said. He finally took a long swallow of water. "I do know. Between wars, I lived here in Orb and met him, and met all of Serpent Tail. So..."
"Yeah," Veia said softly. "I never really know what to say about them, to be honest. They're the best family that Elijah could ever have. And I know I'll never be a part of it."
"That's not true," Athrun said quickly. He didn't like the frown on Veia's face.
"It is," Veia countered. He didn't seem wholly concerned. But most of his emotions hadn't seemed entirely correct. His circumstances, however, left room for some interesting interpretations of everything. Maybe he was just looking at things differently.
"I'm probably going to join up with Seven and Eleven," Veia continued. "Work with them, helping people and everything."
"Eh? Serpent Tail won't..."
"I wouldn't dream of asking," Veia admitted. "And if Elijah has, he hasn't said anything to me. Some things are better off being separate and considering what I am, I wouldn't expect them to ever wholly trust me, either."
"I trust you," Athrun said just as their food arrived. "And Hyi. Though if anyone else from your former group is around, I need to know."
Veia nodded. Their waitress smiled and sauntered off.
"I don't have any contact with them," Veia said. "Though I'm sure someone is planning something, which is why Serpent Tail is here."
"No way of knowing until it's too late, huh?" Athrun questioned.
"Not unless Elijah slips somewhere," Veia replied. "Gai won't give up anything unless itís to his benefit."
Athrun nodded and started in on his dinner. Looking at it, and looking at Veia's, perhaps he shouldn't have been so judgmental. His own meal wasn't exactly hearty, but it was tasty and that's what was important. He's skipped out on a rather fancy dinner at Cagalli's residence for this, and while he didn't regret that, he did hope that Kira would grab a few leftovers for him.
Kira. Meant that he wouldn't get to go check on Hyi any time that evening. Hopefully the next day, except he had more Vent Savior training and an afternoon of watching Cagalli try not to be bored while listening to various dignitaries talking about their children and summer homes and investments and everything else.
While his job was sometimes awful and boring, Cagalli had it so much worse. There was no wonder she had taken off to see the world and fought in mobile suits and everything else.
Maybe he could take her out to spar with everyone else. A practice battle might be just what she needed. Of course, she still didn't have a personal mobile suit, unless Erica was holding out on her yet again. But a Murasame wouldn't be beyond her at all. Honestly, with a few tweaks, he didn't think that Strike Freedom would be beyond her. Though he'd never tell either sibling that.
"This is good," Veia said after a minute. "You know, one of the best things about being alive again is eating. And sleeping, and waking up. And just being free after so long."
"I'm not sure Hyi feels that way," Athrun noted. "He's..."
"Jealous, I think," Veia interrupted. "Or lonely. It's hard to invite him to do anything, because Elijah is busy with Gai and... well, that's a whole other thing, too. But let's just say that I'm aware of everything I need to be aware of..."
Athrun nodded and couldn't help a little smile. While he didn't want to comment on that in any way, state or form, at least it wasn't a surprise, which was the important part.
"Anyway," Veia continued. "I know Hyi feels awkward around Gai and doesn't want to show up anywhere that he does, so I don't know what to do. Never mind that ever since he was loaned a car, Hyi hasn't actually been anywhere, but you knew..."
"Didn't know that?"
Athrun shook his head and swore under his breath. He'd been so busy with Kira and Cagalli and everything else that he'd trusted Erica to keep checking up on Hyi. Not letting him vanish off on his own. No wonder there hadn't been anyone around the Gale Strike when he'd circled by in the afternoon.
But at least the Gale Strike was still there. Athrun couldn't believe that Hyi would go anywhere too terribly far without it. He was still in Orb, possibly still on Onogoro but he had shown Hyi just how easy it was to hop on the ferry and go sight-seeing. Or go meet someone who...
He didn't want to feel suspicious of Hyi. Not after he'd repeated again and again that he trusted Hyi. But something felt off.
It was apparently going to be a late night. And he might have to borrow that Murasame early.
Athrun wanted to believe in Hyi.
"Athrun?" Veia questioned.
"I'm sure he's just exploring," Athrun said. It was his turn to glance out into the sunset. "Maybe he went back to that town you were in."
"Maybe," Veia replied. He'd nearly finished his meal but was slowing down. Maybe he ate more during the day. "I don't think you should worry about him. He's... well, deep down as much as he doesn't want to admit it, he's like Gai. Especially now that Elijah's had a chance to tell me about Gai. They're so much alike... Well, I guess they'd have to be, huh?"
Athrun couldn't help a little smile. "Yeah... So he's a good guy, deep down?"
"Apparently he was before, too. He just didn't make his break as soon as I did," Veia explained. "But it's all good. You can trust him."
He didn't need to wait until morning for Serpent Tail's rumored target to strike. Both his and Kira's phones went off in tandem, jolting both men out of bed and scrambling for the door. They had to get to Cagalli!
"What's the situation?" Athrun yelled into his phone as he ran.
"Two machines," the operator replied. "Unknown, fast, Murasame patrol caught them immediately, however one seems to have vanished and the other is engaged in combat.
"Priority is protecting everyone on the ground," Athrun replied.
"Athrun!" Cagalli came running out of her room in nothing but a short nightgown. "Kira!"
Kira had been getting his own set of instructions.
Athrun snapped his phone shut and pulled Cagalli to him. He and Kira looked at one another for a long moment.
"I think they're the ones I'm after," Kira said. "You protect Cagalli."
"Of course and always," Athrun replied. The nodded to one another and Kira took off running. There were Murasames and Astrays on the ground, too. If there were only two machines, hopefully they'd be safe.
"How embarrassing," Cagalli mumbled. "I hope everyone's evacuating properly."
"I'm sure they are," Athrun said. Activity was beginning to pick up, but without even hearing mobile suits overhead, he didn't rush to get her to her bunker. Wherever the battle was, it had to be far enough out... Or... Serpent Tail had already taken care of things.
That would be the best possible situation.
"Hey..." Cagalli was holding tight to his arm. The lights were still on, which was a good sign. They' would have switched to a far dimmer emergency power if something happened above. "Mmm?"
"Sorry to be so much trouble," she said, leaning against him. "I keep putting you in bad spots."
"It's okay." He reached to pet her hair. They could never go back to how things were, but he still cared for her, deeply.
"Is it?" she questioned. "Are you really happy here?"
"Yes," he said without hesitation. "I don't think I'd be able to do anything if I'd gone back to the PLANTs and here I'm free to teach and take on special projects and basically give myself permission to take day trips to the main island and see Kira, and you..."
"You're welcome. But I don't know why you're thanking me." He kept her close. Now that they were underground, he couldn't hear any of the sounds that would have indicated a battle. And no one else had come to their specific bunker, which was worrisome. Maybe he'd overreacted.
"For coming to get me," she said. "If you ever want to come live here again..."
"I don't know," Athrun interrupted. "That could get complicated."
He hadn't stopped petting her hair. If he'd had a jacket, he would have offered it to her. But...
"Hold on..." He let go of her for a moment, and stood and rummaged under the long, cushioned bench-seat they'd been sitting on. It took a moment, but he found a blanket. "Here..."
"Thanks..." She unfolded it and waited for him to sit again so she could get it around his shoulders, too. He hadn't thought about being under-dressed, but he supposed he was. Kira was equally under-clothed, but the night was warm and there hadn't been any reason to put on much night clothing once the day clothing had come off and he'd taken a long shower to wash away the miserable sweat he could only attribute to having a flight-suit on for hours more than he should have.
They were quiet for a long moment. Athrun's phone beeped. All clear.
No answer. She'd fallen asleep against him. But it would be more trouble if he just let her sleep.
"Cagalli..." he gave her a little nudge and she blinked, bleary at him.
"All clear, we can go back up."
"Stay with me?" she asked him.
"Of course, but... I should talk to Kira, too." Athrun had guesses, but too many of them to lay out at the moment.
"It's a big bed," Cagalli told him. "I want to know what happened too. Especially so I can address it in the morning. But I'm..."
She got to her feet and stole the blanket away to wrap around herself.
Athrun laughed. "No one expects you to be otherwise at night."
"That's not what I wanted to hear!" Cagalli said with a frown. She stomped towards the door. "And trust me; I know what the soldiers think. I've seen my head posted on calendars in the hangars and I am..."
Athrun just could not help himself. "Flattered?" he suggested.
She hit him in the arm and he pulled her close.
For just a moment longer, the world was only the two of them.
And then, not long after, there were three.
"They got away," Kira said as he flopped down on Cagalli's bed. "Well, one of 'em did. The other one went down in the water and it's too dark to tell what happened to the pilot."
"They were the ones you were looking for?" Cagalli questioned. She reached and took his hand.
"Yeah, I think so," Kira said. "I didn't realize that there were other people fighting them too and sort of made a mess there. I bet you'll hear about that in the morning."
"Serpent Tail?" Athrun asked. He winced when Kira nodded.
"It wasn't on purpose!" Kira sighed. "We each had our orders, I guess. And there were way too many players out there. By the time I got out in Freedom, there was myself, two Serpent Tail machines, three weird OMNI machines with Orb IFFs, a whole squadron Murasames and two M1 Astrays that meant business."
"There are a lot of strangely unconflicting interests here right now," Athrun explained. "Perhaps in the morning we can have a quick meeting and decide how to handle a similar situation if it happens again. Because if there were that many of you, I don't understand how they both got away."
"But one went down..."
"I doubt it," Athrun said. "We've all feinted underwater before. Orb's shallows are perfect for that, especially if the pilot is familiar with the area."
"The other one can turn invisible," Kira added.
"Mirage Colloid is banned," Cagalli replied with a frown. "The only mobile suit with permission to utilize the system is..."
"Gold Frame Amatu," Athrun finished. "And since Gold Frame's companions were out fighting against whatever was out there, it wasn't Gold Frame. So there's a violation of treaties to add to attacking Orb."
"I guess I'll stick around a bit longer," Kira said. He got to his feet and walked around to sit on the edge of the bed before settling properly. "Is this a new bed? I don't remember you having anything this big."
"That's not the sort of question you should ask!" Cagalli started laughing, though. "But yes, it is. It's too big for one person, but good for nights like this."
Athrun resisted the urge to ask the obvious question - would there be more nights like this? He supposed it could happen. Or perhaps she'd found new interests.
As long as she wasn't banking on anything.
And then Athrun realized he was in the middle and scrambled around so that Cagalli was being kept safe between them. She was the one they were there to protect, after all.
Luckily, her room was on the other side of the residence and didn't get the morning sun. Apparently, along with the oversized bed, that had been planned as well.
He wasn't sure that he actually slept, though she fell asleep again quickly. At one point, Kira had grabbed his hand across Cagalli's stomach. And when he realized Athrun was still awake, carefully wrote a message on Athrun's palm like they'd done as children after lights-out. It had worked until they'd been separated.
Athrun didn't hesitate to write back.
'wheres your friend?'
'i dont know'
'hes not involved trust me'
'i do trust you not him'
There was no need to round up anyone in the morning. Everyone had gathered by the time breakfast was served. At least everyone who needed to be there. Athrun had volunteered his services as a representative of the military, so aside from himself, there was Kira, Cagalli, Lady Sahaku, her three Socius, Gai, Elijah and the rest of Serpent Tail, Veia, and Seven and Eleven.
If nothing else, the group was fluffy.
"So what happened last night?" Cagalli demanded, silencing smaller conversations around the table.
"I'd like to know as well," Lady Sahaku commented. "If that was who I fear it was..."
"It was," Gai told her. He shook his head. "And it looks like both he and his companion escaped. The water was searched already this morning, but there was nothing."
Kira and Cagalli both looked over at Athrun as if that had been a hard call to make. But then again, he'd studied military tactics and actually enlisted, whereas the twins were technically civilians despite their abilities and stations.
"They'll probably be back," Athrun found himself saying. "Though I think I need to know if their targets are Lady Sahaku and Lady Athha or if they're after Vent Savior and Gale Strike."
"Probably both," Gai told him. He drank some of his coffee and waited to see if either Lady Sahaku or Veia was going to say anything. But they both were watching him expectant silence. "They want to clean up the remaining 'mess', I'm guessing."
"I had hoped it would be easier than this," Lady Sahaku said with a little headshake. "But I don't know how to get through to him. He was always the stubborn one."
"If the Princess is in any danger, we'll protect her," Eleven said firmly. "We've heard who one of the enemies is and..."
"Please don't call me that," Cagalli urged.
"Since one of the enemies is one of our own..." Seven continued. "Allow us to take care of him."
Athrun gasped. "The one Hyi told me about?"
Veia nodded. "Probably. They were never particularly friendly. Well, Finis was never particularly friendly with anyone, but he did seem fond of..."
He trailed off and looked across the table to Lady Sahaku, who nodded. "Go ahead," she said. "I don't think this is something to be avoided any longer."
"Ghina," Veia finished.
"My twin brother," Lady Sahaku explained. "Except... a copy. And a copy who did not turn out as well as the gentleman across the table from me."
Athrun saw the quick glance between Kira and Cagalli, but he had to hope that no one else noticed it. He felt nervous when they even sat by one another, just because he'd never be able to unsee the similarity in their features.
"It's not a good situation, I know," she continued. "I'm not sure there's any way to get through to him, either. As much as I would prefer to be able to reason with him and have him again at my side, it doesn't seem to be possible."
"Then what are we supposed to do?" Cagalli asked. "Capture him?"
"Or kill him." Lady Sahaku was firm in her declaration. "While I wish no ill against the other copies, Ghina simply isn't meant to be amongst the living. He is not taking it well and is not..."
"I understand." Athrun was surprised by the sound of his own voice. But with as much as he'd been talking to Hyi, and to Veia, he did think he understood. For all that he'd thought about Nicol. And here was a woman he'd once loathed for having Blitz's arm grafted onto her own machine.
"We believed he'd be a threat," Gai said. "However, there was little evidence for it."
"I suppose you'll expect proper payment for last night," Lady Sahaku said. Her voice had a subtle undertone that surprised Athrun. There was a deep history between the two of them that he hadn't really been expecting.
Gai just smiled and sipped his coffee.
"What do we do if this happens again?" Kira asked. "I was merely sent to find out if the mobile suits that were attacking ZAFT bases were still in action." "Only the two," Veia said quickly. "The others are retired or gone."
"I know about the ones here," Kira said. "Athrun has given his word on those."
"If you can all set a schedule or something, I can have the patrol Murasames break away once you've arrived," Athrun said. "And keep squadrons on standby unless something goes horribly wrong."
"It would help," Gai commented. "However, that still leaves room for error."
"There's always room for error," Seven said flatly. "We'll need to work together for this. It might be better to utilize more Murasames and have more patrols."
"That's for Athrun to negotiate," Cagalli interjected. "He can't just wave his hands and..."
"Yes, I can," Athrun corrected. "And so can you. But if we're all just standing around with our guns to the sky, they're not going to be stupid and attack."
"True," Veia said with a soft smile. "And luring them out will also be difficult now that they know just how much firepower is sitting here. They ran quickly last night because they knew they were out-matched."
"Normally, Ghina would never retreat from Blue Frame," Elijah added.
"And normally, Finis would go after those he knew to be..." Veia trailed off, but let his gaze wander to Seven, Eleven, and then Four, Six and Thirteen, the latter trio of whom were all paying close attention but keeping quiet and still, drinking their tea and eating from plates of fruit.
Maybe, Athrun thought, it was a just a trait of the entire genetic line.
"Then what do we do?" Cagalli questioned. "We're nearly done with everything, and most everyone will be heading back to their homes on the mainland. I can't have them stay just in case..."
"They're not the targets," Eleven said. "They're safer if they leave. In fact, that might be the best thing to do. Have them leave, and make it look like we've all left as well."
"How will you sneak back?" Kira questioned.
"Without our mobile suits," Seven said with a growing smile, glancing over at Eleven.
Gai raised an eyebrow at them both. But he said nothing. Either it wasn't a bad plan, or it was terrible and he just wanted to hear it anyway.
Athrun thought the idea had merit, though. He did have a machine on site that belonged on site. So did Hyi, and Kira's was passable for the time being as a diplomatic guest.
"If Lady Sahaku publically goes to her summer home and leaves Gold Frame here, and Serpent Tail heads off to another continent, and we also leave... Then some of us can return via the underwater docks and others can return and borrow machines," Seven explained. Possibly, Athrun thought, they'd come up with this during the night. It was the worst plan he'd ever heard - it might even work - the more he thought on it.
"I'm the bait?" Lady Sahaku questioned with a soft chuckle.
Eleven nodded. "You wouldn't be unprotected."
"I know," she said. "It's an interesting plan. I wonder if my brother would fall for it. He may have lost his mind, but he's not stupid. I doubt he'd not question why everyone was leaving so quickly and leaving so much unprotected."
"Then we'll do it in waves," Seven said. "And we'll go about business as usual, as well. Elijah can have his lessons, and we can all see about doing other, harmless things for a day or two. We can visibly scout around if we need to..."
The meeting, which had started as breakfast, dragged for two more hours until a plan was finalized. Gai and his team helped refine the idea that Eleven and Seven suggested, and everyone left with projects to complete.
Athrun left Cagalli in Kira's care before going to talk to some of the other military commanders about what would be needed of them.
And then, because Hyi was as important to the plan as everyone else, Athrun changed into civilian clothing and headed towards the ferry. He'd put out an all-points, no-need-to-apprehend on Hyi's license plate and was rewarded less than five minutes later with a hit from the tourist town they'd found Veia in.
The drive took far too long without Hyi in the passenger seat, and he wasn't at all happy that Hyi wouldn't be riding back with him. But whatever had happened, at least they'd hopefully be able to talk it out.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!