Disclaimer: I don't own Gundam Seed. If I did, I'd make a sequel and make that entire show focus on Athrun Zala. Umm…I swear, I really don't own it.

Summary: "He'd barely had a reason to stay after the last battle. Everyone was off to rebuild their lives; he had to do the same. So then why was he standing here, slack jawed and motionless, as his barely a reason stood less then ten feet away?" DxM friendship.

Spoilers: This takes place somewhere around episode 8 of GSD, so spoilers up till there. After that, it's most likely going to conflict with canon.

AN: I don't think Dearka and Miriallia get enough attention in the fan world. When rewatching Seed, I decided that I really liked their interactions—it was unromantic romance, and I love that contradiction.

I think the most important thing that people should know about this fic, is that I didn't write it to write a love story (obviously). As these two characters stand right now, I don't think they have any romantic feelings for each other (Miriallia's still mourning, and Dearka is adorably confused about what the hell he is feeling), but there's definitely that potential. So this story is about them both discovering, in their own ways, that there is that possibility.

Update 11/11/2005: Just correcting a few typos. And mentioning that in light of Miriallia "dumping" him by the time she joins AA, this fic has totally spun into AU.

Snapshot

By Neptune


It surprised him, really, how easily he fell back into his old routines.

Walking into ZAFT headquarters again for the first time in months hadn't been quite the drama Dearka had expected. He'd anticipated being court-martialed as a deserter, or worse, a traitor. Instead, he'd sat in a small room with no guards, no handcuffs, and only a couple of ZAFT commanders present to prosecute him. A slap on the wrist and a change of uniform later, he'd been re-tasked within the military. No more piloting, they said. For now, they added, off the record.

He attributed the leniency to the fact that their government and military were in a state of chaos. The Supreme Council was in flux and the ZAFT forces had no clear leadership. Patrick Zala had made quite a bed for PLANT to sleep in, and authority was now being transferred and stripped to deal with the fall out from Jachin Due. The issue of a single soldier's desertion was just a small drop in the bucket compared to the larger political problems, or so he'd thought.

It wasn't until he was pulled from behind his desk job only two weeks into the reassignment that he realized someone else had intervened on his behalf.

When he'd arrived at Aprilius One, duffle bag slung over his shoulder, he'd offered his waiting Commander his trademark smirk. "Protecting a traitor?"

Yzak pushed off the docking port wall, wearing his trademark frown. "Address you superior with more respect," was all he said before walking away forcefully, white hair swinging from side to side. But then he stopped at the junction to the main hub, standing tall. Waiting, Dearka realized, and wasted no time in jogging to catch up with his Commander. His friend.

As far as demotions went, Dearka decided that going from Red to second in command of an elite task force wasn't a bad deal at all. The Joule team was skilled and efficient. Yzak would stand for nothing less from his squad, and his drive provided his group with their fair share of accolades during the rebuilding. It was almost like old times; Dearka could almost forget the differences.

But the past always seemed to sneak up on him when he least expected it. Hearing Athrun's voice echoing in his helmet days ago as Junius 7's orbit decayed around them was a surprise, though he'd taken their former teammate's appearance better than Yzak had.

It wasn't that the reminder was unpleasant. The past was the past, and he had no skeletons in his closet. He didn't regret any of the decisions he'd made, from joining ZAFT, to fighting for ORB, to leaving the Archangel and returning home. The first two were done for principle. The last because he'd barely had a reason to stay after the last battle. Everyone was off to rebuild their lives; he had to do the same.

So then why was he standing here, slack jawed and motionless, as his barely a reason stood less then ten feet away, outward bob framing her face the same way it had the last time he'd seen her? Well, he didn't quite know the answer to that yet. His mouth was still struggling to form the "Oi" he'd always stuttered to her in greeting, while his mind reprimanded him for using such a base and classless salutation.

But no sound was produced, and no action was taken, and he was fairly certain that she would walk away having never noticed his presence, since he seemed so incapable of doing anything but gaping at this point. He would laugh about it later, or kick himself for being a tongue-tied moron, though whatever he did wouldn't really matter. She would have disappeared, and he would make no attempt to find her, because, well, what purpose would that serve? Life would go on, and it would surprise him, really, how easily he could fall back into his old routines.

The scenario playing out in his head, however, was dashed when his name was loudly shouted from the top of the damaged but not destroyed building behind him. "Dearka-san!" the junior officer repeated, to make sure he was heard from the distance.

Dearka turned sharply and looked up, shielding his eyes from the bright light of the sun. Bringing his left wrist to his face, he spoke into the comm-link attached to his sleeve. "Marko, use the transmitters. We have them for a reason."

"I-I tried sir," his subordinate reported back, a little stunned by the reprimand. "But you weren't responding to my signals—"

Dearka quickly checked his link, and realized that he had missed two hails.

"--so I…" the young man trailed off, switching tracks. "Sorry sir. It won't happen again."

"No, no. It's fine," Dearka said, trying not to groan at his own lapse in focus. "What do you have to report?"

"The Commander's team says they've evacuated most of the people from their area. They should be joining us here in a couple of hours."

"Good. Are all the shelters ready?"

"Affirmative. And the teams are in place as well."

"Medical units?"

"Still stocked. Since this region wasn't as badly hit, we've been able to treat most everyone with little difficulty."

"That might change when Yzak gets here. Inform the med teams to expect more casualties soon."

"Roger." The line clicked, indicating that Marko had switched channels.

Dearka lowered his hand, letting out a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding. He turned back around slowly, looking again to the place across the street that had kept him so distracted earlier. It was for the best, he decided in those few seconds, that she'd be gone by now, that she'd be—

--looking right at him. She was looking right at him. That was certainly unexpected. And now she was walking towards him, eyes surprised, but not wide.

After giving himself a silent order to not be such an idiot, he started moving too. He was now much taller than she was, and his strides took him further than hers did. They met on the cracked road that could hold no more traffic.

Miriallia Haww spoke first, not leaving any room for an awkward silence. "I heard your name, but I wasn't sure. But I guess it was." She looked up at his face with a small, but genuine smile. He didn't think she could smile any other way. "Hi," she finished as he analyzed her mouth.

His turn now. He cocked his head to the side, giving her a light "Yo." It was better than oi. "Long time, huh?"

"Yeah. It has been." Looking at his uniform she asked, "You're here for PLANT?"

He nodded. "Aa."

"I heard that they were sending down resources and supplies."

"Direct orders from the Chairman. More than half of the forces have been tasked to Earth for now."

"I see."

"Yeah."

There was a pregnant pause, and she began fiddling with a strap around her neck. It was connected to a large camera, and he wondered why he hadn't noticed it before. He wondered why she was here in the first place. She couldn't live here, could she? They were far from Orb territory.

"What are you doing here?" he asked at the same time that she said "How long will you be staying?"

They hesitated awkwardly (Why was it awkward?), before he produced an answer to her question. "I'm not sure how long. We've already been here for a week. Well, not just here, but parts of Eurasia and Scandinavia, too. Trying to get as many civilians evacuated as possible. And repairing damage when we can."

"They're working you hard, then."

"Ah," he rolled onto his heels, rubbing the back of his head. "No, it's nothing. Especially after seeing what's been done…" He looked at her questioningly. "You've heard, haven't you? Who was responsible?"

"I've heard what the news has been saying."

"Yeah. From the broadcasts, things don't look good for relations between the Earth Alliance and PLANT."

"At home, too, there seems to be a lot of pressure. I'm not sure what Orb will do."

"So you do still live there? I thought this was—"

"Here?" she laughed slightly. "No, I'm just here for the day." She patted the camera in her hands. "Work."

"You're a… reporter?"

She shook her head. "Photographer." Looking around, she added, "Don't think words can describe what's happened, anyway."

"Oh," he said, but frowned slightly. "Isn't it too dangerous for a girl like you to be taking pictures like this? This is a disaster area after all, and--"

He stopped when her eyebrows drew together and her eyes narrowed. That wasn't a good thing, and it usually meant he'd somehow put his large foot in his larger mouth.

"What does that mean? It's not like I haven't been in dangerous situations before," she said harshly, her previous amicability lost in a second. "On Archangel, you were there. It's not like I did nothing."

"Sorry, sorry," he said quickly, putting his hands up in capitulation, "I didn't mean it like that. I was just…" he searched for the appropriate word, "concerned."

Her eyes relaxed a bit. "No, it's fine. I'm just a little on edge these days. I shouldn't have…never mind." She stopped trying to explain.

There was another silence, and he couldn't figure out what to fill it with. Yzak would be stunned, Dearka thought bemusedly; the Commander had informed him on numerous occasions that he didn't know how to keep his damn mouth shut. So much for that theory.

"So…um," he focused back on the girl in front of him when she began talking, "I'm pretty much done for the day. And I'd really like to track down a cup of coffee somewhere around here…"

He was about to tell her that she wouldn't be very successful since all businesses were closed, when she capped her camera lens and asked, "Do you want to come?"

"Go with you?" he repeated dumbly.

"Yeah. It would be nice to talk."

Yeah, it would, but "I'm on duty…?" He wasn't sure if he'd given a question or an answer.

"Oh, right, of course," she shook her head slightly, "I wasn't thinking, sorry. You probably need to get back, don't you?" She stepped back from him, and he knew she was preparing to say good bye.

He made a quick decision. "No, I'll come."

"Huh? But you're—"

"It's not a problem. We're just going to be waiting around for a few hours anyway. Everything here should be fine, even if I'm gone for a bit."

She looked a little skeptical. "You won't get in trouble?"

He smirked at her, "Nah, they're used to me deserting by now."

She raised an eyebrow at him, but didn't argue further.


After quickly putting Marko in charge and retrieving two Styrofoam cups of coffee from the command post, he guided her to a spot just outside the perimeter that their squad had set up. It was a community park close enough that he'd be able to return incase of an emergency; he removed his communication unit from his sleeve and placed it on the stone wall he'd settled himself on. He looked to the interior of the park, where his companion now stood.

She held her camera to her face. There were several clicks in rapid succession as she photographed the burned grass debris field behind them.

"Oi," he said, calling her back, "It'll get cold if you don't drink it soon."

"Thanks," she said as she approached and accepted the hot cup he handed her, letting her camera hang from her neck again. She sat next to him on the white stone, taking a sip of her drink.

"I wasn't sure how you took it. I hope it's okay black."

"I don't like cream and sugar," she told him and took another sip.

Somehow, he was surprised by that. "Good. We didn't have any of that stuff anyway."

"Figures," she said, but smiled into her next sip, as if she was privy to some inside joke.

He didn't push it, but drank his own coffee. From sip to sip, he alternated between rolling the cup in his hands, letting the white edges warm his palms, and looking at her through the corners of his eyes. If she noticed, she didn't say anything, but placed her camera securely in her lap instead.

"I thought you were done for today," he asked at her action.

"I did too. But I liked this shot."

He looked back at the park grounds, with its singed grass, crater holes and broken swings. There was nothing likable about it. "That doesn't make a very nice picture."

She turned too, looking with him. "I don't take pictures for them to be nice."

"So you choose depressing subjects."

"No. I choose real subjects."

"Real subjects?" He didn't understand. "All pictures are real."

"No, they aren't."

He didn't really want to argue, that wasn't why he'd come here. "So then, how are the things you take pictures of…more real?"

"I don't want to take pictures of an emotion. I won't take a picture because I think it's happy or because I think it's sad."

"But pictures of destruction, they're going to look sad anyway."

"How can I explain this?" She chewed on her bottom lip. "It's been awful in some places, I know. I was at the coast of the United States of South America two days ago…there's so much suffering. It's easy to feel angry or sad about that. When people think back on this incident, they'll remember the emotions, sure. That's the easy part, feeling hate, anger…love.

"But everything else gets forgotten. Places get destroyed, people die, and over time no one remembers how real these things were. It's all numbers and statistics and ideas.

"I take pictures so that people won't forget the reality of the things that have happened, good or bad. The importance of some places shouldn't be lost." She hesitated, staring hard into her coffee. "The importance of some people shouldn't be lost."

He stared at her as she spoke, and suddenly he was again a prisoner on the legged ship, feeling confused and foolish in front of a crazy girl who was so young, yet seemed to understand so much more of things than he did. "I think I get it…" he said softly, turning to his own coffee, watching it spin in circles.

She nudged his arm slightly with her own, telling him in a lighter voice, "Hey, don't look so sad, okay? It doesn't suit you."

"I don't look sad," he informed her, but changed the expression he wore, just to be on the safe side. "I was just thinking."

"About what?"

"About how you're always doing and saying crazy things that make me think." He punctuated the sentence with a sigh. "I guess it can't be helped."

She smiled at him. "I guess not."

And so they sat in the abandoned park and talked comfortably about important and unimportant things for quite a while.


In the end, he'd been the one to notice how late it was. His communicator had not beeped, but it wouldn't have been appropriate for him to stay out longer. He walked back with her into the perimeter. The area was mostly clear, save for a couple of ZAFT soldiers who saluted Dearka as they entered. He saluted back, but continued walking forward with her into the main hub of the city.

"Where will you go now?"

"Back to Orb, I think. There should be a helicopter leaving a little later today."

"I see. That's good. You must be relieved to be getting home."

"Relieved, huh?" she said dully. "I think maybe—"

She stopped speaking, tilting her head slightly, listening. He heard it too, the faint sniffling and whimpering.

"Look there," she told him, grabbing his sleeve to turn him in the right direction. He saw a broken heap of concrete and steel at the base of a damaged building. He'd been there earlier today—it had been a small apartment complex before a fragment of debris had crashed into it, destroying chunks of the structure. In front of it stood a boy. He couldn't have been older than six.

Dearka frowned, looking around for a parent or someone else the kid could have belonged to. He saw nothing. "He shouldn't be out here," he told her. "All civilians are supposed to stay near the shelters."

He walked towards the boy, feeling her just a few steps behind him. As he got closer, the child looked up at him, water running down his cheeks, his nose red and leaky. Quickly, the boy rubbed at his face trying to remove the wetness. He didn't move from his spot, though.

"Hey, kid," Dearka said as he came up next to him. "You shouldn't be here."

He got no answer.

"Be nicer," Miriallia hissed from behind, moving past him. She leaned down so that she could look the boy in the face. "Are you lost?"

The boy shook his head.

"It isn't safe for you here," she told him gently. "You should go to one of the shelters."

"I was already there," he said weakly, "But I left. The ZAFT guy wasn't looking so I walked out."

Dearka groaned, slapping his head. "That Marko," he mumbled, making a note to talk to the boy he'd left in charge.

"I live here." The boy continued, pointing at the rubble. "I wanted to come back to get something I forgot." His eyes teared up again, and he shook slightly. "I guess I can't get it anymore."

He saw Miriallia's lips twitch downward, but she kept herself from frowning. "What's your name?"

The boy shook his head, "I can't tell you. Mother told me not to tell my name to people I don't know."

"You're right. Your mother was smart to tell you that. But, you know, she's going to be very worried about you when she finds out you've left the shelter area."

He shook his head again. "She's not in the shelter. She's dead."

Both adults' eyes widened at the abrupt announcement from the child.

He seemed to notice their shock. "Not from this. Last year. She was very sick, that's what Father said." He looked back to the rubble. "That's why I came back. We left so quickly and we didn't take any of her things. I didn't want them to get spoiled…" He lowered his head and began to hiccup.

Dearka looked up at the frame of the building still standing in the debris. It was possible, but highly unlikely that anything in there had survived massive damage. But looking back at the miserable boy in front of him who was chocking on hiccups as Miriallia rubbed his back made him put his ring finger and thumb to his mouth, whistling for the soldiers they'd just passed at the perimeter. One heard him and jogged up quickly.

"Sir?" He asked, saluting.

"This building," he indicated the place with his hand, "was it cleared?"

"Yes sir."

"Is the structure stable enough for a search?"

The soldier looked surprised. "Yes sir, but we've already checked it for people—"

Dearka cut him off, speaking to the boy instead. "Can you tell us where you lived in there?"

Both the kid and Miriallia looked surprised. "S-second floor. Apartment twelve."

"Okay." He turned to the soldier again. "When there's time, let's try to get someone in there. We'll see if we can find anything from that room."

The man look stunned. "Sir?"

"I'll coordinate it with you, don't worry. Bring one of our ground vehicles around for now."

"Roger," the soldier complied and jogged away.

The kid looked at Dearka with large disbelieving eyes.

Miriallia stood straight again and came up to him. "Dearka…"

"It's okay," he assured her, then turned and kneeled in front of the kid. "We'll try out best," he said softly, "but we may not find anything. You know that right?"

"Aa…" he whispered back, "I know." His shoulders trembled, and he tried his best to stop the chattering of his teeth.

"What shelter were you in?"

"Area 4."

"I'll have you driven back there. As soon as we can, I'll have some people see if they can get into your apartment. But for now, you should go back and stay with your family. They may be worried."

The boy nodded, but he was still shaking. "Sorry for the trouble."

Dearka reached up to his collar, unfastening his green and white uniform jacket from the neck down. Sliding it off his arms, he wrapped it around the boy's shoulders. "You'll be fine," he promised.

The coat hung loosely, but the quivering stopped. "T-Thanks," the boy said uncertainly, and before Dearka could produce an "It's nothing," little arms were around his neck and hugging tightly. Dearka gaped for a second before awkwardly patting the boy on the back.

He heard a series of familiar clicks and turned his head to see Miriallia standing with her camera raised to her face again. She pulled it away from her eye, and the expression on her face was one he could not read.

"Dearka-san." A green jeep had pulled up to the curb next to them, and the same soldier from before called to him from the driver's seat.

Standing up, he put his hand on the boy's back, guiding him towards the car. Once there, he lifted him into the passenger seat. "Take him to Area 4. Try to find his family." He patted the jeep, indicating that the driver could go.

"Wait! Mister!" The barely moving vehicle halted again, as the boy leaned over the side of his door. "Um…Anou…your coat…?"

"It's okay. Keep it for now," Dearka told him, leaning against the passenger door.

The kid looked uncertain, but didn't remove the jacket. Instead, he said, "Takeo."

"Huh?"

"Takeo Sato. My name is Takeo Sato."

He was surprised by the revelation, but looked at the boy with his best "nice guy" face. "I see. It was good to meet you, Takeo Sato. I'll find you at the shelter later. Okay?"

"Okay."

The green jeep drove off, but Takeo kept his focus behind him until they turned a corner and went out of sight. Dearka didn't know what the kid had been staring at, the damaged apartment building, or himself.

There was a soft shuffling of feet behind him, and then palm touched his shoulder. "That was nice, what you did."

"It wasn't much," he told her honestly. "And I may not be able to give him the answer he wants after the building is searched."

"The answer you give him may not be what he remembers about what happened today." She patted her camera. "I know it's not what I'm going to remember."

He was suddenly very self conscious, and felt the heat rising on his cheeks. "Ah," he groaned, evading, "Don't tell people about this."

"Why? Because you'll lose your 'tough guy' image?"

"Uh…well, yeah," he said matter-of-factly, crossing his arms.

She was looking at him, lips drawn to the side in exasperation. But then she raised a hand to her mouth and began laughing.

Dearka straightened his back. "What? What's so funny?"

"Nothing, nothing. It's just that you've changed a lot...but you're still exactly the same."

"Yar, Yar," he complained, "you make no sense."

"Idiot," she mumbled, but grabbed his white undershirt sleeve and pulled him into a walk. "We should hurry back."

He stumbled into step beside her, and they walked closer to the interior silently. But it was rather comfortable, he decided. As awkward as he sometimes felt around her, she was an important person to him, and he liked this strange kind of friendship that still existed between them, despite the long separation.

She stopped walking; he looked around and realized that they were back at the place they'd started hours ago.

"Well, I have to be going this way," she said, pointing to the left. "And you need to get back to work."

As if on cue, his transmitter began beeping. He looked at her apologetically before extracting it from his pocket and answering. "Yeah."

"The Commander just crossed into the perimeter sir," Marko's voice told him, "and you were right, there are more casualties. Our teams are in place, though."

"Good. Where's Yzak?"

"I think he's close to your position, Sir. He said he'd be coming to find you soon."

"Alright, good work. Keep me posted." Dearka closed the line and replaced the communicator in his pocket.

"You should go," she told him when he looked back to her. "Thank you for the coffee."

She moved forward with her arms apart to hug him. Unfortunately, he'd already suck his hand forward, ready to shake hers. They paused, then simultaneously switched actions, he, ready for a hug, she, extending her arm. Both laughed nervously, before she dropped her hand and moved forward, into his embrace. He lightly placed his arms around her shoulders. "It was nice to see you again."

They moved apart again, and she stepped away and turned, waving her hand as she walked. "Take care of yourself."

He was suddenly filled with the urge to call her back. "Oi!" He shouted, and she turned to him again.

He hadn't figured out what exactly he was planning to say to this crazy natural girl who'd opened his eyes with her strange wisdom. A thousand things of varying degrees of absurdity came to his mind—

You smell nice.

You're crazy.

I've only got six months left to live.

I'm transferring to a submarine.

You're a good person.

I actually like cream in my coffee.

I want to have sex with you.

I love you.

--but instead, he said. "Thanks."

Her eyebrows drew together slightly. "What for?"

He tilted his head slightly, gracing her with a crooked smile. "For trying to stab me with that knife." It was the most fruitful near death experience he'd ever had.

Her face remained perplexed, but she slowly relaxed it into a small smile. "I see." Tucking an errant strand of hair behind her ear, she looked down at the ground, and then back up to his face. "Well then, I'll see you, Dearka."

"Aa," he said, pulling back his shoulders to make himself taller. Joining his heels together and putting two fingers to his brow, he saluted her. It was light, it was familiar, and most importantly, it wasn't good bye.

She turned again and walked away. Minutes later, he felt a familiar presence behind him. He smirked. "You're back."

"Of course I'm back," Yzak said in his usual aggressive voice. But in a move that surprised Dearka, he asked "Who was that?" He nodded his head in the direction Dearka was looking.

"A girl I used to know," was all he said.

Yzak looked at him for a moment, then rolled his eyes. "Baka," he mumbled loud enough for Dearka to hear before turning and barking orders for things that needed to be done. Dearka kept smirking and turned to follow his friend. But instinctively, he glanced one more time at the direction she left in. Maybe he imagined it—she was pretty far away from him at this point—but he thought she turned and looked at him, too.

Definitely not good bye, he decided, before jogging to catch up to Yzak.


Fin

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