Title: Nicol's New Fate- Chapter 12 (or 13, if you count Tori's interlude as a chapter. I don't.)
Author: Darkling
Rating: PG or K+ (pretty tame)
Fandom: Gundam Seed
Summary: The (VERY) long awaited conversation in which Nicol learns more than he ever wanted to about the ramifications of battle. He also figures out that he doesn't know as much as he thought he did about Athrun or Kira. Nothing is ever black and white, least of all war.
Date: 9/27/2012
Warnings: AU, angst. (Seriously, even Nicol turned angsty in this fic), GSD does not exist here
Disclaimer: Gundam Seed and related characters, words, etc. don't belong to me. The story does. Don't steal.

Author's Notes: Sorry for the long wait, everyone (Has it really been four years?). I seriously doubt anyone is still watching this story but I've temporarily caught the anime bug, so I'm trying to update while I have inspiration. I cannot believe it's been seven years since I started this, and I still haven't finished it.

Fair warning: the way I write has changed in the interim so the style will be somewhat different. Hopefully, I'll be able to redo the previous chapters at some point so that the style is continuous but I'd rather write the entire story before doing that (if it happens). I am planning to keep the original plot, though. This chapter will probably be a bit choppy because I wrote some scenes three years ago and others just a couple days ago.

Thank you so much to those of you who have reviewed this story! Every time I get a review, even so far after a story's original publish date, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and inspires me to think about the story line and what I have planned for it. It was actually a recent review that inspired me to write this chapter.

So…thanks again, reviewers! This one is for you!

(Also, I'm sorry I didn't get a chapter summary out but I think they've been banned by ffnet. This time, I'll respond to reviews quickly but won't be able to give you any info on the next chapter.)


Last time:

"Nicol, we need to talk."

"About what?"

"About Athrun."


Chapter 12: Remnants of the Past

Nicol froze. Of all the things he might have expected Kira to say, that was NOT one of them. The other boy seemed nervous and fidgety, but determined. What had happened since last night?

Slowly, the young coordinator sat down and looked up at Kira, mind moving a mile a minute. Breakfast, and surprisingly humane treatment of prisoners, was instantly forgotten. This was his chance to answer a multitude of questions that had been seething at the back of his mind ever since he first met Kira, but he would have to move carefully lest the other boy run away again.

Kira shifted awkwardly, resting his right hand on the back of his neck and refusing to meet Nicol's eyes; his gaze kept darting down the hallway towards the door.

Nicol would have to be very careful indeed.

"I thought you didn't want to talk about that." He kept his voice carefully neutral and nonthreatening.

Kira shook his head and shuffled a few steps away, then back. The jerky movements quickly became pacing. After about five minutes he shook his head again and planted his feet squarely so that he was facing Nicol. Then he sat on the floor to be at the same eye level.

"I…don't."

Nicol cocked his head questioningly and Kira let out a long breath.

"I don't want to talk about it. I…it's been a long time. And it's…" For a moment, his gaze became distant and unfocused, as if seeing memories rather than reality. Whatever he saw made him frown and close his eyes.

"It's painful to remember. Especially now."

He drew his knees to his chest and hugged them.

"After…after the…after I…the battle…" He shot Nicol another anxious look which the younger boy, who was becoming increasingly confused by the entire conversation, easily understood.

"After you captured me." He nodded encouragingly. Kira flinched but nodded slowly.

"Since then, I'm sure Athrun hates me." Nicol's eyes widened in shock, both at the words and the tone. Kira sounded truly hurt by the thought.

"Why?" Nicol blurted out, unable to stop himself. Kira shot him an incredulous look and Nicol quickly clarified. "Why would you care what Athrun thinks? I mean, how do you even know him? I've analyzed every possibility I could think of and none of them seem to make sense!"

When Kira simply blinked at him silently, looking shell shocked, Nicol blushed with embarrassment. He hadn't really meant to do that because it was obviously a sensitive subject to the Earthen coordinator, but he hadn't been able to stop himself. It was just too confusing!

"You…thought about it?" Kira's voice was even quieter than normal, with distrust creeping into his tone. "How did you know we're connected?"

Uh-oh.

"…Was it a secret?" at Kira's suspicious nod, Nicol visibly winced.

"When I…escaped…I overheard a lot of people talking. Some teenagers in one of the cabins mentioned you had a friend in ZAFT." The suspicious look softened slightly. Encouraged, Nicol continued. "Also, you pretty much told me yourself."

"I what?"

"You did! When I asked if the Aegis was okay, you told me Athrun was fine. You knew his name, his mobile suit, and everything."

"Oh. Right." Kira picked at his sleeve sheepishly. "I forgot about that."

Nicol nodded.

"I guess I'm not as sneaky as I think I am, sometimes." He chuckled weakly but the sound died in his throat.

"Right, so, the reason I know Athrun is because…well, I've always known him." Kira shrugged at Nicol's confused look. "It's true. When we…when I was little I lived in a lunar colony. Athrun lived there too, for a time. We…" his voice broke slightly "we were best friends."

Nicol's breath caught in his throat and his eyes went wide as saucers. He'd never known much about Athrun's past, beyond his mother's death and his father's political position. Of course he had once been a little boy but…he wasn't originally from the Plants?

Kira looked unnerved at Nicol's silence but plowed onwards.

"We were inseparable, you know." A sad smile chased across his face, there and gone almost too fast to see. "Athrun's parents were absent, mostly. And mine were always working. For years, we were all each other had. But…then his Dad called him back to the Plants, and I moved to Heliopolis."

Nicol winced at the name but Kira didn't seem to notice; he was too lost in memories to care.

"Then Junius 7 happened." It was surprising and sad how resigned Kira seemed to become after that. "The war started. I didn't hear from Athrun again until Heliopolis when I…we…" He faltered and seemed to have to think about his words.

Nicol was totally gobsmacked. Of all of the scenarios he'd thought up, and he'd conjured some pretty wild ones, none came close to the sheer improbability of the story Kira was telling.

"How-" his voice cracked slightly and he had to clear his throat before continuing. "How did you know it was Athrun in the Aegis? Was it when Lacus-?"

"What? No! Oh, no." Kira seemed amused and almost embarrassed. "We figured it out long before then. Before I got in the Strike, actually." His mouth twisted into a bitter smirk. "I found him trying to kill the captain while she was down with a bullet in her arm."

Nicol stared in horror. Kira's storytelling had taken on a robotic, disconnected undertone.

"When he saw me, he hesitated and the captain shot at him, forcing him into the Aegis. Then she pushed me into the Strike to save me from the ZAFT soldiers."

Nicol had begun to shake slightly, in realization that he would recognize the story from here on out and that he would definitely not be cast as a hero. Kira was so caught up in the horrors of his past, memories he relived every night along with the deaths of those he had killed and those he had failed to save, that he didn't notice.

"I had to take control of the Strike to save my friends when one of the Ginns nearly crushed them. After that…well, you know the story. No one else could pilot the Strike and there were hundreds of Heliopolis civilians on board. Athrun and I have fought over our allegiances during nearly every battle but…I have to protect my friends and he is the one trying to kill them."

Kira looked down, blinking as he emerged from his nightmares. He shot Nicol a tired look.

"Does that answer your question?"

"I…" he was full out trembling now. "Kira…I'm sorry. So sorry."

Kira blinked in surprise. "What?"

"Heliopolis. We never…I never…You should never have been forced into this. This is all my…our… fault. You're just…You're not even a soldier!"

"I am now." Kira took in Nicol's truly repentant expression and smiled sadly. "Nicol, it's fine. It isn't your fault. I might not like it, but I chose to be a soldier and as long as I can protect the people I care about, I'm going to continue doing what I'm doing."

"I…" Nicol just shook his head and slumped forward, totally speechless. It was quite a story and, unfortunately, totally believable. Why hadn't they considered that there might be some coordinators living in a neutral colony? Why had they attacked the colony at all, instead of the courier ships? Why...why any of it?

Both boys lapsed into silence, Kira staring off into the distance and his memories while Nicol tried to deal with the sudden revelations.

"Birdie!" Nicol watched the mechanical bird land next to Kira, who seemed to take no notice of it. He was probably used to its antics.

"Did Athrun give it to you?"

"Huh?" Kira snapped back to reality and Nicol nodded at the bird.

"It reminds me of Lacus's Haros. Did he-?"

"Oh. Yeah." Kira smiled, an expression Nicol had never seen on him before. "He gave it to me the last time we saw each other, when he was leaving the colony. I've had it ever since."

"You still care about him, don't you?" It was somehow tragic and understandable. And it made so many of Athrun's recent decisions make sense. He still cared about Kira.

Kira shrugged. "Sometimes I think I do. Sometimes…sometimes I remember that ZAFT destroyed my home and tries to kill me regularly. Sometimes I remember how many people ZAFT has killed."

"The EA is worse than ZAFT, Kira. You do know what they've done, don't you? How many people they've killed? They started the war!"

"And they say ZAFT did. I don't know who started it and I don't really care. I just want to protect the people I care about. Do you really think that's a bad thing?"

"I…" What could he say to that?

"Birdie!"

"Tori, shhhh."

"Birdie! Birdie!" they watched the creature hop in place then take off down the passage for a moment. It stopped halfway down and looked back at Kira, obviously expecting him to follow.

"Right! I forgot about that." Kira levered himself to his feet, stretching his legs out. Nicol looked up at him uncomprehendingly. For a moment, he'd forgotten where they were.

"Nicol, the reason I told you all this is because…well, because I saw Athrun today."

"You WHAT!? HOW?"

Kira shuffled his feet sheepishly.

"Do you remember how you snuck into Orb the last time, as workers?" Nicol nodded mutely. "Well, I was outside this morning and Athrun was in the same spot with the same two other boys."

"Dearka and Yzak." Nicol corrected automatically, mind spinning. His teammates were HERE? In Orb? Frantic thoughts and schemes of rescue started to form in his mind. If he had help on the outside then maybe…Kira might help, he could…his thoughts ground to a halt. Kira might have a deep connection to Athrun, but he was still an EA soldier and didn't have any intention of defecting. Chances were he wouldn't help. At least, not directly.

"Kira…"

"Nicol, I can't let you go." The ZAFT soldier wilted slightly at the note of finality in Kira's voice.

"I don't…I know you can't let me go. I wouldn't ask you to. I've gotten you into enough trouble as it is." He paused, contemplating how to frame his next request. "But…could you let them know I'm okay somehow?"

Kira eyed him warily.

"How?"

Nicol blinked. That had been easier than he'd thought. He felt bad for taking advantage of the naïve civilian– and he would always be a civilian to Nicol, now. No matter what he did in combat, Kira just didn't think like a soldier – but Nicol had to escape. His friends and family thought he was dead. He chose not to think about the fighting and killing. He also purposely didn't think about what could happen to Kira.

"Could you…pass on a message?" He tried to look as harmless and imploring as possible but it didn't work. After a flicker of betrayal, Kira's expression closed and he backed away from the bars.

"I'm not helping you pass messages to ZAFT."

"No! No, that's not what I meant." He was desperate to keep Kira from leaving. Rescue, or at least a connection to the outside world, was so close…! "Please…I just want them to know I'm alive. Pictures, paper, evidence…I don't care what. I don't even have to write it. Just…please!"

He could tell Kira was softening but still unsure. At least he wasn't running away this time.

"Nicol, I can't…"

"I'm not asking you to let me go, or to give them any information." He made sure to keep his voice as steady and reasonable as possible. Unfortunately, his emotions made it wobble alarmingly, but Kira either didn't notice or didn't care. "I just…they think I'm dead, Kira. My family, my team, my friends, Athrun…"

Kira flinched, averting his eyes.

"PLEASE, Kira."

The brunette took a deep breathe, closing his eyes for a long moment as he thought. No matter how much he cared for Athrun or enjoyed Nicol's company, he was still an EA soldier and he would not help the enemy. Still…what harm could it do? If he made sure not to send out anything classified, would it matter if he told Athrun that Nicol was alive? The only information that would impart was that the Archangel was present, and ZAFT, or at least Athrun, already knew that.

It couldn't hurt anyone, right? And if he told Athrun…then maybe he wouldn't hate Kira quite so much. It was selfish, Kira knew that, but he couldn't get past seeing Athrun as his friend and he really didn't want them to be real enemies. Not that their current enmity was fake, by any means, but their hearts weren't in it.

Decision made, but still unsatisfied, Kira grimaced slightly and nodded at Nicol.

"A photograph. No information, or communication, or…anything. Just one picture to let them know you're alive."

"Thank you." Nicol sagged against the bars in relief, once again thanking his lucky stars that he'd met Kira. If he hadn't, he'd be considerably worse off (and probably dead).

"I'll get a camera."

As the other coordinator walk away, shoulders hunched to reflect his inner turmoil, Nicol could only hope that this wouldn't come back to bite either of them. And that it wouldn't damage the fragile friendship that had just begun to develop.


Twenty minutes later, Kira was standing at the very outskirts of the facility, concealed from prying eyes by two tall buildings and an overhang. There wasn't any surveillance to worry about; in the interests of staying secret, the number of recording devices was kept to a minimum and those were focused on entrances, exits, and the Archangel itself. If Kira did this, no one would know unless they were actually present.

The young coordinator was terrified.

His hands were sweaty and trembling and he couldn't seem to make his eyes focus; he kept expecting to turn around and find Ensign Badgerule glaring at him. Not that there was anything wrong with what he was doing…the picture he'd taken of Nicol was totally generic; just a snapshot of him sitting in his cell and smiling weakly at the camera with a timestamp along the bottom. There was no digital component, nothing that even a coordinator could pull extra data out of.

So why did this feel so wrong? He should have told the captain or at least the lieutenant…they would give him the go ahead, if it really was the right thing to do.

But if he told them that, then he'd have to explain about Athrun and his connection to ZAFT. Kira knew that such a conversation would not work in his favor; his allegiances were already in question due to his (lack of) actions in securing Nicol and his status as a coordinator. Telling anyone about his past could be the final straw, and end with him in the brig alongside Nicol.

No; he definitely couldn't tell anyone.

"What do you think, Tori?" he mumbled worriedly, gaze darting around. "Are we safe?"

"Birdie?"

He chuckled nervously and took one final look at the single, tightly rolled piece of paper, the picture that could destroy everything…or rebuild a long-lost friendship.

"I promised Nicol." He reminded himself. Tori hopped onto his wrist, cocking its head to meet his eyes. Kira didn't notice. "And Athrun…Athrun would thank me."

It was that last thought that finally cemented his decision.

"Here, Tori." He took the bird gently in his hand and offered it the small roll of paper, making sure the robot was gripping it securely in its claws before he let go. Tori hopped around, fluttering to adapt to the new weight, then looked up at him.

"Birdie?"

The young coordinator took a deep, calming breath, closing his eyes as he let it out. His resolve hardened, and when his eyes opened they were no longer distressed or uncertain.

"Give that to Athrun and then come back."

With a final chirp, the little creature took wing. Kira watched until the flashing of its body was lost in the shine of the morning sun. Then he settled back to wait.


The ZAFT soldiers had not gone far since Kira's retreat. In fact, they'd set up shop about 50 meters back down the road, inside a seemingly abandoned warehouse. There was no way to observe the facility from the outside, and they didn't have enough information about the interior to risk trespassing. Therefore, they were observing the main entrance to see if they could figure out where the surveillance devices were and to get any physical evidence of the Legged Ship's presence. Inordinate amounts of supplies or workers, discrepancies between what went in and what came out, specialized equipment…they would report anything out of the ordinary.

Despite their concealment, it didn't take long for Tori to find Athrun.

The young coordinator had been preoccupied ever since he'd sighted Kira. He knew the mission was important, and that he should be paying more attention, but he just couldn't get Kira's look of fear out of his head. Even in Heliopolis, after Kira had seen him holding a knife to a helpless woman, the other boy had not fled in fear.

He knew Dearka and Yzak were trying to puzzle out his odd behavior, but was too shaken to fall back into his familiar soldier persona.

In his distracted state, he didn't even notice the little visitor until it made itself known.

"Birdie!"

"Again?!" Yzak snarled, stomping over. Dearka peered over his shoulder in puzzlement.

"Y'know, Athrun, I think that thing's stalking you." The blonde sounded more bemused than annoyed.

"Um…" How could he respond to that?

Athrun extended his hand to the robot and furrowed his brow in confusion when it flapped its wings and chirped but did not jump on.

"Is it carrying something?" Dearka leaned closer curiously, trying to get a good look. The bird fluttered away and Athrun got a good look at its burden: a tightly rolled piece of paper about the size of a standard business card. What was Kira up to? Had he sent Athrun a message? What could possibly be important enough for Kira to risk sending him anything, even a piece of paper?

Gingerly, Athrun took the paper from Tori's grasp. He would have liked to do this away from the prying eyes of his teammates, but that just wasn't possible at this point. Hopefully, Kira had restrained himself from saying anything incriminating or personal.

With great trepidation, he unrolled the paper.

And instantly stopped breathing.

It was Nicol. The young coordinator was in a prison cell, surrounded by stacks of paper, but appeared relatively unscathed. He looked fantastic for someone who was supposed to be dead. The time stamp at the bottom of the picture indicated that it had been taken less than 30 minutes ago.

Alive.

Nicol was ALIVE!

He didn't notice when he collapsed into a sitting position, still staring at the picture in his now-trembling hands. It was as if shock had wiped out everything other than the tiny photo in front of him: all he could hear was a low, static-y drone, all he could see was the picture, and his limbs felt like they were made of rubber.

Thanks to the shock, it is, perhaps, excusable that he did not hear the twin gasps of his teammates or Tori's quiet chirp as it took off.

However, it wouldn't take long before he would regret ignoring Yzak's reaction to the photograph…and the scarred boy's pursuit of the retreating robot.


The naturals were here, and they were holding Nicol captive! Nicol wasn't dead, he was a prisoner, and ZAFT hadn't even known! Those barbaric monsters had had him for far too long...what had they done to him?! With Athrun out of commission from shock, it was up to Yzak to find their missing teammate.

Face twisted into a snarl, Yzak poured on every coordinator-enhanced turn of speed and agility that he could, even as calculations of angles, velocities, and possible destinations chased themselves across his mind. It took everything he had to keep the tiny flying thing in sight, especially since it was as graceful as a real bird and the sun shining off its wings was alternately blinding and camouflaging, but he managed. Dearka was following at a less breakneck pace, but Yzak ignored him.

Lost in his obsessive goal, he barely noticed jumping the fence of the facility they were supposed to be observing, or sprinting swiftly over and around buildings. When Tori finally dove, he was ready for it.

In a final turn of speed, he dodged around the last building and into a hidden alleyway, far from prying Orb and Natural eyes. The boy from before, the one with brown hair (an EA soldier; he had to be!) was at the other end with the bird perched on his wrist and his back to Yzak.

The silver haired boy took it all in as he moved; he didn't even slow down as he darted the length of the building and sprung off one of the walls, lending himself just enough height to come down directly over the other soldier's head with a brutal double handed punch. With rage, momentum, and the element of surprise lending him strength, there was enough force behind the blow to kill a natural or seriously incapacitate a coordinator.

Kira didn't stand a chance.


TBC

Reviews are loved!


I know, I know…I'm evil. XD

I'm really sorry about the cliffhanger, but this was always going to happen. From the very beginning, I intended to make this the transition between 'part 1' and 'part 2' ('the friendly enemy' vs. ' the enemy friend'). I think there are about five chapters after this one. Unfortunately, I can't tell you when they will be up because they all include characters I haven't thought about, let alone written, in about five years. I'll need to watch the anime again to figure out how to write them, and I have no idea when I'll have time for that. I will, however, try to go back and fix some of the formatting errors in previous chapters (it's come to my attention that ffnet seriously screwed the line breaks) and remove old, now invalid news.

If you've been keeping up on my profile updates, those last three scenes (Kira's introspection, Athrun's realization, Yzak's rage) were the ones I was having trouble with. But I NEEDED to get through Yzak's attack to get the story where I wanted it to be.

Thank you to my reviewers: karone-sakura, Ssatsuki, Helen Star, callmenever, otakuheaven123123, Akatsuki Leader13, lovegundamgirl37, Angel-chan, nequam-tenshi, Azora Grenfield, LittleBlueNayru, Evci, Halva,KafeiDetour, Apparocks, 107602, and Shinju Angel.

You guys are awesome!

(If you want me to respond to your review, but don't have an ffnet account, you'll need to find a creative way to enter your email address, otherwise the system cuts out the email and I have no way to contact you. Sorry Azora.)