Title: Nicol's New Fate
Author: darkling59
Rating: PG or K+ (pretty tame)
Fandom: Gundam Seed
Date: 5/10/2013
Summary: The ramifications of Yzak's attack turn out to be far more troublesome and widespread than he had anticipated.
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.


Pre-Chapter Author's Notes: Well, the wait wasn't as long as last time! That's a plus, I think.

Some of you (who have me on author alert) might have noticed that I've been writing for Bleach a lot recently. I assure you, this does NOT mean I have abandoned Gundam Seed. I still have every intention of finishing NNF.

I'm not sure when the next update will be. Important RL Changes happen in 3-4 months, so it's possible there will be another long hiatus on ALL of my stories at that point (think 2-5 YEARS), but I'm trying to get as much writing in beforehand as I can.

No more fic news! It hasn't been long enough for anything else…

Thanks to everyone who reviewed! I was absolutely amazed that so many people were still watching this fic, and your warm reception is what got me to update so soon. :) (Special thanks to Miss Peeps, who sought out inspirational material for me!)

I hope you like the chapter!


Last time:

Yzak 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.


Chapter 13: The Enemy Friend

The high-pitched trill of a communicator finally jerked Athrun out of his trance-like state. He blinked rapidly and looked away from the picture of Nicol, noticing for the first time that Yzak and Dearka were missing. Confused, he pulled the Comm out of his pocket and answered.

"Hello?"

"Athrun? Where are you?!"

"Dearka? What's wrong?"

"I called two other times and you didn't answer!"

"I-."

"Look, never mind. We need your help."

Immediately, Athrun's eyes sharped and his mind snapped to attention as he fell into 'soldier mode'. These were his people, and it was his responsibility to take care of them. When he spoke, his words were clear and crisp.

"Where are you? Are you injured?"

"Nah, nothing like that. It's…uh…Ya know what? Why don't we meet you back at the ship?"

Evasion, especially from these two, was a very bad sign.

"Dearka, What did you do?"

"Nothing!"

"…What did Yzak do?"

"You'll see when we get back."

"Dearka!" He snapped, in the practiced 'command' voice he'd learned from his father and honed under La Creuset. It didn't work as well for him as it did for them, but Dearka knew better than to ignore it.

"…He caught one of the Natural soldiers. The one with the bird."

Athrun froze, blood draining from his face, and for a minute he could only gape. But only for a minute.

"He. Did. WHAT?!"


Kira awoke to a throbbing headache and the smell of coffee. Disoriented, he tried to open his eyes but slammed them closed when the bright light triggered a piercing stab of pain in his head and his stomach lurched in protest. His resulting groan was more of a pitiful whine, and he bent his head forward, trying to lessen the pain and nausea.

"Back with us?"

The voice was familiar, but Kira was too preoccupied to acknowledge it. For some reason, despite his being unable to match a face to the presence, a thread of unease shivered down his spine.

"Who…?"

"Aw, I'm hurt you don't remember me! Why don't you open your eyes and see?"

The very thought of doing so prompted a miserable groan and another duck of his head. He tried to bring a hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose and draw his attention from his stomach, but was met with a dull, tingling pain when he moved his right wrist. His other hand responded in kind.

The thread of unease was quickly turning into an insistent nudge at the back of his mind, telling him this was not a good position to be in. He needed to be up and on his guard, ready to respond properly if something went wrong.

With his head still bowed, Kira slowly squinted his eyes open, wary of the light. There was still a trip-hammer in the back of his skull but it seemed he'd regained control of his stomach. His mild pleasure at the realization was instantly forgotten when he focused on his non-responsive hands and realized they were tied down.

(Maybe waking up in a seated position should have been a clue, but these days he slept upright in the Strike's cockpit more often than not.)

He clenched his hands into fists, feeling the pins and needles prickle of the ropes around his wrists cutting off circulation. They were secure (even for a coordinator), but not painfully tight, and the discomfort was minor.

"Feeling better?"

Now fully awake and able to match the voice to a face, confusion and horror warred for attention in his mind, even though he hadn't looked up yet: 'That's not possible; he's dead!' followed quickly by 'That means I didn't kill him! Oh, thanks God…' and 'He's a ZAFT officer. What happened? Where am I?'

"That was a nasty knock on the head you took." There was a metallic creak of chair movement a meter away. "But you're a coordinator; you can take it."

Trapped in his disbelief, wavering between 'This is impossible!' and 'Ohshitohshitohshit- what sort of trouble am I in now?', Kira didn't answer or move.

A 'clink' of spoon on cup was followed by the sound of something pouring and an increase in the already strong coffee smell. Used to the clean, almost sterile non-scent of the Archangel and the machine oil/ozone odors in the hangar, Kira coughed at the bitter organic aroma.

"C'mon Kid, your shoulders have been stiff for the last five minutes. Don't make me force you to talk."

Not an idle threat, but one the older man would (hopefully) hesitate before carrying out. Pushing his luck over something so insignificant would be pure folly, however, so Kira cleared his throat again and warily raised his head.

By now, his eyes were fully attuned to the light and he could see the other man clearly. Andrew Waltfeld was sitting behind a metal desk, smiling genially at Kira over the cup of coffee in his hands. His eyes were dark and calculating but not unfriendly or angry and there was a fresh red scar stretching across his left eye. It was the Desert Tiger in the flesh, out of his element but as intimidating as ever.

"C-commander Waltfeld…I thought you were dead..."

"Nope. Still kicking." Purposefully nonchalant, he leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on the desk. "Aren't you going to ask what I'm doing here?"

"I'm…uh… more interested in what I'm doing here…?" Kira tugged at his restraints, more nervous than upset. If anyone had a reason to hate him, it was this man. He had shown kindness to Kira and Cagalli, and then lost his companion (Girlfriend? Wife?) to the blade of the Strike during battle.

Waltfeld chuckled and took a long sip of coffee, noticeably NOT hostile.

"That IS a very good question. A better one is: what are you, an Earthen Alliance solder and the pilot of the GAT-X105 STRIKE, doing in Orb, apparently without your Gundam OR the Legged ship?"

Kira blanched. He hadn't even thought of that. The Archangel was supposed to be on its way to Alaska – if ZAFT found out that Orb was assisting EA soldiers, the neutral nation would be attacked!

"I'm- I'm from Orb, originally, you know. I came to-to see my parents…" his stuttered excuse made the Commander raise an eyebrow and quirk his mouth in disbelief.

"Really. Your parents." Kira nodded, licking his lips nervously. "And I suppose you just happened to come across a photo of the La Creuset team's missing Blitz pilot in the process, hm?"

At that, Kira's eyes widened and when the ZAFT soldier slid the damning photo across the desk so he could see it clearly, he looked away. He already knew what it was, and now he knew who to blame for his current circumstances.

"Athrun gave that to you." He mumbled, staring straight ahead with glassy, unseeing eyes. He'd been so sure that sharing the photo would return their friendship, that it was an opportunity to rediscover what had been lost. Instead, Athrun had responded with betrayal.

"Actually, no."

"What? But-"

"Your little mechanical pet delivered this photo to the whole team." Kira closed his eyes with a quiet groan of realization and Waltfeld shot him a sympathetic but amused smirk. "It was Yzak who brought you to me."

"I don't remember being captured."

He chuckled. "That massive bump on your head probably has something to do with that. Yzak was…enthusiastic while apprehending you."

Kira winced as the pain in his head hammered as if on cue.

"I received this," Waltfeld tapped the picture of Nicol. "From Mr. Zala after he returned a good ten minutes behind his subordinates." He shook his head with a wry laugh. "Those boys are a dysfunctional bunch."

"So…he didn't bring me in…"

"Who, Athrun? Nah. In fact, he seemed to be arguing for leniency because you willingly gave him information on Nicol Amarfi, the apparently-not-deceased ZAFT pilot."

"Oh." A bubble of happy warmth formed in Kira's chest at the description of Athrun attempting to protect him. Maybe he'd been right after all.

"SO." In a single quick movement, the older man stood up, knocked back the last swallow of his coffee, and set the cup down with a purposeful 'clunk'. Then he turned to Kira. Standing, he was highly intimidating to his captive's seated, restrained, still injured form.

"What do you say, Kid? Feeling up to answering some questions?"

"I…not really, Mr. Waltfeld." He couldn't hold back a wince when the other man advanced, prompting Kira to crane his neck and jostle his head injury.

"Heh. I'll bet. Lucky for you, I have some other duties to attend to, so we can put this off a few hours."

Kira breathed a sigh of relief…then squeaked in surprise as Waltfeld leaned over him and worked the ropes off. His hands were calloused and battle scarred but gentle and he removed the restraints without hurting Kira. Then he turned to leave.

"There's a cot in the far wall you can rest on, if you feel faint. I'll be back in a couple hours. You'd better be feeling up to it by then."

"Y-yes sir."

Before the door could close, Kira called out.

"Commander Waltfeld!"

"Yeah?" He stopped in the doorway, staring back.

"Why don't you hate me? I mean, after what I did…Even Athrun hated me when he thought I killed Nicol."

The humor drained from the soldier's face and for a moment he stared at his captive with eyes as empty and desolate as space. "Excusing your connection to Zala for the moment…And we will discuss that later…This is war. We've all lost people and, until it's over, we'll continue to lose people. I'm sure you've made sacrifices as well."

A vision of the civilian life raft bursting into flames because Kira had been unable to protect it flashed before his eyes. He bowed his head, refusing to meet the older man's gaze.

"Yeah" Andrew sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Rest, Kid. You'll need your wits about you when I get back."

He turned the lights off as he left and Kira heard the beep of an electronic lock. For a long time he sat there, alone in the dark, trapped in a tiny room at the mercy of a friendly man who could only be his enemy.


What a mess. Andy shook his head, false smile falling from his face as soon as the boy was safely locked away. This was going to complicate things badly. He didn't expect Strike's pilot to make trouble, not if he wasn't given reason to, but as soon as his absence was noticed the EA would know there was a ZAFT presence in the area. It would also draw the attention of Chairman Patrick Zala and the Council, who would no doubt turn Orb into a political talking point and push to declare open war on the neutral nation. The Eternal's undercover mission searching for the Strike and gathering information would become irrelevant and they'd be reassigned, which would complicate Waltfeld's personal plans for the immediate future.

Technically, capturing the boy could further ZAFT's plans; without Strike's pilot, the Naturals would be unable to use the Gundam and the Legged ship was helpless but for winged aircraft and mounted guns. To fulfill his mission parameters, all Andy had to do was keep the boy contained and wait until the ship tried to continue on its journey and passed out of Orb's protection, then chase it down and capture it and the Gundam it carried.

However, he had no official way of knowing the boy Yzak captured was the Strike pilot, seeing as their only previous face-to-face encounter had been strictly off the record. He was loathe to report it now – allowing such a dangerous enemy to leave his base unhindered was grounds for court martial at the very least, possibly execution. Besides, his personal plans diverged from those of the Chairman and capturing the Strike at this point would not benefit him at all. Maybe in a few days…

But, for now, it would be best to play it close to the vest and keep the information, from their talk in the desert and the upcoming interrogation, to himself.

The only potential positive in the situation was that Athrun Zala seemed just as eager to keep this away from the Chairman as Waltfeld. It was a surprising, but welcome, parallel to his sentiments and (hopefully) one less stumbling block in the way of ending this damn war.

It was certainly a lot to think about.

As he came closer to his destination, already sipping a new cup of coffee, Andy put such thoughts out of his mind. He had something much more immediate to deal with, which he could hear all the way from the other side of the bridge.

"What are you saying?! You think we should let him go?!"

The Commander's sigh was bordering on a groan. If he'd thought Yzak was a handful on his own…

"You had no right to grab him in the first place!"

…Being put in the same room as Athrun was like adding oil to water. They just did not mix.

The volume of their fight increased as he reached the briefing room. He didn't bother pausing to listen- it was already obvious what they were arguing about. Instead, he pushed the door open and strolled casually into their midst.

Immediately, the argument ground to a halt. Yzak, bending over the table aggressively with both hands clenched and ready to attack, reluctantly straightened. Athrun, glowering with hard eyes and a near-snarl on his face on the other side of the table, looked more in control at first glance but his feet were braced and muscles tensed and ready for violence. At Andy's entrance, the snarl vanished behind a blank poker face (which did nothing to hide the fire in his eyes). Dearka was present as well, sitting two seats away from Yzak and watching the conflict with an expression somewhere between confusion and worry. His normally confident posture was conspicuously absent in the presence of such a charged atmosphere. (Yzak and Athrun were often at odds, but they'd never fought this badly before.)

"So." Their commanding officer sat casually in the chair at the head of the table, sipping his coffee with relish. "Someone want to tell me what this is all about?"

"That Natural-" Yzak spat the word like a curse. He had prejudice issues, Andy absently noted. "-has Nicol! And he, "-the snarl was aimed at Athrun, whose own expression wavered in anger. "-wants to let him go! An EA soldier!"

"We have no proof that he's a soldier." Athrun cut in, before his superior officer could respond. "All we know is that he had a link to Nicol. Which YOU destroyed!"

"I took the only opportunity I had! Now we can interrogate the Natural and get more information!"

"Enough." Both of them fell silent at Waltfeld's serious tone. "Sit down."

Reluctantly, they settled in chairs on opposite sides of the table, still glaring and tense.

"Dearka, anything to add?"

The blond teen jerked to attention, startled at being addressed.

"No sir. Athrun disagrees with Yzak's decision to capture the Natural and Yzak disagrees with Athrun's… disagreement."

"Hm." Another sip of coffee. "I was under the impression Athrun was in charge of your little group. Yzak acted against orders?"

When both teens in question opened their mouths to protest, he silenced them with a flat stare and nodded to Dearka.

"Er…Athrun was kinda…in shock after finding out about Nicol and Yzak had to act immediately to keep the robot bird in sight."

"I see." He set the cup down and contemplated it for a moment, then sat back in his chair with a sigh.

"Both of you are wrong."

A raised hand cut off their protests.

"Athrun, you have to keep your wits about you, regardless of the situation. Yzak was correct to follow the robot back to its source, to verify the information." Yzak's triumphant, gloating expression vanished when Waltfeld turned to him.

"Yzak, while following the bird was a good idea, capturing the boy was not. By all appearances, he was willing to pass us information at least about EA captives, maybe more in time. Any goodwill we might have had with him, any option to have a spy in their ranks, was destroyed when you attacked him."

"But…he's an EA soldier!" Yzak exclaimed, sounding offended by the very idea.

"Hm. Are you sure? It seems to me that a real EA soldier would never be willing to pass anything to a coordinator. It's possible the boy is a civilian of Orb, who happened to get his hands on sensitive information.

The silver haired teen had no rejoinder for that.

Andy took another swallow of coffee. "Ideally, Yzak would have followed the bird and reported the boy's description and position, allowing for possible further contact and hopefully information on the EA."

Yzak scowled and flopped back in his seat, refusing to look at any one. The green-eyed boy across from him leaned forward urgently.

"But…what now? Maybe he'll listen to reason if we -."

"We're not letting the bastard GO!" Yzak's offended yell echoed in the room, but when Waltfeld raised an eyebrow, he sank back down, trembling with rage. Andrew's next statement was directed to the table's occupants in general.

"Yzak's right this time. It isn't the ideal situation, but what's done is done. The boy is here and we cannot trust he won't go to the EA if we let him go. Currently, he is locked in a spare cabin to recover from Yzak's assault. Once he is physically capable, I will question him."

With interest, the Commander noted concern in Athrun's expression.

"Is…was he hurt badly?"

"He'll recover."

"I respectfully request to be present when you interrogate him, sir."

"If Athrun's there, I get to be there too!" Yzak. Again.

"Oh hell, why not?" And Dearka. Three for three.

"Request denied, Zala. To all of you. I will be questioning him alone." None of them looked pleased to hear it, but at least they weren't on the verge of physical confrontation anymore.

"Now," he stood up with a stretch. "I want each of you to write and submit an objective report on this incident and return it in the next two hours." The boys stood up, grumbling and protesting quietly. Andy shook his head in amusement. Teenagers would be teenagers, regardless if they were also soldiers.

"Dismissed."


At the Archangel:

"Geez, Kira, where are you?" Tolle kept his eyes on the ladder he was descending, refusing to look at the long drop right beneath his feet. He had no idea how Kira could spring about so effortlessly, heedless of the height.

The group of them: Tolle, Miri, Kuzzey, Sai, and (surprisingly reluctantly) Flay were looking for Kira. It felt like weeks since they'd really spoken with him as friends rather than co-workers, and Tolle was beginning to feel bad about leaving him on his own for so long (even if he claimed to want it). Flay and Sai were searching the mostly deserted residential decks, Kuzzey was investigating the more populated areas, Tolle was looking in the hangar and technical areas, and Miri was searching outside.

So far, the only thing Tolle had discovered was that investigating the hangar included a lot more climbing than he'd expected.

"Tolle! Tolle!" Thankfully, he was almost to the floor when he heard Miri's frantic cries. He rushed down the last few rungs and ran in the direction of his girlfriend's voice.

"Miri! Miri, what's wrong?"

They came together in a rush, but she pulled up short before banging into him and then thrust her cupped hands in his direction, drawing his attention to their contents.

"Oh Tolle…something horrible must have happened to Kira!"

In her hands rested the inanimate, broken form of Kira's mechanical bird, Tori. One wing had been half snapped (stepped on?) and its head was bent at a funny angle. Most chilling was its total lack of movement or reaction. Normally, it was amazingly lifelike and active, so much so that, for a second, Tolle didn't recognize the green and yellow metal toy.

He poked it with a tentative finger, but there was no reaction – it remained, for all intents and purposes, dead.

Normal good humor completely absent, Tolle met Miri's worried gaze with a matching expression of fear.

"We need to tell the captain."


TBC

Reviews are loved!


Post-Chapter Author's Notes:

The hardest thing about this chapter was remembering how to write Andy Waltfeld. I had to do a bit of research to figure out the minutia of his character and, in the process, discovered a few salient points I had entirely forgotten. Most importantly: coffee! I had completely forgotten about Andy's obsession with it. This discovery turned out to be a very good thing, because it inspired the opening sentence (always the hardest part). [the blurb from Athrun's POV came later.]


Thank you to my reviewers: Obsessive Child, 107602, Miss Peeps, Logius Scriba, MysticMaiden 18, RainPure, Guest, Lightcatdream, Ishlee, misteriosayuri, haganeochibi, Love Psycho, , Yananikki, ChaoticNightofFlames, Stormywolf12, jdawgjpn, 0aka, and PinkSugarDust

You guys are awesome!

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