Scary Things

Disclaimer: Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED DESTINY are not mine. I make no money off this little venture. Though with as heavily as I've changed the two, they should be mine...

In CE 79, Shinn Asuka is at home, reflecting on it all during a fit of insomnia. Then Stellar comes along and gives him more to think about with that adorable little dyslexic wisdom of hers. Just a simple little one-shot to explore Stellar's point of view of Shinn and her relationship, from Shinn's point of view.

Read it ten times fast. It'll make sense, I swear.

This takes place after a bigass fanfic I'm currently working on. However, there's not much in the way of spoilers here, and the real purpose I put it here now is to provide a point of view on Shinn that doesn't portray him as some rabid psychopath, which this fandom desperately needs.

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The world is so beautiful when it's night.

...well, I suppose it would be, if it were the real world I were looking at. I stand instead on the quaint patio of my humble abode on the PLANT Junius 4, tranquilly swinging around the Earth in its cozy gravitational buoy of Lagrange Point 5. Stretched out before me is an artificial sea, glittering in the artificial light of an artificial moon. Ruffling my hair and my night clothes is a gentle artificial breeze; prickling my skin and standing my hair on end is an artificial cold; in a few hours the artificial sun will rise and bathe us all in artificial light. The artificial world will go back to its artificial work. The trees almost smell the same as they do on Earth. The birds almost sing the same songs. The water is almost as soothing. The sun is almost as warming. The moon is almost as clear. But therein lies the problem: the trees don't smell the same, the birds don't sing the same songs, the water isn't as soothing, the sun isn't as warm, the moon isn't as clear. This isn't Earth. This is man's desperate attempt to recreate home in his image, by exerting power over nature. Man now thinks he can control nature, when in fact what he controls here is not nature, but an artificial stand-in for nature. Man may be able to make it rain here whenever he wants, but not a drop of that rain is born from nature. Giant condensation coils and collection tanks and a myriad of other high-tech devices create this rain. A ring of shower-head sprinklers at the top of the habitation cone dispense it. Collection vats beneath the living surface collect it and pump it back up to the top. It's no nature.

Five years ago, the war ended. ZAFT was annihilated, the nations of Earth were annihilated, the cities and nations of the Moon were annihilated, the PLANTs were almost all wiped out, many of the extraneous space colonies were annihilated, and the human race whittled itself down to maybe a trillion loosely-spread people throughout the Earth Sphere, out of a mass of maybe three trillion jamming this Earth Sphere before the war. And I survived.

Now it rains on the Earth every day. Now the Earth is a saturated collection of islands and miniature continents, suspended in a seething ocean of magma, of the Earth's molten mantle brought up to cover much of the surface, shrouded by mist and steam and thick black lightning-spewing rain clouds. But that is not nature either—it rains due to the lingering effects of some insidious superweapon one of the warring sides employed, and it will continue to rain for years to come. Earth may never recover. We humans have committed matricide of the greatest kind. We have raped the Earth.

Perhaps that is why we make it rain here on the PLANT.

The people not yet dead are still going on with their lives. Homes are rebuilt, those lucky men and women who survived the war and had each other married, babies are born again, the colonies are slowly being repaired, what's left of the world is coming back to life...but it doesn't change anything.

My melancholy rumination was cut off by the sound of a tired, inquisitive voice behind me.

"Shinn...?"

I turned around, and Stellar was silently padding towards me, rubbing her eyes.

"Stellar, what are you doing up?"

She looked at me with innocent, sleepy eyes. "Stellar's cold," she murmured.

A normal man would probably be rather annoyed at a woman coming and hunting him down in the middle of his depressing reflections to tell him that she's cold. Fortunately, though, I am not a normal man, and Stellar is far from a normal woman.

I took her into my arms and rubbed her shoulders affectionately. "What are you doing up?"

"Stellar missed Shinn," she murmured, contentedly hiding herself in my arms. "Stellar doesn't like it when Shinn leaves."

The thought of Stellar sitting up alone in bed, looking around for me and finding I wasn't there when she remembered going to sleep with me, pricked my conscience with guilt.

"I'm sorry, Stellar. I couldn't sleep, so I came out here for some fresh air. I didn't mean to wake you up."

Stellar didn't say anything for a moment. "Shinn's sad," she observed at last, candidly and simply as always. "Why's Shinn sad?"

At that I looked away. Stellar was the victim of rape of another kind; with her mind mutilated by the Earth Alliance's endeavors to turn her into an "Extended," a super-soldier Natural that could surpass a Coordinator, whatever those words mean anymore, she was reduced to something simple and almost childlike, and talking in the third person all the time was only the tip of her iceberg of psychological damage. Yet I love her. It's the quality love has that makes us care, even though we don't know why and it drives us mad. But Stellar's innocence, adamantly maintained despite all the horrors she has seen, kept her from understanding what it is I'm talking about. It was a wall I couldn't break down, no matter what I did, and though we both tried to tear it down, I knew—and I think Stellar did too—that we could never truly break that wall down and be together the way we wanted to be. That wall was in my way again—I couldn't tell her what I was thinking about, why I was sad. She wouldn't understand.

And if I were to mention death in any way, she would panic, and I would have to hold her close as she scratched and clawed in terror, soothing her and calming her and promising again to protect her when we both already knew I would.

Damned block word.

Stellar noticed my troubled look and hugged me. "Don't be sad, Shinn," she admonished me quietly. "Being sad is no fun."

"I know, but I can't really help it."

"Shinn shouldn't be sad!" she protested. "Shinn stopped all the scary things." Her eyes lit up for a moment. "Shinn protected Stellar..."

I tightened my hold on her, shivering. "Just as I promised I would."

She looked up at me. "Does Shinn love Stellar?"

What prompted that? "Of course I do."

She looked away again. "...Stellar wants a baby," she said at last.

Oh no, Stellar, no...don't go there, please.

"Will Shinn give Stellar a baby?" she asked, looking up at me with wide, pleading eyes. I looked away.

In the creation of their Extended, the Earth Alliance took it upon itself to sterilize the reproductive systems of their subjects. Officially, the primary reason was to prevent any unfortunate pregnancies, and to reduce any unwanted hormonal side-effects as the Extended subjects entered adolescence. But the real reason was yet another thing the Earth Alliance instructors could say they controlled, and yet another way to control the Extended. They had the block word, the psychological dependency, the automatic nervous system shutdown...and this, too. She had to do what they said, otherwise she couldn't eat food, drink water, do anything...even if separated for too long from her psychological benefactor, her body would automatically shut down, in case she had been captured, to prevent her from leaking any information. She was a weapon, and I was trying to turn her into a human, with only limited success.

Stellar wouldn't understand, but she would still be heartbroken, and I still can't do something that would break her heart.

She saw my somber expression and, I suppose, gathered her own meaning.

"Shinn won't give Stellar a baby...?" she asked dejectedly. I looked back at her, and saw tears in her eyes.

"I can't. You can't have children."

She blinked. "Why?"

Oh God, how am I supposed to explain to her that her reproductive system has been sterilized, in terms she'll understand?

I hugged her tighter. "Because of the scary things."

Jesus, I feel terrible.

She buried her face back in my chest. "Stellar thought Shinn made all the scary things go away," she murmured, a hint of betrayal in her voice.

I suppose I should admit it. "There are still scary things out there, but they can't hurt you. You're safe." I looked into her beautiful, innocent eyes. "I'll protect you. Remember?"

"But why do the scary things mean Stellar can't have a baby?" she asked earnestly, a hint of puzzlement in her voice to replace the betrayal.

I sighed. She wouldn't understand.

"...Stellar wanted a baby," she said, disappointed. "Stellar wanted to call her 'Mayu.'"

...Mayu?

I pulled away from her, going numb with shock, and she blinked in surprise.

Mayu?

The memories came flooding back as Stellar spoke my own personal block word—me, a mere Coordinator, who had never gone through the Alliance's indoctrination and training, and yet the word "Mayu" had on me the same effect the word "die" had on Stellar. I was there again, on that wooded slope on Onogoro Island in CE 71, a boy of fourteen years old, racing with my mother, my father, and my little sister Mayu, towards the port where we could hopefully find passage off this blasted rock. The Earth Alliance was there again, launching their invasion. The Orb Military was there again, trying to hold them off as the civilians panicked and fled. Mayu dropped her cell phone again, I went after it for her again, the Freedom Gundam fired its weapons at its aerial opponent again...

Mayu, Mom, Dad...were all nothing more than lifeless bodies lying in pools of blood...again...

I returned to CE 79 when Stellar wrapped her arms around me and pulled me back up. "Shinn's sad again!" she exclaimed. "Why does Shinn get so sad?" She paused, as if an idea had occurred to her. "Is there a scary thing coming to get Shinn?"

Something scary already got Shinn, Stellar.

Stellar looked at me and blinked in surprise. I almost blinked myself—there were tears in my eyes. I was crying.

Stellar looked sad. She stared into my eyes for a moment, then nodded resolutely. "If Shinn will protect Stellar from the scary things," she said meaningfully, "then Stellar will protect Shinn too."

I wasn't sure what she was talking about now. I had promised her, long ago, when I met her in CE 73, and saved her as she was drowning off the coast of Egypt, and I had accidentally spoken her block word. I promised to protect her. I protected her when she was a deteriorating prisoner on the Minerva, I protected her at the Battle of Arzachel Crater, I protected her when we were captured by the Mad Typhoon Gang...I protected her through the whole damn war. And never had she promised to protect me. I never held it against her—she spoke in the third person all the time, after all—but it had never occurred to me that she might think she had to protect me.

Yet here she was, doing exactly that.

"Shinn gets sad when Stellar talks about Mayu," she said, unknowing of what meaning the word "Mayu" held for me. "Is Mayu a scary thing?"

I looked back at her. She was determined now to cure me of my depression. "No, Mayu's not the scary thing."

"Then what's the scary thing?" she asked. "Stellar wants to know why it makes Shinn sad."

The Freedom Gundam killed my family. I couldn't tell her that. She'd panic.

She looked into my eyes, pleading wordlessly. I couldn't lie. Not to her. All I had to do was hope she could draw the correct conclusion without seizing up in terror. "The scary thing is the Freedom Gundam..." I looked away. "When I was little, it was fighting, and I was running away with my family...but..."

I trailed off, hoping she would get the meaning. Her eyes widened as she murmured in realization.

"Shinn's family died?" she asked quietly.

I nodded, and she hugged me even tighter than before.

"Is that why the scary white Gundam makes Shinn sad?" she asked. She paused, I suppose, arriving at some conclusion. "Did it make Shinn's family die?"

I nodded again, and she hugged me again.

"Stellar's sorry she made Shinn sad," she murmured, now sounding sad herself.

I thought back to how we'd arrived at this subject. Stellar, assuming she could have had a child, had wanted to name her baby girl Mayu.

I hugged her back reassuringly. "It's okay. You didn't mean to."

She looked back up at me with those innocent, wide eyes again. "Is that why Stellar can't have a baby?"

God, Stellar, you know all my weak points.

"No...no, it's because..."

I can't explain this to her. She won't understand.

"Because Stellar's different?" she finished.

I blinked and looked back at her. Never had I thought that Stellar somehow considered herself different from everyone else. I had always thought people didn't register with her, except for Sting, Auel, the Mad Typhoon crew, and of course, Neo Lorrnoke and myself. The Earth Alliance wouldn't want Stellar to care about anyone but her immediate comrades and superiors, and her psychological benefactor—such emotions would get in the way in a battle. They had erased her ability to register people other than those she herself had some attachment to...but that ability seemed to be coming back.

Or maybe I was just grasping for straws, trying to hope that this dyslexic human weapon with a mutilated mind I had so deeply fallen in love with could one day recover.

She noticed that she had troubled me with this subject, and I suppose decided that we should talk about something else.

"Stellar wants to go to the sea," she said. I knew what she meant. She wanted to see the real sea, not the artificial sea that stretched before us on the PLANT. And it meant more—Sting Oakley and Auel Neider, Stellar's former comrades, two of the few people left alive that Stellar had any attachment to, were on Earth. Stellar wanted to see them again. She wanted to see the Earth's sea again, dance in the surf, listen to the sea-shells...it had been something she always wanted to share with me. I didn't share her fascination with the ocean, but she wanted to share that experience with me, because she got utter ecstasy out of seeing the sea, and she wanted me to feel that same ecstasy, because—

Because she loved me.

Stellar then decided that I'd looked melancholy long enough and kissed me.

"Will Shinn take Stellar to the sea?" she asked as our lips parted.

She probably wouldn't like to see the sea as it was right now—Stellar liked the sea when it was blue, calm, and the sun was setting over it, casting a splash of light across its rippling surface, as the waves lazily lapped over the beach. Now the sea was magma, the seething mutation of what had once been the Earth's molten mantle, bubbling and roiling and shooting up giant plumes of fire, towering over thousands of islands and the blasted remains of what had once been whole continents, covered by a layer of steam and mist from the thick, black, lightning-spewing rain clouds forever hovering overhead. But she didn't just want to see the sea...and for that I was happy to oblige.

"Of course." I touched her cheek, and she smiled at me. We looked out at the artificial sea of the PLANTs. "I'll take you to see the sea, Stellar."

Stellar hugged me gratefully, and then yawned, and I remembered that I'd woken her up and she probably wanted to go back to sleep. And so I whisked her up in my arms, she giggled happily and innocently as I swept her off her feet, and we went back to bed.

The next day we packed our bags and went to see the sea.