Author's Notes: It seems that I have lost my angst-y streak…I'm having a hard time writing angst or drama! I'm afraid I've become much too attached to humor… Ah well! I guess it isn't so bad. This fic was originally meant to be a serious one, but I just couldn't resist trying a different approach. Why not meld Angst/Drama and Humor? I've read a couple of fics in that genre and they were terrific. Brilliant, in fact. I just wish this fic would turn out okay…acceptable, even. I wish.
Disclaimer: I don't own Gundam SEED…unfortunately.
Chapter One – One of Those Days
"I'm, uh, leaving now."
"Take care of yourself and, um, I'll, ah, see you on graduation day."
'This is gonna be one of those days…' Well, did he actually expect his father to suddenly burst into tears and beg for him not to go? Not even in his wildest dreams did he – oh wait, he -had- dreamt of it, but it was more of a nightmare…so does that count? Well, nevertheless, one would not expect Patrick Zala to fully function as a human being, more or less as a father, nowadays.
Athrun Zala shook his head, grabbed his incredibly huge luggage and proceeded to slam the door as loud as he could, which could be pretty loud, considering that he was a teenager just passing through the rebellious phase.
Athrun threw his bag unceremoniously in the passenger seat and took one last look at the absurdly ostentatious mansion in the background. It was absurdly ostentatious in the sense that only three of them lived in there (not counting the helpers, of course) – Wait. Scratch that. Only two of them lived in there now. Add to the fact that one of them was rarely home, and the other (much younger half) was going away to study for an indefinite period of time. He sighed. It would probably be better if they just sold the house for all it was worth (which was pretty high up on the real estate chart).
He got in the driver's seat of the car, put the key in the ignition, turned it until the car revved to life, he stepped –
Do we really have to state every little thing that he did?
He pulled out of the driveway and out into the suburbs. According to his calculations – well, the -map-, more precisely, his destination was only a couple of hours away. But something was bothering him. Did he forget anything? He was quite sure he did everything on his 'List of Things To Do Before Going Away'.
As he drove through the streets of December 1, he realized that he felt a little sad. Okay, he felt a hell lot of -sad- but his ego wouldn't allow him to admit it. Just a week ago he was practically prancing carelessly around here, without a care. He -was- prancing around literally…but it was a dare! His bloody classmates put him up to it.
Anyway, that was before…the incident.
It's funny how fate manages to slap you hard in the face with the reality that nothing is permanent. You're laughing and having fun one minute, and then – wham! – you're grieving and crying sorrowfully the next.
That day, he was supposed to have gone home feeling all giddy and lovey-dovey inside, after his would-be date with his fiancée; not going home shocked and near tears. But what was he supposed to do after fate slapped him hard in the face – after swaggering around town looking for a gift to buy Lacus – by showing before his very eyes on a huge monitor Junius Seven's complete obliteration?
Well, normally he would have felt nonchalant about it, would even let himself feel a little sad about it (that's where their food comes from, after all). But well, as fate would have it, his mother who just so happened to visit some colony for a research was in that same colony that blew up before his very eyes. Fate? Destiny? His ass.
For weeks, he shut himself in his room in shock. Blame it on him being a momma's boy, but, well, that was just it. He -was- a momma's boy (not as much as Yzak Jule, though). He and his mother shared a deep bond. The loss of his mother was pretty devastating.
And it did not help that he lost her through unnatural means.
It was the work of the Earth Alliance. They practically admitted it! He just couldn't mope around forever when he knew that his mother's killers were on the loose! No way, Jose! What was he to do? And the idea presented itself one morning when he decided to finally leave his room and get something in his growling stomach.
He and his father never talked about what happened. Denial. Yes, that was a great way to start their lives anew. NOT. His father seemed to be avoiding him as Athrun no longer saw him around the house (and he no longer bothered him to clean his room or wash the car or stop making idiotic mechanical pets…). So it came as no surprise when Athrun went down only to find nothing.
Their helpers were gone! Apparently, he had lost track of time and glancing at the calendar on the counter confirmed his suspicions. It was their day off. Oh, was the world coming to an end? How was he supposed to get some food in his stomach? By hunting for wild animals? Will he have to resort to eating his clothes? Will he have to kill his mother's pet birds and fry them on a stick? Would he…
'Okay, Athrun,' he remembered thinking to himself, 'you've been cooped up in your room way too long. This is the Cosmic Era! We don't hunt for animals! We have technology!'
And his gaze, thankfully, fell on the refrigerator standing oh-so-innocently by the corner. He opened it, only to find a carton of milk. He made a mental note to remind himself that Sunday was also 'grocery day'. Cursing his dumb luck, he took it out and drank it, only to spit it out again!
Boy, you can just imagine how constipated he must have been after drinking milk gone very, very bad.
When he was just about ready to chuck the milk carton in the incinerator for daring to poison him (never mind that it technically wasn't the carton's fault that Athrun was being stupid…), he noticed one thing that he failed to do so when he picked it up.
And no, it wasn't the expiration date.
There on the side of the carton was printed a colorful advertisement from the ZAFT Military to join their ranks. Colorful because it was red (his favorite color) and because it sported taunting messages like, "Are you man enough to join us?" "Got the balls to enlist?" "Be a man and be a soldier!" and the like.
Well, there was the answer that he was looking for.
Join the military.
Which brings him to his current situation: where in the blue hell was the ZAFT Military Academy located? He was quite sure that he was in the right place. Well, did you expect him to just drive around aimlessly while we were in the course of a semblance to a flashback? Of course not! He was making his way to his new school and dwellings! That's what you call time management.
What to do, what to do? Well, he could always ask for directions. Then again, that wouldn't be very soldier-like now, would it? He drove around some more, looking every now and then at the map occupying almost three-quarters of his breathing space. He had NO idea the PLANTs were -this- big.
He knew his father was one of those who were responsible for the organization of ZAFT and its academy, but he had never been there. Now, he felt slightly stupid for not even bothering to talk -thoroughly- to his father about enlisting. But do they even talk nowadays? Well, yes if you count Athrun trying to tell his father something and his father answering with meaningless grunts.
He looked around and fought the urge to drive his car straight to something hard.
'Mother, please give me the strength to go on…'
And then like the light from the heavens shining down on him, he found it.
Well, more like from the light shining down the great, big sign that said in formal, bold letters (with the little hourglass thingy below it), "ZAFT Military Academy." (But as it was morning and signs don't get lit up 'til nightfall, we'll just ignore that light shining crap and get a move one with our story)
Athrun sighed in relief and sent a quick word of thanks to his mother. He made his way towards the guardhouse.
"Good morning, sir… I was just –"
The guard interrupted him with a bored look. "Seeing as you stopped to chat with me, I can assume that you didn't take the time to read the pamphlet and you're here to ask what the hell you're supposed to do. Park your expensive-looking car there and get your belongings. Move your ass to the administration building to register. Just ask the bastards there what to do." Then mumbling quite coherently and audibly to himself, "God, how many idiots are planning to enlist anyways?"
Athrun wanted to throttle the guy for calling him an idiot but controlled himself. It wouldn't look very good on his records if he was involved in a brawl on his very first day. So he muttered a 'thank you' laced with enough venom to kill the entire Earth Forces.
He did as he was told and as he was making his way to the administration building, he found quite a number of nervous-looking, some sullen-faced, rookies. It seemed very unlikely that they were there because of the very 'inspiring' (note the sarcasm here) advertisement like the one on the milk carton. Athrun realized that they might be here for the same reasons: to avenge Junius Seven. The Bloody Valentine tragedy seemed to have become a rallying point for young Coordinators such as themselves to join the military.
The administration building (according to his map) was just ahead. He willed his knees to support his ridiculously heavy baggage. Why'd he bring so much stuff anyway? He wasn't going to a bloody vacation! He mentally ran through all the things that he bought and he realized with a groan that most of his possessions consisted of screws, scrap metals, chips (computer chips, not chocolate chips or potato chips!), wrenches, screw drivers and other mechanical stuff…or junk.
He really needed to find a new hobby.
He was lumbering clumsily because of the added weight and cursing every inanimate object he brought, when he noticed a green-haired fellow huffing and puffing away dragging a heavier looking bag. Athrun stopped and watched the little guy with mixed pity and amusement. The bag was roughly half the size of the green-haired kid.
Athrun approached Mr. Weight-Lifter and tapped him on the shoulder. "Do you need help carrying that?"
The green-haired kid smiled, or at least tried to. "You have no idea. I've been lugging this from the parking lot!" His gaze fell on Athrun's equally heavy-looking bag. "On the other hand, you seem to need help yourself."
"I'm Nicol Amarfi. Normally, I'd shake your hands but since I'm mauling a ton's worth of my earthly possessions, please excuse me."
Athrun felt his lips curl up in a smile. "That's fine. I'm Athrun Zala. It's nice to meet you." He found Nicol interesting. He seemed…too kind (and girlish) to be a soldier. His last name seemed familiar too… "Wait, are you Representative Amarfi's son?"
Nicol blinked and looked at him with a curious expression on his face. "And you must be Patrick Zala's son!"
Athrun nodded and they continued their trek to the administration building. This time, his pace much slower as he kept shooting worried glances at the boy beside him. 'I knew Coordinators had immense strength, but how can his body hold it? It seems that he'll fall down if you so much as sigh at him.'
The Academy was coated in sprawling green grass and several trees. There were grounds dedicated solely to whatever particular activity they were to have. There were buildings scattered here and there and it seemed that the Academy reached as far as his eye can see. To say that it was big was like saying that Yzak was a hothead. All in all, Athrun hadn't expected the Academy to look so…pleasant and high-class. It looked more like a preppy school than a military academy.
Finally, after hauling their one-ton bags for at least ten minutes, they finally reached the administration building. Like the rest of the campus, it looked like it belonged to an exclusive (not to mention expensive) academy, not a military one. Well, Athrun had to give the architect (and the administrators) credit for having such good taste.
The lobby was, there was just no other word for it, jam-packed. He hadn't seen so many people in his lifetime! It wasn't any place for a claustrophobic person. Thankfully, he wasn't so he didn't mind them at all. They found an announcement telling them that they were supposed to assemble at the auditorium located at the east wing.
"Great. Just what we needed," Athrun mumbled. "Another 50-mile trek."
"It's not so bad, Athrun," Nicol offered quite cheerfully. "Think of this as training!"
Athrun smiled, but inwardly snorted. 'Great. Just what I need. A friggin' optimist.'
Contrary to Athrun's exaggeration, the auditorium was only 250 meters away from the lobby. It was, like the lobby, half-full (or half-empty, depending on your perspective) of people. They found some empty seats and they were just about to settle down when someone greeted them.
"Hey, you bastard!"
Did that uncouth statement even count as a greeting? Well, apparently for one Yzak Jule, it did.
"Well, well, well, if it isn't Athrun 'I-let-my-daddy-do-the-talking' Zala!" Yzak smirked. Trust Yzak to break the ice. Athrun knew him because they went to the same school and his father and Yzak's mother were allies in the Council. So…did that make Yzak his ally?
"And if it isn't Yzak 'Where's-my-mommy' Jule," Athrun replied politely. "Where's your mom by the way?"
Yzak scowled at him. "I guess you're expecting my mom to be trailing behind me, huh?"
Athrun smiled sardonically. "Actually, yes."
Yzak shot him a death glare and Athrun returned it equally. But Athrun was a little grateful that Yzak had more tact than to remind him of the reason why they were there in the first place. The reason why Athrun was there… Their glaring match was interrupted by the arrival of Yzak's best bud or in Athrun's terms, Yzak's 'lackey'.
"Hey, Athrun, long time no see," a dry voice belonging to Dearka Elthman greeted him. He smirked at him and then, blinked when he saw Nicol standing beside Athrun, watching the exchange curiously. Dearka jabbed a thumb in Nicol's direction. "Who's the chick?"
"C-Chick?" Nicol echoed, his cheeks turning pink.
"That's a boy, Dearka," Athrun corrected him. Attempting to change the subject for the sake of Nicol's masculinity or male ego, he said the first thing that came to his mind. "I see you're still tailing after Yzak."
"Only to keep him from pounding the living daylights out of you," Dearka returned smoothly. He turned to Nicol and sneered. "Sorry, I thought Athrun was cheating on his fiancée!"
Nicol gave him an uncertain smile.
"Everyone please, settle down!" a booming voice commanded from the stage. Athrun and Nicol proceeded to take their seats. Seeing that there were no more empty seats available other than those beside Athrun's, Yzak cursed, but sat down nonetheless. Dearka followed suit and after a few minutes, the welcoming ceremony began.
And that was how Athrun Zala's first day with the military began…with him making new friends and exchanging insults with his old ones.
Author's Notes: So, is it okay? Let me know what you think! For the record, this is a -friendship- fic. There are no particular pairings here but since this is set before the series, there will be hints of Athrun-Lacus. Anyway, seeing as you've read the first chapter already, please review!