So sorry about the long delay. I've been very busy and haven't had time to finish this. It was a tough story to finish but I hope you like it. Thank for reading! And thank you for the lovely reviews! They meant a lot to me.
I wrote this up in one night because I had way too much energy. I was so excited to post it didn't really read it over too carefully so if there are mistakes…. I am sorry.
Disclaimer: I don't own Gundam Seed or any references made to it. Maloby and the strange doctors are mine though.
Chapter #5: A Shell of What Once Was
It had been four weeks since Athrun Zala had returned to the home that he and Cagalli shared in Orb and despite the efforts of Cagalli and his friends, his condition had not improved. If anything, it had become worse.
Lying fully dressed on his bed, Athrun stared up blankly at his ceiling watching as the ceiling fan made slow circles, blowing cool air down upon him. A mid-summer heat wave had taken hold of the entire country, leaving its inhabitants to fight against its wraith. However, Athrun barely registered the heat nor had he really made any efforts to fight it.
Most of his days were spent lounging around the house, wondering aimlessly about or just laying on his bed or the family room sofa. Dr. Moshi and Dr. Forestin had cleared him on the conditions that he return for regular check ups and eat regularly and resume light exercises to get his strength up. Athrun, however, found he had neither the strength nor the motivation to do so. Just moving around the house made his head swim and after a short trip to the bathroom, he found that he had to sit down to recover and fend off the dizziness that always arose, threatening to claim control over him.
He figured it was due to the lack of food he had been eating which of course was his own fault. When Cagalli returned home from her work, she always prepared a wonderful meal but he would only poke at it. He couldn't help it – he just wasn't hungry. Only her threats of sending him back to the hospital kept him eating what little he did.
At first, Cagalli had been very cautious about letting Athrun roam around the house and had it not been for Kira's constant insisting, Cagalli probably never would have allowed him to leave his bed. Eventually though, everything became more relaxed.
There had only been one incident in which Athrun had fallen and that had been just shortly after his clearance from the hospital. Still very unsteady, Athrun had tried to walk down the stairs, despite the warning signals his body was sending him, to help Cagalli set the table in preparing for dinner, just as he had done everyday before his capture and he was almost successful. However, his left leg had given out on the fourth step from the floor and buckled, sending the young man tumbling down the last few steps and landing awkwardly on his side.
The embarrassment he had felt was by far much more painful than that radiating from his gut and when Cagalli had rushed out from the kitchen to see what had happened, Athrun found that he couldn't look her in the eye. Closing his eyes, he lowered his head in defeat as Cagalli carefully helped him up.
For the rest of that night, Athrun had remained silent, poking absently at his dinner with his fork until he was excused from the table. From that day on, Athrun rarely spoke, rarely smiled and rarely left the house. What reason did he have to leave? He'd been suspended from his job until further notice and just couldn't bring himself to meddle with mechanics as he had in the past.
It wasn't as though he hadn't tried to occupy himself with other things aside from his misery. He loved to read and had attempted to read a novel that Cagalli picked up for him from the library. Unfortunately, once he finished reading a chapter and put the book down to do something else, he found that when he returned to further his reading he couldn't remember what had happened in the previous chapter. His battered mind would not allow it. Instead, horrid flashbacks of what had happened to him would swim across his consciousness and he found he couldn't focus. He ended up re-reading the first few chapters several times before simply giving up and throwing the book away.
Physically, Athrun was recovering but his mental health had not improved at all.
What was perhaps even worse was that Athrun Zala was starting to give up, lose faith in that he would ever return to his normal self or even be able to take care of himself again. Before claiming sanctuary in his home, Athrun had tried to leave the house, get some fresh air and meet up with friends but every time he left his home, he found himself watching everyone around him with a cautious eye. His perception of the world had changed. If that wasn't bad enough, he even found himself looking upon Naturals with contempt and he hated himself for it. He didn't want to see people and he found he had become frighteningly uncomfortable around large crowds. Memories of strangers just coming up and grabbing him haunted his mind and it took all his will power to prevent from breaking out into an all out run whenever more than 6 people surrounded him at a time. Once, downtown, he had broken down and taken off in the middle of a crowd and in the process, accidentally knocked over a little boy who had been in his way. After that, Athrun decided that he would never leave the house alone again.
Of course, everyone was trying their best to be supportive and patient with him even though he could sense the growing frustration within Cagalli and his friends. Aside from Cagalli, Kira's patience was perhaps the most heavily tested of all. Being good friends, Athrun had often called Kira to talk but now, Athrun would call and five minutes later he would then call Kira a second time to ask if he had already called because he'd forgotten. He couldn't focus on what was going on anymore and he more often forgot what he had and had not done. Such behavior was beginning to irritate his friend and Athrun knew it. His solution to that little problem had been to stop using the phone altogether and he did just that.
"I am nothing but a burden to everybody now," Athrun sighed sadly and closed his eyes to prevent the tears in his eyes from escaping. "Nothing."
"Athrun!" Cagalli's voice called from behind his bedroom door. "Athrun are you there?"
"No," Athrun thought to himself bitterly as he sat up and rubbed the unshed tears from his eyes. This was unlike him. Self pity was not in his forte. "I'm gone, I've been gone for several weeks now."
"You've got visitors, are you ready to go?"
"Uh?" Athrun frowned and for a moment, searched the back his mind literally begging it to provide him with an answer. What was Cagalli talking about? Where was he supposed to go?
"Who is it?"
There was an awkward pause and Athrun could sense the sadness building up on the other side of the door. He knew it hurt Cagalli deeply when he asked questions that he should know the answers to but there was nothing he could do about that and that knowledge was a painful burden to bear.
Kira? Athrun sighed and lethargically rolled off his bed and onto his feet. Staggering ever so slightly, he reached out for the wall for support. Had he made plans with Kira? He didn't remember making any.
"Big surprise." He thought to himself bitterly. "Recently you can't remember anything."
Opening his door, he tossed Cagalli a confused glance before carefully making his way towards the stairs. He held the railing tightly as he cautiously placed his left foot on the first step and had his right follow it obediently. He recalled a time when he could skip steps but that time was all but gone.
As he moved towards the main floor, he caught sight of his friend waiting patiently by the doorway. He was dressed in a sleeveless white T-shirt and shorts and Athrun couldn't help but notice his red face and the beads of sweat trickling down the back of his neck.
"Little warm outside?" He asked lightly as he reached the bottom of the stairs and smiled despite the uncertainty clearly displayed in his eyes.
"Oh, hey Athrun," Kira turned around and chuckled, sheepishly. His eyes slowly looked the younger man over, assessing him and his expression seemed to brighten as he took in the sight. Athrun seemed in better physical health than the last time he'd seen him. "Long time no see."
"Yeah, well…" Athrun lowered his eyes and shrugged. What could he say? "I've been a bit weary lately and resting."
Kira nodded, not really believing all of his friend's words. When Athrun had stopped calling him, he had grown concerned and had had Cagalli keep him updated with his friend's health. He was fully aware of Athrun's internal and emotional struggles.
"I don't remember where we are going," Athrun finally admitted bluntly and looked away, not wanting to see that all too familiar look of disappointment he had been constantly receiving. "I'm sorry."
"We are meeting Dearka and Yzak in ten minutes." Kira replied simply and motioned for Athrun to follow him. "Better hurry or else we will be late."
Athrun didn't move.
"I don't recall making plans." He frowned and stared questionably at his friend. "When did all this come together?"
For a moment, there was an awkward silence and Kira sighed and shook his head. His arms went slack at his sides and his cheerful expression suddenly dulled. "Yesterday," He answered quietly and tried to smile. "I called you."
Athrun felt his face pale and his heart clinch. 24 hours. It had been only 24 hours and he had completely forgotten… again. Frustration was gradually beginning to build up and he sighed heavily before bending over to put on his shoes. Waving goodbye to Cagalli, he nodded to Kira and the two of them left the house and hurried down towards the coffee shop.
It wasn't far since Cagalli and Athrun lived in town but with him still being a little awkward on his feet, they had to allow time for the delay. The streets were busy and Athrun found himself growing increasingly uncomfortable. Digging his hands deep into his pockets, he kept his head down, focusing on the ground while he shuffled along beside Kira. He didn't really feel up to travel and he certainly wasn't in the mood for coffee.
"Just keep walking," Athrun told himself as he trudged along the sidewalk. "No one will bother you if you just keep walking. It's all in your head… it's all in your head."
"So…." Kira grinned, desperate for conversation. He hated to see his friend in his current state, however, at the same time he was grateful. Things could have been much worse. "When do you go back to work?"
"I don't know," Athrun mumbled absently, not bothering to look up at his friend. "I don't know."
"Well, I'm sure it won't be long," Kira continued, unaffected by Athrun's clear disinterest in the subject of conversation. "I know for a fact that Cagalli really misses you wither her during the day and it will be good for you to get back into the swing of things."
"Maybe," Was Athrun's only response. He honestly hadn't thought about it. It was difficult to think about anything without receiving a painful headache now a days. The crowds pushed past them as they moved and Athrun quickly found that he was short of breath and the humidity in the air only added to his ragged breathing. Turning the corner, he stumbled slightly but quickly regained his footing before he could collapse to the ground.
Dizziness… the world was swaying from side to side slowly causing him to feel nauseous. "I'm going to drop down dead right here," He mentally decided. "And then all my problems will be solved."
"Are we almost there? He asked, desperately in need of rest. The heat was too much and his low energy levels only rendered his abilities to cope with the cruel weather.
"Almost," Kira pointed down to the end of the street at the small green and yellow café on the corner. He seemed to notice Athrun was ailing because he stopped and put took his friend by the shoulder, concerned. "We can rest for a little if you like," He told him carefully. He didn't want to offend Athrun but at the same time didn't want him to collapse from exhaustion either. The heat was brutally descending on them and he couldn't imagine how Athrun was taking it.
Athrun shook his head, stubbornly and urged his feet to keep moving, pulling away from Kira's grasp. He didn't want sympathy, he couldn't stand sympathy and recently, he had been getting a whole lot of it. "Let's go," He breathed. "We can rest when we get there."
From then on there was silence between the two friends. Kira's entire focus was on Athrun's well-being and Athrun's entire focus was on reaching the coffee shop before his legs gave in beneath him. Neither one had much to say. For Kira, Athrun was almost a stranger to him. The life and soul had drained completely from his friends green eyes and his expression was one of confusion and shame. It was as though all the energy and life that had once flowed through the veins of the young man had been drained, leaving him as nothing more than a shell, a broken empty lost soul.
Reaching the coffee shop, Athrun caught sight of Dearka and Yzak across the road. His expression etched into a frown when he saw that they were busy arguing with a policeman. The wind carried their conversation and Athrun couldn't resist a small smile when he heard Yzak proclaim the absurdity that he should be ticketed for illegal parking.
Kira and Athrun exchanged knowing glances before Kira sighed and motioned towards the café. "Go save us a seat – I'm going to see what nonsense they've managed to get involved in this time."
Nodding, Athrun slipped into the coffee shop, somewhat relieved when he was met with a blast of fresh, cool air. At that moment, he thanked the heavens for air conditioning. As he moved, he bumped into a short man whose face was concealed by a large hat. Judging from his slumped posture and boney figure, Athrun guessed that he was much older than himself. He found it strange that the man was wearing a trench coat, given the weather, but thought little more of it.
He chose a table that seated four in the far corner of the small café and sat down. It felt good to rest his tired body again and he let out a quick sigh of relief before motioning for the nearby waitress.
Athrun could hear people taking, surrounding him but he didn't make sense of the words they were saying. It was all the same. In one ear and out the other. Nothing really stuck in his mind… not anymore anyway.
"What can I get you, Sir?" A tall, well-built young woman smiled politely at him as she stepped up beside him. "Are you expecting more to arrive?"
"There's four of us," Athrun told her and shot a quick glance over to the next table to see what the couple beside him were drinking. Ice tea. He shrugged – Ice tea was fine. It didn't really matter to him. "I'll have an ice tea, thanks."
"Very well," The waitress scribbled it down on her notepad. "Separate bills?"
"Two dollars, please."
As usual, Athrun reached into his back pocket to pull out his wallet and pay. As he felt around his pocket, his complexion grew pale. It wasn't there. "Impossible," His mind screamed. "I know I had it. I always have it with me…"
He felt sweat gathering on his brow from embarrassment as he noticed the unimpressed glare he was receiving from the waitress. Frantically, he tried his other pockets, thinking that he may have put his wallet in one of them, but alas he found nothing.
Athrun swallowed. "I… um… I…"
"Hey there little missy," A voice suddenly called, causing Athrun to jump with a start. Spinning around, he was shocked to see the old man he had bumped into earlier reach out and pull out a small, leather wallet from his front, coat pocket. It was his wallet! "I'll pay for this'er lad and I'll have lemonade. It's on me."
Athrun's jaw dropped as the stranger pulled out a five dollar bill from his wallet and handed it to the waitress. Looking from the waitress to the man then back to the waitress, Athrun found that his lips were moving but he was beyond speech.
The waitress flashed the elder a peculiar stare before accepting the money and scuttling off behind the counter to fix there drinks.
Only when the old man sat down across from him did Athrun finally regain his voice. "You… you…"
"Long time no see, laddy," The old man smirked. "Glad to see yer in reasonable health." Casually, he slid the wallet across the table and as Athrun scrambled to grab it, the wallet landed in his lap.
Hastily, Athrun jammed it back into his pocket and straightened. "How did you…"
Maloby winked. "You should watch yerself a little more careful like, kid. Yer an easy target for the likes of me though… ya don't carry much on ya. Such a shame."
Athrun found himself smiling. "You escaped then." He stated.
"I did," Maloby agreed. "Friend of yers helped me out. Kiwi I think his name was. Anyway, had plans to make my way up to the PLANTS but the ship gone and left without me. Didn't expect to bump into you though. Must say, you're looking much better."
"Kira," Athrun corrected and flushed. At that moment, the same waitress chose to bring them their drinks. Both thanked her before returning to their previous conversation.
"How yea fairing?" Maloby's question was sincere as he sipped on the straw to his lemonade.
How was he 'fairing?' Athrun almost spit up his ice tea as a bitter laugh threatened to leave his throat. He couldn't sleep, was more than a little depressed, had become increasingly paranoid and felt utterly useless to everyone. Other than that he was fine. He couldn't be happier! He was so happy that sometimes he wished he could just die. He knew that was selfish but couldn't help it.
"A lot has changed," Athrun admitted somewhat reluctantly and sighed. "I have to go to therapy sessions and meet with a man who pretends to understand what I went through. But how can he understand? How can anyone possible understand what it was like?"
Maloby just listened, silently urging Athrun to continue.
"I…" Athrun bit his lip and lowered his eyes. "I find myself questioning everything and everyone around me and Naturals… I… I think I hate them."
The old man's eyes raised and Athrun shuddered.
"I don't want to," Athrun added quickly. "I can't help it. I see them here in Orb and I see him." He felt his shoulders slump. He couldn't understand why he felt the way he did or why he couldn't control the way he felt. He knew that to hate a race because of the doings of a few was wrong but his mind couldn't change the feelings the burned in his heart. "If I ever told anyone that they would probably have me put away. Dr. Moshi said himself that he thought I was dangerous."
"My therapist." Athrun explained.
"Hmmm," Maloby leaned back, appearing thoughtful. "What yer feeling is pretty normal. Yer justified in hatin' them fer what they gone and done to yea. Abhorrence is a powerful feeling and it ain't easy to overlook it."
"I know," Athrun muttered lowly. "I think I can now understand why it is so hard for Cagalli and the others to establish peace in this world. You can't really fight hatred…not with a bullet or a mobile suit..."
Maloby leaned forward, revealing his set of stained, yellow teeth. "Lemmie tell ya something lad. I ain't like them doctors yer seeing. I understand what yer feeling and why. I won't tell you to get over it or try to move on because ya can't really do that can ya?"
Athrun shook his head. "What am I supposed to do?"
"Just keep livin," Maloby announced and took another sip of lemonade. He seemed unsatisfied with the straw, however, and tossed it to the floor. He then took a long swig and hiccupped before turning back to Athrun. "If yea let yer feelings for Jibril and his cronies turn yea into something yea ain't then you've gone and done what they wanted. You've become part of the problem. Yer gonna have to fight those feelings and with time, they will fade."
Athrun considered his words and nodded. Maloby understood him. He had been there with him when everything had happened to him and it felt good to talk to someone who actually had a sense of what he was dealing with. "Thanks, Maloby."
"Naw, thank you for the drink," Maloby chuckled and held it up as if to toast Athrun. "Real thoughtful of yea."
Laughing softly, Athrun heard a soft bell go off, indicating that someone had stepped into the café. He looked up and saw that Kira, Dearka and Yzak had just entered and were scanning the premises for him. Athrun turned back to Maloby and frowned when he noticed that the old man was starting to rise.
"Are you leaving?"
"Don't fret none," Maloby replied. "I'll be seeing ya around. Besides, they seem to want to chat with you. Popular person you seem to be."
Athrun opened his mouth to reply but Maloby didn't give him the opportunity. As quickly as he had come, the elder took his leave and hurried past Dearka, Kira and Yzak. In doing so, he bumped into Yzak but the silver-haired boy didn't seem to notice.
"Who was that?" Dearka asked as he flopped down beside Athrun and removed his sunglasses.
"Just a friend," Athrun replied and watched as Kira and Yzak sat down across form him. Again, the waitress came over and took their orders. She seemed a little confused but chose not to inquire into the sudden disappearance of the old man. When she asked for payment Kira and Dearka both revealed their wallets and paid her.
Yzak, however, seemed to having trouble.
An angry flush started around his neck and rapidly spread up his face as he found he couldn't find his wallet. Furious, he leapt to his feet and threw his hands up in the air. "What the hell? Dearka! What did you do with my wallet?"
"Me?" Dearka scowled. "Nothing!"
"This isn't funny!" Yzak sneered and motioned for Dearka to hand over his wallet. "I know you, this is one of your lousy jokes!"
Athrun shook his head as Kira nervously paid for Yzak drinks while the two ZAFT soldiers continued to bicker about who had lost the wallet. Deep down, he knew that Maloby was right in what he had said. Despite what had happened, he couldn't let the events of the past control him. He couldn't let Jibril win. He was stronger than that.
The inner demons that his capture had left behind would continue to haunt him but Athrun vowed that day to fight and resist. If peace was to ever become a reality, people would have to put aside their feelings of bitterness, hurt and hatred and Athrun knew that he too would have to do the same. Abhorrence was a powerful foe but it could be defeated. In time, Athrun swore that he would be victorious and overcome the scars that his capture had left. Things would never be as they had been prior to his imprisonment nor did he expect them to. That would be impossible.
Eventually, he would come to grips with what had happened to him and that brought a certain amount of satisfaction to his slowly healing heat and soul.
I hope you liked it! I know I left it open ended but I did that so if I ever get around to writing a sequel to this I could. That is my first story done. I hope you liked it!
I started another one that will be significantly shorter but I hope you'll take a look at it just the same and tell me what you think. Well, it's bee a pleasure being able to share my story with you and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Until next time,
KrystalB2003 Thanks for compliments. I haven't seen Destiny yet so I can't use too many of its characters since I don't know them very well. Thanks again!
"…" I always have time for reviews. Thanks for being one of my regular reviewers. It made me feel like my work was valued. hugs Hopefully I'll see you around on Yeah, I wanted to murder some characters to but well… I couldn't… maybe next time? Thanks for reviewing almost every chapter and the long reviews were wonderful! hugs
Genny-chan: Yzak's card… I liked it too… heheheh
Cari-Akira:Thank you for all your long and in-depth reviews. they were so much fun to read. it means a lot to me. thank you! hugs
Slightly Sinister Sinestra: Hey! Thanks so much for all of your reviews. I hoped you liked Maloby – I brought him back just for you. Lol. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the story. I'll try to review u'r new chapter tonight. I haven't had a chance to read it yet… but you updated! YAY!
daisukiasu'n'caga Well, Athrun is better but he won't be perfectly back together… it'd be kinda hard for that to happen right? But he IS better and will get better too.. no worries
Kageharu Kaco: Cagalli has a MS? NO WAY! Hehe, sorry bout that… yea, don't spoil it for me. Vol 3 comes out soon so I'm gonna go rent it. Anyway, thanks for all u'r nice reviews. Hopefully I'll see you again as well on