Author's Notes: Timeline for this is between the Orb and PLANT armistice (when Lacus went back to the PLANTs) and the Onogoro scene with Shinn and the rest of the rat-pack (the final scene). If you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, those are clips/scenes from Final-Plus.
The genres may be Angst and Humor but this is nothing like 'Salute!'. The humor here may just be dry wit and sarcasm from Shinn.
Disclaimer: This fic was inspired by, but is not based on, 'Tuesdays with Morrie'. It belongs to its respective author.
Chapter One – Denial and Isolation
The war is over.
That single line kept on echoing and echoing and echoing relentlessly in my head. As if it wasn't already drilled in there. Frankly, after losing almost everything, I did not give a damn anymore which side won or lost. I just wanted to curl up and just forget about everything.
Or so Athrun told me.
Or so Meyrin told me.
Or so everyone else told me.
I felt so…empty. I just wanted to shut down my system and just reset everything. I did not want to think anymore. The Chairman, Stellar, Mayu, ORB, ZAFT… I wanted to just forget about everything for a moment and just…
What was I going to do with my life?
That moment, when the Justice landed in front of us with its hand extended, I had half a mind to snub it. But Luna… she needed treatment. How the heck were we supposed to get out of the damned asteroid while everybody else was shooting fireworks? So we accepted Athrun's offer, and just sat back for the ride. Everything would've been fine and dandy, if he'd left us on a ZAFT battleship or just endorsed us to the right persons, but he just had to bring us to the Archangel.
As we descended from the Justice, everyone kept shooting me weird glances, particularly one blond guy with a scar on his face. Not like I gave a damn. They could've spat fire at me for all I cared. On the way to the infirmary, Athrun tried to talk to me but I was determined to keep my mouth shut. He finally got the hint and left us.
They left us in the infirmary and, just as we were being bandaged by one of the doctors, I heard voices just outside the door. One definitely came from Athrun. The other sounded quite familiar, but I couldn't place where I had heard it before.
I wanted to block it out, just like what I had done for the past hour, but something they said made my heart stop.
"The blond kid… He shot the Chairman. Then, he chose to stay…"
"He chose to stay and die…"
I heard Luna gasp in shock and we each caught each other's eyes. She had tears in her eyes. Even though they had been anything but friendly since the battle on Heaven's Base, she was still grief-stricken over Rey's death.
I did not know what to feel.
The doctor eventually left me and Luna alone. "To rest," he said. Whatever. We've been here for four hours, I think. Good thing they finally had the decency to leave me alone. Now, if only they could do it for the rest of my god-forsaken life, I'd greatly appreciate it.
I think I had reached the point where I needed to look back on my life and figure out where it should or would lead me next.
But staring into space seemed so much more appealing.
"That's why… you need to be the one to protect that future."
I woke up with a start.
Some time during my space-staring, I fell asleep. I glanced at the other bed across mine, and I noted with a sigh of relief that Luna was still asleep. Nevertheless, I yanked the curtains closed to get some privacy.
I sat up and buried my face in my knees.
The full brunt of what happened finally reached my senses. My heart felt like it was about to explode and no matter how hard I tried to push it all away, all it seemed to do was return full force. I clutched my head with unsteady hands.
"…You need to be the one to protect that future."
…make it stop.
Voices seemed to be echoing all around me… Accusing me. Mom, Dad, Mayu, Chairman Dullindal, Captain Gladys, Stellar, Rey… each and everyone of them… Suffocating me…
Finally, I opened the curtains again, with shaky hands this time. Luna seemed so peaceful, but I needed her… Or rather, she'd know what to do.
She stirred, but did not wake up.
"Luna!" I hissed, more urgently this time. I wanted to stand up and yank the blankets off of her sleeping form to wake her. But my knees felt weak.
She stirred once more, and turned to face me. Her eyes flew open and she looked up at me through unfocused eyes. "Shinn…?" she whispered sleepily. "Is something wrong?"
'YES!' I felt the need to shout at her, but I didn't want to after everything that I put her through. I swallowed hard. "Luna…" I called out to her in such a way that was considered unmanly. My voice was shaking from pent-up emotions. Everything was crashing down on me.
That immediately got her attention and all traces of sleepiness disappeared from her face. "Shinn…" she stood up and knelt beside my bed.
"He told me he'd go after the Freedom," I cut her off. No… Rey can't be… He must be… He must've escaped… Because of all the confusion, we had lost communication with him. Athrun must've gotten his information wrong. Rey can't be dead.
"I'm going to call Athrun," Luna said worriedly.
It took me a while to finally realize that she was asking permission from me. Now was not the time to act childish. Athrun saved us. He meant good. But that doesn't mean that I can't hate him from afar, now can I?
"No," I said so softly my voice almost cracked.
I shook my head again, this time more forcefully. "Please, Luna."
Her face fell and I immediately felt guilty. And I apologized. Just as always, she accepted it without any hesitation, without any questions. She had always been good to me. But now was not the time to talk about such things. I took a deep breath and forced myself to look at her in the eye.
"Luna… Rey told me he'd go after the Freedom. That was the last time I ever talked to him. You don't think that…"
"But Athrun said he died with the Chairman and Captain Gladys," Luna said quietly.
I needed Luna to give me comfort, but she didn't.
She gave me the truth.
And as if we hadn't cried enough on that asteroid, Luna and I cried all throughout the night.
Even if it was just a dream or a vision or whatever, Stellar still talked to me. She told me that she was okay now, wherever she might be. She talked about yesterdays and tomorrows, but I never was good at understanding philosophical crap. All I knew was that she was doing fine. And that was what mattered.
But with Rey, I'm not so sure.
I never did get to hear his last, parting words.
After hearing his own story, about how he was a clone and was doomed to die, everything finally fell into place. Why he seemed so detached about everything. Why he helped me save Stellar. Why he reacted that way at the Lodonia Lab. Why he seemed so bent on finishing things.
One thing I did not understand was why he told me.
Rey had always been in ca-hoots with Chairman Dullindal. He always took the Chairman's words to heart and followed him around with such passion. I guess I got that attitude from him as well. Athrun told me never to believe the Chairman's and Rey's words because those words would eventually kill the world. If Athrun was telling the truth then…
Did Rey tell me about his problems just to get a sympathy vote? Just to manipulate me?
I may never know because, as I said, I never did get to hear his last, parting words.
Days passed and before Luna and I knew it, we were lining up to have our discharge papers signed and approved by Executive Officer Trine. I guess, with Captain Gladys gone, that task was passed on to him. He was still the eccentric man that we knew but his smiles seemed forced, and there was an underlying sadness in his eyes.
But then again, everyone had eyes like those nowadays.
"Are you sure about this?"
I nodded without saying anything. What was there to say? I had already made up my mind and nothing short of the end of the world would make me change it otherwise. Luna was waiting for me outside, having already had her papers signed. She wanted to stay with me, but I told her that I had to do this alone.
"There's no turning back."
I nodded once again. The Executive Officer had always been known for being annoying. What was there to turn back to? Nothing. I needed time…to rethink everything. With the impending peace, there was no need for soldiers like me anymore.
My long awaited revenge had resulted to nothing.
"It was an honor meeting someone like you, Shinn Asuka. I hope we meet again."
I couldn't force a smile on my face. Executive Officer Arthur Trine sounded so sincere. I saluted, but the older man brushed it away with a soft, sad chuckle.
"Come, now. There's no need for that anymore."
And he offered his hand in a handshake. I accepted it and shook it firmly. I turned to exit the room, but Trine didn't seem to be finished yet.
"What do you plan on doing?"
I stopped, not having the strength to face my officer anymore. I shrugged. I didn't really have any plans. And frankly, I didn't care. I exited the room and Luna was beside me in an instant. We walked wordlessly along the corridors, both of us clutching our discharge papers as if our very lives were enclosed in it.
And perhaps, they were.
Luna had already been friends with Rey when I met them both. They were extreme opposites and one just had to wonder how in the blue hell they became friends. They kept mum about it, but with Luna's knowing grins, nudges and winks, and with Rey's exasperated sighs, we grew even more curious each passing day. With those types of reactions, one should just expect a side-splitting and embarrassing (on Rey's part, anyway) story.
Luna always tried to bring Rey out of his shell; and Rey, on the other hand, looked out for Luna's best interests.
We thought they were going out at one time, but Luna brushed it away laughingly.
"Are you kidding? Of course not! We're friends! Can't a guy and a girl be just friends?"
Of course they could.
I mean, Luna, Rey and I, we were always together, and no one ever made the mistake of assuming us having a threesome.
Occasionally, Meyrin would meet up with us together with Vino and Youlan, but it had always been the three of us. Probably because we each had the same goals in our minds – being a Red Coat. Even though the reasons were different.
I wanted power. Power to protect the ones I loved. So that I'll never again feel helpless. Luna had more or less the same reasons. But Rey?
It had always been a mystery why he joined the military.
The first time I saw him, my immediate thought that was with that much grace, he'd be better off being a pretty-boy actor or musician. And after I heard him play the piano for the first time, I was convinced of it.
But after he beat me on a simulation, I decided that he was too kick-ass to just sit around and play songs.
Nevertheless, he still did not tell us his reasons for joining the military. We respected his privacy and trusted him enough to not feel the need to pry. Me? I was too caught up in my own angst-ridden moments to care why a long-haired, blond, feminine-looking boy would possibly want to be a ruthless soldier. During the times that Luna asked him about it, he would just shrug and answer with vague riddles and such.
But we didn't mind.
Rey was our friend and that was all that mattered.
I was living in Junius Nine – also known as one of the 'Agricultural PLANTs'. It was just like being in the country side – far from the noise of urbanism. Luna's still with me. Frankly, I didn't know why she stuck by me; nevertheless, I was thankful for that.
I love Luna.
But, for now, I love her just like a friend, or a sister.
I wasn't ready for love-love.
Maybe some other time.
Some other time when I wasn't angst-ridden with life in general.
Fortunately, because of our stint with ZAFT, we – that is, Luna and I – still receive monthly pension and benefits. But Luna being Luna didn't want to just sit still and grow old, so she decided to get a job. Too bad, the 'job' didn't decide to get her.
But what type of job would she find suitable in this PLANT anyway? Luna never did strike me as the domesticated type. She was a city girl – independent and out-going. It was a miracle that her spark was still there even after all that had happened. Between the two of us, one gloomy partner was enough.
Days were spent like this. Luna gone for most of the morning and me watching grass grow. It was a painfully boring activity, but hey, someone had to do it. Who knows what would happen if those grasses mutated and, subsequently, waged a war? One war was enough. Two were downright destructive. And three would be the end of the world.
As everybody was well aware of by now.
I had been lazing about in the porch for god-knows-how-long that Luna even commented before going out that I had probably taken root over there. Maybe I have. Ah, it was times like these that I wish Rey was here. He always had quickie comebacks ready whenever Luna decided to be sardonic.
Pity he wasn't here.
That was the difference between them. Luna was frank but didn't know when to stop yakking. Rey was basically the same – one could always expect him to tell the truth, but he had tact and knew when to shut up.
…Well, Rey was always shut up, anyway.
It had always been the three of us.
I wonder where he is…
I decided to go for a walk… not that it made any difference because I ended up doing the exact same thing as I was back at home. The only difference was that I was doing it from a park bench.
The field of grass at my yard definitely was thriving than these…these weeds.
The bench creaked as someone else took his or her seat at the other end. I paid them no notice. The world worked fine that way. Too bad the other person didn't have the same philosophy as I had.
"Funny weather we're having," he commented solemnly.
I rolled my eyes. "The weather here is simulated," I said dryly. "That means every day here is a sunny day."
The uninvited guest chuckled quietly. "Yes, but that wasn't what I was referring to."
I scoffed softly and decided that what he said didn't warrant a response. Maybe he was just another poor soul that lost three-quarters of his sanity because of the war. Kind of like me. Hey, maybe he's a fellow grass-watcher.
"You seem to like watching things," he commented out of the blue. But then again, everything he said and did seemed out of the blue.
"I like to watch things in peace and quiet," I answered pointedly. Hey, if he didn't get the not-so-subtle hint that I wanted my solace back, it's going to be his problem if and when things get rude and ugly.
He laughed again, and this time I turned to glare at him. He was a young man – he couldn't have been a year or two older than I was – with brown hair and solemn, violet eyes. He seemed a bit familiar… and then it struck me. He was that guy I met while I was in Orb. Ah, I had heard of sayings about the world being a small place… but the universe? Oh, the hilarity. Oh, the irony. Oh, crap.
He smiled at me, and I noticed for the first time that he seemed… sad, for lack of a more eloquent term.
He broke eye contact first, and diverted his gaze to the rolling grass in front of us. "I like watching things as well."
"No, really," I muttered sarcastically as I averted my gaze from his melancholic disposition. Honestly, I couldn't tell from the way he kept on interrupting my alone time (watch the sarcasm drip). I decided to drop all preambles and just go bull's eye on the point. "You know, I've seen you before."
He smiled that sad smile again and I fought the urge to knock him upside the head. Smiles were supposed to be happy.
"I never thought you'd notice."
I narrowed my eyes. "You're not a stalker or anything, are you? Because if you are, let me get things straight, if you get what I mean."
He seemed taken aback for a moment. Then, he shook his head. "No, you're safe with me. And I'm happily taken."
Of course I knew that. Wasn't he with that pink-haired girl? "So, why are you here? Orb kicked you out?"
"I'm here accompanying several friends. I heard that the Junius colonies were famous for its – "
I snorted. " – Green grass?"
"Well, I was gonna say 'nice, peaceful scenery and friendly people' but I guess that works too," he replied jokingly.
"What about you? What brings you here?"
"I live here," I answered caustically. I leaned back on the bench and closed my eyes. "Why are you so goddamn talkative anyway?"
"Because you seem like you want to talk."
My eyes immediately flew open and what I saw was red. What the hell was with this guy? "I wanted to talk? I wanted to talk. Heck, if I did want to talk, I'd have talked to someone sensible – like Luna. Or myself, perhaps. A conversation with a mirror would be preferable than one with some weird, sad guy who talked in riddles."
He just continued to stare at me with those annoyingly solemn eyes. It didn't help lower my ire a little that he was also staring at me knowingly.
I was talkative, wasn't I? Instead of ignoring him and acting like he didn't exist, I even encouraged – no matter how rudely I did so – our little chit-chat.
If I wanted to talk, I'd have talked to Luna.
I sighed and those oh-so-sad eyes looked at me with empathy. As if they knew exactly what I was going through.
I knew those eyes. They haunt me each and every friggin' night. They looked just like Rey's eyes. Sure they were blue and his was violet, but crap, I wasn't talking about eye color anyway. Rey's last words echoed in my mind again.
"The Freedom…is all mine!"
This time, I was the one who broke eye contact.
I leaned back and stared at the artificial, blue sky. The weather was simulated but during Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons, it rained. During Thursdays, just like today, the weather men opted for a sunnier weather. Thursdays were perfect for hanging out the laundry to dry, for letting the children play outside, for field trips to the zoo, for picnics and barbecues outside, or for walks and talks in the park.
I didn't know why they picked Thursday as the perfect day instead of Saturday and Sunday. Saturdays and Sundays were celebrated with a fine weather as well, but nothing could be fairer than Thursdays.
"I used to live in Orb with my father, my mother and my sister…"
I told him about my life.
And he listened.
Has Shinn gone insane? And what about Kira? Will they meet again next Thursday? Or will Shinn ditch him, thereby forcing the author to change the title to "Thursday with Kira"? Was Shinn right into thinking that the grass will grow taller than the rest of them, mutate, and then, wage a war against humanity? Tune in next time, same author, same category, and same story-ID!
Author's Notes: Oh, and just a note, Shinn still doesn't recognize Kira as the pilot of the Freedom. I just know keeping Kira in character is gonna be tough. Ah, well. Let's see how I fare in writing him, shall we?
Please review or else, I'll send Rau to haunt you. Just kidding. Although, I would really appreciate it if you tell me what's on your mind. Constructive criticisms are allowed and expected, as always. Thanks for tolerating my rant.
Shutting up now.
Oh, and kudos to anyone who can guess the 'theme' of the chapter titles.
Shutting up for real now!