Into the Ocean
By: Manna


xOx

Gundam fights were overrated, he thought. The breeze was light and airy, but it did nothing to make him feel better about the latest tournament. With the Dark Gundam gone, and the 13th Fight over with, he found himself with a lot of time on his hands that he hadn't had in more than a year.

It's over, he'd told Cecil, and watched her eyes light up. Seeing her happy was all that he had ever really wanted since their parents had died, and even though she would always be there to cheer him on as he fought in the cockpit of the Mermaid Gundam, fighting never would make her happy. It would never make him happy.

He sighed as he threw a rock into the water, not even bothering to make an attempt at skipping it. He liked the beach, the waves… they were soothing in a way that fighting and sleeping in a different bed every night could never be. The rivers, without another choice, emptied into the oceans in much the same manner as his life had gone.

Leaning back on his elbows, he looked to the distance at the burning sun setting in the west, and he smiled softly to himself.

Why had he become a gundam fighter? It seemed like such a long time ago, but it really wasn't. More than a year, less than a lifetime. Money, he thought. They had needed money after the death of their parents. Neo-Denmark paid them money to fight, and the nation itself would be proud to support them. But when he had looked down at the Earth, at the state of disarray of many places, he had been unable to keep his heart from sinking in his chest.

Mother and Father are buried there, he remembered thinking to himself immediately following the Dark Gundam's defeat. Cecil is waiting for me there. His gundam had coughed and sputtered as it hovered in space, but he hadn't paid it any attention. The planet Earth was far more important than his gundam, and for that matter, any gundam fight. He had moved his hand in front of him there as he stood in the cockpit, and he realized that from where he was, he could fit the whole world in that one hand.

It was a troubling thought that he knew would never leave him. I'm only 21, he told himself. I shouldn't be having these problems. Fighting hurt people- people he knew and people he would never get the chance to know. Fighting had nearly gotten the young pilot of the Dragon Gundam killed- young Sai Saici would have sacrificed himself if he had had to. It had torn apart more relationships and friendships than he could count. It left him feeling empty.

He threw another rock, and it skipped three times before it sunk.

No, no more fighting. It hadn't been a plea, and he hadn't been begging them. It was the honest-to-God truth. He was finished with the Gundam Fight. There could be so much more to life than fighting- than losing or wining.

We know how you feel.

No, he'd told them. You don't. You can't. Unless you've seen it, experienced it, been in the middle of it…it means nothing at all to you.

"Hi."

The voice startled him out of his thoughts, and he looked up to see a young woman standing in front of him. She looked familiar, but his thoughts were so jumbled that he couldn't place her face to a name. "Hello," he answered back when he found his voice.

She smiled at him, and he wasn't sure why, but his heart constricted. That's a sad smile, he thought.

"Do you mind if I…?" She pointed to the sand beside him, and he pushed himself up into a sitting position and nodded at her, giving her the permission she sought. After she took a seat, she drew her knees to her chest and sighed, looking into the setting sun. "You're the pilot of the Mermaid Gundam, aren't you?" she asked him, and he noticed that the fiery sunset made her green eyes look red.

"Not anymore," he said to her, still unable to remember who she was. "I'm just Hans, now."

"Why?"

Her question hung in the air like a thick fog, and he found himself hard-pressed to come up with a good answer; no matter what he said, he would sound selfish. "Fighting solves nothing," he eventually said, letting his eyes wander to her face again.

She blinked and looked down at the sand before locking gazes with him, "I know."

For a brief moment, he wondered how she could know, how she could understand, as the tone of her answer seemed to reflect that she did indeed feel some sort of empathy for what he was speaking of. But that moment passed, and he realized with a start who she was. "Wait," he said. "You're Neo-Sweden's pilot, right? Allenby?"

She nodded, but then stopped and shook her head. "I was," she told him quietly. "When everything with the Dark Gundam was over, I got out of my gundam and never looked back." A soft smile covered her face as she thought aloud, "'Cept, of course, when I told them I wouldn't be coming back."

"I'd imagine they weren't happy about hearing that," he laughed, remembering how his own country felt about his resignation.

"No." Silence lingered in the air for a moment as they both thought. "They were really mad."

Her words left him wondering what had arisen from her situation, but seeing as how it had been at least a few months since either of them had spoken to their respective nations, he wasn't about to press her for information. It was a personal thing, he decided. The Neo-Swedish nation was a lot harsher than his Neo-Denmark; he'd heard a few stories about how they had gotten their gundam fighter.

His smile fell away from his face as he watched her in silence for a few minutes with only the sound of the seagulls to reassure him that the world was still turning. "What are you going to do now?" he found himself asking her.

It took her a minute or two to answer, but when she did, she turned to him and spoke with conviction in her words. "I liked bein' a gundam fighter. But I guess…when you're raised by the government to do that, you're bound to feel like that." She looked away and peeled her shoes off before wiggling her toes in the sand, letting the warmth from the sinking sun cover the parts of her feet that still stuck out.

"But there's so much out here that I haven't even seen yet." She picked up a handful of sand and let it trickle through her fingers slowly. Suddenly, she looked back at him, her face flushed in embarrassment. "I'm sorry," she sighed. "I don't even know you, but… I don't know… I kinda think that maybe you can understand a little bit. I don't mean to bother you, but—"

"It's okay," he found himself saying hurriedly, the sudden realization that this Allenby had never been on a beach long enough to let her toes wiggle in the sand; she had never been given that kind of freedom. "I can't understand exactly, but I do know what you mean on some level." He watched her draw circles in the sand with her feet, and looked back at her eyes. "I just want to live a normal life."

"That's what Sai Saici said about himself," she told him. "I heard him say it to Domon before we all split up after the Dark Gundam's defeat."

"Yes. I heard him say it to Cecil, and she seemed…relieved."

She laughed then, and he found himself feeling lighthearted at the sound. "Wait, so that little twerp is still chasing her around?"

Smiling, he ran a hand through his hair. "Of course. But he's a good kid. He's got his dreams, and he doesn't need to fight to get there. At least, not in the literal sense."

She found herself grinning, "Well, when he used to talk about the Shaolin Temple and how he wanted to see its revival, I assumed there were only a few members… But then there were tons of 'em cheering him on, soo…"

"Hard work and dedication," he said gently. "That's all it really takes. He says that he wants to help, but he's only sixteen… There are ways to help that don't involve nearly being killed."

She nodded slowly. "I have to agree. I think the Temple can be revived if they just work together at it. To be honest, he should be cooking for them."

Hans closed his eyes and let the dimming light wash over him. "I think he was planning on it. He even talked about opening up a restaurant and using the profit to help revive the Shaolin Temple."

"That sounds like a good idea to me," Allenby said, shaking her head as she remembered the Neo-Chinese fighter. "Does he come by to visit a lot?"

"He's here now, actually." Rubbing the back of his head in embarrassment, he got to his feet and looked down at her. "He and Cecil kicked me out of the house for the evening for some alone time, and even though I can't say I completely approve of it… I know I can trust him with her."

"Yeah, I think you're right. He really does…care for her, doesn't he?"

Hans nodded, but then shook his head and apologized for his forgetfulness as he offered her his hand. She took it gratefully, and he pulled her to her feet.

"So," she said, watching the last bits of light dance at the edge of the horizon. "What exactly is a normal life?" She blushed, "Well, I mean…since that's what you want to do now and all…"

"How long are you going to be here?" he asked, and the confused look on her face made him rethink his words. "Uh…I mean…how long were you planning on staying here in Neo-Denmark?"

She shook her head, and he felt taken aback for a moment before she spoke. "You know," she whispered, and he almost missed her words. "I can stay here as long as I want. It feels really weird to know that."

"I know." And he really meant it.

She smiled at him. "Is it nice to stay in one place?"

"Normal people usually stay in one place for years at a time," he said to her. "Even though I'm probably not normal by any standards after the Dark Gundam incident- though my involvement was hardly crucial- just the thought of knowing that I can live in a house that is really mine, and do something that I really want to do makes me pretty happy." He flushed. "I've got to admit, though, that it might sound selfish, but the best part about it is that you can think about yourself. What you want, where you've been, where you'll go in life…"

"Not worryin' about an entire nation…" Her voice trailed off slowly. "That does sound nice. It's not as if your nation cared as much about you as they did the Gundam Fight."

Hans looked down at his hands and then at her face. She looked sad, and he felt his heart constrict a little bit. Here was another person that the Fight had hurt, albeit unintentionally. "Allenby…"

"Yes?" He could tell that she was shaking her thoughts away when she blinked her green eyes and smiled at him as she wiped her hands on her pants before combing through her hair with them.

Suddenly, he felt almost shy. "If…you're not staying anywhere in particular tonight, why don't you stay at my house? I'm sure Cecil and Sai Saici would love to see you… Cecil hasn't had any women around for such a long time…and of course you already know Sai Saici…"

And I could use the company of someone who understands me, even if I can't fully understand them.

His words never left his thoughts when she looped her left arm around his right. "That sounds great!" she said, and he could almost feel her enthusiasm. It made his heart less heavy to hear it, though he wasn't quite sure why.

Is it loneliness that she feels?

He found himself smiling a little as he started walking in the direction of his house. "Well, you're just lucky that Sai Saici is here. I'm not really much of a cook…"

"Really? Is it normal for a guy to be able to cook?"

He found himself thinking. "You know, I really don't know! I've heard that some of the greatest chefs in the world are men… but I do know I'm not one of them!"

"Well, if you can't microwave it, then I don't have the first idea about how to cook it," she started to say, but he found himself tuning her words out as he watched her face. He was certain that this woman had been through a lot in her young life. She'd seen as much, if not more, than he had.

But despite all that, she could smile and hope and dream.

She wants to live a life and see things she's never seen…normal things, he thought to himself as they neared his house. So much like me.

"You know, Min and Hoi- these two little kids that Domon and Rain made friends with- talked about some kind of candy that's like cotton… Ever since I heard them talk about it, I've wanted to try it…"

He grinned. "I can probably get some of that," he told her, and he felt his heart almost leap in his chest when she turned to him, an excited look in her eyes.

"Really?"

He nodded, dumbstruck. If simple, normal things like candy could make someone who had seen as much as she had happy, then maybe the world would be okay in the end. Perhaps…life didn't need to be as complicated as some people tried to make it out to be. Gundam fights were overrated, but happiness was not.

"Hans?"

"Hmm?"

"You know…it's beautiful here."

He nodded in agreement.

"I've never been in a place like this before. It's really peaceful…"

He didn't quite catch the full meaning of her sentence- but that was only because he wasn't entirely informed of her life in the Neo-Swedish government facility.

"That's why I'm here," he said to her, unable to think of anything else to say. "When I wake up and I hear the birds singing, and Cecil humming downstairs making breakfast, sometimes talking to Sai Saici… and I get out of bed and realize that every morning for the rest of my life could be the same…it…"

"It makes you happy?" She almost looked like she could understand.

"Yes." He looked at the darkened sky and quickened his pace the slightest bit. "Fighting never made me happy."

"Sometimes I had fun," she said, and he couldn't help but agree on that small point. "But fighting for my life wasn't any fun. It never made me happy, either."

A small smile found its way to his lips. "Well," he said gently. "Tomorrow morning, when you wake up…and you smell breakfast cooking—so long as I didn't make it, anyway—and you hear those birds singing, and you feel the warm sunshine across your bed… come and find me, and tell me how that makes you feel."

"I will." She shrugged her shoulders slightly. "But from the way you're describing it, it sounds 'bout perfect to me."

"It is," he assured her, and stopped as they reached the front door. He looked around him, and he knew she was doing the same thing, taking in the serenity that nature had to offer. "Earth is so much more than a ball of mud that floats through space. The life here is real."

She nodded, and he reached for the handle of the door as he spoke, "It's a constant reminder that there is more to life than winning or losing…"

And somehow, he knew she felt the same way. . He'd let the tide take him where it wanted to go, whether it pulled him out to the ocean, or pushed him back onto the shore.


Author Notes:

First of all, huge apologizes to everyone who might have had the misfortune of reading my old G Gundam 'fics. This is dedicated to you guys. Those 'fics were absolutely terrible, but if it hadn't been for your encouragement, I never would have ended up where I am today.

Secondly, I hope the characters were well-enough in character. I'm sure after the series ended, the events of the Dark Gundam humbled many a person. Allenby, despite her happy attitude, has been through a lot, and there is no doubt in my mind that she would struggle with the decision of what to do. Experiencing life would be the best thing for her, and loneliness is really rather inevitable.

Thirdly, I have always thought Hans and Allenby would make a smashing duo, seeing as how they live pretty close to one another, and they have things in common that a regular person could never understand. Hans has always intrigued me, in part because he was (one of) the best-looking gundam fighter's in the series, despite his lack of screen time. He's a nice, patient, forgiving guy who could, given the chance, help Allenby out in ways that the other characters couldn't- he's probably the most normal of all of the fighters in the series.

And lastly, I've always wanted to write one of these. It's too bad that the G Gundam section is pretty much dead now… but it's better to show up late than never, right? I apologize for a lack of romance, but this is meant to depict the beginnings of what could be a great relationship. Rushing into romance would be a terrible idea, I think. (But for the record, this is still a oneshot.)

Thanks so much for reading. Constructive criticism is very much appreciated, as always! I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this one.