Guest: Thanks for your review. Yup, Athrun is adorable ain't he :D Shinn's a very lucky boy.
Yo, ma peeps. So first of all I want thank you guys; some of the reviews I get for this fic are some of the best reviews I've had. And I've got further in this fic than I ever thought I would. AWESOME!
So, turning point in this chapter. Not much of a turning point, it's only a little move - I did warn you guys that it's slow moving. But some of you seem to actually like that.
Last Time: Athrun brought Shinn back from Orb after he'd gone AWOL.
Disclaimer: (feel like I haven't done this in a while) Gundam SEED does not belong to me, nor any of its characters.
Silver And Gold
Chapter Ten: In The Eyes Of Another Life
The bridge was underway with its repairs and rewiring. It had sustained a nasty attack in the explosion and would have been completely obliterated had not Deputy Trine managed to move the ship just in time. Meanwhile the Eternal was receiving complete cooperation from Orb, which was helping with repairs as well as sending out radio waves in search of Lacus.
There were no sightings of the ship that had taken her, there was no sign of Lacus herself and no one had received any messages from her kidnappers; it was worrying, stomach turning, rumours and whispers that she was already dead were aloft though they were quickly talked down when voiced. It was strange, everyone agreed that; when someone had been kidnapped it made sense that the kidnapper would be in touch. It frightened the authorities from both Orb and the Plants that nothing had been done to retrieve Lacus.
Inside, Kira was frantic.
His heart was skipping at every other beat and what little contents of his stomach there was seemed ready to heave at any given moment; in truth he wanted to talk to someone about it. But Cagalli was so wrapped up in Orb business and taking charge of the search that Kira felt it was stupid to interrupt her. As for Athrun, the Orb Admiral had been so exhausted the night before Kira hadn't had the heart to wake him next morning; he'd left Athrun sleeping deeply in their shared cabin with the intention of waking him if his friend's presence was required.
If only Mu or Miss Ramius was close by to talk; then again, Kira was so twisted up in his head he didn't know where to begin. All he could think was that Lacus was gone, and he didn't know where she was or how to protect her. He couldn't even remember the last thing he'd said to her; all he'd remembered about that moment was being called from duties with the announcement that Lacus had gone. It was mind blowing. He'd felt so stunned by the news that he hadn't been able to focus for a good half hour.
And then there was the mysterious message that had been sent to Athrun; it had been the only reason why the Admiral had been at the mansion in the first place. Someone had called for Athrun at the very same time Lacus had been stolen; Kira had checked, the timeline between the two events was almost perfect. Athrun had arrived on the scene just moments before Lacus had disappeared. Surely there was a connection. But what? Of course Kira wasn't the only one to have noticed this coincidence; some had said that Athrun's very presence at the scene shrouded him with suspicion.
Kira hadn't believed this for a moment.
Despite Athrun's strange determination to protect Shinn from any blame the young Zaft Captain knew his friend was as clueless as he. Even so there had been a small investigation in to the young Admiral; for one moment Kira had been concerned that Athrun's true identity would have been revealed. Admiral Dino was popular amongst the Zaft soldiers and Plant Officials but Kira didn't know what they would do if they found out he was actually Athrun Zala, the young man who had betrayed them twice. Fortunately, Yzak had seen the path of the investigation and had stopped all proceedings before they went too far, even succeeding to ensure that Athrun himself discovered nothing of the investigation in to him.
Kira had been impressed; Yzak was a good commander, and fiercely loyal to Athrun though he'd never admit it. He was loyal to Lacus too, and Kira felt safe in knowing that Yzak would stop at nothing to retrieve her. Somehow it gave him comfort to know he had such a commander with him, even if Yzak disagreed about giving Athrun such a high hand in the command.
A throat cleared beside him.
Kira started and focused back on the said commander who had been discussing the repairs of the ship with him "sorry, what did you just say?"
"I said, with the help of Orb the repairs to the ship are taking half the time" Yzak repeated "the ship should be ready for action much sooner than we thought originally"
"…Yeah, that's good" said Kira half-heartedly.
Yzak paused in looking down at the papers before them, and glanced at the young Captain beside him "I know you're worried" he announced in a hard voice "but mulling over it won't solve a thing"
"You need to be more focussed," continued the commander when Kira failed to answer him coherently "you're a Captain, you can't afford to be so distracted"
His companion sighed and nodded "you're right, it's just we're sitting here doing nothing, I can't help feeling we should be doing something at least"
Yzak thought for a moment and pursed his lips "look, I'm not the one to have a heart to heart with, that's Athrun's area, but I will tell you that the chances of Miss Clyne being hurt at this moment in time are very small. It wouldn't make sense for someone to kidnap her only to kill her without telling anyone"
"That's true" Kira mused "if so, why haven't they said anything or done anything?"
"I'm sure all will be made clear given time" Yzak returned to the papers "in the mean time, we should look at suspects"
Kira blinked "I wasn't aware we had any"
"We don't, that's why we should been looking for some. And we should consider that scouting ship that was destroyed, clearly it was obliterated for a reason"
"To stop the Plants from discovering Requiem was being repaired?"
"We already knew that" Yzak reminded him "that's why the scouting ship was out there in the first place. I think it's more likely the scouting ship discovered who it was repairing Requiem, and that's why they were all killed…which means, whoever this is wants to stay hidden, at least for now"
"That makes sense" the Captain reasoned "no one wants the whole world looking for them when they've just kidnapped Lacus"
"Which means…whoever is doing this is someone who we wouldn't suspect in the first place"
"That's not difficult" Kira pointed out "any major villain we would suspect in this case is dead"
"Uh, Yzak, can I talk to you for a moment?"
Both Kira and Yzak turned to find Dearka standing meekly behind them.
Yzak scowled "I thought I told you to call me Commander!" he snapped.
"Sure thing" Dearka replied hastily "but can I still have that word?"
"Dearka, I'm a little busy, can't this wait!" Yzak turned back to his work.
"It's important…" Dearka hesitated "I have a confession to make"
Yzak looked back again, with undeniable interest "I'm listening"
"Well…" his subordinate cleared his throat uncomfortably "the thing is…I'm drinking"
Yzak stared at him.
So did Kira.
"Drinking!" repeated Dearka hastily "all the time. When I'm off duty, when I'm on duty, hell I'm even drinking on the toilet. Come on, how weird is that?!"
"What exactly is it that you're drinking?" asked Kira not quite sure he was following the conversation.
"Alcohol of course!" Dearka enthused quickly "I can't help myself"
Yzak's eyes narrowed.
"I know what you're thinking" Dearka supplied "I'm a traitor, a criminal. To drink on duty is a sin. You should send me back to the Plants right now"
"Dearka" said Yzak carefully "you've never been drunk on duty, not even once"
"I've been sneaking"
Yzak lifted an eyebrow: he wasn't fooled.
"What's this really about?" he asked, "come to think of it, where have you been? I haven't seen you since last night"
"…I've been hiding" replied Dearka, and then added "and drinking"
Yzak raised his other eyebrow "alright, I'm not believing any of this for one moment. What's this really about?"
Yzak blinked expectantly.
Dearka sighed; he hadn't expected it to work anyway "fine" he relented reluctantly "you remember I told you that I dated a Natural"
Yzak nodded, all at once there was a much-needed smile growing across Kira's face.
"You remember I told you that it didn't end well?"
"Dearka, what the hell are you babbling about?"
"Well…what I didn't tell you was that the Natural I dated was a reporter"
There was a pause.
Kira tried to keep his smile from glowing.
Yzak thought about this "the girl reporter Athrun brought with him?" he asked with a certain amount of surprise in his voice "that's her?"
Dearka nodded wearily "that's her"
"You've caught me off guard" Yzak admitted, "she seems different from your usual type, more independent"
"Oh she's independent alright" Dearka agreed with a wince.
"And you say it ended badly?"
"How badly exactly?"
"Is that really important?"
"Well" the commander conceded "in the great scheme of things I suppose not, but you have claimed in the past that whenever a relationship has ended you're always the one to finish it"
"Ahh…I have to admit Miriallia is the exception to that rule"
"Is that so…"
A long slow cruel smile drew spread across Yzak's face.
"I like her already"
Dearka whined "look, this is all very interesting and all, but can I get off this ship now?! …Please?"
"Oh no, you're not going anywhere"
The doors to the bridge opened once more and Deputy Trine stepped in escorting two people clad in Orb uniforms; they arrived just in time to see Dearka clasp his hands together in silent plea, wordlessly begging his commander to reconsider his position and send Dearka…anywhere. Orb. The Plants. A Zaft controlled base. A tiny uninhabited planet in outer space. Dearka didn't care. Just as long as he got off this ship.
Yzak was having none of it.
"Are we interrupting something?" asked Cagalli as she joined the trio with her companion standing somewhat nervously behind her "is something wrong?"
Kira shook his head with a smile "just Miriallia sending waves of fear through the male population again"
"By the time that girl's thirty she'll have been in bed with every unmarried man in Orb" his sister sighed almost in amazement "it's actually fascinating how she manages to fit it all to twenty-four hours"
"Damn right" Kira gave a small laugh but returned to the subject pressing on all their minds "any news?"
Cagalli shook her head "nothing, I was hoping you and I, along with Commander Joule and Athrun could have a meeting to discuss what we know and how we can move this along. No one thinks for a moment that Lacus is really dead despite the rumours going round; we just need a clue to get us started. I figure there was a chance that maybe someone knew something without realising it"
"That's good thinking" Kira confirmed, "we can use one of the Captain's conference rooms"
"Good idea" the Princess of Orb looked around "is Athrun not here? I was hoping I could get his latest report"
"He's exhausted from yesterday, we had an incident that he sorted out. He was so tired I couldn't bring myself to wake him until he was needed"
"Let him sleep for another hour then, it'll take me that long to sort out all the paperwork I've got on this drama" Cagalli replied soberly "but talking of yesterday, there's someone here that would like to explain something to you"
"About yesterday?" Kira blinked "are you sure we're talking about the same thing? I wasn't aware anyone from Orb, other than Athrun, had been involved in the incident"
"You're talking about Shinn right?" asked Cagalli "he went MIA from his ship?"
"Yes, but how did you know?"
"Sai told me, he wanted to explain why the fight between Shinn and Kuzzey became so escalated"
At this Yzak turned around sharply "what fight?" he demanded.
"You mean you don't know?" Cagalli was surprised "I would have thought Athrun or Miriallia would have told you"
"Wait a minute, you're not making any sense" Kira cut her short "I don't know about any fight, and when you say Sai who do you mean exactly?"
Cagalli took a step to her left and indicated the guy standing shyly behind her; he suddenly realised that not only was Kira staring at him, but Dearka also. Yzak was watching him too, but he wasn't searching for the same recognition as the other pair.
Kira took a step forward and studied the bespectacled young man standing uncomfortably in front of him "Sai? Is that really you?" he looked different, and at the same time the face was exactly the same.
Slowly Sai gave a tiny awkward smile; three Coordinators all staring was enough to make anyone edgy, never mind Yzak's gaze was sharp enough to cut through rock "hey, Kira, long time no see"
"I don't see why I'm here" Shinn sighed impatiently "I thought you were taking me to the cells"
"I am" Lunamaria agreed "right after you've apologised"
"Why the hell should I apologise?!"
"You're trying to be funny, right?"
Shinn scowled and looked irritably at the closed door in front of him; the Captain's cabin wasn't the place he was supposed to be given the fact that soldiers were waiting for him to be locked behind bars. Yet here he was, after a serious talking to by Lunamaria, standing outside the door with his ex-girlfriend tapping an expectant foot behind him.
"Come on" she reasoned with him "it's thanks to Athrun you're not getting your ass kicked about for being drunk on duty" she gave him a prod in the back "you could at least give him a thank you, or say you're sorry for forcing him to find you when he was injured, injuries by the way that he got because of-"
"Yeah-yeah, you made your point" Shinn said mulishly "you don't have to rub it in, I owe this guy a big thank you, I get it"
"No time to waste then"
"Look, Athrun and I don't have that kind of relationship, if I just go in there on bended knee it's just going to make things more awkward between us"
"Quit with the excuses," she ordered "he put his neck out for you yesterday, and not for the first time. The least you can do is show a little gratitude to the guy"
Wordlessly cursing the girl he fell silent; there was no reasoning with her, especially when she was right. He felt the boil of annoyance again; it seemed everyone was able to talk him down because he was wrong. It wasn't as if he didn't know what Athrun had done for him, but just because Athrun had protected him again it didn't mean Shinn wanted to be grateful. He hated the idea of being grateful, it made his skin crawl and being grateful to Athrun churned his stomach; it was always Athrun Zala, why? Whether he was fighting with someone or bonding with someone, that someone was always the same guy.
"Sometime today would be nice" Lunamaria probed "you are supposed to be locked up by now, you know"
Shinn sighed again, a deeper more resigned sigh "don't you get it" he replied "there's no point in saying anything" his hand, which had reached towards the intercom button pulled away again "no matter what we do, how we try to connect, it's always going to end up in a fight. That's just the way it is"
"Don't be stupid, the only reason why you and Athrun clash all the time is because you're so stubborn and he never gives up on you," she argued back "if anything it's his downfall, he won't give up on you and you just keep punishing him for it"
Shinn's eyes narrowed and he glowered over his shoulder at her "hey! I'm not the bad guy in this! It's his own damn fault for always trying to make me see things his way!"
"But he still protects you whether you agree with him or not" she reminded him "and why don't you try seeing things his way? You could at least make an attempt"
"For crying out loud, Shinn, how stubborn can a guy be?!"
"I'm not suddenly going to start acting the way he wants me to!"
"I'm not asking you to be an Athrun clone, I'm asking you to find some middle ground with him! Is that really so much to ask? Why can't you just accept that Athrun would rather be your friend than your enemy?"
"Oh please, he doesn't want to be friends, he wants me to be a good little soldier that worships Yamato every minute of the day!"
"Is that what you really think?" she asked coming to stand next to him "if that's what Athrun really wanted then why would he go out in to Orb just to find you?"
"To make things easier for his precious friend of course! He said so himself!"
"Athrun didn't put in all that effort just for Captain Yamato, he went for you, Shinn. Sure maybe Captain Yamato was part of the reason, but if Athrun didn't give a damn about you then he wouldn't have bothered in the first place"
Shinn growled, "would you stop trying to make me take his side?! I don't want to!"
"Why?!" Lunamaria asked in exasperation "what could possibly be so bad about you and Athrun actually agreeing on something for once?!"
Shinn couldn't answer; he didn't know what it was, he couldn't explain it in words. But he couldn't help the fact that the idea of becoming friends with Athrun felt so alien to him. It would just be too weird to go in there and thank the Admiral for sticking up for him; Shinn had been independent for a very long time, it had always been him protecting someone else. There hadn't been anyone to protect him since his family had died; now there was someone willing to go that distance and Shinn didn't know what to do about it. He couldn't understand why Athrun would go to such lengths.
And to acknowledge that, to accept Athrun's help like that, just filled him with dread.
He couldn't do that.
He couldn't accept the fact that Athrun kept protecting him.
He didn't know how.
But he didn't know how to tell Lunamaria that; it was embarrassing to admit that the only reason why he didn't want to become Athrun's friend was because the idea gave him the creeps. He had no idea how to explain that he liked fighting with Athrun because he knew where he stood, because fighting with Athrun was the safe thing to do.
"Can I ask you something?" Lunamaria's voice made him jump.
"If Athrun was to give up, you know, just stop trying to reason with you and let you do what you want without comment, would you like that? Is that what you want him to do?"
Shinn froze; that question was worst that her last question. How could he answer something like that? He cleared his throat "sure, that's exactly what I want him to do, I keep telling him that"
"So if you got something wrong or you needed someone to tell you when to stop and Athrun just turned his back on you instead of trying to reason with you, if he didn't even bother, that wouldn't get to you?"
Shinn had reached his limit. There were only so many awkward questions he could handle and there was no way in hell he was going to give her an answer; clenching his jaw he hit the intercom button savagely "you want me to apologise, fine. Just watch me!" he shoved his face up to the speaker "hey, are you in there?" he demanded loudly.
There was no reply.
"Guess he's not in" Shinn said quickly, turning away "oh well, better luck next time-"
"Not so fast" Lunamaria grabbed him and pulled him back "you started this, and now you're gonna finish it" she jabbed a button and the door slid open. Ignoring Shinn and his protests, she deftly held him by his uniform and, with a strength that was surprising for a girl her size, shoved him unceremoniously in to the room "call me when you're done"
Before Shinn could even move the door had shut on him.
He reached out to open it again.
"Shinn Asuka, if you try to escape I will shoot you" the voice crackled ominously over the intercom.
Shinn pursed his lips and thought of several things he'd liked to say to Lunamaria Hawke next time he got the chance; sighing aggressively he turned in to the room expecting to find Athrun standing at him nonplussed with one of the those small irritating questions on his lips. Therefore he was taken aback to find himself standing there staring at an empty room; for a moment he suddenly wondered if Athrun was actually in here. According to Lunamaria, Captain Yamato had left Athrun to sleep; that didn't necessarily mean Athrun hadn't woken up and left of his own accord.
Then Shinn became aware of another sound in the room.
The sound of someone's peaceful breathing.
With a sinking heart he walked to the partition wall that kept the beds out of sight; peering through the open doorway he found two beds on opposite sides of the room. The one on the right was empty and neat, but the other was an entirely different matter. With some aggravation Shinn sauntered over to this bed and stared down at the sleeper.
"Look at you" he muttered "you're exhausted, and all because you tired yourself out looking for me" Shinn snorted "what kind of idiot are you?"
He looked back down at the face; Athrun looked so peaceful and calm, there were no signs of worry provoking his features, just simple sleep. He still looked tired though, the dark shadows under his eyes were enough to explain his deep slumber never mind the fact that he hadn't bothered to undress or even clamber under the covers. It looked like he'd just found his bed and collapsed right on it.
"Guess that's my fault too, I'm the one that got you hurt" Shinn looked away feeling awkward and wondering what it was Lunamaria was expecting him to do. Did she want him to wake the Admiral up? Surely it was better to let the guy just sleep, it was clear he needed to "shouldn't have tried to do so much after getting those injuries, you weren't healed yet" the young Zaft soldier grumbled to himself scuffing his foot against the floor.
Athrun's head turned gently in his sleep, his brow furrowed downwards as if something in his dreams concerned him; Shinn rolled his eyes, the last thing he needed was to be around when Athrun Zala had a nightmare. If Lunamaria thought Shinn was going to be around to comfort the guy after a nightmare then she had another thing coming.
"This is stupid" Shinn turned away again, not wanting to look at that face again. But something stopped him from leaving right then, it made him turn back again to watch Athrun sleep a little longer. And that question that he'd been trying desperately to keep under wraps floated to the front of his mind no matter how hard he tried to stop it.
He returned to the side of the bed and looked down at the sleeping soldier.
"Was all that true?" he asked softly "all that crap you told me yesterday? Do you really understand…" or had Athrun just been trying to make Shinn return to the ship to help another friend. The Zaft Pilot shook his head; he didn't care, he decided, it didn't matter to him what Athrun thought or what he'd said the previous day. None of it mattered because Shinn just didn't care.
"We're not the same no matter what you think" he said loudly.
Athrun didn't stir; his chest rose softly and then fell once more.
"Geez, how deep can a guy sleep?" Shinn asked not bothering to lower his voice "I could draw a moustache on your face and you still wouldn't wake up"
He leant over Athrun wondering for a moment if the reason for the deep sleep was more to do with illness than exhaustion; Athrun didn't look sick, Shinn thought, it would have been obvious if the Admiral had caught a fever during the night. Didn't people sweat when they had a fever? Or roll around in their sleep?
"Not that I'm worried" he spoke down at the face "but you'd better not be dying"
Athrun's mouth parted; a single mumbled word left his lips and his face turned again. Shinn watched him; he didn't know how it had happened, but for the first time he felt like he could see the real Athrun Zala. He could see passed the soldier, the killer and the Admiral. All of that fell away to leave someone else entirely, someone who hadn't been forced in to battle because his mother had died. For the first time, Shinn knew he was looking at the Athrun who would have lived if he hadn't been a soldier.
He was willing to bet that the Athrun Zala who hadn't seen death and war would have been a pretty decent guy; he'd always thought that if his own family hadn't been massacred he would have turned in to a good guy too. Someone completely different to the Shinn that was standing there now, leaning over an Admiral of Orb lost in sleep.
Maybe in that life, if they'd ever actually met, they could have been friends.
It was there that Shinn's thoughts drifted away, floating in a world of different people who looked like him and Athrun; it felt so strange to see Athrun like this, almost surreal to not be fighting with him. Shinn wasn't aware of what he was doing, not really; all he knew was that the Athrun below him now, drawing closer as he leant further down, wasn't the Athrun Zala who had struck him after Shinn had disobeyed his orders. This wasn't the Athrun Zala who had been his commander, he wasn't even wearing his uniform: this Athrun, the one now so close to him his features were out of focus, was someone else completely.
Their mouths met.
And Athrun's eyes slowly opened.
"I know it seems like I'm defending someone who ought to be punished" Sai sighed heavily "but Kuzzey's a mess, and I just know that punishing him isn't the right answer. That's why I told Representative Athha all about it"
"That's why I agreed with him" Cagalli supplied as she shifted in her seat and accepted the glass of water Deputy Trine placed in front of her on the table "but I didn't want you not to understand why…I just hadn't realised no one had told you about it"
"It's alright, that's not your fault" Kira assured her.
Beside him, Miriallia sighed, "Kira, I'm sorry. Really I am, but you're so worried about Lacus and what with everything happening I just figured it wasn't something you needed on your plate right now"
"You don't need to explain anything" Kira smiled "I'm not mad"
"I am" muttered Yzak under his breath "downright furious in fact"
"If anything it's Athrun I'm surprised with," the young Captain continued "he doesn't usually keep stuff from me like this"
"He agreed with me" Miriallia explained "he seemed to think he'd done enough, he gave that Shinn kid quite a hard time yesterday. They had quite the fight" she didn't mention that Kira hadn't been the only reason why Athrun had been so mad with Shinn. She wasn't quite sure why, but she wasn't all together convinced what to make of it all.
"Even so" Kira mused "he had plenty of time to tell me all about it" he remembered what Athrun had said before he'd left to find Shinn. Did Athrun really think he needed to save Shinn so badly? He sighed and let this drop; he had enough to think about. He looked back at his old friend "so tell me about Kuzzey, what could have happened to make him so mad with Coordinators?"
Sai paused and looked down at his coffee for a moment "it's his parents" he replied in a low voice "they were both killed in the Breaking Of The World Incident"
There was a silence.
No one in the room wanted to remember that day.
"Since then, Kuzzey's had this obsession with Coordinators" Sai added "I've tried to tell him that it was only a few, that they were terrorists who followed Patrick Zala and that the rest of the Plants didn't believe them. But it's no good, no matter what I try, he just seems determined to hate Coordinators"
"Call me crazy" said Yzak snidely as Kira's gaze lowered to process this new information "but if your friend hates Coordinators so much then wasn't it a rather stupid idea to take him to Orb?"
Sai shrugged helplessly "maybe" he agreed "I just thought that if he mingled with ordinary people both Naturals and Coordinators, then maybe he would stop hating them so much"
"Working like a charm so far then" commented the Commander sarcastically.
The door to the meeting room opened and Athrun walked in looking so distracted it almost looked like he'd walked in to the room by mistake; Cagalli stood up from her seat and hurried over to him.
"There you are" she gave him the once over "you look awful, maybe you should have slept longer"
Athrun didn't answer her immediately, he seemed more taken with lifting a hand to his mouth: then he realised she'd spoken "no, it's not that. I'm fine, the doctor has just cleared me"
"Are you sure?" Kira too had stood up and come to greet his friend.
Athrun smiled and nodded "right as rain" he peered round the siblings and spotted Sai, taking this information in he then looked to Miriallia who nodded. With a glance back at Sai he turned his attention back to Kira "I take it you know the situation" he said lightly.
"Actually I think I know more than you by now, the reason why Kuzzey attacked Shinn in the first place" Kira answered levelly "what I don't understand is why you didn't tell me"
Athrun cleared his throat uncomfortably and replied "I just figured you'd be more concerned with Lacus kidnapping than what Shinn has done, so I dealt with the situation and decided not to bother you with it"
"That wasn't your decision to make," said Yzak over from where he sat "Shinn Asuka is a Zaft soldier and therefore the situation should have been handled by Zaft"
"Kuzzey Buskirk is an Orb civilian" Athrun retorted "and you're on Orb land"
"Meaning?" asked Yzak standing up from his chair with a frown.
"Meaning that as an Orb Admiral I am well within my rights abide by my own decisions on the matter"
"And the fact that Shinn Asuka is a Zaft Pilot?" Yzak's voice was careful, almost sharp.
"That fact is almost irrelevant in light of the paper coverage this story would have had if it had got out" Athrun's voice was also on edge. He seemed tetchy, unwilling to give full disclosure on the matter.
Yzak's eyes were narrowed "that doesn't change the fact that you're messing with Zaft business"
"No, I'm not" the Admiral answered "the fight happened in Orb country making it Orb business" his voice was darkened with defence "you've been telling me to stop getting involved in Zaft business, now it's my turn to tell you to keep out of Orb business"
Yzak was taken aback; the hard edge in Athrun's voice had caught him off guard, Kira too started and gave Athrun a look of surprise. Cagalli on the other hand nodded in agreement "I'm sorry to say this, but Athrun has a point. Orb would suffer more than the Plants if this story was leaked, the less people that know about it the better"
"That's not something I disagree with" Yzak snapped, temper raising in accordance with Athrun's tone "but it's still a fact that Shinn is a Zaft Pilot, his superiors should have been informed of his actions. A Zaft soldier should have accompanied you in to Orb to find him in the first place"
"I was under the impression Zaft had other things to think about" replied Athrun "I didn't want to bother Kira with more hassle than he has to deal with"
"That doesn't mean-" began Yzak.
"Stop it, this isn't going anywhere" Kira broke in stepping between the two "it doesn't matter who should have told what to who, this meeting isn't about that at all. Shinn has been dealt with"
"You're right of course" Cagalli led her Admiral to the seats and together they sat down "although I would ask that Sai stayed here, he's working for me as a stand in while Athrun is with the Eternal"
"That's fine" Kira accepted sitting back down in his seat next to Yzak who stood for a moment longer giving Athrun an icy look.
A soft noise from Kira had him settling down, however, and he retrieve his papers from the table in front of him with only one scowl at the Orb Admiral who failed to notice it. He seemed to be staring off in to space instead. Sai, who felt he'd brought havoc rather than understanding, looked to his superior for reassurance before taking out some paper and a pen to write down the points of the meeting.
Over on the other side, Deputy Trine stood behind Kira's shoulder watching as Orb and Zaft settled their minor differences to deal with the subject at hand.
There was a small pause.
"Since this disappearance of Lacus Clyne" Yzak began when no one else spoke "the Plants have been working on various suspects and motives as to why she would have been taken" he looked down at his notes "while a suspect has yet to be determined the Plants believe the main motive is preventing the peace treaties from continuing as the kidnapped was a major part of the proceedings, although other motives have been considered"
"What has happened to the Peace Treaty Meetings?" asked Cagalli.
"They've stopped, completely" Kira sighed "the Chairman believed it was better that they were postponed until the matter had been resolved"
"I suppose that's probably the best course of action" the Princess of Orb conceded "it stops them all blaming each other, though I've still heard that the Earth Alliance is a little unsure why they're being kept out of the loop while there's an Orb representative on the very ship chasing Lacus"
"As Zaft officials we kinda reasoned that Orb represents both Naturals and Coordinators together" Kira replied "and as it was Zaft protecting Lacus in the first place, it only makes sense that we head the investigation. Don't you agree, Athrun?"
There was no reply.
Athrun started and looked quickly from where he'd been staring at the wall "what?" he cleared his throat "Yes, I agree. There's no point in involving the Earth Alliance when Orb can represent them too, I already have Miriallia sending her findings to everyone not involved in the actual investigation. I figured a reporter not bound by any official clauses would be better accepted to them, at least they can't accuse us of holding anything back when they learn everything Miriallia does"
"The more the outside world knows the better, that way no one can blame Orb or Zaft for this" Cagalli added "it's made things better between the various countries, though there are those who would still like to know how someone managed to steal her away. Do you still think she went of her own accord?"
"That's the general consensus, but not everyone believes it" Yzak responded with a glance at Athrun who had gone back to staring fixedly at the wall "of course no one can understand why she would do such a thing, but when Zaft made their own examination of the scene they found no proof to suggest she'd been taken by force"
"But they don't rule out the possibility that she was taken at gun point" Deputy Trine supplied from behind Kira.
"The other question puzzling everyone is who called Commander Za- Dino to the scene" Yzak continued, looking back down at his notes "it is clear Captain Yamato made no such request to meet him, and there's no other suggestion available"
Here he passed another quick look at Athrun; it wasn't that Yzak actually suspected Athrun of anything, he was simply bothered by the fact that everywhere they turned Athrun was there, implicated or involved. Why? Because it kept the Admiral involved in the investigation? Who would want that? The obvious answer was of course Kira, but there was no way Kira Yamato could have been the one to call Athrun to the mansion when Lacus Clyne was kidnapped. There could have been only one other who knew that she was going to be kidnapped.
The kidnapper themselves.
This led Yzak to believe that it was someone didn't like Athrun.
And that was where the problem started. Granted, Athrun's list of enemies was quite a long one. But that list was full of dead people. In the world at large now, Athrun Zala – or Alex Dino – was proving to be popular both in Orb and amongst the allies.
But maybe that was it.
It was Alex Dino who was popular. Athrun Zala was the son of Patrick Zala, a madman. He had betrayed Zaft twice in his lifetime and could be dubbed a spy in the land of Orb. And everywhere Yzak turned, there Athrun was. He'd been there when Lacus had been kidnapped. He was the lead Orb representative in Zaft.
Was Yzak's thinking right? Was Athrun somehow involved in this? But how? It bothered Yzak more than he cared to admit because Athrun was more of a friend than he wanted to believe. There was no way Athrun was knowingly involved in this, Yzak knew that, but if the kidnapper had been the one to call Athrun to the scene then the only reasoning would be that they wanted to frame Athrun.
That would have been the case if Yzak hadn't worked hard to make not so; now, as he sat there contemplating his notes, he realised the more he thought about it the more he began to consider that Athrun as well as Lacus was a target in this.
But were they the only ones?
It was then Athrun finally felt someone watching him; looking up from thin air he caught Yzak's gaze and held it for a moment. The look passed between them and it was almost as if Athrun was reading Yzak's mind even as he sat there; he nodded subtly as around them the others discussed other events that had been changed because of Lacus's kidnapping. And Yzak understood; he couldn't explain how the idea slipped in to his mind, but he suddenly noticed what the main people in this room had in common.
These were the people most affected in this whole thing: these people were the leaders of peace, they'd betrayed their own countries, found against their own people because of their beliefs that war was the biggest enemies of all. Of all the people who wanted peace in the world, it was these four who were the most famous; it was their faces the whole world knew, their names the whole world talked about. The amazing things they'd done to stop the war. The determination they'd given to protect the people of the world from those who wanted to destroy it.
Lacus wasn't the victim. Neither was Athrun. The victims were those who had stood in the way of someone, preventing them from winning. And now those people were gathered together in the one room.
"That's why we've heard nothing" Yzak murmured to himself "that's why the ship containing Miss Clyne was heading for Orb. To get them all together in the same place"
"The thing about Lacus going of her own accord bothers me" Cagalli was saying "it had been generally thought that the Peace Treaties were going alright, but if Lacus was expecting to be taken then she must have known that they were being interfered in some way"
Were the Peace Treaties really the reason for the kidnapping? Yzak continued to think about it. What if they were a façade, a cloak to hide behind because the Treaties were the only things the world could think about? If this was about the Peace Treaties then why take Lacus in a ship and lead them to Orb? It made no sense when the Treaties were held in the Plants. He growled: none of it made sense at all. Round and round his thoughts were going and the more possibilities he thought of the more questions popped up.
"What if we're looking at this the wrong way?" asked Kira mirroring Yzak's thoughts without knowing so "could there be another motive than the Peace Treaties?"
"Like what?" asked Deputy Trine "peace was Miss Clyne's very life"
"But what if-"
The lights flickered around them; everyone stopped discussing the different options and looked up, on the side where a computer stood the screen flickered along with the lights. Kira stood and went to it; as it continued to waver he tapped a few keys.
"What's the matter?" asked Cagalli standing up.
"Something's interfering" he replied tapping a few more keys "trying to hack in to the system"
They were all standing from their seats as the screens in the room continued to flicker, even the large screen attached to the wall was flashing black and white; then the speakers crackled in to life and static filled the room. Kira stood back from the computer and backed up to Athrun's side looking from one screen to another.
"Is there any way to stop it?" Athrun asked.
Kira glanced at him "do you really think we should prevent it? What if it's Lacus's kidnapper? Or even Lacus herself? Someone is trying to make contact with us"
"In that case we should be tracking the signal" said Yzak "whoever it is, we should keep them talking as long as possible"
"I'll get right on it" Trine replied quickly.
"Orb too" agreed Cagalli, she turned to Sai "hurry to the base, tell them to find this signal and not to let go of it"
Sai nodded, saluted once, and left the room hurriedly; the rest stayed where they were, all watching the screens as a picture too quick to see flashed on and disappeared once more. Athrun and Yzak shared a look.
The picture wavered once more, sputtered up and down before finally settling on a room; there was silence, at first the room on screen was empty and still. It was almost as if someone was waiting, to draw out their impatience for dramatic effect. If this was the case, it was working, Yzak's fist was clenching tighter and tighter with each passing breath.
"Come on!" he growled "quit dragging this out and show your face!"
There was a laugh; over the speakers it sounded far away and crackled slightly, there was the movement of a shadow off the left of the screen. Another laugh. And then a voice spoke out loudly, clearly despite the interference.
"You mean you don't know who you're talking to?"
Cagalli gasped; the voice came through her hears and shot straight to her memories as if hotwired. Athrun's eyes too had widened; they looked at each other, trying to see if they'd heard the same or if they were, at last, reaching the doorway to insanity.
"Athrun!" she said urgently.
"It can't be" he reasoned with undoubtedly the sense of logic "he's dead, you know that"
"But it sounds like him!" she insisted, "you know it does"
"Who?" asked Kira "who does it sound like?"
"It's nice to know I've been recognised! I was worried you wouldn't know my voice!" laughed the unknown.
"He's dead" Athrun repeated, "he got crushed by a mobile suit for crying out loud, there's no way he could have survived that"
"YES! That's what you would think, isn't it!"
The shadow moved and suddenly there was a face in the screen, leering at them with the smug grin of victory; Kira blinked, he gasped as the face came back to him with scary clarity "no way" he whispered.
"Well…it's very nice to see I've made such an impact on you all" said Yuna Roma Seiran.
I know, I know. I just brought someone back from the dead. LAME! But! When you actually think about it, you don't actually SEE a dead Yuna…just a mobile suit coming down on top of him. So, in theory, he COULD have dived out the way just in time and escaped.
And anyway, I was pretty much out of options here; the anime didn't leave one bad guy for me to mess around with. And I didn't want to create an OC because I felt it might ruin the story, and I'd have to spend ages explaining who the guy was and why he kidnapped Lacus…bla-bla-bla. That was like too much hassle.
At least with Yuna Roma you can kinda expect what he'll be doing, so I can concentrate on Athrun and Shinn's relationship, which has just taken a sharp turn.
That was my warped logic anyway.
I'm not known for sensible logic. But hey, the next chapter is going to be a good one so don't give up on me.
Thanks for reading!
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