justice: (the beauty of humanity lies before me.)
Alison ([personal profile] justice) wrote2013-06-02 11:30 pm

(no subject)

Title: What it Was For
Characters: Lockon-centric.
Warnings: Spoilers for all of Gundam 00.
Rating: PG.
Word Count: 4,353
Summary: It’s a return to the original memory that he lived, but when he looks up at his father this time, he tells him that he’ll be the one leading the operation.
Author’s Note: This is all gen.

There is a crushing weight on him as he moves through the sky, stretched out limbs and the feeling that if he keeps easing forward against the stars, he’ll be just like the shooting stars he and his sister used to point up at when they were children. It’s a passing thought, the last, vacant easing into his mind before the explosion envelops him before he realizes he hasn’t completely said his good-byes.

The feeling of dying is just as he wanted it to be. Cutting through his skin and tearing apart his uniform, Lockon closes his eyes just as his lungs are completely crushed and he’s obliterated, the only remains left for the approaching Gundam of Setsuna F. Seiei existing in the form of GN particles.

-

Above him, the cool snowflakes come pelting at his head, sliding slick down his forehead. He realizes that this is a familiar place, and when he looks left and right, there are familiar trees that he once thought he could try, but he ended up hurting his hands, gaining the two scars that would always be hidden by gloves, but were perhaps hidden so he wouldn’t look like he had a story. Lockon glances down at his hands and he realizes the scars aren’t there. Instead of the large hands ready to grip a rifle and mutter praise in the direction of Haro, there are small hands reddened from the swift movement of his body through the yard on Christmas Eve.

He blinks once—twice—the image filling his mind and he realizes—perhaps this is death—but the thought doesn’t linger long in his mind before Lyle takes up a snowball and pelts it at the back of his head. “Haha!” Lyle shouts. “Thought you were gonna destroy me, Neil!” Lockon turns toward him, the name feeling awkward on his ears. He thinks to correct him—no, I’m Lockon now—but Amy’s already jumped up from behind Lyle and rushed toward him to slam him against the ground.

“So much for being the best,” Amy scolds, pressing her hands hard against her brother’s neck. There’s brief recognition in Lockon’s mind and he realizes—this isn’t how this happened before. He remembers step by step, the glance toward the trees and rushing behind them, and his brother later remarking how they had a master plan but Neil always has a way around those.

His small, boy-like hands dig into the snow while Amy chatters on. She tilts her head back and a familiar smile eases over her lips. Lockon remembers that smile; he remembers trying to mimic it in the bathroom months after her death, an easy tilt of his head back and hands at his waist, but he could never get it right. She took after their mother in that way, while he and Lyle took after their father. “I declare this a win!” Amy finishes, a huff of air pushing its way through her nostrils just as Lockon raises his hands and slams the snow against her sides.

Dynames: “Hitting target.” Lockon contorts his young face into a smirk before she’s clambering off behind here other brother. He sits up and hurries to a stand before their father comes out and beckons them in, claiming that Christmas Eve dinner is ready. They’ll need to be ready, he remarks with a tilt of his head and a sly grin. As Lockon brushes past him, his father remarks that he’ll be the ace in the hole of anything he does in the future. It’s a return to the original memory that he lived, but when he looks up at his father this time, he tells him that he’ll be the one leading the operation.

-

Even with the taste of the spiced beef and potatoes still on his tongue, he finds himself in a new place, tugging at his shirt with longer strands of hair hanging down in his eyes. It looks like that day, when his world splintered in two. Lyle rushes ahead of him into the store and Lockon turns toward his father, grabbing his wrist quickly and telling him, no, we have to leave, no, this isn’t where we need to be. It’s a rush of words and desperation. He doesn’t know if he was ever so desperate as a child, trying to achieve the status as the oldest of the siblings.

“Amy’ll be having her recital in a week,” his father scolds. He releases Lockon from his grip. “You know we need to be here, Neil.” Lockon—the name courses through his mind, and he wonders why it went from there to here, sitting among the soon-to-be-mangled remains where he lost his family.

With his fists clenched at his sides, he follows his family, eyes half-lid and jaw clenched. His mother comments that he looks a bit like Lyle, temperamental and waiting to get his way. But this is a second chance, he tries to tell them. But this time the words lay dead on his tongue. His normal thoughts and processes lay dead in his mind, limited by his surroundings and a life ripped into pieces by terrorist explosions and a matter of fact choice. But this is a second chance, and it goes the same way.

Amy’s screams are the first to pierce his ears, sending him to his knees as he rushes forward to grab her hand and tug her out before the debris falls on her. It is as it was before, with that action he’s clear before his parents are next, and then it’s one after another. Hundreds of buildings falling down and bodies in pieces around him.

Vomit rises to his throat when he tries to pull out from underneath them, and he imagines, in the distance, the laughing features of Ali Al-Saachez. The man is a silhouette in this past, and just as he releases the vomit from his mouth, he passes out. The last thing he sees are the clouds moving over the sun, and the last thing he feels is the rain coming in and pelting against his skin.

-

Should be easier—the thought surfaces in his mind, with an ease as he sits in the room. He wakes up in a hospital. Pale green walls and the gray Dublin sky looming outside. This is no different, but when the nurse comes in, she tells him that he’s been there for three weeks. A week longer than the time before, and he realizes that this is a change in plans. It was a second chance and he blew it again.

His eyes slid shut, closing out the window view and welcoming the next scene. It’s supposed to be easier; Lockon refrains from reminding himself that it never was. He just acted the part well.

-

His throat feels sore and the mug in his hand almost slips down, crashing against the ground when he looks toward his brother. Lockon hasn’t felt this way since the incident, he realizes. There aren’t lingering thoughts but a returning memory. It’s the interior of Grogans, a pub that’s just barely managed to make it through the terrorism that’s leaked its way through the cracks of Ireland. He tightens his grip on his beer and sits forward, blinking out of his daze in preparation for Lyle’s words.

“Not going to enlist, Neil! That’s mad,” Lyle remarks, and Lockon remembers this conversation. The activity of the local militia has increased, and he knows it’s not their fault, but their behavior has hurt more innocents. He needs to stop them, and the AEU’s militaristic squad has already welcomed him and his sharp shooting into their embrace. He’s just twenty now, and he knows it’ll be another year before Celestial Being takes note of him.

“Hey, hey,” Lockon says, conjuring the words from the conversation. He can’t change this one either; it’s a meeting he’s been putting off for five years, since they were first separated and raised in different homes. He remembers that it was a bit of fate that it ended up like that. Had they gotten their way, as they fought for, Lockon wouldn’t have ever held a gun for the first time. The thought lingers in his mind as he leans his heavy torso against the chair. “You think I’ll let them take me down easy? I’ll take care of those bastards; they won’t know what hit them.”

Neil.”

“Literally.” This is around this time that he starts assuming the easy-going exterior. It’s been a gradual change since his childhood, but it’s easier now. It’s a lie, he knows it now, but he slips beneath it with ease. There are some things meant to be masked, he realizes. It’s not as if he ever forgot the gravity of them. “They won’t see a thing.”

“Neil.” His hand reaches out and shoves back his beer and before Lockon can slip out a remark—hey, you’re wasting that—his brother’s on his feet and grabbing him up from his seat. “It wasn’t your fault,” he tells him, holding him close so their breath is mixing. The tender looks up and Lockon can tell from his eyes that he can’t tell who started the tab that evening. They look so alike; even separate, they grew their hair out to the same length. Brown hair slips into their eyes as they stare at one another.

“Wasn’t yours either,” Lockon states. This is an event that can’t change. He barely gains complete footing before his brother steps back and swings his fist against his jaw. The feeling draws blood. He raises a hand to his jaw before his brother stalks out of the bar, head hanging low and Lockon realizing that he’s the one who started the tab. He remembers, because he hadn’t come with any money and counted on his brother to pick it up for him.

His shoulders lift up when he looks at the tender, pulling out a wallet and showing its empty contents. A sudden end to the scene doesn’t come, and he mutters to himself that evening while washing up the bar while the rest of the workers watched him. It’s the last time he does any kind of work like that, and Lockon realizes this is the last time he lived without any set mission of revenge.

Lockon doesn’t fully come into that until two months later. A smile slides over his lips as the bullet crushes through the terrorist’s head.

-

This is Celestial Being, they drone on, and he sits and listens. They tell him about the power they are willing to grant him and the opportunities. They tell him that their computer program has listed that he’s most likely to be the leader. The seat he sits in is uncomfortable and he sits unbelieving until one of the women turn toward him with a gun in her hand. “If you don’t agree, you’ll be eliminated.”

Lockon can’t grin as easily as he did before, but he remembers raising his hands and shaking his head. “Terrorists do this kind of activity, too, don’t they?” It’s the same question he asked before. Sumeragi lowers the gun and tilts her head toward Hong Long, requesting that he raise the lights. She explains their definition of war-crimes and warring activities and he nods, head bobbing forward and gloved hands slipping over the metallic surface of the table before him.

“Leader, huh?” It’s the only thing he can manage now, because this isn’t a retelling but a reliving; there hasn’t been a change just a shift. It’s maybe a week later and it won’t make a difference; the world will remain unchanged because of his tactics. “Well, I suppose I could handle being a leader of a group of mobile suits.” He leans forward, elbows pressed against the table and head tilting up so he can look at the eyes of each of the individuals. They look relieved. The first stage of their preparations has begun, and they have the leader appointed for them.

It is that day that he first learns about Veda and the second Meister, the fail-safe Meister. “He’s been granted to us and we’re lucky to have him, Lockon.” That’s more like it—the thought flits through his mind, and he realizes he’s become a bit of an idiot like Setsuna. Identifying more with that name than what brought him here. “He’ll be piloting Virtue. He’s a little prideful about his job with Celestial Being, I warn you. But—” she throws him an easy smile, raising her shoulders up for a shrug “—we’re hoping he’ll warm up to you.”

That sort of guy takes a lot of time to warm up—the thought grazes the surface of Lockon’s mind when he first steps into the room with Tieria. Tieria will never remember this meeting, connected into the machine with the monitors looking at his vitals. Lockon never asked Sumeragi what this all meant, but he looks at the machines and the heart rate, the diagnostics, and then the additional machines and realizes what it all means. He’s not completely human, and when he opens his eyes, he starts to struggle in place at the sight of Lockon. An unfamiliar attribute, his voice says, but it’s thick with the artificial voice box. Sumeragi later tells him that they weren’t certain how human he should seem.

He isn’t certain if he said it then, but the words come easily now: “As human as possible.”

-

The next scenes are the first meeting with Setsuna and the explanation of Exia. Lockon doesn’t change a thing as they go through their procedural training, blips and scenes and moments in which he and Allelujah would stand silently side-by-side looking out at the sky. Allelujah tells him each time that he wishes there would be some kind of sunrise, but Lockon laughs. He grabs his shoulder and shakes it, turning his head before leaving the room. There can’t be a sunrise in space.

Celestial Being goes through their first mission and he relives the thoughts and memories. They started a war with the world, and there’s no turning back now. He remembers realizing the faint thoughts of wanting to see the world colored in blood, but it fades again like it had before, replaced by guilt and an understanding that it wasn’t worth thinking for even a few seconds. Even as Sumeragi asks him advice, he doesn’t tell her where she made a mistake; he relives each scene and realizes he’s reliving it. Almost every conversation, every battle—a flicker in the mind passed through to ensure that he would know his part.

The same fervent fire rushes through him as he chases after the Throne in the sky. The same rush and the same dialogue, as if it was a fated circumstance; Lockon’s never quite understood fate, but this all seems to be telling him that he has no other choice. When he questions the color of the world, the fate of it, his throat hurts and his head is dizzy. End of the road, Lockon, his consciousness seems to tell him, and the same crushing feeling overwhelms him again.

-

Old surroundings, new scene. Lockon stands uneasy and realizes that he’s just been brought here. It’s the same room where he and Tieria stood that day, side by side with their understanding reached between them. Lockon remembers Tieria boiling over, his humanity almost achieved. He’d almost rejected all that programming and embraced the part of him that still remained.

Lockon raises a hand through his hair and looks around, confused, until it’s Tieria who’s in there and turning toward him. His arms wrap around Lockon and his head presses against his chest, purple hair stretching about haphazardly.

“Standing here isn’t an invitation, Tieria!” Lockon says, but doesn’t remove the Meister immediately. He’s muttering, repeatedly—where you are, where you are—and Lockon just barely manages to unlatch his hold before he starts on another run of it, choked sounding in his throat echoing in the empty ship.

This isn’t the same Tieria that he stood against on that beach and not the same in this room. There isn’t a glint of his connection to Veda in his eyes as he steps back and raises a hand, lips easing into a straight line while he regains his posture. “This isn’t where I expected to arrive. Why are we here, Lockon Stratos?” A similar demand surges up into Tieria’s words.

“Well, I’d say you know the answer to that already.”

“You are dead.” Tieria’s hands clench into fists. “You wouldn’t be dead if you hadn’t gotten out of that room.”

“What can I say,” Lockon begins, turning his gaze toward the large translucent area before them, “I had my way around the place before you three ever did.” It’s a bit of a lie, but if this is where he expects it to be, he doesn’t think Tieria needs to know the truth. It’s sitting there in the back of Sumeragi’s mind; it will be something she will need to divulge when they reunite. If they reunite, because he isn’t sure that he can do his job in a place like this.

Tieria doesn’t follow his gaze. “I meant to protect you.”

“That’s pretty passionate of you,” Lockon says, turning completely now and moving toward the window to extend his hand forward. He leans his head against it, and the faint rattling of the ship slides around him. He realizes it’s probably been destroyed, ready to wait for him in this limbo, ready to give him the place where he should meet with Tieria. It’s a place of familiarity, a place with him, a place with Tieria’s steps toward humanity.

“I couldn’t help it.” It occurs to Lockon that he’s been through this before. This isn’t the first time that Tieria has felt this surge of emotion or said these words. “I wanted to be in a place where you were, Lockon, but this place is destroyed. There is no way it could be here.”

An easy sputter of laughter slips out and Lockon turns back against the window, arms crossed over his chest and head tilted to the right. He closes his eye and shrugs his shoulders. “I’d say you have a bit more to go before you can in a place where I’m supposed to be at, Tieria.” Lockon’s head tilts to the side, hair sweeping down against his cheek from another angle.

The words linger in the air of the place, and just as Tieria turns toward him, mouth opening and eyes focusing, he fades out. Lockon feels the place quickly begin to diminish around him before he’s sucked back into a void. The void is his death, reliving it again and again, the crushing and the blood linking down the back of his throat as he wondered about the state of the world. He tries to close his eye, hoping that with each desperate squeezing shut, that he’ll be taken to another world. But he finds himself only pushed a little further back in time, sometimes fighting the terrorist and sometimes saying good-bye to Haro, whose seemingly infinite cries of his name have only just begun.

-

Now it’s a different ship. It isn’t one that Lockon feels familiar with, but he hears the choked sobs of Allelujah echoing through its walls. He starts through, groping the interior only lit by red-lights remarking that the ship is close to losing gas. He doesn’t understand what it is like to join a consciousness, but he realizes that this is Allelujah’s final resting place. This is the place where he first started to need to hear the answer from the world.

Allelujah looks up toward Lockon when he enters, arms wrapped around his legs and head pressed back. His hair careens down over both of Allelujah’s eyes. “Why.” It’s a simple, soft sound, and it occurs to Lockon that he can’t be an answer here. “Why did he …”

Being an answer is only part of it, Lockon reminds himself. He sits down beside Allelujah and takes on a familiar position, knees against his chest, but he can’t obtain the same with his hair. Lockon thinks it might be funny in another time, another place, but Allelujah can’t pull himself together to acknowledge the presence beside him.

They aren’t there long before the ship loses power. In Allelujah’s version of this place, they float on until they gasp for air and suffocate. Lockon experiences a new way to die, but he hears a desperate gasping sound Allelujah before the sequence fades out.

-

The next scene is a tight fit, but Lockon can’t muster up the surprise. He feels a bit like the Ghost of Christmas past, but something tells him that there isn’t a present or a future coming to haunt each of the Meisters. Lockon smirks slightly when Setsuna’s head jerks up and he reaches out to desperately push the buttons on Exia. It doesn’t respond, left in limbo in this place in space. He’s left to die in his Gundam, Lockon realizes, and it’s the only place he wants to be.

“It’s a bit of a tight fit in here,” Lockon says, breaking the silence left after Setsuna’s head’s tilted forward again, hands stretched out over the button configuration and the screen where Aeolia last delivered his gift to them. “But I couldn’t have expected anything better than a Gundam idiot.”

“Lockon. Delayed recognition, Setsuna releases his hands and sits straight up. “I am dead.”

“Hey, hey,” Lockon says, moving forward and bending down over Setsuna, fingers slipping over his shoulder. The boy flinches but doesn’t shrug him off, not as he did Nena and not as he has done with others. He’s noticed this behavior in the past. “Don’t go assuming so fast.” Lockon observes the dismantled configuration. He figures he’s no Ian Vashti, but he can throw some logic together after a little observation.

“But you are dead.”

“Always cut and dry with you, isn’t it, Setsuna?” Lockon moves his hand off Setsuna’s shoulder to brush his fingers over the screen. It doesn’t respond immediately, merely laying dead beneath his touch. He doesn’t know why he thought his touch would fix it, but he pulls back, giving the boy his space and managing to cross his arms just as he steps back.

There seems to be something he needs to remember, but Setsuna’s fingers trace over the board, as if he’s waiting for some answer to come to him. He glances back at Lockon expectantly. But the pieces don’t come together, the well-meaning explanation. He realizes now that he just has to observe, that this boy is the one to change the world that he doesn’t find acceptable; it’s this boy that will make it a proper place for Lyle to live his life, even if he lives in ignorance now, receiving fake Christmas cards with false stories of girlfriends. It is this boy who will do it, and he will do it with a Gundam.

Maybe it won’t be this one—the thought occurs to him as he glances over the interior damage and can only imagine the exterior. The Gundam’s in pieces and it’s a sign that Setsuna won this battle.

His eyes gloss over when Setsuna reaches under the panel and pulls out a set of wires. Lockon watches as he carefully shifts them around, and he remembers this training from Ian. It’s an emergency tactic only if there’s a chance to get out o the situation unharmed and there’s no chance of releasing the GN drive with the system down. The two wires that Setsuna works together with silent and swift movements are a failsafe, only necessary in the most desperate of situations. Dying with the GN drive lost in space, Lockon knows, is preferable to capture.

As the Gundam lights up with the faint glints of power, Lockon realizes he has to ask a single question before he fades away. Because this is still limbo, because Setsuna hasn’t quite found his way toward continuing his way, because this looks like it’ll be the last stop. “Well, look at that. You remembered.”

“Exia is the most important Gundam to save.” Lockon remembers those words, drilled into Setsuna’s head, but he never thought the boy listened until now. “No specific Gundam is special.” The words surprise Lockon, but he realizes the meaning behind them. Setsuna has a mission to complete with the last remaining power in his GN drive; Tieria and Allelujah are still out there, in limbo, maybe waiting for Setsuna’s desperate attempts.

“I’d say I was just trying to help you become attached to your Gundam. Looks like you never needed that,” Lockon says.

“You’ll be gone soon.”

“That’s right. I want to know—did you find your answer, Setsuna? If it were me, I’d keep looking for it until you’re completely satisfied with it. Don’t settle for anything less than that, got it?” The advice feels needless, and Lockon finds confirmation in this when he looks down at his hand and sees through it.

He tries to ground himself in this reality, but he fades too quickly from there. All he hears, when he returns to the reality of his death, are the faint echoes of Setsuna’s words: “I’m beginning to.” With each echoing sound in his head, mingling with the thoughts of his sister and his parents and his brother and the fact that the world rests before him not completely changed, he falls back until he’s crushed again, feeling each part of him ripped into pieces. By now, it’s like watching from outside, with the faint gleam of Setsuna moving toward him in the distance.

-

It repeats one more time, and he can’t force a single new thought into his mind with the exception of déjà vu. Lockon wonders why he’s felt this before as he dies. Why it seems so familiar, but he just closes his eye and doesn’t think too much about it before he’s enveloped once again.