What does the word dream mean? Forget the dictionary definition; what does 'dream' actually mean? What image comes to mind one of peace, yes? One of harmony. A soft, hazy adventure with blurred lines and boundaries obscured by the blissful short-sightedness of the semi or unconscious mind. A pleasant experience one has the good fortune of retreating to once the day is done and the night comes. An escape.
What, then, of nightmares? One could be forgiven for opting for the easy description, rather than embarking upon an exploration as to what, exactly, a nightmare is. The easy description is, of course, that a nightmare is simply a bad dream, or the opposite of a dream as it is described above. But...is it, really? Perhaps the truth of the matter is that, whilst a dream is a blissful escape from reality, a nightmare simply is...reality. Perhaps a fear of what reality may bring, or has already brought to pass. Or perhaps it means different things to different people, and perhaps there are different types, or multiple definitions of the two that are all equally applicable. Who knows. The latter certainly provides a comfortable bracket of ambiguity. It would be sad if one spent his sleeping hours in terror of the past.
Kira Yamato slept afraid. Perhaps, if you'd seen all that he had seen, experienced what he had experienced, been through what he had been through, and at such a young age, you would too. More likely you'd not sleep much at all. Eyes and faces haunted him. Disembodied voices echoed through his head. Voices of his friends, far off, offering forlorn encouragement in melancholy tones that seemed as though they were carrying a great weight, and of course he had to take it. Others chastised him, insulted him, shunned him. Coordinator scum. And then there were the screams...the screams were the worst. Whether the nameless voices of soldiers who had fallen by his hand, fearful voices of friends in peril whom only he could save...Athrun's voice, and emerald eyes flashing remorse and anger, crying out as his friend Nicol, his name was was lost, and then in anger at the one who had taken him. At Kira. Agony, desperation and anger distorting the face he had known for such a long time...he was trapped; ensnared in the arms of the Aegis. Athrun wouldn't...Athrun would. All dissolved into fire, flames, and silent noise, and then... blackness.
Stars, in the blackness...space. There was a battle going on around him, but Kira's gaze was fixed ahead, at the shuttle in front of him. He could almost reach it, he had to reach it. He could see, or imagine, the innocent face of the little girl staring back at him from the window. The flower burned against his chest. It was so heavy...the controls were so heavy, and he was moving too slowly. But he could make it. He had to make it. Time stopped as the bolt of energy flew past him, tearing through the body of the shuttle that was still agonisingly close...but out of reach. The flower against his chest stopped burning. The girl's face gone; the light in her eyes lingering for a moment, before slowly, slowly, dying. The wreckage of the shuttle hung motionless, the deathly silence engulfing him, only to be shattered by a piercing, terrified scream. Flay!
"No...No...No, no, no, NO!!!"
And he had promised to protect her...strong arms around him, the scene disappearing, La Creuset's quiet, malevolent laugh echoing around and around his head, haunting him, until finally it had faded, and all that was left of the dream was the grief of it all as Kira sat, back stiff, violet eyes staring, being held and in turn holding on as though his life depended on it, sobbing into the chest of the one who had pulled him away. Athrun Zala.
A voice. Athrun's voice, though what it said he could not tell. It seemed blurred, far away somehow, but getting closer.
"...Was just a dream"
Was he asleep? He couldn't tell. He could barely see, and lingering images of his nightmare floated before his eyes. Reality was a dark blur beyond. He couldn't see Athrun, but he could feel him. It was the only certainty he had.
"I-I couldn't save her!" he cried, hardly aware of himself. Was he awake? "Just like the kid on the shuttle I...I couldn't save her..." Flay's face swam before him. She was calling to him, though she made no sound. She was so scared, so frightened, and he'd promised... grief, it seems, has many levels. He was vaguely aware of his fist making contact with Athrun's chest, again, and then again. He had to get rid of the pain, the anguish; he had to get the images out of his head. A desperate attempt at release. He couldn't be sure any of this was real.
"You can't save everyone" Athrun said. The simple truth that he had never been able to accept. Coming from Athrun; his voice conveying just a hint of the sadness that had been eating Kira from the inside for so long. But the calm tone had an almost soporific effect. The aggression, the tension, the pent up frustration left him. His fist made contact once more with Athrun's chest, though he hardly had the energy to hold his arm up anymore. He slumped, head resting on the shoulder of his friend. They had done this before, though it seemed a lifetime ago. In truth, it could not have been more than a decade.
Darkness took him. The image of Flay faded. Still he sat; still he was held, and still he held on, head resting on Athrun's shoulder, eyes pressed shut. The last few tears soaked, along with the rest, into the material of his friends' shirt. He could just about see Athrun, just for a second, as his eyes opened a crack, only to close a few seconds later. The lids seemed to bear a great weight. He felt himself being lowered, and the mattress embracing him. Funny how it seemed so soft now...bed covers....
"I'm sorry" he said, or thought he said, as he drifted off. Sorry for what? He couldn't really tell...many things. He felt a warm hand, gentle on his forehead, bringing the comfort that only a warm hand gentle on the forehead can bring. Athrun's voice again, but it was so far off now, he couldn't make out the words...it was comforting...
It seemed only minutes later that a hand shook him on the shoulder. Slowly, reluctantly, Kira came out of his deep slumber. Deep sleep was rare, but good. There were no dreams in deep sleep.
He knew that voice. Ever the air of impatience, the voice of someone who was used to getting what she wanted, when she wanted it...and making a big fuss if she didn't.
"Huh... Cagalli?" he groaned, eyes still shut, hand still shaking his shoulder. He had a feeling the latter wouldn't end until the former was rectified.
"Kira, wake up!"
His eyes opened, expecting to be greeted to the harshness of the first light...but there was none, it was dark. Not completely dark; there was a light from somewhere; the hall light, presumably, through the open door. There was little time for further observation as Cagalli's face suddenly loomed into view. She looked tired and irritated. Not good.
"Ugh...what time is it?" Kira groaned, rubbing his eyes with one hand whilst attempting in vain with the other to prop himself up.
"I don't know, about five, I think" came the sharp reply. Five? Was she serious?
"...Five? Are you serious?!"
"Kira just shut up and listen" Cagalli snapped, and there was something about her voice that suggested that her temperament was not solely to blame for the manner of the awakening.
"What is it, Cagalli?" Kira asked.
Athrun's gone. Where had Athrun gone? This early in the morning? Why?
"...gone?" was the only reply that came to mind. Kira was still struggling to awake fully; he must have been shattered.
"Yes, gone!" Cagalli answered, an air of frustration to her voice that conveyed more worry than she'd perhaps intended to let on...certainly less than she felt.
"Gone where? Why? I'm sure he's fine, Cagalli, he can look after himself..."
Was he fully convinced by this? Probably not. Athrun had changed a lot during their time apart; there was a lot that Kira was still learning about his old friend. They were both different people. Nevertheless, he could not shake from his head the nagging, doubting voice. Walks at this time, in this weather, in a strange city, were not a characteristic of someone at ease. Not the behaviour of someone of sound mind. Not the behaviour Kira had associated with Athrun...and because it was Athrun; because of who he was to Kira, and worryingly, who he might be to the people of Orb, it could not be allowed to lie. Patrick might be dead, but the surname Zala would live long in the memory of those who had been made to suffer as a result of the man's actions. Athrun was not his father, but...he had that name.
"If you can't convince yourself, Kira, don't try and convince me." Was the reply. Evidently his expression had given him away. "I'm worried about him... you've been having nightmares...well, he's not been sleeping." Cagalli continued. She was looking away; troubled. Kira would have asked how she knew of his nightmares, had she not continued before he was given the chance. "...and he's not been eating. Neither have you, for that matter and I've meant to have a go at both of you for it but...I haven't. Yet" There was a hint of a smile as she tagged the last word on the end. That was a comforting sight, but not a distraction.
"I do eat..." Kira replied quietly, resentment in his voice though in truth it was resentment of being accused, not resentment of the accusation...which was not entirely untrue. "And how do you know..."
"That you have nightmares? I hear you, Kira. That Athrun doesn't sleep? I hear him, too, walking around."
"...that means you're not asleep, either."
"This isn't about me!" Cagalli snapped, and Kira decided against offering any further interjections. "It can be hard to sleep when there's such a racket coming from the other side of the wall.
"Well...it's ok... I worry about you. Both of you. That keeps me awake."
A moments' silence followed, both involved with their own thoughts. Kira was sitting up now, and beginning to realise just how rough a night he must have had. The room was cold, prompting him to draw his legs up to his chest, and as he did so he felt the shirt, still damp, sticking to his back. The movement of his legs caused the bed sheet that should have been covering the mattress - to drop to the floor. It must have taken quite some effort to unhook it at all four corners, and get it out from underneath his own body, whilst asleep.
"He came in last night, I think" Kira said after a while. Some people found peace in silence, but his own worries had long since found flaws with this one.
"I heard..." was the reply. "You were calling out...it sounded pretty bad."
"I don't really remember much of it" Kira lied, "to be honest, I don't really remember much about last night."
"I was going to come in to wake you myself, but...well, then I heard Athrun talking to you, so..."
"Well... Thanks for looking out for me, big sister" They exchanged smiles. This was still a relationship they were adjusting to. It was more a source of amusement than anything, for comments such as that which Kira had just made, or for bickering over who really was the eldest sibling. The amusement was, most probably, simply a means of avoiding dealing with any serious consequences of the revelation, whatever those consequences may be. A shock to the system perhaps, and nothing more?
"As I said, you woke me up." Cagalli replied, sharply, but there was a twinkle in her eye. "Seriously though, Kira, he was there for you last night..."
"So maybe now it's your turn to go and be there for him."
Should he? He wanted to, but Athrun had always been so...confined. An introvert. He had always sought to keep his feelings to himself a private matter as much as anything to save himself the discomforting experience of airing them in front of everyone, or anyone, else. How did Kira know this? Athrun had told him, years ago, and it was this last fact that told Kira he needed to go. Even the most introverted person could only store so much emotion, for so long, before needing to vent. Athrun had vented to Kira in the past, and Kira knew few, if anyone else, had been held in such confidence. What's more, Athrun had confessed to a habit of storing beyond his capacity. Again, common of introverts store until you snap. If ever there was a time to be there for a friend, no matter how far apart they may have drifted, it was that moment. That snap.
"Do you know where he went?" Kira asked
"That's one of the reasons I didn't go after him myself. I'd hoped you'd have a better idea. You know him better than I do.
"Don't be stupid, Kira. Of course you do! You're both so...stupidly alike. You're both stupid." Came the retort, and Kira couldn't help but chuckle. Cagalli for her part was very good at keeping a straight face. Probably because she meant what she said.
"Right, well, in that case I'll get changed and go...so if you don't mind..." He gestured toward the door.
"Yeah, do. You stink. It's cold outside, so take a coat." And with that, she was gone, leaving Kira staring at the door half in surprise, half in indignation. Still, there was no sense in delaying. He was awake now, already a little chilly, and the shirt was getting uncomfortable. He stood, the bed covers joining the sheets on the floor, and proceeded to rummage through the wardrobe for something warm to wear. It was all very well being a coordinator, but even the most thick-skinned person would fall foul of the bitter chill of a late November night...or morning, as it was now, though it didn't feel like it. Where was that thick coat...ah, there.
Cagalli was sitting in the kitchen, mulling over...everything. Thoughts, mostly, with a mug of hot liquid in her hands. Quite what the liquid was she couldn't tell. She'd never been much good at conjuring up beverages. In any case, she had a lot on her mind. She was, though she'd always do her best to hide it, out of habit, worried. Worried for Kira and his nightmares. Worried for Athrun and his lack of sleep. Worried for herself, for worrying so much...worried about Athrun, wondering the empty streets, alone, and worried about what Kira would find if...when he caught up with him. She remembered all too well the desperate chase through the interior of Genesis; the desperation as Athrun, intent on shaking her off, seemed to have succeeded. He had been looking to put himself in danger, then. Yes, in seeking to destroy the Genesis he was attempting to save hundreds, thousands, even hundreds of thousands of lives...and in the process, seeking to sacrifice his own?
A hand on her shoulder. "Don't worry, I'll find him." Kira said, giving her a warm, encouraging smile. How did he always manage to do that? He had so much on his mind, so many troubles of his own...but this was Kira. His troubles would come second.
"Please...we need each other. All of us. Maybe more than ever, now..." was she welling up? No, she wasn't welling up. "And Kira" she called out as he placed his hand on the door to leave.
"Thanks...and be careful."
Be careful? Of what? "Don't worry Cagalli, everything will be alright" he replied. Smile, wave, turn, leave.
Cagalli turned back to staring absentmindedly into the cup in her hands. "I hope so..." she said.
Kira pulled his collar together as he stepped outside. It really was bitterly cold. Frost on the ground and on the windows of the cars, the trees alongside the road standing stiff and motionless, black against the black sky. Above him the stars were shining. They were so clear and so bright... turning his attention back to the task at hand, he set off at a brisk pace, shoulders hunched and hands in his pockets, he lowered against the chill breeze. Would Athrun be Ok? Would he be ok, come to that? Well...there was time to worry about that later. Athrun first. He had a favour to repay, but even if he hadn't, he'd probably still be out here, searching. He needed his friend, and he suspected his friend needed him. A memory flashed into his mind as he walked; something he'd said to Athrun just before he had left to confront his father...
"It's not your time to die. You know that."
Sometimes, people need reminding.