This Too Shall Pass 3 2 20

[21:19] <Sept> Sera still wasn't quite sure about the etiquette. The buzzer was there, so that was the easy option. But surely knocking gave it more of a personal touch?-
[21:19] <Sept> He was standing in front of Fred and Sophie's quarters, weighing his options. He'd put on another one of his traditional looks today, with a crimson coat just past waist length and a dark buttoned-up shirt underneath.-
[21:20] <Sept> He took a deep breath, hit the buzzer and fidgeted, adjusting his glasses at length for that "oh, hello, what a coincidence" look.
[21:26] <Minaplo> [It took slightly longer than he expected for the door to be answered.-
[21:27] <Minaplo> [Frederic stood in the doorway, his hair tousled and messy, wearing a casual white t-shirt and jeans. "Oh, hey."]
[21:33] * Sept turned back to look at him from whatever had required his absolute attention down the hall. "Hey," he said, a hint of positive surprise in his voice. "I just thought I'd stop by and see how you're doing. Bad time?"
[21:34] <Minaplo> ["Nah, nah. Come in. Just keep your voice down."-
[21:35] <Minaplo> [The instant Sera was inside, he'd soon see why- Sophie was home too, wearing a button-up light blue shirt and a pair of short shorts. She waved to Sera cheerily, and pointed at the crib next to the bed.-
[21:36] <Minaplo> [Inside was a small baby, pink and soft, a thin, patchy tousle of tously black hair on his round head. He was asleep, wrapped up in fluffy white blankets, asleep on a tiny little blue bed.]
[21:43] * Sept smiled back and gave Sophie a delicate wave as he walked in, taking a look around. He'd been there before, of course, but there were still signs of change here and there…
[21:45] <Minaplo> [A few extra toys in the crib and without- he could see a small plush 01 at the baby's feet. That was new.-
[21:45] <Minaplo> ["Just got him to bed." Said Frederic.]
[21:49] <Sept> "Precious," said Sera simply, leaning on a counter behind him with his hands. "Still settling in okay? Can't be easy…"
[21:49] <Minaplo> ["It's a struggle." Said Sophie with a smirk. "But we're getting there. Lots of people happy to help out, you know."]
[21:50] <Sept> "I'm sure. Everyone's got their eyes on you."
[21:52] <Minaplo> ["Have they?"]
[21:56] <Sept> "Of course. You're the gossip everyone wants to talk about, but can't."
[21:56] <Minaplo> ["Finally." Said Sophie with a grin. "Do you know why they can't?"]
[21:57] <Sept> "They're afraid they'll ruin it? You're like a secret family."
[21:59] <Minaplo> ["A secret family?" Asked Frederic. "Man, I'm out of the loop…"]
[22:01] <Sept> "You know, like we're smuggling you or something. But if they say something, everyone'll know."-
[22:01] <Sept> "Um. Even though they already do."
[22:02] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[22:02] <Minaplo> [Frederic ruffled Sera's hair. It, too, would now be tousled. "You dork."]
[22:04] <Sept> "Heh." Sera made half an effort at at least patting it back down, if not fully straightening it out.
[22:08] <Minaplo> ["So what's up?" Asked Sophie.]
[22:15] * Sept nodded. "You know. Trying to stay busy. Try to be of use. Oh, and this is just a social call."-
[22:15] <Sept> "But of course if I can help with anything…"
[22:16] <Minaplo> ["You should bring us dinner sometime." Said Sophie.]
[22:17] <Sept> "O-kay," he said slowly. "What kind?"
[22:19] <Minaplo> ["I've been really craving fish recently for whatever reason." Said Sophie. "Fresh, barely-dead fish, pan-fried in garlic, butter and lemon, seasoned with moroccan spices…"]
[22:21] <Sept> "I can… I can do that."
[22:21] <Minaplo> ["You're a sweet~"-
[22:34] <Minaplo> ["You know where we should go some day?" Said Fred. "Orleans."]
[22:36] <Sept> "New?"
[22:37] <Minaplo> ["Eh?"]
[22:38] <Sept> "Nothing. What's in Orleans?"
[22:39] <Minaplo> ["Lots of good restaurants using fresh ingredients."]
[22:42] <Sept> "Cool."
[22:43] <Minaplo> ["You haven't been, huh?" Said Sophie.]
[22:47] <Sept> "Nah. It's a relatively small town, right?"
[22:49] <Minaplo> ["It used to be, but for awhile it was larger than Paris." Said Fred. "It serves as the provisional capital whenever Paris gets cocked up, and it was the capital for a long time after Impact."]
[22:53] <Sept> "I know that," Sera laughed quietly. "Everyone just used to talk shit about Orléans because of that rivalry."-
[22:54] <Sept> "I think there's a bunch of places there named after Parisian locales."
[23:04] <Minaplo> ["Hmmm, you're probably right." Said Sophie.-
[23:06] <Minaplo> ["It's a city with charm at least." Said Fred. "Good little place to live if you have the money…"]
[23:09] <Sept> "Sure, I'd love a chance to check it out."
[23:23] <Minaplo> ["Sweet."-
[23:25] <Minaplo> ["Uuu." Little Patrice stirred.-
[23:26] <Minaplo> [His parents reacted as though they'd heard the roar of the lion on the empty savannah.-
[23:26] <Minaplo> [Sophie began making firm 'shoo' motions at them both. "Go away", she mouthed.]
[23:32] * Sept nodded quickly, patted his pockets instinctively and went for the door.
[23:34] <Minaplo> [Frederic went as well.-
[23:34] <Minaplo> ["Whew." Said Sophie, after they were gone. "About time…"-
[23:34] <Minaplo> [With that, she reached under her bed and pulled out her novel. She flipped to a dogeared page…-
[23:34] <Minaplo> […-
[23:36] <Minaplo> ["He's been a bit restless recently." Said Fred as explanation.]
[23:37] <Sept> "That's normal?" Sera asked, a bit worriedly.
[23:38] <Minaplo> ["Yeah." Said Fred. "It's fine. Babies."-
[23:38] <Minaplo> ["… You know though, he's not the only one that's been a bit restless recently, I hear."]
[23:40] * Sept waved his hand at him dismissively. "Not even true."
[23:40] <Minaplo> [Fred gave him the Look. It was the look of the Big Brother.]
[23:43] <Sept> "The thing in Tech? Misunderstandings, we resolved it."-
[23:44] <Sept> "There's nothing 'going on' or otherwise. We were both at fault."
[23:49] <Minaplo> ["What about the fire?"]
[23:50] <Sept> "What f- There wasn't a fire, Fred."
[23:51] <Minaplo> [Fred's expression was serious.-
[23:51] <Minaplo> [He put an arm around Sera. "C'mon, let's go outside for a bit."]
[23:54] <Sept> "Frederic," said Sera warningly, voicing his objections but going along.
[00:00] <Minaplo> ["Sera," Said Frederic right back at him. "Just relax."]
[00:03] <Sept> "I will. You sounded like you didn't believe me," he said.
[00:09] <Minaplo> ["I'm not saying that, I trust you. I just wanna listen to you for a bit is all…"-
[00:09] <Minaplo> […-
[00:09] <Minaplo> [It was pleasantly cool on the deck, and quite sparse as well.-
[00:09] <Minaplo> [They were almost the only people here; in the distance Sera could see what looked like a couple, but they were easily 150, 200 metres away.-
[00:11] <Minaplo> [The sky was clear and blue. Below them, spreading out like a fabulous model city, was Milan, the provisional capital of Italy.-
[00:12] <Minaplo> [The snow-capped peaks of the Alps gleamed a brilliant white in the distance.-
[00:12] <Minaplo> [Frederic had guided Sera to a seat overlooking this natural beauty.-
[00:12] <Minaplo> ["Tsubaki started a fire the other day is what I meant." Said Fred.]
[00:15] <Sept> "I didn't hear about that." Sera looked concerned. Far-reaching, panoramic views like this always reminded him of piloting more than anything. Vesuvius would've been obscured by the rest of the deck, though…
[00:16] <Minaplo> [Vesuvius was also several hundred miles to the south.-
[00:16] <Minaplo> ["Yeah. It was an accident, and the room was abandoned, but… It seems like she was really wound up by something to do with you."]
[00:18] <Sept> "Could be, and she's one of my priorities right now. But what makes you think that?"
[00:19] <Minaplo> ["'Stupid onii-chan, how dare he, how dare he, it's not fair' was the leading evidence, if I recall."]
[00:22] <Sept> "…I see."
[00:26] <Minaplo> ["I'm not gonna ask for details." Said Fred. "Not gonna take you to task for fucking something up. I just wanna see how you're going."]
[00:31] <Sept> "Mm." Sera considered the fading silhouette of the Alps for a moment. "There could be serious damage if we don't stop using 03 for power or help her permanently come to terms with her life as it is right now — if that's even possible. I did something unfair to her because I think it could've hurt her more later."
[00:32] <Minaplo> ["I figured that'd be it. You only want to help, huh?"]
[00:34] <Sept> "Of course. C'mon."
[00:36] <Minaplo> ["Sure, I know, I know." Fred reached into his coat and pulled out a silver flask.-
[00:36] <Minaplo> [He offered it to Sera.]
[00:39] <Sept> "Wow. This early?" He accepted it and screwed it open. "A start of another rumor, I'm sure." Sera took a swig of whatever was in it before shoving it back at Fred.
[00:40] <Minaplo> [It was pleasant and expensive-tasting, is probably the best way to put it.-
[00:41] <Minaplo> ["Eh." Said Fred with a grin. He took it back.-
[00:42] <Minaplo> ["I figured it'd be something like that, though." He said, his grin fading. "Of all the units and pilots, relying on Tsubaki like this is the most painful, due to her unit. So naturally it had to be her…"]
[00:47] <Sept> "Yeah. There's no making it easier on her. It sucks."
[00:48] <Minaplo> ["It does suck." Said Fred gravely. "I wonder if Ikari knew how bad it's get when he chose her?"]
[00:51] <Sept> "I don't know," Sera said disinterestedly. "It's definitely possible. But thinking about that or pointing fingers won't help."
[00:52] <Minaplo> ["Mmm, I suppose."]
[00:56] <Sept> "But if you're just worried about me, you can rest easy."
[01:05] <Minaplo> ["I dunno if I can. That's never been true in all the time I've known you, brother." Said Fred, taking a sip of his flask. "Dunno if now'd be any different."]
[01:16] * Sept continued looking out at the scenery, legs crossed and leaning forward. "Well, I'm not the walking time bomb or bogeyman they make me out to be. I'll pull my weight even if I'm angry or sad or frustrated, and I always stand by my own rules. And I hate to play the card, but I don't see anyone else stepping up."
[01:22] <Minaplo> ["What do you mean?"]
[01:33] <Sept> "Take Longinus, for example. 'Hey, de Pteres, you know better than to make deals with cosmic spirit artifacts', no shit, but not one of us would've made it out of Metatron's egg and the Crystal Massacre would've included the Dorian. 'You're not meant to have an AT field, waah', but I don't see people queuing up for their Dreamer prototypes."-
[01:34] <Sept> "Or Aline. Too busy lamenting to try and collect everything she found so we can keep making use of her gifts and keep them for her."
[01:36] <Minaplo> [Fred took a slightly longer swig of his flask than usual.-
[01:40] <Minaplo> ["Fair enough." He said after a moment. "You have the right to feel pissed about that."]
[01:42] <Sept> "…"-
[01:42] <Sept> "Thanks."
[01:43] <Minaplo> [Fred put an arm around his shoulder. "I trust you, little bro."]
[01:50] <Sept> Sera's grip on his knee tightened for a moment as he looked back at Fred with a difficult expression. "I… don't mean to ruin it, but."
[01:50] <Minaplo> ["What?"]
[01:51] <Sept> "You know… how Mary has an incarnation of Malchediel, right."
[01:52] <Minaplo> ["Sure."]
[01:59] <Sept> "If I get the chance, I want to get to understand it a bit better. Killing Malchediel is as close to justice as we'll ever get, and that being doesn't exist anymore. But I wonder what kind of force was behind that day."
[02:04] <Minaplo> ["What do you mean by 'force'…?" Asked Fred, his face impassive.]
[02:10] <Sept> "What drives a being to that destruction. Maybe it's the same for all Angels, maybe not. Not that I count on ever being able to find out."
[02:12] <Minaplo> ["Maybe you can ask her if you meet her again." Said Fred quietly.]
[02:15] <Sept> "Yeah."
[02:16] <Minaplo> ["Why'd you bring that up?"]
[02:18] <Sept> "I wanted to be able to talk about it with you if I came to an epiphany."
[02:19] <Minaplo> ["Alright."]
[02:22] <Sept> "Not if it's something dumb. That wouldn't be news."-
[02:22] <Sept> "Um. You been getting enough sleep and stuff?"
[02:23] <Minaplo> ["More than I need, less than I'd like. You?"]
[02:25] <Sept> "Yeah, can't complain. Sophie's doing okay too?"
[02:27] <Minaplo> ["Yeah." Said Fred with a smile. "She's upset about Aline, of course- they were close. But Sophie's moving through it."-
[02:27] <Minaplo> ["… Hey, Sera?"]
[02:27] * Sept nodded sympathetically. "Yeah?"
[02:28] <Minaplo> ["When you say you don't see other people stepping up… What would it take? As in, what would someone have to do to be seen as stepping up from where you stand?"]
[02:33] * Sept wove his fingers together between his knees. "I don't like this war," Sera said, nearly passing muster for an answer.
[02:35] <Minaplo> ["Alright. Go on."]
[02:42] <Sept> "I guess it's all related to the end goals we have, as the UEF."-
[02:44] <Sept> "We pretty much know what's going to happen if the UN gains control, by world domination or securing those assets of ours that she needs. But the UN doesn't know that, only Mary does. Now look at us."-
[02:46] <Sept> "Not only are we equally invested in an equally… 'ordinary' — sorry — World War, but I'm not sure if we know what we want. Maybe we're just leaving our wild cards up to Elisha, but if so, I don't know if there's anyone questioning that."-
[02:48] <Sept> "That said, I don't know what I want from others, either. But everyone being coy and shutting each other out about it just makes the war… so pointless."
[02:50] <Minaplo> ["Shutting each other out?"]
[02:52] <Sept> "I don't know," Sera shook his head. "Maybe it's just me in the dark and everything's been considered already."
[02:52] <Minaplo> ["Alright, then. I suppose we'll work through this bit by bit…"-
[02:53] <Minaplo> ["Do you think we- the UEF- don't know why we're fighting?"]
[02:56] <Sept> "Well…"-
[02:57] <Sept> "Yeah, I do. If everything was clear, we might be more open about things like working with Angels and other Angelic beings."
[02:59] <Minaplo> ["Alright. Let me ask another question. Do you think we really don't know why we're fighting? Or do you think the reasons we say we're fighting are incorrect or misguided?"]
[03:02] <Sept> "Both, then. There might just as well be internal confusion and disagreement among the higher ranks."
[03:05] <Minaplo> ["What about my reasons? Are they illegitimate ones?"]
[03:08] <Sept> "Mngh," Sera said in obvious discomfort. "I don't think so… There're ethical concerns, maybe, of a parent fighting for a future for their child, and then finding out, say, that AT users or Iron Guard or Angels will also be living in that world…"
[03:14] <Mianplo> ["So I should reconsider? Fight for a world without those things in them?"]
[03:17] <Sept> "No, let me try that again…"-
[03:19] <Sept> "It feels like the UEF's thing is going to war to preserve the order of things. But we're going to mess with higher powers just as much as the UN."-
[03:20] <Sept> "Unless I'm being dragged along trying to keep that mess together just as a joke."
[03:21] <Mianplo> ["Alright. When you say the UEF, though, who do you mean? Whose goal is it to preserve the order of things?"]
[03:25] <Sept> "We portray the UN…" Sera hesitated. He was entering dangerous waters again. "…as a band of unruly war criminals who employ unforgiveable means to conquer territories."-
[03:26] <Sept> "But the territory is, I think, at best, a secondary victory condition."
[03:26] <Mianplo> ["Who portrays the UN as that?"]
[03:28] <Sept> "I… don't know. Correct me."
[03:29] <Mianplo> ["No. I want to know who you think it is. I want you to tell me who you think is leading the UEF, who you think puts all this into motion, who defines the UEF's goals."]
[03:31] <Sept> "…if it was true, it'd be the gossiping soldiers, past-generation generals and ex-NERV officers with grudges."
[03:32] <Mianplo> ["Like who?"]
[03:37] <Sept> "I don't..! ODs, Directors, nearly everyone's related to important people we've lost already!"
[03:39] <Mianplo> ["Are the ODs' reasons for fighting illegitimate ones?"]
[03:41] <Sept> "I think they are, if they're in it for revenge or dumb nationalism…!"
[03:41] <Mianplo> ["Is that why Marianne fights?"]
[03:42] <Sept> "I don't know!" Sera shouted.-
[03:43] <Sept> He raised a finger for a time out to recompose himself. "I-I'd like to know. Why everyone fights."
[03:44] <Mianplo> ["There you go." Said Fred. He took a calm swig of his flask.]
[03:44] <Mianplo> [He then offered it to Sera.]
[03:48] * Sept grabbed it and held it, nearly brought to tears by some dumb, obvious questions from a gambling, drinking Frenchman. He placed the flask's neck between his lips and upended the container.-
[03:48] <Sept> And let it stay there.

(12:53:36) Minaplo: [Fred waited until the flask was clearly empty of even the most stubborn drop before he spoke.-
(12:53:41) Minaplo: ["Tell me what you're feeling."]
(13:01:01) * Sept shoved the flask back at Fred, rubbing his face and eyes with his left hand. "About what."
(13:01:23) Minaplo: ["Just tell me what you're feeling right now."]
(13:05:28) * Sept took another moment.-
(13:06:20) Sept: "I'm frustrated with myself."-
(13:06:38) Sept: "And angry and embarrassed and sad. Okay?"
(13:08:06) Minaplo: ["Okay." Said Fred.-
(13:11:01) Minaplo: [He leaned over and rested his head against Sera's own, gently kissing Sera on the brow as he might his own child.]
(13:13:25) Sept: "Hey. Not your kid."
(13:14:20) Minaplo: ["Yeah, I know." Said Fred. "But that doesn't mean I don't love you."]
(13:17:24) Sept: "…thanks," he said, still looking at the horizon and fidgeting with his hands.-
(13:17:31) Sept: "You too."
(13:23:35) Sept: […]
(13:24:57) Sept: Minutes passed, with Sera nestling ever so slightly closer to his surrogate senpai.-
(13:25:51) Sept: But eventually, he stirred. "Okay, I'm good now." He scooched away from Fred, stood up and stretched with a groan.
(13:40:06) Minaplo: ["I'd hope so. You took all my cognac."]
(13:40:56) Sept: "That's what it was. I liked it."
(13:43:57) Minaplo: ["You might get some for Christmas if you help mind Patrice."]
(13:44:40) Sept: "I don't think I'm licensed for that."
(13:45:01) Minaplo: ["I'm not either."]
(13:46:31) Sept: "Doesn't make me feel any more confident."
(13:49:00) Minaplo: ["Hah."-
(13:49:08) Minaplo: ["… You heading off?"]
(13:51:04) Sept: "Yeah, I suppose." He spun around to face Fred again and gave him a shrug. "Of course I'll babysit for you if you want."
(13:51:22) Minaplo: ["Sure, I appreciate it."-
(13:51:36) Minaplo: ["… Hey, can I ask you one last thing? Just for my curiosity?"]
(13:52:01) Sept: "This once."
(13:52:40) Minaplo: [Fred snorted.-
(13:53:28) Minaplo: ["If there were an alternative… If you didn't have to pilot 01 anymore, if someone or something else could do it… What'd you do?"]
(13:56:51) » Quit: Suzune (moc.rr.ser.yabapmat.551cfh1322356|enuzuS#moc.rr.ser.yabapmat.551cfh1322356|enuzuS) (Quit:)
(13:58:47) Sept: "You know it's about more than piloting for me."
(13:59:17) Minaplo: ["I'm listening."]
(14:03:51) Sept: "I'd love to retire. If you could flip a switch and have Elisha back, without obliterating me in some kind of paradox…"-
(14:06:20) * Sept squinted at space for a moment. "No, nevermind. That wouldn't be enough either. I just can't leave it alone. If I couldn't pilot 01, and we had both Elisha and Mary in their goddamn final forms, I'd still try to butt in."
(14:06:54) Minaplo: ["Why?"]
(14:10:34) * Sept shrugged. "Because they can be big dummies, and maybe a third one will make a difference?"-
(14:12:02) Sept: He hesitated for a moment. "It's also, obviously, what Longinus wants, but that's not an issue."
(14:12:46) Minaplo: ["Why are ancient weapon spirits so fucking needy, though?"]
(14:14:17) Sept: "They've got a purpose. Like me. Unlike you. No offense," he shrugged again.
(14:16:10) Minaplo: ["What, I don't have a purpose?"]
(14:19:50) Sept: "You didn't come with one. We can both come up with as many goals as we want. Like me with my top secret retirement plans."
(14:22:35) Minaplo: ["Oh, right."-
(14:23:13) Minaplo: ["You're not burning out, are you?"]
(14:29:06) * Sept crossed his arms. "I've acted like we're on the verge of the end for years, Fred. I've always been burning out. But progressive tense doesn't count. I'm always on my last mission, and always one step from retirement."-
(14:29:19) Sept: "Seriously, I've got this down. It'll work out."
(14:30:04) Minaplo: ["Well… Alright. I trust you."]
(14:34:02) Sept: "Thanks," he nodded with an encouraging smile.
(14:43:58) Minaplo: ["No prob." Said Fred, getting to his feet with his own exaggerated stretch.-
(14:44:48) Minaplo: ["Welp, I should probably go head back and catch up with Sophie. Don't be a stranger, alright?" Said Fred, already heading for the elevator. "Sooner you start babysitting, sooner we can start working on Patrice's little brother or sister…"]
(14:47:50) Sept: "That's how they get you. Well, I'm gonna take a walk to clear my head. It's been good." Sera gestured vaguely towards the rest of the deck.
(14:49:55) Minaplo: ["Seeya, bro…"]
(14:53:22) Sept: "See you."-
(14:54:42) * Sept planned to stick around for just a few minutes longer, and make a bit of a round of the deck to catch the sights. His route ended up as more of a zigzag pattern, though, as he avoided the tender young couples no doubt planning to elope somewhere.
(14:58:38) Minaplo: [This would at least give Sera the sight of a couple enjoying a quiet kiss by themselves. Admittedly, one of them was one of the female Iron Tech Guard and the other was a rather thin, shrubby techie that looked all of 19.-
(14:59:38) Minaplo: [But eventually he'd find himself in an empty part of the open deck, near the bow of the vessel overlooked the titanic positron drill that served as the ship's awesome, incomprehensible prow.-
(14:59:59) Minaplo: [There was something here that drew his eye, indistinct at range and becoming clearer as he approached.-
(15:00:51) Minaplo: [It was a papier mache doll built on a metal cross-frame, hanging like a scarecrow. He would recognise- if only by dint of the core, the tendrils and the face- the form of Zeruel.-
(15:01:48) Minaplo: [Medals had been pinned to its chest, many of paper or cardboard, uneven, loopy decorative scrawl and random colours lovingly drawn over them.]
(15:08:29) Sept: "Heh. What a charmer." It did remind him of the metric tons of bunting and events for school children when they were unveiling Evas for the first time…
(15:12:24) * Sept turned to look behind him, as if looking for more of the dolls.
(15:12:33) Minaplo: [Nothing.]
(15:13:55) Sept: "Rude…" he muttered. He gave the Zeruel doll a farewell look, and headed back for the stairs down into the bowels of the battleship.

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