Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann Fan Fiction ❯ The Dangers of Chemistry ❯ Chapter 1

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

The Dangers of Chemistry
Maybe it was inevitable. He had loved her first even if he hadn't loved her most. Then again, it was just as likely that it wasn't love. Lust was a forerunner in the pack of things swirling through a young boy's heart when he laid eyes on the spitfire who came crashing down into his village with a lot of spirit and a Gunmen nipping at her heels. Maybe it wasn't love, but he certainly liked to think of it that way.
He liked to think a lot of things about Yoko. He liked to think about what would have happened if it had been him who had kissed Yoko on that fateful night. Maybe Kamina had fallen asleep, preempting that fateful conversation. But no, that would never happen. They were all too excited at the prospect of capturing their own battleship-Gunmen. Maybe if he had been just a bit braver, and come out with his feelings that afternoon instead of waiting until that evening. But no, that would never happen. He was still too timid for something so bold, even if the feelings had been burning a pit into the core of his being for days beyond counting.
He hadn't known her that long, but it was hard to make heads or tails of anything with Yoko around.
It faded, as all things must do, with time. He didn't play the could-have-been game anymore, knowing he would always end up the loser. He didn't ponder what-ifs because there were so many could-bes in a world post-Teppelin. He didn't lay awake at night thinking about Yoko anymore because he knew now that nothing good would come of it.
One day, that might actually be true.

She decides that Simon is like a plant. He was just a puny little shrub when she first met him, but he's grown so much. (It's more than the vertical. She understands metaphors, even if Ritona wasn't known for its educational standards.) It's almost impossible to reconcile the mousy little thing from the village next door with the quietly confident commander and warrior he has become. She likes the new Simon.
And, really, why shouldn't she? He is brave but tempered, strong but considerate. Yoko doesn't idealize people anymore. It hurts too much when reality reminds her that the walking, talking ideal is all flesh blood and mortality.
Still, it's hard not to think of Simon as anything less than a godsend. He was just what they needed when they needed it most. That's just as true now as it was back in the old days, the days of blood and guts and glory that scabs over the wounds of war. The soldiers he inspired and galvanized into battle are now the bureaucrats he keeps in line through sheer force of will, if nothing else.
The image still gets a laugh out of her. There's little Simon (or is it not-so-little-anymore Simon?) behind his big desk, signing off on countless treatises, acts, and bills plucked from the peanut gallery by Rossiu's keen eye. The two are quite the pair—Rossiu all doom and gloom with his severe demeanor at all of seventeen and Simon the smiling sixteen-year-old with the world on his shoulders and a casual air of congeniality you would hardly expect from that post.
He still makes time for her, even if he shouldn't. Unlike all the others, the whole running-the-known-world bit doesn't seem like a sweet gig to her. She's a simple girl, for her complicated life. She can curl up with a blanket, a good book, and a loaded rifle and she'll be content. Okay, the rifle isn't really necessary, but people expect of it of her and she doesn't care. She lets them think their little thoughts of a woman they pretend to know.
That's what sets him apart. He does know her. Or rather, he's close enough to knowing that she doesn't hold it against him. She's a simple girl who likes simple things.
But it's never simple with Simon.

“Come on,” she pouts-but-not-really. Yoko Ritona does not plead, does not beg, and most certainly does not pout. She's doing something, but it's not pouting.
“If I put this off `til tomorrow, Rossiu will give me another lecture,” he returns evenly, although he can't keep the amusement out of his voice. It's not often he can make Yoko squirm. (And yet he does it all the time.)
That gets a groan out of her. “You're the Commander, last time I checked.”
“Yeah, I guess I am,” he says it like he's never considered that before.
“Now you're just playing dumb.”
“I didn't know I was playing.”
It's in the banter, less two people and more a couple mildly squabbling over his job. Then it's the way she leads him from that office, that cave of paper, that den of red tape, one arm hooked through his. Some might say it's how she takes all the drinks the guys send her way when she saunters over to the bar then saunters right back over to the table she's sharing with Simon. Then there are people who argue it's in the pictures—still a novelty with the sudden invention of commercial cameras, reverse-engineered from Teppelin—and how she leans into him less like a sister-in-arms and more like someone who's already used to his body being so close to hers.
Whatever the case, they're lovers in everything but definition.
And that's the straw that breaks the camel's back.

She can't do this anymore. Simon has made it painfully clear that she will always have a place with that band of roughnecks, but she'll never call this city home. There are as many reasons as there are stars in the sky. It's the domesticity and the bureaucracy and the guilt of being a silly girl for the first time in a long time.
She coined her life in the currency of responsibility. Things needed doing. The rifle wouldn't clean itself. The Gunmen never stopped coming. If no one else would step up to the plate, then she had no choice but to do it herself. She didn't feel put upon. She lived her life by taking charge.
Still, she enjoyed the occasional lapse. She enjoyed them too much, she would decide.

Veterans they may have been, teenagers they still were. Alcohol had a way of finding its way into the hands of the old blowhards and the proven drinkers. When Teppelin fell and everything changed, alcohol was not exempt. It flowed like so much water.
But that's entirely moot. It's easy to pawn off lapses with a guilty-but-not-really admission of “I was drunk as a skunk.” Easy isn't always bad, but it's rarely for the best, she's found.
No, the intoxication did only so much. The tension was there. It had been for as long as she could remember. It had been cute in a way, like the boy tugging on a girl's pigtails. Then it wasn't cute anymore, but a caged tiger, all fierce and dangerous and alluring in spite of that. Simon became a man and Kamina suddenly wasn't the only man in her life anymore.
It hurt. It hurt so much. She had been told it would. It hurt for all girls their first time. In hindsight, she realizes it shouldn't have hurt so much because most girls weren't trying to find a memory in their lover. She dug until she was raw, turning Simon over in her hands and in her head until there wasn't anything left to see that hadn't already been put on display before.
That was why she had to go. The reasons, like the stars, continued to twinkle, but Simon was the supernova in her sky. He burned so much brighter than all the rest. He was the prettiest and he was the deadliest.
She wouldn't have left if she hadn't been sure it was for the best. She did everything with that firmly in mind. Sometimes she was wrong. Simon stood as a living testament to how quickly an idea could go from perfectly feasible to totally wrong in the span of a single night.
For all the things people saw between Yoko and Simon, she saw in Simon and Nia. When everyone else ran for the bomb shelter at the stench of Nia's cooking, Simon asked for seconds. Simon dropped whatever he was doing for Nia just as he had for Yoko, and he didn't bother with the chase, either. Nia lit up like a sun for him. He made her feel like a star on the precipice, ready to explode or to dwindle at the drop of a hat. She couldn't take it anymore, the not-knowing, the wondering if she would shine again in his embrace or collapse in a black hole that swallowed all light and joy that would ever presume to pass too close. She had felt that way ever since a bright, stupid soul burned out in the night.
It wasn't fair. Not to any of them.
Simon's identity was precious to him. He was not his brother. He was Simon the Digger. Those words resonated to this day.
Simon the Digger. Not Kamina.
She wouldn't fault him for that. He couldn't be Kamina and she couldn't be better for him. Maybe it could have happened. Maybe, if he professed first or if Nia had never waltzed into their checkered lives. Maybe, maybe he would have been brave enough to ask her to be his and maybe she would have been brave enough to say yes. Maybe, maybe, maybe she would learn to love Simon as not only a man, but his own man.
That was too many maybes for her. Those scenarios slipped through her fingers like water from a stream. She might drink from it, but it would never be the same. Those moments had passed her by along with the opportunities they carried.
So she would leave. It was for the best. Simon and Nia would grow and their love would grow along with it. She didn't know if she would ever see him again. Probably. There was just too much between them for either of their twin stars to fade away. Yet the chance remained that one might stand over the other's casket some day and wonder why it had to end like that.
They traded their goodbyes, smiled painfully, and that was that. Rossiu, the unknowing third wheel, never suspected that the two were ever more than friends. Granted, the rumors reached even him, but he brushed them off. Such was the perfection of their ruse.
He didn't tell her that he wasn't sure how he felt, that as fond as he had grown for Nia, he still felt very real things for her. She didn't tell him he was a silly boy for adoring a woman who didn't know whether it was the shades of dead she saw in him that made her love him or the digger beneath. No, none of these things passed between them and maybe that was for the best. Forced closure. No dramatic exultations or drawn-out arguments. A few kind words, some smiles, and a bond that would last the test of time. They would remember each other as friends.
When the time came for them to talk about it, a day they had both dreaded, it was a moot point. There was nothing left to say. They loved their ghosts dearly.