Title: Going off the Record
Part: Interlude (between 5 and 6)
Fandom: Guilty Gear
Warnings: Alternate Timeline beginning around GGX
I | II | III | IV | V | Interlude I | VI | Interlude II | VII | Interlude III | VIII (First Half, Second Half) | IX | X (First Half, Second Half)
Going off the Record
There were a number of things that could legitimately be called the worst feeling in the world. Sitting in a pitch-black pit with no radio and no back-up and listening to the reedy breathing of Gears in the darkness was among them, as was getting yourself torn open from shoulder to hip and having the medic in charge tell you that sorry, all the anaesthetics were going to the real emergencies at the moment, or only finding out during furlough that your hometown had become a pile of ashes while you were gone.
For Andreyev, it was disappointing the Commander.
It wasn't like disappointing other people, in that ordinary way disappointments tend to go, mistakes made, things said, fights had. The way you shrugged and muttered 'sorry' and things went back to the way they'd been. The Commander didn't yell, didn't chastise, didn't demand apologies, although he certainly could have. In fact, he didn't speak at all, just let the silence hang in the air, leaving you with nothing to do.
It was all in that look, Andreyev decided, the thing that sort of hauled back and kicked you in the chest was all in the Commander's eyes; in the moment when you were still grappling with what had just gone down and how you'd maybe done something spectacularly stupid, and when you finally tried to meet his gaze to apologize, the words would just shrivel and die on your tongue.
There was no rancor in that gaze, no bitterness, in fact, there was nothing there at all, and the Commander wasn't even looking at you, his gaze a million miles away because he was already thinking, trying to come up with a solution to what had gone wrong, trying to fix your mistake. And it was the moment where the realization dawned that he didn't blame you, that you'd simply joined the ranks of people for whom the Commander had to compensate, that was the worst feeling in the world.
Andreyev took a breath, pressing his lips together. This wasn't the sort of thing he had words for.
"Don't," the Commander said, holding up his hand. "I'm still trying to remember how much I can zap you without doing any permanent damage."
"Oh," Andreyev said, the sound a perfect echo of his astonishment. Talk was better than silence, better by far, even if the Commander should choose to be angry with him. This, though, he was almost certain that it had been a joke, one of those odd little things intended more for his own benefit than the Commander's, but even so, he felt that nothing less than earnestness would do. "Um. Well. If... if it makes you feel better, sir..."
Sighing, the Commander relaxed, his gaze becoming a little softer, a little more here. "We both know how this is going to go, so... I won't ask why. I won't tell you that this is playing right into that man's hands, and I won't appeal to your good judgment. However—"
"Please, sir. I—"
Andreyev hesitated, swallowing past the knot in his throat. There wasn't really anything he could argue, he realized, anything the Commander hadn't already thought of and dismissed, but he felt he should try, anyway, attempt to redeem himself in some small manner. The Commander gave an acquiescing nod, and he decided to take that as an encouraging sign. That, too, was entirely for his own benefit, of course, but the fact that the Commander was still willing to listen meant he had at least not succeeded at chucking years of trust and esteem right out the window.
"I didn't mean to... put you in a bad spot, sir. Just. That bastard knows he's got us by the ba— I mean, he knows he's got us. He's not just going to be showing off machines, he's going to be showing off superhuman versions of you, sir."
And they're going to sell like French hotcakes, was what he didn't say, but something must have shown on his face, anyway, because the Commander's eyes softened further, a hint of fond exasperation in his tone when he replied, "I thank you for trying to protect my honor, Lieutenant, but sometimes, honor best protects itself."
Andreyev colored. "It's not... it's not just that, sir. I mean, you heard them. They want these things to think, to go around judging— And even if I thought this was in any way a good idea, I still wouldn't trust that Meirth guy to use a tea kettle for anybody's benefit."
"Then you understand why I didn't want anyone to have a part in this."
Frowning unhappily, Andreyev nodded. It wasn't too hard to understand, just like it wasn't too hard to imagine the robots, lined up neatly row after row like a bunch of tin soldiers, sold in bulk to any man rich enough to afford them, anyone crazy enough to want a small private army. No need to try and excite the war-weary people, when the press of a button could make things so easy.
"I know, sir," he said quietly. "But we need to find out what these tin cans can do, don't we. If I go in... to these guys, I'm a nobody. If I manage to put a few dents in their precious invention, it'd probably turn a couple of heads. Buy us some time. I could gauge the capacities, see firsthand what kind of trouble they're going to cause."
"There are other ways, though," the Commander insisted. "Less dangerous ways."
"Sir, by the time we get any kind of support..." Andreyev trailed off. The Commander knew this, knew their hands were tied, and was still unwilling to send him in as a replacement. He exhaled, his shoulders slumping slightly. "If you give the order, sir, then I won't."
"This isn't the army, Lieutenant." Sir Kiske paused thoughtfully, as if wishing for a moment that it was. "All I can do is ask you to reconsider."
Drawing a sharp breath, Andreyev shook his head. Slowly, and just once, because there wasn't enough courage left in him to do more than move his neck muscles that one time. The Commander had left the choice to him, but there was no way he couldn't make the decision, try and do what he could to keep things from going to pieces faster than they had to, keep the Commander from going on 'secret missions' that would leave him bruised and tired with that small, awful smile, like this was how things were supposed to be. And still, to refuse that plea...
I can't, sir. I'm sorry.
"I see." The Commander's voice was quiet, but there was an odd note to it that made Andreyev look up to catch his lips curling slightly, partly in resignation and partly in a gentle sort of humor. "Well, I suppose I should've seen this coming. You do have an incriminating record with that kind of thing."
The chuckle was another surprise, even more so because it was coming from himself, but there wasn't really anything else to do, certainly nothing to say to someone who forgave with barely any thought at all. The very least he could do now was to take the opportunity to prove that those sentiments weren't misplaced, to pay back a small amount of the debt still left over from all those years ago.
I won't disappoint you, sir. I swear it.
A/N: I really don't know whether to curse or bless Andreyev. In the original draft, he was meant to have a fairly minor role, and now look at him. *le sigh* I was pretty surprised at the positive feedback I got for his character, though I swear I never meant for him to end up acting to protect
At any rate, comments are most welcome, as usual. To anyone who's still reading, thanks for bearing with me.