Coming back from the dead is supposed to be impossible. When all expectations are defied and the impossible happens, it can only be called a miracle.
Saving an entire planet through the sheer power of communication and understanding could also be called a miracle.
Setsuna F. Seiei -- that’s the young man’s name, Graham has finally learned -- is a bringer of miracles. Setsuna would never agree with that sentiment, but Graham will never feel otherwise. No one else could have done what that young man did.
It wasn’t enough for Setsuna to save his heart with his philosophy; he had to go and save his life, too. Honestly, talk about being in someone’s debt. It’s going to take the rest of Graham’s life to even come close to paying him back.
Yet he knows that Setsuna isn’t going to see this as a debt that needs fulfilling. That’s simply the kind of person that Setsuna F. Seiei is, and that’s one of the reasons he’s so admirable. If Setsuna were to ask anything of him, there’s no doubt in Graham’s mind it would be little more than to put his new life as a Gundam Meister to good use.
And Graham has every intention of doing that, but he wishes still to do something more. What that more ought to be is difficult to say, because where does he even start?
In time, the answer becomes clear to him.
Joining Celestial Being means fighting for the same ideals as Setsuna, but it also means fighting isn’t the only method of communication available between himself and Setsuna any longer. There’s a great deal that can be conveyed through battle, but it’s not the only way to reach a person’s heart.
The first time he met Setsuna outside of a mobile suit, that boy had been his enemy. The second time, Setsuna was lying in a bed, comatose, and his prospects hadn’t looked good.
Third time’s the charm, Graham has decided.
When that beautiful suit and her pilot return from their journey, Graham Aker, back from the dead, both human and ELS, living for the future and the dialogues to come, will be there to meet him.
When at long last Qan[T] returns to the hangar, Graham knows Setsuna and his digitized comrade will have much to report and little time to chat. He insists on giving Setsuna a proper greeting all the same.
“It’s been too long, young man,” he says with a grin as Setsuna steps out of the cockpit.
Setsuna’s eyes widen in muted surprise. He silently looks Graham over, notes the Celestial Being uniform and the silver coating his face and hair.
He smiles. Gently, warmly.
“...Welcome back, Graham Aker.”
“It’s good to be back.”
Right now, this exchange is enough.
Contrary to Graham's expectations, Setsuna is the one who approaches him first.
“Miss Sumeragi told me that you’re Exia’s Gundam Meister,” he says, standing a few feet behind Graham.
Graham hadn’t even heard his footsteps; he’d been preoccupied with Orange Haro until just a moment ago, trying to convince the little robot that Exia Repair IV should be called Graham Gundam instead. He hadn’t been done talking to it, but it got distracted and bounced away. Alas.
Graham turns to Setsuna and firmly nods.
“Indeed. Exia Repair IV, or as I’ve christened her… Graham Gundam!”
“Graham Gundam…” Setsuna repeats, sounding not at all surprised and completely unwilling to actually call the Gundam that.
At least Orange Haro is giving the name the consideration it deserves.
“I fell in love with that mobile suit the day I saw her debut,” Graham continues, nostalgic and starry-eyed. “That I would someday become her Meister can only be called fate.”
Setsuna never seemed to understand his talk of love or destiny and it appears that hasn’t changed, but the underlying sentiments seems to reach him.
“...You’ll take good care of Exia,” Setsuna says as if coming to a conclusion, and there’s an undeniable swell of pride in Graham’s chest.
“I’m grateful to receive your blessing. I’ll cherish her as I would my Flag.”
It’s not a statement Graham makes lightly, and they both know this.
“Your reconstructed body,” Setsuna says, shifting gears. “Have you adjusted?”
Graham raises a hand to the scars on his face, if they can still be called scars at all. When the ELS resurrected him, the scars were coated in liquid metal. He’s not sure why that happened, but he’s often suspected that when they were trying to reconstruct his body, they felt they should go the extra mile and patch up the disfigurement the original body possessed.
It wouldn’t explain why part of his hair turned metallic too, but that might have been an accident. They were only doing their best.
“It was an easier adjustment than you’d think. I’m impressed that the ELS managed such an accurate reconstruction.”
“You’ve partially fused with them; you aren’t completely human any longer,” Setsuna reminds him. “Have you noticed any ill effects?”
He thinks back to Setsuna lying comatose in the middle of the ELS crisis. It was his initial attempt to communicate with them that had left him in that state. Graham hadn’t stayed on the Ptolemy long, but he’d heard the phrase “severe brain damage”getting tossed around.
It makes sense to be concerned. Graham and the other individuals who’ve become part ELS are brand new lifeforms, just like the Innovators. They’re uncharted territory. No one can say for sure how the fusion of man and extraterrestrial will pan out.
But for now?
”I’m in better health than I was before my death,” Graham says. “As if every atom of my being has been rejuvenated.”
Setsuna closes his eyes for a moment, relieved.
“I have to thank you, Setsuna,” Graham says. “And not only for giving me another chance at life. You mended the twistedness that had taken root in my heart all those years ago. …I don’t what what would have become of me had it not been for you. I’d still be entrenched in my hatred, I suppose.”
“Meeting others changes people. We can become warped by them, but we can also learn from them. I’ve had to change, too.”
“And if one person can change, we all can. That’s why there’s no foolishness in having hope for humanity’s future.”
Setsuna nods his silent agreement.
“To create a peaceful world… Celestial Being needs you,” Setsuna says, and looks him right in the eye. “This world needs you.”
Those words shake Graham’s very soul.
“I won’t let you down. You have my word.”
“I know,” Setsuna says, as if he’d never had any doubt.
He really did never have any doubt, did he? Setsuna’s faith in him was assured the moment his voice reached out to him in the still darkness of the other side.
This trust he’s been granted is a precious thing. Without doubt, without hesitation, he’ll go all out to meet Setsuna’s expectations -- and then exceed them.
“Setsuna, I happen to have something to ask of you.”
“What is it?”
“I wish to hear you tell me of the Gundams you’ve piloted. The original Graham Gundam, the 00 Gundam, the Qan[t]… I want to know about the machines that ensured our future, and I want you to be the one to tell me. Frankly, I insist.”
“Graham Aker… you’re a Gundam maniac,” Setsuna says, and through the trademark stoicism, Graham detects a hint of fondness.
“Indeed I am. This is a burning passion that shall never die.”
“Let’s go to the hangar. I’ll tell you about Exia first.”
This is how friendship starts, thinks Graham. A simple shared passion.
And from there blossoms mutual understanding.