ZERO :: the Fool (annwyd) wrote in ship_manifesto,
ZERO :: the Fool
annwyd
ship_manifesto

People As Projects, and Other Unfinished Business: Lockon/Tieria

Title: People As Projects, and Other Unfinished Business
Author: annwyd
Fandom: Mobile Suit Gundam 00
Pairing: Lockon/Tieria
Wordcount: 10,667
Spoilers: For the entire series.







If you're here, you probably know how it goes with this kind of show. It's the future, and war is still ravaging humanity. One teenage boy finds himself enmeshed in the struggle, but fortunately he has a giant robot to help. Throw in some eye candy, a princess, a psychic connection or two, the latest and sparkliest generation of Minovsky particles, and the right ratio of explosions to screams of heartrending emotional anguish, and you have a Gundam series.

There are a few twists in the case of Mobile Suit Gundam 00. For one thing, the protagonists have dedicated themselves to eradicating war from the very beginning; it's the goal of their organization, Celestial Being. For another, they don't get traumatized by the events of the series. They're already seriously messed up. The hero is still a teenage boy, but this essay isn't about him. This essay is about the easy-going mentor figure who really could have used some therapy, and the genderqueer robot with dependence issues.






LOCKON STRATOS

Lockon is the one who the others can turn to as a big brother. While the other three Meisters, especially Setsuna and Tieria, remain too caught up in their own troubles to even smile, Lockon is unfailingly upbeat, charmingly expressive, and sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. He is competent without taking anything too seriously, and he tries his best to keep everyone together as a team, even when they resist it. He's one bright island of cheer and sanity in the sea of dysfunction that is Celestial Being.

It's all a little too good to be true. Nobody joins Celestial Being without being conveniently pre-broken, and Lockon is not the exception he initially appears to be. Although he has a lot more experience with happiness and normalcy than Setsuna, Tieria, or Allelujah, his issues run just as deep. The three of them never really had normal lives; they don't know what they're missing. Even Setsuna, who had a family once, nevertheless grew up in poverty and warfare. Lockon had all the components of a happy childhood, even a normal name, Neil Dylandy.

There's every indication that Neil's childhood was downright idyllic. But when he was fourteen, he lost his parents and his sister to a terrorist attack, leaving only him and his twin brother Lyle alive. He never managed to move past it and really live again. Instead, he spent the rest of his life carrying a well of grief and rage where no one else could see it.

When we meet him, Lockon exists solely to change the world so that his brother can live in it safely--and to destroy the people responsible for the deaths of the rest of his family. The snag in that motivation is that even if his focus is changing the world for the better, he can't quite give up on changing people for the better--he likes them too much, and it's a great way of avoiding his own troubles.

As messed up as he is, Lockon still plays the mentor figure remarkably well to the rest of Celestial Being. In a mecha show, that role comes with certain risks attached...but that's part of the story to come.




TIERIA ERDE

We're told very little about Tieria at first. As far as we know, he sprang fully formed from Veda like Athena from the head of Zeus, only more feminine. We know that he's something of a jerk, with no sympathy for the other Meisters. In fact, while we know nothing of his background and little of what drives him internally, what's very clear is that Celestial Being's overarching plan is his number one priority. He makes it just as clear himself that he has no need for the other Meisters or the rest of Celestial Being. If they betray the plan, he'll kill them. Nothing else matters.

His attachment to Veda is also much greater than that of the others around him, and he can communicate with it directly. As it turns out, this was intended to be his entire purpose. He was created to be a Gundam Meister, and he has no other reason for being. And here's the twist: for all that Tieria holds himself so above the others, for all that he clings to an illusion of aloof, lofty independence, he is more desperately dependent than any of them. He needs Veda's instructions and guidance to function; he cannot conceive of himself as a person with an independent will of his own.

Tieria didn't choose to be this way, though. He just never learned how to be human, because he was never told he was human. He has no idea how feelings work, or what you're supposed to do when you care for someone. Where Lockon starts life with everything a person could ask for to achieve happiness, Tieria, more than any of the others (even Allelujah had Marie), starts his existence with absolutely nothing, save the directive to help Celestial Being accomplish its mission. It's no wonder he holds to it so fervently. It's all he has.

But no one can stay like that, and eventually Tieria has to change. Although everyone changes over the course of the show, Tieria's development might be the most extensive of all, simply because of how far he had to go when he started. And just about all of it is down to Lockon.






an inauspicious beginning

As the series gets underway, there isn't much focus on individual relationships that don't involve the protagonist. Lockon doesn't address Tieria until the third episode, as they're all preparing to separate. He comments then, "Tieria, we'll leave space to you." Tieria's reply is an indifferent assurance that he'll obey orders--and Lockon responds with an amused, even affectionate smile, not one of the breezy grins he's preferred so far. Lockon seems already aware of Tieria's preference for space to earth, when the others seem uninterested in getting to know him at all. That smile shows a certain at-arm's-length fondness for Tieria's stiff and awkward attitude.

Lockon is less fond of some of Tieria's later behavior. After a battle where Setsuna endangers the mission by stepping out of his cockpit for reasons unknown, Lockon takes it upon himself to discipline him with a punch and some stern words. But when Setsuna continues to resist explaining himself, Tieria has a different approach: he takes out his gun and declares Setsuna "a dangerous existence."

It's Lockon who steps in to challenge Tieria's judgment, pushing the gun away. He orders the same of Setsuna when he pulls out his gun, intent on fostering cooperation among their dysfunctional team whenever possible. Everyone picks on Setsuna, though; Tieria is a more intimidating figure to most, and Lockon has proven this doesn't faze him.

His comeuppance for that is on the way. A new development arises: a terrorist organization is conducting a campaign of bombings to force Celestial Being to stop its operations. Tieria is as unfazed as Lockon was when confronted with his own haughty attitude. "Do they really think we will stop our interventions just for that?"

For the first time, Lockon's rage shows through his easy-going exterior. He reacts to Tieria's cold indifference with a fury unlike anything he's shown so far. Tieria, realizing that it's the terrorists provoking Lockon's anger, responds with amusement. Where the others lack quite the disposition or inclination to do so, he pinpoints Lockon's hypocrisy without hesitation: "From the world's perspective, we are fine terrorists." How can Lockon harbor such rage against terrorists, when to the rest of the world, Celestial Being is a terrorist group?

Lockon is unswayed from his anger, and, losing interest, Tieria casually swats him away. Although this will change later, he is so far the only Meister to evoke Lockon's wrath; what will not change is that he is the only one to have done so deliberately.

But Celestial Being deals with this threat, and between Lockon and Tieria, things are quiet until after a particularly close battle--one in which Tieria, cornered by the enemy, is forced to reveal Gundam Nadleeh far sooner than he intended. To us, it's clear that this perceived failure comes as a devastating blow to Tieria. He breaks down in his Gundam in tears, his very identity shaken. He strayed from the plan, and the plan is all he exists for.

In front of the rest of Celestial Being, he hides his own self-doubt and guilt and shows only disdain. He singles out Sumeragi for her strategic mistakes, directly laying all the blame on her. She takes it quietly, apologizing and saying only that she's human too, and "humans sometimes make mistakes." The sentiment will be significant to Tieria later. For now, he's scornful of it.

Lockon once again comes to the rescue, this time by reminding Tieria that he had a part in the mistakes too. That's a pattern now: to protect the rest of the crew, Lockon is the one who challenges Tieria when he goes too far in allowing his own insecurity and unnaturally rigid standards to turn into harsh judgment on the others. In other words, to be everyone else's big brother, Lockon has to pick on Tieria. Here he refuses to let Tieria disown responsibility if he's going to give someone else a hard time about it.

With no response to that, Tieria flounces off. Once he's out the door, the bridge crew is clearly relieved. All they saw in that confrontation was unnecessary antagonism from Tieria. But Lockon saw something else. Smiling, he says, "Isn't he cute? Taking it so seriously..." And here his voice softens. "Being so pushy around other people."

It is, to say the least, an interesting response. Unsurprisingly, fandom has made much of the "cute" comment, but that's not really new. Lockon has already shown that he has an affectionate attitude toward Tieria's prickliness. A little more surprising is the way his tone shifts from lighthearted teasing (intended as much to dissolve the tension as express his own feelings) to thoughtful interest. He might even be curious. Certainly, even though he reprimanded Tieria, he understands the reasons for his behavior. He's figuring out the hollow insecurity behind that demanding demeanor even before Tieria himself does.

So Celestial Being continues its mission. More complications arise, but one that promises to be particularly troubling is the arrival of the Trinity siblings, themselves piloting Gundam Thrones and claiming to be Gundam Meisters of Celestial Being. Their methods are far more brutal and indiscriminate than those espoused by the crew of the Ptolemy, and they even attack civilians. In the end, Setsuna decides that they are a conflict Celestial Being must eradicate, and he turns on them with his Gundam.

What's a little more surprising is that Tieria agrees with him, and he joins the battle just in time. In turn, Lockon (the only one who asked for orders first) arrives just as Tieria is in trouble. The Trinities decide to retreat--but with a parting shot: Setsuna and Lockon's real names and pasts. As it turns out, Setsuna was once a member of the terrorist group responsible for the deaths of Lockon's family, the KPSA; he's someone Lockon has vowed revenge on. The fight with the Trinities is over, but now they have a rift between each other.

When Lockon confronts Setsuna about this, Tieria is there, watching. He's there as Lockon reveals that he lost his family because of the war in which Setsuna himself fought.

"Is that why you agreed to become a Meister?" Tieria asks. This starts something unfamiliar to him: he is guessing at the personal motivations of human beings.

Lockon confirms it, and then, in this crucial moment, he recalls what Tieria said once before: "I know it's a contradiction. What I'm doing is no different from terrorism." He chose to fight anyway, because it was the only way he could think of to change the world so what happened to his family wouldn't happen to anyone else. Even knowing all that, even knowing that what happened wasn't Setsuna's fault, he still pulls a gun on Setsuna.

Tieria is the first to object, but it's Setsuna who convinces Lockon to put down the gun. He tells Lockon about the man who was responsible for the actions of the KPSA--Ali al-Saachez. Then Setsuna says that as long as he lives, he will use his Gundam to fight for the eradication of war. Lockon is quite interested in that first part, but it's the latter that gets him to put away the gun and laugh affectionately at Setsuna's awkward but intense determination. He calls Setsuna a "thickheaded Gundam maniac," and Setsuna thanks him for the compliment and even smiles for once.

As Tieria watches this personal conflict unfold, he tentatively pieces together Lockon and Setsuna's motivations. He gathers why Setsuna left the cockpit of his Gundam, an action that, at the time, Tieria almost killed him for. But it's not the tension and high drama that truly affect him, in the end. What startles him into vulnerability is seeing Lockon burst into laughter as Setsuna thanks him. "So this is what it's like to be human," he says, smiling for the first time.

Finally, after making his own choice to fight alongside Setsuna and then seeing him and Lockon struggle through their difficult choices, Tieria begins to think that humanity, and not just Veda's directives, may have some value. Lockon is intertwined in this discovery for him: Lockon's grief and rage draws his attention, and Lockon's laughter makes him smile.

There's more to come. In the aftermath of the confrontation, Lockon, Setsuna, and Tieria discuss Celestial Being's plans. "To be honest, I'm worried," Tieria says. But there's something different about how he says it. Before he used the hyper-masculine, confident ore to speak of himself. Now he uses the more vulnerable boku. It's a stylized conceit; the characters are probably not speaking in Japanese. Still, there's definitely something in Tieria's speech to show he's opening up.

Where Tieria himself doesn't even seem to notice it, Lockon pauses and takes note. Even in the midst of his own revelations, he takes the time to study Tieria, and he realizes that now is his chance to create a better member of the team out of him, to make him a better person overall.

Upon their return to the Ptolemy, Tieria has an immediate question: "What's my punishment for disobeying orders?" Sumeragi just shrugs it off. Agitated by the lack of order and protocol, Tieria begins to protest. That's when Lockon lays a hand on his shoulder.

"That's how it is," Lockon says. Everything about his voice, stance, and gestures seems designed to calm Tieria down. But more notable is Tieria's reaction. He looks startled and awkward, and when he turns away, he's smiling a little. Now a well-placed touch and a few careful words from Lockon are enough to fluster and gentle him.

Allelujah notices, and he asks, "Did something happen?" Lockon smiles and brushes the question off. What happened on the island will remain between him, Tieria, and Setsuna.




a middle that contains an end

When we next see Lockon and Tieria, they are preparing for battle against the new GN-X units, and they know it will be difficult. Tieria is alone, pondering whether they'll be able to handle this new enemy force, when Lockon shows up--clearly for the specific purpose of checking on Tieria, as the first thing he does is ask if something is troubling him.

Where before Tieria was dismissive and indifferent, now he's flustered. Picking up on this, Lockon reassures him--specifically, of the strength and skill of the rest of the team, as well as Sumeragi's expertise. Even now, however, Tieria isn't easily convinced of the human element of the plan. He dwells critically on Sumeragi's past mistakes, only for Lockon to tell him, "Everyone makes mistakes."

When Sumeragi told him the same thing, Tieria was unmoved. Now he hears it from Lockon, who goes on to tell him that being able to make mistakes and then move on afterwards "is what it means to be human." This time, it gives him pause for thought.

But Tieria is ambivalent about that word "human"--and then he's surprised. "Lockon, you knew that I'm--" Then Allelujah interrupts to tell them to prepare for battle. But for a moment, Tieria was on the verge of talking about his own strange origins: something he barely even considered mentioning before.

Before they go to their Gundams, Lockon spells out his message loud and clear. "Tieria, let me just say one thing. Now that the situation has gone sour, cooperation between the four Gundams is more important than ever. I'm counting on you." All he's done for Tieria so far has been to make him realize the value of the team; in a sense, it's nothing personal. And yet it is something personal, because to be considered valuable for his own part in the team and not simply as a useful combatant and a link to Veda is something new to Tieria, and Lockon knows it.

There's trouble ahead, though. In the middle of combat, the Meisters lose their connection to Veda. All of them are alarmed and upset. Lockon is furious, but not afraid; his only concern is that they "haven't accomplished anything yet," so they can't go down now. Tieria, on the other hand, looks like a small child left abruptly alone by his parents. "Have I been abandoned by Veda?" he asks.

Fortunately, the crew of the Ptolemy saves the day, and the Gundams come back online without Veda. As Allelujah and Setsuna gladly retake control of their Gundams, the first thing Lockon does is look to see how Tieria's doing. By now guiding and protecting Tieria has become a special responsibility of his, and even in danger himself, he won't let it lapse. It's a good thing, too, because the switch failed to fix Tieria's Gundam Virtue. He's still adrift, and Lockon calls out to him in alarm.

As the other two Meisters take on the enemies, Lockon remains in place, trying to contact Tieria and determine what's wrong. But Tieria is still helpless, and Patrick, a normally ineffectual enemy, prepares to take advantage of the situation. Lockon swoops in to defend Virtue. But it's not enough, and Patrick tries again. Lockon continues his role as Tieria's protector, but this time he has only one option: interposing Dynames between Patrick's GN-X and Virtue, so that he can take the blow instead. At least he can shield himself...somewhat.

It's still a nasty blow, and Tieria reacts with shock as he realizes that Lockon took it for him. The idea that someone would risk themselves so completely for his sake is entirely new to him. He only speaks when he realizes that Lockon is injured: "It can't be...he protected me...Lockon Stratos!" Just as his physical defenses were down during the fight, his emotional barriers are shattered now. When Veda abandoned him, Lockon stepped in, at great cost to himself. Now he's in a better position than ever to help Tieria change and grow.

But the cost to him is drastic. His dominant eye is wounded, and it'll take three weeks of regenerating in special medical equipment for him to heal. Sumeragi orders treatment to begin, only for Lockon to call for a stop. He refuses treatment, insisting they can't afford to spare him now. "And if I went to sleep," he adds, "there's someone who would be worried." His expression softens into something not merely light-hearted, as is usual for him, but almost tender. "No matter how strong he seems to be, he's delicate." There's Lockon's understanding of Tieria, phrased in the gentlest way possible. He's aware what he's done to Tieria's state of mind, and from his rueful seriousness, he realizes what a responsibility he's taken on in becoming Tieria's protector. But it's a duty he welcomes; there's fondness there too.

He knows full well Tieria would rather see him heal than risk himself. But he still has things to do, both for Tieria and for his own goals. There's something more to the almost regretful hints in Lockon's attitude now, though, and it's only in hindsight we can identify it. For all that he claims he can work together with Haro to be as competent as he was before, he knows it's not true. He's severely handicapped in combat, and he won't survive battle against the forces facing them for long. But he's made his choice: achieving his revenge and protecting his comrades, including Tieria, who needs it most right now, is worth more than his life.

And he's entirely right about Tieria's state of mind. "Because I focused too much on Veda...I allowed him to get injured," Tieria says. "Because of me..." Never before has he shown this level of concern over a teammate. Now, though, he knows not only that his companions matter, but that they believe he matters, even without Veda.

Though Lockon is the injured one, he checks up on Tieria. As he approaches, Tieria looks more vulnerable and distraught than ever. Even without seeing that expression, Lockon knows what's going through Tieria's head. "How long do you plan on acting like that?" he asks. "That's not like you. Get back to your usual arrogant self." When Tieria couldn't hear, his voice was gentle, but now he's as casual and confident as ever. He doesn't want Tieria knowing that he too is vulnerable. He wants Tieria to rely on and learn about humanity from him for as long as he can.

Tieria doesn't seem very cheered. As he once dismissed Allelujah and Setsuna as "unfit to be a Gundam Meister," now he levels the same judgment on himself. Lockon is unfazed. He assures Tieria that having lost the ability to link to Veda doesn't destroy his value as a Meister. He's still a part of the team and can still contribute to the mission. "Just think of it like you're no different than the rest of us now," he says. The plan doesn't need Veda; it relies on them as a team. Where before Tieria would have shut out these words, now they mean everything to him. They come from Lockon, and Lockon is what matters now.

Yet he's still doubtful. With his newfound care for those around him, Tieria regards the prospect of their failure--and the loss of their lives--as more terrifying than ever. His voice shakes as he says, "But the odds of success are--"

Lockon doesn't give him more time to get upset. "Stop whining, and just do it." Not exactly sentimental, but it's what Tieria needs to hear: Lockon has enough confidence in him to treat the matter so cavalierly. Having done what he came for, Lockon waves and walks away.

Or he tries to--Tieria stops him to say one thing. "I'm sorry."

Lockon's expression softens, and he reminds Tieria of what Sumeragi said once. "We all make mistakes. We're human, after all." With this, he firmly includes Tieria in the category of human, even though he knows Tieria does not consider himself to be human. And because Lockon said it, Tieria begins to believe it.

Feldt, watching from the depths of her own crush on Lockon, marvels at his kindness. She looks conflicted, though. The novels observe that though she knows too little of her own emotions to understand, she feels the beginnings of jealousy over the attention Lockon pays to Tieria.

Later, Tieria watches Setsuna depart for a mission on Earth from the window of the Ptolemy, troubled. Lockon comments, "You can go if you want to, you know. You're worried about Setsuna, right?"

It's a first: Lockon has misjudged Tieria's inner feelings. "You're a fool," Tieria says angrily as he leaves, much to Lockon's bemusement.

"What does that mean?" Lockon wonders. It's obvious that Tieria is worried about him. But somehow, Lockon can't grasp that. For all his cleverness about Tieria's mind, when it comes to Tieria's feelings about him, he's quite lost.

Maybe that's why it's a surprise to Lockon when, as they prepare for the final battle against the UN Army, he discovers he's been locked in his room for his own safety. It doesn't even occur to him that it's Tieria who did it--a strange oversight for someone so good at reading him otherwise. Meanwhile, as Tieria heads for his Gundam, he justifies himself to a puzzled Allelujah: "He's not the kind to listen to words. He saved me in the previous battle. That's why this time I'll protect him!"

It's not good enough. Knowing the others need him, and especially knowing Ali al-Saachez is out there, Lockon won't be held back from the battlefield. When Allelujah and Tieria are in danger, he takes Gundam Dynames out to help them, aware of how slim his chances of making it back are and perfectly all right with that.

Tieria is not so sanguine. "Lockon Stratos?!" he cries in disbelief and dismay. "Lockon, in the shape you're in..."

Even with rage driving him to suicidal lengths, Lockon takes the time to be gentle with Tieria. His tone shifts from flat determination into something kinder. "I appreciate the care," he says, before his voice returns to what it was, "but right now, I will fight!"

With Tieria thus brushed off, and Setsuna nowhere near close enough to to stop him, Lockon has no more obstacles between him and a final confrontation with Ali al-Saachez, and when he gets it, he doesn't back down. Already mortally wounded, with Dynames in shambles and only the remnants of the GN Arms to use, he continues after Ali, knowing for sure now that he won't survive.

"What the hell am I doing?" he asks himself. "But still, if I don't do this, if I don't take revenge, I can't move forward." Even he questions his choice--because it's not a choice. It's a compulsion. He's doing exactly what he told Tieria not to: dismissing the value of his life and letting the edicts of the past override his own will. The value he saw in Tieria, Tieria saw in him--but Lockon himself never did, and now it's too late.

The shock and grief at Lockon's death ripple through the entire crew--and Tieria immediately wells up with tears, like he once did when he exposed Nadleeh and failed the plan, but more. His next reaction is similar as well, but far more intense: where once he blamed Sumeragi to cover up his own guilt, now he flies into a rage at Setsuna. But he's far more transparent now. Even in that little time, Lockon changed him that much, and all Tieria can ask Setsuna is, "Why did he have to die?"

More than ever, Tieria is desperate to continue the plan, but this time, as Lockon has taught him, as part of the team. He has a reason for fighting beyond the plan now: "I have to avenge Lockon no matter what." But in a way, he's regressing. He doesn't feel like he's chosen this; it's simply something he has to do, as he once had to follow the plan.

Even almost destroyed, Tieria fights on, "for the plan...and for Lockon." With his enemy destroyed, Tieria is fine with drifting away. He might have regressed, but it's due to a very new and human emotion: grief. Adrift in space in Nadleeh, Tieria is content to know that the plan will proceed as he ejects his GN drive. "With this I can finally join you...Lockon."

But Tieria's role in this story is not over. He's rescued and brought back to the Ptolemy, where he's devastated to learn of their condition. With Setsuna and Allelujah lost and Sumeragi leaving, he struggles to find a purpose and a place for himself once more. Unable to cope, he hides in his room.

It's there Lockon finds him. Even knowing it's only a figment of his imagination, Tieria still finds himself pouring his broken heart out to the vision, confessing his fears about the whole point of Celestial Being, which once he was so certain of. "We even knew we could die!" he finally says.

"I had no intention of dying, you know!" Lockon says. "I was planning to live for a long while."

One last time, Tieria calls out even this Lockon on his hypocrisy. "You're a liar if you wanted to live!" But still he confesses, "I wanted you to live."

"Me too," the vision says, and this time Tieria doesn't challenge him--whether because it's true, or because he wants it to have been true so badly he'll believe it anyway. "I'm leaving the rest to you," Lockon adds. "Change the world." To Tieria at his most dependent and vulnerable, he says, "I am no more. Veda is no more. It'll be pretty hard to decide on your own, right? But since it's you, you'll be able to."

One last assurance of Tieria's own worth and ability to make decisions, and then Lockon is gone. But it's enough. Tieria can finally emerge, rejoin Celestial Being, and begin rebuilding. He even says, "I'm home."






perspectives

There are two basic views of Lockon/Tieria in Gundam 00 fandom.

One is that they both loved each other very much and would have been happy and in love together if only Lockon hadn't died. The other is that Tieria was and still is deeply in love with Lockon (romantically or otherwise, depending on who you ask), but Lockon's feelings for him were purely of duty-bound companionship and camaraderie, the same as his feelings for Setsuna, Allelujah, or anyone else in Celestial Being. In other words, Tieria's feelings were unrequited: he was in love, but Lockon was just being Lockon.

I don't really hold with either view. I think my summary of their interaction addresses the first one well enough already; it is obviously not the case. The second one is a little trickier. I have two main objections to it.

The first is that while it's obvious that Tieria's feelings are much more intense and almost certainly more romantic than Lockon's, I don't think it's true that Lockon thought of and treated Tieria the same as he did everyone else on board the Ptolemy. For all Lockon's attempts to distance himself from real relationships, he nevertheless developed some affection for most of the people around him, and it manifested in different ways depending on who they were.

The second is that "unrequited" is the kind of word you use for a love story where one party simply doesn't return the other's feelings. The knight who knows his princess can never return his feelings, his love is unrequited; the girl whose feelings for her childhood best friend have blossomed into something more while he doesn't think anything's changed, her love is unrequited.

Lockon and Tieria aren't those people. It's not just that this relationship won't work for them--it's that no relationship would. Theirs isn't a tragically one-sided romance, but rather a tragically dysfunctional pseudo-romantic...thing.

Instead of the word "unrequited," I prefer to say that the relationship was "asymmetrical." Lockon and Tieria both have feelings for each other, although Tieria's are far more overwhelming and much, much closer to what most people would think of as "love." Neither's feelings are traditionally romantic (except perhaps Tieria's by the end of the series), but both can be seen through that lens. The relationship isn't one-sided--it just has two sides that are very, very different.


TIERIA'S FEELINGS

You know that stray cat who hissed and spat at all humans, until one of them finally took the time to sit down with him and show him some affection? The one that then attached himself to that human and never let go? Probably not, but you might have heard a story like it.

In the beginning of the series, Tieria's attitude toward Lockon is dismissive and contemptuous. He is tolerated for his competence in missions, but no more than that. His values are alien to Tieria, his attitude frivolous. It's implied, in scenes such as that first confrontation on the island, that Tieria fails to see why other people, such as Setsuna, respond so well to Lockon. The result is that he'll call Lockon out when no one else would presume to--just as Lockon will call him out when no one else would dare to. It's a cold connection from Tieria's side, and hardly much to celebrate.

When Tieria softens, things change. First, Lockon is the one who reaches out to him when he's just beginning to wonder if being human has some value after all. That alone is enough for some hesitant thawing of his icy exterior, but it's nothing compared to what happens when Veda fails him and Lockon steps in to save him in its absence. What Veda was to Tieria before--all-important purpose and guide--Lockon becomes now. But where Veda was a cold and distant god, Lockon is right there and very warm.

Most of all, Lockon is human--and in being so, he proves that humanity is something to aspire to. Lockon becomes the foundation of Tieria's own humanity and part of the building blocks of his new identity. It's one of the most powerful connections one character can have to another. Throughout the second half of the series, Tieria doesn't just carry Lockon in his heart. He makes a new heart out of Lockon.

There are less than healthy aspects of this. One of Tieria's key problems in the earlier episodes is that he thought of himself as only an extension of Veda, a vessel for the mission, rather than a person with a will of his own. He has to struggle not to simply submit to Lockon's will in the same way. It's not an easy fight within himself, and at times he's not doing the best job of it. Why else would he be so ready and willing to die after the final battle of the first season?

When you start to see it from Tieria's point of view, though, it's easy to see why he's so devoted. Lockon was the first person to look past Tieria's cold and distant exterior and show that he valued him as a human being. In turn, Lockon becomes the first human Tieria has wanted to protect and value. It's through Lockon that he learns what's valuable about humanity in the first place: the ability to care for other people, and to accept them and one's own self as worthwhile both despite and because of their flaws.

Once that lesson has been learned, once those defenses of distance and inhumanity are down--and around Lockon they go down fast given the necessary triggers--Tieria reacts with an unparalleled intensity. He doesn't merely like Lockon; what he feels for him can't even properly be described as love this early in the game. He isn't simply loyal. Instead, Tieria gives Lockon the entirety of his devotion, without any of the expectations that would normally come with it. It's an immediate and almost primitive affection.

It's like flipping a switch. At first, Tieria is off; he wants no connections to anybody. Then he's on, and he dedicates himself to Lockon completely. All he asks in return is for Lockon to keep imparting his wisdom about humanity--and for Lockon to let Tieria protect him. Even denied this last, Tieria faithfully keeps the switch on, because with Lockon gone, nurturing his new humanity is the only way to maintain some connection to him. In the end, that love spills over, and, following Lockon's example, he comes to care for and protect humanity for its own sake.


LOCKON'S FEELINGS

For all his attempts to distance himself from real relationships, it's pretty clear that Lockon likes people and enjoys interacting with the rest of Celestial Being. So what about Tieria?

Well, to start with, let's get it out of the way here: yes, Lockon calls Tieria "cute." In context, this isn't a reference to his appearance, but to his brittle, awkward, self-conscious attitude. It isn't only displayed in that one line, either. Lockon is an expressive person, and there are other instances where the look on his face says "awww, Tieria" quite clearly. While Tieria's attitude alienates much of the rest of Celestial Being, Lockon evidently finds it charming. He seems to derive a certain amount of (perverse?) pleasure from his interactions with the more socially inept of the crew. Sometimes he teases them, sometimes he gently guides them. He tends to single out both Setsuna and Tieria for his attention, and we see him open up to Feldt more than to others. One would be hard pressed to find others on the Ptolemy more dismal as social beings.

It's worth noting here that he seems to treat both Setsuna and Feldt as little siblings. He sets himself up from the start as an older brother figure for Setsuna, and in light of his past and their age gap it's pretty obvious he saw something of his little sister in Feldt. So while Lockon holds special feelings for all three of Celestial Being's masters of social idiocy, Tieria is the only one outside of a firmly platonic familial context. And he's the one who gets called "cute."

On top of this, it is clear that Lockon wants to protect Tieria. There isn't anything particularly surprising about that--Lockon wants to protect everyone. He would have taken the blow that cost him his eye for Setsuna or Allelujah as well, though it was Tieria he was looking out for. But by the end, there's a certain tenderness to the need here that's lacking with the others. It isn't born of attraction, of course, but rather of awareness of Tieria's vulnerability. He protects Allelujah as a friend and teammate, and he protects Setsuna as a teammate, an important person, and his hope for the future. He protects Tieria because Tieria needs him to, and because Lockon feels responsible for him. Indeed, it's difficult to deny that by the time of Lockon's death, Tieria is the one who needs him most. Lockon likes being needed, loves being depended upon. Is this healthy? Not at all, but we've already established that these two are hopelessly dysfunctional.

Is any of this proof that Lockon was in love with Tieria? Of course not--he wasn't. But it all forms the seed of something that could have become romantic feelings, had Lockon been more capable of having them, and had the two of them had more time.

There's another blow to the pairing, though. All of the above? Is largely due to circumstance. Any needy, socially inept, secretly vulnerable android clone thing could have filled that space. So is there anything special about Tieria to Lockon?

The answer is yes, sort of: Tieria sees Lockon differently than the others do. And that, in turn, is down to the way these two very different approaches to the relationship interact.


WHEN THEY MEET

The rest of Celestial Being largely accepts Lockon at face value. He tells them, through actions and through words, that he's their dependable leader and everyone's big brother. They accept that, and they accept the roles he assigns them: troubled but inspiring younger brother equivalent for Setsuna, confused but well-intentioned and mostly reliable companion for Allelujah, heartsick planner who tries hard but sometimes needs support for Sumeragi, sweetly infatuated younger sister equivalent for Feldt. Yes, he cares about them, and as the hero, Setsuna certainly has a special place in his heart above and beyond that of anyone else, but they don't question their place. They don't upset Lockon's social balance.

Lockon has never quite seemed to know what role to assign to Tieria, and in any case Tieria is disinclined to accept those roles. Maybe that's because playing a role is one of those human things that Tieria doesn't understand. Even when Lockon finally does assign a role to Tieria--"my latest project, who I will protect and guide into his humanity so that he can finally be a better member of the team"--Tieria rebels. He doesn't just want to be a project. He doesn't want to be protected--he wants to protect Lockon, too.

When Tieria begins to value Lockon, he doesn't value him as something of a brother, as Setsuna does; as a first crush, as Feldt does; as a teammate, leader, colleague, companion the way the others around him do. He cares about Lockon, whoever he may be, whatever might be wrong with him. That's not something Lockon counted on. He likes being able to retreat behind those roles and help people from a safe distance. The purity and simplicity of Tieria's devotion could destabilize him if he had enough time to let it. This could have been something Lockon needed. Tieria is not the only one who needs to learn that he is worthwhile as a person in his own right. Lockon, too, is far too accustomed to devaluing himself as a person. When the others come to care for him, he can lie to himself and say that what they love is their mentor, their teammate, their leader. A role, not a person. He doesn't have that excuse with Tieria. But, injured and still driven, he doesn't have the time for it to matter, and he knows it. So what Tieria feels only confuses him, and he casts it aside.

Still, outside of the roles Lockon relies on to keep himself safely unattainable, Tieria can see through Lockon in ways that the others can't--and this was the case even before he thawed. When Lockon's hatred of terrorism first starts to surface, Tieria is the one to notice and needle him about it. But that's all right, because Lockon can see right through Tieria, too, and far more effectively. When Tieria first starts to soften, Lockon quickly notices and begins taking advantage of the chance to make him a better member of the team.

Yet they are strangely, sadly blind to some things about each other.

Tieria recognizes, where much of the rest of Celestial Being does not, that Lockon is broken, that there is something dark and self-destructive lurking under his smiling exterior. He understands that Lockon needs to be protected, although he could never tell you why. But he fails to grasp just how deep the trouble runs, and after Lockon's death, he begins to deify him.

Meanwhile, Lockon is the one to recognize and acknowledge Tieria's humanity. He spots his vulnerability and makes sure to say just the right things to make a member of the team out of him. But he remains peculiarly oblivious to how deep Tieria's awakening feelings run. He never really figures out just how much Tieria wants to protect him. The idea that Tieria could be worried about him bewilders him, and he is shocked and frustrated when Tieria tries to lock him in his room for his own safety.

The tragedy of Lockon and Tieria isn't that Lockon never returned Tieria's love, and then he died. It's that they cared about and were drawn to each other, but were unable to understand each other's true messy, confusing, unequal feelings. It's that neither Lockon nor Tieria realized that they both offered each other a love and human recognition that each of them needed--and then he died.

The triumph of it is that Lockon left Tieria better than when he found him.






an ending that leads to a beginning

When we see Tieria next, four years later, it looks like he's followed through on his decisions in "I'm Home." While Setsuna, Allelujah, and Sumeragi have all either left Celestial Being or been taken from it, Tieria has remained faithfully with Feldt and the others to continue rebuilding the organization. He's even designed uniforms for everyone.

Still, there are more challenges waiting for him as Setsuna finally returns. He's recruited Lyle Dylandy as a Gundam Meister and assigned him the codename Lockon Stratos. Devastated by the sight, Tieria tells himself, "That man is not him."

Tieria's feelings for the first Lockon are still something a little inscrutable to others, though. "I look a lot like my brother," Lyle asks him in the novels. "Do you dislike him that much?" Tieria doesn't even need to say anything to correct that impression. He just looks at Lyle "as if his heart were about to give out."

It's not until his genetic twin, Regene, contacts Tieria to tell him about his origins and invite him back to side with the Innovators that things get serious for Tieria. After all this time knowing only that he served Aeolia Schoenberg's plan, he has the chance to find out just what he is and why he was made. There's something the Innovators aren't counting on, though: someone else told Tieria who he was already, and he gave a different answer.

With something of his original existence finally revealed to him, Tieria struggles with the decision before him. Regene has offered him the chance to join the Innovators in guiding humanity; since that was his original purpose, shouldn't he take him up on it? In the midst of his inner turmoil, a familiar voice comes to him.

"Don't restrict yourself like that," Lockon--the one Tieria knows by that name--says from behind him. As Tieria turns in shock, the vision continues, with Lockon telling Tieria to work for what he believes in instead of letting the rules of his old self force him away. "We were entrusted by old man Aeolia with Gundams after all." Even from beyond the grave (or within Tieria's heart), Lockon reminds Tieria of the importance of the team and, more than ever, the value of his own will and choices.

"Lockon..." Tieria says to the empty room. But he has the encouragement he needed. He's ready to face the other Innovators.

His best opportunity for doing so is at a party, and naturally he must go in disguise. At the party, Tieria finally has the chance to meet Ribbons Almark, the Innovator behind everything that's gone wrong. Ribbons makes the inevitable offer: join up with them and oppose Celestial Being, and he will return Tieria's access to Veda. It's tempting--but Ribbons also says that "the destruction of Celestial Being was part of the plan."

So there Tieria has it: the plan he once so religiously followed would now require him to turn against the home he has found for himself. He echoes what the image of Lockon told him. "As someone Aeolia Schoenberg entrusted a Gundam with," Tieria says, "I think you are wrong." With his own identity, so shaped by Lockon, Tieria finally goes against what was once the entirety of his whole being. "That's right," he says, "I will head down the path that I believe in."

"I see you were influenced by humans more than I had thought," Ribbons replies. "You trusted that man far too much. Lockon Stratos, that is. A foolish human who prioritized avenging his family over executing the plan."

Offering him Veda, threatening the destruction of Celestial Being--all that only made Tieria more determined. But now Ribbons has insulted Lockon, and to Tieria that's above and beyond anything else, as Lockon himself has been to Tieria for so long now. This is what seals Tieria's decision, what brings him to point a gun at Ribbons and reject him for good.

But going against his entire purpose is no small thing. Tieria struggles with the decision later. Two voices echo in his head: Regene's, telling him of his intended purpose and place in the plan he once valued so highly, and Lockon's, speaking to him of his own will and volition. In Tieria's mind and heart, Lockon has come to represent his ability to make his own choices and shape his own future. The irony: Lockon hadn't really been capable of those things for a long time.

Although we all know just what voice Tieria chooses to follow, it's a while longer before we get to see him put that choice into play. Finally, new enemies approach to attack, and Tieria realizes that they are Innovators. He squares off against one of them, Bring Stabity.

This time, Tieria has an ace up his sleeve. Just as Virtue had Nadleeh, Gundam Seravee has Seraphim, and Tieria uses it for the first time. "This is different from piloting Nadleeh," he says. "I choose to expose this form of my own will." This seems like a rather self-evident statement, but for Tieria it holds more meaning. When he first exposed Nadleeh, he couldn't do it of his own will, because he had none. All this time later, he can freely choose to use Seraphim, and he can make that choice of his own will--because Lockon taught him how.

Bring panics as Tieria approaches. "Are you going to attack your own kind?!"

"No!" Tieria says. "I am human!" And like that, he destroys Bring, making his allegiance to Celestial Being clear for the last time. The better Lockons of his nature have triumphed. There will be no more question of swaying his loyalties.

As Celestial Being prepares for their final mission against A-LAWS and the Innovators, in which they will retake Veda, Tieria has one last thing to say as he readies his Gundam. It's almost a prayer. "Guide me, Lockon." He really doesn't have any need to ask Lockon to guide him anymore, now that he's found his place and learned to exercise his own will. But still he feels some connection there that makes him call out to Lockon before a key battle.

And a key battle it is. Revelations fly thick and fast. Tieria reveals to Ribbons that they are not true Innovators at all, only Innovades, created to guide humanity towards Innovation; Ribbons responds by shooting him dead. That turns out to just be part of Tieria's plan. With his body dead, he joins his mind with Veda and uses the newly-gained control to cripple the enemy. As the battle comes to a lull, Setsuna reaches the physical location of Veda, only to see Tieria's dead body. He swears to avenge him, but Tieria has something to say to that.

"I'll be troubled if you just 'kill' me off," he says. "I'm thankful that I was an Innovator--no, an Innovade. Because I'll be able to save you guys with my power." He says, for the first time, my power, and not just the power of Veda, even though now the two are close to the same. Because that's what Lockon taught him, just as Lockon taught him that saving his friends and teammates was something he should want to do.

When the battles end, Tieria has a new mission, one he's decided on himself rather than allowed something else to assign him. He will guide humanity into the future and protect them for as long as they need it, just as Lockon once guided and protected him.






changes

At the start of the series, Tieria is about as far from personable as you can get. He's cold to the point of cruelty and utterly indifferent to human feelings, considering them a nuisance that only hinders the mission. He disdains Allelujah's compassion, and more than once, he makes threats on Setsuna's life when he endangers missions.

In the middle of the series, Tieria is willing to dedicate himself to resurrecting Celestial Being against all odds, not just for the sake of the mission, but because it is home to him and people he cares about--and because it is what Lockon would have wanted.

By the end of the series, Tieria is the one bringing humanity to Veda, while promising to keep watch over all of humanity--for its own sake, not just for the mission.

In some ways, by the second season, Tieria has started to become the best of Lockon. It's a slow and halting process, because he has so much to learn about humanity, and his social skills aren't exactly top-notch. Yet the effort is there, and it's already beginning to bear fruit. Tieria is no longer a distant disciplinarian to the crew of the Ptolemy. Even early in the season, he no longer threatens people for letting their humanity get in the way of the mission. When he slaps Saji, it's for his immaturity and reluctance to take responsibility--a personal rather than professional failing. It's the sort of thing Lockon would have called someone on.

In little ways, he sets himself up as the new mentor figure of the group. Tieria's main motivation in the four years between seasons is the memory of Lockon; that's his reason for devoting himself to rebuilding Celestial Being. Where before he was outright dismissive of the human element of Celestial Being, now it's all he has, and he does his best to support it. He tries, on occasion, to make a joke, and he even smiles. It's a conscious thing: at all times, he is thinking of what Lockon would do. The answer: be closer and kinder to the people around him.

Nowhere is his new role more evident than in his odd relationship with Mileina Vashti. As Lockon had fourteen-year-old Feldt to care for like a little sister in the first season, Tieria has fourteen-year-old Mileina in a similar role in the second season. It's more ambiguous what her feelings for him are than it was for Feldt with Lockon, and his feelings for her are less fraught with buried issues, but she is nevertheless a young girl he takes care of rather like an older brother.

Even at the end, Lockon's influence can still be seen--or rather heard--in Tieria. His last speech to Setsuna echoes with the values Lockon taught him. It even sounds like something Lockon would have said. Tieria has become very much like the person Lockon could have been, had he not been so hindered by his attachment to the past.






on the relevance or lack thereof of "canon," and the nature of romance

With weird and ambiguous pairings like this one, there is often a fuss over what constitutes "canon." What is meant by that word, when applied to pairings, tends to vary from series to series. I have a weakness for pairings that can't be easily classified as either indisputably canon or objectively not canon, fully romantic or fully platonic. Lockon/Tieria is no exception.

Gundam 00 isn't subtle about pairings that are flat-out canon: generally, they end up married or soulmates, and that's that. Whatever was going on with Lockon and Tieria is more complicated. In a way, it's quite irrelevant whether it was "canon" when they were both alive, because even if there had been clear-cut attraction there (mutual or otherwise), neither would have been able to act on it. Lockon was too broken, and Tieria was too ignorant of his humanity. We can safely say that they were not in love then, and that it would have been very difficult for a real relationship to have grown out of whatever they had. Lockon died too soon for his feelings to go beyond platonic, protective affection (with maybe a dash of curiosity); Tieria didn't know how to do more, anyway.

However...where the ultimate nature of Lockon's relationships with other characters are generally clear-cut, what exactly he felt about Tieria is left just a bit ambiguous. Some sort of mentoring is going on there, but there's no sibling vibe to it as there is with Setsuna, and certainly not as there is with Feldt. He has a teammate's solid rapport with Allelujah, and a great deal of respect and sympathy for Sumeragi, but in both cases, neither party shows any interest in developing the relationship further.

His relationship with Tieria, on the other hand, is cut off in mid-development, leaving its possibilities much more open to interpretation. The series and other official material simply do not give us a firm ruling on where it would have gone. No one has come out and said, "They would never have been that way": Lockon has not been declared a brother figure to Tieria, and we have too little information on either of their sexualities (or Tieria's actual sex) to make a judgment based on that. No love interest has been assigned to either one.

Considering the history of such things in Gundam, it's disingenuous to argue that this is all a coincidence. When it comes to leaving ambiguous hints at relationships, these writers know what they're doing. While the concept of a happy romance cut short by a tragic death is rather pulled out of thin air, the idea of there being any romantic aspect to the relationship at all is not. The show leaves the specifics of what could have been up to the imaginations of viewers, and this is deliberate.

It doesn't hurt that the social cues and story tropes that make up the relationship often have romantic associations. The way Lockon teases Tieria is awfully similar to the way some people flirt, even though he never thought of it that way. The tenderness with which Lockon speaks of Tieria, and his own responsibility to him, is born of protectiveness, but the line between that and romantic affection isn't easy to pinpoint, if only for a few moments. The image of Tieria standing at the window, consumed with guilt and suddenly realizing how much Lockon's safety matters to him, is one common to budding romances where one partner hasn't realized until now what the other means to them. Then there's the fact that the entire relationship centers on Lockon thawing Tieria's cold exterior and bringing out his gentleness and humanity. How many love stories are based around that trope?

None of these ideas are exclusive to tales of romance. There's nothing that says friends can't be like that. Still, while no one of them alone means much, and all of them together don't provide irrefutable proof of canon, they go a long way toward explaining why so many people see something that isn't quite platonic in Lockon and Tieria's interactions. And that's only taking the first season into account. In the second season, with the chance of an actual relationship safely dashed, we start to get a clearer picture of Tieria's feelings for Lockon.

Most of it comes, as is to be expected, in the eighth episode. There's a lot of important development and revelation there, but in the end, even Ribbons boils it all down to Lockon, and this is what draws the greatest reaction from Tieria. Sure, it doesn't have to be romantic. It doesn't hurt, though, that at the time, Tieria is caught at his most vulnerable moment, being forced to reevaluate his very purpose, all while looking like he stepped off the cover of a steamy romance novel.

Since the end of the series, the hints dropped in official information have only gotten more blatant. In the monologues released later, Tieria is credited with both "thankfulness to his comrades" and "feelings towards Neil"--another indication that whatever he feels for Lockon, it's something other than the friendship he has with his other teammates. Another tidbit can be found in the "friendship charts" released for all four Meisters. Despite that name, they don't just indicate friendship. Each chart features one character with the highest rating possible. For Lyle and Allelujah, it's Anew and Marie respectively. For Tieria, it's Lockon.

Nothing in this puts Lockon/Tieria at the level of the canon pairings confirmed by the series and the side materials. But the writers have avoided classifying it as entirely a platonic relationship in canon. That leaves a vast middle ground for determined fans to cover.






my reasons for shipping

I like weird and ambiguous pairings. I like relationships that don't tell you exactly what they are. I love it when you have to stop and think what word you're going to use to describe their connection. Family? Not quite. Friends? Maybe, but that's not really it. Lovers? No, definitely not, but...

Most of the time I go for the canon pairings. But beyond that, I have a certain fondness for the ones that aren't quite canon. They don't seem quite finished as friends or family or what-have-you, but if I want to nudge them over the line into outright romance, I have to do some of the work and fill in some of the blanks myself. I love the unfinished affair and the deliberate ambiguity. So Lockon/Tieria was right up my alley.

Beyond the ambiguity of the relationship itself, there's another: Tieria's gender. He's comfortable enough with other people identifying him as male, but how does he think of himself? How would that affect him in a relationship with a man who seems mostly straight but flexible? I love messing around with sex and gender in fiction; this is a great opportunity. This pairing could be yaoi, het, or something else entirely! It gets better when you think of how this ambiguity plays into the roles in the relationship. Lockon--who codes as masculine despite being as pretty as anyone--intended to set himself up as the teacher and protector. Tieria, who's really more feminine in almost every way, was supposed to be the passive one, but he wanted more. Had Lockon survived and their relationship continued to develop, Tieria would have sought to be more active and protective in a reversal of the expected roles.

This ties into another thing that intrigued me, best illustrated by the "relationship meters" from the first season. Tieria's meters for Lockon are fairly straightforward:

"You're noisy" Meter: * * *
Thankful Meter: * * * * *
Protect Meter: * * * * *


Obviously, his initial impatience with and dismissal of Lockon is now quite outranked by his gratitude and desire to protect him, but it's amusing to see it still remains, albeit more as exasperation now. Where it gets really fun, though, is when we look at Lockon's meters for Tieria.

Cute Meter: * * *
"I'll protect you" Meter: * * * *
"Don't worry about it" Meter: * * * * *


The cute meter could be dismissed as fanservice or taken as an indication of Lockon's as-of-yet platonic emotional attraction to Tieria, as per your preference. More to the point: Lockon has a ranking assigned to his desire to protect Tieria, just as Tieria has a ranking assigned to his desire to protect Lockon. It's one less than Tieria's protect meter--but it's still pretty strong. I will admit to a certain fondness for pairings where the characters involved can't agree on who should be protecting whom.

For all that they have so little time to truly connect in canon, Lockon/Tieria has a surprisingly wide emotional range. It's tragic, of course, but what's less obvious at first is that it's really funny. Even when Lockon is being a wise font of human knowledge at Tieria, he's still clueless about just how Tieria feels about him. Tieria, of course, is clueless about a lot of things, "how to act around someone you care about" being high on the list. When that mutual confusion combines, the result is definitely amusing.

So much of the appeal of the pairing lies in the potential. Of necessity, it was cut short in canon, but fandom is left to explore all the could-have-beens: through fanart, roleplay, AU fanfiction, and everything else. There's everywhere to go with it, and I can think of enough scenarios to keep me entertained for a while.




recommendations

The Probability in Beginning by ephemery § The Whole World (And a New Pair of Skates) by tatooine § Breathing Room by vicious_lullaby § Home by Anonymous (tell me if the author posted it elsewhere)















Tags: #anime/animation, gundam
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