Old Habits-Tough to Break
Rain was starting to pour down in Oceanside. Alia was completely unprepared for the slightest drop of rain. So when the night's torrent came, she found herself drenched. And they say they have a drought here. She thought as she splashed through the graveyard, sneezing every 15 seconds.
"Oh great, my hair is going to get all messed up!"
"Oh shut up Ace!" She yelled back at him. "Let's just get Drew and get back to the car!"
"Why do you think he'd be out here now? He's probably in his own car, all nice and dry and toasty!"
As he looked up ahead, he could see a large, shadowy figure. Well I'll be damned, those two are both equally nuts.
Alia walked up to Drew, who was under an umbrella. As she ducked under it, she realized just how close she was to him...
But damnit, it was dry under there.
"Hey." Drew spoke, who was still looking at Iris' grave.
"Hey to you too." Alia responded. "You knew I would be back didn't you? That's the only reason your still out here." She was thinking about pulling back.
"I'm out here, for as long as I feel like I should be out here."
"Well I guess if you do that, it's probably a good idea to check the weather forecast first. Thanks for the umbrella. But still,
highly suspicious of you being out here after Ace sold me a story…"
"Whatever Ace tells you, he tells you. I'm out here because of me."
"Why on earth would you stay out in a monsoon when you know you could catch a cold in an instant."
"Because the rain,
Reminds me of her."
Alia looked at her friend's grave. She chuckled. "Iris probably would have screamed for you to come back and get inside and get warm. "
Drew smiled. "She loved the rain though. Not being outside in it of course. But she loved to watch it. It was peaceful to her. She thought of it as the Earth being replenished and for all creation to just sit back, wait around and relax."
Alia smiled; only half-realizing she was nuzzling against Drew's shoulder. "I remember her sitting on the porch watching it come down. Not doing anything but sit on a little bench or a rocking chair, drinking some tea, sing a few tunes, doze off, and watching as the rain came down. For hours sometime. When Zero first came to America, she had him just sit down with her, teach him how to be calm and soft. I think I still have pictures of them falling asleep on each other, and hold each other."
She sighed. "I missed those days."
"You and me both." Drew grabbed her hand. "We were young, and we had a tight knit family among each other. But first X, and then Zero…"
Alia pulled her hand back. "Which brings us to now. I-I-I still haven't forgiven you for neglecting me Drew, and I,
I just want to know why."
Drew looked at her, and then looked at the ground.
There was a long pause.
Alia braced herself for his response. Somehow, she felt as if something emotionally big was about to come crashing down.
"Every time I looked at you," Drew started. "I saw the pain that you went through. When the Nightmare Incident took your eye, took you mind.
I saw the pain, and the death of all my other comrades and co-workers. The screams that were heard on that night. And the scene of that much red."
His eyes started to puff up. "I saw,
I saw my sister's charred body, pulled out of the rubble of her own home.
I saw my nephew, who they never found. Who's either dead today-or worse.
I saw shake Zero's hand, welcoming him back into Repliforce!"
"Drew," Alia said slowly. "If you have been thinking for all of this time that you're a somehow responsible for what Zero did.."
"WHY NOT ALIA?" Drew roared. "HOW IS NONE OF THIS MY FAULT?
I OVERSAW THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MECH PROJECTS! WHEN IT WAS TIME FOR PILOTS, I WANTED SOMEONE I KNEW I COULD TRUST! SOMEONE I KNEW I COULD DEPEND ON! SO I CHOSE ZERO! ALIA, YOU DON'T RELIZE WHAT A SCUMBAG I AM!"
Hot tears came down his face as he continued ranting. "ZERO WAS STILL REELING ON WHAT HAPPENED TO X! AND I USED THAT ALIA! I USED WHAT HAPPENED TO X TO MY ADVENTAGE! I TURNED ONE OF MY BEST FRIENDS INTO A BARGINING CHIP!
ZERO WASN'T READY TO COME BACK! HELL, HE HAD A FAMILY TO LOOK AFTER! BUT I WAS SO LOW, SUCH A SELFISH PIECE OF CRAP, THAT I BROUGHT HIM BACK ANYWAY! AND YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENED, YOU SEE WHAT HE DID! I PUT HIM IN THE POSITION; I PUT HIM IN THE MECH! ALL THE PEOPLE HE HURT AND HE KILLED LAY ON MY CONCIOUS! LAY ON MY WATCH AND RESPONSIBILITY! THAT INCLUDES YOU!"
He sunk to his knees. "You were…right, for leaving me for Gate. It always hurts to admit that, but you were right."
Alia just stared at him, taking in everything he just said. She felt Drew had just genuinely spat out 10 years of self-directed rage, of guilt. All of her emotions when to sympathy, to pity, to some self-anger of her own for not figuring that out herself.
She had to console him.
"Okay, first of all,
don't act like what happened to X didn't affect you too. I saw you going around the base. You looked lost, you looked confused and you were always second-guessing yourself. You became a ghost of your regular self, crumbling under the weight of jobs you normally handled fine. You turned to Zero because you needed an old friend to comfort you, to give you confidence again. As for what Zero did…"
She turned to Iris' grave. "I will never forgive Zero for what he did. But I never blamed you. I knew you would rather die and go to hell than to intentionally hurt me, and anyone else on base."
"And yet, that's exactly what happened, right?" He said, looking up at her. "I fought all over the world, protecting and saving people that never knew me, some of which wanted to see me dead,
I couldn't protect the people that I cared about the most.
That's what hurts so much. That's what haunted me mind and my though for a decade."
He stood up, and turned back to his sister's grave. "Every year, I come here, on the same day. And no matter what I think of or how long I think of Iris, I always get drawn back to Zero, to that night.
And that question haunts me. That question which, I traveled all over the world hoping to find the answer of in terror militant cells, psychic religious cults, anything I thought helped me get to the truth.
And I found myself getting no closer to the answer than 10 years ago when I started.
Why did Zero do it?
Why did he, the man I once said I loved like a brother,
take 15 years of his life,
And throw it all away?"
He started to break down again. "Maybe, maybe if I knew the answer,
I could get on with my life. But I've had that question taunt me, and it's never gonna stop until I'm dead.
But I can't help but ask because,
What he did was just so insane and random,
I can't help but ask it."
Alia hugged him, taking a moment to respond. "I wish I knew the answer Drew, I really do. I've asked it myself quite a few times, but I never figured it out. I just had to, had to accept it without that answer. But hey,"
She pulled his face close to hers. "I'll be here for you. The days of betrayal and torment are over. Lean on me for support, and promise to be there for me when I need a friend to."
Drew grinned. "Imperfect people, imperfect world right?"
She nodded. "Xavier Williams, someone else who got a worser ending than what he deserved."
"But at least we get a good ending?"
"At least for now Drew." She pressed her lips against his.
Drew had forgotten what being kissed by Alia felt like. That rush of passion. He pulled her closer to him…
The y both turned. Ace had been there watching them the whole time.
"As much as I hate to break up this moment, we are all currently dripping wet. I would like to continue this in a car!"
UUhhhhhhhhh, y-y-yeah sure." Alia stammered, embarrassed.
"Um, my car is around here somewhere..." Drew started looking away towards the parking lot.
Alia threw Ace the keys. "Okay, Ace, get to back to our car. I'll go with Drew, and we'll meet up somewhere for breakfast? Like a Denny's?"
"Actually Alia, we have to be back at Repliforce by tomorrow, we need to get an overnight flight, and return our rental car."
"I'll go with you to. My car's a rental too, but gotta go out in town and return it." Drew said, starting to walk down towards parking.
"I'll go with you…" Alia said, holding his hand on the way down.
As he watched to two go off, Ace took one last look at Iris' grave. He gave it a thumbs up, and a clap.
"Iris Williams, for getting Alia and Drew back together as a couple, you the real MVP."