Pairings: Slight Rallen/Jeena
Time line: Starts before the first game, then continues somewhere between the first and second game.
"Rain, rain, go away… Come back another day…" Liz mumbled as she stared out of her window. She didn't hate the rain, in fact, there'd been a time when she had loved it, but now… it just brought back bad memories she would rather forget. Staring at her reflection in the glass for a moment, longer, she finally shut the blinds and headed for her closet as she pulled off her uniform.
"Hope Rallen found Jeena before the storm broke loose…" she mumbled to herself as she rubbed her shoulder a bit, hissing as she accidentally pulled on a bit of skin, though she still smiled a bit.
She was glad she'd assigned Jeena to be Rallen's partner. Had she left that job to Grant, he would've just paired Rallen up with another stuck-up higher-ranked NPP officer. It was like he hadn't learned from Rex at all in the fact that he and Rallen did not enjoy being bossed around or looked down upon. That was one of the things that the duo had always had in common.
It was worth getting chewed up by the old man to see Rallen and Jeena working together like a team. And in the end, even Grant had acknowledged that they made a good team, which meant he ended up apologizing to Liz for blowing up on her.
Not that she'd wanted his apology, though. She wasn't in this business to simply state a point in that she knew what was best (even though half the time that was exactly how it was). She was still there because she wanted to be. Sure, as an actual officer, she wasn't much use anymore with only one eye, but that didn't mean she didn't pull her weight around the base. Sometimes, even more so than others.
Liz silently removed her eyepatch and moved her fingers over the skin, hissing as she passed a few sensitive spots, before tracing around her eye. The skin there had been burnt to such a degree that she couldn't even open it any more. And even if she could've, her eye would've been useless either way. Most of her left side was the same, and while she was lucky enough to be alive, it always felt like an empty victory to her.
Shaking the thought off, solemnly pulled on her nightclothes and headed for her bed. However, halfway, she stopped at one of her bookcases, though the center plank was filled with framed pictures rather than books. For some reason, she always found herself pausing to look at those few pictures.
The one that stood at the very front was one she'd always held closest; it was the first time she'd actually met Rallen, about two months after partnering up with Rex.
The day had started simple, had continued as such, and they had been able to return to Kollin well before dinner, too. And that was where it had changed from normal to… well, different.
"Hey Lizzy!" Rex had quipped as she had been re-calibrating the controls of their cruiser, making her wince. She always did hate that nickname he'd given her not long after their initial meeting.
"Stop calling me that, Rex," she said without looking up from her work.
She could see him pout from the corner of her eye. "Aww… don't be such a sour puss already. I was just gonna ask you out to dinner."
Liz nearly froze, but she stopped herself as she turned to face Rex, who was grinning widely. "Excuse me?"
"Well, not exactly 'out', but oh well. You're not planning to sit here the whole night again, do you?" he said simply.
"I'd rather stay here for the night than--"
"Have the cruiser crash on us. Yap, yap, yap. Yanno, we got techs for that, so let's move!" Rex said simply, getting up from his seat, snagging her wrist and giving a sharp yank, making the chair spin around as she was pulled to her feet and out of the cruiser.
"Wha!? Rex! Let me go!!" she demanded, trying to wrench her hand loose. But, of course, Rex was much stronger than her, so he had no trouble in dragging her out of HQ, to which no one really looked up; they were used to it by now.
Before long, Rex had dragged her all the way to the residential district. She wasn't sure why they were there, but there was no sense in asking, since Rex didn't look about to tell her. After a bit, they arrived at a simple house, and Rex nearly dragged her those last few steps with how fast he was walking. She'd given up on asking, so she just followed him inside when he opened the door. As they stepped into the hall, the first thing to enter her mind was that the place looked cozy enough.
Once the door closed, Rex took a short breath, before he called out, surprising Liz a bit: "Mom! I'm home!!"
And then he let go of her hand just as a red-haired woman came from one of the rooms, her face lit up with a combination of surprise and glee. "Rex!" she cried out, instantly hurrying over to hug Rex, whom returned the hug with a big grin on his face. "I wasn't expecting you home so early! Why didn't you call?"
"I wanted to surprise ya, mom," Rex quipped as he pulled back. "Oh, by the by, this is Lizzy. She's my new partner," he added, gesturing to Liz.
"It's 'Liz', not 'Lizzy', you dolt!" she hissed out angrily, but Rex only chuckled as he rubbed the back of his neck. She was surprised when Rex's mother giggled a bit as well.
"Hihi… I see. Well, it's nice to meet you, Liz."
'At least she got it right…' Liz just nodded quietly.
"So, is Rallen back yet?" Rex asked after a few seconds. Liz recognized the name; Rex often talked about his little brother, and she figured he was just as, if not more, energetic as Rex could be at times. Which was gonna be annoying; she had enough trouble with Rex at times, she didn't need another person like that on her hands.
"Not yet. He should be back anytime, though," his mother said politely.
"Arrite. Could ya do me a favor and not say I'm here yet?" Rex asked with a sly smirk on his face.
Liz rolled her eyes as his mother agreed to that. She was really not in the mood for this, but, sadly enough, she didn't have much of a choice in the matter. Let alone when Rex suddenly snagged her wrist again and pulled her up the stairs. "H-hey! Stop that already!"
Of course, Rex did not stop in the least, and as such, they ended up Rex's room, which he clearly shared with his little brother. And, to be honest, Liz was rather surprised at how tidy the entire place was. If she wasn't mistaken, Rallen had to be around 7 years old, and she had never seen a 7-year-old's room tidier than this one. So either he actually cleaned up after himself or his mom did every time.
They spent several minutes in that room, since Rex preferred at least getting the gauntlets and boots out of the way. Not that she really blamed him; they did often get in the way. So in the end, she did the same with her own, ignoring Rex's chuckles.
After about 20 minutes of being upstairs, they both picked up the sound of the door opening downstairs, and an energetic voice announcing his homecoming in a similar fashion as Rex had done less than an hour earlier. Th grin on Rex's face could never mean anything good, and yet she silently followed after him when he beckoned her to do so. They moved down the stairs stealthily, and as they came downstairs, Liz could see a small boy with the same orange mass of hair as Rex standing near the entrance to the kitchen.
"Welcome home, Rallen!" his mother called out from her cooking. "How was school?"
"Meh. Was good I guess… so when's dinner ready?" the kid asked, rapidly changing the subject to, obviously, avoid the subject of school. Seriously, what kid did want to talk about school at his age?
"Hmm… I'm afraid it might take a little longer; we're having some guests over today."
"…guests? Like who?" Rallen asked curiously.
Rex was grinning widely as he silently approached the kid from behind. And then he said: "Like me for one," while snagging up the boy under his arms in the same instant.
"WAH!! Rex!? No fair! Put me dooOOOHAHAHAHA!! STOHAHAHAHAP!!"
Liz couldn't stop a chuckle coming from her mouth as Rex continued to 'torture' his little brother, the boy's feet kicking out in an attempt to fight off the much taller man. When Rex finally let up, Liz merely shook her head slightly in exasperation, but said nothing.
Rallen panted for a bit, then turned his head around and pouted. "No fair! When did you get home?"
"Just today, actually," Rex laughed out, letting Rallen wriggle around so the kid could hug him around his neck. Liz just watched them for a moment, before Rallen spotted her over his brother's shoulder and perked up curiously. Realizing what Rallen was looking at, Rex turned around to face Liz. "Oh yeah, Rallen, this is--"
"If you say that nickname again I'm gonna hurt you."
Rex chuckled sheepishly and rubbed the back of his neck. Rallen blinked in surprise, looking back and forth between the two for several moments. The question that popped out of Rallen's mouth then not only surprised Liz, but Rex as well. "Are you brother's girlfriend??"
Now if anyone else had asked, she would have responded with a venomous "I most certainly am NOT!" but Rallen's curious and typically childish expression stopped her from saying just that. Obviously, Rallen hadn't been aware of Rex having a female partner as an NPP officer. Plus, there was just something about him that didn't let her be angry with him.
So instead, while Rex was still trying to think of what to say, she said simply: "No, kid, I'm not. I'm just his partner."
Rallen blinked a few times even as Rex sighed softly in relief. "You're NPP…?" he asked curiously.
Silence for a moment, before Rallen grinned widely. "Cool!"
Liz chuckled as she rubbed her forehead, picking up the framed picture and gazing at it quietly. The picture had been taken after dinner that night. Rather than head back home, she'd been invited to stay the night. And, since there had been no one waiting for her at her dorm at NPP Headquarters, there hadn't been much of a reason to decline.
Afterwards, they, that is Rex, Rallen and herself, had decided to pass the time by playing some video games.
And Rex, the bastard, had been kicking their asses.
She chuckled as she remembered Rallen jumping on Rex after he'd won yet another round, which had brought to light an interesting fact; Rallen wasn't the only one in the household who was ticklish. Of course, Rex had the upper hand because he was much bigger, so he'd managed to snag up Rallen and hold him up above him, since the tackle had left him on his back on the ground.
Sadly, while Rex was busy keeping the struggling Rallen up, he'd forgotten one crucial detail that became his own undoing; it was two against one.
When Liz poked his side, his body had flinched instinctively as he yelped in surprise, dropping Rallen back down. What had followed was both Liz and Rallen teaming up on Rex, whom in the end was howling in laughter and unable to escape the lethal tag-team.
Shaking her head, Liz set the picture back with the others and walked over to her bed to lay down. She wasn't expecting to get a whole lot of sleep tonight, but she kept trying every night. Dropping down, she pressed a switch to the side, causing all the lights still on in the dorm to go out. She'd installed that since she often forgot at least one light somewhere that she didn't find out about until it was morning.
Liz sighed once more, before she shut her eyes and willed for sleep to come.
"Hey, Liz?" She blinked a bit and looked over to Rex in the pilot's seat. He rarely ever called her that unless something serious was up, since he preferred to address her as 'Lizzy'. Rex wasn't looking up from the controls, keeping his focus on their course.
"…What?" she asked after a bit. She really wasn't in the mood right now; they'd been out in space for too long already, and the mission wasn't even over yet. Sure, it was just a patrol mission, but it was annoying as well.
Rex didn't reply for a bit, seeming to think about whatever was on his mind for a moment longer. "…I was just wondering… if… if something ever happens to me, would you mind and keep tabs on Rallen for me?"
The question made her turn her chair around in surprise, staring at her partner for a long moment, before she asked: "What's with that question? Why do you think something's going to happen?"
"I don't…" Rex admitted. "…But I'd rather be safe than sorry. Rallen… Rallen is really important to me, that's why…" Sigh. "…I just want to make sure he'll be alright, you know? He's still got his whole life ahead of him, still…"
They fell silent then, the patrol cruiser's engines being the only thing to penetrate the silence. After a moment, though, Liz finally spoke. "He really means that much to you?"
"Yeah… Dad disappeared before Rallen was born, so I've always held myself responsible for him. He's a good kid, but… he's still too dependent. Partially my own fault, I admit, but… I dunno. I fear that if something were to happen to those he holds closest, like mom and me, he'd flip. Or at least lose sight of his life… know what I mean?"
Yeah, she didn't need to have that explained more clearly. She'd been there and had to get out of that pit of despair all on her own. She had somehow managed to do that, but with so much difficulty, that she often wondered if she wasn't still stuck in there and had only crawled out of the pit inside the pit. That darkness of utter despair and loneliness… it was something she would not wish upon anyone, not even her enemies.
"I said; Okay, I'll look after the brat if something happens."
She didn't look at him, but she could see him smiling from the corner of her eyes. "Heh… thanks Lizzy."
"Would you stop with that already?!" she chided, swatting at his head and missing as he ducked, laughing. It wasn't that she really minded it nowadays, but it was more like their little tradition.
She was about to turn back to her work, when the alarms suddenly blared, startling them both. "The hell?!" Rex yowled out as he tried to move the control sticks. "Dammit! It's stuck!"
Liz rapidly typed in some commands, but they were all answered with error screens. "Must be a glitch in the system! We have to get out of here!"
Both of them leapt up from their seats, hurrying towards the escape pods. However, as they did, something detonated off to the side, and Liz screamed when it hit her from the left, forcing her against the wall, hitting her head hard on the metal surface.
From there on, everything was a blur and she could only remember a few tidbits of what happened. The thing she felt the most, though, was the burning heat that licked at her body even as the main source was removed. She could barely see, could barely walk, and had to rely on Rex to help her move into her pod.
"I'm sending you off first! I'll be right behind you, I swear!"
His voice seemed so far off then, but she couldn't do anything as he put the mask on her face that would allow her to sleep for the escape, quickly shutting the top and sending it out of the cruiser. Liz tried to stay focused, staring out of the plexi-glass casing through blurry sight. Before she lost consciousness, she saw a single burst of light, though just before that, she was sure she saw something else barely escaping the explosion of their cruiser.
Liz shot up in bed, then cried out and reached up to cover the left side of her face. Even though she had been blind on the left for years, when awaking from a nightmare, she would instinctively attempt to open both eyes. And since the left could not be opened without extreme pain, she always suffered when awaking from a nightmare.
A single tear escaped her eye, before it was wiped away. She always dreamt of that day; the last time she had seen Rex, when he said he would be coming right after her, but something had gone horribly wrong. The next thing she remembered was waking up on Genshi. The heat had not left a good impression on her after the incident, and she had nearly broken down and cried. Only by using her sheer self-control had she managed to overcome her fear of the heat around her and began making her way to safety.
She was later found by one of the NPP officers who'd picked up her pod's distress beacon. There had been no one else on Genshi with her when she was found…
But Liz knew that Rex was out there. Knew that he would be back soon, and even if she was the only one to believe it, she intended to wait for him as long as it took. Because he was her partner, and she trusted him with her life, plus, he had people on Kollin who were waiting for him.
Telling Rallen about what had happened had not been something she'd been looking forward to, but she knew that it was necessary. And she'd rather have it be her than someone else who had not seen Rex escaping the cruiser. They'd just unnecessarily hurt the boy.
Shockingly, it had not ended the way she had expected it to. Which was good, mind you.
When she'd gotten back to HQ, Rallen had somehow snuck into the docks when he'd heard about what had happened. She wouldn't ask how he'd done that, but it had only forced Liz into telling him what had occurred. The moment Rallen saw her, he'd broken free from the other NPP officers' grip and ran towards her as he shouted for her. Liz had stumbled a short distance, as her left leg wouldn't move properly yet, before she had dropped down to her knees and caught the boy as he ran into her arms, hugging her around her neck.
"Lizzy, where's Rex? Wasn't he with you?" he asked, sounding like he was trying hard not to cry.
She really didn't want to tell him, but she knew that if she didn't, someone else would, and they wouldn't be as caring as she would. After taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, she whispered, even as one of the Commanders walked over, moving Rallen back a bit so she could look at him properly: "Rallen, I… I'll be honest with you… There was an accident on the cruiser. We… Rex and I… we were separated in the chaos."
The look on Rallen's face at that specific moment came very close to making her want to cry. It was such a crestfallen look that it would topple Grant if he'd been there to see it. "…he… he's…gone…?" The tears were already starting to form and Liz knew she had to work fast to correct what she had said.
The Commander behind her sighed. "I'm afraid he's truly--"
"Shut UP!!" Liz shouted back at the man, startling both him and Rallen, who blinked in surprise. Liz turned back to Rallen and said: "Rallen, I know your brother; he wouldn't let a cruiser blowing up get him down like that. We both got out of that thing before it blew up, I know that for a fact, but I'm guessing the explosion might have knocked his pod off course." Reaching out, she ruffled Rallen's hair and put on a small smile. "Now cheer up, alright? Your brother wouldn't want to come home to see you crying like that, would he? He'd want to come home to see you smile at him."
Rallen looked struck dumb for a long time, blinking twice, causing tears to fall from his eyes, before he forced himself to grin. "Y-yeah! Yeah, you're right! Rex's not gonna die just like that!!"
Liz smiled and pulled Rallen into a hug again, not just for his support, but for her own as well.
They had both needed it now that their support had suddenly gone.
Rubbing at her temples, she looked over to her alarm clock, groaning as she realized she'd gotten only five hours of sleep. And of course, getting back to sleep once she was awake wasn't going to work, either.
"…might as well get up, then…"
The day was progressing slowly, and Liz wasn't really surprised. She had spent most of the morning in the shooting range, trying to see how much her sight had gone now. While she had managed to hit the target through the center with every shot she'd fired, she wasn't satisfied with the results. She rarely ever was these days.
The targets had not moved, but had they been moving, she was sure she would have missed. Because she only had one eye left to work with, she'd lost her sense of depth. She could attempt to calculate how far away a target was, but math had never really been her strongest asset. She was good enough with numbers, just not good enough to calculate on the spot how far away something was.
The worst part of the shooting range, though, was if there were rookies around who tried to compliment her on how well she was shooting. It only pissed her off, so she tended to leave as soon as she could. The first time she'd taken Rallen along, though, she had finally understood what Rex had told her once.
"Rallen has a unique gift that some of us can only dream of; if he sees something being done, no matter how complicated, he can copy it. You show him how to fix something when it's busted, and next time it breaks, he'll fix it. You show him how to fight, or how to shoot a gun, and he'll be able to do it. As long as he shows interest in it."
She'd noticed that when he begged to try it, to which she finally relented after shooting another target full of holes. Rallen had taken the gun with a big grin, before he took a stance next to her, aimed for a brief second, and started to fire at the target.
He hit it dead center every time.
Liz had been skeptical of Rex's claims before, but now she understood what he meant perfectly.
Sighing softly, Liz leaned back in her seat. She was bored, but what could she do? She still had a heap of work to finish before the deadline. Sometimes she wondered why she stuck around at the NPP…
"Commander Marks, please report to Commander Grant's office."
Liz growled at the message. "Dammit! Now what does he want!?" she snarled, getting up from her seat and heading out, making sure to lock her office behind her as she went. Thankfully, it wasn't such a far walk, but she was still getting annoyed, though she made sure it didn't show.
As she entered Grant's office, she solemnly walked over to the desk and stopped about 3 feet away, waiting until Grant looked up from his work. "You wanted to see me, sir?" she asked simply, though her tone was clipped and to the point.
Grant grunted at the tone. "Still as blunt as ever…"
"Don't start with that again, alright? Just get to the point." This was really getting annoying.
"…As you wish. You may wish to have a seat, though."
"I'm fine standing right here," she said, crossing her arms over her chest.
Grant remained silent for a long time, before he sighed. "Very well… As you know, in a few days, it will be exactly 10 years since Rex… disappeared." She knew he hated using that term around her, since he was clearly one of the people who believed Rex had died.
"This has been on my mind for a long time now… When you told us what happened, you mentioned that there was a 'glitch' in the systems, correct?"
"It sure seemed that way. I can't say for certain."
"Doesn't it seem strange to you?"
"…what do you mean?"
"When the 'glitch' happened, you had left Nessa merely two hours prior, and the mechanics there had the cruiser checked out and fine-tuned. Then why did that glitch happen?"
Liz only stared at Grant for a long moment, before she asked: "So wait… you're saying that… it might not have been accident?"
"This is only speculation, mind you," Grant pointed out. "But… it's struck me as odd all these years. Perhaps it was indeed a glitch, but what if there was something else? What if there had been someone aiming to get rid of either you or Rex?"
Liz had nothing to say to this.
"Liz, all I'm asking, is be careful. It might be nothing at all and then it might have been a waste, but I would rather have that than lose someone else because we did nothing."
" …" Liz shut her eye and tilted her head down for a moment, thinking, before she looked back up. "…Very well. I'll be careful."
About 20 minutes later found Liz back in her office, staring outside through the window, wondering about the Commander's words. Now that she thought of the whole ordeal with a much calmer attitude than 10 years ago, she had to admit, he had a point. Why did the glitch occur after they'd just had the ship checked on Nessa? Had it been the fault of a mechanic, or… was there really something more?
"Rallen! Wait up!!"
Liz blinked at the shout and looked down through her window, spotting a familiar boy running out of NPP Headquarters, laughing as another familiar face ran after him.
"Come on! You're too slow! Step on it!!" he laughed, though she could tell he wasn't running full-throttle. If he had, there was no way Jeena would've been able to catch up. A small smile found its way on her face as she just watched the duo as they ran, heading into town.
"Well, at least they've made up…" she said to herself, before her gaze turned upwards to the skies and her smile fell. "…Rex… I wish you could see this… Your little brother's growing up without you… So you better hurry back, before there's no way you can get out of Rallen's shadow…"
Leaning against the windowsill, she sighed.
"You've kept us waiting long enough… so come back already, you dolt…"
Some of you might wonder "What happened to Rex?" To be totally honest; I haven't decided yet. Alive would be nice, of course, but what if he's not? Anyway, if anyone has their own idea of what happened, either let me know so I can work on it, or you can ask for permission to use Rex and Liz so you can do it yourself.
In any case, I hope you enjoyed this story. Thanks for reading this far.