Alright, I'm aware that Tank is actually supposed to die, buuut I think he's awesome so I decided to switch things up a bit. So anyways…disclaimer, blah blah blah blah blah, R&R, enjoy!
The war was over. Peace at last.
Tank breathed a sigh of relief. His eyes were moist. He only smiled, although his happiness was most likely far greater than the cheering people all around him.
Maybe it was because he had worked on the Nebuchadnezzar so long. Because Dozer had died on it, and he himself had somehow survived the plasma wound Cypher had given him with the EMP gun. For whatever reason, this fortunate occurrence was just too much.
He remembered that day in Zion's hospital, a month or two after Link had taken over his job as operator. He knew that he wasn't going to survive. He was lucky to have regained consciousness the first time, lucky to have been able to finish assisting everyone in that first fight with Smith.
He remembered Rinea holding his hand, in reassurance. They were only friends, but somehow that comforting gesture meant so much more to him than she could imagine. There was something about her, ever since the first time they met. Something that kept coming back to him.
Then they did the operation. The one dubious chance to save him, since he had been so skilled, so helpful in the machine war. An unsung hero. At least that's what he liked to think of it as. To the doctors, he wouldn't doubt it was more like an experiment. To see if there was any way to treat plasma wounds, if the victim had survived thus far.
Turns out there was.
Tank slowly came back to consciousness. Consciousness, but maybe not life. In other words…he was awake, but maybe not alive. As of now he couldn't tell. Even when he opened his eyes. The first thing he saw was her face. It made him almost certain he was dead. Almost certain he must be in heaven.
"Tank," she said "They did it."
And suddenly, he wasn't certain anymore.
She was smiling miles wide. "They did it. You're alive."
He saw Zee behind her, in tears. Then he sat up. His side ached, and he pulled his shirt up a little bit to see a huge scar there, almost like a blotchy red birthmark, surrounded by stitches.
He stood, slowly. It still hurt, but he didn't care. He was happy to be alive. Happy to see them again. And happy to see Zion again, still going strong.
The bear hug that came from the two women moments later felt better than any hug he had ever given or gotten. He closed his eyes, and cried.
He had been re-offered his job on the Nebuchadnezzar a few days later, but rejected. He would've taken it gladly, if not for Dozer's desire to have Link take over if anything happened to him. Tank wanted to respect that wish as well, despite Zee's defiance against it. He still helped out as much as possible around Zion after that, though, and everything turned out well.
Tank was still standing in the same spot almost an hour after the announcement, but turned sideways, leaning against a pillar. His cheeks were damp from silent tears of joy he had shed once people started filing out, giving him some privacy. Yet he couldn't move. The emotion he felt was still too strong. This was where he was when the war ended. This is a spot he'll always remember, although it meant nothing to everyone else.
He noticed the presence of someone beside him. Somehow he hadn't heard her light footsteps. He had been distracted, simply thinking about everything Zion had been through. All the people that had been lost. And even now he knew that it wasn't quite over yet. Some agreement would have to been made with the machines, either for better or worse. He could only hope for the better.
"Hey." Her voice was gentle, quiet. Worn out from earlier, he would guess. "You okay?"
It took him a few seconds to come back to reality. "Yeah. I'm alright." He looked up at her serene, smiling face, and automatically felt a little better.
"Aren't you hungry? It's just about dinner time," she said after a few more moments of silence.
His answer was a simple shrug. Rinea sighed, and leaned against the pillar as well.
"You miss him, don't you?" she asked.
Tank closed his eyes. It was almost as if she could read his mind.
"Rin," he said dryly "How come I survived? And he didn't?"
She thought for a moment, reaching back to all the things he had told her before, so long ago. About the ship, about the machines, about the Matrix, about the Chosen One.
"Well…if you hadn't, Neo would've died, right?"
"Yeah, but…why did I come back? Out of everyone that bastard shot?" His voice dripped with hatred as he said that. One of his fists clenched.
He already knew the answers to these questions. They were so obvious, and he had thought about everything many times before. But he didn't like the idea of coming back simply because the Chosen One had to live. Didn't he have his own life? His own destiny? It almost made him angry, thinking of it that way. Yet he knew that was what needed to happen. Otherwise, the peace that existed right now would not be possible.
"Who knows," Rinea answered simply, almost in a whisper. She didn't know what else to say.
"What if it had been Dozer? Would everything be the same? Because…if it would, then…that's like saying my existence…is just…pointless."
Almost immediately, the dignified girl beside him stood up straight and marched in front of him. His eyes opened instantly when he heard the snap of fingers in front of his face.
She noticed the moisture on his cheeks, but didn't pause before reproaching him. Her voice was firm, almost annoyed, but trailed off at the end. "Tank. Are you really going to stand here and whine about whether or not your existence is pointless? Think about how it would be for Zee if you hadn't survived. She already lost one brother, do you really think it would mean nothing if she lost the other? And think about how I would feel if you weren't here! I…I can't even imagine trying to celebrate a day like this if you weren't here!"
She looked away, her eyes getting watery as well. Tank's mouth was open ever so slightly in surprise, and in a sort of joy he couldn't deny. He wrapped his arms around her, and felt her shudder.
"Sorry," was all he could say, but there was a great deal of sentiment put into that one word.
For a few moments they stood there, motionless, before she returned the embrace, no longer trembling. Her voice was quiet again. "No, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have lashed out on you like that."
He would've told her that it was his fault; that he deserved it, but he knew it would've just turned into an endless cycle of apologies.
So they stayed quiet, resting in each other's arms, until Rinea finally backed away and looked into his eyes.
"You're thinking too much. How about you just come over to my place, and we can relax? Good old straight relaxation," she suggested, that stunning sugar-coated smile back on her face already.
"Actually, I was going to drop by Zee's for a bit…would it be alright if I came afterwards?"
"That's fine," she replied "See you then."
With that, she walked away, waving behind her. He watched her for a few seconds before going his own way.
A few stiff knocks were heard on the door of Link and Zee's residence.
"Come in," a female voice called from inside, with an audible sigh. When Tank entered he saw her rise from the sofa, where Link was sitting, a restrained grin on his face.
Tank smirked right back at him. "Good thing I got here before you seriously started celebrating," he remarked, sitting down at the kitchen island across from the living room.
He was answered by a sharp smack on the head as Zee sat across from him.
Both of the two men in the room burst out laughing.
"If you two don't shut up right now, I'm going to throw you out," Zee barked, and the laughing died down to a few grunts and a whole lot of smiling. "Now what do you want?"
"Hey, just wanted to drop by is all. Is that a crime? Well, I guess you could consider it...an intrusion of privacy," Tank answered with another snicker. At this point Link just shook his head, still smiling, and left the room.
Zee glared at him for a few moments before acting as if he never said it. "Have you eaten yet?" she asked, standing back up and walking past him into the kitchen.
"Naah," he answered carelessly, leaning back in his chair, and was caught by surprise when a metal bowl was plunked down in front of him.
"Here. Eat dinner," Zee said, sitting back down.
He didn't say anything, but gave her a strange look before slouching over the table and taking a few bites of the unpleasant liquid meal. He was used to the taste, especially after eating worse onboard the Nebuchadnezzar.
Zee rolled her eyes. "You're my brother. When Mom's not around, I'm in charge of keeping you idiots fed."
Tank's smile faded, and he idly started whisking his spoon through the remaining food.
Zee immediately knew what she had said wrong. She only had one brother now. Only one idiot to keep fed.
She put a hand on his shoulder, and looked into his eyes. "Tank, I'm thinking about him too. But he wouldn't want either of us to be grieving over him on a day like this."
Tank sat up straight and paused.
"You're right," he answered blatantly, and then ate the rest of the food in silence.
Zee looked over her shoulder, as if to make sure Link was still gone. Then she leaned in, beaming.
"Hey Tank," she said, in a hushed voice. "I have a dare for you."
He raised an eyebrow. "What are you up to this time, Zee?"
"Oh, just doing a little matchmaking," she answered furtively "You know, with you and Rinea…"
"Zee, there's nothing going on between us," he cut in hastily, but was only interrupted again himself.
"Oh, come on, do you really expect me to believe that? I've seen the way you look at her, the way she smiles at you." Zee fidgeted, still smirking in complete satisfaction.
Tank sighed, looking away slightly. He could feel the heat on his face, but somehow was still resolute to denying his obvious chemistry with the raven-haired beauty.
"Here's the deal. I dare you to kiss her tonight-"
"No way, Zee! I'm not even going over there now," he fibbed, trying to save himself from the embarrassing situation.
"Oh, so you were planning on going there tonight, but you've changed your mind, right?" She giggled, making him all the more uncomfortable.
"No!" he insisted, standing up, but she blocked his way to the door.
"And," she continued "You're going to arrive there with a little gift."
She pulled a bouquet of flowers out of a cabinet, and held it out to him. The flowers were fake, like most other things in Zion that used to really exist, but were terminated in Operation: Dark Storm. They looked exceptionally real, though.
"How long have you been planning this?" Tank demanded, his face even redder than before.
"Triple dog dare you, Tank," she concluded, ignoring him.
"Damn you, Zee," he scowled, snatching the bouquet out of her hands.
He couldn't decline a triple dog dare. It was a sibling thing. The consequences of refusing the triple dog dare were worse than just doing it, even with this dare. Much worse.
Zee grinned maliciously as her brother trudged outside and slammed the door, a bouquet of flowers in one hand.
"You'll thank me later, Tank. Trust me," she whispered to herself.
He was still standing outside Rinea's door nearly half an hour later, pacing back and forth, mumbling to himself. I would guess you can understand why.
He was startled by the sound of the door beside him sliding open, in one swift movement. "Tank, what are you doing standing out here? You can knock on the door, you know-"
Rinea stopped when she saw the flowers in his hand, and instead of smiling like she usually did, her mouth dropped open.
Tank…was holding flowers…? He just wasn't that type of guy.
"Hey, I, uhh…brought you a little something," he stammered out, holding them out to her. He was looking anywhere but towards her.
Then she smiled. She smiled almost as wide as she had when Tank woke up a few years ago, saved. This was so unlike him. It was so sweet.
She moved aside for him, taking the flowers. "Thank you, Tank."
He entered, still not looking at her, and took a seat on the couch. He knew there was still one more dare to go through with tonight, or else he'd have to face the consequences. He wasn't about to lie to Zee, as much as he was tempted to at this point. She would know. So he needed to clean up his act and get intimate.
But first he needed to calm down. His heart was pounding about a million times a minute, his whole body heated in embarrassment. And he couldn't understand why. He didn't think romance would be this bad, and right now it wasn't even romance yet. It was…
The word, the feeling struck him. It was love.
"So what inspired you to do that, tough guy?" Rinea asked teasingly, sitting down beside him.
Tank took a deep breath. Hopefully his heart rate went down a bit. He felt better, in any case. Now he needed to keep it that way, and change his behavior.
"Just decided to do something nice for you," he replied, the corners of his lips rising ever so slightly. He looked into her deep blue eyes now, and it felt like time stopped. Little did he know she felt the same way, staring into his.
"Tank, you're being really…" Her voice trailed off. She couldn't find the right word. "Charming."
Her hand flew to her mouth. The word had merely slipped out.
"Why are you hiding your lips?" he asked, bringing a calloused, tender hand to her cheek. Somehow this was all working out. Somehow…he wasn't nervous anymore.
"Tank…" she murmured, her hand falling slowly. "This can't be happening…I…I think I love you." She looked down instantly, breaking their ardent stare.
"Don't worry, Rin. I love you too," Tank whispered back. Rinea's gaze rose again, only to meet his chocolate eyes inches away.
Their lips locked.
'Damn you, Zee. But…thank you.'
Now just press that button riight down there…yeah, you know the one, all you have to do is press it.
Critique accepted and greatly appreciated.