HIS FIRST FAMILY
It started with a dream and ended with a fanfic.
Albert had been looking everywhere for 002. He knew the guy was somewhere on-board the Dolphin, which had actually become unusual, 002 frequently taking off on his own as of late. In fact, if Albert didn't know any better he'd have thought 002 had been avoiding him altogether. Every time he'd enter a room, 002 would leave. Every time he'd say something, 002 would give some small remark then disappear. It was getting ridiculous. But perhaps such tendencies had to do with what had happened...
Two weeks ago, 002, 009, and himself had each been captured by Black Ghost. As of recently, the evil organization's tactics had taken a more drastic turn. Although Black Ghost was intent on keeping the cyborg team alive for reconfiguration, a kill-on-sight policy was soon established. It seemed desperate times called for disparate measures for Black Ghost. In fact, if it hadn't been for 008 coming to the rescue at the very last minute, Albert wouldn't even be there at all.
Albert remembered it clearly. Vividly. How the enemy had captured him. Beat him to the point of him no longer being able to function on his own. Held that gun to his head in front of his companions, trying to coerce them to cooperate. But Albert knew that neither 009 nor 002 could give Black Ghost what they wanted. He was ready for it. He knew it was the end. That it was time for him to finally be with Hilda once more. That gun to his head... His final words to his comrades... And watching as said comrades struggled to break free from their restraints and come to his aid... before everyone was forced to close their eyes and look away from the inevitable reality...
Two weeks had gone by since such an event. And here he was, alive and functioning. The first week had been pure hell, it being solely dedicated to recovery. At first it wasn't certain if Albert would even make it out of recovery with his life or not. But now, though repairs were still being applied and more recovery time required, he was at least up and on his feet again. Though looking back on the first week, there was one unexpected soul that stuck by his side, making sure he'd pull through.
002 was the last person Albert would have expected to be the most openly concerned about him out of the entire cyborg soldier group. For that whole first week he never left his side. Albert had been out for most of the time, but from time to time he could see 002 out of the corner of his eye. Hear his voice. Even the other cyborgs and Dr. Gilmore told him how much 002 had been watching over him.
So was it typical that when Albert did finally recover that 002 was nowhere to be found? Albert didn't think so. For that whole second week, after he'd officially survived repairs, 002 did nothing short avoid him at every turn. But why? Why watch over and worry about him so much, only to take off after he finally pulled through? It simply didn't make sense, and it left Albert more than determined to get to the bottom of it. Which was exactly why he was looking for 002 now.
And after half an hour of looking, asking everyone he'd come across where the guy was, finally he had found him. Heh. And where else but the Dolphin's good-sized break room.
That familiar sideways smile of his came to Albert's expression as he looked upon his impulsive, red-headed fellow cyborg, who stood upright with folded arms and his own familiar 'tough-guy' look he'd always try to convey. He could tell that Jet was aware of his presence there, though for whatever reason the teen refused to acknowledge such, only looking out the full-length window at the scenery as their large ship soared through the sky.
"How are you doing, 002?" Albert decided to greet, now fully making his way in the room as the door closed behind him, unafraid as always to approach the typically temperamental young man.
Jet took a moment to look Albert's direction, more in simple acknowledgement than anything, but no sooner returned his gaze to the outside world. "Fine." He answered plainly. "What about you?"
"I feel a lot better, thanks to Dr. Gilmore." Albert replied, lightly touching his own right shoulder, though not failing to note how nonchalant Jet was being considering how he'd hardly left his side all through their first week of recovery.
But Jet didn't reply, only giving a small nod as he continued to stare out the large glass window.
Albert rubbed the back of his neck. Just what was wrong with 002? He was usually so loud and impulsive. Well, at least he wasn't leaving the room like he usually did. "Actually, I've been looking for you." Albert decided to inform after the small silence.
That seemed to get Jet's attention anyway, even if only slightly. "Oh yeah?" He questioned, now looking back at Albert once more.
"Yeah." Albert confirmed. "I wanted to thank you."
"Thank me?" Jet looked more than confused. "For what?"
"For helping save my life. It's been two weeks, but I never got the chance to properly thank you."
Jet was silent, only staring at Albert with an odd look, which soon turned to a scowl. He jerked his head back towards the window, away from Albert. "I guess your memory was also damaged." He stated rather bitterly. "I didn't help save your life. 008 did, remember?" He slammed his fist down on the nearby table. "I was completely useless. Couldn't do anything to help, no matter what I did!"
Albert looked to where Jet had slammed his fist down on the table, his scarred and bloody wrists visible even with his cyborg soldier uniform on. A frown came to Albert in seeing this, him remembering all too well how hard the flying cyborg had struggled to break free from his restraints on his behalf.
"Your wrists." Albert stated as he wore that same frown, making his way towards Jet as he grabbed the other's wrist, examining it. "They've hardly healed." Even after two weeks of recovery, his wrists looked scarred and bloody. He must have really given it all he had...
But Jet fiercely pulled away, reclaiming his own wrist. "It's no big deal." He said, defensive as ever.
"I'm a cyborg too, you know." Jet cut him off, holding his own wrist in a tight grip. "I can handle it just fine. So stop pestering me about it already."
Albert could only sigh. Fine. There was no talking 002 into doing something he didn't want to do. Just having a civil conversation with the guy in itself was practically a miracle. "002, why have you been avoiding me for the past week?" He then decided to come right out and ask, changing the subject altogether, ready to get down to what he'd really sought Jet out for.
Jet only let out a "Tsk.", turning away from Albert as he made his way halfway across the room, to the second window near a desk, either unable or unwilling to give proper answer.
"For the first week since we got back, you'd hardly left my side." Albert continued. "You probably didn't realize it, but I knew. And I remember. I may have looked half-dead, but I was very much awake."
Jet remained silent, gritting his teeth through his apparent growing anger as he refused to look at Albert.
Albert furrowed his eyebrows in mild frustration of still not getting much of an explanation or reaction from the fiery teen. "I just want to know why you've been avoiding me." He explained. "You know, ever since we were captured by Black Ghost-"
"Shut up! I don't want to hear it!"
"Hear what? About us being captured? Tortured? Almost killed?" Albert knew he was getting somewhere now, hardly surprised by Jet's sudden outburst, desperately wanting to get to the root of all this drama.
Jet let out an aggravated growl. "I said I don't want to talk about it!"
"And why not?"
"Just drop it already!"
Now Albert himself was getting aggravated. "Why can't you just talk to me? I don't understand what your problem is!"
Jet abruptly turned to face Albert with those harsh, fierce eyes of his. "My problem is YOU!"
That seemed to shut Albert up for the moment anyway. He calmed himself. "What are you talking about?" He asked, more than confused though glad to at least be getting somewhere with 002 all the same. "I don't understand."
"Yeah, you wouldn't, would you?" Jet replied bitterly, jerking himself away from Albert, his back turned to him as he placed both his hands on the desk, leaning onto himself. "You're a jerk, 004, you know that? A real asshole. Back then, you were just going to give up and die. Just like that!"
Albert still didn't quite understand. "...What?"
"Yeah, I know your story." Jet continued, his voice quivering somewhat, his own body even shaking slightly. "You've always wanted to be with her... Your dead wife. And you're willing to just give up and die to make that happen, right?" He suddenly turned to face Albert. "Well you can't! Your stupid wife's just gonna have to wait, because people still need you here!"
Albert just stood there with a stunned, dumfounded look. He would have been mad - infuriated even - if it weren't for the fact that visible tears were streaming down Jet's face. He'd wanted a reaction from the guy. That's why he'd persisted so much. But now Albert found himself unable to react. "Jet..."
"It didn't matter what I did... I couldn't stop it." Jet continued, quivering with being on the verge of all-out sobbing. "When I heard that gunshot, I knew you were dead. And you just stood there and took it... all while wearing that stupid smirk of yours. I could tell. You were ready for it. You wanted it." Rage consumed him. "It's unforgivable! I hate you, 004!"
It was then, and only then, that it suddenly dawned on Albert. Jet never had a family.
Unlike himself, Jet never got married. He never had kids. Hell, he didn't even have parents. He'd been on his own from the very beginning. All alone with no love or care for anyone or anything. And so when he was forced to join the cyborg solder team, it was pretty much all he had.
It went unsaid that they'd all grown close to each other over the years of fighting Black Ghost and all of the other evils of the world together. And for most of them, that was normal. But for Jet, it had to have been the strangest thing in the world. After having grown up and lived in a world where love for others was nonexistent, it was tough though inevitable that Jet grew attached to the cyborg team and even to Albert, someone of whom he rarely saw eye-to-eye or got along with.
So, to put it in perspective... they were pretty much his first family. And Albert was part of that family.
It was as if the pit of his stomach caved in with such a realization. Albert remembered all too well the horrible feeling of losing his wife; someone he cared for and loved so much. And he now understood how Jet felt. Despite not always getting along, it was apparent that Jet really did care for and love him, and that the harsh reality of him possibly dying was driving the tough, able-to-handle-anything young man crazy, bringing up so many unfamiliar and unwanted feelings that he'd never had to deal with before.
And that's why Jet had been avoiding him. He simply wasn't sure how to handle it all. Hell, the poor kid probably didn't even know what was going on in his own head. It left Albert with more sympathy and guilt than he knew what to do with. So he did the first thing that came to mind. He approached Cyborg 002.
"Stay away from me, 004!" Jet warned, taking a few steps back as he quickly regained a defensive approach... only to run into the desk that was still behind him.
But Albert didn't stop, only continuing to make his way towards the younger man, a strangely determined look on his expression.
An awkward panic began to consume Jet, back still to the desk. "I mean it, Albert! Don't come any closer!"
And yet closer he came.
Jet now had his fists balled up, both of which were ready to play defense. "I'm warning you!" He threatened, him being completely unaware and unsure of what was going through Albert's head. Was the idiot actually picking a fight?
But threats didn't stop Albert. Not even when Jet threw the first punch did it faze him, him only catching the punch with his metallic right hand. And when Jet threw another lofty punch with what fist he had left, Albert had no trouble catching that in his other hand as well.
"Tsk!" Jet scoffed, easily breaking free of the light grip.
But Albert reached for him again, grabbing him by the arm and pulling him closer, preventing him from moving away this time.
Anger, fear, and confusion all covered Jet's face, him knowing Albert was hardly in the shape for a real fight, as he struggled to push the other away from him while also move away himself. "The hell's wrong with you!" He yelled. "Let go!"
But Albert only continued to move in, now harshly wrapping his other hand around Jet's torso and forcing the teen against his own person in a tight, restricting hold.
And it was then that Jet froze, finally realizing just what it was Albert was doing. And that was all he could take.
Beaten by Albert's unyielding persistence, Jet finally gave in completely, knees buckling and bringing him towards the ground as he lobbed is own arms around Albert's torso, tightly clinging to his clothing in what would seem a sense of desperation. "I hate you... I hate you so damn much!" He choked out, hardly even able to stand anymore, sobbing with tears streaming down his face. Yet still he clung to Albert as if he'd disappear forever if he let go.
Albert didn't waver in the slightest, able to see through Jet's harsh words, only standing tall and firm as he supported the defeated, collapsing young man in what could only be known as an embrace. "I'm sorry." He said. Not softly. Not gently. Not even sympathetically. It was just the truth. And he meant it. "I understand now."
And understand he did. More now than he'd ever understood the hot-headed and often times unfairly-judged New Yorker.
"I really thought it was over." Albert continued even through the sobbing of the one he was speaking to, his own expression bordering an emotionless, blank look, if not a deep frown. "I knew that the last thing I'd ever see was you and 009... And I was okay with that. I was ready to go. Ready to quit." A small hint of a sad smile came over him. "But you're right. It wouldn't be fair to just up and leave like that. Not after I myself know how horrible it feels to loose someone you love and care about."
He could feel his shirt being balled up in the back from where Jet was desperately clinging to him as he gave into heavy sobs. He'd never seen the guy cry so hard. And he'd never felt so bad for it.
"I do promise you this though." Albert concluded as he half held, half supported Jet, a deep frown and determined look returning. "It'll never happen again. No more excuses to accept death so easily. I'll continue to fight alongside you and the others for as long as I'm able; with everything I've got." He looked down at the sobbing young man in his arms. "...For all our sakes."