Ever since he was forced to flee from ASC, he didn’t sleep more than four hours; and it was beginning to show. Lack of sleep and ceaseless traveling back and forth by rover was taking its toll. But Zach wasn’t the only one looking sleep deprived.
After last mission in Ophir they definitely deserved a break. But no matter how long he was shifting in bed, sleep wouldn’t come. Cursing the incessant commotion and whisper in the vestibule of Dandolo’s palace, Zachariah rose up from bed. With a sigh he went outside to clear his head. Maybe it will help him, who knows.
As he climbed down, he noticed something strange and furrowed a brow at the sight. Andrew was perched on the edge of the elevator. He strut towards him, but Phobos interrupted him, as if he was reading Zach’s thoughts. "Now is not the best time." He put a hand on his shoulder, but Zach just looked at him. "Is he... alright?"
"I don't know, but since we saved the rest of your order from ASC's claws, Andrew was behaving enigmatically. Certainly others have caught on to his strange behavior, too. I don't know what's bothering him, but he seems to avoid your eyes, so I think it's related to you, Zachariah. "
"A reason more to talk with him then." He stepped away from Phobos and made steps forward to the lone figure by the elevator. He passed by Amelia and Niesha, but only Niesha noticed Zach's deep-eyed gaze, focused on Andrew. She tried to smile, and Zach returned it with a smile of his own. Niesha lifted her thumb, as if she was cheering for him. Of course she knew he was gonna talk with Andrew. That woman was too smart not to take note of everything.
Suddenly he felt nervous and unsure of his intentions or what he was going to say, standing a few inches apart from him. Now that he was so close, he didn't know how to start a proper conversation. Zach himself wasn’t feeling any better recently, but if a simple conversation can help his friend, he'll do it. Andrew is after all one of them - a Technomancer, and sooner or later he will initiate Andrew into the secret of their order.
Immersed in his own thoughts, Zachariah had not noticed how suddenly Andrew had turned and looked at him as if he had seen a ghost. The confusion in his eyes suggested that he might have seen one. But he quickly recovered and got up, dusting off his pants from dirt. Andrew put on a forced smile, looking at Zach's feet. "Hey, how come you’re not asleep? It's not time to go out on next mission yet, right? ”
He immediately thought that Andrew looked even worse than him. When was the last time he slept well? Circles under his eyes indicated that sleep was evading him just as much as it was eluding Zach. "Andrew, I know something is bothering you. I also know that we don't know each other long, but as a Technomancer and your friend I want to help you if I can.”
Andrew opened his mouth openly, but quickly clenched his lips. He turned around and sat down again. He patted the rock beside him. "So you finally got to me, huh. I'm next in the interrogation order. Well, let's do it. ”He said in a dry tone that only deepened the tension between them. Zachariah sat down and pondered about their past. They have so much to talk about. Many years have passed since they were apprentices and were ignorant to the world outside of order. Now they were both completely different men, each had their own share of worries and insecurities.
Well, he could start with what Phobos told him. “Andrew, why are you avoiding me? You're not looking me in the eyes since we got back from the rescue. I ... I don't know what I did, but until you tell me I won't know. "
"You didn't do anything, Zach. On the contrary, you have returned my future to me, I have regained my technomancy powers, and I am grateful to you and Scott for that. You can't even imagine what you've done for me since we met again. But what have I done for you since then? Nothing. "
"Stop talking like that. Our friendship means much more to me than I show before others. You're the only one who's left from my past. Master Sean is out there on the front lines, and he doesn't have to come back, Grandmaster Ian and Master Connor are dead ... other masters are definitely waiting for my guidance, but I don't know if I will ever meet their expectations. You don't expect anything from me and you behave normally while you’re with me. I remember back then when we were still apprentices that you were always the center of attention, all masters praised you and the other boys wanted to be like you. ”
"All but you, as I recall. Even back then, you were a loner and you relied only on yourself. You didn't have any friends, but you didn’t mind being alone. I admired you, do you know that? You were always yourself, trained hard, and you learned even when it was late in the evening and almost everyone slept. I often found you training with a pole alone in the middle of an empty training hall. Your perseverance and determination were ... inspiring, Zach. "
Zach looked aside, feeling as blood rushed to his cheeks. Nobody was supposed to see it. Andrew continued. “And then it happened. I lost control over my energy and the ... accident happened. I woke up without an arm and masters stood above me, looking at me with fear. I blacked out and then I woke up in a sandsail. So, they sent me away soon after the incident. Heh, a better expression would be that they sold me into slavery before word could spread and the school would suffer serious damage to prestige and reputation. For ten years I was forced to work for Marcello, that bastard. I can't say I didn't learn anything from that life, but I definitely don't miss it. My true mission in life has been and always will be technomancy. And therefore, Zach, I owe you. If you need anything, turn to me.”
Flush in his cheeks was slowly disappearing, but the strange feeling remained and persisted. "I don't know what to say, Andrew."
"You don't have to say anything. I'm here and I'm not leaving. "
Finally he turned and looked into Zachariah’s eyes. The hazel-brown met the vibrant green. Andrew smiled at him; he actually smiled, and Zach felt it again. At the same time, he recalled the last words told by Master Connor. After their escape, there was still chaos everywhere and there was never a good time, but perhaps now the right time has come. "Andrew, I have to tell you something."
His smile froze and was replaced by a worried expression. "Master Connor ... before he and Grandmaster Ian sacrificed themselves, he left a message for you. He said that he’s sorry about everything.”
The grip of Andrew’s fist and the subsequent release warned Zach that the news had upset him, as he had anticipated. “I was there, but I didn't hear him. I was in front with the rest of masters, I accompanied them along with Amelia ... if I stayed behind with you, he could have told me. Or I would persuade him to come with us. When you brought him to me at that time in Ophir, I was full of anger. I was angry at him, at the order and how it was swept under the rug. The only thing that kept me going through all this time, those ten horribly long years - I was thinking of nothing but revenge or at least some form of satisfaction. But I never wanted things to end like this. Master Connor was something like Master Sean is to you. I wanted to forgive him Zach. No one could have foreseen what would happen and no none was to blame for it. And now he'll never know that I forgave him and left the past where it belongs, in my memories."
Zach didn't know what to do with his hands. Andrew was feeling down and it seemed like he will cry. With embarrassment, he noticed how his old friend wiped tears into his sleeve. Zachariah was never good when it came to someone's feelings, because he hid his own feelings well. But when he looked at the man beside him, his embarrassment had dispersed and Zach embraced Andrew. Barely distinguishable sigh and fingers wrapped around his waist convinced him that he did the right thing. Andrew placed his head on Zach’s shoulders and tears continued to flow.
They were aware that they everyone could see them, but at that moment they didn't care. They stayed that way for some time, embracing. Zach felt his friend shaking, but he didn't want to say anything because he had a feeling that it would spoil the atmosphere. After a long moment of mutual silence the grip weakened and Andrew let go of him. His eyes were very red and swollen, but something changed. His facial expression was completely different, determined and it reflected ... something that Zach couldn't quite tell. Some spark, but it instantaneously disappeared. Andrew stood up and yawned, stretching his stiff limbs. "About time tiredness hit me. Maybe I’ll go and take a nap. But, before that...” Andrew reached out his mechanical hand toward him. With a smile, Zach accepted his hand and Andrew helped him to his feet.
"Zach. Thank you."
"Don’t mention it. We're friends, Andrew."
Again he yawned, this time louder, and Zach caught himself in the act of yawning as well. They both laughed briefly and the other Technomancer slightly pushed him toward the palace. "Well, you should go and take that well deserved rest. I’ll see you later.“
He took a few steps toward the ladder. Stopping in the middle of the platform, he glanced behind. Andrew was just talking to Amelia. Niesha went somewhere and Phobos wasn't there either. Scott was engrossed in some papers, not paying attention to what was going on around him.
His friend noticed that he was still there, and he gave him a furtive look, which left Zach feeling that strange, yet unrecognizable feeling again. He nodded affirmatively and turned back, scaling up the ladder, up the stairs, and once more he stood in front of his bed. He rolled over on the matress, ignoring the fact that he still had shoes on.
Zach knew that even if things right now didn’t look so great for them, it was about to change soon. Maybe along the way he'll find out what Andrew really means to him. He closed his eyes and fell asleep. All his worries dissipated, at least for a few hours.