This is by far the longest chapter of this series of ficlets. But I'm sure it's worth the read. It takes place far ahead in the mainquest, concerning The Camp in the Center questline.
It will also contain some heavy Jax/Falk romantic stuff, you've been warned.
Btw I just learned that Falk really sounds like a Robot in the english version. He sounds more natural in the german one, I like that more.
As always please remember that english isn't my native language so please forgive me my mistakes - but feel free to show them to me. And if you like what I did, I love reviews :)
No man is an island, this I know
But can't you see or...?
Or maybe you were the ocean, when I was just a stone
But here we are
Ben Howard – Black Flies
And then they'd won. A part of Jax still couldn't believe it, even after he killed their Albcommander, even after Nasty crushed the last of their Warmachines, even after Arx beheaded the last Albsoldier. The chanting voices of victory filled the battlefield and Jax couldn't help it – a proud smile formed on his face. Now Xarcor knew that the free people, that the Camp of the Center, weren't helpless. And that he was with them. And that he would bring every Elexetor down if he had to. Jax was satisfied with the battle. Lloyd had been right all along, even when Jax didn't believe in himself. Even with the Elex detox, with the loss if his powers, he still was a great commander. This battle was proof. He made an army out of a handful of random people, not everyone even skilled in fighting, against the best equipped, most disciplined and highest trained army in the known world.
And his companions also proofed their worth. Duras and Nasty had been at the front, Caja and Falk had given them a taste of fire from mighty berserk magic and a flamethrower. Ray and C.R.O.N.Y had been sniping Alb after Alb and Arx, well... Arx was basically a reckless warmachine who didn't even care for a second that he was fighting his own kind.
And Jax... he had felt strength again. Not his old power, not the power of pure, raw Elex. But all the training in Ignadon paid of. Of course he didn't really felt like he belonged to the Clerics but he sure got used of their powers.
A few hours have passed and people prepared a party for the evening and the night. Of course Nasty and Ray were the leaders of the partyorganisation, even though Nasty only shouted instructions and Ray was busy getting all kinds of alcohol; no one knew where he got it from and no one dared to ask. Actually everyone seemed to be in a festive mood. Everyone but Jax. He just didn't get it. Of course it was great that they defeated the onrush of the Alb. But he'd won so many fights and battles and never felt the need to celebrate. Why waste daylight like that when you could also do something useful instead? But even though Lloyd said otherwise, Jax didn't feel like their leader and so he would let them have their party – he just wouldn't participate in it.
After gathering up some equipment and weapons Jax met up with Falk who was watching the partybusiness with high interest.
"Come on Falk, there's lot to do", he said and already turned away, facing the Teleporter. Falk would sure follow him like always - but he didn't. Instead he was asking questions – again.
"Why don't we stay?" he wondered. There was no allegation in these words just pure, naive interest.
Jax stopped and turned around. He folded his arms above his chest and frowned.
"I don't like parties" he said. The Android tilted his head a bit, watching Jax.
"Have you ever participated in one?"
"No... not really, I suppose."
"Then why do you know that you don't like parties?"
"Well I don't need to attend to a party to know that I wouldn't like it. Its all about drinking and people just talk about useless stuff and are noisy and probably dance. I see no reason to want that."
Falk gave his words a long thought. Then he nodded.
"You're talking about 'having fun'. You don't like to have fun?" Falk concluded with this ridiculous, honest curiosity in his voice.
"I do like having fun but a stupid party is just not my idea of fun" Jax snarled grumpy.
"I've never seen you having fun, Jax. Honestly I think we should stay and celebrate our victory with the other people."
"Oh what would you know about that anyway, Falk!", Jax responded angry, "It's not like you have an idea about being people at all. We're different, you and me. Get it already. The sooner you finally understand that, the better."
Falk went silent and lowered his gaze. Jax immediately regret his words. He's been speaking out of impulsive anger and he really didn't like being impulsive at all. But it gotten worse, day after day. He could feel it. And even the fact that he got angry on Falk made him angry again. When would that stop? How much Elexpotions did he had to craft in secret until he would have cold, bold logic and sanity again?
Jax sighed and closed the gab between them. "Look, Falk... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to shout at you. But you need to understand: you and me, we are different. We're not like them. We're not like Caja, Ray, Duras or Nasty... and I know you desperately want to be, well... human but you have to face the fact that you aren't." Ridiculous, he thought. Jax wanted his feelings to be gone and Falk wanted to learn to have feelings.
"I'm okay with not being human", Falk finally said and for once he sounded... different. Sad, maybe? "But I'm not okay with you mocking me or telling me how to think and what to feel and what to do. And I'm interested in this party. I want to learn how people celebrate and update my programming about celebrations. If you want to go on that mission tonight, you have to do it yourself or find someone else. I recommend C.R.O.N.Y. U4. Good evening, Jax." And with these words he sold Jax down the river and left to gather with the rest of the Camp.
Jax returned later that night. He was exhausted, to say the least. It had been a tough mission and he clearly missed Falks backline flamethrower attacks when he fought that Chimera. Those mutants were so easy to handle when Falk and he teamed up but they turned out to be a horrible threat when he tried to fight them alone.
The Teleporter wasn't far from his private rooms but still Jax didn't go there immediately, like he planned to do. Even though it was close to midnight, he could still hear the voices that filled the air: laughter, music, chatter. The red and orange flames of many campfires ignited the darkness and even here, aside from the party, he could feel the warmth. Jax pondered for a few moments. Maybe he should take a look, at least to see if everything and everyone was fine.
He still felt sorry about what he said to Falk and it kinda bugged him out that he just couldn't let that go. But Falk, he'd just been so hurt. He's never seen him like that. It bothered Jax. And it bothered him even more, that it bothered him.
He was leaning on a rail and watched the different groups. Of course the one were Nasty could be found was the loudest. The devilish women was telling a bunch of men and women stories about her and Jax defeating all kinds of horrible monsters and mutants. She clearly was drunk and clearly had fun.
Jax startled when he heard someone stepping beside him.
"Ray, dammit. Stop doing that", he growled. The Outlaw just grinned and hold up a bottle.
"You're late, buddy. But thats okay. Here, have a drink."
Jax didn't grab the flask Ray was holding so the Outlaw shook it a bit an raised an eyebrow.
"It's good stuff", he intended, "Strong, good stuff. But I could always get you an Elexpotion, if you want to..."
Jax huffed and grabbed the bottle, taking a sip. Yep, that was strong stuff but he didn't even twitch.
"Miss me with that. I should go easy on the Potions anyway. Either way I will never learn how to be a decent human being" he said accentuated. Ray chuckled but dropped that matter.
"You missed Duras' and Cajas show off of traditional Berserker dances. It was kinda... brutal, to be honest?"
Jax shook is head. "I'm pretty sure I didn't want to see that. I'm not getting any of this" he said, pointing at the whole party with a wide gesture.
"Ah you never stroke me as the party guy anyway", Ray said and took the bottle back from Jax to take a slug himself. Unlike Jax he grimaced on the strong alcohol.
"Have you seen Falk?" Jax asked all of a sudden.
"Well yes, he was with us an hour ago but I don't think he felt that comfortable and left to sit on the hill. Probably watching the stars again, he does that pretty often. Or wandering around the ruins. Hey did you know that he can chug down a lot of beer without feeling any thing? I'm kinda jealous!"
"Yeah, I can imagine..."
"Yo, Jax, we're you going...?"
"Making an apology."
Jax found Falk sitting in the grass, gazing upon the clear nightsky, like Ray had foretold.
"So, do you like parties?" the former Albcommander asked, looking down on his companion.
"They are fun. But I do like exploring and stargazing more."
"May I... sit down?"
Kinda awkwardly Jax sat down besides Falk. The grass was cold and a bit damp. For moments they just stayed silent. Falk was still watching the sky and Jax was thinking about his next words.
"Look", he finally started with a frustrated sigh, "I really am sorry. I'm not here to tell you what to think and what to feel and I just tell you what to do when it's in battle. I didn't want to make you feel bad. Heck, I didn't even know you can feel bad!"
"Well, I can", Falk started without taking away his gaze from the stars. "I can feel bad and sad like I can feel joy and excitement. I learned that. I'm programmed to blend in perfectly with humans. I may not understand everything when it comes to emotions, but I try to. And every day I get better at it."
Jax felt even more awkward now. Falk admitting of being capable to feel sad just made him realize that he really has been miserable about Jax words and reaction.
"Yeah that was my bad. I mean I was the one who gave you the electric parts for your upgrade, right?" he tried to joke but it was just more awkward; like every time he wanted to be funny. Which wasn't often, thankfully.
"I have read something interesting in an old book a few days ago", Falk said. "There was a line. It said: no man is an island. I thought about it. Do you feel like being an island, Jax?" Finally he turned his head and met Jax' gaze. The former Albcommander gave his words a thought.
"I'm not entirely sure what this means, but I probably am? I mean I am surrounded by nothing. Going back to the Albs is no option but I don't feel like I belong to the free people either..." Falk nodded.
"I am able to understand you. I wandered around the lands trying to make friends but every person I met just took advantage of my strength, my weapons or my abilities." Jax bit his lip and felt caught. He did exactly the same with Falk. At least when he first met him. But things have changed... or have they? "And when I returned to my Master", Falk continued, "with you at my side and I learned about my being, I got to know that this was my purpose all along: being the ultimate fighting machine."
"But that's not what you want", Jax concluded and found himself laying a hand on Falks shoulder. Either the Android didn't recognize that or he didn't mind.
"Correct" he just nodded.
"Well...", Jax started with lowered voice and suddenly he felt so damn connected. Nastys words came back into his mind: Life's fucked up and short. Just do it. The worst that could happen is that he just doesn't understand what you want. Once in a while... you need to unwind. We'll all die anyway, one sooner one later. You soon; for sure. You're on a suicide mission, basically. So what are you afraid of?
Falk met his gaze. It was hard to read anything in these somewhat naive, somewhat heavily curiously eyes. Jax bit his lower lip again. He wasn't sure how to do this – he had no idea at all. But thankfully his arm had some kind of self awareness and wandered further, his hand finally laying down on the other mans lower back.
"The book also said that no man is an island, or... has to be one... and I guess I'm the best example for taking fate in your own hands... so why shouldn't you do the same?" Jax mentioned. He wasn't used to be nervous. But heck, he was no coward. And maybe it was time to stop being alone – he's been alone for too long. Maybe it was time to give in. To accept that he had feelings. Strong feelings.
It was a good sign, he thought nervously, that Falk hasn't tried to get away from him yet. The Android also didn't move when Jax leaned in, slowly, not sure what step would come up next. But just when Jax decided to say to himself fuck it, let's just do this a loud outcry startled both of them.
Immediately Jax pulled away and was on his feet.
"That was Cajas voice, wasn't it?" he said alarmed.
"Jax, I think I saw a fireball" Falk mentioned and pointed down at the village, where the partypeople held the party. A moment later he heard another shout: it was full of curses and he didn't had to recognize Nastys voice to knew it was her.
"That can't be...", he mumbled frustrated, "Those two damn women...!" and with these words he went down to see what the fuck those two were up to again. Probably killing each other. Yep, he realized when he appeared, they fought each other. With every weapon they had. Great. No one really cared to step in except for Duras, but he paid for that with a burnmark and an ugly swordwound on his arm.
For a second or two Jax just couldn't believe it. Just today both fought side by side against the Alb and now they tried to kill each other over... what? Probably over something totally insifignant.
He had to get them apart.
Yet Falk was still sitting in the grass. He could hear the fighting and he could also hear a really pissed Jax shouting at the women, but Falk was deep in thought. He tried to understand what just happened between him and Jax. After a while he stood up and went to search for Ray.
He found the Outlaw away from the others, watching the bitchfight from a save distance.
"Ray, may I ask you a question?"
"Hm?" Ray turned around, recognizing Falk before he looked back at the fight. "Sure, go ahead, buddy."
"I assume you know a lot about intimate and romantic involvement."
Suddenly the show down there became totally uninteresting to Ray and with a questioning face he fully turned to Falk.
"Do I make that impression...? Well uh... sure. I know a lot about these things. Uhm... what do you need to know?"
"How do I get someone to kiss me?"
Ray was fully baffled by that question. For a few seconds he even forgot to breath. Until finally he found his voice again.
"Well... you have to make sure she likes you, talk to her, and-"
"Why do you say 'her'? Does that only work on women?"
"Uh... ehm... no. I mean... uh... it also works on men, I guess. So... make sure she or... he likes you, be talkative, maybe find out what she – or he – likes and make a present and... watch out for close physical contact, if she or he does that it's probably a good sign and... what... why do you want to know that, Falk?"
"That's not of your concern. Thank you for your information, Ray."
"But wh-" Ray couldn't even finish his sentence when Falk already left. And he sure left a very confused Outlaw who slowly, very slowly gained an idea of what was happening... and he couldn't help but shake his head and smile after all.
Jax was totally bugged out when he slammed his door to his room. The night had been shit, starting with that argument with Falk and that Chimera and then, when it was about the get better, Caja and Nasty had to ruin it in total. Thankfully no one was really harmed, not even Duras who clearly shouldn't have gotten between the two furious women.
When he entered his bedroom he didn't even recognize that someone was waiting, so he nearly jumped in surprise when he saw Falk sitting on the desk.
"Falk. What are you doing here. In my bedroom. At this hour."
"I brought you something" the Android said unimpressed and stood up to close the gap between him and Jax. He held out his hand – and what Jax saw in there made him take in a sharp breath.
"Why are you bringing me pure Elex? And where did you get that?" he said oppressing the urge to grab the blue shard.
"I wanted to gift you something you like. And I know you like pure Elex. Ray told me to give you a present if I want you to kiss me."
The blue shard was forgotten. Jax just stared at Falk, disbelieve in his eyes.
"You-", he started but had no idea what to say next.
"Yes. I know you wanted to when we were sitting on the hill." Falk smiled happily. "I'm not stupid, Jax." He took a step closer. Jax felt his heart beating faster but he also felt a rush of joy. One thing with Falk was that he didn't was complicated. Jax was thankful for that.
"Forget that Elex. I mean... thank you. But you didn't had to. You just had to say a word..." Jax couldn't help but sigh these words when he lifted his arm and let his hand slide up against Falks neck. His skin was warm. For a second he bothered to think about why Falk was so warm, he shouldn't be warm, a robot shouldn't feel that warm, but then he didn't care. It felt good. It felt real. And just giving in felt good and real too and when he brought his face down to Falk he felt no regret at all. At fist their kiss was clumsy and they both had to chuckle lightly because neither of them had an idea how to do this but soon things became self-reliant. And while Jax pressed Falk against the stone wall, deepening their kiss and while Falk hold onto him, his hands wandering over his back, Jax finally knew what happiness felt like.