Disclaimer: Wild ARMS belongs to Sony Inc. and etc.
Summary: Collection of post-game scribbles 200 words each.
Three in the afternoon and the sun isn't as blazing as it was two years ago. They are not hiding from the sheriff's men as much as they are hiding from the blistering heat, in a small rundown shed at the edge of Jolly Roger. There is barely enough room for four men; there is space to breathe for three and a woman as long as no one stretches out their legs.
"We'll rest an hour." Virginia kneels, forgetting to tuck her skirt and it falls inelegantly, a rumpled dusty mass around her.
Gallows sighs, slumping against the wooden wall like dead weight and never once feeling the splinters. "It's about time," he says, dropping his gun noisily at his feet and wiping the heavy sweat from beneath his sagging headband.
"Today," Clive reminds gently, "wasn't nearly as bad as yesterday."
"Oh, wow, yesterday!" Virginia exclaims, throwing both dust and arms into the air. "Yesterday, I bet we could've fried an egg on the ground."
"I need a drink," Gallows says listlessly.
Four-thirty in the afternoon, Virginia chides Gallows for being late after he returns from the local inn, and the shed is dry and empty.
2. The Rose
For her twenty-first birthday, Florina gives Virginia a velvety flower. It is soft and moist and scandalously red, smelling of earth and dew and care. She cups it in her gloved hands; the upturned palms are almost chocolate in color, stained with dirt and mud. Florina glows with modest pride as she is thanked.
Jet is waiting near the exit and as she approaches, he raises his hand at the gardener, who flushes and returns the wave meekly. As they head towards Baskar where Clive and Gallows are waiting, he sees the vivid scarlet in her hands.
"Who gave you that?" he asks quietly, without even turning.
Virginia smiles. "Florina did. She said it was called…umm…" Her memory is fickle; she taps her bottom lip with her finger as she thinks.
"It's called a rose," Jet finishes for her, drawing the name from somewhere past memory.
"Yeah. It's pretty."
He can see her out of the corner of his eye. Her hair is newly braided; her eyes are large and bright. Today is her twenty-first birthday and she is no longer that gawky eighteen-year-old girl stumbling onto the train. "Yeah," he says, and means something else entirely.
It is hot today also, and Virginia rests her head on the polished table in a heat-induced stupor. Gallows has gone to fruitlessly flirt with a barmaid and Jet is upstairs with his head and mussed hair buried under his pillow. With half-lidded eyes she watches Clive wipe the handle of his gun for an hour until a definite luster is seen.
And then he moves on to the barrel, which is about a meter long.
She has already shrugged off everything except for her blouse and skirt. For decency's sake she cannot do much more than roll up her long sleeves. The sheriff is patrolling the streets; there is nowhere to go. "Clive," she states flatly, "you are so boring."
He looks at her over the silver rim of his glasses and smiles good-naturedly in the dim candlelight, stopping in his work. "Kaitlyn says that too, sometimes."
She blinks, and raises one fine brow. "Not possible. She adores you."
Eyes softening, the man nods. "Yes, but that doesn't make me any less boring."
There is some indescribable sort of warmth and happiness in his expression that makes her smile. "You're so lucky, Clive."
And he agrees.
They ride away from the sunset, into the forthcoming night. The sound of hoofbeats are uneven and inconstant, without rhythm and without pace, but Virginia knows it like a lullaby in the absence of cricket choirs and croaking frogs. There is no moon tonight and the road ahead is startlingly dark.
They have been riding for many hours, and her backside is irritatingly sore. Warily, she looks around, trying to be inconspicuous and therefore all the more noticeable.
Clive rides with the reigns in one hand; the other is wearily wiping his glasses against a relatively clean sleeve. He sees Virginia looking his direction and offers her a half-blind smile. Gallows does not see her because he is more than half-asleep, slumped across his horse and mouth hanging wide open. Jet is staring at his right foot indifferently, but raises his gaze to meet Virginia's. He holds her stare for a special moment, and then drops it shyly in favor of the less-green ground.
They do not say a thing.
Her horse takes three steps before she declares, "I think we should make camp now."
Clive nods, Jet hops off without a word, and Gallows snores happily.
"One day," Gallows says suddenly at midnight, and Virginia blinks in the darkness, unable to fathom how he knows she is awake, "I'm gonna find that perfect girl and settle down."
He has a gruff and angled face that cannot hide anything, and he looks too earnest and hopeful for her to remind him of their condition or how many times he has said that already. She rolls to her side and nods. "Have you found someone already?"
"Maybe," he mutters with a laugh. "I'm not sure if any girl's perfect yet. I mean, you're pretty okay, Ginny," he admits, and she is flattered, "but I don't think loner boy over there would be too happy if I started moving in on you."
"I'm not asleep yet," interrupts Jet, "and I don't know what you're talking about. Keep it down; I'm trying to sleep here." He rolls onto his stomach, pulling the covers over his head and she is glad it is too dark for anyone to see her blush.
"See what I mean?" laughs Gallows. "But anyway, yeah. I'm gonna find the perfect girl, just you watch."
In almost ten minutes he is sound asleep.
6. Fifty Grand
Virginia points out another to them as they pass through Ballack Rise, finger pressing on the stale yellowed paper, windblown and rainworn until their drawn faces are no longer distinguishable (not that they had resembled them much in the first place). She laughs loudly at it, but there are creases in her face that aren't from smiling. The black ink numbers are large and hard to miss. The reward has gotten larger with the passing year.
"You'd think they'd be smart enough to just give up after this long," says Gallows, scoffing as he punches his fist into the wall until his knuckles are red and swollen.
"The Ark of Destiny must be pretty peeved," adds in Jet, pulling his scarf over his mouth so that the words become muffled.
Clive lays his hand on Virginia's slighter shoulder and speaks, "It'll be over soon. Give it a little more time and all the hubbub will be blown away." It is directed to no one and it is directed to everyone. Virginia nods stiffly, and tells them it is getting late.
Evening falls on Ballack Rise and people don't notice the torn down wanted poster under their feet.
"I want to make a grave," she tells them, and they shoot each other looks until Clive finally asks what she means. "I want someone to remember them."
"Who?" Gallows inquires, running a hand through his hair.
"Everyone who didn't get to see this Filgaia," she explains, waving her hand at the short courageous grass and the clear blue sky.
"Some aren't worth it," he protests. Clive is thoughtful and Jet has never held memory in high regard anyway.
"But it's terrible, isn't it?" she says quietly, head lowered so that her face is not visible. "To be forgotten, just like that."
Without speaking, they help her scavenge the area for a few pieces of dry wood and tie them together with rough rope and a simple knot. She borrows Jet's pocketknife and etches the names she has not forgotten into the crude cross, cutting herself three times in the process. When she is done, Jet takes the knife from her and carves 'Asgard' underneath 'Cascade.' It takes all of an hour and by sunset they are five miles away.
"No one will ever find that," Clive reminds her.
"But we will know it's there," she answers.
There was a time when separate was necessary – they couldn't survive an hour without ripping each other's throats apart – and even then a wall between them was sometimes not enough, but that time is over and a big empty room makes sleeping by oneself a little lonely.
Jet insists that it's to cut back expenses. He never mentions how there is always only one bed, and how, after the first year, he stopped sleeping on the floor.
Virginia wakes with her face pressed into his neck. For all of nine seconds she is still, basking in the warmth of skin against skin and listening to unsynchronized breathing. Then she grins and presses a kiss under his jaw.
He mutters, "What are you doing?"
"Waking you up," she replies, running fingers through her sleep-knotted hair.
He holds his hand up and she seeps her fingers between his before he pulls her down with little flourish. She lands on top of him with a little "oh!" and blinks at his sleepy eyes.
"It's a nice way to wake up," he admits, running a hand down her arm and leaving goosebumps in its wake. "I could get used to it."
Once a year, someone lays small white flowers before the third tombstone from the left, first row. Armengard remembers the date every time – it is always the second of March, but no one cares to ask her about it. (1)
February ends, and Virginia has only one companion. Clive has returned to Humphrey's Peak to read stories to a little girl from dawn to dusk. He has his happiness and they dare not intrude. Gallows spends his time making small talk with Claudia in Little Twister. They visit him often and never comment on the soft light in his eyes when he watches her work. Jet tells her that Gallows' perfection might have swinging hips and a pound of makeup on.
"It'll just take a while," she says. The small town comes into view on the horizon.
"The basket is falling off," he answers, watching as she panics and remedies the problem. Afterwards, "I'll wait for you."
They break into a gallop and reach Boot Hill in a matter of minutes. Virginia lays out the blossoms with care and precision. They cover the grassy soil like a sheet of snow, and are blown away by the evening breeze.
Maya sits with her legs crossed and one foot swinging, Albert nodding off on her shoulder and Shady on her lap. Todd has fallen asleep against the windowpane, hand still tight around his sword. "Well, well, well," she says loudly as they pass the open door of her compartment, "if it isn't little miss Righteous."
Jet whispers something under his breath that sounds suspiciously like, "Not again."
Virginia beams, and claps her hands. "Maya! Long time no see!"
"Well," answers the blonde, tossing her hair over her shoulder, "people heard that the Schroedingers were associated with the wanted Maxwell Gang. We had to keep a low profile for a while. This is the first time we've taken the train in years." She watches as Virginia's face falls and her mouth starts shooting. "Personally, I blame the Ark. Talk about not being able to let go of a grudge against innocent people! Yeesh! Now, there you have some pretty stuffy people!"
Shady looks up at her with wide eyes. She looks down cross-eyed at her own mouth and wonders how that came out when what she had meant to say was something more vindictive.
Virginia murmurs, "Thank you."
The days are long and lazy and they smell like grass and gun smoke. She spends her days wandering, treasuring old memories and making new ones. They seek journeys long traveled and adventures long faded into legend. They seek things glossed over when they were too busy saving a world to notice. They are not young, but they are far, far from old and senile. There are still many seconds left to fill.
"I remember the first time I fought with you guys," she says one morning, riding as more a woman than a girl beside someone who was more a man than a boy, "on top of the train at night, against Janearth. I had never been more scared." (2)
She is hardly afraid of anything now, though she doesn't know if that is because she is brave or if there is nothing to be afraid of anymore. The difference is small and slight.
Jet is close enough to graze her cheek with his fingers. "That was a long time ago."
She smiles and looks at the thousands of miles ahead, marred with mountains not yet climbed and rivers not yet crossed, realizing that yes, that was.
+Note 1: March 2nd is the only day that Armengard has nothing special to say.
+Note 2: Japanese name was used.