And so, I present to you: the conclusion
After a short and uneventful walk back, during which the patience of Virginia had been thoroughly tested, they reentered the large basement only to find the room empty and silent. For the umpteenth time that night Virginia cursed misfortune and harm upon a certain sniper and his friend the Baskar tribesman. Everything was to be blamed on them. The way things were now she couldn't even ask Jet to repeat himself without coming off as desperate.
"They're not here" Virginia spoke the obvious. She walked across the stone floor and peeked behind one of the many pillars just to make absolutely sure. If she had caught them right then, when her anger and disappointment was still fresh in mind, they would have been in grave danger of bodily harm. Unfortunately they were no where to be seen.
Turning to her white haired companion, she caught him examining his wounded right arm. Gingerly removing the once white fabric he'd wrapped around it he winced as his fingers brushed over the cut stretching from his elbow down to his wrist. Fortunately it appeared to have stopped bleeding.
"You're going to need some stitches" once again Virginia stated the apparent.
Jet looked up from his arm.
"I know" he said, "At least it doesn't look infected or anything… yet." he had no replacement bandage and went on to wrap the bloodied rag back around his arm. At least it would keep the worst filth from entering the wound. "We ought to carry a damn first aid kit…" he mumbled irritably.
Virginia walked over to stand before him so that when he was done with his arm and looked up again she was close enough to lean in and give him a quick kiss on the cheek.
As she backed away again the first thing she saw was the startled look on Jet's face. Her initial thought was that he had spotted an enemy behind her. She looked over her shoulder and saw nothing there but shadows and stone.
"What was that for?" Jet asked her as she turned to face him again. He held his ungloved left hand over the spot where her lips had made contact with his cheek. The startled look was replaced with one of perplexity.
Virginia giggled. "You can be so cute sometimes"
"When I'm tending to a bloody wound on my arm?" Jet raised an eyebrow, not quite grasping how that could be considered cute in any way.
"No, not that, silly!" she rolled with her eyes and put her hands on her hips, "Your reaction." she explained.
"Then… why the kiss?" he wondered.
"I thought maybe it'd make you feel better…" Virginia blushed despite her previous boldness, "…Well?" she asked, as Jet made no effort to speak. "Did it? I would like to know…for future reference."
Future… the word echoed through his mind. She was asking him to make a decision regarding the future and the way she had asked it, she had already taken for granted that it would be one shared between the two of them.
Nervous but also relieved for a reason he slowly getting accustomed to, Jet reflected on the past night. It hadn't really been about fighting zombies, had it? Hell, he had been so preoccupied with thoughts of his female companion the absurdity of their situation had hardly even dawned to him.
As he reached the conclusion, it was with the feeling that it had been there, just under the surface, all this time. He had only been too ignorant to notice. The future she spoke of, it wasn't such a bad future. Actually it was quite the contrary.
"I guess it did." he scratched the back of his head, "At least it got me distracted." a smile appeared on his face almost naturally.
"Good!" Virginia smiled back.
Now if only she could somehow have him repeat what he was about to say back in the dining hall and even earlier back in the lounge without hurting her pride…
She wouldn't resort to begging. Of course not. She would never sink that low. If Jet wanted to wait let him wait. Virginia bit her bottom lip to keep from immediately going against her resolve.
What was pride between friends, anyway? Perhaps in time she could forgive herself for resorting to pleading on this one occasion? It was after all a possible confession of love she was missing. Yes, this time she would gracefully step down and swallow her pride for the sake of love. It was a good cause, she reminded herself as she let her eyes drift over to Jet.
In the last moment, however, her pride was saved by the approaching, quick-paced clatter of feet against the stone floor. It appeared someone was in a hurry to reach them. The sound got them back on their toes, drawing their ARMs just to be on the safe side.
Soon enough Gallows and Clive burst into the room. They were running, short on breath and panicky expressions on their faces. It was not a good sign. Clive carried a tin can of something that could be heard splashing inside. Gallows looked as if he'd been doused with water or some other clear liquid. They stopped abruptly as they reached their friends.
"What the hell have you done now?" Jet sighed noisily.
"Uh, we don't really have time to talk…" Clive said, sending worried glances over his shoulder as he spoke.
"You see, there was this accident with some candles and gasoline…" Gallows explained momentarily staring down at his feet before he too turned to look back.
"Don't tell me…" Virginia guessed, "You set fire to the mansion?"
"That's what happened, yes." confirmed Clive.
"Weren't we supposed to get out first?" Jet wondered.
"Yes, according to plan." the sniper replied.
"It wasn't really our fault-" Gallows began explaining only to be interrupted when suddenly three burning creatures charged into the room from behind him. Snarling like mad dogs they hastily stumbled toward the quartet in a very disorderly fashion, shoving each other out of the way. One of them was still only burning by the legs while the other two were next to completely enclosed in shrouds of searing flame. "Ahh!! Don't let them near me! I'm freakin' covered in gasoline!" Gallows shrieked and dove behind Jet.
"Of all the stupid-" Jet didn't have time to finish the sentence as two of the creatures rushed toward him and Virginia. The third one seemed disoriented twirling around itself in the center of the room, slowly eaten away by the fire. Clive finished that one off with a well-placed shot from his Gungnir HAG35.
Next to him Virginia raised her pistols, coughing as the horrid smell of burning freak reached her. She quickly fired at the approaching enemies but missed as the two separated throwing themselves sideward.
Jet quickly leapt aside following the left freak. Exposed and highly flammable, Gallows cursed. Virginia was reloading her ARMs dashing after Jet, leaving the Baskar to fend for himself. Raising his own ARM, a modified Coyote M17F, he blinked as some gasoline mixed with sweat entered his eye. He relaxed as best as he could considering the situation, aimed and fired at the mass of flames approaching him at an alarming speed. Several bullets took in its chest and the creature stumbled one last step forward before falling to the ground with a heavy thud, only a few feet in front of him. Gallows was quick to put some distance between him and the burning body.
Cursing as one shot just barely missed the head of the animate torch that was his opponent, Jet nearly stumbled as his left foot found a large gap between the uneven stone plates. The creature threw itself at him but faltered slightly as it took a bullet signed Clive in the shoulder. It brushed past him close enough for the flames to burn his cheek and char his white hair. Unfazed Jet followed in the motion, turning 180 degrees bringing his aim over the creature.
"Die, you stinking piece of burning flesh!" he roared as he pulled the trigger, exploding the side of its head as it twirled around to have another go at him.
Virginia reached his side as the freak creature fell to the ground. Her face had that excited look that came from a sudden rush of adrenaline.
"Are you ok?" her eyes wandered from his burned cheek to his hair darkened by soot.
"Yeah" he replied, "I feel like a million Gella." he coughed as he accidentally caught a whiff of the foul smoke.
"We really should get out of here" advised Clive from across the room, busy reloading his ARM. "Otherwise we may soon find ourselves trapped down here."
Gallows appeared from behind a pillar, "I'm not going anywhere near fire!" he told them.
"Why?" Jet wondered, "Why are you covered in gasoline?"
"It's a long story" the larger man explained, "Well, actually it isn't. These guys…" he pointed a finger at the three burning bodies, "surprised us earlier and I spilled some gasoline I was carrying. Then Clive kinda dropped this candle onto the floor…"
The green haired sniper looked embarrassed at them mention of his name.
"I see, " said Jet, "I suppose that could have happened to anyone…" he wondered if he was being clear enough in his sarcasm.
"Again, I would like to stress the importance of quickly getting out of here" Clive spoke, making sure they listened to him this time.
Virginia momentarily slid her hand into Jet's as the group, as per Clive's suggestion, hurried toward the stairway leading back to the first floor. Despite their very uncertain situation she experienced a brief instant of happiness as the man responded by squeezing her smaller hand affectionately. The moment passed as they were soon forced to let go in order to resume their guard.
Back up in the corridors of the mansion it was hard not to notice the thick, dark smoke gathering in the ceiling. Luckily the fire had not yet spread across to their position. For once things were looking up; the exit was not all that far from here.
In a moment of mental clarity Jet made a quick estimate of how many freaks they had encountered and taken care of so far. The number reached around 11-13 as he wasn't quite certain how many his two other teammates had come across before their reunion in the basement.
How many more could there be? And just what had this crazy doctor fellow been doing, anyway? Raising a private army? And some army it was.
Virginia motioned them to follow as she took the lead. She walked the path that would lead them first past the cozy lounge and then finally to that dusty corridor they had first laid their eyes upon as they had, unbeknownst of what awaited them inside, entered the large and very desolate house in the desert.
With the threatening fire approaching behind them the group donned a quick stride, Virginia in the front followed by Jet and then Gallows who had promptly refused to form the back party due to his high flammability. That position had instead been given to Clive.
With their current speed it didn't take them long to pass the familiar lounge area, a place that now held both fond and bad memories for Virginia, and from there on it was basically just the last stretch of corridor before they were out in the free again.
Gallows, being the tallest of the quartet, was now forced to keep his head low to avoid choking on the thick smoke that flowed above them. Other than that things were still looking up for band of drifters. They were almost out now and so far none of the signs or sounds that indicated the presence of their enemy were accounted for.
The plan was to set fire to the front entrance as soon as they were safe and sound outside and make certain no creature could escape the mansion alive.
"This is the one, right?" Virginia questioned as they entered yet another corridor, very much like the last one. "This is where we entered?"
"Yeah, I think so" Jet replied as he tried to make out the outline of the corridor before them. He could hardly see past Virginia in the windowless space but according to his mental map this was indeed the point of entry.
"Definitely the place" Gallows assured them. He coughed hard as he drew a breath of smoke. "Could we hurry it up? I'm not feeling so great." his eyes were starting to tear up.
Suddenly, as if they had been forming a last line of defense, two freaks leaped from the darkness before them. A chain rattled around the ankle of one of them.
The front one crashed into Virginia, sending the two tumbling onto the floor. His reflexes unrivalled by anyone Jet had drawn his ARM, fired at the second, still standing creature before she had even hit the ground. The hail of bullets nearly severed its left arm by the shoulder. Leaving that one in the care of his other teammates he dashed with equally unrivalled speed toward Virginia and the creature with the chain towering over her.
Before the brunette even had the chance to react to the threat it was removed in a blur of movement. Performing an impressive body slam considering his small build, Jet had forced the creature down onto the floor. It snarled at him, opening its jaws displaying a set of irregular teeth. While some of them were capped, like a beasts, some still appeared human.
The creature was strong and managed to get both its arms free. Acting before he was skewered by its claws Jet shoved the barrel of his ARM into the creatures gaping mouth and pulled the trigger. The head and its contents splattered onto the floorboards.
That's going to leave a stain, his mind told him. It was a thought so random and out of place he nearly burst into laughter despite of the gruesome sight he was facing. He was feeling strangely lightheaded.
"They must have been waiting. We would've heard them" he registered the voice of Gallows somewhere behind him. The Baskar finished off the one armed opponent with a hail of bullets to its chest.
Jet felt Virginia tug at his jacket. It was growing harder to see, if that was even possible, and harder to breathe. They had to get out before they all suffocated.
Stumbling through the smoke and darkness, his hand clutching Virginia's, Jet suddenly saw a rectangle of light open up before them. Nearly falling over the threshold he stumbled out through the door into cool night outside.
Clive, the last man out, hurriedly splashed the insides of the corridor and the thick wooden door with the gasoline he was carrying. The rest of the group moved to a safe distance, breathing deep breaths of fresh air making sure to regain their calm.
"You wanna do the honors?" Jet handed a pack of matches over to Gallows.
"Need I remind you I'm still covered in gasoline?" the Baskar quickly returned the matchbook. He wanted nothing to do with such things before he had had chance to shower.
"No. I had that in consideration" the younger man grinned evilly. "Oh well, you'd probably just screw up, anyway…" he took a few steps closer to the soon-to-be giant bonfire, lit a match and threw the burning stick onto the gasoline soaked timber.
In an instant flames erupted and swallowed the door in a haze of red and orange. After that it was only a matter of seconds before the entire building was burning, the initial and accidental fire catching up from the inside.
Smoke filled the early dawn sky, blocking out the last stars as the four drifters stood in the desert sand, watching their handiwork.
"Kind of a shame to burn down such a nice house" Virginia commented after a brief silence.
"Indeed it is" Clive agreed.
"…We'll still get paid for this, right?" Jet asked, just struck by the thought.
Virginia studied the lone figure of the young man sitting back up against a large rock as she approached him. His shoulders slumped and his head hung forward he looked anything but upbeat. Watching him she felt a strong urge to run up and hug the living daylights out of him and kiss him until they both passed out of oxygen loss. She smiled despite his apparent depression.
"You missed a great sunrise" she commented upon reaching him.
"I don't care" Jet muttered, not bothering to look up.
"Come on, Jet" she sat down next to him. "Don't be like that. So we torched all the evidence. At least the threat is gone and we're all still alive…" he didn't appear consoled by the fact, not even the least, "They may still pay us, you know." Virginia tried.
"Fat chance of that ever happening." he finally looked up from his lap, leaning his head back against the rock behind them and staring at the bright morning sky. "All that work for nothing…" he sighed.
Virginia bit her lip.
"…It doesn't have to be for nothing" she nearly whispered looking down at her hands.
"Maybe…" she paused, contemplating her choice words. She could be blunt, right? It wasn't like her to beat around the bush, "If you told me what you were about to say back there, it wouldn't be for nothing" she quickly pronounced the sentence. Closing her blue eyes she prayed for a positive response.
Jet remained silent for a moment, keeping her in suspense.
"I suppose refusing at this point would be kind of silly…" he acknowledged.
"Exactly" Virginia agreed happily. Struck by a thought she then quickly surveyed the area around them and was pleased to find neither Clive nor Gallows were anywhere in the vicinity. However hard they might try, they couldn't keep up their habit of interrupting forever, right? God help them if they did. She still had some pent-up anger left from the previous times…
Jet delayed his answer, fidgeting with the bandage around his arm. Virginia made a mental note to make sure he saw a doctor as soon as possible and didn't pull some macho crap like stitching up the wound himself to save money.
"Um…" he finally said, frightening himself as he still didn't feel quite ready for the task of confessing. He drew a deep breath, "I think there is a possibility that I might be… in love with you." Jet paused, "or something in the lines of that."
Virginia stared at him. Was that even a confession?
"You sound uncertain…" she commented after a moment while at the same time a voice in her head kept screaming: This is as good as it gets!! Take it and run!!
"What did you expect?" Jet sighed, a pained look in his eyes, "I don't know the first thing about this kind of stuff." he drew a hand through his tousled hair. "I mean I…I know I want…" he closed his eyes and realized he hadn't slept for the entire night, "…I want to continue being with you…" he exhaled in frustration, "I really pisses me off I can't be less vague"
"It's ok." Virginia reached over and grabbed his hand. She could handle a little uncertainty. "I love you too." she smiled as his eyes momentarily widened making her wonder briefly what kind of reply he had been expecting.
Leaning closer she planted a kiss on his cheek.
"What was that for?" Jet just barely kept from smiling.
"I thought you might need some distraction. You know, to help you forget all the money we missed out on." she leaned against his shoulder, watching the burning debris that had become of the mansion. Would people ever believe them if they told anyone? "Well? Did it help?" she went on inquiring.
"Yeah, I guess it did." Jet sighed, "Until you we're so kind as to remind me again."
Well, there you go. My first ever posted attempt at a story with multiple chapters. Never thought I'd finish it even though I had only planned to write 3 chapters to begin with.