At last the final chapter. Took a while to write 'cause lately I've been kind of short on ideas and motivation… Or as you could also put it: I've been lazy.
Staring at nothing in particular somewhere off in the distance Jet tried his best to act unaware of the girl beside him. Unaware of how close she stood, nearly brushing against his side, and unaware of how her close proximity effected his heartbeat.
It worked pretty well until she finally spoke.
"…Were you about to say something back there?" Virginia wondered. Her voice sounded unusually apprehensive and in the corner of his eyes he could see her watching him with an expression of curiosity.
"I was just trying to get out of there." Jet replied leaving certain other reasons out, "Those two talk too much." he nodded back toward the house behind them.
"Oh. I see" the girl's response was simple but not without a hint of disappointment in her voice.
"…what about you?" Jet wondered after a moment of silence. He told himself it was only in an effort to keep the conversation alive and not out of actual curiosity. But that really didn't make much sense since he hated conversations and was more likely to kill than to keep one alive.
"I was going to ask you if you wanted to go for a walk with me" Virginia answered truthfully. Then of course there were the things she had planned to say when they finally were alone…
"And here we are. Lucky you." Jet didn't quite sound like he meant it.
"Yep" she smiled nonetheless.
Again the two drifters fell back into silence. Normally Jet would have welcomed this with relief, especially after just having gone through several hours of verbal torture at the hands, well mouths really, of Gallows and Clive. But that particular night the silence felt unusually heavy, almost suffocating. It was as if the air around them was so crowded with unspoken words that there was really no space left to breathe.
For Jet it was a frightening experience considering that silence was one of the few things he actually enjoyed in life. Or admitted to enjoy, anyway.
"Ok. What's wrong?" he finally couldn't help himself, "Why are you being so quiet?"
"I thought you liked quiet?" Virginia wondered innocently.
"Well yeah but this is just making me uneasy. I mean for you, this isn't normal behavior. And when you're dealing with crazy, unpredictable people anything but normalcy is frightening." Jet claimed irritably, "You're making me nervous."
Virginia couldn't help but giggle, "You wanna hear my voice, is that what you're trying to say?" she looked at him with large blue eyes and a big white grin. Despite her honest intentions she simply couldn't pass on the chance to tease him a little.
"I'm saying thanks to you I'm all screwed up. I can't take silence anymore 'cause I'm so freakin' used to you babbling all the time." he sighed, overcome by the tiring sense of pointlessness that he associated with arguing with Virginia.
"So I've finally gotten to you, huh?" the girl teased, moving to lean her back up against him. Jet disappointed her by immediately taking a step back and avoiding any prolonged closeness.
"Do you have to do that?" he asked, avoiding her gaze by looking off to his left.
"Do what?" the girl asked, beginning to feel dejected by his cold behavior.
"You know, turn everything I say into some sort of romantic crap?" Jet returned to look at her. His face displayed very little emotion aside from a mild annoyance that was really more in his voice.
"...Isn't it up to me how I interpret your words?" Virginia sulked, refusing to meet his eyes.
Jet shrugged, "Well, just don't come crying to me when you get disappointed"
The conversation yet again gave away into silence as both parties stared off into the night, simply ignoring each other's presence while going through the dialogue once again in their heads.
Aside from the sound of crickets and the ruffle of leaves from a nearby tree the night was calm and quiet. Light flooded out from the windows of the house behind them and on the porch a small lamp was lit. Stars spotted the cloudless sky and a near full moon provided light where that of the house didn't reach.
Eventually Virginia gathered enough courage to break the silence with a question that weighed heavy on her mind, especially after the preceding dialogue.
"…So you really don't like me at all?" the girl spoke with a quiet yet steady voice.
Jet stared at her for a moment.
"That…uh, that's beside the point." he then claimed none too convincingly.
"What? How's that beside the point?" Virginia wondered. "Wasn't that what we were talking about?"
"It's beside the point 'cause I don't wanna talk about it!" the boy snapped.
"Oh that's really mature…" she rolled with her eyes. Jet scowled.
"Ok fine." he sighed angrily, "But I'm telling you this for my own peace of mind only, understand?" Virginia nodded her head in affirmation and Jet continued, "It's been bugging me for a while now… …It's not completely impossible, ok?"
"Not impossible…? What do you mean?" she watched him with growing curiosity.
Jet gave her a tortured look. Of course she would have him explain. Why should things ever be easy?
"My insight on… uh, feelings and stuff isn't exactly great, I'm aware of that." he began hesitantly, still thinking of how to express himself, "In fact, it's probably the exact opposite of great… uh, really bad. But what I'm saying is that it's not entirely impossible that I… I like you a slight bit more than the… uh, average girl…" Jet watched as Virginia brightened, "But you know, my initial response to most people is a mild form of despise so you shouldn't take it too-" before he could finish the sentence she lunged at him and he suddenly found himself locked in a tight embrace.
Taken very much by surprise he was forced to take a step back in order keep his balance as the girl clung tightly to his body.
"What a roundabout way of telling someone how you feel." she spoke into his chest and her voice was slightly muffled by his shirt, "For someone who doesn't talk much you sure have a way with words, Jet"
The young drifter awkwardly tried to shift in her embrace.
"Hey, um… aren't you overreacting a bit?" he wondered carefully, not certain how to respond to the sudden act of affection. Sure, he had just admitted the possible existence of fonder feelings toward her but he had also done so in an almost painfully hesitant way. Wasn't she perhaps reading too much in his words? Relying a bit too much on her amazing ability to read romantic undertones so secret he himself had no idea of them in everything he said?
Virginia shook her head lightly and her hair brushed against his nose.
"I really, really, really like you Jet, I-I think more than anyone." the words came surprisingly easily and before she knew it the entire sentence was pronounced. She blushed as the confession replayed in her head. "I-I'm not overreacting…right?" she nearly pleaded.
Looking at the nervous girl Jet felt his throat tightening around his answer. A voice inside his head dared him to say 'yes' just to show that he was still able to.
"M-Maybe not." he stuttered, embarrassed to relent in such an uncharacteristic fashion. Then, with a strange sense of distance, the young drifter felt his arms twitch into hesitant movement. Without much to say in the matter he watched as one of them came to rest gently around Virginia's waist. His other hand hovered over her head for a moment before carefully landing in her soft, brown hair.
With a sigh of relief the girl relaxed in his arms. Jet doubted he could do the same. Although he managed to take some comfort in the fact that she shouldn't be able to see his blush with her face nuzzled against his chest.
After having climbed out through a kitchen window on the backside and silently circled the house under the cover of darkness, Gallows and Clive spotted their two younger teammates standing on the front lawn.
The conversation was only partially audible at best but the two spies didn't dare to move closer in fear of being discovered. There was no telling what torture Jet and Virginia might subject them to if they were caught spying. Especially if they saw something they weren't supposed to see…
Gallows grinned wildly in the darkness, just as he did in the face of danger. These were the things he lived for. Aside from the money he would get from Clive if the two kissed it would also be greatly amusing to watch how Jet reacted to the advances their leader was bound to make on him. There were few things as entertaining as watching Jet in situations where a sense of romance was required.
For Virginia's sake he truly hoped for a positive response but he had to admit to himself that watching Jet panic would be a great deal more amusing.
"Clive," he whispered to his partner in crime, "Climb that tree. You'll get a better view from there."
"What?" the green haired sniper questioned. "Are you really sure that's a good idea? I've been drinking, I might fall off." his eyes traveled from the tree and back to his teammate with a doubtful look.
"What's that? Are you questioning me?" the Baskar looked scandalized, "Who do you think has the most experience in undercover work of this kind? You or me, Clive? You or me?"
"…How is that related to me being drunk?"
"Clive. You'll be fine. Besides, I've had more to drink than you and one of us HAS to climb the tree."
"But why? I can see them just fine from down here."
"There you go again, questioning me even though I'm clearly the more experienced one of us."
"Well I don't know about that… I'll have you know that in my youth-"
"Just climb the tree, Clive."
When the embrace ended Jet spent an awkward moment examining his shoes before he dared to glance back up at the brunette he had moments earlier held in his arms. He was treading on painfully unknown territory now… well actually he had been for quite a while already. But what would one usually do or say after having so obviously displayed ones affection? What could he do now when denial was no longer an option?
The most logical course of action would be to learn more about his feelings so that the awkward uncertainty that plagued his every action might finally give away. If he knew how deep his affections truly ran that might clear the clouds of doubt from his mind.
But of course, just as with so many other things, that was a great deal easier said than done.
Learn more about my feelings, huh? I can't believe I'm thinking all this…
Virginia kept smiling at him with a very much content look on her face as if she had just received a grand prize of some sort.
I can't believe…
"Yesterday…" Jet found himself speaking, "In Gob's Hideout when I was in the other room…" there was a strange moment when he suddenly came to realize what he was about to say and part of him really wanted to stop. But that part was apparently no longer a majority, "I thought you got shot…" his voice momentarily faded as he yet again recalled the moment.
Virginia watched him silently as he tried to gather his thoughts into words. It was rare to hear him speak for any other reason than necessity. It was clear he wanted to get something off his chest.
"I've been trying to figure it out but it's so hard to say what I was feeling at the moment 'cause it was so much at the same time." he glanced at her with uncertain eyes that silently implored her to help him understand. "But I guess it was mostly… fear." he concluded himself, lowering his gaze in shame.
"Jet…" Virginia spoke quietly with a growing urge to hug him again. She reached over and took his hand.
"It bothered me 'cause I don't usually feel that way, " he stared at their joined hands with something distant in his eyes, "at least not that… intensely."
"…So you've been wondering what it means?" the drifter girl guessed.
Jet looked back up at her face again.
"…Yeah" he acknowledged, "I'm pretty bad when it comes to knowing these things… and admitting them I guess." he smiled to himself, thinking it was an understatement.
"You're doing a pretty good job so far." Virginia gave him an affectionate smile and squeezed his hand.
Jet looked doubtful.
"You think?" for some reason he felt a sudden need to lighten the mood, "It must be the alcohol then…"
"What!?" Virginia released her grip on his hand, "You're telling me the confession I've been waiting for all this time was just drunk talk!?" she exclaimed with feigned indignation, "And here I thought it was my beautiful looks and winning personality that made you say it…" she deliberately trailed off on a sad note.
"Well, maybe the looks had something to do with it…" Jet offered, "But the personality…?" he looked skeptical.
"Excuse me? Oh, and you're the one to talk Mr. 'I'm only nice to people when it suits me'."
"I see nothing wrong with that"
"Well, you better be nice to me from now on…" Virginia threatened but could no longer keep from grinning. Neither could Jet. "…So was it really that bad?" she asked after a moment had passed.
"Huh?" Jet wasn't quite sure what she meant by that. Was she talking about the hug or his earlier admission, the day in whole or…?
"Your first birthday." she clarified, "Was it just as bad as you'd pictured it? Did it really kill you to spend some time with your friends?"
"Well, I'm not dead so obviously it wasn't that bad."
"Really?" Virginia raised a questioning eyebrow.
"I suppose as long as it's only once a year I could grow to get used to it…"
"Well you know, birthdays aren't the only festivities you spend together with friends and family…"
As Clive boldly scaled higher up the tree to reach the suitable branch he had picked as his goal, many a things were happening on the ground. Looking down moments earlier he had caught Gallows doing a silent dance of excitement as their two younger teammates off by the house had suddenly embraced. He was undoubtedly thinking of all the money heading his way if things continued to escalate in the same direction.
Truthfully Clive was happy for Virginia. Sure, his economy would suffer quite a blow if the couple indeed did kiss but what the hell, the girl deserved it. It could probably do Jet some good as well to discover the other sides of life beside treasure hunting.
Returning to silently curse himself for letting Gallows lure him into betting and then into climbing the stupid tree, the sniper turned to look at their leader and the white haired gunman standing on the edge of light in front of the large house. The curses died on his lips and were replaced by a fatherly smile that was kind of silly given the fact he wasn't really old enough to be their parent. He wondered briefly if "adorable" was an appropriate word to describe the hugging teenagers. Jet would definitely protest to the wording.
The embrace ended and the couple seemed to continue their conversation but the select few words that reached his ears made little sense.
Commencing his climb again so that Gallows wouldn't yell at him, Clive reached for the next branch in within his range. So far his ascent had been unproblematic save for the occasional twig in the face, and he was starting to feel more confident in his tree climbing abilities.
As his hands reached the thick branch from where he had planned to watch the scene play out before him sitting comfortably against the trunk of the tree, the voice of Jet suddenly reached him, uttering a word that immediately seized his attention. Somewhere below him he heard Gallows gasp. This was it.
Then, in the midst of the excitement, a furry flash shot out from a hole in the tree leaping onto his arm. With a silent shriek Clive instinctively pushed away with his legs and started shaking his arm to rid himself of his attacker. The fact that he was perched up in a large tree didn't dawn to him until he was already falling toward the ground.
"…So what happens now?" Jet wondered and couldn't help but feel stupid and inexperienced for asking.
"Um, there's something I would like to do…" Virginia turned her gaze down at her feet, "…but we don't have to if you don't want to…" drawing circles in the dirt with the tip of her shoe, she tried her best not to blush, "…I would like a kiss."
"A-A kiss?" Jet repeated with some trouble controlling the volume of his voice. Then a muffled sound escaped the tree behind them. Both drifters turned their heads just in time to see Clive drop down from within the leaves. The green haired man hit the ground with a loud thud. A ring of dust spread from the point of impact.
A short moment of confused silence ensued.
"…What the hell?" Jet asked at the end of it. The end of the silence that was, not the confusion.
Setting off toward their friend both young drifters asked themselves the very same question: Why was he in the tree?
"Clive? Are you ok?" Virginia asked as she reached the fallen sniper but before he could answer Gallows suddenly appeared from out of nowhere.
"You did that on purpose didn't you!?" The Baskar tribesman accused angrily. "That's it, the bet's off! Outside interference, man!"
"Yes Gallows. I fell off the tree on purpose." Clive sighed, slowly sitting up while rubbing the side of his head with one hand. "I was attacked by-"
"Aha! He confessed!" Gallows exclaimed victoriously.
"Bet? What bet?" Virginia wondered.
Suddenly everyone turned awfully quiet.
"Uh, did you say bet? I didn't say bet, I said…vet!" Gallows said with some trouble adjusting the speed of his voice, "Yes, we're taking Clive's horse to the vet!" he sounded strangely triumphant considering how utterly useless a lie it was
"Gallows… Don't lie when you're drunk" the sniper advised.
"A bet? Was there money involved?" Jet suddenly caught interest in the conversation. Virginia gave him a not so pleased look.
"Of course there was money involved." The Baskar explained.
"I see…" said Virginia and her eyes narrowed threateningly, "Would you mind telling us more about the conditions of this little wager…?"
Most of the color already gone from his face, Gallows began frantically searching for a believable excuse. But alas, Clive was right, he simply wasn't sober enough for the task. Hell, even then it would have been quite a challenge.
"Be a man, just tell the truth…" muttered Clive with the tone of someone already resigned to his fate.
"You're right." the large man sighed, "We made a bet whether or not you'd kiss tonight." he bowed his head in shame hoping it might lessen his punishment.
Jet started coughing. Virginia didn't look all that surprised.
"Hmm…So who bet on what?" She looked at Clive then back at Gallows.
"Uh," said Gallows, not quite sure where this was going and why there had been so little anger and punishment so far. "I said you'd kiss and Clive said you wouldn't"
"You bet against us!?" Virginia turned to Clive, "That's mean."
"I apologize, but if we both bet on the same result there wouldn't really be much point in it…"
"Hmpf!" Virginia turned around and grasped a hold of Jet's hand, "That's it. Come on Jet, let's go back to our room. And for all you know" she glared back at the two older team members, "we might kiss all night long. But that's the beauty of it: you won't really know."
"We might?" Jet asked, looking slightly startled by the idea. And when did it become OUR room?
"Oh, c'mon Ginny, have a heart!" Gallows pleaded. "Help a guy earn some money"
"Might I advise you to give it a rest before she changes her mind and beats us for spying?" wondered Clive. He sounded like a man who had just caught a glimpse but tried his best not to let it show.
Virginia ignored both of them, "Let's go Jet." she started dragging him toward the house.
"Jet, my man!" Gallows refused to give up just yet, "You of all people should understand the importance that we know. A bet's a bet. There's money involved here." he exclaimed, making sure to put extra weight on the magic word: "money" as well as rubbing his index finger and thumb together in the familiar sign for the word.
"Do I get a share?" asked the white-haired drifter.
"JET!" Virginia did NOT sound pleased.
The two drifters disappeared through the door. Virginia more or less dragging Jet behind her although both Clive and Gallows could clearly see the boy wasn't struggling nearly as much as one would expect.
"…Nice going there." the Baskar sat down on the ground next to the sniper, "Now we'll never know who won."
"It was never my intention to ruin the moment. But you see, I was attacked by a pack of vicious squirrels..." the sniper tried his best to explain.
Gallows gave him an odd look.
"Wow, you need to lay off the booze, man. Seriously."
There you go. A kind of cliched ending I guess what with the last second interruption and all but I couldn't resist.
Thanks for all the reviews.