Specimen

A Wild Arms III Fanfiction By:

Black Waltz 0

A/N: Here we have a J/C yaoi, courtesy of me. Look closely and you might just spot a hint of V/G too. This is more accurately a prequel to my other fanfic, 'Sample'. The first thing I need to warn readers about is that this is a male/male romance and that THERE IS A M/M SEX SCENE IN HERE. Children and those who find that sort of thing weird or abhorrent should certainly not be reading this fic, in which case I advise you to push the back button on your browsers now. Flames will be laughed at, because all the info needed to steer clear of this fic is right here in the author notes. I want to warn you now before you go on reading, okay?! And… um, this is the first R rated fic I've ever written, by the way. I was giggling like a sugar-high schoolgirl when I typed it. With that said, please enjoy this.

xxx

Gallows looped his finger through the ring pull tab on his can of pudding and tugged on it firmly, peeling back the aluminum lid to reveal the food underneath, making the big Baskar priest lick his lips in anticipation. Dinner had been nothing but dried beef jerky and a few measly stalks of celery shared between them all, and even for a group of drifters trying to stop the dream-demon Beatrice from spewing forth more monsters into their world, the meal was as bad as it had ever been before. The jerky tasted and felt like it had been made of wood, and the celery had turned a pale whitish-yellow, drooping like it was on the verge of death. Gallows knew exactly how the celery felt.

Only a month ago the Maxwell Gang had gotten rid of the Prophets and Siegfried for good, but from that, a newer and much more sinister evil had appeared, and it threatened their little planet just as badly as the other evil had before. They were still trying to figure out what they were going to do next. They had Lombardia and the use of the teleport orb now, all they needed was a lead to their next clue. For now, the group had stopped and had set up camp near a very tiny forest on the outskirts of the Westwood plains, so small that it barely earned itself a location on the world map. They were resting in a clear flat and grass-less area, with some small cliffs at their left. It was a fairly cloudless night and the stars were visible, while around them, soft smoke from a crackling fire warmed their bodies and kept away the darkness of the night.

Gallows had pudding. Gallows loved pudding, it was one of his favorite desserts, and now it was his own. They had been saving the pudding supply for when the time came that all their food stores would run thin, so they'd at least have a little something sweet left to take away the edge off their hunger. He munched on it contentedly while he watched Virginia do the same, the team leader sitting on the other side of the fire, directly opposite from him. Noticing that Gallows was looking at her, Virginia set her spoon down and smiled, in a particularly good mood for some reason. Jet and Clive seemed to be in a far bleaker mood though, the two only picking half-heartedly at their food. Jet was staring at his spork as if he was trying to bend it with his mind, and Clive's cold ice-blue eyes seemed to be over a million miles away, preoccupied by the thoughts inside his head.

He could understand Jet's deep funk well enough, despite his label of being slightly dim-witted and slow. The boy had only recently learnt of his origins, and that he was not even a true human at all, he was just a science experiment made to look like a human at a scientist's personal whim, and no matter what he did or how hard he could try, nothing could ever change him into anything other than that. How badly could that affect Jet's already introverted psyche? The boy hadn't changed much outwardly, he was still his callous self, but here and there the rest of the Maxwell Gang noted that Jet had almost withdrawn into himself, causing him to space out a lot, and sometimes at night, he would toss and turn and make frightened little noises in his sleep. Gallows felt sorry for Jet, but there really wasn't anything he could do about it. He was kinda hoping that Virginia might be able to help him, but Gallows could only drop hints about it, nothing more.

On the other hand, Gallows similarly had an idea why Clive seemed to be so depressed. Ever since gunning down Siegfried when he merged with a Fafnir dragon, the green-haired sniper had also become a little quiet and withdrawn. It had been hardly noticeable in the beginning, but for the last few days or so, it was like a black cloud had settled down upon Clive's mood and had darkened it to a dull dreary grey. Gallows had also noticed that Clive had stopped taking notes down in his notebook, an act that Clive seemed to perform almost constantly throughout their travels. When Gallows had asked him about it, Clive had replied that he had nothing left to take notes on. He had discovered the cause of Filgaia's decay, had fulfilled Berlitz's last wish, and now he had nothing left to do. Nothing to tie him to this group. That must have been a horrible concept to ponder, at least for Clive.

Looking down, Gallows saw that he had finished the rest of his pudding while he had been thinking, and that the can was now empty and useless to him. Sighing and feeling a little under the weather himself, experiencing empathy for his sullen teammates, he disposed of the can and leaned forward to warm his hands on the campfire, the air at his back cold and a little stinging. Living in a wasteland meant that the days were as hot as hell, but the nights were the opposite, freezing cold. The campfire left a lot to be desired, it wasn't as warm as it should have been, as most of it's wooden fuel had already been burnt away. Clive had obligingly lit the wood earlier with a small cremate arcana, but that had been a few hours ago, and the fire needed more wood to keep itself alive. "Um, maybe I should find some more sticks?" He asked himself out loud with an ulterior motive, wanting somebody else to volunteer their help. He didn't want to have to do that kind of chore alone, especially on the spooky plains of Westwood.

"What, alone?" Virginia asked, glancing up from the fire. "That isn't a very safe idea, Gallows, what with the extra amount of monsters that Beatrice has been manufacturing. I had better come along too, just in case you get lost. You'll need an extra pair of hands to gather the wood anyway." The drifter leader looked at her two other comrades, who did not seem to be too enthusiastic at all, or already absorbed in inner affairs. "Can you two stay here and guard the fort? It won't take long for us to find what we need." At least, she hoped it wouldn't. But wood meant trees, and trees were a rarity on the planet Filgaia. It was a huge strain of good luck that there was a forest nearby, then. Virginia and Gallows stood up, retrieving their ARMS, just in case. "Don't argue while we're gone, okay?"

Jet made an unintelligible grunt and Clive didn't say anything, the green-haired sniper having picked up his notebook and was reading through some of his older notes, probably unable to hear Virginia's words in the first place. Gallows retrieved a small hatchet from his inventory, used to chop up small portions of wood. It was a lightweight one-handed tool, and it could also double as a basic weapon as well. Dusting himself off, Gallows checked that his Coyote's clip was full and waited for Virginia to do the same. Her twin silver pistols glittered in the waning light of the fire, splashing the white metal with flares of orange, yellow and red. Virginia slipped both weapons into their respective holsters by her sides and followed Gallows as he left, the girl nudging the large Baskar priest in the side as soon as they were out of Clive and Jet's earshot, striking up a seemingly good-natured conversation.

All was quiet for a few good minutes, the only sounds being made was the chirping of crickets hidden by the scrub and grasslands, the crackling of the dying fire, and the steady and rhythmic breathing of the two drifters left in the area. Jet was enjoying the quiet, it was a welcome change from the constant blabbering of Virginia and Gallows, an annoyance that never seemed to go away. The only person who was left with him now was Clive, and he was a fairly quiet person naturally, so Jet didn't mind his company. Besides, the green-haired man seemed to be busy and unwilling to talk, another good bonus. Prodding the fire with a short wooden stick, Jet reveled in the silence of the night.

It didn't last very long.

Clive reached the very last page of his notebook and looked down upon the messy, almost illegible spidery scrawl of his own handwriting. It was a labeled map of Deus Ex Machina, for when he had drawn it up he had been deep in the bowels of that loathsome place, trying to keep track of his current location. It had helped a lot in navigating his team through the facility, although most of the credit deserved to go to the Schroedinger Gang, who had provided successive ingress in the first place, via their operation at the main control panels. Without their passwords, they never would have made it through. Clive still had the strange codes printed down on the last page as well, though he wouldn't need them anymore. Sighing, he ripped the page out and fed it to the fire, still a little depressed. "I suppose this is the end for me…" He muttered, watching the flames blacken and devour the piece of hard work.

He considered this to be true. There was no reason for him to stay in the Maxwell Gang now, the logical choice for him was to leave and search for the rest of his destiny elsewhere. They were going to seal the information library Hyades in order to stop the dream-demon and her sinister plot, and with that, all his dreams and hopes would be sealed too. What was the point of him continuing on if this was to be the definite outcome? It was saddening just to think about. Jet heard Clive's words and flicked his gaze over to the sniper momentarily, before going back to the fire. "…The end of what?" He asked gruffly, not really interested but feeling obligated to ask.

Closing his notebook, Clive didn't look up. "Probably the end of my presence here." He explained simply and dully. "I shall probably go home soon, back to Humphrey's Peak. There is no more reason for me to be here. And, I think I am losing my will to fight. I have nothing left to study in this call of duty, and my lack of conviction will slow the rest of you down." If he slowed them down too much, then he would be giving his friends up to death. Clive didn't want to be responsible for anything like that, and he also wished to keep himself away from death, in case it brought grief to his family. The last thing he wanted to do was cause his loved ones pain.

Jet prodded the fire again, becoming sucked into the conversation. He didn't mind talking with Clive much, because the sniper usually spoke sense and gave good advice, but this was the first time that he had seen Clive undecided and even as little distressed over his current place in time. Jet didn't like the sound of that, and honestly, he didn't like to see Clive distressed as well. "You have nothin' left to study?" Jet echoed as a reply, "I'd think you'd have a ton of it, after all the weird shit we've seen. There's been the Prophets, the nanomachines, the demons, Lombardia, hell, even me-" Jet didn't catch himself in time, and slapped a hand over his mouth a second too late. He blushed slightly, a reflex that he certainly didn't want Clive to see.

Oh crap, did I actually say that out loud?! Geez, I hope he doesn't get any ideas…

The young android's words seemed to crack Clive's dreary mood a little and the sniper laughed, entertained by what his friend had just said. "Are you offering yourself as a research specimen, Jet?" He asked jokingly at first, but then dwelt on the idea a little bit more and unconsciously stroked his chin. It actually seemed like a good idea, after a little thought. Truthfully, Clive had wondered before on how the Prophets had managed to animate an entire human replica as the embodiment of a vast multi-faceted organism like Filgaia, but had never really asked Jet much about because he had only really learnt the truth himself only a short while ago, and Clive didn't want to accidentally hurt Jet's feelings. "Actually…" He continued waveringly, unaware that he was speaking out loud, "Maybe I can complete the Filgaia Theory with the knowledge and understanding of Jet's data?"

"Oh yeah, I bet I'd make a great bit of data. Slap a barcode on me and send me through the scanner three times, that'll be fun." Jet said sourly to the other man, not liking the idea of being likened to inanimate data and prodding the fire a little more fiercely now. If he wanted to think of himself like that, he would have stripped down and thrown himself at the Prophets himself, as stupid as that sounded. Didn't Clive understand anything about tact?

Clive snapped back to reality again and realised that he spoken out loud, wounding Jet on the inside. "Dear me, I am so sorry Jet. I did not mean to say that so openly to you. I just… thought it might be beneficial for you to know who you are in a more detailed way. It would also give me a temporary reason to stay here, and, I admit, I am a little interested in this concept. Filgaia personified as a human…"

"I ain't Filgaia." Jet told Clive sternly and coldly, turning towards the green-haired man. Clive also had his eyes focussed firmly on Jet, and for some unexplained reason, it sent a shiver down Jet's spine. Clive had eyes like a glacier, cool and calculating, but always moving, processing, thinking. Standing up, Clive moved over to Jet and sat down beside him, to get a better look. The silver-haired boy was prepared to push Clive into the fire if he did anything he didn't like, but he could also sense within him that his resolve on the subject was beginning to waver. Clive probably wouldn't leave him alone until he had gotten what he wanted, it was a trait that they had all felt rubbing off on them, coming from their female drifter leader. Jet sighed and waved a hand in the air defeatedly. "But still, if you wanna study me then go ahead, just don't do anything to piss me off."

Smiling brightly, Clive nodded. "Thank you, Jet. This will be a most interesting and unique opportunity. One moment, please." He returned to his spot in the campsite and liberated his notebook and a pen, turning the book upside down so he could write on the opposite sides of the paper, giving him a little room in an already used-up piece of work. Flipping through until the found a clear page, he drew a freehand margin and scribbled 'Jet Enduro' at the top. Going back to his seat near Jet, Clive sat down and wrote up a short hypothesis, something that Jet didn't have the correct angle of light to see. Setting the notebook down in his lap, Clive extended his hand. "Give me your wrist, please. I would like to take your pulse." Begrudgingly, Jet laid his wrist against Clive's palm and Clive pressed two fingers from his other hand against Jet's radial artery, counting the pulses and the time.

One small part of his mind was thinking differently, though. Oh my… Oh dear… You are actually touching him! Have we ever done this before? Apart from treating minor wounds and other such things, I think not. He does not like to be touched much, does he? I wonder why? Could that have had something to do with him being the sample?

Hmm… You know… you have wanted to touch him for a long time, have you not?

Yes, that is true. Oh gods, he has skin like velvet…

Unwillingly pulling his hands away so that he could write, Clive jotted down Jet's pulse as being a little slower than a normal human's, and that his skin felt substantially cooler as well, in a pleasant sense, probably contributing to the fact that Jet's skin felt so soft. Clive noted that this must have been a genetic advantage given to him by the Council so that he could stand high degrees of heat, Filgaia's basic atmosphere. With a lower body temperature, Jet wouldn't have to sweat as much, which meant that he could conserve inner water reserves and keep himself even cooler. It did make a lot of sense, now. What an intriguing survival mechanism. Clive was only just beginning and he had already discovered something new.

He… mimics a human almost perfectly, but I wonder if he also imitates a human under correct stimuli… down there?

No, that is a bad thought, bad! Bad!

…But still… I wonder…?

Clive violently ripped that renegade thought from his mind, biting his lip. It was becoming progressively more difficult for Clive to ignore the fact that he had become attracted to Jet as they have traveled all across the world and through the wasteland, knowing what it would mean if he ever openly confessed his feelings out loud to the boy, Jet would probably kill him. He was still curious though, and nothing could take that kind of curiosity away, it was something that Clive had been born with. He must have been a cat or something in his previous life, he reckoned. "Well, let me see, this is very interesting data, Jet. Quite fascinating." He was only making pointless small talk, to take his mind off his more disturbing thoughts. "May I check your throat? Open your mouth and say; 'aah'."

Grumbling, Jet obeyed, but he still curiously had that same blush painted across his cheeks, a little embarrassed by something. Because the night was a little dark and the light was only given by a failing campfire, Clive had to move in closely to see anything at all, having to place one hand on Jet's chest to keep his proper balance. The touch sent a thrill throughout Jet's body and the boy's hands clenched a little, feeling the strange sensation and becoming quite confused by it at the same time. Jet had perfectly formed white teeth that didn't look damaged in any way, and the surface of his throat was free from scars. His tonsils were also intact, so he had most likely never developed tonsillitis in the past. Not bothering to write this part down and assuring himself that he would remember it later, Clive moved on. "Jet… um, do you mind if I touch you a little, please?"

Oh dear, that did not sound too intimate, did it? I did not mean it that way…

But you were thinking about it, were you not…? Go on, just go for it. Maybe he will enjoy it. If he does not like it, just stop. That was what he agreed to, correct?

I suppose…

So, before Jet could answer, Clive acted. Tentatively, he reached out with the tip of a finger to the hairline of the boy, brushing back a few strands of unruly silver hair. Jet's hair was soft, softer than a human's, and oh so silky. Clive could not feel this, so he removed his gloves to properly experience it for himself. The sniper had not felt silk before, the creature that produces the linen having become extinct many years ago because nearly all trees had died out, but he could guess that this must have been what it felt like, so light that it was barely even there.

Jet felt like he was going to have a heart attack. Oh shit, oh shit! What the hell is he feeling?! He felt a rush of blood and stiffness creep down there and crammed his hands into his lap, trying to conceal it and his blush at the same time. What the hell am I feeling?!

Don't be an idiot, Jet. His mind told him, You've been having wet dreams about this for months now.

Godammit, don't think about that!

"I have always wondered," Whispered Clive almost inaudibly, "Why you have such an unusual hair colour. The lack of the melanin chemical must cause the silver hair. It would allow you to blend into the pale wasteland surroundings. I suppose now it makes sense. And these…" His finger slid lower, down past Jet's right temple to rest near his eye. The boy was practically holding his breath. Clive was touching him. "I have never seen a boy with lavender eyes, either. What would be the advantage? I do not know. Let me make a note…" But he did not pick up his notebook, he had left it beside him, it was not even open. "Beautiful, though. Yes, quite beautiful…"

The touch to his skin, Jet had never thought that this would ever actually happen, not outside of his own mind anyway. Clive's hand was warm, and Jet was so much colder, his body temperature slightly lower than an average human, just as Clive had said. Jet rarely made contact with other people, and didn't know that humans had such warmth to spare. He now knew what he lacked, and what his friend, Clive, possessed. Comfort and warmth. Jet could feel the coldness of the night and the coldness in his body, and apart from the fire, Clive was the warmest thing around.

Gravity and perhaps something else forced Clive to trace the outline of Jet's jaw, lower and lower, until he met the unblemished flesh of the boy's neck. His thesis may have been incorrect, if Jet was indeed the personification of their dusty scarred world, then Clive could not see why the boy was so achingly beautiful, not that he was complaining or anything. No, Jet was perfect, Clive wished he could just do what he so desperately wanted to do. He could already feel that his body was getting ready for it too, if the straining bulge in his pants meant anything at all. Jet noticed this and blinked confusedly, still an innocent at heart. Clive was still a little surprised that Jet hadn't told him to stop or anything, he would have expected that by now. "Jet… I… let me take your shirt off, alright?"

Something in Jet's mind seemed to dislike this idea, but the boy's consciousness had become a little dazed with both confusion and anxious want, unable to remember what he was fearing. No! No, don't let him look! He'll see-

With almost tender care, Clive put pressure on Jet's shoulder and pushed him down onto the soft cotton blanket beneath the both of them, the green-haired man receiving no resistance on Jet's part, and even felt him go along quietly with the motion. He was blushing deeply when Clive hooked his thumbs with the sides of the light and dark coloured garment covering Jet's thin yet alluring frame and slid it down until it got caught upon the crook of Jet's elbow, revealing that the boy wore a charcoal tank top underneath, hardly able to cover his pale skin, bathed in the moonlight. He looked up at the older man, his lavender eyes filled with something almost resembling shame. Clive's hands were now planted near either sides of the young android's head, his fingers splayed out and the palms of his hands flat against the ground. "Jet…" He said softly, trailing a finger down the blemished imperfection of a bicep, his voice tinged with concern.

No, oh gods no…

Jet's body was burned underneath in dozens of places, not by the insane savagery of a burning fire, but in simple precise locations, indicating torture. They looked an awful lot like cigarette burns, and though the wounds had healed well over the passage of time, the skin that had grown over it was coarse and unsightly, rough and unappealing. Yes, it was true, Jet was a scarred soul underneath. Horrified, Clive slid his hand under Jet's shirt and felt the smooth flatness of the boy's stomach, every so often mutilated by those ugly scars. Jet shivered, adoring Clive's warm and kind touch, but at the same time it scared him deeply, because it made him feel terrible things that he had not felt for years, things that he never wanted to see or hear about again. "You wanna see what I… What Filgaia is? Well here it is. I'm… I'm unclean, Clive." He admitted to the green-haired sniper ashamedly. "I'm not pure. I never wanted anybody to see the burns, because all they do is just scream out exactly how dirty I am."

Biting his lip for a moment, Clive removed his hand and tugged Jet's shirt down again, then resting the back of it against Jet's flushed cheek. He had never seen those wounds before, nobody in their group had, because Jet had never let anybody get this close to him, to both his body and his soul. They were old burns, but they still must have hurt him at times, for wounds of that variety took nearly a lifetime to heal away. "What happened?" Clive heard himself asking, not caring if his questions were distasteful or not. He had to know. Who would injure a beautiful creature like Jet in such a way? "Who did this to you? Tell me please."

The silver-haired boy shook his head in refusal, the rocking forcing his cheek to come into sweet contact with Clive's cupped hand. "You don't want to know." He replied readily, nearly automatically. "It'll only make you upset, and it is all in the past now anyway. Nothing anybody can do can change it. It's alright, Clive. You don't want to know." And he didn't particularly want to reply, his gaze shifting to the stars behind Clive's body, loosing eye contact with the other man. He couldn't look Clive in the eye and say that, because he knew he'd never be able to say it without his voice breaking down.

Upon hearing this, Clive frowned, forcing one of his arms behind Jet's back and making the young boy sit up, leaning back a little to put more force into the motion. Jet opened his mouth to protest but realised that he couldn't, because his attention had immediately been diverted when Clive pulled Jet's shirt off over the boy's head, so that nothing else could hide his wounds anymore. They were visible on his skin in the moonlight, horrible tiny burns, the boy having been tormented with prodding fire. Jet closed his eyes, embarrassed beyond all doubt. Clive thought that, despite this, he still looked breathtakingly beautiful. "I do want to know." He said softly, taking one of Jet's small hands. He had only just realised how small the boy's hands were, like a child's, but still full of great strength and conviction. That strength and conviction, however, was not present now. "Do you think you are any less of a person for being hurt like this? No Jet, that is not true. You are not ugly, and you are not dirty either. You are a perfect, wonderful, fine example of a human bei-"

"How can you say that when you don't even know what happened?!" Jet cried out in an emotion-filled outburst, both his hands clenching almost painfully. "You have no idea… what these burns mean…" He finished, drooping pathetically, resting his hands in his lap. The cool breezes felt good on his bare skin, but they didn't blow away the horrible sinking feeling of his own pitiful self-worth. He put one hand to his breast and traced the circular outline of one of the burns there, remembering the exact time when it had been made. It was horrible, and so was he.

Clive leant forward, touching Jet consolingly on the shoulder. On his face was written a look of deep concern. "You are right," He said, "I do not know. And I shall never know until you tell me about it, in which case I am prepared to listen. I promise I will not tell anybody else about it, your words shall never stray any further than this campsite, unless you wish for it. Jet, please tell me. Who did this to you?"

Jet had a deep urge to get up and run away from the older drifter, but he also didn't think that he could possibly break the contact he was feeling between himself and Clive, the man's touch feeling warm against his skin. Of all the people in the world, it had to be Clive that he had to tell his tale to, and now Clive would know how awful he really was. To know his deepest, and most private faults. He stared at the ground now, his cheeks a heated red from embarrassment and shame. "It was… It was a long time ago, when I was just a greenhorn drifter without any experience of the real world. I didn't always travel alone. I was the youngest in a group of eight drifters, well, we were more like a bandit team, actually. It was okay while it lasted, we always made a fair share of gella and then we'd split it equally, without any prejudice or anything. We did some bad things, robbed caravans and even held up a bank once, but they were like… like my first family."

His tone became graver as he continued, and Clive listened with silence. Jet's voice was dull, and did not even contain self-pity. He was merely stating the facts. "But deep below that, at night, when they'd all celebrate their winnings with beer and ale and grog, they changed completely. I've been beaten senseless a fair share of times, had a few limbs broken, been bruised and bled an' all that when everybody was so blind drunk that they didn't care if it was me, or if they were doin' it to one of their own teammates. I was a dumb kid, I didn't know how to fight back. But that wasn't the worst part, I could handle that pretty well. I could always heal, and be ready for the next time they got themselves hammered. Maybe someday I could be strong enough to fight back. No, it was my old boss that made all the difference."

Something in Jet seemed to change when he mentioned his boss, like he had been struck on the inside with a spiked leather whip. Clive watched Jet hide a shiver and seemed to droop a little, the young boy closing his eyes. "When he was sober he was usually a reasonable person, despite being a bastard either way. Everyone respected him because he knew what he was doin', and he made sure that whatever crime we was committin' would be as fun as hell. It was fun, I respected him for that, but… you ever seen how drastically alcohol can change a person? Well, I have. It was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in a way. He'd be tellin' me an interesting story in the beginning an' calling me 'son', and then an evening and a bottle of grog later, he'd be…"

"I was stupid back then. I didn't know what rape was. I thought it was normal what he did to me, because I was the weakest of the entire group. I thought it was some kind of punishment. He said it would make me stronger but it didn't, it only made me even more pathetic than I already was. There were times when he'd rape me 'til I passed out, then I wouldn't know what would happen next until the morning, and by then he'd be sober again and pretend that nothing ever happened. I can still remember what his breath stunk of, you know? I'll always hate the stench of whiskey for the rest of my life." He sighed brokenly. "That's what I was. I was the team whore, and the team ashtray as well. That's where the burns came from. Every time I did something wrong, he'd burn a reminder of it into my flesh. After a while the rest of the team found out about it and joined in on the fun, and then… then… I knew that if I didn't escape… I'd end up killing myself eventually…"

Jet started to cry audibly, like a small child. He had to sit up again to prevent himself from choking on his own tears, and he silently hated himself from telling Clive this and acting like a baby in his presence, when only ten minutes ago he was his cold silent self, dead to the world. Oh, how drastically a can person change in that time, he thought. This never would have happened if he hadn't wanted Clive in the first place, even if he had been quietly lusting after him for a such very long time. He never had planned to act on it, but it was Clive who had moved first. How was he supposed to refuse him? And now he had said too much, and Clive would think him an unclean piece of garbage. That was exactly how Jet felt, then.

He was surprised when he felt Clive pull him into a soft embrace, but was too engrossed in his tears to stop crying at the moment, needing to get them all out beforehand. He couldn't remember the last time he had cried like this, so hysterically, like a little boy. It was true that he had the body of a young teenager, thanks to the efforts of the Council, but Jet thought of himself as an adult, not a dumb kid. His tears turned into simple hiccups after a while and he felt Clive's arms around him, wondering why the older man didn't pull away. "Why… do you care?" He asked, his voice breaking with a little tremor.

"Jet you silly… how could I not care?" Clive answered him, brushing his hand over some of Jet's burns. "You are one of my dearest friends, a comrade-in-arms, a confidant…" He trailed off, but then started again. "Listen to me. Rape may be dirty but it is never the victim's fault, understand? What happened to you was awful, but you should never wear or hide those burns like they are a disease. They are not your fault, you should not feel shame. Please believe me, Jet. With or without the burns, you are still a very beautiful and desirable person…"

Guardians… I'm right. He does want me… Um… uh…

With one hand, Clive unbuckled Jet's belt and pulled it out in a fluid, almost practiced motion, tossing it over to where the rest of Jet's clothes lay. Then, he worked the fly on Jet's blue jeans while Jet was still wondering and fearing what was going to happen next, trying to decided if he should flee or not. He prided himself in never running away from anything that he could handle, but he also, in a nearly frighteningly strange way, mentally urged Clive to continue on. Besides, his jeans were at the moment far too constricting, and he wanted them off.

The jeans and his boxers were now lying with the rest of his clothing, and Jet was sitting in Clive's lap, completely naked save for his skin. Clive could now see that the burns didn't stop at Jet's waist and that they were scattered over his entire body, from neck to foot. It filled him with regretful anger, but he also knew that there was nothing that he could do. Practically petrified with fear and desire, Jet put his hand to Clive's cheek and the traced the older man's lips, with a gentle nail, then rubbed the back of his hand against Clive's stubbly chin, feeling it's imperfection.

I want this, but… what am I supposed to do…?

"I have been drifting in the wastelands for a very long time." Clive admitted to his younger companion. "Far too long. It has been months since I last saw my Catherine, and I do miss her terribly. I…" He felt awkward admitting this to Jet, but he felt that he had to. "I never want to sleep with any other woman but her. But, there is only a given amount of time in which I can abstain before I can take it no longer. I would feel terrible if I came home to her only to use her like a sex object, it would cause my marriage to crumble, and I would never want that. So, I have to take advantage of a given situation at times. I feel that Catherine would forgive me for this, I really do…"

Jet tore himself away from Clive's warm embrace with a frustrated cry, crystal tears glittering and spilling in the moonlight. It was almost a childish and tantrum-like gesture, but the older green-haired man was pushed away anyway, the boy torn from his arms, whereas Jet scrambled to his feet and now stood above him, his naked body looking more perfect than it ever had before. He was breathing harshly with held-back emotion, his tears running down his cheeks. "I knew it," He said breathlessly, "I knew that if I ever tried to touch you it would end up this way. You don't love me. You never did! You just wanna fuck me over and get that urge outta your system, so you can go back to your wife and be faithful and say that you've never touched another woman but her! You don't care about me at all!" Jet choked back a sob, trying not to scream out his words. "You're no different than my old boss!"

The sniper was staring at the ground, shamed into silence. He felt that there was so many things that he needed to say, but was afraid to say them, for fear of how Jet might react. The boy had already been hurt before so many times due to things like this, and Clive was already so afraid that another rejection might send the beautiful youth right over the edge. Jet did not deserve to go that way, he didn't deserve so much guilt and shame. And, honestly, Clive didn't want to ever let Jet go. Although he had been hurt in the past, old wounds could be healed, and if that was what Fate wished for him to do, then Clive would gladly be the one to heal those wounds. If Jet had expected love, then Clive would give him love, even if it was a love slightly different to the kind he gave his Catherine. Love should always be unique. Love should always be special.

"Jet…" Clive said solemnly, looking up at the crying boy with unwavering eyes. "That is not true. I am fond of you, I respect you, and… I believe I love you. You must understand that the love I hold for Catherine belongs to nobody else but her, and you cannot take it away, but similarly, the love I hold for you is just as strong, and she can never claim it either. I am sorry if I was too vague for you to interpret my motives, but my affection for you is just as much mental as it is physical. If lying with another man brings you nothing but bad memories and pain, then I shall never touch you like that under any circumstances, but if you feel otherwise, then the decision will always be yours. You will never be forced again."

Wiping the tears from his eyes, Jet sniffled like he was a tiny little child. "I want… to be loved…" He whispered, just loud enough for Clive to hear, "But I don't want to be hurt either… It always hurt… I'm sick of it hurting…"

Clive stood up and wrapped his arms around the naked boy, Jet shivering slightly from the cold of the wasteland night. His right arm came up the support the back of Jet's head, his fingers entwining in the android's soft silver-white hair. Jet rested his head against Clive's chest, hearing faintly the comforting thud of the other man's heart. Feeling that Jet's face was damp from his cried tears, Clive kissed the top of Jet's head lovingly and rocked him back and forth a little, like he was trying to calm down a frightened child. "I will never do anything to hurt you, Jet." He promised him softly. Jet whimpered as a reply but didn't manage to utter any coherent words, pressing himself as far into Clive's embrace as he possibly could. Clive's ungloved hands could feel the roughness of Jet's burns from his fingertips, but then he moved them and tilted Jet's chin up a little, looking into the boy's pale lavender eyes. They were misty with tears.

They widened slightly when Clive sealed Jet's lips with his own and plunged his hot tongue into the abyss of Jet's mouth, delving and tasting, his tongue moving in tentative flashes between Jet's lips, gentle, caring, and even a little unsure. He just couldn't help himself, Jet had looked so beautiful to him, even in the midst of pain. Jet groaned softly around the kiss, his own desire unmistakable in the sound. He leaned a little more into Clive, giving him deeper access and clenching his hands into Clive's creamy yellow vest, amazed that he was feeling no pain. The last time he had been kissed, it had bruised him badly, enough to make him hate the act with a passion. But this was different, somehow. It did not make him feel weak. A little surer now, Jet gently slid his own tongue inside Clive's mouth, answering his body's need to be even closer. He felt as though something in his heart might burst under the pressure, but it also felt so good, so right.

They were both a bit breathless when the kiss finally broke, Clive pulling away for only a second before he licked Jet gently on the cheek. He could taste Jet's tears then, they were salty and a little bitter. "Was that… alright?" The green-haired sniper asked quietly, wanting to hear Jet's reply before he did anything else. This would be Jet's special moment, not his own.

Jet answered him by pushing Clive away a little and moving his hands to Clive's front, trying to undo the buttons on the sniper's cream-coloured vest. His hands were trembling a little for some reason, so the task proved to be a little difficult, but Clive did not interfere. Eventually Jet pulled the piece of clothing off the older man and started tugging up on the dark long-sleeved shirt below that, having trouble because Clive was substantially taller than he was. Clive removed it himself and dropped it unheeded to the ground, wearing no undershirt beneath. He had not been wearing his red coat in the first place, as it had gotten dirty the day before. Clive's skin was only a very faint shade darker than Jet's was, and his build was willowy but strong, suggesting that he may have been a very athletic person in the past. Jet reached up and removed Clive's glasses too, discarding them along with the pile of unwanted clothes. Clive had such amazing eyes, Jet thought with a blush, it was a shame he had to hide them behind corrective glass so often.

Standing on tip-toes, Jet leaned up and gave Clive a breathy kiss on the lips, gathering himself together for a moment to gently suck on the sniper's lower lip, tightening his grip on Clive's unclothed shoulders just a little. "'Was better than alright," He murmured, nuzzling his bare cheek against Clive's stubbly one, "'Was perfect. Don't hurt me, please. Do anythin' to me but just don't hurt me. Clive-ungh!" His words melted into a soft groan when Clive carefully ran his hands along a very sensitive area, creating a pleasing tingle. Clive pushed Jet down again and the silver-haired boy's knees buckled underneath him, the soft yet scratchy brown blanket beneath them rubbing up against the burns on his back. The nerves in those areas of his skin had died off when the burns had been made, but that only made the rest of his skin super-sensitive to touch, which was why he kept his body as covered as possible most of the time, afraid of the reaction he might make if touched in such a way.

Clive had managed to get that reaction from Jet with a considerable amount of ease. Clive was skilled at things like these, very skilled, Jet reckoned. "You ever… done anythin'… like this… before?" The boy asked between short gasping hisses, trying not to writhe each time Clive's tongue tasted an undamaged part of his flesh. He vaguely wondered what would happen if Gallows and Virginia decided to turn up at this moment, and Jet nearly laughed and blushed at the same time, hoping that the others were plenty amused all by themselves.

The sniper stopped his teasing for a little while and smiled, his vision just a little bit blurry due to the lack of his glasses. "I admit that I have." He whispered huskily, pressing the back of his hand to Jet's cheek, the boy's eyes sliding closed from the touch. "But that was a very long time ago, back when I was still young and experimenting, you see. I have always been like this however, it is just the way that I live. Before I met Catherine, I had a few… controversial relationships that I enjoyed. But Catherine will be the first and last woman that I will ever love, and she married me, knowing how I am. I can take solace in that fact, and that way I will feel no guilt when I love you, Jet Enduro." Clive smiled sheepishly. "I may be a little rusty, though. It has been a few years…"

"If this is rusty, then I can't wait to see-"

Clive cut him off with a kiss. "Hush, my sweet little Enduro," He purred, pulling away, "I have not even started yet." Shuffling a bit, Clive moved lower down Jet's body. "If you do not want pain, then I shall not give you any pain. In all honesty, I wanted to be inside you, but I would be a terrible person to put you through that kind of torment again. Just relax, love. I will take care of you."

…Love… He called me love… Jet thought, more than a little bewildered. He didn't think that anybody had ever called him 'love' before. Of all people, he had never expected Clive to call him that. He smiled then, and felt tears building up behind his eyes, a warm, almost fuzzy feeling manifesting within his chest. It made him feel happy, wanted, even loved. For many months now Jet had borne a slight crush upon their gang's resident sniper, and he had never, not in a million years could have guessed that Clive also bore similar affections. Jet went limp now, trying to force the wayward tears away, painfully feeling the need in his arousal and trying to ignore that as well.

"Keep your eyes closed, Jet." Clive ordered the young boy, shuffling down just a little bit more. Jet couldn't tell what Clive was doing then because he had obeyed the green-haired sniper's direction and kept his eyes closed, gently biting down on the inside of his lip and expecting pain. Every time he had been ordered to do this, everything had been a tearing, rending, bleeding pain. Clive saw Jet stiffen from the expectation and he took the android's hand, squeezing it a little for comfort. Jet seemed to calm down a little now, the boy letting out a stale breath of air. Clive kissed the back of Jet's hand and draped it across the boy's flat pale stomach, trailing with his own hand lightly over Jet's hip and inner thigh.

He let out a piercing cry that he regretted as soon as he had made it, probably loud enough for the others to hear, wherever they were. He had expected penetration but received a completely different sensation entirely, one that was warm and wet and felt safe to him. "Cl-Clive?" Jet mewled pitifully, still afraid to open his eyes, "Gods… wh-what are you…. uhnn… d-doing?" Clive couldn't answer him at the moment, but Jet had a good idea already, his light blush becoming a deeper shade of red. He nearly cried out again when Clive flicked his tongue across the slit at the end of his member, but this time Jet didn't care who heard him, it just felt too good to be wrong.

Jet moaned and bucked his hips up when Clive open his mouth wider and allowed Jet further inside, taking his time so as not to choke himself and to keep his breathing undisturbed. Getting settled after a few moments, Clive started to suck him now, the boy having to grab onto anything nearby, fisting one hand into the brown blanket that he was lying on with the other clamping down on Clive's shoulder so hard that his nails were digging deeply into Clive's smooth skin. Jet could feel the tears streaming down his cheeks anew now, but they weren't from sadness, they were from a new kind of emotion that he simply could not place. Does he… really love me? His mind asked itself as Jet felt his release draw nearer, Clive's skilled tongue and rhythmic sucking nearly pushing him straight over the edge.

He can't love me, I'm not even a real human. I'm just a copy of someone who used to be more wholesome than I'll ever be… I can never be perfect, because Filgaia ain't perfect either, and I'm just the world shoved into a human-lookin' form. Filgaia is scarred, and so am I.

But humans love Filgaia, even if it is an imperfect place…

…I never understood that either. Why?

Because Filgaia is 'their' place, a place that they can call home, no matter how scarred it gets. Nothing is more beautiful than the sight of one's home. If you're Filgaia's Sample as a human, then you should know this best of all, Jet.

Hey, who are you anyway?

I'm Adam Kadmon, the Filgaia Sample. My name was ripped from Genesis. I'm your thoughts and mind, stupid. What else would I be? If Clive wants to love you, then let him love you. It couldn't hurt that much to open yourself up to others every so often. Don't run away anymore, because as soon as you stop running you'll be by yourself again. And anything is better than being alone. Clive isn't your old boss, he cares about you. The least you can do is care for him back.

Nah, you can't be me. I'm not that mushy.

Heh, true, true.

It only took him half a second to ponder this, and his current thoughts weren't even really there in the first place. Jet was about to laugh at that inner dialogue that had worked it's way into his mind, but instead he felt a huge shudder rush through his body melded with a flaring heat and he screamed out Clive's name, arching his back as he came. He saw white spots in front of his eyelids for a few incredible moments and then he slumped down onto the blanket like he had been struck by a life drain arcana, panting a little with a flushed and tired expression on his face. He felt the other man release him and pull away, now that Jet was soft again. "Fuck…" He whispered with a small exhausted smile. "That was… amazin'…"

Still in the midst of the afterglow, Jet felt practically boneless when Clive encircled his arms around the boy and drew him into his lap, folding them protectively across Jet's front. "I am glad that you enjoyed it." Clive said kindly to his young lover, kissing the back of the boy's neck and gently stroking one of Jet's coral-coloured nipples. "Not all love involves pain. Love transcends pain. When you are older, Jet, and you find the person that you are going to spend the rest of your life with, you shall see that love will surpass all. I cannot give you that particular kind of love or my entire heart, but I can give you a part of it to keep forever. Nobody else will be able to touch it but you."

"A part of a heart… that no-one else can touch…" Jet murmured sleepily to nobody in particular, leaning back against Clive's strong chest. It was not everything, but it was something at least, something special and treasured. Jet wondered then who the love of his life was going to be, and would they ever return his love as amply as he could give it? Jet knew that Clive would never be that person, he had already found his life's partner, but he was also grateful to Clive for telling him these things that he never would have realised himself. After a moment of relaxing, Jet then noticed something that caused him to shift his position a little, feeling the hardness of Clive's arousal pressing against his lower back. "Clive…?" The boy asked with hesitation, "You didn't get anythin' outta this. You gave it all to me…"

Clive laughed good-naturedly, leaning back a little. "Such is life, I suppose. I do not need it badly as I thought I did, and besides, I do not wish to harm you in any way. I assure you, I will be fine." As soon as he said this he was instantly on his back, with Jet now looming over him, the boy fumbling a little with the fly on Clive's dark trousers. The sniper propped himself up with his lower arms and blinked bemusedly, slightly taken aback by the forcefulness of Jet's motion. "Hey now," Clive said as he pulled away a little, "You do not have to feel obligated to do anything like that, Jet. I don't want to push you or anything…"

"It's okay." Jet replied, eyes on his task. He freed Clive's erection from his pants and stroked it once, lightly. He felt and watched Clive's entire body shiver. Smiling in his own trademark Jet-like way, he leaned over so he could see Clive's face a little bit better. "I wouldn't feel right… just takin' things from you and not givin' anything back. Clive, I- uh…" His cheeks grew heated with another blush that made the silver-haired boy look absolutely adorable, "I want to… satisfy you…" Jet laughed at himself in his own mind after he said that, embarrassed and at the same time amused. Dammit, I sound like a fucking woman! He exclaimed as he started to stroke Clive again, wondering what he was going to do next.

"Are you sure?" Clive pressed, trying not to groan. Jet's hands just felt so good against his neglected nether-regions. Jet nodded, trying not to look afraid, but admittedly feeling a little of it on the inside. The green-haired sniper gently ran one hand through Jet's silvery hair, marveling once more at it's softness. "I will not lie to you, Jet." Clive admitted once he had pulled himself more firmly back to reality. "It will hurt. It will not be as bad as you may remember it, but the fact still remains that it will hurt. I do not want to hurt you and cause you that same pain."

"I said it's okay." Jet repeated himself, his smile becoming a little ironic. "Look, in everythin' there is that's worth anything, there'll always be pain. I'm afraid of pain when there's nothing behind it, no feelings, nothing at all. If there was anger or sadness or anythin' like that, I could take it. It's just when… the gesture has no meaning to it that it hurts me the most. You said you love me, so that's okay. I can take it if I know that it won't be forgotten and worthless tomorrow morning." Jet looked over himself carefully. Was that all he was afraid of? Rejection? No, not only that, he was afraid of being chosen and kept in the first place. Well, no more. Experiencing an odd kind of anticipation, Jet had to ask one last thing. "Will you… be gentle with me please?"

Getting up, Clive forced Jet down with warm guiding hands and flipped the boy over, bringing his right hand to his mouth, pulling his own fingers inside to lubricate them effectively. If that didn't work to his liking, then he had a small bottle of ARM-cleaning oil that he could use instead. It had been a very long time for the both of them, so doing it in the simplest style would probably be the best. "I would do nothing else, love." Clive purred, running his left hand along the painless burn marks across Jet's back. "For now, I will make you forget everything except for this."

Jet felt fear, but this fear, it almost felt… good?

He's gonna take care of me, right?

Yeah…

I think so.

And then, for now, no matter what, I won't be alone.

xxx

Upon a moderately sized cliff-side not too far away from the drifter campsite, in fact, it overlooked it and could see for quite a long way around, Virginia and Gallows were sitting at the very edge, swinging their feet off the side, a small stack of harvested firewood piled up near the big Baskar's side. They were looking down at the campsite, and Gallows appeared to be rather pale. Virginia looked triumphant as she was leaning into Gallows's other side, her hands covering her male comrade's eyes. The scene that they had been secretly viewing didn't bother her half as much as it did to Gallows, and the least she could do for him was to block out all the parts that she thought he wouldn't like. Honestly, they weren't even supposed to be watching in the first place, but they were worried for both of their other gang members and the tension that had built up between them. It was relieving to Virginia to see that that tension had finally gone.

"Oh man, is it over yet?" Gallows moaned, moving his large hands up to Virginia's paler and frailer ones but not removing them, for he was glad that Virginia was blinding him. He didn't have anything against what Jet and Clive were doing, but it still creeped him out to a moderate degree. It also meant that his attempts to push Jet and Virginia together were completely for naught. What a waste of time, and, Gallows thought with a groan, money. "I didn't think either of them swung that way, let alone the both of them! Jet… I guess… I could understand, but Clive? He didn't seem like the bi type to me. I'm never gonna look at them the same way ever again."

"You didn't know?" Virginia asked, smiling. "It was fairly obvious. I knew about Jet from nearly the beginning, it's easy for a girl to tell if they just look hard enough. I was a little unsure about Clive for a while, but then he told me about it instead, because he thought I should know, what with being the leader and all. What's wrong with it Gallows, other than the fact that I won the bet?" She inquired innocently, turning to him. Honestly, to her, she thought it was rather cute. She had talked with Clive about this before, his growing attraction to the young silver-haired android and how it distressed him, for he still loved and devoted himself to his wife at the same time. All Virginia could hope for was that Clive would be able to figure things out for himself, and make the right choice based on that decision. Removing her hands from Gallows's face, she held them out as if she was expecting something, grinning sprightly.

"Well, whatever floats their boat, I guess." Gallows sighed, handing Virginia a small bag full of money, admittedly the last amount of gella that he had. "It's not fair though," He complained, "You knew about it before we made the bet. You just like to bleed me dry, don'tcha?" Giggling, Virginia nodded. Gallows fondly felt like pushing her off the cliff then, but smiled instead. "Hey, wait a minute!" He said, "I thought you liked Jet? What's with the sudden change of heart and you wanting to play matchmaker? Am I not getting something here?"

Virginia blushed bashfully. "Well… um… I did kinda like him for a while, back when we didn't know each other that well and we were all half-strangers. But it was more like I was crushing on Jet's image, not Jet himself. The stereotypical bad boy and outcast. Now that I've gotten to know him a little better, Jet feels like, to me, like he's more of a good friend, or a little brother." She tried to rub the blush away and pinched the bridge of her nose. "An annoying little brother, though. Still, I'm glad he's managed to hold onto something other than his drifter's wings and the truth about himself. In the end, we're all only… human…" Looking up, she noticed that Gallows was snickering at something she couldn't place. "What's your problem?" She asked.

"Ah, nothing." Gallows chuckled with a goofy grin. "I'm just picturing you and Clive having girl talk, is all."

Virginia threw her bag of gella at him. "Oh, you're terrible!" She exclaimed, trying not to giggle herself. Gallows expertly caught it and called out 'Score!', stashing his gella back into his pockets. Virginia didn't mind, she never really wanted the money in the first place. She was just content to know that her job had been done properly and that both Jet and Clive had found comfort. "Come on, Gallows." Virginia said to her silly drifter friend, standing up. "Let's go take a walk and leave the lovebirds to their peace. By the time we come back they should be done. We'll say we got lost or something, so that'll explain why we were gone for so long."

"Can you get kidnapped by demons and locked up in a magical tower, and then I, the courageous priest of Baskar, shall save you upon a white horse? I'll borrow yours, and I'll even kill monsters in your name." Gallows inquired with innocent-looking eyes as he struggled to his own feet, bowing to his team leader and holding out his hand to her.

"Well, let's not and say that we did, okay?" Virginia replied, taking his hand and smiling prettily. "Besides, where are we going to find demons and a magical tower at this time of night?" Gallows nodded and pulled Virginia towards him, wrapping his arm around her back and leading her off into the woods. There was a small path running through there that might take them to something interesting. They wouldn't really get lost, because all they had to do then was just retrace their steps along the path. It'd take up some time. Gallows smiled. He reckoned that any spare time spent with her was worthwhile time indeed.

xxx

Enough time had passed for Clive to begin to wonder why the others were so late. He didn't understand how a simple firewood fetch job could take so long, even if they were a long way away from any large viable forests. There should still be some wood around, he assumed. Most of his mind didn't care though, it only gave him more time to stay with his sweet little android, clad in nothing but his skin, curled up in his lap with his silver-haired head resting quietly on Clive's naked front. A thin brown blanket was wrapped around the both of them, blocking out the cold air of the wasteland night. Clive could feel every soft breath the youth was taking, one of his arms wrapped around Jet's midsection, his hand held and almost cradled by two of Jet's own. They both smelt of fine sweat and lovemaking, the scent swept away by the wafting breeze.

Clive knew that both Jet and he could not be found looking like this, it would be far too surprising and shocking for the rest of the members of the team. And yet, at the same time, the other half of his mind protested strongly to the thought of moving at all, like trying to rise from a bed far too early in the chilly morning. Jet seemed to be content as well, his previous fears having melted away a little while earlier. Whatever horrifying things had happened to him in the past, at least he had now had the chance to experience carnal love without the fear and shame anymore, and maybe, just maybe, it might dispel some of the nightmares of his past, and heal an old wound that had been made far too long ago. In fact, Jet was dozing with a visible smile on his face.

Brushing his cheek across Jet's silvery hair, the sniper tried to wake his young lover with as much gentleness as possible, tilting the boy's chin up at the same time. Jet murmured something sleepily and drew the blankets more tightly around himself, but he was now definitely awake. "Jet, love." Clive whispered softly, shifting his legs a little and feeling a numbness that would most likely become pins-and-needles in a given amount of time. "Come on now, it is time to get up. We do not wish for Virginia and Gallows to catch us like this, do we? Imagine what they would say, Virginia especially." Clive already knew that Virginia knew, but he thought that the idea might sound funny enough to Jet. He was right, and the boy chucked drowsily for a brief few seconds, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes in an enchantingly cute way. Yawning, he slid out of the older man's lap and took the blanket with him, still trying to cover himself up from the cold.

Getting up and stretching, Clive heard the agreeable popping of his joints as he worked the kinks and cramps out of them, then he rubbed the side of his neck a little to coax the crack of vertebrae and the releasing of the tension in that area. He felt a lot better now, both physically and mentally too. Moving over to their pile of discarded clothing and kneeling, he picked his glasses out of the mess and wiped the lenses with a fold of his dark shirt, stopping halfway through to breathe a little on the glass and fog up the lens, so it would clean better. Putting them back on again, he turned to Jet and grinned. "So tell me, was that good for you, my love? I did not hurt you too badly, did I?"

"I'll prolly be ridin' side-saddle tomorrow mornin' but I don't regret it," Jet answered him as he absently rubbed at a few burns on his arm, "I'll admit this, it was a lot different and a lot better than I remembered it. Don't get cocky now, Clive." Jet added as he took notice of the look on Clive's face at that remark, "I reckon we'll both be able to do that much better the next time we go for it. Hopefully it'll be in a bed, though, with those chatterboxes far, far away from us." He watched Clive separate and fold both of their clothes neatly for a little while, tightly hugging the blanket that was over his shoulders and keeping him warm. To be more precise, he was watching Clive's back as he did the folding, silently marveling at the stretches of elegant muscle that were part of Clive's beautiful body. I can see one reason why you married him now… Jet said silently to Catherine, who was not even there. She was a damn lucky woman, wherever she may be.

Clive faced Jet, the piles of folded clothing in his arms. "I believe that both of us could do with a wash." He said pleasantly, "There is a watering hole about a five minute walk from here, and instead of dressing and undressing unnecessarily, we may as well just walk there as we are. Would you like me to give you a bath, Jet?" He tried to say this innocently, but found himself laughing at the end of his sentence, unable to help himself. "It will be cold water, though. I hope we do not freeze to death. Oh, I wish that there were more hot springs on out Filgaia, I really do. Here, Jet. Hold onto these for me." Jet obligingly held out his arms and accepted the pile of clothing, the blanket he was using sliding away as he let go. Kneeling in front of the boy, Clive hooked one arm under Jet's knees and the other went to support his back, the older man lifting Jet off his feet.

Jet felt awkward and a little vulnerable like this but he blissfully ignored the sensation, leaning against Clive's chest with his hands clutching onto their clothing. He felt that it was alright for him to be vulnerable now, as long as it was near Clive. Yes, it was a comforting thought. Clive would protect him. Taking a second to equalize both their centers of gravity, Clive strode out of the campsite carrying his young lover with him, hoping that the others wouldn't return until they had finished. Jet had another thought. "You know, Clive…" He said uncertainly, "I think I know now… why my old boss used me like he did. Back then, I didn't think of myself as anythin' special, you know, because I didn't have any memories of my past. 'Made me feel a little worthless, I guess. But because of that, I let anybody nearby use me like an object. There wasn't really much that I had, or that I could give to anybody else, except for my body. Maybe a part of my mind let myself get raped, because I believed that I thought I was a nothin' but an empty shell." Jet sighed. "And now I know the truth. I might not be worthless now, but I am just some kind of research specimen, a tool used by science."

"I do not fully agree with that." Clive said quietly, tightening his hold on the boy just the slightest bit. "You believe you are a tool? That cannot be true. There is no possible way that a tool can love like you did, Jet Enduro. There are many things that can make a person feel worthless within their lifetime, believe you me, but there are also so many other things that can make life worth living. I hope that you will be able to understand this knowledge yourself someday, and that you can relay it to others who have been in your same predicament. As for your title as a science specimen I can say only this; A specimen is merely a sample of a larger whole. Your whole is Filgaia herself, so never think of yourself as alone. I think that you will always be connected to this planet, and you will always be connected to me as well. Forever."

Jet reached his hand up and ran it through Clive's grass-green hair. He could remember a time when Filgaia's surface had been the exact same colour. "Connected… forever…" He murmured, liking the thought. "Clive…?" Leaning up a little, he kissed Clive on the cheek.

"Hmm, yes?"

"…Thanks."

-fin-