Das Wandern

(The Wandering)

A Wild ARMs III Fanfiction By

Black Waltz 0

A/N: Usually I wouldn't write with such a tried pairing like Jet/Virginia, but I believe that every true WA3 author should at least attempt this pairing once. To be honest, I've been trying to write a J/V for a very long time. I just don't have the knack for it. But I did really like the concept for this fic and that spurred me onwards to attempting this. This fic is a birthday gift for a very special somebody (I was supposed to give you a J/V last year but I failed :P), you know who you are.

Enjoy the fic!

xxx

Willst du immer weiter wandern?
Sollst du mein auf ewig sein
Kahr' zurück, kahr' zurück
Zur Früling treu und lieb
Kahr' zurück, kahr' zurück
Das Gluck is immer da.

It began with a fall.

That is, to say, it all became noticeable when he took his first fall. His hands on the reins of his horse tensed suddenly, unbearably, turning his knuckles white. He heaved forwards, his face contorting into a mask of surprised agony and confusion. The affliction, the biting problem was inside, not out. The girl who was riding next to him did not notice a thing until she heard the strained gasp and feeble choke of his attempts to pull air back into his lungs, a revenge upon the first jab of the something had forced breath out of his system. Finally his hands went lax, along with his body, and Jet slid straight off his horse with a pitiful whimpering sound.

He struck the dried earth hard. His shoulder took the brunt of the impact and saved his neck and head from injury just barely, though his left temple grazed the ground and tore slightly at the skin. He had not braced himself for this impact and landed like a discarded rag doll, rolling once and coming to a stop effortlessly on his face. It was a miracle that he had not been trampled by the other horses around him, but Gallows had reared his black stallion up just in the nick of time. The horse whinnied once and staggered backwards on its hind legs, allowing room for the boy under Gallows' direction. He was off his horse a moment later, wondering what was wrong.

Yet it was feminine hands that touched him first, turned him over onto his back and lifted him up off the floor. They were strong hands, purposeful hands, the hands of a leader. Virginia forced him to sit up and brushed dirt from the boy's brow, concerned. Sweat had beaded upon it and had attracted the dust. It was a relatively cool day, the decline of autumn, so why did Jet perspire so? His forehead burnt with sudden fever, a severe heat. Jet's eyes were open and staring, but vacant, like a dead man.

A dead man.

Virginia gently closed his eyes and pressed his body to her breast, she could feel his chest moving against hers, so he wasn't dead yet. Good. Looking up, she barked an order at the man in a coat by her side, forcefully causing him to dash back to his horse and procure a blanket and some water. If the water wouldn't rouse him, then they would swaddle him up nice and tightly and deliver him to the nearest doctor or medicine man. If you didn't work fast in the face of danger, especially as a transient drifter, more often than not an unexpected turn for the worse would lead into death. Virginia had beaten that information into her own consciousness through experience and suffering, just like all her friends had. The trick was to never be surprised.

As an outlaw, Virginia had learnt this lesson well. In some ways this had made Virginia far stronger, in others it had caused her to lose a small part of herself to the past. It didn't bother her that much anymore, it was a sign of development and change, a sign that she was embracing the harsh world and the new sense of self that she had implanted with it. But this was old information, existing barely a tenth of a second in her mind. Jet was breathing, but it was not a strong breath, the breath of a healthy person. Jet breathed like a person afflicted with emphysema.

Her gaze shifted to Gallows, standing awkwardly before her. "Baskar Colony." She hissed. "Now."

xxx

It was customary in times of uncertainty like this for the one in turmoil to have bad dreams, seeing fragments of various nightmares in a vision of terror and fear. But Jet dreamed of nothingness for a very long time, an ungodly long time, both within his sleep and without. It had begun with a vacancy that had started when he lay within Virginia's dust-stained arms, which had slowly slipped into unconsciousness, and then to proper sleep. Sleep was good, it was the retreat of the weary soul. Unaware that he was doing so, Jet reveled in the blissful sleep of the living.

He slept for seven days in the flaxen beds of the Baskar Colony, ignorant of the three friends who watched over him in worry.

One day he opened his eyes. They felt sore and encrusted with dried sleep. His vision blurry, all he could see was stone tiles and thatch upon the ceiling, draped in moving shadows from the firelight downstairs. Jet sat up in bed and wiped at his eyes with the back of his hands, feeling a stiffness in his body that was not painful, just the result of remaining in one place for such a long time. His muscles felt asleep, sort of numb with an odd tingle along the edges, if that was the right way for him to describe it.

He looked at his hand. It did not shake, it held there as solid as a rock. Thank God, it was his gun arm and he could not afford for it to quaver so. He curled his index finger inwards and then out, satisfied. His trigger finger was safe.

"Generally I'm not really sure what could have caused something like this. It's an abnormality that does not present itself in nature. Of course, we are aware that he was not entirely brought into existence from natural means, but this still could not mean that… I mean, the facts are here, straight and simple, but it is difficult for me to accept them. His symptoms and his status as polar opposites, yet they choose to co-exist together harmoniously. It is not right."

Jet listened towards the direction of the scholarly voice. There was no doubt that it was Clive's. It was as it usually was, cool and collected, but there was a hint of confusion behind Clive's voice, blocking out something even smaller and more nebulous. Fear. Jet remembered falling off his horse, but before that, he had remembered an intense pressure clamping his lungs closed and compressed, whilst a red hot poker had thrust its way through his heart.

"He is scarcely eleven years old, Virginia, and yet these… these problems that Shane tells me that he has is something that would affect an older person, a far older person, somebody decades older than you or Gallows or myself!"

"I was thinking about that." Gallows' voice. "It's wrong for me to say that, and I know Ginny is going to yell at me for it, but why are we looking at him medically as if he were a human being like us? Because he isn't, you know? He's not one of us."

"Gallows!"

The boy could almost picture Gallows grimacing. "Just like I said, eh?" He heard Virginia huff. "I'm not trying to be mean or racist or anything, that's not me. What I'm trying to say is that Jet's different to us. He was made to be different to us and that's that. He's built like a Sample, he's a 'Sample', as in, the species Sample. What he has might be something human medicine can't treat."

Clive's bitter humorless voice. "You are saying we should take him to a vet, Gallows?"

"N-not at all! C'mon Clive, you of all people should get what I'm trying to say. Jet's sick, but he hasn't got a virus, or a disease. Shane couldn't find anything wrong with him, but…"

Jet slipped out of bed when he heard Shane's lighter, more melodious voice. He took care to be quiet. His legs felt like leaden weights, but he could stand. He could still walk, too. He held a hand to the side of the wall anyway, for extra balance. It certainly did feel like he hadn't moved about for days and days. Just what day was it anyway? Monday? Saturday? How long had he been out of the loop of things?

Shane spoke in a hushed whisper. "He had a mild heart attack."

The steps seemed harder to go down than he remembered them. He felt like he was being pulled forwards by gravity, in fact, he had to lean back a little to keep himself stable. There was almost a little bit of a shuffle to his step.

He felt rather than heard Virginia's lead-laden inquiry. "…Just how long is a Sample supposed to live for, anyway?"

A deadly silence.

Jet staggered into view. They looked towards him, almost expecting his entrance like it was cued in a stage drama. He was leaning against the wall, weak but still there, still Jet. His eyes had the hardness of Jet within them. The heart attack had not taken that away. Slowly he tilted his head towards the ground wretchedly. "…The Council royally fucked this up, didn't they?" He said, then sighed. He had never heard his voice sound so empty before, so hollow.

Virginia moved forwards towards him, in the act of extending a hand out to him. She wanted to tell him not to think about that, to go back to bed, he was weak and needed to rest, that he shouldn't worry himself any more than he needed to. She paused, thinking hard. Jet was the victim, he had a right to know what had transpired in the seven days of his silent coma, on what they had discovered.

But, no. Later. Later, when he was healthier. Later, when she was calmer. Tomorrow, in the morning. She was trying to hide it, but this conversation they were having was tearing her apart inside. And now Jet was awake. He looked like crap, but he was still awake and alive. She wanted to leap for joy at that fact, but the situation was just too morbid to allow her to consider it. She kept her feelings inside, for now.

She touched his shoulder. Jet looked at it like it had come from an alien spacecraft or something. Her face was kind, but it was a sad brand of kindness indeed. Jet had heard a large tidbit of what was going on in this evening, but it was not everything, and he was not in the right frame of mind to understand it all. His head felt all swimmy and his vision was shrouded in fog. "Jet, go back to bed. I'll guide you there, okay?"

He took her hand from his shoulder and held onto it firmly, half-believing that it might slip away otherwise. Her hand felt nice and warm, very soft. Jet felt the eyes of the others on him; he was the centerpiece of the room. "I… don't look at me like that…" He said with a hint of menace in his tone. They were making him feel like a botched science experiment where he stood.

No, don't think about things in that way. They are your friends, not slack-jawed gawkers. Think about something else.

He couldn't.

Think about her. She's holding your hand, isn't she? In front of the others? She hasn't done that for awhile, has she?

He felt that he could manage that.

Virginia was frowning as she led Jet back to his bed. He seemed to have had trouble getting up those steps again. Maybe what Gallows and Shane was thinking was true.

Maybe Jet really was going to die.