Coincidence and Bad Judgment

Hey everybody, another smattering of mini-fic from me, this time a request by Jameis. While I do like Van/Raven this isn't the exact sort of thing I'd normally write so it was something of an interesting little challenge. Hopefully somebody enjoys it! (Hopefully Jameis on that note!).

This will only be a few chapters short, hopefully completed in a few months, rated M so I can go where ever I need to but that rating is subject to change. Jameis request is abridged below as the summary. Some details have been lifted to fend off too many spoilers.

Jameis Request:

Van/Raven Zoids CC
Van is weakened during an ambush by wild Zoids shortly after his first fight with Raven. Already damaged the Shield Liger and Van sustain massive injuries. Raven finds them dying and is horrified at Van's condition. He resolves to nurse Van back to health.

WARNINGS:
1. Eventual YAOI. If you'd rather jump ship now be my guest. No guarantees on the level of smut this may involve. I'll have a talk with my requester on that and keep you updated. Nothing overtly sexual is included in this chapter.
2. SWEARING. I'm very good at that so expect fairly consistent profanity.
3. Mundane mentions of GORE but more detailed trespassing there later.
4. Inklings of DARK THEMES in the sense that, while I hope to keep this on a balance between black humor and general sweetness, there are mentions to fairly unpleasant ideas.

WHAT YOU WONT FIND:

1. Bashing of any one at any time. (Except Van's lack of foresight but he deserves that.)
2. Abusive child hood trauma. (Any trauma you perceive was dealt to Raven he quite enjoyed)
3. No super nasty, over hyped, Prozen. (I can't help it. I really rather like the guy. Seems like pretty reasonable company to me.) Any mentions of said Minister will be more mundane than you're likely used to. (See 'Our Father' for a better idea)


Chapter 1: In which Van questions military competence.

Van, in later years, would be renowned for monumentally stupid decisions, amazing coincidence and an odd ability to turn near death experiences into incidents of good fortune. When he was in his twenties he'd have countless opportunities to replay, to dumbstruck audiences, how his "let's shoot Van out of a giant canon" strategy was legendarily effective (while always noting that Raven had backed the suicidal idea at the time perhaps a little too energetically). At fifteen, fourteen-ish technically, he had not so many medals or victories to his name but he had started the tradition off with tremendous zeal.

"I know Zeke, I know," he grumbled while the little Zoid whined loudly through the speakers, "today sucks."

The Shield Liger was clunking so clumsily about the desert Van almost felt a little embarrassed for it which was perhaps why he was out alone. He kept replaying his defeat of Rosso and Viola, protecting the Wind Colony, kicking ass at Red River, saving that Zoid from Irvine at the ruins, wrangling Zeke away from the Valley of the Rarehertz, making it snow with Dr D… all the cool, awesome, things he'd managed to achieve in the past few months since finding Zeke. He had them tallied proudly up in his head in nearly obnoxious detail and he wanted to focus on them.

Not on how thoroughly he'd gotten thrashed, twice now, by Raven.

He had a lot of angry little titles for Raven; Psycho when he was feeling lazy, Weirdo on occasion, and Zoid Killer if he was particularly ancy. He cringed at the instant replay that had been running over and over in his head of Raven bitch slapping his Shield Liger off a cliff. Van groaned, slumping, planting his forehead stubbornly against the command console of the Shield Liger. Even with Moonbay's help, Zeke recovered and Fiona's consolations the Liger still wasn't back up to tip top condition and neither was Van. He could hear every single word Raven had told him, every single time he'd laughed at him, and see every bad ass maneuver Raven had pulled he couldn't match or see coming. Irvine's laughing at him, his insistence that Van needed a good kick up the pants to humble him, didn't help even if he knew full well the Merc had his back. Van was prone to sulking, surprisingly, and he intended to do quite a lot of it by his lonesome today.

He'd seen Raven twice in a span of a about twenty-four hours: from their running in at the village protected by Major Ford, to Raven's thrashing him, to Van's sneaking into the heavily guarded Imperial check point to fling himself at Raven for another chance to throw down the gauntlet, to…Raven thrashing him again. He knew virtually nothing about the other kid, he probably should've been more curious about his Organoid and the fact Raven clearly knew what and Organoid was, but in that very short span of time the kid had made an impression. Van had almost heard his victory music start building during that second battle, all ready for him to deliver that killer final punch that would send Raven running with his tail between his legs, and he'd been so sure he could do it too. Maybe he'd been a little cocky but damn it the good guy was supposed to win! Right? Right…?

"Maybe we should go back," Van conceded, "at the moment I think the only thing that's gonna help my mood is lunch. What do you think Zeke?"

The Organoid crooned, sulked, in that 'whatever' tone that fell heavily into use when they were thoroughly disparaged.

"I feel your pain Buddy," he promised heartily, "we'll get em! Somehow…"

Zeke didn't seem convinced and really Van wondered if he was. Never mind. He'd bounce back eventually or Dr D would pull his cheeks for it or Irvine would beat some sense into him or Moonbay would fill up the hole in his gut with delicious-ness…. Van's stomach protested at the idea and he decided that now was, indeed, the time to stop wandering and sulk back to camp. Not that he thought Irvine would believe him if he said he'd been thinking diligently about strategy the whole time.

Van slumped back into his command seat, flicked up the speed and scanned the horizon for the clearest way back round to camp. The good thing about being a Republican sand runt was that he knew his way around the subtle landmarks of the desert without much effort.

He hit an outcrop of stone, a ledge, in his own personal short cut designed to crisscross back over previously untouched territory on the way back out of the sand that kept him rather blind of the depth of the drop he was coming up on till he hit the top of the slope. Hover boarders as a rule didn't have much of a fear of heights, Van especially, so the drop when revealed didn't bother him so much. What bothered him was the Zoids clustered in the canyon below.

"Oh snap…" Van reeled breathily at the observation.

It was like a Zoid Christmas! A convention of like-minded Zoids! A family reunion of Zoids! Or all of the above and their plus ones dropped in for tea at a very large stadium promising free booze. Van exhaled heavily, falling into those delirious cowboy whooping sounds he tended to make when flabbergasted.

Lordy how did you get that many Zoids out there without somebody popping the secrecy balloon? They were in the middle of a war, the Empire and the Republic were crawling all over the place, Van found it strange to think no Redlers had flown over head and gone (just casually over the radio); "Oh golly guys there's a shit load of Zoids out here for no reason. Seriously! Like a thousand! You gotta see this! Bring Kylie!" cause Van certainly would've.

They were diverse specimens at that. Van could make out half beaten Zabre Fangs, rusting Command Wolves, a whole scrap yard of injured or aging or just random Zoids from both sides of the border snapping at each other idly under the sun. Rarehertz maybe? Nah they were way too far from the Valley of the Rarehertz for that… Definitely weren't an army unit, or an entire army (though with this many that was a reasonable definition), maybe scraggly Sleepers? Yeah definitely. Well thank goodness Sleepers didn't attack unless provoked!

Well, Van was just going to turn promptly back around and get the heck out of that mess before-

A heldigunner gave a groan, a hiss, at the Shield Liger's retreating form and let off a round of ammunition at him almost crumbling the ledge he was perched on.

Oh shit!

Sleeper's didn't shoot unless provoked, Van quoted, so he was looking in on a siesta of itchy, cranky, wild Zoids (weren't the Military supposed to rally those up? Darn economy!).

Yeah Van's brain stopped working quickly after that and he and Zeke turned tail to bolt immediately. The only intelligible internal dialogue between Van's ears for the next few seconds went something like this:

Shit. Fuck, shit, fuck! Run! RUN MOTHERFUCKER RUN!

"Oh crap, oh crap!" Van found himself muttering insistently as he applied the thrusters to make back off the ledge. He could hear the pack moving, firing off rounds, and from all the noise they were giving off he had the, very bad, inkling that the Zoids were going to follow him.

Now Van had been called a lot of things in his life, 'dummy' frequently, but contrary to popular belief while kicking ass was great Van was not stupid enough to think taking on a massive posse of Zoids alone was genius. His first choice was to run, fast, preferably while screaming and swearing in a general holler white trash enough to merit a time slot on daytime Republican TV. His second choice was to bury himself alive and hide. Then and only then did turning to face the mass of angry wild Zoids become viable. So for the meantime Van focused on Step One.

He'd never hated his rear camera link more than those few moments watching the seething mass of mechanics come up in a wave along the sand bar after him. He pushed the thrusters hard but the whole thing was clunky, even with Zeke, the Shield Liger was all stumbles from its recent damage.

"This is going to get messy Buddy," Van cringed still holding the thrusters down with such force his palm was starting to ache. He hadn't had carpal tunnel this bad since his last four hour stint on the hover board.

He scanned for all the important things as the mental swearing lessened (because throwing out the obscenities was a general man reaction in Elemia): could he reach anyone on the radio? No. Was help nearby? Nope. Convenient ruins to hide in? Nadda. Super powers to give him the upper hand? Zilch. Van was staring down the barrel at a long hard haul and that looked to be the long and the short of it. Short end of the stick jokes commenced.

So Van turned, because being bit in the butt was never the way to face your problems, and steadied himself for an onslaught. Zeke grumbled, the Liger gave a roar, the first of the hulking Zoids bounded in and Van felt his stomach wobble weakly. Yeah, no, he was way too inexperienced for this. Give him four more years and a big bad victory under his belt and he'd take on an army fearlessly (two of Hiltz' actually) but not at fourteen. This had to register as child abuse.

The first wave was, literally, like getting slapped in the face (hard, by your mother, at four in the morning) and it left Van reeling for a second as the Liger rattled. Luckily for Van the shield liger was nothing if not a sturdy piece of heavy machinery. A large center of gravity made it hard to topple or ram over even with a Red Horn. It was a good Zoid to cushion him and Zeke did the best he could to lead the swerve of Van's attacks and the amount of energy expended. If Van had been in a lighter model he wouldn't have been so well equipped for the proverbial reigning down of hell.

The Zoids were in varying states of disrepair. Most of them were obviously too old or injured to be of any use to either lazy army which was, doubtless, why they were roaming free like the Gordos Van had saved. Only about half of them had ammunition and not much of it. Nearly all of them had some wound an experienced pilot could've quickly exploited. None of them for that matter were particularly advanced in their strategy but when the strategy was 'massive dog pile on the little guy!' did you really need much more to have Van on the defensive?

The real difficulty here lay in the endurance of it. Van could swipe, dodge, cackle and get his excitable energy up. For a while it was almost a breathless, near death, kind of fun but Van had dealt in skirmishes till now not long drawn out campaigns. This was going to be the later. This was soldier work not Merc work.

Van lurched in the harness, head nearly smacking soundly against some electronics, stomach flipping as one Red Horn actually did succeed in getting right under him and flopping him onto his side. He scrambled to get up, which was awkward at best without a Red Horn trying to mount you like a bitch, and found himself letting off a round of missile fire to force the Zoid back so he could get back onto his feet.

Well there went two of his missiles, he rued, the Shield Liger only had six tops and there were what: eight hundred and ninety nine more Zoids to go? Just brilliant. Today was a Wednesday wasn't it?

Van got more than a few bumps in the first moments, mainly to his cranium and his elbows from all the rattling of the cockpit, half the battle was keeping the Liger upright like he was a bobbing little boat at sea. Zeke was probably the only force that made that little note possible while Van focused all his energies on the general scratching, biting and clawing of everything else in the dog pile amassed around him.

After the initial flailing Van started to feel the rhythm of it build up in his bones: the Zabre there had a weak knee joint, the Command Wolff there practically no armor, the canon tortoise there just needed a knock off its feet and it wouldn't be able to get back up… It was sort of like a video game he'd played once, some tourists from the Empire had the little hand held console in their truck and one of the village boys had nicked it for the amusement of everyone. In less than a week the rough boys of the Wind Colony had broken the thing but Van had gotten a few good scores once he got the hang of prioritizing targets in the waves of enemies.

Between his palpitating heart and the bruising he found he was almost enjoying himself. He was Van Flyheight after all, how could he not? He had half thoughts of his father taking on three Zoids at once and Raven beating a unit by himself, in-between a particularly awesome head butt he dolled a Dark Horn, but they came and went quickly. So did the dwindling morning too. He hardly noticed the sun move till it was high in the sky and he was sweating, his arms aching, the whole cockpit steamy from the lulling energy that rendered the air con majorly useless.

Van needed lunch, breakfast too, half a case of water and a bathroom break soon but he had the oddest feeling he wasn't going to get one.

"They just keep coming!" He whined hoarsely. (All his 'yee-ha!'-ing had stripped most of his vocal cords in the first two hours.)

A Helldigunner nipped the back of the Liger and Van felt the water tank stashed there rupture well before the warning light starting flashing on the console. He groaned. God damn it! This whole thing was becoming less and less fun as it dragged. Where the hell were the others? Surely they'd be looking for-

"Fuck!" he felt his whole world spin and he was sure he'd broken a bold vessel somewhere when something, god knew what, got a good bitch slap in at the cockpit of the Shield Liger. "Ow! OW!"

His hand flailed off the controls and he could feel the puffiness rising around his eye as he blinked around the blood. Zeke wined and pushed the Shield Liger forward but there wasn't much room to move in the horde. Van heard the sensors blaring and noticed, squinting, the almighty crack in the cockpit.

"Oh Moonbay is so not going to be happy about that!" The repair bill would be covered by Van's dinners for the next month.

One, two, three more down.

"Argh!"

Apparently one of the canon tortoises still had ammunition.

The Shield Liger hit the ground and one or more of them rolled it, stomped it, and several things compounded at once: the water tank was thoroughly shot so much so it came clean off the back, the cockpit ruptured at the fault and thick Plexiglas assaulted Van along with dust and rocks as the Zoid got flipped, the Shield liger's damage sensors flared everywhere, the controls got mashed in the roll, and Van knew (from a childhood of breaking things) that'd he'd broken more than one bone somewhere in his side.

Zeke was hardly audible under all the noises, no longer muffled by the canopy of the cockpit, the roars, the shrieks, the wind, the damage sensors screaming… but Van could feel the Organoid's mind in the back of his flailing. If Zeke had been a person at that moment Van imagined he would've been a small boy, running with his hands up, screaming; 'We're all gonna die! We're all gunna die!' (Thomas would cement the image clearly when Van eventually made his acquaintance.)

"That was not cool!" Van hollered, coughing, as the Shield Liger made progressively slower and more jolting motions. It was hard enough to see with the blood in his eyes, through the pain, with the Zoids kicking up dirt.

"Hold on Zeke!" he ordered though Organoid still felt frantic at the back of his head. "Keep it together! I am not dying on an empty stomach!"

Or a virgin, definitely didn't want to die a virgin, Van was yokel enough to know that with absolute certainty. Even Zeke gave a little mental whimper of approval at that one but Van decided it best they keep that to themselves if they lived.

Then shit got real messy. Van's head got just as bad about then too. Maybe it was blood loss, heat stroke, dehydration, exhaustion or all of the above but either way he got dizzy, real dizzy, and blinking like a rabbit in head lights tried to keep his heavy forearms moving.

Van was not the kind of kid to pull out of a brawl or to leave his first Zoid dying in the dust but when he was sure something, probably muscle, had torn in one of his calves he seriously considered taking Zeke and jetting it. He wasn't proud he thought about abandoning the Liger to save himself but he wouldn't have been human, and brain tumor-less, if the thought didn't cross his mind just once (or twice).

Looking back he guessed it would've been better if he'd known he was on the last ring of the Zoids but losing consciousness he didn't think even that knowledge would've helped. Van blacked out before the end however, despite his best efforts, and left on his own there wasn't much Zeke could do to protect his squishy body in the combat.

When the Shield Liger hit the ragged sand, Van half upside down in the harness and dripping fluids onto the grain, Zeke came unstuck from the Zoid likewise and lulled on the ground uselessly. Zeke was a little Zoid, he didn't have a very big battery, and heaving on the dirt there wasn't the slightest chance he had the boost necessary to scoop up Van and run for help. He huffed, exhausted, sand flourishing over his snout and let his internal systems put him into a REM Recovery mode. Zeke needed it. Whether Van would be there when he woke up or not wasn't of much interest to his internal systems, love him as he might, Zeke's base instinct was still to conserve himself in order to protect his original mistress: Fiona.


Not all that far away Moonbay and Irvine had decided that if Van wanted to sulk like a girl on her period then he could make his own lunch. He was a big girl after all and they'd be damned if they were saving him his share when he rather frequently ate most of theirs combined. Van's absence into the midday heat and then the early afternoon caused concern for the most part in Fiona and rather strictly limited to her.

Moonbay had plenty of brothers and sisters, thirty-two to be precise, and if there was anything she knew it was that: boys were crybabies and men always came back for dinner. Irvine likewise was parental enough in his experience to put it down to Van's moodiness and resolved, quietly, that if the brat didn't come back by midnight he'd go drag him home. It soothed Fiona a little for that, especially when they made camp after Irvine's threats to abandon Van altogether and make the little squirt catch up to them, but she was still uncomfortable.

Fiona didn't immediately have a bad feeling, not a big one, she was only psychic when it really mattered. Zoidian frugalness didn't want her getting tingly over every little thing. Still she resolved not to sleep till Van came back or Moonbay made her.


Ironically for all involved, and fortunately for some, Raven was just as good at sulking as Van and tended to enjoy the same wanderings cross country. What Raven had to sulk about was irrelevant. He was a moody, selfish, kind of brat with too many passing fancies to keep track of every minor annoyance or insult which sent him into a tantrum or off into the desert. Whatever encouraged him to abandon Marcus' unit and roam he wouldn't remember it a mere few hours later.

He had intended to retrace the course from the conquered village to the little mountain where Shadow had waited out for him when they were separated. Shadow however was much more perceptive than Zeke, considering the lifestyle he'd been slotted into called for such, and no more than four clicks into their leisurely amble started clicking his jaw up at Raven.

"What now?" He sighed flicking up the comm. to let the speakers carry his voice harshly down to the trailing Organoid at the foot of the Zabre.

Shadow gave a hiss, a sniff, and started veering off course. It couldn't have been anything urgent or the Organoid would've released its wings but the little weapon was clearly excited enough to raise Raven's attentions. The boy considered ignoring him, more out of spite than anything else, but he got an inkling over their mental vibe that suggested Sleepers. Raven could never turn down a fight, especially not a good rumble, and if Shadow had sniffed out another batch of Sleepers Raven might actually have an enjoyable way to pass the afternoon (because, really, nothing said spring fun quite like mass destruction).

"Better be something good his time." He warned the bot firmly. "I swear, if it's more bloody cannon fodder, I might slip into a boredom coma."

Shadow gave a little croon up at him in satisfaction, half preening himself, and beckoned Raven on with that smugly swishing, cat like, tail.

His expectations raised Raven was appropriately sour when Shadow led him to a shambling, dead but still twitching, horde of wild Zoids heating up under the sun. He tossed his head back in a little sigh. Shadow cooed.

"Yes, they're dead, awesome." Raven snorted. "You do understand it's more fun if they're alive right? Useless fucking…"

Shadow snorted heartily through his snout and mounted the body of the nearest downed Command Wolf to hop off along into the mess of parts. Obviously the Organoid had something particular in mind it wanted to present to him and diabolical enough not to be above grave robbing or dumpster diving (whatever you might consider it) Raven followed.

The mashing of electronics under the Zabre made progress slow but there was something satisfying about squishing the last life out of the twitching mechanisms as he went (especially those with the obnoxiously creative paint jobs). Really Raven was just a little kid who needed an ant farm, a magnifying glass and one of daddy's big boots to frolic away an afternoon.

Shadow bounded easily up the flank of a newly ruined Shield Liger happily, tail swishing, when Raven had thoroughly penetrated the heart of the pile. The Organoid crooned loudly like a fat cat proudly presenting it's, rather underwhelmed, master with its latest dead bird. Raven had owned a cat like that once, or Prozen had, and it was as eyebrow raising now at fourteen as it had been when Duchess the Persian had done to ten year old Raven.

"Looks like stupid's," Raven conceded in appraisal, and Shadow bounced with a purr that rumbled up and down his spine.

Raven pondered, blinking, and Shadow purred stubbornly.

"No way." Raven grinned.

Shadow bounced on his back legs tauntingly. If the Organoid could've said 'yes way!' it would've.

"Ha!" He scoffed. "Serves the dumbass right!"

Raven only half realized he was unbuckling his harness. It was more smug instinct that drove him to throw off the belts, unlock the canopy, and leap down into the sand with Shadow for a closer look at the carcass. Shadow slipped down the cracked blue hull to press up beside Raven's hip, tail still twitching, as the pair of them rounded on the decimated cockpit for a full inspection.

"Well he shouldn't be annoying any one for a while." Raven supposed calmly as his hand traced the damage of the head armor eagerly.

He liked sucking up every little detail of this ruin after that Van punk had so thoroughly bothered him. His pleasure was childish and almost jovial till he rounded the corner.

He'd expected the Zoid to be abandoned but when he spotted the silver Organoid lulling limply on the earth he took half a step back. His eyes darted, despite his instruction, over to the cockpit for signs of life and-

Oh yuck

Van, that was his name, wasn't it? Looked very, very, dead in the hardness. Yet somehow, whether from years of training or a more supernatural sense, Raven was quite certain he was still alive.

The boy's whole body was contorted, hanging at ridiculous angles as the wind ruffled it. Dirt clung to the limbs, bone stuck out, wounds marred most of everything, and there was pus thick blood dripping down him onto the ground. Disgusting. The blood however, of everything, was truly dreadful somehow especially when the body twitched.

Raven inhaled sharply and turned his whole body away as he clutched himself. Shadow, on the other hand, squeezed past him to sniff at the sight curiously. The Organoid had never been one to shy away, frightened, by violence and neither, truthfully, had Raven but there was something about the brutality of it that ruffled his metaphorical feathers bad puns excluded.

This stupid, dopey, boy was a painfully bright picture of the ideal young man that Raven was very much distanced from and to see him so starkly desecrated was…unnatural? Unsettling maybe? Raven saw a little of something then, something he sort of half remembered, a sweet man's face, or two, and gore and blood and nastiness and screaming and… He inhaled slowly at it. He'd seen a lot of that as a Prozen Knight but this was much foggier in his recollection and it snapped at him painfully. He pushed the thoughts, memories maybe, down to think instead about what to do.

Well stop acting like a girl for one thing. He chided himself. It was just blood. He'd seen lots and lots of it. This was stupid. He fought against the nausea twisting his stomach, hand pressed firmly to his navel through the combat suit, and let the more animalistic functions of his mind whirr on.

Raven had a lot of immediate inclinations in his head this way or that about exactly what to do with his fallen Republican nuisance. The boy, pathetic as he was, certainly qualified as his natural enemy being on the other side of the explicitly drawn battlefield lines but for the first time in a very long time he felt a little rustle of uncertainty inside him. He'd been taught to look after himself, to be practical, to be useful and independent and he'd always been proud of how little he needed for adults or assistance but for a moment he would've very much liked someone to tell him exactly what to do.

When he thought about it, rationally, he could hear Prozen telling him, plainly, to end the poor creature's suffering and that it would be no great loss on the world to lose another cocky, ridiculous, Republican. He could often hear Prozen's voice directing him after all these years, he seemed to know exactly what his mentor, his guardian, would say, and he had no doubt Prozen would have him dispatch the runt like so many wounded deer. There was an odd little voice inside him though urging him against that however. Not so much in words but in a cold, uneasy, feeling twisting his gut. It was a pronounced sensation not really capable of coherent reasoning like Prozen's strong, dependable, voice in his ear but it was somehow persuasive. Where it had emerged from he wasn't sure considering how quickly it had arrived on the scene.

Why on Zi are you hesitating? He grumbled, breathing, his feet still refusing to turn him back around.

The way he saw it he had three or more options:

Finish the sorry little brat himself with Shadow's help and make it as quick and painless as he wanted (or didn't).

Leave him to wither alone or for his hopeless gaggle of friends to find.

Help him.

The concept of helping anyone seemed very foreign after ten years in the Empire…

Raven couldn't remember anything clearly, not that he often tried, of before he was a scraggly boy on Prozen's hip being taught how to kick asses. He didn't think he'd ever really been told how to help anyone other than himself, or Prozen's interests, and he didn't think it had ever been expected of him to do so. Hanna, Hardin, Moura… all of the other Knights were expected to look after him, the soldiers in the common ranks to fall in line around his whims, the commanders to give themselves up to their medics and Shadow, like the Knights, to die defending Raven rather than the reverse.

He wavered for a long time, fists clenching and fingers easing, glancing over his shoulder and then back to the horizon expecting Van's dimwitted friends to manifest at a moment's notice and pluck the damn decision right out of his hands. He hoped, a little, that the boy's haggard breathing might just stop and serve the same purpose in relieving him.

Shadow was becoming impatient, they hadn't worked together very long, and new to Raven's moods the Organoid couldn't know exactly what his master would want instinctively. Raven had seen Ambient and Specula act entirely without instruction if they knew, or were almost sure, that what they were undertaking was something their masters would want but Shadow wasn't quite there yet. Instead he prodded his snout, gently like the boy might break, at Raven's tense hand for some kind of command. Raven didn't have to speak it, given the Zoid seemed to know what he was thinking and vice versa, but as he didn't know what he wanted anyway Shadow was left to prod him a little longer. Raven didn't like sharing his mind with Shadow yet but he could still feel the Organoid searching his conscious and it only served to irritate the itch further.

"Oh stop it!" He hissed eventually at the thing, raising his hands to bury his face in them for a moment while Shadow crumpled back snorting.

The Organoid appeared a little offended but stomped back closer, butting his nose against Raven's hip, rubbing it against his side like a nuzzle. He'd seen Organoids comfort too, Specula would come right up and nestle Reese's chubby cheeks, but this was the first time Shadow had conceded to attempt.

Raven sighed, letting his hands fall loose, one arm draping compromisingly round Shadow's neck. The Organoid was surprised but shuffled closer. It didn't coo like Raven suspected that hulking monstrosity Zeke might but he had the sense Shadow still thought of him as a child, or young, or something equally primal with the same definition. Still he wasn't totally foreign to comfort and he approved of Shadow's manly, rather uncomfortable, efforts.

"What do you think?" Consulting the Zoid was another first. Raven chided he might as well ask the bloody Zabre what it thought!

Shadow hissed low and twisted his long neck back to where Van and Zeke lay sprawled bloody in the sand. His tail swished quickly, his jaws snapped, and Raven had that unspoken knowledge that the Organoid saw the other set as a threat to himself and his charge. Raven wondered briefly if Shadow was more Prozen's idea of a body guard than a present…

"I know," he admitted, he wanted to relish in destroying the punk too. That sort of thing was his favorite hobby. "I don't want to though."

As he admitted it he felt ridiculous but Shadow passed no judgment, thank everything, so he let the embarrassment at revealing his indecision to the creature lessen. It was the first time he'd told Shadow something so honestly and the Organoid was working hard to establish that vital trust that was very slowly blooming (Raven being as difficult about it as he was).

"I doubt he knows anything useful at all," Raven snorted fumbling for an excuse not to let him die very aware in the reverse Van might have the opposite problem, "I doubt that country bumpkin knows how to count his toes."

Shadow hummed, rumbled, and growled low in approval at that.

"We should just leave him."

Shadow rumbled again, tilting his head back to the limp bodies, in another sound agreement.

"Argh…" Raven spat turning away. He'd only forced himself to making hasty, tiny, glances at Van the gore still biting at him. "This is fucking… it's not my problem… survival of the fittest… weaklings…all that…"

The words should've been much stronger. Should've, could've, would've counted for shit though as Hardin would say.

"If Prozen finds out…" He murmured, though he didn't see why anyone should ever find out if he did the unthinkable, "he'd…"

Oh he wouldn't be angry, no, Raven didn't think that for a moment. It wasn't like the kid mattered. Prozen might be disappointed at his uncharacteristic show of mercy though, confused, and give him that puzzled expression that would say he no longer completely understood Raven. Which the boy wasn't sure he could take. He didn't really trust Shadow yet, or anyone else, but he trusted Prozen and Prozen's judgment and this would be exiting that sphere, which was all he knew, entirely. His foot bounced, boots hitting the stone, and he threw his head back to sigh again.

No one had to know. Shadow wasn't likely to gossip. Who would the punk tell who actually mattered either? (Assuming he lived even with Raven's help) Van would never get to so much as look at Prozen in person let alone confess Raven's one good deed of the decade.

It frustrated him heartily and Raven hissed, stomping his foot, groaning like the effort of giving into the stupid idea made him feel sick before he pivoted back to face the idiot.

"I'm losing my mind." He decided. Half closing his eyes, hand clutching his hips, as he moved closer. "I'm losing my goddamn mind."

Shadow gave an almost disapproving sound, like the Organoid very much didn't see the point of this but felt it compulsory to play along, and followed him tightly. What sort of damage Shadow suspected Zeke might do in this condition Raven hadn't the foggiest but the black Zoid still pushed ahead of him to pin the little silver one's unconscious form down.

"You just don't want to help me with the idiot." Raven accused saucily as Shadow all but sat on Zeke like a squatting mother hen.

Shadow growled at the dull creature beneath him, as if demonstrating to Raven that, no, the silver thing was dangerous and needed minding. Unconvinced and displeased Raven let it be with a scoff for good measure and crept a little closer to the cockpit.

He had never been worried about bodies before. Hanna had once thought it would be good fun for him to accompany her around the medical bay as part of a hand-to-hand 'excursion'. She'd shown him the effect of certain moves, as demonstrated by the injured patients she jostled, and the organs those maneuvers affect as demonstrated by the corpses she used to illustrate. Raven had thought the whole affair was awesome. Hanna had a practical eye for everything that he relished but crouching down to try his first attempt at freeing Van from the harness he felt that familiar nausea swelling up.

He fumbled with the harness for a moment, more trying to see the tangles than unfasten it, Van's blood moistening his gloves. That was all well and good, Raven thought he'd be fine now for a moment, until more blood fell from the boy's ruined face onto Raven's. Spluttering he fell back like someone might've slapped him and gave Shadow a thorough fright in the process.

"Fuck me!" Raven groaned. He was acting like a prissy idiot. Inhaling stoutly, arming himself, he smacked his hand firmly against his cheek till his ears rung and dove back under the unconscious Republican.

He had Van free in moments, though Raven was messier for it with the little trails of blood that ran down his face, and pushing himself back he let Van's body slump out of the seat. The boy sort of fell the last foot, thanks to beautiful gravity, onto the ground and moaned pitifully at it. Raven congratulated himself and took Van's little moans of pain as reward for his straightening up.

He looked the boy over and realized, easily, that there wasn't a snow ball's chance in hell that he could carry him. They were clearly about the same age and height but the Republican brat was stockier than him, heavier and broader, against Raven's more naturally wiry frame. Raven knew a diet of protein shakes and vitamin pills probably hadn't helped his weight but Raven cursed Van for the newest difficulty instead. Republicans were bred like bulls.

Treat him now or drag him? Raven considered. He was going to do more harm dragging him so was it really worth mending anything yet? Probably not he decided coolly. Next question: where was he dragging the dumbass' soon-to-be corpse to?

"Shadow find somewhere we can camp," he snapped, and the Organoid whined pointedly.

Shadow gestured to Zeke beneath him and Raven huffed.

"The thing's a glorified paper weight! What's it going to do? Cry at me?" He supposed with tremendous levels of snark. "Go! Shoo! Be useful!"

Shadow grumbled low, growling and hissing, giving Zeke a solid kick to the face as unclipped his wings and pushed off the carcass of the other Zoid.

This was going to be a dreadful day, Raven just knew, he'd already started down the most ridiculous course he'd ever embarked on…

He found himself biting his nail between fine teeth, through the thin worn glove, after a moment of Shadow's circling overhead and promptly stopped himself. He rubbed his dirtied palms along the sides of his thighs and shuffled the thoughts in his head irritably. He still felt sick, quaky and weak to his bones. It jostled him like he might puke and those silly images found every spare second to rumble at his memory in tandem. This whole thing riled him in funny ways, ways it shouldn't have affected him, but stubborn as he was Raven decided firmly not to think about it.

Raven was very good at not thinking about things he didn't like, like: human rights, children's services regulations, professional sports teams, the military code of conduct…

Instead he made himself a promise. Pushing all thoughts of mending up the dumbass aside, pushing down all the funky memories, effectively ignoring everything, Raven promised himself that he'd do something damn fun for himself when this was over with. There'd be a home cooked meal after this campaign, at the very least, even if he had to stoop to cooking it himself. Heaven forbid.

His being there was, arguably, good fortune for Van but the languid lack of urgency in Raven's reluctant mercy promised more painful manhandling for Van than sympathetic coddling.

It was definitely a Wednesday.


Notes:
Hanna and the Prozen Knights are both from the Manga
Elemia is the desert where the Wind Colony is located and, again, got that from the manga

AN: Hope somebody enjoyed even if it was just a giggle. I hope especially Jameis has enjoyed part 1 and while I have no immediate idea of when part two will be out I hope by keeping chapters reasonably small they can be fairly regular.

Criticism and opinions welcomed heartily. Flames not so much. If you're bothered by the path this is headed in pairing wise, I get it, I respect that, but kiddies you can jump ship well before you get to that review button.

Have a good one guys.