Mamma Gkika sighed as she recognised the jäger being supported in. Not visibly, of course, it would do no good to worry the others, but she was worried. Vilka hadn’t been quite stable since they’d been denied detachment, especially with their mentor being detached. Gkika had voted to deny them along with the other Generals, but sometimes she wondered if the decision had wrecked them any less then allowing them to go out. But they were young, made by Saturn not too many weeks before his poisoning and subsequent death. Come to think of it, they were probably one of, if not the last jäger to be made before the Boys took power - and they hadn’t really liked the existing jägers much at all, let alone made any new ones.
Anyway the point was they were young and it was hard enough for older jägers to deal with the detachment let alone a youth.
And, Gkika thought as she ordered the others to hold them down whilst she assessed the damage, the other reason (though it was a direct consequence of their youth) they were still not the best with control. Vilka was grinning up at her with bloodied teeth through two swollen-shut eyes, only the faintest orange glow visible through the slits - compared to the usual vibrant glow, this was significant.
“Hey Mamma Gkika.”
Their words were slurred too.
“Hey keed. Hyu are not lookink so goot, eh?”
The grin looked a little forced now, and the glow changed slightly in what Gkika assumed was them sliding their eyes to the side.
“So, are hyu goink to tell me vat happened?”
Vilka launched straight into a dramatic, slightly-lisped and heavily accented account of the battle with the Spark, probably to keep up appearances with their brothers who were holding them down. If Vilka came in on their own, they usually just gave a doctor-like report of injuries. They had, Gkika knew, had medical training before they became a jäger. Also, Gkika was aware that they’d helped other injured brothers in the past before they made it to her tavern - keeping some of them alive.
She’d do her best to keep them alive in turn.
As they talked, Gkika removed their tattered clothing (their hat of course, was pristine), stripping them down to underclothes. Their torso had been tightly bandaged up, but orange-tinted blood was seeping through. That was a bad sign - if they were still bleeding, the wound must have been serious. Vilka went for far-flung missions, so to get back here was a trek - and the wound was still bleeding. That would account for the slurring...and well, she would say the pallor except Vilka was inhumanly pale except for the bioluminescence anyway. Still. Her mouth ticked downwards slightly, but she continued, carefully sliding a claw under the bandages and slicing them open and pulling them free. Vilka’s story was interrupted by a pained hiss and she saw their claws extend and dig into the bedsheets.
It was bad - their torso had been. Well. Shredded seemed the best word for it. This made sense because apparently the Spark they’d been fighting on Wulfenbach’s orders had a thing for feline constructs with oversized claws grafted on. But it was a mess - she could see internals and at least two ribs had been snapped and were sticking out at odd angles. She’d have to rebreak those later and set them.
But for now, she needed to sort these organs out.
“Brace hyurself, sveetling.”
A few days later, Vilka was laughing (and then wincing) as they were told bawdy jokes by the jäger on the next bed. Occasionally one of the nurses would come round and remind them that they were supposed to be recovering, but without much heat - they weren’t moving around too much either of them, and well.
Gkika and the nurses had other things on their minds.
Vilka suddenly stopped laughing though, and flicked their tongue out, taking a deep breath, then their head swivelled at an alarming speed to face the door, where a gray-skinned jäger stood.
Their voice broke slightly on the word, as if they couldn’t believe it. (In their defense, they weren’t wearing their goggles, and without them their sight in the light was atrocious). They squinted, taking in what they could see.
The next minute (second) they’d sprung out of bed and almost sprinted to the door.
"....MIRCEA! Hy'm so glad to see - Oh gott oh gott are hyu injured oh man vat's vrong kan hy help do hyu need a doctor MAMMA-"
Mamma Gkika was already there, raising a fist.
“Hyu are injured, Vilka! Get back in de bed or so help me…”
Mircea, for that was the jäger at the doorframe, had been trying to reply but Vilka had been talking too fast. Nodding to Mamma respectfully he walked over to where Vilka was sat on the bed with their eyes fixed on Mircea like he was some kind of mirage that would disappear if they stopped looking.
“Hy em fine, Vilka, really. Vy vould you tink Hy em injured - ho, right. Dis is the injured place. Bot realla, Hy em fine.”
Vilka looked at them distrustfully, eyes lingering on the new scars they could see.
“...See, Hy only have dis vun set of tiny cuts from dis aggressive tree on de vay here. Efferytink else iz healed already….Bot it looks like hyu iz injured, vot heppened?”
Vilka’s eyes slid to the side, more visible now the previous swelling had healed up. They still had dark bruises marring their skin on their face, and a few stitches on their ear to hold it together, not to mention the swathes of bandages on their torso and other various wounds, but they still looked better than the other day. Mind you considering the state they had been in, that didn’t mean much.
Before Vilka could open their mouth, Mircea spoke - he recognised that eye slide.
“Hyu know Hy ken tell ven hyu iz lyink, yah?”
Abruptly, Vilka lunged, grabbing onto Mircea and pressing themselves close to him in a hug, face in the crook of his neck and breathing in the scent that was his own.
“Hy missed you.”
And there was lots inbuilt to that sentence. Mircea didn’t doubt Vilka had missed him, but it wasn’t just that, was it. He patted them gently on the back until they stopped clinging quite so tightly, and convinced them to lie down again. He waited.
“...Hy miss everyvun.”
Ah. Of course Vilka would miss the other jägers, but it wasn’t just that, was it? Mircea had never had a particular Heterodyne he was attached to, but he knew for Vilka that Bill had been a huge driving force for them. Certain jägers had that. A Heterodyne that was ‘theirs’. It wasn’t to say that Vilka wasn’t loyal to the family of a whole, of course they were. But...Bill had been special to them.
“Hey, it’z hokay, it von’t be foreffer.”
Vilka’s mouth opened as if to say something, but then there was a noise, just starting to be audible, but rapidly rising in volume. Vilka frowned, ears twitching as they swivelled. (a slight wince as the stitches tugged.)
Mircea frowned, he was hearing it too. Jäger cheering too, not the usual tavern revellers. Before either of them could ask anyone else, a large group of heavily-injured jägers burst through the doors, cheering all the way. Which was a little weird, Vilka thought. Sure there was joy in battle and in surviving, but why cheer about having to come to Mamma’s? You’d be out of the fight for ages!
Mircea didn’t look surprised. Neither, Vilka noticed, did any of the nurses. Something was going on.
“Mamma!” shouted a jäger who’s leg looked like...well, it didn’t look good. “Ve are here to be dead und go serve de Heterodyne again!”
There was another loud, raucous cheer.
Vilka was very, very still.
Mircea muttered something that sounded suspiciously like “Hyu couldn’t haff vaited two minutes…” before turning to Vilka, hands raised in a placatory manner and ready to hold them down if necessary to stop them injuring themselves.
Vilka looked at Mircea, eyes shiny and threatening tears.
“...ees eet true?”
Mircea moved himself so the other jägers in the room couldn’t see Vilka’s face. He understood but tears would get them teased and then Vilka would retaliate probably violently and they were still injured at the moment.
“...Yah. Some ov de others found Master Barry und he give dem Master Bill’s daughter.”
Vilka joined the next round of cheering.
Mircea had the decency to tell them that Bill was definitely dead when they were alone and also not near anything breakable.
In the end, it hadn’t mattered, because Vilka had just…..nodded, numb.
Mircea rather suspected the eventual explosion would be unpleasant.
It was unpleasant.
Vilka had made it all the way through the march even when people mentioned Bill.
Vilka had made it all the way through to the town square.
Vilka had made it right up until the moment that they were stood opposite a tiny girl who looked a little like Bill and who smelled a lot like Heterodyne, and was staring at them appraisingly.
Then they burst into tears because they’d failed, they’d failed Bill he was dead, he was dead and gone and he would never come back and here was his daughter and what if they failed her too -
there was someone hugging them. Vilka hiccuped, and opened their eyes in disbelief.
It wasn’t a someone, it was the Heterodyne. The Heterodyne was hugging them and babbling something in a language Vilka didn’t speak and as Vilka froze slightly she reached up completely without fear and wiped away Vilka’s orange-tinted tears. Uncertainly, Vilka smiled.
The Heterodyne smiled back, and Vilka vowed to themself that this time they would keep her safe. This time they would be better, faster, stronger, more observant.
“Hy em Agatha.” This was accompanied with pointing, but Agatha was still clinging to them with assessing eyes, as if checking they weren’t going to cry again. (Vilka was never going to hear the end of this from the other jägers, but they rather thought it was worth it.)
“....Vilka, my lady.”
And Agatha beamed at them and it was definitely worth it.
(They were a bit bemused by the fact they were being bedecked in flowers, but they could live with that.)
(It turned out it was a reoccurring thing too - by the end of the week, Vilka was covered in lots of different flowers and they bore all teasing with extreme pride.)