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She hated seeing that look on his face. She knew he was looking at the bruise because he had that look that made her feel awful. Melinda felt terrible about making him worry like that. She let her head hang and allowed him look, and willed herself to pretend it was fine.
Melinda felt the cool weight of his head on hers, just heavy enough to feel solid but not so heavy her shoulder protested. He was being especially gentle with her. Part of her wanted to let him a little, but at the same time it was irritating. She was irritated she’d gotten them both hurt like this, and all he was worried about was her. When she felt his hand she squeezed it, wanting to comfort him and make herself feel better.
“Don’t.” Melinda sighed, not moving. How could he feel so close but distant at the same time? “It’s not your fault. If it’s anyone’s, it’s mine.”
She couldn’t stand the feeling of distance anymore, even if she had to face that look of his. Melinda turned around. Her hands went to his cheeks, and she breathed in sharply when her shoulders shot with pain. She didn’t let it stop her from meeting his eyes, forcing him to look at her as much as she was forcing herself to face him. “So you fuss over me if you want, but don’t you dare think it’s your fault somehow. I’m the idiot that went out the fucking window. If you hadn’t helped and got yourself hurt too, I’d be in worse shape hitting the ground.”
His forehead was cool against hers, but she liked the feel of it. It felt closer. She didn’t like anything that felt like they were putting stupid distance between each other, trying to avoid each other. Especially since they usually had so little time between training and sleeping. “If you keep making that face…” She scrunched her nose a little, managing a genuine smile,”I can’t kiss a face like that very well, can I? So better shape up.”
He laughed slightly about the shower temperature. "I've learned where we both like it." He mused.
But when he saw the bruising on her, the pain of guilt was stricken across his face. He pulled at her shoulder a bit, getting her to turn around so he could see it better. Really, it looked a lot like his bruise; Purples and greens decorated her shoulders and back, a lot like his.
He could have cried, he was so mad at himself.
How could he let her get so damaged? He tried to protect her, and yet, as it would seem, only made it worse. He leaned his head against the back of hers, careful not to upset her sore muscles, or his. He wanted to just stay like that forever, sulking, wanting to say how sorry he was for the rest of his existence.
If she never forgave him, he would deserve it.
"...Mel." He said quietly, his arm trailing down hers before he took her hand. He kept her back to him, however. "I'm Sorry, I..." And he said nothing else. Couldn't think of anything else [i to] say, really. He would just have to take her to the chamber and hope for the best. Same with him.
Leena was going to have a [i hay day] when she saw these.
Melinda gave him a little smile. He was always so encouraging. She just hoped he was right and that she would do alright when it really counted. “Maybe I’m just nervous.”
There was the hope in her head that if she could prove herself out there she’d feel better, more confident. She followed him into the room and shut the door behind them. She saw the bruise on him and frowned, biting her lip. That did not look good. It clearly hurt too. “Honey. Ah, geeze.”
His finger on her cheek managed to shut her up effortlessly. She felt really bad about the bruise though. That was her fault. She covered her face with her hand and just stood there until she heard the water running. He was just going to keep going like it was nothing, wasn’t he?
She exhaled and stripped out of her suit carefully. It still hurt when she had to move any part of her back and shoulders. Especially the shoulder that had the worst of the bruising. She could see a bit of it wrapping around her shoulder and arm, and feel the rest of it. It was huge, she was sure of it. Mel groaned. The timing was awful. Any other time, it would just be an annoyance for a few days while training. Tomorrow mattered too much.
If she got too evasive and he found out it’d be a bigger deal. And he would find out. There was no way she could suddenly keep that much skin covered and not make it stupidly obvious she was hiding something. When not training, it was mostly tank tops for her. With all her options for hiding the bruise thought of and eliminated she went into the bathroom, deciding to try and pretend it looked worse than it felt.
Might have been true even. She took a look in the mirror and winced. That was a horrible shade of purple. It was all purple and red. It certainly hurt, but it looked bad too. Trying to keep things light she commented,”I guess we have matching bruises.”
[i Yep], she thought to herself as she got into the shower,[i Just stay casual and pretend like it doesn’t hurt.] “You didn’t leave the water freezing again, did you?”
He was guilty of leaving it too cold on accident, and she was just as guilty of sometimes leaving it to scalding.
He raised an eyebrow at her at her comment. "Are you implying you don't always look good?" He smirked slightly. "That would be a blatant lie." He mused. He took her hand in his and lead them out of the training grounds and into the main portion of the house. She piped up with a question, one she'd asked a few times before.
Actually, more than a few. She'd asked nearly every day. It's quite possible that she'd ask on the day as well, in the middle of their mission. He looked down at her and grinned.
"I guess the [i real] question is... Why do you think you're not ready?" He squeezed her hand gently. "You've been doing great here. My parents talk about how fast of a learner you are. Even I've seen your improvement." He gave her a genuine smile. "I think you'll be great, no matter what."
They made it to the room in little to no time, and he immediately stripped his shirt, his muscles aching against the motion. In fact, they nearly kept him from doing said action. He winced slightly, hissing as he pulled the shirt from his biceps. He attempted to peer over his back, but his neck creaked and ached horridly, he could barely turn all the way.
"That wall must've really done a number on me." He said gently, not really directing it at anyone. He couldn't see his back, after all. It could've just been sore. He flung the shirt towards the hamper they had acquired in the last year, going towards the dresser and attempting to lean down to the last drawer. No good.
He shot back up with a groan.
"Okay... Shower first then." He said, heading for the bathroom. He trailed a finger along her cheek before making his way in, immediately prepping the water warmth and curtain. He took a few steps back to look into the mirror.
He couldn't tell if it was a lot of bruising, or just one big one, but it was purples and greens.
"Aye." He grimaced. Shower, food, chamber. The compression chamber would get rid of most of that bruising, and the hot water would sooth his muscles, and that would help for tomorrow. He couldn't help but wonder if that was going to put a damper on their mission.
However, he remembered that in [i this] particular instance of training, he did not use his powers. At least, not to do what he [i could] do with them, if he needed to. He just prayed it would be enough to be there when it mattered most.
He looked towards the door for a moment, Mel on his mind. Reoccurring nightmares for the recent, upcoming event had kept him awake at night, stalking the hall just outside of the room at 3 or 4 in the morning. He did not want to think about what would happen if he was truly out of commission for tomorrow.
He stripped the rest of his clothing before getting in the shower.
Melinda looked between them. So he’d thrown his mom to catch her. And Leena wasn’t happy about it. His parents were cute though. Melinda liked how they got along. Rin was right about having things to do. They needed to be ready for tomorrow.
She hesitated. Change. Which meant he’d probably get a good look at her shoulders, likely before she could. He was going to get suspicious if she tried too hard to avoid it. She decided to just deal with it and play it off like it wasn’t so bad. If she tried too hard to not let him see and he saw anyway, it’d seem like a bigger deal.
“Yeah. It’d be dumb to get food on this before tomorrow. Got to look good, right?”
Melinda gave his hand an affectionate squeeze before starting toward their shared room. She glanced over at him. He said not to worry, but she was getting really antsy,”Hey, you really think I’m ready for this?”
She’d gotten really good with the stealth, sneaking around, and generally pretty good at dodging and getting around fast. Compared with these three though she was the least experienced. And physically the weakest, though she frequently reminded herself she also had the fire ability that none of the rest of them did to help make up for that. She knew she wasn’t the smartest either, a lot of the scientific and technology stuff went over her head a bit even after attempts at study.
Rin attempted to hold back in a groan, not turning back to her so he could conceal his blush as well. [i She] was the one being cute, stumbling over her words and also, apparently, the stairs. Although, that seemed out of place. For now, however, he'd put it off. He wanted to sit down. I'm sure, after that wonderful acrobatic tumbling they did, she'd want to as well.
Once down the forever flight, they met Charlie and Leena at the entrance of the building. Charlie was smiling, Leena was not.
"I still can't believe you threw me." She grumbled. Rin laughed nervously.
"I wasn't thinking, I'm sorry." He grinned. [i Pleeeeease don't kill me], he thought behind that forced smile. "One track mind, I guess. I'm surprised I dealt with you at all."
"Those natural reflexes are good." Charlie grinned. "He get's it from me, Eh?" He looked over to Leena who shot him a glare. He gave the same forced smile Rin had. You could tell they were related. He cleared his throat before looking to Rin again, his face falling into a more gentle smile. "You did good."
"Thanks... I guess." He shrugged.
"That was quite a breakthrough though. Perhaps I should get you both in the chamber. Especially since you don't want it to feel worse tomorrow."
"Oh man... Can we eat first? Seriously, I'm starving." He groaned before laughing. He shot a quick smile at Melinda. "Plus, We got things to do, plans to finish... That sort of thing."
"Alright, I get it." Charlie mused. He looked to Leena, who was still pouting. He trailed a finger down her arm before snagging her hand, which jolted her to look at him. "Let's go make something to eat, yeah?" He said before dragging her along. Rin rolled his eyes before giving Melinda a peck on the forehead.
"Let's go change." He said gently.
Melinda snorted,”And I’ll be looking out for you. Someone hurts you they’re gonna have a fireball on their hands.”
She came to a stop, glad to be up a step from him so she didn’t really have to look up. She twisted her face in mock annoyance,”How do you know what’s bothering me all the time?”
Easier said than done when it came to not dwelling on it. She thought to herself it might have been a little easier if her back and shoulders didn’t hurt so much. “Alright, alright. I’ll [i try] not to.”
She inhaled again when he tugged her to start walking again. How bad was her shoulder hurt anyway? Not broken and she was pretty sure it wasn’t dislocated, but the joint sure felt tender. Melinda wasn’t sure she’d really be able to stop thinking about it and wishing she’d done better, or seen it coming, or just been more careful somehow. She did know that she didn’t want Rin fretting over that when they had plans to finalize. Tomorrow had to go better than this.
Melinda almost missed a step seeing his little sly smile. Damn it, he was too cute. And it was too obvious she’d stumbled and used him to stay up. And it hurt that irritated shoulder joint. Not her smoothest move, and not helping her hide it. “[i Shit]. Um, I dunno. Geeze, you’re too cute I almost fell. Well, I mean I kinda fell a while ago for you so… Anyway, food sounds good.”
"I think I know what the lesson was." He said as he descended the stairs, her in tow. "He wanted to know if we were going to have each other's backs out there." He said this before giving a hardy laugh. "Like he doesn't know who I am, or something. Of [i course] I'm gunna protect you." He mused, looking back at her.
"Anyway, I think after breaking his buildings, and you falling off, well... He might be a little apprehensive to start again." He looked back at her again and paused on the stairs, forcing her to pause as well. "It wasn't either of your faults, I hope you know. I know you, and I know him. You're gunna mull on it for a while. Don't take it hard... We're not gunna fight them like we'll fight the real bad guys." He gave her a slight grin. "[i Don't] mull on it." It was a silly little threat, but he sort of meant it. He didn't want her to beat herself up on something she probably couldn't have guessed was going to happen. He didn't either.
Doesn't mean he shouldn't have been more prepared for it.
He began descending the flight once again tugging her gently along.
"What sounds good for dinner?" He tried to change the subject casually. "And... dessert?" He mused, throwing a sly smile over his shoulder at her before returning his attention to his footing. Things seemed to be getting a little blurry on the way down. Had he hit his head? He quietly itched the back of his head, checking for blood without alarming Mel, but he didn't feel anything. He pulled his hand away, hoping she'd think nothing of it.
Falling had given her enough of a rush to barely feel anything, but now breathing was starting to hurt. She still flashed Rin a little grin that was almost a grimace,”You’ll get some kisses then. I’m okay. Nothing’s broken or bleeding.”
Melinda looked at the rubble around them and the hole they’d smashed in the wall. He’d caught her, but she felt stupid for needing to be caught in the first place. Was she really ready? She’d worked her ass off but it had only been a year. Still, she’d have the fire out there if she needed. Surely that would help give her a better edge. She clenched her fists. The reasoning didn’t eliminate her frustration or the growing pain blooming over her shoulders and back. She had hoped she’d do better today.
Melinda heard them talking and picked her way closer. It sounded like they were worried about her. The fact that they passed somehow surprised her. She was too sore to argue and want to pick another fight. The mission tomorrow was more important than her pride.
Rin walked over, and Melinda nodded slightly. Crap, that hurt too. Was it her neck, or just the fact that it moved the muscles that were hurting? “Stairs sound good.”
His tug on her arm made her inhale a little sharply. Her shoulder protested, but she started walking anyway. “Somehow I think I’m cool not taking the shortcut this time. So, how the hell did we pass? Because I don’t think that was my best moment actually.”
Rin attempted to get on his feet, only to get a sharp pain in his side. Did he dislocate a rib? He leaned forward onto his hands a knees, then raised his hand to the spot that seemed tender. It didn't hurt as bad as he anticipated, but it was still sore. No dislocation; probably just from the fall. He put his cold hand against it, trying to sooth it for now before getting himself upright and flashing a charming grin at his girlfriend.
"Nothing a kiss or two can't fix." He mused, walking over to her. "You sure you're alright? That was a nasty breakthrough. I couldn't think..." He trailed off. He didn't know any other plan beyond catching her. Had he thought more carefully...
"..." His face fell slightly before he turned to the opening they had created from impact. Was he ready for this mission? He became blind if she was in danger. It didn't matter if he got hurt...
[i But if you get hurt, you can't protect her.] He thought dimly, walking back through the space into the first room they broke through, trying to find a solid ground through the rubble. It was like the meditation he'd been doing didn't stop his brash reactions. He kicked some of the debris, narrowing his eyes into a glare at it. He'd been careless.
"You alright?!" He heard a shout from the buildings below, it echoed in his mind.
"Could be better." He shouted back. And wasn't that the truth? He could've [i done] better. Had they not taught him better? [i Idiot.] He snorted at himself as he approached the opening in the building, looking down at his father, his mother also coming into view as she jogged over.
"That was quick thinking!" She said. "I was surprised you threw me with such force!" [i Well, when you're saving your girl...] He shrugged slightly.
"Does this mean we pass?" He gave a smug grin. Leena turned to Charlie and he grinned also.
"Yeah, you pass. Quicker than i had anticipated." He mused, and Leena gave a small smirk.
"I think we're gunna take the long way down." Rin laughed before turning back to Mel, putting on his best "I'm perfectly normal" grin and walking over to her. He stepped over the rubble as best he could, hesitant with each step, and took her hand. "Let's... Take the stairs this time, huh?" He laughed, tugging her arm gently towards said structure.
Melinda knew she almost had him, but was ready to retreat and try something else when she felt a kick in her shoulders.
Things were a bit of a blur, she was trying to stop but couldn’t, and then there was nothing under her, and she was looking inside the room at Charlie. She couldn’t reach him, and there was nothing else good to grab and stop her fall.
What she hit wasn’t the ground, like she was expecting. It was softer, but still knocked the wind out of her. Then they slammed through a wall, then another. Rin had caught her, somehow. Her head felt all jumbled and even with adrenaline flooding her system her shoulders ached. Especially the one that had hit the walls first.
She breathed in, and immediately started coughing. She could taste the dust, and it took her a bit to get enough air to say anything,”Yeah. I’m good. You?”
It came out a bit disjointed. Her head started to clear some, and she remembered they were in the middle of a test. This didn’t mean the end of it, did it? Melinda didn’t want to fail, not after a year of training and with an actual task to accomplish tomorrow. She forced herself to move, shifting to get off Rin. The pain was starting to seep in more, but she didn’t want to let it keep her down. She didn’t want Rin to get all worried over her, at least not yet. At the moment she was a little more worried about him, she’d landed on him and while he could talk, she was worried he’d been hurt catching her.
It was a bit slow getting on her feet, but once upright she was feeling slightly better. She was glad the suit covered most of her. The way it ached told her it was going to be a nasty bruise, but nothing was broken or cut.
Charlie felt a twinge of something crawling up the back of his neck. Wind, maybe? He quickly turned his head in time to catch Melinda going straight for his legs. She grazed his calf before he pushed himself forward onto his hands , looking like he was going into a somersault, but came back, kicking her right in the shoulders. He landed perfectly, looking back to her only to be stricken with fear suddenly. This sent her flying farther than he had anticipated and--
"Melinda!" He scrambled up as she toppled out the window, reaching for her hand and barely missing. "Shit-!" He yelled, his hand still extended outwards towards her.
Rin heard a curse word from his dad not too far from him, and he laughed, having a small second to look up and--
Rin's eyes widened. Melinda was falling from the building... There were hardly any support beams to catch herself on, and even if she did, from that angle, it wouldn't go so well for her. Rin was caught off guard when a foot came close to his face and he swiftly dodged his mother's attempt to foil his next move. Quickly, he grabbed her leg, throwing her around and tossing her aside, before quickly sprinting in Melinda's direction.
"I wont make it..." He breathed through his fast pace. His eyes lit up as he pushed his hand out in front of him, creating slick ice that he slid on, going faster than his running.
"C'mon, C'mon!" He willed himself to go faster, make the ice slicker, until he was just about underneath her.
He launched himself with a yell, grabbing her in his arms. For a split second, he was relieved. They crashed into the building just next to them, going through a couple of the [i only slightly] thin walls, until tumbling to a halt on the floor of one of the rooms. Rin groaned from pain somewhere in his back.
"Mel--" He tried before coughing as the dust settled around him. Luckily, she had landed on top of him, but he doubted without much injury. His brain was fuzzy from the impact, and he didn't know if she was alright. He could barely see anything through the haze, and the daze.
"Are you..?" He breathed before being thrown into a coughing fit yet again, his back aching with the pain of his wheezing.
Melinda smirked to herself a little. The compliments were nice, but she knew she couldn’t lower her guard. She tried to keep still and steady, waiting for an opening as she kept out of sight. She was ready to bolt if he spotted her, but Charlie seemed to be looking for her.
He either really hadn’t noticed, or he was deliberately luring her to attack. Melinda didn’t want to wait too long to figure it out, because then he really would see her. Her plan was to attack while she could, but be ready to get away the second he might get the upper hand. She launched herself from her hiding spot to try and catch Charlie off guard, going for his legs to get his balance off,”Well, I did learn from the best.”
"You've gotten pretty good at dodging." Charlie shouted as she dipped into a window below them. He decided to follow, quickly launching himself through the window and looking around. He didn't seem to see her. "Playing hide and seek... That's a good advantage." He said, keeping a wary eye when he passed by a room. He needed to be ready to block, or dodge, and hopefully not hurt himself in the process. Or her. These buildings were safer than usual, but an accident could still occur if you didn't know what you were doing.
But Charlie was confident enough in the two's abilities that bringing out this course didn't put worry in his mind nearly as much as if it had been a year ago. That being said, his focus on the task at hand was to find Melinda.
Melinda’s gymnastics had come in handy learning from Charlie, but she was too aware that he completely outmatched her with experience. When she lost track of him, she was on edge, but kept moving. She had gotten good at all the climbing and jumping, using the environment, but she’d only been training like this for a year.
Then Charlie seemed to come out of nowhere, but she figured she just hadn’t noticed. He didn’t waste any time trying to lure her into attacking first, which had her dodging and trying to keep from getting backed against a wall,”Fuck. Really not pulling the punches today.”
She knew she wasn’t in any position to throw any punches of her own unless she wanted to end up flat on her back. She dodged and danced around. When she got an opening to go around and past him she did, and started by moving down a floor, out a window and in just below it where she immediately tucked herself against the wall next to the window hoping to trip Charlie up when he followed. Her main advantage against most opponents was speed and maneuverability, but it wasn’t like Charlie didn’t have those too. Well, there was the fire but no matter how bad she wanted to win, there was no way she would pull that out against the guy she considered more of a dad than her actual dad.
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