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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.
Charlie grinned at Melinda's quickness, but he wouldn't go easy on her this time. He took his jacket off, flinging it off to the side as he dashed up on of the buildings. He relished in the fact that parkour was a cake walk for him, scaling the building with ease. When he reached the top, he pulled his tie away, throwing it to the side, then loosening the top few buttons to get comfy.
Charlie glanced over, watching Melinda swing from the brackets of the building until she could reach the top. He looked around and noticed Rin and Leena going at it, but Rin was clearly at the advantage. His forte had always been to use his surroundings to bounce and maneuver around people, trying to catch them off guard.
"We've got to get them to play together." Charlie said out loud.
[i "I know."] A voice said right into his ear piece. He smiled at that, knowing Leena's tone was an impatient one. [i "I'm working on it. Cut me some slack. He's your son, after all."]
"Don't go too far from that area. I'll push Melinda that way." He said before taking a mad dash to the building across from him. He grabbed onto the support beams, swinging himself into the momentum and continued running, hauling ass until he jumped into the window just below Melinda. He swung himself up with ease before pulling himself into a martial arts stance. With a smirk, he dashed at her, fists flying.
His mother's punches were brutally strong, denting various objects she was hitting in an attempt to reach him. Unfortunately for her, brute strength wasn't enough against a bouncy opponent.
"You sure you don't have super powers too?" He mused as she barely missed another punch.
"That'd be much easier for you to accept that years of training." She laughed, going for the trip, only to catch air. "You ever gunna fight me, grasshopper?"
"I have to pick my moments." He said, leaping at her to make her dodge, only to catch her wrist. He pulled her over his shoulder and flung her across the way, but she was able to somersault herself back into an upright position. "One punch from you, and i'll miss breakfast." Leena laughed at his remark.
"Fair enough." She grinned before launching at him again, forcing him backwards. She could clearly see Melinda dealing with Charlie. She hoped that they could work together.... This was the [i true] test.
Different. Before she could start asking questions, Rin came in. Him being there perked her mood up. She didn’t see him a whole lot, but he was always so affectionate when he did see her it was practically impossible to be upset at him. “Hey.”
Charlie answered for her, and she looked around puzzled with a sinking feeling as the room rumbled and changed. This looked more like training with Leena.
Whatever it was, Mel was hoping she wouldn’t be left too sore tomorrow since that was the big day. Melinda listened to Charlie talking, half wanting to look around but wary of taking her eyes off him.
She got a feeling something was behind them just a second after Rin did, just in time for him to push her. If he hadn’t, Leena would have gotten her. Melinda was a little off balance and stumbled to catch herself, only to see Charlie coming at her. She cussed and instead of keeping herself from falling she let herself arc back and go onto her hands before flipping back to her feet, on balance and a little farther away. It was hard to knock her off balance and even harder to keep her off balance for long. Rin and Leena were gone, presumably in one of the buildings. Melinda backed up, trying to keep some distance. As helpful as Rin might be to her, Charlie and Leena were a more dangerous combo. Best keep them separated.
So Melinda took off in a different direction than the one she assumed Rin had, climbing up an unfinished part of a building to get higher ground. That section had bars and stuff that were usually tucked [i inside] the wall. Here they were exposed and she could use them.
Charlie grinned at Melinda. Over the year that they had stayed here, they had made such a vast improvement of self, and of powers. Looking at her now, she looked much more like a formidable young woman, who people should come to respect, or else...
Before the events of training she seemed spunky, but extremely timid. Perhaps even a little rambunctious. Now, she was still spunky, but more resigned; more in control. His wife had done a wonderful job in the small amount of time she had to train her. So much so, Charlie wondered if Melinda could be a suitable leader for any kind of escapade.
He wondered that as he quietly strode through the building toward the girl.
"We're going to be doing something a little different today..." Charlie started as a door swung open...
"I'm back." Rin said, casually walking in the door. He looked up to see Charlie standing there with Melinda and greeted them both with a smile.
"Just in time!" Charlie mused, beckoning him over. Rin raised an eyebrow with a slight smirk, pulling off his gloves and mask, tossing them on the floor nearby. His now exposed face also revealed the facial hair he had been steadily grooming. He looked mature, and maybe a little dangerous, that blue hair still as striking as ever, matching the eye color in likeness. He ran a hand through his now disheveled hair to put it back into place. He glided over, snaking his arm around Mel and planting a kiss on her forehead.
"Hello gorgeous." He smirked slightly, before looking to his father. "Are you done already?"
"On the contrary," His father mused, leaning to one side and pulling out a remote, "I've got a special lesson today... For both of you." He pressed the large button on the remote. Suddenly the room rumbled, and all of the equipment began to descend into the floor, being replaced by building-like structures that were either half-done, or made to look like rubble on purpose. It took a few minutes, but after all the gym equipment was well hidden, it looked like a destroyed city, ready for...
"...For what, exactly?" He said, turning back to his father after awing at the change of scenery.
"Today, as your final day, we're going to do something different." Charlie put tossed the remote to a part of the floor that was still mat-covered and pulled away his jacket. "Out there, you're going to be in a rural area. It won't be like training in here. There's going to be more people, and they're probably going to have weapons, and you're probably not always going to get through a situation just being sneaky." Rin narrowed his eyes at his father for a moment. "And, as we know, people tend to do the unexpected..." He grinned.
Rin felt a tingle on the back of his neck and he turned sharply, in time to see his mother coming down on them, grinning wildly and teeth bared. With a curse under his breath, he pushed Mel out of the way and flipped backwards, Leena barely missing the two. Instantly she was up and coming after Rin, who decided to shed his jacket mid blocking of her punches. He took off into the buildings with a grin equaling his mother's.
As if of que, Charlie also turned to Melinda, trying at her with a trip to, hopefully, knock off her already haphazard balance from being pushed.
Melinda loved the gym Rin’s parents had. They’d also been nice enough to add stuff if it was needed. Spending time there cleared her head, and she got to think while running, jumping, climbing, and bending herself into a human pretzel. For her that was relaxing.
Hopping up onto a bar she flipped onto her hands and moved like that a little ways before letting her legs down and going to an arch and standing up, then darting forward to hop up on a higher level. The suit moved well, and she liked practicing in it so she would be comfortable in it when the time came. Just thinking about it made the butterflies in her stomach get all agitated. Her original suit had been pink, as requested. She liked it well enough, but made alterations over time and kept changing her mind about the color until settling on black because at least that wouldn’t stick out as much, and she was less likely to keep changing her mind about how she looked in the color. Everyone looked good in black.
The year had been rough, especially at first. The training was exhausting, and learning to control the fire had, paradoxically to her, made it harder to control outside of training for the first few weeks. Rin’s dad, Charlie, had said something she didn’t quite understand about it not being that weird and that she’d get the hang of it. Probably. She did, but not without a few accidents. The other training was fighting, which she picked up on faster, though not without landing on her ass a number of times. Charlie did a lot of that training with her, and he was clearly a lot better. He was a good teacher, and taught her to use what she had. She was small and flexible and fast. Plus the fire, but that only came in as a theoretical discussion when sparring with Charlie. Or Rin, the handful of times he’d been there at the same time as her.
That was one thing that frustrated her, even today when the overall mood for her was nervous. She barely got to see him aside from meals and sleeping. She made the most of that time, but it still left her irritated thinking about it sometimes. They were consumed by training and preparing, because they weren’t the only ones. Melinda was determined to get those others out, which was sometimes about the only thing keeping her from some impulse to grab him and run off for the day. Finding out there were others just like her and Rin only they were stuck working for those creeps really bothered her.
Charlie somehow figured some stuff out by getting enough blood. It wasn’t enough that Melinda didn’t mind the needles, she still hated them but put up with it. Charlie seemed pretty excited about it, but Melinda didn’t totally get it all. It messed with their DNA somehow, it was the same thing but affected each person differently, and whatever it was the creeps had it and Charlie wanted to see it. It was also apparently old. She kind of wanted to grab it and give it to Charlie, whatever it was, because she was sure it would be safer in his hands.
Melinda hopped up and pulled herself up onto a bar way up, and started swinging around and up in seemingly random ways. She had little purpose but to stretch and just practice. It was what she did when she wasn’t needed training with Charlie or Leena, and didn’t want to sit still.
Charlie’s training she picked up easier. Leena’s was less frequent and also harder. That was more a mental exercise. It also weirded her out at first because it seemed like there were two Leenas. The Leena that was Rin’s mom and really sweet and tended to overreact sometimes. Then there was the Leena that put Melinda through training. That Leena didn’t go easy on Mel, and made scenarios or obstacle courses and things Mel swore were straight from hell. There were tricks and traps, and at times they forced her to make split second decisions. The thing that Leena kept drilling into Melinda was to keep calm and focused even when things got hairy.
Melinda wasn’t sure she mastered that lesson, but she’d made some progress. She just hoped it was enough progress that she wouldn’t lose her cool once they actually went out to save people.
The world always looked neat upside down. Melinda looked out at the gym stuff around her, her feet pointed in the air as she kept her balance and held the position. From time to time she still wondered about her friends, and sometimes even her family. What they thought of her just disappearing. She hadn’t talked to any of them since before things went crazy.
Behind her. She swung down to see Charlie coming in. Today was the last day of preparation, with tomorrow being the big day where they hopefully broke into a facility and broke out, hopefully with some more company. She wondered how that would make today different, because obviously they needed to go over their plans.
“Yeah?” Mel dropped off the bar and climbed down to the ground to go meet Charlie. Usually this early it was time for a warm up spar and a reminder she needed more for breakfast than coffee and toast. She wondered if that was going to be the same today too. She was really starting to think of this as home, something she’d realized weeks ago.
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