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Pulling Ourselves Together (Dead)

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"No hospitals."

That had been the primary stipulation Phoebe had given Shikai once they were clear of the PRIME's fortress and looking for a place to lay low and lick their wounds. She was injured enough that the shinobi had to help her move; which did no favor for the burns on his back, but he didn't complain. Given how messed up and exhausted they both were, they wouldn't be able to go far before they needed to stop, rest, and heal. Fortunately, the General had a few contacts in the area left over from a job he had done a few years back. A few called-in favors later, the pair found themselves standing before an empty cabin in a village in the middle of nowhere.

"Looks homey," he joked, "Let's go in."

Opening the door, it turned out that Shikai's previous comment had been correct. The living room was decorated with hardwood furniture, the chairs and couches covered with comfortable looking cushions and quilts. All of it was built around a great fireplace, the smell of burnt wood permanently soaked into everything around it. Walking into the bedroom, they found a large bed, complete with bedding, and another fireplace off to the side. 

As gently as he could, Shikai helped Phoebe onto the bed. He had already made sure she hadn't been concussed, and done a field dressing of her other wounds, so he felt it was safe to let her sleep a little before providing further treatment.

"I'll uh... take the couch."

Hoping the First couldn't see him blushing, he left the room to sit himself down on the couch nearest the fireplace. A few minutes later, he had a fire going, and was using a jutsu to heal the burns on his back. It took him a few hours, and once it was done, exhaustion was starting to set in. Slumping over, he allowed himself to finally fall asleep.

@Noko

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'No hospitals.'

They were so paperwork-forward and Phoebe was too far from home to chance finding a friendly, besides- 'my psionics are fucked' probably isn't a symptom they see all that often.  Certainly, it would be enough to be noticed and this wasn't a particularly good time for that, what with the assassination and all.  

The first mile of the journey saw their first outfit change, just outside of the castle walls- with the aid of their undead repellant, they entered an empty house and swapped their soldier uniforms for villager standard- she, with a broad hat and a matron's skirt, which made her leaning on Shikai easier to explain away, and he with a wide cape that covered the gaping wound where his arm once was.  They would carry another set of clothes from the town to switch again at an empty tavern where a kitchen order sent the bartender into the back while they changed and left.  It was a skill set, moving without being seen - without being remembered, or noticed, and it was one Phoebe wore like a second skin.

In due time they reached a town which Phoebe deemed far enough from Castle Strogonoff- they had always planned on leaving on foot, just not quite like this.  Nehelan wasn't a land where technolgy could pass unseen, and Phoebe's state wasn't condusive to traveling fast enough to meet their transfer transportation, so a stop-over it was.  A telepathic reschedule would see them picked up the next day, once she'd rested.

The cabin was a relief when it came into view.

Phoebe was a terrible patient. 

Internally, she warred with herself- the First never appeared weakened in front of the Dead.  She was always buttoned up, always crisp and prepared, always impeccably distant and undeniably untouchable.  It was a persona for her, just as much as Michelle or Summer or Ana.  Bullet holes, knife slashes, broken and smashed, she never faltered - but now, she stumbled.  The electric shock and disrupted much of her body's natural motions- her leg gave out periodically, the fingertips of her left hand shook with fading frequency, and her psionics.. well, let's not talk about that.  The wounds, though - while Phoebe hadn't yet noticed, those were inexplicably mending, and the pain bothered her a lot less than it should've.  Adrenaline, shock, she assumed.

Leaning on the Mindgorger, the woman made her way carefully inside- appreciative of the single room, of the fireplace, of the bed.  Without even the hint that Phoebe knew the definition of modesty, she began to strip off her clothes on a straight path toward the bed as Shikai shut the door behind them and followed nearby.  She stepped on her heels just inside the cabin, leaving her boots by the door with the stolen hat; her shirt next, pulled overhead and dropped on the floor.  Then her bra; then her pants; until the last step had her clad in only a simple pair of black bikini bottoms.  All the rest were just left where she dropped them, or walked out of them, until she reached the bed and fell in.  Only after a moment did she even grab the blue knit blanket and bother to pull it over herself.  

Physically, Phoebe had the body she appeared to have- enough womanly attributes to use but not so much she couldn't put them away.  She was thin, athletic, built to move, and covered from her upper-chest, over her shoulders, down her arms to her wrists, in winding, runic, tattoos.  Her wounds were obvious; the burn on her thigh was tremendously inflamed, and her shoulder a vicious purple, while a myriad of scratches and bruises decorated the rest of her fair skin.  Curiously, she didn't appear to have any old scars - not  a one, which was probably more noticeable than anything other than her tattoos.

If she'd noticed his blush, she said nothing to draw attention to it- then again, she had to be used to the reaction by now.

"I'll uh... take the couch."

From sprawled prone, Phoebe nodded, replying, "..wake me for second watch."

That, and she was asleep- no unsettled guilt here, that was for sure.

Edited by Noko

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Shikai couldn't stop thinking about Phoebe's body.

No, not like that. Although it had been something of a struggle to divert his mind away from the mostly nude body of a very attractive woman, he eventually reminded himself that she was married, and he respected her too much to think of her like that. Though he would have to remember to give Aristotle a high-five the next time he saw him-

"NO, BAD SHIKAI!"

The exclamation had been unexpected, and the shinobi found himself covering his mouth with both hands as soon as he'd spoken the words. If Phoebe had been awoken by the sudden noise, she didn't react, and Shikai let out a sigh of relief. Letting his mind wander back to the subject, he realized that the woman had no scars on her body. Oh, she had plenty of recent injuries from the fight with the PRIME's, but not so much as a blemish otherwise. Did the First have some kind of healing factor that he wasn't aware of? It must have been a slow one if she did, otherwise her current wounds would have healed by now. 

Sunshine filtered in through the windows, and with the realization that a new day had come, Shikai groaned and got to his feet. Checking his own wounds, he found that his burns had almost completely healed, and the stump of his arm was also slowly beginning to heal itself. He would have to replace it soon; it would take weeks to grow back in on its own. Content with his own injuries, it was time to see to his comrade.

Dismissing the Clone he'd had stand sentry through the night, he walked over to the bedroom door and knocked.

"It's morning miss. I can take a look at your wounds now. Just uh... throw on a dressing gown or something, there should be clothes in there."

 

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Phoebe was awake. 

Sleep had come like a coma- instant and total, but despite the trauma of the previous day she still she'd woke with the morning light and peeled herself out of bed.  Her feet hit the worn wooden planks with a slap and an unpleasant reverberation into the burn on her leg.  Exhaling, the First let the cool air settle on her flesh as she leaned forward and draped her arms over her thighs, staring at the pale and worn wooden fibers.  Idly, she reached out- she spread herself, spread her thoughts and her will, and winced at the gaps in what was normally a psionic map so real she could feel the blades of grass in the nearby farmer's field.

"..shit."  The curse was a sigh, tired and resigned.  Wearily she stood and, taking a few paces from the tumbled bed, and began to move through the flowing movements with which started her mornings.  Tall stretch, to a wide legged lunge, to cross-legged balance and a pistol squat, standing, shifting to an a-frame and hand stand, a back bend, thoracic bridge to its reverse, to snake position, to a-frame, only to start over again with the opposite hand leading.  In minutes her body warmed and shone with a light sweat.  Oh, there were troubles, modifications made to work around her injuries- the burn stung, pulling across its flaming expanse with each leg stretch, and she was imbalanced on the bends and bridges, unable to support herself on the injured shoulder. 

When Shikai knocked on the door it was almost a relief, the First was just rising from snake and abandoned it midway to open the door to her General.  He was mid-sentence when she answered, still mostly-nude, and with a brow pulled high toward the ceiling at being called 'miss'.

"Phoebe is fine, General Shikai." 

Her words, on top of his, but she knew they'd be heard.  It was a simple response- sharply formal and a stark reminder of who the pair of them were and what, precisely, they were doing here.  Without addressing it any further, she turned away from the door - leaving it open behind her - and grabbed only the shirt from her last stolen outfit.  That she pulled over her torso like a coat- no buttons, not tying it, instead just leaving it to billow behind her in the wind of her movement as she made her way to settle on the edge of the bed.  Gingerly, she stretched out her leg and bared the burn for Shikai to look over.  Even covered by the bandage, it was easy to see that the wound remained- its red licked edges peeked out from the white and damp spots of pale yellow leaked through some of the cotton.  Her shoulder was in a similar state- mobile, mostly, but ugly and purple with injury, while the smaller wounds - the punctures and scrapes, the small bruises, those were gone.  Her runes as well were on their way out - faded and weak with the new day.

"Did you bring your comm patch?" she asked, continuing, "We may need to use that to call our transport.

Is your arm..."  The woman wrinkled her brow, considering the next few words.  "..better?  I assume that's not a big deal for you?"

Edited by Noko

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At the implied reprimand, Shikai shook off his modesty and put his mind to the task at hand. While he gathered his medical supplies from his gear, Phoebe continued to ask him some questions.

"Did you bring your comm patch?" she asked, continuing, "We may need to use that to call our transport."

"Yes, I hid it before I disguised myself as a soldier."

Is your arm..."  The woman wrinkled her brow, considering the next few words.  "..better?  I assume that's not a big deal for you?"

Shikai chuckled, "It doesn't hurt, and it isn't bleeding; so that will have to do for now. When I'm back home, I'll grow a replacement and attach it."

Having retrieved his medkit, the shinobi knelt before his patient to examine the burn on her thigh. Delicately removing the bandage, he took a few minutes to inspect the angry red burn. The normally cheerful and laid back man had a focus and purpose that most would only see him display in battle.

"Second degree burn, looks like a few blisters have broken open," he pulled a small jar of ointment from the kit, "Here, rub this on the wound, then let it sit for a few minutes. There's a topical analgesic in there that will take care of the pain, plus a powerful disinfectant and moistureizer to prevent itching. When it's dried I'll put a bandage on it."

Getting to his feet, Shikai moved to stand beside Phoebe so that he could inspect her damaged shoulder. He made a point of staying within her field of vision as much as possible; figuring that she probably wouldn't like him standing behind her. As gently as possible he poked and prodded the injured joint. It didn't take long for him to come to a conclusion.

"It's pretty bad. Your rotator cuff is torn. You would need surgery to repair this, and I'm not equipped for that."

The General thought for a second before moving to look at Phoebe, "If you're okay with it, I can sort of... I guess the term would be lend you my healing factor. That would heal the injury in minutes."

 

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Her earlier words a reprimand?  Maybe, to the gentle-souled.  A reminder?  Certainly, and conversation went on uninterrupted.

"It doesn't hurt, and it isn't bleeding; so that will have to do for now. When I'm back home, I'll grow a replacement and attach it."

Well, that was an interesting mental picture.

As Shikai tucked his fingers beneath the frayed edge of Phoebe's bandage, the First squinted, her jaw set against what was to come - wondering if growing a limb and attaching it would somehow be easier than all the pain and healing.  Half turned away, Phoebe prepared for the nerve scraping, body razing, pain that would surely follow in the wake of such a treacherous endeavor.  All in all she'd half rather get electrocuted again - no, just kidding - that had been blindingly awful.  Yet, as her General coaxed the dirty cotton from her mottled and weeping wound, there was just a dulled sharpness to the tearing - a distant memory of what it should feel like, or what it could have felt like, but didn't.  

Phoebe's narrowed eyes, so ready for the onset of pain, shifted through that expectation to confusion and settled there with the cock of a brow.  She pursed her pretty bow lips faintly and glanced at Shikai lightly, chasing his sharp eyes with her own spring green searching, as if there were some expectation that the man could explain this strangeness.  There was no explanation, though - just an inward sense that something was terribly different inside of her.  In her memories, she could sense the edge of the being that was once James Efonte; as if his was a life of hers, centuries ago.  The feel of being so large, so physical- of claiming space and turning heads for entirely different reasons then Phoebe does- of the Freedom that comes with wearing your strength so plainly.  For a moment she sank into him, mingled with his distant essence, and wondered she had done to herself.

In the background, her General's words tumbled out of his lips with the assuredness of the prepared.  His file reflected these skills; Phoebe wasn't astonished to see them, but let's be honest - sometimes individual resumes inflate talent more than justified.  It was nice to see that wasn't the case, here.  Drawing her attention from James' distant arrogance, Phoebe offered Shikai a mild smile- one tempered by her musings, and softened by the new different-ness in her head.  Canting her head to the side, she pulled her dark mane over her shoulder, then shrugged the shirt half-off of her injured shoulder as he shifted his examination.  The glass jar of ointment was set to the side, amidst the tangled blankets on the bed, and she fished it out one-handed and awkwardly unscrewed the cap.

 "It's pretty bad. Your rotator cuff is torn. You would need surgery to repair this, and I'm not equipped for that.  "If you're okay with it, I can sort of... I guess the term would be lend you my healing factor. That would heal the injury in minutes."

On a different day, maybe, but on this one Phoebe was already gently shaking her head before Shikai had finished speaking.  Scooping some of the cool, greasy, oil out of the jar he'd given her, she began to spread it over her burn as she answered, "..no.  With things as chaotic as they are, it's probably best to avoid adding more new to the old.  We're not that far from transport- as long as we don't have any other almost-gods to take care of, it should be fine.."  Dark waves of hair escaped as she looked up and flashed a grin.  A quick motion tucked them back, but in the early morning wildness it was clear they'd be restrained only temporarily.  With a shrug, she guided her stolen shirt up and over the curve of her shoulder and added, "Thank you, though."  Standing, she crossed the room on bare feet and began to gather up her discarded clothes from the night prior.

"I hear you've taken an interest in Miss Jacobs.  She's an enigma, isn't she.  How is that going?"

Edited by Noko

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Shikai nodded, smiling back warmly, "You're welcome. Just be sure to get it checked out when we get back."

Kneeling down to pack up his kit, the General silently debated whether or not he should ask about the lack of minor wounds or scars on The First's body. He was a naturally curious person, and the evidence presented an intriguing puzzle. On the other hand, he didn't want to invade Phoebe's privacy. Though he may have been the one to patch her up after this particular mission, he was not her doctor. He was becoming increasingly fond of the woman, and didn't want to do anything that might cause her to dislike him. But not knowing was going to drive him crazy...

Fortunately, he was distracted when Phoebe mentioned his interest in a pit fighter named Natalie Jacobs. It had been a very interesting encounter, and one that he hope he might repeat someday.

The Zombie grinned widely, "Oh, she was lots of fun! Her fighting style is rough and unpolished, and she doesn't have much in the way of tactics besides, 'Hit the bad man til he falls down,' but she's damn strong. With a little training, she could be a force to be reckoned with!" 

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Ugh.

Each item of clothing picked up was summarily discarded until the First stood in exactly the same level of nakedness as she had awoken in, but with her hands on her hips and a frown on her face.  Cast in the muted light of the early morning, the dark haired woman was garbed only in herself - momentarily without the trappings of Phoebe, or the weight of her position, she stood as a woman lightfooted, at ease.  Her hair tumbled free, just a mane of shadow that waved its way down her thin back, and continually prompted her to gather it up and sling it over one shoulder or the other so she could move without it tangling.  Her chest rose and fell, skin pebbled, as the warmth of her early morning movements began to fade.  She scuffled her feet, unhappily kicking the discarded clothing, then snatched up the pack she'd stolen and flopped back onto the bed- wincing as the movement jostled her shoulder.

"...much in the way of tactics besides, 'Hit the bad man til he falls down,' but she's damn strong. With a little training, she could be a force to be reckoned with!"

Phoebe pawed through the pack as Shikai spoke, half-listening to his half-assessment of Natalie Jacobs and her ever-so-interesting skill set.  "Aren't you concerned with this god complex she has?" wondered the woman after a moment, still wearing a frown as she looked for something suitable to wear.  In the interim, she set the pack aside and began to button up her shirt one-handed; it looked like a frustrating experience.

"Don't get me wrong, we take all kinds - there's enough lust and envy spread among the populace, even the religious populace, to keep our organization healthy for eons, but.."

She trailed off there, her words leading into a thought that went unspoken.  The pack reappeared in her hands and she drew out the peasant skirt from the day prior, standing just long enough to pull it on over her narrow hips.  At that point, something must have caught the First's eye for she squinted, craned her neck and arched backward, shifting her shirt as if trying to see her own back.  There had been scratches; bruises, scrapes, splinters, there.  She remembered tearing a nail when the floor caved in, yet as she flared her hands to check there was no sign of the injury.  A frown etched its way into her expression like the last strokes of an artist's brush.

"I had her in the Labs when she first came to us.."  Phoebe continued, but distraction laced her words as she continued to take stock of herself.  The Labs were a terrible place; one for non-sentient things, broken things, things which the First or the Architect wished to understand in greater detail-- much greater detail, typically.  It was where the Enrele would be picked apart like a too-wound knot if Phoebe ever managed to get her hands on them.  It was not a place for people.  Regardless, the First looked up and met Shikai's gaze.

"Not a hint of what she is.  She could actually be blessed by a god, for all they found out."

Edited by Noko

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Natalie's religious inclinations had been impossible to ignore during Shikai's bout with the young woman. Initially friendly, she had turned murderous as soon as he had revealed his death defying abilities; coldly proclaiming him unnatural and therefore worthy only of extermination. The shinobi had managed to use this against her by revealing to her that he had killed Gaian Inquisitors. But while her faith was impossible to ignore, whether or not it was the source of her powers was murky at best.

"I've met more than a few unusual people in my time. Many of them had powers that couldn't be explained, even by the owner of said powers. But then there are people like me, who were normal humans until we learned to tap into things like magic to give ourselves fantastic abilities."

"Maybe people like Natalie are just born with the ability to do naturally what others must learn," Shikai shrugged, "Or maybe she really is favored by some powerful entity; be it Gaia, or something else. If that is the case, I'm not smart enough to figure it out. To me she just seemed like a powerful young woman."

As he spoke, he noticed that Phoebe seemed to be having the same curiosity about her body that he had earlier. Sitting down on small stool in a corner of the room, he decided it was probably best to ask now. 

"Phoebe... do you have any kind of healing factor? I don't mean to pry, but speaking from my own experience, I would have expected to see a lot more minor injuries after a fight like the one you had. Yet aside from your shoulder and the burn, I can't find any evidence of trauma."

 

 

 

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"...I was just wondering something similar," murmured the woman as she straightened. 

The momentary examination of her long limbs over with, Phoebe unfurled her thin form into a spine-popping one-armed stretch which sent her dark hair cascading backward like a waterfall tumbling over her shoulders.  At the action's end she took a long pause, craning this way and that way, before that way strayed into injury and twisted her stretch into a grimace.  She straightened, a pained expression lingering as she gripped her shoulder and pressed it back against her collarbone.  In the back of her thoughts, she felt James rise- his unwieldly memories looming like an overlay on top of her life and muddling its experiences into her own.  Bending her head forward, she pinched the bridge of her nose.

"This might have been a bad idea.. god or no god, PRIME Efonte has given me quite a headache.  We should probably get back to Terra Firma- are you able to contact our transport?  If so, let's do that - the sooner we see Nehelan in our mirrors the better, I think."   At that it seemed settled- the First moved on, slipping the still-buttoned shirt off one-handeda and then delicately working her brassiere into place, before she abruptly shifted her attention back to Shikai while still fumbling with its clasps.

"Can you sense Ash?  I haven't felt him since he went out the window."

Edited by Noko

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Averting his gaze, Shikai answered, "No, I can't. I'll try to get in touch after I call our ride. That kid is pretty tough though. He probably stowed away on an airship or something."

Truthfully, the General was somewhat worried about their young comrade. Ash had left before the fight with the primes had truly gotten underway, but the situation at the castle was pretty chaotic. It wouldn't have been hard for the kid to get pulled into a fight. But though he was young, Ash was a capable warrior. Shikai felt confident that he could have gotten away. It wasn't like there was much else the Zombie could do for him anyway,

Leaving Phoebe to get dressed, he would call in transport to come and retrieve them. When they walked out, he wouldn't help her unless she asked. He knew she was the type who hated appearing weak in front of others. 

But he would walk close, just in case.

 

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True to expectations, the woman who walked out of the cabin and into the waiting arms of her Dead was the First- not just another woman, or criminal, or even just Phoebe.  Straight-backed, jaw set, and quietly triumphant after the mission to successfully eliminate two beings widely described as god-like, she welcomed her trappings like prodigal daughters.

The stolen skirt, the wildness of her hair, the impromptu pickup were all testaments to the Team's cleverness- their ingenuity in the face of adversity and the Dead's ability to adapt, overcome, and succeed.  She ensured Shikai's lost arm was properly covered by a cloak- if it was seen, it was seen, but it was seen in the face of being so utterly unimportant as to not be mentioned.  As if the General were such a towering figment that petty details such as limbs were no concern- which, as it turns out, was the truth.

Their journey back to Lagrimosa was direct- a land-transport back to the nearest Fauxton, then the chaotic shift of land and air, until the entire party set foot again on familiar soil and dispersed to tasks unmentioned.

<fin>

Edited by Noko

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