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Challenge: Cornered
Title: Over Medium
Rating: PG-13/FRT (For Implied Sexuality and Brief Allusion to Past Violence)
Dolls: Ming Jian Yuan [Iplehouse Bichun], Wren Llawcae [Iplehouse Asa/Nobility Doll Custom Muscular Woman Body]
Author's Notes: Any and all criticism and comments welcomed, as always.

Jian rolled over, kicking the pale down comforter off of himself as he came awake, and what felt like every muscle in the right side of his body seized and held in screaming, bloody agony. He gasped, a landed fish staring helplessly at the open door and the wall that housed it, unable even to make a sound, and slowly – so, so slowly – the tendons and muscles relaxed, stopped tearing at his bones, the pain fading to an almost bearable ache.

Wren appeared in the doorway, eyes watchful. There were dark bags under those eyes, the smeared bruises of exhaustion. It would take much more than one night’s rest to clear them away. Maybe they’d even have time for that, this round. Maybe not. Never could tell – predictions of that sort were pointless in their line of work.

“Can you get up?”

He favored her with a look he normally reserved for the particularly obtuse among the new recruits and transfers that occasionally showed up in the SIU, the ones who thought that just because he was shorter than average and wore his hair longer than usual, he’d be fun to push around. She simply smiled in response. The movement made her lip split, one of the cuts at the side of her mouth cracking open. Her eyes didn’t even flicker, nothing in her expression suggested that she’d felt it, but after a moment or two of blood welling up she licked it away, absently, a quick dart of tongue. He watched, then grunted and rolled to the side of the bed, swung his legs over the edge and rose onto his feet. The world was made of hurt. Could have been worse – had been, in the past. But it still hurt.

Wren walked over to him, and he saw that the butterfly bandage closing the long laceration along her left cheek was coming loose. He reached out – the muscles in his shoulder tried to seize but he pushed past that position before they had a chance – and ran his thumb along it, pressed the little bit of fabric and adhesive back down. “This will need to be replaced.”

“After a shower. There’s no point before then.” Wren slid one arm around his waist, tugged just a bit so he was leaning on her. He didn’t protest. It made things easier, and she’d just ignore him anyway.

As she helped him into the bathroom, placed him in front of the toilet to piss and turned to fill the bathtub with water, he spared a moment for slightly sour jealousy over her ability to recover so quickly. She’d taken just as much of a beating as he had, over the last week. She hadn’t gotten even an hour more sleep in those last, tense couple of days. She’d even been caught at the edge of the same blast as he had; they’d been surrounded and huddled together, reloading behind the cover of a CONEX container, when one of the gunrunners on the other side of the thing tried to do something fancy with a brick of C4 and ended up blowing himself – and all his friends – to kingdom come. The corrugated steel walls of the container had saved them, but they’d also been smashed up against the concrete wall thirty feet behind them, and pinned under the thing for well over an hour. They were just lucky no one else had been in any condition to take advantage of their immobility before an extraction team could get to them.

So it was a bit of a burn, that she wasn’t moving like she was about to keel over. Oh, sure, she was feeling it – she was favoring one leg, and he noticed that she had the wrist brace on, despite the fact that they were at home. She was moving slower than usual, too. But still. Sometimes that altered stuff didn’t seem fair.

Wren turned around, and the smile on her face was wryly amused. She knew exactly what he was thinking. He was sure of it.

Jian pushed away from the wall – he’d been using one hand to steady himself against it while he had his way with the toilet – and tottered over to the bath. There was no steam. This was going to suck.

Wren’s smile turned a bit more amused. “I already had my soak. Your turn.”

Jian tossed a grimace at her. “You going to keep me company?”

“First I’m going to go get breakfast before it loses all of its warmth, but yeah.”

Jian sighed, and got into the tub, submerging himself in one quick – painful – movement.


He came up, gasping for air, and Wren was gone. He went back under. The sooner his body got used to it, the sooner he’d be able to ignore it.

He’d gone under – and had to come up for air – seven times before Wren returned. She had one plate in her left hand, one balanced on her forearm. She really was moving more slowly than usual. She turned away from him, setting the plates on the floor beside the tub.

Jian went under again.

Wren dumped a bag of ice cubes – he hadn’t even seen it, distracted by the cold and the smell of the freshly cooked eggs – into the water with him. He came up swearing. Wren just laughed and stripped off her wrist brace and climbed into the water with him.

He was a bit mollified at her hiss as she sank into the water until only her head was showing.

More so when she settled against him, skin to skin in water that was getting steadily colder, and sighed. They were silent for a while, shivering together.

“So. I smell eggs?”

“Over medium. Would have been scrambled, but the milk was pretty rank.”

Jian thought about this for a moment. “Milk lasts longer than eggs.”

“I borrowed them from next door. Before I discovered the milk.”

“Ah.” Jian smiled just a bit. “I trust you put on clothes to leave the apartment, at least.”

“Sweats. And a shirt. Just had to take them off to soak for a while. Seemed kind of pointless to get dressed again after that. Knew I'd be getting back in the water soon enough.” He could almost feel her smile, even if he couldn’t, in this position, see her face.

Of course that was her only reason.

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