|"Could you hand me another cold one? I can't pause this," Loki asked as she leaned to the side, hoping her lean would make the virtual fighter duck from the uncommon rocket. She cheered as the blast veered past her.
Rique stood at his breakfast counter grimacing at the the depletion of his alcohol. His sister was a heavy drinker it sometimes took a whole six pack before she felt the true effects. "That's what I get for buying piss beer." He reached inside the cooler and tossed one at the back of her head, not looking back to see if she caught it with her skull.
Just like her character she dodged the tin can and caught it with her left hand, popping it open in the same swift motion as her right hand click-clacked away at the buttons. She guzzled down the contents in several gulps and aimlessly tossed it on the pile on the stained coffee table. It rolled until it toppled onto the floor and its remnants drizzled onto the hardwood floor.
"You're mopping that," her twin declared.
"Tch, right," she retorted and regained coordination with both hands.
"I'm serious. You come here everytime your leg hurts and leave a stockpile of shit on my floor. This is not a hotel and I'm not your maid."
An organ played as the television screen darkened with red splotches dotting the perimeter. "Damnit! You got me killed."
"Did you even hear me?" He turned around on his bar stool, glaring into the back of her cranium.
"Yea, yea. Something about you being a cry baby." She waved her hand and set the controller on the couch.
"You really are a bitch," he growled and returned to his homework.
Loki snorted and gripped the folds of the couch, preparing to pull herself to a standing position. Her right leg was no longer splinted or in a cast, but it hurt as much as the day she almost lost it. With it outstretched she stood to her full height, mostly balancing her weight on her left leg. She could have taken the her pain medication, but it dulled her honed senses. A year and a half off the battlefield and she couldn't let it go. Not yet. There was still a chance.
Rique glanced over his shoulder, watching his stubborn twin stand up. He no longer bothered to offer assistance. Her pride wouldn't allow her accept it anyway, yet when she felt pain she couldn't stand to bare it alone. His chest ached and he looked away. "D'you want an ice pack?"
"Go to hell."
He sighed and returned his thoughts to his speech. He had to spend ten minutes convincing and demonstrating to people he wasn't a total womanizer and he actually researched higher forms of communication technology. While it was the truth his theories were entirely experimental, unconventional, and mostly not applied. How could he explain something he just knew?
The door knocked, bringing the tewins out their individual thoughts. He dropped from the stool to answer it, then sat down cool when he saw Loki attempting to move on it. If he got in her way and took these small moments of accomplishment away he'd pay by watching her suffer.
Loki hobbled around the couch, leaning on it for added support. Slowly she added more pressure to the leg and hissed at the sting. Still, she pressed down farther until she had become acquainted with the torture and hastened herself. "Yea, yea! I'm comin'. Get your panties out of your ass." The knocking grew harder. Coming to the door she steadied herself on it and took her time unlatching the two locks. Before they were completely undone the door swung open and pushed her back. Reflexively, she braced herself fully on both legs. The right one buckled and she crashed down upon her left knee, cursing along the way.
Wrath might not have been as swift if the perpetrator had been anyone but her step brother, Myke. He hadn't been quick enough to grab her before she fell, so he stood haunched over her awkwardly in a limbo of retrieval and withdrawal. "Loki, hah didn't see you there." He laughed uneasily.
She growled through her clenched teeth.
Rique was on the scene like a ghost, gliding between the two. He stepped in front of Myke, casting a sideways look that left him understandably confused and moved to hoist Loki to her feet. She shrugged her shoulder once, but ultimately let him have drag her to her seat on the couch. "How I do so love these family reunions."
Once planted Loki snatched up the controller once more and commenced to blowing unlucky bystanders to microscopic bits without uttering a word. Her long pointed tan ears were pulled downward and back, making the her body's uneasy shaking easily equated with rage. It was a warning, probably the kindest expression of anger she could offer in the circumstances. Still, always riled by his own mistakes he pressed onward.
"I'm gonna take it I just made your leg worse."
On cue she chucked the controller solidly at his head. He raised an arm just in time for the plastic material to shatter against it. "What the fuck, Loki?"
"I'm making it even you prick! Where's your damned key anyway?" She reached for the second controller that Rique had stealthily recovered already.
"I dropped it in the sewer, alright? Damn it." He checked his arm for wounds, for which there was many of. "I'm going into the bathroom to clean this up." He moved around the back of the couch and paused as he reached her. He procured from his pocket a small black bag. "I picked this up from the store for you when I saw you heading down this way." It hit the cushion beside her and he moved onward.
Loki watched him move down the hallway and slam the door of the bathroom behind him. She spied the droplets of blood and could help the lump in her throat. Must need another drink. After she was sure he wasn't coming out anytime soon she peeked into the bag and saw two knee braces. The were flexible, adjustable, and color coordinated to her regular wardrobe, black and red. Best of all it was the top shelf branded designed with a self heating and cooling system based on movement and registered pain. Some sort of sophisticated micro tech. Her chest began to ache. She tossed the bag to the side. Bastard is giving me heart burn.
"You should really cut him some slack. He's only that clumsy around you," Rique grumbled in the background. His head was buried in a book full of foreign tech language.
She pushed the words through her head silently. "Give me the other controller," she demanded.
"Promise not to break this one?"
"Only if you promise to cut that rat tail," she teased.
He unconsciously reached for the long braid that hung from nape of his neck. It was mostly red with a hint of black, like his hair, with a red string entwined it. "Completely not in the same league."
"The feeling is mutual."
It made no sense, but he had a long night of studying ahead of him. Again, he tossed the controller as he had the drink before, but it caught the thought filled soldier in the head this time. He ignored the string of curses.
* * * * *
Myke left the bathroom that night poorly bandaged. He detoured to his room to avoid criticism and ultimately fell asleep. When he awoke the next morning he was still fully dressed, alone, and now his arm hurt like hell even more so with prickles of it waking up from an unsavory position. He got up and tossed the previous day's clothes into his chosen dirty clothes corner. On his night stand he saw the time. It was ten in the morning. That meant Loki was long gone. "At least I can save myself another embarrassment."
He entered the hallway stark naked, ready for the shower. First he stepped into the quaint kitchen and into the fridge for his medicine. It was a large bitter pill that never went down right the first time. Before he could pop it someone knocked on the door. Happy for a distraction and ran for door, forgetting his nudity. The door creaked open to a sweet smiling brunette. Instantly, her smile dissolved into a gaping hole as she examined his exposed body.
Quickly, he slammed the door in her face. "Shit, that was no better," he popped himself in the forehead. "Sorry! I'm gonna go get something on, okay?" He called out.
"Uhm, okay!" She responded uneasily.
He dashed down the hallway and snatched up the charge pants he'd discarded. The crotch was moist with sweat, but he figured they'd be off soon anyway. "First Loki. Now this chick? I swear, I wouldn't get laid if it wasn't for Riq." He yanked the door open, still scowling at himself.
She presumed it was her fault and frowned deeply. "If this is a bad time..."
"Huh? Oh! I was just fussing at myself on the way down here."
"I'm guessing you do that often." She smirked.
"Only over pretty girls."
She arched an eyebrow.
His confidence dwindled. "Bad time, huh?"
She laughed and shook her head. "Don't worry about it. Don't want you going off arguing with yourself over a pretty girl."
He bit his lip. "Okay, you got me. Someway I can help you?"
"You don't remember do you?"
"You haven't told me anything yet." Now he was becoming disgruntled. She leaned on her hip and frowned, then he noticed the portfolio she was carrying. This was his classmate , Ranchel. She was here for her final project, Drawing From Life. His job was to walk casually around his apartment until she saw it. It could take all day to find, she had explained, so it was preferred for him to be comfortable at home. "Right. Yea, I totally forgot."
Her eyebrows dug inward. "I'm glad one of us was on point or I would have failed. Can I come in?"
That's why I forgot. He was no fan of Ranchel. She was the sort that dressed like an innocent member of society, dedicated to the word of the Great Mother, but with the personality of a rancid fish. "Right this way," he spoke through gritted teeth. He swept his hand inward and stepped back. Once she stepped inside to sit on the only couch he noticed the mess the twin's had left him. A pile of two six packs, an empty bag of chips, and a half eaten sandwich. "God damn it guys!"
"Classic," she retorted.
"What?" He swiftly gathered the cans shivering at the bits of liquid that dripped on his naked chest.
"Blaming messes on others." She swatted a pile of crumbs from the couch and seated herself.
"I don't live here alone." He returned for the chip bag and sandwich. Still looked fresh, even worth eating. Like kissing Loki secondhand.
"But you contributed."
He rolled his eyes and finished the last of the mess with a quick sweep and a dish rag to the coffee table. "Look I need to take a shower. Get yourself comfortable or whatever." He scratched the stubble on his chin and smeared something wet across his face. It was the melted remains of his pill. "Shit! Those things are expensive. Just... ugh, I'll see you in fifteen."
He trudged into the bathroom and nearly forgot to remove his pants as he climbed into the shower. The forgotten bandages were soaked and itched his wound underneath. Another reason to hate his morning more. The fifteen minute shower stretched to thirty, only interrupted by the chilling of the water that wakened him from a heat induced nap. As he stepped out he found his foot touching another. "The hell..." he pulled the curtain open. Rachel was sitting on the toilet, panties down. "What the hell?"
He snatched the towel from the rack tied it around his waist. "Ever heard of knocking?"
"I did. Even called your name. You didn't answer and I couldn't hold it so... You know you shouldn't cover up. You've got nothing to be ashamed of."
If he wasn't already red from the heat he would have blushed.
"Your anatomy is wonderful."
Suddenly he realized talking to an artist was more awkward than talking to a strange girl while she used his bathroom. He hurried out and into his room. He was about to toss his towel on the bed when he saw the art supplies strewed across it. She ambled in behind him, smiling wickedly. "Well, I figured I might see something I like while you dressed."
He felt a stab at his pride. "Don't flatter me too much," he grumbled and moved to his assumed clean clothes pile. He sniffed a tie-dye shirt and shrugged. Clean enough. The bandage itched. He needed to redo it or the gash would get infected. Putting it on had been a cinch, which was why it was done poorly. Taking it off was a pain, literally. The tape pealed of slowly, taking hair and dead skin with it.
"How'd that happen?" She asked without looking up from her sketchbook. She was scanning old pictures.
"Game controller," he answered quickly.
"I don't recall video games being a dangerous sport."
"Thrown at me," he added.
"She had to have been damned strong to do that with a controller."
He looked up. "How'd you know it was a she?"
"Men don't throw their game stuff around. Might as well be a scientific fact published in a journal somewhere."
"It could happen. Tsh!" He hissed at the last bandage tape.
"Spare me. What did you do?"
"Let me guess its scientifically proven the man always did something to deserve something?" He growled and pulled his shirt on. He'd fiddle with the cut last.
"You said it, not me. Now what did you do?"
What didn't I do? Maybe it was the door, or the leg, or making small talk when she was that pissed. No, he knew it. "I reminded her of something."
"Made her feel helpless did you?"
"Aren't you intuitive." He gabbed a pair of khaki shorts, no boxers.
"She's not really mad at you."
"I beg to differ."
"Did you get her anything?"
He remembered the braces he bought. They weren't in the living room when he cleaned. His heart skipped a beat. "Yea."
"She'll be fine. Don't worry about it."
Myke rolled his eyes. He didn't think braces would repair much. He ran his fingers through his hair, realizing he hadn't put it in a ponytail yet. Luckily, he stockpiled hairbands on his dresser. He grabbed one, put it between his lips and gathered up his hair, pulling it up tight.
"Hold it!" She yelled suddenly.
Of course it would be the most uncomfortable position. A light flashed in his eyes. "I thought you were going to sketch me."
"I took a picture, it'll last longer. Now, come here." She leaned back and smiled, inviting him.
* * * * * * *
That night Loki practically flew through the door. She stood in all black with her pants rolled above the knee, showing off the bracers. "Where is he?"
Rique was back at the counter, forehead slammed down and hair spread about. "He's in his room. Smells like he's been busy all day."
Her smile wavered and something stung her chest. "Oh."
Her brother raised his head lazily. His eyes were bloodshot and drool lines curved into his beard and beneath his chin. "Something wrong?"
"Nothing," she said. Her own defeated voiced surprised her. "I wanted to thank the little bastard. These things do the trick. I might finish my therapy faster and ship out by the end of the year."
"Yay." He slammed his head down again.
She took slow steps down the hall, turning up her nose at the scent of perfume and sex. What do I care? I just wanted to thank him. Not like he's mine or anything. She pushed open the door and saw him sitting at the edge of the bed, pulling his shorts up. The room reeked of his activities. How long did he go at it. She pinched her sensitive nose. "Smells like you were busy in here."
He wouldn't meet her eyes, "I got lucky I guess."
"Hn." She stood there in the doorway, also averting his gaze.
"Right.. did you need something?" He stood up and stretched.
Loki took in the view of his physique. She'd seen better, but she didn't expect that much definition in sickly Myke. There was also the dotting of scars, many of which she put there. Again, she felt her chest sting, then she remembered what her brother told her the previous night. Myke didn't mean to not be what she wanted. Just like she couldn't help her emotions being pricked around him. She bit her lip. "I wanted to do something for you."
His eyebrow arched. "What did I do?"
So many pricks. This time she visibly flinched. "Shit I'm not that bad. I'm a soldier. Makes me a rage-a-holic."
Still, he stared at her uneasily.
"Just sit down," she spoke in her normal growl. He obeyed. She sat beside him and produced a roll of bandages from her pocket. "I figured since you went top shelf for me it wouldn't be right to get cheap. This stuff is supposed to have fast healing disinfectant and water resistant."
"A game would have been better," he teased.
"My kindness goes but so far," she retorted then went for his arm. "But I will wrap this for you. You really suck at this."
"About as much as you suck at apologies."
She glared at him then down at his wound. "Thanks for the bracers," she spoke quietly.
He stared at the top of her head, dumbfounded. Then, slowly the feeling sunk in and filled him to near bursting."And sorry... for everything."
She paused in her bandaging then continued in silence. This time, it didn't hurt. He would take what he could get.
Word Count: 2945