When they returned to the hotel, the door was weighed oddly, an odd resistance that was felt as it swung open. Something crinkled and thunked against it. A small gift bag, containing something inside.
She smirked, watching the empty doorway. A moment passed before a dark hand reached through and tugged the bag off the knob. She already knew what the note said: ‘Enjoy. -xx-’.
The two men blinked at the note. Christoph looked at Svorak who held his hands up. “I encouraged the alcohol, not the kissing,” he vowed there at the door.
She stifled the urge to laugh.
“Hmm,” the taller man replied, pulling out the clear bottle with the dark amber contents.
“Whoa.” That would be the other male.
“Fifty years.” The blond sounded grudgingly impressed.
“Whoa.” And Svorak was still speechless.
She was clutching her stomach from laughing so hard, but she didn’t make a peep. They still hadn’t seen her. Aahh, kids.
“You know what you need to do right?”
“Whoa-huh? Uh, oh geez now?” There was a thwap. “Yeah, okay, okay.” Svorak’s voice trailed off.
There was a single snicker, Christoph striding into view, alone, and quite cheerful.
“And here I half expected you to be naked,” she drawled.
“Whoa!” the blond yelped, jumping back at least a foot, bags and boxes clutched in his arms. “Arana!” Gasp. “Don’t do that!”
Her brows lifted. “You really expect me to believe you didn’t know I was here?”
The juvenile actually stuck his tongue out at her. “I had my doubts,” he sniffed heading for the kitchen. The shuffling of various items into the proper places took a bare half a minute before he emerged again, smiling broadly. “How have you been? And I’m sure Svorak will thank you for the bottle.”
“Mm. I’ve been alright,” she replied, waving a bandaged hand dismissively.
Raising a brow at the neat swaths of fabric, Christoph walked over. “Well, you are alive,” he allowed. “May I take a look?” He gestured at her wrist.
She frowned faintly. “It’ll heal,” she mumbled reluctantly, but when he started to pout, she sighed and held out her arm.
Taking a seat next to her on the couch, he supported her arm with one hand as the other unwound the bandages. Blond brows snapped down as the long raw sections of burnt flesh was revealed.
“I don’t have to guess why you gifted us with alcohol now,” he muttered, eyeing the extent of the damage.
Behind him, the door lock beeped again, and the other male stepped through the doorway, with the rustle of yet another bag. “Got the last one,” Svorak called out in triumph. There were two thunks as he left his shoes on the linoleum.
“Yes, yes. Good.” Christoph murmured.
“Goldie?” Svorak rounded the corner, smiling as he saw them. “Oh hey—oh fuck.”
The blond hummed as he slowly curled his torso down to examine the burns on the inner forearm. “Could you get the med kit?”
The darker male nodded to Arana and strode off towards the kitchen.
She sighed softly. Should have gotten the long-sleeved shirt, she thought uncharitably. “I’ll be fine, you know. I’m not some little girl.”
“Not a little girl, no,” the tall man agreed readily enough, “but you are damaged and you are here. And if we are to get any kind of relaxed drinking done tonight, I want you at least properly dressed.”
He blinked once and lifted his gaze from her damaged skin to her eyes. “If I give you painkiller, you will be more susceptible to alcohol,” he reminded her as his partner stalked back into the living room, a familiar red case swinging from one hand.
Her eyes were empty. “I don’t take painkillers,” she replied blankly. “But thanks for the offer, kiddo.”
Both men paused, almost identical frowns pulling at their features. “Alright,” the blond replied, reaching a hand out to Svorak as the other man slapped disinfectant and several swabs into his open palm. “Are you up for something to drink then?” he offered as he sat back, still holding her arm, a lap full of medical supplies.
She sighed, relaxing, and her expression softened. “Yes, I’m sorry. Thank you very much for caring for me,” she murmured. “I know you don’t have to.”
Behind him, Svorak snorted and straightened up from leaning over the table, med kit, and the shoulder of his partner. “Don’t apologize until after treatment. Christoph has the worst bedside manner I’ve ever experienced,” he warned, heading back to the kitchen.
The blond smirked, eyes glinting. Leaning forward, he whispered, “Seriously, all I did was deny him the dinosaur bandages once, and he gripes about it forever after.”
She laughed softly. “You kind of remind me of Lu-” She stopped. “Someone I knew.” Clearing her throat, she shook her head. “Dinosaur bandages?” She looked over at Svorak who was already returning.
Blue eyes narrowed on the chemist. “He claimed they didn’t have any T-rexs left. I found out later that he was keeping them for one of the kids. I had to make do with yellow chick ones.” He handed her a glass three-quarters full of dark gold and Christoph took the beer from the fingers of his other hand. “Bottom’s up,” the dark man said, clinking his glass with theirs.
She smiled and chugged. “You guys mind if I smoke?” she asked after lowering her glass.
“Go for it,” was her answer from Svorak, while Christoph took a firmer grip on her fingers, raising her arm up again. “Brace yourself,” he murmured, before placing the first swab to her open wound.
On her other side, Svorak caught her eye and lifted a lighter. “Alright, so what brand did you pick up?” he asked firmly.
Her eyes darted to his face, and the lighter, but she said nothing, teeth clenched so hard they ached. But that was nothing in comparison to her arm.
The swab dabbed, moved, dabbed, pushed, lifted away, and set fire to already abused nerves.
The man with bright blue eyes lowered the lighter and frowned at her. “Breathe Arana.”
At the same time, Christoph lowered the swab and took his time browsing for the next one to pick up.
She bared her teeth at him silently. No need to tell him that not breathing wouldn’t kill her.
“Really. Breathing helps. It gives you something else to think about.”
She snorted. “I could think about other things,” she said, ending with a hiss of pain. “Like Elizabethan torture methods. How fast it takes to dismember a human corpse.” She winced. “How long a heart beats when it’s been ripped out.”
One dark brow rose. “Alright. We can talk about the fastest way to clean up a blood spill. Which smells worst: rotten blood or freshly spilled entrails? How long broken fingers can stay untouched before they are useless for good. Which causes more pain: broken bones or missing limbs?”
Christoph had already started in on the second swab. Barely a quarter of the way done.
She paused, wincing, mind darting over the answers. “Some say it’s missing limbs, because the phantom pain is the worst. Others claim broken bones, because it’s still there.” Her fingers of her free hand curled into the fabric beside her, clenching tightly. “I remember that, from a conference my father made me go to, when my brother was in school. I wasn’t supposed to go, because I was a woman, and women shouldn’t be doctors.”
There was a huff of derision from the male at her elbow and a roll of eyes from his dark-skinned counterpart. “The medical field is based on mental ability, not physical strength. Unless you count eyesight as a strength,” Christoph muttered, putting down the swab and straightening for a moment.
Svorak shook his head and offered her the second glass.
She accepted it, and chugged it down like the first. “That’s why they never caught me,” she replied, voice a whisper.
Behind her, the blond chuckled. “Always the case. Makes me sometimes wish I was born a woman.”
Rising to his feet, Svorak snorted. “You’d be a damned awkward woman, Goldie.” He took both glasses and frowned for a moment. “Eh,” he muttered, putting them down on the table and striding over to the kitchen, only to return with a bucket of ice, a spare tumbler, the bottle of Black, and another bottle.
Setting the new bottle down on the table, he turned it so the label faced her.
“Brandy,” Christoph announced smugly. “There’s something that should burn.”
Svorak rolled his eyes. “Fucking hypocrite.”
She chuckled. “That looks lovely. Have you tried the Black yet, Svorak? I wasn’t paying attention.”
“I did take a sip of that other glass.” Svorak tilted his head in a half bow. “It’s delicious. Thank you.” One shoulder came up in a shrug. “You looked like you needed it more than me.”
“Keep him on his toes enough, and you may just have him wrapped around your pinky,” Christoph chuckled as his lover scowled.
“I’m just being polite, you ass,” the other male muttered as he poured out the brandy into one of the glasses. “Arana? Brandy or whiskey?”
“Yes,” she replied promptly.
There was a choked laugh from behind her as the blue-eyed male smirked. “That’s a woman,” he praised her, filling the other two glasses with the Black. He handed the brandy to her first.
She smiled faintly and sipped it. “I think you might be spoiling me,” she mused. “Not that I’m complaining, mind. And I think I’m also getting tipsy…” She paused. “No, not yet, never mind.”
Svorak’s brows arched. “Have you eaten anything today? And watch it, Blondie’s picking up another swab.”
She stiffened. “Um, eaten…? No. Not since…” She paused, wincing, and thought back. “Oh, since I was here. Imagine that. Oh, wait, no, I had an apple yesterday.”
Christoph dropped the swab into the plastic bag. Svorak took the last glass of alcohol away, thought better of it and ordered, “SIP this one.” Then he disappeared into the kitchen.
“Oh, now you’ve done it,” the chemist chuckled at her side. “Let’s take a break for a moment. I want that brandy.”
She blinked at him. “Done what?” she asked, sipping obediently.
The clank of a pan on a stove, the slam of cupboards, and the opening of the fridge were her answer.
The pale man in a contrast, leaned back into the cushions of the couch, motioning her to do the same. He still supported her injured arm. “He’s cooking.”
Arana smiled at that. “Oh, he can cook? Well! I can’t. Never have been able to. I can look at water wrong and burn it.”
“Well, that just means I won’t be showing you my chemistry kit…” He hummed for a moment. “Tiger can cook, yes, but only certain dishes. Other ones, those are hit or miss.” The male brought up his glass to rock from side to side. “And then there are the times that he decides to experiment.” Christoph grimaced. Meatballs and blackberry jam and bell peppers. That had been a rather odd dinner.
“I can hear the culinary-horror vibes from here,” Svorak called out from the kitchen. “Are you telling stories?”
“No, he’s telling history,” she retorted, and laughed. She turned her gaze onto Christoph and smiled. “You know, you remind me of someone… Your hair reminds me…”
His own gaze was wry and understanding. “It happens,” he said with a small shrug. He glanced down at his glass and then back up at her. “One more swab and I can wrap it up. Are you ready?”
She shrugged. “It’s just pain,” she replied unthinkingly. “It can only hurt.”
Her medic nodded. “True enough.” He placed his glass back down on the table. “Are you going to hold on to that?” He looked pointedly at her drink.
“Oh.” She held it out. “Better not.” Her gaze flickered toward the kitchen, where there was the sharp sound of a pan sliding over a burner.
Christoph merely hummed and transferred her glass from her hand to the table. “Alright, last bit.”
Over in the kitchen, Svorak was considering turning the heat up higher, but decided against it. The vegetables were half done, the pork chop was ready if she liked it half raw. Maybe a soup. Salad? No. Soup. Bread instead of crackers.
He pulled out another pot for the soup. Tomato? Sure. Svorak shook his head. They were going to give the girl alcohol poisoning before she even healed. Brilliant.
The last swab was tossed into the bag and both woman and man breathed a little easier.
“I’m putting a layer of cream on this, it’s for healing and it also numbs the nerves a little. If anything, it helps with the chafing.” Christoph dipped his gloved fingers into the balm and arched a brow at her. “Ready?”
She nodded. “Go on.” She watched him as he spread the salve, frowning faintly, thoughtfully.
The cream spread in a blissful cool tingle. The container itself was kept in the fridge, so it was little wonder if felt so good. In a few efficient swipes, the burns were covered, and Christoph finished with layers of gauze, taping the whole mess down.
“Finally,” he breathed out and handed her the whiskey again. “Now you can have your alcohol.”
There was a grunt from the kitchen. “After she eats,” Svorak contradicted his partner, striding towards them with a big bowl of soup and bread. “That’s the appetizer, there’s still a main course and dessert. Eat up.”
Christoph chuckled as he moved to clear the table. Once the med kit was removed, Svorak unloaded the tray, then turned on his heel and marched back into the kitchen.
“Hmm… He can be a little bossy,” the blond commented.
She quirked a brow and shrugged. “I’m not complaining,” she replied pointedly. “Now either move or gimme some food.”
Choking on a laugh, the tall man rose from the couch. “Surrounded!” he declared chuckling.
“More like in the way,” Svorak growled from behind him. “Move your white ass.”
Grinning ear to ear, Christoph stepped to the side as the other man moved through his vacated space, bringing out the meat and greens, a tall glass of ice water, and the utensils.
“Need anything? Pepper, salt, napkins?” he asked as the fare was moved to the table.
“Nope,” she replied, snatching up a plate and a fork. “But this looks very very very good for the starving lady. Thanks a heap.”
“Equal trade for the bottle of Black,” the black man demurred as he sat back with a glass of the aforementioned whiskey.
“Indeed,” agreed Christoph.
The two men sat leaning against each other keeping a low tone of conversation, and though Arana was welcome to join in, she was encouraged to eat more than talk.
She got about halfway through (everything), before she paused and eyed them. “You two better be eating too,” she said, brows lifting, and looked at the blond. “Especially you.”
He mirrored her expression. “Why me?”
Svorak started to chuckle.
“Because you’re too skinny,” she replied promptly.
“I am not.”
The shorter man took the time to reach over and put his drink on a coaster, before falling over laughing.
She set down her fork and frowned at him, crossing her arms as she sat up. “I have whipped five-year-olds with more meat on their bones than you. Now eat.”
“I assure you, we, the both of us, have already eaten a rather large meal before hand,” he returned frostily.
His partner on the other hand had rolled onto his back and was gasping out, “Those must have been some chunky-ass toddlers!”
She smiled. “Just teasing. Don’t be so serious,” she said, amused, and went back to eating.
Svorak let out a final hoot before surging over to half-tackle his lover to the carpet. Chuckling, he leaned over the taller man’s torso. “I love you, Goldie, but damn, you lost there.”
“Fuck off,” the chemist retorted, glancing away. The darker man smirked and placed a loud kiss on his ear before picking up his dropped (thankfully empty) glass and retreating.
Arana chuckled and got up. “I should get going, before you boys have an accident.” It was impossible to tell if she was actually joking or not. “Enjoy the liquor… and thank you, both. For the meal, and the care. I probably won’t see you again.”
Puppy eyes from the blond, a nod from the other. Both expressions washed away in dual expressions of acceptance. “That’s the way it is,” Svorak acknowledged even as Christoph sighed and stood, holding out a hand. “Pleasure knowing you, Arana.”
She smiled, and took his hand. “Pleasure knowing you, as well, Christoph. Svorak. Keep that pretty hair, boyo.” She winked. “It suits you.”
Snickering, Svorak surged to his feet and shook her hand as soon as Christoph released it. “As if he’ll let anything happen to that mop of his.” Then he sobered. “Take care of yourself. And if you need help, post on the job board.” He rolled his eyes towards his partner who nodded.
The blond pulled out a business card from a pocket in his jacket.
A small smirk graced Svorak’s dark features. “If anything, Christoph could use it to further justify his dependence on that hulk’s existence.”
“Idiot,” Christoph muttered smiling.
“Goodbye Arana. Take care.”
She gave them both a kiss on the cheek, and smiled. “Take care, yourselves, kiddos.” She turned on her heel and walked out the door.