Perfect 13-II

Until Things Get Too Hot.

It felt like molten metal had been dumped over every part of my body simultaneously. I jerked up, a raw scream catching in my throat. Daniel's hands and my body were both engulfed in an ugly red glow, undulating and pulsating, seemingly brighter over the more damaged parts of my body. Then, as quickly as the sensation came, it was gone again. The light turned from red to white in a slow wash, and Daniel let out a heavy breath. Sweat was trickling down his forehead, and his cheeks were flushed with exertion. Made him look like an overripe tomato.

My body had been gearing up to deal with a giant amount of pain, but had found nothing there. Metaphorically speaking, it was like it had been halfway through shoulder-charging someone, only for the person to suddenly disappear. A rush of adrenaline and dopamine hit me like a speeding truck, and I leaned back as my heartrate spiked and my vision swam “Hey Daniel,” I said weakly, “if I hit you, you can just heal it, right?”

“…what?”

“Because I really want to hit something right now.”

“Flint, don’t hit Daniel,” Talie said, sounding amused.

“Well, now you’re just volunteering yourself.”

“Flint,” she repeated in the exact same tone and intonation, “don’t hit me. If you want to burn off some adrenaline, do some jumping jacks.”

I scowled. “I’m not doing jumping jacks. Do I look like I’m five?”

“You’re acting like you are. But if you really need to feel manly, do some shadow boxing.”

“Talie, you know how I feel about boxing.”

“Ugh,” she groaned melodramatically, “don’t remind me.”

“Boxing,” I continued over her stridently, “is good for two things-”

“Flint, if you say it again I’ll have Daniel un-heal you.”

I glanced at him. “Can you actually do that?”

“Er, no.”

“Hah, knew it! Sorry, Dan, but if you could do that you’d be rotting in some DoM lab already.”

He visibly paled. “W-what?”

Talie sighed. “Flint, don’t lie to Daniel. Also, stop doing things that make me act like your mom.”

“Oh, please, my mom would’ve shamed me into silence by now.”

Daniel looked between the two of us. “So… you two are…” he made an indistinct gesture with hands, “…then?”

There was a beat, and then Talie started laughing, stuffing her fist in her mouth to stifle the giggles. I looked at him, confused. “Generally,” I said, “we use words to communicate.”

“Um,” he hesitated, “you know… together?”

I stared at him for a second. Then I began laughing too. It didn’t hurt anymore, which was nice.

“I… don’t see how that was funny?”

Talie had mostly recovered. “It’s not really,” she said, grinning as she wiped a tear from her eye. “It’s just a little… absurd, I guess.”

I snorted at that, which set off another round of giggles. He was looking at me like I was crazy, which was probably a fair reaction. “So that’s.. a no?”

“What- pfft. What gave it away?” I choked out.

“The… hysterical laughter?”

“Rhetorical question, Daniel.”

“Oh. Sorry. It’s just that…”

“No, no, I get it,” Talie laughed. “I can sort of see where you’re coming from, actually.”

“Well, I can’t,” I said emphatically, “and as…” I glanced at Daniel, “yeah, the only one here who's been in a relationship, I think my words carry a little more sway.”

Talie scoffed lightly. “It was barely a relationship. Did you even make it to first base?”

I made a face. “Bleh. No. Why is that a benchmark for relationships anyway?”

She raised an eyebrow. “Seriously?”

“Yeah, seriously. Don’t mock me on this.”

“You’re making that a bit hard. Do you really not get it? It’s a physical expression of intimacy.”

“No, it isn’t. Hugging, hand-holding, cuddling; those are all ‘physical expressions of intimacy' or whatever. Kissing is just mashing mouths together, and it’s weird that everyone thinks it’s normal.”

She opened her mouth to reply, but Daniel cut her off. “Uh, I really don’t want to interrupt, but… I have classes and stuff? And you guys can’t really be having a discussion about human sexuality in my bathroom while I do that?”

“Oh. Right.” I rubbed my neck a little awkwardly. “Sorry, man. Got carried away.”

“S’okay.” He stood up, and offered me a hand. I took it and hauled myself to my feet, hopping a little at the end.

“Whoo,” I breathed, stretching out and testing the edges of my range of motion. “I think you might be a miracle worker, Daniel. That’s really frickin' impressive. I can’t feel a thing.

He actually blushed a little. “And your head?” he asked.

“Today is the [REDACTED] of [REDACTED], the current president is [REDACTED], and my mother's maiden name is Locke.”

“What’s 21 times 32?”

“I have no idea, but that’s normal for me.” He looked at Talie, and she nodded.

“He couldn’t count his toes with his fingers,” she said.

“And your ribs? No trouble breathing or anything?”

“Only from the stench of that awful attempt at an insult.”

“So… no?”

“No,” I confirmed, “breathing’s fine.”

“Okay. Well, I’m no doctor, not yet, but I think I can reasonably pronounce you in good health.”

“It’s a weird feeling,” I admitted. “I keep expecting pain and finding nothing.”

“Better than the opposite,” Talie pointed out.

“True that.” I offered Daniel my hand, and he stared at for a moment before realization crossed his face and he grasped it. His grip was surprisingly firm. “Thanks for the healing. I’m too busy to be injured right now.”

“No problem,” he stammered, “anytime.” He seemed reluctant to let go of the handshake, but followed suit when I did.

“Well, don’t worry: even though I now know you exist, I promise not to show up on your doorstep unless I’m bleeding to death.”

“Flint, what did I say about making me play mother?”

I rolled my eyes. “Fine, ignore that. Let’s just say it was nice to meet you, and I hope that next time it’s under better circumstances.”

“L-likewise.”

I took a step towards the door, and froze as my leg armor jangled a little. “Actually, one more thing. Could I possibly borrow some sweatpants?”

-----

I waited until Daniel was out of earshot and we’d begun walking down the road before I spun on Talie. “A healer?!” I hissed. “A fucking healer?!”

She sighed. “Flint-” she began, but I cut her off.

“How many times have we all been injured? How many times? What about that time Shauna had two broken legs? What about that time Adib had fractured ribs for three months? Hell, just early this week Nat got beaten so bad she looked like an expired piece of cheese! And all this time, literally the entire time you’ve known us, you’ve had a healer up your sleeve!”

“I didn’t have him ‘up my sleeve',” she replied. She sounded a little irritated, which was unusual for her. Eternal cheeriness was kind of her thing. “Daniel’s his own person. I don’t get to just pull him out whenever I need him and then out him away again. Besides, if something really serious had happened, I would have brought you here.”

“More serious than having two broken legs? More serious than ending up looking like the recipient of domestic abuse: deluxe edition?”

Yes,” she snapped, “more serious than that.”

“Then why did you bring me here now?!”

“Because you were fighting the heroes. Not just the heroes, Valiant themselves. Something big was obviously happening.”

I shook my head. “You’ve got no idea. It’s bad, Talie.”

“How bad?”

“Let’s get back to the base first. Then I’ve got a hell of a story to tell you…”

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