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Jaina leaned back on a desk on the other side of the room, patiently waiting for Amber to finish washing the taste of vomit out of her mouth. Shelly was there as well, standing next to Amber, while Carra waited in the front door next to Chico, who was forbidden from entering. "So, what'd you do?" Jaina asked, wanting to get things moving.
"I don't know." She shrugged.
Something told her this was going to take a little while. A doctor’s instinct, as she liked to call it. "You didn't fall, or get punch or nothing, right?" She suggested. "Not today at least?"
Amber shook her head. "No..."
Slowly eliminating possibilities in her head, Jaina had a thought. This was going to be a tough one though. She knew Amber was a kind of upset with her, and this probably wasn't going to help their relationship much. "And you're, uhh... You're not with child, are you?"
The faces of all three of her visitors flushed red, and Amber angrily crossed her arms. "No way!"
"Ok, ok, just making sure." Jaina sunk back a little, trying to stave off any sort of outburst while she still could. It was good news though; at least they wouldn't have any surprises nine months down the line. "You feel hot?"
"Not really." She shook her head again, obviously beginning to feel like they were wasting their time.
"Hmm..." Jaina rubbed her chin, going through what else could be wrong. It didn't sound like she was sick; which, while good, still left quite a number of thing's to rule out. "What've you had to eat today?"
"Harbors." Carra piped up. "We were hanging out there today."
"Oh yeah?" Hearing that told Jaina she was on the right track now. "What'd you eat yesterday?"
"Only breakfast." She said slowly, recalling the long day she'd had yesterday. "There was no food on the train, and after that thing with the council woman I was too tired to eat when I got to Axel's house."
A theory began to form in Jaina's mind. "How about the day before?"
"We caught lunch in the swamp." Shelly cut in, apparently coming to the same conclusion as Jaina had. "None of us had dinner then either."
"You said you went to Harbors?" Jaina asked again, resting her hand on her hip. She had pretty much guessed what was wrong, but figured it was best to be sure before doing anything. "What'd you try?"
"Something called the brownie mountain, and some hot chocolate." Amber seemed somewhat puzzled as to where this was going, but after a quick glance with at Shelly she quickly added. "Shelly gave me one of her donuts to try too."
"You don't say..." Jaina's mouth curled into a slight grin. It wasn't anything urgent, which was one small prayer answered. But still, the thought of what must have had happened amused her a little. "Well, I think I know what's goin' on. Good news is its nothing serious, poor diet aside."
Amber waited a moment, becoming slightly annoyed by Jaina's expression. "So what's wrong with me?"
"You've ate yourself sick." She said simply. "Sugary stuff doesn't really digest too well, even the best of circumstances. And after going with barely any food for almost two days, chowing down on something called the brownie mountain was bound to go wrong." Jaina paused a moment to let her explanation sink in. "In short; you need to eat better."
"Oh..." Amber sighed, looking less annoyed now. "Will it go away?"
"Yeah. Sure it will." Jaina pushed off the table she'd been leaning on, then headed into the back room again. When she returned this time, she handed a small cracker box to Amber. "Once you get some real food in you, that is."
Timidly, Amber accepted the offer and began munching on a handful of crackers. As she did, Shelly stepped up again and bowed her head. "Sorry Amber, I didn't know you skipped breakfast. I thought you knew we were just stopping for a snack."
Finding that Shelly was averting her eyes, Amber glanced at Carra for confirmation. "You guys had eaten already?" She asked, apparently feeling a little dumb now for skipping so many meals.
"Uh-huh." Carra nodded slightly. "Before we left home."
Jaina rested back as they all made their apologies. Watching Amber interact with the others was a refreshing site, compared to how meek she'd been when they had first met. It made Jaina realise that this could be a good chance to mend a few bridges, and a plan formed in her head. "Look uh, if you want to hang around a bit I can give you a better look over. I'm the doctor for pretty much everyone at the guild, so it might not be a bad idea to get a check-up."
Amber shuttered slightly, obviously not too comfortable with the idea. "I don't know..."
That wasn’t a refusal in Jaina’s mind, so she decided to press on a little. "Come on; Rift said you got pretty banged up on your job, and it's kind of my fault because I let you go. So at least lemme make sure you're doing ok." It was all true, despite being somewhat hard for her to admit, but she hoped that hearing her say that would entice Amber to stick around. "Whaddaya say?"
Amber took a moment to consider it; quickly glancing around the room from Jaina, to Carra and Chico, then finally to Shelly, who silently encouraged her with a slight nod. "Just don't grab my butt again, ok?"
Jaina fought back the urge to laugh, warping her face into a somewhat repulsing smile. "Alright, you got a deal." She pushed off her knees to get up, then quickly hurried Shelly to the door. "You two, scoot. We're going to need some privacy."
Carra grabbed Chico and jumped up out of the way just in time to avoid Shelly as Jaina all but pushed her out. A little bugged by her forced departure, Shelly glanced back inside and said. "We'll wait up for you, ok Amber?"
Jaina grunted in disapproval. "You sure? It might rain you know." There wasn't a cloud in the sky, but she had no idea how long this would take and thought it best of the two of them get on with their day. That, and she didn't want Amber to feel pressured to leave.
Shelly exchanged glances with Carra, then nodded. "We don't mind."
Jaina sighed again, but realised by now that arguing with them would just give her a headache. "Alright, suit yourselves. Don't blame me if you get soaked." She slowly closed the door behind her, then turned back to glace Amber, who seemed a little apprehensive about being left on her own now. The two of them just stared at one another for a moment, building on the already palpable tension in the room.
Amber winced when Jaina abruptly took a step towards her, but she carried right on past her and into the back room again. She began collecting a number of thing's she'd need, and in doing so decided to start up a conversation to get things moving. "So how's livin' with Axel been?"
"Fine." She shrugged, hearing Jaina rummage through a bunch of boxes just out of sight. "He's nice."
"I see." Jaina bit her tongue, deciding to keep any snide comments to herself. She packed a few things into a small bag, then stood in the doorframe to face Amber again. "Well, don't be afraid to lay down the law with him if he starts bugging you. Alright?"
Amber nodded dumbly, trying to just go with the flow. "Um... Sure?"
"Good." Jaina smirked, then grabbed a shirt off the back of the door and tossed it to Amber. "Change into that and have a seat in the bedroom. In any order you prefer." She said, thumbing to another door next to the couch Amber was sitting on.
Ambed eyed the garment for a moment. It was more of a sports bra than a shirt, lacking any sort of sleeves and leaving her stomach exposed. She slowly looked up at Jaina, looking not so sure of herself. "What for?"
"Well, I need to get a good look at ya, and I figured if I just told you to get naked you'd smack me and storm off." She said with a laugh. Amber glared at her, prompting Jaina to change her response quite quickly. "That, and I need to make sure you're not hiding any burses or nothing."
This only seemed to confuse Amber more, though at least she forgot about her grievance for the moment. "Why would I do that?"
"Oh, the stories I could tell." Jaina spun on her peg leg, tossing the small bag into the bedroom and going back into the back to get something else. "Little after Geno joined up with us, he came back from a job with a bit of a limp. Told us it was nothing, so we let him be." Brushing aside a small box, Jaina found what she was looking for; a small journal to keep notes in. "One week later, he still had the limp, so Davin finally convinced him to sit down long enough for me to take a look. Turns out he had a cracked shin bone; just decided it was nothing all by himself."
Amber was at a loss for words. "T-that's..."
"Yeah, that was our reaction too." Jaina entered the bedroom with a book and a flashlight in hand, finding Amber wearing the top she'd given her with Armeria resting on the windowsill over the bed. It was a small step, but Jaina appreciated that she was willing to try at least. "Anyway, time to get started. Open up." Amber did as she was asked, and Jaina clicked on the flashlight and shined it into her mouth. "When was the last time you got sick?"
Amber thought back, during which Jaina turned her head and shined the light in her ear. "I don't remember."
Jaina quickly checked Amber's other ear, then sat down to write something on her book. "If you can't remember the last time you got sick then it sounds like a healthy immune system." Jaina moved to her eyes next, flicking her flashlight from one eye to the other. "So how bad is your vision?" Amber looked puzzled, prompting Jaina to explain. "Your glasses. How well can you see without 'em?"
"Oh." She shrugged. "Fine, I just like them."
"Wears glasses because she likes them..." Jaina mumbled, unable to hold back a quip as she made more notes. "Alright, to each their own I guess." Amber blushed slightly, and Jaina clicked her flashlight off. "OK, spin."
Amber tilted her head to the side. "Huh?"
"Spin 'round." She repeated, twirling her finger in the air. After a moment, she leaned back over her desk to write something down. "This'll go a lot faster if you play along, you know."
Amber glanced at Armeria, who silently encouraged her to listen. Slowly, she spun around on her stool and pulled her hair over her shoulder as Jaina retrieved a stethoscope from the bag she assembled a moment ago. "Have you ever-." She cut herself off when she glanced back at Amber, noticing a large scar across her right shoulder blade. "Wow, where'd you get this?"
She shuddered slightly. "I don't want to talk about it..."
"You don't want to talk about it?" Amber didn't respond, but Jaina figured that question could wait until later. With a long sigh, she placed the stethoscope on her ears and slid the other end up Amber's back.
She shivered slightly. "That things freezing."
"Sorry. It'll just take a second." Jaina said with a grin. "Take a deep breath-." Jaina slid the stethoscope from one side of her back to the other. "And exhale." Amber did so, and the cold metal piece disappeared after a second. Jaina made another note in her book, then hung the stethoscope around her neck. "Alright, lay yourself down."
Amber grunted, becoming slightly annoyed that Jaina was jerking her around like this, but did as she was asked and rolled into the bed by the window. "What are you looking for exactly?"
"Nothing in particular. Just making some notes." Jaina pulled her stool closer to the bed, then popped the stethoscope back in her ears. "Fair warning, I've been told this thing's freezing.” Amber couldn't help but smile as Jaina held the listening end to her chest. "You allergic to anything?"
Amber was silent for a moment, watching as Jaina counted her heartbeats with the taping of a finger. "I don't think so."
"Good." Jaina leaned back to write in her book again, then left her stethoscope on the table. "Breathing's good, heart's good, no sinus problems. Sounds like all your squishy bits are working just fine." Amber giggled a little, and Jaina hopped off her chair to sit next to her on the bed. "Ok, now roll over."
"There's more?" Amber sighed, evidently not liking being prodded at.
"Just this last bit, then we can be done." She assured. Amber sighed again, but slowly turned over and rested her arms under her chin. After waiting a moment for her to relax, Jaina slid her thumb and forefinger up either side of Amber's spine, feeling for anything that might be out of place. Amber seemed to relax a little, finding the feeling of Jaina's hand on her back rather soothing. "You're real tense." She announced after a moment.
"Is that bad?" Amber said, sounding a little disappointed that Jaina had stopped what she was doing.
"Well, it's not necessarily good. But if you hang around for a bit I can probably do something about it." Amber didn't respond, causing Jaina to sigh. She gently squeezed the back of Amber's neck, coxing a small grunt from her as a small amount of tension was relieved. The action gave Jaina an idea, and she shuffled a little closer on the bed. "You up for a game?"
"A game?" She repeated.
Jaina took that as a yes. "We take turns asking each other questions. You can be as vague as you want, but you have to tell the truth." Amber stayed quiet, and Jaina patted her on the back. "While we play, I'll try to do something about this." She traced her thumb over a bump on Amber's shoulder, which seemed to roll out of the way under her skin. "What do ya say?"
Amber shrugged. "Sure, why not."
"Alright good. Get comfortable and try to relax, I'll go first." Amber laid her arms by her sides and Jaina began massaging between her shoulder blades. "What's your favorite color?"
"Seriously?" Amber glanced over her shoulder, finding a look on Jaina's face that told her she wasn't joking. "Purple, I guess."
"There, you see? This is easy." Jaina grinned, moving her hand to rub one of Amber's shoulders. "OK, your turn."
Amber thought for a moment, occasionally groaning whenever Jaina squeezed too hard. Just as Jaina thought she had given up on their little game, she said. "Why did Payla say you guys where dangerous?"
"If you really think about it, most mages can be dangerous if they want to be." Jaina said with half a laugh. "In short though, because she's kind of a bitch. And she's got a bit of a grudge against me and Isa." Amber pondered this for a moment, but Jaina continued before she came to any conclusions. "My turn." She switched to Amber's other shoulder, then asked. "From the sounds of it, you where the star if the show out there on your first job. Shelly made you out to be some sort of hero or something. That true?"
"I didn't think so..." Amber said with another shrug. "She said she wasn't that good at fighting, so I tried to watch out for her."
Jaina stifled a laugh. "Is that what she's telling people? Modest as always I guess."
"What's that mean?" Amber asked.
"She and my sister both: they'd never admit it, but the pair of them can seriously knock some heads together if they wanted. Baby girl and her brother both apparently inherited their parent’s aptitude with magic." It was a long winded explanation, but Jaina didn't care. She was glad that they were able to talk like this. "Anyways, I kind of lost track of whose turn it was, so you can go ahead."
"So..." She glanced over her shoulder again, fixing her gaze on Jaina's eye patch. "What happened to you?"
Jaina froze. After all the grief she'd caused Amber, this had to be some sort of karma or something. It just had to. "A fight." She said shortly, starting her massage again. "Anger has a real funny way of effecting one's sense of self preservation."
"I-I see." Her stutter betrayed the fact that she didn't understand, but Jaina didn't give her a chance to clarify before she cut her off.
"Let's see, what do I want to know about you...?" She wondered aloud. It took a second, but with a grin she thought of the perfect way to raise the bar even farther. "Even been in love?"
"I don't want to talk about it..." Amber spat, burying her face in her arms. Jaina instantly realised she'd hit a nerve, but wasn't able to change her quizzical look in time before Amber looked back at her again. "I just don't, ok?"
Despite her conscience telling her to abandon the subject, Jaina pressed on. "That's what you said about this." She said, tapping at the scar on Amber's shoulder. "What? They related or something?" Amber shuttered slightly, propelling Jaina on with a sort of morbid curiosity. "Wait, are they related?"
She didn't answer at first, but after a deep breath she nodded slightly. "Just please leave it alone. Ok?"
"Alright." Feeling that this was only going to get worse as she pushed on, Jaina patted Amber on the back to signal that she was done. "Want to keep playing? Or have you had enough?"
Her rolling over and shuffling into the corner of the bed was all the response Jaina needed, and she slowly gathered her things and made for the door. Just as she was about to leave however, she heard Amber mutter. "Why did you take me in?"
Jaina stopped abruptly, not expecting Amber to ask her anything else. "What do you mean by that?"
"I was nobody to you guys." She said slowly, returning her glance with a blank stare. "You helped me after I hit my head, gave me a place to sleep, let me to join the guild..." She trialed off, but Jaina got the idea. "Why do all that for someone you didn't know?"
"Well, the first thought would be common courtesy." Jaina chuckled to herself, but quickly changed her tune when she looked Amber in the eye. "But we did all that because you looked like you needed someone to call a friend." She tossed her medical bag onto the couch in the other room, then leaned on the doorframe to take some weight off her now aching peg leg. "Sorry if it's not as glamorous as you may have liked, hun. But that's really all there is to it."
"I see." Amber swung her legs out over the bed, then reached for her shirt. Jaina took the hint, stepping out of the doorway to give her some privacy to change. This had gone completely wrong. Instead of getting closer, she'd seemingly drove a wedge between the two of them. Even if it seemed like she was beginning to enjoy the company, that last question had apparently tossed all her effort out the window.
Amber re-emerged from the bedroom after a minute, long enough for Jaina to pack away her makeshift doctor bag. "So... I'm done changing." She said, glancing at the back room, where she could hear Jaina rummaging around again. "Guess I'll see you later."
A thought came to Jaina's mind as Amber turned to leave; and, all things considered, she couldn't think of a better time to act on it. "Hold up, not so fast." Amber stopped, and Jaina came back with a small blue gym bag slung over her shoulder. "Here ya go." She said hopefully.
Slow to respond, Amber took the bag and looked it over. She still didn't know exactly what to say, but started with the most pressing question on her mind. "What for?"
For the first time in as long as she could remember, Jaina didn't have a response. Well, she did; but assumed that saying ‘carrying stuff’ would ruin the mood a little. "Consider it a peace offering." She stopped a moment to lean back on the desk, trying to keep her distance. "I know I've been kind of a pain in the ass for ya, so I figured I'd get you something to make it up to you. Nothing fancy; toothbrush, hairbrush, other assorted things I thought you'd need to take with you on your next job. Oh, and an alarm clock."
Amber quickly rummaged through the bag, then glanced back at Jaina with a look of what might have been either amazement or disbelief. "How'd you know I-."
"You didn't have us send for any luggage when Axel brought you here, so I figured you didn't have anything that was worth the trouble." She interrupted, thankful for the chance to change the subject. "Which begs the question; the hell have you been using to brush your teeth?"
Amber froze, slowly looking down at the bag on her lap. "Uhh..."
"Oh..." Jaina caught on pretty quick, which in of itself was enough to make Amber blush slightly. "'Kay, forget I asked. Just uh... Hurry home before anyone notices. Stuff like that is how you'll get a nickname; and I'm not going to lie, I can't think of one worse than ‘vomit breath’."
Amber nodded appreciatively, zipping her bag shut and holding it tight against her chest. "I don't know what to say..."
Trying to avoid any sort of heartfelt situation, Jaina changed the subject again. "As for your stomach problem; avoid anything acidic, no fruit, and for the love of god no more sugar." Amber nodded, either too caught up in the moment or too polite to backpedal. "Have Axel whip you up something with meat. And, as long as you stick to three meals a day, you can be back on junk food by the weekend."
"Ok." Amber nodded again, then threw her new bag over her shoulder and turned to leave. Just as her hand hit the front door however, she realised that they had both overlooked something that should have been pretty obvious. "So, how much do I pay?"
Jaina shrugged. "Well it's your first time, and you're kind'a cute, so this ones for free." It didn't feel right to ask for money, especially considering the rough first week she'd had. She smirked to herself though, thinking on how little she had actually done. "Besides, I didn't really do-." Amber suddenly wrapped her arms around Jaina's stomach, stopping her joke mid-sentence.
Jaina stumbled slightly, not expecting such an action, and had to catch herself on the nearby desk to stop them both from falling over. She looked down at the top of Amber's head for any indication as to what was going on, but Amber kept her face buried in her shoulder. If she didn't know any better it would have looked like she was crying. Not knowing what else to do, Jaina patted her on the back and tried to step away. "Ok, we're getting mushy. I don't do mushy." Amber held on, despite Jaina pulling away a little harder. "C'mon, Amber. I'm starting to sweat here."
Finally letting go, Amber took a step back and clasped her hands behind her back. "Thank you for everything." She said, wearing the biggest smile Jaina could ever remember seeing from her.
"If uh..." Jaina stuttered as Amber turned to the door. For one reason or another she just couldn't talk straight with this girl. "If you ever want to play that game again, you know where to find me. We'll try and stay away from the heavy stuff next time though. Deal?" Amber nodded, then disappeared out the door to rejoin the others. After a moment to gather her thoughts, Jaina retreated a bottle of rum from her desk and flopped down on her couch. She had no idea how she’d managed to turn that situation around; but for now at least, she didn't really care. She leaned back and took a long drink, gazing up at the slowly revolving ceiling fan with a grin. "Dammit, I'm good."
Next Chapter – Day of Detours