"I'm sorry," Zer0 muttered for what felt like the hundredth time that.
Athena shook her head and bit down harder onto the belt wrapped around her hand, eyes squeezing shut as the needle plunged in and out of the cut on her right foreleg.
With a final pull of the thread, he cut it with a pair of small scissors and tied the two frayed pieces together.
"If I hadn't slipped up, I wouldn't have gotten hurt," Athena growled as she lowered her hand.
"It is not your fault/ Things like this happen sometimes/ Hazards of battle." He lowered his hands from the freshly stitched wound and placed the needle and scissors back in the medical kit. "You'll know the next time." With his hands still inside, he grabbed a roll of gauze and turned his attention back to the task at hand. "Don't worry about it now." He slowly unrolled the gauze around the wound. "Let's get this wrapped up."
"Uh, yeah..." she said sheepishly. "Thanks for that."
Zer0 looked up at her and nodded, grinning. "Anything for you."
She sighed and looked back down as his hands tucked in the tail end of the roll of gauze under another strip. There was a few seconds pause before she cleared her throat to catch his attention. He blinked and looked down, finally noticing how his fingers were gently kneading her leg muscles, taking care to stay away from the freshly wrapped wound. He pulled his hands away and back into the med kit.
"Any other wounds you have?"
"Can you check my back? I think that borok managed to break the skin."
He nodded nonchalantly at the request, hands moving towards the outside of the med kit and picking it up, feeling Athena slip her leg off his lap and move around behind him. Grimacing as he waited for her to stop moving, he looked inside the kit and shook it slightly, groaning at the lack of supplies. He would need to restock soon. Another trip to the Bloodshot Ramparts, possibly, to see if there was anything left that he could scavenge.
Unfortunately, that seemed unlikely. He had made many trips before and mostly came up empty-handed.
Athena's voice startled him from his planning. He turned around, noticing that she now laid on her stomach, shirt ridden up to show her scarred and muscled back.
"We're low on supplies," he confessed, and set the kit down beside her.
He hadn't even had time to look over his own wounds, bruises, and soreness just yet, which worried him. The worst thing that could happen to an assassin was that they were unable to carry out any contracts that they had accepted. He regretted the thought of having to use a medicinal hypo to heal his wounds, especially with how few there were left in the refrigerator.
"A supply run as tomorrow's mission, then?" Athena offered slyly.
Zer0 leaned over her and immediately noticed the giant, dark purple bruise on the left side of her back. It partially covered her shoulder blade and nearly reached down to her hip bone. Previously, it had been unseeable by the dim lighting of the room, catching him slightly off guard as he stared at it. He reached out slowly and ran his fingertips across the hot, tender skin, and flinched back when he heard Athena yelp. She buried her face into the pillow and he saw the muscles in her arms tensing up as she grasped the pillow case, letting out a muffled groan.
"Sorry," he murmured apologetically. He reached into the kit and rummaged around, hoping to find something useful.
The thread and needle? No broken skin. Gauze? That would probably just make it worse. Aspirin? While it would usually help the pain, the medicine was long expired and had probably lost all usage. Lighter? Yeah, definitely not.
He continued to search and tossed random items onto the bed until he finally picked up a small tube of cream. He had found it during a quick peek into the apartments in Opportunity, and had tossed it into the kit as soon as he got home, not bothering to check it. As he read along the small printed lines across the tube, he smiled and uncapped it, squeezing a small amount into the palm of his hand.
It was a bruising cream.
"Relax," he told her, hovering his hand over her skin before placing his palm against her back, feeling her muscles tense up and a shaky groan escape her mouth.
He gently rubbed the cream across the majority of her bruise, the heat of her skin almost worrying him to the point of desiring to grab the thermometer in the med kit and take her temperature. Mentally shaking himself from his thoughts, he concentrated on the task at hand.
"Everything alright?" Athena asked, turning her head to look at him.
"Yes, I'm nearly done."
It took only a few seconds longer until there was a glisten on her skin from the cream. Then he took a few seconds to look across her back, noticing old scars that he spent a few nights in the past few weeks tracing and listening to their origin stories, and fresh scars, which caused a frown to unintentional form on his face. However, there were other matters to attend to, so he left them alone for the time being.
"Finished. You can sit up now."
Athena pushed herself up on her arms, cracks and pop resonating from her shoulders and neck. She sighed in contentment and scooted over to the sit on the edge of the bed, shoulders slumped and eyes staring at the ground. An exaggerated shiver passed through her body. "That's cold. What did you smear on me?"
He handed her the uncapped tube. "It's a bruising cream."
Her eyes fluttered back and forth as she read the small text on the side, eyebrows raising in surprise. She looked back up at him. "Inter-"
Before she could continue, she dropped the tube in her lap and grabbed the sides of his head, pulling her down towards her. It wasn't until they were inches apart that he noticed her gaze wasn't on his face, but his neck. Her eyes were calculating, contemplating, and even a little angry. Her face twisted into a scowl.
"You have a wound on your neck," she said.
Zer0 leaned away from her and placed the palm of his hand on the left side of his neck., He flinched as he felt damp and flecked dried blood smear his hand, and pain shot through his neck and shoulder. Why he hadn't noticed it before was a mystery. Probably adrenaline.
A hand grasped his arm and pulled him back down until he felt Athena's breath on his shoulder as she judged the wound. There was a few seconds of silence until she let him go and reached for the medkit between them to fish out something.
The glint of metal in his peripheral vision caught his eye, and he looked down to see her holding the needle and the spool of thread in her hands. She dropped the spool on the bed and cleaned the bloody needle on her shirt. Looking up into her eyes, he saw a determined, almost mechanical glint in them as she meticulously wiped her blood off the needle. They weren't gazing into his own; instead fixed upon the cut on his neck.
"I shouldn't have to warn you about this, but it will hurt," she said. Athena stopped and pulled the lighter out of the medkit, flicked it on, and ran the flame over the needle for a few seconds. Once done, she shook the flame out and closed the cap, dropping it into the kit before pulling out the threaded the needle with practiced ease, surprising him as she managed it on the first try. "Like you said, we're running on limited supplies here." She dropped the bare spool in the medkit. "I'll have to go slow to suture the whole wound."
Zer0 soaked all this in and nodded. "Okay."
She scooted back from the edge of the bed and patted the spot in between her legs. "C'mere."
He nodded, stood up, and sat down in between her legs, face heating up at the warmth that pooled between their thighs. She wrapped an arm around his chest and pulled him close to her own. She halted once his back hit her breasts and slid her hand up to his shoulder, steadying him as he sat leaning against her, uncomfortable and off-balance.
The tip of the needle pressed against his skin, and a burning ache shot across his neck and shoulder. He clenched his teeth and curled his hands into fists in an effort to discharge and manage the pain. A tense second passed, the heavy and quick thundering of his heart in his ears. Without warning, Athena thrusted the needle into his skin and began to suture the wound shut.
The pain was iron hot, forcing him to hold his breath while his mouth stayed achingly glued shut. In and out the needle went, slow and unhurried in its wake. The pull of his torn flesh caused him to flinch. He wasn't usually this sensitive to pain, and he again cursed the lack of adrenaline in his blood. He squeezed his eyes after a particularly painful stab into against his injury.
"Almost..." Athena assured as the word slipped out slowly, punctuating it was another pull of the thread.
Another minute passed, but it felt like an eternity. It was the snipping of scissors that caught Zer0's attention, as she quickly cut the thread and tied the two pieces together into a careful knot. He could feel something warm and sticky on her fingers as she committed herself to finishing the job - his blood.
There was movement off to the side, which he only assumed to be her wiping her hands on the ripped off bed covers and blankets. They needed a good washing anyways, so why not use them to mop up blood? The coarse, bullymong fur blanket brushed against his shoulder a moment later as she carefully dabbed it along the recently closed wound, mopping up blood as she went.
There was silence between the two of them as Athena worked, similar to his time working on her leg. Without noticing, he found himself gently slipping off the edge into slumber as the soft, but firm presses of her fingers massaged tense muscles and relaxed his state of mind. His eyes closed and head leaned back against her shoulder, giving her more access to his wound, while providing him with a more comfortable position to drift off. Her warmth was a great catalyst for drowsiness.
"Do you have anything else?" Athena murmured into his ear.
He shrugged nonchalantly, felt a rumble against his back and hot breath blow on his neck - a sigh. There was a brief moment of stillness.
What didn't awaken him from his daze was her hands moving away from his wound. What did was her hands moving away from his wound and slowly down his chest.
Zer0's eyes immediately shot open and his breathing hitched. Not because of the shock of the situation he found himself in, but because of the slight ticklish feeling her calloused fingers produced as they trailed his skin and muscles in search of other cuts, scrapes, and bruises, similar to what he had done to her earlier. They stopped above his waistline and he felt her shift behind him, sitting up more and straightening her back.
"Scoot forward," she ordered as her hands slid towards his slides.
Zer0 did so and sat at the edge of the bed. Her hands slowly moved up his back, thumbs applying the gentlest of pressure along his spine. She stopped once she reached his shoulder blades, fingertips barely hitching over the slope of his shoulders.
"Okay, I think you're good." Zer0 felt as though he could hear the smile in her voice.
A relieved sigh involuntarily escaped through his nose. He straightened himself and pushed the palms of his hands down on the bed, ready to stand up and-
Athena's hands grasped his shoulders, forcing him to stay put. Curious, he turned his head to look at her.
She was staring blankly at his back. Her eyes were lifeless, and it seemed she was in a daze.
"Athena?" he asked quietly.
She blinked once, twice, thrice. Her eyebrows furrowed and her eyes closed. The hands at his shoulders slid around his front and her arms wrapped around his chest, pulling him back and into her.
"Just... just let me..." she trailed off.
Zer0 gulped and looked down at her arms. They were tight around him, locking him in a grip that he wouldn't dare break; even if he'd wanted to. He cleared his throat, casually lifted a hand, and held onto one of her forearms. There was lengthy silence now between them; calming and how they still had a childlike awkwardness around each other upon acts such as these, despite their fortified closeness. Nonetheless, he tightened his grip on her arm and smiled. This hadn't been the first time Athena had done this, and he decided then and there that it would not be the last. Looking around, the medkit caught his eye, and hooking it with his free hand he pulled it towards him and began counting off what needed to be restocked. He felt her head turn to watch him work.
There was an unsurprising shortage of thread, and the needle had to be replaced soon. The single roll of gauze left made him scowl and curse under his breath; that was the number one priority to find tomorrow. Other than that, antibacterial spray, antibiotics, and Aspirin, if it could be found, were lower on the list. Something else was tossed in while he recounted the prioritized items in his head- the bruising cream that he had used on Athena.
"Thought we might need more," Athena commented as he picked up the tube.
Zer0 considered for a moment and nodded in agreement. It would make obvious sense to find more if they could given how horrifically bruised and marred they usually were after a day such as this.
"Smart move, Athena," he complimented her and dropped it into the medkit. He closed it with ease and slipped his hand off her arm, pushing his palm against the bed to ready himself to sit up. "You need to let me go now. I need to get up."
She sighed against him, appearing to be reluctant in allowing him to leave the bed. It took a couple moments, but her arms finally slackened and slid down his torso. He smiled and stood up, feeling Athena lazily hook a finger into his belt as if to stop him, which it didn't.
"Let's get some rest now," he announced as he set the kit on his table alongside his dirty suit.
He quickly scanned over it and felt both relieved and disgusted. Relieved at how there were no tears in the leather, but disgusted at the thick, glossy green goo that filled every crack along its exterior. He pondered for a moment, but dismissed all thoughts of cleaning - or rather attempting to clean it until tomorrow.
"Hey," Athena called behind him.
Zer0 turned his head to the side to acknowledge her. She was propped up on elbows and her eyes fluttered from his to his suit. "We'll clean it tomorrow while we're in the Highlands."
He nodded and rubbed his eyes, fatigue finally setting in. "Yeah, sounds like a solid plan."
"Better be. I don't wanna go out right now while we're already home."
He turned around completely and faced her. She had already flipped over to face the wall, not noticing the effect that word had on him.
"You comin' to bed?" she asked over her shoulder.
"Yeah..." he nodded to punctuate his word. "Yeah, I'm coming."
Coming home to you...
Author's Note: Beta-read by CGAdam. I've decided that the next chapter will be the last for this story. No, this does not mean I will quit writing about this pairing. I haven't completely decided what I'm doing yet, but I'm definitely not stopping. Anyways, thank you for reading.