Kara's apartment, Woodbridge Township, New Jersey
"Could you help me out here?" Juri asked suggestively as she stood partially exposed in the living room. The street fighter had just gingerly pulled her pants partway down in response to Kara's request to re-examine the leg wound. The nurse's hands spread out as Juri stood in front of her. With the exception of panties, she was essentially bare from her knees to her chest.
"You know, I was going to suggest you change in the bathroom," she replied, her hands motioning towards the hallway. Fortunately, the curtains on the sliding glass doors leading to the back patio were drawn closed. Otherwise, prying eyes from neighboring apartments would have had a hell of a view.
After both of the women had arrived, the nurse fetched a beach towel from the hallway closet and spread it on the comfy chair in the living room. She didn't want Juri's wounds potentially bleeding onto the chair. Kara then grabbed some first aid materials from the closet as well as a pillow and bathrobe from her bedroom. As Juri got comfortable, Kara switched out the ice packs with a fresh one for her ribs. She could only scrape together some ice and paper towels for the eye. It would take a while for the older packs to refreeze.
Juri started to put the pillow behind her head before Kara explained it was for her ribs if she coughed or sneezed. It would help brace her ribs and reduce the pain.
The nurse thought that a bathrobe would be more comfortable instead of the clothes Juri currently wore. It was at this point that the street fighter grinned and began to strip down.
"Well sweetie, I'm still gonna need help with my top too," the street fighter remarked. She had a point; there was no way the dudou was coming off without assistance. Kara knelt down and helped with the pants. She checked the leg wound (bleeding slightly, but nothing serious) and redressed it before removing the pants. The nurse stood up and repeated the process for the arm slash.
Once Juri's wounds were taken care of, Kara helped with her dudou. However, it was more complex than the nurse initially assumed. For one thing, the back wasn't tied or clipped together; it was essentially a sports bra. Juri spoke up while Kara assessed the best way to take it off without further injuring the street fighter.
"What's the problem?" Juri taunted. "Haven't you taken off a top before?"
Kara glowered at her.
"Of course I have," she replied testily. "It's just that it's usually my own. I didn't realize until now that it's a sports bra."
"Sweetie, do you really think I'd fight in this outfit if someone could just untie a knot or unlatch it?" she asked, suppressing a laugh. "My top would be flopping around all over the place."
Kara conceded the point with a curt nod, dismissing the mental image that appeared.
"There are these things called t-shirts..." the nurse muttered to herself as she shook her head. She didn't care at that point whether Juri heard her or not.
"Ok, here goes," she announced. "I'll try to get it off as gently as possible. This outfit obviously wasn't designed with cracked ribs in mind."
The nurse started with the pointed corner in the front and gingerly lifted the tight fitting over Juri's breasts, which bounced when the dudou cleared them. Kara understood that while taking the top off, there was no way she could avoid touching them or gawking momentarily and hoped the street fighter wouldn't get annoyed. On the contrary, when she looked up, Juri was grinning.
"Like what you see?" she asked suggestively, the grin widening. Kara's face reddened and she scowled straight into the street fighter's eyes while trying to avoid looking downwards. Juri winced as she snorted out a laugh. The nurse's efforts to maintain dignity were absolutely hilarious!
"Trust me sweetie, you're not offending my sensibilities," she purred. Kara started to reply, stopped and then opened her mouth again.
"Juri, it's not the first time I've seen someone else's boobs," Kara shot back. "I work in a hospital, after all. It's a little different when it's a stranger standing in my living room, though. Let's just get this over with. Now turn around so I can get the straps above your arms. This is going to be the hard part."
The street fighter rolled her eyes and snickered as she turned her back to Kara.
"Ok, what do you want me to do?" the street fighter asked with a smirk on her face.
Kara had to think about the next step. Normally, Juri would have just raised her arms and pulled it over her head. However, that option was clearly off the table with the street fighter's side injury. The last thing the nurse wanted was to turn a fractured rib into a broken one due to jostling. Kara came up with an idea.
The nurse had Juri stand behind the chair and lean forward a little with the arm on her uninjured side holding the headrest. Kara worked the straps off and over the street fighter's shoulder. She did the same with the other side but was much more careful. Even so, the nurse heard Juri hiss as the straps were pulled over the shoulder. All that was left was to tug the neck band over her head.
Kara's fingers worked themselves under the elastic band and managed to get a good hold. As she carefully pulled the dudou over Juri's head, it caught, causing the street fighter to yelp.
"Hey!" she cried. "Watch the hair, dammit! You're getting it tangled around my ears!"
Kara gasped and quickly cleared the hair around the ears with one hand.
"Sorry, sorry," the nurse replied and finally removed the neck band. She absentmindedly smoothed out Juri's hair back to its original state. The tresses felt silky smooth in her fingers. "Ok, it's off. I tried to keep it as pain free as I could."
The street fighter just grunted in response. Kara quickly handed the bathrobe to a now practically nude Juri. The nurse had to help out with the arm on the injured side, but otherwise, the street fighter was able to get it on without incident.
"Ok, how does that feel?" Kara asked. Juri's good eye gave a long blink and she exhaled deeply.
"Oh yeah, that's definitely more comfortable," she replied. "The top was digging into the ribs a little bit. Thanks!"
Kara nodded and helped Juri sit back down in the comfy chair, breathing a small sigh of relief.
"I'm going to grab a few more things and I'll be right back," Kara assured the street fighter before leaving. The latter simply nodded and placed the ice packs back on the swollen areas.
Several minutes later, the nurse returned with a bottle of pills, bottled water and a blanket.
"It's just more ibuprofen," Kara said as she pulled the coffee table closer to Juri. She set both bottles on it before handing the blanket over. "Try to get some sleep. Rest is really the most important thing. And now I need to wash up."
"Oh, could I use the restroom after you're done?" Juri asked as the nurse turned to leave. "I need to get this makeup off."
"Of course," she replied before leaving the room. "I'll leave the stuff out when I'm done."
The first thing Kara decided when she got to the bathroom was to check her still bandaged hands, which she quickly unwrapped. The nurse grimaced while carefully scrubbing them since the cuts were still tender and red around the edges. The last thing Kara needed was to have infections set in. After gently drying her hands and replacing the bandages, she gazed into the mirror above the sink. She instinctively smoothed her unkempt hair back and studied her face. Her eyes were lidded, but no longer puffy. There were also mascara stains on her cheeks from when she was crying earlier. The entire right side was still red and slightly swollen from the fence collision. Kara leaned over the sink to peer closer. There didn't seem to be any cuts on that side, though it still throbbed.
'I really should get some ice on that,' she thought. It could have been worse and she counted herself extremely fortunate that the chaotic evening produced just a few scrapes and swelling. The gang was bad enough, but she shuddered at the thought of the man who wielded that oversized hand claw. Her charge sitting in the living room chair was slashed twice with that thing!
"Well, I somehow managed to save Juri," Kara said to the face in the mirror. "And not get myself killed in the process. I wonder what Menat would think?"
Kara finally had a few moments to recall the evening's events. The young seer linked the nurse's destiny with Juri's, for better or for worse. What kind of adventures that meant for the future, she couldn't even begin to comprehend. Menat mentioned that the world Kara knew would be coming to an end. She shuddered, wondering what the cryptic comment meant exactly. The nurse considered herself reasonably well-informed with current events, but until tonight, people such as that man with the long-bladed claw hand, the giant boxer, Menat's fortune telling abilities and even Juri's strange flashing eye (she really needed to ask about that!) was something found in fantasy books. There was clearly another world out there that Kara wouldn't have believed a few hours before. Yes, she was aware of street fighting, but apparently this stuff went much deeper than just random brawling.
The nurse grasped that there were dangerous and even deadly undertones involved and that the events she experienced at the hotel tonight was just a small sliver of that world. Kara started to tremble at the thought of Juri's wrecked motorcycle before getting control of herself. That could have been her car or even herself! But at the same time, she couldn't deny the excitement at the revelation. The nurse admittedly wanted to see and know more!
Questions raced through Kara's mind as she stared at herself in the mirror. The two would apparently be stuck together for a while. What would Juri think of Menat's pronouncement? Would she trust Kara? Would she even accept her as a traveling companion? How could the nurse learn to fight like that? Outside of the pair of fights she witnessed, Kara knew next to nothing about this dangerous woman.
'Well, she didn't try to kill me,' the nurse mused. 'So I guess there's that. Hopefully she'll open up a little bit about herself over the next week or two.'
Kara let out a wide yawn and knew she needed to get some rest. There was time enough to worry later. Then she remembered about her friend Mary. The nurse was expecting a phone call!
'Crap, she'll be worried sick if I don't call her before I fall asleep,' Kara thought with a groan. She just wanted to get some sleep, but a promise was a promise. The nurse removed her makeup, washed her face and returned to the living room.
"Ok, all set," the nurse announced. "Bathroom's down the hall first door on the right."
Juri gave an almost imperceptible nod and headed down the hall. The street fighter leisurely cleaned up and as she returned, heard Kara's voice in the kitchen. The nurse was talking to someone on the phone. Juri listened carefully for a couple of moments before she was confident that Kara wasn't talking to the cops.
"Alright, listen Mary, I'm gonna hit the sack," Kara said and turned to face Juri. "Yep, I will. You too. Take care, night."
Juri raised an eyebrow.
"So who was that?" she asked.
"My friend Mary, she's also a nurse," Kara answered. "I promised her that I'd check in when I got home. I told her about the flat tire but didn't mention anything else. God knows how she'd react to that. I also wanted to make sure she was alright with all the rioting going on. Oh, be right back. Gotta grab a couple more things."
A couple of minutes later, the nurse was carrying a couple more pillows and a blanket. She handed one of the pillows and the blanket to Juri while she dropped the other on the couch. The street fighter returned to the chair and settled in.
"I guess we're going to sleep now," Juri surmised. Kara shrugged.
"Well, I don't know about you, but I'm bushed," she replied. "You need to get some rest. I'll turn the light off, but I'm not going to sleep quite yet. I need to ice down my face a little. Oh, I should probably give you some more for the eye."
Juri regarded Kara's face for a couple of moments before speaking. She hadn't noted the redness before and said as much.
"Yeah, it happened just before you arrived," Kara replied. "I got shoved to the pavement, hence the hand scrapes. Then I got thrown into the chain link fence. I was lucky it wasn't one of the fence posts. Probably would have cracked my skull."
Kara headed to the kitchen again, grabbed several paper towels, wrapped them around ice and returned to the living room. She handed one of them to Juri before plopping down on the sofa to nurse her face.
"Oh...much better," she breathed contentedly, feeling the soothing cold on her face. Juri picked up the ibuprofen bottle, shook out a couple of pills and swallowed them with water. Kara started to reach over for the lamp next to the sofa but paused.
"Do you need anything else before I turn this off?" she asked. Juri shook her head.
"Nah, I'm good," she replied. The nurse clicked the lamp off. The apartment darkened save for some light from other apartments that filtered through the sliding back door curtains. The only other source of light was a dull glow emanating from a night light in the bathroom down the hallway. Of course, Juri could see in the dark easily with her bionic eye. For several minutes she just watched Kara sit on the sofa holding the ice packed paper towel to her face. The street fighter finally broke the silence.
"Don't you have a bed to sleep in?" Juri inquired. "I promise I won't steal anything and take off during the night."
Kara chuckled softly.
"Heh, I'm not worried about that," Kara said, wagging her head. "I'll be on the couch tonight just in case you need anything. Let me know if you have any problems, ok?"
"Gotcha," Juri answered. She noted that the nurse struggled to sit upright on the couch, fighting to stay awake. Kara's eyes slowly drooped. The street fighter considered talking further, but words escaped her. Instead, Juri brooded while trying to understand why she even wanted to converse.
It took some time before she understood. She was curious about the nurse's intentions and that seemed to be reciprocal. So far, Kara had bent over backwards to help her, which left her perplexed. No one deliberately helped Juri. Most people feared the street fighter and generally wanted nothing to do with her (unless they wanted to arrest her). To be fair, she didn't really want to know people for the most part. Sure, they could be useful sometimes, but nothing more. Just like Juri was to others. Her ruthlessness, ferocity, tenacity...yes, those were qualities that certain people desired when they hired her. Her relationship with Seth had been the very epitome of usefulness. His 'gifts' came at a price, but one the street fighter was willing to pay. Even now, she had no regrets at joining S.I.N. It enabled her to take some measure of revenge on Shadaloo.
But to want to know just Juri Han, street fighter and citizen of the world? No one gave a shit.
And yet this nurse, whom Juri had barely known for only a few scant hours, showed more kindness to the street fighter than anyone else in recent memory, save perhaps Menat. It was a very strange feeling to be fussed over. She closed her eyes and giggled softly at the thought of Seth acting in a similar fashion. The concept would have been completely alien, not to mention ludicrous to the S.I.N leader.
And speaking of Menat, what was the seer's angle in all of this? Why did she send Kara to help Juri out? Why not herself? The street fighter pondered this as her own eyelids grew heavy. The painkillers were starting to take effect and the pressure on her side and eye eased a little.
She regarded Kara further. The nurse's eyes were almost slits as she gradually lost the battle to remain awake. She finally gave up and slid herself slowly over to the other side of the sofa. Kara nestled into the large pillow propped against the armrest and slid an afghan blanket over herself. The nurse started to set the now mostly soaked paper towel on the coffee table and squinted at it. Then she issued an annoyed moan and dropped it on the table, telling herself that she'd clean up the mess in the morning. Kara let out a deeper sigh, closed her eyes and settled further into the pillow.
"G'night, Juri," she said softly, startling the street fighter. It wasn't long before Juri heard a steady regular breathing. The street fighter observed Kara for a while longer before responding and even then, the words got stuck in her throat.
"Night," Juri finally whispered. The street fighter tried to get comfortable, first laying her head back on the pillow before dropping her chin to her chest. Juri closed her eyes and eventually drifted off into an uncomfortable sleep.
The dull throbbing on the right side of her face awakened Kara. Sunlight filtered through the curtains. The nurse's hand fumbled for the smartphone on the coffee table before she was finally able to grasp it. It read 8:27 am. Juri became alert with the noise and spied around the room before relaxing. Kara gave her a sheepish look.
"Sorry," she said sleepily, placing the smartphone back on the coffee table. An open-faced yawn soon followed, with a belated effort to cover it with her hand. "I couldn't get a handle on the phone. How are you feeling?"
Juri resisted the urge to stretch due to the soreness at her side. She reached over for the ibuprofen bottle and popped a couple more pills with water. Her eyes flickered slightly as she yawned with her mouth closed.
"Definitely hurting a little bit," the street fighter admitted. "I slept off and on but got more rest than I thought I would."
Kara rubbed her eyes, slowly got up from the couch and swayed unsteadily as she both stretched and fought to fully wake up.
"Yeah, let me grab those ice packs in the freezer," she replied drowsily. "They'll be ready by now. Ice both of those areas down for 20 minutes and I'll rotate them every hour throughout the day. I'll check the injuries in a bit, but first I need to use the bathroom and we should probably eat."
Juri followed suit once Kara returned and slowly eased herself into a chair at the kitchen table. The nurse handed over a pair of ice packs and went back to the fridge.
"I don't know about you, but I'm starving," she announced. "How do omelets, bagels and strawberries sound?"
The street fighter's stomach actually growled in response. She hadn't eaten since late afternoon yesterday!
"Yeah, sounds good," Juri replied and hesitated awkwardly for a moment. She wasn't used to offering help. "Uh, do you need..."
Kara knew what the street fighter was going to ask and shook her head emphatically.
"Nope, I got this," she said. "I want you to ice those injuries down. This'll take a few minutes, so you should go back in the living room. You'll be more comfortable until I'm done."
Juri nodded and went back into the living room and dozed off for a few minutes while Kara cooked. It wasn't long until the aroma of eggs and toasted bagels reached her nose. Her mouth started to water just thinking of the food.
"Alrighty, breakfast is ready!" the nurse announced. Juri returned to the table and saw a plate with two large omelets folded over, a wheat bagel with a spread of cream cheese smothered over the top and a bowl of cut strawberries. Next to the plate was a tall glass of orange juice.
"Is there anything else you need?" Kara asked. Juri's eyes went wide at the meal and noticed that her plate was the only one on the table.
"Aren't you eating?" Juri countered. The nurse started adding more beaten eggs to a skillet, turned and smiled.
"I wanted to make sure you got served first," she answered. "You need the sustenance more than I do right now, given those injuries."
"Oh ok," Juri said, distracted with the plateful of food and sat down. "You don't happen to have any hot sauce or kimchi?"
Kara paused at the stove for a moment.
"Wait, is that the spicy Korean cabbage?" she asked, still pondering the request. Juri dipped her head while taking a sip of the orange juice before cutting a piece of the first omelet off with the side of her fork.
"Yeah, basically," she responded. "It can be any vegetable, really. But it's usually cabbage."
Juri speared the piece with her fork, hesitated for a moment and popped it in. Her eyes closed as she let out an 'mmmm' as she chewed. The taste of eggs, cheese and vegetables was music to her mouth. She had to admit, the nurse could definitely cook. Juri was still savoring the flavor when the nurse produced a bottle of hot sauce.
"I don't have any kimchi, but I did get this a couple of weeks ago since I needed it for a recipe," Kara said. "Help yourself!"
The nurse paused to watch Juri eat, an apprehensive look crossing her face.
"Um, how is the omelet?" Kara asked, chewing her lip.
The street fighter gave a thumbs up sign and bobbed her head.
"This is..." she paused to shove another piece in before continuing. "This is really good!"
Kara let out a deep breath and grinned before heading back to the stove to prepare her own breakfast.
"Well, it was my dad's recipe," she replied over her shoulder. "He was always a good cook. Taught me everything I know."
Juri didn't fail to notice the past tense. She stared at the plate for a couple of moments and frowned.
'I guess we have something in common,' the street fighter thought before continuing to eat as Kara finished cooking.
Juri grabbed the hot sauce and poured it over the rest of the omelets. She took another forkful and relished the taste. She looked up at the nurse and grinned.
"I love spicy food," she declared. "Always have."
Kara brought her own plate over and sat across from Juri.
"Yeah, I don't mind some heat," she replied as she dug into her food. "Just not big on it overpowering everything else."
Juri gave a non-committal shrug and continued eating. Her impression of Kara bumped up a couple of notches with the medical care and food, even if she was a bit of a wuss concerning spicy stuff.
"By the way, I gave you two omelets because you need the nutrients to heal up and you look like someone who would be eating more anyway," Kara said before putting her hand to her mouth. "I mean, I don't think you're fat or anything like that. You're obviously in tremendous shape!"
Juri glanced up and smirked as she started on the second omelet. They both knew Kara had inadvertently seen practically everything physical of the street fighter last night.
"No offense taken, sweetie," she replied between bites. "I usually have a big breakfast, actually, so this is perfect."
Kara looked upwards and sighed. She was getting slightly annoyed with the 'sweetie' tag. Juri continued talking.
"So, what do you do for entertainment around here?" she asked.
The nurse's fork paused midway to her mouth and she set it back down on the plate.
"Entertainment? Uh, that depends on your definition, which I suspect is a tad different than mine," Kara replied and continued eating.
Juri barked a short laugh and then winced.
"No doubt," she said, and took a bite from the bagel. "But you've got me captive here for the time being. What's on the itinerary?"
"Juri, you've got fractured ribs, several gashes and a black eye," Kara replied. "What you should be doing is getting rest and plenty of it. The 'itinerary' should be the comfy chair."
The street fighter huffed and chewed loudly on the bagel while uttering 'boring' in response.
"The more rest and nutrients you get, the sooner you'll be back to normal," Kara insisted. "It'll be a tough couple of weeks, but we'll manage."
Juri's jaw dropped as the bagel almost fell from her hand.
"A couple of weeks?!" she exclaimed. "Is that supposed to be a joke? 'Cuz I'm not laughing. How about more like a few days. I'll go crazy cooped up in an apartment beyond that! Besides, I have an important errand to run."
Kara closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead. She should have been prepared for the push back regarding recovery time.
"What could possibly be more important than getting your health back?" Kara asked.
"Let's just say my health is connected to this errand and we'll leave it at that," Juri replied firmly.
"Oh really?" the nurse retorted. "Let me guess. It has to do with that little box you have, right?"
The street fighter growled as she tore off a piece of bagel.
"As I said before, it's none of your business," Juri asserted as she chewed while staring at Kara. The nurse bit the side of her lip and stared right back.
"I don't know why you're being so stubborn," Kara said. "I'm not trying to stop you from doing whatever you're trying to do. I just think you need to rest and it'll take more than a few days. It has something to do with those creeps at the hotel, doesn't it?"
Juri glared, annoyed with the nurse's inquisitiveness. Kara pushed on before the street fighter could respond.
"Ok, if that's the case, do you really want to face someone like them again in your condition?" she continued. "Especially the one with the giant metal claw...or the big dude that sent you flying halfway across the street?!"
"That would be Vega and Balrog and for the record, I could have kicked either of their asses if they didn't gang up on me," Juri shot back. "And it won't even be an issue when I get this..."
Juri stopped short before adding "eye installed." The street fighter continued to glare at Kara, expecting a smug look. What she got instead was a concerned expression, which was almost as irritating. Juri loathed looking vulnerable but as much as she hated to admit it, knew that her mission to destroy Shadaloo would have ended permanently in the middle of a city street last night without help. Damn Vega and that Illuminati jerkass (she'd bet even money on that man's affiliation) for screwing up what should have been a simple mission! Kara pressed on.
"You won't be able to do shit if you're not healed properly," Kara answered. "Look, you know a hell of a lot more about fighting than me, so I wouldn't think of arguing with you on that subject. But...you don't know as much about healing and recovery as I do. And stop glaring at me, please. I'm not your enemy. I'm just trying to help."
Juri continued to watch Kara with narrow eyes as she dropped the bagel down on the plate, grabbed a nearby fork and emphatically stabbed several slices of strawberries, stuffing them into her mouth. No, the nurse wasn't exactly an enemy, that was becoming apparent. Whether she was someone who could be trusted was another question entirely.
"I don't need help," Juri maintained without much conviction.
Kara observed the brooding street fighter and decided to change the subject. Hopefully, she'd be able to get past the street fighter's mistrust soon. She steered the conversation back towards breakfast.
"So, how are the strawberries?" she asked. Juri continued to sulk.
"Pretty good, actually," the street fighter admitted grumpily, before stabbing several more pieces of fruit. When she got her hands on Vega...
"Glad to hear it," Kara said. The two continued the rest of the meal in silence. Neither one of them knew how to continue the conversation and the nurse was at a loss on how to make any headway with the obstinate street fighter.
Unbeknownst to Kara, Juri was soon to get a couple of visitors of her own.