Wow, it's been years since I've been here. Forgive if this comes off as a little out of it, but considering this chapter is dedicated to FanXiaolinShowdown (whom asked me to stick the shock paddles to this fic and see if there was still any life in it), it will be long and will be specific.

I cannot understand why I wasn't struck right down dead.
-Dorothy Parker.

Elaborate Skins-:-

He has seen her almost burn the kitchen down by accident more times than he'd care to count…

It's not that she's a bad cook (to the contrary; she seems to be the only person that he's even known—human beings he has seen and not killed varying in numbers through the years not helping his opinion, but he digressed—that can make perfect toast and golden waffle cakes with the perfect golden hue and flavoring well worth the time to obtain ingredients), it's that she has the unfortunate habit of thinking she might have time to add onto the meal and then finds herself in a rush once she realizes that she might have made an error in that thought. Gwen, since coming to be on his ship (oh, and how could he have possibly thought that having her as a sort of hostage would make his life easier in trying to obtain the Omnitrix? She, who demonstrated an intellect much higher than Ben Tennyson and had a bag of tricks much more full to the brim than her cousin before he'd had the device choose him to be its host) had been insistent that if she was going to be kept there like a pet or a hostage, than she should at least be allowed into the kitchen to prove that she was worth more walking around free as Vilgax himself than if he just set her in a holding cell to drive the guards insane with human songs that went something like "I know the song that never ends…"

She'd proven her worth so well the first time, that, after she had warmed up to him and he had stopped threatening her with bodily harm, he'd often leave her to her own devices in the room of electronic cookery while he was busy with sorting out his army or dealing with annoyances that tended to pop up when one was a warlord such as himself.

That was his mistake.

(The skin along his elbow wasn't quite as obnoxious in the rather distressing color of cracked leather and the feeling of being stung by some toxic insect as his situation was after he'd successfully put out the fire that had consumed what the female Tennyson called a make-shift oven. After apologizing about twenty-two times for the results of her trying to bake something called a truffle, Vilgax had been rather stunned when she'd shrieked at the burn on his arm and had hauled—well, pulled and pushed to the best of her abilities at her height and his willingness to allow it—him to the medical wing and started fluttering around the room while telling him to sit down so she could clean and clothe the wound.

"Oh God, I'm so sorry! I thought maybe I could make some homemade vanilla frosting for the truffles if I was quick, but I didn't take into account that I had no idea how to work the upper part of the oven and it took me over thirty minutes to get the bottom part working—so of course I didn't pay any attention to the smell of burning sugar with my head so far in the stupid thing! Might as well have just been a gas box so I could have ended myself and saved you the trouble—"


"But, then I guess if I had done that it would have been rather pointless seeing as then you would have missed out on tearing me a new one—"


She continued to prattle on as she nabbed out as much of the gauze and disinfectant from open cabinets [which would remain open until later that solar cycle, reflective surfaces gleaning from the bright white florescent bulbs above shining out from lamps and electric outlets that looked rather like Galvan eyes and the lining marks of Ghostfreak] that she could hold in her (tiny, matchstick) arms and took a seat in a chair that was twice the size of herself; her face level with his elbow and her spindly witch's hands applying wet cotton balls to the charred skin. He didn't even twitch when she also took out the large tweezers and started pulling away the dead tissue.

She was calculating, an odd mixture of Max Tennyson's facial expression and the sharp eye focus of her cousin, as she yanked off a large piece and saw the veined skin beneath. Gwen had looked up to see if he would snarl and object to the treatment, but he just looked down at her and allowed her to continue as her fingernails [he scoffed at even calling them nails when compared to his own they were no more than skin dipped in nitrogen and kept as such] kneaded away more of the skin on the underside of his elbow joint, flicking atop a much more sensitive patch of nerves. That got a reaction, though it wasn't quite what would have been expected from any sort of injury.

His arm jerked away from her ministrations and he had to clamp down on his own tongue [dry as it was after being confronted with fire, it wouldn't taste any better if he opened his mouth to swallow] to keep back a noise that did not go well with his bearing or his personality.

She didn't look at his face, but drew back her hand and closed her eyes, mouth worked into a frown and her shoulders solid in case she was yelled at for improper treatment.

"This… really isn't necessary," Vilgax said after a moment, free hand folding into the curve that she'd been administering aid to, hand bigger than a black bear's paw wrapping around the nerves that, when not burnt from saving the little-little girl from being swallowed in accidental flames, were solid and strong and barely felt at all, but seemed, when the skin was damaged, had the unfortunate effect of being [he shudders along the grooves of himself; large claw digging in and almost drawing blood] ticklish.

She blinked up at him [a hulking behemoth of pure, raw power and muscle that couldn't be brought down by anyone but Ben on a very good day; compared to her less than hundred pounds and figure almost as easy for him to break as it would be for her to snap a dry Thanksgiving wishbone] and raised her figure to stand, even if it didn't do much good while he was still taller than her one way or another, "Yes, it really is. You could get sick or the arm could get infected and fall off from lack of blood supply or gangrene. It's just a little more to go and then some gauze."

"I do not believe I am even able to get gangrene, child," Vilgax hissed down at her, fingers still tight even as she was bold enough to reach out and try and pry his hand away with both her own determination and as much force as she could put into wheedling her fingers around just one of his claws. It was amusing, if nothing else.

"Don't be such a baby and just let—me—finish!" Each pause was followed by her pulling harder; once even bracing her foot against the medical table Vilgax sat on and heaving so far back that she lost her grip and the warlord actually had to let go of his own arm to keep her from cracking her head [and maybe her spine] on the solid floor. It would not have been good of him to allow his hostage [lady guest; let it never be said that he was entirely without chivalry] to break her skull and then have to clean up her red blood from the little cracks and creases underfoot.

She squeaked from her position, his arm around her waist with Gwen's arms and legs hanging limp as a kitten carried around by its mother.

"Child, I have suffered much worse than a simple kitchen fire on my person. This burn isn't even first degree for one such as myself," he explained, getting up from his seat and setting her down [Gwen's feet were bare of both shoes and socks and Vilgax always looked at her toes when they wiggled up and down on cold surfaces before she started walking again; she always left behind little smudges with every step because of the dust and debris she walked on all through the ship on a daily basis since Vilgax had taken her up] so she could look up at him in embarrassment, blush setting fire to her own face, "This concern is unwarranted and not needed at all."

She surprised him [her reflexes and brain function were apparently much more advanced than Ben's; something Vilgax would probably have to remember if he ever decided to let her go further into the ship than her quarters, the kitchen and the small date library] by raising a brow and swiftly pecking her finger against the spot he had been hiding from her. She got quite the spectacular smile on her face when he jolted and his other hand went right back to hiding the loose skin from anymore assault.)

Since her discovery that Vilgax had a spot that she could exploit (not quite injure, not quite hurt, but just as important as the one place on a dragon that a knight could pierce with a sword to steal away the treasure the beast had been hoarding for upwards of a hundred years), Gwen had been ordered not to try and cook anything unless he was there and had been allowed (within reason, seeing as she was still a hostage and couldn't be given complete freedom—that term taking on less and less meaning as time went on and he barely used her anymore to threaten the Tennyson men when the warlord went back to get the Omnitrix and came back beaten every time) a little more room to wander around the ship. And when Vilgax meant she could wander a bit more, he meant that he had started locking the doors of the rooms he didn't want her in and she mostly just got to walk the halls and stretch her legs while humming odd song lyrics under her breath.

Vilgax sighed from his spot in the kitchen, making little clicks with his claws against the counter as Gwen cracked open a few eggs he had gotten her on his last trip to earth; she'd separate the yolk from the white and then use the yellow parts to make some sweet cookies that Vilgax had been a little vexed to put in his mouth the first time, but was more than happy to consume after he discovered just what chocolate could taste like. The clear fluid dribbled between her fingers like white wine before she carefully (amazing to Vilgax as it was something entirely impossible for the males of his race to do anything like that; violence practically a part of their everyday body functions) set the yellow part into a separate bowl and then started another one; the hard white and brown with spots shell pieces being set in the sink that had been installed after the third time she'd almost burnt the facility down and he'd figured it would be smart to have a source of water nearby.

She looked even smaller in the apron she'd made from scraps of damaged clothing picked up from after he'd been in battle with Ben and sewn together after she'd bugged him for three days straight to be given a needle and thread (he'd given into that eventually, like everything else having to do with her; the end result of her handiwork amounting to something that looked rather like purple leaves clinging like ivy from her waist down to her knees, held together by what had once been a sash Vilgax wore to hold onto swords Ben had inevitably broken in the form of Fourarms) and he continued to watch her little hands as the shell of another egg split on the rim of the yolk bowl, widening before plopping the insides onto her open palm. He didn't need to follow the movement of the shell to know it made its way perfectly into the drain of the sink.

At his feet, hidden in a lower shelf that used to be utilized to house spices from other planets, he kept a surplus of fire extinguishers that fit perfectly in his hands and would require every ounce of Gwen's upper and lower body strength to pick up; hence why he had taken to observing her every time she wanted to make something more complicated than a turkey sandwich.