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In the Absence of Rain

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  In the Junkyard, rain was an essential part of life.

  Rain washed down upon the dead, promoted the cycle of reincarnation. It cleansed the land, and it never ceased to fall. Not only that, but it kept the inhabitants of the Junkyard clean as well, washing away the blood and grime, yet never leaving a trace of itself.

  The city lacked the downpour, and after three days of fighting and navigating the tunnels, it became horribly obvious that this world was nothing like the Junkyard.

  "You guys smell like week old blood," Fred complained, and Serph frowned at that. "Don't you guys take showers in the Junkyard?"

  "It was never a necessity," Gale stated, "The rain cleansed everything." He hadn't been particularly fond of the feeling of rain, but he was starting to miss it. Fred hung behind the group, pinching his nose in a childish manner with a grin as they headed back to the underground city.

  "I'll show you guys where the showers are when we get back, you really need it."


  Argilla's face bore nothing but relief after showering, and it was odd seeing her with her hair down. She wore the clothes lent to them by Roland while their uniforms were cleaned, and she sighed gently when she sat down across from Serph. "I miss the rain," Argilla hummed, and Serph nodded. "I don't miss smelling like a pile of damn corpses, who's next?" Gale hesitated at the question, and Serph immediately shot up, Argilla calling out instructions as they left.

  "You look a bit anxious," She turned her attention to Gale, who seemed less than pleased at the idea of a bath. "Guess it's all those electronics in your head, huh?" She wondered what they even felt like, or looked like. Bishops scarcely removed their hoods, she bet he even slept with it on.

  "Yes," he huffed, "even the Junkyard rain was uncomfortable, I can't say I'm excited about this." But it wasn't like he could avoid it, unless he wanted the enemy to smell him a mile away. Gale shook his head, and the two waited in relative silence for Serph to return. Fred eventually barged in with his little gang of children and pulled Argilla back outside to see what all the commotion was about, leaving Gale to dread the next 5 minutes.

  Serph finally reappeared, looking much better than before, and gave him a sympathetic look. "Just don't take off your hood?" They suggested, and Gale frowned.

  "We'll see how this goes."

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  The water was cold, much colder than rain. A few drops on his head made it feel like the metal was digging painfully into him, something Gale had never felt before. Junkyard rain had always been lukewarm, and while it was an odd sensation it had never hurt like this. Attempt two was no better, and Gale hated to do so but on top of today's exhaustion he didn't want to deal with it. It hardly mattered that his hair felt gross anyways, the smell of blood was off him now, and that was good enough.

  Serph watched him as he stepped back into the room, half-dressed. They seemed a little curious, probably at his current lack of a hood, but made no comment on it. Instead, they commented on the scowl on his face. "How'd it go?"

  Gale shook his head, "the water is nothing like the rain," he began, and then sighed, shaking his head, signalling to his leader that he didn't want to continue. Serph patted the spot next to him, and Gale sat beside him, resting his arms on his knees and muttering something.

  "May I?" Serph asked, a hand raised next to the bishop's head, and he thought for a moment, before nodding. Their fingers gently threaded themselves into his hair, carefully avoiding the delicate metallic bits, and they frowned. Gale reached up to run a hand through their hair, which they allowed with no protest, and found it to be as soft as he'd expected. After a sigh of frustration from Gale, Serph raised another question. "Want me to help?"

  Green eyes looked up at him curiously, "How?" he questioned back, and Serph shuffled hesitantly. Perhaps it was best to find out, rather than to wonder, so Gale nodded, and watched as Serph transformed.

  Varna loomed over him, puffed a soft breath, and gave his hair a long, experimental lick. That felt weird. The demon made a soft noise, and Gale tilted his head just slightly, letting their tongue groom the side of his forehead. It was dry and rough, much like sandpaper, but it didn't feel as dreadful as the cold water against the metal ports and sensors in his head. This was warmer, even if it was odd, and a lick behind his ear sent an odd sensation through him, making him shiver.

  The bone claws in Varna's arms extended ever so slightly, and Gale felt a twinge of unease before he remembered they made it impossible for them to bend their wrists properly, and soon the padded hands shifted him onto the demon's lap, where they could groom him better. The soft rumble that came from his leader was reassuring, and soon they'd picked up a rhythm. A few minutes later, and they pulled away with a triumphant little hum, followed by what sounded like a chortle. Serph changed back and their snicker was much more obvious.

  "Sorry, I think I made your hair a mess," they stifled their laughter, and Gale sighed, running a hand through his hair and trying to fix it, Serph doing the same. At least it definitely felt cleaner, even if it smelled a bit like saliva, and the back of his neck, ears, and forehead felt sore from the sandpaper texture.

  "Thank you," he hummed, and stood to put on the rest of his clothes and find his hood, Serph flashing him a toothy grin. He wouldn't mind doing this again some other day.