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Hearts of Storm

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Yui leaned forward to wipe the steam off the mirror. Her reflection stared back at her, this time cleared of the blood and dirt that covered her before she stepped into the shower.

She couldn’t remember exactly how she got here. She was in a state of shock when Shaw led her away from the scene and by the time she realized, she was already at one of his workshops. Now, only her sore arms told the story of how tightly she must have held onto him during what was no doubt a high-speed skateboard trip.

“Get cleaned up. Don’t get my workshop dirty and stinky.” He said contemptuously, throwing her a towel along with some fresh clothes, before practically dumping her inside the bathroom.

She was going to protest until she saw herself in the bathroom mirror. Her hair was grey, covered in dust and her dress, hands, and legs stained dark red from the dried blood. She looked like she stepped out of a horror movie, except the horror was real.

Now that she scrubbed herself clean in the shower, she felt a bit calmer than before. Though still sporting hollowed cheeks and dark circles from the lack of food and sleep in the previous few days, she looked a bit more like herself.

She stared at the clothes sitting on top of the vanity. A black t-shirt and a pair of shorts. She didn’t realize earlier, but neither of the items was for women and, judging by their size, they probably belonged to Shaw. She didn’t want to put them on. Wearing a man’s clothes denotes some kind of intimacy between them. She didn’t want that intimacy.

Picking up her dress, she contemplated putting it back on, but the bloodstains and the ripped holes reminded her too much of the earlier carnage.

Sighing, she discarded the dress into the garbage and reluctantly put on Shaw’s t-shirt and shorts.

When she stepped out of the bathroom, Shaw looked up from his phone and immediately burst out in laughter.

Yui stared daggers at him. Of course, she knew how ridiculous she looked in his clothes. His fitted t-shirt engulfed her, its neckline so wide one side almost fell off her shoulder and its helm reaching her mid-thighs. The shorts, luckily, had a string to tie around its waist to prevent it from falling off her hips, but it wore so long on her that they covered her knees.

A red object flew towards her. Yui barely had time to reflexively hold out her hands to catch it before it hit her face.

A can of Coca Cola.

“Drink.” He jerked his chin towards it before he took a sip from his own glass while standing in the kitchen.

Yui had a feeling he was drinking his favorite Coca Cola mixed with Pepsi again. She tried it before but didn't see the appeal. It tasted just like Coke.

Shaw’s workshop was more like a studio apartment than anything, fully equipped with a kitchen, a bathroom, a bed, a sofa, and a TV. The only thing that made it a workshop was the large table in one corner with a computer and some machinery that she didn’t recognize.

She didn’t ask him what they were for; didn’t think she would want to know.

Walking over to the living area, she sat on the sofa against the graffitied wall. She was thankful that Shaw protected her, saving her from the horrendous scene of the explosion, but she was still uncomfortable with being so close to him. She wanted to put some distance between them.

Pulling out her phone, she checked the news. The incident dominated the headlines of multiple media outlets, but other than reporting the preliminary number of injuries and deaths still under investigation, no insights were revealed.

“There was a total of seven bombs,” Shaw said casually as he dug through a cupboard.

“Seven?” She exclaimed. Did more people get hurt or killed? Did Gavin get hurt?

“The NW took care of the rest. No further injuries.” He told her as if reading her mind.

Yui sighed in relief. She didn’t know how Shaw got his information, but having worked with him for over half a year, she knew she could trust the integrity of it. Still, she worried about Gavin.

Gavin was built to protect. Even if he was physically unharmed, he would surely blame himself for not being able to prevent so many innocents from injury and death. In the past, she was able to stay by his side to share his burden, but now, he was alone, by himself.

She was so deep in thought when Shaw suddenly plopped down on the other side of the sofa that she almost jumped.

“They timed it for maximum casualties. Hard to say if they had a specific person in mind as their target though.” Compared to the seriousness of the issue discussed, his tone was casual, almost relaxed. But the dangerous glint in his eyes made her wonder if, deep inside, he was just as upset about the bombing as she was.

“Who would have done something like that?” She continued the conversation while attempting to move away from him discreetly, trying to put some distance between them.

He frowned at her action as he quickly reached out to grab her, his long fingers encircled her delicate wrist. “What are you backing up for?”

“Let go! What are you trying to do?” Yui yelled, turning her wrist the way Gavin taught her when they did the self-defense shoot.

Knowing exactly what she was trying to do, Shaw easily diffused her movements. Her wrists remained firmly in his grasp.

“Trying to patch you up.” He chuckled amusingly. “What did you think I was going to do?”

“Huh?” It was only then that she noticed the first aid kit he laid out on the coffee table and the tweezer he was holding with an alcohol-soaked cotton ball at the end. She felt awkward for overreacting, but considering what had happened between them only a few days ago, she was hardly to blame. “I… I can do it myself.”

“Stop struggling.” He held on tighter without hurting her, that amused smile still plastered on his face. “It’s not like you can break away anyway.”

Yui was still not quite comfortable with his proximity but knew he spoke the truth. If the self-defense moves Gavin taught her didn’t work on Shaw, she had no chance of getting away from him. Giving up, she sighed and let him treat the cuts on her hand and forearm.

It stung a bit when he applied the alcohol to her wound, but she could feel that he was taking care not to hurt her unnecessarily.

She didn’t understand him. Shaw could be selfish. Often, he did whatever he wanted without the consideration of others, but at times like these, he was surprisingly gentle. She wondered if there was a side of him that she didn’t know or didn’t care to get to know before because she was so absorbed in her own grief of losing Gavin.

“Was it because of me not picking up the phone?” She asked softly after a long moment of staring at the lavender-colored hair on the top of his head.

“What was?”

“The information I got from working in the amusement park. It didn’t specify the location, no?” Her fingers unconsciously curled to hold on to his, stopping him from applying antiseptic cream on her wounds. “You were calling me to try to get me back in there to get that information, no?”

Yui could feel his hands froze for a moment before he lifted his head to stare straight into her eyes. Those amber eyes seemed to be able to look right through her. She felt naked with all her vulnerabilities exposed under his gaze, but she refused to look away. The questions had been eating away at her since she was at the scene of the explosion. She needed to know.

Instead of a straight answer, she got a flick on her forehead.

“Ouch! What did you do that for?” Rubbing her forehead, she complained.

“For being dumb,” Shaw took her wrist again, pulling her hand back down before wrapping gauze around her injured hands. “Haven’t I told you I have other informants?”

“But I was the one who got the original information. It would have been easier if I got back in than to send someone else to start all over again.”

“Guess you really didn’t notice him.”

“Him? You mean you sent more than just me there?”

“You think I’d send you in by yourself?” He arched his broken eyebrow and gave her a look that screamed “duh”.

Yui frowned. She wasn’t sure if he meant that he wouldn’t send her in by herself because it was an important mission and he didn’t want to risk her messing it up or whether he thought it was dangerous and wanted her to have back up.

She decided it was probably a bit of both.

“Then why were you calling me?”

“To get you back in, of course.” He said matter-of-factly.

This conversation was going nowhere and was giving her a headache. There was no point in asking him about whether she played a part in the inability to prevent the bombing. He wasn’t about to give her a straight answer. Besides, what kind of an answer was she fishing for anyway?

Did she want him to tell her that there was no chance of changing today’s outcome even if she had picked up the phone and went back to the amusement park in an attempt to collect more information?

Or did she simply want him to confirm that by not answering her phone, she lost any chance of preventing all the injuries and deaths today?

What good would either answer do?

The truth was that ever since she came to this dimension, she was so overwhelmed by the grief of losing Gavin that the only thing she could think about was how to make him regain the memory of her again. That had been her one and only goal - her sole focus - and because of that she lived in her own bubble. She was detached and uncaring of what was happening in the world.

She hadn’t been the compassionate person who fought for justice alongside Gavin. The old her would have investigated as soon as she saw the list of chemicals in the data she stole, but she had been so wrapped up in her own turmoil that she didn’t even give it a second thought of what they might be used for.

Annoyed and disappointed at herself for letting despair overwhelm her to the point of losing sight of what was important, Yui raised her hand wanting to shove it through her hair in frustration, when, belatedly, she realized they were bound together. Shaw had wrapped the bandage around her wrists while she was being distracted by her self-loathing.

“Untie me!” She demanded.

“Nope.” He chuckled as he reached under her knees and yanked her calves up to rest on his thighs.

“This is not funny!”

“The more you struggle, the longer this is going to take. So, be a good girl and let me finish.” He said as he began to roll up her shorts to reveal her scratched up knees. “And, yes. It is funny.”

As she contemplated whether she should kick that annoying smirk off his face, she suddenly realized that he might have done this for a purpose beyond his own amusement.

Of course, he was amused by it, but was it truly a coincidence that he did it while she was in the middle of self-loathing? Could it be that he did it to snap her out of it?

She snuck a peek at him. Although he still held that stupid smirk on his face, he was concentrating on treating her scraped knee. There was no telling whether she was right in her guess.

Either way, she was thankful for the distraction.

There was no point in beating herself up for what she didn’t do. Instead, she needed to get her act together moving forward.

There were clearly bigger issues at play in this dimension than her own. While she wouldn’t give up on her pursuit of righting the memories of those around her, she shouldn’t remain a bystander anymore.

She would work to help and protect innocents as much as she could from now on, just like she did with Gavin in the past. She couldn’t let herself be overwhelmed by her own despair to the point where she lost sight of what was important anymore.

“I won’t ignore your calls anymore,” she told him resolutely.

Shaw didn’t look at her, but his thin lips curved into an approving smile.

True to his word, it didn’t take long for Shaw to finish treating the wounds on her legs. She moved her legs off of him and held out her wrists so that he could untie her. To her surprise, he complied without making a fuss.

It wasn’t until he stood up to go put the first aid kit back that Yui noticed it. There was a huge gash on the back of his leather jacket at his right shoulder blade.

“Wait!” She instinctively grabbed his sleeve to halt him from leaving. “Are you injured?”

“Huh?” He turned his head to see where she was looking and shrugged. “It’s probably just a scratch.”

“Take off your jacket. Let me see.” She wouldn’t believe him unless she saw for herself. She had been with Gavin long enough to know that men had a tendency to try to downplay these things.

“Oh, so impatient to see me naked?” He teased, putting on an overly exaggerated flirtatious expression.

“Not funny,” Yui said in a stern manner. This might have been an acceptable joke before, but considering their current relationship, she was in no mood for it.

Perhaps he too realized his joke was inappropriate, Shaw obeyed without any further teasing. A large area with dark red bloodstain was revealed once he took off his jacket.

“I knew it.” Gasping at the sight, she gently pulled him to sit back on the sofa.

As he peeled his bloodstained tops off, the long angry gash appeared in front of her. The cut extended from the mid-shoulder blade up and ran the length of her hand. She couldn’t see how deep it was since it was mostly covered in dried blood now, but he must have torn it open just now as small drops of blood began to trickle down his back.

“You need stitches for this.” She frowned.

Shaw fished his phone out of his pocket, reached back and took a photo of his injury. He took a brief moment to look at the picture and declared, “It’s just a scratch.”

Yui looked at him disapprovingly. She wanted to drag him to the doctor to get it properly treated, but the way he dismissed it reminded her too much of Gavin. There was no convincing Gavin to go to the doctors when he thought the injury was minor, she had a feeling that Shaw would be the same.

Sighing for the nth time today, she gave up on the thought of arguing with him and instead told him to stay put.

She was well aware of his eyes focusing on her as she got up to head to the bathroom. He was probably unsure what she planned to do until she came back out with a wet towel and sat behind him.

Gently, she pressed the towel against his wound.

“What are you doing?”

“Returning the favor.” With careful hands, she wiped the dried blood off him. “I’ll patch you up.”

Twisting around, he looked at her with his eyebrows raised. It was almost as if she said something he had never heard before and it amused him. It was strange. She expected him to question her first aid ability instead.

“Turn around. Stop looking at me.” She ordered as she grabbed the first aid kit from his hands.

She had seen him fight other evolvers before. Unlike Gavin, who always held back and refrained from unnecessarily injuring his opponents, Shaw’s victories were always overwhelming. So, she was surprised to see his first aid kit so well-stocked.

She couldn’t help but wonder if he had to bandage his own wounds more often than she previously thought.

The gash on his shoulder looked even more gruesome once she cleaned off the dried blood and dirt covering it. The skin had split open, revealing dark pink flesh. While the bleeding had mostly stopped, some blood was still trickling out from the parts with a deeper cut.

Carefully, Yui applied antiseptic onto the open wound, her face scrunched up. “Let me know if it hurts.”

Shaw reached back and pinched her cheek.

“Hey! What was that for?” Protesting, she pushed away his hand and rubbed her slightly reddened cheek with the back of her hand.

“You were making a stupid face.” He chuckled; eyes full of amusement. “Hey, I’m the injured one here. Why are you the one making the face?”

“But it looks so painful!”

“This? It’s nothing.” He shrugged his shoulders. The movement stretched the skin around his wound, restarting a trickle of blood from it again.

“Stop moving!” She glared at him for a moment before putting more antiseptic on him and leaning in to gently blow on it to help it dry faster.

As she wasn’t responding further, he turned back around. He was about to reach for his phone to see if there were any more updates from his informants, when he heard her say, “Thank you for saving me.”

Her voice was soft, so soft that he almost didn’t hear her.

“Good that you realized.” His teasing started immediately again. “You were wiggling so hard I almost dropped you.”

She almost retorted, asking him who’s fault did he think it was? If it wasn’t because of what happened a few days ago, she probably wouldn’t have responded the same way.

She thought better of it, didn’t want to broach the subject. She would much rather put her head in the sand and pretend that night never happened and if she didn't talk about it, hopefully, Shaw wouldn’t either.

Although it still looked incredibly painful, his back now looked a lot less like a scene from a horror movie since she closed it with the wound mending kit.

Picking up the roll of gauze, she wrapped it around his shoulder several times before reaching around his broad chest, but soon realized she was sitting too far and her arms were too short to go all the way around him.

Reluctantly, she leaned in closer, then closer. By the time she was finally able to reach around and pass the gauze to her other hand, she was almost leaning directly on his back she could feel the heat emanating from his bare skin on her face.

“You turned into a tomato,” Shaw laughed when he saw her flushed face as she reached for the tape to secure the gauze in place.

As she taped the loose end of the wrap in place Yui glared at him, for the umpteenth time today, silently telling him to shut the hell up.

Completely ignoring her dirty look, he leaned close to her and whispered, “What were you thinking that got your face so red?”

Giving him yet another glare, she slowly tore off another short piece of tape. Looking him straight in the eyes, Yui smiled, then with an audible smack, slapped the tape over his infuriating smirk.

For a moment, Shaw paused in surprise, then, to Yui’s annoyance, his eyes lit up and he chuckled even louder.