"There you go, Princess," Maxima grinned, sliding a plate stacked high with waffles across the table. It came to a clean stop in front of Kula, just as he'd calculated it would, and the girl's magenta eyes sparkled gleefully at the offered bounty. "Eat up."
She was all too eager to oblige. Pale fingers tore off the lid of the icecream tub sitting by her elbow, tossing it aside with a clatter. Her spoon went in, then emerged with a scoop twice the size the utensil was supposed to hold. She pushed it off with a finger, onto the top of her waffle stack, and dived back into the tub for another scoop. And another. And another, still. A small river of syrup followed on its heels, liquid gold sliding over the mounds of icecream and off the sides of the waffles like a sugary waterfall. A small handful of strawberries were tossed on top as a last minute afterthought before Kula dug in with gusto. The first portion she cut away barely fit in her mouth, and a tiny trickle of syrup and partially melted icecream escaped from a corner as she chewed. Foxy and Diana would have scolded her for being messy if they were here, but she couldn't help it. Uncle made the absolute best waffles!
Maxima watched the girl chow down with amusement over the rim of his coffee. "It's not going to run away, you know. Take your time and enjoy it." Kula did slow down at his behest, albeit begrudgingly. Though she continued to shovel too-large mouthfuls of syrup-and-icecream-soggy waffles into her mouth, to which Maxima rolled his eyes. She must have caught the action, because she poked her tongue out at him in retaliation. He pulled a face at the partially eaten food stuck to it. "Don't be too cheeky, now. Or I'll give your seconds to K' instead."
"He doesn't even like waffles," she pointed out after swallowing that mouthful, cheeks puffing out into a pout. He may still eat them anyway if he was feeling spiteful, though; he did that to get a rise out of her, every so often. So just to be safe, Kula inched her plate closer towards herself, hunching over it protectively. It was then that a realisation struck her. She frowned, slowly uncurling again to peer down both ends of the table. They were empty. "Where is K', anyway? Is he still sleeping?" That wasn't like him. For all his laziness and late nights, he was always up and dressed long before she was. Something must be wrong…
"He is." Maxima confirmed. "He's not feeling well."
Kula frowned at the news. "Did I hit him too hard during training yesterday?" He hadn't been fighting as well as he usually did - had seemed rather out of it, looking back on it, actually… - and as a result, she'd managed to get a few good hits in that he normally would have blocked or dodged easily. Her hits were always hard, even when she held back. And K', for all the genetic manipulations to his body, was weaker than she was in the grand scheme of things, so he always got hurt more. Because he was a natural-born human with artificial parts stitched haphazardly, unstably, into him. Whereas she was purely artificial, constructed with perfection in mind, her powers a natural part of her.
Maxima shook his head. "No, no. I meant that he's ill." He paused briefly in consideration, then added, "Though I think he's still recovering from that chest kick, too."
Kula winced, recalling the distinct crack of ribs from that particular blow she'd dealt. Magenta eyes were cast meekly downward at her half-eaten food. She liked Maxima, and he liked her too; they shared a mutual love of sweets, and he doted on her like the kind uncle she'd christened him as. But he had a softer spot for K'. They'd worked together longer, and been friends – partners in crime – for a good couple of years before she had even entered the picture, after all. And sometimes, when he thought nobody was paying attention, he looked at K' the same way Foxy and Diana looked at her; like family he loved very much. "I'm sorry…"
She let out a mild noise of protest when she felt a huge hand ruffling her hair just a smidge too hard for her liking.
Maxima retracted his hand with a chuckle. He let it rest on the table, next to his coffee, and offered her a kind smile when she looked up at him. "It's fine, Kula. Accidents happen. Though you should really be apologising to K', not me."
An uncertain hum passed Kula's lips. Her fork was twirled absently through the sludgy mess of melted icecream and syrup on her plate. Apologising to K' on a good day was hard enough. But past experience had taught her that trying to do so while he was injured was almost as painful as pulling out teeth, since the inactivity of forced bedrest always made him a million times grumpier than usual. She released a weary sigh. "I'll try, Uncle. But he'll probably just tell me to go away…"
"That's all I ask." Maxima reached for his coffee, bringing it towards his lips for a sip… Then paused. A little smile brought the corners of his mouth curling upwards into a peculiar grin. As though he knew something she didn't. "You never know though, Princess. He might just surprise you."
She cocked her head, releasing a questioning hum as she did so in a wordless plea for elaboration. Maxima didn't say anything more on the matter though. He simply went back to enjoying his coffee, eyes still glittering mirthfully at her over the rim of his mug because of whatever secret it was he was keeping close to his chest. Kula huffed at him, returning to her breakfast moody but curious.
One finished plate of waffles and a clean face later found Kula shuffling uncertainly in front of K's door, despite her misgivings. She moved away briefly to poke her head around the corner and peer into the kitchen, hoping Maxima and his comforting presence might instill some courage in her for the task ahead. Or for him to take pity on her, and let her slip out of it. Unfortunately, his back was to her. And, judging from the soft humming as he washed the dishes, he was too completely engrossed in his task (or pretending to be) to notice her. Kula sighed in resignation, padding back toward's K's door. Well, here went nothing. She twisted the knob and pushed the door inwards as slowly and quietly as possible. On the other side, his room was dark, save for the gradually expanding sliver of light pouring in from her side of the open door, as well as the outline of his window from behind thick drapes drawn tightly closed.
"K'?" She called out softly. Not so much as a grunt of acknowledgement answered her. Kula licked dry lips uncertainly. "Um. I'm coming in, okay?"
WIthout further ceremony she slipped in, squishing the short carpet between her toes. With every mincing step taken towards K's bed, Kula expected him to suddenly bark out in annoyance and demand she leave. Instead, the blanket-bundled lump where she assumed he was wrapped up didn't stir. In fact, there continued to be a distinct lack of movement from K' up until the moment she stood at the head of his bed, peering down at him uncertainly. Even with the lack of good light, her eyes were keen enough to pick up the beads of sweat dotting his temple, and the knit between his silver brows. He shifted as though stirred by her scrutiny, cracking open a hazy blue eye that rolled up in her direction.
"What?" he asked, voice thick and groggy.
This was it: Apology Time. She just had to say she was sorry for breaking his ribs during training yesterday and she could go. And if he started yelling at her, well. That would be even more incentive to beat a hasty retreat. Easy peasy.
"You look really hot," she blurted out. Which was… definitely not an apology. But her motor mouth kept going, anyway, much to her alarm and mild horror. "Do you want some icecream?"
He blinked at her – Once. Twice. – looking and sounding utterly confused. "Uhh… no?"
"Oh." Of course he didn't. He didn't like icecream; hated sweets in general, honestly. And she knew that, but her mouth apparently had a mind of its own right now.
After a few moments of awkward silence K' rolled over onto his side, sighing and half-burying his face into the pillow. His eyes slipped shut. "Somethin' else you needed to say?" The question came out muffled due to the fact that his mouth was smooshed against the pillow. There wasn't any sort of baiting in his tone, like Kula had expected. Just sleepy curiosity.
"Oh. Um. Yeah…" A bead of sweat slid between K's brows, heading down the slope of his nose. On impulse, she reached out, thumbing it away before it could complete the journey. He twitched at the contact, prying open an eye again to look at her in foggy confusion. Still no yelling; that was as good a sign as any that her apology would go over well, for a change. Maybe this was what Maxima's earlier knowing look had been about? "I… I'm really, really, really sorry for hurting you yesterday. I didn't mean to, I swear! I thought you'd dodge that kick, but…" she trailed off, wringing her hands together in nervous anticipation of the yelling to come.
He blinked at her incomprehensibly for a couple of seconds until understanding finally dawned. Oh, right. Training yesterday. Man, this fever was seriously fogging up his thoughts... "'S fine. Don't worry about it. I shouldn't have been fighting in the first place anyway; knew I was getting sick…"
And yet he'd done it anyway. Because he was stubborn to a fault, and refused to be the weakest link of the group, despite the fact that… he kind of actually was. Maxima had a cybernetic body built like a tank, Kula was a carefully crafted test tube baby with incredible cryokinetic abilities. And K'… what was he in comparison? Just a broken kid with a bad attitude and equally temperamental flames he could only wield from one fist. Which were prone to hurting him more than helping, anyway. He was useless. A liability. So why they kept him around and tolerated his perpetual prickliness was a mystery. They should just… toss him aside already and be done with it. Like he was certain they wanted to do.
K' hadn't realised he'd been drifting back into another fitful bout of sleep until the mattress dipping startled him awake. "What are you doing?" he asked, watching Kula crawl over the top of him. She didn't answer him. Instead, her knee bumped his and a clump of blonde hair brushed against his bare shoulder during her passing. She flopped onto the other side of him, mattress bouncing briefly with the motion, and released a satisfied huff. The sheets shifted, tugged up and away from him and then down again as she made herself comfortable underneath them too. "Oi, Kula…"
"Turn around," she ordered.
"Just do it, K'."
He let out an annoyed huff. She could be so frigging demanding when she wanted something; a veritable bratty little princess. "My ribs still hurt, idiot," he groused, but complied regardless, groaning as the bones in question complained. "Happy?"
"Mhmm," Kula hummed. She scooted close, pressing their foreheads together. His was burning hot to the touch and damp with sweat. Slowly, carefully, she proceeded to wrap an arm around K's shoulders. When he stiffened but didn't recoil, she gently tugged him even closer.
"What are you doing?" The same question as before, but warier. This close, the dark circles under his eyes looked more prominent, which in turn made the blue of his eyes stand out more. Kula had always thought they were a pretty shade; that it was a shame he always hid them behind his sunglasses. "Those giant women are gonna have my head if you get sick, y'know."
"I've actually never been sick before," Kula mused. Except for that one time she ate his cooking, anyway… But that was a different flavour of sickness altogether, apparently. Perks of being an artificial human. Her next breath, and the rest that followed, were cold. As were the areas where the pair's skin met. The strawberry blonde of her hair melted into pale blue, rising on a minor gust of self-generated icy wind before draping back across her shoulders like a frigid shawl. "What's it like?"
"Lucky brat… It sucks." K' released a small groan as the chill from their connected foreheads eased some of the burning. His eyes fluttered shut, savouring the small slice of relief she'd granted him with her powers. "Y'feel heavy. And hot and… it's hard to think. Foggy." Little by little, the tenseness was starting to bleed out of his shoulders. The haggard lines etched into his face also began smoothing out some, making him look younger; like the weight of the world was finally sliding off of his shoulders. "And just… tired."
"That does sound bad."
"Mm." Already, his breaths were beginning to even out, the blooms of warmth they brought to her freezing skin slowing in frequency. That was good. He needed the rest; because even if he wasn't sick, insomnia and nightmares ensured he got little of it.
Kula yawned, the gust of cool air against K's face eliciting a twitch. But the rhythm of his breathing didn't change: still slow, still even; marked by every rise and fall of his chest. She was starting to feel tired just watching him, her own lids heavy. A quick nap couldn't hurt… It wasn't as though she had anything important to do today, anyways. She yawned again, nuzzling K's forehead – soft strands of flyaway silver tickling her skin with every small movement – before giving in to the urge to close her eyes.