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Shelter Short 8

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    Why did she always insist on climbing in through the window? Ruka wanted to ask--he knew it was the safest way to let her in and avoid her being seen by Brock--though, the act carried its own dangers.

    To be fair, there really wasn’t another way that she was going to sneak into his room safely, not at three in the morning when Ruka had a shift at eight.

    He reached his hands out, grabbing the middle of Pom’s arms as she, albeit briefly, flailed about--her gasp was quiet, but her expression of panic and distress said it all when she initially lost her balance. “Here,” He whispered, pulling her closer to her entryway. “I’ve got you.”

 

    Pom laughed awkwardly, almost anxiously, as she gripped at his forearms--careful to avoid his fresh bruises and cuts, of course--and moved into Ruka’s room with his help. “Thanks, I would’ve died without you.”

    She didn’t wait for his response to pull his arms up and inspect them a bit more closely--usually Ruka took care of any injuries himself, but tonight, Pom had a gut feeling that something was wrong--and it was. It had kept her tossing and turning, and while she applauded herself for not checking her phone every few minutes to cope with the boredom of staring up at a dark ceiling, when she heard her phone go off--and saw that the notification was from Ruka, she didn’t hesitate to check and see what was up.

 

    Ruka was usually up late, but he wasn’t usually immediately willing to ask her to come over when he saw that she was also up at odd hours.

    But this time, he reached out to her . She didn’t offer (though, she repeatedly reminded him that any time he wanted or needed, she would be there)--usually she pushed that she would come over when he was upset, hurt, or stressed--this time, though, Ruka asked her if she could come over.

 

    He knew it was risky, any time they spent together in his house--or anywhere his uncle might see them close.

    But he didn’t want to be alone. Not now. He couldn’t .

 

    Quick to act, Pom threw together a dark, comfortable outfit, threw a bag with a first-aid kit and some of her snack-stash over her shoulder, and immediately snuck out of her house.

 

    And now, she saw the fresh bruises and cuts on his arm, the deep scratches—are these knife marks? She thought to herself. Some looked like they could have been caused by human fingernails—those specifically likely Ruka’s own self-inflicted wounds.

    She felt her throat swell as tears started to sting in her eyes; she swallowed hard, and—while still holding one of Ruka’s hands in her own—started to dig through her bag. Of course, she had come prepared for almost anything—rubbing alcohol pads, antibiotic ointment, gauze, medical tape, band-aids, hell, even a mini-first-aid kit was placed on Ruka’s desk.

 

    As much as she wanted to cry, as much as she wanted to barge out of Ruka’s room and give Brock a piece of her mind, she knew that she couldn’t.

    Ruka saw the mixed bag of emotions contorting on her face; he forced a small smile and reached out with his free hand, gently petting the top of her head in an attempt at quelling her building rage. “I’m fine now that you’re here?” He said as softly, as reassuring, as he could. “Really.”

    “You can’t tell me you’re fine—where else are you hurt?” She pulled the hand in hers close to her face, rubbing her cheek against it.

    Ruka hesitated; It’ll be better if I just tell her, she can actually help. He reminded himself. She’s here for you. You can trust her. “My back. Mostly my back. My head hurts, but—“

    Pom didn’t let him finish; she dropped his hand and pulled not one , but three different bottles of pain medicine from her bag.

    “Sorry, is this too much?” She smiled anxiously. “I know my mom can’t have some types of pain killers—asthma messes with it? And then some work better than others, depending on what’s up. And I don’t exactly know what you’re allergic t—“

    “That… That’s way more than enough. Thanks.”

    “I said that I had you covered, right? Oh, I brought a bottle of water, too.”

    Ruka nodded in response, watching and wincing as Pom carefully rubbed an alcohol pad across the scratches on his arm. “Sorry, I know, I know, it stings.”

    “It’s fine.” Ruka hesitated, his voice low and distant. “Can you get the ones on my back?”

    “Yeah, why wouldn’t I?” She gave the sleeve of his t-shirt a small tug. “Turn around and lift this? We can sit down, if you want. It’d probably be better for you if we did…”

    Ruka quietly sat on the edge of his, lifting his shirt to the nape of his neck, far enough for her to see the full scope of his back—the cuts, the bruises, the scars…

    Is this the first time she’s actually seen any of this? He thought to himself. He assumed her face twisted in a mix of disgust and hurt, maybe rage—not at him, never at him. It was always directed at his uncle.

    Regardless, she sat next to him and quietly treated and patched the wounds on his back, her hands working delicately, carefully, as softly as she could; when she would hit a particularly sore spot, or the rubbing alcohol would burn enough to make Ruka hiss in pain, she would murmur an apology and pause, and then she would wait for him to tell her to keep going. Otherwise, she said nothing.

 

    “There,” she reached up, taking the hem of Ruka’s shirt in her hand and giving it a gentle tug to lower it. “Feeling any better?”

    “A lot, actually…” Ruka adjusted his shirt before turning to face her again. “Thanks, seriously. You came on such short notice, and—“

    “You keep saying thanks, but you don’t have to? If I’m awake and I can, I’ll always come when you need me.” She offered a small smile when she caught his eyes meeting her own; it was another attempt at reassurance, her usual kind and friendly, though always genuine (to him, at least) smile.

    “If you want to stay the night, you can? We just… Have to be awake extremely early. Again.”

    “Pf, of course we do, Stubborn Kitten.” She gently nudged his thankfully uninjured ribs with her elbow, rolling her eyes. “We always have to be up early when I sleep over. It’s not new.”

    “I just wanted to make sure you were okay with it.”

    “You know I always am.”