As the car finally grinds to a stop, Laurel is more annoyed than upset. They usually don't get themself caught in close combat at all, much less slip up badly enough to need stitches. Of course they'd killed both their target and their pursuer, but the interaction still chafes their ego.
"We're here," Aurion tells them. "You can walk like 10 feet to the door, right?"
"Of course I can," Laurel replies, a bit harshly. They get out of the car, and are surprised to not see an actual doctor's office, or even any kind of office building. Instead, they're in the suburbs, a dark row of duplexes stretching out before them under the faint glow of street lights.
Before they can turn around to ask Aurion where the hell they're going to find a doctor around here, the car screeches away. Laurel rolls their eyes.
Having no other real options, they limp towards the nearest entrance. They're unhappy to note four stairs between the driveway and the door, but they refuse to let their injury slow them that much, even as blood seeps through their makeshift bandage and trickles down their leg.
Before they can ring the bell, the door swings open. Staring up at them with the wide eyes of someone who's had more caffeine than their body can reasonably handle is a kind of scrawny figure wearing a t-shirt with nothing on it, and faded jeans.
"You're Laurel, right?" the person in the doorway asks, eir body positioned to block Laurel from entering.
"The one and only," Laurel replies. Their smile is forced, made to look even more fake by the cold sweat beading on their forehead.
"Kyren," ey says, and Laurel can only assume it's meant as an introduction. Ey turns away from the door without closing it, and that's as much of an invitation as Laurel gets.
There's a light on in the kitchen, but the hallway is still dark, especially in the small hours of the night. Laurel makes an effort to walk with confidence, even after Kyren starts ascending a flight of stairs.
Ey gets to the top before even thinking to turn around. "Oh, it's your leg, huh?" ey asks. "Do you need a hand?"
"If you're offering, it would be my pleasure to accept," Laurel replies, a stubborn half a smile still plastered to their face.
Kyren makes eir way back down the stairs, silent in eir sock feet. Ey slides under Laurel's arm, and ey isn't exactly short, but Laurel is tall enough that draping themself half over Kyren's shoulders is no challenge. As much as they dislike having to rely on anyone, the faint warmth of Kyren's shoulder is significantly more comforting than the chill of eir railing.
Eir hand at the small of their back, too, is not unwelcome.
Despite Laurel's enjoyment of their proximity, Kyren disengages as soon as they get to the top of the stairs, and enters a room, again, leaving the door open for Laurel to follow.
There's an actual operating table, though a simple one, in the center of the room, illuminated by harsh white lights, both on the ceiling and sprouting from the floor. A wheeled table stands beside the operating table. Two of the walls are spanned by simple steel counter-space, featuring two sinks. Kyren is washing eir hands at one of them, back to Laurel.
The back wall is covered by a glass-fronted cabinet, and contains a variety of jars and bottles, which Laurel did expect, and also a variety of bleached-white animal skulls, which they did not.
"You know, most doctors would opt for more calming decor," they say.
"If you wanted that, you should have gone to a hospital," Kyren says flatly.
"And where would be the fun in that?" Laurel replies.
Kyren turns around, and stares at them for a moment. "I'll need you to strip," ey says, slowly.
"Sure thing," Laurel replies, with a smirk. They make eye contact as they undo their fly, trying to ignore the way their fingers are trembling.
Kyren stares for a second, and Laurel can tell ey isn't impressed, but that doesn't deter them. "How much do you need me to take off, doctor?"
"Just your pants is fine," Kyren replies absently. Ey turns back to eir counters again, and pulls a couple things out of drawers.
Laurel resists a dramatic sigh, and shucks their pants without any further showmanship, now that their audience has decided to be distracted. They have to sit on the operating table and pull off their shoes to get their pants all the way off. Maybe it's a good thing Kyren isn't watching.
Kyren returns to the center of the room, with a handful of small packages. Ey deposits onto the table a syringe, a needle for it, a couple metal instruments, and a couple packages that Laurel can't decipher.
"Are you able to negotiate payment before we begin?" Kyren asks, staring at Laurel with level eyes, even sunken as they are into eir tired face.
"What forms of payment do you take?" Laurel asks, and they mean to make more of an innuendo of it, but they're not quite at the top of their game.
"Cash only," Kyren replies quickly. "But I am willing to offer a special discount to clients who decline anesthetic."
"Are painkillers that hard to come by?" Laurel wonders aloud.
"No," Kyren says, and then continues after a short pause. "This is for personal reasons."
"Freaky," Laurel comments, and they expect Kyren to tell them off for jumping to weird conclusions, but ey doesn't.
Ey continues staring directly at Laurel for a moment, and then asks, "Are you interested or not?"
Laurel realizes that they're in for a very interesting night.
"How could I refuse such a generous offer?" they ask, smiling.
And for the first time, Kyren smiles back. "Thank you for your patronage," ey says, and opens one of the blank packages, revealing a simple washcloth.
Laurel's injury is a gash across the front of their left leg, a simple knife wound, but deep. Fresh blood is still welling up from it, which Laurel is pretty sure must be a bad sign, this long after the cut was made. It pools on the cold steel surface of the operating table, and drips down onto the concrete floor.
Kyren presses the cloth to the wound rather more firmly than Laurel expected. They pull in a sharp breath. Kyren glances up at them, and they can't tell whether eir wide eyes are the result of too much caffeine or an oncoming manic episode.
Neither option is particularly reassuring, but to Kyren's credit, eir hands aren't shaking, not like Laurel's are.
The cloth was slightly damp to start with, but it's soaked in blood by the time Kyren has the wound clean.
Now that Laurel can get a better look at it, it's a bit gruesome. Their yellowish flesh wells up as if to escape, skin pulled back obscenely.
Kyren places their finger at one end of the wound, and traces along the edge of it, carefully, slowly.
"Like what you see?" Laurel asks.
"I do," Kyren replies softly. Ey curls eir finger just slightly into the wound, and Laurel lets out a pained grunt.
Kyren slowly looks up from the wound to meet Laurel's eyes. "Let me know if my treatment gets to be too much for you," ey says.
"I think you're underestimating me," Laurel says.
"We'll find out," Kyren replies, and ey's smiling again. Laurel thinks they like eir smile.
Ey pulls open a package containing a pre-threaded needle and takes a moment to inspect it before picking up the forceps.
Laurel grits their teeth when Kyren turns back towards them, determined not to make much noise.
Kyren glances quickly at their face, and then turns towards their leg. Ey grips the edge of Laurel's skin lightly with the forceps, turning it just slightly. It doesn't particularly make the wound hurt more than it already did. It just feels strange, and a bit cold.
Laurel watches as Kyren pushes the needle through their flesh. It stings, but the sensation of the thread pulling through is far weirder. Kyren switches the forceps to the other side of the wound and repeats the motion. Eir actions carry the quiet certainty of someone who has done this many times before.
Ey ties off the thread, fingers nimble and surprisingly gentle, before moving on to the next stitch. Laurel resists the urge to tap their foot, to chew on their lip, to do anything to distract themself from the sensation of thread pulling through their skin.
Kyren continues, and ey seems more peaceful now than ey did welcoming Laurel into eir house. Laurel's flesh slowly meets in the middle, what's left of the wound becoming narrower, neater, as Kyren goes. The stinging pain fades to an ache, to something almost familiar, still punctuated by the pinprick of each stitch.
Laurel keeps their eyes on the operation the whole time. The running thread is a constant draw on their attention, pulling at a need to do... something, to get away, to dive into it.
Without thinking about it they card their fingers through Kyren's hair. Kyren jolts a bit, and accidentally pulls the thread a bit too tight. Laurel lets out a small sound in response, and is a bit embarrassed to note that it's not purely a pain reaction.
Kyren looks up at Laurel again. "Please don't distract me," ey says flatly.
"Indulge me," Laurel replies, pulling their hand through Kyren's hair, but not pulling it free.
Kyren stares at them for a long minute, and then sighs quietly. "As you wish," ey says.
Ey returns eir attention to the cut, spending a couple minutes struggling to loosen the knot ey had accidentally pulled too tight when Laurel startled em. Ey tries to be gentle, but undoing a mistake is more difficult than not making any in the first place, and Laurel can feel the difference.
Laurel pets em as ey works. They try, and fail, not to think about other situations with a stranger's hands on their thigh, a stranger's hair between their fingers.
They realize slowly that the pent up energy they've been trying not to express is pooling at the base of their stomach. Realize that Kyren's cool and nimble fingers are within easy reaching distance of their increasing arousal.
Kyren resumes eir stitching, motions quick and sure. Ey seems to have already forgotten about Laurel's hand in eir hair, but is nonetheless leaning into it just slightly.
The feeling of the thread passing through their flesh and the bright flash of each stab of the needle are doubly distracting now that Laurel knows why their mind is catching on it so vividly. Their hand shifts from petting idly at Kyren's hair to scratching lightly at their scalp.
Kyren hums softly, and doesn't seem to notice the sound ey made. Laurel wonders what ey sounds like in bed. Wonders what more eir sure fingers can do.
Kyren, at last, ties off the last knot. Ey turns around to grab a pair of scissors, and Laurel lets the motion take their hand to the side of Kyren's neck, stills their fingers.
Kyren severs the thread quickly, and places the needle and scissors both back on the table without looking away from the freshly sealed wound on Laurel's thigh.
Ey runs eir fingers over it again. Laurel shivers.
"Are you finished with me, doctor?" Laurel asks, watching as Kyren presses their bare palm to the cut.
"Do you have another issue that needs treatment?" Kyren replies, looking up to make eye contact.
Before Laurel can reply, Kyren brings eir hand to eir mouth, and slowly licks Laurel's blood off eir fingers. Laurel's breath catches in their throat. They watch, transfixed, as Kyren slowly cleans eir hand.
They drag their own hand to Kyren's cheek, place their thumb at the corner of Kyren's mouth. Kyren doesn't look up from what ey's doing.
Laurel leans towards em. Kyren pulls eir fingers free of eir mouth with a wet pop, and doesn't close eir mouth. Laurel's blood stains the corner of eir mouth.
Laurel kisses em. Ey leans into them, melts towards them. Ey lets Laurel taste their own blood in eir mouth. Ey lets Laurel pull em closer, one hand on eir cheek and one hand curving towards the small of eir back, until eir hips are pressed against the operating table, until ey's close enough for Laurel to feel eir warmth.
Ey places eir hands on Laurel's thighs, digging one thumb against the still-fresh wound. Laurel groans softly into eir mouth. Eir breathing is less steady now, eir hands twitching slightly on Laurel's legs.
"I knew you were a freak," Laurel murmurs against eir lips.
"What does that make you?" Kyren replies, smiling.
"Why don't I show you," Laurel says, and starts kissing down Kyren's neck. Kyren moans quietly, eir hands gripping Laurel's legs more firmly. Laurel crosses their ankles behind Kyren's legs. They scratch softly at the back of Kyren's neck. Their hand at eir back slides up under eir shirt.
Kyren seems flustered already, and Laurel would like to flatter themself and say it's all due to their own actions, but they know Kyren's kink had em flustered before they kissed.
They bite down on the side of Kyren's neck. Kyren lets out a surprised moan, jerks eir hips against the operating table.
"You like that?" Laurel asks, letting their breath fall against Kyren's neck.
"Yes," Kyren replies breathily.
"Take your shirt off," Laurel demands, sliding their hand under the hem up higher.
Kyren obeys, pulling their shirt up over their head. Ey's almost unpleasantly thin, ribs standing out in the harsh operating room light. Laurel is surprised to see small breasts peaking on eir chest.
They bring their hand up to rub their thumb against one of Kyren's nipples. Kyren shivers, and watches them.
Laurel leans towards em again, and scraps their teeth against eir collar. Eir fingers flutter against Laurel's thighs, thumb still pressed tight to the wound.
It feels good, but Laurel has had enough of teasing and waiting. They grip Kyren's wrist and pull it higher on their thigh, until Kyren's fingers are brushing against the front of their underwear.
"This isn't the service you're paying for," Kyren says, but ey stretches eir fingers to press a bit closer.
"My apologies," Laurel murmurs against eir chest, playing along. "What kind of compensation would cover this?"
"Mmmm," Kyren hums, and Laurel isn't sure if ey's making a show of thinking or just loosing eir train of thought, Laurel's other hand still playing with eir chest, Laurel's teeth still scraping just below eir collar. "I'll let you know."
Ey slides eir wrist free of Laurel's grip, and pushes eir hand into Laurel's underwear. Laurel bites at eir chest to keep themself quiet. It would be embarrassing, how aroused they are already, if they didn't know Kyren was in the same boat.
Kyren rocks eir fingers against Laurel's clit, and Laurel can't help arching their back. They bring their hand to Kyren's waist, and are vaguely disappointed to note that they can't quite reach eir ass from this angle. Later, they promise themself.
Kyren leans forward, leans eir head against Laurel's chest. Eir hand works efficiently at Laurel's crotch, a gradually increasing rhythm that's just shy of enough to get them off.
"What are you into?" Kyren asks. And Laurel is tempted to say they're into the obvious lust in Kyren's voice, but that wouldn't be helpful.
"Try putting two fingers inside," Laurel replies. They let their other hand come up to rest on Kyren's shoulder. They can feel it flex as Kyren continues working eir hand.
Kyren takes a moment before changing tactics. When ey finally does slide eir fingers home, Laurel sighs in pleasure. Their hands tighten on Kyren's waist and shoulder, fingernails digging half-moons into eir skin.
Kyren manages to keep eir thumb at Laurel's clit, and between that and eir fingers, now thrusting steadily into them, Laurel can feel themself getting closer to the edge.
"You're doing great, doc," Laurel murmurs. Kyren's hands twitch, one inside Laurel and one on their wound. Laurel moans, not having expected it.
"Thanks," Kyren says, just a hint of sarcasm colouring eir voice. Ey curls eir fingers against Laurel's wound again, letting eir fingers slot between the stitches. The pain is hotter than an ache, almost searing but not unbearable, not even unpleasant, and Laurel is so close.
Kyren speeds up eir hand moving against Laurel's crotch, and that's enough. Laurel groans loudly as they come, curving their back away from what is now too much sensation.
Kyren doesn't stop. Ey leans back from Laurel's chest to watch their face, a sadistic smile on eir lips.
Laurel's grip on Kyren's body must be firm enough to bruise now, and they want to tell em that that's enough, ey needs to stop, but it takes a moment to form the words.
"That's," they gasp. "That's enough, that's good."
Kyren eases up a little bit. "Do you want me to stop?" ey asks, and eir tone gives away that ey already knows the answer.
"Yes," Laurel says, a bit more forcefully than they'd intended.
Kyren withdraws both hands from Laurel's body. Blood drips down the fingers of eir right hand. Laurel's fluids cling wetly to eir left.
Impulsively, Laurel grabs eir right wrist, pulls eir bloody fingers to their mouth. Kyren stares, open-mouthed, as Laurel sucks on eir fingers. For effect, Laurel lets their eyes flutter shut, just for a moment.
When they open them again, they ask, Kyren's fingers still on their lips, "What do I owe you?"
"I-" Kyren starts, and then stops. Ey seems dazed. "What are you willing to pay?"
"If you don't have something better in mind," Laurel replies. "I'd be more than willing to taste more of you." They slide their tongue between Kyren's fingers for effect.
Kyren nods. Laurel hops up off the operating table. They're still a bit weak in the legs, and not sure whether it's the blood loss or the afterglow at this point.
They turn around, and Kyren turns to face them. They sink to their knees, slowly, relishing in the way Kyren watches them.
Kyren undoes eir own jeans, and Laurel is grateful for it, this time, since they think their own hands might still be shaking too much. Kyren shucks eir pants and underwear without flourish, and steps out of them quietly.
Laurel runs their hands up eir thighs, pushes their thumbs into Kyren's pubic hair. Kyren spreads eir legs farther, and then thinks better of standing, and hops up onto the operating table, which is still damp with Laurel's blood.
Laurel kisses Kyren just above eir knee, on the inside of eir thigh. Kisses a bit higher, and a bit higher still. When they get to the fleshy part of Kyren's leg, they bite down, not too hard, and enjoy Kyren's startled moan above them.
Kyren weaves eir fingers through Laurel's long hair. Laurel takes it as a hint, and gets to the point.
They use their thumbs to spread Kyren's folds, and press a wet kiss to eir protruding clit. Kyren gasps, and pulls slightly on Laurel's hair.
Laurel thinks about taking it slow, thinks about teasing Kyren for as long as ey'll let them get away with and then some. Wonders what ey might sound like begging.
But they're still light-headed, and the concrete floor is unforgiving to their bare knees. They go at it hard and fast instead. Kyren gasps and clings tighter to them.
Laurel tries to avoid falling into a steady rhythm, instead alternating between licking and sucking, between sliding their tongue as far inside as they can manage and flickering quickly at eir clit.
Kyren seems to prefer the latter, though, so after a couple moments, Laurel settles into doing that more consistently, and enjoys Kyren's moans, gradually increasing in pitch but not volume.
Kyren goes quiet when ey comes, and squeezes eir thighs around Laurel's head almost uncomfortably tight.
Laurel pushes eir thighs apart and frees their head. They take a moment to gather themself enough to stand up.
Kyren lets emself lean back until ey's just lying on the table, breathing heavy. Laurel watches em for a moment. Sweat is beaded on eir olive skin, bruises rising already. Eir hair, only long on top, dyed to a dark shade of pink, fans out against the cold steel table. Eir deep breathing makes eir protruding ribs even more obvious, slightly deformed towards the middle.
Laurel wonders if ey used to bind. Wonders how ey ended up working with Cobra, if ey's in it fully willingly or if ey got pulled in. Wonders what it might feel like to kiss em.
Kyren leans up on eir elbows. "That was.. refreshing, thank you," ey says. "I'll send you an invoice later, so you can leave."
"Kicking me out already?" Laurel asks, and the sadness painting their voice is an obvious mockery, but they do kind of want to stick around a bit longer.
"That's right," Kyren replies, eir breathing starting to even out.
"Alright, I'll leave," Laurel says. "But on one condition."
"Oh?" Kyren asks, and eir suspicion is overt.
"Come out to dinner with me," Laurel says, smiling lopsidedly.
"Hell no," Kyren replies, without so much as thinking about it.
"Then I'll cook something for you here," Laurel says, with certainty.
"There's nothing to cook with," Kyren objects.
"That sounds like all the more reason for you to come out with me," Laurel replies. "When was the last time you ate?"
"Uh," Kyren starts, and doesn't continue.
"See, it's been too long," Laurel says. "I'll pay, so come out with me,"
"If I say no, will you leave?" Kyren asks, glaring insincerely at them.
"Definitely not," Laurel says cheerfully.
"Then I suppose I have no choice," Kyren says. "Let's get some gauze on you first, though."
----- cover artist