<Hope> It was definitely bath time for Hope, she decided, as soon as Shinobi left the hotel suite. A part of her wanted to go with him and watch his workout in the gym, but she couldn't make herself leave the room. Instead, she headed to the bathroom, turning on the water and adding bubbles to the water once it was nice and hot.
<Hope> She'd been so careful to only bathe when he was gone or to lock the door when he was there. She couldn't stand the possibility that he'd see her. That he'd look at her. She shuddered and slid into the tub, curling up with her knees to her chest as the water filled around her.
<Shinobi> Thanks to Viper, he was almost fully recovered from his injury, with little more than a scar front and back to show for it. He was a little self conscious of it, but reasoned it would fade. What was worse was his loss of weight and muscle tone.
<Hope> Even though she was alone, Hope pulled the bubbles from the top of the water over her body, shielding it from even her own eyes. Maybe that'd be enough? She wasn't sure. Swallowing hard, she hugged her knees tighter and drew patterns in the bubbles with her finger.
<Shinobi> He'd also lost endurance, since his first trip to the gym was far shorter than what he was accustomed to. Sweating and exhausted, he decided to call it a day and go back to their room for a shower.
<Hope> Stuck in her own thoughts, Hope didn't notice how long she was in the tub. She didn't notice how long Shinobi was gone. She didn't notice anything. Safely behind her mental shields, she was free to relive her capture as she had done so many times before. Over and over and over. She agonized over the details, shaking as she committed them to memory. Again.
<Hope> But she didn't want to relive it. She didn't want to see that masked face so close to her own. She didn't want to feel the hands on her flesh. Hope leaned back against the back of the tub taking shaky breaths.
<Hope> It was too much. Too many emotions, too many memories. She just wanted peace. Just five minutes of peace. Five minutes of not being reminded of the hell she had endured. Five minutes of solitude. Hope choked on a sob, rubbing her face before taking a deep breath and sinking beneath the water. It took only a few seconds for her mind to blank and a warm feeling of peace to wash over her.
<Shinobi> The ride up in the elevator seemed ridiculously long, and as he stared at the blinking floor numbers he realized his link with Hope had become... dark. He was still unable to tell exactly what he sensed from her at times, but she was still in a bad place most days.
<Shinobi> Finally he reached their penthouse suite and dropped his bag by the elevator door again. Taking a look around, he didn't spot Hope or Drake and went to their bedroom. "Hope?"
<Hope> Being underwater, Hope didn't hear him as he came in. The peace and calm she experienced was so overwhelmingly wonderful that she was also in no rush to abandon it.
<Shinobi> "Hope?" She wasn't in the bedroom either, so he knocked softly on the closed bathroom door. Hope? There was still no answer, but he thought he heard water. Concerned by the sudden blankness in their link, he opened the door. "Fuck."
<Hope> Maybe she heard a voice, maybe she didn't. Regardless, she stayed under the water, her eyes firmly closed because of the soap.
<Shinobi> She was under the water, and she wasn't moving. "Hope!" He was there in an instant and reaching into the water.
<Hope> That she did feel along with his fear and anxiety. She sat up as his hands found her, sputtering and wiping her face.
<Shinobi> "Are you okay? Oh my God!" He gripped her arms and pulled her closer, the water splashing over and onto him. Not caring, Obi patted her back while she coughed.
<Hope> She held onto him automatically as her choking fit passed. "I'm fine." She was fine. Why was he freaking out? Why was he even in the bathroom!? Slowly she began to realize what he probably already had: she was completely naked. She pulled away from him, standing and tugging the bathrobe on.
<Shinobi> Suddenly, she was gone, dripping water everywhere and flailing for her bathrobe. Confused, he looked up at her, flicking water from his hands. "Are you?"
<Hope> The fluffy white fabric gave her a small measure of security. She tugged it around her tightly, carefully stepping out of the tub and turned to face him. "What the hell?"
<Shinobi> "Yeah, my thoughts exactly. Holy shit, Hope!" He was soaked and stood slowly, his shirt and track pants clinging to him. There was water on his face as well, and he brushed it off.
<Hope> "I can't bathe now?" she asked, already defensive.
<Shinobi> "Of course you can bathe, but... but..." He pointed at the water. "You were drowning!"
<Hope> She blinked, staring at him. Drowning? Was she? "I was not!" she argued defensively.
<Shinobi> "Hope, you were under the water and I couldn't feel you!" He ran his hand over his face and tried to wring out his shirt, then swore and whipped it off.
<Hope> "I know where I was. Why are you in here?!" She tied the belt on the robe, running her fingers through her hair. Where was Drake? She was momentarily distracted by the sight of him without his shirt. That scar... damn.
<Bobby> Drake was on his way, alerted by the yelling in the bedroom. He skidded to a halt in the doorway to the bathroom and took them in. "What the fuck is going on?"
<Shinobi> Obi had caught her looking at his stomach and his mouth pressed into a thin line. "Hope almost drowned. Where the fuck were you?"
<Hope> Her name caught her attention, head jerking up to look at Bobby. "I'm fine! Stop making this a big deal!"
<Bobby> "Almost drowned!" His voice rose an octave and he gave Hope a hard look, head to dripping toe.
<Hope> "I didn't drown!" She cried out, exasperated.
<Shinobi> "You were under the water, and I couldn't feel you!" He was every bit as frustrated as she, and still frightened now that he had time to think about it.
<Bobby> "Fuuuuuuuuck," he muttered and facepalmed.
<Hope> "There was nothing to feel!" she snapped at him, moving to the tub to drain it.
<Shinobi> "Exactly! I thought you were dead!" It was out of his mouth before he could stop it.
<Hope> That got her attention. Standing up, she froze, staring at him. "What?!"
<Bobby> He lowered his hand to stare at first one, then the other. This was bad.
<Shinobi> "I thought..." He licked his lips and shifted his weight. "You scared me."
<Hope> She watched his subtle movements, taking in his emotions. She knew that feeling all too well. "I didn't mean to scare you," she tried again in a softer tone. "It was just... I just wanted some peace."
<Shinobi> That was hardly reassuring, but he no longer wanted to talk in front of Drake. His eyes cut to the guard, then back to Hope.
<Bobby> "Peace? How long were you under?!" She looked the same has she had for days, just wet, so he couldn't really tell. Her temperature was normal, maybe a little elevated from the water, in fact.
<Hope> She shrugged, glancing over to Bobby finally. "I don't know. A couple of minutes?"
<Bobby> His mouth dropped open slightly.
<Hope> "What?!" She snapped at Bobby this time, crossing her arms across her chest.
<Bobby> "W-what if you'd blacked out?!" Motherfucker! He pulled his phone from his pocket.
<Hope> "What if I pass out right now and hit my head? Come on." She ran her fingers through her hair... then borrowed Bobby's power to dry it instead.
<Shinobi> What were you trying to do? He couldn't contain himself anymore. Arms crossed defensively, he rubbed his fingertips over his mouth. He'd never thought she'd try...
<Bobby> "Never know about you." His fingers flew over the screen as he texted first Carol and then Sebastian Shaw, since Tony was out of the question.
<Hope> "I told you what I was trying to do. Just get some peace and quiet. I am capable of holding my breath you know."
<Shinobi> Annoyed she'd avoided him, Obi shook his head and pushed past Drake. "I need to change." He needed away... from all of this.
<Hope> "Are you two done invading the bathroom then?"
<Bobby> "I don't know, is it safe to leave you alone?"
<Shinobi> Drake's words drove home the fear he was trying to avoid and he just sat down heavily on the edge of the bed and buried his face in his hands. If she wanted to die... what could he do?
<Hope> His fear coupled with her anger made her hands clench into fists. "Did it ever occur to either of you idiots that if I wanted to kill myself, all I have to do is order takeout from a place that cooks in peanut oil!?" She shoved Drake aside as she went to the bedroom to find clothes.
<Bobby> "Well now it has!"
<Shinobi> He looked up at her, stricken by that new and horrible idea.
<Hope> She tried so hard not to laugh at them. "When is David coming back?" Maybe he'd believe her.
<Bobby> "How the hell should I know? He's on vacation. Never if he's smart." He texted Paige too while he was at it.
<Hope> Bobby's words cut more deeply than she'd ever admit. "I'm not the ones overeacting, here!" She quickly dug through clothes, looking for something clean.
<Shinobi> He felt her hurt and realized that she was digging through his clothes again. Why? At this rate, he as going to have to go back to the house to get more clothes, again.
<Hope> Knowing Shinobi was still in the room, Hope worked on dressing herself without him seeing anymore than he already had.
<Bobby> Whoa! She was getting naked! Or close enough to make him cringe, so Bobby made himself scarce. "Okay, hint taken, but the fat lady ain't sang on this one, Starkette."
<Hope> Hope rolled her eyes, still working on getting dressed without Shinobi seeing her. "Why is it so damn hard for everyone to accept that I don't actually want to kill myself?"
<Shinobi> What was she doing? "Do you need help?" The contortions she was undergoing to get dressed hardly looked comfortable. "Because," he said more quietly. "I'm in your head."
<Hope> Pants and shirt on she was able to drop the robe and round on him, ignoring his offer of help. "Then YOU of ALL people should know!"
<Shinobi> "No. I can't tell what it is I'm feeling in there, Hope." He got up finally and approached her, bending to pick up the robe.
<Hope> "I don't know what I feel sometimes either but it sure as hell isn't death!" She snatched the robe from him.
<Shinobi> He pulled his hand back as if she'd smacked him, trying to control his temper.
<Hope> Hope watched him, trying to control her own temper. How could he think she'd do that?
<Shinobi> Straightening to his full height, he stared her down, trying to assemble his thoughts and assess what she was thinking.
<Hope> She rolled his words through her mind, slamming to a halt when something clicked. "Do you want to kill yourself?"
<Shinobi> The idea shocked him, but when he asked himself he didn't feel an immediate denial, and suddenly he couldn't meet her eyes.
<Hope> The robe slipped from her fingers as she watched him, her eyes unable to linger in any one place for long. His face, his posture, his scar: they all told her more than his words or emotions could. And there she was again, faced with the reality of losing him. Her arms slid around him, her cheek pressed against his bare chest.
<Shinobi> Surprised, he closed his arms around her. "Hope..."
<Hope> "You can't..." she begged him softly, tightening her hold.
<Shinobi> "I won't," he said softly. Closing his eyes, he tried to reason his way through this. He had every reason to - he was a thing created by a mad scientist and used for others' purposes. Everything he thought true about himself was a lie.
<Hope> "Do you promise me?" she asked him, like that would make it more firm, more of a commitment.
<Shinobi> But he had a life now - a real life. He had Hope, both literally and figuratively, and they had a future... or so she'd said. "Yes," he said, though his voice was still quiet and distant.
<Hope> She closed her eyes, shaking just a little. She didn't quite believe him yet, but maybe it'd just take time for him. She swallowed hard and nodded.
<Shinobi> Her terror was clear in their link right now and he closed his eyes and kissed the top of her head, relaxing into the embrace. "I'm not going to leave you."
<Hope> "I'm not leaving you either," she assured him, trying to relax.
<Shinobi> "You scared me." Obi raised his hand and combed his fingers through her hair.
<Hope> "I'm sorry," she told him softly, beginning to relax in his arms. "I didn't mean to. I just didn't want to think. It was calm. Quiet."
<Shinobi> "Okay." His mouth was still pressed against her damp hair and he breathed her in. "I just... I want to be able to help you, but I can't."
<Hope> "Don't you see?" She pulled back enough to look up at him. "You are helping."
<Shinobi> "How?" He was honestly confused. "You don't eat, you're not really here half the time even when you are, you haven't left this room in a week..."
<Hope> "But I'm not in bed," she told him quietly. "I'm not on the floor, refusing to move." She stroked his cheek softly. "I'm not okay, but you do help. Even if you can't see it."
<Shinobi> "Fuck, what'd they do to you?" He had his guesses, but she'd never confirmed or denied, so his imagination conjured a thousand scenarios.
<Hope> She pressed her cheek back against his chest, falling silent.
<Shinobi> He sighed and closed his eyes, just holding her again. "How do we get you better, Ariel?"
<Hope> "I don't know," she admitted softly, holding him tighter.
<Shinobi> "Maybe feeling safe here isn't the best thing..." he started.
<Hope> "Then... then what are you saying?" she questioned.
<Shinobi> "Maybe we should go home," he ventured.
<Hope> "Is that what you want?"
<Shinobi> He licked his lips and thought about it. Was that home? "Yeah."
<Hope> She certainly did not want to do that, though the thought of having one of her dads closer was appealing. She nodded her consent.
<Shinobi> "Okay?" He felt the nod, but wasn't certain. "I think it might help, really."
<Hope> It wouldn't, but it might help him maybe. She shrugged. "Maybe."
<Shinobi> "We can't just hide here indefinitely." It felt like that was her entire plan.
<Hope> "Why not?" she questioned, pouting just a bit.
<Shinobi> "Hope," he protested.
<Hope> "Obi," she countered.
<Shinobi> "You really don't want to spend eternity here, do you?" He smirked. "In my clothes. You've got a wardrobe for every season, but you want my clothes. In a way I'm flattered, of course..."
<Hope> "What's wrong with your clothes?" she questioned, looking down at herself.
<Shinobi> He moved enough to lift the shoulder of the tee she wore and give it a shake. "Well, they're about to fall off of you," he said, cocking his head with a wry smile. "Not that I would complain about that, at all."
<Hope> "Well you're not wearing them," she pointed out, trying desperately not to react to his idea of seeing her naked.
<Shinobi> "No, but since we're slow getting stuff to the laundry service I've had to get more from home twice." He smoothed the fabric over her shoulder and moved his hand slowly over the curve of her back.
<Hope> "So I'll send for more clothes for you," she offered, clenching her teeth together to keep from flinching.
<Shinobi> She sounded tense and he could feel it, rubbing her lower back in small circles. "What's wrong?"
<Hope> "Nothing," she told him automatically. "Shouldn't we pack?"
<Shinobi> "Well, I didn't mean, now this second..."
<Hope> "You could be home in time for dinner," she pointed out, trying to smile.
<Shinobi> Obi had to take a step back, his hand moving to her face to get her to look at him. What's going on?
<Hope> She had a hard time meeting his gaze. She swallowed hard, searching his face. I can't...
<Shinobi> Can't? He turned his hand to caress her cheek with the backs of his fingers, trying to get her to make eye contact.
<Hope> She stilled and settled at his soft touch, finally meeting his gaze. Nothing. I'm fine. Let's just head home.
<Shinobi> Disappointed, he let it show and sighed.
<Hope> "Obi..." she started, that disappointment hard to bear. "I'm sorry..."
<Shinobi> He closed his eyes and tried to control his temper.
<Hope> "Please don't be mad," she whispered to him a few times.
<Shinobi> "I'm not mad," he ground out. "I just don't understand."
<Hope> "I know... I'm sorry, Obi!" She shut her eyes tightly, holding onto him. "I'll do better. I'll be better!"
<Shinobi> "Do you know how?" His hand moved back to her hair to soothe her.
<Hope> No. "I can try. For you."
<Shinobi> Obi decided to let it go. He sighed and kissed the top of her head again. "Okay. Let's just pack up and go home."
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