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Friends in High Places
[[continued from "A gesture of good faith"]]

“The Yak was personal,” she observed once they had returned to the car. Pavel’s leather gloves were tugged back onto his raw hands, and it must have stung like fuck, but she didn’t offer to drive. He’d only have shrugged her off, and she wasn’t in the mood to placate his sensibilities. Her brother hadn’t liked Zixin; his various nuances of stony expression were as open to her as a book. For her own part Sofia was as yet undecided. Zixin had displayed an open amount of ruthless relish for the way he neatly snared the Yakuza he’d made Pavel beat into the ground. She might have admired it but for the fact she did not appreciate also being on the receiving end of his machinations.

“I wish you hadn’t seen that,” he said, but she only shrugged and pulled her wallet into her lap. It was late, but she had some arrangements to make.

Zixin Kao wasn’t the only one who could make a statement of deed.


Later, she stood outside Maksim’s hospital room. A tailored suit draped her form, blonde hair smoothed back from her face. Her hands rested in the pockets at her hips. Pavel sat in one of the bucket waiting seats, elbows on his knees, bowed over his clasped grip. He’d made some calls of his own in the interim, of which Sofia had grasped some passing insight into the bigger picture. He wanted to know who hired the independent, and he wanted to know what else might have happened in the city tonight.

For now, they waited.

[[@"Jensen James" @"Maksim Marveet"]]
They didn’t allow him to bring a wallet, so he was watching the roll of the city. He was recognizing the layout more and more, which was why when they suddenly pulled into a new turning lane, Jensen looked up.

Agent Devarona twisted from the front seat. “A last minute stop.” he asked. “You’re still feeling okay?”

Jensen smiled. “Absolutely,” he said as he stifled a yawn. He’d been doing shift work for the last few years, so this was nothing new, but morning would be here soon and he hadn’t had an hourly job in months. Other than being understandably a little sleepy, he felt strong.

This hospital was similar to others they visited. It was in a wealthy area and all lit up for the night. The halls were generally empty except for staff.

He wore his usual white tuxedo. The mask was pulled over his face. Other than the eye pieces being a white mesh that blended in with the rest of the material, there was nothing otherwise remarkable about his appearance. He walked tall and proud. He even traversed the slick floors in patent leather shoes like an expert. The nights of feeling self-conscious in the identity had passed.

Agent Devarona escorted the way. It was him that led the way through security and carried him to their destination. He slowed when it was apparent that two people were awaiting their arrival. Much as he had the other experiences, he waited for the Agent to indicate the room, but honestly, Jensen could have gone into any of them and been content with the outcome. They looked tired and concerned. He recognized that the man was wearing gloves inside.

When they greeted him, he simply said, “Hello,” and offered a generous bow of the head in place of other body language. "I'm so sorry. Please show me how I can help."
The last thing he remembered was Alina laying against him. His arm draped around her waist, and his thumb grazed the skin around her stomach. He remembered thinking that having a second baby so soon after the first should make them more nervous, but perhaps the lullaby of drugs smoothed that anxiety into oblivion.

The next time he woke it was still dark. His back ached, and he yearned for their bedroom mattress. He rolled to the other side on instinct, but as soon as the other cheek grazed the pillow, he winced and jerked away. That side was far more tender than the other. So he ended up on his back, staring into the ceiling while he grappled for the button to administer himself another dose of morphine.
“Money won is twice as sweet as money earned.”
+ Maksim +
He wasn’t difficult to spot. At this hour the corridors were all but empty aside from night staff, but it was the full face mask that set him out. Sofia watched him approach with interest. A man accompanied at his side who she presumed and dismissed as security. Pavel stood with a nod of greeting.

“Thank you for coming,” Sofia said. Iáomai's accent was thick, and she was surprised to realise he was American. Curious, given they remained outside the Custody. At least for now. He nodded deeply. Despite it she offered her hand without a beat, though glanced at the agent to see if he would have a problem with it. “Sofia Vasilieva. And my brother, Pavel.”

Sofia smiled, whether the hand was accepted or not. The appointment had not come without considerable cost, but she was gracious in her greeting; both confident, and curious. “Our Maksim is dear to us. We would do anything for him,” she said. “I admit to being curious about you, but it is late, and my brother is surely in pain. I imagine you are not supposed to answer questions. May I at least watch you work?”

As she spoke, she led the way into the room regardless. It was dark, the only light that which spilled in with them. Of Maksim’s injuries she saw no need to explain; Iáomai would see that well enough for himself.
After a brief study and swallow, he intentionally fixed his attention on the woman. She introduced herself as Sofia, and Jensen only briefly glanced at her brother afterward. The russian was unusually quiet and still, and after explanation, he assumed it had to be because of some pain plaguing him. The way she said it, he thought perhaps the pain was physical more than emotional, and he wondered if the gloves had something to do with it.

He already knew he would help Pavel if allowed before the assignment was over, but for now, he followed Sofia to the dark room. Like so many others that came before, there was a bed with a sole occupant surrounded by light and machinery. Jensen spent many a visits in hospitals, both back in Texas and recently, and already knew they weren’t in an intense unit. The man wasn’t on life support, but he was either very ill or very hurt. At his side, he responded to the much taller Sofia.

“Of course you may certainly watch. It’s my pleasure. I find that it's comforting to have loved ones nearby, too. I know that I must be strange to see. Please go sit with him.” He gestured. Typically, hands were clasped with love and devotion while explanations ushered Iásōn’s arrival. For that reason, he hung back so Sofia could proceed for just such an opportunity. While she did, he wondered if they were related or if he was another brother. He didn't want to startle the one he assumed was Maksim.

Behind them, Agent Devarona stayed nearby, watching with curious engagement for what was becoming normal.
She glanced at Pasha. Probably the last person Maksim would want to see, though he hung back by the door anyway, lingering near the agent. His arms were folded, his eyes cast down.

“Max, are you awake? There’s someone here to see you.” She did not sit, and her hands remained casual in her pockets, though she was not unkind either. Iásōn’s suggestion was unbearably American, though well meant she was sure. Russians simply did not dote their affections amongst strangers.

By now Maksim’s face was barely recognisable, and she could not really tell if his eyes were open or closed. Linochka had always been dreamy-eyed over him. Sofia never really saw the appeal; he was a charming fuck-up who spent far too much of his time chasing highs. But he treated her sister well so far as Sofia could see, and she was certain Alina would confide if it were not the case.

“He’s going to fix your injuries,” she added. She wondered how he might react to the mask; Maksim had had a rough and unusual day, after all. But he must have heard the gossip, and it was hardly like Sofia would allow anything bad to happen to him while she was standing right there.
It was difficult to sleep in a bed that wasn’t his own. All the more difficult by the constant interruptions of people coming to check on him. Didn’t they have sensors for that kind of thing? If not, what were all these things doing stuck to him?  The light made him squeeze his one good eye shut. The other was swollen tight.

He was going to drift in the morphine and ignore the light until his name was called. Was Alina back? He made her swear to go home and get a good night’s sleep in their own bed. Only, the voice wasn’t his wife’s.

He stirred, propping himself upward with the push of a hand. He didn’t know Sofia was even here. What she said made no sense. Fix injuries? “You brought another doctor?” he asked, but the question hung on the air when he spied a new shape in the doorway.

One that was certainly not a doctor. He scooted himself to a sitting position, growing nervous a second time that night. 

He reached across the bed to push the light button. When the glow illuminated the room, he was transfixed.

He’d heard the rumors. Who hadn’t?

They said a man all in white ghosted in and out of the world like a guardian angel, but Maksim’s own brother was a channeler. When Jaxen’s name spilled from their father’s lips, it was always on the heels of reminding them all of the fact. Max wouldn’t trust his own brother with this power, let alone a stranger.

He shook his head. “I want to hear it from Pavel,” he declared as firmly as possible through the mumble of his voice. The whole point for this was to position the family against some unidentified enemy. If Pavel said it was fine, he'd go through with it, but so far, he didn't glimpse Alina's oldest brother.

’You’ll do this for Alina’.

He couldn’t let all that be undone.
“Money won is twice as sweet as money earned.”
+ Maksim +
Sofia didn’t answer the question, only watched Maksim reason it out for himself. She was beginning to feel impatient, but it was well concealed given they were presently in the company of strangers; especially ones with such lofty connections. That he sought Pasha’s permission filled her with irritation for his dismissal of the gift she offered. Why did he think she’d pulled these strings? It was hardly because she’d felt sorry for him. It wasn’t even for her sister. She imagined Pavel would vastly approve of his deference, though. Her eyes cut to him held back in the shadows of the doorway, raising her brows with the imperial command that they get the fuck on with it. Darkness swathed Pasha’s expression, hard as stone. Meanwhile Sofia retreated to the bedside chair, and sat as though it were a throne. She watched Iásōn’s white mask and wondered what expressions hid beneath the obscuring mesh. What he made of Maksim’s hesitation.

“You can accept,” Pasha said. Firm and assuring. He did not come closer. Nor unfolded his arms.

“Pavel’s hands too,” she said to Iásōn. Her chin tilted but she did not look at her brother. He would not stoop to protest now she’d voiced it, but he’d hate that she had.

Fuck Zixin Kao and his promised gift-basket of salve.
As soon as Pavel spoke, the tension broke, and the breath Maksim had been holding was released. It showed only by Maksim repositioning himself as he sat, but he added nothing to Sofia’s ultimatum other than a look of confusion.

Once things were settled, Maksim’s gaze settled on the masked face hovering in the door.

“Okay. What do I need to do?” He braced himself. Nothing came for free.
“Money won is twice as sweet as money earned.”
+ Maksim +
Jensen remained as he was while the family discussed matters among themselves. The only motion was for him to clasp his hands together. He was otherwise a patient white statue. Inwardly, he was curious about the dynamics that played out in front of him. For a couple of years, he acted as a family counselor. It was something many preachers did, though he had little formal training in it. Regardless, during that time period, he was witness to a wide range of interactions: hurts, miscommunications, betrayals, adultery, lies. He saw nothing of that sort here, but he did notice how each of those in the room deferred to one another. Ultimately, it was the gentleman nearest him that had the final say. Yet simultaneously, it was his sister that declared he should be included in healing. Jensen nodded at that, actually relieved by the addition, but when his gaze flicked up to Pavel himself, the Russian would find no emotion in the glance hidden behind the gauze of the mask.

After that, Jensen went to the bed. “All you need to do is relax, sir. I’m told it’s quite pleasant. There’s no reason to be nervous.”

If the patient was asleep or laying down, Jensen usually sat at their side. Sometimes he would lean over them and lay his palm on their forehead. Other times he would simply pat their hand. Since Maksim was now sitting on the edge of the bed, Jensen opted to kneel in front of him and look up at the man. From that position, he offered his hand and waited to see if Maksim would take it before summoning the light’s Gift into himself. Jensen drew a peaceful breath and began.

There would be little outward to witness, but within several moments, they would see their brother’s face soften. His swelling would shrink and the bruises faded. There was so much more that occurred inside the man’s body, and Jensen could feel each wound and injury restore itself whole.

When the Gift was finished, Jensen rose to his feet and offered to help Maksim to his, although he knew the other man needed no assistance. Behind the mask, he was smiling broadly, and he wished they could see.

"How do you feel?"

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