Once it seemed that they had escaped unfollowed, Stacy travelled through the outskirts of the small city-- population 26,000, she would mention later-- with less haste. Jin gazed at his liberator with muted wonder as she drove. She was tiny, and seemed even moreso sitting inside a huge truck which she nevertheless manned deftly. Under the cap her hair was auburn and curly, secured in a plain tail against her neck. She turned her youthful face towards him, and when her green eyes, smiling but shrewd, met his, he diverted his own apologetically. "So who're you and who're you running from?" she asked, her Japanese flawless and her tone disarmingly conversational.
"I'm-- there are some people after me," he floundered.
"Well big surprise, you're a handsome kid." Stacy glanced at him briefly, still smiling as she looked back to the road. "...That was a joke, you know. It's okay to smile. I'd slap you on the back but I think it's bleeding. ... Don't touch it," she added as he lifted a hand to do so. "Just sit still and try not to bleed too much on my seats, it's a pain in the ass to clean up. You'll be feeling it big time once the adrenaline fades I bet. I'll peek at it when we get home."
Jin looked her again, blankly. "...Home?"
"Yeah, home. Afraid I'll take advantage of you?"
"No, I'm sorry-- I just didn't--" But he silenced himself when she began to laugh. It was a pleasant sound, void of mockery.
"I'm kidding with you. Jesus." Another glance, her smile sympathetic. He tried to muster one of his own. "Boy, they really shook you up," she noted gently after a moment.
Jin turned away, gazing at the street lights flanking the two-lane road. They were soothing in the way they neared, shone over his face, and then slipped harmlessly past them. "They'll probably find me again."
"Well... no use worrying until it happens," Stacy shrugged.
A brief silence lapsed before Jin commented, "Your Japanese is very good, ma'am."
"Thank you; always nice to hear coming from a native. I lived in Kyoto for five years. I came here on a weekend vacation about six months ago and ended up moving here a month later. It's a nice change after a city like Kyoto. ...No offense if you're from there."
Jin shook his head slightly. "No; Tokyo."
"Ah, even worse. And no more of that ma'am stuff, alright? I know I don't look that old. Stacy'll work fine."
Jin, once sure her retort was in jest, felt himself smile faintly. "Okay. Stacy-san," he corrected himself.
"Much better." Flicking on the turn signal, Stacy pulled off of the main road and onto a deserted street lined on either side with compact, unremarkable houses. Each was stationed in a narrow plot of yard and looked grave and withdrawn in the bleak light. "Home sweet home," she sighed, pulling into what Jin noted was the fifth driveway on the left. He should have paid more attention to directions and street names, he scolded himself in retrospect. When he reached for the handle of his door his bandaged arm was sluggish and tense, its burns stubborn and painful. "...Yeah, your body's getting pissed at you. We need to get you inside and laid down. Stay put," he heard Stacy say before she circled the truck to open his door and help him down (despite the fact she was considerably shorter and slighter). Even though resting was all that he had done for days, he knew she was right. "What do you have, anyway?"
"Burns, and two cuts on my back." He followed stiffly, watching her as she lead him to the door and sifted through her keys.
"Sounds like some party." Sliding a key into the lock she opened the way for them and hit the lights as she moved inside. Jin lingered just over the threshold as she ducked down a hallway saying, "Hang on, I'll find you some Alieve and then pull out the sofa-bed." She returned a moment later, looking brightly up into his face and offering him a glass of water in one hand and a pair of pills in the other. The burns felt as though they were being freshly seared as he dutifully downed them.
"Thank you, Stacy-san."
"No prob. Now let's see--" Before Jin could stop her Stacy had already ducked behind him. He froze anxiously. Small patches of blood had soaked through the gauze in a pair of rows down his shoulderblades. "... Hmm. It's not too serious; we can deal with it in the morning. You're lucky I'm off tomorrow." She had already gone to the left, into the adjacent living room. Like the hummingbirds in the Mishima Gardens she moved so quickly and frequently that Jin's attention could barely keep up.
"Why are you helping me?" he murmured suddenly as she was pulling the cushions from the sofa. She was thoughtful a moment before answering.
"Don't panic, but I know who you are. And seeing Jin Kazama bolt from the Alice Springs Hospital like a bat out of hell in nothing but bandages and hospital pants, something told me I might wanna lend a hand."
"But you'll be in danger too, if they--"
"Right now, getting some sleep's what you need to be worrying about," Stacy cut in, grunting as she tugged out and unfolded the covered mattress. Once it was done she straightened, turning to him and adding mildly, "We can trade questions in the morning. Deal?"
"Okay. ...Thank you."
Stacy sighed, hands on her hips. "Alright. Painkillers, bed out, blinds shut-- I think you're set. I'll be up early anyway, but just holler if you need anything before then."
Jin eased himself onto the bed, his arms at his sides. She had forgotten to bring a pillow but he didn't ask for one. "Have you ever been a nurse?" he wondered honestly.
"Me?" she laughed. "Hell no. I can barely keep fish alive." She flipped off the lights in the room, moving back into the hall with a cheerful, "See you in the morning."
It was a very long while before Jin managed to find sleep.
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