Crash Kiss

"Endless Rainbow, this is Manhesto Port Control. Cleared for emergency approach on Dock 2 Bravo, medical assistance is on standby. Expect Brigade escort. Vessel status?"   "All critical systems operational. Navigational and steering are reporting damage, but we should be able to make the dock connection safely." Jason Marune relayed as he assumed the Master's chair, having taken control. His friend and the true ship Master, Jacob, was still recovering from the near-disastrous bout in the void, and left overall command of the cruiser to Jason for the time being. Other officers and crew were at their stations, even as the Endless Rainbow began realspace transition, and the blue skies of Manhesto were once more seen by its crew.   As the Endless Rainbow emerged from its Etherspace rift, two smaller aerial vessels were already on standby, escorting the wounded cruiser to the Manhesto Aerial Docks. Their brilliant red fuselages highlighted them as part of the Fire Brigade, which was summoned as soon as Jason transmitted that the Endless Rainbow took significant damage during their fight against the Etherspace Hydra. Fine smoke and soot trailed from the Rainbow's starboard side, even as the fires that tore through those sections were long extinguished. People who were on the ground looked up, fascinated by the sight of one of the Mithambian Air Force's aerial cruisers coming back from a long expedition away from home, even if her state looked sorrier than expected.   As the Endless Rainbow slowly brought herself down onto the dock, docking hooks and powerful electomagnets secured the ship in place, while radio signals engaged the ship's automated docking protocols, relieving Jason and the rest of the beleaguered bridge crew from the second-most stressful part of their recent adventure. As much as he would want to see to his friend, Jason remained on the bridge, even as the crew began disembarking, with emergency support beginning the treatment of the wounded. Besides, he thought to himself, Jacob was in good hands.   --   Wordlessly, Jacob Mitfield stretched his limbs, as he slowly came to. As much as the bliss of unconsciousness was pleasant, he still had work to complete, and to oversee the safety of his... vessel?   His eyes shot open, even as the steady beat of an ECG machine broke the silent solitude of his room. Slowly lifting himself up, minor bouts of pain made their presence known, even as two brilliant blue eyes met his. "Good morning, uncle," was the soft but happy greeting of his niece, Kaylie. Even as he slowly looked around, he saw that he was no longer in the medical bay of the Rainbow, but was instead in a private hospital room. A quick sideways glance at the window told him that he was at St. Asha's -  most likely having been moved there after the Rainbow docked in her crippled state. Finally coming to, his first instinct was to reach out, even as the muscles in his arms let their displeasure be known, and softly patted his niece's head.   "Hey kid," he softly spoke, even as his voice was raspy from smoke inhalation. "Your old man's around, I'm assuming?" he asked, to which Kaylie nodded her head. Even as he asked, Crown Prince Hector stepped into the room, followed by a nurse, who quickly took notice of Jacob returning to consciousness. "Prince Jacob," she politely began, "how are you feeling?"   Jacob opened his mouth to answer, but quickly closed it, as his mind and body began to fully re-synchronize. The arcane energies that seared through his frame and being could still be felt, although it was now a steady pleasant thrumming, instead of the agonizing tearing of lightning that came as he reshaped the Ether for the first time. "To be honest, miss... I don't know how I should feel." This admission had the nurse politely nod, even as she stepped out to alert the attending physician to Jacob's updated condition, even as Hector lifted an eyebrow to his youngest brother's statement.   "Only you would manage to find trouble the way you did, and only you could get yourself out the way you did," Hector began, even as he held out a hand to stop Jacob from interrupting him. "Not that it is a bad thing, Jake - you always did have a knack for seeing and doing the impossible, that not even Joey or I could have imagined." He pulled up a chair, and sat beside Jacob, even as he carefully took his youngest brother's hand, giving it a firm squeeze, which was returned in kind. "And, before you ask - everyone else is on their way, including aunt Clarisse and uncle Ben. Julian's currently working and did drop by, and I think even Zara's coming to check up on you."   To Hector's amusement, Jacob could only cradle his face in his hands, already dreading the prospect of his family barging through the door and expressing a thousand emotions regarding his latest adventure. "... I really did a number on myself, didn't I?"   Hector snorted, even as his wife, June, slowly entered the ward and gently closed the door behind her. "Brother, you know better than anyone else the true limits of your... gifts. Even if they're considered insurmountable numbers on us, they are most likely minor inconveniences to you. Or, at least, that's what that nice girl that dragged you off the ship said," Hector finished, with a devilish glint in his eyes. Said glint was impossible to miss, even as Jacob winced - memories slowly coming back of his own stand and awakening on the prow of the Rainbow.   "... Iris brought me in?" He finally managed to say, even after a minute of floundering. No matter how hard he tried to block the sensation out, or to even let the residual pain of his physical form overwhelm his memory, the sensation of her offering her own mana in the time of his greatest need could not be etched out of his nerves.   Before Hector could ask who Jacob was referring to, June stepped into the conversation, saving both men from familial foot-in-mouth disease. "Doctor Arlenia did take you off the Rainbow, even insisting that she would follow you to St. Asha's. She is quite a nice girl, even considering that she's still waiting outside. Such a beautiful loyalty from a subordinate, hm?" June finished with a teasing and knowing smile, with Kaylie cluing in almost immediately, and with such a wide grin forming on her youthful features.   With the mere thought of Iris being outside and patiently waiting on him - the Invisible Crow who would never give anyone the time of day - Jacob slowly stretched out muscles, and shifted his legs to prepare for the arduous task of standing. Despite his usual quiet pride, Jacob welcomed Hector's arm that supported him, even as he slowly placed bare feet on the ground and shifted his weight, testing what would be bearable for him without additional support. Taking ahold of the IV pole, he used it as a makeshift support to approach the door, even as June and Kaylie moved ahead of him to open it.   As shy steps became more comfortable, Jacob felt his body pouring limitless quantities of mana into his frame, accelerating the healing of what would be normally debilitating injuries. He still allowed Hector to help him, even as the dull pain of strained muscles slowly ebbed, and as a slow shuffle evolved into a shaky but firm gait. The door having been opened ahead of him, he looked into the hallway, half-expecting what to see before him.   To his right, the attending physician was moving towards him, even as two nurses trailed behind, as well as being escorted by two Talons. To his left, he saw Iris patiently sitting in a chair, her sliver blonde hair a slight disheveled mess as her head moved in his direction. Just as their eyes met, Jacob could feel the doctor place his hand on his shoulder, attempting to direct the Third Prince back to his bed.   "Please, Prince Jacob, it is imperative that you rest..." Said doctor's words were kindly disregarded, as Jacob stepped forth to Iris, while Iris quickly stood up, almost making a mad dash to meet the one who captured her heart since the first day they met each other. Just short of simply leaping into his arms, Iris instead grasped his hands, to which her hold was reciprocated in kind. "... Jacob? How are you?"   "... feeling fine?" For once, the introspective Invisible Prince wasn't entirely sure of his condition, or could even manage to lie about his condition. Normally unflappable, his violet-tinged eyes instead met her icy blues, even as Hector and June smirked from behind him. Kaylie could barely hold her own excitement in, holding her hands to her mouth to stifle a squeal. "Honestly, Iris," he began, dropping any formalities that he normally utilized to keep people at some sort of emotional distance. For the lady in front of him, who almost gave the entirety of her ethereal self to keep him anchored and alive as he breached his own limits, letting her was the least he could do - and he found he did not mind her being this close, "I could be a bit better... though, if you would not mind, may we walk? Walk and talk... alone?" The last part of his sentence was pointed to nearly everyone, including the Talons that normally acted as his shadows.   Iris picked up on this quickly, and nodded, even as she moved to his right side to let him lead, her hand never separating from his. The doctor merely sighed and shook his head, before heading to his station and beginning to update Jacob's condition. Hector and June waved at the departing two, with Hector beckoning the Talons to him, giving his youngest brother the peace he so desired.   --   The courtyards of St. Asha's Hospital provided plenty of meditation space for patients and staff alike, and were sufficiently large enough to give everyone a bit of space. This was most crucial for both Iris and Jacob, as he led her to one of the pavilions that adorned the courtyard greens. Even as he slowly assumed a seat, Iris helped him shift his weight - her hands carefully guiding him onto the polished granite benches. Once he was comfortable, she sat beside him, her hand still having never left his.   After nearly a minute of pained silence between them, it was Jacob who opened the conversation. "Iris... what was it that you were saying to me as I laid in the sick bay of the Rainbow?" He started, but instead of probing, he wanted to hear it directly from her. He was only playing forgetfulness - he took into account her admission of affection, even as his mind was reeling from the effects of initiating his Emanation for the first time in that fateful battle.   To her credit, Iris did not stutter when he asked her, although a small portion of her mind was screaming for her to play it off. How could she, especially after seeing and feeling the burden of which Jacob bore to protect the Endless Rainbow and her from a threat beyond all of them together? That moment of seeing the flowers bloom off of his wings cemented the affection she held for him since day one, and the fact that he allowed her to take his hand proved that, perhaps, her foolish infatuation for the Invisible Crow was not misplaced.   "I whispered in your ear, even while you were drifting between consciousness and unconsciousness, that I adored you since day one, Jacob." Feeling confidence slowly whittling away her fear, she kept steaming forth. "That I found your quiet strength beyond admirable. That for every conversation that we shared, that I could not stop but to look at you - beyond your mask of Prince or Master, and beyond the cold facade that you always kept up." She slowly turned herself to properly face him, gazing into the eyes that she found herself always catching a glimpse of since he first invited her aboard. "I wanted to see you for you, Jacob... and I love the person that I have finally been gifted the opportunity to see."   Jacob found himself at a loss for words, once more. He remembered the exact words that she whispered before he drifted into the dark, and saw that she did not waver. And, perhaps because of her own affection for him breaking through the insurmountable barrier of the strength of his soul, he found himself wanting her, too. When their souls were connected for that single moment as he charged up the Forest for the first time, he did not feel the usual friction that came with being that close to someone. That someone like her could feel at home with the purposeful isolation that comprised his most powerful defense brought tinges of warmth to his heart, and he slowly moved to face her.   "... then what will that make of us? Clearly our current working relationship will no longer... suffice." The next few words slowly came to Jacob, since as much as he wanted Iris close to him, the professional relationship between the medical officer and the Master of the ship had to come first. Once more, the conflict between what he wanted, and what was demanded of him, reared its ugly head, throwing him for a loop and almost bringing him to regret the decision he felt would be hoisted on his scale once more.   Iris placed a single finger on Jacob's lips, a radiant smile adorning her visage as she cut off anything he wanted to say next. "Then don't have me as a member of your crew, Jacob. If that is all it takes, then I would be happy to resign and take up yet another job elsewhere, if it means that you and I can get to enjoy... this."   "Thi-" Jacob started to ask, but before he could complete the word forming in his mouth, Iris struck first. With the deft precision of a surgeon, she leaned in, and stole a quick kiss from his lips, allowing her own to brush against his for but a scant moment. Quickly leaning back, her bravado ebbed, as she realized her boldness in not only stealing a kiss, but to take one from a Prince of all people.   While Iris began to sputter in terms of trying to rationalize what came over her, Jacob's train of thought performed the only action appropriate, and dead-stopped in the middle of a brick wall. It was not as if he didn't want her to kiss him, but he was trying to set up the field so he could kiss her first. With her taking the first strike, anything he was thinking of performing was thrown from his mind with the force of a rocket launcher, and he quickly joined her in sputtering, trying to pick up the pieces of a broken brain. As he came to first, he half-expected to see Iris beaming with victory, but instead saw the lady floundering in front of him, her fingers still on her own lips, trying to test if what just happened was the real deal.   With little else to do, Jacob chortled, his amusement at the situation stirring Iris from her own mental conundrum. "Jacob... what's so funny?" she dared to ask, almost afraid that her boldness would deep-six the relationship she long desired with him.   Taking a moment to catch his breath, Jacob finally looked Iris in the eyes, and was almost struck dumb by just how brilliant her icy blues were, especially in the gentle fairy light of the garden around them. "I... I was expecting a thousand things, but not... that. I was instead expecting this." With but the same speed Iris demonstrated, Jacob took her close in, and delivered a softer kiss, allowing it to linger for a moment before letting her go. Instead of her deflating, she instead smiled, and tucked her head underneath his, content to stay for the moment being, and enjoying his warmth for herself, for the first time.   --   "Aren't you just wonderful at romance," Zara muttered under her breath, even as she passed her binocular sights to her elder brother Julian. Unknown to Jacob and Iris, the extended Mitfield family was watching them from a ways away, even as King Marcus and Queen Amelia were discussing their youngest son's prognosis with the attending physician, as well as with Marcus' sister Clarisse - the one who perhaps knew Jacob better than anyone else.   "Physically and ethereally, Jacob will be fine," Clarisse noted. Far from being the demure Second Princess, her eyes saw and perceived every source of the ethereal, and every expression that rolled from it. One glance at her nephew was enough to confirm what she felt days before - that Jacob finally broke past his final limits, and realized his own Authority. "As for mentally... well, Hector can confirm what he saw," Clarisse added with a tiny bit of mirth in her voice.


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