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It’s cold. It’s gotta be cold. Snow is cold. Why am I not cold? A blessin’ in disguise? No, can’t be; my fingers are jus’ ‘bout purple.
Those fingers curled to make fists before being shoved into the thin pockets of his jacket. The snowstorm really hadn’t been much of a surprise - well, yes and no. The discarded newspapers he’d found in various dumpsters had all called for cold, maybe snowy weather, but he didn’t think it’d get this bad. Trudging through the snow was a strenuous effort but he had to thank his (semi) lucky stars that he didn’t feel the need to bury his face into his coat collar like everyone that passed by him down the sidewalk.
It would be some time before he could get back to the place he called home. Really, it was nothing more than an abandoned building he’d found that had at least part of the roof in tact enough to keep out the rain and whatever else fell from the sky, so it was homey enough. But when trekking across the city felt more like a vertical climb up an icy rock face? No thanks. Better to just find some sort of shelter and bunker down for a while. Stay warm, or whatever that was anymore.
He kept the fists pressed deep into the pocket as he kept his path close to the buildings. With the wind whipping snow around, he had to squint in order to see anything, or to not run into someone else who was equally blinded. And while they continued to obstruct their vision with scarves around their faces, his cheeks reddened from the biting cold he could not feel, but he happened to catch a flash of orange in his peripheral. A pause halted his strides for a moment before he found the orange again: a paper behind a window. Curious, Marshall cut some through a drifted snowbank in order to read the sign.
Part-time help for a clinic.
A glance was shot up in an effort to see the name of the building but the attempt was botched as soon as he realized that wasn’t important at the moment. He maneuvered out of the bank and then found the door, opening it and hesitating just a moment before stepping inside with a great deal of caution, as if putting his worn boots down lightly would lessen any mess melting snow would make.
”Hello?” He closed the door behind him. ”I saw your flier an’ so I was curious if you still need a part-timer.” The thought that he clearly didn’t look clean-cut or presentable was shoved far from mind. It never hurt to ask about things, of course, so it was a shot in the dark.
He’d hardly finished the last words from his mouth before who he assumed was the owner of the clinic was fetching a blanket and approaching to put it around his shoulders. The added layer did nothing, really, but she didn’t know that, and he didn’t want to be rude by saying he felt entirely fine beforehand. So he smiled at her in an appreciative manner, allowing himself to be towed further into the room where he assumed it was warmer.
”Hurt? No, I feel jus’ fine. But, uh…” The hand with the purple-tipped fingers was taken from the pocket and the fist uncurled. Sure enough, the ends still showed the signs of frostbite. ”Ain’t seen my toes yet, though.” But he figured he needed to check them, too, since his socks had seen far better days, and in certain parts of his boots, the sock was the only thing protecting his feet from the elements.
With his other hand he held the blanket around himself while she left him. For a moment, he allowed himself to look around the clinic. Nothing too fancy, but certainly not subpar; right up his alley. So the real question now was if whether or not he could tell her the truth and not be chased off or forced to set pen to paper with signing his life away to NATO. But, as he liked to put it, when it came down to saving lives, did it really matter if the healing was through a special ability?
”Thank you, Claire.” Again he gave her a smile, absentmindedly wrapping his questionable fingers in the fabric of the blanket that was just about too soft for him to feel. If he wasn’t looking down at it, he didn’t quite think he’d know he was holding onto it. A little breath was taken and he steadied himself, pursing his lips together. Everything he’d read from discarded magazines and newspapers pointed to bad things happening if he outed himself as “not normal.” And if she was one of those people that was iffy about the “abnormal” ones, he figured running would be his best option. Someone would have to be crazy to chase him down in a snowstorm.
”I, uh… have a ‘natural talent’ for healin’, you could say.” A subtle way to put it. Hopefully she’d catch implication. Even if not, he was still quick to jump into defending his ability’s reliability. ”Tried ‘n’ true, it works, I promise. All I gotta do’s touch their arm or some’in’ ‘n’ they’re better. I’ve fixed ever’thin’ from scrapes t’ broke bone. I really think some’in’ like this shouldn’t go t’ waste.”
He gave her a rather sheepish look, one that read that there was more behind what he had shared. ”I jus’... feel fine,” he repeated, a little shrug coupling with his words. There really wasn’t another way he could put it since he didn’t understand his powers beyond the fact that he physically felt nothing but could take peoples’ wounds and heal them. And the comment about his shoes had him glancing down at the worn fabric and the tears that lined where the shoe bent regularly. Okay, he’d give her that one: he did need new kicks. It just never crossed his mind when he couldn’t feel water coming in through holes or the cold seeping through the thin material.
”Um… a, uh…. A long time. But that ain’t ‘cause’a the cold.” He pursed his lips together as he looked at his hand, curling and uncurling the purple-tipped fingers. There really wasn’t a doubt in his mind that his toes probably looked the same and he wasn’t quite looking forward to hearing what Claire would have to say about that. He’d half the mind to go ahead and take his shoes off but she was coming back with a cup of coffee. The steam that rose up from the liquid immediately told him that it was hot, so when she handed the mug over, he made sure to take it by the handle and avoid grabbing the entire thing. Not that he would’ve felt the burn, but he knew better than to recklessly do things that would hurt him even if there was no pain involved.
Marshall nodded his thanks and sat in the chair while holding the blanket around him still, sipping slowly as instructed. Her question, however, when she looked back, had him hesitant for only a moment before she explained herself further. The clinic was a safe place and so was Claire; that prompted a small smile to come to his face. The chair felt much more comfortable now.
”That’s music to my ears.” He smiled at her over the lip of the mug as he sipped once more. ”I, uh. I can’t feel anythin’ physically. Which is why I can’t feel this--” the frostbitten hand was raised. ”Or how hot the coffee is. Or how cold it is outside. Or this blanket.” As if to emphasize that, he rubbed his fingers on the fuzzy material once more, feeling just a twinge of sadness that he couldn’t relish the softness. ”I guess it’s a blessin’ in disguise, though, ‘cause when I take someone’s wound, I can’t feel that or the pain. So it don’t matter what wound I take, though I know I gotta be careful. Still, ain’t somethin’ I’d wanna see go to waste, ‘specially when it don’t cost them or me nothin’. ‘Sides healin’ on my part, but since it’s painless then I don’t really care.”
A “hot” cup of coffee was a foreign concept to him. Everything he drank was the same temperature, but thankfully his ability never affected how he tasted things. However, he could tell when a drink or some food was too hot by the way taste diluted, meaning his tongue had been burned. Little tricks like that were what told him that his body was, in fact, being hurt even though he couldn’t feel it. The cup of coffee in his hand wasn’t any different but he had simply come to assume that the drink needed to be sipped slowly to avoid not being able to taste it.
”I dunno,” was the only response he could come up with. Explaining how he couldn’t feel things felt similar to trying to explain why air was clear. It just was. ”Truthfully, your guess is as good as mine. I don’ understand anythin’ about bein’ Inhuman.” The coffee mug was switched to his other hand but then was set down as Claire brought over a pair of rubber boots and some socks that looked delightfully fuzzy. He bent down and merely pulled the ratty shoes from his feet, peeled off the thin and worn socks, and sucked in a breath when purple toes appeared. ”Oh hell,” he muttered quietly.
Her question was almost missed as he inspected the toes but he looked back up at her. ”Depends on how firm the grip is.” Marshall straightened up and picked the coffee mug to sip from it again. ”If it’s like a death grip, then yeah, but if it ain’t, then no. It’s kinda like when your hand goes real numb an’ you can’t feel nothin’. You see you’re pokin’ your finger, you know you should be feelin’ somethin’, but you don’.” A shrug moved his shoulders and he took the fuzzy hat to pull over his damp hair, not really feeling the effects of the added layer but assuming it would help.
”Thanks for all this,” he said, ”an’ you’re pretty much right on the nose, there. If you got a cut on your hand, all I gotta do is make skin contact with you, an’ that cut basically gets moved from you t’ me. You’re all healed up in a few seconds. That cut will appear on me, but it won’t be as intense. A stab on you would jus’ be a bad cut on me. An’ I kinda heal faster, yeah, but since the wounds show up on me not as intense as they were on their original host, I don’ really need a super fast healin’ rate. Like this one time some poor fella broke his arm - busted the bone clean in half - so I took it, an’ on me it was jus’ a fracture, I think. Nothin’ too bad.”
Marshall hummed in thought for just a moment as he thought, then slowly shook his head. ”No, not really. I just really gotta be careful with how much I take on since I can’t feel what damage I’m doin’ to myself. But I do know when I’m reachin’ my limit ‘cause I’ll just… feel tired. Exhausted. Just real sluggish and out of energy.” Probably, he figured, it was his body’s way of forcing him to stop and rest so it could focus on healing those wounds. He’d only reached that state a few times but it was a very distinguishable exhaustion. One that he really couldn’t ignore.
”Yeah.” His admittance that he needed to take care of himself was quiet and he looked down at his cup of coffee, watching the little tendrils of steam still rise up, but they were thinner than they’d been in the beginning. The drink was finally cooling off. Marshall took another sip, relishing the taste and noticing that it wasn’t becoming diluted or bland like liquids and food always did when his tongue was burned. With that realization, he drank a little more, thankful that his sense of taste hadn’t been taken away along with touch.
”Doesn’t hurt me any, no.” A shake of the head was given after he’d swallowed the mouthful of coffee. When she asked if he could show him, he finally looked back up at her, both surprised but also interested in the fact that she seemed curious about the ability he considered both a blessing and a curse. ”Sure, I can show you. I figure you know what that means you gotta do, but… it can even just be a papercut, though that might only show up like a little red mark on me since it would be a small thing on you. Or - or do you got any cuts that are healin’ right now? Or a skinned knee, or a carpet burn, a rope burn…” He’d gestured with his purple-tipped hand as he thought out loud and rattled off possible injuries she might have. ”Or if there’s anyone nearby that you know’s got somethin’ they need healed. Anythin’. I just don’t wanna put yourself in a situation where you gotta do somethin’ you’re not comfortable with doin’.”
He gave a nod, something more similar to a side-to-side bob of the head, making sure to swallow his coffee before responding to her. ”I try t’ keep food on me when I can. Filet mignon, baked Alaska, beef wellin’ton, ratatouille… whatever I find in the dumpsters.” Piggybacking off her lighthearted tone, Marshall managed to crack a little grin at her. For the most part, however, his little backpack housed anything packaged or canned that could be saved for later. Anything with a shelf life so he could save it for when he needed it the most. And when he could, soup kitchens were a lifesaver. Literally.
The Inhuman listened intently and watched as Claire bent over to show him a very colorful bruise situated on her leg. Her questioning was met with yet another nod, though this time a more confident one. ”Plen’y t’ work with.” He set his coffee mug down gently and then bent over to roll up his own pant leg, essentially mimicking what she’d just done in order so that she could see whatever appeared on his skin in the same location. ”Might not turn up as much, but you’ll still see somethin’ there.”
Reaching out, Marshall only softly set one purple-tipped finger to the nurse’s skin. Instantaneously the bruise began to fade on her skin, and a lesser version of that injury came to appear on the Inhuman’s leg. When all was said and done, Claire’s leg was returned to normal.
”Easy peasy.” He leaned back, keeping his bare shin exposed so that she could take however long she wished to look at it. ”You can hit it if you want, I won’t feel nothin’.” Not that he really expected her to but the offer still stood so that he could prove his point. ”I don’t think I heal any faster than a normal person, though, so anythin’ I take on will run a normal healin’ course.”
”Well, I was partially jus’ jokin’, but you’re still right. Snoopin’ ‘round the fancy part’a town certainly has its perks.” The wealthy really just didn’t understand the concept of keeping leftovers. Bad for them, good for people like Marshall. His attention came up to Claire at the mention of free food that wasn’t served atop a pile of trash. ”I’d really appreciate that. Honest.” And a little smile turned the curve of his mouth upward. ”If all I gotta worry ‘bout is eatin’ ‘til I’m sick, it’s gon’ be a great day.”
He made the physical contact on her leg as minimal as possible, just long enough that he was certain her bruise had disappeared entirely. Fortunately there was the discoloration to go off of, whereas broken bones required observation of both wound and the victim’s expression when they finally found relief. He couldn’t help but give her a proud little grin when her reaction was one of awe. Still made him beam some when people found his ability to be amazing.
”Ain’t no trouble at all,” he said, bending down to unroll his dirty pant leg and smooth it out. Keeping an eye on her, he reached back for his coffee and took a sip of it as he straightened, humming happily when the temperature of it seemed to have dropped to allow for more frequent drinking. ”Sounds like a perfect payment plan t’ me. I can start right now, if you want.” Marshall looked up over the lip of the mug at his new boss and polished off the last of the coffee. Despite the warmth he couldn’t feel, he was so thankful that the taste still lingered on his tongue. Yep, she’d made some great coffee.
Putting the mug back onto the little counter top, he looked down at both of his wrists almost shamefully. ”I, uh… jus’ ain’t sure I can get here on time. I don’t have a watch or nothin’ t’ get me up so I can get here in a timely manner. I also don’ wanna impose on you since you been so nice t’ me already but I also don’ wanna be late my first day...” He gave her a sheepish smile.
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