First Impressions

  • Okay, well, @typical_demigod expressed an interest in reading about some of Jo and Gerald's first interactions. And since I did decide to write how they met. Why not? :P

    In the future, I will add to this and it will be one of the "Intermission Chapters" in Shadows Rise. It'll probably be posted in between episodes three and four.

    Writing Johanna's POV is one of the best things ever in my opinion, but I don't plan on doing it a lot in the main story because an important part of her character is not knowing exactly what's on her mind. With this, since it is about first impressions and that includes her first impression of Gerald... I figured it'd be okay.

    Johanna had been watching the scene for a little while. It was comical, almost. It was sad but nonetheless comical. A small group of healer apprentices gathered around a bowl of stew trying to gather the nerve to approach one particular angry patient and offer him lunch. She could understand their struggle. She remembered the time spent in the care of the White Shadows and knew how dutiful they were. Denying assistance to anyone, regardless of how much of a jerk they were, was unacceptable to them. Her warm brown eyes shifted from the small gathering of frightened teenagers and lingered on the cause of their predicament.

    The man seemed perfectly calm now that he was alone, but she had also watched him painstakingly move his sleeping mat the farthest he could carry it with his bandaged hands, settling down near the remnants of an ancient building. And she definitely heard him yell profanities at the top of his lungs when one of the apprentices tried to ask him not to stray that far from the examination tents. The girl had all but ran from him in tears. He was sitting under the shadows cast by one of the crumbling walls of the ruin, eyes closed, slow breaths flowing in and out of his lungs in a steady and controlled rhythm, likely in an attempt to fight away the pain. His expression gave away the fact it was a losing battle.

    Her gaze traveled back to the frightened apprentices and she hummed slightly under her breath. She had only come to the healers for medical supplies and tea. There was no need to get involved in this, but... Jo couldn’t help but feel a little sympathy for those kids. The camp was full of sick and injured and the healers themselves were too occupied with the more urgent cases. They had no time to rescue apprentices from rude patients. She hadn’t been easy to handle herself. And she’d been taken care of. In a way, she almost felt like she owed the White Shadows something.

    Gerald didn’t want to be in that camp. He hadn’t been in that camp since his father was still alive. All he wanted was to be left alone, rest, and leave. Leave as fast and as far as he could go. He didn’t know where to and he wasn’t sure it even mattered. What he didn’t want or need were children telling him what to do, or chasing him around like he was an infant in need of supervision. He didn’t want their help or anyone else’s. He didn’t need them or anyone else.

    His entire body shuddered through his next couple of breaths. Gerald had emphatically refused any sedatives or pain medication. He wanted; needed, to stay alert. Keeping his focus away from the pain, however, was proving a far more daunting task than he anticipated. He’d had broken ribs before, a broken nose a couple of times, but the broken bones in his hands were by far the worst thing he’d ever felt. Partly because it was difficult to keep them still even with the bandages, but mostly because he felt useless without them. No matter how hard he tried to close his eyes and relax, no amount of meditation had been enough to ease his discomfort.

    If all of that wasn’t enough, Gerald could hear the soft rustling of grass drawing closer to his location and without opening his eyes, he could feel someone standing right in front of him. He didn’t look, hoping that if he ignored whoever it was, they would just give up on him and leave.

    Johanna had no trouble taking the bowl of stew from the frightened apprentices and dispersing their little gathering. It was implied she’d take the chore out of their hands and they were free to tend to more cooperative patients for the time being. She approached the man with slow and steady steps, the blades of grass cracking under her feet as she moved so that she was sure he could hear every single one of them. She stopped in front of him with a pleasant smile, despite the fact his eyes were closed and he couldn’t see it. His body tensed and the muscles of his face twitched only slightly, briefly, and she could tell he noticed her presence but chose to ignore her. This was fine by her. She had time. There was nothing else she needed to do this day. If there was one thing she learned in the past few months was that patience was not only a virtue but also a surefire way to handle stubborn people. And if this guy was going to pout like a little child, she’d condescend him like one.

    Whoever it was, they weren’t taking the hint. Gerald wasn’t sure how long they’d been playing this game, but it was getting ridiculous, and soon enough, ignoring his little visitor was getting more difficult by the second. What little patience he had was waning, drastically, his fists clenching upon his lap as his eyes snapped open in an angered glare. “WHAT do you want!?”

    The words escaped his lips with a lot more force than he intended, and under different circumstances, he would have regretted that, but he couldn’t bring himself to care at this point. His gaze rose slowly and met with a pair of warm brown eyes. The young woman standing before him was definitely not a healer, even less an apprentice. Another patient, more likely. They stared at each other in silence for a small moment, his question still lingering between them, unanswered. Gerald may never have been the most tactful of people; in fact, ask any of the apprentices and they’d surely claim he was the exact opposite, but one thing he was good at was reading people. A person’s facial expression, their eyes, it could tell him everything he needed to know if he just paid enough attention. And he hadn’t failed to notice a slightly satisfied smirk threatening to break through the friendly smile of his new acquaintance. Getting him to acknowledge her presence had definitely opened some precedents he didn’t want open. It was a mistake he was sure to pay for. There was no doubt in his mind about it.

    “What do you want?” he repeated, making sure to soften his tone of voice this time. Shouting and intimidation weren't going to work here. He could tell.

    Johanna could barely hold back a grin when he finally acknowledged her. Sweet victory. She had the upper hand now and the small trace of unease in his expression let her know he knew it too. Good. That made it just a tad bit easier. Again, she was in no hurry to get anything done and she ignored his shouted words at first, her eyes holding his gaze firmly with the acknowledgment that, yes, it was just a little bit intimidating to have someone glare at you like that, but no, that wasn’t going to get rid of her. Jo had met her share of people and a great portion of them had been cruel, manipulative, and sadistic. Life had its way of teaching her to deal with people and situations she had been woefully unprepared to handle just some years ago. She may not be the best at analyzing people, but she did know that a bad attitude didn’t exactly constitute a bad human being. In fact, her experience told her that terrible human beings were overall better at acting likable. This man didn’t seem capable of hiding his contempt for anything and it was strangely comforting.

    At the repeated question of what she wanted, Jo promptly extended the bowl of lukewarm stew towards him with a smile. He snorted in response, his face contorting in what was very clearly disgust. Yes. He definitely wasn’t that great at masking his distaste for things.

    “I don’t want it,” he sneered, “leave me alone.”

    She would have relented if not for the very audible growl emanating from his stomach. Her gaze fell on his bandaged hands, moved to glance at the spoon sticking out from the bowl, then settled on his green eyes. Her expression shifted into a look of absolute skepticism as she filled the spoon with vegetable stew and offered that instead.

    “I don’t need your help.” The angered glare he had given her then was a clear indicator that this wasn’t going to be an easy task, but it almost elicited a giggle from her. It hadn’t been the first time she had heard that recently. “I said I don’t want it. Go away.”

    She didn’t budge. She didn’t as much as flinch. Why wouldn’t she listen to him?

    Gerald was really starting to lose his grip now. He could feel whatever restraint he had been able to muster slowly melting away to a point where unbelievably rude words would start escaping from his mouth. Lashing out at perfectly kind people when they tried to help him wasn’t something he was ever happy about or proud of. It was not something he would be doing if he could just cope with all... the... goddamn... pain. The apprentices were too soft to handle the abuse and he felt horrible about it, but at least he could excuse their constant prodding. It was their obligation to tend to his well-being whether he liked it or not. This woman had no such obligations nor she had a reason to be so infuriatingly persistent. It would be so much easier to just eat and hope that would make her leave him alone, but at this point, he was just intent on making her mind her own damn business. He asked her to leave again. She smiled and silently shook her head ‘no’.
    Enough was enough.

    “Are you deaf or just retarded? I said I don’t need help. I don’t want food. GO. AWAY.”

    This elicited a different response. He saw her smile falter just slightly as she shoved the spoon back into the bowl of cold stew. He thought he’d get her to storm off this time, but no. No. That would be way too easy. Instead, her friendly grin changed into a far more discreet smile and she covered her left ear with her hand in response to his rhetorical question. It hadn’t been as rhetorical as he intended after all.

    “Oh. Oh. Crap.”

    She shrugged off what she assumed was an incoming apology and, much to Gerald’s shock, moved to sit right next to him. That was the opposite of what he wanted. Damn it, he let his guard down. Freaking damn it.

    Jo was amused at the reaction she managed to get out of her new acquaintance. Of course, she wasn’t insulted. He didn’t know. How could he have? Still, his momentary lapse was enough to provide an opportunity and opportunities were not to be wasted. She sat next to him, keeping a respectful distance, but making it clear she wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Her eyes lingered on his face for a moment, up close he didn’t look older than her, but she noted the bags under his eyes and the unwavering tension in his muscles. She also noted the bandages around his hands weren’t as white as they should be. They needed changing and her guess was he hadn’t allowed the apprentices to take care of that either. What an absolute man-child. Really. She noticed one of the apprentices shooting them nervous glances at a distance, the girl probably guilty for having ‘dumped’ her responsibilities on a visitor the way she had. Jo smiled at the teenager and called to her with a gesture, wordlessly digging into the girl’s medicine bag once she was close enough and fishing out a roll of clean bandages. She thanked her in the form of a smile and it seemed to be enough to placate the mix of confusion and annoyance in the apprentice’s expression. Johanna examined the roll of bandages with a proud smirk. This would do just fine.

    Gerald hadn’t been able to think of any new ways to voice his desire to be left alone. It was very clear to him that repeating himself wasn’t going to work. He sighed and closed his eyes again, deciding that if the woman wanted to camp by his side; so be it. He would try to go back to his mediation and maybe, just maybe, he might be able to drift into sleep for once. The little intruder had other plans, however, and Gerald actually opened his eyes with a jolt when he felt the woman’s fingers wrap around his wrist. He pulled his arm from her grip and recoiled faster than if he had been slapped in the face. The sudden movement hurt. A lot. “Don’t bloody touch me!”

    When he glared at her she actually seemed apologetic. It made him feel a slight stab of guilt and that wasn’t fair. She was the one invading his space. He shouldn’t be made to feel guilty. His right eyebrow arched just slightly when she finally let go of the god-awful bowl of stew, placing it on the ground, and held up a roll of clean bandages, pointing at his hands. “Do you even know how to do this? He questioned. “You’re not a healer.”

    Johanna held back a satisfied smirk. He was apprehensive, but she had actually offered something he wanted. When questioned on her ability to properly handle bandages, Jo simply nodded that she could do it and reluctantly rolled up one of her sleeves, showing him the bandages tightly wound around her forearm. He leaned closer for a moment and inspected her work with the look o a man intent of finding something to complain about. He didn’t and instead held out his right hand. She could see a small trace of fear when she once again grabbed his wrist, but he remained still this time and let her. She placed the clean roll of bandages between them and with her now free hand pulled a blade from an ankle sheath. Jo knew she shouldn’t have it, it was against the rules, but she felt uneasy without one. She swiftly sliced open the old bandages and discarded them. He seemed a little bit shocked by this, but Jo simply shrugged in response, a sheepish smile crossing her features. It shut slowly when she caught sight of the actual injuries to the man’s fingers, they were swollen, bruised and literally bent out of shape. She grimaced. No wonder he was so angry, those bandages were NOT done right, not for something like this, broken bones needed to be wound up tight, she learned that from personal experience.

    Gerald was trying not to, but he couldn’t help but be a little bit impressed when she pulled a knife and sliced open his bandages in one quick and fluid motion. He had never seen anyone wield a blade with such level of speed and precision before. It was almost terrifying. It was unlikely even the Wolves who left him in this deplorable state were quite this handy with a weapon. The thought led him to once again watch the woman with an inspecting gaze. She was small compared to him; short and lean, almost insignificant-looking. Her eyes were round, curious, and full of warmth. Nothing about her seemed particularly dangerous at first glance. She inspired trust, even in him. Now that was definitely frightening. Gerald had noticed the ever pleasant expression on her face change as she examined the damage to his fingers She shook her head, seeming displeased with the work done by the nervous little apprentice that had patched him up and that made him feel a bit justified in his aggravation. He would have smiled in appreciation if not for the fact the new bandages being wrapped tight around his broken fingers were causing a whole new level of excruciating pain. Even so, all was done fairly quickly and once each of his fingers had been individually bandaged and his whole hand was firmly wrapped in yet another layer of soft linen, Gerald actually felt a bit more comfortable than he had with the previously loose bandages. It still hurt, but it hurt a bit less and it was a small amount of relief he was grateful for.

    Johanna did her best to make quick work of wrapping the man’s fingers and hand, making the bandages tight enough to fully immobilize the fractured bones, ensuring they would probably heal correctly. She didn’t look up to check on him when she heard the pained groans escaping his lips, but she expected him to be glaring at her and complaining about the pain once she was done. Instead he just silently offered his other hand. She briefly glanced at him when faced with such compliance. He was pointedly looking away from her as though he didn’t want to admit he needed someone to do this for him. As if there was some sort of shame in it. She thought he looked like a baby animal caught in a trap, finally too exhausted to bite at the hands trying to help him out. She couldn’t blame him. No one enjoyed feeling that helpless and it wasn’t fun having to depend on a stranger. Jo lightly squeezed his forearm in an attempt to reassure him before repeating the process of slicing the shoddy bandages open and replacing them with new ones.

    Gerald found himself relaxing just a bit now that he knew what to expect from the new bandages. It only made him realize how exhausted he really was. Sleep was such a distant fantasy at this point still. He let out an involuntary sigh and glanced at the abandoned bowl of stew, questioning whether he was hungry enough to find the idea of bland vegetables appealing. When he looked up from the bowl he noticed a smirk playing on the woman’s lips and he knew she’d caught him staring at the food. He looked away and frowned. No. He definitely wasn’t that hungry.

    Johanna shook her head. He was clearly hungry. She finished with the bandages and watched in silence as he curled up against the wall of the ruin, blatantly ignoring the bowl of stew. Jo let out a very discreet snort at this. She knew the food was terrible in the healers’ camp, but she also knew that food was still food and if it’s in front of you, you don’t fuss about it like a brat; you eat it and you like it. No ifs or buts.

    Gerald tried to go back to ignoring his company, but he could feel the woman’s gaze piercing into him. It was unnerving, to say the least. After a while of trying to cope he turned to look at her and was met with a spoonful of cold vegetables unceremoniously shoved into his mouth. It took a lot of restraint not to spit the food out. Not only out of sheer spite, but also because it was freezing cold, tasteless mush. There were lines, however, that Gerald wouldn’t cross even out of anger and he swallowed the food with a grimace. The woman smiled at him with an undeniably smug look in her eyes and Gerald was sure that if his hands weren’t useless he’d be very tempted to strangle her to death. This was not okay. Opening his mouth to protest was met with yet another spoonful forcefully shoved in his mouth. This time, despite swallowing the food, Gerald pulled the spoon out of her hands and spat it out in the grass. “I said I don’t want it! Have you no respect for boundaries, you deranged mute lunatic!?” He shouted.

    Her eyes widened at him for a moment, although her expression was filled with poorly contained amusement as she picked up the spoon and half-heartedly cleaned it on the hem of her tunic. “It’s Johanna,” she corrected. Her voice was barely above a whisper, but the note of sheer amusement in her words was very clear as she added. “You ungrateful asswipe.”

    Gerald let out an aggravated snort but was unable to hold back the amused smile from forming itself upon his face. Okay, so not a mute, but the deranged lunatic part was still on the table. He shook his head, calmly accepting the next offered spoonful of mush. It was a losing battle. After all, you can’t reason with lunatics.

  • This pleases me and I'm very happy you decided to share it!

    Also made me realize: Does Gerald know any of the healers from the camp/vice versa? Or has it been so many years that they might not recognize each other?

    Also, it takes a very different person to deal with someone like this. I wouldn't be able to do it calmly. Or at all. (I guess that's why I'm not planning to be a doctor? idk.)

  • @typical_demigod I'm with you there; I kind of wish it hadn't finished where it did so I can read more xD

  • @typical_demigod I'm glad. :)

    And yes, yes he does. The now leader of the White Shadows was in fact his father's best friend. And he will eventually get an earful from him for terrorizing the apprentices. Jo will be very amused at this. :P

    I wholeheartedly believe Jo would have made a fantastic healer had she wanted to.

    @Shy_Not_Fly17 I could write these two for miles, but... It's really not what I'm supposed to be writing right now. XD

  • @blackbird Good. He needs an earful. XD

    Whenever Shadows Rise is finished, I'll convince the fans to help me petition you for a prequel about Jo and Gerald. How's that? (It may be a lot more waiting than I want, but... one good thing at a time, right?)

  • @typical_demigod lol

    Welp, one of the Patreon rewards me and my co-writer agreed on is that readers get to vote on what Intermission Chapters they want to read in between episodes (we will have them in the main series as well), so if (when!) we actually get a good readership, that shouldn't be hard to accomplish. I have a feeling that the Hunters would be the most popular characters for this where Shadows Rise is concerned. Just based on feedback from some of my friends, I have a feeling Jo's past alone would be a good cause for speculation since her scars and where they come from are going to be a big question mark throughout the story. >.>

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