Shift has no concept of time. To him, five minutes feels like an hour. For this reason, he has no idea how long he's been sitting by the cells.

His arm is still bleeding, but very slowly. Even so, there's blood trickling down his arm to pool on the floor, blood coating the hand pressed against the wound, and blood all over his costume. There is blood everywhere, and its rusty smell makes him nauseous. Or maybe that's from the pain. Probably both.

And, fuck, is there a lot of pain. So much pain he can't find its origin, though he knows perfectly well it's from the stab wound in his bicep. He feels like his whole body's burning, like he's covered in hot coals. It's from his Extra's healing factor, he thinks. For the first couple hours, he heals rapidly and it burns. Skin and muscle are trying to rebuild, and that's not an easy task, even for an Extra. After that it slows down, and the only pain left comes from the wound itself, but those first few hours are always hell. It comes and goes right now, making him seize up whenever it comes back, and go limp when it leaves.

All this while in enemy territory, and without communications. He can hardly move, can barely think through the pain, and he's still in danger. He's fucked.

Footsteps pound through the corridor in front of him, and Shift's breath catches in his throat. His eyes go wide, and he scrambles against the floor, trying to at least make it to a crouch, but he doesn't have any strength.

"Shift?" someone calls. "No, I don't know," the voice says, lower now. Speaking into a earpiece, maybe? "I can't hear him. Can't see him."

The voice is feminine, with an edge of roughness that he finally manages to place. "Aviator?"

"Hold on a second," Aviator says to whoever she's talking to. "I think I got him." A pause, and then she calls for him again.

"In here," he replies weakly. "By the cells."

Aviator rounds the corner, hovering just above the floor. Her brow is creased, her eyes narrowed behind her goggles. Her blond ponytail is in extreme disarray, and the pale skin of her face is marred with dirt and scrapes. Her mouth drops open as she sees the state he's in. "What happened to you?"

Shift smirks. "Knife fight." He lets his hand fall to the floor, revealing the gash.

Aviator curses under her breath and drops to her knees beside him, examining the wound. "Edge found you, then?"

"Is that the guy with all the goddamn knives?"

"Yeah, that's Edge." She sighs, and fishes a little roll of gauze out of one of the pockets on her jacket. "Where is he?"

Shift nods further down the hall, where Edge is still out cold. "Managed to knock him out right after he got me." He flinches as Aviator wraps his bicep in gauze, tying it tightly. "Jumper was behind me; disappeared while I was fighting Edge. What happened to her?"

"She's fine. Hectic attacked her while Edge distracted you, so she teleported to the second floor and dropped him out a window."

Shift laughs curtly. "What about the rest of 23?"

"Everyone else was ambushed the same way you and Jumper were. Your flyer got a hold of my team when she realized you guys were outmatched, and we stepped in before anyone could get too hurt." She grimaces. "Except you, apparently."

"So I'm the lucky one today," he drawls, rolling his eyes. "Good for me."

Aviator frowns. "You're getting a bit delirious, aren't you?"

Shift furrows his brow, thinks on the question. When he realizes his mind's too muddled to find an answer, he nods. "Little bit, yeah."

Aviator helps him to his feet, and Shift sinks his teeth into his bottom lip to keep from crying out.

"You need to go to a clinic." Aviator says as they head out.

Shift groans. "Why? I can heal all on my own, same as you."

"Being Extra doesn't keep your wounds from getting infected, and take it from me: that hurts like a bitch."

Shift grumbles, but doesn't bother arguing.

Aviator guides him outside, where 23 and Aviator's group, 39, are waiting. None of the others seem to be hurt at all, just exhausted. They're lounging against a wall, hidden from view of the building they've escaped from while they recover.

Jumper notices his return first, and she winces as she sees the bloody gauze on his arm. "How bad is it?" she asks.

Shift tries to shrug, but the pain makes him stop cold. "It's... relatively bad," he finally says.

"He needs a clinic," Aviator clarifies. "Can you teleport him there or should I fly him?"

"I got him." Jumper goes to him, places a hand on his uninjured arm. "Debrief can wait until tomorrow," she tells the others. "For now, I think everyone needs some rest."

Before anyone can respond, she Jumps.


Jumping is not pleasant, Shift decides, as he empties the contents of his stomach into a garbage can. He has no idea what happened, really. One second they were out behind 86's lair, the next, they find themselves in a clinic waiting room, and Shift feels like his stomach is trying to escape through his mouth.

Jumper pats him on the back as he vomits again. "You get used to it, really," she promises. "I don't even get disoriented anymore. It's almost like stepping into another room."

The nausea finally begins to subside, and Shift climbs back to his feet. "I'm not going to get used to it, because I'm never doing it again."

Jumper smiles. "No? Well, we'll see."

"Never again," Shift mutters to himself as he staggers up to the desk.

The receptionist regards him with a disinterested glance behind her plain mask. "Reason for visit?" she asks with the tone of someone who's been saying this all day.

"Stab wound."

"Alias and powers?"

"Shield Shifter; energy shields."

The receptionist nods, then stands. "Take a seat, and we'll get someone to help you shortly."

Shift drops into the nearest chair with a grunt, and Jumper sits beside him, legs crossed neatly.

"You don't have to stay," he says. "I can take care of myself."

Jumper tilts her head. "Do you know where you are?"

Shift glances around him. He finds nothing familiar in this place, save for the typical plain walls, dull carpet, and uncomfortable seats. "Not specifically," he admits.

Jumper nods. She's made her point.

Shift sighs, but settles down to wait.

The pain keeps coming and going. It improves just a little every time it comes back, but it still has him cringing. The ebb and flow keeps him from falling asleep, much to the disdain of his exhausted mind.

Just as his eyes begin to droop shut, a door opens, and someone calls his name.

Jumper nudges him. "Go on in. I'll wait for you here."

Shift struggles back to his feet numbly, head swimming, and follows the receptionist into a cramped examination room. She checks out his bandage, scribbles something on her clipboard, and tells him someone will be in to treat him in just a second before leaving again.

Shift lets out another long sigh before collapsing on the examination table. He closes his eyes and stretches as far as he can, groaning in mixed pleasure and pain. His stiff joints pop and his sore muscles relax, but his injured arm still burns and throbs. He rests his head on the thin pillow, and he waits.

When the door opens, he jolts back up to a sitting position, heart pounding and hands ready to form a shield. The doctor, a mousy little man with big eyes and graying hair, drops his clipboard with a clatter and freezes, hands up.

Shift disengages. "Sorry," he grumbles. "It's been a long night."

The doctor nods. "Understandable. I'd be on edge too if I'd been stabbed."

They don't shake hands, they don't go over Shift's medical history, and they certainly don't exchange names. The doctor simply walks up and unwinds Shift's bandages, his expression serious behind a white and red mask. He examines the wound, poking and prodding around it a few times, and checks for any further injuries.

"Just the arm?" he asks, and Shift nods. "It isn't too serious. It'll probably only need a few stitches."

Shift cringes, and the doctor looks up, frowning. Shift looks away. "Sorry. I have, sort of, a thing about needles, is all." he admits. "Go ahead, just- make it quick, if you can?" His cheeks burn. What kind of superhero is afraid of needles?

The doctor seems to understand, though. He cleanses the wound, sterilizes as best he can, and rummages through cluttered cabinets until he finds a needle. Shift turns his head away, eyes squeezed shut, and focuses on keeping his breathing deep and even as the wound is sewn shut. He flinches and whimpers and whines, but it's over before he knows it, and after a fresh bandage is applied, he's free to go.

He steps back into the waiting room to find Jumper sprawled out in her chair, chest rising and falling slowly. There's no way to tell if she's really asleep or not thanks to her mask, but Shift calls her name just in case.

Instantly, she sits up straight. "Good to go?"

"Yep." He flops his injured arm around, and pretends not to notice the pain. "Mind telling me exactly where I am?"

"Wynn Avenue. You know your way home?"

He nods. "I'll get going, then."

Jumper stands, follows him out the door. "I want to see you at the regular place tomorrow night for debriefing, but then you're excused from any team duties for two weeks."

He whirls around to face her, eyes wide. "Two weeks?"

Jumper lifts her chin. "Is that a problem?"

"It's only a little scratch! I don't need two weeks off; I don't even need one. I can come back way-"

Jumper's mask crinkles. "Two weeks. That is final." She walks past him. "See you tomorrow."

She Jumps before Shift can keep arguing.