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Poem: "This Penetrating Intimacy" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "This Penetrating Intimacy"
This poem is spillover from the March 1, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from rix_scaedu.  It also fills the "bubbly" square in my 12-1-15 card for the Defining Character Bingo fest.  This poem has been sponsored by curiosity.  It belongs to the Cuoio & Chiara thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

This microfunded poem is part of a package bought during the May half-price sale, to be paid on an installment plan.  So it's not seeking donations from other people, and the remaining material will be posted over time.

Warning: This poem contains some intense topics.  Highlight to read more details, some of which are spoilers.  This is heavy-duty hurt/comfort with lingering echoes of traumatic grief, graphic violence, graphic medical details, complications of medical care due to superpowers, current solutions for said complications which are reassuring and effective, past descriptions of hacking around said complications in ways which were effective but appalling, and Cuoio somehow managed to not get PTSD from that shit, jump-started nonsexual intimacy if you can imagine "rapport at first sight" instead of the usual love, a little finagling to get the dynamic situational authority to work right because it's so new, minor misplaced angst caused by carrying over assumptions from a previous relationship to a current one that is quite different, and other challenges.  Despite the mayhem, it's mostly positive: problems come up and are dealt with and people take care of each other because that's what Family is for.  This poem features Cuoio meeting a new teammate, so skipping it could leave a gap in the thread. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"This Penetrating Intimacy"


The assignment was straightforward --
reception and protection -- and Cuoio
felt quite proud to have gotten it.

He wasn't in the business
for the glitter and glamour;
he left that to other men.

He was in it for the satisfaction
of a job well done, which left him
a wide array of fine opportunities
overlooked by more ambitious men.

With the help of his mentor Ruggiero,
Cuoio was building an anvil team of
people who were difficult to damage.

So far he had his comare Chiara,
whose Super-Strength made her
formidable in case some opponent
foolishly tried to harm or kidnap her;
and his right-hand man Duraturo,
whose Invulnerability put him
beyond any ordinary injury.

For each mission, Ruggiero
also provided an assortment of
support crew with different abilities,
both ordinary and extraordinary,
from which Cuoio could choose
a suitable team for the task.

Today's job involved guarding
a shipment of untraceable cash
and all-too-traceable treasures
that people had dispensed with
to gain their insurance money.

It was secure enough in the truck,
but vulnerable when offloaded for
redistribution to various destinations,
which made a tempting target.

Cuoio looked around at the crew
he had chosen -- all solid, beefy guys
and one woman with the approximate
shape and weight of a refrigerator.

Fredda was one of the Marionette butches
who liked women and dressed as a man and
preferred to be treated just like the guys.
Cuoio was perfectly fine with that.

The only drawback was that they were
all serious business, some of them to a fault,
and he would have appreciated a little levity.

Cuoio still missed his late bodyguard Galterio,
who had been a rock, but with a dry wit
that led to occasional quips.

His vidwatch vibrated a warning:
the truck was about to arrive.

He glanced at Duraturo for confirmation
and received a solemn nod in return:
the team was ready to receive.

Cuoio touched a button to acknowledge
the message, and waited for the truck to appear.

Soon it lumbered around the corner,
heavy on its wheels due to the cargo,
and pulled into its parking place.

Cuoio's team stood guard while
the shipping crew began unloading
the boxes and distributing them,
some into the warehouse and
others into different trucks.

Halfway through the process,
someone attacked the shipment.

When Cuoio saw the size of the hit squad --
literally, because they had a giant with them --
he didn't hesitate to thumb the button on
his vidwatch to summon his relief team.

Then it was just a matter of defending
the cargo until they could get here.

They were outnumbered at least
two to one, but aside from the giant,
the enemy seemed to consist
mostly of ordinary thugs.

Cuoio smacked a fist into his palm
and went to work, as his team
fanned out around him just the way
they had planned in advance.

Then someone shot him in the kneecap.

Thanks to his Toughness, the bullet
ricocheted away without doing any damage,
but it still knocked him off his feet.

Cuoio found himself looking up at
a three-foot-tall mobster holding
a dainty little ladypistol.

"Well, it looks like our first meeting
fell a little flat," the chump said,
and then dashed away.

Not really the comic relief that
Cuoio had been looking for.

Undaunted, he picked himself up
and barreled into the fight, laying out
one of the ordinary mooks.

They usually went down with one hit,
but the trouble was, there were a lot of them,
which raised unpleasant memories of unfair fights.

Duraturo had the giant more-or-less pinned
against a wall, trading blows, which Duraturo
could do all day long due to his Invulnerability.
Fredda was picking off the mooks like Cuoio was.

The little guy went zipping through the fight
without anyone laying a finger on him.

He wasn't super-fast, just snappy, and on
every trip he grabbed something small
and valuable out of the shipment.

Also he kept shooting people.

Most of the mooks used knives or
knuckles, which largely glanced off
the armor that Cuoio's people wore, or
even off the skin for himself and Duraturo.

Bullets, though -- sooner or later,
one of those was going to get through
and might really hurt someone.

Fredda tried shooting back with her Cold Blast
but the little bastard just dodged and kept going.

Cuoio managed to hold his ground and
protect the drivers, the shipping crew,
and most of the cargo of the truck.

They were almost down to even odds when
he pushed a shipper out of danger and felt
a stabbing pain in his right shoulder as
a bullet punched through his Toughness.

It didn't slow him down, though,
just annoyed him, and Cuoio
took out his frustration on
the nearest mook's face.

The man dropped like a sack of potatoes,
and he did not get back up again.

The relief team arrived and merged
smoothly with Cuoio's crew. He sure did
appreciate the Marionette emphasis on
thorough preparations and support.

Cuoio grabbed a slender, leggy guy
and assigned him to block the little one.

Someone else made it to the getaway car
and started recovering the stolen goods.

The giant went down, then
lumbered back to his feet
and put a fist through the wall.

Super-Strength wasn't such fun
when the bad guys had it.

Fredda finally managed to nail
the speedy little pipsqueak with
her Cold Blast, which was enough
to cause instant hypothermia even though
she didn't have the strength to freeze anything.

He flopped to the ground, moaning,
barely able to move anymore.

The giant scooped him up and scrammed,
abandoning the loot and the remainder
of the hit squad sprawled on the ground.

Cuoio directed the drivers to check
whether the truck was still drivable, and
told the shipping crew to inventory the goods.

Stuff was scattered around, but he was
pretty sure nothing actually went missing.

Cuoio grinned as he helped Duraturo
truss up their fallen opponents. Their boss
would have to ransom them back later,
which wouldn't be cheap, and Cuoio
would get a taste of that action.

"Boss, you're bleeding," Duraturo pointed out.

"Oh," Cuoio said, glancing at his shoulder.
"Yeah, I got shot a bit. No worries."

"May I take a look?" said a new voice.

Cuoio turned to find one of the relief men --
Salvo, that was his name -- regarding
him with an expression of concern.

"I'm still on duty," Cuoio said politely.

"I can take over the mop-up here, boss,"
said Duraturo. "You go with the nice healer."

A twinge of something passed over
Salvo's delicate features. "I'm not a healer;
my superpower is Regeneration," he said.
"Today I'm an enforcer, sometimes a bodyguard,
occasionally a combat medic. I do have plenty
of medical training. I've been taking care of
the casualties in order of severity, and
now I'm down to the minor injuries."

Now that was a terrific spread of skills.
Galterio had made a capable bodyguard, but
he hadn't known any more about first aid than
Cuoio himself, which was to say, just enough
to slap on a bandage and call for a medic.

Cuoio looked around and saw that
the excitement had wound down.
"All right, Duraturo, you're in charge,"
he said, clapping the man on the back.
It made his shoulder protest unpleasantly.

"Let's sit down over here," Salvo said,
leading Cuoio to the warehouse where
he would have a wall to lean against.
"I'll help you out of your jacket."

Cuoio looked down at the black sleeve
of what had been a very nice suitcoat,
now soaked with blood and sporting
a thumb-size hole. "Oh, just cut it,"
he said. "It's ruined anyway."

"I have a cutter in my kit,"
Salvo warned before reaching
anywhere that Cuoio couldn't see.
"Just lean back and relax."

With the fight over, Cuoio
found the exhaustion and pain
starting to catch up with him. He
was perfectly happy to prop himself
against the wall and let go of his vigilance.

The cutter made quick work of both sleeves,
the jacket and the shirt underneath it, and
Cuoio couldn't help a sigh of regret. He
hadn't been flush for long enough yet
to lose good clothes and not care.

"I'll find you a replacement, shall I?"
Salvo offered, and then winked at him.
"It wouldn't do for me to send you home
wearing the Emperor's new clothes."

Cuoio laughed in spite of the pain
in his shoulder and the loss of his coat.
There was something about Salvo that
lifted his spirits, light and effervescent,
reminding him of soda or sparkling wine.

In fact if Salvo had been a schoolgirl,
Cuoio would have said bubbly
without thinking twice.

Tender hands probed his shoulder,
finding the small round hole and then
the finger-long track to the lump
left underneath his skin.

"It looks like the bullet had just enough
force to break in, but the denser muscle
turned it aside to slide under the surface,"
Salvo said. "This could have been worse."

Cuoio muffled a groan. He'd been hoping
the bullet had made its own way out, because
his Toughness complicated medical care.
"So now what?" he asked Salvo.

"I can remove the bullet for you,
but I'm almost out of supplies.
I packed as an enforcer today,
not a combat medic, and you
really piled up the casualties,"
Salvo said. "Would you rather
I do this now, wait for the restock,
or take a ride to a real hospital?"

"Just dig it out now," Cuoio said.
He could cope with the pain -- he had
survived a lot worse than this -- but
the longer the bullet stayed there,
the higher the chance of infection,
and he didn't have Super-Immunity.
"Wait, I'm a tough guy. Do you have
the special equipment for that?"

"Not with me," Salvo said, "but
don't worry, I have other options."

Cuoio tried not to cringe. He had
experienced more than his fair share
of makeshift alternatives during
various emergency room visits.
"Just get on with it," he said.

"Let me start with the cleaning,
and then I'll see what more I can
do for you," Salvo said. "I'm out of
anaesthetic, so we'll need to find
a good distraction. Do you have
a girlfriend? A boyfriend?
A pet dinosaur perhaps?"

Cuoio laughed again, forgetting
all about the hands dabbing
antiseptic over his shoulder.
"I have a comare," he said.

"Ooh, lucky man," Salvo said.
"Pretty or handsome? Country girl
or man about town? Tell me more,
I'm dying of curiosity here."

"Her name is Chiara, and she's
a strongwoman," Cuoio said proudly.
"She can pick me up over her head.
She has the most gorgeous set of
muscles that I've ever seen, and
she knows all the Family stuff
that I'm still trying to figure out.
I think I'm falling in love with her."

"Family can be confusing,"
Salvo said. "She sounds lovely.
What have you been doing together?"

So Cuoio babbled on about Chiara
and what made her so wonderful and
the things they'd been exploring together.

Salvo was gentle and careful, and
his energy felt just as soothing as
the healer who'd patched up Cuoio
after the Family enforcers had
scraped him off the pavement
when he'd rescued one of theirs
from an appallingly unfair fight.

Cuoio couldn't help thinking of
hot tubs and natural springs and
how much he wished that he'd
met this man a lot sooner.

"Hold still, this will hurt for
a minute," Salvo warned.

Cuoio felt a sharp slice of pain,
some unpleasant digging, and then --

Plink! went the bullet onto the pavement.

"Did you just cut me?" Cuoio said,
looking down to see Salvo pressing
a wad of gauze against his shoulder.
That shouldn't even have been possible.

"Just enough to get the bullet out,"
Salvo said. "It looks perfectly ordinary,
and it's all in one piece. As soon as
the bleeding slows, I'll clean up and
close the incision for you, then
you'll be as good as new."

Cuoio winced. It was never
that simple for him. "Do you
even have an industrial stapler?"

"Excuse me?" Salvo said, staring at him.

"You know, for the stitches," Cuoio said.
Sluggishly he lifted his left hand to point out
the old, laddered scar on his right forearm.

Salvo used his free hand to examine the marks.
"Someone used a stapler on you?"

"It was better than the nail gun," Cuoio said,
"but I'm not dropping my pants to show you
that one." The scar from it ran down the back
of his left thigh, from a knife wound that had
nearly killed him, but mostly what he recalled
was the agonizing punch of the nail gun making
holes in his superpowered skin so the medics
could close the wound before he bled out.

"What were they thinking?" Salvo growled.

"They were just trying to keep me alive,"
Cuoio said. "They didn't have any of
the special equipment. I don't blame them."

"It's a wonder you can still stand to let
anyone touch you," Salvo said.

"I like your touch," Cuoio said honestly.
"You're all warm and fizzy, and I don't know
how you're getting through my superpower,
but whatever it is, it's working."

Salvo smiled. "I've learned some skills,"
he said. "Toughness is a responsive power,
not as much as Adaptation, but it isn't static
like Invulnerability. I can't get through that one
at all, but I can finesse my way past Toughness
more often than not. Plus your energy is at
low ebb after a fight, so there's less resistance."

"That's amazing," Cuoio said.

"I'm flattered, but from your description of
prior care, it's not a high bar to clear," Salvo said.
"It's pretty much lying in a ditch, in fact. Someone
must have been a very naughty boy to earn
that much ditch-digging duty."

Cuoio laughed again. He was really glad
that he had a bullet wound in the shoulder
instead of broken ribs this time, or
his chest would be killing him.

"All right, you have a decision to make,"
Salvo said, peeking under the gauze. The cut
was no longer than Cuoio's smallest finger.
"This is shallow enough that I could just
wrap it, but you'd need to wear a sling for
at least a week to avoid reopening it.
Half that long if I glue it. Stitches would
provide enough support for you to use
your arm normally, as long as you don't
lift anything too heavy until it heals."

"I'll take the stitches," Cuoio said.

He preferred a little temporary pain
over a longer loss of function any day.
Besides, he was curious to see
if Salvo could actually do it.

"You started telling me about
your dancing lessons," Salvo said
as he carefully lined up the edges of
the wound, then laid the curved needle
against one end. "Isn't it confusing with
you trying to learn both leading and
following? I'd get so turned around,
I'd forget which feet were whose!"

Cuoio chuckled at the mental image
of mistaking Chiara's shoes for his own.
"No, it's just like my job, really," he said.
"Sometimes I lead, sometimes I follow,
it depends on the situation. I like  not
having to be in charge all the time."

"No wonder you're not arguing with me
like most of the guys do," Salvo said.
"You're going to spoil me so rotten,
you could bottle me like a fine wine."

Salvo's ridiculous sense of humor
kept Cuoio's spirits up, and after
the nail gun and even the stapler,
the gentle twinge and tug of the needle
felt almost relaxing in comparison.

Cuoio, who had never thought of
himself as particularly sensitive to
other people's energy and was just
beginning to get a sense of it for
his own comare, felt charmed by
the texture of Salvo's personality.

He had nothing to compare with
this penetrating intimacy, but
now that he had it, he didn't
ever want to let go of it.

So Cuoio went along with it, and
regaled Salvo with stories about
learning to dance with Chiara and
how much fun it was to switch leads,
even when they made mistakes that
left them tangled in each other's arms.

Before long, Salvo had the wound closed
and bandaged. Then he cleverly repurposed
the ruins of Cuoio's sleeve to make a sling.
"Just until you get home," Salvo said. "It will
hurt less if you keep the weight off of it."

"I'm fine," Cuoio said, which was surprisingly true.

Just then, a runner trotted up, carrying
a heavy-duty first aid kit. "Here, sir,"
he said, offering the box to Salvo.

"Finally," Salvo said, then turned back
to Cuoio. "Do you want some pain relief,
now that I actually have it to offer?"

Cuoio consulted his shoulder.
The pain was nowhere near as bad
as it could have been, but it was still
more than he wanted to wear home.

"Yes, please," he said, and then,
"Are you sure that will even work?"

Warm fingertips found the inside of
Cuoio's elbow. "I think that I can
still get a needle in here," Salvo said.

Cuoio felt the length of it laid
against his arm, the point pressing
just hard enough to dimple the skin.
He waited for the stab of it ...
and waited, and waited.

"Did it not work?" he asked.

"Almost done," Salvo said.

What.

Cuoio looked down to find
that the needle was already in --
and back out again, as Salvo
taped over the tiny puncture.

"How did you even ..." he muttered.

"Practice," Salvo said with a smile.
"Besides, you don't need much of
a painkiller right now, you're already
riding so much of an endorphin rush."

"Oh, is that what it is," Cuoio said.
"Even after a fight, I don't usually
get this ..." He flopped a hand,
trying to find a good description.

"Right now you are as loopy as
a Berber carpet," Salvo said, which set
Cuoio laughing again. "Don't worry about
that, it's just your body's way of taking care
of you in the absence of outside aid.
I can coax it along a little, is all."

If that wasn't a superpower,
then Cuoio didn't know what was,
but he kept his mouth shut about it.

"Hey, boss," said Duraturo as he
crouched beside them. "The mop-up
is done. All cargo is accounted for, and
everything's intact except for the Ming vase,
which is in about a billion little pieces."

"Too bad," said Cuoio. "If nobody else
wants the shards, I'd like them for Chiara.
She enjoys making mosaics."

"Good idea," Duraturo agreed. "Dispatch
said great job calling for backup immediately.
Too many people wait so long it's no use."

That was essentially what they'd told Cuoio
the last time he did it, so maybe it was true.

"Thank you for taking care of the cleanup,"
Cuoio said to Duraturo. "I appreciated it."

"Any time, boss," said Duraturo.
Then he turned to Salvo.
"Can you take Cuoio home?
He's in no shape to travel alone."

"I still have to report," Cuoio said,
fuzzily trying to drag himself
upright and back on duty.

"No you don't," Duraturo said,
although he helped his boss up
anyway. "I'm doing that too."

"Let your right-hand man make
the preliminary reports today,
then you can fill in the details
tomorrow," said Salvo, holding
Cuoio up on the other side.
"Right now, you need to rest."

"Plan," Cuoio said, nodding against
Salvo's shoulder. The painkiller was
doing a marvelous job of melting
what remained of his resolve.

Duraturo poured Cuoio into a car,
helped him into a clean shirt and coat,
and then Salvo drove Cuoio home.

"I'm gonna be in so much trouble
for this," Cuoio said glumly as
they pulled into the driveway.

"Why?" asked Salvo.

"Got shot," Cuoio said.

"You did a great job today, and
injuries happen in our line of work,"
Salvo said. "Oh, wait -- did you have
a girlfriend before your comare?
One who didn't understand?"

"Aniella always got upset if I came home
with injuries," Cuoio said, lost in memory.
He still mourned her, no matter how much
he adored Chiara and his new Family.

"I think you'll get a different reception
this time," Salvo said. "Trust me on that,
or rather, trust the very fine comare
you've been bragging up to me like
you're trying to sell a new car."

Cuoio's laugh was a muted rumble.

Salvo half-carried him to the door,
and Chiara met them on the way there.

"I heard today got a little rough," Chiara said,
opening the door." Who's your new friend?"

"This is Salvo. He patched
me up and brought me home,"
Cuoio said sunnily. "Can I keep him?"

Chiara raised an eyebrow.
"Shouldn't you be asking him that?"

"We'll discuss it later, when you
are sober," Salvo said diplomatically.

Cuoio wanted a team of his own,
with people who couldn't be hurt
so easily again, and he had been
working hard for several months
to turn that hope into a reality.

A bodyguard with Regeneration
would fit right into that -- but really,
it had been the bubbly personality and
the gentle hands that charmed him
into making the intoxicated offer.

Salvo was nothing like Galterio,
just as Chiara was nothing like Aniella,
and that was probably for the best.

"Let's get you into bed," Chiara said
to Cuoio as she picked him up.
It was so wonderful to have
a strongwoman as a comare.

"Do you need a hand with him,
or have you got everything
under control?" Salvo asked.

"I could use some help managing doors
and changing clothes," said Chiara.

"Gladly," said Salvo, accompanying
her into the little cottage that
Cuoio and Chiara shared.

There was no yelling or crying or
scolding or fussing about the blood.
Cuoio could really get used to that.

Instead Cuoio was gently unwrapped
from his clothes while Salvo went over
care instructions with Chiara, which
meant that Cuoio didn't have to try
remembering any of that stuff
while his head was all fuzzy.

Somehow they had both gotten under
his skin, and Cuoio found that he liked it.

They tucked him into bed, and
he fell asleep to the sound of Chiara
giggling over some terrible joke
that Salvo was telling her.

* * *

Notes:

Cuoio (Francesco De Cello) -- He has olive skin, brown eyes, and wavy dark brown hair with a fancy beard and mustache.  As a mobster, he lives a rough life.   Cuoio has already lost one bodyguard, Galterio; and one (civilian) girlfriend, Aniella.  He really hates the idea of losing anyone else.  Part of his deal joining the Marionettes was that they'd help him find more durable people.  So far he has acquired a comare or mob girlfriend, Chiara; a right-hand man, Duraturo; and a bodyguard/medic, Salvo.
Origin: He was born with his power, although it has gotten stronger over time.
Uniform: Classy Italian men's wear, preferably something he can move and fight in when necessary.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Fighter Boss, Good (+2) Asking for Help, Good (+2) Charming, Good (+2) Martial History, Good (+2) Musician
Poor (-2) Losing People
Powers: Good (+2) Tough
Motivation: To protect his own.

Chiara Acquesta -- She has olive skin, brown eyes, and long wavy brown hair.  She is tall and sturdy with well-defined muscles.  As a hobby, she cuts stone and makes mosaics.  She has created several of the landing pads for teleporters that the Marionettes use.  Despite her superpower and physique, she's actually good at calming people down in more ways than just hitting them.  She is friends with Pomarola.
Origin: She grew up as a tomboy, and then puberty made her pudgy.  She hated that, so she joined a gym, began weight training, and started taking supplements.  That combined to activate her superpowers.
Uniform: She dresses sporty, instead of the slinky outfits favored by most comares.  Her boss Cuoio thinks muscles are sexy enough.  For dresses she likes things that are suggestive but not slutty, and practical enough she could run or fight in them if necessary: usually with shoulders covered but cleavage showing, short sleeves, skirt between knee and ankle, either stretchy fabric or a full skirt.  For the same reason she won't wear high heels, only flats or low wide heels.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Comare, Good (+2) Beautiful, Good (+2) Determination, Good (+2) Mosaic Artist
Poor (-2) Tolerating Sexism
Powers: Average (0) Super-Strength
Motivation: To be beautiful.  Muscles are beautiful.  If you say they are unfeminine I will hurt you.

Duraturo (Bitto Dalmasso) -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short straight brown hair.  Because of his Invulnerability, he has difficulty cutting his hair and can never get a really close shave.  He comes from the city of Asti in the Piedmont region, and some of his relatives are vintners.  He learned boxing in school, and stuck with that as a fighting style.  He enjoys extreme hiking where his superpower allows him to go that other people cannot, such as volcanic craters.
 After developing superpowers, Duraturo worked his way south and came into the Marionettes through some distant family connections.  He is a very capable enforcer but not so interested in climbing the ladder.  He is much better at shoring up a leader he likes, and makes an excellent right-hand man.  His easygoing nature means that he doesn't go looking for serious fights, although he enjoys sparring, and that makes him less attractive to some bosses.  Duraturo makes a comfortable fit with Cuoio.
Origin: As a teenager, he worked for relatives making wine.  An accident while prepping new barrels doused him with boiling water -- and he was completely uninjured.
Uniform: He tends to dress casually, often in black jeans or trousers with a t-shirt or henley.  He favors leather jackets.
Qualities: Master (+6) Reliable, Expert (+4) Enforcer, Expert (+4) Followship, Good (+2) Boxing, Good (+2) Easygoing, Good (+2) Extreme Hiking, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Winemaking
Poor (-2) Unpopular with Many Bosses
Powers: Good (+2) Invulnerability
Motivation: To go the distance.

Fredda / Chiller (Piera Raneri) -- She has light olive skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair.  Her body has a very robust build, with almost nothing in the way of feminine curves.  She has tribal-type tattoos sleeving most of her left arm.  She is a butch lesbian.  Fredda works for the Marionettes as an enforcer.
Origin: As a child, she managed to shut herself in a refrigerator during a game of hide-and-seek, and was not discovered for hours.  She survived and developed superpowers.
Uniform: She wears masculine clothes.  On duty, that's often a suit or at least a button-up shirt and trousers.  Off duty, she favors muscle shirts and jeans.  But she always wears lipstick because her lips chap so easily, and she likes delicate girlie shades of pink.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Big and Tall, Good (+2) Dependable, Good (+2) Enforcer, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Sensitive Skin
Powers: Average (0) Cold Blast
While Fredda can't generate enough energy to freeze anything, she can drop the temperature down to almost freezing -- including the inside of someone's body.  Since it only takes a few degrees to cause hypothermia, that's enough to make opponents sluggish and stupid, or dead if they won't quit pestering her.
Motivation: To stand her ground.

Alto (Lodovico Dioli) -- He has light olive skin, brown eyes, and short curly brown hair with a beard.  He is a giant, standing about nine feet tall, but with normal adult proportions.  He only speaks Italian.  Alto works for the Mob as an enforcer.  He is partners with Corto.  The two of them are inseparable and make a formidable team in the field.  Alto is not particularly smart or quick to respond to a changing situation.  He customarily relies on Corto to handle those factors.
Origin: His superpowers developed in childhood.
Uniform: On duty, he usually wears a business suit, as many mobsters do.  Off duty, he likes fashionable men's clothes.  Alto and Corto often dress to match.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Enforcer, Good (+2) Navigation, Good (+2) Partners with Corto, Good (+2) Reliable
Poor (-2) Slow on the Uptake
Powers: Average (0) Big and Tall, Average (0) Super-Strength
Motivation: Security.

Corto (Hadrian Tivoli) -- He has olive skin, dark brown eyes, and straight black hair.  He is tiny, standing about three feet tall, but with normal adult proportions.  He speaks English, Italian, and Japanese all at high speed.  Corto works for the Mob as a gunman.  Among his favorites is a Ladysmith whose blue-black metal is engraved with gold swirls and the grip is custom carved from ebony.  He is partners with Alto.  The two of them are inseparable and make a formidable team in the field.  Corto always has a joke or a quip ready.  Although he knows how to use his small size to advantage in a fight, it still puts him below waist level for ordinary people and makes it easy for him to get lost simply because he can't see where he's going.  He customarily relies on Alto for navigation, and Corto often rides on Alto's shoulders while out walking.
Origin: His superpowers developed in childhood.
Uniform: On duty, he usually wears a business suit, as many mobsters do.  Off duty, he likes fashionable men's clothes.  Corto and Alto often dress to match.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Gunplay, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Funny Guy, Good (+2) Partners with Alto
Poor (-2) Gets Lost Easily
Powers: Average (0) Malleable, Average (0) Tiny
Although he does not have true Elasticity, Corto can squash his body more than usual and squeeze through almost any gap.
Motivation: Money.

Salvo (Alessio Sinacore) -- He has light olive skin, brown eyes, and black hair that flops over his forehead.  He keeps his moustache and beard trimmed short.  He is trim and graceful, but strong for his size.  He is bisexual.  Alessio comes from Venice, and Sinacore is one of the primary Marionette families.  He has learned enough about soup care to be able to influence other people's superpowers, not precisely with his own power, but with skill  instead.  He is particularly good at talking people through controlling their power for a desired effect.
 As a bodyguard, Salvo practices Nova Scrimia.  His best skills include Venetian dagger, Venetian Cornoler stick fighting, and hand-to-hand combat.  He has worked some short stints as a personal bodyguard, more often an impersonal one, and sometimes as a combat medic or an enforcer.   He makes a good match with Cuoio because Salvo is so different from his boss' previous bodyguard.
Origin: Alessio wanted to go into health care, so he was working at one of the Marionette clinics as a teenager.  An accident shattered a shipment of experimental medicines and left him with superpowers -- just not quite the kind he wanted.  He continued his training for a few years, hoping the Regeneration would develop into Healing, but so far it hasn't.  Eventually he switched over to bodyguard work instead, where his medical skill comes in handy as backup.
Uniform: Outside of combat, Salvo favors tailored suits in light colors and fabrics, often ivory linen or silk.  For combat he wears either light armor or a medic's uniform.
Qualities: Master (+6) Influence Superpowers, Expert (+4) Bodyguard, Expert (+4) First Aid, Good (+2) Bubbly Personality, Good (+2) Fashion Sense, Good (+2) Soothing, Good (+2) Soup Care, Good (+2) Venetian Cuisine, Good (+2) Water Sports
Poor (-2) Disappointed by His Superpower
Powers: Average (0) Regeneration
Motivation: To keep people in one piece.

* * *

An anvil team is a group consisting of members who are all difficult to damage.  They may have offensive capabilities as well, or focus primarily on defense.  Popular superpowers include Adaptation, Elasticity, Immortality, Invulnerability, Regeneration, Super-Armor, and Toughness; or a Battlesuit for supernaries.

Organized crime includes many illicit activities, among them money laundering and insurance fraud as mentioned here.  Terramagne is somewhat less prone to violent crime and more to property crime.

Traumatic grief happens when the mourning process gets "stuck" and makes no progress.  It is particularly prone to happen in cases of violent or compound lossDealing with traumatic losses takes a lot of work.  Cuoio has actually lost four people (both parents, girlfriend, and bodyguard) within the last year or so.  He's starting to come out of the fog, but you can see how often he still stumbles over the memories.

While many people have trouble getting help when they need it, Cuoio isn't one of them.  He's good at asking for help and building alliances with people who can help him.

Hypothermia is a hazardous drop in core body temperature, which requires careful treatment to recover.  One useful thing about it, however, is that even a mild case (which is not dangerous) has pretty good stopping power, and at moderate levels (which ordinary medical care can fix just fine) will reliably put someone on the ground.  Severe hypothermia is life-threatening but not required for combat purposes.

Adrenaline has a distinct peak-and-drop pattern in self-defense or other combat situations.  Cuoio is familiar with both the rush and the crash part of that slope.

Salvo has discovered that voice, skin contact, and other techniques can influence someone else's superpowers -- particularly in terms of convincing defensive powers to lower their guard by identifying friends. Soft stroking motion helps. Conversely, brisk tapping or poking can stimulate a sluggish response.

Bullets cause variable damage depending on the weaponry and ammunition.  Aftercare of gunshot injuries can be complicated.

Toughness ranges from ordinary to super levels.  This can minimize the risk of damage and lower the amount of damage taken.  Unlike Invulnerability, Toughness is more responsive; and unlike Armor, it extends throughout the body instead of creating a shell.  Like Super-Strength, this entails some reinforcement of tissue in addition to the manipulation of energy.  Even if the energy part wears out during a fight, which tends to happen with Toughness, some of the fundamental density remains, and that can complicate both the nature of injuries and the steps required to care for them.  You can see some related examples in our world, such as people born with exceptionally dense bones and the way steroid use increases muscle density and pressure.

Cutters for emergency use have a protected blade to open clothing safely.

"The Emperor's New Clothes" is a fairytale about imaginary garments.

Distraction, relaxation, and humor are all useful for controlling emotional or physical pain.  They have physical as well as mental effects.  With first aid in particular, it is valuable to ensure that your client has something else to focus on besides the bleeding wound you are trying to plug up.  The use of humor in medicine is sensitive, as some people find it very beneficial while others find it off-putting.  So as with anything else, good rapport between caregiver and client is crucial to quality of care, and treatments may work great for some people while being useless or counterproductive for others.  Cuoio and Salvo happen to be a terrific match.  As mentioned above, Salvo is also capitalizing on techniques that don't rely on outside materials as a way of getting around superpowers or short supplies.

Adaptive leadership means being fluent in both leading and following.  Cuoio is good at switching modes, equally comfortable in either.  It makes him a great mid-level mobster, heading up a team for assigned missions.

(These links come from the kink community, because that's who studies endorphins a lot.)
Endorphins activate by levels, and like the narcotics they resemble, they dampen mental acuity as the levels deepen.  Thus a person high on endorphins should not be left alone, and aftercare is important when they start to come down.

Traditional Berber carpet uses a stitch which makes a loop with a colored fleck in it.

Chinese ceramic includes the Ming period, such as this vase like the Marionettes had.

There are tips on taking care of injured friends.

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Comments
From: technoshaman Date: May 21st, 2016 04:23 am (UTC) (Link)
LOL! Alto e Corto. Translation back to colloquial English, Mutt and Jeff!

Salvo's a keeper. He's keeping everyone in stitches! (Yes, pun intentional... :)

Fancy cutter. IIRC they just used surgical scissors to get the stuff off me... except the overpants, I'm like, no, no, do this the easy way, they unzip! I'm still hoping to do something with the crashed pants.

Cuoio's a switch? ;)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 11th, 2016 03:09 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>LOL! Alto e Corto. Translation back to colloquial English, Mutt and Jeff! <<

Literally, Tall and Short, which are more often used as modifiers on given names in Italian.

>> Salvo's a keeper. He's keeping everyone in stitches! (Yes, pun intentional... :) <<

Exactly. He's very clever.

>>Fancy cutter. IIRC they just used surgical scissors to get the stuff off me... except the overpants, I'm like, no, no, do this the easy way, they unzip! I'm still hoping to do something with the crashed pants.<<

Their tech level is higher, and they need it -- some of the more advanced fabrics won't cut with ordinary scissors. A hook or a rotary cutter will apply physics more efficiently, while keeping the blade away from skin. People who will alarm to scissor blades often won't for a smaller, concealed cutting edge. And while you can stab someone with scissors, you really can't with the others.

>> Cuoio's a switch? ;) <<

Yep. It makes him an excellent middleman.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: June 4th, 2016 08:51 am (UTC) (Link)
I like Salvo! And Alto+Corto = Tall+Short; what a pair!


Sorry these are so out of order. I get distracted easily.

• She has tribal tattoos sleeving most of her left arm. 
> Literally tribal? Is she, say, Māori? Or "tribal" in the gang sense? Could use a bit of explanation.

• grip is custom carved from ebony.. 
> Just one period.

• combat medic or an enforcer. ^ makes a good match
^ He

• Salvo practices Novo Scrimia
→ Nova
> Link? E.g., the Wikipedia article.

• This can minimizes the risk of damage
→ minimize

• Traditional Berber carpet is a loop with a colored fleck in it.
> This threw me: a collar-shaped or Moebius carpet? I looked at the link you took the wording from, and ISTM that its wording is odd though consistent. I'd say the traditional stitch of a Berber carpet is a loop with a colored fleck in it.

• then lay the curved needle
→ laid



Edited at 2016-06-04 09:06 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 11th, 2016 03:18 am (UTC) (Link)

Fixed!

>>I like Salvo! And Alto+Corto = Tall+Short; what a pair!<<

Yay!

>• She has tribal tattoos sleeving most of her left arm.
> Literally tribal? Is she, say, Māori? Or "tribal" in the gang sense? Could use a bit of explanation.<<

Tribal-type, so I changed to that.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 6th, 2016 07:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really enjoyed this one. Seeing how the Family takes care of their own, especially how Cuoio needs that, because a nail gun? Eeeek.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 11th, 2016 03:21 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> I really enjoyed this one. Seeing how the Family takes care of their own, <<

I'm happy to hear that.

>> especially how Cuoio needs that, because a nail gun? Eeeek. <<

Yeah, superpowers have drawbacks. For tough guys, it really complicates medical care. They're harder to hurt in the first place, but once they're hurt, they're kinda fucked. Cuoio is right at the stage where the rough handling is starting to cause problems, but not enough that he hides from medical care the way some of my other characters have learned to do. So it'll wear off pretty quick now that he has Salvo.
helgatwb From: helgatwb Date: June 8th, 2016 02:20 am (UTC) (Link)
It very much felt like Salvo was flirting.

I like this.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 11th, 2016 03:23 am (UTC) (Link)

Well...

That's where Salvo got some of his patter, but it's not romantic flirting with intent. You can tell the difference because he's asking if Cuoio already has someone (yes) and then talking dish, instead of talking about Cuoio himself. But once Salvo realized Cuoio was in the process of assembling a team, there's more subtle and more genuine hint exchange on the topic of hooking up professionally. Salvo is just too much of a gentleman to take advantage of Cuoio while he's stoned.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 11th, 2016 03:24 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

We can indeed, and you may ask for more about Salvo during any relevant prompt call. He's really onto some key ideas in soup care, and while his own superpowered energy field gives him an advantage, many of the techniques will work at least somewhat for nary caregivers.
cflute From: cflute Date: October 11th, 2016 02:51 am (UTC) (Link)

omt (one more typo)

One more small typo, in Duraturo's description: the region is Piedmont (needs a 'd'). Translates literally as "foot of the mountain".

Pie is something else entirely, and very tasty, especially if the crust is gluten-free. :-)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 11th, 2016 03:10 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: omt (one more typo)

Fixed, thanks.
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