The Hospital Arc
Part Two: Awakening
by D.C. Logan
There was a miniature Gundam behind his right eye—using any and all persuasive force to escape from its bony prison. Another one of the pernicious machines had centered itself at the back of his head and was applying all of its considerable skill at bashing his skull open.
Duo tentatively cracked open a corner of his left eye and tilted his head to the side with a groan when the dissipated light of the afternoon speared though his head like a laser. Moving his head wasn't the greatest idea either—it sent his stomach into rolling waves of nausea. He was wrapped in misery. He would admit to errors in judgement, botched missions, whatever—but he hated admitting to an internal physical weakness he couldn't control or manage.
He heard light but not silent walking across the floor. Heero, by cadence, and by his length of stride he was trying to move quietly enough not to disturb him—but no so stealthy as to raise alarm. He tracked the light shuffling sounds from the door, past the bed frame, and to the window; and heard the hiss of blinds being drawn across the glass. The added darkness felt like heaven to his photosensitive lids.
He settled deeper into the blankets and his body relaxed a fraction more.
Heero turned from his task and carefully watched his patient. Duo being quiet. There was a thought... Although he'd come around for a few seconds at a time over the past 48 hours, Duo had been much too quiet for his taste over the past three weeks. It grated to admit it—even to himself, but he missed the loud idle chattering of the eccentric American. Heero was openly concerned over the pain and discomfort of his friend. He twitched the fabric curtain over the closed blind and turned quietly to look at Duo.
Duo tentatively cracked one eye again. When the light didn't slice through his optic nerve with reckless abandon, he widened it further. Going for broke, he opened the other one as well. So far, so good. His vision tracked to where Heero was standing in the half-dark. Watching him. Heero's eyes, nearly black in this light, widened a degree in reaction. He shifted to face Duo directly and, in a low, nearly silent whisper, queried "You okay?"
Duo paused in his thoughts to take inventory. "No," came out softly after a moment's consideration. His head felt strangely light, and throbbed painfully with each heartbeat; and his body felt like it had been crushed, buried, and a troop of dancers had tangoed over his grave for good measure. "I hurt," came out unwillingly as his next two words. He couldn't for the life of him figure out why Heero seemed to be so pleased at this news. "What happened?" seemed to be the next likely question, so he asked it as well.
"There was an accident during the last mission. You've been recovering."
Duo looked confused at this statement, but as he thought about it, it began to make sense. There was something about needing an extra transport to move Sandrock, and he and Heero had gone onto the local base to "borrow" one for a while. He vaguely remembered an impact, followed by pain, and loud voices, and bright lights—but that was all.
"Deathscythe?" he queried.
Trust Duo to have as his first concern his metal alter ego. Heero grinned—the real Duo was back this time. "Your Gundam is fine. Everyone is okay. We're at the hillside safe house and we've all been taking turns looking after you."
Duo digested this information. "How long?"
"The accident was 25 days ago," Heero stated softly.
Duo's eyes widened, then relaxed in acceptance. "That long, huh?"
Heero nodded somberly. He distinctly heard a soft, frustrated "Ah, shit," from dry lips as Duo's eyes closed of their own accord.
The next time Duo tentatively cracked open a eye, morning had arrived. The pale pink sky was just visible in the corner of the window he could see without moving his head. And moving his head was the last thing he wanted to do at the moment—his two miniature Gundams were still waging war in there.
His glance shifted to the side, and he was startled to see Quatre sitting next to him, quietly reading to himself from a computer printout. He shifted slightly and Quatre glanced up to meet his eyes, "Welcome back, Duo."
"It's good to be back, I think."
Quatre's small smile developed into a full grin that widened and brightened his eyes. "Heero said you were feeling better, but it's nice to hear it from the source."
"I'm thirsty... um... water?" came out a bit more hoarse than Duo had intended, but it got the desired result as Quatre put aside his reading material and walked over to the table for a ready glass.
"Can you sit up do you think?"
Duo considered briefly and decided, 'No time like the present' to find out. "Sure," he replied in a hoarse whisper, and Quatre came over to his side and gently supported his upper back to control his movement.
As soon as his head cleared the pillow, Duo knew that something was terribly wrong. His eyes widened in fright, and his body tensed—"Quatre—what happened to my hair?!" There was no familiar weight, no light tension as his braid moved of its own accord, no movement at all. All of a sudden the strange lightheaded sensation that had been bothering him made sense. Quatre's face, only inches from his, saddened, and his eyes filled with unshed tears or the sake of his friend. "I'm sorry Duo, I really am for your loss. Heero told me that your braid was caught in the machinery during the accident and they had to cut it apart to remove you from the wreck. The surgeons at the military hospital shaved the rest when you went in for surgery."
Duo's face fell. To have something all his life, and to wake up with it missing. It felt as if one of his limbs had been amputated. He sipped the glass of water Quatre held for him, and resettled back into his bed. Quatre looked worried and quite concerned over his reaction. Duo didn't blame him—he felt like bawling out loud—something he hadn't done since his days at Maxwell church. He couldn't remember anything in his life—short of the death of people he had loved—that hurt quite as much as the realization that his hair was gone.
"I want to see—can you get me a mirror?" he asked after a long pause. Quatre looked worried, but did as Duo bid and returned with a small hand-held mirror that he held up to his face.
Duo looked at the stranger in the mirror. He had Duo's eyes, but the bruised expression in them wasn't one he was familiar with. He had Duo's face, but there was a fine tracing of mostly healed scars that he didn't recognize as his own. And he had Duo's hair—at least the color was the same, but instead of pouring over his temples and flowing down the length of his back, this youth had a cap of painfully short strands that closely covered his scalp. He made eye contact with Quatre, and the mirror was removed.
He mustered all of the effort and resolve he could find and looked Quatre in the eyes; "At least it wasn't my neck. Anything else missing?"
Quatre seemed quite pleased that Duo was taking things so well. "Other than enough blood to cover the runway, no. The doctors that we've been in contact with say you should make a full recovery."
"Well, that's something anyway..." He moved his arm awkwardly to feel the top of his head. It sure felt different. "I want a hat," he stated emphatically, "Now."
Pleased to have a task assigned to him, Quatre took off at once to tell the other pilots the good news. There had been a pool running—no one had wanted the unwelcome task of being in the room when Duo had found out about his hair. Now the waiting was over, and the healing could begin.