of Justice + Chapter 13 (cont)
* * * * *
It seemed to Duo that he'd been scanned, poked and prodded by every diagnostic
machine known to man, and it was only 10 a.m. Now, he was lying on an
examination table, wearing only a t-shirt and boxers, freezing his goosebumps
off in the airconditioning, while he waited for Sally to come back and
tell him his knee would be fine and he could leave.
The room was uncomfortably silent. Duo hadn't spoken unless he had to
during all the tests; maybe he did have to have them done, even
if it was only to shut Sally and the other pilots up, but he didn't have
to like it and he was damn well going to sulk if he wanted to. Heero had
been quiet, too, watching him with an odd, questioning expression. Trowa
was being Trowa, which meant that since he hadn't had anything important
to say, he hadn't said anything. That left Quatre to fill the conversational
void with encouraging chatter and comments, and even he had given up.
"Quatre?" Heero said abruptly, standing up and reaching for Duo's long
coat. "Could you go and find a blanket or something? Duo's cold." He draped
the coat carefully over Duo and rubbed his arms through the fabric, raising
a little warmth.
"Thanks," Duo muttered as Quatre ducked out into the hall. "This is one
of the reason I hate hospitals. They always have the airconditioning
cranked up like it's summer at the Equator outside."
"I think the temperature has something to do with the air purification
systems they use," Trowa offered. "Maybe they should reheat it before
it gets circulated."
Quatre bustled back in with a couple of cotton blankets, followed by Sally
Po and a tall, thin, black-haired doctor. "You need blankets?" he asked,
blinking dark eyes behind his glasses. "There are supposed to be blankets
already on the shelf... oh, I see there are not. Most regrettable. The
temperature in here is such that blankets are definitely needed if you
are sitting around half naked for any length of time. I see that you avoided
that instrument of psychological torture known as the patient gown, however;
well done! You must tell me how you managed that, the nurses are really
"Duo Maxwell, this is Doctor Modi, one of the top orthopaedic surgeons
in the Earthsphere," Sally said politely as Duo sat up. "He'll be performing
the surgery on your knee."
The bottom seemed to plummet out of Duo's stomach. "Surgery? What
surgery? Come on, Sally, I just twisted it!"
"Perhaps that is all you did, Duo-- may I call you Duo?"
Dr. Modi said, setting his laptop down on a small wheeled table and moving
it over next to his patient. "You managed to twist it in a singularly
nasty way, however; not only did you tear your anterior cruciate ligament,
you also ripped the meniscus. To do that, you must have popped your patella
right around to the other side of your knee for a moment. I understand
you fell off a ladder, and then again on some stairs?"
"Yeah, but-- I don't really need surgery, do I? How long will it
take to get better if I don't have the surgery?"
"It won't," Modi calmly replied, peering over his glasses. "You really--ah
--'did a number on it'. The anterior cruciate ligament, also called
the ACL, is quite important; it holds your knee joint in alignment and
helps to keep your patella-- the kneecap-- in place. Without
it, your knee will be massively weakened, it will have a nasty tendency
to bend sideways at inconvenient moments, and your patella will move out
of place and wear away at the other bones. If we do the surgery, however,
you will be able to return to your normal range of activities within...
hmmm... perhaps as little as four months. Wearing a knee brace, of course,"
he added, "but that, too, will be temporary."
Duo paled slightly, then swallowed. "Well... shit," he muttered.
"What does this surgery entail, exactly?" Heero asked tersely, one hand
going out to cover Duo's.
"First, I should like to point out that this is quite a common surgery,"
Modi said, pecking at his laptop's keyboard and peering at the results
onscreen. "Athletes do this sort of thing to themselves all the time and
all the-- er-- 'bugs' were worked out of the operation a
long time ago. What we do to fix it hasn't changed since Before
Colony days, but we've refined the details of how we do it. Ah,
here we are," he said happily, turning the laptop around so that the pilots
"This is a three-dimensional image of your right knee that we've produced
from the scan data," he continued, pulling a pen from his pocket and waving
it at the screen. "The ACL goes from the left side of your tibia, here,
and runs up and across to the right side of your femur, about a third
of the way up, here. At least, it's supposed to. We'll take a braided
carbon fibre replacement and fuse it to the bones in the proper places,
like this." A tap on the keys produced a short animated sequence.
"We'll clean up the torn meniscus while we're in there, fuse it together...
that part will heal in no time. They used to fix this sort of injury by
taking a piece from another ligament and screwing it to the bones,
a rather alarming idea, but we've gone beyond that now. We'll use a couple
of different treatments to stimulate healing, and you'll actually end
up growing a new tendon through the carbon fibre matrix. Eventually, your
body will absorb the carbon fibre and it'll be all you in there. Any questions?"
Duo swallowed again. "How long am I going to have to be in the hospital?"
"It's really up to you," Modi replied. "If there are no complications--
and they aren't likely-- we'll let you out as soon as you can bend
your leg 90 degrees by yourself. Without using your hands, I should point
out, since we've had had patients try to cheat... um, that should be less
than a week."
"What about after that?" Heero asked, squeezing Duo's hand as the braided
teen relaxed slightly.
"Well, after you prove that you can bend your leg, we put you into an
immobilising brace so you can't" Modi said sheepishly, still talking
to Duo. "Sounds silly, I know, but it's the right thing to do. You go
home and clump around on crutches like that for about a week or ten days.
Then we unlock the brace and bend your leg again, which is really
going to hurt, I'm afraid, and start you in physical therapy. If that
goes well, you should be able to switch to a smaller brace after three
months or so; another month or two later, and you'll only have to wear
the brace if you're going to play sports or spend the day on your feet.
At that point, physical therapy stops, and eventually, you'll be able
to throw the brace away for good. 'Eventually' usually means 'about a
year after you stop therapy', but it depends on a lot of factors. If you
get lazy, or push yourself too hard too soon, you'll set yourself back."
"Pay attention, Duo," Sally said dryly. "You can't approach this
the way you've handled every other injury in your life. If you try to
act like you're not hurt, or speed up your therapy, you won't get
better faster. This time, it doesn't work that way."
"I have a reasonably light caseload at the moment," Dr. Modi muttered,
tapping at his laptop again. "I can fit you in... um... three days from
now. How's that?"
Duo flopped back on the examination table and sighed. "Okay. If I've got
to do this, sooner is better."
"It doesn't take very long," Modi said encouragingly, "and it's usually
done with just a local anaesthetic--"
"Bad idea--" "No--" "That won't work--" Sally,
Heero and Quatre closed their mouths and looked at each other.
"Oh," Modi blinked, confused. "Is there a problem?"
Trowa cleared his throat. "While we're sure Duo would stay still
for the operation, he really doesn't like hospitals. He wouldn't
enjoy it. Right, Duo?"
"I could handle it," Duo growled.
"Yes, but you don't have to," Sally pointed out. "And you'd be
wound tighter than a violin string. I don't think you need the extra stress."
"Whatever," Duo snapped. "Why don't you guys plan my life, make all the
arrangements, and just tell me when and where to show up?"
Quatre leaned over and lightly smacked Duo on the top of his head. "Knock
it off," he advised, affectionately. "It's your decision. If you want
to be awake for it, then you'll be awake, but don't expect us to keep
our mouths shut if we think you'd be happier or better off doing something
else. You speak up fast enough when you think we're doing the wrong
"Duo, maybe being out would be the best thing," Heero said under
his breath. "With your reflexes..."
Duo's eyes widened slightly as he considered what could happen if the
local anaesthetic didn't quite work properly. If he felt an unexpected
twinge of pain while he was stressed and reacted... "Good point," he muttered.
"I will book you in for general anaesthetic, then, hmm?" Modi said, hitting
keys. "If you come in at 7 a.m. we can get you prepped and into surgery
by ten-thirty. You know not to eat for twenty-four hours, yes? No drinks
after midnight. And no walking on that leg, use crutches if you must get
around. As for the paperwork, we can take care of that today."
"Paperwork?" Duo asked.
"Yes, a basic medical history and payment arrangements."
"Oh, that's easy," Quatre said, glad to have something he could do. "I'll
Heero glared. "I'll pay."
Duo sighed. "Gimme the paperwork, okay?" he asked Modi. "This could take
Twenty minutes later, Heero and Quatre exchanged one last glare.
"Half each then?"
"Hn." Heero nodded.
"Too late," Trowa said calmly. "We got tired of waiting. Duo's paying."
"Yeah," Duo said sourly, struggling into his jeans. "It's my knee,
after all... and neither of you asked if I wanted you to pay. It's
not like I'm hard up for money, you know."
"But Duo, it's really no problem... I want to--" Quatre stated.
Dr. Modi kept tapping away at his computer, oblivious, but everyone else
turned to stare at Heero.
"...what did you say?" Duo asked, blinking.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have taken it for granted. I'll ask next time,"
Heero said seriously.
Slowly getting over his shock-- Heero never apologises
to anybody -- Duo ducked his head, pretending to concentrate
on pulling his jeans over the wrapping on his knee without disarranging
it. "Hopefully, there won't be a next time," he muttered. "I'm
certainly not planning to pop my ligaments very often, or anything like
Heero shrugged, looking away. "The next time something comes up that I
should ask you about, then."
Sally was covering an amused, speculative smile with one hand as she looked
back and forth between them, obviously forming her own conclusions. Only
Quatre's long practice at staying politely unreadable during business
negotiations was keeping his jaw from dropping, and Trowa wore a faint
smirk as he picked up Duo's coat and held it for him to put on.
* * * * *
Karthan was sitting up at one end of the huge cupboard-bed, clutching
at his chest and gasping for air, when Uthmar burst in.
"What is it?! What happened?!"
"They all died," Karthan said dazedly, staring straight ahead at nothing.
"All of them, down to the youngest child... and they did it themselves!
He's all alone..."
"Karthan? Karthan! Snap out of it!" Uthmar waved a hand in front of the
other dwarf's staring eyes, and was vastly relieved when Karthan blinked
and shook himself, seeming to come back to his senses.
"What's after being the problem, man?" Cord rumbled, standing next to
his improvised pallet on the floor. There was a spare bed, a cot they'd
brought in for Wufei to use, but neither Cord nor Naiya came close to
fitting in it, so they'd offered it to Uthmar... for whenever he finally
got around to going to bed. "I thought you two were fast asleep--
hey, now, will you look at that? He hasn't even twitched; I didn't think
the lad was that tired..."
"He was dreaming," Karthan said, scrubbing roughly at his eyes with the
back of his hand. "I was in there with him, and I saw--" He squeezed
his eyes closed for a moment, concentrating, then shuddered and opened
them again. "Wake him up, Cord," he said urgently. "He's still dreaming,
and it's getting nastier."
Cord looked dubiously at the small demon, sleeping at the other end of
the bed. He was lying limp and still, one hand open next to his head;
then, the hand twitched, and he winced slightly, breath stuttering.
"Well, he doesn't look too peaceful," the giant hradani muttered, and
reached out a hand towards Wufei's shoulder. "Wufei! Wake up, now, you're
Wufei gasped and jerked, opening his eyes, but it was obvious that he
wasn't really awake; they were glassy and unseeing, looking straight through
Cord. He muttered something incomprehensible in his own language, then
relaxed, eyes closing as he slipped away again.
"I wonder what he said?" Uthmar whispered, half to himself.
"'They can't be dead'," Karthan translated, rubbing his forehead. "'They
wouldn't die without finishing it.'" He sighed, dropping his hand, and
smiled wryly at the Champion. "My apologies for the trouble this is probably
going to cause, sir. It looks like I spoke too soon when I said the link
A little later, the four of them were gathered at the table-- Uthmar,
Karthan, Cord and Naiya. The two dwarves looked a little ridiculous, propped
up on cushions with their shoulders barely clearing the table top, but
they weren't about to let it bother them.
"Are you sure you're up to discussing this now?" Naiya asked worriedly,
passing around mugs of herbal tea. "You're looking livelier than you did
"I'm not tired any more," Karthan assured her, looking faintly surprised.
"I mean, I'm tired, but I'm not exhausted."
"That's good, because this explanation can't wait until morning
any more," Uthmar growled. "What's going on?"
"I wish I knew," Karthan sighed, glancing back over his shoulder at Wufei's
sleeping form. "I can tell you what it seems like to me, but I know
I don't really understand it."
"I can't be worse informed than I am right now," the Champion pointed
out dryly. "Any information will be an improvement."
"Right. Well... what happened just now... I was sharing Wufei's dream.
I honestly thought the link just fell apart once the fight was over. I
couldn't feel him and Nataku any more, and we couldn't understand
each other, either, but I guess it was just... um... closed, but not cut.
And when we both went to sleep, it opened up again. He was dreaming about
the people he fought alongside in his homeworld, and their... uh... 'Gun-dams',
that was the word. It was weird; I saw the dream from his point
of view, and I could feel what he felt about what was happening.
I got some of what he knew about the people and things in the dream, too.
Nobody said 'Gundam' in his dream, and he didn't even think it, but he
knew that was the right word so now I know it, too."
"'Gundams'," Naiya said slowly, as if she was tasting the strange word.
"Does that mean demons like Nataku?"
"Wait here," she said abruptly, getting up and walking into the back storage
room. She was back in seconds, clutching a cloth-wrapped bundle that opened
to reveal a flat wooden box and a book. "Is this them?" she asked, opening
the book and leafing through the pages, then pointing.
"Yes!" Karthan exclaimed, leaning forward. "That's Heero and Wing." Turning
over the next few pages, he continued. "Duo and Shinigami... Trowa and
Heavyarms... Quatre and Sandrock..." He turned over the next page, and
"That's Meiran," he said slowly. "She wasn't in the dream, but... that's
Meiran. Chang Meiran. She... she died." He looked up at the others, eyes
wide. "She died in a field of flowers, and she was called Nataku
[part 12] [back]
[part 14] [back to
Mel and Christy's fic]