Author: Sunhawk

Broken Rules

I was completely disgusted with myself; lying in a detention cell, my partners undoubtedly in nearby cells, probably awaiting interrogation. Was I thinking about escape? Was I studying the cell looking for some way out of here? No, I was worrying if Duo had gotten to his therapy session today.

I have to admit that I had already been over the cell from one end to the other without success in the last day and a half, but still, my mind should have been on our predicament, not on Duo.

I guess I'd never had a real friend before, and somehow, despite my best efforts, after the ordeal that Duo liked to call 'our road trip to Hell', that was what he had become. I knew it was a bad idea, and my present situation was only driving that fact home. Friendship only offered a soldier one thing; distraction. Something neither of us could afford.

But I had discovered on that trip, that Duo had a strength I had never expected. Granted, it was a strength I couldn't quite understand, fueled by something dark and haunted, but I found he had a will that rivaled my own. He'd earned my respect. Now, I was being drawn inexorably to him like a moth to a very bright flame.

But he was safe back on Earth, holed up recovering from the surgeries to his hand and knee to repair the damage done on that last, ill-fated mission. And I was here, with Trowa, Quatre, and Wufei, in an equally bad mess, and I'd better get my mind back on track.

They were certainly leaving us swing in the breeze long enough. Probably trying to break into the captured Gundams to gain what information they could before they started asking questions of the human pilots. Good luck to them. If they weren't careful, they'd set off the traps and blow their precious station to kingdom come.

Just as likely, the waiting was simply designed to soften us up. No contact, no food, no water. Just let us sit and think. A torture of sorts, I suppose. I was just starting to consider that perhaps the questioning had started and that they just hadn't gotten to me yet, when the lights went out.

There were two explosions, almost on top of each other, and I wondered if the fools actually had blown one of the Gundams. There were sounds in the corridor, shouting and the sound of running feet, followed by the sounds of a firefight. It wasn't a complete power failure, because I could still feel air stirring through the ducts. I moved quickly through the blackness to the door, and listened. I could actually hear the impact of laser fire in the hall. Interior hall then; no one aboard a space station would be fool enough to wage a blaster battle near an exterior hull. There was no handle on the inside of the door; entry was with a touch panel on the outside. The door would swing outward so as not to offer someone inside something to hide behind. Cautiously, I pushed, and miracle of miracles, the panel gave.

A trick? To what end? We were already captured. More likely, one of the others had gotten the opportunity to make a move. It was the first chance that had afforded itself, and I wasn't about to let it pass. I could see the glow of red emergency lights through the crack of the partially open door. I kicked the door wide, instantly noting the location of two bodies on the floor. I rolled clear of the doorway, and came up with a weapon in hand. The sound of fighting came from both directions. I moved to my left, making for the battle that sounded closest. A soldier practically backed up into me and I cut him down before he knew I was there.

I had caught a handful of guards retreating from Wufei and we made short work of them once we had them trapped in our crossfire.

I might have known that Wufei would find a way to escape his cell. Of all my fellow Gundam pilots, Wufei came as close to my single-minded attention to the mission as anyone. I could usually count on him to surprise me in a tight situation. I wanted to ask him how he had managed it, but there would be time for that later.

"Trowa and Quatre?" he queried me, half a second before I asked it of him.

I shook my head. "Where were you?"

He gestured to a door some twenty feet on up the corridor, "You?"

I pointed to mine, and we proceeded to blow the touch pads off every door in between.

They emerged from their separate cells; blinking owlishly in the odd light, but immediately took in the situation and scooped up rifles from the fallen.

We fell into a familiar formation and made our way toward the docks. We passed several signs of battle as we went, and Wufei quirked me a tight smile. I would have to ask him why he had to forge so far afield before he came back to free the rest of us.

The corridors were strangely deserted, I expected a unit to over take us at every turn. Whatever those explosions had been, must be keeping them pretty busy. We went double time, not wasting the luck.

Bless the designers of space stations, who never deviate from the same layout; we found the docks in record time, and finally encountered some opposition. Our Gundams were all four there, still intact, leaving me to wonder what the explosions had been.

We fanned out, sweeping the dock, the guards seemed disoriented and fell unexpectedly easily. We took them totally by surprise. I retrieved a second gun and lay down cover fire for each of the others as they mounted their Suits, then I boarded my own, while Wufei covered me from his still open hatch.

We belted down, fired up, and lay waste to the docking bay as we made our escape. There was token pursuit from a batch of Mobile Dolls. But nothing like I was expecting. Something was wrong.

"Guys," Quatre's voice on the comm echoed my concern, "that was entirely too easy."

"Could they have tagged us?" Trowa asked, and I considered it.

"Very possibly." But why? They had four out of the five Gundams, could they be so over-confident that they would risk losing the four birds in hand to get at the one left in the bush? Insane. But nothing else explained the ease with which we had just escaped what had been a heavily armed base.

"We can't risk leading them back to the safe house. Split up, rendezvous at Alpha Delta Pronto and we'll scan the Suits for homing devices."

It would add another half day to our return time, but it couldn't be helped. Our current location had a hanger with full repair facility and was too valuable to be compromised.

A full scan revealed nothing, I almost wished it had. All we were left with was a puzzle.

We arrived at the hanger well after dark, tired and hungry. I quickly ran down my shut down checklist, and made a few mental notes for re-supply before dismounting. It wasn't until I was standing on the floor of the hanger that it hit me that the Deathscythe wasn't there. Where was Duo's Gundam? Then I caught sight of Duo's crutches leaning against a workbench.

"Where... ?" I heard Trowa only distantly.

My blood ran like ice in my veins. Oh Gods, what had we done?

I whirled on Wufei, grasping at my last ray of hope. "You got us out of that cell block, didn't you?" I demanded.

The look on his face gave me my answer, "I thought you... "

It all started to jell in my mind, all the hints that something wasn't right. Duo got us out of there, Duo, not even supposed to be walking on his own yet, had blasted his way into the station and created the distraction that had gotten us free.

"And we left him there." Breathed Quatre, horrified.

"We have to go back!" he wailed, and Trowa had to grab his arm to keep him from running right then and there to his Gundam.

"Of course we do." Wufei said calmly.

"But we have to go back prepared." I finished for him, and headed for the supply room. "We can't go back in blowing the hell out of everything this time; Duo's on that station now."

The last mission was not supposed to have gotten us into a hand-to-hand situation; we had gone in wearing nothing but jeans and t-shirts, with no real side arms. I handed out blast armor and pulse rifles; this time would be different.

We suited up and re-fueled, and were back in the air within the hour. Quatre riding double with Wufei. We had to assume that Duo might not be able to pilot Deathscythe out. This would have to be hard and fast, and at lot rode on the hope that they would never dream we would return this quickly. We all had our instructions, and we split up, each taking the route laid out in our battle plan. If all went right, we would be back aboard the station within the hour.

That left me an hour to sail through the dark and brood.

I left him. I abandoned him. For awhile, that's all that could run through my mind. After what he had brought me through, I had forsaken him. What if we were too late? What if he was dead?

I remembered that night, hiding from Oz soldiers in the rocks on the beach. I remembered regaining consciousness to find myself cradled on Duo's chest. I could hear the sound of our pursuit right outside, Duo was shivering so hard it was hurting my broken arm. At first, I had thought it was fear, then I realized he was lying in the ice-cold water of high tide. I could feel his heart hammering in his chest and his skin felt so cold under me. He was holding me out of the water, guarding me while I had been unconscious. And I had left him.

I remembered the finish of that same dark journey, we were both at the end of our endurance, I was sure I was dying, and afraid he was going to kill himself trying to save me. We were near the pick up point, faced with a climb neither of us could make. I thought it would end right there on the side of the road. But suddenly, he found some reserve of strength and carried me up the hill the last hundred yards. I know for a fact I out weigh him. I didn't know until later just how bad his knee had been injured. But he picked me up like a child and made the climb like a Sunday afternoon hike. And I left him.

My mind spiraled like that until we made the strike on the station. Then it snapped into battle mode and I shoved my feelings back in their box.

Quatre, Wufei and I would go in. Trowa would remain in his suit and guard our retreat. As hoped, the station was completely unprepared for our three-point attack. I blew the few Mobile Dolls already working outside on station repairs and went in hard, side by side with Shinlong.

Duo's Deathscythe stood in the wreckage of the docking bay, silent sentinel to my betrayal. We landed and hit the ground running, the small pocket of resistance here fell to our now superior firepower. We knew our way well to the detention area. I took point, Wufei brought up the rear. We ran full out, I carried a pulse rifle hanging from my left shoulder, and a handgun in my right. Quatre, behind me, couldn't use his wide-angle pulse gun, but wielded his handgun with deadly accuracy. We left little for Wufei to mop up, but he guarded our back trail with grim determination.

We found the detention area deserted and empty. Damn. Damn. Damn. Where? Where would they have him?

"Medical?" Quatre prompted. It made sense; we had left all the doors down here hanging from their hinges. An about-face put Wufei in the point position, and I had trouble sticking with formation. We couldn't go fast enough to suit me. Somewhere in there, they figured out what we were doing, and we began to encounter a more organized resistance. We had to slow down, and pick our route more carefully. At one point, we abandoned the corridor, and shifted two decks up using a maintenance crawl-way. A calculated risk; we would have been sitting ducks, had we been caught there, but we didn't get caught, and it threw pursuit off for a bit.

We came out practically in the middle of the personnel services area, and immediately noticed a room with guards. I was on point again, and they never saw us coming. Quatre keyed the door and ducked in low to the left, Wufei went high to the right, and I took it straight down the center. There was no one in the room... except Duo.

I thought at first he was dead. They had him racked. That's the only word I can find for it. He was strapped down, spread-eagle; his back arched painfully, across this metal framework, and beat to hell. Then he rolled his head towards the sound of our entrance, I saw recognition on his face and then, grim and cold, voice hoarse, he said, "Shoot me."

My guts turned to water and I forgot everything else except getting him off that damned torture rack. This is why soldiers should never form attachments.

Thank Gods, competent, reliable Wufei kept his head and turned back to the business of guarding our escape route or we would all have been dead. I heard Quatre whispering something that sounded like a prayer as Wufei turned him back to the business at hand.

I didn't know or care what they were doing; my world had narrowed to Duo.

He could barely see me; his left eye was swollen shut under a still bleeding gash. His shirt was gone, and what I could see of him was covered with multi-colored bruises. I felt like I was walking through syrup as I moved to his side and began to unstrap him. Every brush of my fingers brought sounds of pain. His hands were almost blue; they had strapped him so tight. His voice was a bare whisper.

"Heero... please... make it stop... "

"I'm going to get you out of here Duo. We're going home." I just talked; I don't remember what all I said; stupid, empty promises, and all the while, he begged me to make the pain stop. It finally registered that there were drugs involved; I saw syringes and vials on a table near Duo's head. I pocketed one of the bottles, and finished with the straps.

"Duo? Do you know what they gave you?" Behind me, Wufei hissed his impatience; things must be heating up in the hall.

"... don't know... attacks nerves... everything hurts... Heero, I'm on fire... make it stop! Please... please!"

I just stared at him for a moment, and he seemed to focus on me at last and his voice got harsh.

"Just fucking shoot me! Please!"

My every attempt to help him was only causing him agony. Just lying here, he wanted to die. I didn't want to think what carrying him out of here was going to do. Seeing him like this was like a knife in my chest, I wanted to hold him and protect him, but I couldn't even touch him. I leaned close, so only he would hear me.

"Duo," I said, very calmly, "if I kill you, I will kill myself right after. Do you hear me?"

He moaned a horrified affirmative.

"I'm going to get you out of here, and I'm going to have to carry you. You have to trust me to make it as fast as I can. I won't hurt you any more than I can help."

He stared at me out of his one good eye, and I tried to will my strength into his broken body. "Are you ready?"

He just whimpered, a shattered, defeated sound; but he reached for me. I had to drape his limp left arm across his chest and he screamed when I lifted him free of the rack. He caught at my armor with his right hand and held on. It was the last sound he made until we reached the docking bay.

I turned toward the door, rifle in left hand, pistol in right and Duo draped across my arms. "Let's go!" Quatre bolted and took point, I went out hot on his heels, and Wufei again brought up the rear. I wasn't able to handle more than double time with Duo's weight, but we went hard and we went fast. Medical was closer to the docking bay than the cellblock had been, which was a plus, but of course, they knew without a doubt where we were headed.

Duo was like a coiled steel spring in my arms, tense and hard. His face was a mask of pain, lips bloody from biting back his screams. I wouldn't have wanted to be the one to try to pry his grip off the front of my blast suit.

"Hold on." I whispered to him, "Just hold on."

We came to an intersection, and pulled up when Quatre signaled a halt with upraised fist. He eased up slowly on the left, Wufei passed me to take the right and I had no choice but to turn and cover the rear. There was fire behind me, and I heard Quatre yell and hit the ground. I had to put Duo down. I thought he fainted when I did it, I didn't even have the time to warn him. I dove through the intersection, throwing pulse fire dead on down the corridor as I went, rolling into the opposite hall. Wufei moved into position and we lay down a blanket of fire that quickly overwhelmed the squad that had brought Quatre down.

I swept the corridor for twenty yards or so and then returned to the others. Duo had drug himself to Quatre's side and I found, to my relief, that Quatre was sitting up, his blast armor having caught the brunt of the shot. He rubbed ruefully at his chest and quirked a grin at me as if to say "Ooops."

Wufei got him to his feet, and took point from him. I squatted beside Duo,

"We're almost there. Just a little further." His eyes tracked to the sound of my voice, but when I looked into his face, Duo wasn't looking back at me. I picked him up as gently as I could, and we resumed our retreat.

There was the sound of battle when we got to the docking bay, and we ran into the bizarre scene of Heavyarms standing in the middle of the bay, running soldiers off like ants who were apparently trying to destroy our Gundams. Trowa was hampered by the necessity of not destroying the docking bay so badly that we wouldn't be able to get back to our suits, and not hitting our suits himself with the fire he was laying down. When we burst into the mêlée, guns blazing, catching the remaining squad of soldiers in a cross fire, they suddenly gave it up for lost and beat a hasty retreat.

"Quatre! Take Wing, I'll take Duo on Deathscythe!" I had honestly intended to turn him over to Quatre or Wufei once we mounted up, but there was a sudden clinching fear of being separated from him. I flashed on the night I had lain in the under growth of that park and listened on the pirated radio to what I thought at the time was his death. I couldn't do it. So I took Deathscythe, Duo in my arms, limp as a rag doll.

I belted us in together, as best I could, knowing that every touch to his skin was pure torture on his drug-ravaged nerves. I kicked Deathscythe into life, listened to the sounds that were so close to Wings, and yet so different. We all skimped on the start up routine and hit the jets that took us out of there.

The g-forces hit us and Duo came back to himself; screaming.

"I'm sorry," I tried to soothe, "Just hang on, I'm here, I'm right here." I reduced acceleration as soon as we were free of the station. I didn't know what to do for him, my every instinct told me to hold him and stroke his hair and touch him, but the slightest brush of anything was burning him like fire.

Then something changed in him, something subtle at first. His cries took on a different tone, and suddenly he was wrenching the controls from my hands and Deathscythe was turning back toward the station, great, glowing scythe unfurled.

Over the comm, I heard Wufei yelling at me, but I didn't answer.

Duo had told me once, that pain was what he used to push himself to his limits, to push past his limits. He could turn the pain to rage, and the rage to strength. "Sometimes" he had said, talking about his childhood on the streets, "pain was all you had, and you learned to turn it into a hard ball in your gut and suck on it for strength." I feared he might well choke to death trying to wrap himself around this pain.

The cry coming from his lips now was a battle cry, and I wouldn't deny him his revenge. In fact, I closed my hands around his on the controls and helped him swing the scythe and shear away a great section of the stations hull in the command section.

That was all the strength he had left, and he finally, blessedly, went completely limp in the harness, and I took over the controls again and got us the hell out of there.

Though his passing out scared me, I was glad he didn't have to suffer through re-entry. The ride down was rough, made worse in Deathscythe by my clumsily trying to pilot around Duo. It wasn't my best landing. We were last in, and I was relieved to see Quatre already on the radio to the main house summoning transport. This safe house was one of the Winner estates and thus had a number of assistants and house staff. Well versed, as always, in the care and feeding of soldiers.

I just sat down at the base of Deathscythe and cradled Duo in my arms, waiting for help to arrive. I saw Trowa notice the blast burns on Quatre's armor and frantically strip him out of it to examine the flesh beneath. He found only bruising, and embraced Quatre in relief, forgetting for the moment his normal shyness about their relationship.

Wufei came and knelt beside us. "What did they do to him?" His voice was soft, as though not to disturb Duo's sleep.

"Some sort of drug that attacks the nervous system." I growled, anger making me want to lash out at something.

He gently turned Duo's face to look at the left side. "Looks like they hit him with a rifle butt." He too was angry.

I just grunted, looking at the swelling and bruising all around the side of Duo's face. He probably had a concussion.

Wufei surprised me with a hand on my shoulder. "He'll be all right. He's tougher than he looks."

I wanted to yell at him. What the hell did he know about it? He hadn't spent two days fading in and out of reality, waking to find Duo there, always there, pushing on, never stopping, pushing himself past all sane limits to keep the promise to get me out alive.

And I left him.

I just grunted and Wufei rose to meet the car as it rushed up to the hanger.

By dawn, I found myself in the painfully familiar position beside Duo's hospital bed. I had turned the sample of the drug over to the Doctors and now, hours later, a prim Dr. Russell was explaining her findings to us.

"It's a nasty little cocktail," she frowned over her narrow reading glasses, "primarily an agent that attacks the nerve pathways. Essentially causing any physical stimuli to translate into pain. The slightest touch would cause searing agony. There was a stimulant mixed in with it, probably designed to keep the ... subject awake as long as possible."

Quatre, caught in the protective curve of Trowa's arm, shivered involuntarily, "Is there an antidote?"

"Oh, it will wear off without any permanent damage. The very fact that he's still unconscious is actually a good sign, probably means he's passed the worst of it."

Something uncoiled just a little, somewhere deep in my gut.

This was a base hospital, and these people were more used to dealing with war injuries than the last one had been. I could see this woman understood the far-reaching ramifications of what we had stumbled on, and she confirmed it with her next words.

"The sample of this drug that you brought back is going to turn out to be far more important than whatever your real mission was. Rest assured that we'll be working on a method to guard against it's use in the future." This drug offended her professionally somehow, and I envisioned her on a quest until it had been countered.

She stalked out of the room then, her heels clicking angrily on the tile floor. They left the lights up in this place, and didn't walk quietly when they made their rounds. They understood the psychology of the people in their care. Nobody had even blinked at me when I had burst into the emergency room, still in my blast armor.

The Doctor suspected a concussion, as I had, and they were monitoring Duo closely for signs that there was swelling or bleeding in the brain. X-rays had shown nothing. But X-rays don't show soft tissue damage. Through MRI and X-ray, they had cleared him of any other, serious, life-threatening injuries; his captors had been brutal, but careful.

I staked my claim on the chair by the head of the bed, and none of the others tried to gainsay me. I sat, grim and silent, arms folded across my chest and just wished everybody else would go away.

Quatre stirred from Trowa's embrace at the foot of the bed, and moved slowly up to stand on the left side of the bed. His hand drifted up as though to brush Duo's face and I grunted a small warning. His eyes flicked in my direction, and he murmured, "I know." He somehow looked slightly amused. His fingers just stroked the end of Duo's braid, lying looped across the pillow. He leaned down and I heard him whisper, "We're so sorry, Duo." No more than a breath next to Duo's ear. I doubt anyone else heard. When he straightened, his eyes glistened, and I wished I could feel that kind of release.

Instead, I glowered and turned away, only to find Wufei standing in front of me, regarding me with that damn, I see right down to the bottom of your soul grin of his.

"What?" I challenged.

"Why don't you, at least," if anything, his smile twitched wider, "get out of that blast armor and let us take it back to the house?"

I looked down at myself; I had forgotten I was wearing it. Wufei helped me unbuckle and strip out of it. We discovered in the course of it, that I had taken a couple of hits myself. There was a bruise appearing on my bicep that was a match for the one on Quatre's chest, and Wufei claimed I had what we termed a 'rug burn' from a pulse rifle shot on my back. I hadn't even felt the strikes.

They were leaving, and I was relieved, but they were exchanging odd little glances as they went, and I finally leaned my head into my hands to hide the blood rushing to my face. Was I so damned transparent?

Could they look at me and see that all I wanted to do was pull Duo into my arms and rock him and kiss every one of his hurts and stroke his hair and beg him to wake up and tell me he was all right? Tell me he didn't hate me for leaving him on that station? Tell me we could go on being friends after what I had done? Judging from the looks I had gotten, they could.

This couldn't happen. I could not let this happen. It would be the death of both of us.

I sat in the cold not-silence of a hospital room, listening to the steady beep of the heart monitor and the distant sounds of people going about their jobs. A nurse came in after a bit, smiled at me, checked Duo's pupils and took his temperature, made a note on his chart and went away again. I was watching the clear medicine drip into the IV, when there was a soft cough in the doorway and Trowa was coming toward me with a tray from the cafeteria.

"We thought you might be hungry." He said simply, and sat the tray with its sandwich and juice down on the side table.

I realized just how empty my stomach was as soon as he did so and I managed a civil, "Thank you."

"We're going back to the house now. Quatre said to make you promise to call if anything changes, OK?"

I nodded, suddenly very tired, and he just stood and looked at me for a minute, as though he was going to say something more. But he didn't, only a quiet "Good night." Then he left, closing the door behind him.

Around me were the sounds of people starting their day. There must have been a shift change, because on the half hour, it was a different nurse who came in and checked Duo's vitals, she too smiled at me, but didn't offer conversation, and I didn't encourage it.

I greedily drank the juice and nibbled at the sandwich, the morning delimited by the punctual arrival of a nurse every half hour. I tried to take comfort in the fact they weren't finding any sign that the concussion was going to turn into anything of concern, but I just wanted him to wake up.

The first sign of change was given to me by the heart monitor; the pulse that had remained a steady, almost mind numbing noise in the back ground, suddenly began to speed up. When I looked at Duo's face, he appeared to be dreaming, I could see his eyes shifting under the bruised eyelids. At first, I was encouraged by this, the first sign of life I had seen from him since he had grabbed the controls of Deathscythe. But then, I began to see all the signs of nightmare.

"Duo? Can you hear me? Duo, wake up." I was afraid to touch him for fear the drug hadn't run its course yet. So I just continued to call softly to him, hoping to break the hold of the nightmare.

He finally came awake, his whole body shuddering, and gasping for breath. His one good eye searched the room frantically, trying to get his bearings.

"Duo!" I tried to give him an anchor point, "It's Heero. It's all right now. You're safe."

His attention snapped to my voice, and he finally seemed to focus.

"Heero?" his voice was hoarse, I knew, from screaming, "You're OK? The guys are all right?"

How many hours of screaming? How many hours of liquid fire running through his veins? How many hours of abandonment, of thinking we had run out on him? Damn. Had to stop that.

"We're fine. Everyone's all right... except you."

My hands fluttered about of their own accord, wanting to reach out, but afraid to touch. I felt like I was going to throw up the juice and sandwich. Thank Gods, he didn't seem to notice, he was still getting his orientation, mind groggy between the drugs and the concussion.

"Duo?" he looked toward me, seemingly confused by his inability to see out of his left eye, "the drugs they gave you, the Doctors say they should be wearing off. How do you feel?"

He frowned, I think, as the memories started to come back. I waited while he forged through them, I saw it all pass across his face, confusion, fear, anger, and then a strange dawning wonder.

"You made the pain stop." He breathed almost reverently at me.

I reached for his hand then, at that confirmation that the drug was gone from his system, and he jerked involuntarily away from me. I stopped, and tentatively, he came back and took my hand, face full of wonder.

"Oh Gods; it's gone. It's really gone."

He struggled briefly in a battle with unshed tears and won. I could see him coming back into focus like the cross hairs of a gun sight lining up; almost, almost, and then click it was Duo grinning lop-sidedly at me.

"Everything worked out, OK, then, uh?"

I had to close my eyes. I brought his hand to my face, wanting to kiss the bruised knuckles, and contenting myself with just brushing the back of his hand with my cheek.

"We didn't know. I swear to you, I didn't know you were on that station." I let the words come in a rush, "There was just the explosions and suddenly the doors were open. I thought Wufei did it. He thought I had. We had no idea. I am so sorry. I never would have left without you if I had known... "

He chuckled softly and I opened my eyes to see him smiling at me, "I know that."

His capacity to forgive my failings, never ceases to amaze me.

A frown crossed his face, and he started to raise his left hand to his swollen eye, and stopped with a sharp intake of breath.

"You wanna give me an inventory?" he muttered through clinched teeth, and I had to smile.

"I assume you just found the dislocated shoulder?"

He snorted.

"No permanent damage there, they were able to reposition it without surgery, but it's pretty well immobilized."

"I noticed."

"It'll have to stay taped for a couple of weeks." He didn't comment, so I continued, "You do have a concussion, but they've been monitoring that for close to six hours now and you don't show any sign that there's a problem. That's why you can't see, it looks like... "

"Like somebody tried to cave the side of my head in with a rifle butt?"

"Hmmm... yeah. Exactly like that." I paused, but he didn't elaborate, "Somehow, you managed to not re-injure your knee. Other than that, you have some pretty bad bruising just about everywhere... "

He cut me off again, and supplied helpfully, "Looks kinda like somebody pistol whipped and liberally kicked the shit out of me?"

[cont]