Written by Maya Perez
Input, editing, pushing by Wendy "It's all your fault!" Dinsmore
This is what happens when you betray Galactor. The sins of the parents are also those of the child -- So you shall go with them to hell for that betrayal... Don't blame us for this, but blame your parents for your fate...
Giorge's eyes opened to thin slits. He tried to make them open wider, but he couldn't. His eyelids felt like leaden weights and he had to struggle just to keep them open.
The woman, where was the woman? A rasping choking sound issued from his lips instead of the enraged words that should have.
Giorge's eyes darted as far as his drooping lids would allow. All they saw was white. White? Where was the sky? The clouds? He realized he couldn't hear the waves washing on the beach or the seagulls playing in the breeze. Where was he? Where was the woman?
He tried to move but his body wouldn't respond. There was a weight, like a ton of bricks, pressing down on his chest, yet his eyes told him there was nothing there. An insistent beeping began off to his right even as he gasped for every breath. He tried to see where it was coming from but couldn't.
Giorge's heart skipped a beat at the sound of a woman's voice. He struggled to make his eyes find her though he already knew she wasn't the one he was looking for. She might, though, know where the other was. He tried to talk again only to make more rasping noises. Where is she?
"Giorge, can you hear me? Oh, it's so good to see you awake!" A face intruded into his line of sight; it belonged to a young, beautiful woman, one he didn't recognize. Just like everything else he'd seen so far, she was dressed in white.
Where's the woman? Giorge's breathing grew more labored. His throat burned. The weight on his chest grew. He disregarded it all; there was only one thing in his mind.
"Relax! Please relax. Do you understand? Everything's all right now. You've been asleep a long time and your body doesn't remember how to do things anymore. But you're safe, don't worry! We'll take care of you."
Giorge tried to talk again and was suddenly overcome by a coughing fit. His whole body shook with the force of it. His lungs caught on fire. For the first time, Giorge thought of something other than his quarry. What was happening? Mama! Mama!
The red headed woman reached down for him and hoisted him up abruptly. Giorge half gasped in surprise, even as he could do nothing to stop her, his leaden arms hanging limply at his sides. Instead of leaving him in a sitting position, she leaned him all the way forward and slapped him on the
lower back. Shocked more than hurt, Giorge opened his mouth to try and protest. Instead of letting him speak, his mouth filled with a slimy acrid tasting substance.
"Spit it out, dear, spit it out!"
Giorge couldn't have kept himself from doing that even if he'd wanted to. His dark blue eyes watched in morbid fascination and disgust as a green, gooey mass left his lips to fall on his white sheets. The rank smell of it rose to his nostrils and there was nothing he could do to shut it out. It made him gag.
The woman kept slapping Giorge's back, making more of the foul substance jump from him. He wanted to scream, to somehow make her stop. He could do nothing.
This went on for several minutes until no more of the vile stuff rose up anymore. Giorge felt dizzy and taxed as if he ran all day in the hot sun. His lungs still burned, but not as harshly as before. He felt his body being moved but paid it no attention.
After he was placed back down, the woman came into view once more. Her young face was filled with worry. He would have hit her if he could have somehow managed it.
"I'm so sorry, Giorge. But it has to come out. The antibiotics are loosening up the phlegm but that won't do you any good if we don't get it out of there."
He tried screaming a line of insults at her to express what he thought of her need, but all he was able to manage was a mangled croak.
The woman disappeared from his view as she gathered the dirtied sheet off the bed. "I'm sorry for the sad reception... And after we've waited so long..."
Giorge wasn't listening to her anymore. He didn't care. His body felt even heavier than before. He could no longer keep his eyes open. Consciousness slipped from his grasp.
Giorge awoke with a gasp.
"Oh, I'm sorry, was that cold?" A man's face hovered over him. He had large brown eyes hidden behind wide rimless glasses. He sported a thick mustache over a square, chiseled face. Giorge stared at him, his brows knitting together, sure he'd heard his voice before but didn't recognize
the face. It made no sense to him.
"Hello, Giorge. My name is Kozaburo Nambu. I'm a doctor. And let me say, that I'm very happy to see you this morning."
Giorge tried to ask him why he was here, but all that came out were grating sounds.
"You were in an accident and were pretty badly hurt. You've also been asleep for a long time. You'll need to take things really slow for a while. Your head and your body have forgotten how to talk to each other and we'll have to teach them again. Please try to blink once if you've understood what I've just said."
Giorge blinked and then looked away. Where was he? He stared beyond the doctor at the walls. They were all white. This was the same place he remembered seeing before. The one with the young woman; the one with the phlegm. He felt the sour taste rise in his mouth.
"If you would, from now on blink once for yes and twice for no. There are tests I'll need to run to find out how you're doing and I'm going to need your help with some of them."
Giorge found that if he really tried, he could turn his head a little. On the right side of the room he saw a door -- it was closed. The woman he saw before was standing close to it almost as if she were guarding it. Though he had no real reason for it, these facts made him feel uneasy. He looked away.
He could see more of himself now. He could see that he was laying in a bed with metal rails on both sides. There were several stark, white sheets draped over his body and they were tucked in pinning him in the middle of the bed. Part of the sheets had been pulled back, exposing his chest. Giorge was surprised at the white skin he saw there, it had been a nice robust tan under B.C. Island's sun. What surprised him more, however, was the fact he could see his ribs pressing tightly against his skin, making him look like a half-dead street urchin. It was then he recalled that both Nambu and, he guessed, the nurse, had told him that he'd been asleep for a long time. How long was that?
"Giorge, I've warmed this up now. I want to listen to your heart. It'll only take a moment."
He stared at the doctor's hand as it drew near, ready for the jolt of cold that had awakened him before. To his relief, he found it was actually a little warm on his skin. It rested there only for a few moments, before the doctor took it away.
"Now, Giorge, the nurse and I are going to help you sit up so I can listen to your lungs. Okay?" He felt hands lifting him upwards before he ever had a chance to blink a response.
A touch of fear cut though him as he recalled what was done to him the last time he'd been lifted up like this. Like before, his legs and arms paid no attention to his commands no matter how hard he tried to get them to obey. The fear subsided as he noticed they didn't lean him forward as before. He soon felt the touch of Nambu's stethoscope on his back.
"Giorge, I need for you to try and breathe through your mouth and take as deep a breath as you can." He tried to do as he was told, and felt a weight pressing against his chest, fighting him. A wheezing sound echoed from his mouth as he tried to take a lungful of air. What was that sound? He'd never made that before!
"Could you do that again for me, Giorge?" The wheezing sound came again. "Thank you. We're all done now."
He was carefully settled back into the bed. A warm hand gently moved away the hair that had tumbled down over his eyes. He could see it had grown quite long. His mother would have never stood for it. He added that to his growing list of questions. He tried to talk again. He got no farther than he did before.
"Giorge, stop that. You have to give yourself time. It'll all come back soon enough." Nambu's patronizing tone grated on his nerves. Who was he to tell him what to do? He glared at the doctor with everything he could muster. Nambu never noticed having turned his attention to the nurse.
"Rachel, inform Dr. Angstead on the results of the pupillary and oculocephalic response tests. Tell him I'll need those EEG patterns evaluated. I may want a CTG scan later just to verify there've been no changes. As for the antibiotics, continue at present doses for two more days.
The phlegm is definitely breaking up and that's a good sign, but you will need to get more of it out of him. Try the back therapy to remove it, but if the results aren't satisfying, don't hesitate to use the pump."
Giorge frowned not liking the sound of what little he had understood. Something about it sounded ominous. He didn't like it. He didn't like it at all.
Nambu turned to look at him again. "Giorge, you probably won't be happy about having to spit up the phlegm, but you've got to do it. And you've got to try very hard. You got very sick while you were asleep and you won't get better unless we can make sure all traces of the pneumonia is gone." Giorge stared at the doctor with a puzzled expression.
"The pneumonia is the reason why you're having trouble breathing. It's the wheezing sound you heard before. The pneumonia takes away your strength and makes you feel weak. It's a good thing you woke up when you did."
Giorge looked away. Nambu's stare had gotten very serious. It made him feel uncomfortable.
"I have to go now, but I'll be back in a few hours to check on you again. Rachel will look after you while I'm gone. There's nothing to worry about, Giorge. You're in good hands." Nambu gave him a reassuring smile. This looked a little awkward, almost as if the man wasn't used to doing it
Giorge watched the doctor as he walked away until Rachel's body cut off his view. The red headed nurse smiled down at him even as she placed a large bowl on the bed.
"I know this isn't any fun for you, but the sooner we can get this over with the better. I promise it won't take long. Remember, the doctor said this was very important. Afterwards, I'll give you a sponge bath and bring you something to eat. Okay?"
He tried to answer, forgetting to blink. He got no farther than before. It frustrated him. It frustrated him almost as much as the fact there was nothing he could do to change it either. Rachel helped him sit up.
By the time the ordeal was over, he felt totally drained. Rachel had tried to encourage him throughout, but all he'd been able to think about was the fact someone did this to him and there's was no way for him to make it stop!
Giorge's eyes drooped heavily as Rachel left the room with the goo filled bowl. He'd half drifted off to sleep when he felt something wet and warm touch his skin. His eyes opened to half-mast.
The first thing he noticed was that the sheets had been removed from the bed, leaving his body exposed. He found Rachel as she took a washcloth from a steaming bowl and gently wiped at his feet.
Looking down at himself, he found that his arms and legs had turned as pale as his chest. He spotted a small yellow tube that ran over his thigh and off the end of the bed, but he couldn't see where it came from or where it went to. What ended up catching his attention the most, however, were a number of differently sized pink patches on his legs. They were part of his skin, he could see that clearly, but couldn't fathom why they didn't look like the rest. It occurred to him, that in an off way, they looked like the scars he'd picked up on his fights here and there. But where did these come from? Had he been in a fight?
Woman? What woman? His head began to throb. As the pain grew, the question didn't seem as important anymore.
"Is this all right, Giorge? I'll be through soon."
Yes, soon. His eyes slid closed, his head pounding behind them. He felt himself falling. There was no way to make it stop.
Mama! Papa! Wait! Wait for me!
Giorge ran along the beach, his legs feeling like dead weights. His new shoes sank into the sand and it seemed loath to let him go; almost as if it were trying to work against him.
He pushed on. He was late, very late! His parents would leave without him if he didn't hurry. Mama! Papa! Wait!
The beach stretched before him seeming to go on forever. A corner of his mind began to insist he would never make it. No!
It's too late, little boy. Too late. Too late!
Giorge turned his head left and right looking for the source of the mocking voice. It somehow seemed queerly familiar to him. It chilled his blood. Mama! Papa!
There! Before him--the hill. He'd made it after all! He could even see them from here. Mama! Papa!
Too late! Too late! Hahahaha
The sky, the beach, the ocean, everything turned red. Giorge rushed to his parents as the voice's taunting laughter filled his ears.
He found them at the table, just as he left them. But they were sitting too still. They didn't look at him as he approached. And they'd turned as red as everything else.
Mama? Giorge reached out to touch her. He pulled his hand back as he felt her arm and found it both wet and cold. His fingers turned red from where he touched her. He brought his hand close and a bittersweet metallic smell floated up to his nostrils. He recognized the red liquid for what it was... It was blood.
Giorge jerked awake.
He was blinded by bright light and at first couldn't see. With rising panic, he blinked until his eyesight returned and then looked down toward his hand. He couldn't see it, it was tucked, like the rest of him, beneath crisp, white sheets. He tried to move it and it ignored him. He was here, in a hospital, alone. The dream was real...
No! No! No!
His screams came out as harsh croaks that soon turned painful.
They were dead, dead, dead. No! He'd been too slow. Too slow! Harsh tears gathered in his eyes and poured down his thin cheeks. To him, they felt like tracks of fire branding him with his guilt. A headache burst in his mind with stunning force. It sent throbs of shooting pain through both sides of his head.
They were dead, dead, dead!
He repeated the sentence over and over like a litany, his tears falling unchecked to stain his pillow.
He cried until he could cry no more and was mercifully swallowed by oblivion.
His eyes fluttered open. They felt puffy and raw. He didn't care. Rachel's concerned face hovered over him.
"Are you okay?"
For reasons he didn't understand, he found himself resenting the question. He would never be 'okay' again. Nothing would ever be! He had lost everyone and everything that had ever meant anything to him and had no idea if he could ever get any of it back. The two most important people in his life -- he knew he never would. The pain of his loss yawned before him like a chasm hoping he would fall in.
"I brought you some dinner." Rachel smiled at him, worry lines growing around her eyes. "You need to get your strength up." Slowly, she moved an arm tray over the bed and placed a tray on it. There was a large glass filled with a light green something. "Hold on, I'll raise your bed a little."
The bed vibrated beneath him and the end under his head crawled upwards. It stopped as soon as he reached a halfway sitting position.
"That's better." Giorge wasn't sure about that. The ride made him feel dizzy and the pressure on his chest had gotten a little worse. The light green something was a lot closer to him than it was before.
"Now, I know it doesn't exactly look appetizing, but it's packed with vitamins and minerals and other things your body needs right now." She smiled reassuringly. "We'll take it real slow, since it's been quite a while since you've had anything down in your stomach."
He grimaced as Rachel picked up the glass and brought it toward his lips. He felt bile rising in his throat at the thought of drinking it, even as a part of him pointed out how the ugly green color in some ways seemed to resemble his phlegm. His stomach cramped.
"N -- o --" Giorge tried to raise his hands to push the glass away. They moved, but very sluggishly. Perspiration sprang on his brow. His hands had barely lifted from the mattress when the cup reached his lips.
"Please, Giorge, give it a try. You do want to get better, don't you?"
Waves of despair and something darker washed over him as the thick liquid entered his mouth. He knew the word for it, he'd heard it before, but had never understood it until now -- helpless. And it seemed to be all he had been since he first awakened here. But no, it started before that. It was what he had been when he first saw his parents' bodies, what he felt when he failed to avenge them. He had been helpless in that and in everything else. It had become his life. No!
A spark of anger flared to life amidst the ocean of despair washing over him.
Rachel pulled the glass away. The thick drink left a taste of plastic in his mouth as it made its way down his throat. A renegade drop made a run for it out the side of his mouth. Rachel quickly wiped it away.
"Now that wasn't so bad, was it? You'll only need to take a few more swallows like that last one and we'll be all through."
Giorge blinked twice in rapid succession trying to stop her, but she acted as if she didn't see it. The glass rose once again. He wanted to scream.
His hands finally made it halfway to their goal. Rachel noticed them and pushed them back down with ease. "Giorge, please, don't stress yourself. Let's just concentrate on eating right now, okay? We only want what's best for you."
He wasn't a baby! He didn't have to be fed! " - m - no - - ba - b --"
"I know, I know, but we have to do this. I'm sorry, but it's for your own good." She tipped the glass and poured more of the liquid into his mouth. The spark turned into a flame. Giorge swallowed the foul tasting concoction, half tempted to try and spit it out at her. He held back only because he wasn't sure he could do it. If it ended up just dribbling down his chin, he'd look more like a baby than he already did.
By the time the feeding was over, he felt strangely bloated. He knew he'd hardly eaten anything, yet it felt as if he'd had seconds during one of Mama Rosa's four course meals. He was sure he was going to be sick.
"All done. Now wasn't that easy?" Giorge glared at her in his growing misery wanting nothing more that to wipe the satisfied smile off Rachel's face. His hands bunched into fists at his sides, but neither of them noticed.
"You'll probably get sleepy soon and it'd be best if you didn't fight it and just went on and slept. Don't go quite yet though, Dr. Nambu is here and wants to look in on you." Rachel picked up the tray and headed for the door. He glared after her.
After only a couple of minutes, she returned with Nambu in tow.
"Hello, Giorge. How are we feeling?"
Giorge glared at him. Was he stupid? How did he think he felt? Why did they keep asking him such stupid questions? He felt like crap! Shit, dung, puke, as if someone had run over him with a tank a few times! "Cr -- a --"
Nambu smiled at him even as he set a small doctor's bag on the side of the bed. "Ah, that's nice. Well, let's go ahead and take a quick look at you, shall we?" He took out a stethoscope and warmed the metal in his hands.
Giorge put up with the examination though he wasn't happy about it. He knew he didn't have the power to make them stop; that they could do whatever they wanted to to him and there wasn't a blasted thing he could do about it.
"You're sounding much better. It's very good news." He didn't care. "You're one lucky boy. Some had their doubts, but I knew you'd stick it out. I'm sure you'll be back to one hundred percent before you know it." Giorge looked away not interested in the doctor's lies.
"I'm sure you have a lot of questions. I thought perhaps now would be a good time to answer a few of them." This grabbed at his interest though he tried not to let it show. "First off, I thought you might like to know that you're at the Thorngood Research Clinic and private hospital." He gave him a reassuring look. "The security here is quite good. No one will hurt you here. You're completely safe."
Giorge snorted and was both pleased and surprised that he was able to manage it. He couldn't care less about how safe he was or wasn't -- get to the real answers!
As if understanding the snort for what it was, Nambu quickly went on. "You were injured when you were caught in the blast of a small explosion. This put you into a deep sleep we call a coma. You also ended up with a number of fractured bones and a few minor burns." Giorge's eyes snapped to his covered legs before returning to the doctor's face. "These things pretty much healed while you were in the coma. Unfortunately, the coma itself caused a number of other problems, like the pneumonia you're getting over now. It's also the reason why your body isn't responding too well. But that we can try and fix with time."
Sleep did this to him? Sleep? But didn't Rachel say sleep was good for him? How was a coma so different? How long had it lasted? "Ho -- lo - g?" Giorge stared at Nambu with all he had as if by will alone he could get him to understand what he wanted.
"You were in a coma for three months."
Three months? His parents had been dead for three months? Tears rose unbidden to his eyes before he could force them back. He'd be damned if he would cry in front of them! He would show no weakness. He wouldn't!
Giorge glanced up at Nambu as the latter touched him gently on the shoulder. Rachel hovered beside him her face filled with concern. "I know it seems impossible and it's all very confusing, but don't let it worry you. Just work on getting better. We'll take care of everything else."
He was, he was so helpless!
Giorge looked away, his mouth curling into a snarl. The others never saw it.
"I'll leave you now so you can get some rest. We'll talk again later."
He didn't watch him go. Anger burned inside him like a raging torrent.
The bed started to move and with chagrin, Giorge realized Rachel was still there. He avoided looking at her until she finally went away.
Three months... His parents were taken from him three months ago and all he'd done was sleep. And where was Alan? Where were the servants? Cook, Dina the maid, Carlloni, Papa's right hand man? Why weren't they here? Though Nambu hadn't said so, Giorge still figured it out. He'd never heard of this Thorngood clinic -- and that meant he was no longer on B.C. Island. Did this man kidnap him from there? But why? Was he somehow connected to the people that killed his parents? And he'd slept through everything! Why did God let this happen? Had he forsaken them?
Giorge backed away from the thought. His mother had been a very devout Catholic. She'd made him help the church by becoming an altar boy. And he'd behaved there, because it had been for her. He hadn't much liked Father Antony, but he respected him and his work. From him, he learned about God and his only son. He'd been told the two of them would protect all those that believed in them. But... but hadn't they let his parents die even though they believed, even though they attended mass every Sunday? They were dead, dead! Why did God let them die? Why hadn't He helped them? What had they done? It wasn't fair! It wasn't fair!
He crunched his eyes shut, his head throbbing with pain. He wouldn't ask for His help anymore, not after what happened. He didn't care! Yet that still left some unfinished business. Someone had to pay for what had been allowed to happen. Nobody messed with an Asakura without getting payback a hundred fold! Someone would pay and he would be the one to make them. He wouldn't rely on God for retribution; he would get it himself!
Mama! Papa! I swear this to you. Those bastards will pay for what they've done. I won't rest until this debt has been paid. I swear this to you on my soul!
The day was bright and clear. The sand sparkled in the sunlight like small gems, the waves caressing it with its bubbling touch. Giorge found himself sitting before a half finished sandcastle. A chill crawled up his spine -- he'd been here before. Everything was the same, down to the smallest detail. He could even see the same boat he had glimpsed before at the edge of the horizon. This was just like, just like the day his parents --
He jumped to his feet, turning toward the familiar hill on his right. He squinted against the glare of the sun as it reflected off the water and tried to see what was there. He could barely make out two figures sitting at a table. Giorge started to run.
Mama! Papa! He wouldn't let it happen again. No! This time, this time
he would stop it from happening. He would!
As he drew closer, he noticed some odd lumps forming in the sand. When he went past one, a hand burst through and grabbed his ankle. Giorge fell face first, the breath knocked out of him. He struggled to stand, knowing his time was running out, when he saw the green gloved hand for the first time. Leggo! Leggo! Mama and Papa need me!
He kicked at the hand until it released him and then tried to stand. Another hand appeared not far from the first and pulled him back down.
Hahahaha, foolish boy! You cannot save them. You could never save them! Hahahaha.
More and more green gloved hands rose from beneath the sand and clamped onto his body to hold him down.
It's too late for them and soon it'll be too late for you.
"Ma -- ma!"
Giorge's eyes snapped open. He found himself sitting up in bed tears streaming down his face. His head was pounding, his throat and chest on fire. His muscles abruptly turned to jello and he fell backward his body shaking with the strain.
"Giorge!" Rachel rushed from the door to his side. "Giorge, are you all right?" Her concerned features floated above him but he wanted no part of them. Rachel wiped away at his tears. He felt a deep shame at the fact that she'd seen them. She already thought he was a baby, what with having to feed him, bathe him, and he was sure she somehow helped him go to the bathroom, though he hadn't yet figured out quite how; and this would clinch it for sure. He had to be a man not a baby! Anger rose inside him. He clung to it, desperately, for it seemed to be the only thing that would hold back the pain.
"Giorge, are you okay? Were you having a nightmare? The machines say that you're okay. You've got nothing to worry about. It was only a bad dream. You're safe here."
He glared his anger at her. He saw her eyes widen and felt strangely satisfied by the reaction.
He continued to glare.
"Won't you blink for me? Tell me that you're all right? I can't help you if you won't talk to me." He did nothing. "Please, Giorge. I want to help."
He closed his eyes and shut her out. He didn't need her help. He didn't need any of them! They hadn't been there to help his parents when they'd needed it. Why should he want to get help from them now?
"Giorge... please..." A soft, warm touch caressed his cheek. He roughly pulled his face away. He didn't need her. He didn't need anyone.
He heard Rachel sigh and then slowly move away. He didn't open his eyes again until he was sure she was gone. Only then did he let go of his anger, only then did he let the emptiness take over his heart.
Nambu came to see him a short while later. Giorge pretended to ignore him at first, though he was actually glad for the distraction. He'd already memorized every feature of his room's four walls and occasionally he kept getting the succinct feeling they might be shrinking.
"Hello, Giorge. You're looking better today." Nambu pulled a chair over from the wall and sat down. "Since you're doing so well, I thought we'd go ahead and go through some simple tests to make sure you're coming along all right. Dr. Angstead will be joining us to observe." He opened
his bag. "We're going to need your help on this though, okay? Do you remember our code?" Nambu glanced at him expectantly. Giorge stared back doing nothing. Nambu only waited. After a while, Giorge finally decided to respond.
"Great! First thing I'm going to do is test your hands and feet to make sure you can feel them all right." Giorge glanced toward the door as Rachel and another man came in. Rachel seemed unusually subdued and the man with her didn't look overly thrilled to be there. The man was obviously a doctor -- he had the telltale white coat and a stethoscope hanging from his neck. Seeing him brought up the question of why Nambu didn't dress the same.
Angstead looked to be about forty. He had a splotchy face and a receding hairline. He hung back close to the door even as Rachel came forward to assist Nambu.
"Now, Giorge, please look up toward the ceiling." Rachel tugged his sheets back and pulled out his arm.
Giorge didn't understand why they wanted to do this, but for the moment, he decided to comply. As he stared at the ceiling, he felt a tingling sensation course up his arm.
"Did you feel anything just now?" He blinked yes. "Good, good. That's excellent."
Giorge felt a pinch on his finger. He glanced over at Nambu not sure of what was going on.
"Did you feel that too?" Of course he'd felt that! Was there some reason why he shouldn't have? Giorge blinked yes again. A tinge of fear reared up in the back of his mind as he tried to figure out what Nambu's strange actions might mean. Wasn't he supposed to feel things anymore? What had they done to him? He quickly pulled away from speculating any further.
Nambu repeated what he'd just done on Giorge's left arm. He then moved to do the same to his legs and feet. "That's excellent, Giorge." The doctor sat down again. "If you're up to it, I'd like to move on to something a little bit harder."
Giorge saw Angstead move closer to the bed. It made him nervous.
"Before we start, I want to make it perfectly clear that if nothing happens, it doesn't necessarily mean there's anything wrong. You've been through a lot and your body will need time to reconnect. These test are just to give us a feel on what we need to work on to get you there faster. All right?"
He didn't like the sound of this at all. Not about the tests themselves, but of what it might mean if he didn't pass them. Was there a chance he would always be like this? How would he avenge his parents then?
"Okay, the first thing I need for you to try to do is to turn your head slowly from side to side. Don't rush, take your time."
This, Giorge knew, he was able to do before. He assumed he could do it no problem. Yet, when he actively tried to do it, he found his body balking at the commands.
"Don't strain, Giorge. Take it nice and easy." He bristled at Nambu's patient tone. He shouldn't have to work so hard to do this. His head moved slowly from side to side. What did they do to him?
"Very good! Now let's try something else." Nambu nodded to Rachel, who manipulated the bed controls until it put Giorge in a semi-sitting position. "Try to wiggle the fingers in your right hand. Take your time."
He looked down at his fingers and willed the to move. Nothing happened. A shaft of fear lit through him. He clamped down on it and tried again. He gathered all that he had into attempting to perform the one act. After a few moments, his fingers wiggled slightly.
"Way to go, Giorge. Very good!" This was good? The doctor's encouragement made his fear grow. "Now try it with your left hand."
Beads of perspiration spread on Giorge's brow as he put all he could into making the fingers of his left hand move. His fears abated a bit, as he was able to get them to respond more than he had the others. After more encouraging words, Nambu then had Giorge move his efforts to his toes. He got some response from them as well.
By the time they finished, Giorge felt totally exhausted. His body hurt everywhere, and his breathing had grown a little ragged.
"That was excellent work, Giorge. I think with a little time and therapy, we'll soon have you as good as new." Nambu's smile was contagious. "Let me just check on a couple of more things and then we'll let you rest."
With Rachel's help, Nambu took notes on Giorge's vital signs, checked his eyes, and took some blood samples. Giorge would have been more scared of the needles if he hadn't been so tired. He didn't even have the strength to flinch as they painfully pierced his skin. Throughout, Angstead remained in the background, a dissatisfied look on his face.
Giorge had to fight to keep his eyes from closing. As soon as Nambu finished with him, he succumbed to their will.
His eyes slowly fluttered open. Rachel's face slowly came into focus before him.
"I'm sorry to wake you, but it's time." Her eyes locked with his and though they looked a little sad, her expression was determined. "It's very important, so let's just get it over with and let you go back to sleep, okay?"
Rachel hesitated a moment, but when he didn't answer her, she took hold of him gently and leaned his body forward. "Nnnnn -- o --" Giorge tried to pull back, as Rachel slapped the small of his back. It was all to no avail, regardless of how hard he tried. He felt his throat fill with bile as his body responded to her ministrations.
"Giorge, spit it out. I know it's unpleasant, but it's better than the machine. Help me help you. Please."
Waves of helplessness swept through him as the green goo settled in his mouth and he was once more forced to spit it out. He shut his eyes not wanting to look at it, the putrid smell making him gag. He'd done nothing to deserve this. Why was it happening? Why were they doing this to him? Anger swelled to replace the despair. He would find a way to keep them from doing these things to him!
When she was done, Rachel helped Giorge back up and quickly cleaned around his mouth with a damp cloth -- just like a baby. He glared at her with all his might, stoking the anger inside him.
"We're through now, Giorge." Her brow crinkled as she noticed his burning expression. "We won't do this forever, just until you get better. And you are getting better; you're better everyday." Giorge continued to glare at her until she turned her face away. "I'll bring you something to eat in a little while, okay?" He pointedly didn't acknowledge her.
As soon as she left, he made no move to go back to sleep. Instead, he moved his attention over to his right hand. Staring at it, he brought his will together and commanded his fingers to move. He would find a way to make them stop. He would find it if it was the last thing he ever did!
As the days went by, Giorge noticed an uneasy pattern to his time. He slept in fits and starts, dreaming often, interrupted here and there by uncomfortable and sometimes painful tests, tastleless feedings, and other more unpleasant things. All of it made him angry, for no one ever seemed to care whether he wanted to be subjected to these things or not and he possessed no way to enforce his own will. As far as they were concerned, he was a helpless baby with no thoughts or input. Their actions reinforced his belief that they weren't there to help him but rather to make his life miserable, making him pay for some crime he didn't know about or understand. To spite them and to try and push back some of his helplessness, Giorge worked at moving his fingers and toes at every waking moment even though it always weakened him terribly. He improved at it though, and that wasn't lost on the others, especially Nambu.
"Well, Giorge, you seem to be recuperating even faster than I anticipated." Giorge searched to see if his tone sounded in the least bit disappointed by that. But there was nothing there he could find. Surely he wasn't really pleased by the improvement, right? "I've found someone to help you go even faster. This is Neal. He's to be your physical therapist."
Giorge glanced over at the new man. Like everyone and everything in this place, except for Nambu, Neal was dressed in white. He was a man with a hefty build, which was enhanced by the loose shirt and slacks he wore; he had sandy blond hair, which was cut short, and a kind, young looking face. "Hi, Sport. I hear we're going to be working a lot together." He sounded friendly too. Too friendly, too nice. And what was with this "Sport" business? Hadn't somebody told the duffus he had a name? Giorge looked away trying his best to ignore him.
"You'll start out slowly, basically just getting your muscles used to moving again. But, if you follow all that Neal teaches you, you'll improve in no time."
"That's absolutely right!" Neal's smile was like neon.
Giorge frowned, not sure on whether he should allow himself to believe them or not.
"Well, I guess I'll leave the two of you alone and let you get to it. Neal, let me know how it goes." Nambu patted Giorge on the shoulder, giving him a small smile.
"No problem, doctor. I'm sure we'll do great."
As Nambu left, Giorge glanced once more at his therapist. Neal had moved to stand by the bed and was smiling good-naturedly at him. Giorge made up his mind right then and there he was definitely not to be trusted.
"We'll work for about ten to fifteen minutes a day, but we'll add time to the sessions as we get further along. We have to be very careful, Sport. We don't want to push too hard too fast and hurt you." Neal uncovered Giorge's legs as he talked. "As I move your foot, I want you to concentrate on how it feels and try doing it with me. I'll go real slow, and there's no hurry, okay? Just try to think about how it feels." He gently took hold of Giorge's left foot and slowly flexed it up and down.
Giorge did as he was told and tried hard to get the foot to move on its own. After a couple of minutes, Neal moved on to his other foot. He looked up and saw Giorge's face tighten into a grimace of effort. "Don't try so hard! It'll come easier if you try to think of the movement normally. Don't push."
Giorge looked up at him. So that was it! He knew what their game was now. Nambu had lied after all; he didn't want him to get better. He'd brought this man in because he was improving too fast on his own! Neal was supposed to slow him down, keep him weak. Well he wouldn't let them get
away with it! He'd let the fool show him the way and then take off on his own.
After finishing with his feet, they spent a number of minutes on Giorge's wrists.
"Well, I guess that will do it for today. I'll be back tomorrow and we'll do a little more, Okay?" Neal smiled warmly and then turned to go.
No! That couldn't be all he planned to do today, could it? He had to know more! "Mo -- mo - re --!"
Neal turned back around, a look of mild surprise on his face. It quickly turned into yet another smile. "I'm glad to see you're eager, Sport. It means we'll make quick progress. But we can't rush things. You're body is very delicate right now and can't take the pressure. I promise we'll do more tomorrow."
Giorge glared at him even after he left. Tomorrow, tomorrow, everything was always tomorrow! He didn't want to wait. He was already three months behind on what needed to be done. He wouldn't wait! He stared at his covered left foot and willed it to move.
By the time he stopped practicing what Neal showed him, he was woozy from exertion and had a mild headache throbbing in the background. The joints at his wrist and ankles felt sore. His muscles ached. But even with all that, he felt strangely satisfied. He could tell he was getting better; and he would continue to get better until he could leave this place and go home.
As promised, Neal returned the following day. To Giorge's chagrin, however, he only repeated what they went over the day before. "Mo -- re -"
Neal tucked the sheets back under the mattress. "We've done enough for today."
"Mo - re -" Giorge's throat hurt.
The blond haired man looked at him, a slightly worried expression on his normally jovial face. "Sport, we have to take this slow. You can't overcome what's happened to you in a day. I know you've been pushing yourself. All the signs are there. But regardless of whether you like it or not, this is going to take time." His expression softened. "We'll do some more tomorrow."
Giorge turned his face away too angry to want to look at him anymore.
"I'll see you tomorrow. I promise."
As soon as Neal left, Giorge once more started working on his own. He wasn't sure how Neal knew he had kept at it the day before and he really didn't care. They weren't going to stop him. He kept at it until he couldn't do it anymore.
Over the next week, Neal kept working strictly with Giorge's hands and feet. He alternated between his fingers and wrists extending the sessions a little each day. For half an hour after the sessions, Neal massaged the muscles over his body, plying them until they turned to putty in his hands. He also took to placing hot water ankle and wristbands on him as he did so. Neal's ministrations eased the aches Giorge had started to develop there and for that he was grateful. He was sure Neal knew he was still pushing himself, but it surprised him that the large man said nothing about it.
At each leave taking, Giorge demanded for him to do more. Neal always turned him down. It only made him that much more determined to work harder on his own.
After about his sixth day of therapy, Rachel's phlegm spitting episodes came to an end. Giorge noticed that the wheezing sounds in his lungs had almost totally gone away, but was loath to attribute it to the expulsion of the phlegm. With the end of that, also came the end of the plastic
tasting drinks. He wasn't sad to see either of them go. Yet the joy at their leave taking was soon replaced with other inconveniences.
Twice a day, he was forced to swallow large pills and bitter tasting medicines. With them came shots and more needles for blood samples. The crook of his arms looked like purple eggplants with dark black spots. The thick green drink was replaced by different colored types of mush. Though some of it didn't taste that bad, Giorge recognized it for what it was -- baby food. And like a baby, Rachel always placed a bib on him and spoon fed his meals to him. But he wasn't a baby! He'd glare at Rachel during the entire ordeal, always tempted just not to eat at all. If it hadn't been for the fact he needed to the food in order to regain his strength, he would have done just that.
Frustration, pain, anger, these things became a constant part of his life. He took them as they came and just kept on going.
Nambu's visits became less frequent, his check-ups taken up by an unenthusiastic Angstead. Giorge wasn't sure what to make of it. It had become pretty obvious early on that Nambu was the one in charge of him, the one responsible for everything that went on in his life -- the one most likely to have the answers he wanted. But he was in no position yet to ask. He wasn't sure what it meant by the fact he didn't come as often.
Neal had progressed the therapy to Giorge's arms when Nambu came by for the first time in days. Silently, the doctor sat at one end of the room as Neal moved through the day's routine. Giorge concentrated on his tasks as he always did, but occasionally found his gaze roaming off in the doctor's direction. No one had ever watched one of his sessions before, not even Rachel. It made him a little apprehensive for someone to start watching them now.
By the time Neal finished, Giorge was pretty sure he was ready to attempt to move his arms on his own once he was left alone again. Despite the fact Nambu was there waiting, Giorge made his usual request. "More."
Neal chuckled, having expected no less from him. "I think that Doctor Nambu has waited long enough. We'll go at it again tomorrow." He turned to face the doctor. "He's all yours, sir."
"Thank you, Neal."
Giorge felt himself tense as Neal left them there alone. Nambu came to stand close. Giorge wasn't sure he wanted to know why the doctor was there.
"So, it looks like you're really coming along. That's wonderful. If you keep working at it, I know you'll have every chance of making a full recovery. As a matter of fact, I'm counting on it." Yeah, right. Giorge was sure that was the last thing he wanted.
"I know I haven't been in to see you as often lately, and unfortunately it will probably be a week or more before I'll get a chance to come by again. Don't worry though, Dr. Angstead is quite capable and he'll be looking in on you for me." Giorge was sure Angstead was thrilled by the chore.
"Since you've been needing less and less sleep, I bet you've been getting quite bored staring at the same four walls all the time." Nambu smiled. This only served to make him more nervous. What was the man up to? Where they going to move him from here? "Well, I've brought something for you that I hope will help relieve some of that." He turned toward the door. "Okay, bring it in."
The door opened as Rachel and Neal wheeled in a small cart with a fifteen-inch television on it.
A TV? Why? What did it mean? Giorge stared at the gift with incredulity. Was Nambu going to use it to try and hypnotize him as they did in some of the spy movies? They wheeled the television over to the foot of his bed. Nambu came over and placed a remote control unit by his right hand. "Neal tells me your motor skills are good enough for you to use one of these. Enjoy."
Nambu and the others looked at him expectantly. Staring at them with a blank expression, Giorge finally figured out what they wanted. Concentrating, he willed his hand to move over to the remote and pressed the 'on' button. The television sprang to life.
"Way to go, Giorge!"
What the hell were they so excited about?
"Enjoy yourself. And I'll see you again in about a week."
Giorge ignored the TV his face set. "Back - home --" They all stared at him, none of them seeming to understand what he meant. He tried again. "G -- go - m - me --"
Nambu's brow rose. "You're not well enough for that, Giorge. We can worry about that once you're better." The doctor looked away. Giorge's jaw clenched. He was sure the doctor was lying.
Rachel and Neal stuck around to congratulate him again before following Nambu out the door. Giorge made sure they were before finally turning his attention back to his gift.
At the moment, the set was playing a documentary on the migrating habits of geese. Yeah, right, riveting stuff. Giorge changed over to another channel. The screen turned black. After a moment, white letters flashed onto the middle of the screen - Parental Lock. What the hell? He clicked the controller again. He got a game show. Click. Another documentary. Click. Parental lock. Things were looking grim.
Giorge went ahead and browsed through the entire spectrum of channels. Of the twenty-seven channels available to him, about half were locked out. The other half had nothing worth watching. He shut it off.
Within a few days, Giorge was able to lift his arms on his own with some degree of success. He decided learning to grab things should come next. The remote gave him something to practice on though occasionally it would end up on the floor. Rachel always put it back for him never once looking like it was unusual for it to be there. Though he was grateful he didn't have to explain, it galled him all the same. It seemed his bumbling was expected.
The movements slowly became easier, but it was still not fast enough to suit him. Giorge had no real sense of how long it had been since he awakened from the coma, he was only sure it had already been too long. He had things he needed to do.
As the muscles in his arms grew stronger, Giorge started using the remote as a weight. At first, his arms would occasionally get cramps, especially if he was pushing himself. He'd lie there at such times and bear the pain until the cramp passed and he could start again. It wasn't long before one of them cramped during one of Neal's sessions. The hefty man gave him a knowing look but said nothing, straightening out Giorge's arm to ease the pain and massaging it until it relaxed. During their next session, however, Neal went into a long dissertation on pulled and strained muscle injuries and the consequences of such, and then later taught him how to relax his own muscles whenever they grew tense. Giorge didn't understand why the man took such a roundabout way to try and help him, but he didn't argue about it. As long as Neal didn't try to stop him, everything would be fine.
The television came to be on almost constantly as time passed. Though most of the time there was nothing on he was interested in watching, Giorge came to find the background noise and movements on the screen helped to push back the almost constant silence and whiteness that always surrounded him.
Giorge spent a lot of time alone, and he preferred it that way. But occasionally, especially late at night, he would find himself fervently wishing for Alan, his best friend, or one of the others belonging to their gang. With them he'd never been lonely, never totally alone. They'd all stuck with each other through thick and thin and ended up even making enough of a name for themselves that they were respected by most of the island's other gangs. And they would be here with him now, helping him through this, if only....
His control over his vocal cords also improved, though he rarely spoke. He'd never been much for conversation before, and after all this time of silence, he had even less to say. Every once in a while Rachel or Neal would try to draw him into a conversation, but he normally didn't indulge them. He only pushed to improve--the rest was unnecessary.
One morning, Rachel came in smiling as always, and set his breakfast on the bed's tray arm. As she sat down on the edge of the bed to feed him, Giorge moved and grabbed the spoon before she had a chance and started feeding himself.
He watched her from the corner of his eye as her eyes grew wide, her mouth turning into a silent O as she realized what he had done. He grinned from ear to ear. It was one of the few times any of them saw him smile.
Nambu showed up at his door that very afternoon.
"Doctor Nambu." Giorge guardedly studied the doctor as he moved into the room. He hadn't seen the man in a long time. It seemed a little too much of a coincidence he would appear on the very same day he'd proved he could eat on his own. Did Rachel tell on him? He felt a whisper of apprehension grow inside him not sure of what the doctor would do.
"I hear you're making incredible progress." Giorge shrugged. As far as he was concerned, he still wasn't making progress enough. "Neal tells me that soon he'll be able to start working on your legs."
Giorge's heart soared. If they could actually help him get his legs to work, he'd soon be mobile. He'd soon be able to make good on his oath!
"I see that that pleases you."
He forced his face to go blank. It wouldn't do for Nambu to know just how much he wanted this.
"I'm going to be gone a little longer than I have been lately. I'm afraid I won't be able to return for about a month or so. But I do have something special in mind for you when I come back, however. I think you'll like it." Giorge wasn't at all happy at the sound of this. Nambu smiled. "Keep up the good work. You're making your parents proud."
"My parents are dead." Giorge saw Nambu's brow rise, but the doctor said nothing. He turned away to go.
He'd almost gotten to the door when Giorge spoke. "What - what happened to them after - after they died? Tell me." His voice had a hard edge to it that left no room for arguments. Nambu didn't seem to notice it.
"After they were found, they were taken to the hospital and later to a local funeral home. After a couple of days, they were buried at St. Christopher's, in the cemetery beside the chapel."
Giorge took the information in stride. He knew St. Christopher's; his parents wouldn't have objected to being buried there. "I want to see their graves. I want to go home."
Nambu's eyes didn't meet his own. "I'm afraid that's not possible just now."
"Why?" Giorge's eyes were hard. Nambu's answer hadn't been unexpected, but damned if he wouldn't find out why.
The doctor's eyes locked with his. "You're not ready." Giorge was sure there had to be more to it than that.
"I want to go home."
"I'm sure you do, and someday, you will. But not now." Nambu turned away before Giorge could say anything else and left.
The remote smacked against the door as Giorge threw it after him. He was a prisoner here. They purposely didn't want him to go home, to be with people he knew! He'd show them! Soon, real soon, he'd be able to break out of here and make it home on his own, whether they liked it or not!
Giorge was surly during Neal's visit that afternoon. As he had during his last few visits, Neal took out a small set of hand weights for Giorge to work with. He always took them back with him when their sessions were over. Giorge was determined that would not be the case today.
"Come on, Sport, hand them over."
He looked Neal right in the eye. "No." His hands were tucked under his sheets, his hands wrapped tightly over two of the weights.
"Now, Sport, we've been over this before. You know the rules."
Giorge glared at him. "I want to practice more."
"That's not good for you and you know it. Give me the weights."
Neal sighed. "Please don't do this. I know you want to get well as fast as you can, but this is not the way to do it. Now give me the weights."
Giorge turned his face away and ignored him.
"Fine, if we have to do it the hard way, that's the way it'll have to be." Neal reached out and grabbed hold of Giorge's right arm and reached under the covers to take hold of the weight in his left hand. He pulled. Though Giorge tried with all his might to hold on to it, his strength was nothing when compared to Neal's. Neal set the retrieved weight well out of Giorge's reach before taking the other from him as well. Giorge snarled at him with a look promising a long painful death. Neal disregarded it.
"I'm sorry about that, Sport, but you know the rules." Neal didn't look at him as he put the weights away. "I'll see you again tomorrow."
They wouldn't keep him from what he had to do, they wouldn't! The helplessness that welled inside him at not being able to stop Neal at such a simple thing transformed itself into a fury that threatened to make him explode. With a clenched jaw, he grabbed the metal railings on either side
of the bed and shook them with his anger until his arms couldn't take it anymore.
From then on, Giorge forced Neal to fight for the weights at every session. Though he was never quite able to stop him, he consoled himself with the fact he made the effort cost Neal a little more each time.
Giorge was caught off guard as Nambu walked into his room early one morning. His spirits dropped as he realized that yet another month went by and he'd yet to do anything to fulfill his vendetta.
"Good morning, Giorge."
"Doctor Nambu." He kept his face blank. Today was the day he would supposedly find out about the doctor's promised 'surprise'. He was sure he wouldn't like whatever it was.
"I hear you're still coming along well. That's very encouraging."
Giorge shrugged. "If you say so."
The doctor raised a brow at his comment, but otherwise let it pass. "You've been with us quite a while now. Almost nine months." Giorge's heart skipped a beat. How long? "I thought you might be feeling a little lonely after all that time here with only grown ups for company. So like I promised you, I've brought you a little surprise to lighten your spirits." Nambu smiled. "I'd like you to meet a friend of mine."
Giorge missed all the doctor just said, his mind still echoing with his first horrible words -- nine months. His parents had been dead for nine months! And what had he to show for it? Nothing. He hadn't avenged them, he hadn't even found out who their killer was. Worse yet, he couldn't even walk to start on it! Nine months!
"Ken, would you come in here please?" The room's door opened and closed but Giorge never heard it. "Giorge, I'd like you to meet Ken. Ken, this is Giorge."
"H - hello. Pleased to meet you."
Giorge said nothing. He was too wrapped up in his thoughts to even notice anyone else was there.
"Why don't the two of you talk for a while and get to know each other? I need to check with Dr. Angstead on a few things. I won't be long."
Nambu left. Giorge never noticed. Tears collected in his eyes as he looked at nothing at all.
"G- Giorge, are you okay?" A small hand touched him on the arm. To Giorge, it was like a slap in the face. His eyes refocused and turned to glare at the intruder
To his surprise, he found it wasn't someone he knew, but a boy about his own age. He had dark brown hair and really clear blue eyes. His face looked delicate, almost pretty. He looked soft, soft like a mama's boy. "Who the hell are you? Who gave you permission to touch me?"
Ken took a step back, his blue eyes wide. "I - I came with Nambu Hakase. He, he introduced us just a moment ago. Don't you remember?"
Giorge's gaze roamed scathingly over the other boy. "So, the doctor decided to bring you over to babysit me, did he, mama's boy?"
He fancied that he could see some apprehension and maybe even a little fear flash over the new boy's face. He liked it. It was about time he got the upper hand on someone around here, instead of it always being the other way around.
Ken took another step back. "N- no, that's not it at all. He just, he just told me about you and thought that maybe we had something in common and could be friends."
Friends? Giorge almost laughed. Was that Nambu's plan? To get him some friends so that he'd forget about going home? His anger found a new direction. "Well, mama's boy, guess what - I don't need you! I already have friends and you're not one of them. I'll be going home soon to them too! And anyone one of them is worth at least ten of a wimp like you." Giorge all but screamed the last, his vehemence almost palpable.
"No. No." Tears welled up in Ken's eyes even as he retreated further. It made Giorge's heart soar.
"Get out of here you useless crybaby! Not you, not Nambu, or anyone is going to stop me. So get out, get out!" Giorge grabbed hold of the remote and poised his arm to throw it. "GET OUT!"
Ken ducked even as the remote soared directly toward his head. As fast as he could, he got himself out of there.
Giorge stared the way he went and suddenly started to laugh. He laughed and laughed, until his sides ached and hot tears coursed down his cheeks.
Nambu never brought Ken around again or even mentioned the incident. That was just fine with him.
A week later, Neal was late for their therapy session. Giorge kept glancing toward the door, wondering what was going on, and sat up straight not sure what to expect when the door finally opened. Neal came in pushing a small wheelchair before him. Giorge noticed the chair, but said nothing, though he wanted more than anything to know what it was for. Rachel came in after him, only convincing him all the more that something was up.
"Well, Sport, I think you're finally ready for the next phase." Giorge stared at him his mind blank, not sure if he heard right. "But, in order to do that, we're going to have to take a little ride down to the pool."
A pool? The hospital had a pool? And he was going there? His heart sped up with excitement, but he tried hard not to let it show.
Rachel came forward holding something blue in her hands. "I'll help you get ready. Do you need to use the pan before you change?"
Giorge quickly shook his head no, at the moment not trusting himself to speak. He was going!
Rachel smiled and then pulled back his covers. Goose pimples rippled down Giorge's legs as the cool air made contact with his exposed skin. Rachel gently helped him out of his simple gown and put on a pair of swim trunks and a T-shirt.
He was going! He was really going! After all this time he was finally going somewhere other than a cold lab. A small smile crept up on his lips as Neal picked him up to set him down in the chair. Rachel slipped a pair of sandals on his bare feet.
"Have fun, Giorge!" She waved after him as Neal took charge of the chair and wheeled him forward. Forgetting his usual caution, Giorge waved enthusiastically back.
The hallway outside was white, just like every passage and room he'd ever seen of the place. Giorge had quickly come to despise the color, but today, that was the farthest thing from his thoughts. He was going!
Neal pushed the wheelchair down the tiled corridor. Giorge committed every step to memory. On the right, they passed a large nurse's station. Further on they passed several offices and a file room as well as a maintenance closet. After three turns through connecting hallways, they came to an
Neal wheeled Giorge inside and pressed the button for the basement. As soon as the doors opened, Giorge put his hands on the wheels of the chair and took off down the hall. "Giorge!"
The walls here weren't white but blue! Blue made out of tiny ceramic tiles. Just the color change drove home the truth of where they were going. Giorge's heart soared. A sign on the wall with a big arrow had the word POOL printed out in large letters. Giorge headed off that way. He heard Neal struggling to catch up. With a big, mischievous smile, he pushed for the wheels to go faster.
Neal caught up to him before the end of the hall. He grabbed the handle bars behind the wheelchair and pulled him to a stop. "Whoa there, Speedy! There's no need to rush. The pool's not going anywhere!"
Giorge pulled at the wheels trying to go again but Neal's hold on the chair was too strong. With a small sigh, he let go of them and let Neal push him forward at a more sedate pace.
The strong smell of chlorine flooded his nostrils as they made the last turn. Before his bright eyes sat an olympic-sized pool with a shallow area at both ends. The bright overhead lights reflected off the calm water like a mirror. He couldn't remember a more welcome sight. Neal stopped the chair about ten feet from the water and set the brakes. "Are you ready, Sport?"
Giorge nodded quickly having eyes only for the pool. His parents had always told him he swam like a fish. His father had often teased him that one day he might actually turn into one. Other than Alan, Giorge had been the fastest swimmer in the gang. Many a happy day had been spent chasing one another in and out of the water. Those had been the best of times. Giorge felt a deep pang inside. He forced himself to quelch the feeling before it had a chance to grow.
Neal picked him out of the wheelchair and brought him over to the steps leading down into the water.
"Now it's probably going to feel a little cold until you get used to it." Even with the warning, Giorge let out a small hiss of surprise as his skin came in contact with the water. Neal sat him down on the steps with the water lapping about midway on his chest.
"All we're going to do today is go through the motions of movement, just like we did for your arms. Concentrate on feeling how they move, okay?" Giorge nodded.
They'd been in the water a little over twenty minutes when Neal called it a day.
"More." Giorge looked eagerly into the blond man's face hoping this once he'd give in to him.
"Sorry, Sport, you've had more than enough for one day."
He shook his head. "More!"
"Your fingers look like prunes and your lips are blue. I've already let you stay in longer than I should have. Rachel is gonna kill me! So come on, it's over. No more arguments." Neal easily scooped him up and carried him over to the wheelchair. "Now wait here for me a minute while I go get us a couple of towels."
Giorge stared at the water, wanting nothing more than to go back in. He was so close! He'd felt his legs trying to follow his commands. He'd felt them! He just needed a little more time. He looked behind him for the brakes but couldn't reach them. If only... if only! The water on his skin turned cold in the cool air and made his teeth chatter. If only he could stay!
Neal returned and quickly dried him with one towel before wrapping him up in another. As he wheeled him away, Giorge kept trying to look behind him at the pool. Neal chuckled as he noticed what he was doing. "Don't worry, it's not going anywhere. We'll be back tomorrow."
And they were.
Giorge pushed as hard as he could at each occasion, feeling his goal coming closer. As usual, he asked to do more, but as ever, Neal never caved in. Once, Giorge pushed away from the steps with his arms, hoping to swim out of Neal's reach and therefore extend his stay. His legs didn't respond to his commands fast enough and he sank. Neal fished him out of the water amidst splutters and coughs. "You ever do that again and I won't bring you back for a week!" Chagrined, Giorge never tried it again.
Practicing what he learned at the pool in his room proved to be difficult and at times quite agonizing. The cramps he suffered in his arms were even more frequent in his legs, even with Neal's massages and relaxation techniques. He knew Neal suspected what he was up to, but the man still said nothing. Giorge gave up trying to understand why.
It was during one of the trips down to the pool that Giorge learned something interesting about Angstead; something that explained his weird attitude toward him. Neal had stopped to update his chart at the nurse's station on their way down to the pool.
"So, Neal, how are things?"
Neal, being his usual self had smiled at the nurse eagerly. "They're great!"
"Angstead isn't giving you any more trouble? It's no secret he resents Dr. Nambu's authority around here and has been a little 'harsh' with anyone working with him on his project."
Giorge felt Neal's gaze turn to him for a moment.
"No trouble at all. We get along fine."After that, Neal had uncharacteristically cut the conversation short. Giorge pondered on all that had gone unsaid for some time.