Story: Give Me One Reason (chapter 9)

Authors: A Markov

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Chapter 9

Title: Learning to FLy, five: Friends Like These


Initially, judging my progress was difficult for me. The doctors varied widely in their assessments of the extent of my injuries and the possibilities of my recovery. Through the use of advanced micro-surgery techniques and experimental nerve regeneration, my shattered hip and pelvis were rebuilt and the nerve damage in my leg was repaired. I was fit to begin therapy to build muscle mass and strength in the leg in about six weeks. When the PT first visited me, he gave me a speech about how much I would come to dislike him and how it was normal. But he was going to push me and together we would recover as much strength and movement as could possibly be recovered. I dismissed his talk as hyperbole. I believed that I understood the dynamics of interaction and that I understood the pain involved in recovery. I had decided to approach the physical therapy as if it were a mission. I would remain professional, detached and above all, focused on the objective. Nothing this man could say or do to me would create an atmosphere of intense emotion. I received support and encouragement from many of my colleagues. Often, this encouragement took the form of an invitation to engage in some kind of strenuous activity a few months down the road… Keep your mind out of the gutter. Things like, rock climbing, hiking and mountain biking. I cheerfully accepted every one. Shego’s form of encouragement differed considerably from the norm. I’m not entirely sure it could be classified as encouragement. It involved starting a pool to determine the date I would order the execution of my physical therapist. When confronted, she alternately claimed that she was: a) Doing it as a way to scam money from GJ agents; b) Doing it to show me how ruthless my underlings thought I was; and, c) Loudly proclaiming her innocence and pretending that she was outraged that I would even accuse her of doing anything like it. In the end I did manage to surreptitiously put down twenty dollars that I’d be able get through the whole rehabilitation process without losing my temper. As it turned out, I should have put that money down on a date only three weeks away.


By the end of my third session, I had developed an intense distaste for Reggie. By the end of the third week, much to my dismay and Shego’s amusement, I actually ordered his arrest and confinement. I was only half joking. Fortunately agent Possible was on hand when the missive came through and was able to convince the other agents on duty that it was meant in jest. That was the only time I really lost my head, but from then on, it did seem like most of my amusement came from trying to figure out a way to justify using Global Justice’s considerable resources to have him killed. To this day I’m not sure I would have been able to restrain myself without Elly there to offer helpful suggestions (I still break into giggles every time I see a green caterpillar.) or poke holes in my plans. (I know NASA would never let me use the Space Shuttle for a personal vendetta, but I’m fairly certain I could have accomplished it without anyone there figuring out what was really going on.) She managed to swing by to see me a couple times a week; usually when I was attempting some difficult physio-therapy. She never coddled me or tried to spare my feelings. It was a refreshing change from most of my visitors who either treated me like a complete invalid or pretended that there was nothing wrong. Mostly she entertained me with stories of her recent escapades. Her first attempt to conquer Mt Midoriami had not gone quite as planned. She finished the first stage in record time but the judges disqualified her because her hair touched the water. She felt like she’d been unfairly barred from going on to the next stage and expressed her displeasure by incinerating the judges’ pavilion. My first belly laugh since the accident came as she described the look on the faces of the arresting officers when Mr. Tanaka, the president of the Tokyo Broadcasting System, showed up at the police station and claimed that the whole thing had been pre-arranged and she had been hired specifically to carry out that action as a way to boost ratings.


In spite of (or perhaps because of) my adversarial relationship with the PT, the restoration of muscle mass and tone in my leg actually proceeded at a faster pace than anyone had thought possible. I found that I was able to better understand Elly and the use of rage as a motivational force. My hand was a different matter. I had lost my thumb, the first two fingers and a significant portion of my palm. What prostheses that were generally available were heavy, awkward, difficult to use and painful to boot. But I was somehow able to delude myself that I would recover the use of my hand too. I managed to maintain that self-deception for about six months after the accident, until the day of Shego’s trial. The drunk driver was suing her and I had been called in to testify. I don’t remember what question the lawyer asked me, but something clicked over in my mind and I finally admitted to my conscious mind what I had known all along; nothing that happened in that court room could truly benefit me. I was never going to get my hand back. Even if the judge gave Shego a medal and sentenced my assailant to death, it wouldn’t restore my hand. I was going to be crippled for the rest of my life and I was devastated. I honestly don’t remember anything else that happened while I was on the stand. I just remember feeling completely helpless. I was vaguely aware of being escorted to a private waiting room. I was emotionally spent and feeling the weight of my situation far more than I had in the weeks leading up to the trial. I broke down and cried in self pity.


Salvation came from the most unexpected place. I heard the door to the little room open and close softly and I was startled out of my misery by the last voice in the world I had expected to hear saying the last three words I wanted to hear.


“Hello, little sister.”


But this time, those words that I hated so much were filled with sorrow and compassion, and they filled my body with a warmth that only moments ago I would never have believed I could feel again. I threw myself into my brother’s embrace and wept. He didn’t say another word. He held me and gently rocked me. And when I had cried myself out, I asked him why he had come. His answer was to hold up his own artificial hand. It seemed he’d spent the time since the accident tracking down the man who had built his hand and convincing him to come out of retirement to build one for me. To say I was bewildered would be an understatement worthy of Will Du. But the emotional shocks were not over. Shel talked at length about how he had always felt responsible for the accident that took my eye. Never mind that I had been more eager than he to fire the rocket. Never mind that I had insisted that I be allowed to do all the prep work. Never mind that it had taken his eye as well. He really took his role as my big brother seriously and for the rest of the time we lived at home, he’d been trying to atone for what he perceived as his failure. It was another paradigm shift for me. It was as though I had been looking at pictures of a sunrise and suddenly I was seeing the real thing and I could understand what the artist was trying to do for the first time. He wanted to protect me and I had never let him. And by the time he understood that trying so hard to shelter me was driving a wedge between us, it was too late.


Don’t look at me like that. I’m not talking about the WEE thing. By the time we got to that point it was already out of our control. Suffice to say that it all followed a logical progression… I guess you had to be there. The upshot to all this is that if I had been less pig-headed and he had been less overbearing we probably wouldn’t have ended up where we are today. Sadly, it took a life threatening trauma and a debilitating injury for me to reach a place where I could see that.


He got the idea of offering me a replacement hand as soon as he knew what had happened. He had hoped to show up within a couple weeks and surprise me, but he had a hard time tracking his guy down. I believe it was for the best. If he had showed up sooner, I probably would have snubbed him. As it was, I was very tempted to take him up on it, but I just couldn’t accept. As the head of Global Justice I had to maintain some kind of decorum. I was already associating with an ex-felon far more than was advisable and no one in the intelligence community would see that I had been helped by my brother. All anyone would see is that the head of GJ had accepted a bribe from the head of WEE. Besides, the might and technology of Global Justice would able produce something just as good without the appearance of being in debt to a villain. I was counting on it. Surely the powers that govern our organization would not begrudge me, their most faithful servant, a replacement hand. But the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months and always there was a delay at some level. Always, there was some form that had been lost or improperly filled in. Time after time I walked out of consultations without any hand or any promise of a hand. I strove to restore my body. I pushed myself to new levels. I was stronger, faster and more fit than I had been before my accident, than I had ever been but I was still a cripple.


More often than not, when it became too difficult to bear, I turned to Elly for comfort and cheering up. She was able to reduce the objects of my ire to insignificance with a few choice phrases and bring a smile to my lips. Everyone and everything was subject to her sarcastic reductions, even me. But something was amiss in our meetings. She was holding back. She was guarded on some level that I couldn’t get past and it seemed as if she was suspicious of me. I found that I wanted to get past this barrier in an almost unhealthy way. Oddly, it was Commander Du who finally put his finger on the root of the problem. After a long evening of what I can admit now was obsessing about where Shego had disappeared to after an argument with me, he commented that it would be much easier for him to track her down if I didn’t care whether or not she liked me. I denied it, of course, but as it sank in, I had to accept the truth. I wanted Elly to like me. I’m not talking about romance. I’m talking about friendship. She had seemed so eager to be my friend after the accident. Why was she now keeping this part of herself from me? Was she engaging in criminal activities? Was she back working for Drakken? Had I misjudged her that much? Was she cultivating my friendship in order to curry special treatment? I couldn’t find any evidence that she had turned back to a life of evil, but I was still convinced that she had. I think it was easier for me to believe that than to acknowledge my own feelings.


One night, about a year after the accident, I was depressed because the committee had denied my request for funds to have Dr. Porter build a prosthetic for me, again. Elly and I were having a drink and she was trying to cheer me up with a story about cutting a bear in half and using the insides to keep warm. Something about it seemed familiar and I accused her of making it up, or stealing it from a movie, or something along those lines. She took it in stride and assured me it was true but for some reason, I wasn’t hearing her. I was very angry. Not at her, I was just angry. She just happened to be the closest person and I guess I took it out on her. I accused her of lying… about the story… about her life… about everything. Accused her of going back to crime and told her I didn’t want to be used as a get out of jail free card for a conniving, dishonest, thief. I think I threw my glass at her. She didn’t react the way you’d expect. She just stood there for a second, stunned. Then, with a look that penetrated into my soul, she turned and fled. Her expression burned itself into my mind. I knew that look, it was hauntingly familiar. I had seen it on her face a year before. It was the same look she had when she watched me getting run down by that drunk.


Memories are funny things. You never know when a smell or a sound or a pattern is going to trigger your subconscious and bring out some long buried memory. Well, when I made that connection about her expression, it triggered something in my mind and my memories of that night came pouring out of wherever they had been locked away. I felt the impact of the truck. I felt Elly’s tears rain down on my face. I felt her strong, sure hands trembling as she dressed my wounds. I heard her voice, full of fear, providing an anchor so I wouldn’t drift away. It was surreal, like watching a movie at double speed, or listening to one of those chipmunk songs. Then it slowed down to real time and she said: …the real reason why I needed to fight Kim was because after I fought her, I had an excuse to spend time with you... …I couldn’t deny it anymore, I was in love with you. I could feel her warm breath on my cheek and the light caress of her lips on my brow.


I nearly passed out from shock. Elly… in love…? with me…?

[End notes:

Next Time:

Who needs enemies?


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