The Harmless Shinigami
The night air was a bit on the chilly side as Duo stepped out of the taxi and paid the driver. He sighed, running his fingers through his sweat-dampened bangs as he entered the large brick building. He was exhausted from having just done his part in ending the Eve Wars; making sure that the White Fang would not curse the earth by causing it to have a perpetual winter. When he knew the fight was over he had headed straight to the colony hospital where Hilde was.
Hilde had been injured as she tried to deliver information to the Gundam pilots about the space fortress Libra, as well as about their mobile suits, the Mercurius and the Vayeate. The pilots had taken her to safety and then left to finish their difficult task.
Duo stopped in the lobby at the front desk and asked for Hilde’s room number. He picked up a pen that was attached to the desk by a long chain so that it wouldn’t inadvertently wander into somebody’s pocket and disappear and scribbled the number on the palm of his left hand.
“Thanks,” he said shortly, not smiling; too tired to smile, and walked toward the row of elevators on the far wall.
“But sir,” the receptionist said, “you can’t go up there now. Visiting hours are over.”
Duo was worn out and worried and in no mood for such nonsense as Visiting Hour Rules.
“I’d like to see anyone try to stop me,” he challenged bluntly in a low voice as the elevator doors opened. He looked so serious that she dared not say anything else to him, but after the doors closed she hurriedly called the security guard on duty, as well as the nurses’ station on the third floor.
Duo propped himself up in a corner, eyes closed, his black leather jacket’s texture actually helping to keep him in an upright position as he was taken to the floor he had chosen.
“She shouldn’t ‘ve done it,” he sleepily grumbled to himself. “She coulda gotten herself killed.”
The gray-green box opened and Duo found himself on a typical hospital floor, where nearly everything he saw was white.
“So antiseptic looking,” he criticized as he stepped into the hallway; he wrinkled his nose in disgust. “Antiseptic-smelling, too,” he added crossly. He looked at the numbers on the nearby rooms and decided in which direction he needed to go so that he could see Hilde. He walked straight past the nurses’ station without a second glance, his purposeful strides causing a great amount of noise as his heels struck the polished linoleum and echoed in the quiet corridor.
“Ah…sir?” a nurse timidly addressed him. “You can’t go down there. Visiting hours are over.”
The determined young man ignored her completely, showing no sign that he had even heard her. As far as he was concerned, she didn’t exist.
At first the nurses were intrigued by the mysterious man in black, but when they saw the silver handle of his boot knife glint in the fluorescent light they became frightened. They huddled nervously against the station wall, not daring to confront him further and wishing very hard that the security guard would arrive soon to take charge of the situation.
Duo opened his hand and matched the number scrawled there to the room number on the wall. He checked the name written on a white paper sign on the wall next to the doorway; “Moderate concussion”, as well as other things that he didn’t stop to read, was written underneath it. He entered the room and firmly pulled the door shut behind him.
Duo was suddenly aware of the intense stillness all around him, the silence was so loud, and he didn’t like the creepy feeling it gave him. He noticed for the first time that his boots made noise on the bare floor so he walked softly and carefully over to Hilde’s bed.
He was shocked to see how pale she was, how ill she looked. She looked so small and frail; her fringe of thick black lashes contrasted with her nearly-as-white-as-the-sheet skin. He had never noticed them before. She had a bandage on her forehead; the skin around it was purple from the large bruise surrounding the injury. “She musta gotten stitches for that,” he guessed correctly as he gently traced around the bandage with his forefinger.
The head nurse was a much braver woman than her subordinates and had no qualms about confronting the ‘dangerous man’ that the three nearly hysterical women had told her about in a jumble of words, all speaking at once. They had scared themselves silly, speculating about what he might do. She had been on her coffee break when Duo had arrived and she, being a no-nonsense sort of person, had no intention of putting up with it from the man that had frightened them. “I would have stopped him in his tracks,” she grumbled to herself as she marched down the hallway; she was tiny, but fierce. “He wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near that girl’s room.”
She stopped at the closed door, annoyed by that fact because it was supposed to remain open so that the badly hurt girl could be closely monitored. She entered the room boldly. “Sir,” she whispered harshly to the braided young intruder. “You’ll have to leave and come back tomorrow during visiting hours.” She was irritated when the unauthorized teenage boy just stood at the head of Hilde's bed, not reacting to her words in any manner. “Please come with me,” she ordered in a quiet but commanding voice. “You’re causing a commotion and you’ll wake up all of the patients.”
Duo slowly turned to face her, the dim light causing shadows to accentuate the contours on his deadly serious face so that he looked quite eerie. “The only thing that will cause a commotion is if you don’t get outta here,” he stated in such a low voice that it seemed to be only a growl from his throat, “’cause I’m not leavin’. Got it?”
The strong-willed, diminutive nurse decided that it would be best to let the security guard handle this situation and she quickly left the strange antisocial young man to himself. It was obvious to her that he wasn’t in his right mind, which wasn’t far from the truth. Sleep deprivation can do strange things to people, but she was not aware that he was suffering from exhaustion, only that he needed to be dealt with as quickly as possible.
Duo looked down at the pale girl lying so still and lifeless as she slept; her breathing so shallow that he put his hand before her face just to make sure. He tenderly brushed her black bangs back from her face to see how large the bruise was. Hilde’s strangely dilated violet eyes opened and she tried to focus to see her visitor. “Duo?”
“Hey, how’s the brave secret agent doin’?” Duo began with forced cheerfulness but Hilde interrupted him. “Don’t…you…mean…‘stupid fool’?” she said, saying each word slowly with as much volume as she could muster; she was surprised by how much effort it took just to speak.
“What?” Duo was genuinely baffled. He decided that her injury was making her talk nonsense.
Hilde was trying hard to keep Duo in one place; sometimes there were two Duos and it bothered her. “You…called me… a…‘stupid fool’…when I…brought you the…the…” She trailed off, her memory failing her so that she couldn’t remember what to call it. She closed her eyes; the lids were too heavy for her to keep them open any longer. And she was so tired.
Duo scratched his head, elbow out, and shifted his position as he had a habit of doing when he was nervous. “Yeah, you’re right,” he admitted ruefully. “I guess I did say that. But I didn’t mean it. I-“
“Yes…you…” came softly from Hilde’s pale lips before she slipped back into dark unconsciousness.
“Yes, I guess I did,” Duo had to admit honestly; he noticed that she was no longer able to listen so he said nothing more.
A few minutes later the head nurse returned, followed by a security guard. The three frightened but curious nurses were behind him, standing on their toes and peeking over his shoulders; their curiosity was stronger than their fear. They saw that Duo had pulled a chair up to the head of the girl’s bed and was sitting on it; he was bent forward, the upper part of his body resting on the mattress. He had made a sort of pillow for himself by laying his head on the crook of his right arm, the top of his head resting against the injured girl, and he was holding her cold hand in his warm one.
The seasoned guard took in Duo’s calm expression, his jacket reflecting the room’s dim light on its shiny surface, the long braid trailing over his arm, his obvious devotion. He then judged him by his size and youthfulness.
“He looks harmless enough to me,” he observed, speaking at a volume that was just above a whisper.
“But the-he-“ the head nurse stammered, which was quite an unusual thing for her to do.
“Look at him--he’s not very big and he can’t be more than 15 or 16 years old,” the guard continued.
“But the jacket and the kni-“ one nurse piped up but was interrupted by the man in charge.
“Wearing a leather jacket doesn’t make a person a juvenile delinquent, you know,” he admonished her. “I don’t think he looks like a kid that’s capable of causing any havoc.” He shrugged. “So much for your ‘dangerous man’,” he added with a chuckle.
The head nurse opened her mouth but closed it again.
“I say we let him sleep,” he decided, turning and motioning for the miffed, no-nonsense nurse to follow him. “Come on.”