“Oh my god oh my god oh my god,” the young man repeated frantically under his breath. It almost sounded like a mantra, or–well, or a prayer. Fitz found that a little funny. But then, he had all sorts of gallows humour these days.
“Shut up,” he hissed to the young man, grabbing his jacket collar and yanking him down into the dirt. He’d just landed in Fitz’s hole from Christ knew where and now he was going to get Fitz killed. Fab. “D’you really want them noticing us?”
“Sorry, sorry,” said the other bloke, sounding pleasantly and surprisingly Scouse. “I just–oh, bloody hell, duck!”
He pulled Fitz down even further, landing on top of him and knocking the wind out of him. Fitz coughed and breathed in mud. He pushed weakly at the guy, and the other man obligingly rolled off him.
“I hate this,” he said with such heartfelt honesty that Fitz couldn’t laugh at him, even though he really, really wanted to. “Why does the Doctor always have to land us in these sorts of situations anyway?”
“Yeah, good question,” Fitz said bitterly, “why does he–half a mo’. Did you just say–”
Fitz didn’t even hear this one coming, just found himself lying flat on his back, staring up at a grey sky and screaming his throat raw. Something hurt. His leg. His leg was screaming even louder than his voice and why the hell hadn’t he passed out from the pain–
A hand clamped down bruisingly over his mouth, and he accidentally bit at the fleshy bit of the palm, but the hand didn’t budge. Fitz squeezed his eyes shut and started biting his own lip, so hard he was sure he was going to chew right through it. Tears leaked through his eyelids, and he was terrified to look at what damage he had.
Eventually his companion removed his hand. Fitz breathed in a deep, rasping gasp of air, and while his lungs felt the better for it, his newly-jarred leg started screaming even louder. “Oh god oh god oh god,” he panted, thrusting his fists into the mud under him. “Oh Jesus bloody sodding Christ don’t tell me my leg is gone.”
“Your leg isn’t gone,” said the Scouse accent. It seemed a little tense. “You’ve got a piece of shrapnel lodged in it, you’re bleeding heavily, and if I don’t get this stabilized right now you might lose it later, but your leg isn’t gone yet.” His judgement sounded reassuringly professional. “Now hold still and don’t scream or you’ll land us all in a whole heap of trouble.”
“Oh, well, I’m glad my misfortune has managed to pull your act together,” Fitz snorted and finally he bloody well got around to passing out.
“Ow,” Fitz groaned himself into wakefulness. “Ow, ow, ow. Ow!” he added for good measure when somebody started poking at his leg.
“Oh, hush, Fitz,” the Doctor said, and Fitz almost went and passed out again from sheer relief at hearing that voice. “It’s only a flesh wound.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” Fitz retorted, forcing his eyes open so he could properly savour the sight of his friend. “You’re not the one in the hospital bed wearing the bandages, are you?”
“And very fetching they are on you too,” the Doctor answered, not sounding the least bit sympathetic. But he took Fitz’s hand and squeezed it gently.
“Is he awake then?” another voice said, and Fitz turned his head to find his earlier companion in the mud standing on the other side of the bed. The bloke smiled down at Fitz, distantly–it was a professional smile, like the kind Fitz had used at the plant shop–and then he started poking at Fitz’s leg.
“Oi!” Fitz stopped himself just in time from trying to withdraw his leg from all the torture. Moving it, he knew instinctively, would hurt even more than the collective poking. “It’s still there, alright? And it still hurts so bloody well leave it alone!”
The Doctor and the new guy looked at each other across Fitz’s bed and simultaneously sighed. Fitz flopped back onto the pillows. “Oh god,” he groaned. “I can’t handle two of you without stronger painkillers and a fag.”
“Smoking is terrible for your health,” the bloke lectured as he readied a syringe with a vial the Doctor handed him, and Fitz held up a weary hand.
“I definitely can’t handle a lecture on my nasty habits without a whole pack of cigs,” he said. The other man rolled his eyes but pushed the syringe into Fitz’s arm, injecting what Fitz fervently hoped were more painkillers.
“Try to show a little gratitude, Fitz,” the Doctor said reprovingly. “Mr Hex here saved your leg and your life; the least you could do is tell him thank you.”
“He’s probably what got me shot at in the first place! All his hysterical yelling–”
“I was not yelling! I was just–a bit worried, that’s all. And you,” Hex added, swinging back to the Doctor, “can stop calling me ‘Mister’ Hex. You ought to know better.”
“Sorry,” the Doctor grinned. “Old habits and all that.”
Fitz looked between the two of them. “You wha? Doctor, you know this bloke?”
“Nurse Schofield used to travel with me, in another lifetime,” the Doctor told him comfortably, sitting on the edge of Fitz’s bed. He glanced up at Hex again, still smiling nostalgically. “He made an admirable companion.”
Hex flushed. “Yeah, Doctor,” he said with another roll of his eyes, “I’m sure that’s what you tell all the lads.” He looked down at Fitz again, who stared up at him open-mouthed. “And as for you,” Hex said, pointing a finger at Fitz. “I don’t want to see you up and about on that leg for at least two more days. I went through a lot of trouble keeping it for you, and I don’t want you to ruin all that work.”
“Hang about,” Fitz said, “who exactly is the doctor and the nurse around here?”
“He’s a very good nurse, Fitz,” the Doctor said.
“Oh, fine,” Fitz said. “I still want that ciggie.”
“Too bad,” Hex said and walked off to look at the patient lying in the next bed.
Fitz looked up at the Doctor appealingly.
“Don’t look at me,” the Doctor said, holding up his hands. “In some matters I would never cross Hex.” He looked up as a small man in a dark coat and holding a brolly with a bright red question-mark for a handle entered the busy room, searching for somebody. They nodded to each other when their eyes met, but the other man’s gaze slid away too quickly, and then he started purposefully toward Hex. Fitz watched the whole thing with interest. Oh, well, if stuff like that kept happening, lying in this bed for two days would be no problem at all.
“He really did save your life, you know,” the Doctor said, dragging Fitz’s attention back to him.
“Yeah,” Fitz smiled sleepily. His body felt very heavy right now. “Did you already snog him for it? You’re good at that sort of thing.”
The Doctor laughed. “Oh, Fitz,” he said fondly. “I don’t think you realize quite how much pain medication you’re on right now.”
“I’m on loads of pain medication right now,” Fitz protested. “I must be; I don’t feel my leg at all at the moment. Or the rest of me, for that matter, but that’s alright. Fab, in fact.” He frowned. “It’ll be alright, right? I’m not going to have a limp or anything, am I? I mean, a limp could add a certain coolness factor, I admit, but I’d have to get some kind of disability pension because I could never keep travelling with you if I had to limp–”
“You won’t have a limp,” the Doctor cut him off. “You’ll give that leg plenty of time to rest, and then you will give it plenty of physical therapy, and everything will be fine. Alright, Fitz? Do you hear me?”
“Yeah, yeah…” Fitz closed his eyes. “Mmm. Maybe I’ll give him a snog, for giving me these lovely meds. They’re fantastic, Doctor; you should try some.”
“Thank you; I’m quite alright for the moment.”
“You sure? I bet I could fix you up with some–”
“Go to sleep, Fitz.”
“Don’t even think about getting out of that bed,” Hex called as he strode past, a bottle of pills in one hand with a glass of water and some towels in the other hand.
Fitz slumped backwards with a scowl. “Scouse git!” he yelled after the nurse’s retreating back.
“Southerner!” Hex yelled back and disappeared through the doorway into another impromptu ward.
“You’re Fitz, aren’t you?” Fitz turned his head and saw the odd little man standing on the other side of his bed. He had a Scottish accent.
“Yeah,” Fitz said, brightening up a little. Anything to lessen the tedium of being stuck in a hospital bed with no guitar, no cigs, and no books. “You know Hex, right?”
“Yes, he’s a friend of mine. And you’re a friend of the Doctor’s?” He was looking steadily at Fitz, scrutinizing him the way many of Fitz’s teachers had back in school when they thought he was lying.
Fitz drew back a little. “Isn’t everyone around here?” he snorted. “How do you know him?”
The Scotsman grinned. “He gets around, as you yourself pointed out,” he said, taking a seat beside Fitz’s bed. “Would you mind terribly if I played you the spoons?” He leant forward conspiratorially. “It’s just that I haven’t had a chance to practice in a very long time.”
Later, when the Doctor came in to find his companion and the little Scotsman holding an impromptu jam session–Fitz hollering out whatever melodies and lyrics seemed appropriate for the other man’s rhythms–Hex joined him and said, “I didn’t know he could do that.”
“He is…unique in that respect,” the Doctor answered, glancing at Hex. “Fitz seems to be doing much better.”
“Particularly now that he’s off those high-dosage pain meds,” Hex sighed.
The Doctor grinned, looking again at the two men utterly absorbed in their music. “I think I might go fetch my violin,” he said.
“Doctor,” Fitz whispered, snagging the Doctor’s velvet sleeve when he would have whisked past, intent on some mission. The Doctor ground to a halt and glanced at his friend, puzzled. “Who is that Scottish bloke, anyway?”
The Doctor blinked. “An…old--acquaintance,” he said, looking around. The other man, after his prolonged music session with Fitz the other day, had made very few appearances, for which the Doctor was grateful. Nothing against the chap, but it did tend to make things uncomfortable. Put a certain electricity, tension, in the air.
“He said he knew you,” Fitz sounded a bit dubious and then he groaned. The Doctor looked at him again, startled, and then heard from behind him, “Time for a bit of exercise, Mr Kreiner.”
“Bloody stubborn single-minded…” Fitz said, glaring up at Hex.
“You’re the one who wants to walk normally again, yeah?” Hex retorted. “C’mon, up you get.”
“I’ll see you later, Fitz,” the Doctor sounded fairly sympathetic, even as he started striding away again.
“Okay, fine,” Fitz growled as he slowly and carefully swung his legs around the edge of the bed. He tentatively put his weight on both feet and found Hex’s arm already waiting for him, steadying when he would have stumbled. “What can you tell me about that Ace bird then?”
“Well, well, we really must be on our way,” the little Scottish bloke said, shaking hands all around, including hands he’d already shaken. “Hate to dash, but I hate good-byes–” He stopped when he reached the Doctor, and then they stiffly nodded their heads to each other. He smiled warmly when he turned to Fitz and produced a packet of fags from behind Fitz’s ear.
“Brill!” Fitz said, grinning at the man, whose name he had never quite caught and whom he had barely seen anyway in the past few days. He looked more closely at the packaging, and his face fell. “Oi! These are candy cigarettes…” But the other man had already turned away and was heading out the door.
His dishy young friend called Ace–who Fitz had tried to make a move on exactly once, despite Hex’s blunt warnings, and instantly learned his lesson–shook hands and gave hugs all around too. She stopped when she got to the Doctor, just like her friend had, and looked at him, and nodded. The Doctor moved toward her, but she stepped back, frowning, and he let her walk away, sighing as he watched her leave. Fitz put a hand on the Doctor’s shoulder, and the Doctor smiled at him, briefly.
“Well, Doctor,” Hex said as he approached. “It was…nice meeting you.”
“I’m glad you could say that,” the Doctor said cordially, shaking Hex’s hand. He grinned, then. “And it was very jolly seeing you again.”
Hex shook his head, grinning himself, and then turned to Fitz. “Scouse git,” Fitz said immediately.
“Southerner,” Hex retorted. “It’s good to see you on your feet, mate,” he went on, clapping Fitz on the shoulder. “Keep exercising that leg, alright? And if you must, only use this kind of cigs.” He tapped the packet of candy cigarettes Fitz held in his free hand.
“Sod off,” Fitz said, and Hex rolled his eyes.
“Oh Fitz,” the Doctor said suddenly and far too innocently, “weren’t you going to snog Hex before he left?”
Both Fitz and Hex choked. “You wha?” Hex said even as Fitz gabbled out, “I was stoned, Doctor! Pain meds! Can’t trust a word I was saying!”
“Oh? Sorry, my mistake. But did you ever get around to thanking him for saving your life and your leg?”
Fitz stared at the Doctor, then turned back to Hex. Transferring his cane to his left hand–dashing as it was, Fitz hoped it would still be a temporary accessory–he vigorously shook Hex’s hand. “Thank you,” he said. “I really do mean that. Even if I still blame you for getting me into this mess in the first place.”
“You’re welcome,” Hex sounded long-suffering. “I’ll try never to get stuck in a foxhole with you again, Fitz.”
“Cheers,” Fitz grinned, and Hex left.
Fitz turned to the Doctor. “Can we go as well then?”
“You’re not quite up to running yet,” the Doctor said lightly, giving Fitz an arm as they hobbled toward a couple chairs. “I’d hate to have to set you up with a disability pension so soon.”
“What, you mean you don’t have the paperwork in order already for me to sign, just so you can get rid of me and foist yourself upon some new unsuspecting sod?”
“I’ve barely broken you in,” the Doctor replied. “I think I can keep you around a bit longer.”
“Alright then,” Fitz sighed. “But can’t I do this physical therapy thing back on the TARDIS? We’d both be more comfortable there,” he added persuasively.
“Mmm. You have a point. Alright, we’ll leave tomorrow, how does that sound?”
“Fab,” Fitz said. “And then the next stop we make, we can get me some real cigs.”
“Didn’t you hear Nurse Schofield?” said the Doctor, sweetly. “They’re bad for your health.”