"Wing? Wing, bro, please!"
"Breathe, damn you! Wildwing, I know you can hear me!"
Wildwing was vaguely aware that somebody was talking to him, but couldn't put faces behind the voices. He was comfortable here, in this mostly quiet, calm darkness. He rather wished they'd go away and leave him alone to sleep.
"Wildwing, please! Don't give up! Come on! It's me, your baby bro!" The familiar voice was cracking; its owner was starting to cry. Another, female voice cut across the first, just as close.
"Come on, Wildwing... please... don't give up on us..."
Wildwing. That was his name. And that voice—
His eyes flew open, squinting closed again in the bright light, as he reflexively breathed deep, oxygen filling his lungs, flooding his body. Oh, oxygen. He'd never take it for granted again.
Something was in his throat—an emergency respirator, forcing air into his lungs; somebody was pulling it out now, to let him breathe on his own.
Arms were around his neck, something warm and wet was dripping onto his beak. Wildwing forced his eyes open, to find his brother kneeling over him, crying and laughing in relief, nuzzling his beak in an act of affection the teenager normally avoided like the plague when anyone else was around. Wildwing reached up with one hand—his arm felt terribly heavy—and placed it against the side of Nosedive's face.
"It's alright, Dive," he rasped, his voice so rough it hardly sounded like him at all. "I'm okay, baby bro. I'm okay."
"D-Don't do that to me! You scared me to death!"
Where he'd only been weakly attempting to lift his head, Wildwing suddenly found the strength to sit bolt upright, startling and knocking heads with his brother.
"Christina! Where is she? Is she okay?"
Mallory, who'd grabbed one of his arms to steady him when he's sat up, cut him off.
"She's alive. She's breathing. That's... That's all we know right now. Tanya and Duke are with her. Listen, can you stand? We need to get back to the Pond." Wildwing nodded, a icy cold feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"Help me up." He had to lean heavily on Mallory and Nosedive, but he did manage to walk up the ramp and into the Aerowing. With Nosedive flying the Aerowing and Mallory and Duke (rather reluctantly) driving the Migrator, they returned home.
It had been more than four hours since the team had managed to dig them out of the rock slide, and Christina still hadn't regained consciousness. She was in a coma, but a very light one. According to Tanya, there was no reason for her to not yet have woken up, and that was what worried her the most. Duke was sitting next to her bed, holding her hand and occasionally speaking to her softly, trying to wake her. Wildwing, who'd found himself rather forcefully pushed onto one of the medi-beds, tried to reassure him.
"She'll be alright, Duke. She's been through worse. Much worse," he added, thinking back to just three months prior, when she'd lost her eye. Duke wasn't taking this much easier, which was weird, since she tended to be much closer to Wildwing than Duke. Oh, she loved Duke, and thought of him as her father, but Wildwing was more like a brother to her—he'd certainly come to see her as a little sister—and there were things you could talk about with siblings that you couldn't discuss with parents.
Which probably explained why Wildwing hadn't put up a fight when told to stay put in the infirmary. At least he'd finally convinced Nosedive to go ahead and go to the movie he'd been planning to see with Thrash and Mookie tonight. Blood-sucking something-or-others—a typical Nosedive movie. The poor kid hadn't wanted to leave his brother after such a scare, but after much reassurance that Wildwing was going to be fine, and yes, Christina would be just fine when she woke up, he'd finally, although somewhat reluctantly, gone anyway.
Sighing tiredly, Wildwing sat up and swung his legs over the side of his bed.
The older drake looked up wearily. "Yeah?"
"Go get some dinner, Duke. She's going to be fine."
Duke looked uncertain. "If she wakes up—"
"If she wakes up, I'll be here. Go on," he urged gently. "She'll be fine."
"I'd rather not—"
"Go. I'll call you if she wakes up."
Duke stood slowly, gently placing Christina's hand back by her side. He eyed Wildwing carefully.
"The moment she wakes up."
Wildwing nodded. "The moment she wakes up. You have my word. Go eat."
Duke sighed heavily and nodded. "All right, all right, I'm goin'." He started to leave, but stopped short in the doorway. "The moment she wakes up?"
"Duke, just go eat."
He finally managed to pull himself out of the room, and Wildwing shook his head.
"Never woulda pegged him for the broody type... Now," he stood by Christina's bed, looking down at her, "Don't you think it's high time you woke up?"
There was no response, of course. He picked up her hand, holding it as he'd held it before, when they'd both thought they were dying.
"We're not dead, kiddo. We're alive. They found us. But you've gotta wake up, Christina. Duke's worried about you. Tanya says there's no reason she can find for you to still be out of it. So stop scaring everybody and open your eyes, all right?" He sighed. "You know, if it's any consolation, you're coming dangerously close to beating Nosedive's record for involuntary naps in the infirmary. It'll drive him crazy when he realizes it."
Still nothing. He squeezed her hand, willing her to squeeze back. But she didn't. He sighed. The only reason he could figure for her not waking up was that she hadn't realized she actually was alive. It wasn't every day that you died and were brought back, after all. She'd been in bad shape after the experiment that had turned her from human to duck, had briefly flat-lined thanks to shock and blood loss after losing her eye, but she'd never come this close to dying. But she'd come through both of those and a hundred other minor injuries—the latter of which, at least, were just part of life for all of them. Hell, he himself had a half-healed slash on his thigh from a battle a week ago.
But now she was still out, from what wasn't even that serious, at least by comparison to some of her previous injuries. Except that she'd gone to sleep fully certain that she'd never wake up again; they both had. Only Wildwing had heard his brother, crying and begging him to come back. So he had.
But then... Duke had been talking to her all this time, had been begging her to wake up. So why wasn't she?
"Come on, Chris, I know you can hear me. Wake up." He leaned over and nuzzled her beak. "Please."
That was how Tanya, Duke and Nosedive found him, twenty minutes later, still leaning over her, his eyes closed, his beak resting gently against hers.
"You should be in bed," Tanya scolded softly. But her tone told him she wasn't going to push the issue. He looked up at them; the expressions on their faces told him his eyes were red, though he already knew his face was wet. He straightened up, still holding her hand, and wiped his eyes with his free hand.
"Still nothin', bro?"
He shook his head. "No. I dunno, she's just..."
Duke stood on the other side of the bed, taking his daughter's other hand. "She'll be all right. She's as stubborn as I am."
Wildwing nodded with a small smile, and Nosedive laughed. "Can't argue with that."
Tanya made a strange sound, and Wildwing glanced over at her. She was fussing over the control panel for Christina's bed, looking worried.
"What is it, Tanya?"
She shook her head. "I don't know. If... If she doesn't wake up s-soon..." She was nervous, not wanting to say it out loud. Duke prodded it out of her.
"I'm worried that the coma will deepen. I j-just don't understand why she won't, y'know, just wake up."
"Who won't wake up?"
Wildwing and Duke blinked at each other briefly before looking down. Chris blinked up at them blearily, eyes half-open.
"What... why'm I...?"
"Chris! You're awake!" Variations of this exclamation came from everyone in the room. Christina flinched.
"Ow, not so loud, my head is killin' me."
Wildwing grinned. "Not surprising after the day you've had."
Duke leaned down to nuzzle her beak, and Christina made a face. "You're acting like I died or something, Dad, geez."
Duke chuckled despite himself. "You nearly did. Don't you ever scare me like that again, you hear me?"
"Uh... okay?" She glanced past Duke at Wildwing, a bewildered look on her face. Wildwing raised an eyebrow.
"You don't remember?
"Remember what?" She looked around, noting Nosedive and Tanya standing around her bed as well. With some effort, and a little help from the two who held her hands, she sat up. "What happened?"
Wildwing spoke only one word, but it was enough to jog her memory and make her grateful to be alive.