Benefits of Hospitalization

Claugh was transferred to the medical facilities back in Roland soon after Sion took the troops and went to confront Tiia. Noa, who had at last managed to calm down, had insisted on staying at his side the whole journey and wouldn't hear of letting him out of her sight, though she cried every time the medics changed his dressings and exposed the stump of his lost arm.

"It's just an arm," he had told her once, frustrated at feeling so helpless before her tears. "I won't die just because I lost an arm. So stop crying, will you? Please?"

She had gulped, tears overflowing again. "But Claugh… It's your right arm… the arm that saved me… how could you be alright without it? You can't… you can't fight anymore, can you?"

"I'll do something about it," he had insisted. "Tiia took my arm before, and I got it back. I can get it back again."

He had not been able to tell her that Tiia had only taken the strength in his arm, not the entire arm as he had this time. That would only have made her cry again.

She hadn't mentioned the subject again, and though her eyes still filled with tears whenever she saw the bloody space at his shoulder where his arm should have been, she did make an effort to let them fall only out of his sight. As if to make up for it, she stuck closer to him than ever, even sleeping right outside the medical tent each night they set up camp. Her presence, which had always made him feel slightly nervous, quickly became a constant, natural part of his surroundings over the fortnight-long journey.

So when the group finally reached their destination and that constant presence vanished, he was surprised and, if he dared admit it, disappointed.

"Where's Noa?" he asked Calne and Eslina when they came to see him on the second day after he had been installed in the Roland hospital.

"Oh, um… I think she's still resting from the journey," said Calne. "Right, Eslina?"

The girl nodded. "Yes, she must be exhausted."

"What did you do to her, Claugh-sempai? She looks like she didn't get to sleep for the whole journey," Calne added teasingly. "And you're injured, at that. I'm impressed."

"Calne…" growled Claugh as both of them laughed "I never touched her, okay?"

But three more days passed with no sign of Noa, and Claugh wondered if he had somehow done something to upset her. He asked Calne and Eslina their opinions on this, but they waved his concerns away.

"Claugh-sempai, be patient," Calne told him. "Maybe she's still recovering from shock."

"She's really upset about you losing your arm," clarified Eslina.

And no matter how he probed, that was all he could get out of them on the subject.

A week had passed without a visit from Noa. Claugh had more or less given up hope that she would come. Perhaps he had been too insensitive with her on the trip. Women were difficult creatures; he did not claim to know how their minds worked.

Someone knocked on the door of his sickroom. "Come in," he called.

Slowly, the door opened. Noa stood in the frame, looking simultaneously nervous and determined.

Claugh nearly fell out of the bed as he jerked upright, the lack of his right arm putting him off balance. "Noa!"

She hurried over, putting something on his bedside table before supporting him as he struggled to regain his balance. "Claugh, I'm so sorry I didn't come and see you for so long. You see, I… I was trying to think of what I could do to help…"

Claugh blinked as she wrung her hands. "Er… well, it's okay…"

"Calne-san kept telling me that you were asking for me. I'm sorry I couldn't make it sooner," she apologized again.

"Hey, really, it's okay," reassured Claugh. "I was just wondering what had happened to you. They said you were in shock, and all that –" He stopped when she shook her head.

"No, I was… um… here!" Noa picked up the thing she had brought with her. Claugh noticed now that it was a bowl of steaming porridge. He had been too busy noticing that Noa was there to pay attention to what she had been carrying.

Claugh sniffed appreciatively as she held the bowl under his nose. "Smells good. Much better than the stuff they serve here."

Smiling happily, she produced a spoon and scooped a generous spoonful of the thick porridge. "Here, ahn~…"

Embarrassing though it was to be fed by someone else – he was a grown man, even if he was injured – he couldn't exactly refuse, not when she was looking at him with such earnest blue eyes. He swallowed the porridge.

"This is really very good," he informed her. "Beef, is it?"

"Yes," agreed Noa, who was looking happier by the second. "Eslina-san said that beef porridge is the best for an injured person."

"Wait a moment – did you make this yourself?" asked Claugh, curious. When she nodded shyly, he fell back onto the pillows. "But you're a princess. You don't cook."

"Excuse me, just because I don't cook doesn't mean I can't cook," Noa said indignantly. "I can if I put my mind to it. Cooking is a very important skill, after all, and I thought I ought to learn –" Realizing her misstep, she cut herself off, looking away.

It was too late. "You spent the whole week since we got back learning how to make a good porridge?" Claugh suppressed the urge to laugh. Noa would never forgive him if he laughed at her earnest efforts.

With that in mind, he put on his most serious face. "Thank you. It's very good porridge. You could set up a stall in the marketplace and become famous for your porridge."

Noa, who had looked upset just a moment before, now looked as though all her dreams had just come true. "Really? Do you really like it?"

"Yes. Yes, I do," said Claugh honestly. It was good porridge. "Can I have some more?"

"Oh! Yes, of course," she said, flustered. Taking the spoon again, she held it out to him. "Ahn~…"

Claugh grinned at Noa's rosy cheeks and the soft look in her eyes as she fed him. Whoever said that being in hospital was no fun?

OMAKE~

"So, what was all that about Noa being in shock?" Claugh asked when Calne turned up to see him again with Eslina in tow.

Calne sighed. "Noa was taking cooking lessons from Eslina here, and she asked us not to tell you until she was able to make something good enough to bring to you."

"She wasn't actually in shock," added Eslina. "She just wanted to –"

" – demonstrate her love for Claugh-sempai," finished Calne, with a wide grin. "Aren't you fortunate, Claugh-sempai? Not only does she cook for you, she also hand-feeds you. Ah, maybe I should get my arm cut off as well…"

"Out," ordered the redhead. "You're making my stomach turn."

"We can't have that, now, can we?" Calne's grin stretched even wider. "All Noa's good porridge will go to waste."

"Out," repeated Claugh a vein throbbing in his temple. "Now!"

OWARI~

A/N: This is a Christmas gift-fic for Shu-chan, who asked for 'a nice sweet ClaughXNoa'. I hope I managed to fulfill that request. I haven't written het in ages. Almost two years, in fact, since April 2009. O.o

Hopefully the characters aren't too OOC. LOLH characters are tough. –sigh–

I'll be back again soon with a RynerXSion fic =D they're my lovely OTP for this series. THERE HAD BETTER BE A SECOND SEASON, the ending of this season was so disappointing.

Please review to let me know what you think ^^