Tintin entered the hospital ward alone.
He held in one hand a bouquet of flowers; they were a beautiful mixture of autumn colours stretching from yellow to red. The fragrance of the tulips was something she would like, crisp and sweet – at least he thought she would like it. He stood there for a moment; watching as he often did at her sleeping body which breathed only slightly. He placed the flowers in the glass vase he had filled before with a different bouquet a week before, the one before that and the one before that.
It had been three months since Iceland. Three months in a coma that the doctors insisted wouldn't take as long. Yet here she lay, inert and asleep – peaceful in some dreamland. Tintin was glad for it. Because she would be ashamed of him if she ever woke; he could've stopped this all from happening. Yet he did not.
Tintin sat down next to the hospital bed, she lay facing the ceiling and her arms down her sides. One was bandaged and he didn't want to remember how or what was on her arm – the word that had been printed on his own guilt about the entire situation. He wished to forget it all.
"I've tried again," He told her, knowing that the woman he knew couldn't hear him. Aware of the guilt he held heavy in his heart. "I wanted to write everything that happened to you, but I don't know how… It's been all weird – I can't think about it because then I start thinking of what happened at the Golden River and then… Jesus, why didn't I do anything? I was standing right there; right in front of you and I could see it. I knew what was going to happen, I could see what was going to happen. Am I a coward?"
She did not answer – he didn't need one to know the truth. He hung his head in shame, running one of his hands through his hair. He was exasperated of trying to think of what he could've done.
"I have nightmares about what happened that day." He whispered. "Every time I will it to end differently nothing ever changes. I just… I could've done so much more and I just sat there. Sat there while you were…" he glanced to her bandaged upper arm. He knew what was scrawled there and hated what she was branded as. His eyes darkened. "I have to find him. I will find him, Anne, no matter what it takes. He will pay for what he did to you.
"Sometimes I wish you could just wake up and tell me what he looks like. That would be nice, a start, at least. Maybe I would have more than just Snowy for company – nothing wrong with him, obviously, I just would like someone to talk back sometimes. You know what I mean?"
She did nothing. Anne remained on the bed and had not moved.
Tintin looked to his watch, he cursed himself. "Sorry, Anne, I'll have to go. I know this week was brief but I got stuff to do – errands to run and all that. I'll come back next week, as usual."
When the boy reporter closed the door, everything was untouched. It seemed as though he was never there, only the flowers letting the world know of his very existence. The other patients seemed barely noticed and all continued their quiet deep sleep. Anne faded among them – trapped within her own mind.
Once outside, Tintin looked to hail a cab with an impatient Snowy at his heels. The weather was blackened clouds that dared to rain upon them both – and he did not wish to be caught in it. He wasn't supposed to be there, after all. The boy was supposed to be in his apartment so then he wouldn't be caught by-
"What are you doing here?" Anne's father, Mr Poart, demanded this despite what Tintin had hoped against. He was an old dying man with thin and pale skin that hung from his bones loosely. Since Anne was in a coma he had barely turned to see her – considering them both to be dead. He looked like a walking corpse – with barely days left to stand, at least. "I told you – Never come here. She doesn't need you."
"She needs someone other than you."
"You are no friend of my daughter's." Poart spat the words with little strength – but with a poisonous mouth. "She trusted you, boy. She saved your god forsaken life too many times."
"I know she did. I know that she trusted me as I trusted her; and she saved more than just my life. Because of her sacrifice she made sure that the man who hurt her would never be able to destroy the world. Thousands are safe because of her sacrifice-"
"I don't care about thousands of lives!" The old man could not shout, but the words did leave a heavy presence in the air. "I would let them all die if it was to save hers. I want her back, Mr Tintin, by any means. Even if you were to take her place I would allow it; you aren't worth a million of my daughter."
Tintin swallowed – for this was also what he sometimes wished for. Their places to be swapped and for him to take the bullet for her. He would be able to take the initial damage. He had lost pints of blood before. He had been in war and could last through more than just one gunshot; but Anne had no chance, she was just an innocent incomplete girl with little clue of war. He did not admit this to the man before him – for he knew it would do no good. Mr Poart was blinded by his love and hate; the last thing Tintin wanted was to fuel such feelings.
"I will not see you here again," Mr Poart waved a shaking, weak finger in Tintin's face. His voice also shook with increasing emotion. "I shall never see you again and neither will Anne. It's your fault – your fault she's in a coma. This would never have happened if you hadn't met her."
"If I didn't." Tintin watched Poart closely; his eyes locked onto the old man's unusual green. Just like Anne's beautiful irises. "She would be dead. She would've died alone and lost. But I found her and we saved each other."
"She is alone and lost, Mr Tintin." The old man said quietly. Each word with the impact of a thousand rocks upon Tintin's guilt. "She is stuck in an endless nightmare and it's your fault. It's all because of you."
Poart could not listen anymore to Tintin; he limped away on his cane aware of the pitiful eyes trained upon him. The youthful reporter did wish to help but knew that the old man would not accept it. Broken, proud and now heartless to the core; Tintin pitied such a man. He knew that Poart did not wish to be cured of whatever disease inflicted him. He wanted to die so he wouldn't have to see his daughter become consumed by the same fate.
Anne's father had given up on her but Tintin was too stubborn. There was no way that he would simply give up on her because she was unaware of him being there. No way.