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Avenues of Communication

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Shizune screamed.

It was not a sound that any of us had ever heard before. I think it was that sound, even more than the spectacle of her tumbling down half a flight of stairs, that froze everybody to immobility and silence for a long heartbeat.

Then the frozen moment broke, and Misha dashed down the stairs and dropped to the floor. She cradled Shizune’s head in her lap. “Shicchan, I’m sorry, so sorry, please be all right, oh god, be all right,” she babbled, looking utterly terrified. Shizune was curled up on her side, her left arm clenched tight in the grip of her other hand.

I also ran down the rest of the flight of stairs, but I continued past Shizune and Misha the short distance down the hall to the nearest medical emergency call button and slapped it. Apparently none of the staring bystanders around us could think to do that obvious task. Then I paused, bent over, hand on my chest, terror and the short sprint having accelerated my heart an unfortunate amount. After several gasping breaths, I decided that I wasn’t going to have a heart attack today, and hesitantly stood upright. Thankfully, I didn’t pass out, so I turned and staggered back to Shizune and Misha. I dropped to my knees beside the two of them and tried to assess Shizune’s condition.

The arm Shizune was holding cradled to her chest…looked like it had two elbows. Blood was dripping from the place of the second “elbow” in the middle of her forearm. Shizune was no longer screaming, but she was making a continuous high-pitched, piteous whine of pain. She would have hated knowing she was making that noise.

“Misha? Misha!” I tried to get her attention, but she was wholly focused on Shizune. Given that her position holding Shizune’s head didn’t seem to be adversely affecting Shizune’s arm, I decided to ignore her.

I tried to give Shizune a reassuring smile, but it was probably more of a grimace. I wasn't sure if she even saw me. I gently tried to pull her hand away from the broken arm, but she clenched it tighter.

Blood was trickling down Shizune’s arm to puddle on the floor. Her shirt sleeve was soaked and stuck to her skin. I clenched my teeth and swallowed hard against nausea when I saw the grey and red end of a broken bone poking out through her skin and the sleeve. Pressure on the wound would probably only cause her more pain, I thought. Maybe put a tourniquet on the upper arm to slow the flow of blood? Shit, I wished I knew more first aid. I glanced up at the crowd of stunned students gathered around us, staring at the spectacle.

“Where the hell is the staff?” I growled. What was the point of having emergency call buttons if no one responded to the damn call?

As if in response to my question, the gawking students pulled away to the sides of the hall, making way for a trio of medics, lead by Nurse, running down the hall. Nurse had a medical bag in hand, and the two behind him, a man and a woman, were pushing a rolling stretcher.

“Nakai! What happened?” Nurse barked. Gone was the warm and fuzzy nurse who made mildly inappropriate jokes with me while taking my blood pressure and listening to my heart. He focused in on the bleeding Shizune with a laser-like intensity.

I found myself responding to his intensity in kind. I flung myself back away from Shizune, to give him access to her, and said, “Shizune fell down the stairs and broke her arm.”

“Mikado?”

“She’s not hurt, just scared.”

“Right. You?”

It took me a moment to get what he was asking. “I’m fine.” I was panting and my heart was racing, but it didn’t feel dangerous.

“Good, then you deal with Mikado.”

Oh, great. I stood up and circled Nurse and Shizune, trying to get to Misha so I could get her disengaged from Shizune.

Nurse began to pull bandages and a splint out of his kit, and the other two medics shooed the students away from us as they pulled a back-board off the stretcher. Of course; any fall with a force great enough to snap her arm like that might have damaged her spine, too. You didn’t become a medic at Yamaku by taking things like that for granted.

“Crap. Nakai. Change of plans, I need you to translate, I can’t sign and work on her arm at the same time.” I moved back to crouch beside Nurse, putting myself in Shizune’s line-of-sight. She was whimpering more quietly now, her eyes glazed with pain. I realized she didn’t have her glasses on, and looked around for them. With impeccable timing, I heard a crunch of broken plastic under the foot of the male medic as he moved to Shizune’s feet with his end of the back-board.

Okay, I’d just have to make my signs broad and large. “What should I tell her?” I asked Nurse.

“Ask her if she has any other injuries she’s aware of.”

[Any other hurts you?] I signed, my vocabulary and grammar failing me a little in the strain of the moment.

I wasn’t sure if she’d noticed my signing at first, but after a moment she gave a tiny nod, [Yes.]

“Yes,” I said, just in case Nurse was too focused on what he was doing to her arm to see her nod.

“Crap.” I could understand his frustration. With her arm injured, she was effectively mute, so asking her where was pointless. “Run down a list for her. Spine, head, other arm, legs, knees, pelvis, teeth, et cetera.”

I didn’t know the signs for half of those, so I’d have to finger spell them. Shizune’s gaze was vague and foggy as she looked at me. [Spine hurt?]

[No.]

[Head hurt?]

[Yes.]

“She says her head hurts.”

Nurse grunted. “Not surprising. Possible concussion with a fall like that.”

“Her pupils don’t match,” I said, worried. I’d seen enough medical dramas to know that that wasn’t a good thing. Nurse grunted again.

“Marada, is the ambulance here yet?”

The male medic glanced toward the front of the building. I looked too, and could see flashing lights reflecting off the front doors, heard the sound of sirens dopplering closer to us. “Almost here,” Marada said.

“Okay, I’ve got her arm stabilized, let’s get her loaded so we can get her out of here as quickly as possible.”

Somehow the female medic had managed to get Misha to let go of Shizune, and the three professionals gently and quickly slid Shizune onto the backboard, then lifted her up onto the wheeled stretcher. They strapped her in, then Nurse and Marada quickly pushed her toward the front door.

I stared after them, too stunned by the whirlwind of what had just happened to get up and follow. I was startled to realize I was panting as if I’d just run a race with Emi. Reaction and adrenaline, I guessed.

As the stretcher disappeared out the door, I turned to look at Misha. She was curled up against the foot of the stairs, sobbing quietly. I hadn’t known Misha could do anything quietly. The female medic was crouched beside her, one hand on Misha’s shoulder.

“Shh, shh, she’ll be all right, it’s just a broken arm, and they’ll have her to the hospital in no time,” the medic said quietly, trying to calm and reassure Misha.

It wasn’t just a broken arm, but telling Misha that probably wouldn’t help anything at this point, so I kept quiet. Quite aside from a concussion, a break that bad might require surgery, and who knew what other injuries she’d sustained in her fall. Lots of bruises, at the very least. And she’d probably be in a cast for months, seriously limiting her ability to speak. Very few signs were single-handed ones, so she would probably be reduced to finger-spelling an inordinate amount for the next however many months.

I scooted across the floor to Misha, then grimaced as I realized I’d just dragged myself through the puddle of Shizune’s blood. I glanced at my hands, then tried to wipe my bloody left hand clean on my pants leg before placing my hands on Misha’s shoulders.

“Misha? Misha!” I gave her a gentle shake. She didn't respond at all, just stared blankly at the stairs.

“Give her a minute,” the woman said, placing a restraining hand on my arm.

I glanced at her—her name tag said Nurse Ota—and I nodded. I ducked down a little, to put my eyes in line with Misha’s vacant gaze, trying to make eye contact with her. “Misha? She’s going to be fine, Misha. She’s going to the hospital. They’ll set her arm, she’ll be fine.” I kept repeating variations on that for a minute before Misha’s eyes finally focused on me.

“H-hicchan?” Misha whimpered.

“Yeah?”

“It’s all m-my fault, Hicchan.”

“No, it’s not, Misha. I was there. She just took a bad step.”

“No. It wasn’t just that. I bumped into her. I…I got dizzy and swayed and bumped into her. She was looking at me, signing at me, and not looking where she was walking, and then when I bumped her…” Tears streamed down her cheeks. “If we hadn’t been arguing…”

I tried to smile reassuringly at her. “If you hadn’t been arguing, it wouldn’t have been Shizune. You know she loves a good fight.”

“But not with me…”

I hadn’t realized she was wearing eye makeup until I saw the dark streaks running down her face. I reached out to brush the tears from her face, then jerked my hand back when I realized I hadn’t gotten all of Shizune’s blood off of my hand. I shuddered. The last thing Misha needed was Shizune’s blood on her face. I grimaced as I realized I’d left a vague bloody handprint on her shoulder, too. Hopefully someone could get her to change her shirt before she noticed.

Nurse Ota seemed to realize what my problem was, and she handed me a moist towelette to clean my hands. “Thank you,” I said. Unfortunately, Misha’s attention to the outside world had returned enough that she noticed what I was doing. She stared at the red-stained wipe in my hands, then closed her eyes and whimpered some more.

“Ohhh, Shicchan~…” She slumped forward, as if she were going to fall to the floor, and I caught her and wrapped my arms around her.

“It’s all right, Misha, she’ll be all right,” I murmured. She nodded against my chest, and held me tight for a long while.

Nurse Ota persuaded the two of us to go back to our rooms to clean up. She said that Shizune would probably be in surgery for a few hours, so there was no point in our rushing to the hospital immediately. Her clean-up of the accident site completed, she took Misha in hand and lead her back to the girls’ dorm. That left me to stagger back to my room under my own power.

As I went, I tried to reassure myself just as I’d reassured Misha: Shizune would be all right.