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Six Scenes from a Hospital on Christmas Eve

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1. Jessica & Danny

"No, you're thinking of the Island of Misfit Toys," Colleen Wing is saying as Jessica pauses quietly at the door of Danny's hospital room.

Jessica intends to just slip on by and come back later, because he's got visitors (Matt does too; she can just hang out in the lounge 'til they're gone). But she finds herself stopping, instead, because she doesn't see much of Danny with his family. She doesn't know much about her teammates' personal lives, and she finds herself fascinated. She can only blame her detective nature. She's nosy, what can she say?

Colleen is sitting on the edge of his bed, holding his hand, and his brother (Wilf? Ward? whatever his name is; she's only talked to him maybe once) has dragged over a chair on the other side and has his hand on Danny's arm, leaning forward to hear whatever Danny is saying in response to Colleen; Danny's voice is too soft for Jessica to hear from the doorway. Watching the three of them together -- the warmth and camaraderie and their obvious affection and worry for Danny -- Jessica thinks briefly and achingly of Trish.

She wants to laugh, though, at the sight of what they've done to Danny's hospital room. She finds it hard to believe, even from what little she knows of them, that either one of them are big Christmas people, but Danny is, so they went and Christmased the hell out of it. If Danny can't go to Christmas (which he isn't going to be doing anytime soon, not with his right arm shattered in eight places and a laundry list of internal injuries that rivals Matt's) they've brought Christmas to him. There's a little plastic tree on the bedside table, draped in what looks like all the Christmas decorations these two could find in drugstores and whatever else was open on Christmas Eve on the way to the hospital. The rest of the sparkly kitsch and crap is draped all over his room. There's a set of Christmas lights around the window that Jessica knows are not hospital-standard because Matt's room doesn't have any. (Yet. It probably will by the time she gets back.)

"The Island of Misfit Toys is not in the Charlie Brown Christmas special, oh my God," Ward is saying. "Colleen, get your phone, show him."

There is a little bit of shuffling around with pillows so Colleen can lay down on the hospital bed beside Danny and hold up her phone where all three of them can see it. In the middle of this Danny whispers something and Colleen says, "Hi, Jessica!"

... damn it. She should have left.

"Danny says you saved his life tonight," Colleen says. "Thank you."

Jessica shrugs and takes a few shuffling little steps into the room. She doesn't want to be close enough to see the bruises on Danny's face, or how exhausted and young he looks. "Only because someone carelessly got himself underneath a falling wall."

"Danny," Ward says, "stop punching walls. It's not good for you."

Colleen rolls her eyes and tilts the phone so Jessica can see the screen. "We were just going to show Danny the stop-motion Rudolph Christmas special."

"I have seen it," Danny says in the small, cracked voice that's all he can manage right now.

"That may be true," Ward says, "but you clearly don't remember it if you think Charlie Brown is in it."

"Want to watch it with us?" Colleen asks.

The word "no" is on the tip of her tongue. Jessica can't remember the last time she watched a holiday special. Or maybe she just doesn't want to. It brings back memories of childhood, of family, of a world that is no longer hers.

But Danny is looking at her hopefully with glazed puppy-dog eyes in his pale, bruised face, and she intends to leave, she does, but instead she drags up a chair on the other side of the bed, using her foot to shove out of the way a backpack of clothes and other junk that one or the other of them brought for Danny. "Yeah," she says. "Why not."


2. Luke & Matt

"Where do you think you're going?" Luke says.

All three of the guilty parties freeze, with identical caught-out looks on their faces, for all the world like a bunch of teenagers caught sneaking around after curfew. It's times like this that make Luke feel a million years older than everyone else on his team, even though in reality it's more of an experience gap and possibly a common-sense gap than anything else.

"Are you two seriously sneaking him out of the hospital, in the shape he's in?"

Foggy and Karen are trying to wrestle Matt into a set of sweats, which given Matt's condition, is going slowly. Matt's trying to help, but that's not very effective since it's taking both of them to prop him up. Luke figures the odds are good that they won't even make it to the parking lot before he collapses.

"I hate hospitals," Matt says quietly, his voice a thread of a whisper.

Luke wants to laugh, he wants to shake some sense into all three of them, but instead he comes over and sits on the end of Matt's bed, while Team Bad Idea all look like they aren't entirely sure how to proceed from here. "Dude, nobody likes hospitals. But you were just in surgery two hours ago. At least let the nice nurses take care of you overnight 'til we're all sure you're not gonna start bleeding out internally again."

"What do you mean, again?" Foggy says, leading Luke to think Matt has been less than forthcoming to his friends about his physical condition.

"It's just so ... much," Matt says in a thready, frustrated voice, and the thought occurs to Luke very suddenly, for the first time, that Matt might have more than the usual amount of trouble with hospitals. For someone as sensitive as he is to smell and sound, a hospital must be Hell on Earth.

But there's just no way around it. Anyone can see, looking at him, that Matt shouldn't be out of bed, and Luke can see that Foggy and Karen are starting to figure that out too, even if they don't still have to deal with the vivid sense-memory of the heat of Matt's blood, the feeling of trying to hold Matt together with his bare hands while waiting endlessly for the ambulance.

"Is there something we could do, maybe?" Karen asks. "To make it easier for you."

They end up getting him back to bed and turning down the lights. Luke sweet-talks a nurse into helping him rig up a double curtain around the bed to help give Matt a little more insulation from the world, and Foggy goes off for awhile and comes back with (who knows where he got them) a set of heavy-duty noise-cancelling headphones.

Luke thinks that what matters most, though, is Matt just having people to hang out with him and talk to him. Distract him, keep him grounded, stop him from getting lost in his head and in the barrage of sensory input that he's getting from all over.

It's clear that Foggy and Karen are old hands at this. They keep up a steady stream of quiet chatter, not just with Matt but (more often, actually) with each other, friendly bickering that makes Matt occasionally smile or turn his head to listen.

Luke is still relearning how this whole "team" thing works. He hasn't been part of a team for a very long time, not since his days on the force. But there's something that's good for the soul, he thinks, about watching good teamwork, between people who spend so much time together that they all know each other's part in the dance as well as they know their own.


3. Jessica & Luke

The patients' lounge and waiting area is nearly deserted: not surprising, Jessica thinks, this late in the evening on Christmas Eve. Anyone who doesn't have to be here isn't going to be here.

Technically visiting hours end soon, or are possibly already over, but she figured out as a P.I. that as long as you're not disruptive and don't give them a reason to kick you out, the staff just assume you're there with family and don't ask questions or try to make you leave.

There's a Christmas song bouncing around in her head and it grates on her nerves. Holiday specials are of the devil. She pours herself a paper cup of probably-coffee, glances around for inconvenient nurses, and fills it up the rest of the way from the flask in her jacket pocket.

Luke comes in while she's doing this, glances over the options around the coffee machine, and mixes himself a paper packet of hot cocoa mix, then pours coffee into it.

"I see I'm not the only one who doesn't plan on sleeping for awhile." Jessica sips at her cup and finds that the hospital coffee has not been improved by the addition of cheap bourbon. "How's Murdock?"

"Asleep," Luke says. "I just walked Foggy and Karen down to the parking lot. Danny still awake? I meant to get over and see him."

"Nah, he conked out while his friends were forcing me to watch holiday movies."

Luke smiles. "Glad to hear you're making the ultimate sacrifice."

"Ha ha."

They take their drinks to a corner of the lounge, next to a Christmas tree decorated with paper ornaments provided by (according to the sign) some kids' charity or other, each one containing a little envelope for putting donations in. Jessica surreptitiously sticks a few crumpled bills into one when Luke is looking the other way.

Luke is no longer wearing the hoodie that got soaked with Matt's blood (there was no way that was coming out; it's crumpled in a trash can somewhere on the Lower East Side), but he's still wearing the same black T-shirt he had under it, and from this angle she can see the rusty stains that the dark fabric can't quite disguise. She looks down at her own hands, the faint stains around the cuffs even after she scrubbed and scrubbed in the hospital's public bathroom.

Her phone vibrates. She takes it out to find a text from Trish.

Holding up okay? How are your friends?

Okay, Jessica texts back. Tell you tomorrow.

She doesn't ask to come over. Trish doesn't offer. They're still getting back to where they were. It's taking awhile. But ... they're getting there.

Broken things never go back together quite the same, but sometimes they can be mended until the cracks hardly even show. They're not there. But sometimes she feels like they might get there.

She leans her head back against the wall, suddenly feeling completely and utterly flattened.

"Missing out on big holiday plans?" Luke asks her.

"Not really. You?"

"Not really."

He doesn't ask if she intends to go home tonight. She doesn't ask, either. They just drink their coffee, and the silence between them slowly warms, like the comforting heat of a banked fire.


4. Matt & Elektra

Matt is drifting in and out of sleep -- he's too exhausted to wake up all the way, but despite his friends' best efforts to give him mechanical ways of blocking things out, the sounds and smells of the hospital scrape a ragged fingernail down his nerves, keeping him from being able to escape into unconsciousness, even while he's exhausted enough that it makes it hard to tell the difference between the real world around him and the dreams that chase him out of REM sleep into the waking world. He hates this state, especially since he spent a lot of his childhood in it until Stick taught him some techniques to calm the sensory overload.

He's trying to work his way through some of his basic medication exercises -- although with the painkillers and anesthesia messing with his head, he keeps losing his place and having to start over -- when a breath of winter cold whispers across his face, as of a window opened. And there is a smell, a soft perfume he'd know anywhere.

It's not real. It's a dream. He knows that, but it feels real, and it's possible, isn't it, that she might have survived? He did, after all. And he's not as resilient as she is. He remembers thinking someone must have dragged him out; he couldn't possibly have gotten out on his own.

He turns his head, breaths in her scent, as familiar to him as anything in his dark and yet too-vivid world.

"Elektra," he whispers.

"Hello, Matthew." Her lips brush his cheek, icy cold -- but they would be, of course, for she's been outside in the frigid December night. Only that. "I think perhaps you zigged when you should have zagged."

"Yeah," he says, grinning, though it stretches and cracks his dry lips. "I zigged pretty good this time."

Her lips brush against his, cold as winter, kissing the blood away. It is very cold in here. And maybe this is what it feels like to die, but he doesn't really mind, not really, because her fingers are cool and real on his cheek, and her smell fills the whole world, and Elektra was always the closest thing he ever found to the way that being on the edge of death makes him feel alive.


5. Danny & Matt

Okay, so technically he's not supposed to be out of bed, but Danny is good at sneaking around (not just by training, but also as a legacy of all those times he and Davos used to sneak out of the monastery when they were kids), and if the nurses don't see him, they can't make him go back to bed, right?

Granted, it's a little trickier to sneak around while pushing an IV stand and carrying a fully decorated miniature plastic Christmas tree tucked into the arm in a cast. He's not exactly the stealthiest.

It takes him a little while to find Matt's room, and he has to duck into supply closets twice to avoid nurses. He's starting to have trouble catching his breath and there are black spots dancing in front of his eyes by the time he finds the right room. Maybe this isn't the world's best idea.

"Matt?" he calls softly into the dark room. Normally Matt would already know he was here, and have identified him by sound or footsteps or whatever, but he adds quietly, "It's Danny," just in case Matt can't do that right now.

There's a silence that lasts longer than it ought to, and he's just wondering if Matt is asleep and maybe he's going to have to dodge nurses all the way back to his room, and then Matt's quiet, hoarse voice says from beyond the curtain, "Danny?"

"Hi," he whispers, peeking around the curtain. Matt looks terrible, even in the dim light, but Danny suspects he probably isn't one to talk right now himself.

There's a pause while Matt turns his head slowly in Danny's direction, his eyes half-open. "Aren't you supposed to be in bed?" Matt whispers after a minute.

"I know, but I was ..." Restless. Bored. Lonely. He's not really sure. And yeah, he's the one who talked Ward and Colleen into leaving, because there's no reason why they should spend the entire night sitting around watching him sleep, except now he can't sleep and he just ...

He just didn't want to be by himself and he figured Matt's room could probably use some Christmas cheer. And boy was he right. There's not even so much as a sad holly sprig.

Also, the window is open a crack for some reason (why??), and it's freezing in here. Danny shivers, sets the tree on Matt's bedside table, and pushes his IV over so he can reach it to close it. He has to struggle with it, making him all too aware of how weak he is right now.

Matt hesitates again, then raises a hand, trailing cables, to touch the prickly branches. "What's this?"

"Christmas tree," Danny says. He sits on the edge of Matt's bed as his legs, in a rather mellow and controlled way, give out under him. He's starting to shiver. It's really chilly in here. You know, he thinks, he probably should not be out of bed. This wasn't a good life choice.

Matt brushes his thumb across the tips of the branches, feels the chains and the dangling decorations. He grins a little. "Thanks," he says, and that makes Danny feel warm down to the tips of his (rather chilly) toes.


6. Team

So that's how the other two find them, Danny sitting on the edge of the bed and talking quietly with Matt, both of them looking (in Jessica's opinion) like fifty miles of bad road.

"The hell are you doing out of bed?" Luke wants to know, looking like he's halfway to just picking Danny up and hauling him back to bed by main force.

"I'm fine," Danny says -- not at all convincingly, given how he's shivering and swaying.

"Just because you didn't get a hunk of rebar rammed through your chest like some people around here doesn't mean you're even in the ballpark of fine, buddy."

Jessica can see how this is going to go down, so, with an exasperated sigh, she begins rearranging the privacy curtain. Matt's room is technically a double, it's just that the other bed isn't occupied. Soon she has the beds shoved closer together and the curtain rearranged around both.

"Now will you lay down, or does Luke here have to get physical?"

"I guess I could lay down," Danny says meekly, and does.

Luke wanders off and comes back with a couple of blankets and proceeds to bury him in them.

"I can't breathe," Danny says plaintively from under a blanket cocoon.

"Shoulda thought of that before you went wandering the hallways at two in the morning."

Jessica claims the chair on Matt's other side. "At least you have the sense to stay in bed," she tells him.

Luke looks up from rearranging blankets on top of Danny to let out a sharp laugh.

"What?" Jessica says, annoyed. "What's the joke? Hey, why is there a Christmas tree in here?" She doesn't ask why Matt is wearing headphones, because she can at least figure that part out.

"Danny brought it," Matt says sleepily.

Great. She might have known. She takes a swig from her flask.

"Hey," Danny says suddenly, a trifle muffled. "Is it really two in the morning?"

"Something like that," Luke says. "After midnight, anyway."

Matt looks like he's asleep, but he says suddenly, softly, "Merry Christmas, guys."

And looking down at him, at his face as white as the sheets around the bruises, all Jessica can think is how close this came to being one of her top three worst fucking Christmases of all time (yeah, right up there with the first Christmas she spent with Dorothy, with her family dead; right up there with the Christmas she spent with Kilgrave).

She looks across Matt's bed and meets Luke's dark, serious eyes, and she can see her own thoughts reflected there; sees it in his troubled expression, in the way he hasn't yet taken his hand off Danny's chest, just resting it there on top of the blanket nest.

There's too much honesty in that look. She's not used to it. She closes her eyes and takes another drink, savoring the burn from the flask. When she opens them again, Luke is still looking at her, and there's a question on his face.

Wordlessly, she passes the flask across Matt's bed to Luke. His fingers brush hers, warm and strong, as he takes it and raises it in a salute. "Merry Christmas," he says, and drinks.