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One Word

Chapter Text

One Word

"A heavy load, I know, and yet one word wipes out all score of tribulations--love."
Sophocles (496 BC - 406 BC), Oedipus at Colonus

Six Hours

"Hey," Darien knocked on the door frame, "everyone decent in here?"

There was a feminine snort of amusement from the direction of the bed and a grumbled, "Barely. Maybe you can talk some sense into her," from Mike where he stood, glaring at his sister.

Darien had only been asked to leave after all the preliminary tests had been completed. She'd become more and more coherent as time passed, but had been unable to utter a single word. Sounds, yes: everything from laughter to shouts of pain when a needle had been inserted a tad too enthusiastically. She'd been able to communicate via empathy and visual impressions, but no telepathy - words seemed to literally be beyond her for the time being. She was awake, stable, and completely confused.

Thankfully, she had no trouble understanding them; apparently her ability to comprehend language remained undamaged, but it was difficult for her to answer questions beyond the simple yes or no ones, as she had to be touching a person for them to hear her and even then it wasn't always easy to interpret what she was trying to convey. Once they had taken her vitals, the game of 20 Questions began in earnest with Michele nodding, shaking her head or looking at them in wide-eyed confusion when it was plain the answer was well out of her realm of knowledge. It quickly became obvious that she had lost at least a decade's worth of memory. To her Dani was not quite 10 years old, Rose was still in diapers, and so Mike had preemptively made the decision to not allow the kids to see her until she'd been apprised of and understood the situation, though he was quick to assure her they were fine. Clinton was still President - first term - and Independence Day, Twister, and Ransom with Mel Gibson were making waves in the theaters. She'd been shocked at how old Mike looked and suggested, through mental impressions, that if his job at the CIA was that stressful that he should consider quitting and joining the private sector.

It wasn't until Darien had a moment alone with Mike, while Michele was getting cleaned up and changing into some of her own clothes, that the 'why' of her remembering Darien came out. At least the only -why' that made any sense to him. It was simply that they had met, years ago. For one week out of their lives, they'd fought boredom and the depressing sterility of a child's hospital room - hers - when he'd been a 10 going on 21 year old hellion. Mike agreed that it was, at least partly, why she remembered Darien, but suspected it also had to due with the fact that he'd been by her side for nearly two weeks. Given her empathy appeared to be functioning, Darien had probably made a subtle impression on her mind, so that when she awoke it was his familiar mental presence she recognized and not Darien himself. Considering that she currently seemed to have no idea who he was, other than the person with her when she woke, Mike's theory made just as much sense as Darien's own.

"What's she being stubborn about now?" Darien asked, and not facetiously. She'd outright refused to cooperate with some things they'd wanted to do earlier until she got some answers. When her EEG started spiking and the lights flickered in the room, Mike had overridden the doctor and insisted the CT scan and other more invasive tests could wait until tomorrow. It had been Darien who had deflected the near argument by pointing out that she had just awoken, did they really want to make her jump through hoops when she could hardly sit up?

Well, now she was sitting up, the head of the bed raised to support her while Mike fussed over her. "She won't rest," he said as he turned away from her to face Darien, which meant Mike missed her sticking out her tongue at him.

Darien chuckled softly, shaking his head. "Jeeze, she's spent how long napping? I know I wouldn't be all that interested in sleep about now."

Michele nodded vigorously in agreement, and then, when she realized her brother couldn't see it, tugged on his sleeve to gain his attention. The pleading look in her eyes must have swayed him.

"Damn it, -Chele... All right, if you promise to take it easy," Mike admonished, which caused her to roll her eyes and then wave a shaking hand at Darien. "Yes, he can stay for a while longer, though you might want to ask him if he wants to."

Michele focused on Darien, the question easily read on her features. He shrugged. "I've a few hours free," he answered, making a point to sound completely noncommittal on the subject. Given a choice, he wouldn't leave her side ever, but since her desire to have him nearby involved curiosity more than any need, he was willing to let her decide.

She gave him a tentative smile and nodded, plainly wanting him to stay with her for the time being.

Mike sighed and watched Darien as he entered the room, rescued the chair he'd been using, which had been shoved off to one corner at some point during the day and sat down. "You'll keep an eye on her?"

"Of course," Darien assured him. Like he'd let anything happen to her if he could prevent it.

Mike nodded and leaned down to give Michele a quick hug. Her arms came up to encircle him, still with IV lines attached, and shaking badly; not from lack of strength, but due to her motor control no longer working as it should. At least, that's what the preliminary tests had determined. Any movement on her part was a painful experience to watch as she struggled to do the simplest of things. It was plain to Darien that there was a connection between the siblings that remained untouched by her recent injury and so as to not intrude on their private-seeming moment of bonding, Darien glanced about for the book he'd been reading to her when she'd awoken. After recalling that he'd dropped it, he found it under the bed where it had probably been kicked in the excitement.

By the time he sat upright, book in hand, Mike was once again standing beside the bed. "I'll check on you in an hour," he told her and this time she didn't argue. With a nod to Darien, Mike left them alone.

She stared at the doorway for a minute, one hand coming up to scratch along the edge of the bandage about her head before turning to look at Darien. She appeared to be less sure of herself now that she was alone with him. With a valiant attempt at a smile she gestured at the book he held and he lifted it so she could read the title, then, realizing he had no idea if she could read, said, "Paradise Lost, by Milton. With all the creative spelling."

Somehow, she managed to raise a single questioning eyebrow, which he found endearing, and pointed at him. It was obvious what she was asking. "Yours," he responded, reminding himself to be cautious with what and how he answered her inquiries.

She opened her mouth to rebut that statement, but struggled to get out little more than a few inarticulate sounds, before giving up in frustration.

Darien rested a hand atop hers, so that the information she was trying unsuccessfully to express quickly dumped into his mind. Which was essentially that she hadn't touched Milton since college and was wondering what had caused her to pick it up again. While Darien suspected that he knew, he wasn't about to tell her at this point. "Want me to read to you?" he suggested when the silence grew uncomfortably long.

She shook her head and motioned for the book, which he handed over and watched as she allowed it to fall open to one of the highlighted passages. Her fingers traced slowly along the sentences as if she were attempting to work out what was written on the page before her. When he noticed the tears in her eyes, he suspected her effort was going unrewarded, and that along with speech she'd lost the ability to read. Something he knew would distress her.

"It's okay, baby, just give it some time," he said, hoping to prevent her from becoming overly upset. It was only her first day awake and it was entirely possible she could relearn anything and everything she'd lost.

She set the book down and turned her focus on him, a hand coming up, pointing first to him and then her. It was plainly a -do we know each other?' that Darien was unsure how to answer without Mike chewing his ass off. So, he went with the truth, but decided to leave the details for later. "We're friends," he explained, knowing it was true enough.

She shook her head and reached out to set her hand over his. It quickly became clear that she wanted to know how she knew him, followed by the image of himself as a kid.

He grinned. "Yeah, that was me." This answer only seemed to confuse her, since she knew they hadn't been in contact during the years she remembered. He took a moment to carefully think through how to respond without revealing exactly how much time she had lost. "We met again a few years ago, by chance," he said.

There was still confusion and she tried her best to convey just why. It finally took the image of an infant in his mind for him to latch onto the fact he'd called her -baby,' and more than once since she'd awoken.

"Crap," he muttered, causing her to laugh in surprise, though her insistence at her query being answered never stopped poking at him. "We were... close," he finally admitted.

Her husband was suddenly in the forefront of her mind, overlaid with a heavy sense of worry and fear. "He was out of the picture by then, I promise you."

That just seemed to confuse her even more and she began to flood him with emotions and imagery that he couldn't keep up with. He was five years out of practice, after all. "Michele, I can't tell you everything now. Please." He tried his best to relay the seriousness of his statement to her. "'Sides, Mike'd hurt me if I did."

She pouted, but the flood of information stopped, leaving his mind to ring hollowly, like a bell shifting after a wind gust.

"I understand that you want to know, and now, but..." He paused, wanting to say this right the first time, and words of Bobby's sprang to his mind to help him. "Ignorance is bliss," he mumbled, then louder. "Right now it's more important for you to get better than to fill your mind with things that might... upset you." That was putting it mildly. He couldn't imagine how he'd react to discover he'd lost an entire decade and that everything he believed to be true about himself, his family was completely wrong. He took her hand into both of his and held on tight. "I'm just happy to have you back, -Chele. You had us scared bad."

Her expression turned serious, and he could only wonder what she was picking up from him. A wave of comfort from her assured him she had no plans to go anywhere. With obvious effort, she picked up the book and held it out to him.

He gave her a smile and took it from her, one hand still firmly about hers. "Any preference?"

Her answer was swift and clear: the beginning.