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Not How Your Story Ends

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Foggy.

That’s the only way Ezra could describe how he’d felt for the last… God, how long had it been?

Thinking back, the last things he could clearly remember were… hands. Yes, there were hands covering him, and voices asking him questions, and above it all, pain. Excruciating pain that started in his head and travelled all the way down his back like hundreds of horrible hammers pounding together in sync. It was horrific, and he had just wanted it to end.

But then it had. Just like that, his body had went stiff and numb and he had felt no more.

Everything after that was just a blur - or at least more of a blur than it had been before. Despite this, he felt that he could definitely recall a brief period of simply... peace. As if the galaxy had just melted away leaving behind only the overwhelming senses of comfort and clarity. In the distance, he could have even sworn that he had heard his mother singing the same, sweet, traditional Lothallian lullaby she sang to him every night before she was taken. Of course, this was impossible - his mother had been dead for many years - but for that brief moment, he couldn’t deny that everything felt right.

But before he had been able to process it all, he found himself back where he started, and everything was foggy again.

But now, it seemed that the fog was starting to clear, and Ezra found himself becoming gradually more aware of his current surroundings. He could hear the faint impressions of voices around him, but he was too tired to interpret exactly what they were saying.

Feeling courageous, Ezra forced his eyes open, only to immediately close them at the sight of the harsh fluorescent lights. The pain in his head and back had returned full-force and he suddenly felt that falling back unconscious wouldn’t be so bad. Even so, he was curious enough about where he may have ended up that he braved the pain and pried his eyes back open again. It wasn’t until after his eyes adjusted - “adjusted” being used in the most liberal interpretation possible - that the sharp scent of antiseptic hit him like a freight train, causing him to wince back and recoil in pain. It was total sensory overload - and total misery.

Just as he considered giving up entirely, a sturdy and surprisingly understandable voice rose above the rest, piquing his interest.

“Doctor? I think he’s waking up!” the voice half-whispered in near panic.

Ezra didn’t recognize the person at all, which - under normal circumstances - would have been grounds for concern. But given that his head felt like it was moments away from bursting at the seams, Ezra honestly couldn’t bring himself to care. Instead, he just squinted at the harsh light up above him and let himself find silent amusement at the nervousness of those around him.

“He’s waking up?” a second voice began, older and cooler in nature than its predecessor. “Incredible! With what he’s been through, I wouldn’t have expected him to wake up for weeks, if at all…”

The last statement left Ezra a bit puzzled to say the least. What exactly had be ‘been through’? And did this doctor seriously believe that he was going to die?

...Was he going to die?

Before he could fully descend into the sudden, oncoming panic, however, the voice of the apparent doctor cut through and seemed to address him specifically.

“Son, can you hear me?” The doctor’s voice was smooth and calm, clearly influenced by years of experience.

Ezra begrudgingly forced his eyes to focus on her face, being able to faintly make out the shape of an older woman with dark hair pulled into a tight bun behind her head. Her olive skin was slightly wrinkled with age, and her eyes were sharp and scanning of him. Her calculating and intelligent gaze vaguely reminded him of Governor Pryce - something that definitely wasn’t comforting.

Gathering his strength again, Ezra tried to nod in response to her question, but found his neck to be impossibly stiff. In fact, his entire spinal column was somehow rendered entirely and inexplicably immobile. Definitely not an ideal situation.

Seeing that verbal communication was the only possibility for him, Ezra forced a weak confirmation past his throat, the entire process of which he found to be vexing. It was as if his lips and throat were no longer cooperating with his brain, and as a result, every syllable he attempted to articulate came out slow and slurred.

“Y-yesss, I c-caaann…” he stuttered weakly, his throat sore from the effort.

A broad, childish smile broke out across the doctor’s face. “Incredible!” she exclaimed, clasping her hands together at her chest like a pleased child. “You are quite the strong young man! Do you know where you are?”

Ezra thought about it for a moment. “M-Med Center…?” he muttered. He was quite certain of his answer, but it was difficult to feel entirely sure of anything while his senses were under a constant barrage of stimulation and his body was rendered nearly immobile with pain.

The doctor at least looked happy with his response.

“Wonderful!” she crooned, “And your name?”

He drew in a hissing breath. “Ezzzraa ‘Ridgeer.”

At this point, he was thoroughly frustrated by the fact that his speaking skills had seemingly regressed to those of a toddler. Despite this perceived shortcoming, the doctor again seemed pleased by his answer.

“Yes!” she enthusiastically praised before setting herself again. “Alright Ezra, do you know why you’re here?”

“Nnnooo…” he groaned, wishing- not for the first time since their conversation began - that he had the capability or even the opportunity to ask a few questions of his own.

The doctor at least seemed to be - if nothing else - sympathetic of his plight. “That’s quite alright. You’re ill, dear. You have quite the nasty case of bacterial meningitis. Do you know what that is?”

Ezra had to refrain from rolling his eyes. As well as she obviously meant, he was getting quite tired of being treated like a child. “Yesss,” he sighed.

The doctor just continued to smile dopily. “You’re quite the smart boy, Ezra! Now this might sound a little scary, but you’ve had two seizures. Do you remember that?” she asked with the same, unnervingly peppy tone as before.

Now that was a bit of a shock, but Ezra supposed it made sense contextually. The stiffness, the numbness, the gaps in memory, it all fell into place with that new piece of information. But just because it made sense didn’t mean it didn’t scare him.

“I-I ttthhink I-I r-rememmberr?” he honestly admitted. After all, he was fully aware that all of his thoughts and memories up until this point he were entirely conjecture.

At this, for the first time since she began talking, the doctor became quite solemn; the smile previously plastered across her face now nowhere to be seen. She drew in a deep inhale, obviously steeling herself for something big.

“Okay, now I don’t want you to panic,” she began, somehow oblivious to the fact that saying that would only give him reason to panic in the first place, “but after your second seizure, you stopped breathing.”

What? Ezra was certain that couldn’t be true. After all, wouldn’t he remember something like dying? Wouldn’t it have been some grand, impossible experience like…

Like hearing your dead mother sing…?

The doctor continued, “I don’t expect you to remember any specifics of that experience, nor would I need to know them, so I’m not even going to ask about it. And I especially don’t mean to scare you by sharing this with you, I just think you have a right to know what’s going on and why”.

Ezra would have scoffed had he not been so stunned. She ‘didn’t mean to scare him’? Well she definitely failed there.

“On the bright side,” she continued, “you currently don’t appear to be in any great danger and you’re responding very well to my questions. We have you on some medication right now that will hopefully make you start feeling better soon, but we’re going to have to conduct a few more tests so we can figure out how to best treat you and prevent anything else drastic from happening. I know this is all a lot to take in, but did what I said make sense?”

Ezra didn’t know what to say. Sure, he understood everything said to him, but he sure as hell couldn’t wrap his mind around it.

“I h-heeard m-my mom…” he blurted out dumbly, forgoing an actual answer to the doctor’s question.

She stared back at him, obviously confused. “What was that, Ezra?”

Ezra repeated himself with resolution. “I-I heard my m-mom, she wasss sin-ging…” After seeing the doctor’s expression remain confused, possibly even a bit disappointed, Ezra decided to elaborate. “Y-youu said I-I wooulldn’t remmmemberr w-when I stopped breeea-thing, but I-I do. My m-mom wasss the-re aand s-she was singinggg”. Ezra kept his eyes firmly on the doctor at this point despite the lack of mobility in his neck. Even if it was through the corner of his eye, he wanted to see how the doctor would respond to his experience.

Very briefly, the woman’s eyes widened, showing genuine surprise and perhaps even belief, but it disappeared quicker than it came. “You must have been dreaming, silly, you’re family is in the other room waiting for you!” She kept smiling that ridiculous smile, something eerily condescending about it. As if she saw him as nothing but a particularly dull child who was telling tall tales and needed placating.

Ezra tried not to feel disheartened. “I-I want to seeee them,” he spoke as firmly as he could, trying to earn at least a shred of respect from the woman treating him.

She paused to think about it for a moment. “We can get one of the med droids to send someone in if you’re feeling up to it, does that sound good?” she asked, her tone still entirely too peppy and patronizing.

“Yesss,” he responded simply.

The doctor smiled and nodded at the droid nearest to her before turning back towards Ezra and her table of instruments. “Alright, now just relax, we’re going to start prepping for the spinal tap,” she explained without looking up from her tools.

Ezra didn’t really know what a spinal tap was, nor could he bring himself to truly care. In that moment, there were only two things he was absolutely certain of: that he had already died once, and that he wanted to see the crew before it very possibly happened again.