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Summary: Alex finally wakes from his coma, Sophia deals with frustrations of ruling, and Vincent as usual puts his foot in his mouth.

Warnings: None so far.

Disclaimer: I do not own Last Exile. If I did certain people would have gotten much happier endings than they did.


Alex had been awake for short periods of time off and on for the past few days, but today was the first he had been coherent enough to understand what was going on around him. At the moment Alex lay quietly in the hospital bed listening as Dr. Actias informed him of the long list of injuries, surgical procedures, and various other medical problems he had survived. Followed by a list of what treatments, and medicines he might, and would definitely need in the future. A surgery to restore his hearing, they had replaced several of his internal organs with... his own organs that they had somehow grown somewhere?... he wasn't sure he would ever understand that part. He would walk again, eventually. It would take years of physical therapy, and he already knew with out being told would be painful as hell. The doctor seemed most concerned about his right arm however, which had apparently taken the most damage. He nodded once in a while to let the doctor know he was listening, and understood (everything except the "cloning" part). Mostly however he paid attention to Sophia, who was taking every word from the doctor like a blow to the stomach.

"This is very important Captain, we nearly had to amputate that arm during surgery. You're still at risks of losing it, even if that doesn't happen I'm not sure you'll ever regain full use of it. We have scanners in the cast to keep watch over it, but if you notice any significant increase in the pain, unusual heat, or swelling please let someone know immediately."

Alex just nodded again not trusting himself to speak yet. He shouldn't feel this tired after sleeping so much should he?

Dr. Actias went to check on other patients leaving him with Sophia, and Vincent who turned to him looking like they had a million questions, but didn't know which to start with.

It was Vincent who finally settled on "What happened up there?"

Alex stared at the ceiling for a few moments before closing his eyes. He heard Vincent try to say something more only to be shushed by Sophia, who had placed her hand over his.

The feeling of the thorns tearing into his skin, draining away his blood to replace it with Delphine's poison. The feeling of the Maestro struggling as he crushed her throat. She'd never raised her hands to free herself. He wondered why, she would have if she had tried. The sound of the ship exploding around him. "Euris...To the sky"..Pain, terrible pain....

Sophia, looking so pained, so guilty, as the doctor spoke to him.

Alex opened his eyes and turned his head to look at Sophia. His voice was raspy and barely audible as he spoke. "I can't remember."
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"I haven't been to see Dio yet. Physically, he's alright. His mind though...He didn't take it well when they told him about Lucciola. Claus, and Lavie say he's doing much better than he was, though now it seems he acts as if Lucciola is still right there with him. The doctors are worried about that."

Alex had spent the past few days getting caught up on what he had missed while he had been unconscious. Sophia spoke with her back turned to him as she sorted through stacks of papers covering the extra bed that had been placed in the room for her use. Even though he was awake now and recovering she'd still spent the past few nights in the room with him. He knew why. He had even caught a glimpse of his medical files where "Possible Suicide Risk" had been written in large, bold letters. He was rarely left alone for more than a few moments. He wouldn't attempt anything however. Still too cowardly, he thought to end his own existence even when he no longer had a purpose.

Sophia's grumbling brought him back to the present. "...It figures...The one document I need for the next meeting and Vincent probably has it.." She sighed and walked over to chair beside his bed dropping down on to the cushion rather harder than she needed to, her long billowing skirts spreading over the tiled floor as she leaned over to rest her head over her arms on the pillow beside him.

"Your dress will get wrinkled sitting like that."

She hummed a bit in reply before lifting her head and giving a small sad smile. She reached down and squeezed his hand slightly. Normally he would never have allowed such physical contact. "Tomorrow."

Feeling like a weight had been dropped into his stomach he curled his fingers around her own and squeezed back. Actias had decided that he was well enough to leave his hospital room for a while. Tomorrow would be the first time, tomorrow Sophia, and Vincent were taking him to Exile. To Hamilcar, and Georges. When Sophia had told him about the discovery aboard Exile he hadn't been able to respond. He's just lain there staring at the ceiling letting her words repeat over, and over in his head.

"Will you be alright?"

He shook his head slowly, not letting go of her hand. "I don't know. I have to do this Sophia, I have to see them before.."

"I know, I know." Sophia smiled softly again. Inside, her heart was soaring with joy for his acceptance of the comfort she offered. "And I'll be with you." she thought making a promise to Euris, to Marius, to herself. "For as long as you need me. I will be with you."
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Vincent flipped through the documents he was he was holding his back turned to the mostly empty council room. " I was supposed to give this to Sophia wasn't I?..." He thought to himself considering having his XO, Roumolt Dolfstland run them down to Alex's room. With the Urbanis destroyed some of the surviving crew members were at a loss. While many had joined other crews temporarily Roumolt, Rum to his friends, had settled for being an errand boy of sorts for Vincent.

He could hear Duke Mad-Thane, and Nestor Messina talking quietly. When Nestor asked where Sophia was at the moment, still distracted by his ‘document dilemma’ he answered with out thinking. "She's using Alex as a meat shield to hide from those obnoxious geezers who think they can bully her into doing what they want." Promptly gagging on his own words when he realized what he had said. "I mean...She's ..er...discussing... things with the captain, as she values his opinion...and..um.."

"It's just the four of us sir." Roumolt said his expression not changing a bit as he watched his captain sag in relief. Vincent turned flushed with embarrassment to face David and Nestor, the former giving him a slight frown of disapproval, while the later chuckled. "He is awfully protective of Her Majesty for someone who nearly dropped the Maestro's flag ship on our heads. I've heard the imperial advisers won't even go into the hospital sector anymore. "

Vincent sighed. "Alex has never dealt with authority figures well. He really hates the royal council. When the emperor started deteriorating they pretty much completely abandoned Prime Minister Marius to deal with it himself....Still Saying all that was a bit uncalled for.."

Never dealt with authority figures well was also a massive understatement. Vincent recalled how at age fifteen during a practical exam on flight maneuvers Alex had gotten angry with Flight Instructor Jeremiah Dalton one of the most feared, and hated instructors at the academy. If he remembered right the words had been along the lines of "Piss off! I know what I'm doing." The only thing that had saved him from expulsion was that he had turned out to be right about the maneuver he was trying to pull off. People with skills, and intelligence like Alex were hard to come by, and in times of war far to valuable to let go for any reason. He had however made his first "enemy" in Instructor Dalton. He earned the hatred of several of the nobles children as well, who could never be sure they weren't only getting by through bribes from their parents, while an orphan, originally taken in by a noble family as a servant was making them all look like idiots.

Though it had also earned him the admiration of just as many. Including the Prime Minster's daughter an outcast herself because of her half-guild heritage, despite her ties to the royal line.

The sound of Nestor's voice broke him from his thoughts. "What? Sorry, I was thinking."

"I asked you how the Captain was doing." Nestor repeated calmly. "I wish I had the time to meet him."

Vincent snorted before he could stop himself. He was far more relaxed knowing the other council members were gone. "You're only saying that because you haven't met him yet. He's doing really well. Dr. Actias is still very worried about his arm. I think the worst thing for him is not being able to do anything. He looked like he wanted to murder Mullin Shetland when he came to visit after being discharged."

Vincent paused to look at his pocket watch. "Damn. I have to get these documents to Her Majesty before the next meeting. If you'll excuse me." Vincent quick half-hearted salute before rushing out the door followed by Roumolt.

"I wish I still had that much energy." Nestor commented watching the admiral leave.

David nodded slightly. "It will be good to see that energy channeled to something besides war."

When Vincent walked into Alex's room, alone having sent Rum on another errand, Sophia, and Alex quickly pulled their hands away from one another, but not fast enough. Vincent said nothing but couldn't stop grinning as Sophia walked over looking flustered, and annoyed. He handed her the documents which she took and, tapped him lightly on the head with. "Thank you. Now I only have two hours to go over these before the next "argument" starts."

Sophia sat on the edge of her bed reading the papers while Vincent took over the chair next to Alex. "How are you feeling?"

Alex rolled his eyes. "The same way I felt the last time you asked, only slightly more annoyed that you've asked me again."

For the next two hours they sat the quiet only broken by small conversations, and a short lunch before Sophia, and Vincent had to leave again. Alex was asleep when they left.

"Sorry if I ..er interrupted anything back there."

Sophia sighed, turning away from him. He could have sworn she started blushing. "It was nothing, Admiral Alzey." Sophia stated in a voice laden with feigned offense. Her expression softened, and she smiled sadly when she turned to look at him. "We were talking about tomorrow."

Vincent nodded deciding not to broach the subject any further. Though later he was sure "nothing" is what got Sophia through the meeting without wanting to pull her hair out.
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Author's notes: I had so much trouble with this chapter! I can't tell you how many times I've re-written the beginning alone.
Alex's back story is of course completely made up (I actually have several little stories about his time at the academy with Vincent, Euris, and Sophia. I'm planing on writing a side story based on them.), and no we aren't going to find out what he said to chase Sophia's "counselors" out of the hospital. Mostly because I don't think I can come up with anything as entertaining as you readers could.

Originally I wanted to bring Dio into this chapter, but it seemed so out of place. He will be in the next one along with other characters we haven't seen much of yet.

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