Author's note: Well, finally got around to writing this chapter. Took Orenda finishing her new chapter to get me into the mood to write it.. Figures, right? One fic of evilness inspires another. I was planning on having the child wake up this chapter, but it seems like that won't happen until the next one.. *Sighs* Figures, right? Ah well, he'll definitely be waking up the next chapter, from what I've planned so far. At least it didn't take someone kicking my butt in order to get around to writing this chapter.. I sorta want to get to the place where my little guy wakes up, anyways. =P Although all the people that know me via AIM know who the little guy is.. I can't help but rant about him all the time! Hmm, better start writing the fanfic so you can see why that is. . . =P

Author's second note: ^^ Oh, and yes, before I forget... Thank you Eiflin for the idea about the scene with Duke. You'll figure out what I mean when you read it. ^.~

Author's third note: Ahhhh! Nearly forgot to give a big huge wonderful thank you to Lily C.! She told me the best way of cleaning out the wounds and such . . . ^^ Gotta thank her for that. Thanks!

Author's fourth, and final, note: Ha! You thought I was done! Lol, thanks to Orenda for beta-reading this for me. ^^ You go, girl! Oh, and this chapter turned out to be a lot longer than expected.. The next one should be shorter, but I had a lot of description in this chapter, so... =P Nyeh.

Author's fifth, and now new final, note: I lied! Lol.. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, all! Consider this my Christmas present to all of you folk! =P It will get happier, lol.

Author's sixth note, which is hopefully now the last one: Oh, and the "Taunny" part came from majik's fanfic way back when... So, I'm going to give her credit for that. I believe it was called "Independence Day," but I may be wrong. Either way, you'll find it on her website at

A Casualty of War

By Icelightning

Chapter 3: Scars

Nosedive sighed, watching as Tanya went back to her typing, initiating a deeper probe of the boy's injuries, both external and internal. Looking away, he glanced to the child and sat up, now that Tanya had removed the needle and patched up his arm. Settling himself down on the boy's bio-bed, Nosedive reached up a hand to gently smooth down a stray lock of hair on the child's head.

Wildwing's eyes softened and he pulled up a chair, sitting next to Nosedive. He gave the teenager a reassuring smile when Nosedive looked up in confusion, but Nosedive was able to only give Wildwing a weak one in return. Nosedive then glanced back to the boy, stroking his hair gently, avoiding the wound on his head.

He was taking this better than Wildwing thought he would be . . . Nosedive never ceased to amaze his brother with his ability to adapt. And Wildwing had also gotten Nosedive over his initial fear already, so that he was all for helping the boy. In truth, Wildwing suspected that part of it was because Nosedive knew this could help him conquer some of his fears from back when he was in the camps. Sometimes helping another through the same thing one went through helped them come to terms with what happened to them. Nosedive and Wildwing both realized this, which was partially why they were so wanting to help the boy. The other half being that they felt it was their responsibility to help him. After all, they were the only members of his species on the entire planet. Who else was he going to turn to for the comfort and support he needed?

"Do you think he even knows what's happening, 'Wing?" Nosedive asked, breaking Wildwing out of his thoughts. "Does he even know he's safe? And that we're going to take care of him?"

Wildwing debated on his answer for a moment before he sighed, giving in and deciding to tell Nosedive the truth, "I don't know, baby bro'."

"I hope he does.. I don't like the idea of him being scared when he wakes up. But he's going to be okay, right?" Nosedive glanced up at Wildwing again, his eyes suddenly pleading. "We'll be able to make him better, right?"

"Of course, Nosedive.." Wildwing answer was almost immediate this time. "You just gotta believe and not give up.."

Nosedive nodded, finding his gaze shifting to the boy's still form, "I wonder what his name is . . . He's gotta remember his name, right? Or has it been too long . . . ? Does he only remember his number now?"

Wildwing's eyes softened incredibly at that and he smiled sadly to his brother. "Even if he doesn't remember his name, we'll give him one."

"A cute one?" Nosedive didn't look back to his brother, but Wildwing nodded anyways.

"Of course," Wildwing patted his brother back, standing up and taking a perch on the bed next to Nosedive. "And we'll fill the Pond with every toy he could dream of . . . "

"Yeah . . . Man, this is going to be like I have a baby brother of my own, isn't it?" Nosedive grinned a little at that spot. "I'm going to have to spoil him rotten."

"We're all planning on doing that, Nosedive," Tanya stated, speaking for the first time in the last couple of minutes. "You two get him the toys, I'll get him the stuffed animals."

"Deal," Nosedive smiled a bit more to the child's body, feeling a little bit better now that they had even a slight plan about how to deal with the child.

Wildwing blinked when his comm went off, opening it to reveal Klegghorn's face. "Klegghorn? What is it?"

"I thought I'd come over and give the kid a few toys . . . Especially since there's a horde of TV reporters waiting to jump you when one of you comes out of the front doors," Klegghorn replied matter-of-factly, although his eyes were a bit worried. "How is the boy, anyways?"

"Stable, right now," Wildwing sighed. "He was dying from blood loss, but Nosedive luckily was able to give him enough blood that Tanya could use synthetics for the rest of what he was missing."

"Good news at least. Has he woken up?" Klegghorn's concern for the boy was obvious in his voice.

Wildwing shook his head. "Not yet . . Tanya said he won't wake up for a few hours, so we're going to clean him up before then, so he won't have to go through that while he's conscious."

"Probably a good idea," Klegghorn agreed, still glancing down to his communicator. "I'd appreciate if someone would come up and get me now."

Wildwing glanced up to Nosedive questioningly and Nosedive nodded, smiling softly. "Go ahead, bro'. I'll be okay staying with Tanya for a few."

"You sure?" Wildwing blinked in surprise.

"Yeah, she'll take care of me, so don't worry bro'," Nosedive stated, stroking the boy's hair as he looked up to his brother. "Just go ahead and get the kid some toys. He'll need them."

Wildwing paused and finally nodded, sighing softly, "You're right. Just comm me if you need me, okay, baby bro'?"

Nosedive nodded. "Right, 'Wing. I'll be okay, so don't worry. Taunny will watch over me."

"Don't call me Taunny!" Wildwing and Nosedive both snickered, but otherwise didn't comment.

"As long as you're sure, Nosedive," Wildwing replied, putting a hand on Nosedive's shoulder.

"I'm sure, now stop fussing over me and go let Kleggy in!" Nosedive mock-frowned and Wildwing ruffled his hair.

"Okay, okay, I'm going," Wildwing grinned a little before looking back down to his comm. "I'll be right up, Klegghorn."

"Good. See you in a few," the police captain shut off his communicator and Wildwing followed suit.

"See you two in a bit," Wildwing nodded to the others, then walked out of the room.

Nosedive sighed, watching Wildwing leave. But he didn't have long to worry about being without Wildwing, because that was when the scanner beeped, indicating it was done.


"So, what exactly did you bring?" Wildwing asked, glancing to the box of toys Klegghorn was carrying--a box so big that the police chief could barely carry it. Wildwing, however, thought it best not to make a comment.

"Some of the usual stuff. You can worry about paying me later, since this comes out of the toys fund for the poor kids we find," Klegghorn stated, then explained further when Wildwing looked at him blankly. "Some gentle, non-violent toys. And a video or two. We generally carry a lot of these toys because they tend to calm scared kids, even if the toys are for someone younger than them. I thought he'd benefit from playing with them in the same way."

"Good idea," Wildwing nodded, then sighed, taking the toys from Klegghorn's arms. "Thanks, Klegghorn, we owe you one."

"Don't mention it," Klegghorn replied quickly. "If there's anything else I can do . . . "

Wildwing paused for a moment before answering, "If the media becomes a nuisance, could you possibly post guards at the doors? I don't want the boy bothered by them until he's emotionally stable. And not even then, if we can help it."

Klegghorn nodded, then fell into step with Wildwing as the mallard headed towards the locker room entrance to the Pond. "Consider it done. They'll come, and it's best to be ready for them from the start."

Wildwing blinked at Klegghorn when the human didn't excuse himself to go. "Klegghorn?"

"If you wouldn't mind, I'd like to see how bad the kid is myself . . . If I could get an idea on how bad he is, I could help you get medical supplies that you don't have," he explained and Wildwing smiled sadly.

"He's . . . Pretty bad," Wildwing admitted. "He'll have permanent scarring, at the least. By the stars, I hope that's all he has."

"That bad?" Klegghorn grimaced; he didn't think it was that bad.

After all, who would hurt a young child? But someone had hurt the child, and that child was now suffering. Klegghorn glanced up at Wildwing's sigh.

"At the least. Like I said, we nearly lost him . . ." Wildwing shook his head, his eyes soft and sad. "I just hope he can make it through the night. Then we can start worrying about helping to make him happy again."

Wildwing fell silent as the police captain stepped into the elevator and the doors shut behind him. Their descent to the lower levels started and Wildwing let out another sigh, running a hand through his hair. Wildwing, however, didn't speak again and the silence continued.

Realizing that Wildwing didn't want to talk more about the child's condition at the moment, Klegghorn changed the topic. "And the medical supplies?"

"Oh, uhm . . Tanya probably has most of the stuff, but we appreciate it just the same," Wildwing punched in the code to the elevator before glancing to Klegghorn, a weak smile on his beak. "No Saurians controlling the security system this time, I promise."

Klegghorn chuckled lightly. "That's a relief, at least."

"Tell me about it," Wildwing agreed, leading Klegghorn down the hall as the elevator stopped and the doors opened.


"How bad is he?" Nosedive whispered, not daring to leave the boy's side; he didn't really want to know the full truth, anyways.

Tanya glanced down to the console once more, scrolling through the first few virtual pages of the report. When it started to concern his injuries, she slowed down. A few sentences later, she stopped scrolling down entirely.

"Tanya?" Nosedive asked uncertainly, but he got no answer.

She ignored the teenager and reread a section of the report, unable to believe her eyes. Then, she reread it a second time. And after that, a third. Every time, her face lost a little more of its color as she paled, mouth open in unspeakable horror.

This panicked Nosedive and he voiced his fear in a soft whisper, "T-Taunny? O-Oh stars, h-he's ..really bad, isn't h-he?"

Tanya managed to nod numbly and Nosedive stared at her. "W-Worse than a-anything I've e-ever seen . . . H-He's lucky even be alive!"

Nosedive sucked in a breath, trying to control the sudden panic that flooded his mind and threatened to take him over. Stuff like this wasn't supposed to happen to children! He wasn't supposed to be this hurt . . . "G-Great M..Mother of D-Ducks..!"

He felt light-headed and he was forced to lie down. Shivering, he let go of the boy's hand and wrapped his arm over his shoulders in a protective hug. Poor kid didn't deserve this. He took a couple of deep breaths, but still, he trembled.

It had been so long since Nosedive had been in the camps, and yet, the thought of them brought an unimaginable fear into his heart. It was only heightened with the fact that the Saurians had tortured such a young child so badly. Did they do this to other children, too? Other children that weren't so lucky to escape like the one he held protectively? Or did even worse things happen to them?

The information on the screen finally began to sink in and Tanya closed her eyes in grief. No one deserved this . . . Not even the Saurians. So why did this have to happen to a child?

She sighed, opening her eyes again, but the read-out didn't change. It was still the same. Taking a deep breath, Tanya forced herself to read it slowly.

The child had suffered through ten times the pain than any of the work camp victims Tanya had seen and treated. What seemed like a hundred or more scars criss-crossed his body, his back so heavily wounded that Tanya was amazed his underlying muscle was mostly undamaged. The Saurians had probably meant to keep him alive and make him suffer for as long as they could, Tanya realized, and she had to force her breakfast down as she examined the scarring further. It was not caused by a whip, like the injuries most victims supported, but by jagged Saurian claws. If he had been in a camp, they wouldn't have bothered. No, he had suffered a worse, but all too common fate--he had been a personal slave.

Smaller claw marks probably belonging to a Saurian woman lined his front and thicker claw marks, which probably belong to a Saurian man, covered his back. They corresponded with the external, and internal, injuries the child had received to his lower anatomy. Tanya sighed and closed her eyes, reciting a prayer quietly. The child . . .

. . . Had been raped, and more than once; possibly by both Saurians at the same time. Probably by both at the same time. For Tanya knew of the only Saurians that could've done such a thing. She knew which ones had done this to him. Tanya had feared the worst and the worst had been realized.

He was a victim of one of Dragaunus's chief generals and the general's mate. There were rumors surrounding the pair, but Tanya knew that many of them were true. They were the ultimate torturers; very few, if any, prisoners died unbroken at their hands. It was also said that they ate the flesh of both young and newborn ducklings, roasting them slowly to death on a spit over an open fire, until the last of their cries and peeps faded away. They were the lucky ones. The children of higher officials in the Resistence weren't given such a quick release. No, their torment only ceased once the last drop of blood was drained from their bodies. They were kept alive, tortured mentally and physically, alone and separated from the rest. Those children got lesser food, sleep, and no contact with anyone besides their captors. They would only be released when they ceased to fight back or cry--in order to finally be free, they had to become completely unresponsive to the world.

That was what they were doing to the boy lying on the bio-bed in front of her. The child was going to be their latest victim . . . But they had yet to succeed making him completely unresponsive, judging by the fact that he was still alive.

Tanya smiled grimly. With the extent of his injuries and the level of his malnutrition, this child was a fighter. Amazing for one his age. She promised herself that he would not have held onto his life in vain. Tanya would help him learn how to laugh and love again. He wouldn't have to suffer anymore.

"T-Taunny? Please, a-answer me . . . " Nosedive begged quietly, after having his teammate ignore him unintentionally for several minutes, and Tanya blinked, returning from her thoughts.

"Nosedive?" She turned to regard Nosedive, her eyes widening as she saw the fear in his.

"H-He's g..gonna die, i-isn't he?" Tanya's eyes softened at Nosedive's question and she shook her head, walking over next to him and sitting down.

"Of c-course not . . . He's just be through s-so much . . ." Tanya sighed, wrapping her arm around Nosedive's shoulders.

"But w-we'll make him better, r-right?" Nosedive whispered and Tanya smiled softly to him.

"Of course, Nosedive, of course," She replied, patting his shoulder before standing up. "Now how about we get the medical supplies we need so we can start cleaning him up, okay, Nosedive?"

"Okay," he stood up after Tanya, following her to the cupboards as she explained what they would need.

"First off, we have to sterilize his wounds, so we'll need . . . "


An alarm went off in one duck's quarters, sending a loud, blaring sound throughout the room. Now, having said alarm in one's room is bad enough, but it's even worse when said alarm is next to one's ear. So, of course, this being the case, the inhabitant of the room reacted with extreme prejudice, grabbing the radio and chucking it as hard as possible towards the wall.

*BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP Beep beep bee- CRASH!. . . Screeeeeeeech, thunk.*

Duke froze when he heard the demise of his radio-alarm, realizing what he had done. He sighed and cursed readily, although he didn't move his head from underneath his pillow. Tanya was going to kill him.

-I swore I set that thing to radio,- Duke groaned mentally. -Next clock, I'm havin' Tanya remove the alarm. I'd rather oversleep than listen to that.-

He sighed, glancing up to the clock on the wall--one that he installed himself after impaling one of his alarm clocks into his bookcase. Tanya was not too pleased about that one even, either, now that he thought of it. At least she didn't try killing him like she did the first time. Then again, she was getting used to his alarm-throwing by then. After all, that unlucky one was his fifth.

All in all, however, the clock on the wall served it's purpose, even if it did hang a little loosely. He was an ex-thief, not an ex-mechanic. Although Tanya had made him help with repairs to the Migrator; according to her, she was still repairing the damage he did when he had the wheel against Daddy O' Cool. Duke didn't believe this, but he didn't argue. It could get kind of lonesome in the garage by oneself, so he really couldn't blame her for wanting some company. And, it was always good to learn something useful that might save someone's life.

-Stars, it's too early to be philosophical. I need a cup of coffee.- Duke declared to himself; now the hard part would be living up to fulfilling that declaration.

He rolled himself onto his back, eagle-spread. Well, at least he was out from under his pillow, now. Of course, now he actually had to motivate himself to sit up.

-Easier said than done,- Duke sighed, staring at the ceiling. -Maybe I really should start listenin' to the others and not stay out too late.-

Duke chuckled at the thought and finally sat up with a groan. His muscles were a lot more stiff than he remembered them being last night. A hot shower would fix that. But first, coffee.

At the thought of that heavenly brew, Duke managed to get out of bed, grabbing a grubby shirt and pulling it over himself. They weren't expecting any company today, so it couldn't hurt. Not to mention that it was comfortable and, at the moment, he was too lazy to get something out of his closet at the moment.

He smiled at that thought. It had been many, many years since he had felt safe enough to walk around in such a relaxed state. It amazed him how safe he felt now--he never thought he could be so comfortable. It was good to live with people you could really trust. Back on the streets, if one relaxed their guard, they were as good as dead.

Yawning, he let that string of thought trail off and he hit the panel to open his door, walking out into the dimly lit hall. He assumed he was the only one up in the pond--after all, Wildwing and Tanya were away for some evil publicity stunt (which, thankfully, he wasn't a part of), and both Mallory and Nosedive loved to sleep in. Grin was probably off meditating, so he really didn't count and Duke didn't have to worry about him. As he walked towards the kitchen, he froze.

Duke was surprised to hear Wildwing's footsteps; even more surprised when he realized that, not only was Wildwing with someone else, but his footsteps were quick and brief. He was worried about something. So, of course, the gray mallard first assumed Wildwing had been captured, but as he continued listening to the footsteps of Wildwing's companion, he realized this wasn't the case when he recognized the pattern of footsteps.

-Klegghorn? What's he doin' here?- Duke wondered, quickly making up his mind to find out.

He walked towards the direction of the footsteps, growing worried. Something must have happened, but what? Glancing around the corner, Duke blinked and his eyes went wide. Why was Wildwing carrying a large box of toys?

Curious, Duke walked up to them, his face displaying his confusion, "Wildwing? Who are the toys for?"

Wildwing and Klegghorn both jumped, startled, having not heard Duke approach them from behind. Wildwing glanced over his shoulder, relaxing at the sight of his teammate, only to tense up again at Duke's question. How was he even going to begin explaining?

"We . . . Have a new resident at the Pond. At least, hopefully a new resident." Wildwing replied carefully, deciding to tell Duke in small pieces at a time.

"What? A human kid?" Duke asked in alarm, but Wildwing shook his head.

"No, not a human," Wildwing stated, silently glad that Klegghorn had the sense to remain silent.

Duke stared at Wildwing in confusion. Not a human child? But that would mean . . . He froze.

"A d-duckling? O-One of our own?" Duke was stunned when Wildwing nodded quietly.

"A camp victim, at the least. Maybe a victim of something worse--Tanya's still running a deep bio-scan on him." Wildwing glanced down to his human companion. "Klegghorn here found him and alerted us. He also brought the toys for the boy, so we wouldn't have to deal with the media for a little while."

"What's his name? Is he okay?" Duke tried to subdue the millions of questions running through his head, settling with only two at the moment.

"We don't know--he was unconscious when Klegghorn found him and bandaged his head up," Wildwing continued. "He's got a concussion from falling through the dimensional gateway that brought him here."

"Stars, is he all right?" Duke's voice took on a worried tone and Wildwing sighed.

"We don't know yet. He nearly died of blood loss, but Nosedive's type matched and he donated some of his, with Tanya using synthetics to supply the rest." Wildwing shook his head sadly. "Nosedive and Tanya are in the Infirmary with him right now. He might have to be there for a while--he's pretty banged up, not to mention malnourished."

"Damn them!" Duke muttered angrily, then forced his body to relax with a soft sigh. "Poor kid. He didn't deserve that."

"Regardless, it happened, and now it's up to us to be his family and to help him recover," Wildwing spoke slowly, making sure that Duke understood what he meant without question.

Duke suddenly looked nervous, like a fox caught in a trap, "But Wildwing, I dont' know da first thin' 'bout raising' a kid!"

Wildwing sighed--he should have expected this; not many kids would've been raised by the Brotherhood of the Blade, if any, "Duke, it's not like you're going to be the only one taking care of-"

"-I . . I-I might hurt him, 'Wing!" Duke added hastily, quickly looking away from his leader's confused face.

"You won't," Wildwing reassured Duke, placing a hand on the other mallard's shoulder after shifting the box around. "You'll do fine. We'll all be raising him together."

Duke laughed weakly with a slight blush on his cheeks, glancing at Wildwing out of the corner of his eye, "Yeah, yeah, y-you're right. Sorry 'bout that, I j-just gotta little carried away . . . L-let's go see how da others are doin', k'?"

Wildwing blinked in confusion as Duke left quickly for the Infirmary. What was all that about? Something, most likely, that Duke wouldn't want to talk about. Something that, mostly likely, wasn't involved with the Brotherhood of the Blade. No, it had to have happened much earlier in his life. Why else would he be scared that he would hurt a child?

Sighing, Wildwing followed Duke, Klegghorn walking along beside him once more. They'd best be back before Tanya and Nosedive began cleaning they boy's wounds. Nosedive would need Wildwing if he freaked out again.


Nosedive glanced to Tanya in confusion when she placed a wet cloth over the duckling's shirt, "Tanya, what are you doing?"

"Some of the scabs are stuck to his shirt. I'm trying to soften them up so I can remove the shirt without harming him." Tanya smiled sadly.

"What about the rest of his clothes?" Nosedive asked, confused.

Tanya hesitated, then answered, "He . . . Doesn't have any."

"O-Oh," Nosedive paled a little, then quickly changed the subject, looking up to Tanya. "But what if some of the scars are infected?"

"There's a few infected ones on his back--I'm going to inject those with synthetic antibodies. That way, we won't have to risk any bleeding or scarring his underlying tissue. He has so little flesh left on him that I'm afraid I could harm him if we cleaned his scars any other way." Tanya dipped the clothe into a small metal bowl before reapplying it. "I'll cut the front of his shirt off down the middle so we can work on cleaning his front first."

"How are we going to do that?" Nosedive piped up another question and Tanya shook her head, sighing a little; Nosedive could be such a duckling sometimes, asking question after question after question. . .

"We'll use the antibacterial wash on his scabs and clean off the rest of his body with baby shampoo," Tanya continued to explain when Nosedive opened his beak to ask a question. "The wash will seep through the scabs and the shampoo will clean away the dirt and grime without irritating his skin and feathers."

"Then the injections?" Nosedive prompted.

"Then the injections," Tanya nodded and Nosedive relaxed some more.

"I'm just glad that you have a plan," he admitted, watching Tanya apply the cloth yet again.

"Me too," she agreed, voice soft. "Me too."

The two fell into silence as Tanya worked and Nosedive took back to comforting the unconscious boy, stroking the boy's hair. Even if the boy couldn't feel the constant motion, Nosedive couldn't just stand there and watch him suffer alone. Maybe the boy would somehow know, subconsciously, that he was safe.

Finally, Tanya broke the silence, "Nosedive?"

"Hmm?" Nosedive didn't look up from the boy.

"I'm ready to cut the front of his shirt off now. You might want to look away." Tanya stated gently. "Even his front is in pretty bad shape."

Nosedive's hand paused in its rhythmic motion for about a minute, but then it started up again. "No."

Tanya blinked. "But-"

"I said no," Nosedive replied evenly, shaking his head with a sigh before looking up with a determined expression on his face. "I want to be here for him. H-He's a kid, not a corpse. 'Wing said he needs love."

Tanya smiled softly. "As long as you're sure."

"I-I'm sure," Nosedive stated, then added quickly. "H-Hurry before I-I change my mind."

She nodded in understanding and took up the scissors. Starting at the collar, she cut down the filthy cloth all the way past the boy's waist. Then she cut into the sleeves of the shirt, freeing the child from the last of the bond the cloth held on him. Now only the dried blood and scabs prevented her from removing it.

Tanya placed down the scissors, glancing to Nosedive. "I'm going to remove his shirt now. Brace yourself."

He nodded quietly, squeezing the child's hand a little tighter. Wildwing was right--the boy needed someone to care for him. Nosedive knew what it was like--what it was like to be alone and separated from everyone that ever cared about you. But he and his brother had been reunited; the boy no longer had a family. He felt as if he owed it to the child to replace a small part of the family he had lost. And how could he help the child if didn't know what the child was up against?

His thoughts drifted away as Tanya began to remove the cloth, gently peeling it off the boy's body. Nosedive caught sight of the first of many scars and paled, finding the sudden urge to run away and hide.

"You just got to believe and not give up."

Wildwing's words came to Nosedive and he forced himself to stay, reminded by them of what he had to do. If he ran away now, he would be giving up the chance of ever being able to help the boy. In order to prove himself to Wildwing, and to himself, Nosedive knew he had to stay. He forced himself to take deep breaths, letting Wildwing's words ring through his head until they were deafening. After all, Nosedive told himself, the child's wounds would heal, but they would never go away. They would remain with him forever--just like Nosedive's own.

"I-I'm going to stay with you," he whispered to the child, bringing up his other hand so he could grip the boy's hand with both of his. "I-I'm not . . not going to leave you a-alone. Y-You won't be alone a-anymore..."

With each new injury revealed, another struggle began. More and more, Nosedive found himself wishing his brother was with him. At the same time, however, he knew that he had to do this by himself. Wildwing wouldn't always be there for him, and, eventually, he would have to be strong on his own. So Nosedive kept on fighting and kept on overcoming his rising fear. He could do this, he promised himself again and again.

Nosedive was surprised when Tanya grabbed the antibacterial wash, pouring some onto a cotton ball. She was done removing the front of his shirt already? He had been fighting against his fear too intensely to notice--he had only noticed each scar at a time, not the whole.

Tanya applied the cotton ball to one of the scabs and, thankfully, the child did not react. He must have really hit his head hard if he wasn't feeling any pain. It was probably better that way.

When Tanya got down to the front of the boy's waist, which she had kept covered, she turned to Nosedive with a concerned frown, "Nosedive, look away."

Nosedive immediately protested, "But-"

"-Now." Tanya ordered. "The boy deserves some privacy."

Nosedive sighed and did as he was told. Why would she . . . ? His eyes went wide and he froze, but he didn't look back.

"H-He was . . . ?" he couldn't finish; the suggestion alone was too horrible.

"Yes, he was," Tanya replied softly, continuing with her work, only stopping long enough to glance sadly at Nosedive's back.

"Stars . . . " Nosedive shuddered; the child was lucky to be alive.

But would he still have the will to survive, now that he was free?

"Stay with us, Nosedive," Tanya leaned over and gently nuzzled Nosedive's cheek, whispering to him. "The child needs you here."

"R-Right," Nosedive shuddered, coming back to himself, shaking softly.

He closed his eyes, letting the feel of the child's hand remind him of what his duty was. Nosedive had to help the child--he couldn't run away.

Tanya smiled softly, covering up the child's waist so Nosedive wouldn't see it when she was finished cleaning the area, "Nosedive? Do you want to help me wash his front now?"

"I-I . . . " Nosedive's mind went blank.

"If you are going to be his older brother, you'll have to know how to clean him without hurting him," she pointed out.

Nosedive didn't reply and she sighed sadly, pulling him into another hug. Sometimes her mothering instincts got the better of her. However, she knew that Nosedive really needed Wildwing and not her. But his absence couldn't have been avoided, so she would have to make due. She turned Nosedive in her arms so that he was looking at her.

"Nosedive, you can help him. You can make him better." Tanya stated firmly, her eyes locked with Nosedive's. "But it's your choice on what you do. Fight or flee."

Flee? Nosedive blinked at the word. He still had the choice, he realized. But Wildwing never ran away from taking care of Nosedive, no matter how bad the teenager's nightmares had been. Without Wildwing, how could he have survived?

-I wouldn't have. I would have died a long time ago.-

Nosedive broke his eye contact with Tanya and looked to the child's broken body. Would he be able to survive without Nosedive's help? After all that had happened to him? Would he ever laugh again? Tanya was giving him the chance to still back out, even if the child died as a result . . . He probably would. And Nosedive knew he couldn't let the child die.

Suddenly, Nosedive's mind was made up.

He smiled weakly, turning back to regard Tanya, "Tell me what to do."

Tanya got out a new cloth and soaked it in another small pot of water, placing a little shampoo into it and lathering it into the cloth. "Rub this gently over his chest, avoiding his scars. Be careful--his skin is very sensitive right now."

Nosedive nodded in thanks after Tanya handed him the rag, and he gently began cleaning the boy's chest. As he cleaned the dirt and blood away, Nosedive saw the child take on a healthier look. More like a normal child. But the scars remained, and Nosedive found himself wishing he could clean them away too. If only a beautiful coat of down-feathers would suddenly sprout and take all the horrible malnourished feathers away. . . The child should be a healthy light yellowish color, not the weak pink of his skin. Tanya placed a hand on Nosedive's shoulder and he stopped long enough to flash her a brief smile.

He finished cleaning the boy's chest when Wildwing and the others arrived.

Wildwing smiled to Nosedive and Tanya, who looked up to him, "How is it going?"

"We're about ready to start on his back, since I cleaned his arms and legs in the Migrator. Then, we'll bandage his wounds." Tanya explained. "He's a little more scarred than we first thought, but he should pull through."

"He will pull through," Nosedive corrected and she smiled softly to him.

Klegghorn wandered over to the child and let out an oath, "Good God! What happened to him?!"

"The Saurians happened," Wildwing replied gravely, setting down the toys on a free chair.

"And his back is twice as bad, if not more so," Tanya added, and Nosedive squirmed nervously, looking to Wildwing with pleading eyes.

Without hesitation, Wildwing walked over and put a hand on Nosedive's shoulder, glancing to the boy on the bio-bed in front of them. He winced softly at the sight. If his back was even worse than his front, Nosedive had good reason to want comfort.

"Right here, baby bro'," Wildwing whispered, smiling softly when he felt Nosedive's muscles relax under his grip. "I'll stay with you."

Nosedive leaned back gratefully into Wildwing's chest, letting out a sigh of relief.

"I've never seen wounds like this!" Klegghorn shook his head in disbelief. "For Christ's sake, he's only a child . . . "

"Which is why it's so important for us to take care of him," Nosedive stated, looking up to Wildwing with a smile.

Wildwing smiled back, nuzzling his brother softly, "Exactly."

Duke watched the entire scene from a distance. He still wasn't sure what to think of the child, and the horrible scars on his front certainly didn't help. And his back was supposed to be even worse? Unlike Nosedive and Wildwing, Duke didn't have anyone close enough to him to help him deal with his scars and what had happened in the camps. The child was also a lone, an orphan like the rest of them. Maybe . . . .

He silently walked over to the others and reached out a shaking hand to stroke the duckling's hair. Marvelling at how soft the boy's hair was, despite the fact it hadn't been properly washed in months, Duke didn't notice the others turning their gazes towards him. A few minutes later, he finally did notice and blushed, looking away as he let his hand drop to his side.

"I don't think he'll mind," Nosedive's quiet voice broke the awkward silence and Duke looked to him in surprise. "I was doing it for a while, myself."

Duke chuckled softly and lifted his hand back up to the child's hair, "If you insist."

"I need to roll him onto his uninjured side so I can clean his back." Tanya told the others. "Sorry, Nosedive, but I'll have to do the cleaning by myself."

"Why can't I help?" Nosedive asked, confused and a little bit hurt.

"His back's bad enough that I can't trust anyone without complete training to help me. And I'm afraid that none of you have certification in the care of ducklings, especially in this sense." Tanya explained and Nosedive sighed, giving in.

Tanya gently turned the duckling onto his side, then began the work from the very beginning, treating the wounds even more carefully than before. Nosedive watched, remaining in his spot against Wildwing throughout the entire process of Tanya wetting the cloth cemented against the boy's back in his own blood. When she began removing it, there were oaths and curses abound at the sight of the first scar. The struggle within began once more for Nosedive.

Wildwing wrapped his arms tightly around Nosedive half-way through and Nosedive pressed into his brother, forcing himself to keep his vigil at the boy's side by will alone. No words were spoken between the two brothers, nor their companions and the child. Wildwing understood that his brother was trying to be strong, also understanding that one could not always be strong alone.

Dried blood clung to the boy's thin feathers and two enlarged scars stood out from the others ones that covered his back. Tanya sighed, making sure that the towel she had placed over the child's lap remained draped over his hip. Bending over to block the others' views, she removed the last of his shirt and cleaned off the back area the towel had covered, holding in her tears. She thought of what had happened to the boy, faced with the end result, and nearly broke. Only the presence of the others kept her sobs within her. It would only worry them and make Nosedive afraid.

After she was done with that, she began the process of applying the antibacterial wash to the scabs, both old and all too recent, and gently cleaning the rest of his back with a new rag. She injected the synthetic antibodies into the two most infected scars before looking up to the others. Then, she dried both the boy's front and back gently with a cotton towel.

Relief was obvious on Tanya's face as she whispered, "I'll need the bandages now."

Duke offered them to her and she smiled her thanks, then gently rolled the boy onto his back once more, holding him up so that his scars didn't touch the sheets. Nosedive gave the child's hand a gentle squeeze and looked up to Wildwing, the two sharing weak smiles. Klegghorn visibly relaxed as well.

"Duke, hold him by his shoulders. Wildwing, support his head." Tanya ordered quietly and the two ducks did as told, although Wildwing hesitated for a moment to leave his brother's side.

Nosedive watched Tanya slowly bandage the child with utmost care and he smiled. Tanya would make sure that everything would turn out okay. They needn't worry about the child's physical recovery.

Duke gently laid the boy onto his side as the bandaging was finished and let out a sigh. Now all the boy had to do was wake up. Then, they'd continue from there.

"Klegghorn?" Tanya turned to the police captain. "The boy needs clothes and well, uh, because of the press that's most likely blocked the front entrance, we can't exactly go outside without being ambushed, even if we do, uh, managed to get past them. You're less likely to be ambushed because you're a police officer and they wouldn't want to be arrested . . . If I gave you the boy's measurements and some money, could you get him something to wear? Preferably soft clothes that wouldn't catch on bandages."

He blinked, then nodded, "Of course."

She wrote the information down on a nearby notepad and ripped off the top sheet, handing it to Klegghorn. Then, she fished into the hip-pack she still wore from the publicity stunt, pulling out a couple hundred dollars. Tanya handed that to him as well.

Klegghorn pocketed both the piece of paper and the money before turning to glance at the duckling, his eyes softening, "I probably should go before there's even more of a crowd."

"I'll lead you out," Duke offered, walking up to the man.

He nodded his thanks and looked to Tanya one last time, "I'd like to be updated on the child's condition if there's any change."

Tanya smiled softly, "Of course."

Duke then lead Klegghorn out and Tanya sighed softly, letting her smile fall as she looked to the others, "Now what do we do?"

"Whatever we can," Nosedive stated, smiling weakly. "And help him get better, right?"

Wildwing chuckled softly, "First, however, we need to hold a meeting about the duckling. So everyone knows about him and we can figure out how to shift the watches."

Opening his comm, Wildwing broadcasted among all the comms,sure that the others were up by now, "Everyone, please meet me in front of the Infirmary in fifteen minutes. We have an, uh, new situation."

*End of Chapter Three*

Author's End-Note: No alarm clocks were harmed in the making of this chapter. The alarm clock used was, in fact, a stunt double. Okay, so that was a little silly. But, then again, don't you expect that from me by now? =P

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