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RiktheRed21

Young Soldier, Old Wounds

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"So let me get this straight, you jumped off the top of the Temple of the Moon, relying on a glider with a torn wing to slow your fall?" 

"I didn't know it was torn until after I jumped, but yes that is how it went." The young man with the ponytail winced as Sanjay investigated the damage resulting from the younger man's escapade.

"You are lucky you survived. The Kal'dorei take matters of religion very seriously. That Temple is as tall as any castle I've seen."

"It wasn't that bad, really." Sanjay eyed the broken leg skeptically. His educated mind told him to be open-minded, but this case seemed rather open-and-shut.

"Your femur is cracked in five places," the doctor replied, "Your tibia has a solid dent in it, too. Plus your nose from where you most likely faceplanted, that's seven fractures."

"Seven is a lucky number." The boy gave Sanjay a weak smile. Sweat dripped down his forehead in rivers.

"Not today, it isn't. I have a question, though, unless you don't want to receive treatment."

Moors sighed and lie back on the cot, staring up at the bottom of the top bunk. "Ask away. I'm an open book."

"Why did you contact me, and not send a message out to the whole guild?" From what Sanjay had been told about the Empire's guildstones, the default function was to address the entire guild. It took some fiddling in a way Sanjay hadn't bothered to uncover to address only one particular stone. Usually he just kept his on mute.

Moors shrugged. "I've never sent a message to one person before."

"That doesn't answer the question."

"It's late, people are sleeping."

"You don't think they mute their stones before bed?"

"People tend to forget things. Maybe not as much as I do, but still."

The doctor exhaled through his nose and scratched his beard. Though he'd committed to growing it out in Pandaria, the hair was starting to get itchy. He briefly considered shaving it, or at least trimming it down some. "Right. I'm sure that's what went through your head while you writhed about at the steps of the Temple of Elune with bones broken in seven places."

Moors' leg twitched in its fresh splint. Sanjay was more interested in that hair of his. It was yellow like straw, and held back in a ponytail. A slash of white lie along his scalp from above the right eye, as well. That was uncommon in one this boy's age. It reminded Sanjay of some old patients. The kid probably rubbed some warlock the wrong way at some point. "I try to be considerate."

Or you just wanted to avoid the embarrassment of telling the whole guild you jumped off a building. Sanjay had been aware of some event going on tonight. Given the wine stains on the boy's cotton shirt, he figured Moors had attended. He tried not to jump to conclusions about the alcohol's affect on the boy's actions leading up to his injury. "I'll lend you potions for regrowing the bones and to suppress the pain. It'll be a week or two before you're back on your feet. I'll check in daily until you can get back to work." Luckily for you, I'm on vacation for that long. I could use a break from my break.

"Thank you, Doctor. That's really nice of you." He seemed sincere. Sanjay never knew for certain.

"Don't jump off anymore buildings, and I'll consider it even. And get some sleep." He stood up to leave. The elves were giving him odd looks.

"Hey Doc?"

"What is it?"

"You won't tell anyone about this, will you?"

So it is as I thought. "Not a word, kid. Rest easy."

"I got three dates coming up. This won't keep me from any of that, will it?" Sanjay scoffed. That's right, it was about that time of year. Pretty boys like him would be breaking hearts left and right for the next few weeks.

"I hope you weren't planning to take any of them for long walks. Or on that deathtrap of a glider. In fact, stay away from anything goblin-made for a while."

"Alright. You're the Doc, Doc." He lie back and shut his shiny, baby blue eyes. Sanjay took a breath. After so long spent patching men and women condemned to die of fel poisoning or self-inflicted wounds of despair, this felt utterly mundane. It was a strange thought that such normalcy would feel unwelcome. He strode out of the medical ward of the Temple across soft grass that tickled his feet through his sandals. The elves out here watched him too. Sanjay had grown used to it. When the face of your people is a boy who looks eerily similar to Moors Hawthorne, seeing someone with skin and demeanor as dark as Sanjay's would be rather curious.

Maybe I should shave the damn beard.

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Sometimes he stood at their graves. The ones he'd lost. The stones sat there looking up at him questioningly. They still waited to hear his diagnosis. Every one of them stood stock still like a soldier should and watched him with the utmost attention. It was a tremendous weight to see them all look at him.

He stood at each one he could remember, and he had a long memory. When he had had time away from the war, Sanjay found his way to the graveyards eventually. Now the war was over, and there was nothing to do but stand. He counted them back in his head, but couldn't. He wished he'd never learned to count past ten. Or one hundred. Or a thousand.

The graveyard had to be extended to fit them all. New earth was put into place for them to be buried. How ironic was that? Sanjay thought about the earth beind ripped apart a hundred miles away to be toted here, surrounded by walls and sad, grey stone. All that, only to be dug up again and filled with bodies. Filled with dreams and thoughts. Hopes and loves. Husbands, fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, and everything else. He thought about the ones without names.

They sat and watched, too, but silently. The others shouted in his mind. A name to a memory. The nameless were the ones that kept him awake at night. They crept through the crevices of his mind like errant shadows without a source of light. They wandered aimlessly, silently. His overactive mind put faces to their lack of names. He invented names only to discard them, calling himself stupid fir disrespecting them. But he had a long memory. The discarded were not filled by new memories so quickly. And so they built up, one atop the others and so on until the nameless names outnumbered the true names.

He tried to set the weight of their gaze down in his mind. He needed something physical, like a talisman, to embody the weight. So one time he spent a week weaving little leather dolls. He had meant them to look like soldiers, strong and proud. Once he'd placed them on the graves they looked more like children -- huddled, alone, and frightened.

Sanjay thought about his legs sometimes. He'd told himself it didn't matter anymore, that old wound. It was the new wounds that really mattered. With new wounds, you couldn't be certain if you'd recover. If the patient would ever walk or talk or live again. Sanjay's legs had recovered. His back had mended and his spirit reformed from the ashes of the cannon that buried him alive. But he still thought about them. He had even named them. His mother had told him that names made the monsters less scary.

Torque was what he'd named one. He liked giving it a powerful name, something that carried weight. It was his right leg, the one he unconsciously considered his dominant leg. When it had stopped working years ago, it sat limply in a chair and melted away like an old flower blown to dust by a brisk wind. Only, he didn't notice the wind had taken it from him until one day he'd woken up alone. There had been girlfriends -- dozens of them. They came and went, but his memory was long. He recalled them straddling his unmoving waist lovingly, swaying as if to a song. At least that part of him had still worked.

The other leg he'd called Panic. It was the leg that reacted when he needed to react fast. Where Torque carried the weight, Panic pushed him past it. Sanjay remembered pushing past the time when he was alone. He had decided he wouldn't live on without legs. He had decided he wanted to sway to the music he couldn't hear. Dancing was something he'd been good at. He'd wanted to be a dancer once before his father had given him his duty. Sanjay had looked for a cure everywhere cures could be found. A broken spinal cord was tricky business, something no amount of potions, Light, magic water, experimental surgery, or happy thoughts could cure him of. His vast knowledge of medicine and fixing broken things didn't help. He had been convinced it only made matters worse because there was no more room for hope.

But in the end, he'd found his cure. He'd been made whole. And so he was graced with the chance to make others whole too. But making some whole meant burying those whose pieces wouldn't fit back together. That meant names, and the nameless. It meant moving earth to fill it with bodies and wishes. It meant standing and weaving talismans and finding ways to lift the weight. It meant standing before a grave on the outskirts of Lakeshire on a dry evening as the sun fell dead in the west, biting back tears as they escaped at last from their long sentence behind the bars of shame.

They were the only names that could make him cry anymore. It was bizarre what time could do to a man. Time could heal his wounds and change him into something new. But it could also make grief weigh heavier, and guilt burn deeper. The names stared up at him as a talisman of past failure, a weight that couldn't be set down. He stared down at the blurred carvings and the piles upon piles of woven children and felt time's effect on him.

"Hi Dad," he told the children, "Hi Mom. Alex. John. Brom. Hi Saphir. It's me again." He wiped away his bitter tears to do his duty, as Father had always wanted. "I didn't think I'd ever come back, you know. I don't just mean to Redridge. I thought Pandaria was where I was meant to be. I thought home meant making something for myself and never looking back. I didn't think I'd have a reason. As it turns out, I was right. There was nothing to come back to."

He thought it was true. They were all dead. Every last one of them. Broken pieces that couldn't be mended. No sense in dwelling on old wounds. Yet he had come back.

"I'm still patching up soldiers like you would have wanted, Dad. Guess you got your wish, somewhat. I don't win any glory for the family name like you wanted, but at least I'm keeping the army you helped build keep its feet."

Sanjay looked at the dolls seated carefully about the graves and sighed in frustration. "This is stupid. I'm stupid for ever thinking this would help." He bent over to pick a doll up and tossed it off into the distance. He lost sight of it behind a dry, dead bush. "You're all dead. There's no point to it. My words won't comfort you, and your lack of presence won't make me feel any better. I screwed up. I left and didn't look back until you were all gone. Ducking around the truth is pointlessly stupid. You are dead, but there are others that I can keep from the grave with the gifts you gave me. That's legacy. That's what will make me feel better. Don't any of you ever catch me getting weepy around you again, got it?"

None of them answered. Sanjay told himself he was still being stupid, yet there he stood. Sanjay. Sander Redjay. The firstborn son of Alexander II Redjay, a hero of the Alliance. Taken by war before his time, and dying far too old. Beside him was his family, the ones who had stood by him. And standing above him, still breathing and crying was the one who had left.

"I'm not using your name anymore, Dad. It belongs exactly where you put it. My name is Sanjay now. I never got to tell you before you died. It means Conqueror." He about-faced and walked off, his stride long and stiff. Torque and Panic carried him back down the road to town. The old house belonged to him now, so he intended to give it away to someone who needed it. That, or burn it down and light a cigar in the flames. He hadn't decided.

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