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As the days passed, the hospital grew progressively quieter. Soldiers trickled out of the tent flaps like muddy water down the side of a cliff—the generals not giving them any more reprieve than was absolutely necessary. They left with wounds still open, and hasty treatment instructions intended to prevent the spread of infection. A select few would have the good sense to return in the evenings for fresh bandages, but the majority would relish the ugly scars that marked improperly tended skin, treating even the most easily fixed blemishes like well-earned trophies of their victories.

Marinette did her best to tend to all of the soldiers equally—taking on both her allotted area, and approximately 30% of Chloé’s patients—but her thoughts continued to drift back to Private Agreste.

She no longer found him to be quite as puzzling as she had been before. She recalled his initially angelic appearance, nearly overshadowed by a deep sadness, and though of how beguiling he had seemed. At first, she had seen him as a challenge—a dark web of mystery that she needed to pick apart, in order to find the person underneath—but with the correlating buckshot wounds found on 50318, the mystery had been all but solved. Now all that was left was the delicate matter of breaching the question.

Marinette decided to do the responsible thing, and avoid Adrien at all costs. She went so far as attempting to send Chloé to change his bandages, but when she mentioned the routine for the abdominal wound, Chloé recoiled in disgust and silenced the idea with a dismissive wave. Sabrina was nice enough to assist the first night, diligently following Marinette’s routine down to the letter, and working with a mousy silence that kept her lips pressed shut even in answer, but by the second night it was clear that she had already run herself ragged handling not only her, but Chloé’s patients as well. Marinette didn’t have the heart to ask her for another favor.

Alya, smart cookie that she was, had taken note of Marinette’s avoidance of what ought to be her favorite patient, and had taken to avoiding Marinette herself.

“Hey Alya—“

“Nope.”

“Can I ask a little favo—“

“Not right now.”

“It will only take a sec—“

“I said I’m busy, Marinette! Go talk to him yourself!”

Alya had her friend’s best interests in mind, of course, but she couldn’t have known of Marinette’s ulterior troubles. Finally, Marinette mustered up her courage, gathered her supplies, and approached him herself.

“Oh, hello!” he said, startled. Adrien had been somewhat preoccupied with his own recovery, and had not observed the lack of attention he’d been shown as compared to the other soldiers. He’d taken note of the redheaded nurse the other night, and the way her silent diligence did nothing to dull the pain of the iodine, but he was a newcomer to the hospital scene, and was oblivious to the change in Marinette’s demeanor.

“Hello,” she responded, avoiding his gaze. This, he noticed.

           She set her supplies on the same table as before, and unwrapped his bandage in silence. The arm was healing nicely. The tiny cavity where the bullet had slept was scabbing over without any of the signs of infection. There was no fluid, no redness, his lymph nodes looked fine, and his temperature seemed perfectly normal—Oh, she was doing it again, wasn’t she? She emerged from her automated stupor to find her the back of her wrist pressed to Adrien’s forehead, face only inches from his. Yes, his temperature was perfectly fine, but his cheeks were very obviously discolored.            

“Sorry…” she mumbled almost inaudibly, as the crimson blush passed from patient to nurse.

She put in the extra effort to move her supplies from the table to the bed, and clumsily slid her chair over to the side of his body where the wound resided. She wasn’t interested in another misadventure in proximity. She didn’t even have the forethought to preface the iodine with a simple warning, and he yelped as the liquid dripped outside of its intended area and made its way into the raw center of the wound.

“Sorry, sorry,” she muttered again. She did her best to remove the excess, and continued the procedure with only minimally more attention than before. She was rushing, and he could tell. “Talk to me,” had been her signature phrase upon first meeting, but tonight she’d barely spoken more than a word at a time—and none of them had been directed towards conversation.

Still, he held his tongue while she worked, anxiously hoping she would explain herself without prompting. But when, after the last coat of tannic acid had been applied, she’d yet to give any explanation to her actions, he decided to bring up the matter himself. She stood up quickly and prepared to leave, but he caught her by the wrist.

“Wait.” He didn’t even need to say it. She stopped in her tracks and turned to face him.

“Yes?” she asked with a false smile.

“Something’s bothering you.”

“You must be mistaken, sir. I’m perfectly fine,” she stated, without hesitation.

He wasn’t sure how to respond to this. He dropped her wrist and let her leave, still puzzled by her obvious lies. At this point, though, he had no one to discuss the situation with. Nino had been checked out yesterday, as, he suspected, he himself would have been, had the cast-iron wound not have been discovered. He lay back in his cot and took to examining the patchwork ceiling, his brow knit with unease. He did his best to focus his thoughts on rough needlework of the tent while his concerns about the young nurse flitted in and out of his consciousness. It wasn’t an ideal way to pass the time, but at least this way his other worries remained buried one layer deeper in his subconscious, where they were less likely to surface.



--



At this point, Marinette didn’t even understand why she was acting this way. This was a warzone, for goodness sake. She’d met men and boys who had been through every level of hell, and she’d listened patiently to their stories. She’d already unraveled one level of the soldier’s sadness. She’d already caused him pain. She’d already watched his face fall as he spoke of his father’s betrayal. She’d already poured stinging liquid on his open wounds. She’d already seen his heart break before her very eyes. Why did this feel so much worse?

She knew why, though. It was because this wound… this wound was far fresher, and far more terrifying than any of the others. This was a wound that would leave him tossing and turning in his bed for years to come This was a wound that would haunt him on the battlefield—leave him petrified of an encore he would most assuredly receive. This was a wound he would carry with him into every encounter he faced, hostile or otherwise. This was a wound he was far too young to have. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t at all fair.

But she knew one other thing. She knew this wound needed to be examined, and—if possible—treated, before it scarred.

In the darkness of the corner room, she abandoned both her supplies, and her professional demeanor, before returning to his cot. Silently, she resumed her seat on the stool, and sat looking at him—grasping for a way to begin the conversation. It took him little more than a second to notice her presence, but when he did, he flinched. She could see fear overtake his entire body for a split second, and then it was gone. He relaxed out of it, and sat up to face her—asking, nearly pleading her to pretend she hadn’t seen that.

“Is there a problem, ma’am?”

She breathed, the question still forming on her tongue. When her lungs had filled to capacity, it slipped out on the exhale:

“50319. What was his name?”



Adrien stared at her in stunned silence. How could she have known? What had tipped her off? Had Nino said something? Was she secretly a telepath? Had she read his mind, and unearthed the memories he had been trying so desperately to burry since the moment he’d received them?

In truth, Marinette had pieced together the situation herself. The matching buckshot wounds, the sadness she had seen, and the way he seemed so desperate to avoid the present. The numbering system for their regiment had been the final clue. “Five,” he was a member of the fifth division, on the right flank. “Zero, three” he had been in the third row on the offensive. “Eighteen, nineteen, twenty.” Private Nino had been the eighteenth man from the left. Adrien had been the twentieth. Who, then, had been the nineteenth?



“His name was Nathanaël,” he said quietly.

“I’m so sorry…” she nearly whispered, letting the tension she’d been holding onto for the past two days burst like a pocket of air breaching the surface of the water, “I never knew him.”

“Really?” he chuckled shyly. It was a nervous laugh, designed to make light of the situation, “He knew you.”

She stared at him, not sure where to take the conversation.

“He…” he began, “He was an artist.”

Tears began to well up in his eyes. He bit his lip in an attempt to steady himself, but it was obvious it wasn’t working. She didn’t know what to do. She didn’t know how to comfort him, so she let him speak.

“He used to sit outside of the hospital tent every chance he got. He had sketches of almost everything in the camp—all hung up in his tent or tucked under his bed—but I could tell… I knew he liked sketching you the best. I think… I think he was in love with you.”

This was too much. Marinette had known his answer would be heartbreaking—she had known whoever it was had been someone he knew, possibly quite well—but she had no way of predicting that she, herself, would have been involved.

“I think he was in love with you.” How could she have known? How could she not have known? Why did these things always surface when it was too late? A solider, an artist, a young man… had been in love with her, and now he was dead.

She’d never hear it from his lips. There was nothing she could do to change the situation. Would it even have mattered? If she had known his of feelings, would she have reciprocated? Or would she have brushed him off the way she did the grabbing, sex-starved old men who haunted the hospital tents with fictitious ailments? There was a cold emptiness in her chest, as though her heart had filled with black bile. It was choking. She didn’t know what to say. She had no encouraging words to offer him, no false comfort to ease his mind. She couldn’t reassure him with talk of an afterlife, or promise him that at least his friend was free of pain and far removed from this hell. Here, there is no way to honor the dead without damning the living. She froze.

“A-are you alright?” he blurted out, snapping her out of her stupor.

“I—“ What could she even say?

“I’m sorry…” he offered. This was wrong. He shouldn’t be apologizing for this. She was supposed to be the nurse. She was supposed to be able to heal him.

“No,” she finally sputtered, “You can’t be sorry about this. It… It wasn’t your fault.”

“But… I upset you.”

“No,” she repeated, “This isn’t about me. I’m so sorry. I wanted to help you… but I don’t know how.”

He took her hand in his, and looked her straight in the eye.

“I remembered him.”

He absentmindedly rubbed his thumb up and down the back of her hand as he spoke. “I said his name. I pictured the way he looked when he drew.” He looked down at her hand. “I haven’t been able to do that. I just kept thinking about…”

He stopped. Marinette squeezed his hand tightly in hers. “How did he look when he drew?”

“He…” he sniffed, “He looked so peaceful. He was always lost in thought when he was creating. Not like he was on the battlefield… He was so scared—“

“What tools did he use?”

“His—his pencil. He had a set, I think, but he’d pick one and use it down to nothing. He was carrying it in his pocket when—“ He choked.

“Did he keep all of his drawings?”

“No… He was always throwing them away or burning them in the fire. He never thought they were good enough… but the ones he liked he hung up—“ He choked again.

“In his tent, and under his bed,” she recalled, squeezing his hand even tighter.

“What will we do with them now?” he sobbed, finally breaking down. “What if they won’t send them back to his family? What if his family won’t keep them?” He leaned forward suddenly. His chest collapsed and his shoulders shook. Wet, hot tears streamed down his face and marred his features. When he’d spoken of his father, his eyes had been dry. He hadn’t shed a single tear in the face of his injuries. But now he wept. The final layer of melancholy had been exposed, and the floodgates had opened. She held him close, and let it pour out of him.

After what seemed like an eternity, his shakes subsided, and the waterworks stopped. He sniffed, and dried his eyes. She could feel an apology in the air, but she wasn’t about to allow it.

“It’s alright,” she soothed, “You’re alright.”

“Thank you,” he said instead, pulling away from the embrace. He wiped his eyes again and indicated that it was time to sleep. She took the hint and stood up once more, this time expecting to be stopped. She was right.

“Before you go….” he added, eyes downcast, “He had a stool he liked to sit on—out the door, 1100, and about twenty paces. It’s probably still there.” His eyes flicked up to meet hers. “Someone should probably bring it inside before it rains.”

She nodded in promise, despite the fact that she knew no rain would come. She exited the tent to find the little stool exactly where he had said. It was a three-legged, wooden, dwarf of a thing, but it had a sort of rustic charm. It was much shorter than the hospital’s seats—clearly from another part of the camp—but she was sure she could find a use for it. She picked it up, and didn’t stop until she was well within the safety of the nurse’s private tent. She placed the tiny thing at the end of her bed, and set on it a simple flower vase fashioned from a bottle of medicine. In the vase, she placed a single pencil. It wasn’t much of a memorial, but it was something. It was more than so many soldiers would ever receive, but so much less than he deserved.

That night, Marinette dreamed of bright, auburn hair, and a shy smile she had never noticed before.
Without Anesthesia Ch 3 - Graphite Confessions
TW: Discussion of death, injury, and other wartime discomforts. 

I'm so sorry. 

I started writing this scene, and just didn't stop. 
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“Let me have a look at it,” Marinette said, leaning across his body to get a better view of the ugly, garish wound that spread itself across his lower abdomen like a wilting Hellebore.
“W-what are you doing?” he asked, stiffening. It had been months since he had physical contact this intimate, and lifetimes since he’d been in such an innocently compromising position.
“Hmm?” she asked, pretending not to hear the question as she gently probed the wound. It had an interesting quality to it—not quite wet, and not quite dry—although she was relieved to find it blanched quickly and normally. She suspected the presence of the cut may have created a full thickness burn, while the surrounding area suffered only superficially. “I’m assessing the severity of your injury,” she answered, as though from a textbook.  She straightened up and continued: “From what I can see, some parts of the wound are going to be healing faster than others. The bruising should clear up within a few days at most, and the outer layer of the burn should be gone by the end of the month. I’m not sure about the innermost ring, though…” she frowned, “We’ll need to see how it responds to treatment to determine whether or not you’ll need grafting.”
“O-oh…” he responded, utterly embarrassed that he had dared to consider the act one of intimacy. The response had been more than thorough, but she had not answered the question he had asked. Maybe she hadn’t understood his meaning.
“Sit tight,” she said with a smile that seemed too bright to accurately fit the situation.
She retreated into the secondary room in the far left corner of the tent, carrying her medical tray of tools to sanitize. To call this room by any name would seem inaccurate, for, despite being hardly a room at all, it served an array of functions. To the doctors, it was the operating room, where the major surgeries took place. To the nurses, it was a respite, away from the groping, grasping, pleading arms of the sick and injured. To all the staff, though, it was a storage room for every odd and end the hospital kept in its stock. It was here, Marinette took her first deep breath, as she carefully set the tray down on one of the makeshift counters that lined the side nearest to the cots.
“Flustered is a good look for you, Mari,” came a voice from behind. Marinette jumped, slamming down the tray with full force.
“Alya!” she began, in an attempt to reprimand her friend’s intrusion.
“Cool down, will you? You’re looking a little flushed,” Alya laughed, “or is that just a blush I see?”
“Shhh!” Marinette hissed, somehow implying there was anyone nearby who would be even remotely interested in what the two nurses had to say.
Alya raised an eyebrow, but she played along. “So, who’s the dreamboat?” she asked, a sly smile on her face.
“Ahhhh, uhhh….” Marinette stuttered, “Well, he had an arm injury and Chloe didn’t treat it properly, so after I finished remove—“
“No, dummy, I mean what’s his name?”
“His….”
Alya’s arched brow rose higher and higher as her lips pursed and her arms crossed.
“I mean….”
She sank into her hip and narrowed her eyes. ‘Typical Marinette.’
“You didn’t ask his name, did you?” Alya asked, finally.
“It… It wasn’t relevant!” Marinette responded defensively.
“Relevant to his injuries, or your love life?” she quipped.
“To his injuries, of course!” Marinette proclaimed, “I am a professional, after all.”
“Sure you are,” Alya laughed, relaxing out of her judgmental pose.
“I am, really!” She cried, turning her attention to her tray and picking up the thing with the tweezers once more. “See? Chloe bandaged his arm with this still inside. I got it out without issue.”
Alya examined the thing closely, squinting at it from behind her spectacles. “Another buckshot round. I pulled two of those out of a soldier’s leg about an hour ago.”
“Just two?” Marinette asked, puzzled.
“Well, yeah,” Alya responded. ‘Had she been unclear?’ “Is there a problem with that? It’s one more than you’ve got….”
“I mean…” Marinette began, “I didn’t have a chance to look at it when I first removed it. I didn’t realize what it was….”
“And…?”
“And, I mean… There’s only one… One and two…”
“One and two. I can count….”
“It’s… buckshot.”
“Yes, buck—Oh.”
Alya realized it too.
“If it’s buckshot… then where’s the rest?”

They stood in silence for a minute, exploring their options from best to worst. Buckshot is a volatile creation—a round filled with tiny pellets that spew through the air like black pepper. ‘Bam! Bam!’ and the marks it leaves behind are small and stinging, if not deadly. A direct spray is enough to leave any target riddled with holes.
“Which solider was it you treated?” Marinette asked, finally.
“Row 5, cot 12,” Alya replied. “I believe his name was—“

“Nino!”
“Hey, Knucklehead. Fancy meeting you here!” Nino laughed.
“What are the odds, right?” Seeing his best friend snapped him out of his daze in an instant. Somehow, despite there being nearly a hundred soldiers in the tent, their cots had wound up being back to back.
“What are the odds you’d end up with such a cookie?” Nino smirked, referencing both Marinette and Chloe.
“You… Oh, how long have you been watching?” he groaned. He was in for it now. Nino had to be the best wingman in the regiment, and that wasn’t just because he had dreams of joining the air force. Nino liked to brag that he could hook a couple up in 10 minutes or less—provided the band could play it hot. Nightclubs were his playground, and pretty girls were his favorite type of doll.
“Long enough, my friend,” Nino started in, “Now, you just need to tell me which one of them you liked better—“
“Please don’t say anything to her,” he pleaded, cutting Nino off before he could hatch his grand plan.
“What? Are you nuts? Neither one of them?“
“Please.”
“Fine.” Nino pouted, mad that his services weren’t currently required. He turned back around in his bed, and crossed his arms in a huff—checking in ever few seconds to make sure his displacement was being noted.

Marinette returned with a handful of antibacterial solutions and salves. She placed them back on the folding table she’d left at the head of the cot, and sat back down on her little stool. When she finally turned to face him, she found him oddly flushed.
She tried to question it, but her mouth wouldn’t form words, so she set her lips and got to work, dipping a piece of cotton in iodine and leaning all the way across to the far side of his torso to dab at the outskirts of the wound.
A sharp hiss escaped his lips as the liquid hit his skin. She’d been careful to stay away from the center of the affected area, which was still very raw, but it seems she hadn’t been careful enough. The iodine solution was alcohol based, and as such stung like a thousand burning needles to the skin. He was in pain once again.
“Talk to me,” she commanded, but she had nothing to say.
He stuttered, grasping for topics of conversation—his mind clouded with discomfort. Finally, he managed to spit out, “W-why are you leaning so close?”
It took her a second to register what he was asking. It was barely a question at all, much less one that made sense.
“Well, so I can see better, of course,” she replied, finally.
“No… I meant… I meant ‘Why…’ ‘Wouldn’t it be easier if you sat on the other side?’ So that you don’t have to lean across my legs, I mean….” He was blushing harder now.
“Oh.”  she said, dabbing on the last of the iodine. She sat up and turned away from him, realizing how odd her positioning must have seemed. She’d been working with soldiers of all shapes and sizes, with wounds of all sorts, in all manners of undress for month. Proximity had never been her concern before, and it had only grown less so as her time in the army went on. She supposed the real answer was that she simply hadn’t noticed how intimate a position she had chosen.
“My supplies are on this side,” she shrugged, forcing the color in her cheeks to return to normal before she turned back to him. “It’s easier than moving them.”
She picked up the Sulfanilamide powder and sprinkled an even coat over the central portion of the Hellebore—forcing herself to resume her favored lean, as though she hadn’t just come to the realization of it’s awkwardness.
“Are you done?” he asked, peering down at her through one eye. He was incredibly tense. His hands grasped at the blankets of the cot, balling into fists and holding on so tightly his knuckles were turning white. On his face he wore what appeared to be a prolonged wince, which he was only barely able to force himself out of in order to glance down at her to ask his question.
“Almost,” she apologized, “Just one last thing.”
As quickly as she could, she applied a generous coat of tannic acid to the entire area, wiped her hands on her apron, and stood up.
“Wait!” he cried, attempting to follow. Then, realizing the volume of his outburst he sat back down and nearly whispered, “Don’t I need a bandage?”
“With that much iodine?” she laughed, and then realized he almost assuredly had no idea, “No, you don’t need a bandage,” she concluded. “Now let me just check another chart, and I’ll be back to pick up my supplies in a second.”
Marinette walked around to the cot at the back of his. Row 5, Cot 12, just as Alya had said. She picked up the chart and looked it over.
“And your name is…?” she began.
“The name’s Nino, but you can call me whatever you like, sugar.”
“Nino!” he hissed from the cot across.
“I’m kidding, I’m kidding,” Nino chuckled, respecting his best friend’s plea for non-intervention.
Marinette scanned the chart. Name, age, tent assignment, division—not to mention a quick report of his injuries, scrawled in Alya’s impatient hand—there it was. His number: 50318.
She set the chart down and considered what she’d heard of the battle that day—The formation, the location, the plan of attack. As she mulled this over, she walked back around to the other cot and gathered her supplies. Both soldiers were still watching her, but she faked aloofness as she picked up the second chart to edit. She scanned it quickly and found what she was looking for: Number 50320, Adrien Agreste.
Without Anesthesia - A Parish of Hellebores

I'm sorry it took so long to get this chapter out! I thought I had a good stopping place right in the middle there, after the line "Where's the rest?" but then I realized I really didn't want anyone to get curious and Google "Buckshot," before I had time to explain it. If you already did, I'm super sorry. It's not pretty and I had to Google it about 4 times while writing this. If you haven't, please don't! It's not fun to look at!

If you're wondering what a Hellebore is, it's this flower here: www.thimblefarms.com/jpg/peren…. You can see how it would resemble a bad burn/wound like this one.

Also, I can't believe I made it through two full chapters without using Adrien's name even once. You all knew it was him, I assume, but it's still a fun victory for me.

I tried to get all of the medical stuff right. Spent a lot of time Googling every little bit. Of course, I'm not a med student, and I never will be, so if I got anything wrong, please let me know!

Lastly, It's really hard to find out about the French Army during WWII in English (I speak no French), so we might get some inaccuracies in regards to the numbering of soldiers + rank and formation. If you happen to know more about this than I do, please send me some info! I hate being inaccurate, but there's not much more I can do....

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The hospital tent was abuzz with both the groans of the freshly wounded, and the chatter of the recovering. The battle had been declared a victory. With minimal casualties, and a great deal of ground won, even those injured in the events of the day felt a certain gaiety towards the outcome, and the nurses tended to them with an exuberant fervor that suggested that there would be no more losses today.
It was across this sea of rambunctious bodies that she spotted him—sitting alone in a cot about three rows away from where she worked, carefully disinfecting a shrapnel wound in a soldier’s bicep. There was something almost angelic about the way he looked—far too perfect to be real—with his golden-blonde hair and peridot-green eyes. It certainly didn’t help that the never-quite-shut tent flaps were perfectly parted to illuminate him with a soft, golden glow. She couldn’t help but let her gaze linger, even as she attended to her patient. Of course, a solider this beautiful wasn’t a common sight.
“Chloe will be on him in seconds,” she thought, almost shaking her head, as she dipped a fresh cotton swab in antiseptic and tried her hardest to focus on the task at hand.
She was correct. Before she could even begin to bandage the wound, Chloe had sprung, nearly climbing into his lap in a confusing combination of flirting and medicinal malpractice. She gushed over him enthusiastically, clearly complimenting him for his bravery or perhaps his looks, before he anxiously extended his forearm for her to treat.
“Oh, is that all?” she seemed to say, shrugging off the injury with a laugh and a flick of the wrist. She was off and back again in seconds, hastily dabbing the wound and wrapping it in gauze. With a hug, and a quick peck on the cheek, she gave him her famous Helen of Troy smile, and bounded off towards the barracks—absolutely impressed with her own stellar healing ability.
Marinette sighed. She finished wrapping her own bandage, bid her patient adieu, and walked to where Chloe has just stood.
“She’s not a very good nurse, but she keeps the soldiers’ spirits up when things get rough, so the hospital keeps her on payroll,” Marinette stated matter-of-factly, as she began unwrapping what was already a sloppy bandaging job. “Or maybe they just can’t fire her because her father’s the general,” she added.
“That’s not very nice,” the solider replied, scowling at what he assumed to be pettiness on the nurse’s part, “She did a fine job—“
“She didn’t remove the bullet.”
He fell silent. In the storm of affection, neither of them had thought to properly examine the wound. Now, with the bandages off once again, it was obvious she was right. The affected area itself was small and thin, but much longer than it was wide—as though the bullet had scampered up his forearm before burying itself in his flesh about a quarter inch below the surface. No, bullet wasn’t the right word. Whatever this was, it was tiny.
As she examined the wound, she took a moment to study him as well. True, he was just as breathtaking up close, even with the golden light that had formerly illuminated him so perfectly little more than a distraction for her left eye, but there was something more to him than what she had glimpsed before. There was a sadness to him. There was a sadness that enveloped his very being. No, that wasn’t quite right. To call it a singular sadness would have been an understatement. This was something more. This was series of maladies of varying degrees of both severity and salience.
There are many reasons for a solider to feel down, even after a victory. The question simply became, “Which was it?”
As she rummaged through her kit, she did her best to start him talking.
“So…” she began, getting right to the heart of the matter, as she had learned to do, “why did you decide to become a solider?”
He was momentarily taken aback by the question.
“You don’t have to answer,” she said, finally finding her needle nose tweezers and sanitizing them, “but it’s best to keep talking.”
“Why?” he asked, just barely shying away from the tarnished beak of the tool.
She pursed her lips slightly. It was usually easier when they didn’t ask.
“Because it helps with the pain,” she said as plainly as she could.
“Don’t you have any anesthesia?” he asked, worry now showing on his face.
“Not for something like this,” she responded, almost begrudgingly. The hospital was always under budget. They had been under budget when she’d arrived, and they would be under budget when the war ended—if the war ended, she reminded herself. True anesthesia was practically a luxury, used only for major surgeries, and the occasional limb removal. The rule of thumb was if the solider could sit still enough to be operated on awake, they would be.
He looked at her almost pleadingly. It was then that she made her first realization about him: He was far too soft for this.
He was young, probably the same age as her, but that wasn’t the half of it. Whether he’d been raised in the lap of luxury, or on a quiet family farm, she didn’t know, but it was obvious that this person had never known discomfort before. She felt sorry for him. A battlefield was no place for a boy.
“I can put a numbing solution around the wound for you,” she conceded, “but keep your eyes on me, and keep talking. Can you do that?”
He nodded, a tiny bit of relief replacing some of the fear in his eyes. She felt bad that she had nothing to offer him, but a placebo was a powerful drug. She dabbed the wound with antiseptic, and set to work finding the bullet.
“So, why did you enlist?” she asked, casually.
“I—“ he hesitated, and then yelped with pain as his mind wandered towards his arm.
“Keep talking,” she insisted.
“I…” A wave of sadness seemed to overtake him. His face fell, and his chest caved inward with remembrance. “I did it for my father.”
“I’m sure he would be proud.”
“No,” he blurted out, “No, that’s not what I meant. My father… my father… I don’t care if he’s proud of me. He never was… It’s just that…”
In the midst of his confession, Marinette had locate the bullet and opened the tweezers in hopes of reaching around it, sending a new jolt of pain through him.
“Focus on your father,” she reminded, trying to steady his already shaking arm.
“R-right.” He was clearly straining, trying to be brave.
“Why don’t you care if he’s proud of you?” she asked, forming the only question she could think of.
“Because… because he’s a traitor.”
He let the question hang in the air, but she urged him to continue.
“He… I was always so proud of my father’s company. He was a clothing designer… Some say the best in Paris. He used to brag that his designs were being worn in every country in Europe and the Americas. I never thought about how much that honor meant to him.”
She almost had it. She’d gotten it with the tweezers, and then lost it on the way out. Luckily, he was still talking—completely unaware of her actions.
“When the war broke out, clothing sales to Germany stopped. Italy too, and then Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Austria. My father couldn’t stand it. I think he was too self-centered to see what he was doing was wrong. I think he was too obsessed to care who he hurt.”
Marinette removed the thing, and placed it on her tray without examining it. She then set her tweezers aside and took out the antiseptic once more.
“He struck up a deal with the Nazis. He’d provide them with hundreds of uniforms for their officers and officials, plus thousands of Francs for guns and tanks, and in exchange he’d be granted exclusive rights to sell in all Axis-occupied territory.
“I didn’t find out about it until some kids at school confronted me. ‘Hey, Agreste, does your daddy dress Hitler himself, or does he pay someone else to do that too?’”
She wrapped the bandage around his arm, not too tightly, but tight enough to stop the trickle of blood that had followed the bullet out.
“I enlisted less than a week later. I know it was naïve—“
That certainly was the word for him….
“But I felt like maybe if I joined up, I could undo just a little bit of what he did. I’m not really fighting for France, or against Hitler even… I guess I’m fighting against my father…”
“Oh,” she finally commented, pinning the bandage in place.
“Yeah…” he laughed embarrassedly, realizing that he’d just been spilling his guts to a total stranger. “But…I guess that’s… I guess that’s why I don’t care if he’s proud of me. Because I’m not proud of him.”
Marinette didn’t know what to say. She’d asked that question a thousand times, and gotten only a smattering of unique responses. Every solider had a tale, certainly, but most were here for glory or adventure, or “to sock old Adolf in the jaw.” She’d never been delivered of such a sob-story before, and quite frankly, she wasn’t sure how to take it. She knew now why he looked so downtrodden, but she could sense there was more to it. Betrayal leaves behind anger. Hurt expresses itself as rage if it’s allowed to fester. What she saw in him was sadness… sadness, and a bleak emptiness that indicated more than a desire for familial revenge.
“How does that feel?” she asked, noting that she had finished bandaging.
He laughed, overcome with the realization that he hadn’t even been aware of half the procedure. A shy smile spread across his face, and her heart couldn’t help but skip a beat.
“Much better,” he replied, perhaps somewhat less than cognizant of the fresh sting the removal had caused.
“I’m glad,” she smiled back sweetly. “Is there anything else you need looked at while I’m here?”
“No—Well,  yes, actually… but it’s not from the battle,” he admitted sheepishly, “Is that okay?”
“Just show me where it is,” she replied. Things were calming down in the tent. He’d probably be her last patient of the night anyways.
Without hesitation, he began unbuttoning his shirt. She tensed up momentarily, a bright blush actually spreading itself across her face, but she forced herself to relax. “Of course the wound’s under his clothes,” she thought, “If it weren’t, I would have seen it already.”
When he finished with the buttons, he made an attempt at getting the shirt off, but stiffened from the pain.
“It’s okay. I can see it,” she stopped him. She certainly had no trouble locating the ugly, purple mass against his otherwise unblemished skin. It didn’t take more than a few seconds to figure out what it was: several inches of dark bruising surrounding what must have been a both a cut, and a second-degree burn—now mildly infected.
“How long has this been here?” she asked.
He replied, “A week… Maybe less…”
She tsked. Soldiers were always doing this. “There’s nothing brave about not getting your injuries looked at,” she would usually remind them, but she held her tongue until she’d heard the story.
“How?”
“I was on kitchen duty and Kubdel was just taking the skillet off. I… I must have run into him, I guess…” he admitted.
“That’s not true.”
“What? How do you know?”
“You’ve got splatter burns extending from the center. If you’d hit him, the grease would have splashed in the opposite direction.”
He was momentarily stunned at what he could only assume to be Sherlockian brilliance.
“That…” she continued, “and Kubdel is infamous for taking off his glasses in the kitchen. You’re not the first. He told you not to tell anyone, didn’t he?”
“He…. I…. It made sense at the time…” he stuttered.
“Of course it did.”  She really didn’t mean to chastise him, but this was all too common of an occurrence. She reminded herself that he was the victim in this situation. He was naïve, and green, and trusting, and she couldn’t blame him for things that weren’t entirely his fault. He had, after all, come clean about it now.
“Let me have a look at it.”
Without Anesthesia - Chapter 1 - Ardent Repose

Summary: 

Marinette Dupain-Cheng works as a field nurse for the French army during World War II, and Adrien Agreste winds up her patient after a battle.

Notes: 

This work contains less than graphic, but still existent descriptions of wounds and their treatment. I tried to cut down on the medical details in order to focus on the story, but I’m a history buff and it just happened. If you’re really squeamish, I’m not sure what to tell you….

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