Series: Phoenix Wright/Ace Attorney
Characters: Diego Armando/Godot
Summary: Against all odds, Diego recovers from a five-year coma. But as his health improves, the rest of his life falls apart.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Diego could picture it in his head as clearly as a movie.
She was older now, perhaps a little more stately than the occasionally awkward 23-year-old he fell in love with, but she still held the same classic charm and the same bright smile he remembered.
Perhaps she had her own practice now, or was preparing to. Perhaps she met high-powered clients for business lunches and dazzled them with her wit. Perhaps she saved the lives of the innocent accused, helping those in their darkest hours see the light of truth and shining that light on lies and deceit.
In any case, she was exactly the prodigy he thought she’d be—now experienced with years in the profession, still showing the brilliance she displayed in her internship and training, and now one of the city’s most trusted defense attorneys.
But more importantly, she was still the kind, beautiful woman he fell in love with, the one woman who managed to tame the ladies man that was Diego Armando at the end of a long line of many who tried. The only woman he’d ever want to spend his life with.
And he could just imagine what it’d look like when the hospital’s number came up on her phone, when she picked it up and when she lifted it to her ear…
“Now” didn’t happen, unfortunately, and the next few hours swept by like a blurry dream for Diego. Blind and weak and helpless to whatever the doctors and nurses subjected him to, he was mostly quiet as they wheeled him around from room to room; drawing blood here, injecting him there, scanning his nerves, asking him to move this or that, numbing him up and quickly stitching up the hole where his feeding tube had gone.
He’d insisted he was strong enough to move on his own, but one attempt to stand from his wheelchair had ended disastrously as his atrophied leg muscles gave out and he nearly toppled the nurse trying to hold him steady. He couldn’t move right. His limbs wouldn’t cooperate with what he ordered them to do.
“Are you sure it was only five years?” he muttered to the group of strange hands who had to work together to lift him back into his accursed hospital bed. It was well after noon and he was only just starting to feel alive again, every bone and muscle in his body aching like he’d been animated from stone. “I feel like I’m waiting for my 90th birthday with one foot and four toes in the grave with the fifth one on a banana peel.”
“You are frankly lucky you can still move at all, Mr. Armando,” Dr. Goudy told him. “But the good news is that your test results indicate the neurological damage is mostly restricted to your central nervous system.”
“That’s good news?” Diego was feeling around his tray table for the morning’s leftover coffee to tide him over until the nurse brought him a fresh, hot supply. As expected, the hospital coffee tasted like sludge and would be even worse cold, but disgusting coffee was better than no coffee at all.
“It means that aside from your blindness, the rest of your body should be able to recover from the poison,” Goudy explained. “… to a point. Your muscles and bones are severely weak from such a long coma, and they will retain some permanent weakness due to atrophy. However, with hard work and therapy, it is possible you may be able to walk and move as normal… eventually.”
Diego didn’t reply, sipping his cold coffee and suppressing a shudder of disgust.
Goudy cleared his throat. “The bad news is that you suffered from some synaptic damage. We have you on some stabilization medication, which should serve as a bridge between your damaged neurons and prevent any misfires. You will unfortunately have to remain on a constant dose of this to prevent seizures and uncontrollable shaking.”
“Sounds fun,” Diego said with a cynical little grin. “So I’m running on a stronger octane now, eh?” He paused to wave a hand in front of his eyes. “It’s just too bad the windshield’s busted.”
Goudy was only half sure what he was talking about, but it was sure enough.
Before Goudy could say anything else, Diego’s voice quickly turned serious and he stared blankly in the vague direction the doctor’s voice had come from. “Have you called Mia yet?”
Goudy hesitated. “We haven’t gotten a hold of her yet, unfortunately. Nurse Davis informed me that your apartment number now belongs to someone else, however, and we’ve been unable to reach the Grossberg Offices.”
“Sounds like Grossberg,” Diego said with a sigh and a useless roll of the eyes. “Let me know as soon as you reach her, will you? All of this bitterness would be a lot easier to swallow with a little sugar in the blend.”
Diego could picture it in his head as clearly as a movie.
“He’s awake?” she’d say, her voice rising with hope and disbelief.
“He’s awake,” the nurse would confirm. “He’s awake and alive and speaking, and he wants to see you.”
Mia would gasp, she would bring her hand to her mouth, she would lean against the wall for support. She might drop the phone. Perhaps she’d cry. He didn’t want to put the image there if it didn’t belong. She was tough, after all, and she took it to heart when he told her that a lawyer never cries until it’s all over.
And it wasn’t over. It was only beginning. Five years had gone by in what seemed to him the literal blink of an eye, but five years was nothing on the scale of things. Now there was a lifetime left—perhaps a painful one, full of recovery, but a lifetime he could finally wake up and share with her. She had waited for him all this time.
“He wants to see you,” the nurse would say again. “Come by and see him. He’s waiting for you.”
Diego was by no means an easy patient—occasionally, his sarcasm made the hospital staff wish that he would go back to sleep for a while. He insisted on drinking that coffee, and had foiled the doctor’s attempt to secretly switch him to decaf—he could, of course, taste the difference. And perhaps worst of all, much to the doctors’ chagrin, he seemed to actively avoid sleep however he could.
Not that it was easy. Trapped blind in a hospital bed, resting and eventually sleeping seemed the obvious choice of activities. Whether through the coffee he refused to stop drinking or through his own stubborn will, Diego spent a lot of time looking like he was asleep when he was actually lying there with his eyes closed and letting his thoughts consume him.
Five years. Five summers and winters, five Christmases, five changes of the date. Five birthdays—he was 33 years old now. Sixty months. Two hundred and sixty weeks. One thousand, eight hundred and twenty-five days. All that time, laying here just like this, disconnected from everything—even his body.
Where had he been all that time? He would have thought to have had some interesting dreams, at least, that long and that far separated from the conscious world. Voices, visions, thoughts, absolutely anything… But he remembered nothing of those five years, not even the slightest inkling of a dream. Not even a nightmare.
Time seemed distorted to him now. He could lay there for five minutes and feel like it had been hours, or for five hours and think it had been seconds. It still felt like the world around him was itself a dream-- the voices of hospital staff and the beeping of machines, the fuzz of old televisions and the distant music on the radio… of course the blindness was not helping things. For all he knew he was sitting in a room with a record of ambient noises playing in the background.
He had been transferred into a private room, so there was nobody to talk to. Some of the nurses tried, but he was in pain and in no mood to behave his usual charismatic self. Most of them gave up after six or seven snide remarks in their direction. And of course, those kindly nurses who did not give up didn’t spend much time working this wing of the hospital, or never seemed to have the shifts when he actually felt like conversing with someone.
Diego was not sure he appreciated this sudden isolation. He preferred the silence and the solitude, though, to the feeling of doctors and nurses touching him, lifting him up onto chairs and gurneys, strapping things to him, trying to help him dress himself or feed himself or do things he felt he was perfectly capable of handling by himself. Even if his muscles were still weak. Even if he was still clumsy. Even if the medications they were trying to find the correct dosage of left him with a disconnect between where his limbs were and where he thought they were and led to more than a few broken coffee cups and spilled trays.
I’m a baby, he thought. A big, blind, weakling of a baby. An old man.
Dr. Goudy tried to be optimistic, but Diego’s foul mood wasn’t to be swayed. It was the morning of the seventh day since he’d woken up and his only request had yet to be followed through.
“I’m sick of you stringing me along. I don’t want your condolences,” he said sharply, “and I don’t want your empty promises, and I don’t want your predictions.”
He sat up in his bed, tightening his hands around the rails. “I want to speak to my girlfriend.”
Today there was no hasty promise that the call would be made, no excuse that they’d been unable to reach her. Dr. Goudy was simply silent for a moment. Then there was the sound of the door closing and a chair being pulled over beside the bed.
“Mr. Armando,” said Dr. Goudy, under his breath as though he were still afraid of being overheard even with the door closed. “You don’t know how much it pains me to be the one to have to tell you this…” It apparently pained him so much it forced him to pause.
Diego felt like there was a claw clenching and twisting at his guts, and he interrupted quickly.
“She doesn’t want to see me,” he said.
“No. That’s not it,” Dr. Goudy assured him.
“She’s married, then?”
“It’s nothing like that.”
The doctor’s hand suddenly touched Diego’s shoulder and squeezed, very gently. “We called every number we could find for Mia Fey and, well… her family informed us last night. I looked it up to confirm it for you.”
Diego opened his mouth to ask for clarification, but it seemed he didn’t need to. Dr. Goudy was rushed now, as though he was desperate to get the news out of his lips.
“Ms. Mia Fey… passed away two years ago.”
A sensation like an injection of ice rushed through Diego’s veins.
“That’s not possible,” he said after a moment of silence. “You’re wrong.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Armando. But there’s no mistake. Mia Fey passed away September 5, 2016.”
“Check again,” Diego insisted. “You’re wrong.”
“We checked. It was a high profile case, years ago… she was murdered and the man responsible for it was sentenced to life in prison.”
There was a sudden stifled noise, like someone’s breath being choked out of them. It took a moment for Diego to even realize that it was coming from him.
It took another moment before he regained the ability to speak. “That’s not possible!” he said, louder. “It isn’t true! Stop lying to me. I want to speak with her. All I want is to speak with her.”
“I wouldn’t lie about this, Mr. Armando.”
“Call her. Just call her, please. I want to hear her voice. She doesn’t have to come here, I don’t care. I just have to hear her voice.”
“I know this must be a big shock for you, Mr. Armando, and I understand—”
“Just what in the hell do you understand?”
The pulse monitor beeped faster and there was a clatter—the coffee cup in Diego’s hand shattering to pieces on the opposite wall. Dr. Goudy stood up suddenly, squeaking his chair along the floor as he did.
“She can’t be dead!” Diego snapped. His voice rose in his throat, tightening so sharply he wasn’t sure how the words were coming out. “She can’t be. Don’t you dare tell me she’s dead—that’s a lie! She’s waiting for me. She’s spent all this time waiting for me to wake up and now you try to tell me she’s dead? Ha…! What kind of sick joke are you trying to pull?”
Diego laughed mirthlessly. His eyes stared sightlessly across the room, wide and blank with the milky film of his blindness. His voice grew louder and louder until he was very nearly screaming in anger, his body beginning to tremble.
“When is it enough?” he yelled. “What else do you want from me? Goddammit, I have nothing else to lose! How much can one man put up with? Call her, Doc. Please. Please, call her, that’s all I want. I have to speak to her. I have to hear her voice!”
“Mr. Armando…” Dr. Goudy’s voice was pained. “I’m sorry.”
“Stop lying to me! You don’t know Mia! She wouldn’t do this to me. She wouldn’t leave me here like this. She’d be here in an instant, I swear to god. Mia wouldn’t—she wouldn’t leave me here. She’d wait for me. She’d be here waiting…”
His chest heaved. His hands crumpled in twisted handfuls of his hair, his body leaned forward until his face nearly touched his knees.
“She’d be here. She wouldn’t leave me here. She’d be waiting for me.”
His voice broke. His body rocked like he was sobbing—but no tears would come.
It was minutes before Dr. Goudy summoned up the courage to say something. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Armando. I can’t tell you how sorry I am.”
Diego’s voice was hoarse and exhausted. “Get out.”
“I said get out. Get out.”
He hesitated until Diego reached alongside himself and knocked the abandoned breakfast dishes off his tray table. They clattered against the floor and shattered into a hundred pieces. Diego glared furiously into the darkness, his blank eyes looking through the doctor hatefully.
Diego kept on glaring until he heard the doctor’s footsteps and the door closing behind him. The moment the latch clicked, a breathless moan escaped from him and he sank down into the bed, trembling. He did not move for hours.
He couldn’t cry. The tears would not spill.
Diego could picture it in his head as clearly as a movie.
She would come racing into the room, her purse tucked under one arm and her heels under another, her scarf fluttering as she came to a stop. She would let out a few heavy breaths of exhaustion and she would say “Diego,” in that sweet, teary voice she adopted when she was happy.
“Mia,” he would reply. “You’re a sight for sore eyes.”
She would smile at the joke, pitch black comedy or no, because she understood the way his humor worked. She would cross the room and set her things down, then race to him. She would lie across him and wrap her arms around his thin frame, and he would close his weak arms around her and cherish the feeling of her body so close to his. He’d inhale her scent and remember it and be immediately comforted.
Yes, he’d been robbed of so many things—his eyes, his health, five years of his life, the guarantee he’d live to see fifty or even that he’d ever walk again. But with her here, it didn’t matter. She was all he needed to live on.
She was the milk that evened out this bitterness. She would walk with him, carry his burdens, let him carry hers the way they used to in those all-too-short six months that he thought would never end.
The future was so uncertain, but Mia was all he needed to walk fearlessly into it. As long as he had her…
Diego Armando did not speak again for several weeks.
No matter how much the doctors and nurses cajoled him, pestered him, asked him questions or for confirmation on something, he gave no response. He was conscious, but silent, leaning back in his elevated bed and staring silently at the walls or the ceiling. The only thing that convinced the staff he wasn’t catatonic was the fact he would slowly and carefully reach out to grasp the cups of coffee delivered to his tray table. He’d drink them quietly, sometimes sipping, sometimes knocking the whole thing back at once like a shooter, but never saying a word.
The fight seemed to have been drained out of him. Wherever he’d been defiant or at least teasing before, now he seemed resigned to doing whatever they asked of him. He went without arguing to each medical test they ran, each blood draw, each CAT-scan. He cooperated in physical therapy sessions, lifting his arms and legs, squeezing a thick ball of putty or supporting weights with his ankles. He ate his meals quietly and he took his medication when told.
Dr. Goudy didn’t think it was especially surprising. He couldn’t think of a more appropriate reaction for a man who’d just learned the news that Diego Armando had.
And though he had his concerns about his patient’s mental health, there was very little they could do with him when he was insistent on silence. Their attempt at a psychiatric screening three days into his vow of silence hadn’t gotten very far, since he refused to respond to any questions with more than a nod or a shake of his head. Even those only came when he felt like it. He clearly didn’t feel like it much at all.
On the fifteenth day, he accepted a portable radio that one of the night shift doctors offered to him. He put in the earpiece and turned up the volume, switching between a jazz station and occasionally the 24 hour news channel. Music and voices made the time pass by, the hours melt away into what felt like only minutes. If anything, that made it easier for him to ignore the hospital staff, and his responses became even less frequent.
It was long after dark one night when Diego sat in his bed, staring blindly up at the ceiling and flicking between the channels on the radio disinterestedly.
“- can’t afford to miss the thrills this summer at Gatewaterland! You-”
“- take a call from another listener, Regina in Compton, who says that her love life is suffering due to her boyfriend’s love of cheesebur-”
“- the new hit single from an up-and-coming band called The Gavinners, called-”
“- began today for actor Matt Engarde, found guilty in the murder of-”
“- back to Masterpiece Radio Theater, here on Public Radio 650. For tonight’s entertainment, we have a breathtaking performance of Samuel Beckett’s classic tragicomedy, Waiting for G-”
Diego didn’t move, but he heard Dr. Goudy’s voice speaking from just inside the door to his room. The doctor took a few footsteps inside and then stood still, hovering a few yards back from the bed.
“I’m leaving for the night, Mr. Armando. Is there anything you need from me before I go?”
He didn’t respond.
“I wanted to tell you,” Dr. Goudy went on, “that I had a visit from someone in Research and Development today. They’re testing out a prototype… a, uh, visual assistance apparatus. Something like a hearing aid, but for the blind. That they hope can circumvent your type of vision loss and they asked me if you might be interested in participating in the study.”
Diego didn’t respond.
Dr. Goudy cleared his throat and continued. “If you agree, they will allow you the permanent use of one of their visors in exchange for assistance in testing it out.”
It was almost a full thirty seconds before Diego answered, and it was almost startling to hear his voice. “I could see again?”
The doctor breathed a small sigh of relief. “Once they fine-tune the instrument to your particular case, yes.”
“There’s a minor surgery to implant the chip for the visor in your brain,” said the doctor. “But after that it would require no further upkeep for some time to come.
“Isn’t there somebody better to waste your time on?” Diego asked after yet another daunting moment of silence. “Some kid with cancer or maybe a grandmother somewhere?”
“Your sight is worth every bit as much as theirs would be, Mr. Armando,” Dr. Goudy replied soothingly. “It’s entirely up to you. But should the prototype work, it could go a long way to restoring your quality of life.”
Diego reached alongside him and picked up the last cup of coffee he’d been served for the night, cold by now. He drank it slowly, then carefully set it back on the tray.
“I don’t think you’re qualified to make estimations about my quality of life,” he said. “But I’d rather be a vegetable with eyes than just a vegetable any day.”
“I’ll let them know you agreed, then,” said Dr. Goudy. “Thank you, Mr. Armando. Good night.”
The doctor left the room and Diego leaned back in his bed again, focusing again on the radio station.
“‘He should be here.’
‘He didn’t say for sure he’d come.’
‘And if he doesn’t come?’
‘We’ll come back tomorrow.’
‘And then the day after tomorrow.’
‘And so on.’
‘The point is—’
‘Until he comes.’”
The two actors argued on, two voices in the dark of the room and the dark of blindness.
“‘You gave me a fright.’
‘I thought it was he.’