The doctor exited the room, slowly shaking his head. The hero knew instantly what he meant. So did the rest. But the little girl did not. And when they told her, when they told her that the magician could not get better, that he would never come back to dance with her and to show her the spots in the world where a bit of magic still showed through, when they told her that he would never even open his eyes again, or breathe without a machine to help him, she cried. She cried, and shouted, and fought against them all, trying to get into the room where his battered body lay. The hero held her, took her kicks and scratches and screams in stride, and did not move, did not cry, did not change his face or look into her eyes as she fought him. He did this for her.
She fought for a very long time. The others tried to console her, took turns holding her, took turns being kicked and bitten and scratched and screamed at. But she fought on, and on, trying to get in, trying to see him, even when they took her away from the hospital she kept screaming, kept crying. The magician, her magician, was being taken away from her. She couldn't understand why.
She fell asleep, sometime between the second and third day after. And the hero finally left her side, finally came back to the hospital. He came to see for himself what he wouldn't let her.
The magician lay on a bed far too big, looking far too small, far too pale against the white bedsheets. He looked too frail, too thin and tiny to really be the magician, to really be the color and life and everything that he had been. Even his smile, his ever-present smile was gone, covered with the respirator that allowed him to get just enough air to cling to whatever of the incredible life was left in him. The long IV in his thin, pale arm was too much. The hero couldn't stay here, in this colorless room, with a friend that he never knew well enough to understand.
But he needed to know. He needed to understand.
So he stayed.
He fell asleep there, in the visitors chair of the tiny hospital room, waiting for something he knew would never happen. But he chose to hope for it anyway.
The morning light filtered through the white, sterile curtains as he awoke. The magician still lay unmoving on the too-big bed in the too-big hospital gown and everything was white, white and sterile and far too big and not magic at all. This was not where the magician belonged, his mind decided as he awoke. And when his mind was fully awake, and clear and ready to be rational, he still held onto that thought. With or without his magic as he'd known it, the magician remained just that, a magician, and his magic never could, and never would, have tolerated such empty whiteness.
So the hero, in one of the least rational but perhaps greatest ideas he'd ever had, tied his red bandanna to the magician's bed. Just a little spot of color, just a tiny bit, just enough to break the sterile whiteness.
And just a little, just a tiny bit, the magician looked more like himself.
The hero smiled, a sad smile, nothing like the magician's, but perhaps just a little more than it had been the day before, and walked out.