ptahrrific: Woman with a notebook (Default)
Erin Ptah ([personal profile] ptahrrific) wrote2011-09-23 12:53 pm

The Wizard of Oz: Patient

Title: Patient
Fandom: The Wizard of Oz books
Characters/Pairings: Dorothy/Ozma, Henry/Em, Oscar Diggs, ensemble
Rating: PG
Warnings: See summary.

Dorothy Gale, age seventeen, wakes up in a mental hospital with no memory of the past eight years.

For my round 2 [community profile] hc_bingo card, prompt "amnesia". (And on that note: Bingo!)




It could be worse.

At least she knows about things that she couldn't have learned when she was nine. Algebra, for instance, and the names of constellations, and the fact that hard work and gumption won't always cut it.

It's that last one that prompts her to say, when she's walking with Uncle Henry in the garden, "Must be awf'ly expensive to keep me here."

"Have you been worrying about that? Dorothy, dear, put it out of your mind. This is the best place for you right now, and you're going to stay here until you're well."

"What's the use of getting well if we have nowhere to go back to? I wouldn't be a drain if you took me home, honest. I don't need to remember my schoolmates or the last few harvests to know how to milk a cow or shuck corn. Please, Uncle Henry, I'm sure the farm doesn't make enough to pay for a place like this."

Her uncle shakes his head. Dorothy can't tell if he's grown stooped over the years or if it's simply that her mental picture is distorted by her childhood height, but either way he has to be ten years older, and certainly ten years wearier. "Of course; you wouldn't know," he says, and Dorothy has the fleeting, sinking fear that they've lost the farm already, until he goes on: "You're a sort of...ward of the state, I suppose. It doesn't cost us a thing."

When he tells Aunt Em that he's told her, she clucks her tongue and fusses over Dorothy even more than usual. "You oughtn't to go talking like that, Henry," she chides. "The doctor says you aren't to overload her. How are you feeling, sweetheart?"

"I'm fine, Aunt Em. Honest." Do they really think she's so weak, that her mind will be broken again by a little thing like knowing that Mr. Roosevelt (or whoever it is now) is picking up the cost? "I'm stronger than you think."

Aunt Em hugs her. She does that often, as if afraid more of Dorothy will slip away if she doesn't hang on. "We know, dear. We know."


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The doctor's name is Oscar Diggs, and privately Dorothy wonders if he isn't a bit of a hack.

She doesn't say so, having no wish to hurt his feelings. He's a kind man, easy to talk to, and the doctors he corresponds with about her case (whom she never gets to hear about—another way of keeping her from being over-stressed) must be better-organized, for he always comes back with answers a few days after she's asked a question.

But how hard would it be, really, to comfort her over the loss of her dog?

Toto was hardly a puppy when she first got him; even if he lived to a fine old age, he'd be long gone now, under a stone in the cornfield next to Telemachus, the grizzled old tom Aunt Em kept for years, and Shelby, the retriever she remembers only slightly better than she does her parents. She must have grieved at the time, but right now all she remembers is that a few weeks ago the two of them were inseparable, and now she's lost Toto and herself both.

Dr. Diggs stutters when she starts to cry, and mumbles that he doesn't know when Toto died, exactly, but he'll do his best to find out. There's not so much as a "sorry for your loss."

Dorothy keeps the important things more to herself, after that.


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A commotion outside Dorothy's door wakes her up. Some kind of tussle, followed by two voices: her doctor and a girl, or maybe a woman, she doesn't recognize.

"Stop all this foolishness this instant. You know you're not supposed to be here."

"You can't keep me away from her!"

"I can and I will. Although if you really cared for her, you wouldn't be jeopardizing her health in the first place."

"Of course I care for her! I'm not the one who's trying to keep her all to myself!"

Dorothy slips quietly into her dressing-gown and opens the door.

There's a strange girl about her age with Dr. Diggs, wearing the same sort of soft cottony shirt and trousers provided for Dorothy herself, only in a rich emerald-green instead of the softer blues. The color brings out her eyes, striking in a Gibson-girl face that stands out against dark brown tresses. She's altogether too beautiful for the middle of the night.

"I'm sorry to wake you, Dorothy," stammers the doctor. "We were just leaving."

"We are not," says the stranger, eyes flashing. It's the royal we, Dorothy realizes. "You have no authority to order us to leave."

"Who are you, then, that's so important?" demands Dorothy. She's done her best not to get angry about things she no longer knows, or things she's not allowed to learn, and the effort leaves her no patience for having any of her ignorance used against her.

"Ozma." The brunette lifts her chin. "Princess Ozma."

The grimace on Dr. Diggs' round features tells Dorothy all she needs to know. This is another patient, with delusions rather than amnesia, which the doctors haven't been able to cure.

"Well, I'm just a simple Kansas girl," she replies, deciding it's easier to play along than fight it. "But I can't say I think much of a princess that would use her rank to intimidate a learned man of medicine. Even if what he's learned doesn't seem to be much."

And she closes the door in their faces.


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She isn't allowed to leave a narrow strip of ground unsupervised, so it's a real treat when her aunt and uncle take her to a play. They even get a box seat, though Dorothy would dearly like to mingle with the common people below. Mr. Roosevelt really has provided for everything.

It's a queer sort of play. Not a proper drama at all; the thin line of plot is only a frame for two of the actors to have a philosophical debate, which the audience probably isn't meant to take seriously as it's all in full-body costume. Not to mention how the third keeps interrupting with the most amazing display of cartwheels Dorothy's ever seen. (As far as she knows.)

"Have I seen that performed before?" she asks, on the carriage ride back to the hospital. "Did I like it?"

Aunt Em lights up. She tries to hide it, but the hope on her face is all too plain. "Was it familiar, then?"

No. I'm just trying to figure out why you thought I would be interested in something so dry. "No. Only curious."


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They don't want to talk about Toto either. Too upsetting for her, they insist. Too much of a strain.

She tells Dr. Diggs that she didn't mean it about him being un-learned. She was tired and cross, that was all. Surely there was no harm in that.

There are books in her room, long dry things by some professor with a strange name and a lot of obscure letters after it. There's also a notebook and a set of pens, which she uses mostly to draw thumbnail sketches of no consequence and write out memories of the farm, just in case she loses those too.

In the margins of the mathematics textbook she writes, "Did I lose all my imagination, when I grew up?"

Next to an illustration of periwinkle anatomy, "It's so very dull here. If only I had someone to talk to. Though I suppose I'll never find as good a listener as Toto."

Under a set of diagrammed sentences, "I wish I could go"

She meant to finish the sentence with home. Her hand freezes with the pen poised over the word, and stays that way until her hand cramps. It isn't the one she wants. Not quite.


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Her bit of garden is spacious and full of flowers, including some she's never seen before. She explores it until she discovers the boundaries, tall green hedges hemming her in. And keeping out people who might hurt her, she supposes. That's something. Better to think of positive things when she can.

She's sitting on a patch of grass between banks of myrtle and white lilac, writing fragments of helpless angry thoughts in the white spaces around a periodic table, when the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. Someone's watching her.

She whips her head around, all set to tell off Dr. Diggs or her aunt and uncle for sneaking up on her like that. There's not a soul to be seen. Only a flash of movement, so low she nearly misses it, all but hidden under a spread of palm-sized leaves.

Even that scrap is achingly familiar.

"Toto?" whispers Dorothy.

In the next breath she's off and running, the book skidding roughly across the dirt as she drops it without a second thought. The shape stays almost wholly out of sight, behind tree-trunks and under benches and between waves of flowers, but the twinkles she manages to catch are small and black and move in exactly the way that she would know anywhere, knows as well as she ever did her own soul.

She nearly runs straight into one of the hedges, the leaves at its base rustling from the visitor who sought passage underneath it not a few seconds before. On her knees the hole is large enough to get her arm through, no more. She can't follow without tearing up the hedge.

Or going over it.

Her shoes are slip-on but sturdy. She has three other outfits the spitting image of this one. Her hands are soft, as if she hasn't done any proper work in far too long, but there's no time like the present to start working on her calluses again.

She digs her toes into the tightly-packed leaves, grabs a handful of branch, and hauls herself upward.


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She tumbles onto a bed of pink-and-red zinnias, crushing some of them quite dreadfully. Her shirt is a mess; she combs back her hair with dirt-smudged fingers and finds twigs tangled in it.

She'd do the same a hundred times over, easy.

She picks herself up, brushes the grass stains off her knees as far as she's able, and searches the scene for her quarry. There's no sign of movement, Toto-shaped or otherwise. She's disappointed only briefly: hadn't part of her known from the start that it was her eyes playing tricks on her? And it got her out here, on her own. Even if this patch of garden looks no different in principle than the last, it's a bit she hasn't explored, and that's something.

She takes the measure of her surroundings. Fruit-trees, winding paths, zinnias and periwinkle all abloom. As far as she's been able to surmise, the hospital is a converted country estate, the grounds of which might well go on for a mile or more. She can't possibly reach their limits before she has to get back, lest her aunt and uncle miss her when they come to visit for dinner. The only question is where to start.

Take the seventh road. Seven is a lucky number for little girls named Dorothy.

She counts the seventh path-fork in sight from the far left and makes for it.

As she walks, a quiet burbling reaches her ears over the chatter of insects and the rustle of leaves in the breeze. She thinks it might be a stream, until she rounds a bank of plum-trees and finds herself facing a marble fountain twice as tall as herself, carved mermaids on the top tier and a column of stone lions and tigers rising nobly up from the wide pool of water.

She gasps and ducks behind a tree-trunk, too late: the girl sitting on the edge of the pool has spotted her. It's the one with the queer name who calls herself a princess, now in a simple green dress with what looks like fresh, living blooms pinned in her hair.

"Dorothy!" exclaims the princess. She stands in a rustle of skirts; a bow at the back of her waist dips into the water before being pulled out again, leaving a spray of dark spots on the sandy path at her feet. "They let you visit!"

"They didn't 'zactly let me," stammers Dorothy. "Don't tell anyone, please? I wasn't going to go far, only to get a look at the next garden over."

"Of course." She looks suddenly shy, a far cry from the proud young woman who shouted at Dr. Diggs. "Do you remember me at all?"

"From the other night." Dorothy lets herself leave the shelter of the tree, picking her way over the gnarled roots. "Ozma, was it?"

"That's right."

"Well, Ozma, you're a brick for keeping this secret, truly. And I'm awful sorry about yelling at you the other night."

"Think nothing of it," says Ozma. "Shall I show you around?"

It's the best decision Dorothy's made in weeks. Between the sheer number of paths and the vault of information Ozma seems to hold in her mind about them (likely as not all part of her delusions, but fascinating just the same), an hour slips by, and then two. It's a minor miracle she isn't missed.


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Growing up on a farm will give anyone an early education about sex. Even if she had lost eight years of book-learning as well as self-learning, she'd remember it well. Having a body that to her skipped through puberty in the middle of the night isn't the shock it might have been.

She can't work out whether she ever learned how to fall in love.

It should have been easy to ask Aunt Em whether she ever had a sweetheart. When she tries, the words stick in her throat. There's some old shame choking her, some fear she can't put a name to.

Forget mathematics and biology: what Dorothy needs in her room is a dictionary.


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Her vague plan to go outside and read, or get a catnap in the sun, or both, is derailed when she steps outside to an advancing mass of grey clouds and some kind of commotion to the far left.

When she goes to investigate, Ozma's half over the hedge, the climb made easier by a pair of purple trousers that look sturdier than anything in Dorothy's closet, to say nothing of Ozma's own gauzy dresses.

Dress, she corrects herself. She's only seen the one, after all.

There's no handy bed of zinnias here, just a long fall to short grass. Dorothy's half made up her mind to run and break Ozma's fall when the girl starts climbing down the hedge, lithe as you please.

"You can't stay long," blurts Dorothy. "Don't get me wrong, I'm glad you're here! Only I have a meeting with Dr. Diggs in a little while, and...."

"Not to worry." Ozma lands on her feet and tosses back her waves of hair. No flowers there today; instead her tresses are held in place by a thin gold-colored circlet. Even if it's fake, there's clearly something more than a government check taking care of her. "I sent him on an errand. He won't be back until to-morrow at the earliest. Now look! I've brought you another visitor."

Dorothy's heart twists in her chest at the fluttering of leaves low in the hedge. But the creature who comes through the arm-sized tunnel isn't Toto, or even someone who could be taken for him at a distance on a dark night. It's a cat, for one thing.

For another, it's pink.

"Her name is Eureka," says Ozma proudly. "She's a dignified creature, but she'll let you scratch her if you do it just right. Under the chin, like so."

She kneels to demonstrate, and Eureka tilts her pink chin to give the princess' fingers a better angle.

"She's darling," whispers Dorothy. Her own hands drift toward the cat's soft, wavy fur almost of their own will. "I always wanted a kitten, you know, and we looked for one after Aunt Em's cat died. But we never could find one that didn't pick fights with Toto. And her name, it just so happens, it means..."

Their fingertips brush.

"...'I have found it,'" finishes Ozma.

Eureka whuffs a sigh. It's a remarkably human sound.


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The rain goes from beating to drizzly and back again. Dorothy's had the phonograph on the same record for an hour, playing a charmingly inoffensive nonsense tune over and over.

Here's to the hale old bale of straw
That's cut from the waving grain


An attempt at drawing one of her old school-friends (if she can call them that; she had work on the farm to do, and barely got a chance to know her classmates) has turned into a drawing of Ozma. Not in simple hospital trousers or shifts, either: in a dress that seems to float off the ground, armfuls of ruffles hanging just off her pale shoulders, with a golden staff and a golden crown. The princess she thinks she is.

The sweetest sight man ever saw
In forest, dell or plain.


It's almost cruel. Dr. Diggs would chastise her, surely, if he knew. But it's not as if she plans to show them to Ozma, to feed the poor girl's confusion. It's only an idle exercise for herself.

It fills me with a crunkling joy
A straw-stack to behold


Her pencil lingers on the dainty curve of Ozma's lips.

She's no great artistic prodigy, which is the kind of portrait-maker someone with Ozma's beauty deserves, mental patient or no. All she can do to make up for it is give this her all.

For then I pad this lucky boy
With strands of yellow gold.


"Dorothy?"

Dorothy slams the textbook shut, nearly falling off her chair. "J-just a minute!" she cries to whoever's in the hall. "I'll be right out. Let me put a few things away...."

"No—don't come out," says the strange voice. "I'm not supposed to be here. You need to be able to say that you haven't seen me."

Here's to the hale old bale of straw
That's cut from the waving grain....


Dorothy kicks the phonograph. It switches off. If she didn't know better, she would say it looked sulky about it.

"Do I get to know who you are?" she asks. Her voice rings unnaturally loud all of a sudden, even with the latest upwash of rain in the background. "And why are you here?"

"Someone who cares about you." It's a man's voice, older than her but not too much older by the sound of it, with a gruff quality she can't place. Even though it's so familiar.... "There are more of us than you know. The doctor says you'll get better, but slowly, and we don't want to overload you in the meantime. We just want you to know that we're supporting you."

"I know you," breathes Dorothy.

There's a startled pause. "You...remember?"

"That's just it! I don't!" she cries. "I don't know why you sound familiar. I don't know why your voice makes me feel comfortable, like it's from wherever I'm s'posed to be. Were you my beau, is that it? Do I feel this awful because I'm supposed to remember loving you?"

The stranger laughs, a curious, wheezing laugh that half sounds like he's trying not to sob, or maybe howl. "Of course not. Not like that, anyway. Your beloved...can't you even begin to guess...?"

The storm of feelings surging in her heart reaches its breaking point. She can't do it. She can't go on waiting here like a patient little lamb while she gets yanked around by this familiar stranger who claims to know more about her own love life than she does.

In two steps she has the door open.

The empty hall is terrifying. She's being haunted, or descending into full-blown madness, or—

"—Toto!"

The little black dog gives her a look that says, plain as day, Me? I don't know what you're talking about.

Someone's playing with her. Hiding behind a corner and staging a trick with the very picture of her childhood pet. Either that or she's hallucinating, the grief and loss destroying her grip on reality in spite of all her loved ones' best efforts, until she becomes as lost as poor Ozma, and probably not nearly as put-together about it....

"It's too cruel," whispers Dorothy, sinking to her knees in the doorway. She can't take this. A thousand scenes of impossibly bright colors layer themselves over her vision; her head rings as if a brass band has taken up a symphony between her ears. She's about to come apart at the seams.

"Dorothy!" cries the voice, as if from the dog's mouth, sounding for all the world like Toto's barks and growls made speech. With one hind leg he swats at an emerald on his handsome jeweled collar, then darts to her side; a cold nose presses against her hand. "Hang on. I've called for help. Please, little mistress, hold on...."

She sees grey, and hears the pounding of rain, and then nothing at all.


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"Consider yourselves extremely fortunate that I do not have time to give either of you the tongue-lashing you deserve," snaps Glinda, before throwing the weight of her concentration into the spell she needs to perform.

On the far side of the bed where Dorothy has been placed, the Wizard matches her pace. He'll never be her equal, but it's been many years since he was a struggling pupil, much less a clever hack with no magic at all. In this fight she can think of no more worthy partner.

Ozma and Toto, suitably chastised, flatten themselves against the wall beside the desk so as to be out of the way. Henry and Em have been summoned as well. Glinda hopes she can finish this before they arrive.

Enchanted sleep keeps Dorothy's face untwisted by pain, breath even and pale-pink lips slightly parted. One of her hands is thrown across her stomach while the other lies curled on the sheet. In Glinda's vision strings of deep red light ring her body, thick as cobwebs.

"You're certain she's recovered nothing?" she demands of the Wizard. The poison used on their beloved princess was crude but effective; Glinda can't safely restore her memories if her mind hasn't recovered enough to accept them. If she tries to force it, Dorothy's mind will be torn apart.

"Nothing that she revealed to me." The Wizard makes a complicated series of hand gestures, reinforcing the hold that keeps Dorothy's mind from breaking further. "I don't think she trusted me—thought I was a good man, but a bad psychiatrist, to coin a phrase—but even so, I don't see how we can risk it."

Glinda turns on their audience. "You two! Did you find any indication in your conversations with Dorothy that her memories were coming back? Bear in mind that a dishonest word may kill her."

"Nothing," says Ozma weakly. "The way she looked at me...as if I were nothing more than a friend of circumstance."

In her arms, Toto huffs a humorless doggy snort. "I haven't gotten close enough to be seen until today. She asked if I was her boyfriend, then fainted."

"She could have withstood either one of you, I think," says Glinda, half to herself. "Both of you in sequence was too much."

"I couldn't leave her to suffer alone!" cries Ozma. "She's my Dorothy!"

"She was mine first!" barks Toto.

"Enough! Either be silent or leave. You fighting is the last thing Dorothy needs."

It shames them into silence again, at least for the moment. Glinda waves her wand over Dorothy's limp body, unknotting her original preservation spell bit by bit. Remaking it will reset the princess' recovery, and perhaps the memories of the last few months will be lost to her forever, but it's the best Glinda can do. It's all she can do.

She's unweaving the last of the scarlet knots when it, and Dorothy's whole figure, go frozen-silver.

Ozma's fairy-magic is a pretty bauble next to Glinda's: safely pausing this kind of spellwork is about the limit of her power. Glinda nods to the Wizard, pauses it properly herself, and waves for Ozma to lower her silver wand. "This had better be important."

For answer, the princess holds up a book. It's one of the texts from the outside world that they found to stock Dorothy's room, fallen open to a page with an unmistakable, if lopsided, pencil sketch.

"She couldn't have seen...?"

"None of it," says Ozma, eyes brimming. "Not the dress, not the crown, not the circlet. She's remembering."


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When she opens her eyes, her head's still a right mess, but she knows enough to recognize that she's surrounded by a regular quorum of friends and loved ones.

Aunt Em is the first to speak. "Dorothy? Sweetheart? How are you feeling?"

"Old," says Dorothy, with a papery laugh.

Ozma's a vision, in full princess regalia of vivid green with silver and ivory baubles. The sight of her fills Dorothy with a whole army of emotions, the first flush of girlish infatuation and a love as comfortable as a well-worn armchair and the heat of, oh dear, they've had sex, haven't they, all mixed up with the crush she had yesterday that she couldn't have put a name to, let alone justified.

"Ozma, dear," breathes Dorothy. "It isn't all back, just yet—how long have we...?"

The Ruler of Oz turns a delicate mauve. Uncle Henry comes to her rescue: "The ball for your hundredth anniversary was last year."

"And me forgetting it all, and thinking all these weeks you were...oh, Ozma, I am sorry."

"Don't be sorry about a thing," says the Scarecrow. It takes both him and Nick to hold Scraps in place; she looks about ready to dance until she knocks out the walls. "You've got a lot of recovery yet to do; you can't waste your energy being sorry."

"It won't be hard," says Dorothy with a laugh. "Not when I have you all supporting me. But you were there for me already, weren't you? The three of you, at the play." She turns to Glinda, towering over the Wizard. "And you were there, behind the scenes." To her aunt and uncle, and to Ozma: "And you were there, and you...."

A ball of dark fur hurtles into her lap.

"And Toto too!"

Toto doesn't need to resort to human speech any more. He can look his little mistress in the eye and wag his tail, and she knows perfectly well that that means We have you back, and all's right with the world.

(Anonymous) 2011-09-23 08:29 pm (UTC)(link)
Absolutely loved this. Liked how you incorporated the roads and the phonograph and eureka the pink cat and scraps. It was all very, very good.