The rehab center on the Armed Forces main base in Sol’s Ward was a place most soldiers on Ignis were familiar with. Whether it was bullet wounds, burns, broken bones or NBC-injuries this was the place you were sent to recover and rebuild after hospital care.

Felicia didn’t like being fussed with during missions or while she was onboard the ship, but down here she didn’t mind being pampered and cheered at at all. It was no recreational resort, definitely not. Fixed schedules, training sessions, serious food that the staff made sure you ate whether you wanted or not, but there was also no stress, no life or death-situations making your heart go tilt as you were doing calf lifts.

Last time Felicia had to spend time here, she had been shot in her thigh and above her hip. A few centimeters to the left on the thigh, and she probably would have bled out in minutes. A few centimeters to the right, and her femur would have shattered.

At the time, she had insisted on staying onboard the Ignis since it was only muscle damage and she imagined that the training hall on the ship wasn’t a worse place to do squats on than the ones on the rehab center. After, she had been grateful that doctor Eira hadn’t given in to her pleas. The physiotherapists here at the rehab center knew their shit.

As many places at Sol’s Ward, the main base was still scarred by the Gamma wars. A whole wing of the hospital was still in ruins, even if most of the debris had been cleaned up by now. The broken remains of the walls was a bitter reminder of the cruelty of war in general, but also the Federation’s disgusting habit of making ”mistakes” about their targets in particular. Felicia could see the hypocrisy in rules of war as well as anyone, but as far as she was concerned, you didn’t need a higher degree in philosophy to understand that hospitals were a no-go when it came to bombing.

As they entered the building, Tianyi made a sound of disgust. Granted, there were soldiers who weren’t as fond of this place.

“This place smells like decay and despair”, she said, wrinkling her nose.

“You have no idea what those words even mean, do you?” Keith snorted.

They found Santo in the visitor’s area, where he was talking to another soldier who lost both her arms. He waved at them when he spotted them, said goodbye to the other soldier, and steered his wheelchair towards his team mates.

”Finally living up to your light-footed reputation, huh”, Morgan said as he gave Santo a hug.

”Oh screw you, lab rat”, Santo smiled and punched him on the shoulder.

He seemed to be in a better mood than when Felicia had that short videochat a while ago, but she could tell he wasn’t great on the whole. She looked at his legs; they all did, some making more attempts to hide it than others.

”I’m sorry for staring”, Felicia said, because she couldn’t pretend she wasn’t, ”it’s just that my brain keeps trying to repair this picture, and… wow, I’m really smooth here, ain’t I”, she groaned.

”It’s okay, I find myself staring at them too”, Santo said, and smiled again. She knew that smile; it was the one you used to not fall apart in front of your team.

”How are you feeling?” Morgan asked.

Santo took a deep breath, raising his eyebrows in exaggerated conviction.

”Well, I’m not crying over it more than once a day, so I call progress there.” He nodded. ”But I still catch myself attempting to put my feet down on the floor every time I’m getting out of bed. I need to work on that, I guess.”

”When are you getting robofeet?” Keith asked.

”Not in a while, the tissues need to heal entirely first, or it might get infected or grow too much scar tissues, and a whole list of other things that they presented to me when I woke up after first surgery and told them I was so ready for prosthetics.”

”Do you still feel your left big toe ache when it rains?” Keith peered at him.

”Oh come on”, Santo groaned, tilting his head back, ”I made a joke once and you still think it’s true…”

”But do you have phantom pains?” Keith insisted.

”Sometimes, yes.”

”…when it rains?”

Keith jumped aside as Morgan attempted to put his arm around his head to drag him away from Santo. Santo, Felicia and Tianyi laughed, but then a center employee frowned at them and asked them to keep it down a notch.

Tianyi made a face about it so only her teammates could see, then she looked at Santo.

”The commander said you’ll most likely not come back to the Ignis. You’ll prove her wrong, right?”

The rest of them went quiet. Santo smiled again, and this time there was more bitterness in it.

”I won’t come back to the Ignis. Not to my old position at least. I might have made it with one fake foot, but not with two.”

”You could retrain, become a sniper. They don’t need to be sprinters.”

Tianyi seemed to have full faith in her own words. It irritated Felicia, that she was acting as if Santo had broken a toenail or something. And made her envious of the neverending optimism that Tianyi possessed.

”Snipers still need to meet the same physical requirements as the others.”

”There’s a lot of requirements that aren’t met in our team though”, Tianyi shrugged.

Keith raised an eyebrow and looked at her.

”You sound like Cory now, Tia.”

Tianyi turned to him with eyes like laser pointers.

”You’re on thin ice now, buddy.”

”We’ll see, I guess”, Santo said. ”I need to actually get the prosthetics first anyway.”

Tianyi didn’t push the matter any further, which Felicia was grateful of.

They had some afternoon snacks with Santo, telling him about the Alpha Dawn’s latest shenanigans, before Felicia, Keith and Tianyi had to leave to catch their trains. Morgan had time to stay yet another while.

Felicia looked over her shoulder as the three headed to the exit, and saw Morgan shuffling his chair closer to Santo, putting an arm around his friend. Grimly she thought to herself that he at least would have the daily crying over and done with before night time.