While You Were Gone

Author's Notes: Sorry Tadashi. Sometimes being alive is tougher.

Updates are likely to be slow - my apologies.

Disclaimer: All familiar characters, events, settings, etc. belong to Disney/Marvel.

He wakes up to a vague and hazy half-world: lights come into focus, and there's an almost artificial silence around him, broken only with beeps and clicks. At the same time, he begins to notice a wealth of discomfort: irritation in his chest and throat, a plugged feeling in his nose, itching and a prickly pain spreading over his body...

Hospital. He must be in the hospital.

"Hey, welcome back," a calm voice says, and there's a shuffle of feet before an older woman leans into his field of vision. He closes his eyes for a moment, but she's still there when he opens them again. "Are you gonna stay awake this time?" Beeping from somewhere in the room increases, and she glances away and back again, staring at him. Her next words are straight-forward and demand a response. "Are you in pain?"

It's a nurse, he thinks. No, there's pain but it's...it's not unbearable. He tries saying no, but he's not sure if he's accomplished it - he doesn't hear himself reply. He needs to get his bearings, figure out exactly what's happened, how he's ended up here…

The room seems small, and something's wrong with the windows because they're dark - or maybe it's nighttime? That's right...it's nighttime. The fire! How long has he been out? What about everyone else? Is everyone else okay?

"You had an accident," the nurse says, cutting into his thoughts and bringing them to a focus. This is important, he tells himself, but it's hard not to let his mind drift back into whatever dark and silent place it was in before. It feels like being in 8 AM lecture after pulling an all-nighter - so vital to stay awake and yet...why? Maybe he can gets notes from someone else...

"You've had a lot of sleepy meds running in you," the nurse comments, and she sounds a little bit frustrated, maybe amused. You're at the hospital, not lecture! Get it together, he scolds himself. Stay awake! You won't know anything unless you stay awake!

The nurse peers down at him and seems to think it's worth trying again. "You've had an accident and you're at Koseki University Hospital," she says. "On the burn trauma unit."

What did he burn? How bad is it? He can't see or move well enough to take inventory, and there's pain but it's still inexplicably detached, and it's everywhere but not really anywhere in particular...

But the nurse doesn't tell him what he's burned. Instead she gestures towards her neck. "You were having a hard time breathing, so you have a tube in your throat to help you. You can't talk right now, but I have some questions for you."

That makes sense - there was a lot of smoke. A lot of smoke...he doesn't remember anything worse than coughing though. When did everything else happen? But okay...okay...where's the intubation tube? He can't feel anything between his teeth...

"You have a trach," the nurse explains, seeming to pick up on his confusion. She pats the front of her own neck. "The tube is here."

A tracheostomy? That's what it's called, right? Why a trach? It's not painful, but...why a trach? A trach is...is not good. How bad is everything? It must be bad, very bad...

"You're okay," the nurse's words cut in again, and this time she places a hand on the front of his shoulder. He tries to look at it but sees large blue plastic tubing instead - ventilator tubing. But that's less concerning...of course he's on a ventilator if he was having a hard time breathing…and he doesn't have any sensation of it fighting with his body...but seriously, why did they put in a trach?

"You're okay," the nurse repeats firmly, her lips pressed into a grim smile. "You're going to be okay. They'll take the tube out when you're doing a little better." She presses her hand against his shoulder a little more. It doesn't hurt...he must be okay there. She smiles again and takes a deep breath. "Now remember, I had a couple questions for you, okay?"

He manages to nod, or he thinks he nods, but his head feels heavy.

"Try to answer the questions, and then you can sleep some more," the nurse continues. There's a pleading note in her voice - she wants this information. "Can you tell me what your name is?"

Name? Oh...oh. She wants to see if he's oriented - if he knows who he is and what time it is and where he is. He tries to say his name, but no sound comes out - there's the tube. Can she lipread? Is it that important? He knows who he is...and it's harder to stay focused when they're talking about things he already knows...

"One more time," she encourages him, patting his shoulder again. She frowns, but says it back and he nods. Close enough. "Just once more," she repeats her request, and after that she seems satisfied. She doesn't even bother to ask the time and place questions, doesn't try to pull his attention back when he lets his eyes slide closed. It's nighttime, he knows, and he's at the hospital. The woman is a nurse, and he's Tadashi Hamada.