AN: 4th in my 50x500 Swallows and Amazons series; for the prompt "pain".

Burning air. Gasping uselessly, wheezing for oxygen, lungs constricting in a pain she shouldn't be able to remember, that feels like a lost memory from a nightmare. Heart beating fast in a panic that only makes things worse. She knows what it is, she's a nurse, but she has no way of treating it, not when she can't even get to her feet, lying on the shuddering floor. She should be aiding the wounded, not gulping helpessly for air, any air, even the smoke-filled, dusty air around her. She twists, grimacing at the pain in her chest, trying to stand, or sit, at least. It's not easy, when Vita is constantly rocked by explosions.

"I say! You all right, Sister?" A soldier in a nearby bed has noticed her. Gallantly, stupidly, he tries to rise, despite the blood-stained bandages that pay testimony to his injuries.

"Don't move", Titty gasps out, loud as she can. The fool will kill himself trying to help her.

The exchange has called the attention of Superintendent Sister Lawrence, who rushes over, grabbing at beds as the ship sways.

"Asthma" Titty mouths, knowing she'll never be heard over the roaring guns of the German dive-bombers. Her fellow nurse reads her lips.

"I'll get the Ephedrine. Stay still, Sister Walker. You too, Lieutenant!"

It's only a few minutes until her return, but each second is agony to Titty. She gulps at the air, willing her breathing to ease, her chest to relax, the pain to please stop, but nothing improves. Then Sister Lawrence is back, lifting her up, handing her an ephedrine tablet and helping her swallow it.

"Keep still until you're breathing well, or as well as you can in here."

Titty nods both understanding and thanks. She knows what to do, but would have been horrified if her superior had failed to give instructions after medication. Sister Lawrence leaves her after the silent assurance; there's a great deal of work to do, making sure the patients are kept as stable as possible during the attack.

Her breathing is nowhere near perfect, but Titty has no time to wait longer. It won't be perfect, not until she can get out on deck and breathe the sea air. But it's good enough to rise and join the rest in their frantic labouring.

She starts with the bed nearest her, where the young Army Lieutenant who spotted her is lying. A quick examination shows he doesn't seem to have worsened his condition with his ill-advised rescue attempt, for which Titty is deeply grateful as she half thanks, half scolds him. No time to linger, not with hundreds of patients and a ship under attack... What's happened to the engines? The medical staff stare at each other in horror. They'll learn later that the engine room was flooded; now, all they know is that the 400 patients under their care during transport are stranded. The fierce pain that now stabs at Titty's chest has nothing to do with asthma.


I'm not entirely sure how well this fits in canon - I was trying to incorporate the fact that Titty Altounyan was asthmatic, but Titty Walker got through a fell fire just fine... I may write another fic for this prompt if inspiration strikes.

HMHS Vita was a hospital ship that served during WWII; on 14 April 1941 she was attacked by German dive-bombers when she was leaving Tobruk for Haifa with over 400 wounded troops. A near miss lifted her stern out of the water and this put her engines and dynamos out of action. (from http: / ahoy . tk-jk . net / Letters / HospitalShipVita . html)