Chapter Forty One: I'm Sorry

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(Okay this one needs a slight word of explanation. Yes, this is another short one. It had to stand alone. You're going to hate me when you read it though. I know you will. But trust me when I say you will understand why I did it. I hope. Oh it will be kind of "in and out" in perspective as there is "lost" time going on as Hiro dips in and out of consciousness. )

Hiro could hear something that sounded like either sirens or incessant beeping all around him but he couldn't see anything. It was pitch black, as though he were in a room completely cut off from the rest of existence. Except that wasn't right. He knew it wasn't. But why couldn't he see anything?

The soft sound of air moving in his lungs echoed in his mind. Whoosh. Shh.... Whoosh. Shh... Whoosh. Shh.... His throat tickled and he tried to resist the urge to cough. Why was his throat so dry? Or was it something else? Now that he thought about it, he could feel something pressing against the inside of his throat, like a thick tube. Why was that there? He couldn't help but feel his heart constrict with panic, not understanding what was going on. And with that, the sound in the background increased dramatically, an alarm sounding.

"Shh," a soft voice soothed as the area behind Hiro's eyelids brightened slightly. Unfortunately, the increase in light hurt. Then the most uncomfortable feeling filled his lungs as he heard something like a low level vacuum being used. He couldn't resist the urge to cough, his oxygen supply suddenly a lot thinner than it had been only moments before. The sound was horrible.

Someone was gently holding his wrist. At least it felt like someone was holding his wrist. His whole body felt weird, like it was stuffed inside a sausage skin. Except that he couldn't feel anything on or around his chest. Everything else, however, tingled painfully, though no one area seemed worse off than any other. Except for when he coughed. Thankfully, whatever was happening to him was of short duration as oxygen flooded his lungs once more.

Voices came in and out of focus, though he couldn't understand a single word any of them said, outside of the occasional encouragement. And the light seemed to flicker behind his closed lids. Whether this was because time passed in odd stretches or because someone was just playing with the light was anyone's guess. Hiro had no idea.

When it was pitch dark in his thoughts, he thought he heard Tadashi's voice telling him to hang in there and asking him why he'd decided to be so reckless. Only he couldn't remember anything that would warrant such a berating. His existence was the soft whoosh of breathing, the beep of something in the distance, the cold feel of something covering his skin like a constraining second layer, though he was sure it wasn't supposed to feel that way. Why did it feel that way?

Then there came one of the most uncomfortable moments he could remember to this point. He felt something being slid out of his throat, rubbing against the sensitive lining. It made him cough and gag a bit, but once the sensation stopped, he found he could breathe. And with that realization, his eyes opened for the first time, though he flinched against the soft light filtering down on him.

"Continued oxygen treatment through less invasive ventilation," someone was saying, though his eyes wouldn't focus enough to figure out who was talking. But he felt something soft and rubbery being placed against his nose and mouth, sending fresh oxygen down into his lungs in a way so dissimilar to previous means that he couldn't immediately figure out what was going on. "Many of his burns will require more extensive grafting once he's stabilized further. However, forty percent of the burns seem to be healing on their own. We'll have to wait and see about the rest."

Is that what had happened? He'd somehow gotten burned? But he couldn't remember how or when. And when he tried to talk, his eyelids drooped, his throat feeling raw as he coughed. "What's wrong with me?" he managed between haggard breaths.

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