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Toxic

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Out of the haze in my brain, I can hear voices. "It's a life threatening airway obstruction from the fractures in her larynx and trachea! Get her into the OR! Now!" The pain is too much and my lungs are burning to the point that the voices seem to get further and further away as my consciousness fades again.

XxX

"Things seem fine with her, but we just have to wait and see if she wakes up. We'll keep close watch on her for any changes." A woman says.

"What are her odds?" That's my mom.

"It's all up to her now. There's a 50/50 shot from here out unless her vitals shift for the worse. She seems to be recovering well though. I have high hopes for her." The woman assures. Their voices grow distant as they continue their discussion.

XxX

"Doctor! Her brainwaves are spiking!" A young woman exclaims excitedly.

"That's a good sign! Maybe this wakeness will evolve into awareness soon! We can only keep observing her. You can wake up when you're ready, Addison." I vaguely feel a hand on my arm as I'm plummeted back into darkness.

XxX

Beep... Beep... Beep...

'What is that annoying beeping? God, I just want to sleep.' My whole body hurts. Especially my throat. 'Why are my eyes so heavy?' I concentrate on my eye lids and force them to open. I feel like the lights in the room are blinding so I squeeze my eyes shut. I try again when I hear a soft gasp in the room. My eyes are still blurry as they readjust to the florescent lighting.

"Addison?" A young woman asks sweetly. "Blink if you can hear me." She instructed. I realize that I have something in my mouth that's running down my throat and a brace to keep me from moving. I blink for her. I lazily look over and see she's wearing scrubs. A nurse? "Welcome back! I'll get the doctor." She smiles and reaches for the phone.

"Doctor Croft, Addison is awake! No, not wakeness, awareness! Yes! Ok, thank you Doctor." She hangs up and turns back to me.

"Ok Sweetie. Try to relax. The doctor is on his way." She tells me. I'm still so tired. And why am I in the hospital? I want Zed. My eyes start to water. This is so overwhelming. Why am I in so much pain? My watery eyes turn to teary eyes till I'm full on weeping.

"It's ok! You're fine Addison! I'll make sure I call your family to get here right away! Try to calm down ok?" The nurse comforted, petting my hair gently.

Not 5 minutes later the doctor comes in, followed by a swarm of people who start touching and poking and messing with me.

"Hello Addison! It's nice to see you awake! Let's get that tube out of your mouth and we will talk ok?" He sounds fairly cheerful and friendly.

XxX

The doctor took the tubes out and the first nurse from when I woke up was helping me drink some water. "Ok! Now, we're gonna take the brace off your neck. Try not to move around to quickly. Your muscles are going to feel a little weak." The doctor informed me.

"Ok." I reply, my voice is very rough and weak. I try clearing my throat but it still hurts from where the tube was removed.

"You don't need to speak much." He assured me, unfastening the brace. Once it's off, I can see what be meant. My head feels heavy, weighing on my neck. And stiff like I haven't moved in days. I just rest my head against the pillow and carefully stretch my shoulders up and down to test the movement. It's sore.

"Since that's all taken care of, how are you feeling? Are you in any pain?" The doctor asks.

"Sore." I rasp out. "My throat hurts." The doctor smiles gently.

"That's understandable. We had to do some surgical intervention from the fractures in your larynx and trachea." He explained.

"Surgery?" I ask.

"Yes, your windpipe and vocal chords were injured in the, um, incident." My brows furrow in confusion.

"Incident?" I ask for clarify. His face shifts to surprise then gentleness as he leans forward to grasp my hand.

"We'll wait until your family gets here to talk more." He assures. What did he mean by incident? What's going on? Why did I need surgery? It's hard to concentrate with how sore my body is though. I want Zed. I'm guessing he'll get here with my parents.

"Have some more water, Addison." Nurse Mia offered. She's really nice. She's been at my bedside this whole time. She seems really eager to help me. Maybe she's new at this job? Extra enthusiastic? I'm not complaining. The little things she's doing make this a bit more bearable.

And suddenly we hear yelling and rushed footsteps coming towards my room, my parents turning the corner and letting out a relieved sigh as soon as their eyes lock on mine. They run into the room and Mom grabs my hand.

"Can we hug her?" She quickly asks Mia.

"Of course, just try to be gentle." She confirms and Mom immediately wraps me in a gentle hug.

"Hi Sweetie! I've missed you!" She cries, Dad hugging the both of us with fresh tears in his eyes. I can't help but watch the door, the one person I want to see the most, however, never appears.

"Is Zed on his way?" I hate how raspy I still sound. Both of them pull back and look at me with disbelief and shock.

"She's blocked out the traumatic experience." The doctor chimes in from the doorway, reading through my file as he walks in, closing it as he addresses my parents. "I felt it would be best to explain things to her if she had loved ones here with her, so I waited." He explained. They nod and pull up chairs to my opposite bedside, holding my hand comfortingly as he turns to me fully. I'm confused and afraid to hear what he has to say.

"Addison, you have been in a coma for 3 months." He starts. I inhale a shaky breath and my throat stings. 3 months?! No wonder Mia is so excited to help me! She's been basically taking care of a corpse for three months!

"Where's Zed? I want him here." I beg shakily. There's an eerie silence that engulfs the room. I look between all of the faces to see solemness, pity, and compassion. "Where is he?" I ask again.

"Containment." My dad finally breaks the silence.

"What?" I question in confusion.

"He's the one that put you here, Addy." Mom adds, squeezing my hand as if I might disappear. My eyes widen.

Flashes of Zed's darkened eyes, the pain in my head, his hand around my throat, come flooding back to me.

"No." I whisper, forcing myself to sit up.

"Addison!" The doctor exclaims, worried my bones could snap from having little to no muscular support. I pull my knees up to hug them. I can fully feel how weak and frail I've become now. But I don't care about any of that. I want Zed. And I can't have him. My heart feels like it's been ripped out of my chest.

"No!" I wail, ignoring the pain of my scratchy voice. I don't care about the pain anymore. The only pain I feel is under my ribs. Mom rubs my back lovingly. "Zed." I cry into my knees, willing him to me to no avail.

XxX

It didn't matter anymore. The doctor advised me not to raise my voice but I couldn't help it if I cried myself to sleep, or when I woke up screaming from a nightmare. Not of Zed. No. Of losing Zed. My worse and biggest fear. During the day, I'd sit here silently, wishing Zed would burst through the door with his wide smile that I love and hold me close like this was all a bad dream.

But it's not. It's not a bad dream. This is real.

He beat me to a pulp, giving me head trauma and ultimately putting me in a coma, and nearly crushed my windpipe. I'm told if a patrol officer hadn't heard my early screams, they wouldn't have gotten to me in time and he would have actually killed me, eating my brain and all.

I can't bring myself to blame him though. For any of it. He wasn't himself. He couldn't control his actions. His Z-band malfunctioned and his zombie took over. Zed didn't mean to do that. No matter how much sense it would make for me to hate him, I don't. I can't. I love him way too much.

And I want to hold him. Comfort him. He must be so upset right now. So scared. I draw me knees up again. What can I possibly do to help him? I'm stuck in this hospital, reteaching my muscles how to hold my weight and waiting on my throat to finish healing.

I know what I need to do. I need to get better, for him. So he can see that I'm alright. So I can get him released from Containment. My brows knit together in determination. I click the nurse call button and Mia is quick to rush to my side.

"Yes Addison? What do you need?" She sounds slightly panicked, probably because I've been virtually mute for days.

"I'm fine." I assure her. "I'm just curious how long I'll be recovering." Nurse Mia taps her chin as she thinks it over.

"If everything goes smoothly, maybe a month or so?" She replies, a little unsure. That's all I need. I'm determined to do all I can to be out of here in less than a month. Definitely no longer.

XxX

Physical therapy is brutal and exhausting but I'm determined to get strong enough to be able to walk out of here. Today is going to be better because Bree is joining me afterwards. I've talked to her over the phone a lot since I 'woke up' but I've either been too tired or too busy with therapy to actually hang out.

"Are you ready to get changed for physical therapy, Addison?" Nurse Mia asks with a bright smile but her expression shifts to surprise when she sees me.

"I already did it." I reply as I turn the page of the book I'm reading. I was able to put on my swimsuit on my own without her help and she was caught off guard.

"Oh. Well, ok! I'll see if they're ready for you." She said hesitantly before hurrying out the door. I sigh, knowing I'm going to get scolded by the doctor. In the most whiny sarcastic voice my head can muster, I can hear them saying 'You could have gotten hurt!' or 'Its our job to keep you safe!' I roll my eyes.

I took it slow on purpose so I wouldn't get hurt. At first, I was testing the waters and once I started, I found it was coming easier than I expected and couldn't stop myself. So now I'm sitting on my bed in my swimsuit, reading a book, waiting for pool therapy to start.

Mia returned with a wheelchair and a smile. "Your trainer is ready for you, Addison!" She says happily.

"Can't I walk myself? I really don't think I need a wheelchair anymore." I complain as I put my book down on the nightstand and kick my feet over the edge. She let out a resigning sigh and smiled.

"Ok, but I'll bring the chair in case you get tired." She bargained. My face lit up. I definitely didn't expect her to agree. I excitedly hop off the bed and walk along side Nurse Mia on my own two feet, a pep in my step that my hard work is actually starting to pay off.

'Hold on for me, Zed. I'll be with you soon.'

XxX

"Great job today, Addison! You're doing fantastically! If you keep working this hard, you might just be back to normal in no time!" Trainer Bryant encouraged. I'm drying my hair with a towel and smile at the compliment only slightly out of breath from the workout.

"Thanks! That is the goal!" I reply a tiny bit sarcastically. He chuckles and shakes his head.

"Take tomorrow off to rest. We'll do another session in two days in the workout room!" He instructed, patting my shoulder lightly when he passed. "I'll go get the nurse to help you back to your room." I nod and pull the kimono style coverup over my swimsuit before taking a seat as I wait.

I hear the door behind me open but I don't even make a move to turn around. I already know it's the nurse to take me back to my room.

"Are you just gonna sit there? Or are you gonna hug your best friend?" I straighten up immediately hearing that voice. A familiar voice that was definitely not a nurse. I spin around and finding my best friend waiting with a wheelchair.

"Bree!" I exclaim excitedly, jumping up to run and give her a tight hug.

"Hi Addy!" She greeted close to my ear. "I've missed you!"

"I've missed you too!" She giggles at my reply.

"I assure you that I have definitely missed you more." She teases. My smile slowly drops and I avert my eyes to the floor.

"Right." I mutter under my breath. She grabs my hands supportively.

"I'm sorry! That was so insensitive of me! I'm so stupid!" She apologized frantically. I smile sadly at her.

"It's ok. It's not your fault." I assure her. Her eyes reflect her worry.

"Come on. Let go talk a while." She offers, gesturing to the chair on wheels. I scrunch my nose in disgust.

"Sure but not in that thing." I sneer. Bree tilts her head in response as if to say 'you know you don't have a choice'.

"The nurse told me you have to." She insists. I fold my arms and shift my weight to one hip in protest. Bree rolls her eyes and sighs. "Fine! But if we get in trouble, it's on you!" She demands.

"Yeah, yeah. Of course! They know how much I hate being treated like I'm freaking fragile!" I groan dramatically. Bree giggles and linked our arms together to lead me out to the garden behind the hospital.

"It's not too cold out here for you, is it?" Bree asked, gesturing to my swimsuit.

"No. The sun feels nice." I smile, raising my face towards the warm spring sun to let the rays hit my cheeks. "It's been a while since I've been outside." I admit mindlessly. She goes quiet and stares at the ground as we walk slowly. My brows knit together.

"What?" I ask.

"Oh, um, it's nothing!" She tries to deny, but I can tell from they way she stammers that something is on her mind.

"You can tell me, Bree." I assure her. She sees a bench and gently pulls us in its direction to sit. Once we were seated, she unlinked our arms, her face concerns me with how nervous she seemed.

"It's just, it's like you're back from the dead." She starts hesitantly. "We got very little details. Until Bucky was able to find out some inside information, we thought," she pause for a moment, "we thought he killed you." That statement made my eyes widen. Is that what people thought of him now? That he's a killer?

'Oh, Zed.' My heart hurts and I want to hold him.

"The news made it sound gory and disgusting. At first, I didn't even know what to expect when I would finally see you. Maybe he took bites out of you? You'd be missing a limb? It was hard telling. They kept your condition top secret." Bree continues.

"How- Wh-why would they do that?!" I yell out in rage. Bree flinches. "Zed, he-he lost a little control- He didn't mean to-" Bree hugged me around the shoulders.

"I know that, now." She assured me. I hug her as tears fill my eyes. She lets me cry for a few moments before continuing. "Things have been, different, since then." I pull back and wipe my nose as I sniffle to listen. "Zombies have been segregated again. They said it's only until they can figure out a better version of the Z-band, 'so incidents like that don't happen again'." Bree informs me, rolling her eyes and air quoting the last part.

"It was a freak accident! They can't do this!" I exclaim again. Bree pats my arm to calm me. I take a deep breath in my nose and let it out through my mouth. "How are they?" I ask.

"Miserable." She tells me honestly, then let's out a single defeated laugh. "Like me." It's my turn to comfort her by squeezing her hand. "It's been horrible. I only get to see Bonzo when I sneak to the barrier, and that's even too short. The patrol makes rounds 10 times more than they used to." She says with another sigh.

"I'm so sorry Bree." I tell her sincerely, raising a hand to scrub over my face. "We've really made a mess of things, huh?" Bree grabs my hand that's resting on my lap and gives it a squeeze.

"I'll believe you and Zed before I'll believe those liars again." She assures, looking me in the eyes. "If you say it was an accident, I believe you." Then, she shakes her head in disbelief and fixes her eyes on the ground. "And poor Zed. I haven't even said his name in ages."

"What's happening to him?" I ask eagerly. She shuts her eyes and sighed.

"Last I heard, he's in the psychiatric ward of Zombie Containment. It's reported that he goes Zombie without his Z-band malfunctioning and he's gone crazy." My heart was burning. I need to get to him. Like, yesterday. He needs me.

She shook her head again. "I don't think they even gave him a trial." That one statement sent a wave of fury coursing through my veins.

"That's it! I'm done being nice!" I declare, swiftly standing and marching towards the hospital doors. Bree chases after me and easily gets in front to stop me. I curse my weakened state that I don't have the speed of strength to push past her.

"Wait Addy! What are you going to do? You're still healing!" She reasoned gently.

"I don't care! He needs me, Bree!" I yell with a sob shaking my voice, the evident tears streaming freely down my cheeks. She immediately hugs me tight. "I have to help him." My voice comes out in a whisper against her shoulder.

"I'll help you." She whispers back. "We can fix all of this."