One little word. That’s all it takes.
He knows something is amiss from the beginning – can detect some edge to Bill’s voice, some trace of hesitation, of pain. But he doesn’t want to believe it, doesn’t want to even dare thinking it – despite the fact that, deep down, he knows it might be true.
Tony slips out of the ward, hardly thinking about the pain anymore. His physical injuries will heal, that much is obvious. He can think. Stand. Walk. Talk. Anything else is temporary, and will pass. And above all else, it must not hold him back.
He crosses the floor, not even thinking of Jack now. The time for that will come – perhaps later than he wants. Perhaps sooner. It remains to be seen. All he thinks of now is her, his Michelle, the woman who brought light back to his life – not once, but twice.
In some hidden corner of his mind, he can still smell the smoke. But he isn’t processing that. Not yet.
The computer is there, just as he knew it would be, and he types her name into the search box with effortless ease, fingers dancing out the pattern of familiar letters. Even when one spends much of one’s life typing, certain words flow more readily than all the others.
And then they’re on top of him, trying to hold him back, trying to get him to return to the hospital ward. He hears their voices, but the words blend to background noise – focused as he is on the computer screen.
One little word. That’s all it takes. All it takes to make the world fall away into endless, empty black. In that instant, he feels the bottom drop out of reality, feels his own breath suddenly catch in his chest, feels his own life suddenly weighing heavy on his shoulders.
He can remember the smoke, now – now that the pictures are there, etching realisation on top of blurry memory. And he won’t forget the sight of her… broken, shattered, destroyed, wrenched from this life without cause or warning.
His world breaks. Breaks and gives way, even as they finally drag him back to the ward – and though the images are no longer displayed before his eyes, he can still see them. He will always see them.
Tony collapses back onto the bed, barely managing to keep himself from falling to his knees instead, head bowed as the full force of grief suddenly crashes into his mind.
He whispers, “No,” over and over, eyes filled with tears – but no matter how many times he says it, the truth will not change.
Michelle is gone. Michelle is gone, and the world is dark again.
Summary: For Tony, one little word is all it takes. [SPOILERS FOR 5.11 - 5pm-6pm]