Oz was tired.
And he hated himself in a way he hadn't in quite a number of years.
Lingering outside the hospital, he weighed his options. On one hand, if he left now and returned to Vale, he could do so with a light conscience, because he had done everything that he could, and it had almost cost him dearly. It probably had, judging by the way his magic was struggling to regenerate at the very core of his being. It felt like his body was a tub of water, and he had pulled out the plug, then, when he'd tried to stopper it again, it continued to dribble out anyway.
That was probably... definitely a bad analogy, but he was tired and he was allowed to be a bit less than a poet.
Leaning against the wall, he pressed the back of his head against the concrete and squeezed his eyes shut. It felt wrong to leave now, after what had happened and what he had been forced to do in order to keep a stranger alive... except James Ironwood wasn't even a stranger. He was an annoyance, and he was arrogant, and Oz had almost gotten him killed because he'd... what? Wanted to teach him some kind of lesson in humility? He was a young man looking to prove himself, who had accomplished too much in too short a time to respond well to what seemed like a lowly teacher's scolding.
This could have been handled so much better. This should have never happened. He should have tolerated a bit of annoyance with more grace, and he shouldn't have ever allowed Ironwood to needle him into making such a stupid, reckless call. Someone else should have stopped them from even considering a mission that was listed as needing two four-man teams - no matter what Oz really was, he was physically barely beyond a child. Ironwood wasn't much better.
But they both had already developed their own reputations, and Oz knew how to work the system because he had made the system. So he had tweaked his way into the mission they should have never been allowed to take, and he had led Ironwood by the nose right into a hell of fire and teeth and claws. Oz had let the arrogant, bullheaded fool assume he was going to be the weak link between them...
He sighed loudly, pushing the air out through his teeth, and his fingers twitched into fists. He still had the stink of it lingering in his nose. Boiling blood, seared flesh, cooked meat. He couldn't remember exactly what had happened in the aftermath, but the Grimm had been dispatched brutally, and then Oz had scrambled for Ironwood, trying and failing to stem the flow of blood and control the shock as it set in, and keep his insides inside, and...
He had thought about leaving him in the forest. He hated himself most for that, because it had not been a fleeting thought. Oz had stood up, and he had walked away... and something had brought him back, and guided his hands to channel what magic he had into James's form, forcing his body into a makeshift stasis. Then, Oz had flown for the first time in centuries, all the way back to Atlas, and he had risked his own safety and secrecy by following the idiot right into an operating theater, because no one else could keep the effects of the damage at bay.
Luckily, Oz was an adept liar, especially under duress, and he had painted a story of a very odd bu handy Semblance that the hospital staff had accepted willingly. He'd even had to turn down some hasty job offers over the course of those chaotic days, because Oz had been present for all of it, holding Ironwood's body in the same magical stasis until, at last, they had tried to ease it away (again) and he hadn't immediately started to crash.
Since then, Oz had been sleeping. He wasn't sure how many days, but at least a week. Maybe more. His life had been nothing but deep, comatose slumber interspersed with bouts of voracious hunger and thirst. He still felt weak, but he was better than he had been by the end of his stint keeping James Ironwood alive.
He stared at the door thoughtfully, head still leaning against the wall. A nurse had let him know when Ironwood awoke, but Oz had felt...
It had felt wrong to flock straight to his bedside like some wayward family member, so he'd kept a respectful distance. Now, he was just looking for another excuse to stay away, because Oz didn't know what he was supposed to say. An apology felt hollow, knowing what he had done to a man with his entire life before him. He had stolen that from him, all in some petty, spiteful bid to make Ironwood look like a fool.
He sighed again, and pushed off the wall at last, entering the hospital. He breathed in the antiseptic stink and wrinkled his nose, but he kept walking past the elevators, preferring to climb the stairs as slowly as he could, biding his time and taking breaks at every landing. Hoping that there would be some miraculous emergency that might call him away. Or, maybe he would just kill his conscience for once and just leave.
Instead, Oz walked right up to the door he was looking for, and rapped smartly, ducking his head in tentatively. Unfortunately, there were no family members or grieving lovers or whoever else James Ironwood would have at his bedside. The smell of burnt flesh was still prominent, but it wasn't as bad. It smelled more like healing now.
"Hello." Oz began awkwardly, creeping around the doorjamb and easing his way into the room. "I would have brought a gift, but..." He shrugged one shoulder. "The condolence bears just didn't stand out to me today. Pity you didn't wake up sooner. They had a lovely 'feel better' loon last week..." He shifted his weight, aware that now probably wasn't the time to make jokes. Oz didn't approach the bed, aware that he might be the last man on earth Ironwood would want to see. Aware that he wouldn't be wrong about that...
He breathed in deeply. "So, what's your plan?" No apologies. No wheedling for forgiveness. No asking how he was feeling. That never helped - Oz knew it from experience on both sides of the bed.