A/N: OK, here it is. This is story idea that I've been playing around for more than a year now. Kept running into roadblocks and distractions. Just couldn't seem to keep at it as much as I should have.
So here's my dilemma. Prior to this, I've said I would not publish a story until all of it was finished. But I feel I need a little pressure to get this one done, so I'm putting it to you, the readers. Please tell me in your comments if I should delay this story until it is completed or start serializing now. I will leave this up for a week to judge your response. If "wait until completed" is the majority, I'll pull this off and post the complete story later. (A number of months for sure.)
Otherwise, I'll leave it up. If so, I do have the next two chapters ready to go and two or three others close. The release time between chapters would be a couple of weeks.
My beta, michaelfmx, has proposed a concept for this story that I believe may be fairly unique. Can't tell you all the details right now, but watch for it after Chapter Two (By my storyline, starting as I do, with this Prologue. Chapter Three by the way Fanfic will call it.) I thank him for his hard work, observations and ideas. Although he's also truly, horribly, terribly evil for suggesting it. :)You'll see why when the complexity of his idea is revealed.
Timeline wise, and only timeline wise do I sort of see this set early third season. But there's nothing of that storyline in this tale. It's simply more of how I see where the main characters are in their lives. In fact, I don't think well see much of any canon events here.
Certain aspects of this tale, as it develops, may be disconcerting to many of you who've read my other pieces. But I believe that if you stick with it, you'll (hopefully) find satisfaction: One way or another. (There's a hint right about what will come later.)
Most of the story will stay fairly close to canon characters and relationships. However, there will be radical departures from how this happens. That will become clearer as time goes on.
But please remember that this will be first and foremost a Charah story, even if it's not always arrived at in the conventional way.
Don't own Chuck, et al.
CHUCK VERSUS THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS
He lies on the bed, quiet and unmoving. Except for a marginally rapid pulse and a few slight spikes in brain wave activity, (both dutifully recorded by just two of the many machines attached to him) there is nothing to indicate he's anything but entirely comatose. Neither of the indicators has reached a level to trigger any alarm bells, so, at least for the moment, they go unnoticed. To the casual observer, it would appear that he is in exactly the same condition he's been for the past five days.
But today is different. Beneath the deceptive outward calm, hampered by his inability to either truly sleep or bring himself to full wakefulness, he finds himself trapped in that disorienting twilight state between consciousness and unconsciousness. And though he remains still, inside he is anything but.
Fragments of fantastically improbable scenes tumble chaotically through his mind. It's impossible to latch onto one, explore it before he is moved on, unwillingly, to the next. He's not even granted that weird, illogical continuity that dreamers often experience, where one scene leads nonsensically into the next in a way that somehow still seems to fit.
No. It's just a jumble of unrelated, hard-edged pieces that don't fit together. A series of disjointed events with no rhyme or reason.
Then, unexpectedly, he's given a brief moment of clarity, and during it, he's able to discern his error. For there is a constant. One that brings all the pieces together in a way that suddenly does makes sense.
She's everywhere in his tumultuous thoughts. Every action taken, every choice made comes back to her. Even when she's not foremost in the riotous images flashing through his mind, he can still feel her presence. It's as if she's waiting in the wings for her cue, that moment when she'll join him once again.
He wants that. So badly. And though he has no real sense of time, somehow he knows he's already been away from her for far too long. He needs to see her. To touch her. To talk with her.
But to do any of that, he'll first have to wake up.
Karen Green looks up from her magazine, thinking, hoping for a second that her patient has stirred. Standing, she walks to the bed and checks the monitors for any changes. Noting nothing significant, she looks down at the curly-haired young man still lying in exactly the same position he'd been when she'd last checked. There are no signs he's waking up, or perhaps that he ever will. Sighing, she returns to her chair.
Karen is an excellent nurse. Conscientious, kind, empathetic, yet authoritative when needed. She is also trusted and discreet, mandatory requirements for any who work in NSA/CIA-run medical facilities as she's done for the past twenty-one years.
Long ago, she'd developed the required ability of selective hearing. When you take care of sick or wounded agents, things are going to be said that shouldn't be heard. Matters that are of national import or sometimes just about the private lives of public figures. In either case, the words would simply not find any permanent spot in her mind. Gone with the wind, so to speak, as soon as she left their room.
Not that there was any need to worry about that with her current patient. The man hasn't uttered a sound since he was brought here close to a week ago. He also hasn't made any movements, voluntary or otherwise, so they had taken the needed actions to prevent bedsores. It was during one of these procedures that she noticed there were no signs of any physical trauma, no indications of why he was in a coma. She can only guess at the cause, because she's been told nothing about this man beyond the bare facts she needs in order to care for him.
Karen has never seen security as tight as it is for this patient. Each and every time she enters his room, she has to show her pass to the guard permanently stationed outside. She knows all the security personnel by name, has done so for years, yet there are no exceptions. She has no idea of why the man, only referred to as Agent C., is so important, but she'd learned long ago not to question matters beyond her pay grade.
However, that doesn't stop her from being curious. She's almost always been able to restrain that in the past, but there's a certain air of tragedy surrounding him that tugs at her heartstrings. So, while on duty, she's constantly watching all that happens around him, trying to sort out what's going on.
She especially keeps a close eye on those who visit him. Working on different shifts, she's been able to sort out the regular crew of doctors and nurses and other visitors from those who have some sort of personal connection to the young man. By her observations, and using the information gathered from the other nurses, she's been able to quickly narrow it down to five people who visit regularly. They also have one other thing in common: None of them have names on their passes.
There's a couple, both doctors but not regular members of the staff, although they seem to know their way around the place. Perhaps they worked here before Karen transferred in. The woman has longish brown hair about the same color as the patient. Very pretty, and Karen would guess normally quite vivacious, but at the moment that is obviously curbed by her worry over the patient's lack of progress. She tries to be optimistic, but it's easy to tell how the situation wears on her.
She's accompanied by a man that, in her youth, Karen would have called a hunk. Hell, she still would, even if that word is somewhat outdated. The man obviously works out. Tall, with sandy colored hair and a male model face. If she was fifteen years younger and he wasn't so clearly attached to the brunette Doctor beside him, she would've been tempted to make a move. Putting aside these somewhat inappropriate thoughts, she'd seen that he shares his partner's concern.
These two show up daily, usually fairly early and then in the late afternoon. They're clearly involved in the case, but there's more to it than just that. On a number of occasions, Karen has seen the woman break down in tears only to be comforted by her companion. That they both feel something well beyond the normal doctor/patient relationship is readily apparent.
The third is a short, dark-haired man. Hispanic looking with a rather substantial beard. He comes every day in the early afternoon, pulls up a chair and, for a couple of hours, reads quietly to his unresponsive listener.
Sitting near the far wall, fifteen feet away, Karen at first wasn't sure what he was reading out loud. But when she caught a glimpse of what the man was holding up, she realized it was what she would call a comic book, but what's known as a graphic novel nowadays.
While quiet, he reads with animation, taking the time to explain what was happening in each of the panels. On a few of his visits, he'd gone so far as to hold up the page to point out a particularly interesting illustration, only to then realize the futility of the gesture. When that had happened, his previous liveliness vanished and he'd left shortly thereafter.
The fourth is obviously a military man. It's stamped all over him, evident in his posture, the way he walks. He's a big man with an impassive face, one that carries scars from the life he's led. He shows up, like clockwork, at 0600. When Karen had offered a greeting upon meeting him for the first time, he'd merely grunted in reply. She hadn't tried that again.
He simply stands beside the bed, never sits, never says a word. Every once in a while, she catches a glimpse of something, some sort of emotion flickering across his face, but it quickly disappears as he schools his expression once again. It's almost as if he doesn't want anyone to know how much he cares for the man lying before him. But Karen isn't fooled. After an hour, he leaves.
The fifth is the one that especially tears at Karen's heart. The tall, blond woman arrives every day in the early evening and stays until midnight or so. She quietly greets the nurse with a smile, but one that never quite reaches her eyes. She's strikingly beautiful, and Karen can only imagine what the woman's full blown smile would look like. The nurse expects it would light up the room.
But Karen doubts she'll ever see that, for the woman brings with her an overpowering sense of heartbreaking loss, so powerful as to be almost palpable.
It's always the same. She draws the chair as close as possible and then, with her hand gently on his, leans forward to bring her face close. Then she starts to talk. For hours on end she speaks to him, her voice a low murmur.
From where she sits, Karen is unable to hear her words and is glad she can't, for to do so would be a grossly inappropriate violation of such intimacy. Besides, it wouldn't exactly be professional if the woman looked over to see her crying like a baby, which is exactly what would happen if she could discern even a tiny fraction of what was being said.
The nurse can only imagine the words being spoken, imagines what she would say if she was this deeply in love (as this woman so clearly is) with a man who may never come back to her. How profoundly she cares for him, how much she is looking forward to their lives together, the family they would have.
Karen's never really been a firm believer in the idea that comatose patients can hear all that is said to them, but she fervently hopes she's wrong in this case. She prays he hears every word, every sentiment. That this is what will be remembered even if everything else is forgotten.
This evening, the woman, upon finishing her conversation (for Karen thinks of it as such even though it's all one-sided), had stood and reached over to brush away some of the unruly curls covering the electrodes on his forehead. Then she'd leaned in and quickly, softly kissed him before turning away, heading for the door. As she'd passed where Karen was sitting, she'd mouthed a quiet 'Thank you'. Even in the relatively dim light it was easy to see her red-rimmed eyes.
Right then, it had dawned on the nurse that if she'd ever had children from her short-lived, teenage marriage, this woman would be about the right age. She had experienced a sudden maternal urge to take the woman into her arms, comfort her as a mother would her daughter, and tell her she will get the happily ever after.
But she hadn't. A bitter lesson she'd been taught years ago is not to give false hope. Even so, hours later, she wishes she'd just said to hell with it and done whatever she could to console her.
Suddenly yawning, she glances at her watch to see that there are two hours left on the double shift they'd assigned her. She'll be heading home just about the time Military Guy shows up.
It's at this moment that she hears a quiet alarm beep from one of the machines. Standing, she quickly walks toward the bed. Scanning the array of screens, she notices the EEG is showing a significant increase in brainwave activity. His pulse rate is rapidly rising as well. Movement catches her eye. She looks down to see his right-hand twitch, once, then again.
She takes a few steps away, pulls her phone from her pocket and calls the first number on her speed dial.
"The patient appears to be coming out of his coma. You'll inform her?" She listens for a few seconds more, then nods. "Yes, I'll alert the doctors and stay with him."
After calling the nurse's station and passing on her request, she returns to the bed just in time to see his eyelids flutter. He raises his head a little and his lips part. It's obvious he's trying to say something, so she leans in close to hear him utter a single word before his head falls back again on the pillow. Checking the monitors again, she's happy to see they all indicate that he's simply sleeping.
Karen is still standing at his bedside when, thirty minutes later, the door opens to admit a short, red-haired woman, impeccably turned out in her uniform, even at this hour of the morning.
The nurse steps towards her, quietly says, "Good morning, Ma'am. There are no immediate issues, but I've alerted the on-call physicians as per your standing orders. They haven't arrived as of yet."
"Yes, Karen. I told them to stand down until I had the chance to speak with you."
"Is there anything the General would like to ask?"
"Yes. Did he say anything?"
"Just one word, Ma'am."
"What was that?"
"Sarah. It almost sounded like a question."
Karen sees the General's face fall, and it's a few seconds before she responds, almost as if she's speaking to herself.
"Damn. We were afraid this was going to happen."
A/N: Please tell me what you think. Later chapters will be longer. Probably 5-6,000 words each.
I await your verdict, dear readers.