Thank you all for reading from both Crimson Haze and myself. Crimson Haze wrote most of this chapter. That's why it's so amazing. Sequel coming soon. You'll see why soon enough. Please remember to review. Bye, for now.

Chapter 9 Zack

Zack sighed as he was helped onto the operating table. Jack and Ellen walked over to him.

"Ready?" asked Ellen.

"As always," said Zack.

"Last surgery. You've come a long way, Zack," said Jack. Zack laid down as an IV was put in his hand.

"Thank you both for everything," said Zack.

"You're very welcome," said Ellen.

"So today is just some maintenance work right?" asked Zack.

"Yep. I'll work on your ears, nose, and lips. Jack is going to stick a hose in your stomach and suck out all that bad fluid. Shouldn't take more then three hours," said Ellen.

"Are you cutting my stomach open completely?" asked Zack, starting to feel drowsy.

"Nope. I can access everything I need through your bellybutton. Very cool procedure. No effort on my part," said Jack. Zack nodded. His eyelids started to close.

"See you soon, Zack," said Ellen. Zack's closed his eyes and fell asleep. Zack was soon fully under and Jack and Ellen got to work. Ellen worked on Zack's ear while Jack cut out his navel and stuck a hose down it. He had to be careful not to damage anything. Soon Zack's stomach was draining. Ellen finished working on Zack's ear after an hour and got busy on his nose. Jack was almost done draining Zack's stomach. He finished right as Ellen finished on Zack's nose. Jack removed the hose and closed Zack's navel up. His part was done but he stayed as Ellen worked on Zack's lips. The boy didn't move as his lips were cut open and drained. Ellen finished and Zack's final surgery was over. It had taken exactly three hours. Zack woke up right away. He threw up a little from the anesthesia but was soon feeling better.

"I want my mom," said Zack, drooling running down his cheek.

"You'll see her soon, buddy," said Jack. Zack was taken to recovery.

Cody stared at the numbers on his math homework until they were nothing but little black squiggles on the page. As he and his mom waited for news on Zack, who being operated on for the last time, he had been making up all of the schoolwork he had missed while they were in the hospital. But now, after hours of nothing but homework to take his mind off Zack, Cody had nothing to do.

His mom sat beside him, "I don't know what I'd do without you," she said softly, "You have been so brave throughout this whole thing—you and Zack both."

Cody looked at her, "So have you."

Carey picked up Cody's hand, "I'm so proud of you, sweetie," she said as tears filled her eyes, "You were there for your brother one hundred percent. You have him your kidney. You've really grown up in the past few days."

He shrugged, looking at the ground, "I did what I had to do."

"You didn't have to do it," she said, pride shining through in her voice, "You chose to. That shows a lot of maturity."

Cody leaned against her shoulder, "After this I never want to set foot a hospital again."

She put an arm around him and kissed his forehead, "I hope you won't," she said wistfully.

Simultaneously they both closed their eyes. But as tired as they were, neither of them could sleep.

In the back of Cody's mind he prayed that nothing went wrong with Zack during the remainder of his surgeries. He had been through so much and came so far—it wouldn't be fair if something horrible happened now.

Carey was thinking similar thoughts as she held Cody close to her, thankful that at least one of her children was safe.

After sitting in silence for a few calm moments, Carey and Cody opened there eyes at the sound of squeaky feet approaching them.

They stood up and a nurse smiled at them, "You must be Zack Martin's family," she said, looking at Cody, "He did very well. He's in room 111 if you want to see him."

"Thank you," Carey said, relieved, "Thank you so much."

"His doctors will be here in a little while," she told them, as she led them to Zack's recovery room, "You can have some time alone with him."

"Thank you," Carey said again. The nurse left and the two of them went to Zack's bed.

"Hey," he mumbled drowsily.

Carey smiled down at him, "You're awake."

He nodded.

"How was it?" Cody asked.

"Great," Zack said, sleepiness resonating through the playful sarcasm in his voice, "Definitely something I'm going to have to do more often."

Cody ran his fingers through Zack's hair, "Sorry buddy," he said, "but no more surgeries for you."

Zack smiled, but then it vanished because his lips still stung from the surgery, "When can we go home?"

"Soon," Carey said, she kissed his cheek, "I talked to Jake earlier today. He said the hospital would probably release you the day after tomorrow if you've gotten enough rest by then."

Zack looked at his mom than at Cody as his eyelids drooped. He wanted to tell them he loved them. He wanted to tell them how much it meant to him that they were there for him while he was in the hospital. He wanted to say that he was sorry for making them put their lives on hold. But before he could say any of this, his eyes were closed and sleep was slowly tugging him in the other direction.

"That's right, baby," Carey said as she stroked his cheek, "sleep."

"But I have to tell you—," his voice sounded far away.

He felt Cody's hand in his.

"It's okay, Zack," he said gently, "we know."

Zack opened his tired eyes and looked at him. Cody nodded reassuringly and Zack nodded back. Cody got it. Zack knew that he understood.

He closed his eyes again, and drifted off into a peaceful slumber.

Carey squeezed Cody's shoulder and watched Zack sleep. They sat down next to his bed. Carey held Zack's hand.

Out of the corner of her eye she glanced at Cody. He was staring at his brother in a protective way, like a watchdog. Carey smirked and shook her head, more like a guardian angel, she mused.

During the days that they had been spending in the hospital, watching over Zack, Carey noticed that Cody would get sort of restless after awhile. Watching somebody sleep can only keep a person amused for a little bit. After about a half hour, Cody would usually get bored. Sometimes he would read or try to do some school work, and sometimes he would pace back and forth in front of Zack's bed.

But Carey did not get bored. Life was so hectic with her job and taking care of two children that she rarely had to stop and look at her kids — reallylook at them. This thought had caught her mind a few times before Zack ended up in the hospital, usually during those seldom mornings when everything seems to be going according to plan. She and the boys would be sitting down for breakfast and one of them might catch her eye or mildly surprise her in some way. She would stare at him for a moment, wondering where the time went. Wondering how her son could have grown up so fast. But after a second or two, whichever one had provoked her to pause and look would catch her and ask what she was starring at.

'It's like that Ferris Bueller quote,' Carey thought to herself, 'Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.'

"Mom?" Cody asked, "What's wrong?"

Carey tore her eyes away from Zack and looked at her. There were tears streaming down her cheeks.

"It's nothing, Cody," she said, scooting her chair closer to him, "I'm just thinking."

"About what?"

"You and Zack," she answered with a wistful smile, "You've grown up so fast. I remember when you were babies neither of you would cry very often at night. But when you did after I got you quieted down and back to sleep I would stay and your bedroom and watch you guys sleep. You always looked so peaceful, like nothing bad could ever happen to you. But something bad did happen," she paused and looked at Zack again, "so now I'm back to watching you sleep."

Cody leaned against her again and gave her a hug. Carey wrapped her arms around him and kissed the top of his head, "I love you so much."

"Love you too."

They broke apart at the sound of a knock on the door.

"Come in," Carey called.

Jack, Jake, and Ellen walked in together. Ellen was carrying flowers.

"He's been through a lot," Ellen said, nodding at Zack, "but he made it."

Tears filled Carey's eyes. She stood up, "Thank you all so much," she said in a whispery voice. She was getting more choked up with each word.

Ellen smiled warmly, "It's our job," she said, "And you all have been great to work with." She handed Carey the flowers, "Make sure he gets them?"

Carey nodded, "Of course."

Ellen had to run some tests on another patient, so she said goodbye to the Martins and walked out the door.

"I have to go too," Jake said, "I just wanted to see how you were doing and to say goodbye."

"He's doing great," Carey said, beaming, "He was awake for a little while. He'll want to thank you himself though."

Jake nodded, "I'll stop by tomorrow when he's awake," he promised. He turned to Cody, "Take care of yourself."

Cody nodded, "Thanks," he said, "for everything."

Jake left.

They were left alone with Jack Cole, world renowned surgeon. He was famous for his skills and infamous for his faults, such as his habit of getting 'too involved.'

"You know," Jack said suddenly, as if reading their minds, "I've been criticized for getting to close to my patients. As doctors we are supposed to have what they call 'detached professionalism.' But getting a little emotionally involved definitely makes this part more rewarding."

Carey smiled at him, "All three of you have been wonderful," she said, "I can't thank you enough."

Cody glanced at his stomach. He was wearing a blue and red t-shirt that covered a bandage that, in turn, covered a scar carved by Jack. And because of Jack, his brother was still alive. He looked up at him, "Yeah. Thanks for what you did for Zack. And for me."

"Just doing my job," Jack said with a grin. His brash personality was taking a backseat to his calm and slightly proud demeanor.

"I should be going," he said.

"Wait."

Everybody looked at Zack, who had just woken up. Jack went to the side of his bed.

"Thanks for saving my life," Zack said, unable to keep the tiredness out of his voice.

"No problem," Jack said, resting his hand on his shoulder, "Be safe once you get out of the hospital, and hopefully we'll never have to see each other again."

Zack laughed softly.

Jack turned to Carey and Cody, "I really do have to go," he said, "But if I ever do see you guys again, it'll have to be under better circumstances."

"Right," Carey said, laughing, "It was great meeting you."

Jack walked to the door, "You too," he said, "all of you."

Carey and Cody returned to their seats by Zack's bed. Zack was already nodding off.

"I'll be right back," Carey said after a few minutes.

She left and Zack and Cody were alone. Zack was sound asleep, and Cody was getting tired himself.

Cody stroked Zack's hair, "I told you everything would be okay," he said to his sleeping brother.

He smiled to himself. He was happy that they had gotten through everything, and emerged stronger.

Cody was smiling as he loaded the cards, candy, stuffed animals, and flowers into his mother's suitcase. Zack was being discharged from the hospital and they were finally going home.

"I don't think those are going to survive in there," Zack said from his hospital bed.

Cody looked at the flowers he was stuffing into the suitcase and he laughed, "Wow. I didn't even think of that."

Zack laughed too, "Dude, you lost a liver, not a brain."

"Kidney, genius," Cody said, "I lost a kidney—big difference there."

Now they were both laughing, with tears running down their cheeks. They were both really looking forward to going home, and the excitement made them sort of slaphappy.

Carey walked into Zack's hospital room. She had just finished signing the release forms and she was as ready to go as the boys.

"Are you finished packing?" she asked Cody.

"Yeah," he replied, picking up the suitcase, "Can we go?"

"In just a minute," Carey replied, sitting down on the edge of Zack's bed, "We need to wait for an orderly to bring up a wheelchair."

Zack swung his legs over the edge of the bed so he was sitting up. For the first time in days he was not wearing a hospital gown. He was wearing an old pair of jeans and his favorite orange hoodie. Carey ran to the Tipton the night before to pick up some clothes.

"Are you going to miss the hospital?" Carey asked him in a teasing voice.

"No way," Zack answered smiling, "I will miss the people who work here though."

Cody nodded in agreement. Both Jake and Ellen had stopped by again that morning to say goodbye for the last time. Zack and Cody had hoped that Jack would be there, but he never came.

"He probably went back home," Cody had said.

They knew that Jack Cole was a very busy man.

"When we get home I'm going straight to the front desk," Cody said, "I never thought I would say this, but I actually miss Mosby."

"I'm going to the game room," Zack said, "And to the pool and to the Candy Counter to visit Maddie and the…"

"Hold on," Carey said, interrupting him, "When we get home you're going straight to your room. You didn't spend all this time recovering just so you can go and wear yourself out again. There'll be plenty of time to have fun later."

"Come on, Mom," Zack wheedled, "What's the point of leaving the hospital if I'm just going to lie around in bed all the time? That's what I've been doing here."Carey kissed his forehead, "How does lying around in bed with the TV in your room and a bowl of ice cream sound?" she asked.

"Like the hospital," Zack and Cody answered together.

Carey laughed, "Just a few days, Zack, and then everything will be back to normal."

There was a knock on the door.

"That'll be the orderly with the wheelchair," Carey said, "Come in!"

The door swung open and a wheelchair was rolled in… by Jack.

Zack's face lit up, "I thought you left."

Jack grinned, "I couldn't let my star patient leave without saying goodbye," he said.

"Star patient?" Zack repeated.

"You bet," Jack replied, handing him a newspaper, "So what if it's just a one hundred word blurb on the eighth page? It's still a small taste of fame if you ask me."

Zack looked at the newspaper and sure enough there was a tiny story about him. The headline was "Thirteen Year Old Recovers Nicely"

"Wow," he said, "That's… interesting."

"It's a good thing the hospital reports are confidential," Jack said as Cody helped Zack into the wheelchair, "I don't think the reporters would be able to stay away from your story if they knew the whole thing."

"Seriously?" Zack asked.

"Seriously," said Jack, "Think about it, you were nearly beaten to death but managed to survive with the help of your twin brother's kidney. That's what I call a human interest story."

Carey and Cody followed Jack out the door as he pushed the wheelchair.

"It may be interesting to some people," Carey said as they walked out of the hospital, "But I'm just glad the story's over."

The group walked out of the hospital with their spirits high. After a long struggle of pain and suffering, everything was going to be fine.

Cody smiled to himself as they crossed the hospital parking lot. Zack climbed out of the wheelchair. The sun was shining brightly. The birds were chirping and the scent of the flowers carried throughout the entire area. Everything was perfect.

BANG!

Cody jumped. He whirled around just in time to see Zack crumble to the ground.

"Oh my God!" Carey exclaimed, dropping to her knees, beside him.

"Zack," Cody whispered, shaking. Then suddenly panic seized him, "ZACK!"

He looked down. Zack was laying on his back. His eyes were open, but had a glassy look to them. Blood soaked through his orange shirt. He wasn't moving.

'He's not moving!'

"Cody, go back to the hospital!" Jack exclaimed, "Tell them someone was shot in the parking lot. The gunman ran off, but they need to get out here now."

"Zack," he whimpered.

Jack grabbed him by the shoulders, "Tell them he was shot in the chest," he ordered, "Now, Cody, there's still time."

Cody nodded and broke into a run.

Jack knelt down and snapped into action. Since Carey parked by the emergency room, he knew that the medics would be out there within seconds. But time was of the essence and he had to help the kid immediately. He pulled his jacket off and pressed it against Zack's chest.

"Zack?" he asked, "Can you hear me?"

Zack was staring straight a head. His eyes were open, but he looked dead.

'Not now,' Jack prayed silently as he felt for a pulse, 'Not like this.'

He found a pulse on his neck.

A swarm of paramedics surrounded them and loaded Zack onto a stretcher and hurried him into the hospital—to the same place where he had been so excited to leave.

Tears streamed down Cody's face as he watched his brother disappear into the hospital. Jack followed them, yelling out orders. Carey remained on the ground, sobbing over the place where Zack had lain. Cody sat Indian style beside her and cried. Carey wrapped her arms around him and rocked him back in forth.

The story was not over just yet.

To be continued…