A/N: I really do have a good excuse this time, guys. This year has been a bit hellish. It has just been one crisis after another, combined with three or four family health emergencies, with school, homework and finals on top of it. I'm very sorry for not updating sooner, and I am hoping to try and include a Christmas chapter to end this story soon, if not before then shortly after the holidays :) Thank you so much to all of my readers and reviewers for your continued support, and I hope you guys enjoy this new chapter!

Sara blinked her eyes once. She blinked twice. And then she blinked them a third time, for good measure.

She could not, for the life of her, recall at all how she had come to be in this white room. She didn't remember any of these bright lights or beeping sounds, and she certainly didn't remember any of these tubes and wires sticking out of her. She didn't remember her apartment having such a small bedroom, and she couldn't seem to place where all of these flowers had come from.

Just how hungover was she? Surely she didn't get so drunk last night that she couldn't remember anything at all?

Sara stared blankly at Catherine in confusion, trying to think of a reason she would be sitting next to her, blushing like a shy schoolgirl, and wishing her a Happy Valentine's Day, out of all things. She felt a light pressure leaning against her midsection, and she glanced down to find Lindsey laying in between the two of them, sound asleep.

What was Lindsey doing here? What was Catherine doing here? Damn it, if only she could remember!

"...Sara?" Catherine hesitantly asked, her smile faltering when she saw the confusion on her face. "Sara, can you hear me? It's me, Catherine."

Sara opened her mouth, willing her vocal cords to make some sort of sound so that she didn't appear a complete idiot in front of Catherine. She was obviously expecting her to say something. Speak Sara, just open your mouth and say something, for god's sake!

When she finally spoke, her voice was hoarse and just the sound of it made her throat hurt even more. "Can... can I have some water?" Sara rasped out.

"Of course," Catherine quickly said, internally kicking herself for not thinking to get her some sooner. Tossing her legs over the side of the bed, she started to get to her feet, before she caught herself, remembering her ankle. "Hang on," she told Sara. "I'm going to call a nurse, alright? The doctor should come in and see you, anyway."

Reaching across Sara to press the call button, Catherine chuckled, catching the look of distaste on Sara's face from her suggestion. "Don't even think about it, Sidle. You might not like it, but so help me God, that doctor is going to see you."

Sara smirked back, the biggest she could muster, though even that seemed to hurt. At any other moment she would've argued, but even she, stubborn as she was, knew she was in no condition to do so.

A few minutes later, a little blonde nurse walked through the doorway, a clipboard in hand. "Miss Willows, is there a problem?" she asked, before noticing that Sara's eyes were open. "Oh! Miss Sidle, you're awake!" she practically squeaked. "I have to go get the doctor!" And just as quickly as she had appeared, she was gone.

Sara sighed, trying to shield her eyes from the harsh lights in the bright white room. Her arms felt heavy and uncooperative, and she moaned in frustration. "What does it take to get a damn glass of water around here?"

Catherine grinned, dimming the overhead lights with a switch on the side of Sara's bed. "Give them a little credit, Sara. You've been out for days, now. They didn't expect you up for about another week, at the earliest. You were in a co--" Catherine suddenly stopped, her smile disappearing altogether. The realization of just how close Sara had been to death suddenly hit her like a ton of bricks. Of course, she had known Sara was dying when she had discovered the gunshot wound, and when she listened for a pulse but never found one, but to hear the actual words... to actually be told by someone...

"...They're not sure when she's going to wake up."

Not sure when she would wake up. Not sure how she was going to wake up.

Not sure if she was going to wake up.

Catherine swallowed back her emotions, and tried to take a deep breath, so that wouldn't lose it right in front of Sara. Trying to smile, she assured her, "The doctor will be here in a minute to see how you're doing, and then I'll make sure you get some water. Okay?"

Sara nodded, and despite how hard Catherine tried to hide it, she could sense her growing unease from a mile away. Trying to lighten the mood, she looked at the flowers around the room. "So... Valentine's Day, huh?" she smirked a little.

Catherine tried to control the profuse blushing of her cheeks. She had known Sara for years, and she knew better than to feel shy in front of someone she had known for so long. But with Sara... it was different. She wasn't just a friend anymore. She was much more than that.

"Uh, yeah," Catherine grinned, as if the bigger she smiled, the less awkward the whole thing was. "I was heading down to the gift shop to get you some flowers, and I saw that it was Valentine's Day. I guess I went a little overboard," she laughed uncomfortable, glancing around at the room, now littered in flowers and color. She realized then how overwhelming it must've been to Sara when she first came to, and she quickly added, "I can take them out if you want."

But Sara just smiled, split lip and all, and for the first time in a long time, some color was returning to grace her features. "Thank you, Catherine. They're beautiful."

At that moment, the doctor entered Sara's room with a clipboard and pen in hand. The older man shot both women a smile, his face wrinkling warmly at the corners. "Miss Sidle, it's so nice to see you awake. You gave us all quite the scare."

"I scared myself, too," Sara smiled a little, but talking so much was making the scratchiness of her throat worse, and it resulted in a violent coughing fit.

As if reading Catherine's mind, the doctor went over to the sink and filled a paper cup with water, handing it to Sara. "I'm Dr. Michaels, I've been the doctor overseeing your condition over the past couple of days. I'm just going to check your vitals right now to see how you're doing, alright?"

Once Sara was finished with her water, she nodded, and without even realizing it, her hand, which before had felt so heavy and unmovable, quickly sought out Catherine's. Catherine blinked in surprise when she felt the light tugging on her own hand, she gently squeezed the younger woman's hand in response.

"It's okay, Sara," Catherine smiled at her. For whatever reason, she knew Sara now felt insecure. "It'll just take a few minutes and then you can get some more rest."

Sara nodded, and the doctor began checking her vitals, making sure her stitches were holding firm, that her oxygen intake wasn't too low, and that her blood pressure was rising. When he was done, he wrote something down in her chart, and removed a small pen light from his pocket.

"I'm just going to shine this in your eyes, okay, Sara?" Dr. Michaels asked her, peering into her pupils. The small light was unbelievably painful; then again, Sara hadn't had her eyes open in almost three, going on four days. "You sustained significant head trauma, and fell into a comatose state for almost 48 hours. We weren't sure when you were going to wake up, but you've seemed to surprise us all," he smiled when he was done, and put the painful light back in his pocket-- where it belonged, if you asked Sara.

"Well your vitals look good, and your pupils appear to be dilating. We'll continue to monitor your concussion, but for now, your condition seems to be looking up," Dr. Michaels informed Sara. "I'll leave you alone now so you can get some rest. Just press the call button if you need anything." With that, he turned and left.

Sara's grip on Catherine's hand loosened considerably the second the doctor left the room, though she still didn't let go entirely. "I thought he was never going to leave," she tried to laugh.

"Yeah," Catherine smiled. "You okay, Sar? You don't have anything to be afraid of anymore, you know."

"Of course I'm okay," Sara replied. "I mean, look at us. Everything's fine, isn't it? I almost got you killed, I killed two men, and seriously injured another. Everything's perfect."

Catherine bit her lip so she wouldn't say the wrong thing. She knew Sara would eventually have to come to terms with what had happened to them both, but she hadn't been planning on it being now. "Sara... you didn't do anything wrong. None of this was your fault."

"How do you figure, Catherine?" Sara asked, tears now beginning to glisten in her eyes. "If I hadn't led us in the wrong direction, we never would've ended up in that barn, and you never would've gotten the shit beat out of you by those assholes. If I hadn't lied about my wound, I never would've left you all alone to figure everything out by yourself. I..." she began coughing, overestimating her own ability to speak in her condition, and Catherine patted her on the back.

"Just breathe, Sara," Catherine coached her. "And excuse me? If I hadn't started that stupid argument with you in the first place, neither one of us would've gotten suspended. If I hadn't been such a bitch to you, you wouldn't have felt the need to hide your injury from me. If I hadn't gotten knocked unconscious, or pushed you down, or been absolutely useless from saving you from those guys... you wouldn't have almost died."

Catherine felt her chest swell up, and her breath catch in her throat before she could stop it, and she choked back the sob rising up in her throat as it squeaked its way out. "Sara, you saved my life. I'm here because of you. If you hadn't been so brave, and if you hadn't been so strong and determined to get us out of there... I would have left Lindsey all alone."

Sara stared at Catherine through the tears in her eyes, and she sniffled them back as best she could. Catherine squeezed her hand for support. "None of this was your fault," she whispered.

"None of this was your fault either," Catherine replied, and she brushed a stray strand of hair out of her eyes, much the same way a lover might caress the cheek of their partner.

Sara felt her walls crumbling down at that point, and she tried her hardest not to cry, not to sob, not to look weak. She had to be strong. It was all she had. It was all she was. If she couldn't keep it together, she would be crushed under the weight of her own instability, and she would never recover.

"You've been strong enough for today, Sara," Catherine whispered to her. "Now let me be strong for you."

Sara broke down in sobs in Catherine's arms, not holding anything back, as she cried in front of her for the first time ever. Catherine rubbed her hand up and down her back, and she whispered soothing things into her ear, and it felt good. Maybe not perfect, or right, but it felt good.

All else could wait. For the first time in a long time, Sara felt good.

TBC