Title: Blackout 1/4

Author: Romantique


Classification: Early Edition. Gary/Marissa, Hurt/Drama

Rating: T

Summary: It is Gary Hobson's fate to keep harm from coming to others; however, this time, it is Gary himself who needs help. His friend Marissa is along for the ride. (This fan fiction began as a Halloween challenge, but evolved into a stand-alone story.)

Disclaimer: This fan fiction occurs some time in Season 3, after Chuck leaves Chicago.

Legal: These characters do not belong to me. I'm just a fan and have not made a dime. Please email me to obtain permission to post.

A/N: Maryilee, this fic is especially for you. Hope you and other Early Edition fans enjoy it.

Late October ...

For the man who received tomorrow's news today, life was far from routine. Bar owner, Gary Hobson never knew what the Paper had in store for him. From the moment the special copy of the Chicago Sun Times hit his doorstep at 6:30 a.m. every morning, always accompanied by the same orange tabby, Gary was at the Paper's beck and call. The only routine in his life was having breakfast every morning at McGinty's with his friend, business partner, and confidante, Marissa Clarke. And this morning was no different.

"You have to go to the bank with me," Marissa informed her friend in between sips of her coffee. She had known Gary long enough to know his reaction would be less than enthusiastic.

"Well ... um ... uh ... I don't know," he skillfully danced around her request ... without making a commitment.

"I'm sorry, Gary, but there's no other way," she persisted. "In order to get the improvement loan for the professional ovens, the bank requires both our signatures be made in their presence with proper identification." McGinty's Bar and Grill was recently handed a citation for a safety inspection violation. The original ovens were no longer operational and were way overdue for replacement. "So, don't forget your wallet," she gently reminded him.

"Okay. I ... I know," he stammered while trying to maintain his non-committal air. "It's just that ... it's hard to commit to an appointment ... with the Paper and all," he tried to explain himself.

"Uh-huh," she answered with a bit of sarcasm, only too familiar with her friend's tendency to skirt his responsibilities where McGinty's was concerned.

Seeing that Marissa was clearly not buying his explanation, Gary quickly re-scanned the Paper and finally caved. "I guess I could meet you at the bank today at 11 o'clock, in between saving a lady choking on a California roll and breaking up a brawl between senior citizens over someone who cheats at Bingo."

"Great, 11 o'clock it is," she smiled with great satisfaction. "It won't take long. I promise. I made sure the loan documents are completely filled out except for the signatures."

Feeling more than a little bad that he always seemed to pawn off the responsibility of McGinty's onto Marissa, Gary gave a tight smile to his blind friend. "Thanks for taking care of McGinty's, Marissa. You're the greatest."

"Why, thank you, Gary Hobson," she smiled even broader. Her friend was so busy rescuing the world, for her to receive a compliment from him was a rare thing indeed. Not because he didn't have them, he just always had more important things on his mind.

"You're welcome," he said, and then hurriedly finished his bacon and eggs before taking off to prevent a pedestrian traffic accident.

Later that morning ...

At almost 10 minutes after 11:00 a.m., Gary literally ran into Chicago Community Bank to find Marissa seated in front of the desk of James L. Morris, Loan Officer.

"Sorry I'm late," Gary apologized to the both of them, out of breath and a bit disheveled in his appearance. Panting, he said, "I got here as soon as I could."

"I just need your identification, Mr. Hobson," the Loan Officer said with a weak smile, "your Drivers License and a major credit card?"

"Yeah, uh ... sure," Gary said, reaching inside his jacket and pulling out his wallet. He then quickly handed the Loan Officer his identification.

Taking the ID, Mr. Morris stood and announced, "I need to make copies of these. I'll be right back."

Gary took a seat in the chair next to Marissa, fidgeting while watching the second hand tick away on the clock on the wall. Marissa could sense her partner's restlessness.

"Relax," she said, reaching over and placing a steady hand over his arm. "This will only take a minute, and then, it will be all taken care of."

Gary let out a sigh. "You ever have one of those days when everything is a beat off?" he asked, but didn't wait for an answer because he didn't really want one. "Because that's the kind of day I've been having all morning. Things aren't running very smoothly. It's almost as if I hit a roadblock, everywhere I turn."

After he a beat, he continued to vent. "After I rescued the pedestrian, I ran into road construction on Wabash Avenue and had to go ¾ of a mile out of my way to get to the Japanese restaurant and get there in time to Heimlich the lady who choked on a piece of seaweed. Then, after leaving the restaurant, the sewer overflowed and the street was closed by the Health Department ... causing me to have to take another detour to the Bingo Parlor. I made it there with not a second to spare." He took in a breath and continued. "And then, I took the bus ... and that rode behind this elderly driver who was driving as slow as molasses ... which is why I was late coming here." Stressed out, he shook his head. "It's bad enough to try and rescue people before it's too late, but when I can't get to where I need to go because of random ... stuff ... sometimes ... it's just a bit too much."

"Gary," Marissa, tried to offer some comfort. "You do know that you can't control everything?"

"Yeah ... well." Still fidgeting and still frustrated, he added, "I just hope the rest of the day runs smoother."

No sooner did that sentiment leave his lips, when three men wearing ski masks in the middle of October and brandishing firearms charged into the bank through its front doors, forcing an elderly security guard to lock everyone inside. Gasps of shock and dread could be heard around the great lobby.

Sensitive to her environment due to her blindness, Marissa whispered with alarm, "What's happening?"

Gary swallowed down the sudden tightness in his throat, as he placed a steady hand on Marissa's shoulder. Leaning toward her, he whispered, "A bank hold up. This wasn't in the Paper." Then, very quietly, he pulled the Paper out of the back pocket of his jeans and began quickly rifling through the front news section. "It still isn't. I don't understand."

"My God," Marissa uttered. Alarmed, she reached over to find Gary's hand. She grabbed it and held on tight.

The bank robber who was in front of the three yelled, "Everybody. On the floor!" His voice echoed throughout the great room.

"Here, get down," Gary whispered and helped a frightened Marissa out of her chair and down onto the floor. Then, just as he was about to take the space on the floor beside her, Mr. Morris came strolling back to his desk. Gary turned and watched in horror, as the unsuspecting Loan Officer startled the second robber who was standing guard for the other two. The masked man instinctively turned toward Mr. Morris and went to fire his automatic rifle.

"Noooooo!" Gary yelled as a warning to the Banker.

In the slow motion that comes from an intense rush of adrenaline, Gary sprung to his feet and leapt up towards the Loan Officer, pushing him out of harm's way. The bullet noticeably whirred past his ear. Knocking the Banker off his feet, Gary continued to fly through the air. At the last possible second before impact, Gary protectively tucked his head in, close to his chest. Unfortunately, his entire right side crashed into an unforgiving, vertical steel support beam, and he could hear a crack coming from deep inside. He then landed straight down the beam with a thud on the hard linoleum floor.

"Ahhhhhhh," Gary could hear himself yell, out-of-body and in pain, he grabbed for his shoulder.

Grateful to be alive, Mr. Morris suddenly sat up and helped his dazed and injured customer sit up off the floor by leaning Gary against the desk that was next to them.

"Gary?" Marissa turned, crawling towards the sound of all the commotion.

"Shut up!" the third robber yelled, as he rushed over to see what had just happened. He pointed his gun in between Marissa and the Loan Officer.

The air in the room thickened with tension, and the abrupt yelling echoed throughout the bank, causing Marissa to nearly jump out of her skin. She could smell the fear in the room, especially the fear coming from the shooter.

"She's blind," Gary blurted out, almost choking in pain.

"Is this the one who had to be a hero?" the robber asked the shooter.

The irony of that statement struck both Gary and Marissa.

The shooter nodded in response to his accomplice's question, shaken by what had just happened. It had never been part of their plan to actually hurt anyone. Unbeknownst to everyone in the room other than the robbers, this latest development ratcheted everything up to a whole new level.

"She can't see," Gary struggled to speak through waves that made him both shaky and sick to his stomach. "That's why there was talking," he tried to explain.

In a hair-trigger reaction to this incredibly tense situation, the robber cold cocked the left side of Gary's face with the butt of his assault rifle.

"Gahhh," Gary stifled his cry for fear of being struck again. His face contorted in pain, as he grabbed his throbbing face with his left hand. With eyes tightly shut, he shook his head, literally seeing stars.

"I told you to shut up!" the robber yelled in an attempt to justify the assault.

Satisfied he had controlled the situation, the robber left, leaving the shooter to remain.

Quietly sobbing, Marissa shuddered at the brutality of these men. She couldn't just sit by, not knowing how badly Gary was hurt. He was her friend. He would do anything for her. He had already done everything for her. Tears of fear streamed down her mocha face. Without any regard for her own safety, she softly said, "He needs help." Then, protected only by grace, she begged, "Please ... let me go to him?"

After a moment of silence, it was obvious that Marissa was not threat to anyone. The shooter finally uttered, "Yeah, but keep the talkin' down, okay?"

"Thank you," Marissa nodded in unlikely gratitude. She then scurried on all fours in the direction of Gary's voice. "Gary ... Gary?" she whispered in a panic.

"Over here," Gary said softly to his friend, still holding onto his face. He was breathing hard.

"He's bleeding," Mr. Morris informed Marissa in a very low voice. "We need something to use as a compress," he whispered, thinking out loud.

Then, Mr. Morris removed a clean handkerchief from his coat jacket. He quickly folded it into a square. He then, moved Gary's hand away from the wound and pressed the make-shift compress tight against the wound on his temple. Next, he guided Marissa's hand and placed it on top of the handkerchief to hold it in place. Marissa could feel Gary's warm blood oozing through the cotton square.

"You want to maintain the pressure right here," Mr. Morris instructed.

To gain better leverage, Marissa situated herself closer beside her friend.

Satisfied these three were not going to cause any more trouble, the shooter left to join their leader at the bank's counters.

Marissa whispered to Gary, "How are you doing?"

"I've been better," Gary answered softly, feeling very light headed. He sounded funny, not at all like himself, and his left eye quickly swelled.

With tears still streaming down her face, she felt for his hand and squeezed. "You hang in there," she insisted.

"Uh-huh," he slowly nodded his throbbing, spinning head, leaning further in between the desk and Marissa for support.

The warmth of her body, her familiar presence, gave him some measure of comfort in stark contrast to the cold stemming from the metal desk. She continued to hold the compress to stop the bleeding. Gary meant to close his heavy eyes for just a moment to stop the room from spinning, but instead, he slipped into darkness.

Marissa immediately sensed the change, mirrored by a change in his breathing. "Gary?" she reached for his face with her free hand. She felt that his eyes were closed. "Gary, wake up. You need to stay awake," she pleaded.

Her dear friend lay against the metal desk, unresponsive to her pleas.

Marissa struggled to maintain her composure. She had to stay strong for Gary. She then placed her free hand over his chest. After what seemed like an eternity, she felt his chest slowly rise and fall. His breathing was shallow. Marissa placed her head on his chest with her ear to his heart and listened closely to its beating. And then, she prayed.

To be continued ...