AUTHOR'S NOTES: So I know that this chapter is on the short side, but next chapter will be much longer since it will have a major jump to the start of Sam and Kelly's junior year of high school. I will be putting in plenty of back story which will hopefully answer any questions.

Chapter 10


Two weeks later, Kelly once again found herself waking up from surgical anesthetic. She moaned lightly and after a while, she slowly opened her eyes to see her parents standing by the bed. "Déjà vu," she muttered, turning her head to look at her left shoulder which was obscured by the slightly bulky bandage. "How'd it go?" she asked, sitting up a bit.

Shannon gave her daughter an encouraging smile as she reported, "They put in the artificial joint and the first part of the shaft that'll be the upper part of your humerus."

Kelly nodded, looking again at her shoulder. Remembering what Dr, Adler had said the previous week about the procedure for her prosthetic, she resisted the urge to try and move her shoulder. It would be about a week before she'd really have enough of an arm to test mobility and even then it would likely be another year or more before she'd have enough control of her new limb to sign up for the Marine Corps.

"Get some rest," Gibbs said gently as Kelly slowly lay back down. "It's not over yet."

No, it wasn't, Kelly thought as she closed her eyes. Tomorrow, she would be having surgery again, but this time it would be to help lessen the appearance of the scars on her face. The worst scar was the one that started at her temple, curved very close to her right eye, and finally wound down her cheek and across her chin, ending in an upward turn just shy of her lower lip. The other scar started in the middle of her hairline on her forehead, curving down the left side of her nose and ending at the side of her mouth.

The third scar was the one the surgeons were most worried about, especially because it cut across her left eye and down her cheek. The depth of the lacerations, combined with the location of the cut meant that there was a higher risk of damage to Kelly's eye and facial nerves.

When Kelly finally fell asleep, Shannon tucked her little girl in before looking at her husband. "I'll stay with her tonight."

But Gibbs shook his head resolutely. "Go home, Shannon. I'll stay. John and Jenny are already in Paris. NCIS will be fine without me for a day."

Shannon looked dubious at that but nodded, giving Gibbs a kiss on the cheek before she headed out of the room.

xxxxxxxxxxxx

Dean was beyond bored.

For the past three weeks he'd been stuck in a hospital bed and he was bored out of his mind. The only breaks in the monotony lately were when Corey's father—Dr. Victor Adler—came in to get him fitted for leg prosthetics.

At first, though, Dean had been reluctant to the idea since he wasn't sure if he'd even be able to walk given that before the accident his lower leg muscles had been getting weaker by the day.

But the doctors had run tests the past week and found that the muscles of Dean's upper legs were just fine if only slightly atrophied given that it had been so long since Dean had been walking.

"Dean, Dean, Dean…" Victor said with a huge smile as he walked into the room with two large cases. "How'd you like to get up for a bit?" Catching Dean's astonished look, he shrugged as he opened one of the cases revealing a brand new titanium prosthetic leg ending in what looked like a generic foot shape put into an athletic sneaker. "I spoke to your doctors and while they wanted to wait until your arm healed up, I don't see why we have to wait."

Dean looked shocked at that and looked from his future father-in-law to the cast Dean still wore on his arm which was resting in a sling. He hated admitting—even to himself—that he felt nervous about walking again. Before the accident, he'd just started getting used to the idea that his legs were going. In fact, only days before his regular doctor had told him that he'd probably be in a wheelchair by the end of summer.

But now there was the very real possibility that not only would Dean be walking sooner than expected but he would be doing so—hopefully—without braces and/or crutches. "Let's do it," he said at last.

"Alright," Victor said, still smiling. He watched as Dean carefully sat up and moved so that he was sitting with what was left of his legs hanging over the edge of the bed. After running through the procedure of putting on and removing the prosthetics, Victor helped Dean get both legs on and then stood on the young man's right side. "Ready for this?"

"Not exactly," Dean confessed as he carefully stood, holding onto Victor's arm with his good hand. It took a minute or two to find his balance and after he didn't feel so shaky, Dean took a step forward.

"Just go slow," Victor advised, watching Dean closely. The particular model of prosthetics Dean was using was brand new and had been designed for high impact use. The only downside was that Dean would be the first person to be using them for the long run. But the upside would be that since Victor was essentially using Dean as a test subject, he wouldn't have to worry about the cost of the prosthetics. Rather, Victor would be able to pay Dean for giving feedback on the new legs.

After nearly an hour of just walking around the room and practicing sitting and standing, Dean felt much more comfortable in the prosthetics. It was hard judging how his footsteps sometimes, but the more he walked, the easier it got. And after almost two hours—including walking down the hospital hallway—Dean hardly needed Victor's arm for support.

Once back in the hospital bed, Dean was surprised at how tired he felt. After removing the prosthetics, he felt ready for a long nap.

"You know," Victor commented as he packed the prosthetics up in their respective cases, leaving them next to the bed where Dean could reach them. "—I've never seen someone as driven as you before."

Dean laughed at that and shrugged. "My whole life I've had one main job—looking out for my little brother. With Sammy being blind, I just feel like every day I'm in this bed is one more chance for something to happen to him. It's my job to protect him."

Victor could certainly understand that and after promising to see Dean later that evening in the physical therapy room, he headed out of Dean's room and headed down the hallway to his daughter's room. Casey, Nora, and Shannon were all sitting around Corey's bed and looking at various wedding magazines. "Am I interrupting?"

"Just doing a little wedding planning," Nora replied, standing up and going to her husband and giving him a kiss on the cheek. Turning to Corey, she said, "I've got a charity auction tonight, honey, but I can stay if you want me to."

Corey shook her head. She knew that tonight's auction was to help raise money for Safe Haven so the school could add another dormitory and library—something they'd been short on for nearly a year resulting in the waiting lists getting longer. "Go, Mom. Bid on something for me."

Nora bent down and kissed her daughter's cheek as well. "Okay, sweetie. I'll have my phone on so if you need anything, just call. And I'll be back as soon as I can."

Shannon followed Nora out of the room and Victor took his wife's place next to Corey's bed. "So how're you doing, hon?" he asked, looking at Corey's back brace and broken leg.

Corey tried to shrug, but the brace hindered her. "I'm okay, I guess," she sighed, dismally. Which wasn't true at all, really. She still couldn't move her legs and her left leg hurt. Not wanting to get into her own issues, she asked, "How're Kelly and Dean?"

Victor knew that the question was a way to change the subject, but he let it go for the moment. "Well, we took care of the first part of Kelly's prosthetic yesterday and I just came from Dean's room. I think he'll be ready to go sooner than expected."

Looking at the cast on her left leg and the back brace, Corey replied, "Guess I have some catching up to do, huh?"

Casey squeezed her twin's hand and grinned. "Yeah, we've got to get you ready to be married next year, right?"

"Right," Corey said, resolutely. Looking at the ring on her left hand she reminded herself yet again that even if she was in a wheelchair, Dean would still love her just as much.

But the words would have meant more if they'd come from Dean himself rather than Corey trying to reassure herself.

xxxxxxx

That evening, as Dean practiced walking in the physical therapy room under Victor's watchful eye, he wondered if Corey was still willing to get married. Things were even more complicated now than they'd ever been and that likely wouldn't change any time soon.

"I think you and Corey need to talk," Victor said after a while as Dean sat down at the top of the practice stairs for a brief respite.

"She wants to break up, right?" Dean said, looking up at Victor.

Victor shook his head and crossed his arms as he leaned against the hand rails of the stairs. "No, but I think she's scared that you want to," he replied, simply. "Especially since she's still not able to move her legs."

Dean seemed to stiffen at that a bit and before Victor could ask what was wrong, Dean carefully stood, his good hand holding onto the rail as he slowly went down the steps. Stairs would definitely be something he would need more work on, but otherwise, he seemed to doing okay.

When he was facing Victor, Dean said, "I still want to marry your daughter. She was willing to be with me even if I couldn't walk and it doesn't matter to me if she's in a wheelchair either. I love Corey and I want her to be my wife more than anything."

x

An hour later, Dean walked into Corey's room. He'd wanted to walk from the PT room but Victor had insisted that Dean be in a wheelchair so that he wasn't doing too much since it was only the first day with the prosthetics.

Victor had, however, conceded on Dean walking into Corey's room from the hallway.

As soon as he saw her, Dean knew that Corey was ready to split up with him then and there. He could see in her eyes that the very thought was killing her and she just wanted to say it and move on. Without saying a word, Dean slowly made his way over to the bed and sat as close to Corey as he could before giving her a long, heartfelt kiss. When he pulled away, he waited until Corey's eyes met his. "Corey, I love you," he said, honestly. "I don't care if you can walk or not. I just want to be with you."

Corey couldn't say anything as she started to cry. Even after all these years, she still couldn't believe that she really had this incredible, wonderful, loving guy who loved her even though she was constantly sick and had no hair. Maybe there really was such a thing as karma and the worse the bad parts of your life were, the better the good parts.

"I just want to be with you, too," Corey said, sitting up as best she could, even though her back hurt like hell as she did so. As she kissed Dean again, she said, "I love you, Dean."

After another few minutes of making out, Dean said, "Let's stop trying to break up, okay? Obviously, it's never going to happen." He laughed and Corey laughed as well.

"Deal," Corey agreed, giving Dean one more kiss.