A/N: Sorry about the wait...with midterms and college graduation fast approaching, things are crazy! Thanks to all of you who have waited, and a special thanks to those of you who reviewed! Don't hesitate to leave comments about what you liked or would like to see. Hopefully you'll enjoy this chapter…Happy reading :)
After two rings, a grouchy sounding Casey answers the phone.
"Hello?" he says with a grunt.
"Casey, it's Sarah," I tell him. "I was just wondering if you knew where Chuck was? I really need to talk to him."
For a few moments, I am met with complete and utter silence.
"Well?" I probe him. "Do you know where he is?"
"Casey," I demand, "Where is Chuck?"
"He's uh…he's here at the hospital."
Suddenly, a chill shiver runs up my spine.
"The hospital?" I question. "Why would Chuck be at the hospital?"
"I'm not sure how to say this, Walker…" he tells me, hesitation apparent in his voice.
"Say what, Casey?" I ask forcefully, prying the truth out of him.
"Bartowski was shot, tonight."
In a split second, the phone slips from my hand and falls to the floor with a sickening thud. In disbelief, I put my face in my hands and gradually fall to the floor.
The truth hits me like a ton of bricks as I begin to comprehend the reality of the situation. Chuck wasn't wearing a vest…he wasn't okay. He jumped in front of a bullet intended for me, then let me walk away believing everything was fine. He was willing to sacrifice everything, even his life, to protect me.
A part of me wants to be angry…not only because Chuck lied to me, but also because I, a spy, wasn't smart enough to figure it out. I should have known from the look in his eyes, as he lay on the floor, that he wasn't okay. But I didn't…I chose not to…and I have no one to blame but myself.
I am suddenly pulled from my trance as I hear a voice calling to me from below. "Walker, you still there?"
Realizing that Casey is still on the other line, I pick up my phone from the floor and put it back to my ear.
"Uh, yeah, sorry," I tell him, clearly shaken. And with that, I have only one question, "What hospital?"
"Westside Medical," he says. "But he's—"
I hang up the phone before he can get even one more word in…I don't need to hear anything more right now. I know exactly what I'm going to do, and strangely enough, it feels right.
It's been forty-five minutes of insufferable waiting. As I sit here, surrounded by friends and family, I am overcome with a great deal of emotion.
I look over at my mom, as she continually paces the hallways, and I feel sad for her. The tears in her eyes say it all…even with all those years spent apart, she never stopped loving us.
I look over at Morgan, Alex, and Casey, and I feel incredibly grateful. As much as I might complain about Morgan or Casey on any given day, I'm glad they are a part of Chuck's life…and mine.
I look at my wonderful husband sitting beside me, his fingers laced with mine, and I feel a sense of comfort.
Unfortunately, even in the presence of such wonderful, meaningful people, I can't escape my own nerves.
I don't usually get nervous, and yet here I am, more nervous than I have ever been. Honestly, I'm more scared than nervous. I'm scared that I might lose my brother, and I'm scared that things may never be the same.
Another part of me feels guilty, guilty that I wasn't able to protect him from this horrendous, unforeseen incident. I promised my dad that I would always look out for him, that I would keep him safe no matter what, and I've failed. Sitting here, I just can't let that go.
I'm trying to be the strong, resilient big sister…but it's exhausting, and I just don't know if I can do it anymore.
I don't even realize the tears streaming down my face until Devon begins to wipe them away.
"Don't cry, babe," he tells me, gently rubbing circles into my back. "He's gonna be okay."
"You don't know that," I counter, the tears still free-flowing.
"But I believe it," he tells me with a small smile. "And you should, too."
"I'm just scared," I concede.
"I know, babe. We all are. But Chuck's a Bartowski…he's a fighter."
Even amongst the tears, I manage to nod in agreement. "Yeah," I say with a smile, "he is."
"Plus, he's got Sarah to support him."
"Unfortunately, Sarah's not coming," I tell him. "Chuck didn't want—"
"No," he says with certainty. "She's here."
"What?" I ask, clearly baffled.
"Sarah's here," he tells me, pointing in the direction of the waiting room's entrance.
As I look toward the door, strangely enough, there she is. It takes her a minute to spot me, and when she finally does, she approaches hesitantly.
Though I probably shouldn't be, I am eased by her presence. Despite Chuck's decision, I always wanted her here…and deep down, I know he did too.
"Sarah," I say with a sigh of relief.
"How is he?" she asks first thing, clearly concerned.
"He's in surgery," I tell her. "You didn't have to come, you know? We would have understood."
"I wanted to."
"Well then, I'm glad you're here. We all are," I admit, giving her a sympathetic hug.
"Look," she says, slowly pulling away to look me in the eye. "I'm sorry about everything that happened today. I should have trusted you guys, especially Chuck."
"I know, and I'm willing to let it go if you are."
"Thanks, Ellie," she says.
After greeting the others with a small smile and a whole-hearted apology, she sits down beside me, and the waiting continues.
I've never been a fan of waiting. I've especially never been a fan of hospitals. Yet here I am, waiting in a hospital.
It's been a long two hours, and still, no news.
I never expected my day to end this way. I thought that I would find Chuck, apologize, and give him closure so that the two of us could move on…separately. The truth is, I don't know if that's what I want anymore. Right now, all I know is where I want to be…here.
I look around at all of Chuck's friends and family, and I realize how truly loved he is. The more I think about it, the more responsible I feel. I'm the reason his family is hurting. I'm the reason he is hurting.
For now, all I can do is be here, for both him and his family.
It seems as though the clock is moving slower each and every time I stare at it, so eventually, I stop staring. Instead, I pick up magazine after magazine, flipping through the pages without ever reading a single word.
Eventually, my thoughts are interrupted as doctor approaches, wearing navy scrubs and dangling a surgical mask. As Ellie quickly approaches him, I follow suit, as does the rest of the group.
Before he can even give us the news, Ellie jumps right in.
"How is he?" she asks, clearly petrified of the impending answer. "Is he okay?"
"He's okay," Dr. Raynor says with a soft smile.
Ellie gives a great sigh of relief, happy tears evident in her eyes.
I breathe a sigh of relief as well. It's as if a giant weight has been lifted from my shoulders.
The doctor continues, "The puncture wound to his lung was much larger than I had anticipated, but we managed to close it up. The chest tube allowed for the excess blood around the pleural cavity to be drained so that the lung could re-expand. We'll be keeping that in place for the next couple of days until the lung is fully expanded."
We all nod in understanding.
"As far as his shoulder goes, there was indeed a tear to the coracoclavicular ligament that had to be repaired. Luckily, it was small enough that it could be repaired arthroscopically with several strong sutures, and that should heal over time. He'll certainly need some physical therapy, but he should regain full movement in that area. We'll also pay close attention to the broken ribs and concussion so as to prevent any complications, but other than that…"
"Is he breathing on his own?" Ellie interjects.
"At the moment, no," he admits.
At this, Ellie slowly shakes her head, obviously disappointed.
"Given that his breathing was so labored and his stats were so low, we were looking for substantial improvements. We had hoped it would improve with the assistance of the chest tube and the closing of the wound, but unfortunately, there wasn't enough of a change in that time frame. Given these circumstances, I've decided to keep him on the ventilator for at least the next eighteen to twenty-four hours or until his lungs are able to fully function on their own."
"Will he be sedated throughout that time?" Ellie asks.
"I'd like to keep him comfortable, but we may be lifting the sedation to check his neurological functions."
"What's his prognosis?" Devon chimes in.
"Well," Dr. Raynor says, "We'll be moving him to the ICU so that we can closely monitor him for any signs of pneumonia or other complications. Once we remove him from the ventilator, we'll get him started on breathing treatments, if necessary. He'll likely remain here for at least a week, depending on how things go. Like I said, he'll need physical therapy for that shoulder, and he'll need to take it easy on his ribs. It will take time for his body to recuperate, especially his lung and his shoulder, but barring any unforeseen circumstances, there should be no lasting complications."
To my own surprise, I interpose. "Can we see him?" I ask.
"He's in recovery at the moment, and will remain there for the next couple of hours. I can allow one of you to go in at a time, but no more until he has been moved to his room."
I nod in understanding.
"I'll be checking in on him every hour or so, but if you need anything, don't hesitate to ask," he says kindly, particularly to Ellie, before turning and walking away.
"Dr. Raynor," Ellie calls out, causing him to turn back around. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," he says with a smile. "That brother of yours is one hell of a fighter."
"Yeah," she says in agreement. "He is."
As Dr. Raynor walks away, the rest of us are left silent, reeling from the wonderful, yet still unsettling news.
Suddenly, Ellie looks to me with compassionate eyes. "Sarah, would you like to go see him first?"
While I am truly appreciative that she would even ask, I'm not sure if I'm ready to face Chuck, even given his unconscious state.
"I'm just not sure I'm ready," I tell her truthfully. "Besides, I think you should be the first to see him."
"Are you sure," she asks me.
"Yeah, I'm sure. I'll go in after you, if that's okay?"
As Ellie leaves for the recovery room, I am left standing with the rest of Chuck's friends and family. I take a seat at a distance to compose my thoughts, and remain alone until Casey takes the seat next to me.
"I'm glad you made it," he says.
"Thank you for telling me," I respond.
"I wasn't supposed to, you know."
"Why not?" I ask, puzzled.
"Ellie said Chuck didn't want you to know. He didn't want you to come because you felt like you had to."
"And I didn't," I admit. "I came because I wanted to."
"So, then why didn't you want to see Chuck?" he probes.
"I do want to see him, I just don't know what to say to him when I do. I don't want to say the wrong thing."
"He's Bartowski. He'll love you no matter what you say."
At this comment, I grin. "Wow, you really have gone soft."
All I get in return is a lengthy grunt, just before he decides to change the subject.
"So, what did you decide to do about Quinn?" he asks.
"Well, my plan was to find him and destroy those glasses…that's what Chuck wanted. But now, I'm not so sure what to do."
"Chuck does want them destroyed," he assures me, "but not at the cost of your own life."
"Well, I have to do something."
"We'll do something…as a team. First, let's make sure Bartowski's okay."
"Yeah…but seriously," I tell him, returning to the original subject, "thank you for the video. I really needed that."
A/N: Thank you so much for waiting and reading…Review :)