Last chapter! Even though it's the end, I'd still love more reviews and they encourage me for further stories!

Sam didn't remember much about the first hours of his stay at the hospital, just a floating sensation and an uncomfortable aching. Those first few hours hadn't been bad in his mind, he hadn't been aware of what was going on.

The first time he could remember waking up hadn't been as pleasant. He opened his eyes to see a nurse standing over him, bangs streaming into her face. The first thought that passed through his mind was that she was nowhere near as sexy as Jules, but hers wasn't the worst face to see after being shot: white-blonde hair fastened up in a ponytail, green eyes, and round cheek bones. Nothing like Jules, but she called out his name like she was just as familiar with him as his teammate.

He had woken up in a confusion that first time. He'd been injured on multiple occasions, but nothing could help the drug-induced mindset he woke up with every time.

He opened his mouth to try and ask any one of the questions that ran through his head, but his voice failed him, cracking and making him cough. The nurse grabbed his hand when he tried to bring it closer to his face. Sam remembered her talking, but couldn't recall the words, something about the doctor coming, perhaps, because he showed up sometime later.

They'd replaced the oxygen mask that felt like it was smothering him to a slightly less annoying cannula that ran from one ear under his nose and back up again. It shifted and he was always aware of its presence, but it was better than the mask.

The doctor hadn't stayed long, probably knew that Sam's muddled mind wasn't up for much talking or understanding. He couldn't remember falling asleep, but he must have at some point.

The next time he woke up, it was still dark outside, or at least there was no light streaming in from the window. He blinked a few times to try and get his eyes adjusted to the dim light. He had to concentrate to make out what he saw in front of him.

Something must have alerted the nurse that he was awake because she entered only a moment later with a pleasant smile on her face, asking questions that Sam had to concentrate on understanding. He had to pay attention to get any thought through his hazy head. She said something about a Greg Parker and all Sam could do was nod at that. He needed Sarge in here to explain the situation. He was having trouble focusing on what was happening and the Boss had a way of speaking to people in a way they could understand.

Sarge came in a minute later and Sam wanted to ask what happened to him. Despite the smile on his face, Sarge looked like he had been through the wringer and back. He opened his mouth to say something, any words that could be strung together. Instead he found himself puking over the edge of the bed.

It had been embarrassing to say the least, but at this point Sam could hardly care. He groaned at the pressure puking put on his chest. The same nurse from before cleaned up the mess without a complaint and all Sam could do was watch her with hardly the energy to mumble an apology.

He should have held back on speaking. A dry fire rose in his throat and he started to cough. It was worse than puking. He could hardly shift into a more comfortable position as the nurse spoke to him calmly and placed the oxygen mask back onto his face.

"You were on a ventilator for a little while. It's normal for your throat to be sore," she explained as he tried to catch his breath. "Try not to talk for a little while."

The advice was given as if he were to consider a repeat performance. She left eventually after his breathing returned to somewhat normal and replaced the mask with the cannula once again. The Boss came back into the room. He looked a little more wary this time, approaching the bed slowly. Sam would have told him that he shouldn't worry, but he wasn't about to talk and he grew more and more tired as he tried to listen to what Sarge was saying.

The nurse must have told him about the ban on speaking because the Boss only used yes or no questions. They only spoke for a moment before Sam nodded off. When he woke up again, Sarge was still there, reading a magazine in the chair next to him. When he saw that Sam was away he sat up a little straighter.

"How are you feeling, Sam?" he asked right away. Sam thought about shrugging in response, but that seemed like a bad idea. Instead, he ventured to try and speak again. This time his voice was hardly above a whisper.

"Okay," he said. He tried to show his questions through the expression on his face.

"Do you remember what happened?"

Sam thought for a moment. Then he moved his head up and down. Yeah, he remembered a lot about what had happened, even though it was a little fuzzy at parts.

Sam wasn't much for conversation after that. Sarge seemed to get that so he turned on the television. Sam knew it was an excuse for him to fall asleep again and the meds pulled him under the moment he stared at the box.

There was a stinging sensation across his chest that woke him up next. The nurse was standing above him again. She smiled when she saw him watching her. "I'll be done in just a moment."

"I don't want to be on the pain meds." He kept his voice the same airy whisper in fear of starting off another fit. The nurse furrowed her brows.

"I'll go get your doctor."

After about two hours, Sam regretted this decision. He was able to stay awake for more than 15 minutes at a time, but he didn't want to be awake anymore. Sarge and Wordy's wife, Shelley were with him, though, and he wasn't about to ask for the good stuff in front of them. And while the pain was uncomfortable, it reminded him that he was still here. It was better than the feeling from before where he felt like he was going to just float up and out of the room. He could also think better and respond to their questions in the light whisper.

He didn't try to move anymore. Breathing hurt. Each inhale was another muted bullet to the chest and exhaling wasn't much better. The doctor had explained that with the decrease in medication, there would be a higher likelihood of pneumonia. It happened when you didn't breathe deeply enough. With that in mind, he tried to keep his breathing deep and steady, even when he failed miserably.

Sam thought when Shelley finally walked to the door that she would leave, but instead she brought more to the party. Wordy and Ed came in the room. Sam might have remembered talking to Wordy before, but he knew he hadn't seen Ed. It dawned on him that he needed to talk to Ed. He wasn't sure for a moment due to the traffic in his head now caused by the pain, but he needed to speak with him.

Sometimes Sam swore that the Boss was telepathic. He stood up as soon as Ed came in. "I could use some coffee. Why don't we give them a moment?"

By them he meant Ed and himself. He only understood that when Shelley and Wordy disappeared after Sarge. He allowed his eyes to follow their direction until they were out of sight. He had to process the thought of looking back to Ed.

"Hey," he said.

Ed looked bad with half his face all swollen up. From the expression on his face, Sam had to judge that he didn't look much better. His mouth formed a straight line, eyes hard. He stopped a couple feet away from the bed with his hands held behind his back.

"You can sit down." Sam looked to the chair next to him, empty after Shelley had evacuated it. Ed gave a nod and sat down. The slow nature of the movements suggested he was still hurting. "How are the ribs?"

"They're good," Ed put on a fake smile as he nodded. "You feeling better?"

Sam made an expression to convey the fact that he may or may not be feeling better than he had thirty seconds ago. He definitely felt worse than he had a few hours ago.

"You in any pain?"

Sam made the same expression.

"You look awful."

Sam managed a smile at this. "I still look better than you." It took him a moment to catch his breath after the longer statement.

Ed gave a grin that looked almost grotesque from bruising on his jaw. The look faded into a more serious one and he did not respond right away. Sam took this as a prompt for him to start.

"About last night," he started. Ed held up his hand for him to stop.

"You didn't do anything wrong. You had no idea the subjects had already escalated. No warning to try and counteract it."

Sam frowned. "I should've announced myself before-"

"You had no way of knowing what they would do. You tried to gain the subjects trust by following their commands. It was reasonable action."

The way Ed made a slight face at his last words had Sam doubting them before they even came out of Ed's mouth. He sunk further back into the pillows and closed his eyes. A headache was forming between his eyes, still nothing compared to the rest of his body but it was not appreciated. The light streaming in from the windows bothered him.

"Don't think about it anymore, Sam. If there is anyone to blame for this situation-"

This time Sam interrupted Ed. He had tried to interject saying that Ed was not at fault, which he assumed was the end of his sentence. However, he intended to raise his voice which sent him into another round of coughs. He wouldn't have been surprised if blood dripped from his mouth by the end, but there was nothing.

Sam was not sure if Ed had said anything while he was coughing. When he finished though, the only sound that filled the room was his gasping breaths. It sounded like he was trying to breathe underwater. It felt like he was trying to breath underwater. He lay there for an indefinite period of time trying to sooth the agony of his chest.

"Do you need me to get the nurse?" Ed's voice broke his concentration.

Sam didn't try speaking in response. He shook his head as vehemently as possible, which ended up being a subtle twist of his head. His body was not cooperating with him. He had never felt this weak. He kept his eyes closed. He didn't want to see Ed's face.

If he had opened them, Sam would have seen the open concern for his teammate. He would have seen the guilt that flashed in his eyes and the weight that he carried because of it. Sam would have realized the extent to which Ed felt responsible. But Sam kept his eyes closed fearing the pity he'd see on Ed's face, one emotion that he would have never seen.

He tried to keep his pulse steady so as not to alert the nurse. He didn't want her in here with Ed around. Being a sniper gave him the fortunate ability to maintain a steady heartbeat and normally breathing rate as well. The latter was beyond his mental control, but he managed to calm his heart in a short time. It was only when he had this control that he opened his eyes.

"I'm alright," his voice was once again reduced to less than a whisper. Ed was standing now, looking more like his team leader than his friend. A lesser man would have flinched from the sight.

"Are they giving you something for the pain?"

Sam would have smiled if he didn't feel so drained. Nothing escaped Ed's radar. "I asked for them to cut back a little," he admitted. There was no sense in lying to the man.

Ed made a disapproving grunt and turned away for a moment. "Why would you do that?" he asked when he regained his composure.

Sam didn't want to answer. He didn't even have a good answer to supply.

"Does Sarge know about this?" Ed asked when there was no response. Sam shook his head eliciting a swear from Ed. "I'm going to talk to a nurse."

He made a move to leave. Sam moved faster than his body was capable of, grasping Ed's arm as tightly as he could. He knew Ed could have broken the grip as if he was a child, but he didn't. He turned back around.

"Stay here." Saying those words hurt than any other. Ed froze and Sam grimaced. It was the pain talking, it had to be.

He wouldn't admit how anxious he was when he first remembered what happened, not knowing if Ed was alive or dead and knowing it was his fault if he hadn't made it. He would never say aloud that talking to Ed right now meant that he could finally believe the words his teammates had told him. He didn't want Ed to leave just yet.

"You don't have to pretend that it doesn't hurt. You had a bullet in your chest for over an hour. You're allowed something to make the pain go away."

"I like being able to think," Sam tried to explain. From the look on Ed's face, he clearly wanted him to continue on. "It's hard to remember what happened on the meds. I don't like it."

A look of realization occurred on Ed's face. "That's what happened in recovery."

Sam's look grew quizzical. "I don't remember."

"The doctor's said you probably wouldn't." This time Sam urged Ed to continue with a look. "You were just anxious."

"What happened?" His pulse started to race a little when he thought of what might have happened when he first woke up. He'd been injured before, been put under before. He didn't always react well when he first came to, particularly after he had joined the military. He'd woken up in restraints once, the doctor saying he had been combatant.

"You just wanted to see me, then you fell asleep," Ed kept his tone neutral, but it was his words that soothed Sam. Nothing had happened. He tried to shift into a more comfortable position as his muscles relaxed.

Silence followed. He was partially grateful that he no longer had to concentrate on maintaining the front that everything was not nearly as bad as it was. Only partially because with that off his mind, there was nothing else to think about besides the fact that maybe denying the meds was a bad idea.

Ed had seated himself again after a little while. Sam could imagine the pressure standing put on his ribs. He knew that he wasn't about to be vertical anytime soon judging by how difficult it was to simply raise his hand. Ed didn't show any hint of pain though, the only thing suggesting his injuries was the visible coloring on his face, that and his reluctance for fast movement.

Sam could not do the same and after a while, he broke the silence. "What happened after I passed out?" It was something he could not ask of the Boss, only Ed who had been in there as well.

Ed gave him a scrutinizing glance before explaining the hostage situation as if he had been on duty, not stuck in the middle of it all. He explained the four subjects and how they reacted to Sarge's attempt to negotiate. He reminded Sam of the fact that Garret had done all he could to help once he decided that was what should be done. He told him about the forced entry with Spike and Lou present.

He ended it there. Sam knew there was more.

"Casualties?"

"One hostage. Two subjects."

It was quiet again because death required a moment of silence, whether it be from his own gun or just a victim caught in the crossfire. He was lucky to be alive. He was lucky Ed was alive.

Sam could feel the sinking feeling in his gut that had nothing to do with his bullet wound. His mind tried to come up with possible scenarios where the death toll would not have been so high. It was all what ifs at this point, if there was something he could have done to prevent the death of three people, if there was something he could have done to prevent getting shot so that he could help negotiate as well, if there was something he could have done.

These thoughts always came up after a hot call gone wrong. It was part of the job. He had been unable to do his job last night though. He didn't have the reassurance that usually played through his head after these thoughts, going over what he had done. The one good thing that came to mind was that Ed had escaped mostly unscathed. He hadn't been shot like the subject had warned over the intercom.

That was his first solid confirmation that Ed had been taken hostage. He had been toward the back of the store looking at the detergent when he saw the manager rushing through his phone call. When the subject came into sight distracted by the other man, Sam had found an easy hiding place. The subject didn't look very hard, didn't even spare a glance in Sam's direction.

It was like any other hot call-just trying to find more intel before jumping in-until he heard the subject's voice daunting the fact that he had Ed up front, demanding that he joined them. At the time, Sam couldn't come up with an alternative that did not risk Ed's safety. That was why he ventured up the aisle, hands in the air ready to surrender.

Voices near the door to the room made Sam stop with that train of thought. He saw Ed look in the same direction as the Boss, Wordy, and Shelley entered the room.

"Jules called and said she was on her way. I'm going to head home," Sarge said, appraising the pair with his eyes trying to determine the nature of their conversation. Nothing seemed to set off any alarms because he walked across the room and patted Sam's hand before saying his goodbyes.

Sam didn't blame him for leaving. He must have been here all night. He wasn't at all surprised to see him leave. Wordy and Shelley had to leave as well only minutes after. The neighbor had called and they had to get back to their girls. Sam understood this as well.

"You need a ride?" Wordy asked, suggesting Ed did not have his car here.

"I'll figure something out."

The look that passed between the two friends was something Sam did not understand.

"Jules made it back to the SRU in three months. I'll give you two," Wordy used as his goodbye. Shelley rolled her eyes and followed him out the door.

"Ed?" Sam asked once they had all left. The man turned to back to him. "You think you can get a nurse?"

Ed looked alarmed. "What for?"

"I think I want the pain meds now."

Before Ed could leave the room to go call a nurse, Sam raised his voice to allow it to carry, taking the risk of another coughing fit. "And Ed?"

He moved back to the bed. Sam felt almost delirious with the pain and with the long night and morning. It was all taking a toll on him at once. He closed his eyes to fight for his coherency. Ed's footsteps stopped presumably next to the bed signaling Sam no longer had to raise his voice.

"I'm never going to the store with you again."

I had to end it like that =) It goes perfectly in my head, let me know if it's less than stellar for you… Or if you do like it. Thanks for sticking with me on this story, more fics to come in the future.