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When It's Right

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CH.1 The Siege

It was late morning. Chloe, Aaron, and Mark were all heading to work. Chloe split from the other two, saying that she wanted to stop and get a coffee before heading to Lassiter’s. She took off towards Harold’s and entered the café. Inside she found Elly standing at the counter waiting for her own coffee. Chloe walked over to Elly, “Morning! What are you up to this fine day?”

“Oh, you know, just putting off another day of looking for a new job by getting some coffee” Elly replied with a wry expression.

“Oh, will you stop it! You’re going to find something soon, I can feel it!” Chloe responded with a reassuring smile and gave Elly’s hand a squeeze. She followed it up with “You’re too talented a teacher not to.”

“Hey Chloe,” Yashvi interjected, looking up from her phone and smiling, “what can I get you?”

Elly, meanwhile, just stared back at Chloe as she ordered her coffee, lost in thought. A small smile was on her face. She wasn’t sure why, but Chloe was always able to make her smile even when she was in a sour mood. Looking at Chloe’s face and hearing her reassuring words, she couldn’t help but have hope.

The girls sat down at a booth and were still talking about the day ahead of them when another customer walked into the café. A scraggly-looking, unfamiliar man in a black leather jacket, he didn’t go to the counter to order. He just took a seat at a booth close to the door, looking about furtively. The girls were so caught up in their conversation that they didn’t notice how oddly the newcomer was acting. The man was giving off some nervous vibes. Had anyone looked at him, they might have noticed he was a bit shaky. He was just sitting at the booth by himself with his head in his hands when Yashvi looked up from her phone in alarm. “There’s been a shooting at Lassiter’s!” she shouted, “and the gunman is still on the loose and said to be armed and dangerous!”

The other patrons, many of them kids, started to freak out. Elly got up immediately and headed to the counter. “It’s ok and everything is going to be ok, we just need to stay calm and stay put,” she said, trying to calm down both Yashvi and the kids. “I know it’s scary, but we just have to do what the police say and everything will be ok.” Chloe had also made it to the counter by then. “Is there anything I can do to help?” she asked. “Yeah, can you help Yashvi make some sandwiches and beverages for everyone while we wait. I’m going to go and see if I can calm some of the kids’ nerves,” Elly replied with a smile. That was just Chloe, always trying to help wherever she could.

Chloe and Yashvi went about making the food and drinks for everyone while Elly went over to the kids to try to help keep them calm. After the sandwiches and the beverages had been made and handed out to the kids, Yashvi’s phone went off with another alert. The gunman in the Lassiter’s shooting had had an accomplice, and he was said to still be in the area armed and dangerous. The attached picture showed a man who looked very similar to one of the customers in the café. Chloe and Yashvi both looked at each other, unsure of how to proceed. Elly noticed that Chloe and Yashvi had gone quiet and had a look of fear on their faces. She made sure the kids were doing ok and told them “Everything is going to be fine, we just have to wait a bit longer.” With that, she made her way to where Chloe and Yashvi were standing at the counter.

Elly tried to keep her voice calm when she asked them, “What’s going on?” Chloe and Yashvi shared a look and Yashvi quietly slid the phone over to Elly so she could read what it said. Elly’s expression slowly changed from one of confusion to fear as she saw the picture of the suspected accomplice. She then carefully slid the phone back to Yashvi. Already she had started to formulate a plan in her head on how to keep everyone safe and get the Gunman out of there. A short while later she whispered to Chloe and Yashvi what she had come up with. Both of them just nodded and Yashvi took off to the back room silently while Chloe stood at the counter.

Elly walked over to where the suspected gunman was sitting in his booth, still looking rather shaky. Elly greeted the man and said, “Hi there, they just gave the okay that it is safe for everyone to leave.” The gunman looked confused and a bit relieved. “Really they caught the guy and it’s safe to leave?” Elly looked him in the eyes, doing her best to force a genuine-looking smile. “Yes, they just gave the all clear that it is safe to leave.”

The gunman got up from the booth and started towards the door, but then stopped suddenly and turned toward Elly. “Why isn’t anyone else leaving?” he asked with a new note of harshness in his voice. Elly tried to come up with an excuse. “We are just being extra cautious but you can leave, there’s no reason for you to keep sitting here.” The gunman looked at Elly and then over towards Chloe, realizing he had been figured out. “You’re lying, you know who I am.” “No, I don’t know who you are,” Elly was quick to say, “but they did say it’s safe to leave, so you can do that.”

The man now looked frustrated and angry. He pulled a gun out from behind his jacket and aimed it at Elly. “Enough with this, go collect all the phones. And if you try anything” he added with emphasis, “I will shoot.” He kept his gun aimed at her as she went around and collected everyone’s phones and handed them over. "Everyone get under the bar and stay quiet or someone will get hurt!” he ordered.

Just then the man’s phone rang. He answered, keeping some of his attention on his hostages. Chloe and Elly helped everyone get over and under the counter. Elly’s attention was divided, but she managed to overhear the man talking with someone about bringing a bulletproof van or he would start shooting. After everyone was safely huddled under the counter, Elly tried to reason with him as he hung up his phone. “So, what’s the plan? You’re going to load us all in the van?” He pointed his gun back at Elly as she cautiously sat up. “You can’t fit us all in a van. If you really want to make a clean and fast getaway, all you need is one hostage.”

Chloe was just looking at her like, what are you doing? She was huddled under the bar with everyone else with her arms thrown protectively around Elly, trying to give her some reassurance and comfort in this crazy situation. Before Chloe could interject that she could be the one hostage, a loud noise came from the back room.

The man turned towards the noise and called out “Who’s there? Come out here now before someone gets hurt? Don’t try to be a hero!” Slowly Yashvi came out of the background holding her phone in one hand and her other hand was held up in surrender. The man noticed that she had her phone out and charged over, yanking it out of her hand. “What do you think your doing? Who were you on the phone with?”Yashvi looking fearful now with both hands up replied, “No one, I was just finishing my kitchen duties and had my music on.”

Not buying it, he looked at her phone and saw that she was trying to text someone. “Get over with the others and don’t try to be a hero!” he yelled angrily, “because heroes get hurt!” Yashvi visibly swallowed, nodded, and walked over to join the others. The man then began pacing back and forth trying to figure out what to do next, the gun still in his hands.

Elly took this opportunity to try and reason with him, “You know you really don’t need all of us as hostages, so why don’t you just let these people go and just keep me for leverage? It will be easier to transport just me instead of having to load all of us into a van.”

“She’s right you really only need one of us as a hostage,” Chloe piped in, interrupting. “You should take me and let the others go.” Elly and Chloe started arguing back and forth, giving reasons to the gunman why he should take one over the other. It didn’t take long for him to become frustrated with their arguing. “Shut up, would you?” he shouted, “You are doing my head in!” He then shot off a warning shot into the ceiling. Everyone ducked for cover and covered their ears.

“Now both of you shut up or I will shoot again, and this time not at the ceiling” the man said looking menacingly at Chloe and Elly. “I need to think and I need quiet to do that.” He resumed pacing back and forth then stopped suddenly, turning to the girls. “You’re right. I don’t need everyone here. Just you three,” he said, pointing at Chloe, Elly, and Yashvi. “Send the others out then come back here, because you three are staying with me.”

The girls set about getting the others out of the café. After the last person was out the door, the girls went back to huddling underneath the bar. Chloe and Elly were sitting close, Elly had a tight grip on Chloe’s shoulder and was leaning her head on Chloe’s. Yashvi was sitting on the other side of and slightly behind Chloe. The gunman came over to the three girls and pointed at Elly with his gun. “Stand up!” Elly stood immediately and so did Chloe. “I didn’t tell you to stand up” he said to Chloe, but his expression softened slightly and he reached out to caress her face with his gun. “But you are gorgeous” he added thoughtfully.

“Get your hands off of her!” Elly yelled at the gunman

Chloe couldn’t suppress a look of fear and disgust on her face, but her words were reassuring as she looked back at her friend. “Elly, its ok. I have no future and you have your whole life ahead of you. You’re getting married soon and you have my brother.” She turned back to stare into the eyes of the gunman, who was now running his gun over her chest. “Take me! Let the other two go. I promise I want cause any trouble.”

Before the distracted gunman could answer, Leo came barreling through the door of the café. He turned his gun on this intruder as quickly as he could, but Leo was already upon him. While the two men wrestled over the gun, Chloe took up a protective stance in front of Elly and Yashvi. Suddenly, the gun went off. Chloe stood silently in shock at the overpowering noise. She felt warm, and nauseous. Suddenly her head felt like it weighed a hundred pounds and she awkwardly lowered herself to her knees. It was several seconds before she noticed, black stars swarming before her eyes, that she’d been shot.

Immediately Elly was kneeling over her, looking for the wound. The men had stopped fighting after the gun went off and the gunman watched in mild surprise as blood drenched Chloe’s blouse and started pooling on the floor. He hardly reacted as the policemen barged in yelling to put his hands up, or even as they disarmed him and forced him to the ground. “She’s been shot, she needs help now!” Elly shouted. More policemen quickly made their way to her side and called for the EMT’s as the gunman was taken into custody.

The EMT’s ran to Chloe and started to work on her. Neither the thick bandages they quickly wound around her shoulder nor the pressure one of the EMT’s put on her chest seemed to do much to slow the bleeding. Other EMT’s and the police were asking Elly and Yashvi questions about what happened and how Chloe had ended up shot. Elly couldn’t form a coherent thought. All she could do was cry and look over to where Chloe was being loaded onto a backboard. Large dark clots were already congealing, gelatin-like, on the floor as the EMT’s loaded Chloe onto a stretcher. Elly couldn’t believe how pale and lifeless Chloe looked, she just needed her to be ok. Yashvi saw how distraught Elly was and answered most of the questions from the EMTs and police.

While Yashvi was giving her statement, Mark and Aaron had found their way in, trying to find out what happened. One of the policemen made a half-hearted move to keep them away from the scene, but desisted when Mark ran to Elly wrapping her in a strong hug. “Oh my god what happened? Are you ok? Where’s Chloe?” Elly just looked at Mark and couldn’t speak she just kept crying and pointed over to where the EMTs were lifting Chloe to a stretcher.

Aaron was already there, frantically questioning the EMT’s. “What happened? Is she going to be ok? What’s wrong with my sister?!” He started to follow along as the EMT’s began rolling the stretcher, but one of them broke off, placing her hand gently on his shoulder and speaking with a firmness clearly born of practice. “Your sister is very sick. We can’t stop her bleeding here, we’re going to take her to the hospital right away.” Aaron stood there in horror, saying nothing, but after a few seconds the EMT nodded, as if in answer to a question. “Come on,” she said, tugging at his shoulder, “you can come with us, but we’re leaving right now.” She turned and walked briskly out of the building without waiting for a response.

Aaron looked back briefly at Elly and Yashvi with tears in his eyes, then ran to catch up with his sister. Elly stared after him. Still wrapped in Marks, arms she just kept crying and quietly saying “She has to be ok, I need her to be ok.”

Chapter Text

Ch.2 The Hospital

The trip from Harold’s to the hospital did not go smoothly. Chloe opened her eyes a few times, only to look off purposelessly into the distance. Wires and tubing ran in all directions from her chest and arms, and she somehow looked even paler than before. For one happy moment, Aaron thought she was going to look him in the eyes, but her unfocused gaze slid past him without pause. He saw her lips move, speaking softly, but he heard nothing over the siren or the incessant rhythmic beeping of the monitors. Her lips had turned an unnatural grey, he noticed now with alarm. He couldn’t help but worry that she wasn’t going to be ok. The EMT he’d spoken to at Harold’s was to his right, holding Chloe’s wrist stretched out with one hand and a needle in the other. Her ID card had decided, uncharacteristically, to turn right-way forward and reveal her name. “Emma,” he said. She made no response but continued to stare at Chloe’s wrist intently. Several long seconds passed. “Is she going to be ok?” In a moment the needle was in. “She’s in critical condition,” she said, her attention still on the new IV as she hooked it up and taped it down. That done, she turned briefly toward Aaron. “We’re going to do everything we can to help her,” she said, pausing before adding, “I promise.” He didn’t dare to ask any more questions after that for fear of interfering, but he overheard an EMT talking to someone on the radio. A lot of things that he didn’t understand. “Young female, gunshot wound to the chest,” he understood, but then a lot of things he didn’t. “Tachy,” he’d heard that one before on TV. An ER scene, not one where the patient was doing well. Chloe’s breaths were coming faster, meanwhile, and with difficulty. With each breath her flesh was pulling back from her collar-bone into her neck. A large needle hovered over her breast, but Emma reached out to stop her colleague and shook her head. “They’ll do it at the hospital.”

And then they were there, the ambulance had made good time, though it hadn’t felt like it. Aaron hopped out of the way the instant the doors opened so the EMT’s could unload Chloe quickly and get her to the Emergency Room. A flurry of nurses and doctors met them the moment they passed through the door. Aaron followed passively in their train until someone, a nurse maybe, grabbed him by the arm. “Family?” she asked. He nodded. She led him after the congregation but stopped him as they approached a large open room flanked by glass doors. “You can stay, for a bit, if you want to,” she said, “but you’re going to have to stay with me.” He nodded again. “Here, I’ll get you a mask.” She dressed him up in a mask and made him throw on a cloth gown over his clothes, and then led him through the doors and into the corner of what had become a very busy room.

“If you start to feel dizzy or nauseous, let me know right away” the woman said. Chloe was on a bed surrounded by doctors and nurses in gowns and masks. A tall young black man stood at the foot of the bed next to an elderly man with snow-white hair, listening to the others and occasionally giving orders in a measured voice. A young man was kneeling at Chloe’s right side, already cutting into the side of her chest with a scalpel. She barely winced. Aaron felt an unpleasant twinge in his belly and looked down with his hand to his mouth, but he was able to suppress the feeling. When he looked back up, the young man was forcing a clear plastic tube the size of a small hose through the hole he’d cut in her chest using a pair of metal clamps. “Alright ma’am” a woman said from the head of the bed, “we’re going to give you some medications to make you fall asleep, ok?” Chloe gave no response. Meanwhile the man at her side was stitching the still-exposed end of the tube into her skin with practiced ease. He released the clamp, and immediately the tube was bright-red with Chloe’s blood. Bile rose up into Aaron’s throat and his head felt light. He started feeling around behind him for somewhere to sit down, but there was nothing but cabinets of medical supplies set into the wall. He pushed his back up against the wall and pulled himself down into a crouch. He looked up just in time to see another doctor stick a large white needle into Chloe’s groin. An arc of blood shot almost straight up in the air and splattered on her thigh. Then another, and another, with every beat of her heart. Aaron looked down and fell hard to his knees.

That was the last part he remembered. When he woke up, his chaperone was at his side shaking him and a few other masked figures were standing around him. “I’m fine” he said. “Where are we?” “Same place” she said, you just passed out. Come on, let’s get him to a bed.” A male nurse and one of the taller women grabbed him under the shoulders and drug him out of the room. “Do you think you can stand?” He felt a little unsteady, but with some help from the two nurses he managed to get to his feet. He didn’t really feel dizzy anymore once he regained his footing, but the nurses insisted on wrapping his arms around their shoulders for support. They led him to a dark, empty room and made him lie down on a rather uncomfortable little bed. “Ever passed out like that before? Any diabetes?” his chaperone asked as someone pressed a disposable container of juice into his hands. He shook his head “no” as he gulped down some of the sugary drink. The trio proceeded to grill him with a series of questions about who, where, and why he was here and such things as that. Satisfied with his answers, the nurses left. “You hit your head when you fell, so they’re probably going to keep you here for a little bit” the chaperone said, “one of the doctors will come take a look at you when they get a chance.” “What about my sister?” Aaron asked. “Someone will keep you updated” she said, lifting the rails on either side of his bed. “In the meantime, make sure you drink all your juice. And don’t try to get up for now, can I trust you on that?” Aaron nodded reluctantly.

A new nurse came in briefly and asked him some questions about his medical history, but there wasn’t much to tell. She put in an IV and drew some blood, but from then on, he was basically left alone. He lay there for a while, he never was sure how long, trying to process what had happened. The images cycled back and forth in his head, but he didn’t feel any less bewildered. Only the (seemingly) icy-cold fluid flowing into the veins on the back of his hand offered any distraction. He hoped desperately that Chloe was ok. His tears had long since ceased, replaced by a cold, muted terror for his sister deep in his heart.

This is how he was when the tall black doctor from earlier walked into the room. A handsome but tired-looking young man, maybe in his late 20’s or early 30’s, he flipped on the light switch as he entered the room. He started toward the bed but then stopped himself as if remembering something. He hastily swept the blue surgical cap off his head, revealing imperfectly short-cropped curls (self-cut, as it happened). He was dressed in plain blue scrubs, almost indistinguishable from those of the nurses aside from the “Dr. I. Onyeneme” in frayed white thread emblazoned on his shirt. He washed his hands with some sanitizing foam, wiped his hands on his flanks, and then came over and shook Aaron’s hand.

“Dr. Ike,” the man said in a Nigerian accent, “How are you doing?” “I’m fine, how is my sister?” “Ah,” Dr. Ike said, “much better than before. The bullet fractured her right clavicle – her collarbone,” he corrected himself, “The fragments cut one of her blood vessels. She was bleeding into the space between her lungs and her ribs, which made her lung collapse. That’s why she was having so much trouble breathing before.” Dr. Ike waited to make sure Aaron was processing what he said. Receiving no response, but also no signs of incomprehension, he continued. “The vascular surgeons are repairing the vessel right now.” Hope fluttered in Aaron’s heart. “So, she’s going to be ok?” he asked. “There’s a good chance now that she may pull through” the doctor replied as reservedly as he could, but Aaron felt an enormous weight lift from his chest. Tears again streamed silently from the corners of his eyes.

“Are you ok, sir?” the doctor asked, grabbing a box of tissues off the counter. “Never been better,” said Aaron, smiling weakly. “Look, there’s nothing you can do now, we’ll all have to wait and see,” the doctor said, and paused thoughtfully. “Why don’t you give me your number? I’ll give it to the trauma resident. That will make it easier for them to call you when we know something.” Aaron readily complied, and the young man sent a text from his phone. “There, now tell me really how you’re doing. Your symptoms I mean, how’s your head?” he said, walking around to the side of the bed, “that was quite a fall you took there.” “Yeah, I’m not sure what happened there, never had anything like that happen before.” “Well probably – do you mind if I touch your head?” Dr. Ike asked, not really waiting for an answer before pressing his fingers on the back of Aaron’s head. It hurt. “My friend, you hit your head pretty good. Don’t worry, I won’t do that again.” He paused again, trying to remember what they’d been talking about. “Ah, yes, probably you had a vasovagal reaction, lost blood flow to your brain when you saw blood.” He smiled. “Nothing to worry about,” he said, chuckling softly, “same thing happened to me my first time.” Aaron did his best to smile in return. Dr. Ike ran down some questions with him, mostly the same ones the nurses had asked. “You’re young and healthy, I’m sure you’ll do fine” he said, “we’ll just keep an eye on you for a few hours, keep asking you silly questions to make sure your head is doing ok. We should be able to let you go before your sister’s surgery is done.”

After the Doctor left, Aaron lay back in his bed, trying to hold back tears. He realized he hadn’t called anyone to let them know what was going on. He pulled out his phone. 5 missed calls, not very surprising. It took a few minutes to calm down enough to call Mark. Mark answered almost immediately, “Az did you make it to the hospital? Is Chloe ok? What’s going on?” Aaron tried, with rather limited success, to sound like he hadn’t been crying. “Yes, we made it to the hospital and they’ve already taken Chloe back for surgery.” “Does that mean that Chloe is going to be ok?” Mark asked optimistically. Aaron went into detail about Chloe’s condition and how she had lost a lot of blood and how they hadn’t been able to stop the bleeding before taking her for surgery. After explaining Chloe’s condition and what the doctor had told him, he reassuringly added, “I guess they’re going to do everything they can to save her, the doctor sounded like he thought she had a good chance.” “Good. Good, that’s good” Mark answered hopefully, and both men fell silent for a while.

“How’s Elly holding up?” Aaron asked, breaking the silence. “Are you two on your way to the hospital now?” “We’re actually still at Harold’s. Elly’s still crying and hasn’t said much. I wanted to give her a chance to calm down before we left for the hospital.” Mark was looking at Elly, who was still staring at the spot where Chloe had been lying not that long ago with tears in her eyes and a blank expression on her face. “I totally get it, she’s been through a lot. Give her a hug for me and I’ll see you two when you get here” Aaron responded. “Yeah will do. We’ll be there soon, love you bro.”

After Aaron got off the phone with Mark, he put his face in hands and closed his eyes. He tried again to wrap his head around what happened. He still hadn’t called his husband to let him know what was going on. The call with Mark had brought his feelings back to the surface, and now he had to calm himself down again. He took a deep breath and started to dial David’s number, just hoping that Chloe was going to pull through this.

 

Back at Harold’s, Mark was trying to explain Chloe’s condition to Elly. “Chloe lost a lot of blood and needed emergency surgery to fix all the damage from the bullet.” Elly didn’t seem to be hearing him though, because she just kept asking, “but she’s ok right?” Mark wasn’t sure how to answer her question. “She must be ok” she mumbled to herself, almost in a whisper “I need her to be ok.” “Aaron said the doctors think she has a good chance,” Mark said. Elly’s eyes lit up, as if waking up from a dream. So, there’s a chance she won’t make it? No, that’s not possible, she thought to herself, she’s my best friend. She always knows how to put a smile on my face, I’d be so miserable without her!’ She found to her surprise that she couldn’t bring herself to imagine a world without Chloe. She needed to be brave, so that’s what she would do. She composed herself and stood up. “We need to get the hospital!” she said with a determined voice. Mark just nodded and took off after Elly, who was already halfway out the door.

 

Back at the hospital, Aaron was back to sitting in his bed with his head in his hands. His husband was on his way. David had tried to reassure him that Chloe was going to be ok, he told him Chloe was young and a fighter. Aaron desperately wanted to believe him and find comfort in his words, but all he could think about was how frail and pale Chloe had looked in the ambulance. How she had a mask on her face to help her breathe, blood oozing implacably through every new layer of bandages and the EMT’s frantically trying to keep her stable. He couldn’t stop the images from coming when he closed his eyes, or the thought that he might lose Chloe tonight. He should have exhausted all his tears by now, he thought, as he once more started to cry.

Elly and Mark arrived at length, escorted by Aaron’s ER nurse. “How’s Chloe?” Elly demanded, “Is she still in surgery? Do we know anything yet?” Aaron shook his head, “No one’s come by to speak with me in a while. They’re supposed to come by when they have something to report.” “They didn’t tell you if she was going to be ok or anything like that?” Elly asked. Aaron just shook his head. “The doctor said he thought she had a good chance” he said, struggling to hold back tears in front of his family. Elly softened, realizing she wasn’t the only one in pain. She walked over to Aaron’s bedside and threw her arms around him, tears welling in her eyes also. Mark was just standing there trying to hold it together. He knew he hadn’t always been the nicest to Chloe, but he was hard on her because he loved her. All he wanted right now was for her to be alright. He needed her to be alright.

Mark was still staring at Elly and Aaron, lost in thought, when David arrived. David rushed to Aaron and wrapped him in a strong embrace. “Any news yet?” he asked sympathetically before pulling back slightly to look his husband in the eyes. Aaron shook his head and fell back into David’s embrace. All four of them stood there in the ER room, leaning on each other and not sure what else to do.

Just then an exceedingly short east-Asian female doctor came through the door. “Brennan family?” she asked, looking up from a folded, rumpled sheet of paper. They all broke apart and took off toward her. Aaron was the first to speak, “Yes, we’re the Brennan family, how’s our sister?” The doctor looked at Aaron, “I’m Dr. Lee with Vascular surgery. Your sister is stable.” Seeing a blank expression on Aaron’s face, she added “She’s doing well. Tell me, what do you know about what’s been going on with her?” Aaron did his best to give a coherent account of what he’d heard so far. He felt he hadn’t done a very good job of it, but Dr. Lee just nodded along. “That’s about right,” she said when he had finished, “the bullet hit her collar bone and shattered it. One of the fragments hit her right subclavian artery – that’s the blood vessel that supplies the right arm. She’s very lucky” she added, “lots of people die before they ever reach the hospital with this kind of injury.” “So, she’s going to be ok?” Elly asked. “The immediate danger is likely over” Dr. Lee said. “The trauma surgeons have taken back over her case, but I had a look at the images they took after the surgery. No other major organ injury or active bleeding. Now, she’s still on a ventilator in the ICU.” “A ventilator?” Elly asked. “It’s a machine that breathes for her. They were able to wake her up at the end of surgery, but her breathing wasn’t strong enough to take her off the vent. They’re giving her medications to keep her sedated while she’s on the vent, they’ll probably try to take her off tomorrow morning. She’s young and healthy otherwise correct?” Dr. Lee asked. Everyone nodded. “There’s always things that can go wrong after losing a lot of blood like that. She might get pneumonia. She might have a blood clot. But,” she smiled, “if I had to, I would bet that she’ll do just fine.” “When can we see her?” Aaron asked. “Now,” Dr. Lee said. “She won’t be very awake, but you can go see her one at a time. The people at the front desk here can tell you how to get there.” Aaron thanked her profusely for saving his sister’s life, but the doctor told him “not at all, I hope they let you out of here soon so you can go see her.”

After the doctor had left, all four released a breath that they weren’t aware they had been holding. Aaron and David hugged each other, both crying happy tears. Mark and Elly were doing the same, shedding tears of relief. They were all so relieved that Chloe was going to be ok. They took turns hugging each other, and only after everyone had hugged everyone else in celebration did, they set about trying to decide who would get to go see Chloe first.

Aaron, David, and Mark were all discussing who should go first, but Elly wasn’t really hearing any of it. All she could focus on was that the doctor had said Chloe was going to be ok and she would get to see her shortly! Until that moment she hadn’t been able to stop seeing Chloe with a blood-soaked shirt, looking down in surprise, gasping for breath. The sound of the gunshot, Chloe falling to the ground, unconscious. All the moments she had shared with Chloe flashed in front of her eyes when she saw her go down. When she had gone to find Chloe after she had run away from her weekend get-away with Pierce and the time that she had just been sacked and Chloe dropped everything so she could be there for her. Then there was the close moment they had shared during the pajama party. These moments ran on a loop while she felt her heart breaking at the thought of losing Chloe. All Elly had wanted ever since the shooting was to know she could make more memories with Chloe, see her beautiful smile one more time. And now she could! All these thoughts were swirling in Elly’s head while she tried to focus on the matter at hand.

The boys had realized that Elly wasn’t really paying attention to the conversation. They all noticed that she seemed a bit lost in thought, staring at the doors the doctor had just went through. Mark went and stood in front of Elly, putting his hand on her shoulder, and asked, “Hey, are you ok?” Elly shook her head, “sorry, yes, I’m ok. I’m just worried about Chloe” she replied. Mark didn’t look convinced, but he nodded and asked, “Do you want to be the first one to go back and see her?” Elly just nodded in response.

The boys all agreed that Elly should see Chloe first. She was there when it happened and they hoped it would set her at ease, physically seeing that Chloe was alive and ok. After Elly left the room, it occurred to David he should prepare Elly for what she might see. He caught up to Elly in the waiting room before she made it to the front desk. “Listen, Elly,” he said, “I wanted to talk to you before you go and see her. She might not look like the Chloe you’re used to seeing. She’ll have wires, IV’s, chest tubes, a breathing tube, bandages – she’s going to look very sick, and I just want you to be prepared.” “Thank you, David, I’ll try to keep that in mind,” Elly replied giving him a hug and with that she took off towards the front desk.

Chapter Text

The next morning found Elly sitting beside Chloe, holding her hand. The respiratory therapist had come in a few hours before and adjusted the ventilator so Chloe would take breaths on her own, the therapist had said. If she did well, the doctors would come back and take out her breathing tube. The rest of the night had been uneventful, thankfully. The nurse came by a few times an hour to check on Chloe, but that was about it. The boys had gone to get some food and coffee after spending the night in the waiting room.

While sitting beside Chloe, holding her hand Elly’s mind went back to early this morning, when the nurse had first taken her back to see Chloe. The room was eerily quiet aside from the steady beeping coming from the machines and the temperature was icy cold. Elly remembered the nurse warning her not to touch anything, letting her know she could touch Chloe but to be careful of all the wires and tubing. The nurse let her know that Chloe’s hands were tied to the side of the bed in case she wakes up and freaks out, it’s a safety precaution. The nurse let Elly know that she would be back later to check on Chloe and went out the door.

Elly remembered the heart stopping fear she felt when she finally looked at Chloe with tears starting to form in her eyes. Chloe thankfully had more color and her lips were a bit pinker than the last time she had seen her. She was asleep and there was a chest tube coming from the right side of her chest, a ventilator that was helping her breathe and her arms were tied to the side of the bed. Chloe was just lying there unmoving and asleep. Elly cautiously walked closer to Chloe’s bedside and sat down. She took Chloe’s hand in her own and placed a gentle kiss there.

Elly started to cry still holding Chloe’s hand and closed her eyes trying to convince herself that this was all just a bad dream, and that all she needed to do was wake up. It wasn’t working though and when she opened her eyes, Chloe was still just lying in the bed not moving. Her Chloe, her best friend, her rock. Her relationship with Chloe Brennan was complicated to say the least but she was never able to stay away. Even when Chloe had asked her for space so that Chloe’s stupid heart could stop being stupid, but she couldn’t give it to her it was just too hard not being able to be with Chloe. She couldn’t imagine her life without Chloe, seeing her every day, going for a coffee or drinks, pajama parties and wine, she just needed Chloe Brennan, she just didn’t realize how much. Seeing her Chloe laid up in a hospital bed and unconscious, made her rethink everything that had happened between them.

She thought about all the times they had confided in each other, all the hugs and the flirty banter. She also couldn’t help but think about the Christmas card where Chloe had written that she was in love with her or the close moment they had shared at the pajama party. All these moments were on replay in her mind and she was seeing them differently. Now she was seeing that she was always smiling when she was with Chloe even during the bad moments because she just couldn’t help herself. She saw all the little touches, the longer than necessary hugs and of course the kiss. That one kiss, the moment everything had changed between them.

Thinking about that moment made more tears come to Elly’s eyes and she gently laid her head on Chloe’s hand that she was still holding. “Chloe, I need you to be ok, I know that things have been strange between us and that’s my fault,” Elly tearfully stated. She slowly lifted her head and continued, “Please just wake up Chlo, I need to see those beautiful blue eyes of yours and your sarcastic smirk, I just need you Chlo, I love you” Elly had whispered the last word. She wasn’t sure when her feelings for Chloe had turned into more than friendship but she knew that she loved her and wanted her to wake up.

 

A knock on the door pulled Elly out of her memory and back to the present. Mark walked into the room, holding a coffee in his hand and a white to-go bag. “Hey, I brought you a coffee and some food,” he said, offering her the bag and cup. “Thank you,” Elly said. “Why don’t you go to the cafeteria and take a break,” he suggested, “I’ll stay with Chloe.” Elly was torn because she didn’t want to leave Chloe’s side, but with the mention of food her stomach started to rumble. “Ok, I’ll just take this to the cafeteria, eat, and I’ll be right back,” she agreed. Mark just smiled. “I’m going to be right here, and if anything changes, I’ll let you know.” Elly smiled back and nodded, putting her hand on Marks shoulder and walked out the door.

After Elly had left, Mark wasn’t sure what to do so he just sat in the chair she’d been occupying. He was so happy that Chloe might be taken off the breathing tube today. He was still worried about his sister, but all things considered he was just glad she was alive. He was almost more worried about Elly. She hadn’t said much to anyone, and as far as he could tell had just been staring at Chloe all night. He had hoped that physically seeing Chloe alive and breathing would help Elly cope with the situation, but she still wasn’t being very vocal and any time he asked her if she was ok, she would just nod and brush him off. He’d decided to give her some space, maybe she’d be more settled once Chloe came off the breathing tube.

Back at the cafeteria, Elly arrived just as Aaron and David were finishing their breakfasts. “Hey,” Elly said. The boys greeted her warmly. “How’s Chloe?” Aaron asked once Elly sat down and prepared to tuck into her food. Elly stopped what she was doing to look at Aaron. “She’s been doing decent, they said she’s on the lowest settings for the breathing machine and there’s a good chance she’ll be able to come off the breathing tube today,” she said in a nervous tone, “we’ll know in a couple of hours.” Aaron smiled back at Elly, “she’s doing great El, try not to worry.” “She really is,” David chimed in, “considering what she’s been through.” Elly knew they were right, but she couldn’t help but worry. She wasn’t sure what to say, so she just nodded and proceeded to wolf down her breakfast.

Aaron and David headed back to the waiting room after breakfast and Elly returned to Chloe’s room. She lightly knocked on the door and entered to find Mark sitting asleep in the chair with his head resting on the bed. Elly knew he hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before because they were all waiting for news on Chloe. She walked over and gently rubbed Mark’s shoulder, trying to wake him up. After a few seconds Mark started to stir, lifting his head. “Hey why don’t you head back to the house and recharge,” Elly said, smiling at her sleepy fiancé, “there’s nothing we can do now but wait. I’ll call you if anything changes.” Mark reached out for Elly’s hand, “only if you come with me. You need to sleep too, Az and David can stay here and let us know if anything changes.” Elly just shook her head. “I’m fine, I got enough sleep and I don’t want to leave Chloe.” Mark stood up and hugged her. As he was pulling away, he tried again. “I know your worried about Chloe, but you’re right, there’s nothing we can do right now. It would do you some good to get out of here and get some sleep, you’ve been through a lot and you need to take care of yourself.” Elly shook her head again, getting a little frustrated. “I’m fine Mark, really, I’m just worried about Chloe and I’m not leaving, but you can go if you want to and I’ll call you with an update.” Mark just nodded and replied “alright. I’m going to head home for a nap and a quick shower, but if anything changes you call me.” He gave Elly a kiss and headed out the door.

Aaron and David, meanwhile, were back in the waiting room discussing Elly and how quiet she had been at breakfast. “I really think she needs to talk to someone, to help her deal with what she went through,” Aaron said to David as they were about to take a seat. “I don’t know babe, she’s been through a traumatic event - Chloe almost dying. I think it’s just going to take time for her to come to terms with it” David replied. Just as Aaron was about to respond, Mark came up to the two looking a bit agitated. “Well I am going to head home for a shower and some sleep while we wait for word on Chloe,” Mark said in an annoyed tone and started to turn away. “Hey wait, what’s wrong?” Aaron interjected. Mark stopped and turned to his brother. “I don’t know what to do for Elly,” he said with exasperation, “she basically just dismissed me when I tried to get her to come home and rest. She’s my sister, for God’s sake.” Aaron tried for a reassuring smile. “I’m sure she’s just worried about Chlo and wants to be there for her, she was there when it happened and is probably having a hard time coping with it, she just needs some time bro.” “Yeah, your probably right,” he agreed, looking a bit less annoyed, “I’ll just give her some time and try to be there for her. I’ll be back in a bit.” Maybe a shower and some good sleep would help calm his mind about Elly and everything that was going on.

Back in the ICU, Elly noticed that Chloe was starting to move on her own a little bit, although she still wasn’t opening her eyes. The nurse came back not long after Mark left and told her they’d gone down on her sedation. “She’s been doing well breathing on her own, we’re going to turn off the sedation and then the doctor’s will come by and see if the tube can come out once it starts wearing off.” Elly was so happy to hear that Chloe had passed the test and could breathe on her own. While the nurse shut off Chloe’s medications, Elly sent Aaron, David, and Mark a text letting them know that Chloe might be coming off the ventilator soon. Soon she’d be able to look into Chloe’s eyes and see her beautiful smile again. Elly was still daydreaming happily when a resident walked in. He went over to the bed without speaking and shook Chloe by the shoulder. “Hey Chloe,” he said loudly, almost shouting, “can you open your eyes for me? Open your eyes.” Chloe’s eyes fluttered briefly open and she twisted slightly in bed. The doctor let her lapse back into a deeper sleep. He looked up at Elly. “Hi, Dr. Morgan,” he said, introducing himself belatedly, “what’s your relationship to the patient?” “I’m a friend,” she said, “going to be her sister-in-law, actually,” she said with an awkward smile. “Congratulations, I suppose” he said, smiling. “We’re waking her up now, as you can see. If everything goes well, I expect we’ll have her off the vent within the hour.” Elly looked at him nervously. “So, after she’s taken off the machine, will she be ok?” “Most likely she will. And there are lots of good nurses and doctors here if there are any problems. We’ll actually need the room for a while, if you don’t mind,” he added, “the lady at the front desk will let you know when it’s ok to come back.” Elly couldn’t help taking one more, long look at Chloe before forcing herself to leave.

Elly found David and Aaron in the waiting room and greeted them with hugs. “They’re planning on taking the tube out, they just took her off sedation now,” Elly let them know in an excited tone. “That’s great” Aaron replied. “I’m happy she’s doing well,” David added bittersweetly, “she’s going to need her strength for the recovery.” “Did you text Mark?” Aaron asked, but Elly ignored the question and looked at David. “What do you mean the recovery?” she asked with barely-concealed anxiety. “Well, she’s going to need physical therapy and at home help at the very least when she’s discharged,” he said, “which might not be for a few weeks. That’s assuming there’s no major nerve damage, which we won’t know until she’s awake.” He’s a doctor, so he must know what he’s talking about, she thought to herself. “What do you mean at home help?” David started going into the details before Aaron interrupted. “Did you let Mark know?” “Yes, I texted him when I texted you” Elly said curtly, annoyed at the being distracted from what David was telling her, “I haven’t heard anything back.” Aaron was visibly surprised at her tone. David shrugged and chimed in, “well, he’s probably still asleep. I’m sure he’ll head over as soon as he wakes up.” Elly nodded absent-mindedly and went back to questioning David on what was in store for Chloe. Aaron listened silently to their conversation, still disturbed by Elly’s behavior, when one of the women at the front desk called out, “Brennan family?” Elly was the first to respond, “yes that’s us, is Chloe awake?” “I’m not sure, but I’ve been told to inform you that you’re free to go back and see her” the woman responded, “I’ll unlock the unit for you.” Elly set off for the door and Aaron and David followed.

Chapter Text

Elly, Aaron and David had just arrived at Chloe’s room and a nurse was walking out of the room. The nurse let them know that Chloe was awake but still out of it and to not over crowd, they should go in either one at a time or at a max two people at once. The nurse also let them know that Chloe was still coming off sedation and might not be fully herself for a while. The doctor would come by shortly to talk about Chloe’s condition and next steps. It shouldn’t be too long assuming there were no emergencies. She would be back soon to check on Chloe. With that she left them standing outside Chloe’s room.

“Ok, so who’s going to go in first?” Aaron asked, looking at Elly and David. David glanced at Elly and looked back at Aaron, “I think Elly should go in first to see Chloe. We can call Mark and let him know what’s going on.” Aaron nodded and asked Elly, “does that plan work for you?” Elly, elated that she would be the first to see Chloe, smiled and said, “that works for me, thank you.” Elly hugged both Aaron and David then gave the door a light knock and turned the handle.

Elly’s heart was beating so fast as she entered the room, she was sure Chloe would be able to hear it. The curtain was drawn a bit for privacy so she took a deep breath and slowly pulled back the curtains, revealing a groggy Chloe, looking as though she had just woken up. Elly couldn’t believe it, Chloe was awake! She still looked sick but she was awake. Elly walked gingerly toward her, unable to contain the smile on her face. Chloe turned to look at her and a small smile appeared on her face. “Hey there, stunner” she said, her voice slightly hoarse. The smile on Elly’s face got even bigger. A flirty greeting, she must be feeling better. “Hey yourself, Chlo” Elly replied, going in cautiously for a gentle hug. Chloe’s right torso was covered in bandages, interrupted only by a chest tube draining blood-tinged fluid. Chloe grimaced a bit when she tried to return the hug and settled for just reaching out and taking Elly’s hand. Hearing Chloe gasp in pain, Elly immediately tried to withdraw her arms to keep from hurting her, but Chloe already had a hold of her hand. “Oh my god Chloe are you ok? I didn’t mean to hurt you, I’m so sorry, do you need me to get a nurse?”

Chloe, trying her best to hide how much pain she was in, smiled and gave Elly’s hand a reassuring squeeze. “I’m fine, it’s just a little sore,” she said sleepily. “It’s not your fault El.” Not looking convinced, Elly tried to smile back and looked down at their joined hands with tears in her eyes. Chloe noticed that Elly had started to cry and started rubbing her thumb in circles on Elly’s hand. Wanting to reach out and hug her, but knowing that wouldn’t be wise, she decided to try to reassure her with words. “Elly I’m ok, I just moved too fast that’s all.” Elly just shook her head and sat down in the chair next to the bed.

“You’re not ok, though, Chloe, you’re in the hospital” Elly said between sobs, “and you were shot.” She was trying to get a handle on her crying, but the tears just kept coming. “I was there Chloe, one second you were standing in front of me, trying to protect me, and then you were on the ground. I tried to stop the bleeding, Chlo, I’m sorry but it just kept coming and then the ambulance came and they took over, took you to the hospital.” Still crying Elly reached for Chloe’s hand that was holding hers, cradling Chloe’s one hand in both of hers, looking down at their hands, “I thought I had lost you Chlo…”

Chloe pulled on Elly’s hand, making her lean slightly over the side of the chair. Her hand went up to lightly graze Elly’s chin, tilting her face so she could see her eyes. “I can’t imagine how that must have felt” she said, trying to make Elly understand she was ok, “I can’t even imagine the thought of losing you, but I am still here.” Something new came over Elly’s eyes when she looked up to meet her friend’s gaze. She brought her hand up to gently caress Chloe’s cheek, still staring back at Chloe, enjoying the fact that she could reach out and touch her, proving to herself that she really was alive and ok. Chloe laid her head back down, still watching Elly from the corner of her eye and feeling her soft touch on her cheek. Her eyelids drooped and closed, and within just a few seconds she began to softly snore. Elly couldn’t tell if she’d really fallen asleep or what was going on, it had happened so fast. Her eyes glanced down to Chloe’s lips, she hoped unobserved, and kept darting back and forth between Chloe’s eyes and lips. Before she could lean in, someone knocked on the door. Elly quickly dropped her hand from Chloe’s cheek and took her hand in hers. Chloe stirred, slightly startled and opened her eyes. “Come in,” Elly managed in a reasonably audible voice. At first, she wasn’t sure she’d been heard, but then the door opened and a young doctor walked in and introduced herself. “Hi Ms. Brennan,” she said, “I’m Dr. Tyler, how are you feeling?”

Elly was giving Chloe a look like you better tell the doc the truth. “I’m ok,” Chloe said, rolling her eyes at Elly’s scolding stare. “My throat is pretty sore, and my side hurts,” she said, glancing at her chest tube. “That’s pretty normal, unfortunately, we’ll take that out as soon as it’s safe,” she said, starting to examine Chloe and continuing to talk, “what do you know about why you’re here?” “I was shot,” Chloe answered, looking at Elly a little uncertainly, “I think, back at the diner, there was a gunman… I don’t know, I don’t remember much after that.” “That’s right, very good, that all happened yesterday. You were badly injured and they took you for emergency surgery to make you stop bleeding. This is a critical care unit, we kept an eye on you here overnight on a breathing tube.” “I was on a breathing tube,” Chloe asked with mild surprise. Elly frowned and glanced at Dr. Tyler’s face. They had taken the tube out less than an hour ago. “Yes, that’s probably why your throat hurts, just a precaution while we waited to see how you would do” Dr Tyler said, and then looked directly at Elly, “It’s not unusual, most people don’t remember that part.” The doctor turned back to Chloe. “It’s going to take some time for your body to heal, we’re going to keep you here at least for today to make sure you’re still doing ok.” She knelt by the bed and inspected a plastic container attached to Chloe’s chest tube that was taped to the floor. “I came by to see how you were doing breathing on your own, I’ll come back later today when you’re more awake. Do you have any questions for me right now?”

Somehow Chloe couldn’t think of anything to ask. She wasn’t really following everything the doctor had said, she was starting to get sleepy again. Elly noticed the look of exhaustion and confusion on Chloe’s face, so she started asking questions. “What happens next? Will she be able to go home soon?” Chloe’s eyes fought ineffectually to stay open, but soon she was back to snoring quietly in the background. Dr. Tyler smiled slightly, then motioned for Elly to follow her to the other side of the room. “Ms. Brennan needs her rest, so we can finish talking over here. The surgeons stopped the bleeding and so far, that seems to have been her main problem. We’ll keep her here until tomorrow at least, right now there’s still a high risk of complications. If everything goes well, she might be able to go to step-down sometime tomorrow. As for going home,” she said, looking Elly directly in the eyes, “that’s hard to predict. We’ll need to see how thing’s go, but she may well be looking at a long recovery.” “What about the pain?” Elly asked, looking at her sleeping friend, “and that tube in her chest, it seemed like it was causing her a lot of pain when I came in here.” Dr. Tyler gave Elly a reassuring smile and placed a hand on her shoulder. “We’ll take good care of her,” she said, “we can’t take away all the pain but we’ll help control it. The chest tube is uncomfortable, but she needs it right now. The surgeons will remove it as soon as it’s safe.” She smiled as she finished answering Elly’s questions. “Does that all make sense?” Elly nodded. “Yes, thank you Dr. Tyler.” “Good, I’m glad. If you think of any more questions, we’re here all day and we’ll be keeping a close eye on her,” the doctor said and then stepped out of the room.

Alone again, Elly looked back at Chloe. God, you look so beautiful when you sleep. I have no clue what happened. One moment I was breaking down in front you, thinking I had lost you, holding your hand and the next I’m transfixed, staring into your beautiful blue eyes and then all I wanted to do was kiss you, like your lips were a magnet and I was powerless to resist them and I made the decision to lean in. And then Dr Tyler walked in which annoyed me because I wanted to kiss you, I still do. And I’m torn, you told me so many times you were in love with me and I told you I could never love you like that, but now I’m not sure if that was the truth, and I’m engaged to your brother... Before Elly could continue her train of thought, her phone buzzed. It was from Aaron. Mark had arrived.

Mark had just made it to the waiting area, where he found Aaron and David waiting for him. “How’s Chloe?” he asked, “where’s Elly, is she doing any better?” Aaron looked back at his husband, unsure how to answer. David just shrugged. Aaron decided to tell him the truth. “Chloe’s off the vent, but that’s all we know. We let Elly go back to see her first. She’s been off in her own world since this started, but when they told us Chloe was awake, she looked more like herself than she has in days.” Mark smiled, glad to hear Elly was doing better. “So, have we heard anything about Chloe yet?” Aaron shook his head, “not yet, all we know is that she’s awake, apparently she’ll be pretty out of it for a while. I sent Elly a text telling her you were here.” Before Mark could respond, Elly came through the doors and was walking towards them. Mark immediately went to Elly, wrapped her in a big hug and gave her a kiss. “How’s Chlo?” he asked.

Elly smiled and greeted Aaron and David before answering, “she’s pretty sore. She was awake for a bit, but she ended up falling back asleep while the Doctor was talking to her. She said she didn’t know how long she’d be in the hospital, she’s got this big tube in her chest it seemed like it was really hurting her. The doctor said it has to stay in for a while. She said she’d come back later today and talk to us in more detail.” Elly looked around at the boys to see if they were following. She wasn’t worried about David because he was a Doctor, but Aaron and Mark seemed to be following because they just nodded back at her and smiled. Mark was the first one to speak, “so Chloe is going to be ok? We can go see her?” Elly smiled and replied in a happy tone, “yeah she’s going to be ok. It’s going to take time for her to recover and we’re allowed to see her, but she’s sleeping right now.” Mark nodded and replied, “ok, so what’s the plan for us, who’s going to see Chloe next? Who can stay here with her during the day?” No one spoke for a few seconds, until Elly replied “I can stay here with her, it’s not like I have to go to work or anything. If any of you need to go home later, I’ll keep you updated with texts and I can call if there’s an emergency.” Before the boys could even reply, she added, “I’m going to head home to take a shower and change clothes now, while she’s asleep. Please,” she said, looking them earnestly in the eyes, “let me know if anything changes.” She gave Mark a kiss on the cheek and headed for the doors.

Aaron, David and Mark just stood in silence after Elly had left. Finally, Aaron said, “well I’m fine with Elly staying overnight with Chloe, that way we can all get a good night of sleep and come back refreshed tomorrow.” David nodded in agreement, but Mark looked a bit frustrated. “She’s been here the entire time, she really needs to go home and get some sleep.” Aaron shook his head and responded in a tired tone, “She’s been through a lot Mark, I really think we should just let her cope with this however she needs to. If she wants to stay with Chloe so we can get some sleep, I think we should let her.” Mark was visibly annoyed at this response and looked at David for support. “What do you think?” David looked to his husband with uncertainty before responding. “I know you’re worried about Elly, Mark, but I think we should let her. Chloe will be in good hands and we’ll have plenty of time to see her before we leave for the night.” Mark realized he wasn’t going to get any help from that quarter, so he conceded. “Ok, you’re right, whatever she needs to do.” Aaron smiled and nodded. “Alright, now that that’s settled, who gets to see Chloe next?” “I feel like that was a nomination for yourself,” Mark said half-jokingly. “I would like to go,” Aaron answered with a laugh, “I haven’t seen her since I fainted.”

Chapter Text

Back at the Kennedys’, Elly was finishing packing and getting ready to head back to the hospital. She had been gone for a little over three hours now. She decided to rest her eyes for a second, thinking a power nap couldn’t hurt, and ended up sleeping for more than two hours. Not having intended to be gone so long, she sent a text to Mark letting him know she’d be heading back to the hospital and asking how Chloe was. Elly rushed to finish packing her overnight bag but was unable to stop thinking about the moment she shared with Chloe earlier that day.

I was going to kiss my best friend and I still want to kiss her. Why do I want to kiss Chloe? I’m engaged to her brother and I’ve never been attracted to women before, I’m straight. It’s totally normal to be curious about how your best friend tastes right or what she sounds like when she’s receiving pleasure. Maybe I’m just so happy that she’s alive and I didn’t lose her that I wanted to kiss her to show her how much she means to me. No... a hug would’ve accomplished that, there’s something else going on. Ever since Chloe got shot, I haven’t been able to think or focus on anything else. All I could see was Chloe and I wanted just one more moment with her because I need my best friend but it’s more than that, I wanted specific moments with her, not friend-like moments. I wanted to experience kissing her soft lips after dropping her off after a date, pushing a stray hair behind her ear while gazing into her beautiful eyes while she tells me another one of her travel stories and grazing her jaw line with my hand, pulling her into a spontaneous kiss. These aren’t best friend-like activities, but here I am wanting nothing more than to go back to that hospital to kiss Chloe Brennan like she’s never been kissed before. Even though I know it’s wrong because I’m engaged to her brother and I do love him, I just can’t get Chloe and her inviting lips out of my head. I’m in trouble and I can’t make sense of what I’m feeling, but I need to get back to Chloe. And I’ll hopefully be able to keep myself in check. Shaking her head and sighing loudly at her inner thoughts, Elly started for the door to head back to the hospital.

Meanwhile back at the hospital, Aaron had just arrived back in the waiting room after seeing Chloe. He told Mark he could go back and see Chloe now but she was still pretty groggy. The brothers exchanged a little bit of small talk and Aaron gave Mark a hug before he headed to Chloe’s room. Mark arrived at the door and gave it a firm knock. He heard someone call out “come in,” so he quietly walked into the room. Chloe was lying in the bed, looking like she was about to drift off to sleep. Mark cautiously approached her. “Hey, Chlo,” he said, giving her a smile. He went in for a hug, but Chloe stopped him with her good hand. “Wait, I can’t do hugs right now,” she explained with a little laugh, “we can do a handshake though!” Mark laughed and reached out to shake Chloe’s hand before sitting down in the chair next to the bed. “So how are you feeling Chlo?”

“Oh, you know, peachy keen” Chloe answered with a smile but grimaced. “I’m still in quite a bit of pain, but I might be able to lose this tube thing soon, which I’m super stoked about” Chloe explained gesturing towards her chest tube. “Yeah, that looks super uncomfortable,” Mark said in a gentle voice with a sympathetic look on his face. “It’s certainly not comfy, that’s for sure. But like I said, I might be losing it soon so keep your fingers crossed.” Mark tried for a small smile and crossed his fingers before he started to frown “I’m so sorry this happened to you Chlo.” Mark said sadly. “Bro it’s not your fault some madman came into Harold’s with a gun.” “I know but I’m your older brother, I’m supposed to protect you,” Mark said in a quiet voice and grabbed Chloe’s hand. “I was really scared we were going to lose you, Chlo.” “Hey, you didn’t lose me, I’m still here just a little banged up,” Chloe replied, her voice a little raspy. “I know and I’m thankful, I just wish there was something I could do…” a knock interrupted Mark and a second after that, not waiting for a reply, Elly walked through the door.

Immediately on entering the room, Elly’s eyes found Chloe’s and she broke into a huge smile, completely oblivious to the fact that her fiancé, Chloe’s brother, was sitting in the chair next to the bed. She didn’t register his presence until he walked over and gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Hey El, how are you feeling?” Elly smiled. “I’m better and all packed for my stay tonight. Sorry, I tried for a power nap and ended up sleeping way longer than I intended. Anyway, how’s our patient?” Elly asked and gestured towards Chloe. Chloe just rolled her eyes as the two talked about her like she wasn’t there and Mark laughed, giving Chloe a brotherly look. “Seems like she’s still fairly tired and in pain, but still our ever-sarcastic Chlo.” Chloe smiled, but her eyelids were growing heavy. Her head fell back on the pillow and her eyes closed. Unsure whether Chloe had fallen back asleep, and not wanting to disturb her, Elly and Mark walked out of the room to continue their conversation.

“Well I’m glad you got some rest El,” Mark said carefully, “are you ready to talk about what happened at the café, now that we know Chloe is going to be ok?” Elly wasn’t sure how to respond to the question, since they didn’t know for a fact that Chloe was going to be ok, so she decided to answer him with a question. “So, the Doctors came by while I was gone and told us Chloe was definitely going to be ok?” Mark looked at Elly with an unreadable expression, “well, no they didn’t come by and specifically say that, but they did say she has a good chance at a full recovery.” Elly brushed off this reply. “Well, the last time I talked to the doctor she said there was still a high chance of complications at this stage and they still have to keep a close eye on her.” Mark nodded, “right, which means more than likely Chloe is going to be ok. I just want to talk about how you are doing with everything.” Involuntarily Elly rolled her eyes a little and gave him a disbelieving look. “I’m fine Mark. I’m just concerned about Chloe and want to be there for her, she’s my best friend, she was shot right in front of me, so I’m sorry but my main concern right now is her.” Mark shook his head, “well she’s my sister, and I’m concerned about her too. But you’re my fiancée, and you went through something traumatic and you keep refusing to deal with it or talk to me about it.” Elly could tell he wasn’t going to let this go and all she wanted to do was get back to Chloe, so she decided to placate him. “Look, I know your only trying to be there for me, which I appreciate, but I’m ok and if I want to talk about it, I’ll find you, ok?” She gave Mark a hug and hoped that would be the end of the conversation.

Back in the room, Chloe woke up and noticed the room was empty. She had hoped Elly would be there. Looking around the room, she noticed Elly’s bag, so that must mean that she was planning on coming back. Earlier that day, she’d seen flashes of Elly crying at her bedside, Elly talking to her, and then another one where Elly was staring longingly into her eyes and at her lips. But these were just little flashes, her mind was still foggy and she couldn’t remember clearly, couldn’t tell the difference between dreams and reality. Elly crying at my bedside, that was probably real. Talking to me, I can’t make out what she was saying, but I can feel her holding my hand and she’s crying. I mean we are best friends and I was shot, so that one makes sense. The other one, I must have been dreaming. Because Elly doesn’t see me that way, she always tells me that and my stupid heart won’t stop hoping that one day she will. So yeah, that one must have been a dream. It wouldn’t be the first time. Although, usually they’re a little more R rated… The fog rolled back in and Chloe fell back asleep.

Elly still hadn’t made it back to Chloe. Mark had insisted she eat something even after she’d tried to redirect him, so he had dragged her to the cafeteria for a meal. Now she was in the waiting room with Aaron, David and Mark. They were discussing something, but she wasn’t really paying attention. She kept nodding when they would look at her to make it look like she was listening. She had briefly tried to pay attention at first, but all she could think about was what if Chloe wakes up alone and wonders where I am? She hoped this conversation was close to coming to an end so she could get a move on and see Chloe. She also didn’t want to miss the doctors stopping by with an update on how things were looking. If everything was going well, they would be able to take out Chloe’s chest tube and move her to a normal floor, which would mean she would be closer to getting better and able to go home.

“Elly?” The other voices had stopped but it was still a few seconds before she processed that someone had called her name. Looking up quickly, she found that Mark was looking at her with a concerned expression. “Yes? What’s up?” Elly responded with a perfunctory smile. “I was just trying to see if you were on board with what we came up with?” Not wanting it to be obvious she hadn’t been following the conversation, she looked around at each of them and guessed. “Yeah, I’m staying here with Chlo while you lot go home and get some rest and I’ll see you back here in the morning.” “Are we sticking around for Chloe’s move to the step-down unit?” Aaron asked the other two men, “the nurse said it might be late when they finally get around to doing it?” David smiled slightly and added, “right around 7 pm, I’d bet.” “Well, Chloe needs her rest and we’ve all seen her,” Mark answered, “so I guess we’ll head home and see you tomorrow morning.” He looked at Aaron and David for any argument to what he said, but both of them just nodded nod. “Ok, so I will see you all tomorrow. Get some sleep and I’ll text if anything changes,” Elly said. She gave all three boys a hug and kissed Mark on the cheek, then started off for Chloe’s room.

When Elly arrived at Chloe’s room, she gave the door a gentle knock and walked in. The first thing she saw when she walked into the room was an unfamiliar doctor inspecting Chloe’s chest tube. Chloe was awake and seemed confused by what the doctor was saying, so Elly announced herself. “Hey Chlo, what’s going on?” she asked with a reassuring smile. Chloe smiled back, thankful that Elly had arrived. “Dr… Harris, here” she said, finding the name on the doctor’s ID card as he stood up, “was just trying to explain the plan for the chest tube to me.” The doctor took off his gloves, shook Elly’s hand, and introduced himself as Dr. Harris with vascular surgery. He looked like he could have been in high school apart from the patch of thinning hair over the crown of his head. “As I was just discussing with Ms. Brennan, there hasn’t been much drainage from the tube since the surgery. If it stays that way tomorrow morning, we’ll do some tests and take a chest X-ray to make sure there’s no remaining lung injury. If everything looks good, we may be able to pull it tomorrow evening or maybe the next morning.” “That’s great!” Elly said, beaming, “so she’s good to go to step down?” “Oh, I’m not sure, you’d have to ask the ICU docs. From our standpoint she looks great. She still needs more frequent checks from nurses to make sure her arm is getting enough blood than they can do on a regular floor, but the step-down is fine for our purposes.” Chloe and Elly thanked the doctor and, as neither woman had any questions, he left the room.

Chloe, who had been quiet during this exchange, smiled at Elly, who was standing in front of her bed. “So, did you follow any of that?” Chloe asked. Elly smiled at her and went to grab her overnight bag before answering. “I think so. We can always ask him more questions when he comes back tomorrow but it sounds like you might be losing that chest tube soon Chlo” Elly explained excitedly. “Well, I don’t know if it’s these meds or all the blood loss, but I’m having a hard time following anything these doctors are saying,” Chloe admitted in a tired voice. Elly sat down next to her and grabbed her hand. “Hey, you were just shot and went through life saving surgery so cut yourself a break. I’m here to be your eyes, your ears, or whatever else you need,” Elly said in a reassuring tone, making circles on Chloe’s hand with her thumb. Chloe was struggling with a déjà vu feeling as she looked down at her and Elly’s hands clasped together. She was lost in the feeling of Elly’s touch, completely lost in thought staring into Elly’s eyes when Elly asked in a concerned tone, “Chlo, you ok?” Elly had moved a bit closer, still making little circles on Chloe’s hand. “What?” Chloe answered, “yeah, I’m ok. Sorry. I was just lost in thought.” She gave Elly a reassuring smile that she hoped said I’m fine. Elly, not buying it, shook her head. “Hey, Chlo, you can tell me anything. You know that, right? I’m here to help, and I can’t do that if you don’t tell me how your feeling or what your thinking.” Chloe decided to tell a half-truth and responded in a quiet tone. “I’m tired, uncomfortable, and still trying to adjust to my new reality.” Elly nodded in understanding and gave her hand a squeeze. “Well, I brought you something to take your mind off of things for a while,” Elly said, grabbing the bag off the floor. Chloe’s eyes went wide in excitement and she asked, “Ooh, is it some wine and a sandwich!?” Elly rolled her eyes, “No, Chlo, besides you’re not even on solid foods yet so I don’t think wine would be wise.” Chloe laughed. “That’s just details El, I think wine and a sandwich have great healing properties” Chloe explained, trying to keep a straight face. Elly rolled her eyes and laughed while Chloe kept on. “Well there’s something else that would have nice healing properties, but I’d need a willing partner,” Chloe finished with a wink. “Oh… well... I mean... I brought some trashy magazines” Elly answered, blushing deeply as she pulled out the magazines. Chloe took notice of how embarrassed Elly was and decided to change the subject. “That’s great, what trashy mags did you bring for us?” Elly’s face was starting to return to its normal color and she started to answer when a nurse knocked on the door and asked Chloe if she was ready to move to her new room.

Chapter Text

Two days had passed since Chloe moved to the step-down unit. Elly had stayed with her both nights, but this morning she’d been banished to the waiting room so the doctors could take the chest tube out. Elly was worried about Chloe, but also excited that her health was improving every day, which meant that she would be able to come home soon. The last few nights with Chloe had been interesting and Elly wasn’t sure what was happening between them. All she knew was that she needed and wanted to be with Chloe, which was getting harder and harder to justify to the boys. They kept telling her she needed to go home and get a good night’s sleep. Chloe would be ok without her for a night. Elly wasn’t hearing it though and kept insisting that she needed to be there for Chloe.

Chloe, her best friend who’d been shot, laid up in the hospital for days now after undergoing life-saving surgery and the very same girl she couldn’t stop thinking about. Her deep blue eyes, long blonde hair, that killer smile and those inviting pink lips. Funny, kind, caring – sure, she was known as the selfish Brennan, but Elly stopped seeing her that way a long time ago. Chloe wasn’t selfish, she was honest, brave, someone who went after what she wanted. Elly loved how brave she was, it was one of her best qualities. She’d been brave enough to tell Elly how she felt, not making a play for her, just because she wanted her to know what was in her heart and needed to get it off her chest. She’d told Elly in that fateful Christmas card that she was truly, madly and deeply in love with her and she wrote it knowing nothing would ever come of it. Elly wished that she could be that brave, but she doesn’t do brave. She does what’s expected of her. She tries to make everyone happy and likes the stability that brings. If she admits what she’s feeling for Chloe then everything she’s worked for, the stable life, the fiancé everything would go sideways. Knowing this wasn’t stopping the feelings, though. She wasn’t sure she‘d be able to deny them, or if she really even wanted to.

“Hey Elly, how’s it going?” Elly was pulled out of her reverie by Aaron calling her name. She looked up at Aaron, not missing the concerned look on Mark’s face. “Good,” she replied, “they’re taking out the chest tube right now. Apparently, they’re going to move her to a normal floor later today.” Aaron smiled happily. “Good,” David added, “that shouldn’t take long, and then we can ask how Chloe’s clavicle fracture is doing.” Elly looked at David and smiled. “That would be great if we could get some information on the fracture and what kind of recovery she’s looking at.” Mark had been quiet and expressionless thus far, but now he looked directly at Elly. “That’s great. Now that Chloe’s doing so well and on the right track you can finally go home, El, and relax a bit. Maybe get a shower and some sleep tonight.” Aaron and David were familiar by now with this conversation and excused themselves to go get some coffee.

Elly stared back at Mark and answered in a tense tone, “what happened to you understanding that I need to be here for Chloe?” Mark looked taken aback. “I don’t understand why you,” he sighed, with emphasis on the ‘you,’ “refuse to see that Chloe is doing a lot better. You need to go home and take care of yourself.” Elly rolled her eyes, but before she could respond Mark continued. “Elly you went through a traumatic event and you need to acknowledge it and talk about it so you can deal with it. You can’t just keep putting it off.” Elly was getting tired of having this exact same conversation every day. She took a deep breath before she replied. “Mark. I am fine. I don’t need to talk about what happened. All I need right now is for you to get off my back and let me be here for my best friend. Because yes, she is getting better, but she has a long road ahead of her and I am going to be there for her every step of the way.” Mark stepped closer to Elly and put his hand on her shoulder, “I know you want to be there for Chloe, but she’s my sister and I can take it from here. You’re my fiancée, and I really think you need to take some time for yourself. And when you want to talk, I will be here.” Elly was getting frustrated with Mark’s constant questioning so she tried a different approach. “Fine Mark, you’re right. What I went through did have an effect on me and being near Chloe is helping me get through it. She was there and she gets it.” Mark removed his hand from Elly’s shoulder and wrapped her in a hug. As Mark pulled away, he kept both hands-on Elly’s shoulders. “El, I wish you would’ve just told me that from the beginning. I think its great that you and Chloe have each other to lean on. But I’m here for you too, and I’ll stop hounding you about needing to take care of yourself.” Elly smiled, relieved. “Thank you for understanding. I didn’t tell you because I wasn’t sure you’d understand, but I’m so happy you do” she said and kissed him on the cheek. They both smiled and turned to see David and Aaron walking their way with coffees in hand.

 

Back in Chloe’s hospital room, the surgeons had pulled out her chest tube and she was feeling a bit woozy. The nurse had warned her beforehand this might happen and told her to take nice deep breaths if it did. One of the younger doctors had asked if she was ok. ‘Pulling the chest tube,’ she remembered hearing the process described earlier. Literally accurate, she reflected. They’d had her hold her breath and then just yanked it straight out, like starting a lawnmower. “I’m fine,” she said, “just an interesting experience.” They’d be getting a few more chest x-rays today to make sure her lungs were ok they explained before filing out.

Now that Chloe was alone, she had time to try and wrap her mind around some of the things she’d started to remember from her first few days in the hospital. Some of the flashes were becoming clearer. She now remembered Elly crying at her bedside, holding her hand and telling her she loved her. That wasn’t surprising, she knew Elly loved her as a best friend. But she also remembered Elly staring longingly into her eyes and at her lips. Leaning in. And there’d been more moments like that since then. She wasn’t sure what was going on or how to take what was happening between them.

Chloe’s mind drifted back to last night when she and Elly were getting ready to go to sleep for the night. She was having a lot of pain and having a hard time falling asleep. “Do you need me to go get the nurse?” Elly asked, worried something was wrong. Chloe shook her head and kept trying to get comfortable without moving too much. Whenever she moved it hurt. Elly got up from the couch she’d been using as a bed and went over to her. “Is there anything I can do Chlo? To help you get a bit more comfortable or something to help you relax?” She looked up at Elly, trying to keep the tears from her eyes so Elly wouldn’t worry about her. “I’m just really uncomfortable and feeling the pain at the moment.”

Elly grabbed Chloe’s hand and started rubbing her thumb in circles trying to comfort her. “I’m sorry Chlo, I wish there was something I could do. Would a foot rub help or I could play with your hair until you fall asleep?” “I mean, I never say no to a foot rub” Chloe said, giving Elly one of her flirtatious smiles, “I will warn you though, I’m pretty gross. I’ve been stuck in this bed for days. But if you want to risk it…” Elly laughed and rolled her eyes. “Hey that’s my move,” Chloe objected. Elly kept laughing and moved her chair to the end of Chloe’s bed and grabbed her foot and started to give her a foot massage. Elly smiled up at Chloe “True, maybe your rubbing off on me.” Chloe smiled back and raised her eyebrow. Realizing what she’d said, Elly blushed and looked down. “So, does this feel good, is it helping?” she asked. Chloe was loving the massage and it felt so good she had to stop herself from expressing her approval more openly. “This feels great, El, thank you. I’m already starting to relax a bit.” Elly finally looked back up and found Chloe staring at her, which made her even more flustered. It didn’t help that Chloe was moaning softly, causing Elly to feel things she shouldn’t be feeling. Elly’s blush deepened. “Let me know when you start getting tired and I’ll come play with your hair,” she said. Chloe nodded, her eyes already starting to feel heavy. “I’m ready whenever you are.”

Elly stopped massaging the Chloe’s feet and moved her chair to the top of the bed. She started running her fingers through Chloe’s blonde tresses. “Does this feel ok?” Chloe didn’t respond. She turned her head towards Elly making eye contact and Elly’s hand froze in place. Chloe grabbed Elly’s other hand in her own. “El you don’t have to do that; you’ve already done so much for me already.” Elly still had her other hand in Chloe’s hair and looked down to their clasped hands and started rubbing her thumb in circles on Chloe’s hand. “But I want to, let me help you Chlo.” Chloe gave Elly a small smile. “I really appreciate everything you’re doing Elly. I just wanted to tell you that I don’t think I’d be able to deal with all of this if it weren’t for you.” Elly looked up to find tears in Chloe’s eyes. She let go of her hair and placed her hand on the side of her face, using her thumb to wipe away the tears. “Chlo, I am here for you and I’m not going anywhere. And I feel the same way, being near you makes me feel more at peace and safe.”

Chloe tried looking down, embarrassed that she had started to cry. But Elly wasn’t having it and moved her hand down to grasp Chloe’s chin, tilting it back up so she could see her eyes. When Elly’s eyes met those baby blues, she felt that magnet effect again and glanced down to Chloe’s lips. She leaned closer, dragging her thumb lightly over Chloe’s lower lip and looking up to find Chloe gazing longingly back at her. Elly leaned closer till their lips were what felt like a hair’s breadth apart, her eyes darting between Chloe’s ocean blue eyes and her pink lips. She moved her hand to caress Chloe’s cheek and lightly brushed her lips against Chloe’s. There was a knock on the door. Immediately Elly dropped her hand from Chloe’s face and let go of her hand. Chloe just laid there confused, unsure of what to do. Finally, she managed to clear her throat and call out weakly, “come in.” It was the nurse coming in to draw her blood, inspect her bandages, the nightly routine. The nurse left after a few minutes, but the moment was over. Neither woman could work up the courage to pick up where they’d left off, and both finally managed to fall asleep for the night.

 

Last night kept running through Chloe’s head and she wasn’t sure what to do about it. Elly hadn’t said much when they woke up and then she had to leave so they could take out her chest tube. Elly had offered to stay with her while they did it, but she declined and told Elly to go get some food or something to take a break from all of this. Elly hesitantly agreed, but before she left, she grabbed Chloe’s hand and let her know the boys would be coming by soon and that she would be back in a bit. She leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on Chloe’s cheek, smiled, and walked away. Chloe wasn’t sure what was going on, so she just lifted her hand to touch her cheek where Elly had kissed her. She knew they would eventually need to talk about what was going on between them, but for now Chloe was just playing it by ear. She was after all still laid up in the hospital and not sure when she would be getting out. Not to mention Elly was engaged to her brother. Better to focus on healing. Easier said than done, though, since she kept replaying their little lip brush in her head, longing to do it again. While Chloe was lost in thoughts of her soon-to-be sister-in-law, a doctor knocked on the door and came into the room.

“Sorry to disturb you,” the doctor said, “how are you feeling today?” “Honestly, I’ve been better. But I finally got that tube taken out, so I’m pretty stoked about that” Chloe replied, trying for a smile. “Glad to hear it,” the doctor replied, readying her stethoscope, “do you mind if I take a listen to your heart and lungs?” “Yeah, of course” Chloe replied. She knew the routine by now and took deep breaths in and out as the stethoscope touched her chest without waiting for instructions. “Everything sounds good,” the doctor said, “if everything goes well, we should be able to send you to the regular floor today. They won’t wake you up quite so often in the middle of the night.” “That sounds great,” Chloe said, “when do you think I’ll be able to go home?” “That’s hard to predict,” she said, an inscrutable expression on her face, “a day or two at minimum, I’d say, but it will depend how your lungs do and what the physical therapists recommend. It’s something we’ll re-evaluate day by day.” Chloe sighed. “Sure, thanks doc.” “Anything else I can do for you right now?” the doctor asked. “Yeah, actually,” Chloe said, nodding, “I was wondering if I can get up out of this bed. I’m feeling pretty ripe since I’ve been laid up for days now.” “Absolutely,” she said, “we’ll have the nurse help you get up into a chair, and you can take a walk with assistance if you feel up to it. The more you’re able to move around the better.” “Can I take a shower?” Chloe asked hopefully. “If you do well with walking, probably” the doctor said, “I don’t think it’ll happen before you move to the floor, but I’ll let the floor team know to double check with vascular.” Chloe didn’t have any other questions, so the doctor took her leave. Chloe laid back in her bed, happy she’d soon be going to a normal floor, probably able to take a shower. She still wasn’t sure what to do about Elly or whether she should try to talk to her about what had been happening between them. But that would have to wait, because this girl was about to be mobile, she thought with a smile.

Chapter Text

Three hours had passed since Elly left Chloe’s room and she still hadn’t heard anything, so she decided to walk back and see what was going on. She was intercepted en route by the boys, who were coming back from getting some food. “Hey El!” Mark said as he walked up to give her a hug and a kiss. Elly smiled and returned the hug, but she had to suppress an impulse to turn her head so Mark would catch her cheek instead of her lips. Aaron and David had caught up by the time Mark pulled away. They greeted her as well and asked what the word was on Chloe. “I’m not exactly sure,” she said, “it’s been hours and I still haven’t heard anything. I’ve been sitting out here waiting for a doctor or a nurse to come out and talk to me.” Aaron and Mark seemed surprised. “They’re probably waiting for x-rays to be taken,” David said reassuringly, “it can take a while sometimes. Besides, the doctor and nurse may be busy with another patient right now.” “Yeah I’m sure your right David,” Elly said, “I just don’t like not knowing what’s going on.” David gave her a hug, “I’m sure she’s fine Elly, I’ll go and see if can find out what the hold-up is, ok?” Elly smiled and nodded. “Thank you, David, that’d be great.” David glanced around at everyone and, meeting no objection, nodded, kissed Aaron on the cheek, and told them he’d be back before wandering off in the direction of the nurses’ station.

Mark, Aaron, and Elly went to take a seat in the waiting room. “So, how are you holding up?” Aaron asked, looking at Elly. She wasn’t sure how to respond. She was in a state of confusion and feeling pretty guilty about everything that had been happening with Chloe, so she just replied, “I’m good, thanks for asking. How are you and David doing?” Aaron looked at Mark and he just shrugged so he looked back at Elly and answered, “We are ok, worried about Chlo and anxious for her to come home.” Elly nodded “yeah I know what you mean. I just hope everything went ok with the chest tube and that they really are just too busy to update us.” Sensing that Elly was still worried, Mark grabbed her hand and tried to reassure her. David would be back soon to let them know what was going on. Elly appreciated that they were both trying to make her feel better, but she needed some space. She excused herself to get some fresh air and coffee, and the boys were happy enough to send her off, glad to see her getting out of the hospital for a while.

Back in Chloe’s room, the physical therapists had arrived just as the X-ray techs were backing their machine out of the door. They were there to work with her sitting up in bed, maybe taking her for a stroll around the unit if she could handle it. Chloe was elated, anything to get out of that hospital bed. Sitting up was surprisingly, almost embarrassingly difficult one-armed, especially with pain flaring up in her chest whenever she twisted her torso. She shot one of the therapists an apologetic look, but the therapist just smiled encouragingly and helped her make it to the edge of the bed. Her legs felt cold, exposed to the cool hospital air for the first time in days, but at least her feet were warm and cozy in her fuzzy hospital socks. Seeing that Chloe was indeed in shape to try to walk, the nurse unhooked her from all the wires. “I think you’ll be alright for a few minutes without all of this,” she said with a small laugh.

“Will you catch me if I fall?” Chloe asked jokingly? The therapists laughed and nodded, taking up positions to her right and left. “Ok, let’s stand up. Are you ready to try this?” one of them asked. Chloe smiled and answered in a determined tone “let’s do this.” Chloe pushed herself forward and up with her good arm, but didn’t move as much as she expected. With what felt like an unreasonable amount of effort she powered through and made it to her feet. One of the therapists placed Chloe’s good arm around her shoulder for support while the other stood by attentively on her right, watching for any sign of imbalance. Chloe’s arm felt completely played out, which caught her off guard. “Is it normal to feel so wiped out from just standing up?” The therapist nodded. “You’d be surprised what a few days in bed will do to your muscles. You’re going to feel fairly weak for a while, but it will get better. You’ll get your strength back.” Chloe smiled. “Alright, let’s put this baby to the test” she said excitedly. The therapists laughed and the three of them proceeded slowly out the door.

Elly was sitting on the bench in the café courtyard, looking intently at some beautiful pink flowers. She didn’t understand it, but lately when she’d seen something beautiful Chloe instantly popped into her head. She was struggling not to think about her soon-to-be sister-in-law in a romantic way. She didn’t know where these feelings were coming from or what to do about them. She’d already mucked up by kissing her - only briefly, but she wanted so badly to continue where they’d left off. Even though she felt so damn guilty about it because she was engaged to Mark and Chloe was her best friend. She loved Mark, but now lately her love for Chloe had intensified so much so that she kept finding herself daydreaming about her and what they would look like as a couple. She could see Chloe being a gentle, supportive and loving partner - how she already was in their friendship. She couldn’t help but wonder as well how Chloe would be in bed, and she just knew that Chloe would be a tiger in the sack. Thoughts like these shocked her because she’d always thought of herself as straight, but here she was imagining how amazing her best friend would be in bed, like what it would feel like having Chloe’s face between her legs, getting familiar with her most intimate parts. She was still staring at the pink flower consumed by thoughts of Chloe when she felt someone sit on the other end of the bench. She sat up straight, feeling flustered, sure the other person would be able to surmise what she’d been thinking about. Darting her eyes stealthily to her side, she saw an elderly woman bending down to pet a greying-haired dog and paying her no mind. I really need to stop acting like a hormone-addled teenager, she thought to herself.

After not coming to any conclusions during her much-needed coffee break, Elly found herself back in the waiting room with Mark and Aaron. She was trying to follow the conversation, something about work, but she was failing miserably. Conversation had moved on to something about the house when David came walking up. All eyes turned to him. Aaron stood up and gave his husband a hug. “So, any news on Chlo?” he asked. David gave Aaron a small smile and answered “yes, the initial X-rays are back and Chloe’s lung didn’t collapse when they took the tube out. Chloe talked the doctor into letting her try to walk, so she’s with the physical therapists now going for a stroll along the floor.” Aaron and Mark were both happy to hear the good news, and thought it was funny and so very Chlo insisting on getting out of bed.

Elly, however, was stuck on the “trying” to walk. “Wait, is it safe for her to walk? She just had surgery a few days ago and she just had a chest tube removed?” David walked over to Elly and put a reassuring hand on her shoulder, “walking is good for her Elly. It’s going to help her heal, and it will let the physical therapists evaluate where she’s at physically, which means we will have a better idea of a time frame for when Chloe will be able to get discharged.” Elly smiled and tried to look a little less concerned, “thanks David.” David just smiled and gave Elly a hug. “She’s going to be fine, El, and she’s getting stronger every day.” Elly nodded and tried for a smile. “So when can we see her?” Mark piped in, “and is she getting moved to a normal floor today?” David shrugged, “I’m not really sure when she’s going to be back from her walk but after that we should be able to see her and as long as everything looks good she should be moved to a normal floor later today.” Everyone was so happy to hear that Chloe was doing so well and that they would be able to see her soon. While they were all sitting there talking about Chloe and taking turns asking David questions, Mark sat staring at Elly with a look of concern on his face.

Back in her room Chloe, had just finished her stroll and she felt completely wiped out. She was in desperate need of a nap, she felt. The physical therapists had taken her for a single lap around the wing and she couldn’t believe how weak she felt and how much she’d struggled with coordination. She felt like she’d almost fallen a few times, but the therapists kept her steady and reassured her that the weakness and coordination problems were to be expected, and that it would get better as she kept going. Chloe was so thankful for how nice everyone was who was taking care of her, but she hated feeling like an invalid and she thought to herself wow this wasn’t supposed to happen for at least another twenty years or so. Being shot, almost dying, had her thinking about how short life is. She’d seen her Huntington’s diagnosis as a death sentence, when in actuality her life could end at any time, and she needed to stop focusing on how fucked up the hand she’d been dealt was and just put her best foot forward. Thinking about her diagnosis and her injury instantly made her think about Elly. Elly, her best friend, her soon-to-be sister-law, the woman she was madly in love with and the person who’d been her rock throughout this whole ordeal. Elly had been amazing and she wasn’t sure what she would’ve done if she didn’t have her. Her thoughts drifted to the kiss they’d shared and she couldn’t help but want to do it again. She knew it was wrong but her stupid heart just wouldn’t stop being stupid by wanting Elly and with that final thought she drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Text

Chloe had drifted off for about an hour when she was awoken by the nurse, who had come to let her know she would be moving to the new floor soon and that she would let Chloe’s family know what was going on. Chloe thanked her and the nurse smiled, letting her know that she would be back to help with the move within the hour.
Chloe was left in the room alone once again and started thinking about the dream she’d been having before she’d woken up. She’d dreamed she was in her new room on the normal floor and Elly was there helping her get situated, the boys had just left for the night. Chloe was trying not to stare at Elly but was failing miserably and every time Elly caught her, she would blush and try to quickly look away but Elly would usually smile at her before she could . She would return the smile and then shift awkwardly trying to get comfortable on her lumpy hospital bed. These hospital beds weren’t as comfortable as you’d think and it was starting to get to her. Elly walked up to her bed still wearing her customary small smile. “So Chlo, are you happy your one step closer to coming home?” Chloe gave her a flirtatious smile and replied, “I am, but I’m going to miss you waiting on me hand and foot, if I’m being honest.” Elly laughed. “Well just so you know, that’s not going to stop after we leave here. You’re stuck with me for the foreseeable future Chlo.” She couldn’t help the huge grin that broke across her face hearing that Elly still wanted to help her after she got out and replied, “well you won’t hear me complaining, Ms. Conway.” Elly smiled at her and moved a little closer to the bed. Chloe shuffled over, trying to ignore the pain the movement brought and tapped the spot next to her on the bed. Elly gave her a look like are you sure and Chloe nodded, patting the bed again.
After Elly gingerly sat down. She reached for her hand and looked deep in her eyes. “In all seriousness, Elly, I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have your support and I just wanted to say thank you and that I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me.” Elly smiled and started rubbing gentle circles on Chloe’s hand. “Chlo, I’m just so glad you’re ok and getting better every day, and that I can touch you because you’re still here, I don’t know what I would’ve done if I had lost you.” Elly looked down at their hands and tears started to form in her eyes. Chloe only having one usable hand let go of Elly’s hand and gently tipped Elly’s head up so that she was looking in her eyes. “El you don’t have to think about that because I’m right here and I’m not going anywhere,” Chloe said in an earnest voice, her hand still cupping Elly’s chin. Elly nodded and smiled as she brought her hand up to gently caress Chloe’s face, “you are here Chlo and I’m so happy for that.” Elly stated quietly with tears falling down her face and moved her other hand so that she was cradling Chloe’s face. Before Chloe could say anything, Elly had leaned in and laid a gentle kiss on her forehead. As Elly was pulling away Chloe brought her hand up to gently wipe tears away from Elly’s face. As Chloe was doing this Elly brought her forehead to rest on Chloe’s, her eyes darting from Chloe’s lovely blue eyes and kissable lips. Chloe slowly brought her hand that had been wiping tears away from Elly’s face down Elly’s jaw to rest on her lips where she used her thumb to lightly trace Elly’s bottom lip. Elly glanced down at Chloe’s thumb and closed her eyes dropping her hands from Chloe’s face. Chloe dropped her hand from the brunettes face as Elly pulled back a bit and just as Chloe started to say “sorry... Elly grabbed Chloe’s one good hand and used it to gently pull her forward and lightly brushed her lips against Chloe’s bringing her other hand up to cup Chloe’s cheek. It took Chloe a minute to kiss back because she was shocked by what was happening but god did it feel good. Just as Elly’s tongue darted out to deepen the kiss Chloe was startled awake by the nurse entering the room and ending her lovely dream.
Replaying the dream in her head got her thinking about the short kiss they’d shared and she couldn’t help but wonder what the kiss meant and what had been going on with Elly since she got shot. Elly had always been attentive, but now she was being like, super attentive. Not to mention they’d been having these super-charged moments, almost kisses, and she couldn’t shake the hope that maybe something had changed between them for the better, like maybe Elly had feelings for her. But then Chloe shut down that train of thought and just put it up to Elly being afraid that she had almost lost her best friend. Although she can’t help but have a little bit of hope that Elly might have some feelings for her, because her feelings for Elly were as strong as ever and she really wanted her dream to be reality.
Back in the waiting room Elly and the boys were sitting and chatting. Elly was still having trouble following the conversation, too consumed by thoughts of Chloe. Mark who had only been partially paying attention to the conversation was watching Elly with an unreadable look on his face. Elly had no idea that Mark was watching her and just kept on faking attention to the conversation. Both David and Aaron were completely oblivious to the couple and kept on with their conversation until the nurse walked up to the group. “Brennan family?” They all nodded. “Yes, that’s us,” Aaron said, standing up to face her, “how’s Chloe? Can we see her soon?” The nurse introduced herself and moved to shake his hand. “Your sister is ok,” she added, “she’s moving to the normal floor in about 20 mins. She just woke up from a nap, her walk really took it out of her. Once she’s settled in her new room, you’re welcome to go see her.” They all smiled and thanked her. She smiled and nodded before adding, “actually, I think Ms. Brennan wanted to try for a shower after we moved her to the new room, so I can sign out to her new nurse to come get you after that.” They all laughed and Aaron added, “yep that’s Chlo for you, it’s probably killing her being stuck in that bed. Well anyway, thank you for letting us know and that’d be great.”
Once the nurse had left, Aaron sat back down and smiled, “I’m glad she’s finally getting to go to the normal floor.” David nodded, “yeah, that means she’s one step closer to getting discharged.” “So, does that mean Chlo will be able to come home soon?” Aaron asked. David shrugged before answering, “if all goes well the next day or so she should be on her way home soon. But it’s up to the doctors and the physical therapists. We can ask them when we see them next, though.” Aaron and Elly nodded at that, but Mark jumped in with a question of his own geared towards Elly. “So Chlo is doing better then. Which means Elly you don’t have to worry so much and you can come home with us tonight.” David glanced down uncomfortably. “Chloe’s doing better, Mark, but she’s still recovering. She’ll need all the help she can get for a while.” Mark looked directly at him. “So, you think Elly needs to still stay with Chloe at the hospital?”
David looked at his husband and Aaron nodded telling him to go ahead before he responded with, “I think Elly and Chloe have both been through a lot and if Elly wants to help Chloe through this difficult time then she should be able to. Chloe is recovering from serious surgery and only has one usable arm so having someone to help her is good. Besides, it’s no fun being stuck in the hospital alone for days on end, so I’m sure Elly being here with her is making her stay more tolerable.” Elly looked shocked by what David had just said to Mark, and Mark just looked annoyed. “Look, bro,” Aaron added, “I know you’re worried about Elly, but she’s willing to stay with Chloe and none of us can be here all the time like she can. I think you should cut her some slack.” Elly glanced over at Mark, who was just sitting there quietly staring at David and Aaron with a disgruntled look on his face. She took a second to gather her thoughts before smiling and looking at David and Aaron. “Thank you both for saying that,” she said, “it means a lot.” Aaron and David just nodded and smiled at Elly. Aaron stood up and walked over to Mark and put a hand on his shoulder, “sorry, bro, we don’t mean to overstep but Elly being here is helping Chloe and that’s all matters.” Mark finally nodded and said, “its ok, bro… I know you’re just trying to help and looking out for Chloe, which I’m thankful for. But I think Elly and I need to talk privately.” Aaron shook his head slightly and turned towards his husband. “Well babe, let’s go get something to drink and leave these two to talk,” he said before standing and heading off. David excused himself, shot Elly an apologetic smile and joined his husband for what would be his umpteenth coffee, thinking to himself I really hope they sort this out, because excusing myself to get coffee is getting old.
After the couple had left Mark turned to face Elly and grabbed her hand. “El I’m really worried about you and I think you need to talk to someone.” Elly stared down at her hand in Mark’s and instantly felt guilty that she wished it was Chloe who was holding her hand. She tried to shake that feeling off and scrambled for something to say. “Mark, like I’ve already told you the first few times we had this conversation, I’m fine. I’m just worried about my best friend.” Mark shook his head at that and tried again, “Elly you barely leave the hospital or Chloe’s side, and if you do it’s for a very short time.” Unsure of what to say she decided to give into her annoyance that Mark was once again on her back about this even though they had already had multiple conversations about the topic. “Look, Mark, I’m fine and I really do appreciate you being concerned, but I just need to be there for Chloe. I feel responsible for her getting shot,” she said, holding back tears, “and I’m getting tired of having to explain this to you.” Mark was shocked at Elly’s tone, he let go of her hand and put his head in his hands. He then ran his hands through his hair repeatedly, trying to find the right words for what he wanted to say. Finally, he looked back up at her. “Elly, I know you feel responsible, and you shouldn’t, but that’s what I’m talking about. I think you need to talk to someone about your guilt and how you feel about the hostage situation you were in. I know Chloe was there, she experienced what you did and that she makes you feel normal and safe. And I know she was injured and you’re afraid for her well-being, but El, this isn’t healthy. You need time to your self to come terms with everything, including that Chloe is going to be ok.”
Elly’s annoyance quickly turned to anger at Mark telling her how she felt and what she needed to do to come to terms with everything that had happened. In the back of her mind she knew Mark was coming from a good place. But she was annoyed that he was trying to have this conversation with her again after telling her that he ‘understood that she needed to be there for Chloe and that if she wanted to talk, he’d be there.’ But now he had apparently deemed that with Chloe getting moved to a new floor and her health improving every day that she didn’t need to be there for her best friend and his sister anymore because it was unhealthy for her. She still hadn’t replied to what Mark had said and he was now looking at her expectantly, so she rolled her eyes and replied in a tight tone. “Mark, we just had this conversation the other day. And you said you understood how I was feeling and that being near Chloe was making me feel better, so what has changed for you since then because Chloe your sister and my best friend is still very much in the hospital recovering from life saving surgery and I still want and need to be around her not only to help her but for my own sanity as well.”
Mark sighed out of frustration, “what’s changed, Elly, is Chloe is getting better everyday and you’re still acting like she’s in immediate danger… plus you’ve been distant and off since Chloe got shot. I just want you to talk to me and tell me what’s going on because I’m worried about you. I was fine with you staying here and needing to be with Chloe because I thought as she got better you would come out of this state you’ve been in. But honestly, it’s just gotten worse. Which is why I think you need to come home with me, get a good night sleep, a shower and then tomorrow morning we can find you someone to talk to.” Elly stood up after Mark’s speech and let out a frustrated sigh of her own, rolled her eyes and looked down at Mark. “You know what Mark; your brother and David have the right idea. I’m a grown woman and I can make my own decisions, so I will be staying with Chloe for the duration of her hospital stay and after she’s out I will continue to help her because she’s my best friend and because I want to, so get on board with it or don’t but I’m done with this conversation” and with that she stormed off without a backwards glance leaving Mark sitting alone in the waiting room.
After her spat with Mark Elly found herself back in the courtyard. She was staring at the same pink flower she had lost herself in the other day, trying to calm down and make sense of what she was feeling. She really was angry with Mark and his need to control everything, but she was also frustrated with herself. She was engaged to Mark but she couldn’t stop thinking about his sister. Her mind kept replaying the brief kiss they’d shared and she really wanted to do it again. The kiss was short but it was electric, it made her weak in the knees and she felt hot all over. She’d never had that reaction to kissing someone. There’d been quite a few men in her life and she’d never felt that way when they kissed her. Which made her ask the question, does that make me bi or a Chloe-sexual?

Chapter Text

Chloe had arrived on the normal floor an hour or two ago. She had just finished taking a very awkward and surprisingly painful shower. Painful because the spray of hot water she thought would feel great to her healing body instead just made it ache worse. Awkward because her nurse had to help her and keep an eye on her to make sure that she didn’t fall. Now she was safely back in her bed and freshly showered and the nurses had excused themselves, letting her know they’d be back in a bit and would let her family know she was ready to see visitors. She was thankful for the time alone after enduring the assisted shower. Even though the nurses were super sweet, she was still embarrassed and a bit frustrated at how weak her body still was. The shower had taken it out of her but at least she felt less grimy. She laid back in bed, both refreshed and exhausted, and found herself dozing off.

Chloe jerked awake – someone was knocking on the door. “Come in,” she said, hoping it would be Elly but figuring it probably wouldn’t be. Elly always knocked but never waited for a come in. After a few seconds Mark walked into the room and greeted her before sitting in the chair next to her bed. “So Chlo, how are you feeling? We heard you convinced the doc to let you try for a walk and then a shower.” Mark laughed, giving Chloe a gentle pat on her good arm. Choe laughed a bit too. “I’m doing ok, pretty wiped to be honest. That walk around the floor took it out of me and then the shower was surprisingly painful and a bit awkward. I’m stoked that I’m one step closer to being able to go home though, because boy do, I miss my bed.” Mark at Chloe quizzically, “why was it awkward?” Chloe sighed. “The nurses had to help me take a shower, like with everything, and I’m not used to having an audience in the shower. Unless it’s a sexy shower...” Mark put his hands over his ears and interrupted, “ok Chlo, I get it, say no more... some things a brother doesn’t need to hear.” Chloe laughed and used her good hand to pull one of his hands away from his ears. “You know, we’re both adults here bro, but ok, no more talk about showers.”

Mark surrendered his auricular defenses, not without a show of resistance. “Ok good,” he replied, and then paused for a moment. “So… has Elly mentioned anything to you about how she’s feeling or about her guilt over you being shot?” Chloe looked at Mark confused. “Damn bro, that’s quite a change of pace.” Mark nodded “I know. But I’m worried about her and I wanted to see if you knew what was going on with her or where her heads at. Because any time I broach the subject of her needing to go home to take care of herself she gets angry.” Chloe wasn’t sure how to answer. She herself was just as confused by Elly’s actions, and this was the first she’d heard about Elly and Mark fighting, so she answered hesitantly. “Well we talked about how she felt guilty about me getting shot and how scared she was that she had lost me. I told her that she had no reason to feel guilty and that I was ok and that she didn’t lose me. I also told her how thankful I am that she’s been here for me and that I don’t know what I would’ve done if I didn’t have her helping me. Other than that, things have been normal. Wait, is she still feeling guilty or scared? Because I thought I’d gotten through to her.” Mark looked at Chloe and grabbed her good hand, “I’m not sure. I know she’s still acting like you’re not out of the woods. She’s just been distant and very hesitant to leave your side, saying she needs to be here for you and it helps her feel normal and at peace.” Chloe smiled at that, thinking that she made Elly feel at peace after what happened. But her smile immediately turned into a frown seeing Mark look so lost. “She refuses to go home and insists on staying here with you,” he continued, “I suggested maybe she talk to someone to help her work through and talk about what happened at the siege but all she does is insist that she’s fine and that if she wants to talk she’ll let me know.” Chloe sighed looking perplexed, “I’m sorry Mark, she’s been acting normal with me other than the hawk eye routine. Which I’m not bothered by - she’s doing it because she cares and I get it. If the situation were reversed, I’d be besides myself.” Mark nodded “you’re right. I know she’s doing it because she cares and wants to help, I just want her to take of herself too.” Chloe knew what her brother wanted her to say, but truthfully, she didn’t want to say it. Having Elly there had really helped her. She loved spending all this time with Elly and she wasn’t sure how either one of them would cope without the other now. So, she decided to plead Elly’s case and hope Mark would be a little less worried. “I know you’re worried about her, Mark, but I think she is working through what happened her own way and trying to force her to talk or do anything she’s not ready for at this moment won’t do her any good. Also, Elly has been so great helping me and I really don’t know what I would’ve done without her here.” Mark looked down, letting go of Chloe’s hand and started running his hand through hair before looking back up. “You’re right Chlo, trying to force the issue isn’t going to do any good. But I do think she needs to go home for a night to recuperate.” Chloe nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I told her she could go home if she wanted to, but she insists on staying so I just drop it instead of arguing with her. I mean, I love having her here with me, she keeps me sane and she’s been so helpful.” Mark smiled at that “I’m glad she’s helping you and making this easier on you. You’re right, Chlo, it’s not worth arguing about and I should just let her do what she needs to do. And if I’m still concerned in a few days I’ll bring it up again, but hopefully by then you’ll be back home and she’ll start feeling better about this whole situation.” Chloe started to yawn and laid back in her bed, crossing her fingers. “Sounds like a plan, and fingers crossed I’ll be out of here and in my own bed in a few days.” Mark smiled and stood up giving Chloe a gentle hug, “thanks Chlo, I’m glad you’re starting to feel better. I’ll be back tomorrow morning to check on you. I’m going to go find Aaron and David and let them know they can come see you now.”

Chloe let out a sigh after she heard the door close, feeling relieved she’d made it through that conversation without saying too much. She hoped she’d managed to put Mark’s mind at ease. This was the first she’d heard about Elly being annoyed at Mark. I wonder why she never mentioned anything about it, she thought, I mean, I know things have been different, but we’ve always been able to talk about stuff. I know I was going to wait until I’m all healed up to try and figure things out, but I think we need to talk. I’m sure her distancing herself from Mark has to do with more than just our brief kiss and her feeling guilty. The only way I’ll know for sure is if I talk to her about it, but I’m afraid if we do that things will change between us, and my stupid heart is going to keep getting put through the blender. A knock at the door interrupted her train of thought, and before Chloe could say “come in” Elly was already in the room.

Elly looked exhausted, but the smile she shot at Chloe still reached up to her eyes. She walked over and gave Chloe a light hug before sitting down in the chair next to the bed. “Hey Chlo, how are you feeling?” Chloe shrugged. “Well, that walk I convinced the doc into letting me take wiped me out, and the shower was pretty awkward. But I’m finally on the normal floor, so hopefully this hospital stay is almost at an end.” Elly looked at with surprise, “what do you mean the shower was awkward?” Chloe laughed, “well and trying to keep myself upright in slippery conditions with some nurses helping is about as fun as it sounds. I was just telling Mark I’m not used to having an audience in the shower. You know, unless it’s a sexy shower - I have experience with those” Chloe finished with a wink. Elly immediately blushed and giggled at the thought of Chloe having a sexy shower and looked down to try to hide the fact that it had made her flustered, but Chloe noticed the blush and decided this was as good a time as any to bring up the elephant in the room. She looked down, closing her eyes, before grabbing Elly’s hand with her good arm and quietly saying “look, Elly, I think we need to talk about stuff.” Elly immediately looked up at Chloe, alarmed. “What... do you mean Chlo?” Still holding Elly’s hand, she looked into her eyes, “I mean the kiss for starters. And Mark’s concern that you’re not ok or dealing with what’s happened.” Elly looked down at their hands before shyly glancing up into Chloe’s eyes, taken aback by what she saw there. Absent mindedly Elly started rubbing circles on Chloe’s hand with her thumb while lost in her eyes. Chloe looked down and gave her a small smile before continuing. “El, I thought we talked about the shooting and how you weren’t to blame for what happened to me. I’m ok, and I’m getting better every day. Mark still seems to think you’re worried something is going to happen to me and that your need to be here is unhealthy for you because you’re not dealing with what happened.” Elly finally broke out of her trance but kept on with the gentle circles. “Chlo, we did talk about that. I know I’m not to blame but being near you is making me feel normal and safe. And I just want to be here for you. Mark thinks I need to talk to someone because I’m not talking about every little thing to him and frankly it’s getting on my nerves.” Chloe smiled thinking to herself about how cute Elly was when she was annoyed. It was also kind of hot. She tried with limited success to shake that thought before replying. “I can tell it is, but he’s just worried about you El.” Elly rolled her eyes. “I know he is, but we keep having the same conversation even after he says that ‘he understands’ only to bring it up the next day and the day after that.” Chloe laughed at that. “That’s just Mark for you, and if you need to get back to your life I’ll understand. I mean, I love having you here. You’ve been my rock and you’re helping keep me sane in this place, but I want to make sure you’re ok and doing what you need to do.” Elly stopped making the circles but kept a hold on Chloe’s hand and looked back into her eyes. “Chlo, I’m fine. I’m still worried about you. I know you’re getting better, but I want to be here to help you, to take care of you.” Chloe face lit up, but she managed to reign it in a bit. “Ok, as long as you’re ok and not, like, doing this as some sort of penance.”

Elly scoffed. “Chlo, I’m here because I want to be and it’s not out of obligation, you have to know that.” Chloe cracked a big smile and let out a sigh of relief before she asked, “ok then why is Mark so worried about you being here with me?” Elly was speechless and wasn’t sure how to respond. Before she could stop herself, she looked into Chloe’s eyes and reached out to caress her face. “I haven’t been very present with Mark,” she said in a whisper, “because I can’t stop thinking about you.” Chloe didn’t think she had heard her right, so she asked for clarification. “What do you mean?” Elly tilted her head, still gazing into Chloe’s baby blues, leaned a little closer, and ran her hand down Chloe’s jaw, tracing her lower lip with her thumb. “Chlo, I can’t get our kiss out of my head and I really want to do it again…” Chloe blushed as she glanced down at Elly’s lips, biting her own as Elly closed the gap between them. She felt Elly’s lips lightly graze her own. Elly pulled back slightly to gauge her reaction, but Chloe didn’t pull away. Elly gently took hold of her face with both hands and brought her in for another kiss. Chloe raised her eyebrows in shock not expecting the kiss but after a second she smiled, tilted her head deepening the kiss as she lightly ran her tongue along Elly’s bottom lip. Elly gasped at the feeling of Chloe’s tongue on her bottom lip as her own tongue darted out to meet Chloe’s, moving one of her hands to the nape of Chloe’s neck to pull her closer when Chloe winced. Elly immediately dropped her hands and pulled back, scared that she had hurt Chloe and just as she was about to speak, she felt a hand on her arm, she looked up and was mesmerized by those darkened baby blues and the flirtatious grin Chloe was sporting, as if in a trance she found herself hopping from the chair to the bed and leaned in towards Chloe. Chloe flirtatiously raised an eyebrow at Elly’s actions, “see something you like Ms. Conway?” Elly nodded, brought her hand up to cup Chloe’s cheek and laid a gentle kiss on her lips, right as Chloe started to kiss back there was a knock on the door and the girls immediately broke apart. Elly blushed and sprang back to the chair as Chloe called, “come in!” After a second David and Aaron entered the room while Chloe and Elly tried to conceal their discomfiture.

Chapter Text

Two days had passed since Elly and Chloe’s impromptu make out session and Elly found herself once again sitting in the courtyard staring at the same flower trying to make sense of what was happening with her and her best friend. She had once again kissed Chloe only this time it wasn’t just a brush of lips, it was a full-on kiss immediately followed by another kiss with brief tongue. Elly found herself getting turned on just thinking about it and felt annoyed that they’d been interrupted. She should’ve been worried about making things right between her and Mark, but instead she was sitting alone, replaying her and Chloe’s most recent kiss, consumed by how much she loved the feeling of Chloe’s lips on hers, the way she gently caressed her face, and the electricity she felt when Chloe’s tongue darted out lightly tracing her lower lip asking for more. Elly shook her head at herself thinking, what is wrong with me? I should be focused on Mark now that Chloe is possibly getting discharged, but instead all I can think about is Chloe and that kiss. I love Mark and I obviously have feelings for Chloe, how deep they are I don’t know but I’m not gay. I mean, I have a fiancé who’s a man, who I love. And I’ve been with plenty of other men. I’d never even looked at a woman with anything other than friendship in mind until Chloe.

I’ve always felt close to Chloe, sure when we first met things were rocky but we got close shortly after that. I was her confidant, defender, best friend, and she was mine too. When I got sacked, she was there for me, comforted me. She tried to cheer me up with the pajama party - there was always something under the surface after that and we both chose to ignore it. She just wanted to brush it off as being a flirt and a bit drunk, even though she hadn’t had that much to drink. I was disappointed by her brush off, but I accepted that excuse so we could get back to normal. Maybe I was scared of losing my best friend. When she first kissed me my body had reacted, my lips moved against hers, but before my mind could catch up to what was happening, she’d pulled away, got up and made an excuse to leave, leaving me dumbfounded, confused and scared. I had thought I was having those feelings because my fiancés sister had kissed, who was also my best friend but now, I’m thinking it’s because it stirred something in me that I didn’t know was there... Before Elly could finish her train of thought she felt someone sit beside her on the bench and looked up shocked to find Mark there.

Back in her room, Chloe was waiting to hear from the doctor whether she could go home today. David was waiting in the room with her – Aaron had to take care of some business at the gym. He was surprised to find Chloe alone; she and Elly had been inseparable since she’d been shot. He’d asked Chloe where Elly was and if she wanted him to call or go find her so she could be there for support. Chloe shrugged in answer and started to say no, but she was cut off by a knock on the door. A second later the door opened and the doctor came in. “So, doc, am I going home today?” she asked immediately, “because this girl misses her bed.” David laughed. The doctor smiled before he answered. “Yes, Ms. Brennan, you are getting discharged today but there is some information that we need to go over with you.” Chloe yelled, “yay!” and fist pumped with her good arm and winced a bit. “See, now, that’s one of the things we need to talk about,” the doctor said, “Some of your nurses have expressed some friendly concern about your, ah, willingness to comply with restrictions on physical activity while you’re healing.” Chloe looked down sheepishly and nodded, waiting for the doctor to continue. “You’re doing much better than when you first came, but you’re going to have to take it easy for a while. You’re also going to need continued therapy for your arm, and there is absolutely no weight bearing on that arm,” he said, looking up over his glasses in emphasis, “unless instructed otherwise by your physical therapist. You’ll also need to take care of the incision – your nurse will go over the instructions with you before you leave. It would be best to have someone around for support until you’re closer to baseline if possible.” Chloe nodded. “I can definitely do that, doc. So, I have to take it easy for how long?” “That will depend on how you progress with physical therapy so we will have to play that by year.” “How many days of PT will she need a week?” David asked. “We want her to go to PT three times a week to start. If she’s showing major improvement the therapist will revisit the plan for session frequency.” David smiled before looking back at Chloe. “Well, Chlo, do you think you can handle three sessions a week?” Chloe nodded and laughed at her brother-in-law’s question. “So, there’s no set timetable, but do you know when I can return to work?” she asked. “Again, it will depend on your progress with physical therapy. Anything that involves physical labor or anything more than minimal lifting I would avoid for now.” Chloe frowned hearing that she wouldn’t be able to return to work right away, because she needed the money to pay back her mum. David put a reassuring hand on her good arm. “Chlo you need to listen to the doctors. Therese will understand about work.” Chloe smiled at David before turning her attention back to the doctor. “Ok, so what does a girl have to do to get discharged around here?” The doctors laughed. “Well, I’m going to put in your discharge orders now, so going by hospital time hopefully sometime within the next 4 hours or so.” Chloe put on an exaggerated grimace. “Don’t blame me personally” the doctor said, raising his hands in surrender, “slow discharge time is hospital law.”

Meanwhile in the courtyard, Elly and Mark were busy discussing Chloe’s possible discharge. Elly was surprised – she’d been expecting another lecture. Instead Mark had greeted her with a smile and a kiss on the cheek and asked her about Chloe. It was a nice change of pace from how their interactions had been going as of late. She felt guilty for kissing Chloe, even more so because she didn’t regret it and would do it again in a heartbeat. Mark had stopped talking at some point and was now looking at her confused. “Do you think Chloe is going to be discharged today?” he said, repeating his question. Elly tried to refocus on their conversation and nodded. “I think they’ll send her home today. I’m just not sure about the at home care. I mean, I know she’s definitely going to need help and probably won’t be able to return to work just yet.” Mark smiled, but then he looked worried, “Oh my god, El, you’re right, how are we going to take care of her when she gets home? I mean, she’s going to need a lot of help.” Elly shrugged. “Mark, it’s going to be fine. I figured we would figure the logistics out after we got her home.” Mark still looked worried and shook his head, “no I think we should probably get a game plan together now, just in case we need to get her like a home nurse or something like that.” Elly gave him a surprised look. “Mark, she won’t need an at-home nurse, I’m currently jobless so I figured I’d help her. And then in my down time I can job search and send out resumes.” Mark looked down and sighed, “Ell you don’t need to do that, you have your own life to get back to. Plus, there’s planning our wedding.” Elly was ready to argue that she could easily take care of Chloe and manage a job search, but Mark’s reference to the wedding caught her off guard. She was thrown when she heard that word. She didn’t feel excitement or happiness, just sadness and dread. Waiting expectantly for Elly’s rebuttal, Mark took a few moments to realize she hadn’t said anything. “Mark, I can do all that and look after Chloe. I’m at your place all the time anyway, and you three actually have jobs, so it only makes sense that I do this as long as everyone is on board.” Mark nodded noncommittally, but before he could respond his phone went off with a text from David. He read the text, smiled and looked up at Elly who was waiting for him to respond. “Well, we can talk about this later, because Chloe is going home today.”

Back in Chloe’s hospital room, she and David had just finished talking with the nurse and were now waiting on the final discharge paperwork. Chloe was so happy to be able to go home, but she was feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the information she had just absorbed. She was also bummed that she had quite a way to go before she’d be back to normal. David had been sweet and reassuring that she could do this, but she felt a bit defeated by how sore she was. “Thank you for translating for the doctor and answering all my questions, I really appreciate it” she said. David put a reassuring hand on hers. “I’m happy I could help. It’s going to be ok Chlo, you just have to do what the doctors said and take it easy. You’ll be back to your old self in no time.”

David had excused himself to share the good news. Chloe finally broke down in tears at everything she’d been through and what she now had to go through to get back to a hundred percent. Once she started, the tears just kept coming. Soon she was slumped over, full-on sobbing and furiously wiping the tears away with her good hand. David had been so sweet trying to reassure her, but she was having a hard time focusing on the positives when all she could think about was the fact that yes, she was going home, but she still had a lot of work to do. She wasn’t an idiot, she’d known she wouldn’t be as good as new when they finally let her go home, but she was expecting to be less sore and able to do more than just rest and go to physical therapy.

Then there was the whole Elly situation, and she hated herself for screwing up that relationship. Elly had been her rock throughout this whole ordeal, and she repaid her by not being able to keep it in her panties? I mean, yes, Elly had initiated both times, but she knew Elly’s heart was with Mark. Elly was just having a hard time after the siege and thankful her best friend was still there. A little worse for wear, but still there. She started thinking about what else could be going on with Elly. I mean, she can’t be having feelings for me now out of nowhere, right? I mean, you don’t just get shot and then the girl of your dreams just falls for you. That’s not how the world works. I confessed my love in that embarrassing Christmas card and she told me that she loved me, just not in that way. And it hurt, I felt my heart completely shatter. Which is crazy, because I knew that she was straight and in love with my brother, but I just couldn’t help but hope she might have feelings for me too. I asked her for space after the letter fiasco so my heart would have a chance to stop being stupid, and she just kept pushing for us to get back to normal, trying to comfort me about my mum having Huntington’s and my own diagnosis. Needless to say, I didn’t get that space I needed, and now here we are dealing with the aftermath. The kiss and that impromptu make-out session certainly haven’t helped my stupid heart, it’s just made me want her even more. The way that she’s been here for me since I’ve been shot, and now that I know how it feels to hold her, to feel her lips on mine, I’ve fallen even more in love with her and god it hurts because I know there’s no chance for us. With that final though Chloe felt her heart breaking all over again as fresh tears welled up in her eyes

Chloe was so lost in her crying she didn’t hear the door open or see Elly stepping into the room. Elly’s heart broke at the sight of Chloe crying and immediately rushed over to her. Chloe was still slumped over sobbing and didn’t lift her head at Elly’s approach. Elly gently put her hand on Chloe’s good shoulder. “Chlo what’s wrong?” Chloe didn’t respond to Elly’s question, she just kept crying. “I’m here, baby, please tell me what’s wrong?” Chloe finally looked up, her beautiful blues streaming tears, “what did you just say?” Elly hadn’t realized what she’d said until Chloe questioned it. Elly blushed. “I said I’m here. Please tell me what’s wrong Chlo.” Chloe shook her head and her eyes, which had been clouded in confusion, now flashed with anger. “No, you called me ‘baby,’ Elly, why would you do that?” Elly was left speechless and couldn’t do anything but stare into Chloe’s eyes. Chloe lifted her eyebrows as if demanding an answer. Elly sat down in the chair and reached out for Chloe’s hand. She was pleasantly surprised when she didn’t pull it away. “I’m sorry Chlo, I don’t know why I called you baby, it just happened.” Elly wanted to tell Chloe the truth about what had been going on in her head, but nothing came out. Chloe looked down at Elly’s hand on hers and the anger in her eyes burned out, leaving only sadness. “Chlo what’s wrong?” Elly asked, seeing the change, “I want to help.” Chloe looked up at Elly and in a tearful voice answered, “everything”.

Chapter Text

Elly sat next to Chloe waiting for her to continue, but instead of elaborating Chloe started crying again. Elly, wanting to comfort her and not sure what was going on, grabbed her hand and was thankful when she didn’t pull away. After a few seconds Chloe’s crying seemed to slow and she looked down at Elly’s hand on hers, shook her head to try to get control of herself and looked up, meeting Elly’s eyes. “Chlo, what do you mean everything?” Chloe stared at Elly for a second thinking to herself, how beautiful Elly was and how stupidly in love with her she still was. She facepalmed at how ridiculous she was being and composed herself. When she looked back up, she made a show of rolling her eyes and replied in a sarcastic tone, trying to mask her real emotions. “Hmm, I don’t know Ell, I’m recovering from a gunshot wound, they just told me I can’t go back to work, which means I can’t pay my mum back... oh, and this girl I’m crazy about who I’ve been working really hard to get over keeps kissing me. You’re really starting to do my head in.”

Elly sat silently as Chloe spoke, unsure of how to respond, and had to suppress a smile at hearing Chloe say she was crazy about her. She’s crazy about me? Why does that make me feel all warm and fuzzy? Ok, Elly focus, stop thinking about that and get back to trying to help Chloe. She still wasn’t sure what to say and Chloe was looking at her expectantly, so she decided to wing it, “Chlo, I know you’re going through a lot right now and what’s going on with us probably isn’t helping, but you’re the strongest woman I know, you can handle anything and you can definitely handle this.” Chloe shook her head and went to speak, but Elly prevented her with a finger to her lips. Chloe looked down at Elly’s finger and blushed before Elly dropped her finger, turning red herself and continued. “Chlo, no matter what happens I’m here and we are going to get through this together.” Elly who was still holding Chloe’s hand, lightly traced her thumb over Chloe’s knuckles. Chloe, losing her resolve to stay annoyed at Elly, looked down at Elly’s hand on her own and finally smiled at her best friend. “Ell that means a lot, I’m just feeling a little in over my head here.” Elly nodded in understanding before she replied. “Look Chlo, I know it’s a lot, but you’re getting stronger everyday and all you have to do is follow what the doctors say. You’ll be back to your old self before you know it and I’m going to be here every step of the way.” Chloe gave Elly a small smile before she looked down at their hands again, loving the feeling of Elly’s ministrations on her hand. She looked back up into Elly’s eyes. “So, are we going to talk about it?” Elly bit her lip in response to the question (and to the look that Chloe was giving her) and nodded, but before she could answer there was a knock on the door.

Elly stopped tracing Chloe’s thumb but kept a hold of her hand, not wanting to let go of her best friend. Chloe sighed in frustration and rolled her eyes at being interrupted yet again before she whispered, “this isn’t over El” and called out, “come in”. All three boys walked in shortly after that. Aaron, who was the first to enter, noticed Chloe’s puffy red eyes and Elly holding her hand. “Chlo, are you ok? Have you been crying?” he asked as he gingerly stepped over to give his little sister a hug. Chloe reluctantly released Elly’s hand as Aaron leaned in and Elly got up from the chair so one of the boys could sit with Chloe if they wanted to. Chloe returned the hug and shook her head. “Yeah, Az, I’m fine. I think things are just starting to get to me. Elly was talking me down thankfully.” Chloe shot a smile at her best friend and then, doing her best to sound cheerful, addressed the group. “So how are all of you this fine day?” The boys all took turns telling Chloe how happy they were she was getting discharged and in turn they asked how Chloe was and if she was excited to be going home. Chloe explained that she was having a hard day, tired of the hospital, and more than ready to leave. The boys all nodded at that and started discussing how Chloe’s at-home care would go when Elly interjected. “Well, as I mentioned to Mark earlier, since I’m the only one who’s currently not working, I could be the one to take care of Chloe and in my downtime, I can job search and send out resumes.” Chloe was surprised but happy to hear Elly’s plan. Elly, noticing Chloe’s raised eyebrow in response to her previous statement, backtracked and added, “but only if you’re ok with it Chlo?” Chloe looked at Elly and shot her a playful smile. “So, you think you can keep up with me Ms. Conway?” Elly laughed. “I do, but only if you’re ok with it?” Chloe shot Elly one more playful smile and a wink, which caused Elly to look down trying to hide her flustered state. Chloe laughed and turned her attention to the boys. “I’m good with it if you all are.” David and Aaron both agreed and David offered to help if Elly had any question. Elly thanked David and gladly accepted his help after that everyone looked over at Mark, who hadn’t said anything yet.

Mark looked at Elly, who was also looking at him, waiting for an answer. Eventually he shrugged. “Works for me,” he said. Elly and Chloe both smiled. David, who wanted to catch Elly up on everything the doctor had said, walked over and started to fill Elly in on what all Chloe needed to do and what she wasn’t allowed to do. Chloe snuck a glance at Elly, who was listening intently to everything David was saying, before turning to pay attention herself. Once David had gone over everything she turned to her brothers. “Alright, now that that’s sorted, let’s get me home.”