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Chapter 3

That was how Thea wound up being the first person to hear Tommy's status post-surgery.

The doctor who gave her the report looked tired, she thought. Countless people were being brought in from the Glades, so she wasn't surprised.

"Your friend was impaled through the top portion of the liver," he explained to her, not taking his eyes from his clipboard. "Most of the blood loss came from further back at the major vein coming from the heart, so that's why surgery took so long. It was almost impossible to get him stable and control the bleeding, but we finally made it. The object struck at his spine and also tore his diaphragm. The effects of those two have yet to show up, so we'll be watching him for quite a while."

He offered a hand and Thea shook it, feeling a sudden sense that she was the responsible adult now, and not sure how much she liked it. Tommy and the others were counting on her, and she'd all but forgotten half of what the doctor had just said.

She drew in a deep breath. "Thank you," she managed.

"You can see him now, if you want to," he offered, gesturing toward a nearby hallway.

Her eyes flew wide. Now she really didn't want to be the one who was out here, all alone. "He's down there?"

"Room 318. Do you have anyone else here with you, kid?"

"Y—yeah," she nodded, snapping her attention back to his face and standing a little straighter, despite how sore her neck and back were from all the work yesterday. "I'll go get them. But I want to see him first."

"That way," he pointed, to lead her in the right direction.

"Mmhhmm." Thea walked hesitantly, trying to quell the butterflies in her stomach. "Thank you."

She paused again outside the door to Tommy's room, then shook herself. This was ridiculous. Things couldn't be too bad—she'd known Tommy all her life!

She pushed the door handle down and slipped inside.

It was hard to believe that was Tommy. The setup around him looked like something she'd only seen in movies—he was so surrounded by tubes and blinking lights and bags of fluid hardly an inch of skin was showing, and a breathing mask was attached to his face so she couldn't even see that.

Slowly, she inched her way forward, swallowing as she took in the fact that this was, in fact, her friend. Her second big brother, who always tended to show up right when she needed him. Who had been there even when Oliver had disappeared.

"Tommy?" she sidled up next to the bed and took his hand in hers, curling her lip in disapproval at how cold it was. She rubbed both of her hands over it, trying to warm him up a little, but she didn't dare touch him more than that. She was afraid she'd screw something up.

There was a blanket sitting on the shelf behind them—she decided to grab it and drape it over him gently, tucking it in around his feet.

Sighing, she pulled the disgusting plastic chair over from the window to sit beside him, and pulled out her phone.

"Thea?" Laurel's voice, sleepy but tear-filled nonetheless, filled her ear.

A sickening feeling filled Thea's gut as she realized she hadn't even understood what the doctor had said enough to tell Laurel if Tommy was actually going to be okay or not.

"Laurel, they let me see him. Come on up—umm, yeah. Room 318." She quickly hung up before Laurel could ask her any questions. She was the lawyer—she could grill the medical professionals for the answers she wanted herself.

Thea was just the baby sister. And she was too scared right now to so much as leave Tommy's side.

Once Laurel was settled in watching over Tommy, Thea escaped into Oliver's room just in time to see an epic argument taking place between her stubborn-headed older brother and an equally stubborn nurse.

"My friend is dying. I can walk. I'm fine," Oliver kept insisting, while the nurse glared him down.

"The doctor hasn't even seen you yet, Mister, and he's been running around this floor for God knows how long seein' as we're majorly overbooked. And if you think you can just go running around this hospital with no regards for his schedule just because you're rich enough to have a private room in a crisis—?"

Thea cleared her throat, announcing her presence to the two of them. "Ollie, Laurel's with him. It's okay. Can I sit with you?"

Oliver flopped back in his bed, fixing her with a piteous expression. "Thea, I have got to see him."

"You will," Thea grabbed his hand comfortingly, and the nurse gave a small huff of relief. "But in the meantime, we're going to be patient and sit here and wait for the nice doctor, aren't we?"

"Very funny," he grumbled, before he was assailed by a fit of coughing.

Thea crossed her arms over her chest as she waited for him to get his breath back. Yes, something was definitely wrong with her brother. She was just going to have to play the big sister this time.

"Sorry that took so long," the elderly doctor rushed into the room, still drying his hands on a towel. He had a lisp and a greying beard, and Thea instinctively winced, but Oliver didn't seem put off. "He's passing out, you said?" he aimed his abrupt question toward Thea, who sat up a little straighter when she found she was the one being addressed.

"I didn't pass out." Oliver felt the need to clarify.

"Yep," Thea responded coolly. "Almost did, anyway. Several times."

"You're dehydrated," he snapped his fingers in Oliver's direction. "I can tell just by looking at you." At Oliver's look of annoyance, the doctor reached over and pinched the skin just above his wrist with a gloved hand. Instead of bouncing back, it stayed indented with the marks from his fingerprints. "There's your proof," he pointed. "You are, too," he then nodded in Thea's direction, whose impressed look immediately turned to one of equal indignance. "But he's worse. That's why he's such a mess. You two've been out in the Glades?"

They both nodded dumbly.

"How long?"

"S—since last night," Thea started. "Well, since the quakes started."

"I figured. Everyone coming in here from the Glades has been dehydrated. Everyone's in crisis mode. Where's my nurse?" he began looking around, then disappeared out the door for a few seconds and came back in followed by Oliver's now disgruntled-looking nurse. "Get an IV started in him. And get her a water jug," he nodded in Thea's direction.

Embarrassed, Thea pretended not to hear them.

"Then, you both order from the cafeteria. Understood?"

Thea began to protest (cafeteria food was awful), but Oliver interrupted. "Understood," he replied quietly.

"Now, let's take a look at your leg. Let me guess; you just couldn't stay off it after you injured it, could you?"

Oliver cringed as the doctor began lightly palpating the swollen areas, at the exact same time as the nurse deftly inserted an IV in his arm. Thea tried hard not to grin.

"We're going to pack you in ice and do an MRI before anything else," the doctor finally assessed. "Anything else?"

Thea began to shake her head, but Oliver spoke up unexpectedly. "Yeah," he confessed. "I'm not sure if they're just bruised or not, but I think one or two of my ribs might be cracked."

Thea furrowed her eyebrows. Where and when had Oliver managed to crack his ribs?!

Dr. Nguyen pulled his hospital gown from the side and checked where Oliver was indicating, and nodded. "Full-body MRI, then. Any trouble breathing?"

Oliver shook his head. "No, Sir."

"Okay, then."

Almost immediately, Dr. Nguyen was gone, leaving only the nurse who plunked a plastic jug of water with a straw sticking out of the top in Thea's lap.

She took a long sip, then grimaced. "This tastes disgusting," she stuck her tongue out. Then she looked worried, turning to Oliver. "What if Roy gets dehydrated, too?"

"Roy can take care of himself, Thea," Oliver rolled his eyes.

She sipped a little more from the jug, thoughtfully. "As his girlfriend, it's my job to be not entirely convinced of that."

Once Oliver's MRI was taken care of and he was transferred back to his room (with strict orders to stay OFF of his leg until the swelling went down and they could cast his broken foot), he immediately snuck over to ICU where Tommy was.

Thea glared at him when he came hobbling in, finding Detective Lance and Laurel also seated around the bed and numerous machines.

Laurel looked up at him with a firmer resolve in her eyes than he'd seen before. It was similar to the look she wore before a case, but much less forgiving. "All the doctors I talked to say he's not going to make it," she explained in an icy tone. "I'm going to find him a new one with more optimism."

Oliver's heart took a plummet lower than he knew it was capable of. "Thea, can you get me a chair?" he asked quietly.

His sister glared at him again, but a little less heatedly as she pulled one over close to her own and took his arm, helping him limp over and sit down.

Detective Lance, of all people, was watching him sharply. Oliver looked away, feigning total innocence. That was the last thing he needed—for Laurel's father to connect the dots—again. He guessed he wouldn't get off the hook so—easily—the second time.

"Was he in the Glades?" he asked softly, feeling grim as he looked over his friend's nearly unrecognizable form, covered in tubes and wires as he was.

Laurel nodded brokenly. "For me," she whispered, her voice choked.

"What happened to him? I have a friend who can look up the best doctors and experts on his condition."

Laurel wasn't able to reply, but Thea handed him the clipboard at the end of Tommy's bed, looking it over with him. "Something about his spine, a lot of blood, and a diph—no, dia—" she frowned in concentration.

"Diaphragm?" Oliver interrupted, raising his eyebrows.

"Yeah, that."

"He did this to save me," Laurel interrupted, unaware of their banter. All the others turned to look at her as she lovingly cupped Tommy's hand to her cheek. "All that time I waited around, and even after we had broken up he still came back to save me."

Detective Lance put his arm around her sympathetically. "It's not your fault, baby girl."

"Don't worry, Laurel," Oliver added in a quiet voice. "He'll make it. He's strong."

She heaved a shaky breath and nodded. "I know."

Tommy thought it was weird that his eyes were swimming, but none of the rest of him was. He could tell he was lying down, probably on something hard and uncomfortable, but all his eyes kept seeing was watery blue.

That, and his chest hurt like it was aching for air, and although he was vaguely aware of something filling his lungs and pushing its way back out, it was forceful rather than easy, like breathing through a diving mask when you got that weird deep-water panic syndrome thing that he'd gotten one time when he and Oliver had gone scuba diving in Tahiti.

He was never doing that again. In fact, it was probably best to avoid Tahiti altogether. There were plenty of other nice beaches in the world. Jamaica, the Bahamas, the Greek Islands, Puerto Rico…

He should take Laurel to Puerto Rico sometime—she loved the beach and seeing her in a bikini would be fantastic—but maybe she wouldn't want to go—Laurel wasn't his girlfriend anymore. Wait, was she?

He furrowed his brows, struggling to remember, and though for a second he heard her voice.

"Tommy?"

"Laurel!" he tried to shout, calling for help since he was underwater—he couldn't find his way back out. "Laurel! Where are you?" Try as he might, though, he couldn't feel his own voice—his throat had something jammed in it halfway between it and his mouth, and he couldn't feel his lips move to form the words even as he shouted them in his head.

Then like an electric shock, something warm and real and definitely NOT part of the dreamland he was trapped in grabbed his hand.

His actual hand, which he was suddenly aware of feeling in—feeling of Laurel's fingertips, her nails, his palms brushing against hers—that was real. He held on as tightly as he could, hoping she could pull him out of wherever he was stuck in.

"Tommy? Come on, Tommy—he's waking up! Ollie, wake up—help me help him!"

Tommy groaned loudly and now, he knew he had actually made the sound. He forced his eyes open and the water was replaced by the cold hues of early natural light coming in through closed window blinds, the white of a stark ceiling, two faces with no names looking at him from above—

The real world started spinning as soon as it appeared and he gasped for air, trying to stay awake.

"Tommy, Babe, can you hear me?"

He struggled to think. Was that Laurel's voice?

"Tommy! Tommy, it's all right. You got really hurt—you're in the hospital. We're right here, me and Laurel."

Wait, that was Oliver!

He grabbed Laurel's hand even tighter, unsure if it was her or him that was doing most of the work, since his muscles felt weak—almost too weak to even hold onto her.

A hand brushed against his forehead, stroking his hair gently. "We're all so relieved," Laurel murmured, her face now more visible now that his head had cleared a little. Her brown eyes were—oh, so beautiful. "We're all right here for you, Tommy. Does anything hurt?"

Hurt? Oh—

That weight on his chest had grown heavier, so heavy he thought his ribs would break—no, they must already be broken—he was crushed, felt so sick—every part of him ached and as he looked at Laurel, he realized he was going to have to close his eyes unless he wanted to throw up.

That freaked them both out, apparently.

"Tommy—"

"Tommy! Wake up!"

Suddenly he was so angry he wanted to get up and punch one or both of them. Didn't they get that he wasn't asleep? Morons…didn't they know how much he freaking hurt right now…

Giving in, he let his eyes snap back open again and both of them sighed with relief.

Half of him—the outer half, that is—was frozen and hurt from the cold. The main part of his body, however, was so hot—he felt like he was burning—every breath hurt like it was burning him alive—he tried to scream, but all that came out was a strangled whimper.

Laurel and Oliver's voices swirled around him like a cloud he couldn't break out of; wasn't sure he wanted to. It was much more pleasant to have no idea what was going on—

"I thought they were going to take out the breathing tube before he woke up," he vaguely heard Laurel say.

"Maybe they didn't think he was going to," Oliver replied. Was that disgust in his voice?

"Well," Laurel didn't sound to happy or surprised by that idea, "I always knew otherwise. Even though it's been nearly a week."

"Tommy," Oliver addressed him, taking his other hand on the right side of his bed while Laurel held his left one, "you have no idea how good it is to have you back. I'm so sorry for everything." He hesitated for a second. "I don't deserve to have you as my friend."

Sorry? What was Ollie sorry for? His pain? Tommy wasn't sure that was it—he vaguely remembered hating Oliver, but what for? And he also felt that HE had something to say 'sorry' for—something REALLY important. What was it?

Giving up on finding all the answers right away, he let his eyes drift shut and slipped back into the water before his friends could stop him.