Sam sat desolately in the hospital waiting room. She ignored the blood on her clothes. She felt numb and distant. All she could see was Austin's face looking up at her. He had been trying to speak to no avail, but she had read his lips.
She hugged herself tightly. How could she be brave? There was a chance he was going to die. She hadn't even told him that after all these years, she still loved him.
"Sam?" Rhonda's voice called, making her look up. Rhonda came into view with Carter in tow. They had left Cassie at Rhonda's place much to her dismay.
"Rhonda," Sam said, choking. She stood, and Rhonda enveloped her into a tight embrace.
"Oh, Sam. Are you all right?" Rhonda asked.
"What happened?" Rhonda pressed, pulling back a little. She took in the blood and gasped. "Are you hurt?!"
"No. It's Austin," Sam whispered.
"Austin?" Carter repeated, alarmed. "Where is he?"
"He's in surgery," Sam answered.
"What happened?" Rhonda asked again.
"He saved me," Sam told her. "His boss was going to shoot me, and he jumped in front of me."
"Oh, sweet Lord," Rhonda said, covering her mouth with her hands. Sam started to cry. Carter tried to comfort her the best he could. Austin's father, also named Andy, appeared at this moment.
"I just heard," he said. "Where is he?"
"Excuse me, Mr. Ames?" a doctor asked.
"Yes, that's me," Andy said. "Is my son okay?" Sam and everyone else stood watching and waiting. The doctor breathed in and out slowly. Sam felt her throat tighten. If Austin died, she would never forgive herself for not listening to him and staying low, for making him have to save her.
"Austin is still in critical condition. We have done surgery and removed all the bullets. It really is just a waiting game right now to see if he pulls through," the doctor finally replied. Sam felt her knees give out. Carter caught her elbow before she fell to the floor. Rhonda covered her face with her hands. Andy Ames stood there looking shell shocked.
"He...he might not make it?" he asked.
"I'm very sorry."
"But...but don't they wear protective vests? How did this happen?"
"It is my understanding he wasn't wearing his vest at the time," the doctor explained. "Like I said, we've done all we can do."
The doctor's name was paged, and he bobbed his head at Andy and hustled off. Andy sank down in the chair slowly, processing.
"Can we see him?" Sam asked, her voice wobbly.
"I don't care what they say," Rhonda said firmly. "We're going to see him." She charged ahead with Sam hurrying behind her. Carter stayed back, but Andy jumped to his feet and jogged after them. Rhonda found Austin's room in no time, and all three of them stood staring at the figure lying on the hospital bed. Austin's eyes were closed, and he had cuts on his arms and face.
"Son?" Andy said, going over to him. Austin didn't open his eyes or respond. Sam clutched at the hem of her shirt. Where was he? Why wasn't he responding?
"I think all we can do is wait," Rhonda said to her quietly. Andy was crying now, holding Austin's hand.
"I want him to know how sorry I am," Sam told her.
"I think we should give them some space," Rhonda advised, backing out of the room. It hurt her to see a parent crying over their unconscious child. Sam reluctantly followed, but she sat in the chair in the hallway instead of returning to the other waiting area. Rhonda sat beside her and held her hand tightly. She was just as afraid as Sam was. What if Austin didn't recover?
Cassie was sick of waiting. She had to know what was going on. She disobeyed Carter and Rhonda's order of staying put and headed for the hospital. Cassie knew that was where Austin was because Rhonda had told her he was hurt and taken there. Cassie had a bad feeling that Austin was in worse shape than that. She hated when adults lied to spare feelings. She preferred straight up honesty, like what Austin gave her. She kept her tears in check as she went inside the hospital. She didn't want to blubber all over everyone. She had to be strong for Austin.
"What are you doing here?" Rhonda said, making her jump. She spied the woman standing by the vending machine.
"I'm sick of you all treating me like a child. I'm old enough to handle problems. Hell, I've had a rough start to life, so nothing surprises me anymore. Tell me the truth. Is Austin okay?"
Rhonda sighed, knowing Cassie was right. She did deserve to know.
"He's still in critical condition right now. We don't know what is going to happen."
"So he could die?" Cassie asked, the tears coming now. Rhonda went over to hug her tightly.
"I'm so sorry, sweetheart," she murmured. Cassie started to sob then, and Rhonda just held her.
Sam saw Andy slip out, and she took the opportunity to go inside the room. Her heart still caught at the sight of Austin lying there motionless. She pulled the chair close to him and took his hand in hers. It was still warm, which was comforting.
"I'm so sorry, Austin," Sam began. "For everything. I'm also sorry for walking away ten years ago and giving up on us so easily. I'm sorry we never got a chance to see if we could have a relationship. I'm sorry I got you so hurt..." She trailed off, starting to cry now. She rubbed at her eyes, but the tears still came.
"I really, really wish you'd wake up right now so I could tell you that I love you. I want you to know that I never stopped thinking of you, and I almost tracked you down so many times. I don't know what held me back. I guess I thought you might still be hanging onto what happened in high school. I really wish I had just done it now. We could have had so much more time together."
She inhaled shakily. Austin still didn't open his eyes.
"I'm trying so hard to be brave. I am. What I really need, though, is for you to wake up. Please, Austin, wake up."
Sam squeezed his hand hard, hoping that it would snap him out of it. Nothing happened.
"Sam?" Cassie's voice said behind her. She turned to see the girl standing there looking small.
"Hey," Sam replied. Cassie came over slowly, and she held her hands together tightly.
"He looks so small," she commented. Her voice was thick with emotion.
"I know," Sam nodded. They both watched Austin until Andy returned. No one said a word. No one had the heart to talk about what would happen if Austin died.
Carter was back in his home. Astrid was watching him carefully as he sat in the living room with his head in his hands.
"I can't believe it," Carter kept saying. "I just can't. How did this even happen?"
"I know," Astrid nodded. "It's such a shock. I mean, Austin Ames a cop? Austin Ames on the verge of life and death? I can't wrap my head around any of it."
"Sam will be devastated if he dies," Carter murmured. "She will blame herself forever."
"If he makes it, then maybe that will be the wake up call those two need to get on with it already," Astrid commented.
"I'm sure that is the last thing on Sam's mind right now," Carter said.
"Don't be so sure," Astrid responded. She patted Carter's shoulder and kissed his forehead gently. He watched her go to the kitchen and out of view. Was she right? He couldn't be sure. He just hoped that for everyone's sake that Austin woke up and soon.
Sam had difficulty sleeping in the chair in Austin's room. Her neck was stiff, and her legs were asleep. She noticed Andy had left for either something to drink or just a break from sitting and watching his son hang onto life by a thread. Rhonda had gone home and had insisted that Cassie come to get a good night's sleep. Cassie had put up quite the fight, but Sam had promised profusely that she would call Cassie immediately if something happened. Austin's coworkers had said they had Diego, so Sam didn't worry about the poor dog being left alone. Sam shifted in the chair, and then Austin's monitor went off. She was boltright awake now.
"Austin?" she said, fearful. Nurses came running. A doctor wasn't far behind. No one seemed to notice Sam in the corner, watching. Words were thrown around like "coding" and "arrest." Sam was terrified.
"What's going on?" Andy asked, panicked. He had returned from his walk.
"Sir, you need to leave," a nurse said.
"Now," she said firmly, pushing him back. Sam knew if they spotted her, they'd throw her out too. It didn't take long.
"Miss, you have to leave," the same nurse said after spying Sam in the chair. Sam stood on shaky legs and hobbled across the floor. She was transfixed by all the staff surrounding Austin. What was happening? She sat beside Andy, who was crying now. Without saying a word, she reached for his hand, and they held onto each other while the sound of the defibrillator whining and going off carried on in the background.