From #LuckyStarPham:

Hello, it’s me again! Thank you so much for still sticking around and waiting for the next chapter of this story! I am such a terrible writer, haha! I couldn’t get my hands on this story for a while, because inspiration didn’t visit me. For some reason, I started working on the chapter following this chapter months ago, but couldn’t think of anything to write on this chapter. The original idea I had on my head for this chapter was quite emotional, it made me cry really. Too bad I can’t convey what I have in mind into words. I am truly sorry!

Stay tuned! I guess the next chapters will be better, if you are patient enough to get stuck with me hahahaha! Enjoy the chapter and please, please, please let me know what you think! Any feedback is welcomed!

P.S: I “stole” the pictures from talented editors on Tumblr. If you see them here, please know that I never say I make those edits – just want to use them to illustrate whatever is happening on my story.

Chap 9:

“How is she, doctor?”

Steve immediately stood up and moved closer to the doctor who slowly removed his surgical mask.

“We did everything we could, at least she’s stable now. We need to keep her overnight for observation. If she can make it through tonight, she’ll be transferred to Hawaii next thing tomorrow morning.”

“What exactly did she suffer?”

“She went through a lot. Internal bleeding, a couple of broken bones, a mild concussion due to a hit to her head, 2 bullets to her right arm and left shoulder, so she lost quite a lot of blood; and a fever on top of that. I think it’s safe to say she took quite a brutal beating and torture, plus she didn’t eat properly for the last few days, maybe even longer, her body is too weak to fight against the fever. Also, they broke her fingers by clamping her fingers – very harshly, her fingers are all shattered now. The blood can’t travel to the tips of her fingers. She is suffering a tremendous level of pain.”

Steve felt a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach when he heard what the doctor said. He wanted to take all the pain away from her so badly. He hasn’t even had a chance to look at Catherine yet. Steve knew she should rest, but he couldn’t help begging the doctor.

“Can I visit her?”

“She’s too weak now, and she’s sleeping anyway.”

“I won’t wake her up. I just want to look at her sleeping.”

Five minutes later, Steve was sitting next to Catherine’s bed, silently looking at her. The doctor only gave him 10 minutes. Steve could barely breathe upon seeing that the beautiful pale woman lying on the bed. Seeing her like this ripped his heart out more than anything else, it almost felt like he could hear the sound of his heart being broken into a million pieces. Steve didn’t bother trying to keep his tears at bay, there wasn’t anyone watching him anyway. He leaned closer, observing all the bruises on her face and shattered hands. He wanted so badly to take her hands in his, but he was afraid to cause Catherine even more pain. It was easy to tell that Catherine wasn’t sleeping soundly, she must have felt pain in every single cell of her body right now. Steve closed his eyes, softly whispered her name, wishing that he could be the one who took all the beatings and torture instead of the woman he loved.

The woman he has always loved.

Steve didn’t think the next time they saw each other would be like this. Just a week ago, he imagined he would propose to her the moment she touched Oahu. He pulled out the ring from his pocket – the same ring he found after a week-long ring shopping mission on almost two years ago. The same ring he was holding when Catherine left him behind.

Could it be fate? That this ring brought them bad luck? Could it be this ring that repeatedly separated them? He should have bought another ring, as if it could bring them a brighter future, but the ring was stunning, simple yet delicate. Just like Catherine. He couldn’t let go.

The door was opened, a nurse stepped in to let him know of the time. Steve quietly nodded, being grateful enough that they even let him in. He took another look at Catherine and finally decided to do something.

Steve carefully unfastened the necklace Catherine was wearing, slid the engagement ring onto it and put it back around her neck. He already knew her answer anyway. He gently kissed her on her forehead before leaving, mindful of all the dark bruises on her face.

Catherine had no idea where she was, all she could feel was the pain she was suffering. Both inside and out. She couldn’t remember why it hurt so much, not only the physical pain, but also in her heart. Memories came flooding back, but she couldn’t see, or remember anything clearly. Everything in her mind was blurry, her attempts – to recall anything recently – failed miserably. Something bad must have happened, the pain was too much to handle.

She was tired, she had never gone down without a fight, but not this time.

You are on your own in this mission. There would be no extraction plan. Lieutenant, do you think you can handle this?”, Was someone talking to her? She would be on her own. On her own.

If you want out of this thing, why don’t you just look me in the eyes and tell me you want out of this thing?”

But you are choosing the place where I’m not.”

If you leave today, I can’t… I can’t wait for you, not anymore.”

There was another man, who appeared in every single memory, who seemed to cause her a lot of pain. Would it be easier if she just let go of him?

If you leave today, I can’t… I can’t wait for you, not anymore.”

This is Lynn. This is Catherine.”

The tears slip down her face, Catherine wasn’t sure whether it was from the physical pain or her memories. She couldn’t breathe anymore. Maybe she should force his image and the sound of his voice out of her head. Yes… like that… the pain seemed to be a little more tolerable.

Catherine felt like she was letting the memories drift away. Slowly.

It felt like a lot of people were working around her. Or working on her body.

10 hours later,

Catherine’s condition had gotten much better compared to when she was first admitted, but she hadn’t regained consciousness. Steve didn’t leave his sitting spot outside of her room, unless he had to go to the restroom or to get some crappy coffee from the vending machine.

“Hi”, Simon tapped Steve on the shoulder, sitting down next to him.

“Hey”, Steve still wasn’t sure how he should feel about this man.

“How is she?”

“She’s better now, but she is still sleeping. The doctors say she cries a lot in her sleep, probably from the pain, so they’re giving her her pain meds. At least she is resting, I hope.”

“Can I see her? I’m leaving in a couple of hours. Just want to check on Catherine for the last time.”

“I’m not the doctor here”, Steve shrugged, shaking his head. This Simon reminded him too much of Billy Harrington. Steve couldn’t get rid of the jealousy deep down inside. This guy had always been there for Catherine when he wasn’t – for the past two years.

“Already got the doctor’s permission. I want to ask you, though.”

“You do know that you don’t really have to ask me for any kind of permission, right?”

“Of course I know. I just… I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about me and Catherine.”

“Go ahead”, Steve pointed to Catherine’s room, and when Simon opened the room and was about to step in, Steve let out a soft sound, “Thanks for asking!”

20 minutes later.

Simon came out of Catherine’s room, his eyes reddened and his shoulders sagged. He looked like he was trying to hide his real emotions – something that Steve was so familiar with. For the first time, Steve realised how deep Simon’s feelings went for Catherine.

“This is actually so much harder than I thought it would be.”

Steve didn’t say anything, just waited for Simon to continue.

“Walking away from her.”

“Why don’t you wait for her to wake up? You can stay if you want.”

“I have a job to do, you know… Besides, you’re already here. It would be even harder to leave after she wakes up.”

There was a long silence between the two men, both were pursuing their own train of thought.

“I always thought I would punch you in the face the moment we met, because I’ve only heard what went down from Catherine’s side and I saw how Catherine pined for you. She couldn’t move on, move forward with me – no matter how hard I tried to impress her. But I guess I was wrong. You look a lot more broken than the Steve in my imagination. Catherine deserves to be happy, I hope I will never have to regret what happens today.”

“I will treat her right. I won’t let her go again. I will fight for her this time”, Steve turned to face Simon, that was the very first time they looked each other directly in the eyes.

“Good, that’s good. I’ll hold you to that. I’m still working for the CIA, I’ll keep tabs on both of you”, Simon flashed a friendly yet sad smile. He stood up, his eyes set on the door of Catherine’s room.

“Simon, there is something I want to ask you.”

“Go ahead.”

“Was Catherine happy doing what she was doing?”

“Catherine didn’t join the CIA of her own free will. She was protecting you. That’s all I know. I can’t say she hates the job, she’s a great asset to any team, she is one of the most outstanding and resourceful officers I’ve ever known. She’s always professional and as I said, she kept things close to her chest for a while, but I can tell her heart isn’t really on the job. I think she wants nothing more than to come back to you. It is very hard for me to admit this.”

“Thank you! For everything!”, Steve sounded genuine. “I will let you know about Catherine’s condition.”

Hearing Steve’s promise, Simon looked at Catherine for the last time through the glass door before turning around and leaving the hospital.

What do you think about what is gonna happen next?