Voices from far off surrounded Garrett as he stared down into Parker's eyes and watched her struggled to keep her gaze on him. He was vaguely aware of Brady making contact with the team outside and learned that the situation was under control and they had Fernandez in custody. He knew Brady had called for assistance when the sudden rush of bodies into the room meant help was finally here.
"I love you, Parker. Do you hear me? I love you. Don't you dare leave me!" Garrett yelled as Parker was pulled off of his lap and placed on the floor in front of him.
He refused to let go of her hand and snapped at someone next to him who tried to move him out of the way. Medical personnel decided it was best not to argue with him and did their best to work around him. They ripped her torn shirt the rest of the way from her body, applied bandages to her wound, started an IV, and placed an oxygen mask over her face.
Parker watched what was happening with detachment like it was happening to someone else and not her. She watched Garrett argue with someone next to him without taking his eyes off of her. Numbness flowed through her veins and through every inch of her body, and she knew she was given some kind of pain medicine that she was immediately grateful for. The need to scream in agony diminished with each part of her that grew immune to the pain. Her body was jostled and placed onto a wooden board before being lifted onto a gurney. Garrett was pushed out of the way, and within seconds, she could no longer see his eyes. She was staring up at strangers who carried her through the corridors of the palace. These people didn't love her; they didn't know her. She felt cold and alone and wanted the warmth of Garrett's arms back. She closed her eyes and let the darkness swallow her, hoping she'd find Garrett on the other side.
The last clear memory Parker had was staring up at water-filled blue eyes and wishing she had the energy to talk and tell Garrett she would be fine and not to worry so much about her.
She didn't remember the frantic ambulance ride to the hospital where they had to perform CPR and then jump start her heart because she had lost over forty percent of her blood and went into shock. She didn't remember being in surgery for six hours to repair the hole in her side and the damage to her small intestine. She didn't remember Garrett knocking a doctor out cold when he was told he couldn't go into her room, and she didn't remember the four days she had spent in a medically induced coma.
One minute her world went black and the next her eyes were blinking rapidly from the bright florescent lights that hung above her hospital bed as she arched her back in pain and terror because it felt like she was choking. Her body jerked as she tried to swallow and her arms wouldn't move to clutch her throat no matter how hard she tried. She coughed and gagged in an attempt to swallow, the effort causing her eyes to water. Parker could hear loud beeping from a machine close to her bed and within seconds two nurses rushed to her bedside.
"Calm down, Annabelle. It's okay. There's a tube down your throat that's been helping you breathe," one of the nurses informed her as she placed her hands on Parker's shoulders and held her still. "I know it feels like you're choking but we need you to try and stay calm. We're going to call the respiratory therapist so he can run a few tests and then hopefully pull that tube out."
Parker could feel tears sliding down her cheeks and she tried bringing a hand up to swipe them away but she still couldn't move them.
"Your arms are restrained so you wouldn't pull the tube out," the second nurse told her gently when she saw her tugging against the bindings. She pulled a cordless phone out of the pocket of her lab coat and dialed the therapist.
Parker tried to do as they asked, but her mind was still fuzzy from being unconscious for so long. Her body's natural reaction was to fight the thing that was causing her discomfort.
Although it seemed like hours that she lay in bed, being held down by a nurse, it was only minutes before a man dressed in blue hospital scrubs walked into the room pushing a giant machine in front of him.
"Good morning, Parker, it's good to see you're awake," he told her as he wheeled the machine next to her respirator and began hooking up wires and plugs. He had her perform a bunch of breathing exercises while he monitored the two machines. After twenty minutes, he told her to take a deep breath and blow out all the air as hard as she could while he pulled the tube out of her throat.
After giving Parker several minutes to cough, they attached an oxygen mask to her face and told her to rest, injecting something into her IV that made her eyes droop closed.
Before she succumbed to sleep, she realized that the one person she needed the most wasn't in the room when she first woke up.
Garrett paced angrily back and forth in the small conference room of the Navy SEAL command center. After four days of sitting by Parker's bed side willing her to wake up, he'd been forcibly removed by three Navy masters-at-arms at oh-two-hundred hours that morning. He knew it was his own fault for not getting in contact with Captain Risner after he left Garrett repeated voicemails. He knew the debriefing from this mission should have been top priority, but nothing could tear him away from Parker's side.
Three fully armed, United States military police officers proved him wrong. If he didn't go with them calmly and quietly back to the states, they would take him by force. Garrett knew if that happened, he'd be thrown into the Brig, the military's version of prison, for directly disobeying orders, being AWOL, and a long list of other offenses he didn't care about at the moment.
Garrett was climbing the walls and felt like tearing all of his hair out. As soon as he deplaned, he was relieved of his military-issued firearm, his military identification, his cell phone, and driven to the command center and put into a conference room without any explanation. Garrett knew he should have never left Parker's side. All he could think about was something going wrong and not being there to do something. He hadn't done much of anything the past few days aside from hold her hand and talk to her, but at least it felt like something. Right now he felt useless.
Several minutes later the door to the room opened and Risner walked in followed by Captain John Andrews, Risner's boss. Neither man looked happy, although Risner looked at Garrett with sad eyes and a sympathetic smile.
"Lieutenant McCarthy, have a seat," Captain Andrews said stiffly with a nod of his head to the table in the middle of the room.
The two men who held his future in their hands sat. Garrett remained standing.
"Permission to speak freely, sir?" Garrett asked.
"Granted," Captain Risner replied.
"Get me the fuck out of this room and back to Parker!" Garrett yelled as he slammed his palms on the table in front of them.
"We understand your anger, Garrett…er, Lieutenant McCarthy," Risner replied, glancing nervously at his boss. Garrett and Risner had been friends ever since they met in the Naval Academy. The fact that Risner was Garrett's boss never changed that. Risner trusted Garrett to do his job and left him alone to accomplish it
. It was obvious now, by the way he kept glancing at Captain Andrews, that things were out of his hands as far as Garrett was concerned.
"If you would have just contacted us and willingly came in for the debrief, you might already be on your way back to the Dominican to Agent Parker," Captain Andrews informed him arrogantly. "A member of your team, who we thought to be dead for a year, had gone rogue and taken up with the enemy. Your silence and unknown whereabouts concerned both the Admiral and Commodore. It doesn't look good."
Risner gave Garrett a look of sympathy. He knew Garrett would never even come close to doing something against the Navy or against his country. He felt bad that Parker was harmed and knew Garrett wasn't thinking straight because of it, but it was out of his hands. The higher-ups in the Navy weren't happy. Milo's actions shined a negative light on the entire SEAL program, and now everyone was under scrutiny.
"The fact of the matter is, Lieutenant McCarthy, there is a man with over forty-seven counts of underage prostitution and thirteen counts of voluntary manslaughter that is sitting in a Dominican prison awaiting trial. There are also three United States Senators, four Supreme Court judges, two employees of the State Department, one employee from the Executive Office of the CIA, six members of the State Council of China, four members of the Cabinet of Australia, and the President of Egypt that were all his customers. Each one has been charged with numerous counts of commercial sexual exploitation of children. Nothing can be done with these individuals until you are fully debriefed by the Navy and we can begin trial proceedings," Captain Andrews stated calmly.
The battle inside of Garrett raged quietly. He had a responsibility to his country to see this finished. He made a vow to protect this land and all of the people who lived here. Among the forty-seven plus young girls that Fernandez sold into sexual slavery, twenty were Americans. But he'd also made a promise to Parker. Even though she was unconscious at the time, he swore to her sleeping form that he would never leave her side again, that he would love her until the day he died, and he would do everything in his power to make up for the fact that his jealousy did this to her.
Garrett knew if he managed to get away from the building and back to Parker, he would only be dragged away again. The second time wouldn't be as easy. He'd be thrown into the brig and denied any leniency. He would be seen as a traitor for not standing up for the people of his country and doing what he could to put the monsters behind bars for a very long time.
If he stayed there and went through the debriefing required by the Navy after a mission like this, conducted meetings with his SEAL team and the team of lawyers hired to try this case, organizing their testimony and evidence, and finally went to trial, he'd be looking at weeks if not months away from Parker. He knew she would understand, but at the same time, the guilt he felt for leaving her would eat him alive. The choice was not an easy one to make.
In the end, Garrett knew he needed to do whatever he could to put an end to all of the disgusting men that took advantage of children. He could do nothing but hope that the sacrifices he made now would be worth it when he was back with Parker, where he belonged.
Two days after Parker's endotracheal tube was removed from her throat, she was able to talk without coughing and was clear-headed enough to listen to her nurse explain that three armed military guards took Garrett away in the middle of the night right before she woke up. She was told by several people she was lucky to be alive. Many people didn't come back from a class six hemorrhage on top of the all the injuries she sustained before being shot: one broken rib, a broken thumb, a cracked bone in her jaw, one in her cheek, and a bullet hole in her side with an even bigger hole in the back from the exit wound.
Once Parker was stable enough, she was flown to George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. so she could begin physical therapy and start the long healing process. Parker assumed she'd get a say in what hospital she was transferred to, obviously wanting to be close to her home in California. However, the CIA made the decision for her and without her consent.
As the days passed, Garrett's absence felt like another bullet wound, this time to her heart. During the day she was busy with therapy and the constant flow of doctors and nurses checking her vitals and asking her questions. But at night, in the quiet of the hospital where she was left alone to rest, Parker had plenty of time to think about how alone she was. She had no one there for her except for a blue eyed, black haired exotic beauty named Olivia.
In the last few weeks, Parker's nurse had become a friend of sorts. For obvious reasons, Parker trusted no one, but Olivia made it hard not to like her even if she had to stare at her perfect complexion and model's figure every day. It was especially hard when Olivia smiled at Parker and told her they were going to be good friends right after Parker threw a bowl of green Jell-O at her the day they met.
Even though Olivia forced Parker to go to physical therapy when she didn't want to and stood next to her bed, tapping her foot until Parker gave in, forced the bland hospital food down her sore throat, yanked the covers off of her, and made her go for a walk when she was feeling sorry for herself, she was the only constant in Parker's life at the moment―the only person there day in and day out that made sure she got better.
Parker swore worse than any truck driver she'd ever met and spent most of her day frowning, complaining, and arguing, but Olivia knew something else was lurking underneath that hard exterior. She tried several times to talk to Parker about the handsome soldier that she heard kept a close vigil over her for the first four days after her surgery, but each time she mentioned him, Parker shut down.
On several occasions, Olivia came up to the hospital long before her shift was due to start just to check on Parker. She would peek in on her through the window in Parker's hospital room door and it was always the same. Parker would be sitting in the chair by the window, staring out at nothing, with tears rolling down her cheeks. Even though the cause of Parker's injuries was top secret, Olivia knew she was with the CIA and just completed a mission in the Dominican Republic where she was held hostage. Olivia had seen her share of injured soldiers, agents, and other U.S. government workers throughout the years. She knew Parker most likely saw and experienced things that could break even the strongest of men. Olivia hoped that one day Parker would confide in her; she couldn't stand seeing the woman in so much pain. Even when she was struggling on the treadmill with sweat dripping down her face or sitting in the back of the room stone-faced and refusing to participate in her weekly PTSD group, Olivia could see the force it took for Parker not to crumble. She knew it was taking every ounce of strength Parker possessed not to break down.