Okay… so I know my beginning ANs are super long, but with the theme of this story, I just want to make sure that everyone is plenty informed. Sorry. Now, that being said, this one is gonna be another long one because I have a couple things I NEED to say.

First, I just have to let you all know… I friggin love y'all SO hard! Seriously! The support that was shown after last chapter just blew me away. I'm not gonna lie, I had some difficulty after posting it. I mean, my anxiety on how all of you were gonna take it was driving me bonkers. THEN, after reliving it while writing it all out, my mind was in a pretty bad place. But after reading everyone's reviews, it really helped remind me WHY I wanted to write it in the first place. So THANK YOU ALL! And I am so sorry about the delay in review responses, I promise they're coming soon.

Thanks to the same culprits; my co-writer, SillySadSarah Twilighted for this PHENOMENAL chapter (Seriously y'all, it's fantastical), and to our absolutely brilliant beta, Robsmyyummy Cabanaboy… I mean honestly, this story would've gone nowhere without you. Your patience with us, even through our procrastination knows no bounds. Thank you from the bottom of my little ol' heart. Smoochie boochies, babe!

WARNING: If you're already this far in the story, you've made it past the darkest part, but I still feel it necessary to warn y'all. Bella and Edward still have a long way to go, and their journey will still be full angst. There are still parts of this story that will contain dark topics, with graphic scenes of violence and adult language.

Disclaimer: SM owns everything… except for the angst-driven world that these characters are residing in throughout this story. SSST and I own that!



Monday morning

My mom's a wreck and I can't just leave her. Dad's already on shift, and if I understand Mom correctly, he's sticking close to Bella who will be moved to the ICU after surgery. It's a closed-off, secure wing where she'll be safely monitored and kept in a medically-induced coma for a few days, barring any unforeseen circumstances.

Walking Mom back to the room where she can stay with Bella is exhausting, both mentally and physically. The adrenaline rush I felt when I got the poor girl here has left me incapacitated. Part of me still wants to leave, but the other, slowly growing larger, wants to stay to make sure, with my own eyes, that she really is going to survive. Plus, I want to be here to help my mother, too.

When we reach the room, both Bella and the police are already there. Her window is curtained off so she can't be seen, but when Esme tries to enter the room, she's stopped by the uniformed officer at the door. His nametag reads Biers, and I nearly slug the guy for stopping my mother the way he does, his hand wrapping around her bicep. I guess a part of me has begun to realize how much this girl means to my mom. I initially thought she was a volunteer who worked with her, but when Mom said she was homeless, I knew she cared more about this girl. Especially since she willingly gave this particular girl, out of the many others that she's helped, her personal contact information.

As I go to demand that Boy Wonder release my mother, I'm confronted by another officer. This one is dressed in civilian attire, showing me his badge and ID. I realize this man must be the one in charge because he seems to have a way of distracting me from my mother and her current situation to focus on the circumstances surrounding last night's attack. He tells me to call him, "Detective Stabler. Marcus Stabler," and I can't help the silent retort, Bond. James Bond.

He points to a couple of chairs that are set up by the nurses' station. It's pretty quiet; I can only assume they're doing their rounds. I take the proffered seat, keeping my eye on my mother as she speaks softly, frantically motioning her hands back and forth.

Detective Stabler asks me questions about where I found the girl and if I saw anyone. The guy is built like a soldier and asks so many questions that my head begins to spin. I don't have many answers because I didn't see anything. I tell him where I found her and how we got to the hospital. He asks if I would volunteer a DNA swab to exclude myself from the suspect list, but the request sounds more like he has ulterior motives. He also asks for the clothes I was wearing so they can see about retrieving any particulates that might have been left on them. I readily agree to both, not letting the implied accusations deter me. I hand over the hospital bag of bloodied clothing I've been carrying, completely relieved that my wallet, keys, and pills were removed beforehand.

At that moment, a younger woman walks out of Bella's room with a couple of boxes and a few bags with red tape. The woman smiles at me, quietly interrupting us to speak with Detective Stabler with such ease, that I can only guess she's his partner. I assume he's finished with his current line of questioning because he stands and walks away with his partner back toward Bella's room. The female detective gives the items she's carrying to the NYPD boy in blue and sends him off, saying something about "forensics" and "light a fire under them" or something. She starts talking to my mother in hushed tones and Esme starts to cry anew. She's so upset that I feel the anger and exhaustion build up inside of me like a volcano about to erupt. I march my way over, glaring at the female who gives me a look of pity as I wrap my mother up in my arms. The two detectives chat amongst each other, seemingly waiting for something when my father and a nurse exit Bella's room.

Dad looks exhausted, and I start to wonder how long we've truly been here because light from the window spills into the hallway we're all compacted in, revealing the highlights of early morning. He informs Mom, and by extension me, that he has a morning surgery to prep for since no one can cover for him. With a crestfallen smile, Mom nods as he turns and walks down the hall and out of sight.

The detectives hand both Mom and I their business cards before leaving. The nurse that accompanied my dad from Bella's room gives us permission to enter. Mom walks in first, and I follow behind, all the beeping and sounds from multiple machines make me a bit anxious. It's a stark reminder of almost the exact situation I was in after the accident. There's a chair that looks like a recliner in one corner of the room and a double wide seat with a metal frame on the other. My mother takes the doctors rolling stool and pulls it right up next to Bella's bed as I stand nearly frozen by the door taking in my surroundings. I watch as my mom fidgets with Bella's blankets, her delicate hand removing a few strands of hair from the girl's face. They must have cleaned her up in surgery because she's no longer riddled with pieces of glass and dirt. She has some minor scratches and bruising on her face and arms, but the rest of her is covered up with blankets, and I truly could not be more grateful for that. I make my way over to the metal chair and sit, watching both of them. Time seems to be at a standstill, and God only knows how long we sit like this.

A nurse enters to check Bella's charts and my mother's face looks exhausted. The nurse explains that the recliner lays out flat. I get up to help as I watch the nurse struggle to push the chair next to Bella's bed so Mom can sit in a more comfortable position. Mom weakly protests. The nurse tells us her name is Rachel and exits just to return a few moments later with a couple of small pillows and blankets that seem to have been warmed up. Mom gets as comfortable as she can while still retaining her hold on Bella's hand.

I watch over my mother as she sleeps peacefully for a few hours before a new nurse enters, starting to look over charts.

"How long was I out?" Mom begins to rouse, looking a little better than she did before her small nap, but I'm still feeling like I'm running on fumes.

"It's a little after ten in the morning, Mrs. Cullen." She begins unhooking machines from Bella's bed, before explaining to us that Bella has a very busy day ahead of her. "The surgeon made a note in Miss Bella's chart last night that they couldn't do continuous surgeries in one night because it could potentially be too much for her body to handle. So it would be safest for her to be kept in the coma. The surgeries she had right after arriving last night repaired the punctured lung and removed the tip of the knife that broke off inside her inner thigh. We're all really glad that her assailant didn't have better aim because it was dangerously close to her femoral artery. She's a very lucky girl. If you weren't in the right place at the right time, she could've bled out, Mr. Cullen." She says it like I'm some kind of superhero. If I was, I would've saved her before anything even happened.

She smiles sadly at me before continuing, "Now that it's technically the next morning, we've got Bella scheduled for all of her other surgeries, tests, exams, screenings, X-rays, MRI's, and CT-scans. The cafeteria is open if you're hungry. There's even a coffee shop downstairs. If you have any personal business that you need to attend to, feel free to take care of it as well because Bella will be in and out of the room all day." She directs her last little comment at me with a little flirtatious bat of her eyes, making Mom annoyed. I've heard stories of how some of the nurses act around my father, and I have no interest either.

Mom's mind is made up; she's unwilling to go anywhere. A part of me understands her reluctance to go, so I find my resolve and agree to stay, at least until the girl is awake.

Bella's wheeled out to begin her series of surgeries and tests, the first to reset some more of her broken bones. We decide to head over to the ICU waiting room which is a little bit nicer than most waiting rooms. It has a flat screen television mounted on the wall, vending machines, and a coffee pot with some unknown, canned ground.

Falling asleep in these uncomfortable waiting room chairs is next to impossible, but my exhaustion is undeniable. I'm not sure if my need to sleep is the after effects of whatever they used to sedate me or just true physical exhaustion from the adrenaline rush, but I feel the pull as my eyelids slide closed, my body finding its way to sleep.

I'm spinning to the point of nausea, and I feel out of control. When I can finally see straight, I'm back in that car, bleeding, and Jacob is gone, but I'm still trapped. No one helps me out and I can feel the cold creeping over my skin as my blood slowly runs from my veins, spilling into parts of the car. I start to move, and everything hurts, but I need to get out of this car. A wave of panic comes over me, and through the pain, I struggle against the seat belt; I struggle against the dash that's pushing down on my leg; I struggle against the door that will not open. I'm unable to release myself from the death trap, so I close my eyes and let the cold and pain numb me. When I open my eyes, I'm in the back of the courtroom in a wheel chair. The driver of the other vehicle is being sentenced to thirty-six months of jail time. I feel the anger boil up inside of me as the words "murderer" fall from my mouth on a constant loop of pleas and blame. I close my eyes to erase the image of the person who took my best friend from me all because they were drunk. To them it was an accident, to me it will always be murder!

What feels like a moment, the blink of an eye really, I'm back in that alley where I found that girl, except this time, she isn't here… Jake's murderer is. He's laughing and drinking from a brown colored glass bottle and pointing at me like I'm some side comedy act. I'm so angry and I don't know what possesses me, but I raise my arm and in my hand is a revolver. I've never seen it, nor used it, but I pull the trigger, firing without another thought. The shot loudly rings out, and it jerks my wrist, but the heinous laughter has stopped, and I feel the power of control. It's so overwhelming that I right my hand and fire again and again, pulling the hammer back until there's no more bullets left, just empty clicks as the trigger releases over and over, a sound that soon becomes overwhelming. I step over to the body, finding no blood, but it's covered with a black blanket. I pull the thick, dirty blanket away, crumbling to my knees as the body morphs from that of the killer who drove the other car, into my own self. It's like I'm seeing it all clear for the first time; I've killed myself over all the hate and anger I felt when Jacob died, drowning myself in my sorrow and self-pity until everything in me disallowed me to be open to anything good again.

I close my eyes and rock myself back and forth, silently crying over my own death. I've pushed everyone away. I've hurt everyone I love. I don't deserve to be mourned over. I should rot in this alley until my body becomes nothing but dust, a dirt stain on the ground. But then I hear a voice begging, "Please don't. Please stop." When I look up, I can't find where the voice is coming from, but the body's vanished, the alley's empty. Out of the shadows comes a dark figure, it looks to be kicking at something on the ground and the voice is gone, the feeling of despair and anger flaring up in me. That girl, she's here and this person is hurting her. I know it. I jump up and run towards her, but the figure just seems to exude darkness and I raise the gun again, taking aim, but when I pull the trigger, the empty click of the barrel reminds me that I have wasted every bullet I had battling with the only one I felt needed it. Someone else needs me now and I'm useless. I run at the dark figure, preparing to fight it off with my bare hands, but when it's right in front of me, I trip and fall. Instead of landing into the disgusting figure, I start to fall into the darkness like a void that sucks me up, swallowing me whole. I slam into the bottom of the abyss, my back and shoulder emitting pain, my head feeling rattled like I was thrown off of a bucking bull.

When I open my eyes, I'm back in the car, trapped. Jacob's gone and I'm all alone, the seatbelt is restraining me again. It's dark out and I'm sure no one will find me.

I try to scream out, but I have no voice. The burning sensation in my throat is overwhelming. I squirm, trying to free myself, to find the help I so desperately need, but the seatbelt seems to be tightening and holding me in. Pain is searing through my body, I can barely conjure up enough strength to place my left hand on the splintering glass of the passenger window. I can't quite reach the adjustment I need to, and the stretching is causing me to see spots. As I force myself to push harder on the glass, it falls away and a light shines from the window opening. Now, I'm not religious by any means, and after everything I've been through I'm reluctant to believe in any ethereal beings giving two shits about me, but then I hear a voice, so sweet and melodic, almost angelic. And it's getting clearer now that the glass is gone.

"Edward, it's time to go," the voice says to me.

Death has finally come for me and this being is my welcoming party. I reach further, extending my arm as far as I can across my body into the now open space of the window. My fingers twist and turn in the light and I hope whomever the voice belongs to can see me, help free me before the shadows can overcome me and drag me down to the pits of hell where I belong. Yet I yearn for the light and the voice of heaven to speak again. Just the feeling that I'm not alone even if I'm to remain trapped here, somehow eases the pain.

It's then that the fingers I've been moving in the rays of light touch upon something silky, the softness spreads from the tips of my fingers down past my knuckles and I realize it's another hand, very smooth and delicate. The fingers slip between my own and then release them as the palm glides along mine and further down my arm until we are clasped wrist to wrist. I no longer feel the pain or the imprisonment of the vehicle. The seatbelt vanishes as if it was never there in the first place, pulling tighter against me with each movement.

With the assistance of my savior helping me through the window, I'm freed, breathing deeply as my lungs can fully expand without the seatbelts limitations. As I try to see the person who helped rescue me from my own personal hell, the light shines too brightly and I'm blinded. I hear the voice whispering over and over, "It will be ok. You're safe now." It's so sweet and pure, and I close my eyes to drown in the almost promising words that caress my soul.

I'm pulled from my dreams as my mom runs her fingers through my hair, wondering when my head fell in her lap. I know when it comes to my recurring nightmares, I tend to wake myself with my own screams, so I hope I didn't say too much. This time was different from all the rest, I actually left my dream state with a feeling of hope instead of devastating despair.

Days and nights turn upside down as my internal clock has become disjointed from being in this hospital. It's been almost twenty-four hours since I arrived at the hospital. Dad's already been sent home for the night, but my mom has decided to stay longer with the promise that he will return later with a bag for her and some proper food for all of us. We both daze, watching TV and flipping through magazines. I feel really disengaged and I have no one else to blame but myself.

Mom stirs me from my internal thoughts. "Edward, it's time to go," she says so softly it's reminiscent of the voice in my dream. We make our way back to Bella's room where she's being rolled in and hooked up to the equipment already in the room. We settle back into the same spots where we spent the remainder of last night.

Dad arrives a couple of hours later with dinner from Paul's Da Burger Joint. He also brought some old sweats for me to wear. I'm not sure what possesses me, but I touch Bella's hand, and the slight increase in beeps has us all standing still. When I let go, her heart rate appears to even out, but I'm confused, yet I don't think that's the same emotion my parents have as they look at each other in that way that couples do, having some sort of secret, silent conversation.

After eating, Dad offers to stop by my place and pick up a few things for me, but I quickly respond with, "Thanks Dad, I appreciate it, but my maid's already bringing me some stuff." It's like swallowing a cotton ball lying to him, but my place has pill and alcohol bottles scattered throughout. I'll just call J in the morning to pack me a bag.

Tuesday Morning comes and I have an excruciating pain in my back and legs. A new nurse is checking all of Bella's charts, mentioning the increased heart rate and asks if anything happened last night, but my mom smiles at the nurse in a disarming yet convincing way, saying, "I have no idea."

I quickly use the facilities, scrubbing my face with some warm water and rubbing the scruff that's grown in. I pull the painkillers from my pocket and dump four pills into my palm… and I stare at them. It's not like I'm trying to get high, I'm in actual pain and discomfort. But do I really need four to ease the pain? I honestly don't know, and I feel like I'm just arguing with myself. I try to convince myself that at least I'm not snorting them, but even my own excuses sound flat and pathetic. I put two back in the bottle and toss the others back with a handful of tap water to wash them down.

I pull out my phone, dialing up J, worrying briefly about how this conversation is going to go. At the same time, she has an amazing insight when it comes to my pain, both emotional and physical, and she might just be able to help me figure out what all the discourse in my mind means.

I call Jane, and as the phone rings I debate how I'll explain everything. It rings again and there's no way I can just tell her on the phone that I can't just leave my mom, and to be honest I don't want to leave this girl either.

"Yellow Eddie boy! What's you need babe?" J answers cheerfully. Finally! The girl never answers her phone without checking the caller ID, and she blatantly refuses to answer unknown calls on this line as it's her private exclusive line.

"J, I've asked you not to call me that," I practically whine. It's a running gag for her; she gets a kick out of calling me Eddie. It only reminds me of hard times, but she feels that I should embrace my past and make good with what was given to me. A second chance to live, if you will, instead of drowning it like I do.

I hear her snicker on the other line and she can tell by my response that I'm not in the mood for games, but I'm not on one of my benders because then I would've responded quite differently. She has a way of figuring me out with just a few words.

"J, I need a favor. Can you use your key, go to my place, and pack me an overnight bag for a few days? I'm at the hospital and wearing borrowed sweats." Whatever she's doing, she stops. I suddenly hear no noise on the other line.

"E, you ok? How bad is it this time?" She questions me, having gone down this path before, but never this early in the AM.

"J, it's not me. It's a really long story can we talk about it when you get here?" I plead, hoping maybe she will just give me this one, but that's so not her.

"Edward! I have you scheduled in for Wednesday because I have plans today. If you want me to cancel those plans you better give me a damned good reason!" She growls and I know she means it.

"Short version, I found a girl in an alley Sunday night. I brought her in… Dad could help her. She's in really bad shape. Anyway, my stuff's totally ruined. The police are involved and I just feel all kinds of shit that I normally don't want to feel." I try not to get too upset by her callousness, but like I said, it wouldn't have been the first time she needed to bail me out. She's a very good friend and I'm lucky I stumbled into her bar.

"What about your family, E? You finally going to introduce me as your dearest and bestest friend?" She asks, kind of happy, probably because it wasn't me in the hospital and that I had actually reached out to someone else which isn't really my MO. I feel bad about what I have to say but figure there's too much going on right now for me to introduce J. My mom might get the wrong idea about me having a female friend, and I just want to be here for her, not have her be there for me when her friend is the one lying in the hospital bed.

"I'm sorry to ask this J, but can we do the meet and greet another time? I know it's jacked and all, but now really isn't the time for those kind of introductions. There's a back entrance for outpatient surgery, it's near all the construction. If you come in through that door I can meet you there." I feel badly, keeping her hidden from my family, but my personal life isn't a topic of conversation I want to have right now.

Sounding slightly deflated in a way I've almost never heard from her, she agrees and tells me to meet her in an hour and a half. That gives me enough time to go get some coffee from the cafeteria and get it to my mom. I'm still pretty tired and my dream really disturbed me.

I return with a latte in hand, Mom's welcoming smile practically beaming. She appears to have changed and freshened up a bit. She looks so much older than I remember, sitting and reading a book in a whisper, yet loud enough that if Bella was awake, it could be her bedtime story. I'm kind of surprised my family hasn't rained down upon us yet, but secretly, I'm grateful just to have the quiet time mulling things over in my mind.

Time seems to pass slowly, and my stomach grumbles enough that I have a reason to leave again to grab us something to eat. Before excusing myself, I lay my hand on the girl's hand as I go to leave and ask my mother, "Do you want anything specific?" The girl's heart monitor starts up again. I snap my hand back in surprise not knowing what I've done, fearful that my touch may be frightening her while she's incapacitated. I shuffle from the room while my mother just stares at me with her jaw slightly slack and a smirk turning up at the corner of her mouth.

I make my way down to the cafeteria, grabbing the first few things I see that I think Mom will eat before paying the cashier who seems to be blatantly ogling me. I'm used to women looking at me like that in a bar, but would never think anything of it in a hospital. The sad part is the wedding ring on her left hand.

Grabbing my to-go bag full of food, I stroll through the hallways, coming to the back entrance where I told J I would meet her. I don't have to wait too long as I see her walking up, carrying my leather weekend bag. I gave J a key to my apartment a long time ago, after an insane incident involving drunk dialing and a broken-down door… don't ask.

J walks through the door, and I grab the bag of food, seeking out a quiet place to have this conversation. I spot the fire stairwell off to the side of the elevator, but there's no sign or anything that alarms will go off so I assume it's safe to use. I place the to-go sack on the steps and start pacing the landing with my hands pulling through my hair, coming close to removing chunks as I pull on the strands a little too hard. I start going off, some things I mumble, others I practically scream, and some of it I can't be sure ever actually leaves my mouth.

The look on J's face is so confusing. I have no idea what to think or say to explain the emotions and feelings that are running rampant through my head. I just have this overwhelming desire to be here for this girl and to help my mother which is an unrelated situation. My mother and I used to be so close, I could tell her almost anything, but since Jake died, I've just felt detached, like everything they told me about life was bullshit. Bad things happen to good people. We were never the church going kind of family, yet when he was killed they all told me he was in a better place. WHAT FUCKING PLACE IS THAT?! I felt betrayed and confused. That old division has nearly vanished, all I want is for my mom to help me explain what's going on, promise me things will be okay, and sing all her praise for sunshine and lollipops. Maybe I'm too grown to want my mom to fix things, place a bandage on the problem with a kiss, and all is right in the world. A small piece of my heart really just wishes it were that easy. The best way for me to tell my mom I'm sorry and that I still need and want her in my life is to show her. Whatever I feel when it comes to this Bella girl, I will figure it out, but for now, I'll do whatever I can to be here for my mother as she helps this girl.

J smiles at me in that disarming way that she does when I'm walking a thin line about to snap, and laughs. "You're lucky you already have your panties in a bunch because I was so mad at you, yet so curious to what could have you acting like this. It's obvious you already seem to have a better grasp on your feelings than you actually think you do." Her words leave me stunned! I'm not so sure Jane has any idea just how fucked up I am if she thinks I've solved anything, and I practically growl at her that I don't have a fucking clue. She reaches in her bag and pulls out one of my bottles of Valium and places it in my hand.

"What do you want to do with this?" she asks me, and part of me knows this is a test.

"I want to pop a handful to level out, but I don't want to get high. I feel like I've wasted way too much time being high, if that makes any sense. But I really want to take them anyway." I say and then quickly, without thinking, shove the bottle back into her hands. "Why J? Why can't I just do it and go home and blow all this shit off? Why are you questioning me like I'm some kind of addict who needs a fix? And why do you have that stupid smirk on your face?" I'm beginning to get agitated. Usually, when I feel myself reaching this point, I lash out. Instead, this time I take a few deep, calming breaths and struggle to rein in my emotions. It's not J I'm mad at, it's me. Then it hits me like a tidal wave, it's always been my own doing, my own walls I built around myself, keeping my family from getting anywhere near me emotionally. It's my fault that my relationship with my brother is practically non-existent because of what I did to his wife's sister, coincidentally damaging any chance for a relationship with her. It's my own doing that the closest thing I have to a relationship is my only friend dominating me on an as-needed basis. I know if I gave J the chance, we could've tried for a real relationship, but her love and passion is in guidance and teaching. Her degree in Psychology really pays off in both her lines of work, as Dominatrix and bartender/owner.

J hugs me tight and tells me that she believes in fate and Karma, that if I accidentally stumbled upon someone just as damaged as I am, maybe it isn't all by accident. It means a lot to me to have her support, and I guess there's no harm in seeing what I can do to help and try to fix everything that I am personally at fault for.

By the time she needs to leave, I feel a little better and have an idea of where I need to go from here. J seems really happy, like I've reached some sort of emotional breakthrough, and says if this girl affects me so much while she's unconscious, she can't wait to meet her when she's awake. The idea of this Bella girl ever being in the same place as J doesn't completely freak me out, if anything, J's educational background might be helpful towards her recovery. I won't hold my breath though, for all I know this girl might wake up and freak out or be so damaged by what she's been through that her original desire to have me close was just because I was there to help her. I hope I'm not misinterpreting her increased heart rate when I touched her for what is actually just an appreciation for rescuing her and helping her find Esme or something else entirely.

We say our farewells, and I watch as J safely returns to her vehicle and pulls away. I grab the sack of food and my bag that feels so heavy, weighed down with all the crap she packed. I climb the stairs up to the ICU floor and find my mother in the same place she was in when I left, still reading softly to Bella. It looks like Bella's hair's been washed and gathered in a braid, hanging over her shoulder.

I set out all the food, kind of making an impromptu picnic amongst the three of us, well two of us, I guess. Mom places a bookmark between the pages of what I realize is that book that was made into a movie; the one with the chick from Speed... While You Were Sleeping.

Mom seems slightly distracted, and I can't deny that my eyes keep wandering back to the sleeping beauty. She looks just as pretty as she did when I first saw her in the church, even with the bruising and the small gashes that mar her face. They fail to diminish the beauty of her fair skin and dark lashes. Her bottom lip is slightly fuller than the top, and I'm pretty sure it's not due completely to it being swollen from her assault. They have a shine to them, I'm guessing someone applied something to help repair the cuts and chapping.

Mom catches me admiring Bella a little too long, and I try to distract her with talks of the Philharmonic and its upcoming holiday season. We discuss a few of the pieces I'm planning to introduce to Alan, our Chief Conductor, as less predictable options to the season.

Mom excuses herself to use the restroom down the hall, and leaves me alone with Bella. I feel like she's actually just giving me a moment for a reason, but it's not like Bella's up for much conversation. I drift over to the foot of her bed, adjusting the blankets that cover her, making sure she's comfortable. I talk to her as I make all the adjustments and her heart rate slowly picks up just enough that the beeping sound is a little more obvious to my untrained ears. I know I don't have much time, and I really don't know what to say to her. There is one thing that's been on my mind since I've come to realize I need to make some changes in my life. "Thank you. My mother says I saved your life, but something about you may have just saved me from myself."

Her heart rate seems to remain at its slightly elevated pace until I remove my hand from hers. I turn to go sit and see my mother standing in the open doorway, tears sliding down her face. My mood instantly falls, feeling so bad that I've hurt her so much. She shuffles her way over and wraps her arms around me, and I embrace her tightly. I feel her tears soaking through my shirt, and her head nuzzles beneath my chin. I hold her until she's all done crying, and she pulls away just enough to place a hand on my cheek which I lean into. A small tear forms in the corner of my eye as she whispers, "There you are." The words, so innocent and sweet mean so much to me, like I'm no longer a ghost walking through life, unobserved, but finally allowing myself to be seen.

Dad stops by a little later in the evening, bringing more sustenance. After we finish eating, Mom and Dad go for a walk around the halls, and I'm pretty sure Mom is spilling the beans about what happened earlier, but I'm surprisingly okay with it. When they come back, Dad is pushing another recliner chair with him. Apparently, he confiscated it from an empty room, and I couldn't be happier. The idea of spending another night propped up in that torture device they call a chair is just abhorrent. I give him an unexpected hug, shocking him at first before he relaxes and returns the gesture. It's been a long time since I embraced my parents, and from the watery smile my mother is sporting, I know it's long overdue. He leaves to pull a swing shift down on the pediatric floor, and we settle in for the night, both of us in our recliners, one on each side of Bella's bed.

Sleep claims me easily, and my dreams are the same as the night before, except this time I wake up halfway through with my finger hooked around Bella's, lying atop her bed yet hidden from my mother's sight. I must've reached out during the night, but I don't release her, allowing myself to fall back to sleep.

I'm trapped in this field, the sun shining brightly, and all the grass and flowers are vibrant with life. I hear the voice of the angel, yet I'm all alone. Even in my dreams, I'm usually alone, but this time is different. I lie down in the middle of the field and let the sun bathe my skin in its warmth. I breathe in the amazing scent of lavender mixed with other calming flora. I stretch my hands out to my sides, feeling the resilient wild grass weave through my fingers along with the strong stems of the flowers. It's a place I've never been before. New York has very few fields, let alone ones of lavender. As my fingers stretch and feel the grass, my hand comes across the tender flesh of another. I feel fingers entwine with mine, and the comfort that arises from within is all I need. I don't even try to sit up to see who's here with me, I just close my eyes and feel. I'm so at peace here; I never want to leave. I'm not alone anymore, and I don't feel like someone is intruding on this small piece of heaven, but eventually, like all things, it comes to an end.

The sun falls behind the beautiful clouds, and a light rain pricks at my hands, face, and body as I'm stretched out in the grass. The scent of the rain is so new and fresh that it creates a variety of other scents, mixing together in perfect harmony. But the tingling sensation I feel as each drop hits my skin starts to become a bother, the prickling goes from a slight disturbance to full on painful. My body is covered in pins and needles; the pain lancing its way through me. The sun is gone, along with the person who was holding my hand.

Just as I'm about to curl in on myself, my eyes flutter open, and I realize that I'm sitting in such a precarious way that my body is indeed on pins and needles. I shake out my arms and hands to dispel the feeling, restoring circulation. It's nowhere near as bad as it was when I was in the chair from hell the nights before, but it's no king-size, orthopedic pillow-top mattress, that's for sure.

My dreams and actions from last night flood my mind, and I'm suddenly confused. I know the finger holding was all me because the girl is still safely comatose, but I feel bad, like I violated her personal space somehow. I can't bring myself to be too upset about the continued finger holding considering I actually feel well rested this morning. I reach out to lock our fingers again, enjoying the heart monitors upbeat cadence for a little while longer until my mother stirs from her slumber to begin another day of waiting and watching.

Being in the hospital this long has made me remember my short stay in the ICU when they put the shunt in. I absentmindedly rub at the spot on my head, remembering how it took so long for my hair to grow back, but it's back to its full length now. Only a scar remains, invisible to the eye, laying buried under the mess of copper.

Looking around the waiting room which has become my little sanctuary, watching families receive good and bad news, a part of me wonders if this is how my family waited to hear about me. How Jacob never even had the chance to try and get help. According to the report, Jake was killed on impact and never suffered, but everyone, myself included, suffered all the same. I went to the funeral, but wasn't able to attend the family gathering afterwards. I've not gone back to see what was chosen for him, and I never offered up any words or suggestions for the inscription or epitaph, and a part of me has always wondered how his gravestone looks now. I know my family helped cover most of the costs for the funeral, giving him the best possible service they could while still keeping to his heritage. He was buried next to his mother, and having gone with Jake a few times over the years, I know exactly where he is, but I've been too afraid to face the consequences of my actions, so I've refused to see him.

I can't help but always think about the "what if's". What if I would've stayed sober and drove? My life was nothing in comparison to Jake's, and I've lived my life after the accident exactly the way I felt I deserve to live. I should be dead, buried in the family plot, and Jake should be helping kids further their education, both on the reservation and off. He had his whole life planned, and I had some woman planning mine for me. The only thing that's remained is playing piano and that's because I owe it to Jake. He always loved when I played and would spend hours reading while I toyed with new compositions. It was an amazing time we shared with no words, just friends who lived synchronously.

After reliving the good and bad times I shared with Jake over the years, I make the decision to go see him. Dad convinced Mom that it was okay for her to leave Bella's side in order to take a shower and get changed. After all she's been through, Bella would remain comatose for at least another couple of days. When she comes back, she insists I do the same. Stepping out of the main hospital doors, I'm torn. Part of me wants to run home to shower and dress and maybe even shave, but a stronger, more resolute part of me feels like I've already waited too long. So I hail a cab to take me straight to Jacob.

When I arrive at the cemetery, the eerie lack of city life and sounds is almost deafening to me. But the little things like birds chirping, water rushing by in a nearby creek, the slight breeze blowing through the grass and flowers, all give an acoustic melody that Jake would've loved. I drive along the many paths that twist and turn through the grounds, admiring the well-maintained area and the natural beauty that surrounds this place. It has an amazing view of the city, without all the horrific noise pollution and masses of people rushing to get somewhere. When I direct the cabby to where I need to go, I tell him to leave the meter running. I take a few deep breaths before getting out and walking toward the one person I've avoided the most since that fateful night.

My feet feel heavy and slow, and it's a struggle to put one foot in front of the other, but soon I'm standing before his stone. The grass has grown a little long around the stones and an ivy has sprouted from the side of his. The sides are rough-edged, but the front surface is a smooth marble. I run my fingers across the simple inscription, "JACOB BLACK, JANUARY 14, 1987 - APRIL 14, 2012, BELOVED SON, FRIEND, AND TRIBAL LEADER". He was so much to so many people, but to me, he would always be Jake - the man who gave his life so I could live mine. The tears well up, and I feel all the anger and despair leave me with every drop that falls, cleansing me of all the things I did wrong in the aftermath of losing my best friend.

I let it all out. I apologize for squandering the time that I've been given in his absence. I vent about all the women, the drugs, the alcohol. Surprisingly, that's the easiest stuff to unleash, but the part that tears me up inside is when I have to admit that I threw away one of the talents that Jake had always loved about me, my ability to compose music. I lost the love for music, it died when they laid him in the ground.

I tell him all about Bella. The way she didn't want to let go of me. How it made me feel like I was good for something, knowing what she's been through and that she allowed me to help her; it made me feel like she somehow wiped away a little of the tarnish that dirtied my heart and soul. I still don't know why I went against all my instincts and went down that alley. Why I didn't just put her in a cab and go. When I imagine all the blood from my past, a small piece of me feels like this could be a do-over. Even though I couldn't do anything to help Jake, I can help Bella. I tell him how frustrated I am. I've become so set in my ways.

When I'm finished telling him everything about her, I apologize for staying away so long. Once I feel my anger for myself dissipate, I take one last glance at his stone, and with a promise to return again soon, I walk back to the taxi.

After my little break down at the cemetery, I return to my condo, tipping the cabby well. I head inside, taking the elevator up, before entering my place. I grab a quick shower, before shaving and throwing on some comfortable clothes. I find another overnight bag, filling it with everything I'll need, including my composition notebook. I've had a melody stuck in my head. I take a quick look around, feeling no real connection to this apartment. I bought the place completely furnished to the nines, only adding my piano and a few other personal items. But I have no real attachments here. It's just an overpriced, minimalistic room. So abstract, I feel like it could be a blank slate, turning the space into something really great. I'm sure if I asked my mom for some help, she would jump on it.

With that thought, I walk through the entire condo with an empty waste basket, picking up every pill bottle I own, tossing them all into the plastic bag-lined canister. By the time I'm done, I have about thirty-two bottles of medication. I end up tossing them all in my closet, not quite able to throw them in the garbage, knowing I might still need them, but my heart feels so much lighter at the idea of removing the temptation from sight. Plus, if Mom does come here, the last thing I want to do is shove my problems in her face.

I arrive back at the hospital, parking my car which is much better than taxiing everywhere I go. As I park, I have the perfect view of the hospital's main entrance. I have to admire the architectural design of the building. My father works in a very nice hospital, and so far they've been very kind toward our situation. I guess it helps when you're as highly desired as my dad is.

Just as I'm about to step out of the car, the Cullen Clan exits through the main entrance. I sit and observe as Emmett walks out with Rosalie, his arm slung casually around her shoulders. She ducks her head and laughs which causes the smile on my brother's face to light up. Next out is Jasper and Alice with their little guy mounted on Jazz's shoulders. It's such a beautiful sight, and I still don't see how I can fit in with them. They all seem so perfectly happy and have everything good going for them. I watch as they all part ways, heading off to their designated vehicles and going wherever they go on a Thursday evening.

I head up to Bella's room, finding Mom sitting in the waiting room looking so sad, but Dad seems to be doing a good job consoling her with his arm wrapped securely around her, his chin placed atop her head. They're like a Norman Rockwell painting.

I hate to interrupt, but Bella's door is closed and with Mom out here, I can only assume the doctor is in with Bella. "Hey Mom, Dad. What's going on? How's Bella?" I ask, trying to keep the edge of concern from my voice, but I can't get anything past my mom and she rubs her hand along my arm.

"The doctor just needed to check the stitches along the inside of her thigh and the internal stitches. Her team has decided that, in the morning, they're remove Bella from the Pentobarbital, which is the medicine that's keeping her in the coma. They want to be sure she'll be physically able to tolerate the ramifications of what happened. Just before I was asked to leave, they added that Bella would have a very long road to recovery." She sounds totally defeated, but I have a little more faith. This girl is a fighter. Even with the amount of blood she lost and all she endured, she'll make it.

"Also," she continues, "the detectives returned and they have a DNA match. They know who they're looking for. Apparently the man who did this has a record and was released from a mental institution not too long ago. They believe he's still mentally unstable, and Bella was probably targeted due to his profiling." When she finishes, her voice is barely a whisper, and I can tell she was reluctant to inform me. With good measure, since my blood is beginning to boil and my fingers are clenching and releasing only to repeat the action again and again. I have nothing to say about the update, but the desire to look after her is very apparent. I feel like I need to protect her no matter what.

When the doctor and nurses exit the room, we're granted access back in. Bella looks like she did when I left. A few strands of her hair have fallen from the braid, so I take my finger and tuck them behind her ear. Her skin feels so soft and the tips of my fingers make a slow trail from behind her ear down the column of her neck. Her heart rate monitor is through the roof and my mom and dad come into the room looking slightly concerned. Dad starts checking out all the readings on her chart, noticing my hand has found its way to Bella's. I never normally like handholding under any circumstance, but something about the way her hand fits perfectly inside of mine calms me. The staccato rhythm of her heartbeat relaxes me, and the rage I felt building about the news of her attacker subsides.

Dad leaves a little later, and I feel foolish for how I reacted, but I don't think I could ever apologize for it. Mom slowly fights her way to sleep, and with Bella's hand firmly in mine, no longer fearing my parents' opinion, I fall into a dreamless sleep and wake up feeling so much lighter and stronger than I have in a really long time. My wrist is a little sore from the position it needed to be in so I could retain my grip, but I would gladly suffer through it time and time again if it meant I'd get to sleep as soundly as I did.

The doctor comes in first thing in the morning to remove the medications from her IV, informing us that it should be a few hours before she regains consciousness. Dad tries to encourage Mom to go home, to take a real shower and grab a few things because we know as soon as Bella wakes up, not even Hercules will be able to detach my mother from Bella's side.

After sitting at Bella's bedside for a few hours, Mom says she has to run to the bathroom. It's getting closer and closer to the time that Bella should be waking up, and it makes me nervous to be left alone, fearful that the doctors might try to remove me like they did when I brought her in. "Mom, what am I supposed to do if she wakes up?"

"You'll be fine, Edward. I'll just be right back," she says, trying just as much to convince herself as she is me.

As soon as Mom steps out, the panic immediately starts to take over, so I grasp Bella's hand in my own. The instant I intertwine our fingers, the fear dissolves, but it's not the only thing I feel aside from Bella's slightly elevated heart rate, which I have come to accept is a norm for when I touch her… I feel the slight movement of her fingers.

"Did you just move? Bella, can you hear me? If you can hear me, open your eyes." I'm in shock and kind of scared. Mom wanted to be here when she woke up, but I know what I felt. I see her chest rise a little higher and a small moan escapes her lips from around the ventilation tubing.

"You just moved your finger, Bella. Can you can hear me? Let me get a nurse!" I press the call button and watch as her eyelids flutter again, and in the very dim light, the dark pools are so brilliantly bright. She blinks a few times and just barely looks around. I'm instantly drawn in by how beautiful she is. Her eyes remind me of a doe, she even looks slightly frightened.

I'm afraid to welcome in the outside world. I don't want to be removed again as doctors poke and prod her. We saw how well that went last time… but I have to.

"Bella, do you remember me?" I ask, and her eyes zero in on me. She looks so sweet and thoughtful, and the corner of her lips lift up as best they can with how her mouth is pulled open. "I need to let your doctor know that you're awake. They're going to try and ask me to leave, but I want to know from you first what do you want? Do you want me to stay or do you-" I don't even get to finish my sentence before fear lances her face, and she nods vigorously.

I fight the urge to cringe when the nurses and doctors reach for her, but staring into Bella's face from across the room while she's being poked and prodded, I still feel her calming effect.

I push my way back to her, soothing her, whispering softly, "I won't go. I'm right here." I promise her, "I won't let go until you tell me to."

End notes:

TWL: Holy hell, SSST that was a LONG chapter! But WOW, what a chapter it was! I'm so glad he's feeling drawn to Bella like she seemed to be drawn to him.

SSST: *Plops down in a chair more exhausted than I was just giving birth* Heck, that's not even the whole chapter! Between the three of us, you, me, and Yummy, we took out parts to be used for future chapters! But I truly felt Edward in this chapter, and I honestly feel things worked out how they should have.

TWL: I can't wait to see what's in store for these two. I love that we got to witness Edward's break, along with his closure with Jake. The vulnerability that we were able to see was super sad, yet beautiful.

SSST: First, I would love to thank you for being there for me with this chapter. It meant the world. Then, Yummy for helping us see things that I know I never originally saw. Then, there's all the amazing reviewers and people in the Refuge! Second place was just an amazing gift and truly gave us the inspiration we needed to know we are doing something very good. I hope all of our secret readers eventually join us on Facebook.

I look forward to BPoV coming up in TWO weeks and that's not the only thing coming up in two weeks!

TWL: HECK YES! In two weeks, from this past Wednesday, your two favorite writers, and I say that with the utmost humility, will be meeting FACE TO FACE… for the first "official" time! And I could not be more excited. Of course, maybe I could… if I was going on vacation to Hawaii with SSST… that would probably make me happier… or going to Vegas with her after that. Lucky wench!

SSST: Only downfall will be the wait for us to respond to reviews… I promise to get on that as soon as I return. Happy reading, LOVES!

TWL: Again, if you or anyone you know have been or are a victim of sexual assault, PLEASE talk to someone. Let someone know. Do not feel ashamed or responsible. It's NOT your fault, it NEVER is. If you want someone to talk to, please do not hesitate to contact myself or SSST. You can also call 1-800-656-HOPE.

See y'all in two weeks

Until then, join us at the Refuge for teasers and spoilers. The link is on my profile.