Second Chances

By Ani aka Cherished Dreams

Disclaimer: I don't own Stephenie Meyer's characters. I own the plot though!

Author's Apology: I'm sorry for the month it took me to update this! It's been one hectic month, what with my dad going through his tripe bypass surgery and everything else. Hopefully this and the next couple of chapters will make up for it.

Chapter Seven

"Bella..." An uneasy and loving voice whispered in the depths of her mind. The voice soothed her weary body for a small moment and roused her blank mind, before disappearing completely.


"Ed..ward?" Bella moaned sleepily into her soft, warm pillow. Eyes still melded closed, she felt her hair swift behind her ear, off her sticky face and she sighed at the cool touch, fingers brushing against her flushed skin. Her senses told her that the room felt cool and there was a weight on her bed behind her figure leaning closely.

Her mind went into overdrive, her imagination ran wild and she felt her heart speed up a familiar pace and she willed herself not to hope. She had been crushed with misguided hope before. Happiness leaked into her, from an unknown place and her eyes still closed started to water with... was it relief?

A dream? Could her sadness all be a dream? Could she still be sleeping in her room in Forks, Charlie in the next room, on a cool wintery day, her lo--him by her side? Stray tears started to leak through and she sighed and turned to lean comfortably into the sitting figure. What a terrible nightmare, he would laugh and tell her how silly it all was.

"Bella." Wait... that didn't sound like him. She had been expecting smoothness and reproach where there was only deep concern. Bella opened her eyes slowly and found Ben looking down at her with concern. She felt a jolt go through her body at the realization that, yes he had in fact left her, and yes he wasn't there. A shattered sob left her cold lips and she buried her face into his side, weakly lifting and wrapping her tired arms around his waist, where he sat. Her body trembled into his side, an old grief reappearing.

"Hey there... still don't like hospitals?" She heard the hesitation and undercurrent of deep concern in his voice as he tried to joke with her. He must've heard her say his name. She winced internally, knowing that he would dance around her on eggshells, for a while yet. The crinkle in his forehead only proved her point further, as she pulled back to take account of her surroundings.

She was in a small dull coloured room, filled with medical equipment; the sliding door of her private room was open letting in a cool-ish sort of draft waft in from outside. Her mouth felt cotton-dry and she tried licking her dry cracked lips to talk to her friend. Ben thankfully noticed and passed her a small plastic cup. Throat no longer dry, she croaked, "how long have I been here for?"

Ben shifted and trained his eyes on a place just behind her. "About a week." He paused letting the information sink before continuing. "I found you the day after your meeting with Catalina, in your very hot sauna-like dorm room. I noticed you were shivering madly in all that heat. Which," he added smiling at her, "even had me sweating." She felt a familiar bubble rise within her, but it escaped like a harsh cough. He pushed the cup into her hands, and guided it to her lips once more.

"You had a raging fever. That and you were clutching your hand." He looked at her reprovingly then. "A hand, I must let you know, that is now as purple as a plum and probably as sore. I think you slept on it and it got worse." Her hand throbbed unhelpfully then, wanting attention and she raised it to her face for closer inspection. It was wrapped in tight flesh coloured bandages she knew well that the hospitals had in stock. She would peek at it later.

"You've been a bit... delirious during all that." He looked at her again, sympathy written all over his face. "Catalina also stayed a bit, but she flew back yesterday to be with her husband."

"Oh. Thanks... Ben. Really for all that." She mumbled growing weaker. Her body felt heavy and damp with sweat. "Go get some more sleep Bella." He ordered (as his voice suggested), wrapping her quilt around her shoulders as he did so. Her energy spent, she closed her eyes without further acknowledgment and drifted off into dreamless sleep.

Bella was jolted awake during the middle of the night suddenly, and found her clammy good hand enveloped in another's warm one. When she looked down to see the hand's owner, she was surprised to see Mike's familiar face, slack with sleep. Many minor questions raced through her mind, until a feeling -- just knowing he was there for her, overrode them all.

Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw flowers. The curtains to her small window were open and the moonlight streamed in illuminating the room with its ethereal beauty. Her body still felt weak and she settled on watching Mike sleep in the chair beside her. She felt an oddly placed twinge of joy and a kind of high, seep into her veins. A small smile found its way to her face. A rustle of clothing passed by her door and she looked up just to find that another bouquet of flowers had been added to a counter close to the door.

She frowned and moved tried to sit up but managed to only wake Mike with her failed attempt. His slack face, turned into relief and he was at once on his feet helping her into an upright position.

"What's up Bella?" He asked nonchalantly, a light smile on his face.

"Nothing much, you?" She replied with the same tone and smile.

His lips twitched upwards and he moved suddenly pulling her into a tight embrace. He sighed into her hair. "Don't do that again. You have no idea how freaked I was when I heard the news." Mike pulled back and cradled her face in his soft hands. "I know it's a Bella Swan thing to get herself into the hospital, but from a raging fever? That's not something you usually go in for." His smile turned into a kind of grin, and she used a hand to punch him playfully in the stomach.

"Sorry. Do fevers not count?" They laughed quietly trying not to attract the attention of the passing nurses.

"So what are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be in LA in class or something?" Bella asked, sitting comfortably with pillows behind her back for support. He walked around the room surveying the flowers, avoiding eye contact.

She raised an eyebrow, suspicious. "Well actually," he started holding a small flower pot, turning slightly, a sheepish grin on his face. "I was planning to do some cross-institutional study with you guys this semester. My application got delayed but they let me so, here I am!" He ended enthusiastically.

"You kind killed my surprise though. I was gonna surprise you one morning at your door." He said moving towards the newest bunch of flowers. She watched him pick up the bouquet.

"Bring that over here; where are you staying?" She asked.

He brought it over and placed it in her open hands on her lap, watching her face, answering. "With Ben for a little while, until I can find a place or a dorm opens up."

"Hmm." She answered not really listening to him, her attention wandering on to the flowers.

A young female nurse slowly passed the open door, but doubled back seeing Mike standing by her bedside. "Excuse me, visiting hours are over. I'm going to have to ask you to leave to allow our patient her rest."

He nodded smiling at her with boyish grin, one he'd used with many girls over his college years. The nurse was watched him as he said goodbye to Bella and walked him out herself, smiling at him as she looked up at him under her lashes. A slight amused smile came onto Bella's face at the nurse's actions but she also felt an underlying mild annoyance as well. She shook it off and growing sleepy, put the flowers on her bedside table and she fell asleep lulled by the smell of freesia.

Mike and Ben visited her the two days after she woke, and on the third day, when she was discharged from the hospital, brought her back to her dorm using her truck.

On the way up, it seemed Bella wasn't the only one who had noticed Mike's welcome presence with her fellow female dormers. "Since when did you get so good with the girls Mike?" Ben questioned, slightly amused, slightly more annoyed by the time the third flimsy girl pressed her number into his hand.

Mike laughed as he shrugged, opening Bella's dorm door. "I dunno." She and Ben exchanged skeptic looks behind his back, disbelieving and followed him in.

"Cheese Bella, you have space for a couch in here?" Her newly come friend exclaimed, as he threw himself on her small couch. His figure practically covered the entire thing and Ben had to wrestle with him a bit to get some space to sit down. Bella open a few panels to reveal a small TV, turned it on for them and turned her laptop on hoping to start some of her work.

"Oh hey Bella," Mike said moving to look at her over the couch. "Your editor, Catrina, I think--"

"Catalina," Bella corrected.

"Yep, her. She gave me a ticket for your Christmas Party. So I'll be coming with you. You know to make sure you're not going to go faint on everyone or something," He finished brightly. This shocked her.

"Well you said you wanted someone to come with you, right Bell? Mike's your man." Ben said facing her, albeit slyly. She smiled back at him dryly. Then she remembered. "When are you going back Ben?"

"Tomorrow." She bobbed her head. "What about you Mike? Are you sure it won't be too much of a hassle? It'll be formal wear…" She end trailing off, sounding unsure.

"Actually, it's a kind of semi-formal this year. I chatted with Catalina. She told me that it wasn't formal-formal like last year."

"We better start looking for some clothes." Mike and Ben exchanged looks then, and she immediate knew what it was about. "You didn't!" She blurted out, rising from her chair, blood rushing rapidly to her face.

"Actually Bella..." Ben started slowly, getting anxious. "What Ben's trying to say is that, he blabbed to Angela and she's sent you an early Christmas present. The dress is in your closet." Mike finished, looking thoroughly amused at her reaction.

She fake-stomped to her closet and yanked the door open. She pulled out the only clothes bag in there and laid it on her bed pulling down on the zipped slowly. The dress was a navy blue strapless tulle dress ending just below the knee. It had a slight sweetheart neckline with a bow tied to one side just before the loose flowing skirt.

"Nice huh?" Ben prompted hopefully.

She smiled and turned to the two boys with a bit of an edge showing in her eyes. "Very. Just one question though. How did she know what size?"

Author's Note: Picture of Bella's dress is on my LJ. (Link is on my author's page)

About Chasing Cars – I'll probably be delaying that until I'm able to get this all finished up. There's still a bit to go with this story but hopefully there'll be more regular updates for this from now on.

I am majorly excited about this story, and though I haven't been releasing stuff – I have been jotting notes down, even full scenes for future chapters, and I just want everyone to know that I have planned it out to the very end already. I just have to get the words right for it. You will still some great (in my mind I'm not sure what others will think) story twists if you haven't found some already.

With that said – I will probably be raising the rating on this story to suit future chapters – or I might put the original higher rated chapters in my livejournal and the modified T rated chapters here. Let me know what the majority of you guys prefer.

Tell me if there's anything wrong with my writing ok? Constructive criticism really helps as I have no Beta (and I'm sure you guys will not be surprised seeing as there are grammatical errors and tense changes left and right). XD