A/N: This is my first and quite possibly my last. I loved the movie, and was actually pretty content with the ending. However, I wanted to give my take on how it would be if Annie hadn't died. So, that's what this is: a story where Annie doesn't die. So enjoy, R&R. Thanks. –Mac

Disclaimer: I don't own The Invisible.

Poorly Mended Heart

"A poorly mended heart can only beat so long."

Nick was sliding in and out of consciousness—but at least he was back in his body. The doctors explained that the pain killers they had running through his IV were the cause of his constant exhaustion. "But at least you're not in pain," the doctor had added in a cheerful voice, with his fake bedside-manner smile set firmly on his lips. Nick had been used to not feeling pain, not feeling anything really, for some time so the joke was lost on him. Though, from her seat next to his bed, ever vigil now, his mother ventured a short strangled laugh. The doctor cleared his throat to break the awkward silence that ensued before leaving the room. Nick turned his head to stare up at the ceiling—attempting to fight the pull of his drooping eyelids.

At least the doctor had been right, Nick felt no pain. The only thing he felt was worry.

He had drifted asleep with Annie still curled against his side, not knowing if she was alive, dead, or somewhere in the plane between the two. When he woke up again she was gone. He had begun to panic—causing his heart rate to skyrocket and the machines connected to him to beep themselves into a frenzy. A doctor and nurse were soon standing over him, threatening a sedative if he couldn't calm himself down. Eventually, he was able to convince his mother to explain to him what happened to Annie.

Annie had been alive, but just barely. It was rather quite fortunate that doctors had gotten to her in time. She had needed surgery and was rushed away. His mother had asked about her status multiple times and had simply been told that while she made it through surgery, it was still a waiting game. His mother had her room number on a different floor, but as far as she knew thus far, Annie hadn't woken up yet. Nick wanted to visit her right then and there—hoping to do something for her with as much meaning as what she had almost died to do for him. Upon his mother's insistence, he had agreed to postpone a visit until after he had rested up a few more days. In return, she promised to stop in on Annie at least once until he could. His mother followed through, but returned with no new news.

Annie was stable, in what they technically considered a coma as she had yet to regain consciousness. She was healing, as he was, and just needed time.

His mother didn't want him to visit Annie, he could tell. So he stopped bringing it up after the fourth time he had his mother check on her for him and came back with the same 'no change' report. That calmed his mother some—his constant insistence to see the girl had been fraying her nerves. He had to wait it out if he wanted to ever see Annie. And he did.

He didn't get his chance until the day he was released. His mother had left him alone to change into the clothes she had brought him from home, while she finished the paper work to get him released. Nick made quick work of getting dressed—he pulled a sweater over his head and stepped into his shoes. Then he approached the open door of his room. He peeked his head out and glanced in both directions down the hall. Finding it clear, save for one nurse preoccupied at the far end of the hall, he slipped out of his room and in the opposite direction.

Nick reached the stairway and took the steps two at a time. He remembered skirting the same path alongside Annie, helping her find him. Now he was only concerned with finding her. Locating her room wasn't too difficult, but he didn't want to be seen going in for a few reasons. One, they had let his mother visit only because when Annie's family was contacted they made it clear they would not be coming in—despite this allowance they weren't likely to want a teenage boy wandering in and out without permission—and two, if anyone saw him, it would be possible for his mother to come and collect him before he had enough time with Annie. So he waited for the hall to mostly clear before he quietly slipped into her room, and closed the door behind him.

Nick took in the room as he stepped further inside. Annie looked peaceful as she lay so fragile on the hospital bed. She was hooked up to an IV and a heart monitor, but she was breathing on her own—he figured that had to be a good sign. Her hair was spread out on her pillow with the curls framing her face. The blankets were tucked perfectly over her stomach, and her hands rested palm down on the stiff cotton. He crossed the room and slipped into the single chair beside her bed. He took a deep breath as he reached over to take her hand in his. For a moment, he just watched her—the way her eyelashes rested so still on her cheeks, and the way her chest rose and fell evenly with her breathing.

Nick closed his eyes and swallowed down the lump that formed in his throat. His voice was barely more than a whisper when he spoke to her, "You heard me before Annie…I can only hope you can hear me now. It's time to wake up Annie. You need to wake up. You're needed here. Victor needs you. I need you."

Nick looked back up at her face. He sighed, "Annie…please come back. It's time to wake up. You don't get to hide anymore Annie. I've seen you Annie. You can't hide from me Annie."

He thought maybe he had imagined the way her eyes fluttered after his last words, as her face stilled within a split second. He continued, "Annie, you've had enough time. Time to wake up now."

This time he was sure she had stirred. She blinked her eyes a few times before they opened all the way to focus on him. Her hand suddenly tightened in his, no longer limp. Her tongue slipped out to lick her dry lips.

Annie took in a deep breath before she whispered with her voice strained and raspy, "Nick?"

"I'm here Annie," Nick leaned forward.

"Why?" Annie frowned. Her eyes flicked back and forth trying to search his eyes for the answer.

"Because you saved me Annie," Nick smiled, "I came to show my gratitude."

"I put you in that hospital bed, Nick," Annie shook her head, "You were dying Nick…and it was all my fault."

"You saved me," Nick repeated. "The rest is in the past. It doesn't matter."

"But it does," Annie stated firmly. She looked away from Nick, concentrating on the far wall on the opposite side of the room. "You should go Nick. You'll be better off without ever seeing me again."

"Alright," Nick used both his hands to push himself up using the arms of his chair. He was halfway to her door when he turned back to say, "Remember that you almost died to bring me back…I don't think anything matters after that."

With that, Nick swept out of the room. He didn't even wait to gauge her reaction. He paused at the nearest Nurse's station to say simply, "Annie Newton is awake."

He found his mother standing outside his room. She stepped forward and brought her hands up to his face. She brushed his hair out of his eyes, before dropping her hands to brush off his shoulders. Nick eventually had to take her hands and pull them away. He gently guided them back down to her sides. She quirked a half smile as he let out an exasperated, "Mom."

"How is she?" His mother asked. She had one eyebrow hooked as she looked into his eyes.

"Awake," Nick answered simply.

Nick went home that day with his mother. He didn't return to the hospital to visit Annie. He knew that she would need to come to him if they were ever to be anything. He couldn't force her to forgive herself. That was something she would need to do on her own. When she was able to do that, then she would come see him. He had to wait for her to be ready.

He tried to fill the time with other things—his mother's sudden interest in his interests, the aftermath of Pete's failed suicide attempt, and writing, mostly writing. He spent a lot of time staring out his bedroom window from a seat on the edge of his bed. He remembered watching the life trickle out of the small bird and he is happy to know that neither he nor Annie suffered the same fate. When he began to feel the walls pressing in on him, he left his house to travel to the park Annie was supposed to take Victor. He arrived there, only to find the small boy there by himself.

"Hey," Nick called out as he approached the boy. "Are you supposed to be out here alone?"

Victor only spared him a glance as he fiddled with the wing on his plane, "My sister Annie was supposed to bring me…but she's in the hospital. She got hurt real bad and she can't come home yet. And my Dad won't let me go see her."

"Annie Newton?" Nick crouched down next to him.

"Yeah…" Victor finally looked up at Nick. "How did you know?"

"I know Annie," Nick responded.

Victor tilted his head to the side, "Did she do something bad to you?"

"No," Nick shook his head. "She did something very good for me. You should be proud of her."

"I miss her," Victor murmured.

"I know she misses you too," Nick replied. "Hey, this is pretty cool. Can you show me how it flies?"

"Sure," Victor piped up. A small smile formed on his face as Nick helped him get the plane in the air.

Nick watched the plane glide through the sky, his thoughts solely on Annie. He remembered watching her in the club—how free and alive she looked, dancing unguarded. That was the Annie he wanted to know. He hoped that one day that would be the side of her she let him see, let the whole world see. Because that Annie was beautiful.

He stayed at the park with Victor for awhile, watching the plane fly circles overhead. Then he walked with Victor back to his home. He made sure Victor got in safely, because that was what Annie would want. It wasn't until after Victor was back in the apartment that Nick began his journey back to his own home. As the day drew to a close, he couldn't help but feel that he was close to what he was waiting for, and that brought a smile to his face.

When Annie finally came to him, she was healing but still oh so broken—and he was in no way referring to the bullet wound slowly turning into a scar. As he opened his front door wider to let her inside, he took it upon himself to properly put the pieces of her heart back together. He figured maybe that was the key to bring the pieces of his life back together—because they hadn't been falling neatly into place for awhile.

Nick knew Annie had to be the first to speak so he silently led her to his room and waited. He sat on the edge of his bed and watched her. She stood with her back to him, with her arms wrapped around herself, and stared out his windows. Night was falling, the sky barely lit by the setting sun. As the last rays departed from the sky, Annie spoke.

"I came here," Annie replied, still staring out at the darkness.

"I know. I was with you," Nick responded.

Annie sighed, "I could feel you. I could feel you all around me, everywhere I went."

"I was following you," Nick added simply.

"I could hear you, like whispers in my ears," Annie finally turned around.

"That's why you were the only one who could save me…you were the only one who could hear me," Nick explained.

"I'm not a good person, Nick," Annie said. "I do bad things. I did bad things to you…I nearly ki—"

"I forgave you," Nick cut her off. "You've been forgiven. You saved me, I can't be angry at you for anything after that."

"But you should be!" Annie exclaimed. "I could handle that. I could handle you being angry at me, hating me, and wanting to hurt me…I don't know how to handle you wanting to…"

"Save you?" Nick finished for her.

Annie closed her eyes against the intensity and sincerity in his voice, "I don't deserve to be saved."

"Everyone deserves a second chance. You gave me mine. Let me give you yours," Nick stood up and crossed the room to stand in front of her.

He gently trailed his fingers from her shoulders, down her arms, to her hands. He forced her to uncross her arms, so he could take her hands. He softly pressed his open hands against hers and she slowly opened her fists to let her palms and fingers line up against his. Such small hands, he had thought, but he knew they could do their damage when she needed them to. He let his fingers slip between hers, lacing them together as he tightened his grip slightly. He leaned forward, closing their distance between them, and Annie turned her head away from him. Nick let go of her hands and brought his up to push the hair out of her face. He took a single finger, hooking it under hear hair at her forehead and tracing a path down the side of her face, around the shell of her ear, tucking the strands away. His fingers continued down her neck and along the neckline of her shirt before he pulled it away.

His mouth was right at her ear, his nose pressed into her hair, when he whispered, "You saved me Annie, let me save you."

"Nick," his name came out in a breathy gasp from Annie's lips.

"A poorly mended heart can only beat so long," Nick continued, dropping his head into the crook of her neck. He pressed butterfly kisses along her throat until he found the place where her pulse beat out strong. He murmured, with his lips pressed against her skin, "Let me put you back together."

"You can't fix me, Nick," Annie said softly.

"I can try," Nick responded firmly, "but you have to let me. You have to want me to."

"I…" Annie began but trailed off with a strangled cry as Nick's hand slid down her side to rest at her hip."

Nick let go of her other hand as he took a step back. He reached up to grip her chin firmly. He applied gentle pressure until she turned back to look at him. He met her eyes and kept his gaze steady on hers. His hand slipped back across her cheek to brush trough her soft curls. She shivered, and the slight tremble traveled through her body. Annie, as stubborn as ever, met his gaze unflinchingly.

"What do you want from me, Nick," Annie breathed.

"I want you to let me in," Nick answered, "I want to help you, but I can't do that if you keep hiding from me."

"I'm not hiding. I'm right here," Annie replied.

Nick quirked a small smile, "You know what I meant."

"Enlighten me, Nick," Annie challenged.

"You're broken Annie," Nick responded simply. When she tried to pull away, he tightened his grip on her to keep her in place. He took her face in both his hands to keep her eyes on his as he repeated, "You're broken, Annie. Until you accept that you let me see the pieces, I can't help you. I can't make you better. You have to let me in. You have to let me see."

Annie struggled with him, trying to push his hands off of her, but he held strong. Nick wouldn't give up any more ground than she would. She fought him, pushed, shoved, and scratched. He stood immobile, unmovable, and soon enough her strength drained out of her, her movements weakened. Then suddenly, she was stumbling forward against his chest. Her body sunk into his. He wrapped his arms around her tightly, to hug her close. He could feel her body shaking with quiet sobs.

"Shhh," Nick soothed as he stroked her hair with on hand. "It's going to be okay. I'm here. I'm right here."

That night she slept curled in a ball on one side of his bed. He lay next to her, propped up on one elbow. It was reminiscent of the night he spent in their school gym with her. Only this time, he could actually touch her and when he ran his hand over her, he could feel the curves of her body under his fingertips. She stirred at his delicate touch, turning her body to lean into him. Nick paused his hand, hovering barely an inch over her body as she changed her position. She had completely flipped over to face him. She inched closer until she pressed against his body. Nick remained still as she slowly unwound her arms from around her body and slipped them around him. She pulled him closer, her head fitting perfectly in the expanse between his neck and shoulder. He smiled softly to himself. He slowly moved to lie on his back, pulling her with him. She adjusted again, nestling closer to him, curling her body around his. He wrapped his arms around her. And with the warmth of her body pressed against his side, anchoring him to reality, he drifted off to sleep.

Nick woke the next morning, with sunlight draped over his room. Annie was already awake, leaning over him, one hand absentmindedly tracing circles on his chest. She smiled softly as he blinked her face into focus.

"Good morning," She whispered.

Nick yawned slightly, "Morning."

"Can I ask you something?" Annie said with her eyes intense on his.

"Anything," Nick responded immediately.

Annie glanced down at her hand, now picking at imaginary lint she found on his shirt. She radiated nervousness and it sunk into Nick's skin. Finally she asked, "Do you think you could make me whole again?"

"I think we can make each other whole again," Nick answered, one hand softly stroking her hair back. "I think, in the end, we'll both come out of this more whole than ever before."

"I can trust you to do that?" Annie murmured.

"Or die trying," Nick joked, a smile forming on his lips.

"Not funny," Annie pushed his hand away playfully.

"Annie Newton," Nick said seriously. "I want nothing more than to help you piece yourself back together. You have my word, that I will do everything in my power to do that. Starting with convincing my mother to let you stay here until you are fully recovered."

"Nick, I couldn't possibly…" Annie shook her head.

"That place you've called home is not conducive to healing. I can't let you live there anymore. They've broken you enough," Nick cut her off, his voice firm. This condition was nonnegotiable.

"What about Victor?" Annie questioned.

"He can stay here too," Nick answered.

"You make it sound so simple," Annie responded. "It can't be that simple…"

"I will make it that simple," Nick corrected. "You have to trust me Annie."

"I do," Annie said after a long moment of silence, "I do trust you, Nick."

She raised her eyes to meet his and they shared a small smile. Annie suddenly dipped her head, pressing a brief kiss to Nick's lips. She pulled back searching his eyes. Time stood on end. She feared she had made a critical mistake, a crucial misjudgment. Then Nick smiled widely, one of his hands finding her cheek to draw her back down for another, deeper kiss. His lips melded with hers and his hand tangled in her hair. It wasn't long, or particularly passionate—it was practically platonic compared to some of the things she had done—but it took her breath away.

"See? Simple. One of the pieces has already fallen into place," Nick whispered, his forehead resting against hers.