A/N: Sorry it's taken me FOREVER to update this story. Totally not my intention at all. When I returned from the Thanksgiving holiday, my laptop was stolen—which included my outlines of this chapter and subsequent chapters, along with a half-written chapter 18. ;_; But I'll keep y'all up to date with Twitter updates (needacoffeeIV).

Thanks for sticking around with me. I love you all HARD.

Music: "Open Your Eyes" by Andrew Belle

"Breathe Again" by Sara Bareilles

Chapter 18: Open Your Eyes


Ow. What the hell? Why does my head hurt?

"She's coming to," a familiar voice says with relief. "Bella sweetie? Open your eyes."

My eyes flutter open and slide immediately shut. The overhead lights are too bright and making my head hurt even more.

"She opened her eyes, Carlisle," the voice said. I feel a soft, warm hand stroke my face. "Bella honey, you need to open your eyes."

I struggle to open my eyes again—now prepared for the onslaught of the florescence. Thankfully the lights aren't as bright this time, making it so much easier for me to keep my eyes open. When they open, I focus on a fuzzy brown blob hovering over me. I rapidly blink, clearing my vision on a very worried Esme.

"Oh, Bella honey. You fainted."

Wait what? I think to myself. What happened? The last thing I remembered was crying.

"Wait, what?" I repeat this time out loud.

Esme turns her gaze to her side. I follow and see that I'm lying on the floor with Carlisle standing near the bed.

"OH MY GOD!" I shout, sitting up—too quickly. I remember everything—the incident, the patients, Edward… And seeing him hooked up to a multitude of machines. The blood rushes to my head, causing me to feel dizzy. I clutch my hand to my head. "Ow."

"Here Bella," Esme says, giving me a plastic cup of water. "Drink this."

I rise from the floor to a stand, wobbling a bit as I get my feet steady underneath me. When I am manage to stand without falling on my ass, I gratefully take the cup and take a small sip from the straw as I stare at Edward. If it weren't for the beep-beep-beep noise of his numerous monitors, I would have thought the worse.

He's alive! I shout in joy to myself. I quickly look over his body and I can feel the bubble of excitement that I had moments ago begun to deflate.

His skin tone is much, much too pale—paler than normal. In some areas of his face, bruises have welled up, marring his complexion. Most of his body is covered with a pale blue blanket. Aside from the small cuts on his cheeks and forehead and the bruising, I would have thought that Edward had just fallen into a deep slumber. I reach down and carefully wrap my fingers around his bared and bandaged wrist, sighing as I feel his steady pulse and warm skin.

My lower lip trembles as the events of that day replay in my mind. I look up to Carlisle, wondering what had happened.

He understands my unspoken conversation and clears his throat.

"Edward is okay. He was shot in the abdomen and nicked his liver," Carlisle explains. "He also suffered from quite a few superficial bumps and scrapes."

He doesn't continue.

"Okay so…?" I prod, urging him to go on.

"OH! He just got out of surgery not too long ago, so the anesthesia hasn't worn off completely yet. All the recovery rooms were occupied so I brought him here. He should come to within the half hour."

"So he's okay?" I ask timidly.

"Yes, he's okay," Carlisle says with a half-smile.

"Can…I stay with him?" I rub small circles with my thumb on Edward's forearm, hoping that he knows I'm there.

Carlisle and Esme exchange a meaningful glance. My stomach drops when I realise that this meaningful glance cannot end well for me, as Esme's eyes brighten with unshed tears. She gives Carlisle a small nod and turns to me.

"Bella, sweetie," Esme says in a soothing voice. She walks over to me and places her hand on my shoulder. Yes, this definitely does not bode well for me. "Before Edward had his surgery, he was asking about you."

My thumb stops circling as my mouth drops, as well as the still-nearly-full-cup of water. I feel the cup fall directly on the top of my right shoe, instantly dampening it. "R-r-really? What did he say?"

"He said," Esme pauses and takes a deep breath. "To not worry about him."

"What?" I ask in a small voice. "What's that supposed to mean?" I ask a little louder.

"Bella, he doesn't want you to be here," Carlisle explains with sadness. "And he doesn't want you to worry about him."

"He…doesn't want me…?" I say in a voice barely above a whisper, slowly drawing my hand off of Edward's arm and onto my stomach.

Esme gives me a heartbroken look, lips pressed into a tight line.

"He didn't say that, per se," Esme says carefully. "I don't think he wants you to see him the way he is now."

I nod dumbly, unsure of how I would sound if I opened my mouth to respond. Crossing my arms across my stomach, I feel the prickle of unshed tears. Not wanting to let Esme and Carlisle see me lose my shit, I stand up straighter and move to walk out the door. My wet right shoe squeaks against the tiled floor.

"Bella?" Esme quietly calls out.

I pause, taking a deep breath, and look over my shoulder at Esme.

"I will text you if things do change."

I give Esme a sad smile before exiting the room, letting the door click softly behind me.

/ / / / M V \ \ \ \

The next few days, to say the least, are torturous. Under normal circumstances, I would have greatly enjoyed the two days off I had after Edward's accident as I would have spent those days with Edward. But being off meant that I wasn't in the hospital—which meant, I was near Edward. If you asked me what I did those two days, I couldn't tell you. Everything between leaving his room, finishing my shift that night, and the start of my next shift is a complete blur. I moved as if I were on autopilot—eating at the appropriate times, resting on my bed when it was dark but never fully sleeping. When I did sleep, it was fitful and not restful. Thankfully, when I returned back to work, it broke up the monotony of my life with its constant chaos and spontaneity.

Out of respect for Edward's wishes, I refrained from visiting his room during my free time on shifts. Even though I had been keeping track of his status through the nurses that were assigned from his case, I didn't go as far as to look up his chart on the electronic medical system. I knew that if Edward learned that I had been keeping tabs on him by reviewing the details written in his chart, he would be furious. Thankfully, the nurses I had confided in about the situation were exceptionally compassionate. As I didn't know much about Edward's recovery, Angela Webber, Tyler Crowley and—surprisingly—Jessica Stanley were my confidants about the situation. Thankfully they were spread along the hospital floors, which made my stalking a little less creepy as I was unsure of where exactly Edward was located. When I ran up to the nurses' station between patients, Angela, Tyler or Jessica will give me a quick update—Edward waking up after his surgery, he being moved to different room, his general recovery, and the stream of Chicago's finest that come and visit him.

Thank the stars that I work with a wonderful and understanding bunch of coworkers.

A week after Edward's accident, I walked up to the nurse's station to speak to Angela about Edward's status.

"How's he doing, Ang?" I ask, flipping through a patient's chart.

"Oh," Angela answers in a confused tone. "You haven't heard?"

"Heard what?" I pause mid-flip and look up at Angela.

"He's been discharged by Drs. Newton and Hale. In fact, he was just discharged no more than 10 minutes ago."

"What? What room is he, Ang?" I quickly ask, slamming my chart shut.

"410! Bella! He's not going to be—," Angela starts, but is interrupted by my hasty 'thanks' before I make my way to the fourth floor.

I sprint up the two flights of steps to the fourth floor. As I burst out from the stairwell, I almost run into a cart of folded bed linens.

"Sorry!" I yell to the housekeeper as I dodge her cart. By the time I make it to 410, I slow to a stop. The door of the room is mostly closed, but not shut. Inside, I can hear the tinny sounds of laughter from the TV and the jokes from a popular comedy show.

My blood is pounding in my ears from either my brief spurt of physical activity or nervousness, I am not sure. I reach out and knock lightly on the door, half-hoping that the sounds of the TV have drowned out my knock.

"Come in," Edward's voice responds. The sounds of the TV disappear.

Fuck, I think to myself. He's still here.

Taking a deep breath, I open the door and slowly walk into Edward's room—physically ready for Edward's reaction. My mental preparedness was not ready to see Edward sitting up on his bed in plain clothes and untethered to the quiet machines next to his bed. Now that he is no longer covered by blankets, I can see the extent of the trauma. He looks gaunt from the lack of comfort foods and exercise. His right arm has a large gauze patch tapped near the crook of his elbow. The skin around it has short, criss-crosses of red from where one could've fallen down and slid on gravel. The cuts on his face have also mostly healed, leaving a faint red line. My tears well up with long unshed tears. I rapidly blink, hoping to keep them at bay.

"Bella," he says softly, moving to stand up. The movement causes him to wince and press an arm against his abdomen.

"Please," I beg quietly with an open palm to him. "Don't get up for me."

Edward looks at me with a mixed expression and slowly sits back down on his bed, dangling one leg over the edge of the bed as if he is trying to make this encounter as casual as possible. I lower my hand and into my pocket, where I absently ball it around my Blackberry. I take a deep breath.

"You look well," I state, lamely.

Edward gives me a half-crooked smile. "You as well."

"Heard you were going home. Congrats on that. I'm glad you were able to feel better quickly," I prattle. I shift my weight from one foot to another, realising how stupid I probably sound to him.

Edward gives me a crooked smile that doesn't quite reach his eyes. It's obvious that this situation is just as awkward for Edward as it is for me. But neither of us knows how to defuse the situation—without making it more awkward. Except, I know if I ask him the most basic question, I can either clear the air or complicate matters. Yet, I don't know if I want to know the answer, nor if the timing is appropriate.

The silence draws on. I can hear the analog clock in Edward's room tick tick tick the seconds away and a door down the hall click shut. In the silence, I start to think about the events that led up to this moment, causing my breath to hitch slightly as I think about how Edward looked like after his surgery.

Edward's noticed the change in me—either with my shallow, almost gasping breaths or the scrunching of my shoulders. It's obvious he wants to comfort me, but he is unsure of how to do so. It's almost as if he's afraid of me.

I close my eyes, trying to commit this moment to memory. Instead of feeling the pain and hurt welling up inside, I focus on the noise of the clock.

Breathe in, breathe out…

I take a leap of faith.

Open your eyes now.

I take one last deep, cleansing breath and hope that it's enough as I fix my gaze on Edward.

"Can I ask you something?" I ask, pulling out my hands from my lab coat. I absentmindedly wipe the palms of my hands over the rough material.

"Always, Bella," Edward answers with a soft voice.

"Why did you not want me to be with you?" I ask in a surprisingly strong and unwavering voice.

I see Edward's face contort into an expression of pain before he lowers his head, causing me to hold my breath. Now I am sure that I may not want to hear the reason why he shut me out.

A/N: Thanks for sticking around, guys. 3