Author's Chapter Notes:

Hey all! Welcome back! Managed to land myself a fulltime job so I can only apologise for saying there would be more updates and then leaving you hanging for 7 weeks! I have even less time these days!

Thanks to everyone who showered me with encouragement about China, can't believe I'm going in 26 days! So scared and excited all at once!

Anyways, I loved writing this chapter so I hope you all find what you've been looking for recently! It's even a wee bit longer than the last few! YAY!

Recap: Bella met Edward's adoptive parents and faced the world in her press conference...she was also told Edward was waking up...

LET US SEE!

Thanks to my two wonderful beta's and to all of you for your reviews! You continue to blow me away, and I hope I managed to reply to everyone!

I disclaim.


Chapter 16 – Reawakening

I wasn't entirely sure what to do with myself.

It really wasn't any different from all the other times I'd been with Edward while Ben was in the room, but the knowledge that he'd be awake soon made everything change somehow. Everything within me was fluttering and taking flight, simultaneously making me feel terrified and nauseous all at once.

I leaned my lower back on the window ledge and watched quietly as Ben checked over Edward's ever-changing notes before placing them back in the holder at the end of his bed. I concentrated on levelling my breathing as he then did his routine check of all the machines Edward was hooked up to, even going as far as to feel his pulse himself, his fingers pushing gently into the pallid skin of Edward's wrist.

It wasn't until anytime either me, Ben or one of the nurses was within touching distance of him that I realised just how much his skin had changed colour since his admittance. The disease that had been raging through his system had made him sickly and pale, his skin cold fiery-hot and then cold to the touch, a stark contrast in itself.

"His pulse is stronger than it was even twenty minutes ago. He should be waking up on his own very soon."

"Wi-" my voice caught in the back of my throat, and I cleared it to start again. "Will you need to be here for it?"

"No, but I will come and check on him again when he does. He has no breathing apparatus or feeding tubes that need to be removed so he shouldn't be uncomfortable or in pain when he wakes."

Somehow that thought terrified me more, as if Ben being in the room meant I had some sort of buffer, someone to take charge of the conversation, someone else to focus my attention on instead of the great big pink and green spotted elephant sitting patiently in the corner.

"Bella…"

I looked up at Ben and waited for him to continue.

"It's not my place," he said instead, turning away from me with a smile.

"I'm just a patient's next-of-kin, Ben. Say what's on your mind."

"We both know you're a little more than that," he answered me with a serene smile in return. "I just wanted you to know that there's nothing to be scared of. Just do what you've been doing these last three days, don't overthink it, or let what anyone else thinks cloud how you feel."

I felt a blush creep up my neck and flame over my face.

"He'll be weak when he wakes, probably groggy from the meds and painkillers in his system, but he shouldn't be confused, and I would bet my salary that he won't feel any differently for you than he did on Saturday night."

It was no use battling my blush when I felt it bloom even hotter on my exposed skin. Ben chuckled quietly at my non-verbal response and made to leave once again.

"Thank you," I answered quietly, wanting him to know his words had made a world of difference with the war waging inside me.

"Just tell him what he's missed, tell him the truth…" He nodded in a parting gesture before closing the door softly behind him, leaving me in the room with my thoughts and the beeping of Edward's machines.

I wasn't sure how long I stared at the floor, but when I finally looked up I found Edward's green eyes open and looking in my direction. My heart thumped awkwardly in my chest at the realisation he might have been lying quietly watching me for some time.

He didn't smile, or make a sound, and I wasn't sure what to read into his expression. His eyes were clouded but focussed and I watched as his tongue peeked out to lick his lips.

I was spurred into action then, my body knowing before my mind what I needed to do.

I made my way across to the side of his bed, his eyes on me the whole time, and poured him a little water into a plastic cup.

I turned, my skin hot under his gaze, and lifted the cup to his lips, my other hand under his chin.

He managed to stretch his head slightly and I tipped the cool liquid into his waiting mouth. He sighed in what sounded like relief and rested his head back on his propped up pillow.

Whilst perching on the side of his mattress – careful not to squash his arm – I placed the cup back on the side table with one hand and kept the other on the pillow by his head, my gaze wrapped in his, my breath stuck somewhere in my chest.

"I don't want to blink," he whispered.

"Why?" I whispered back, not wanting to break the peace I felt in that moment, not wanting to freak out over how right just having him looking at me felt.

"In case you disappear…"

He spoke more strongly this time, his unused voice cracking on several syllables.

The awkward jump in my heartbeat returned, but this time it stayed as I watched Edward's eyes drink me in as if he were sure he'd never see me again.

It hurt, and I wasn't sure what the subtle pinching-like pain in my chest was.

"I'm not going anywhere, and neither are you. Ben is confident you'll make a full recovery and be healthy again in no time."

"Who the hell is Ben?" He asked angrily, taking me by surprise, the venom dripping from his voice making me retract my arm and lean away from him.

Even Edward looked shocked by his outburst, but the question remained out there in the space between us.

"He's the physician who's been looking after you. He's been one of the palace's on-call surgeons for years and is quite good friends with my parents."

The accusation and anger dispersed from his eyes and he looked away from me before closing them tightly.

"Sorry, I don't know where that came from."

I wondered if he was jealous, if he felt threatened by the other man's name being dropped into casual conversation. As Edward took a few deep breaths, I brushed it off, not trusting my instincts, knowing I was new to everything I was feeling never mind guessing how he was feeling.

"How are you feeling?" I asked instead, hoping it was a safe area with a safe answer that wouldn't lead to any unsafe questions.

Internally, I rolled my eyes. I was tying myself up in knots with the things running through my head.

"Definitely been better…what happened?"

So much for a safe question, I thought.

"Well, you weren't well at our party…so we left early, but you got worse during the night. I had Doctor Reynolds – Ben – called to the palace at first light."

"Did I ask for a doctor?" he asked, somewhat confused. Maybe he thought he wasn't remembering things clearly. Maybe he wasn't remembering things clearly.

"No, I called him when I saw what state you were in."

"Did you come in and check on me?"

My blush returned full force and I could have sworn I saw a glint of mischief in his eyes as he waited for my answer.

"No. I never left, if you must know," I answered somewhat petulantly, not liking that I had to explain myself to him.

The look in his eyes softened and his left hand found my right arm that was still resting on the bed beside him.

"You stayed the night with me?" he asked, softly, gently, his voice recalling some of its honey tones.

I nodded, unable to form words. I watched as he tried to reach up with his hand before wincing in pain. We both looked down to where a drip was attached, pinching at the skin on the back of his hand when he moved it.

"I want to touch you, but I can't manage it," he huffed, sounding angry, either at himself or the situation.

"You're recovering from TB, Edward. You've just woken up, you should be glad you're even…"

I trailed off, the thought too frightening to voice

"What? Tell me?" he implored softly, his eyes dancing between mine.

I shook my head, unable to say it, no matter how much he needed to hear it. Had he any idea how close he'd come to not coming back? Probably not.

To distract us both from my lack of an answer I pressed the call button on the wall, knowing Ben would want to come and check on his patient.

Edward looked disappointed but didn't speak as I stood up and moved back over to my space at the window.

I kept my back to the room as I listened for Ben arriving in the other room, the taps turning on as he washed down and the familiar little creak as the door into Edward's suite swung open and shut again behind him.

"Ah, Mr. Masen, it's good to see you awake at last!" Ben exclaimed as he entered the room. I heard him pause and turned to find him shifting his gaze away from me and back to Edward.

"How long was I out of it then?" Edward asked quietly.

"You've been in a medically induced coma for around three days now. I felt it was safest to let the drugs combat the disease in your system while you were under. We managed to tackle the TB and flush the majority of it out of you with a course of medication and antibiotics."

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Edward nod slowly, but I didn't turn to look at him, afraid the emotions bubbling up inside of me would break out.

"How bad was it?" he asked next, somehow picking up on the tension in me and the room since my failed explanation.

"You are an incredibly lucky man. Slightly less healthy and I'm afraid it would have been a different story. I cannot stress how serious your case is…was. A few more hours without medical attention and I am sorry to say you would not be lying here now."

I pressed my fingertips to my lips and swallowed against the rising pain in my chest, desperately climbing its way up my throat, dying to find purchase on my breath.

Words were no longer needed as Ben checked over everything once again. Apart from a quiet thank you from Edward, Ben was ready to leave again.

With everything in me I wanted to escape out of the open door he held when he turned back, but my feet stayed rooted to the floor.

"You know where I am if either of you need anything. Your family have returned to the palace, Isabella, and Lord and Lady Masen have been informed you are awake, Edward."

Ben nodded in Edward's direction, maybe in response to one from him as well, but I couldn't look. I physically couldn't bring myself to look at him, too afraid I was dreaming and he wasn't really there. Too afraid that the gentle look that had always been present in his eyes would make me fall apart and confess to every massive and every insignificant fear I was holding in.

Did he know that was why I couldn't speak?

Did he know that even now – when he was awake – I was paralysed by the fear that he wouldn't make it?.

Even then, when we had made it out the other side, he didn't have any idea just how terrified I was that it wasn't real, that it would creep back in when we weren't looking and he wouldn't survive it second time round.

And I had no idea how to tell him that.

I had no idea how to make my feet move, or my eyes from the spot they'd found on the wall.

His gentle sigh registered in my brain, but it didn't break me out of the stupor I was in.

"Please don't cry…"

I didn't even know I was until his pained whisper broke through the cloud of haze in my head.

Cool teardrops were licking around my fingers and tracing paths down my skin, no doubt ruining my make-up. The wetness seemed to unstick my fingertips from my lips, and I dragged in a jagged breath, my lungs burning with the pressure.

"Come here."

I willed my legs to cooperate and managed to stumble my way over to Edward's bedside. It wasn't until he caught both my hands with his that I realised Ben had removed his line. Instead, there was a large white dressing stuck where it had been, and he was free to move it relatively pain-free.

I sat on the edge and let him just hold my hands firmly in his. I closed my eyes, feeling more tears squeeze themselves out from underneath. Edward's grip disappeared from one of my hands, only to appear gently under my eyes, tenderly wiping away my tears.

"It's okay," he murmured.

"No, it's not. You nearly died and I was so awful to you and I had to wake up and see how I'd been treating you and deal with meeting your parents for the first time and explain to the world what was going on and I haven't even seen my dad because I haven't left the hospital in three days and I didn't think I could do it and you were nearly gone and…"

"Shh…"

Somehow I collapsed – whether gracefully or not is another thing – tucking my head into the side of Edward's neck and brought my legs gently up to lie alongside his.

I hiccupped in that hyperventilating way to get my breathing under control for what felt like hours but was probably only ten minutes, Edward's arm sneaking around me and his hand rubbing gentle circles on my shoulder.

After a few minutes of silence – in which I felt the weariness of the last few days creeping up on me – Edward spoke up from beside me.

"I'm sorry you had to meet my parents alone."

I giggled lightly, knowing he had deliberately picked that out to try and make light of the fool I'd just made of myself.

"I love your mother, your father didn't say much…" I shrugged and held my breath when I felt Edward's head turn. I didn't know I was waiting for him to press his lips to the top of my head until he didn't do it. Instead he turned back and sighed quietly.

If I didn't even know, I was unsure how he would ever be able to tell what was right and wrong between us anymore.

"Are you okay?" he asked gently.

"Yeah," I sighed, feeling some of the tension evaporate from my body the longer I stayed snuggled up to him.

I snorted. "You're lying in a hospital bed, have only just woken up and you're asking me if I'm okay…"

"Well, it sounds like you've had a hell of a few days. I've only been lying here sleeping…"

"I'm sorry I dumped all that on you," I answered, feeling selfish and guilty.

"I'm not. I want to know what you're going through, how you're feeling and what you're thinking every minute of every day…"

"That could get a little tedious," I answered, trying to deflect the conversation.

"Sit up," Edward ordered softly instead.

I begrudgingly did as I was told, my heart hammering in my chest tenfold.

"Now look at me."

My eyes obeyed his command without any input from me and I found his emerald green eyes ablaze with some unnamed emotion.

"I mean it. I'm all in, Bella. I have been from the start and not for the dishonourable reasons you may have once thought. I don't care if you're heir to the throne or a biscuit empire, whether your father is the King or just a mechanic at the bottom of the road. I'm marrying you, Isabella Marie Swan, because I want to, because I've always wanted to, and because every word I've said – to you, your family, Alice or the press – was the truth."

His eyes were beseeching, pleading with me to believe him.

He looked like he wanted to say something else, looked like he was holding himself back, and I let his words sink in. My mind flitted back to our interview with the broadcasters and my breathing hitched in my throat.

I couldn't think about that, not then, it was too soon, I wasn't ready.

I focussed on the fact that he'd called me Bella and not by my full name, and how much I wanted to hear him say it again and again for as long as I could have him.

So I said the only words I could get out, feeling as if I was speaking around cotton wool.

"I want to marry you, too."


Author's Chapter End Notes:

Ugh, that last line...

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