Stephenie Meyer owns the Twilight parts.

Thanks to Iris for cleaning this up and to M and Nic for pre-reading. Any mistakes left are mine.


Beep beep

"Boys, don't burn the popcorn. The movie is ready, and we're waiting…"

Beep beep

"Edward, wake up. You'll be late for school. Your mother cooked pancakes…"

Beep beep

"Holliday is up." Jared's voice, but the fingers wrapped up in mine are too small and soft to be his.

"We could use a double," Bella says.

The beeping noises are steady… annoying. "Turn it off."

"Edward?" Bella's face is above mine. Her hair is pulled back, and there are grayish bags under her eyes.

"Hey." I try to lift my hand to touch her cheek, but I'm tangled up in wires and tubes. The beeping gets louder as Bella catches my arm and lowers it to the bed.

"Hey," she says.

"Finally," Jared says. "Dammit, man." He leans over and clasps his hands together between his legs, ignoring the Cardinals game on the television behind him. "You scared the shit out of me."

"Where's Paul?" The last time I saw him, he was on a stretcher, and they were closing the door of an ambulance.

"He's two floors up. He's been going nuts waiting to hear that you're awake. I'll go tell him you're alive and give you a few minutes with Bella." He stands, lets his hand hover over mine for a moment, and then lowers it to squeeze my fingers. "I'll get Mack, and let her know, too."

"Where's Mack?" I ask Bella after he leaves the room.

"She's downstairs in the cafeteria having dinner with Charlotte."

"Charlotte?"

She nods, squeezing my hand. "It's okay. Your mom and grandparents are down there, too."

"What's she doing here?"

"She's worried about Mack… and you." Her eyes drop to our hands. "Please don't worry about Charlotte. Jasper and I had a talk with her, and told her that we'll have her removed from the premises if she starts any trouble."

I tug her hand, and she leans over until her cheek is resting against the side of my neck. Her grip on my hand tightens. Hot tears fall on my neck and shoulder.

"I'm sorry." I can't hug her, but I still try.

She leans back to look at me. "I'm just really happy you're awake. When Charlie told me what happened…" Her eyes slip closed, but that doesn't stop the tears. "You were supposed to be jet skiing today." She tries to laugh but half-sobs instead. "I kept telling myself you'd be fine. I needed to believe that, and Mack did, too."

"You've talked to Mack?"

She nods. "You're right. She's pretty amazing and so much like you."

"Is she okay?"

"She's better now that Charlotte is here."

"Come here." I tug her forward, so I can kiss her cheeks. "I'm sorry I scared you."

"It's not your fault. What matters is that you're going to be fine; as good as new in a few months."

"Months?"

She nods. "Months, Edward."

A nurse comes in, and eases Bella out of the way to check my numbers and ask me a billion questions. She also gives me the basics but cuts off my questions with promises that a doctor will be in this evening to give me more information.

I've got a couple of bum ribs, and my right lung took a hit. Other than that, I'm a lucky a bastard. Bella explains that the .38 was registered to Jessica Stanley's father. He'd given it to his ex-wife while they were married for protection when she'd worked nights downtown at a call center. Jessica knew where it was hidden and took it into that closet for protection.

"Is she okay?"

"There's not a scratch on her."

"Her mom?"

She frowns and picks at the sleeve of my hospital gown. "She's in a coma, but the doctors are optimistic."

"That's good. I thought she was dead."

"She almost was."

"And Paul is going to be okay, too?" I ask.

"Yes. He's going to be out of commission for a while, like you."

"I can't sit around and do nothing for months, Bella."

"You can, and you will."

Before I can argue, Mack steps into the room.

"Dad…" She stops at the foot of the bed to stare at me with wide eyes and parted lips.

Mom and Jared hang back at the doorway, and Bella steps away from the bed. "I'll be back," she says. Her fingers linger, still tangled with mine until the distance is too much. She doesn't want to leave any more than my mom does right now, but they both know I need a minute with Mack.

Mack waits until they're gone and the door is shut to talk again. "Does it hurt?"

I shake my head. "Not right now." Tubes attached to IVs dangle from my arm when I lift it. "I'm guessing they're giving me really strong pain medicine."

She takes a few steps around the bed until she's standing in the same spot Bella left. "It took you a really long time to wake up," she says, sniffling and brushing tears from her cheeks.

"I'm sorry."

She reaches into the large shoulder bag she's carrying and pulls out a small stuffed bear. "Jessica Stanley asked me to give this to you." She puts it in my hand and keeps talking. "Her father brought her up earlier. At first, I was really mad at her."

"Mack–"

"But then I was just sad that any of this happened. And she reminded me of something important that I don't think I've ever told you." She sniffles, reaches for tissues, and wipes her nose. "You're her hero, and you're mine. You've always been mine." Her eyes close, and she sinks down onto the chair next to my bed. When she opens them again, she stares at the bear in my palm. "That's why it hurt so much when you changed after Grandpa died. I mean, even after you and Mom split up, you were still you. You still laughed. You still carried me around on your shoulders. You were still happy."

Her shoulders shake, and I'm not far behind her. The sting in my eyes gets stronger with every word she drops. "It was almost like you died, too," she whispers.

At the time, it felt that way.

"I understand why now," she says. "It took them forever to tell us anything. Bella told me you wouldn't give up, but I was still scared. I tried to think about what it would be like if…" She stops to blow her nose and reach for more tissues. "And then I tried not to think about it, because it was so awful."

"I'm sorry." I leave the bear on the bed and hold my hand out for hers. She grabs it, and holds it so tightly that the medical tape pulls and pinches my skin. "I know I checked out for a while. I don't have a good excuse. I wished I hadn't been there when he died. It would've been easier." She looks up in surprise and stares at the tears on my face. "I've wished it every day for the last two years, but now I don't feel that way anymore."

That last conversation with my father should have been a freed balloon instead of the concrete block I've been dragging around.

"I wasn't really there for you after that. I know it, Mack, and I'm sorry. I've been trying to be better. I hope I am better than I was."

She nods, squeezing my hand. "You are. You're much better."

"That's you," I tell her. "You and Bella."

Finally, she smiles through her tears. "No, Dad. It's you. This summer… It's like you're back from wherever you were."

We're interrupted by an older man who introduces himself as Dr. Gerandy. Mom follows him into the room and watches from a spot in the corner of the room with Mack as he checks me over. He drones on about the trajectory of the bullet and how lucky I am it was a kid pulling the trigger with her eyes closed. A few inches up and to the left would've been much harder to fix.

He tries to lighten the situation for Mack's benefit, reminding her that the lung isn't a horrible place to take a bullet, even though it sounds scary. They pulled the ET tube this morning, which explains the scratchy, burning sensation in my throat, but I'm stuck with the chest tube until my lung can stay inflated on its own. It could take up to a week, but he seems to think it won't.

For now, doctor's orders are to sit up in a chair to avoid pneumonia, and he wants me to start respiratory therapy tonight. We'll work our way up to walking and strength building in a day or two. If I play my cards right, I can be out of here in a week.

He guarantees I'll be off for a while. I'll have to have clearance to go back to full-duty, and it could be three to four months, though light-duty may be a possibility sooner. He jokes and tells me not to worry – that this is what insurance is for – but I'm like Bella; I've always worked. It's what I know.

"One step at a time, Edward," he says, tucking his clipboard and my attached chart under his arm. "This can be easy, or it can be hard. That part is up to you. If you give your body a chance to heal, it will be much better for you in the long run."

"I'll make sure he takes it easy," Mom says, shaking his hand before he leaves.

"You heard him say light-duty will be okay."

"I heard him say it's a possibility. I don't interfere in your lives often." She holds up a hand when I open my mouth to interrupt. "This time, you and your brother are going to listen to me. You're going to listen to your doctors. You're going to rest and follow instructions. I'll move you both into my house temporarily if necessary, but you're going to take care of yourselves for your childrens' sake, for Bella and Rachel, and for me."

She's sobbing, and Mack is holding her up by the time she finishes.

"Mom, I'm sorry."

She drops wearily onto the sofa near the window. "It's never what I expect," she says. "When they called, I thought they'd made a mistake. I couldn't imagine how Paul could be burned. Then I walked in downstairs and found out you'd been shot. Please don't be stubborn. For once in your life, just don't."

"Okay." I'll agree to anything if it will stop the tears.

Mack exhales and pats Mom's back. "Grandma, you need sleep. Jasper told me you didn't sleep at all last night."

"I couldn't," Mom says. "We'll go when Bella gets back."

"She's gone?" I ask.

"She went home to shower and pack an overnight bag."

"For what?"

"She's going to stay here with you tonight."

"That's not necessary," I say. She won't get any rest if she stays here.

"Bella wants to stay with you. Last night wasn't easy for her."

"She's really great, Dad." Mack leans forward from her spot on the couch. "She helped me a lot."

"I knew you would like her. I told her you would."

"What do you mean?"

"Before this happened, I asked her to meet you. You and I were supposed to pick her up and take her out to dinner this weekend."

She grins. "I want a raincheck. That sounds like fun."

"As soon as I bust out of here, kid," I promise.

"Now that we've met her, you can't keep her away from us," Mom says.

"I'm not even going to try."

Jared rejoins us and updates me on Paul's condition and expected recovery time, and Rachel pops in with my grandparents for a few minutes. Mack leaves while they're visiting to go and see Paul for the first time, and check in with Alec and Jane.

The room clears when the respiratory therapist comes in. Only Mom stays, but Bella comes in halfway through my session. Her hair is wet and twisted in a loose bun, and she's toting a backpack on her shoulder.

I get distracted more than once watching Bella and Mom have a quiet conversation in the corner. Occasionally, my mother's hand touches Bella's arm in affection or enthusiasm, and the ease of it, of them together, is a reminder of all I've missed while dragging my heels.

Mack comes back as soon as the therapist leaves. This time, she sits on the end of my bed near my feet. "Uncle Paul has a message for you," she says with a small smirk.

"Oh, yeah?"

She nods. "When you're up for it, he challenges you to a wheelchair race."

"He must be feeling better," I say.

"He is. You're okay. He's okay. And the hospital is obviously giving both of you some good stuff, because you both look terrible, but you're smiling and joking."

They stay until a nurse comes in. She tells them that visiting hours end soon and starts recording numbers in my chart.

"We'll be back in the morning." Mom covers her mouth and yawns before waving tiredly.

"How are you getting home?" I ask.

"Mom offered to wait and give us a ride," Mack says. "She's been working from her laptop all day in the waiting room." She leans in to kiss my cheek since she can't hug me. "I love you, Dad. I'll see you in the morning."

She stops in front of Bella for a quiet goodbye and a hug. They're not strangers, and it's a bit surreal to wake up to this.

After they've gone, Bella produces a pair of blue scrubs from her backpack. "Rosalie brought these over. She thought you might want some cover while you're here getting poked and prodded for the next few days."

"Please thank her for me."

The nurse turns her back while Bella helps me with the pants, and then they both help me onto the sofa. The doctor and therapist want me to sit upright until I'm ready to turn in for the night.

When the nurse leaves, Bella squeezes in next to me, cuddled against my good side.

"How did Charlotte even find out?" I ask. "I had her removed as my emergency contact when we split up."

"Esme asked Kim to call her last night. She felt like Charlotte should know. She had no idea Charlotte would get on a plane and come here."

"I'm sorry you've had to deal with her."

Her lips purse for a moment then she exhales. "She's been fine; quiet and almost… meek. It doesn't match what I expected. In all honesty, it seems like she just wants to be here for Mack. As much as I want to hate her for being an asshole to you, at least she loves her daughter." I pull her closer until her head relaxes against my neck and she sighs. "I am glad that we had the girlfriend talk before this happened. It made introductions easier, and you'll be happy to know that Jasper has been civil to her for Mack's sake."

"He's good when he needs to be."

"He is. He stayed all night and most of today, but he had to make an appearance at Silky's this afternoon to accept some deliveries. He texted a little while ago and said to tell you he'll see you tomorrow."

"My phone is at the station."

"I'll see if my dad can get it from Max for you."

"Your dad… I don't know if he told you or not, but he's the one who carried me out of there."

"He told me," she says. "He's been worried and texting all day to check on you. He wanted to come by, but he's been busy with the director and the mayor."

"He's in trouble?"

"We're not sure, yet. There was a small meth lab in an old shed out back. Apparently, Charlie and Max disobeyed orders when they went for Paul and the others."

"Emmett and I went, too."

"You were following orders."

"Did they really expect us to sit back and do nothing while they twiddled their thumbs?"

"Please don't get upset or worry. Charlie isn't stressing over it. He seems to think they're trying to establish a stronger protocol for situations like this. That's all."

The volume of the television is turned all the way down, but my father's face on the screen during the nightly news has me squinting to read the caption below it.

Tragic turn: Two injured in hostage situation are sons of fallen division chief.

"This is like déjà vu."

"Do you want me to change it?" Bella asks.

"No. I'm okay. I hope Kim and Mom will ignore their TVs for the next few days. The kids don't need to see this."

They replay footage from last night taken from behind the barricade; first it's the little girl being put into an ambulance and then me.

"I've changed my mind. Let's turn it off." It's creepy watching it but having no memory of it.

She uses the control on the bed to turn off the television and the lights in the room. We sit together for a while, and the warmth of her at my side is a constant reminder of things unsaid.

"Bella?"

She shifts and leans up to plant her lips against the skin beneath my ear. "Yes?"

"Yesterday morning, in my bed, I wanted to tell you that I love you." I feel her head move and meet her stare. "I wanted to, but I'm a chickenshit, and I didn't."

"I loved you yesterday morning, too."

"And today?" I ask, tangling her fingers with mine on her lap. I've put her and everyone else I love through hell over the last 24 hours.

"I love you even more."


A/N – The response to Mack's POV really blew me away. Thank you. You guys are amazing. I'm so glad I had the chance to meet so many of you in Nashville and hug your necks.

Thanks for reading. I'll see you soon.

MSC