Ben coughed as debris from the airbags filled the car. Ben turned and looked over and saw Ciara bleeding from her head and her eyes were closed. Ben reached his hand over to Ciara's. "Ciara. Ciara, wake up." Ciara laid there motionless.

Ben sat forward to unbuckle his belt to get closer to Ciara when he suddenly felt dizzy. Ben mumbled "Ciara" as his body fell limp and he lost consciousness.


Ben moaned as he woke up hearing all kinds of beeping. Ben reached to his side for Ciara but all he felt was plastic. Ben forced his eyes opened and saw he was in an ambulance. Ben turned his head around sharply, "Where-where-?" A paramedic came into Ben's view, "Glad to see you're awake. You had quite the nasty crash."

Ben furrowed his eyebrows, "Crash?" All the sudden it hit Ben, "That car swerved into our lane and was coming right toward us!" Ben's eyes widened, "Wait, Ciara! Ciara?!" "Is that the woman you were with?" Ben nodded and the paramedic said, "She was being loaded into another ambulance when I was leaving with you."

Ben pressed his lips together and tried to stop the tears from forming, "I-is she okay? Was she-was she at least conscious?" The paramedic shook his head slightly, "From the looks of it, she was in pretty bad shape." Ben let out a shaky sigh as he touched his tattoo and said a silent prayer that Ciara would be okay. He couldn't lose her.


As Ben was wheeled into the hospital on a gurney, he was fighting to get loose yelling "I don't care about me! Ciara!" Kayla ran up to Ben as a paramedic handed Kayla a tablet. Kayla scanned it quickly and looked up at Ben, "You and Ciara were in a car accident tonight?"

Ben nodded, "A car came right at us head-on. They said Ciara was in bad shape when her ambulance left. She has to be here by now. I-is she okay?!" Kayla pressed her lips together, "Ben, I won't lie to you. Ciara's in pretty bad shape. She has 2 fractured ribs and severe brain swelling."

Ben's eyes widened, "Wha-what does that mean?" Kayla swallowed hard and folded her hands together, "It means she's in a coma, Ben." Ben tried to unbuckle himself from the gurney, "I-I have to be with her. Where is she?" Kayla gently placed a hand on Ben's wrist, "You can be with Ciara… after you get checked out."

Ben shook his head rapidly, "N-no. Look, I don't care what happens to me, but I don't want Ciara to be alone." Kayla's eyes softened and she nodded ever so slightly, "Look Ben, I am saying this because I know it's what Ciara would want if the roles were reversed."

Ben sighed heavily knowing Kayla was right. "Fine, but the second I'm done, I'm going to be with Ciara." Kayla smiled ever so slightly satisfied, "Thank you." Kayla turned to Sarah, "Order a Head CT." Sarah nodded and Kayla turned to face Ben, "I'm going to go get you an update." Ben smiled slightly, "Thank you."


Kayla walked into Ciara's room. Kayla glanced at Ciara's monitor's before looking at her niece's unconscious body. Kayla crossed her arms and sighed, "Ben is here, Ciara. I-I had to fight him to get checked out because he just wanted to be by your side."

Kayla wrapped Ciara's hand around her own as tears brimmed her eyes. "You have to fight, okay? You have so many people that love you. So, I need you to be your father's daughter and fight right now. "She is."

Kayla turned around and saw her former sister-in-law standing there. "Hope." Hope walked toward Ciara's bed, "How is she?" Kayla looked from Ciara to Hope, "It's bad, really bad. We've… we've done all that we can. We've repaired as much physical damage as we could. Her ribs have been patched and she's been given heparin to try and break up the clot and stitched her head wound. All we can do now is pray and wait and see what Ciara's body does." Hope nodded slightly, "And the coma?" Kayla shook her head, "No change. I'll give you some time with her." Kayla touched Hope's shoulder as she walked away.

Hope sat down and moved Ciara's hair out of her face as best as she could with the gauze around her head. Softly Hope said, "Oh Baby Girl. I know we have spent so much time the last two years at each other's throats… about Weston." Hope tearfully scoffed, "It's so crazy to think about how much time we've wasted."

Hope wrapped her hand around her daughter's. Hope sniffed, "I promise you Ciara, once you wake up, no more fighting about Ben. I-I still don't like or even really trust him but it's not worth it. It's not worth losing you…" Tears fell down Hope's cheeks, "…my little Doodlebug." Hope looked up, "Bo, look after our little girl."


Ben walked up to the nurses's station with a few buttons of his button-up undone and sleeves pushed up. Ben handed Kayla his discharge paper, "Okay, I have a clean bill of health. Can I go be with my girlfriend now?" Kayla started to nod when Ben heard a voice, "Over my dead body."

Ben looked up and saw Hope standing there with her arms crossed. Ben slowly took a step toward Hope, "Hope-" Hope interrupted Ben, "I don't want to hear it. You are the reason my daughter is in a coma fighting for her life right now." Ben's shoulders slumped, "I know." Hope's eyes turned red with fury, "It should be YOU fighting for your life." Ben pressed his lips together, "I know."

Ben put his hands in a praying position, "If there was any way… any way I could take away Ciara's pain and trade places with her, I would. I just want to be with the woman I love and be the first thing she sees when she opens her eyes." Hope rolled her eyes and scoffed, "You are not getting ANYWHERE near my daughter. Not now, not ever."

"Unfortunately, that's not your call." Ben turned around and saw Belle and Shawn walking toward the duo. Hope walked up to her son and daughter-in-law. Hope gave Shawn a slight hug before turning her attention to his wife. "What are you talking about this 'isn't my call'? Ciara is my daughter. I determine who gets to see her." Belle pulled a few papers out of her black bag, "Not exactly."

Belle walked around Hope and handed the papers to Kayla. "Ciara named her power of attorney and health care proxy… and they're both Ben." Ben and Hope's eyes both widened, Ben's in shock and Hope's is disgust.

Ben stuttered, "M-me?" Belle nodded and Hope shook her head, "N-no, this can't be right." Hope looked to Ben, "You must've tricked my daughter into this. The same way you tricked her into 'loving you'." Ben shook his head still stunned, "I-I didn't even know Ciara did this, Hope. I swear."

Belle looked between the two, "Ben's right. Ciara came to my office alone and asked me to make sure her affairs were in order just in case something happened. She…" Belle chose her next words carefully, "Ciara wanted to make sure Ben was protected."

Belle pulled an envelope out of her bag and placed it in Ben's hand, "This will explain everything." Ben looked from the envelope in his hand to Belle, "Thank you." Belle nodded ever so slightly.

FLASHBACK: THREE MONTHS AGO

Ciara walked into Belle's office and knocked at the door. "Belle?" Belle stood up, "Ciara. What brings you by? Not that I don't welcome the surprise, it's just you've only visited my office once before and that had to do with Shawn."

Ciara nodded slightly, "This is on a professional basis. Do you have a moment?" Intrigued, Belle nodded and gestured for Ciara to take a seat on the other side of her desk. Both
women sat down.

Belle folded her hands, "So, what is this about?" Ciara sighed, "You know about my relationship with Ben…" Belle nodded slightly and waited for Ciara to continue. Ciara sighed heavily, "I-I guess you could say I want to protect Ben." Belle narrowed her eyebrows at Ciara, "'Protect Ben'? I-I'm sorry, I don't quite get what you mean."

Ciara chuckled slightly, "When I say I want to protect Ben, I mean in the event that something were to happen to me. I-I don't trust that people like my mom or Grandma Julie won't try to exile Ben. The-they'll try to block him from being able to see me or being involved in decision-making if I'm unable to." Belle nodded slightly trying to process the information Ciara was giving her.

Belle swallowed hard, "So… let me see if I get this, you want to make Ben your Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy?" Belle waited a moment and when Ciara didn't speak she continued, "Power of Attorney means Ben can make decisions non-medically speaking on your behalf." Ciara cocked her head to the side, "Like who can visit me if I'm… incapacitated?" Belle nodded, "Precisely. And Health Care Proxy would be authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to." Ciara nodded, "Yeah, that's it. I-I just want to make sure Ben's rights are protected. I-if I can't be present to make sure this happens."

Belle closed her eyes for a moment, "Does Ben know about this?" Ciara shook her head, "No, and I'd rather he not find out unless a time comes where he needs to. D-do I have to tell him I'm giving him this power first?" Belle shook her head, "It's a good idea to, so Ben knows what you want him to do. But technically and legally speaking, no you don't need to."

Ciara inhaled sharply, "Could… could I write Ben a letter, that he could be given if a time came where he needed to act on his power?" Belle nodded slightly, "It's not the usual way of doing things, but I guess I will make it work for my sister-in-law. I'll get the paperwork ready and then you'll sign it and it will be official." Ciara smiled slightly, "Thanks Belle."

Ciara stood up and headed toward the door. Ciara stopped when she was in the doorway, "And could you not tell Shawn about this? I don't need him going all 'big brother' on me." Belle looked up from her legal pad, "You came to me in a professional capacity. Attorney/Client privilege, right?" Ciara smiled, "Thanks."

END FLASHBACK

Ben walked off to the side and opened the envelope. He recognized his girlfriend's messy/loopy handwriting. As Ben read the letter to himself, he could almost hear Ciara's voice in his head saying the words to him.

"Dear Ben,
If you're reading this, then that means that something has happened to me and Belle has informed you of your powers. I hope you don't think I'm morbid for planning this. I just want to make sure that someone - most likely my mother, hasn't tried to stop you from being around me or being involved in any decisions being made.

I am giving you this power not just to protect you and make sure you always have rights but because I love you, Ben. You are the person that I trust most in this world and I know you'll do what's right, what I would want if I was able to make my own decisions. Whether it is choosing a treatment plan or… or deciding to pull the plug. There is no one I would rather have this choice and this power than the man that I love.

One more thing before I end this letter, if something has happened to me, even if you think it is your fault, do NOT blame yourself, Ben. I am sure you did whatever you could to prevent whatever happened. I love you and I always will. And I would never blame you.

Your Bobcat"

Ben couldn't help but chuckle at Ciara. Even in a letter, Ciara's spitfire/Bobcat-ness shined through. And Ciara was right, Ben WAS blaming himself. How could he not? If he hadn't decided to take Ciara to a restaurant WAY out of Salem or if he had been paying better attention to the road or made sure Ciara put her shoulder belt back on, maybe she would be okay right now. Maybe she wouldn't be in a coma fighting for her life.

Ben could almost hear Ciara's voice repeating the words in her letter "I love you and I always will. And I would never blame you." Ben sighed heavily, he just wished he could believe that himself.


Ben walked into Ciara's room feeling Hope's eyes burn daggers into his back as he did. On any other day, Ben might try to reason with Hope, but not today. Ben got how Hope was feeling, she was terrified because Ben shared the same fear.

Ben sat down and locked his and Ciara's fingers. "Hey Bobcat. I need you to live up to your name. I-I need you to fight. I got your letter, but I'm sorry but I can't help but blame myself. There are so many 'what ifs' that are running through my head. 'If only I'd done this' or 'if only I'd done that'. So I need you to wake up and tell me you don't blame me. Please Ciara."

Ben kissed Ciara's hand and sighed heavily, "Your hand shouldn't be bare right now. We should be celebrating." Then it hit Ben. Ben frantically started feeling his pockets but couldn't find the box. "Looking for this?"

Ben looked up and saw Haley holding a box in her hand as she made her way over to Ben. "You had to take this out of your pocket for the CT and left it in the room. You have excellent taste if I do say so." Ben blushed and chuckled slightly, "Di-did anyone see this?" Haley shook her head, "I kept it in my pocket until I got in here."

Ben looked down at Ciara, "Tonight was supposed to be perfect. Taking you to dinner way out of Salem, I was going to tell you how I love you so much and I can't picture a life without you. And then I was going to give you my mom's ring. Now, don't give me that look. There was not a snowball's chance in hell that I would give you the same ring I gave Abigail and Clyde gave my mom. A representation of 2 HORRIBLE relationships is not the way I wanted our lives-and this next chapter of our life to start. I found this jeweler online and he was able to crush the diamonds and make something new. I thought it was borderline poetic: taking something broken and making it different but whole again. Because as much as you like to say I did that for you, it pales in comparison for what you did for me, Ciara. So…"

Ben opened the ring box, "Wake up so I can put this ring on your finger and we can start this next chapter of our lives. This-this next chapter that starts with us getting engaged and ends with becoming husband and wife."

Ben placed the ring box next to Ciara's hand, "Please Ci."


TBC