When Tyler's van skidded across the ice toward Bella, Edward's impromptu rescue left Bella seriously injured. Can he help her get better and resist the urge to kill her? If Bella does get better, what will she remember, and how will she react? AU set between the accident and the prom.
All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. i.e. It's Stephenie's world; I just wanna play with her toys.
2. Chapter 1: Aftermath
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After Bella collapsed, I replayed the accident over and over in my head, beginning with my sister Alice's gasped denial of the vision of Bella's death. Alice's premonition showed Bella pinned between her truck and Tyler Crowley's van. The right rear quarter panel of the van caught Bella below the sternum, rupturing internal organs and pushing her diaphragm upward. Her ribs cracked and broke her chest open from the inside, releasing her blood. Bella's lifeless arm hid her face.
Looking away from that future, I found Bella's eyes on me and saw a flicker of comprehension and fear. Suddenly, one thought erased any concern that I should have had for the ramifications of my actions: NOT HER!
When I threw myself across the parking lot, I failed to appreciate that SHE was the greatest danger that I faced. My knees buckled beneath me the moment I touched her fragile, warm body, leaving us both in the path of the oncoming van. Overcome by her nearness, I struggled to retain the capacity to think and move. (Had not inadvertently touching her hand yesterday left me quivering? Was that not a warning? ) As a result, my efforts to stop the van were clumsy.
Turning my attention from the vehicle, I was immediately relieved to find her eyes intent upon me. Her bewildered, vulnerable expression made it much easier to ignore the fiend that begged for satisfaction. He could have ripped her asunder merely for the opportunity to taste her.
I realized that her head had struck the pavement and was fearful that the impact had drawn blood; I spoke softly to her, conserving my air. I knew that the smell of blood would weaken my will to stave the monster. I stopped breathing and tasted the odors that the breeze carried into my own mouth. No blood. Savoring her delicate movements as I held her in my arms, I sighed in relief and considered her words.
"How did you get over here so fast?"
I willed the affect of credulousness to my features and forced myself to let her go. The beast snarled. An unfamiliar voice inside me weakly whined, as the painfully produced lie left my lips. "I was standing right next to you, Bella."
I saw an argument well up behind her eyes and a mixture of consternation and confusion furrow her brow. Bella cast a flickering glance over the distance between us and swallowed hard before closing her eyes. Wincing, she paled and her breathing came faster; she rubbed her head as she tried to stand.
The monster reveled in her weakness and plotted his first move, willing me to spring. No! The stranger's voice bellowed in anguish, protesting my inclination to comply. "Help her!"
Bella's pained reactions and the fractured ice covering the ground where I had carelessly allowed her head to fall, called for a more thorough assessment of her injuries. I moved as close as I could to her again, tentatively, mindful of the need to limit the contact between our bodies. I placed my hand upon her shoulder, cautioning her not to move.
When I reached up to touch the hand Bella held to her head, she let her hand drop away and I found a small knot rising above her left ear. I wished she would open her eyes again so that I might search their depths for some meaning. I murmured an apology and let myself hope that my cold hand alleviated some of the discomfort she might feel. Hope swelled as I noted that the tightness of her lips eased. It was another warning that I should have heeded. I was unprepared for what happened next.
Completely relaxing, she leaned back against me, enveloping me in her warmth and softness. The gentleness of her movements contradicted the raw power of the feelings produced by her nearness; I floundered under the monumental effort needed to form coherent thoughts. She finally opened her eyes, trapping me. I was transfixed by her trusting gaze, the moisture on her lips, the motion of her muscles as she swallowed, and the sight of her subtle inhalations. Silken strands of her hair brushed my face.
Sensing my debility, the monster crouched, preparing to savage her exposed neck. He calculated the time needed to sample his feast and then create evidence that the van had killed her.
Please! The foreigner asserted himself in my mind, begging for Bella's life.
I allowed my other arm to wrap itself protectively around her waist once more, concentrating on the duty to keep her safe. But the rhythmic pulse of her heart transferred itself to my fingers, and my mind writhed almost helplessly as the traitorous appendages began to curl menacingly around her rib cage.
Only the depth of her sudden concern saved us.
"Are YOU hurt?" Bella implored.
I was in agony. I wondered if I ran far and fast enough, I could somehow leave the monster behind. I contemplated carrying her away with me. So strong was the desire that I knew I would have done it, ignored the decades of denial and self-control, if she but offered me her affection.
Affection? The beast within railed against the notion. Yes, affection.
"You were over there," she dared. "You were by your car."
Tamed, as I was, I could only deny the truth of her spoken observations half-heartedly. I cringed from the anger in her words.
New fears ran through me. If I had set myself upon her on that first day, when the force of her scent had nearly driven me mad, would I have been paralyzed?
Desperate to find comfort in an alternate reality and to avoid any further analysis of the strange effects Bella drew from me, I conjured up scenarios wherein I might have interceded earlier. I pictured driving to school in front of Crowley, forcing him to reduce his speed. I imagined stepping out in front of the van, making Crowley apply the breaks and swerve --- away from the school and away from Bella --- to avoid hitting me. (I assumed, of course, he would not hit me, saving me from having to explain how I had managed to total the vehicle without sustaining the tiniest scratch.)
Next, I envisioned walking over to Bella the instant she had gotten out of her truck, and gently guiding her to a place of safety. No, that might have involved touching her, so I amended the thought and visualized calling out and luring her to me. At least, I really would have been at her side and wouldn't have hurt her, and now I wouldn't be wondering what she will remember, if and, when she wakes up.
In the aftermath, it was easy to analyze the mistakes made in my hasty rescue, but I could not change what had been done. I cursed my carelessness and my evil. Stupid monster. Even though my impulsive intervention meant that Bella still lived, her physical signs and symptoms indicated that I had seriously injured her.
The ride to Forks General Hospital was torturously slow, despite the personal police escort provided by Bella's father, Chief Swan. I alternately prayed that the EMT in the back of the ambulance with Bella would not try to start an IV; then I cursed him for not providing all possible care. When a car had pulled out in front of us at an intersection, I wanted to leap from the ambulance and rip the phone from the hands of the driver. Pay attention moron!
The monster raised its head and growled, committing the license plate of the offending vehicle to memory. If the girl is unavailable today, perhaps a moron will suffice? I rejected the monster's claim on the girl, but I was indifferent to the plight of the moron. The stranger in my head reminded us that harming human beings was unacceptable. At that point, I had to chastise myself for taking a turn at internally growling; loosing the brute would do nothing to reduce my frustration.
Upon arrival at the hospital, I made my way through the building to find my father, a surgeon. I assumed he would have been alerted that a trauma victim was en route, but I didn't know if he was yet aware of my connection to the incident. I listened to the minds within the structure and finally found the one I was looking for in a nearby hallway. His sensitive hearing caught the sound of my footsteps as I approached, and I heard him think: I've been waiting for you, son.
I wished that he could read my thoughts. When I turned the corner, he was looking out a window into the parking area adjacent the ambulance bay. He didn't turn, waiting for me to speak. He was guarded, hesitant to look into my eyes. Was he afraid of what he would see there? I heard him inhale, testing the atmosphere around us. Was he satisfied that my clothing held no trace of the girl's blood? Did he think the accident might have been some kind of a ruse to conceal a nefarious act on my part? Are you alright, Edward?
"Yes, Carlisle; I'm okay." I tried to keep my voice even. "Alice had a premonition. She saw Bella Swan die in the school parking lot. Alice saw Bella crushed by a van." The fiend inside me moaned; aroused by the concentrated human scents in the hospital air, it recalled the potent smell of Bella's blood .
"Tell me what transpired." Carlisle prompted, finally turning to look cautiously at me.
His deliberate words caused me to slow down; I continued, "I saw Alice's vision as the sequence of events began to take place. The vision began to change, but I stopped watching. I don't know what happened. When I heard the van, I looked at Bella. Our eyes locked and I couldn't stop myself. I didn't want to stop myself." Describing the tragedies that had taken place to my father was difficult.
"What did you do, Edward?" Worry lined Carlisle's face.
"I sprinted across the parking lot," I confessed.
Carlisle's eyes widened, but his mind did not betray an accusatory thought. Go on.
"When I grabbed Bella, I...I lost my footing and we fell to the pavement."
Carlisle raised an eyebrow and he momentarily recalled watching me pursue a mountain lion up a steep rock face. I would have to talk to him about what had happened to me during the incident, but this wasn't the time.
"The van didn't hit her; I did." Force equals mass times acceleration. I did the math and dropped my eyes to the floor in shame, drawing an unnecessary breath. "I knocked her to the ground."
"So you removed her from danger," Carlisle stated flatly. Protecting your prey from another predator?
His theory stung. "Not exactly," I said, feeling defeated. My answer could have applied to either the statement or the question. "I wasn't careful. I hurt her."
"Edward, I can deal with her injuries," Carlisle consoled. "Tell me what you observed."
"Bella vomited and lost consciousness in the ambulance. She had been talking, at first. Her breathing was a little shallow. There is a contusion on the left side of her head, just above the pterion region. No ecchymosis. No external leakage of... fluids." Focusing on my observations about her condition helped steady me. Carlisle was probably counting on that.
I hesitated. "She was understandably anxious. A little irritable." I wished I didn't have to tell Carlisle that she had been confrontational, but my sisters and brothers had no doubt heard our argument and would relate the information to Carlisle later.
I had seen her eyes flash with anger when the EMT had placed a brace around her fragile neck. She wanted to protest, I could see. As did I, evidently, recalling my own irritation when the device blocked my view of the almost imperceptible movement of her skin above the carotid artery.
"Bella's heart beat was fast, but it fell into a more normal rhythm when she was given oxygen. The EMT noted her blood pressure was a little low, too," I added.
"Son, head injuries should be taken seriously. You know that. You also know that she's going to get the best care I can give her here, and if that is not enough, I will transfer her to Seattle or Portland." Carlisle studied my face. "Edward, is there anything else that I should be concerned with?"
I knew he wasn't inquiring about Bella's previous medical history. He wanted to know how great the risk of our family's exposure was. I breathed deeply and wished that I could feel the calming relief that such a breath might give a human.
"No one really noticed Bella before the accident. The van's driver accepted the explanation that I had been standing next to her, even though it was likely that he heard Bella arguing with me."
"Arguing? You argued with the girl?" Even a casual interaction with us triggers the human instinct for self-protection, Carlisle thought. Certainly that response would surface in a stressful encounter. Fight or flight.Apparently, this one's got fight.
I ignored Carlisle's unvoiced opinion. "Bella was looking at me when I... reacted. She wanted to know how I apparently materialized at her side; I tried to persuade her that she was confused, but she was unmoved. Bella got quiet..." I intentionally neglected to tell him that Bella had relaxed completely against me, but I saw him register a change in my expression when the memory of having had her seek my comfort squeezed my chest.
"...the way she watched me..." I shook my head. "She allowed me to give the ambulance attendants my story and she didn't contradict me, but she stared at me hard, like she was reminding me that she knew the truth."
Carlisle nodded. "She might not retain any memory of what happened to her today."
"I don't know; I can't read her mind. It's closed to me," I said, reminding him of the phenomenon that had garnered my attention, even before the unbearable lure of Bella's scent thoroughly disrupted my existence.
Carlisle paused while he considered my words. He found it fascinating that a human would be immune to my mind reading ability, but he sensed my fear. "Edward, we'll talk again after I've had a chance to examine Bella," he said as he reached into his pockets, seeking heat from the small, chemical packets he used to camouflage the cool temperature of his skin.
I followed Carlisle to the hospital emergency department. He stopped in front of the employee's lounge. "Perhaps you should wait here," he suggested. Or you could go up to my office if... things prove too enticing. He scanned a cart filled with bandages and noted an empty container marked "Bio-Hazard". I admired Carlisle's control over the bloodlust. He worked daily among the humans scarcely aware of the numerous triggers around him.
The ambulance driver pushed a stretcher past us. "Dr. Cullen. Your son was lucky. Not a scratch on him." The man glanced nervously at me and then paused in front of an exam room, reaching for the hand sanitizer.
Carlisle watched the man wring the solution through his hands. "Yes, well, I'm going to keep him close anyway," he assured the man. My father's countenance was so benign that humans rejected any dread of him. With a slight smile, Carlisle motioned me toward the lounge door. "Son?" It would not seem strange that I waited for my father there.
I entered the room slowly assessing its suitability for my needs. My primary need being to be left alone. The lack of a window was disappointing. Humans could spend significant amounts of time staring out windows without moving. Engaging in such an activity would justify my stillness and perhaps the appearance that I was occupied would discourage anyone from communicating with me directly. Today, I would rely on my iPod to provide an excuse for ignoring people entering the room; I pushed the earphones into my ears and settled into a chair in the corner with matters more urgent than small talk to address.
First, I wanted to monitor Bella's diagnosis and treatment. Forks General Hospital was small; but it served a diverse population from the town and surrounding county, and it was fully equipped to deal with most of the medical needs of the communuity. The physician, who conducted Bella's initial examination, ordered a CT exam, X-rays and lab work. The foremost worry was a head injury that might require surgery, although there were other conditions that could account for Bella's failure to regain consciousness.
The doctor had scanned Bella's hospital files, noting that her birth and delivery had been normal. I knew that until a few years ago, Bella had spent a month every summer here in Forks. The records showed that Bella managed to make a visit to the emergency room for cuts and sprains an annual event as well. Nothing too serious. Nothing requiring hospitalization.
I anxiously listened as the doctor spoke to Carlisle. He occasionally nodded and jotted notes onto a chart. Bella lay on the examining table beside them. Carlisle's co-worker was getting ready to leave the room and I would have to find another way of observing Bella. Although I knew monitoring Carlisle's thoughts would provide me with additional information, it would make Carlisle uncomfortable; he considered guarding his patients' rights part of his ethical obligation to them. As much as I wanted to listen to Carlisle's mind and as much as I wanted to look at Bella through his eyes, intruding upon her privacy in this way seemed shameful.
Fortuitously, Chief Swan and a nurse walked through the exam room door as I debated. I continued my observations through the mind of the nurse, wincing when she checked the needle that had been placed in Bella's pale slender arm near her wrist. Bella seemed even more breakable in the thin hospital gown.
"Chief Swan," the ER doctor said. ""I'm going to check on a few things. I'll be back soon. You know Dr.Cullen," the woman stated, motioning toward my father as she left the room.
"Yes," Chief Swan replied with a single downward nod. "We've worked together before."
His mind was more quiet than most human, but not silent. Not like Bella. The man absorbed everything and processed it somewhere below the surface. Generally, he projected the direction and tone of his thought rather than their substance. The bits of concrete internal dialog that I captured were anxious and laden with emotion.
"Charlie, I know this is difficult for you. When we get all her tests back, we'll know more. Is there any medical history that hasn't been noted in her records? A family history of diabetes perhaps? A recent head injury?"
"Bella's never had anything serious. The family history is in the record here." Charlie Swan exhaled loudly. "She's a little uncoordinated, but I don't think she's hit her head recently." He recalled the summer he replaced the original sliding shower door with safety glass after Bella slipped in the tub.
"Is Bella taking any medication? Supplements?" Carlisle spoke casually, knowing that the father of a seventeen-year-old girl, particularly one who only recently began living with him, might find not be fully apprised of such information. Contacting the mother would be helpful. "Have you been able to reach Bella's mother?"
"Bella isn't taking medicine. She never complains. I don't think I've seen her even take an aspirin since she got here." Bella's father was staring at her hand where a small bruise was beginning to spread. "I left a message for her mother. Renee remarried awhile back and moved to Florida about the time Bella came out to stay with me."
The nurse, who had walked in the room with the Chief, checked Bella's intravenous drip and her blood pressure monitor. The nurse glanced at the men in the room. She liked working with my father. So good with the patients and their families, she thought. So attractive. And very married. Esme's face passed through the woman's mind."You understand that, at this point, we can't be sure why Bella is still unconscious."
"So the bump on her head isn't keeping her like this?" Charlie Swan asked.
"She has a small contusion on the side of her head. A contusion is an area where the capillaries have been damaged allowing blood to seep into the surrounding tissue forming a hematoma.The size of a hematoma doesn't necessarily indicate the seriousness, or even existence of any internal damage. Bella's continued unconsciousness is the greater concern. Carlisle pointed to the x-ray clipped to the lit view box on the wall. "Charlie, we don't see any signs of a fracture and her vital signs are stable. Her pupils are equal and reactive. That's important; observing pupillary responses are one of the most important signs that we monitor in patients with head injuries. At the least, Bella has suffered a concussion."
Charlie Swan shifted his weight uncomfortably, as if he was struggling to balance the urge to process the information emotionally with the need to consider the situation analytically.
"Concussions can cause a loss of consciousness and sometimes result in extended periods of diminished responsiveness, particularly if someone has a history of previous head injuries." Carlisle paced his delivery of the information, pausing when Charlie appeared confused or uncomfortable.
I suspected that Carlisle had seen something on Bella x-ray, an old fracture perhaps, since he had raised the question of previous head injuries again. I was tempted to listen to his thoughts, but resisted. Maybe Carlisle was waiting to get the CT exam results to further explore the issue or maybe he wanted to talk to Bella's mother. Carlisle had once mentioned how difficult dealing with divorced parents could be.
The Chief pulled at the collar of his shirt. "Bella's had a lot of falls and scrapes, but as far as I know, she's never hit her head hard enough to get knocked out."
"A concussion temporarily interferes with normal brain function. Not everyone will lose consciousness, so many times people don't know they've been hurt," Carlisle said softly. "Children don't communicate that they are in pain or feel bad as clearly as adults do, so a parent might not know a child has suffered a head injury."
Charlie Swan reached and brushed Bella's hair away from her face. "She's never been one to complain about anything."
The nurse was folding Bella's clothes. Simple and soft.
"Most concussions are mild and people heal without any long-term effects," Carlisle noted. "Repeated concussions can cause problems, though."
Bella's father looked up. "Like the problems some boxers have," he interjected.
"Exactly. Brain tissue is soft, similar to gelatin. The brain is surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid. The fluid protects the brain. A blow to the head can cause the brain to collide with the inside of the skull, resulting in bleeding and tearing," Carlisle said cautiously. "The CT should show us if there is any bleeding or edema."
Charlie Swan stared at Carlisle. "Will Bella need surgery?"
"It's a possibility. We can give her diuretics to reduce the pressure from swelling." Carlisle's voice was soothing. "Surgery is indicated if...
I couldn't listen anymore. I knew what Carlisle was going to say.