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.
3. Chapter 2: Bedside Vigil
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I continued to watch Bella through the minds of the doctors, nurses and technicians that entered the exam room where she lay. She could have been sleeping, but she wasn't. Bella pulled her lips slightly upward like she knew that we were watching her.
The monster taunted me, disgusted by the waste; he lamented while the foreigner celebrated, and I pined for the girl's secrets. My Mona Lisa was so intent upon keeping her secrets hidden that she retreated from the conscious world. Thus thwarted, I vacillated between my anger and hatred for the disturbance she wrought and my guilt. How dare she? Didn't she see the chivalry and mercy in my resistance to the lure of her scent, an aroma so potent that I collapsed in upon myself, all instincts, thoughts and feelings compressed into the pit of my stomach. Who was this girl? Surely she was not completely human. How could an aberrant like me ever be as thoroughly vexed by an ordinary mortal, even one as beautiful as my Bella.
My Bella? Was I staking a claim? What gave me this right? My experience gave me no guide to evaluating and answering the questions that filled my tortured rumination.
The monster shook me again. She is dying, he said. Take her. The alien, who had revealed his compassion for the girl to be as great as the fiend's desire to kill, warred against a deadly outcome. Save her, the gentle soldier cried. I clung helplessly to the realities between them: I am an abomination and she, a mortal girl. Despite my rejection of humans as sustenance, she is prey and I am a predator, and I hurt her.
Bella scored a dismal seven out of fifteen on the Glasgow Coma Scale, the commonly accepted method for measuring or quantifying the severity of a coma. The scale evaluates three areas: motor response; the level of stimulus required to induce a patient to open her eyes; and verbal response. In response to painful stimuli, Bella attempted to pull away; and she opened her eyes, but she made no sound. I was relieved that Bella presented no posturing, the involuntary inward curling of the limbs toward the body, but she could not be roused and produced no other visible reactions to verbal or physical stimuli. The slight curve of her lips was entirely the product of my imagination.
I had listened to the minds of comatose patients on several occasions at Carlisle's request. Usually their waking thoughts were confused; but sometimes I found the patient in a dream-like state, filtering endless bits of information and rearranging them into concrete images. Mostly, the dreaming was pleasant; however, from time to time, the visions were violent and frightening, even to me, a monster.
Once I listened for the mind of a young woman who had been in a persistent vegetative state for several months. Her doctors and her family had decided to remove her feeding tube, hastening her physical death. I sensed nothing from her. Nothing. Just like Bella. The difference was that even before my careless handling of Bella, I had not been able to hear her thoughts. I had never before encountered anyone like Bella. Bella's arrival in Forks marked the end of the static existence that I had known.
Until a few weeks ago, my daytime hours and thoughts were consumed with playing whatever role that the alternate lifestyle my family embraced dictated. Unlike most others of our kind, we maintained a semi-permanent residence, moving only when it became obvious that we never aged and the facade we created could no longer be supported or when a human grew too suspicious.
The public face that our family projected usually revolved around my father's job and his devotion to the study of medicine. My mother played the part of the devoted stay-at-home mother, freeing her to focus on providing or arranging the procurement of the physical and emotional necessities our family required.
Like everyone at Forks High School, the place where my siblings and I masqueraded as students, I heard the anticipation of severteen-year-old Isabella Swan's matriculation long before she arrived. Miss Swan was the product of the town police chief's marriage to an outsider. Their marriage was unexpected and quick, and the divorce that followed, equally sudden. The woman, who found life in our own sleepy hollow, nestled in the temperate rain forest of the Olympic Peninsula, utterly boring, fled with the child only a few months after the birth.
Some of the adults in the community whispered that Charlie Swan had never gotten over the 'flighty' wife. Despite the apparent weakness, Charlie Swan was well-known and respected in the community. Charlie had cared for his ailing parents until their deaths and stayed on in Forks, content in his work and hobbies. As far as anyone in Forks knew, the girl was Charlie Swan's only kin.
Although Isabella - Bella, as she preferred to be known - had visited Forks throughout her youth and into her early teen years, no one seemed to know her. The gossipy students at the high school assumed Bella might have friends on the Quileute Reservation, because her father spent a significant number of his off-duty hours in the company of Billy Black, a member of the Quileute tribe. Or perhaps, Bella had made the acquaintance of other summer visitors. Regardless, during the years when Bella would have required a caretaker, whatever childcare arrangements made for her did not result in the formation of any memorable friendships with any of the children in Forks.
The other students appraised Bella guardedly. The males fixated upon her appearance, while most of the girl's evaluated Miss Swan in terms of the impact she would have upon the 'herd' of desirable potential dates and romantic liaisons. Generally, the humans considered her unusually clumsy, but more or less average in other ways. Naturally, they evaluated Bella in terms of their own dull life experiences and perceptions.
The word on Bella, as the students put it, was that she didn't get along with her mother's new husband, but they were wrong. Bella was very mature and kind for her age. I had learned that her decision to return to Forks and complete high school was a gift she gave to the mother who longed to travel with a new spouse, a minor league baseball player. Bella had related these details to me in the first conversation I ever had with her, when I was preoccupied with the burning thirst her presence created and my sincere desire to replace Bella's memory of my abhorrent behavior in our initial encounter.
Bella was intelligent and had been placed in classes with students who were pursuing strong academic programs. Her placement in our shared Biology class, seated next to a me, was extremely poor luck for her, depending on the point of view. Forks High School was small; doubtless, I would have run into Bella in a hall or stairwell, so it had been good luck that the presence of witnesses in the class made me pause to consider how best the monster could kill them and then enjoy the divine taste of Bella's blood.
We smelled her when she walked into the room. The firestorm that Bella ignited raged through my hardened veins and scorched my parched throat. The desire to quench the bloodthirst was unparalleled to anything I had experienced in my entire existence. The monster could scarcely be contained; our joy and the anticipation of the feast carried my will away. My reaction to the odor and the fiend's licentious regard for the mores of the covenant to which I was bound, nearly exposed not only myself, for the inhuman creature that I am, but my family, as well. I fought against the urge to inhale throughout class and then ran to my car, where I weighed strategic considerations and the effects of killing the girl elsewhere.
In the end, I kept running. The debate could not be settled and I truly mourned the loss of control, so the only responsible and mindful answer for everyone - my family, Bella Swan, her family, and myself - was to leave Forks. I fled to Alaska and the compound maintained by another group who rejected humans as a food source. There, I spent hours walking through the snow, looking for meaning and a resolution that spared further injury to all. Gradually, the new voice in my head encouraged a raging curiosity about Bella's silent mind and expressive eyes. The cravings that the brute and I shared were augmented by the hunger for Bella's secrets.
Bella should have been just another human to ignore; that was something I usually did very well: push the temptation of human beings away. My family and I were different from most others of our kind. Instead of satisfying our hungers by feeding on the species from which we had been transformed, we gorged ourselves on the wild creatures that inhabited a lesser place on the food chain, preferring carnivores and omnivores to herbivores, of course. It was the abundance of those animals and the relative absence of humans that led us to our current home.
The thought of home and the awareness that Charlie Swan was speaking to his ex-wife on the phone in the room into which Bella been moved, reminded me that I should call my mother. My sister, Alice, answered the phone.
"What's happening?" she asked quietly. Her lowered voice could only signal that she was having a private conversation, but she knew that our extraordinarily keen sense of hearing that people like us developed truly afforded her no privacy. Coming through the cell phone, my voice was well-within auditory range of anyone in my home.
"Carlisle said that Bella's primary injury was a concussion. Her secondary injury, exacerbated by previous brain injuries, was cerebral swelling. He said that the CT showed mild swelling and bruising, but there is no evidence of arterial hemorrhage or a laceration," I related.
The weather had conspired to make transporting Bella by air or ground ambulance extremely hazardous; since it seemed likely that her injuries could be treated with corticosteroids, diuretics, intravenous fluids and a feeding tube, Charlie had yielded to the recommendation to wait at least until the next morning before moving Bella to a Seattle hospital.
Alice listened without interrupting or offering an opinion, unlike my sister, Rosalie. "Humans die, Edward," she said. Graduating from medical school twice had not gifted Rosalie with empathy, nor the inclination to adhere to social norms that dictated that we refrain from inserting ourselves into conversations of which we were not a part. "You shouldn't have interfered in the first place."
"Tell Rosalie she is not invited to participate in this discussion," I told Alice.
"I heard that," Rosalie snarled. "I don't recall being invited to participate in your little 'save the human' campaign - none of us were - but here we are anyway, paying for your mistakes." Rosalie was angry.
The snarling drew my mother into the conversation. "Rose," Esme scolded. "Now is not the time. Carlisle and Edward will be home soon." Esme wasn't going to let my actions go without making sure that I understood my family's concerns. "Everyone will get an opportunity to voice his or her opinion at that time." I could hear Esme's footsteps receding from the room.
"Alice, tell Edward to come home now," Rosalie whined.
"Rose," Emmett cautioned. "You'll get a chance to talk. Don't upset Esme."
"You're not the boss of me," Rosalie snapped at Emmett.
"Aw, come on sweetheart. Let's take a walk until Carlisle holds court." Although Rosalie was quick to shift her anger toward her mate, he never took it personally and always had a way of soothing Rosalie's fury.
"Edward... relax" Alice began. It was only then I realized that I had been growling softly.
"I know, Alice." The tension would be much greater when I could hear the unspoken thoughts of my siblings, in addition to the feelings and ideas they verbally expressed. My ability to read minds was limited by distance and for the moment I was grateful that there was several miles between Rosalie and myself.
"Do you want me to come and get you?" Alice asked.
"No, I'll wait and drive back with Carlisle," I told Alice. "We weren't able to freely discuss the situation at the hospital, so I'd like to talk to him alone, before we get home." Technically, running home would have been faster than driving, since we could take the most direct route, avoiding human observation without effort. But Carlisle enjoyed his car and was a stickler for maintaining the appearance of human normalcy; even under the circumstances, Carlisle would enjoy the opportunity to escort one of his sons through the hospital and home in his car.
"Edward, I don't think it is safe for you to be in her room," Alice warned. "You should wait for Carlisle in his office."
"What have you seen?" I hesitated to ask. Besides, I wasn't even in Bella's room.
"The vision hasn't changed, Edward. Either you will kill her or.......you'll........ Don't go to her room."
"I don't want to kill her... I'm not...going to let anything else happen to her either." Alice's premonitions were not fixed; future outcomes depended upon many things.
Alice stopped me. "Edward, you are underestimating how upset Jasper and Rosalie are right now," she whispered. "They would applaud you for killing Bella, but they don't trust you to do anything without placing the family in further danger of being exposed."
"What do you mean?" My unease increased.
"I'm not sure that you realize the depth of your... feelings." Alice evaded my question. "Are you sure that you don't want me to come and get you so we can talk?"
"Then, I should find Jasper," Alice decided. "I would like to tell him how I feel about what has happened."
"Alice, you're starting to sound like Rosalie," I barked. "What I did wasn't about you or Jazz or Rosalie or anyone else. Protecting Bella was - is - much more personal than..."
"More personal than protecting your family, Edward?" Alice finished my sentence.
"No, of course, not," I said, but even I didn't understand the point I was trying to make. "I feel like protecting her is my job. My responsibility." The newcomer inside me agreed.
"Edward, listen to yourself," Alice implored. "Think about what you are saying. You are proving that you are not consciously aware of your own feelings. How do you think Rosalie will handle hearing what you said? Our family tete-a-tete will not go well if you are not honest with yourself."
"Please Alice," I begged. The foreigner was adamant, my duty to take care of Bella was paramount. After a long pause, during which I assumed Alice was sifting through the possible outcomes of my latest decisions, I asked, "Can I speak to Esme?"
Esme did not come to the phone right away. The delay worried me. Was she angry with me? Although I actively sought my father's approval and support, and I knew his love for me was unconditional, it was Esme's pure devotion and love that I feared tarnishing. I already felt unworthy of her esteem and affection.
Years ago, I had gone through a period of rebellion and rejected the customs of my parents' life, feeding on humans I deemed unworthy of life. Eventually the burdens I collected in my self-righteous and judgmental quest to justify the murders, crushed my insurrection. I failed to consider the impact of the course of my actions on Esme and Carlisle, whom I had dishonored, but they accepted me back without question. Unable to vanquish the monster inside of me, I returned to my family knowing the criminals I had sought were no worse than I.
"Hello, Edward, sweetheart," Esme murmured. Her endearment was comforting. Hurting Esme would be almost as painful as injuring Bella had proven to be.
"I wanted to let you know I have not forgotten that I promised to hunt with you this weekend." Carlisle would be on call at the hospital, so I had volunteered to escort Esme to an area experiencing a sudden increase in the black-tail deer population. The sizable increase caused Fish and Game authorities to consider permitting human hunters into a normally restricted area, which abutted a region where we hunted frequently. Esme's research determined that recent mild winters allowed more deer to reach maturity than otherwise might have normally survived; and it would be necessary to cull the herd in order to prevent human intervention.
If Esme's research had revealed that our hunting activities had removed too many animals that preyed upon the overly-plentiful herbivores, she would have created her own version of an Endangered Species Bulletin, prohibiting their consumption. Realistically, Esme's efficient monitoring of local wildlife and occasional intervention assured that the family's dietary needs could always be met and that chances for encounters with tempting Homo sapiens were rare. Esme would not risk our being in such close proximity to humans when we shed our civilized veneer, allowing our raptorial instincts to rule us. Even the mother of monsters set her dining room table with care.
Eventually Chief Swan returned to the emergency room where a fourth-year medical student was closing the small laceration on Tyler Crowley's head with a butterfly bandage. "You want to tell me what you think you were doing driving like you were on a logging road instead of in a parking lot?"
Crowley pulled his head down toward his chest. "I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to hurt Bella," the boy mumbled.
"You better hope Bella is okay. The county prosecutor is prepared to charge you with manslaughter, if something happens to her," Charlie's voice was stern. "I've already cited you for reckless driving and you better hope to God your blood alcohol test comes back clean."
"I wasn't drinking," Crowley claimed.
"Maybe not this morning, but alcohol stays in your system for hours and the empty beer cans in the back of the van tell me you were drinking last night," Charlie voice was ominous. "Either you drank a six-pack alone or you had help. Doesn't matter; you're underage and if your test results are anything more than zero-point-zero, I'm charging you. You'll be lucky to get your license back before you're twenty-one."
"But Chief, I work at my parent's restaurant before and after school," Tyler looked bewildered. Crowley's parents walked in at that moment, so I knew the police chief would be busy for a little while.
"You work just enough to pay for beer and gas for the van that your parents bought for you," Bella's father barked.
The teen's carelessness effected many people, but I could not in good conscious allow him to shoulder the responsibility for Bella's condition. As soon as I prevented Crowley's van from killing Bella, her safety was in my hands. My unawareness and the arrogance had caused Bella's injuries, and it was more complicated than, as Alice had said, unrecognized feelings. I had never felt more confused and was completely aware the discombobulated state that I currently inhabited was unfathomable.
How would I ever admit this to my family? If I could not identify the feeling that generated a strange twisting in my stomach and directed almost every thought toward the girl, how could I explain anything to my family? I lied to myself when I said that I had held my breath when Bella's scent screamed for consumption. Although I had little control over the beast that begged for dominion over Bella's life, and I had even less command of Bella's champion. She had a pact with the stranger who yearned for her attention and her secrets, and Bella had merely to look in our direction for her knight to kick the air from my lungs.
I was forced to acknowledge that I had no ability to fight her lure, in whatever form it was starting to take, when I withdrew my attention from the emergency room and found myself yet again on my knees beside Bella Swan. I did not remember how I got there and could only hope that I had not traversed the path between the emergency room employee's lounge and Bella's room without risking exposure. Rosalie and Jasper were right: I could no longer be trusted to act responsibly. Alice had warned me to stay out of Bella's room; I fervently prayed Alice was wrong.
Someone had pulled Bella's long, dark hair away from her face and tied it loosely with a bit of gauze, accentuating the length and slenderness of her neck. The fiend inhaled deeply. His action re-ignited the wildfire in my throat. Venom filled my mouth and pooled around my tongue, and a tightness I had never known gripped my torso. I want her. I want her, the monster moaned. I knew on one level that he thirsted for her blood, but I sensed that another latent hunger stirred within the beast. I was afraid. My quaking wakened the foreigner, whose inattentiveness had apparently allowed the beast to drag me to her room.
Shh! The gentle voice urged. Don't frighten her. Did I groan aloud? A fair body of research existed that showed people in a coma could hear and engage in cognitive activities. Would she hear me for the monster that I was?
I felt a stab of desperation for her again. I felt the beast and the stranger pulling my arms, but instead of being tugged in opposite directions, they were both urging me closer to the quiet young woman. I stood and leaned over her. The fiend sat back, content to watch for the time being, while the foreigner whispered instructions in my ear. I stroked her hand with my fingers and bent to her ear.
"Bella, please hear me....I need you.....I need you to wake up for me, Bella......please?" If I could have produced tears, they would have covered my face. Her heart beat pounded inside my chest triggering a spasm of pain with the memory of my agonized transformation. I continued to rub her hand and whisper to her. Not knowing what to say, I repeated the words I had said when I recovered my senses and returned to Forks High School seeking her amity.
"Hello. My name is Edward Cullen. I didn't get a chance to introduce myself... You must be Bella Swan."
You are the most fascinating creature I have ever seen. Of course, I had not said that when I had conversed with her the first time, but I wanted to do so.
I looked at the hand I stroked gently and willed that it would move. During that first conversation, I had caught her hand in mine without thinking and she had jerked away. Even though the memory of her negative reaction was painful, I would endure such a response again gladly.
"You don't like the cold."
I stopped all movement and the heat from her satin-covered hand spread into my fingertips....and her little finger extended in response. Not in a way that suggested she wanted relief from my nearness. Instead, I imagined that she was beckoning me to continue.
"You put on a good show," I said slowly. "but I'd be willing to bet that you're suffering more than you let anyone see."
"Life isn't fair," she'd told me.
I resumed stroking her hand and leaned in until I was just inches from her mouth, looking for the hint of the smile that I had imagined when I saw her in the minds of others. I heard the door opening and froze.
"What the hell are you doing?" Billy Black yelled.
I backed up slowly without taking my eyes off Bella, concerned that she would be disturbed by the outburst. "Nothing," I said sofly. "Just..." I couldn't find the words to explain my actions.
His mind was a fury of accusations and threats. Had his movement not been confined to the wheelchair, I was certain he would have attacked me. Seeing that my continued observation of the girl inflamed his anger, I carefully turned toward him. Black's son, stood behind the wheelchair, one hand on the door frame as if he wanted to run.
"Get out! Get out!" Black shouted. "Jacob, go get Charlie. Now!
The boy took two steps backward then turned and ran down the hall. I would have followed him out into the hall, but Black had the doorway blocked, and I feared that in his anger, he would launch himself at me if I got too close to him. I slipped past the end of Bella's bed and maneuvered into the corner between a table and the outer wall.
"I know, Cullen. I know you shouldn't be here. You don't belong here and I think you better leave before..."
Bella reacted to the sound... and opened her eyes. "Bella, Bella?" I stepped back toward her bed. I knew she would not respond, there had not been enough time for the medications to have reduced the swelling within her skull. My sadness was profound. The depth of it so absorbed my thoughts that I didn't see Black was struggling to rise from his wheelchair until Charlie entered the room with Jacob. I retreated to my corner.
"Billy, for Pete's sake, what are you doing?"
"Charlie, I don't like it," Black almost screamed. "You can't leave Bella here with that doctor and his so-called kids running around. It's not safe."
"Billy, we've known each other a long time and I've never known you to be prejudice, but ever since that family moved here, you've had an attitude," Charlie said. "If you have evidence that the Cullens are a danger to Bella and a danger to our community, let's hear it. Otherwise, butt out."
Billy stared at Charlie. "That's right, we have known each other a long time. Long enough for you to trust me on this when I tell you that you cannot trust them!"
Charlie shook his head. "The boy here saved Bella's life. If he hadn't pushed her away from that van, she'd be dead now."
"Okay, I can see you aren't going to listen to me, but I'm gonna tell you something --- and you too Cullen: I'm keeping my eye on Bella and I'm gonna be here everyday checking on her."
Billy propelled his wheelchair closer to me and glared up into my face. His imagination was so vivid that I could almost hear the crackle and hiss of the fire as it consumed my dismembered corpse. I had been warned.