Wow-your response to this blew me away. Thank you. You all love Fireward-Rescueward-Ladderward. I love the names you give him!


~Bella~

I passed a shaky hand over my eyes. I was so tired. I knocked on Rose's door and stuck my head in. "Hey."

Rose looked up. "Bella, you're even paler now. Go home."

I nodded. "Sorry. Looks like I picked up Alice's bug."

She looked at me, shaking her head. "I doubt the other day helped either." Her voice was sad. "I wish you had told me about your phobia."

I sighed. "It's not something I talk about, Rose. Most people find it funny—they don't understand, so I simply try and deal with it. That's why Alice always goes up first." I paused and took a deep breath. "I didn't think they'd be in the sunniest place in the restaurant. The fuckers usually hide in the dark."

A smile tugged on Rose's lips.

"Anyway, I dropped off some cookies at the fire station this morning, and I thought maybe you could tell Emmett to extend a dinner invitation to, um, Edward? Him and his…girlfriend could come have dinner on me? To say thanks?"

She shook her head. "Edward is single, Bella. Although, I think he'd say yes to dinner—if it was with you."

I shrugged self-consciously. Edward had been larger than life the other day and made a huge impression on me. His low, warm voice had been the only thing to break through the intense panic I was feeling, and cradled in his arms, I had never felt safer. He hadn't made fun of my fear, instead showed me only understanding and kindness. He had been so gentle as he cleaned my hand, yet the look in his eyes when he stared at me in the bathroom, had given me shivers. I was certain if Emmett hadn't interrupted us, he would have kissed me.

And I wanted him to kiss me.

I had been hoping to see him this morning when I dropped off the cookies, but he and the crew were out on a fire alarm. So I had left the cookies with a short note to say thank you, hoping he'd get them when he came back to the station and enjoy them. I had also hoped he might call to say thank you back, but he hadn't. Now I was feeling tired, feverish and my hand was aching terribly; it had been all day and I must have used it too much, because now it felt like it was on fire.

"Go home, Bella."

I nodded. I was so tired and I really needed to lie down.

"I'll call you a cab. You look wiped—I don't think you should drive."

"No, I'll leave my car, but I'm going to walk. The fresh air will help clear my head."

"Call me later. Let me know how you are."

"I will."

The fresh air did feel good; cooling and soothing on my skin. But after only a couple blocks, my legs felt wobbly and I was exhausted. Even though I felt hot, I was shivering. I was grateful when I saw the empty bench at the bus stop. I sat down heavily, grateful to be able to stop walking for a short while.

I'd just rest for a few minutes.

I shut my eyes.

Just a few minutes.

~Edward~

"Cullen! You got a package!"

I jogged over to counter, mystified as to whom would be sending me something.

"Some girl dropped it off." Sam yawned. "Made me promise you'd get it."

"Girl?"

"Yeah, short, pretty, dark hair."

My heart started beating faster. "Did she leave a name?"

"Nah. She put a note in the box, though."

I grabbed the box and took it to my locker. The rest of the crew were already eating or showering so I sat down and lifted the lid, grinning widely at the cookies nestled in the box. I opened the folded slip of paper.

Thank you, Edward. A very small token of my appreciation. I hope you enjoy.

You're my hero.

Bella.

I grimaced a little, remembering the last time someone had called me a hero. It hadn't been meant as a compliment, but I hoped Bella did. I wanted her to. I shoved a cookie in my mouth, trying not to groan at the taste. Emmett had said Bella was an awesome baker. It was one of the many things I had gotten him to tell me about her. I shut my eyes as I chewed. He was right—they were amazing. I shut the lid and closed my locker before I went for my shower; I wasn't sharing.

And her thank you was the perfect excuse for me to go and see her—with a little thank you of my own.

*()*

"What do you mean she left? Em said she worked 'til nine." I frowned at Rose.

"She wasn't feeling well, so I sent her home."

"Not feeling well? How?"

"I think she caught Alice's flu. She was feverish and tired and said she was achy."

For some reason, her symptoms made me nervous. "How was her hand?"

"She mentioned it was sore. I saw her wincing more than once."

"I need her address. Now."

She hesitated.

"Look, Rose, I know you don't know me, but Emmett trusts me. I'm worried about her hand; I'm worried about an infection. I need to check it. Please. I'm not going to hurt her—I wouldn't do that."

She nodded. "Thirty-two Sycamore. Apartment E."

"Thanks." Turning, I started to hurry away

"Do you know where to go?" she shouted after me.

"I'll google it!" I called over my shoulder.

I was only two blocks away when I saw her. She was sitting on the bench at a bus stop, head lowered and not paying attention to anything going on around her. With a curse, I slammed on my brakes, bringing my car to a shuddering halt. The door flew open so hard, the hinges creaked loudly in protest as I heaved myself out and hurried over to Bella. I sat beside her, calling her name softly, as my hand cupped her face. She was burning up. Her eyes blinked open, their gaze unfocused and glossy.

"Edward?"

"Bella, what are you doing?"

She smiled weakly. "Just taking a break. I think I have the flu." She lifted her bandaged hand, brushing it over her forehead, the action causing a wince. "I'm kinda warm and the walk was making me tired."

Taking a break. I shook my head in barely repressed frustration. She was almost asleep when I pulled up—thank God I found her.

I gently pulled her hand toward me. "Can I look at this, Bella?"

She frowned, pulling it back. "I know I didn't do a good job re-bandaging it. I tried—at least it's covered."

"You did fine," I soothed. " Let me see it, please?"

She sighed wearily. "Could I ask you a favor?"

"Anything."

"Could I ask you to drive me home? I'm…really not feeling well."

"I'll drive you home, sweetheart. But first, let me see your hand."

Silently, she held it out. I was gentle as I unwrapped the badly done bandage, cursing lowly when I saw the red swollen skin of her hand and the red streaks running from the cut. It was definitely infected. I glanced up at her, noting the sheen to her skin and the tremors racing through her body as she sat beside me. I rewrapped her hand and leaned over, startling her as I scooped her up into my arms and started walking to my car, but she didn't fight me. "Are you taking me home now?" She asked tiredly.

"No. You need to see a doctor. I'm taking you to the hospital."

Her head pressed against my chest. "Do I have to?"

I bit back a grin at her petulance.

"Your hand is infected. So, yes."

"Fine," she huffed.

But I didn't fail to notice how she nestled closer into my embrace and this time I didn't stop my smile.

*()*

"Just drop me off, Edward. It'll take ages for a doctor to see me. You don't have to wait."

I rolled my eyes as I pulled up outside the ER. "I'm not leaving you."

"But—"

"You won't wait, either."

I opened her door and gathered her back up in my arms. I loved how she leaned right into me even as she muttered about being able to walk. The side door opened and a paramedic came out, holding up his hand.

"You can't park…oh, hey, Edward."

"Jake—I've got an urgent case here. Is Leah on-call tonight?"

He nodded. "You want me to get her?"

"Please."

"Okay—the exam room at the back is open. I'll keep an eye on your car while I do my paperwork."

"Great. Thanks Jake."

*()*

Bella winced again as Leah finished her exam. She leaned heavily into my chest the whole time. I stood beside her, my arm wrapped around her waist, and held her shaky hand steady for Leah.

Leah shook her head. "Very badly infected, and I think there's a sliver of glass in there."

"Damn it." I must have missed it.

"I'll get it out, give you a tetanus shot and some antibiotics and you'll start feeling better soon, Bella," she said kindly to her and then looked at me. "I'd feel better getting some fluids into her as well, but she'd have to stay for a few hours and we're full up out front."

"Start it up and I'll look after her at home, Leah." I was fully trained as a paramedic as well as a firefighter, so I could easily handle looking after an IV for Bella.

Leah's eyebrows shot up in surprise, and I smirked at her but offered no explanation. I knew how shocked she had been to see me appear with a woman in my arms as it was, never mind telling her I would care for her.

"Okay, then. I'll add something to help with the fever as well. I'll go get what I need."

I glanced down at Bella, who had her eyes closed as she rested against my chest, once again surprised at how strong the need to care for her felt. I wiped the cool cloth over her face again, and she sighed softly but didn't open her eyes. Her fever was raging and depleting her strength rapidly. I needed to get her home and in bed so she could rest and let the antibiotics work. I was grateful I was off for the next couple days so I could watch over her. I had the feeling even though her friends cared for her, they didn't look after her the way she needed to be right now. Not the way I wanted to look after her.

A sharp, nasty memory ran though my head. I could hear Irina's voice, telling me how tired she was of my hero complex. How irritating I was to her and she wanted nothing to do with me anymore. She hated being looked after and I constantly struggled against my nature to want to care for her. Our relationship had been a disaster, and the main reason I had decided to move and start over. Having your ex-girlfriend start working in the same firehouse you worked at, was not a good idea. Especially when she had no problem showing her distaste for you, or hiding the fact she was sleeping with more than one of the other members of the staff in the house. It had been too much to handle.

I looked back at Bella thoughtfully—was I doing it again? Did I want to be Bella's hero? Were Irina's cruel words right? Would Bella feel the same way?

She stirred a little and her eyes opened. I smiled down at her, running my fingers down her cheek. "It's okay, Bella. You'll feel better soon. I'll look after you."

Her head fell back to my chest again. "Thank you," she breathed.

My arms tightened around her as she relaxed into me, her trust complete and heartwarming.

I did want to be her hero.

I could only hope she wanted it as well.


I will have another chapter next week...thank you for reading!