A/N: Hello duckies! No, I'm not abandoning Wisp, so cool your jets. This is going to be a small (maybe 10 chapters or so) story, mainly sweet. It's going to contain Daddykink, so you're forewarned. This is for abadkitty, who loves me just as I am. :-)
The squeal of wheels on wet pavement and the revving of a motorcycle engine fills Edward's ears as he fists his hand in the back of a cotton collar and yanks hard. He pulls the shirt's owner off their feet and a body rams hard into him, knocking them both to the ground. Together they hit the blacktop and the body he's just yanked out of the path of a line of motorcycles collapses against him. An elbow or shoulder jabs him in the stomach and all the air leaves his lungs with a painful, audible whoosh.
Great, just great. That's what he gets for trying to help someone.
A motorcycle pauses, and Edward looks up into the face of a man with stringy blond hair and gaunt cheeks. "Want some help, mate?" The man laughs, eying the small body curled in a ball next to Edward with an unpleasant smile on his face and a leer in his eyes.
"Fuck off," Edward grunts, struggling to get his breath back. He grabs the little body by the waist and hauls it out of the street and onto the sidewalk. Panting, he manages to get them both back on their feet and he runs his hands along fabric and skin, searching by touch for any sign of injury. "Motherfucker!" he manages to wheeze. "What the fucking hell were you thinking, walking out into the street like that?" Finding a pair of sharp shoulders, he bears down and shakes—probably not quite as gently as he intends, but fuck, he's pissed. "Look at me, damn it!"
The head snaps up at his command, wide, dark eyes meeting his, full of confusion and terror. Delicate little turned-up nose, full lips—it's a girl. The biker's leer makes complete sense now. In the heat of the moment when he saw her step into the street, he hadn't registered exactly who he was saving, just that it was a person who apparently had a death wish. But now, looking at her pale, pretty face, some of the fury drains from his body. She's just a girl—just a scared little girl.
"Hey, are you okay?" A bystander inches closer. "Should I call 911 or anything?"
"I'm a doctor," Edward answers, brushing away the woman's concern. "I'll take care of it. Thank you, though."
A damp, penetrating rain drips down, blanketing the street with water. Edward blinks drops out of his eyes, focusing on the girl shaking in his grasp. Gritting his teeth and now regretting shaking her, he gentles his hands on her thin shoulders. She's ghostly pale, her breath panting from her parted lips in shallow little puffs. Wide, scared eyes continue to stare at him, though he's not entirely sure she knows what she was looking at—her gaze looks a little glassy.
"Hey," he says, willing his voice to calm. The last thing they need at this point is for him to scare her more. "Hey, look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell. I was just really fucking scared, okay? I saw you stepping into the path of those motorcycles and..." He lets the sentence trail off, looking her over for injuries. "Do you hurt anywhere? Did you hear me tell that lady I'm a doctor?"
There's absolutely no response from the girl, who just stares at him with those big Disney eyes.
"Look, I'm getting kind of concerned. You don't seem terribly well." Is she going into shock? After such a fright, it's a distinct possibility. "Did you hit your head? Talk to me. Tell me something—how about your name? Can you give me your name?"
Her pale lips move and she finally blinks. "B-bella."
"Bella, huh?" Edward shifts his hands, sliding them off her shoulders. He watches carefully as she sways, trying to find her center of balance. One leg shifts to give her a better stance, but the toe of her Converse sneaker catches on a crack in the sidewalk and she pitches forward, arms raised to shield her face. "Easy there." He catches her around the waist—she feels so tiny when he puts his hands on her. So...fragile. She's a grown girl by the shape of her, but there's something childlike about her, too.
"I'm s-sorry!" Her lower lip quivers and her face collapses. She heaves an unsteady breath and then freezes, her body tensing. Edward knows that feeling against his hands. She's desperately trying not to cry.
Though he has plans this evening and is late already, Edward just can't find it in him to rush this girl. Not only as a doctor, but as...well, as a human being. His initial frustration turns to concern for her, for Bella, and he lets his hands linger along her slim waistline. Poor thing.
"Shh. There's no reason to cry." He tilts his head to the side, eying the girl in his grasp. "Whatever else you may be, you're in shock. And you're definitely not dressed for this weather." It's something like forty degrees out and the rain speeds down, but she's wearing only jeans and a thin t-shirt that's now thoroughly soaked. He can see the outline of her bra clearly through the cotton. Why the hell isn't she bundled up correctly against the weather? And why didn't she see those motorcycles before she stepped into the street? Biting the inside of his cheek, Edward realizes there's a possibility that stepping in front of the motorcycles wasn't an accident. He clenches his jaw tightly. "Bella, can you tell me where you were going?"
"Hom-m-me," she stutters, the cold of the night beginning to take its toll.
Edward glances around. He isn't near his place at all, or his office. He hopped a bus from work to meet his brother and some friends at a bar about a block away, but that's going to have to wait. Ordinarily in a situation like this he'd call for an ambulance and let the EMTs handle it, but something about the girl shivering in his arms, fighting not to cry, won't let him do it.
"Where's home? Bella?"
She whimpers and her body grows even tenser.
Edward pulls her closer, letting her chilled body rest against his. His hands linger on her waist, and he draws in a breath. Her wet hair smells sweet—girly and fruity and very distracting. "Bella, I need an answer. We can't just stand here forever."
Without warning, she bursts into tears.
"Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck." Muttering, Edward shucks off his light coat and wraps it around her body, tossing the hood up over her dripping hair. He casts his eyes on the ground, looking for a purse since she isn't currently holding one. His eyes catch a small, soggy black messenger bag lying in the gutter and he grabs for it with his foot, scraping it towards them. "Bella, sit for a minute. I need to find out where you live." He lowers her to the wet sidewalk, telling himself that she can't really get any wetter than she already is, and reaches for the bag. Rifling through the contents, he finds what he's looking for—a wallet. It's pink and features two Japanese-looking cartoon characters he doesn't recognize. A faint smile touches his mouth as he opens the wallet, looking for her ID.
There. He finds her driver's license fairly easily and squints at the tiny print in the dim wash of rainy streetlamps. Isabella Swan, age twenty-four. Her ID photo shows a tense, pale girl who doesn't look like she enjoys getting her picture taken. As long as the address on the card is current, it looks like she lives three and a half blocks away.
Three and a half blocks? That's easy. He fishes in her purse and finds a set of keys, pocketing them for the time being. Does he feel a little weird? Yeah, but what else can he do? He doesn't want to turn her over to a set of busy EMTs. She doesn't need a hospital...unless she stepped out in traffic on purpose.
"Come on, Miss Swan. Let's get you home."
She tries to get to her feet on her own, but her knees are so shaky that Edward's afraid she'll hurt herself. "Hold on, baby girl," he says, the pet name slipping from his mouth without his conscious control. "I've got you." Putting away his verbal slip to ponder later, he lifts her delicate little body easily into his arms. Her skin is cold, even at the dip of her lower back where her shirt rides up, and he finds himself rubbing the area gently with his thumb, willing warmth into her.
She's a tiny thing, small like his sister Alice, and Edward carries her with ease as they near her address. Despite his concern for her physical well-being, this feels...strangely good. Her little body is so sweet, and she fits perfectly in his arms. She tucks herself close to him, still crying softly, and the girly smell of her hair swirls around him. He wishes he could soothe her tears, not just her physical hurts. Poor thing. She's just been scared half to death, is probably in shock, and the way he treated her at first is just terrible. He wants badly to make it up to her, to apologize for his harsh words. He had a difficult day at work and the bus was late—she didn't deserve his ire just because she stepped out into the street at the wrong moment.
Her address, when they reach it, turns out to be a shabby little apartment complex, small and wet and miserable-looking, and the nearest streetlamp is out. Edward makes a face. He does not want to leave her here. His mother's an architect, and while he didn't follow her into the profession he knows enough to see that the buildings are not put together well at all. Bella's door sags on its hinges, and the lock is loose when he turns the key. Anyone wanting to get in would have a ridiculously easy time of it.
Still, what else is he supposed to do? Edward pushes open the door, entering into blank darkness.
"Bella?" he says, nuzzling her wet hair gently. "Miss Swan? I'm going to put you down for a minute, okay?"
Her only answer is a whimper, but Edward can't do anything more with her in his arms. He lowers her feet to the floor, careful in the darkness that she's at least steady enough to stand. "Brace yourself against me. Shh, you're fine. You're fine." He fumbles for a light switch, and a yellowy overhead blinks on. Shutting the door and locking it behind them, Edward pulls the shaking girl against him and slides his arms around her as he surveys the apartment.
It's bare and miserable, though it smells sweet—clearly Bella has done her best to keep the place clean despite everything. The walls are dark paneled, clearly not updated since the 1970's, and the floor is cheap linoleum, curling at the edges. A ratty couch sits in the middle of the living room, a pillow and folded blankets stacked neatly at one end. The kitchen is a dark nook to one side of the living area, and a dark hallway wanders off to the other. Thinking that must be where her bedroom is, Edward picks her up again and strides down the hall. One open door leads to a small, clean bathroom, the other to...he guesses it's a bedroom. Maybe? There's no bed, no dresser, just a pile of clothes neatly folded on the floor.
"Um...Bella?" He looks around the bare space. She almost seems like a squatter, there's so little here. "Baby? Where's your bed?"
She sniffles into the crook of his neck, and despite the circumstances, Edward has to smile. The little nuzzle she gives him is too sweet.
"J-jake took it," she whispers, gulping back her tears.
Edward immediately does not like this Jake. At all. One hundred percent does not like him.
"Who's Jake?" He leaves the so-called bedroom and crosses the hall to the bathroom, setting her gently on the closed toilet lid. There isn't anywhere else to put her—the counter is a chipped tile square around the sink, and there's no bathtub, just a shower stall. "Is he your ex?" He wraps her in the towel hanging by the shower. It's the only bath towel in the room, so he assumes it's hers. Also, it's purple. Whoever this Jake is, he probably doesn't like purple.
Bella merely nods, her lower lip quivering again. She sits still as he rubs the towel over her skin and through her hair, neither protesting nor helping. She's been oddly passive about everything, Edward realizes, from the moment he pulled her out of the street. She hasn't protested his harsh words, or his hands on her body. She did not fight him when he picked her up, and she did not stop him from coming home with her. Her sense of self-preservation leaves a hell of a lot to be desired.
"Bella, I'm going to find you some dry clothes, okay? You're in shock, and you need to warm up. You can change and then settle in on the couch with your blankets. How does that sound?"
She merely shrugs, toeing the linoleum floor with her sneaker.
"Come on now. I can't do this all on my own. You have to help, too." He catches her little foot and tugs at the sodden laces, pulling the knot loose.
"I'm s-sorry." A tear rolls down her cheek, then another. She bends and her shaking hands fumble with her shoe. Fat tears spill from her eyes.
"Don't be sorry. Just help me, okay?" Unable to help himself, Edward reaches out and strokes her cheek with his thumb. She's so small, and she seems so sad. "I'll be right back. You work on those shoes."
A faint whimper leaves her when he rises. Edward doesn't like how his chest feels at that noise. It hurts inside him, and he doesn't know how to fix it except by fixing her and...well, people aren't so easily fixed.
Shaking his head to clear it, he moves back into the bare bedroom and kneels by the small piles of clothing. Most of what she has is softly colored in sweet pastels, some with patterns of things like hearts or butterflies. Turning her clothes over in his hands, feeling the soft, clean cotton against his skin, Edward is fully aware of something that has niggled at his mind ever since he got his first good look at her. Her big Disney eyes, the cartoon characters on her wallet, her innocent, trusting nature, and now this? Picking up some pale aqua flannel pajamas, some of the only truly warm clothing he sees here, he stands. Miss Isabella Swan is showing some tendencies he's very attuned to. The question is whether it actually means anything...and if she realizes it.
Returning to the bathroom, Edward sets the clothes on the tiny counter surrounding the sink. Bella doesn't look good at all. She's shaking badly and there's no color to her skin. She'd managed to get her shoes off but struggled with her sodden socks. Frowning with concern, Edward kneels and covers her cold little hands with his.
"I'm s-sorry," she whimpers. "I-I tried..."
"Shh. I'm not mad at you. Hey." He grips her chin lightly with his fingers and tips her face toward his. "Look at me. You're fine. You're just in shock right now."
"No buts." He carefully removes her socks for her—they are a little difficult, being waterlogged and stuck to her skin—then leans back on his heels. "Do you have a hairdryer here?" He pulls open the cabinet below the sink, not terribly surprised to find it bare except for some spare rolls of toilet paper. No hairdryer. "Okay, tell you what. You keep working on getting into some dry clothes. I'll be right back."
Those sad, sweet brown eyes widen in alarm, and one trembling hand reaches out as if to hold him back. "Please—" she begins, but forces the rest of her words back down her throat.
Instantly, Edward feels his insides melt. "Oh, little girl..." He takes her hand in both of his, wrapping his long fingers around her delicate little fist. "I'm going to be right back, okay? Ten minutes, tops. Here." He fishes his pocket watch out of his pocket and unhooks the fob, pressing the gold circle into her palm. "You can time me with this, pretty thing. I'll be back soon, I promise you."
"P-promise?" she whispers.
"Pinky promise." He offers her his pinky.
The faintest hint of a smile touches her lips, and she hooks her pinky with his, her touch light and soft.
"There now. Pinky promises are unbreakable. Did you know that?"
She shakes her head slightly, and her glassy eyes shed two more fat tears. "Everybody breaks their p-promises."
"Well, I don't." He squeezes her hand with the watch gently, then rises. "Get dressed, little Bella. You need to warm up."
Leaving her there crying and shivering is one of the most difficult things Edward has ever done, and he really doesn't know how to feel about that. She's a stranger, just a girl he pulled out of harm's way. Now he's in her apartment, going through her things. He's seen her panties—not on her, but in a neat pile on the floor of her so-called bedroom. And he bets she doesn't even know his name. His head reels a little bit as he steps out her front door, holding one of the blankets from the couch. What is it about her? Why hadn't he been able to call 911 and let the hospital deal with her shock? Why is he here? Why can't he walk away?
She's heartbreakingly lovely, yes, with her creamy skin and those big Bambi eyes framed with lush lashes. And her need calls to the doctor in him. But that isn't it; that can't be all of it. There's something about her, something he can't name. It isn't just that she clearly has little-girl tendencies, either, because he's seen many, many other little girls, and none of them affect him this way. Even his last girl, alluring as she was, didn't hold a candle to Miss Bella.
Unable to answer his questions, Edward swears under his breath and then clears his throat, knocking at a door two down from Bella's, where light shines from the front window. After several moments a diminutive Latina opened the door, the sounds of several children laughing and screaming in the background.
Taking a chance, Edward asks, "Perdon por la molestia, pero ¿tienes una secadora de pelo que me puedas prestar?" He adds his best smile, just in case.
The woman smiles back and fetches a hairdryer, and Edward promises to return it promptly. Then he follows dingy signs to the laundry room, where he tosses Bella's blanket in a dryer and inserts several quarters into the slot. Timing his trip on his phone since Bella has his watch, he makes sure not to stay more than ten minutes.
Still, ten minutes is plenty of time to get the blanket nice and hot, and he hurries it back to Bella's apartment before the heat can dissipate. He finds her still on the toilet lid, huddled in on herself and shivering, though she'd managed to change out of her wet things and into her pajamas. She peers up at him when he clears his throat in the doorway, those big brown eyes opening wide.
"What? Did you think I wasn't coming back?"
She shrugs one shoulder and holds out his watch in a pale, trembling hand. "You'd want th-this back."
Not knowing what to say to that since it's true, Edward shakes out the warm blanket and wraps it around her. She makes a surprised little noise as her hands come up to clasp the blanket to her, and she looks at him with awe.
"Oh, come on. Don't tell me your mom never tossed a blanket in the dryer for you?"
"My m-mom left when I was four."
Shit. Way to go. Edward calls himself a million names in his head as he reaches out and gathers Bella in his arms without even asking if she's ready to walk. She hugs herself tightly against him, and he swears he hears a dejected sigh when he lowers her onto the couch.
"I'm sorry," he says honestly, adjusting the blanket so she's cocooned in warmth.
That little half-shrug again. "You didn't know."
Returning to the bathroom, Edward grabs the borrowed hair dryer and what has to be Bella's hairbrush. "This will help you get warmed up in no time," he promises, plugging the dryer in and turning it on. Warm air blows from the duct, and he aims it at Bella's wet hair. Carefully he eases the brush through the sodden snarls, doing his best not to pull.
"I can do that," she argues, though not with any sort of vigor.
"I know you can. But let me?" He watches a little shiver run up her spine. "How do you feel?"
"Stupid." She sniffles. "I didn't do it on purpose. I promise." A frustrated exhale leaves her mouth. "I don't even know your name."
Yeah, he'd thought as much. And he's glad she didn't walk into traffic on purpose. A smile lingers on his face, though he's behind her at the moment and she can't see it. "It's Edward Cullen."
"You look a little young to be a doctor."
"Clean living." He grins. "And I'm just out of residency, sooo..." Her hair is beautiful, and the sweet, fruity smell keeps wafting toward him as he dries it. Delicious.
"W-where do you work?"
"At a family practice across town. I was just on my way to meet my brother and some friends."
She turns in her blanket, wide eyes meeting his. "Then what are you doing here?" She sounds a little horrified at the thought.
"Because you, my dear, are more important." He taps the tip of her nose with his index finger.
A glorious pink color blooms across her cheeks. Oh, that's cute. "You don't even know me," she whispers.
"Yes, I do. Your name is Bella Swan, and you're a very lovely girl in need of some help. What more is there to know?" He smiles softly at her, willing her to understand what he's saying—not that he doesn't want to get to know her better, but that he doesn't need to. Not in order to help her.
"You're awfully nice, Edward Cullen. Or do you prefer Doctor?"
He tilts his head to the side, pretending to consider the question. "Well, since this is an unofficial visit, I think we can dispense with titles. Unless you'd rather stand on courtesy, Miss Swan?"
The barest hint of a smile flickers at the corners of her beautiful mouth. She shakes her head slowly, cheeks still pink. "I like when you call me Bella," she whispers.
"I like it, too." Surprisingly—or not—Edward finds that it's true. He likes the sound of her name in his mouth and the way she shivers ever so slightly when he says it. "Do you want to tell me what happened out there, Bella?"
Instantly the color in her face deepens. It's cherry-red now, and she ducks her head to hide. Gentle but insistent, Edward slips two fingers under her chin and coaxes her head back up. "Hey," he says, "it's okay. I don't want you to be upset. I just want to know what happened."
She sniffles, and when her eyes turn back to him he's surprised to see that they're wet. Fuck. He didn't want to make her cry again.
"I guess I wasn't paying attention," she whispers, and he hates how defeated she sounds. "I didn't do it on purpose."
"I know you didn't walk out into that traffic on purpose," he says, trying to be soothing even as he asks questions he suspects she doesn't want to answer. "But you were out in the nighttime rain in Seattle in just a t-shirt and jeans. Why weren't you wearing a coat?" He glances around the room, cognizant that he had not seen a jacket in her so-called bedroom. "Bella, do you have a coat?"
She shakes her head slowly, staring at the floor. "Jake took it."
"What the hell would your ex want with your jacket?"
"He bought it."
"So?" Anger burns hot in Edward's gut. What kind of asshole takes their ex's jacket when they leave? The bed was bad enough. "What would a man do with a coat as small as yours, anyway?"
Bella's shoulders hitch in a little shrug. "Give it to some other girl?"
"Some other—was he dicking around on you, little one?" Edward can feel by the tension in her body that her asshole ex was, in fact, cheating on her. How long had she known? Frowning, he turns off the hair dryer and sets it aside. This situation is so strange, and he's not quite sure where the boundaries are. Bella seems willing to let him do as he pleases, but he doesn't want to overstep or presume too much. She's damaged, this sweet girl, and he desperately doesn't want to add to her pain. "Oh, Bella. I'm so sorry."
She sniffles again. "D-doesn't matter. I sh-should have known."
She's crying again. That's it. Edward watches for an instant as her hands move, restless, needing comfort but not sure where or how to get it. Though he's worried about the consequences, he can't just sit here and watch her cry anymore. He picks her up, blanket and all, and sits down on the creaky old couch. She fits perfectly in his lap, small and warm, her eyes wide but her body unprotesting. Her hands land on his shoulders, but she doesn't push him away.
"It matters. It matters a lot," he tells her, stroking her hot cheek with a gentle finger. She's warm now, coming out of shock. Physically, she'll be fine if he leaves her. Realistically, he knows he won't. "Little Bella, how long were you with this guy?"
Her lower lip quivers and her head dips. With the gentlest touch, Edward guides her to his shoulder. She rests her head there, and he feels the warm moisture of her tears against his shirt. "A long time," she whispers. "Four years."
"Since you were twenty?"
She nods against him.
Twenty. Twenty-year-olds are practically still kids. Edward wants to curse. One wrong guy and she's fucked up for years, just because she's quiet and loyal. He can see it in her now—how gentle she is, how she dislikes conflict. The wrong guy could utterly ruin a girl like her.
"When did he leave?" he asks, perversely seeking information even though he knows it's only going to make him angrier. This Jacob guy is gonna be fucked if Edward ever meets him.
"A few weeks," Bella says with a shrug. "I still have about a week and a half left."
"A week and a half left for what?"
"Here." She nods at the dilapidated old apartment.
"You mean..." Edward knew he'd get mad, but not this mad. Had the fucker really just left a girl like this alone with no place to go? "Do you work, Bella?"
She shakes her head. "Jacob didn't want me to."
"So you have no income?"
Her head shakes again. "I was delivering an application when you...saved me."
Saved her. Huh. Guess he did. Not that he thinks of it that way. A small smile curves his mouth, despite his anger at the Jacob kid. "Bella, sweet one, I have a feeling you're in need of a fairy godfather."
"Don't you mean godmother?"
He chuckles. "Maybe some girls get fairy godmothers, but I'm afraid you'll have to accept the aid of the male of the species. If that's all right with you?"
She tips her head up to look at him. "I don't understand. Why are you doing this?"
It's a reasonable question. "Because I want to," he answers, which is the truth, as far as it goes. "Now, will you humor me, please? I want you to rest tonight, go to sleep early. I'll be back tomorrow after work and we'll see what's to be done then."
Her face falls, and he hates the look of desolation he sees in those beautiful brown eyes. "You mean you're leaving?"
"For now, little one. Just for now." He fishes his pocket watch out of his pocket again and hands it back to her. "You keep that, okay? It's a promise that I'll be back."
"I don't want you to go."
"I know." He slips his arms around her compact little body, allowing himself a gentle hug. She feels too good in his arms. "But fairy godfather magic, unfortunately, isn't instantaneous. We have to do some planning. You rest, and tomorrow we'll talk some more."
"Pinky promise?" She holds out her hand, little pinky finger crooked.
Edward smiles. "Pinky promise."
A/N: I don't have a posting schedule for this one. Just as it comes to me. Thank you to all my awesome readers and reviewers!