A/N: hello everyone, long time no see! here's another Twilight piece. it takes place in the summer between Twilight and New Moon, so very minor spoilers for Twilight. happy reading - reviews are LOVE!
I laid in my bed in this hazy stage between sleep and wakefulness, snuggling into the covers to get warm, hoping to be carried away, back into slumber. Unfortunately, consciousness had other plans for me as it threw itself upon me mercilessly, sending slumber away. I opened my eyes and groaned – or tried to – when I discovered that the funny lump in my throat had not disappeared as I hoped. In fact, I felt even more horrible now than I did when I finally managed to fall asleep last night. I frowned, slowly sitting up, closing my eyes against sudden dizziness. This was very much like me, getting sick in the middle of the summer vacation.
Not that it was so much of a summer, up here in Forks. It was the beginning of August and it was pouring with rain outside. Sunny days were few, even during the summer. Although I sort of got used to it by now, a small part of me kept hoping that some day I'd wake up to a perfect sunny day.
Raising my arm to remove the hair out of my face, I wondered what time it was. As if to answer my silent question, the door opened a crack and Charlie's head carefully peeked in. He seemed surprised and relieved to see me awake. "Hey, you're up."
I nodded, feeling the dizziness evaporating. "Come in."
He didn't need further invitations. He came to sit on the edge of my bed. "How are you feeling, honey?"
"Honestly? Pretty crap." I didn't mind speaking like that in front of my dad. There was no other way to describe the way I felt.
He nodded in sympathy, taking in my appearance. He reached over and felt my forehead. "Still warm. Maybe I should stay with you."
"No way, dad, you can't take another day off," I protested. He'd already stayed with me yesterday, which was completely unnecessary. There wasn't much he could do to help. If anything, I was now scared he caught my flu. I flashed what I hoped was a reassuring smile at him. "I'll be fine. I just need some rest."
Charlie looked hesitant. "Well, I guess I could stop by during lunchtime to check on you," he said slowly. "Try to stay in bed though, okay? No wandering around the house."
I laughed bitterly. "I don't think you have to worry about that, dad."
He hesitated again, but then asked, "The Cullens are still out of town?"
In spite of my rather lame condition, my heart made a little involuntary flatter at the mention of their name. "Yup, still camping." Lying came easily, even under my sickness' daze.
"They're camping so often. How come they never invite you to join them?"
I groaned inwardly. Now of all times, he was getting suspicious. Not that I could blame him. A small smile crept on my lips as his image rose in front of my eyes, pale, beautiful, perfect, mine. In the past few months, except for those days every few weeks when he had to go hunting, Edward Cullen and I were inseparable, and Charlie knew it damn well. I forced his image away with reluctance. "Oh, they do. But you know how I am with hiking; I would only keep them off."
My lie seemed to have the desired affect. Charlie did know me as well as that. He nodded and got up. "Right, I'll be off then," he said, leaning over to kiss the top of my head. He always did that when I was sick, and only then. But even when he pulled away, he still looked worried.
"Dad, I'll be fine, just go," I insisted. I wasn't sure if he bought it, but he left my room then, shutting the door slowly behind him. A few minutes later, I heard the familiar noise of the cruiser as it pulled out of the driveway. And then I was surrounded by silence.
I went out of bed carefully, leaving my room for a quick bathroom-and-kitchen round. I grabbed some painkiller out of the cupboard. Then, holding on to the banister as if my life depended on it and balancing a tea mug in my other hand, I went back up. I didn't want to push my luck. I was done with serious injuries for the near future, I hoped. They only took off my cast a few weeks ago.
I hadn't done a lot during the day. Going back to sleep was easy, with the amount of medication I was on. I dozed off through most of the day. I think Charlie stopped by at some point to check on me, but my eyes were so heavy I couldn't bring myself to open them and make sure. But then at some point, I guess it was late afternoon, I couldn't sleep anymore. I snuggled under the covers as a shiver went through me. I think it woke me up; I couldn't get warm. The idea of a shower was getting more and more tempting. I wasn't supposed to leave my bed; I'd promised Charlie, but what if it would make me feel better?
I sat up carefully, fighting dizziness once more. I only got up when I felt stable enough; I didn't want to risk losing consciousness when no one was home. I slowly padded towards the bathroom, using the walls as support.
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I caught sight of my reflection in the mirror above the sink. I looked like hell. My skin looked paler, my hair in tangles. I finger-combed it as I waited for the water to get warmer. Might as well wash it, I thought.
I stood beneath the water stream for as long as I could, until their coldness shocked me. I was shivering violently when I got dressed, as fast as my chattering teeth allowed me, and yet in spite of that, I actually felt better. The sweats I chose were soft from the inside, the hoodie twice my size. I pulled a pair of Charlie's socks on. They were thicker than any of mine, and would surely keep me warm. Halfway back to my room I stopped, debating whether or not to get myself some more tea. Although I wasn't hungry, I probably should eat something. It still felt as if there was a fire down my throat. It hurt like hell when I tried to swallow. I grumbled to myself when I pushed my door open. I hated being sick.
And then the grumble turned into a gasp, which soon turned into a violent cough.
For on the rocking chair at the corner of my room sat the one person I wanted to see most in the world, the one person I missed like crazy in the last couple of days. His face, achingly beautiful as I remembered, lit up as my eyes met his. He seemed like he wanted to stand up, but for once I was ahead of him with my reactions. Sick as I was, I plunged myself towards him and somehow managed to land securely on his lap. He let out a soft, surprised laughter, one that I'd never heard before. I felt his arms snake around my waist, steadying me, as I wrapped my own arms around his neck and stared into his eyes. Golden today, not dark amber.
"I leave you for one week, and you manage to catch a cold," he scolded me, his expression a cross of reproach and amusement. I wasn't sure if he guessed it from the way I looked, or if Alice had told him, which was why he was there in my room.
Ignoring his comment, I snuggled closer to his chest, my head fits perfectly into the crook of his stone-like neck. He leaned his chin against the top of my head, and I could feel the way he was breathing me in. I was doing the same, letting his scent wash over me, reveling at his closeness.
He ran his fingers gently through my hair, which was still wet, I suddenly remembered, and looked up frantically. He shook his head in reply to my silent question, as if to remind me he'd spent the last few days hunting. It seemed that even my damp hair wouldn't distract him now.
He readjusted our positions a bit. The unnatural coldness sipped through his light jacket, making me shiver in spite of myself. He understood it before I even had a chance to say anything. He swept me into his arms effortlessly as he stood up, and then carried me back to bed. I watched him closely as he tucked me in and then leaned against the bed-board, carefully pulling me back to the circle of his arms. We hardly said two words to one another yet, but somehow it wasn't necessary. I just wanted to feel him close.
"Is there anything I can get you?" he murmured into my hair, his voice velvet.
I turned to face him. He looked concerned but at ease. I wondered how he couldn't guess what it was I wanted, how was it possible that he didn't want it too. I leaned closer and touched my lips with his briefly before I remembered something and pulled away. "You don't… get sick, do you?"
His reply was a snort. Yeah. I should have guessed.
"Okay then," I smiled, but this time his lips met mine halfway with mutual intention. As always, his touch was light, careful, as if he was afraid to hurt me. But this was not what I needed after all these days away from him. I struggled to turn and press myself against him, brushing my lips more fiercely against his. For a moment, it still felt as if he was trying to hold back, but soon afterwards I knew I won. He buried his hands in my hair, pulling my face impossibly closer, as our lips collided against one another.
Surprisingly, it was me who broke the kiss first. I couldn't breathe, and this stupid cold didn't help, either. I pulled away abruptly as a violent cough shook me. It took me a few moments to pull myself together.
"I'm… sorry…" I breathed, still gasping for air.
"It's alright," he replied calmly. "I should have stopped it earlier, it's just… it's been a few days, I always forget how good it can get," he admitted, looking sheepish. Then, as if to spare the embarrassment from himself, he brushed my hair away from my face. "Is there anything else I can get you?"
"A cup of tea will be nice," I admitted, and added with a tiny grin, "If you think you can handle that."
"Coming right up," he smiled in reply as he climbed out of my bed. Of course, he was out of my room before I even managed to blink. I stretched my legs under the blankets and then pressed them against my chest, leaning against the bed-board. I barely managed to get my breathing under control when he got back, placing a steaming mug on the nightstand with unusual care. He caught sight of something on my nightstand and his beautiful face wrinkled with confusion. "The Thorn Birds?"
"You've got something against The Thorn Birds?" I asked, defensiveness instinctively sneaking into my voice. People knew better than insulting that novel in front of me.
"I just assumed you were more into classics," he replied even, taking the book with him as he resumed his place on the bed behind me. It was a tattered copy, its cover more yellow than orange from constant leafing, the golden letters of its title faded.
"It is a classic," I pointed out, jokingly snatching it from him as if to protect it. "It's my comfort read."
Now he looked amused. "Just how many times have you read it?"
I laughed softly, feeling my cheeks flush. "Way too many times, according to my mom." A sudden pang of yearning hit me full force as I was thinking about Renée. I blinked, trying to snap out of it, when I realized Edward was staring at me, a small smile still curling on his lips. "What?"
"I just realized… how much I still don't know about you," he said, lacing his fingers with mine.
I gently squeezed my hand around his in reply. "Don't worry. We've got all summer."
He opened his mouth to reply, but then he tensed, and I knew before he spoke what it meant. I looked over my shoulder to give him a persistent look. "Stay," I pleaded.
He slowly released his grip on my hand, and brushed his now free fingers against my cheek. "I'm not going anywhere," he promised, but got up, heading for my window. "Not for long, anyway," he added, and disappeared just when I heard the front door being shut. I could hear Charlie rummaging through the ground floor, probably taking his coat off and fixing his dinner. Then the stairs creaked, and I realized he was on his way to see me. I snatched the book again and opened it at random, trying to look busy. I hoped it looked as if I was absorbed in reading when he poked his head in.
"Hey Bells, how are you feeling?"
"Better," I assured him, feeling my lips curl in an involuntary smile. I was better. Edward was home.
Charlie's disproving look implied I looked far from better. Then his eyes darted from me to my bedside. My eyes followed his, catching sight of the tea Edward had just made for me. Shoot. "You went downstairs?"
"Only for a few minutes. I needed something to take the painkillers with," I improvised quickly. "I'm going crazy up here," I said, pouting, hoping my additional explanation was more believable.
"I know, honey, but you really should stay in bed," Charlie said. "You should eat something though. How about I'll get you some soup?"
Knowing him, it would be an instant chicken soup or something of the sort, but I was touched that he would think of me enough to stop and get it on his way back from work. We didn't have that kind of stuff at home on a daily basis. "Sure, that'll be great, dad."
I combed my hair hastily while I was waiting for Charlie to come back. It was almost dry now, and I was pondering whether or not to braid it when I suddenly heard the doorbell. A smile crawled on my lips; I finally realized what Edward was up to, sneaking out so hastily. There was an undecipherable dialogue from downstairs, and then the stairs creaked again as someone made his way up.
"Bella, honey, you have a guest," Charlie half-announced, sidling to let Edward through. I hoped I looked surprised, remembering I wasn't supposed to see him for the last few days. I guess it looked convincing enough, for Charlie looked proud of himself. The very fact he let Edward up to my room was rather amazing; if anything, it showed how worried he was about me. If he knew about Edward's nightly visits he would have killed him… well, figuratively, at least.
Edward said something to Charlie, so quietly that it escaped me. Charlie nodded and placed the bowl of soup in his hands. He gave me one more look, but then quickly excused himself, leaving us alone.
I watched Edward as he approached me and slowly passed the bowl to me. "What, you're not going to feed it to me?" I teased, picking up the spoon. His expression was a combination of horror and disgust. I laughed softly. "I guess it's not as appetizing as mountain lions or grisly bears, is it?"
He sat across from me, cross-legged on my bed, and he was leafing through my book as I ate. Luckily, no one could do wrong with a chicken soup, not even Charlie. It tasted pretty good. I answered Edward's questions about the book, about what I'd been up to in the last few days, about what I'd want to do once I was better. I noticed how he kept his distance, as if he was afraid Charlie would walk in on us, which was ridiculous, for he could predict Charlie's every move. I didn't question it though, because from the moment I set the bawl on my nightstand, he didn't let go of my hand. That was good enough for me.
This was how Charlie found us about two hours later, hands joined, heads close together, speaking quietly. He cleared his throat, evidently uncomfortable. "I'm afraid it's bed time for Bella, Edward. She needs to keep her strength." His voice was dripping with authority. I held back a smile.
"Of course, Chief Swan," replied Edward, his tone matching Charlie's. Standing up, he leaned over to place a small kiss against my forehead.
"Be back soon," I whispered, hoping Charlie didn't notice.
"Don't I always," he whispered back, and then, louder, "I'll call tomorrow to check on you. Get some rest," he added, brushing his icy fingers across my cheek.
And as I listened to them go downstairs, and the door being shut behind Edward, as I waited for him to climb back up through my window after Charlie would fall asleep, as I closed my eyes and tried to get some sleep until he was back, it suddenly dawned on me how incredibly wrong I was. We didn't have all summer. We had much, much more than that. We had all eternity… until forever.