Title: Stay with Me
Summary: A third party's encounter with the Masens' and their fight with the Spanish Influenza. Pre-Twilight, set in 1918 Chicago.
Spoilers: None, by now almost everyone is familiar with the circumstances in which Edward was changed
Disclaimer: I just took them down to play with, but they're Stephanie Meyer's.
Author's Notes: My first Twilight fic, I've decided to branch out since being bitten. Not beta-ed, I just wrote it on a spur of the moment. I did research the Spanish Flu and most of it is accurate, but I did use a dramatic license to tweak things. I hope you enjoy and do remember to leave a review, that's the only way I can find areas in need of improvement!
Stay with Me
It was just after sunset when I walked into the ward and the overpowering stench of disease hit me. I had been trained to deal with the assaulting odors of the dying, but I had never gotten used to it. I could feel the rough cloth of the face mask that was providing a meager barrier against the deadly microbes of the Spanish Flu. I had been lucky so far, several doctors and nurses had caught the virus from tending to patients. I feared that I would be added to that list soon. The ward was anything but quiet with those too far gone drowning from inside, and those with enough strength trying to cough out the infected fluids. Beds had been shoved into every available space to accommodate the growing number of infected people. The turnover rate was fairly high as most people died after only a couple of days
Out of nervous habit I smoothed down my starched apron and walked to the head nurse sitting at the desk at the end of the ward. Five patients had died during the day but the beds were quickly filled with new patients. Also the supply train had been delayed so the Morphine was being rationed until the new shipment arrived. There wasn't much you could do to treat them, there were just too many of them. The focus had shifted to keeping the patients comfortable and keeping the virus from spreading.
The day nurse handed me her clipboard and left me to take her seat for the night. I took inventory of what supplies were left and started making my way through the packed ward. An elderly couple had died in brief time between shift changes. Orderlies were called who quickly took the bodies to the morgue and changed the bedding. Two more patients were brought in and the beds were filled once again. I quickly added their names to the ward roster; Elizabeth Masen and Edward Masen Jr. Masen. That name sounded familiar so I checked the roster, an Edward Masen was one of the five people that had died during the day. This must be his wife and son, poor things.
The two people, still in their day clothes, had not been properly put to bed. I walked over to the mother to help get her settled.
"Ma'am?" I called out to her.
"Yes?" her voice sounded like a bow being drawn across the violin, unaltered by violent coughing.
"Let me help you get tucked in," I moved to grab her suitcase that had been placed under the iron bed but I felt her hand stop me.
"Nurse…?" her eyes were a brilliant green.
"Marie, my name is Marie."
"Could you please help my son first?"
Her lips turned up into a crooked, yet sweet smile. I turned to help her son who couldn't have been more than sixteen or seventeen. Just looking at him I could tell that he was worse off than his mother. The coughing and the fever had already started to take a hold over him, glassing his vivid green eyes over. I felt those green eyes staring at me as I quickly pulled his pajamas from his suitcase.
"Can you sit up for me?" things went a lot easier when the patient was still coherent.
"Yes," his voice was weak but velvety smooth.
The poor boy was able to push himself up halfway, but I was able to pull him the rest of the way up. I could hear him gasp softly as I maneuvered his aching arms out of his day shirt and into the pajama top. He seemed spent so I lowered him back down to the bed and removed his shoes and discretely exchanged his trousers for the rest of the pajama set.
"There you go, just get some rest and you'll be feeling better soon," I pulled up the blankets and tucked him in.
"Thank you, Marie," he coughed.
"If you need anything, please ask."
I briefly caught his nod before turning to help his mother. I knew I shouldn't get attached to these people; they would probably die in a few short days.
"Thank you, Nurse Marie. He's all I have left."
"I'm very sorry ma'am," she was easier to help into her night clothes. "Please let me know if I can do anything."
"You're such a sweet girl. You shouldn't be here."
I smiled before going about tending to the other patients in the ward. The boy, I could hardly call him a boy for he was probably only a few years younger than me, reminded me of my brother. He had been on one of the first deployments to Europe while I had been sent to nursing school, and had been killed in action right before I had finished. I was supposed to have been posted to a Red Cross hospital ship, but my posting had been changed to Chicago to help with Spanish Influenza outbreak.
Enough time for reminiscing, I had work to do. I had only made my way to a few more patients when the night doctor walked into the ward. It didn't surprise me that Dr. Cullen was working tonight; I don't think I'd ever seen him during the day. He was as handsome as they came with silken blonde hair, and his eyes were a brilliant topaz. He was brave for not wearing a mask like the rest of the staff, yet he had not been infected. I believe he said that he had some sort of immunity to it, but no one really understood. He would smile and everyone would forget what they had been thinking.
"Nurse Marie, how are things tonight?" his voice sounded musical.
"As well as they could be, five were lost during the day and two tonight already. Two new people came in only a little while ago, the Masens. The supply train has been delayed so the Morphine is being rationed again."
"Hopefully this will end soon."
"I pray that it will, here is the roster for tonight," I handed him the clipboard on the desk.
"Thank you; I will be making my rounds if you need anything."
I continued making sure that the patients were comfortable and their needs cared for but I noticed that Dr. Cullen went to the new patients first. A few minutes later there was a moan coming from across the room followed by people frantically calling for help. I looked over and saw a man covered in blood, he was hemorrhaging.
"Dr. Cullen!" I yelled but he was already at the man's side.
We quickly rolled the man onto his side to keep him from choking on the blood. Dr. Cullen started shouting orders and I quickly obeyed. Everything I did was trained reflex, from the way I handled the instruments to the way I soothingly held the man's hand when there was nothing else we could do. It didn't take much longer for the man to pass, relieved from his pain. The body and the soiled bedding were removed and the bed was scrubbed down, removing any traces of the man's violent death. It was times like these when I felt helpless.
"There was nothing we could do," I felt the iciness seep through my clothing as Dr. Cullen briefly put his hand on my shoulder. "There are other people we can help."
"Of course, Doctor," I nodded, going back to work like always.
It was well into the night and most of the patients were fitfully sleeping. The small desk lamp illuminated the paperwork I was doing in the darkened ward. Movement at the end of the ward caught my eye; it looked like someone was getting up. I got up to investigate.
Mrs. Masen had moved to sit on the little stool next to her son's bed. I turned on the small lamp on the bedside table.
"Mrs. Masen, can I help you?"
"It's Edward, he's burning up," her eyes pleaded.
"I'll be right back," I didn't have to take the boy's temperature to tell that it was rising; he was writhing in delirium from the fever.
I filled a basin with tepid water and grabbed a clean cloth.
"Thank you," the woman reached for the basin.
"Ma'am, please let me do it. You need to rest yourself," she reluctantly gave up and I helped her back to bed.
There was a glistening sheen across his face. I dipped the cloth into the warm water, carefully wringing it out. He moaned softly and turned his face to me when the cloth touched his fiery skin. This scene reminded me of taking care of my brother when he was sick; it always broke my heart to see him in pain. He'd always said I'd be a great nurse.
"Shhh, you're alright," I tried to soothe him.
"Marie?" I could feel his brilliant green eyes boring into my soul.
"Yes?" I continued to bathe his face.
"Who do I remind you of?"
"What makes you think that?" was I that transparent?
"I'm really good at reading people," he tried to smile but it wound up being crooked.
"Is he gone?"
"Yes, he died in Europe," I tried to control my shaky voice.
"I'm sorry. I wish I could have been a soldier too."
"You should not want that, many men have been killed."
"Many people have died here too."
I didn't know how respond, "Just rest, you will feel better if you rest."
His eyes did not leave me as I rewetted the cloth and kept bathing his face. I carefully pulled down the blankets and opened up his pajama top. There was a layer of sweat on his chest so I began bathing it as well. It seemed soothing since his eyes were getting heavier and heavier until they closed. I studied his features more closely; his hair was an unusual shade of bronze. Had he not been deathly white, he would have been a very handsome man. He would have made a girl extremely happy; it was sad to see his future lost. A soft coughing close by broke my concentration. I finished quickly, and went to the neighboring bed to see what was wrong. Mrs. Masen had begun coughing so I fetched an extra pillow, which seemed to help some.
By then several other patients had awoken in need of water or some other assistance. A woman had died during the night so I called the orderlies to take her to the morgue and disinfect the bed. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Dr. Cullen sit on the little stool between the Masens. He stayed there for a while with them while I went about my duties, performing the same routine.
I felt a shimmer of relief pass through me as the first rays of sunlight filtered through the covered windows. One more check on the patients before surrendering the ward to the day nurse. I went in the opposite order I normally went in, hoping to have more time with the Masens. I did not want to leave; they could be gone by the time I returned that night.
Edward was already awake and coughing violently; his green eyes were still stunning even though he was getting weaker. I doubted that he would last much longer.
"Let's sit you up," he grimaced as I pulled him into a sitting position letting him rest against my shoulder.
I reached behind him and firmly pounded his back trying to loosen up some of the fluids building in his lungs. He was able to bring some of the fluids up before becoming exhausted.
"I bet that feels a little better?"
"Yes, thank you," he voice sounded broken.
"Can I get you something to eat? I can have soup sent for."
He shook his head; it was rare that anyone ever felt like eating around here.
"How about some water? I'm sure you are thirsty," I was already pouring a glass of water from the bedside pitcher.
I didn't give him time to answer before lifting his head and helping him drink half of the water. We were told in nursing school that there always hope as long as the person could eat or drink.
"Are you in pain?" I had noticed him trying to conceal grimaces as he was moved around.
"No ma'am," he deftly lied.
"Please Edward; we cannot help you feel better if you do not tell us."
"Thank you. That was not so hard was it? I'll talk to Dr. Cullen when he comes in and see if we cannot give you something. Just rest, it won't be too long."
He nodded before closing his green eyes. I felt another pair of eyes staring at me so I turned around to Mrs. Masen.
"How is he?" her voice sounded rougher also.
"He is in some pain, but hopefully not for much longer."
"You are very good to him. I know there is not much you can do."
I saw my brother's face flash before my eyes. I wondered if he had a nurse who comforted him in his final hours or left on some battle field to die alone.
"I'd like to think that someone took care of my brother as he…" I couldn't say that he had died, not to this boy's mother.
"It's okay, I understand."
Her eyes shifted focus to something behind me, and when I turned around Dr. Cullen was standing there.
"Nurse Marie," his eyes showed no hint exhaustion.
"Doctor, I was waiting for you to return," I stood up out of Mrs. Masen's hearing.
"What can I help you with?" we walked further away.
"Edward is in pain, could we give him some Morphine?" the last vials of the drug were being guarded closely.
"Of course. Did they have a peaceful night?"
"Mostly, Edward's fever has risen and his cough is getting worse. Mrs. Masen's illness is also progressing, but not as much as her son's."
Dr. Cullen only nodded before leaving to retrieve the Morphine. He seemed saddened by the Masens' deterioration. I don't recall him ever being attached to any patients in my time knowing him, but there was something about this mother and her son I could not put my finger on. He returned shortly with the vial and I prepared the injection. Edward groaned as we rolled him onto his side, but the large dose had to go into a large muscle. He groaned again as I pushed the plunger, sending the thick liquid into his thigh. We set him down gently, and I tucked the blankets around him tightly. The medicine acted quickly, spreading relief throughout his body.
I saw the day nurse enter the ward and check the roster awaiting her on the small desk. It was the time I had been dreading. As much as I wanted their suffering to be over, I couldn't bear to see them die.
"Don't worry Marie, we will still be here," I heard Edward say, I must be more careful around him.
"Good, I want you feeling better by the time I return," I played along.
Dr. Cullen stayed with them while I gave report to the day nurse. Apparently I would have to return early since a few nurses had gotten sick and a new batch of nurses was supposed to arrive in the afternoon. I was going to say goodbye but Dr. Cullen was still sitting with them so I kept going.
Time had moved agonizingly slow at my small apartment the hospital had provided. It was only the afternoon, a while before my real shift started. When I arrived I found out that one of the sick nurses had already died. I smoothed down my apron and adjusted my mask before walking into the ward. I looked over to my right, they were still there. I didn't realize that I had been holding my breath. The day nurse looked exhausted when I went over; ten had died and several more were not expected to last much longer. The new batch of nurses had arrived, and we were supposed to be getting three assigned to this ward. I tried not to seem impatient, but I really wanted to see the Masens.
"Why don't you go check on the Masens? I don't think it'll be much longer, Mrs. Masen has been out of bed quite frequently tending to her son," the day nurse caught me off guard and my heart sank.
I nodded. I knew that they were more than likely going to die, but still, they were one of few who had the strength to beat the virus. Luckily the little stool between their beds had not been moved. Mrs. Masen looked worse, her eyes moved rapidly under her dark lids and bronze curls clung to her sweating face. I could hear her chest rattle as her lungs struggled to pull in oxygen.
Edward did not look any better either with blue tinted lips. His bronze hair was matted with sweat and his muscles spasmed from the lack of oxygen. I could tell that his hand was about to close in anticipation of the oncoming pain, so I nimbly grabbed onto his hand. His skin was on fire, raging with fever. His hand closed around mine.
"Marie?" I heard him whisper, his green eyes were dull and tired.
"I'm here Edward," I moved closer to be in his eyesight.
"It hurts," his brave façade had come crashing down.
"I know. You have to be strong."
"You have nothing to be afraid of Edward, I'm right here."
"Stay with me," he pleaded.
"I'm not going to leave you."
Someone had left a basin of water and a cloth on the small table so I started bathing his face with the cool water. Three nurses walked in and stopped to stare at the sight of all the dying people. Nursing school had no way to prepare anyone for this. The day nurse immediately put them to work before they could run away. Selfishly, I knew that I could stay with Edward with them being here.
I noticed that his other hand was clutched around a small leather bound book. I reached over and grasped the worn leather. It was a collection of short stories; I opened the book to the marked page and began reading. I felt his hand relax under mine and I noticed his eyes had closed again.
I didn't notice the time pass until I felt an icy hand on my shoulder.
"Yes Dr. Cullen," I turned around but did not rise.
"Why don't you go take a break? I've heard you've been here since this afternoon."
I wanted to resist but there was something in his topaz eyes that made me stand up, letting go of Edward's hand.
"Marie?" he had felt the connection break.
"I'm right here Edward, Dr. Cullen is here now. I'll be back soon, I promise."
He nodded without opening his eyes. I put the book back in his hand and went to the desk in the middle of the ward. I was helping one of the other nurses when I noticed that Dr. Cullen had taken my seat and Mrs. Masen was holding onto his icy hands. I discretely went to 'help' a patient within hearing distance.
"Save him!" I heard her shout hoarsely.
"I'll do everything in my power."
"You must do everything in your power. What others cannot do, that is what you must do for my Edward."
I wanted to return but Dr. Cullen showed no intentions of moving from his position. He sat there for nearly an hour without moving a single muscle. When he made a movement, I knew she had died. I stopped what I was doing and watched as he pulled the sheet over her head. He personally took her body to the morgue. While he was gone I snuck over to see Edward, but he was too far gone to realize that I was there. There was a gurgling noise every time he sucked in a breath; his lungs were almost full of blood. He only had hours left. I gave his hand one last squeeze before leaving when Dr. Cullen returned.
There was shouting at the end of the ward as one of the new nurses was trying to staunch a man's hemorrhaging nose. We were able to stop the flow of blood, but the man had lost too much and died.
I walked over to Edward's bed. It was empty. Did he die so suddenly? Was he alone at the end? I promised him I would be there. I promised him! Even his personal items were gone from underneath the bed. I walked out of the ward but there were only doctors and nurses running about. I never got to say goodbye. A little leather bound book was resting on the nurse's desk. It was Edward's book of short stories; I quickly pocketed the little book and ran outside.
The first stars of the night were beginning to twinkle, but all I felt was failure. I wasn't there for him in his hour of need; he had died alone and scared. I promised him. There was some movement on nearby roofs, likely it was a cat escaping from its home.
The rest of the days at the hospital were passed mindlessly. I had rebuilt the wall that kept me shielded from getting attached to patients quickly, not wanting to feel the pain ever again. I had returned to my apartment for the day, to start the never ending cycle over. I sat down to read from Edward's book and noticed a piece of folded paper lying on top of it. I carefully unfolded the paper and read the beautiful penmanship. Thank you for staying with me.
A/N: I hope you guys enjoyed...please leave a review...you know, that 'Submit Review' button thingy that's not far from this note...thanks!