Disclaimer: Twilight and all characters belong to S.M.
Thanks to Cold Comfort and xochina for kicking this chapter into gear. I always appreciate the effort!
"I have to get her out, Esme."
Carlisle's wife squeezed his shoulder, and he melted into it.
"When will she be transferred to your care completely?" Esme paused, her thoughts of concern etched deeply on her face. "It's obvious Dr. Smith won't let you near her until you're her legal guardian."
"I don't know," Carlisle sighed. "I don't know, damn it!" Carlisle slammed his fist down on the table, raising it to repeat the movement when Esme's hand covered his own.
He wasn't used to feeling helpless. In all his existence, there was rarely a time when he was unable to get something done. But Bella, this helpless human girl he had already fallen in love with, felt like she was one of their own already. She – well, she was indeed a challenge, and not just in terms of getting her care transferred. Her case, medically, was already proving difficult.
"When I go in tomorrow morning I'll be visiting the office to see if I can figure out what the hold up is."
"Carlisle," Esme began. He recognized her soft sigh and knew what was coming. "We'll get her out of there. We'll figure something out."
"She's right." A light, airy voice floated into the dining room, and Carlisle looked up to see his tiny, raven-haired Alice standing at the threshold of the room.
"I see it," she continued. "I see Bella here, with us."
It's been minutes. It's been hours. It's been days. I think. Time stretches onwards, no end in sight, no clear beginning. It's been… a long time since I've last seen my stranger. Since I was so roughly ripped form the gentle arms of safety, parental safety. Since then, I've been locked in a drug-induced haze – a prison. The swollen gash on my forehead has crusted over into a stiff reminder of something I so desperately want to forget.
Strangely enough, I haven't seen Dr. Smith since he tore me from the only source of pleasure I've experienced in years - my only source of hope. It's like I've been quarantined, isolated from everyone else, as if this was an infection disease ravaging my body. As if I hallucinated my stranger and his wife. As if just being in my presence would somehow cause a similar hallucinatory state of happiness. God forbid the patients are happy.
My heavy eyes roll towards the window. I don't see sunlight and I hazard a guess that it's nighttime. My wing of the hospital is quiet. We are all drugged or asleep. And dying. We are all slowly dying.
I think I hear angels. I know I see them. The woman standing in front of me glows in the dim light that filters through my window. Her luxurious, blonde hair cascades down a shoulder, and her perfectly shaped face is peaceful and unmarred.
Her voice attempts to reach me through the thick cotton that fills my head. I can't understand what she says but can't help but to be lulled by her sweet voice into a state of relaxation without worry.
Gentle hands remove the leather bonds that hold me down, trapping me to my bed. Other hands, less feminine but just as tender, cradle my body. I don't find the urge to fight them off. Instead, I sink deeper into them, into the arms that support me. My eyes droop and I fiercely fight to keep them open. Short, icy-blonde hair and a familiar face catch my uncooperative eyes.
My stranger. Carlisle.
I try to reach out to him, but my arms flop ungracefully against the chest of whoever is holding me.
I must have caught his attention as he pauses for a brief moment and in a familiar gesture, strokes my cheek with a warm smile. I open my mouth to cry out to him, but I choke on my thick, dry tongue.
He hushes me. It's music. The sweet, harmonious melody quiets me instantly, enveloping me in its saccharine timbre. "You're safe now."
I grow woozy, drunk, as his cool breath hits my face. I sink deeper into his arms, my legs swaying slightly as we move – forward I'm guessing.
"Is the paperwork done, Carlisle?"
A deep rumbling, like a growl, erupts from beneath my ear and I squeeze my eyes shut. The rocking is no longer soothing, and I dig my nails into the palms of my hands. Panic wells; it boils up and threatens to spill over. My recent dose has yet to kick in. The residual sedatives in my blood dampen it, but the blow is still staggering. I'm out of control.
"Carlisle." There is an edge to the voice now. Panic, anxiety, pain.
I'm frightened. I'm thrown into my past. Clammy hands are on my legs. Thick fingers are in my mouth. Needles. Leather straps; I am bound and unable to move.
"I need to – ," The voice speaks again.
"Rosalie, take her. Edward, go."
I'm nearly dropped into the new set of arms, trembling against their hardness.
A recognizable rush of now-euphoric numbness rushes through me as my nightly meds kick in. I'm sliding against leather, and I recognize the sound of a car engine as I'm cradled into someone's side.
"Rest now, " she says.
We move quickly, but I manage to catch glimpses of the outside world. I'm surprised to see it's not quite evening, but rather the sky has settled into a subdued explosion of cool colors, indicative of twilight.
My eyes flutter closed for what I believe to be only briefly, but when they open, I see we've pulled in front of a large, modern house. I lose minutes in between each blink, like a strobe light in slow motion.
I'm lowered onto a bed, a real bed with a mattress made for comfort, and smooth sheets. I nearly groan in pleasure as the cool fabric encompass my body. Finally, feeling truly safe, I sleep.
The ticking permeates my brain like an itch I can't scratch. The fog of sedation has lifted, but I feel strange, unlike previous times when the drug has worn off.
The clock tattoos a rhythm of annoyance in my head and I curl sideways, eager to remove myself from the sound.
I partially manage to drown out the sound, flashes of pain running throughout my body with each throb of my heart as I struggle to silence the noise.
My stranger is here, and his cool hands lift me into a sitting position while I vigorously work to open my eyes. I finally do. My stranger is blurry, hazy, obscured behind a fuzzy film. But his good looks are there nonetheless.
" Hurts." The word tumbling from my lips feels foreign. He hushes me gently and brings a glass of water to my lips. I greedily gulp down the liquid, unaware of how parched my throat is.
"We are weaning you off the medications. Your body is adjusting."
He lowers me back onto the pillows. "On more hurdle, sweetheart."
My mind keeps repeating that. A hurdle. Just one more.
I'm awake again. My body tenses, expecting the painful sensation of the ticking clock, but oddly enough, it never comes.
The clarity with which I function astounds me. I can breathe. I can feel and move unrestricted. I can sense.
The room is still, quiet, peaceful. The silence is welcoming, unlike the unnatural silence at the hospital. The stillness is accompanied by a darkness that seems to pervade from outside the curtained window. I feel strangely safe, cocooned in this room. A plush, overstuffed chair fills the opposite corner of the room next to a small and elegant desk both in hues of blue and cream.
I suddenly remember who this room belongs to. My stranger. I grasp at crumbs of memories of the past events – arms, more golden hair, a beautiful voice, st - .
My heart pounds in my chest, partially from being caught off guard and partially from the sound of the voice.
My stranger walks into my room balancing a tray in his arms, with his angelic wife at his side. My heart clenches as I realize how paternal their actions are and how much I yearn to be a child in their arms.
Their movements are slow, calculated, testing, as if they're waiting for me to snap. But their presence brings me joy. I smile at them.
Esme glides past Dr. Cullen and perches on my bed, her eyes focused on me. I'm not used to the attention and lower my gaze to the sheets. I can feel the heat of a blush creep up my neck.
"How are you feeling, dear?"
"Better, thank you."
Dr. Cullen places the tray he was carrying on my nightstand and gently takes my wrist in his cool hand, stony fingers probing for my heart rate.
I glance at the tray and see a steaming bowl of what I assume is soup and a glass of water sitting next to a large glass of something orange.
My stranger chuckles. "Soup, water, and a nutrient enriched smoothie. You don't have to finish it, but I'd like you to eat as much as you can."
Only then do I realize that it's probably the middle of the night and I've kept them from resting. Panic washes through me.
Esme looks bewildered and I catch her as she glances at Dr. Cullen. "Whatever for?"
"I, I'm, it's late! I didn't mean to keep you up. I'm sorry, really – I don't need anything."
I watch, confused, as Dr. Cullen stifles a laugh behind a fist. "There's nothing to worry about, Bella. Esme and I consider ourselves night owls."
It takes a moment, but I manage to relax. Whatever's steaming in that bowl smells delicious, and my stomach rumbles. I blush again, my stomach a reminder that I have yet to master the art of controlling my body.
"Oh!" Esme nearly bounces from my bed in an uncharacteristically giddy movement and hands me the bowl that has caught my stomach's attention. If I squeeze my eyes tightly and forget all the bad I've seen, it's almost like I'm home with my mom, being cared for. It doesn't feel so uncomfortably awkward when I think of it like that.
I try and eat as much as I can for both their sakes. They've been so good to me and I would be so upset with myself if I came across as ungrateful.
As soon as I've stuffed myself, the glass and bowl are whisked away and Dr. Cullen joins his wife on the bed. I stare at the two of them, so striking in their beauty, their grace, their kindness.
"Bella, dear, our children are very much looking forward to meeting you. We're not pressuring you, and certainly don't want you to do anything until you're feeling better, but know that they're there and want to help you."
Her smile is a bit watery, like she's trying to hold back tears. I can only manage a nod, as the thought of meeting more people, people probably as perfect as the two who sit before me, terrifies me slightly.
My hand shakes as I try to brush some of my hair away from my face.
"Shhh." Esme hushes me and steadies my hand between her own. "There's no need to worry. We won't force you. Just know you have a whole family ready to support you. They're quite sensitive to others; you may be surprised how helpful they are."
Small, gentle hands guide me down into the cloud-like pillows. "Rest now. We'll be here when you wake."