Title: Slumbering Swan
Which fairytale inspired you: Sleeping Beauty (the Disney version)
Rating & Any Needed Warning: M for some language and caution
Word Count: Just under 10,000
Summary: Neurologist/Knight in shining armor Edward Cullen is called upon by a tiny fairy to save a damsel in distress. Disney makes it look so easy.
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight or Sleeping Beauty, though sometimes I think we have a lot in common.
It all started on a plane. That's where I first saw her. She couldn't have looked more disinterested, with her quiet sighs and vacant expression. Then again, who was ever interested in the Olympic Peninsula? Dreary, gray small town life was enough to get anyone depressed. Still, the frowns seemed out of place; hers was a face that should be smiling. Her eyes should have been twinkling. Her laughter should have echoed off the cheap tin walls. I desperately wanted to remedy the situation.
I had it all planned out, too. I would sit down in the empty seat next to hear and reach out to shake her hand. She would be self-conscious because her nails were obviously bitten, but I wouldn't care. Her hands would be soft and maybe just a little cold in mine. I would want to warm them. Over the course of our short flight, she would tell me about her life and what brought her here in the first place, maybe even why she was so unenthusiastic about it.
At some point, she would laugh and her long brown hair would fall into her eyes, hiding them from me. Finding this unacceptable, I would reach out to tuck it behind her ear, and she would blush while she looked up at me from under those lashes. The cabin was too dim to see her exact eye color, but they were dark. I imagined them as deep brown windows to her soul. When this puddle-jumper finally landed, she would have given me her number so that I could take her out, distract her from this place and the tedious errand that brought her here. As we said our goodbyes, she would make me promise to call and I would reassure her with a gentle kiss on the forehead. That is how it would go.
Of course, that is how it would have gone if she hadn't had earbuds in the entire trip. Or so I told myself.
Yes, I was a coward.
She only made one sound the entire trip: a tiny gasp as we landed.
I wanted to reach out and hold her hand, run my fingers through her hair and tell her everything would be all right. But I didn't. I just stared. I stared until she caught me and offered a tight, apologetic smile. She thought she had disturbed me. I beamed back at her, wanting her to know that she could disturb me any day. She turned away so quickly, it gave me a little bit of whiplash. As she collected her bags, I noticed that her face had become splotchy and her nostrils flared. What had I done to upset her? Confused, and just a little wary, I let her pass in front of me to exit the plane. At least she couldn't say I wasn't a gentleman.
Outside, it seemed that every one of my childhood heroes was present: Police Chief Charlie Swan; Billy Black, chief of the Quileute tribal council; and of course, my own father, Carlisle Cullen, chief of medicine at the Forks hospital. It took them all standing together for me to realize that they were all chiefs. But my favorite member of the welcoming committee had to have been my little sister Alice. At only five years old, she was easily my biggest hero. After all she'd been through, there she was smiling in her little pink tutu.
"Edward!" she called. "Edward! Edward! You're home! I missed you so bad!"
As soon as my feet touched the pavement, little Alice ran forward and launched herself into my waiting arms. I spun her until she squealed for me to stop. Then I took a breath and spun some more.
"All right, Edward," Carlisle warned as he approached. "She's going to be sick if you keep that up. And I know I'm not going to be the one to clean it."
"Sorry, Dad, but she's getting so big. How much longer will I be able to twirl my little princess?"
"No, Edward! I'm not a princess anymore; I'm a fairy. Princesses don't where tutus." Alice told me matter-of-factly.
"I'm sorry. Maybe we should get you a wand or some wings or…" I trailed off when I noticed my father shaking his head and waving his arms frantically behind her back.
"I have a invisible wand! Duh! An' you can't jus' buy me wings; I have to earn them! What d'ya think I am, a cheater fairy?"
"Isn't it angels…"
"Ahem," Carlisle coughed, effectively halting my comment.
"Edward," Alice whispered and beckoned me down to secret-telling level. "Edward, I think that lady is a princess."
I followed her gaze over to the beauty from the plane. And I had to admit, aside from the jeans and t-shirt, she could easily have passed for a princess. There was something about the lines of her face, the contours of her neck, that gave the impression of grace. Though not a typical beauty by modern standards, she had an ethereal presence, like someone you would see illustrated in a fairy tale as opposed to modeling in a magazine. Not to mention her very prestigious entourage. I'm sure the chief's cruiser was as good as a royal carriage to Alice's imagination.
"Know what, little fairy? I think she might be a princess too."
Three days went by before I saw my princess again. Actually, it was Alice that spotted her in the produce section, picking through berries and humming to herself. She was wearing a dark blue v-neck that not only gave me a better glimpse at her fair skin but complemented it perfectly. The word 'lovely' came to mind, but I dismissed it quickly. I had been spending way too much time watching Disney lately.
"I knew she was a princess," Alice whispered next to me.
"What do you say to some apples?" I asked, already pulling her forward. If Alice didn't want apples, I would eat them.
From this vantage point, I could watch the woman's every move as she picked first through the blackberries, then the blue, humming all the time. Every once in a while, she would close her eyes and hum just a little more loudly, as if the song had taken her away from the supermarket. Soon, I was humming right along with her, almost involuntarily. At first, she didn't seem to notice, but when I got bold and started actually singing the words, she gasped and turned to look at me.
"I'm sorry," I sputtered. "I was just getting some apples, and I couldn't help but hear and…"
"It's okay," she laughed nervously. "You just scared me. I didn't expect a stranger to start a duet with me in the grocery store."
"But I'm not a stranger."
She looked at me, perplexed and just a little apprehensive.
"You don't remember? We were on the plane together from Sea-Tac to Port Angeles. You got mad at me for smiling at you? I never did figure that out."
"Oh wow," she blushed. "Sorry about that, it's just… In my experience, when a guy like you smiles like that, it's because he's laughing at me."
"A guy like me?"
"Yeah, you know, a good-looking, reading a textbook…."
She'd noticed what I was reading? And said I was good-looking? I wanted very much to stop myself from looking pleased with her assessment, but I'm not so sure that I succeeded.
"My brother is a knight!" Alice chimed in, most unhelpfully.
"A knight, huh?" The woman lifted an eyebrow as she looked me up and down. "Figures."
"I never said that!" I defended. "I've never made myself out to be a hero."
"He saves people from evil curses," Alice continued. "He goes all over and breaks spells so that people can wake up. But not by kissing them, right Edward? 'Cause that only works on princesses, and he never met one before y–"
"I'm a neurologist," I explained while covering Alice's mouth, "specializing in coma victims. Eww! Alice!" I wiped my hand on my pant leg after Alice had licked it. Gross little kindergartner.
"Are you a princess?" She eagerly asked the woman.
She giggled and bent down to Alice's level, taking in her outfit. Today she had gone with a sparking purple tutu and matching puffy-sleeved t-shirt. "No, little fairy, I am not a princess. I'm just a girl who likes to pick berries."
"How did you know she wasn't a princess?" I asked, a little annoyed that this woman had deciphered Alice's persona right away.
"Because princesses don't wear tutus," she said with a wink and started to walk toward the checkout lanes. "Goodbye, Edward."
"Hey, wait! You never told me your name," I shouted after her.
"No, I didn't," she called back.
"Well, what is it?" We had an audience now, but I didn't care. Small towns need gossip, right?
"I'll tell you later."
"Tomorrow?" I had to yell; she just kept getting farther and farther away.
"Tonight!" I barely heard her. "The diner! At seven!"
"Seven!" I announced, though I knew she couldn't hear me.
It was nearly five p.m. by the time we got home, so I planned to drop the groceries and run. I needed to shower and shave and practice some witty banter in the mirror – not that I planned to tell anyone that – before heading over to the diner.
Of course, nothing ever goes according to plan. My sister-in-law, Rosalie, the wicked witch herself, was waiting for me in the kitchen.
"Good evening, Edward. Alice."
"Rose." I nodded.
"I'm hurt," she gasped, dramatically clutching her chest. Plastic, might I add. "You've been here five days, and we've yet to hang out. I already know you went out drinking with my husband. Were you ever planning to invite me over?"
"Sure," I shrugged. "Tomorrow is my going away again dinner. You can come with Emmett."
"Well, I did have a gift for you, but now I'm not so sure. I think maybe Bella will be magically unavailable."
"Bella, huh? Another 'beautiful woman' from your yoga class?"
"Are you insinuating that my friends aren't beautiful?"
"Rose, if I wanted what Tanya was selling, I'd have just taken one of Alice's Barbies."
"No!" Alice cried.
"Okay, so Tanya is a little different…" Rose conceded.
"Different," I snorted.
Tanya had been a living, breathing doll. Most of her was made in China, and she had no conversational skills. Although the few things she did say before I'd managed to escape were very much in line with that Barbie song. "Undress me, Edward. Touch me. Fuck me. We're going to have soo much fun together."
"Well that was Christmas," Rose continued. "This time, I have someone I know you'll like. Esme is already planning your wedding."
"Mom is already planning Alice's wedding."
"Well, at least come out and meet her. We're going out for coffee, and I'd love to introduce you two."
"Can't do it."
"Oh come on, Edward. I swear she's not another Tanya. She's totally Emmett approved."
"So? You're Emmett approved. Besides, I can't. I already have plans."
"Fashion show with Alice?"
"Oo.. Can we?" Alice started bouncing up and down on whatever spring she had hidden in her sneakers.
I turned to Rosalie. "Now you get to do a fashion show, because I have somewhere to be."
"You're going to regret this, Edward," Rose called to my fleeing back. "Mark my words! Soon you're going to realize that you should have treated me better. But by then, it'll be too late, and you'll be sorry."
"But not tonight." I turned back. "Tonight, I have a date with a princess."
That night, I got stood up by a princess.
I sat down at six forty-five and didn't move until they kicked me out at nine. She never came. At first, I wanted to believe the best of my mystery woman. I assumed that something had happened, that circumstances had been beyond her control, and she'd had no way of contacting me.
And then of course, I remembered that she had left me in the produce section with nothing but a time and a memory. Not only did she not give me a number, but she had purposely withheld her name. What could I do without that? Ask around for a young brunette? There were at least a dozen of those just at the diner. The only thing I had to go on was that the two chiefs had picked her up at the airport, but there could have been any number of reasons for that. Anyway, she obviously didn't want to be found. She probably went out that night and had a good laugh about the loser from the grocery store.
Rosalie did nothing but gloat the next night at dinner.
"Bella and I had so much fun yesterday, Edward. It's too bad you couldn't join us. How was your date again? Oops, sorry. Forgot."
Needless to say, I was more than happy to be flying out the following morning. And instead of taking the puddle jumper to Sea-Tac, I left ridiculously early in a cab. I knew that the odds of her leaving on the same day and at the same time that I was were slim, but I just didn't want to chance it; thus far, fate had proven cruel.
When my plane landed in Chicago, I saw that I had five missed calls – the first of which had occurred fifteen minutes after takeoff. Four of them were Rosalie, and I fully intended to ignore them. The last was from my father's office at the hospital. Before my phone had even finished waking up, I was receiving call number six. Rosalie again. I was sure to hit 'Ignore' instead of 'Silence'. This way, when she got the voicemail after two rings, she would know she was being avoided.
It took a few minutes, but my messages eventually loaded. Almost fifty texts from my sister-in-law and four voicemails. The only thing that kept me from ignoring them completely was the fact that one of them might have been my father. Of course, that could also have been a ploy of Rosalie's to get me to answer the phone, but I checked them just in case.
"Message One," the the robotic female told me.
"Edward, if you're still at the airport, come back. Now. This is serious." Rosalie had used her demanding voice.
The next message, whileless commanding, was still incredibly stern. "I'm assuming you're on the plane right now. Please call me back as soon as you land."
Message three was an hour later and her tone was awfully similar to panic. "My friend got into an accident, Edward, and I need your help. It's all my fault. We went for coffee and then…" She sniffled, then broke down. "She won't wake up, Edward! I don't know what to do. It's all my fault. It's all my fault." The message ended with some jostling as someone, probably my mother, made soothing sounds in the background.
"Edward, this is your father." The final message started. "One of Rosalie's friends, Bella, is here in the hospital with us. She was in an accident two nights ago and has yet to regain consciousness. I've tried explaining that forty-eight hours is not an exorbitant amount of time, but you're the coma expert, and Rosalie won't listen to anyone but you. No one expects you to fly out and personally attend to the girl, but it would put your sister at ease if you could at least call and tell her all this yourself. We'll be expecting your call."
I ended the call to voicemail feeling both guilty and strained. On one hand, I felt bad for ignoring my sister when she was clearly dealing with a crisis. On the other hand, there really wasn't anything I could do. If Bella had been in a coma for less than forty-eight hours, there was nothing to indicate that medical intervention would be needed or even possible. The mind might choose to shut down that long for nothing more than to manage pain.
The only help I could offer would be to do what my father had suggested: call Rosalie and attempt to assuage her fears. If it made her feel better, I would discuss the specifics of the case with my father and her other doctors regarding Bella's overall condition. Surgical procedures, CAT scan results, the amount of blood lost – all could be used to estimate a wake-up date for Rosalie's friend, and that would go a long way toward easing her mind.
Before I could make the call, however, a fifth voicemail came through. Though it was probably just Rosalie fuming over the ignored call, there was also a slight chance that there had been an update on Bella's condition, and I wanted all available information before I called anyone back. But instead of an angry sister or a medical miracle, I heard the one thing that always caused me to pause: little Alice's voice.
"Edward? Am I leaving a message? I don't… Edward, if you hear me… You have to come back and break the spell. You're the only one that can do it."
I ran my fingers through my hair in frustration. I wanted, very badly, to turn around and be the knight in shining armor my little sister thought I was. But I had a career to think of, and flying across the country to take care of my least favorite sister's friend wasn't any good for it. Besides, there was nothing I could do. If I went back now, it would only lead to disappointment.
There was jostling on the line as Rosalie came looking for her phone and Alice was obviously hiding it. I thought the time would run out and the message would end there, but soon I heard little breaths on the line as Alice prepared to speak again, her voice dropped down to a whisper.
"It's the princess, Edward. Bella is the princess." Alice, who are you talking to? Give me the phone. I need to call Emmett.
"To delete this message, press seven. To save–"
I hung up without listening to my options. I had enough to think about.
Bella, Rosalie's Bella, was the girl from the grocery store. Rosalie's Bella, the girl from the grocery store, was in a coma. A coma she sustained the night of our date, after she and Rose had gone for coffee without me. The accident had probably occurred as she drove home from the bistro, maybe even as she'd been on her way to see me.
My phone rang again while I processed this, and I answered without even checking to see who it was.
"I'll be there in less than eight hours."
It had taken nearly $400 of airline fees and upgrades, but I was back in my parents' care in less than six hours. This time, with my mother at the wheel.
"Thank you for coming back, Edward. I know this will mean a lot to Rosalie… Although I can't help but wonder why you're really here."
"What do you mean?" Though I knew better, I prayed that feigning ignorance would save me. But Esme Cullen could never be considered a fool.
"I know you, son. And I know a thing or two about your work as well. It's been two days, hardly long enough to cause a panic, especially in you. You're internationally known for your coma research, and – sister or no sister – this case isn't something you would normally take on, let alone drop everything for. So… are you going to tell me what's really happening here, or are you going to make me use your middle name?"
"I'll tell you, Mom. Just… not right now, okay? I'm still trying to get a handle on it myself."
"All right, Edward. Whenever you're ready." She reached over and squeezed my hand, a superior smirk on her face.
Whatever that's about.
I took a quick nap in the car to make up for having woken up so early – it seemed stupid to have done so now. In no time, my mother had dropped me off at the hospital entrance, and a drooling Nurse Cope was staring blankly at me instead of telling me which room my princess was in.
"Shelly!" I hadn't meant to be terse, but my patience was wearing thin. In any case she didn't seem too bothered.
"Oh… what? Um…last name, Dr. Cullen?"
Shit! I didn't know her last name. "I'm not sure. Just… Bella."
Nurse Cope just stared again, seemingly in pain. Why wasn't she telling me where to go? God, how many Bella's could there be in this town?
"I'm sorry, Dr. Cullen, but as you are not a member of our staff, I can't just let you back there if you don't even know her last name." She really did look as if she regretted withholding the information.
Okay, Cullen. You can do this. "Miss Cope," I purred in a low voice and leaned as close as the waist high counter would allow. "My father, the chief of medicine at this hospital, has called me to assist him on this case. Unfortunately, he did not have time to give me all of the details. Won't you please call him at least, and inform him that I have arrived." I smiled as charmingly as I could muster. The last time I had intentionally done this was high school. Not that it was really necessary then; I'd just thought I was cool.
"Oh, really? Well then, I don't see why… Room 335." The farthest room, in the longest corridor, on the highest floor in the building. Naturally. Perhaps there was a trellis I could climb as well.
"Thank you, Nurse. As always, it was such a pleasure to speak with you." The old woman's cheeks flushed, and I congratulated myself on not being entirely out of practice. Not bad, Cullen. Then again, she had been an old divorcée – it probably didn't take much to make Shelly Cope blush. Details.
My father was waiting for me in his street clothes when I stepped off the elevator, looking worn but not too concerned. My guess was that Rosalie had caused him more strain on his weekend off than Bella's condition. My sister was a master at making any and everything about herself.
"Come on, Edward. You're just in time for a bedtime story." He led me stand outside of the room at the end of the hall where a blue, sequined disco ball – sometimes known as Alice – was sitting in bed next to a sleeping beauty. My beauty.
"I thought it would make her feel better if she knowed that you would rescue her soon." Alice explained. "An' that you would be a real good husband when she wakes up!"
"Did Mommy tell you to say that?"
"No, she telled me to say, 'You're not gettin' any younger, Edward,'" she scowled and waggled her finger in a seriously good Esme impression for a five year-old.
"Duly noted," I chuckled and kissed her forehead. "But it's past your bedtime, isn't it King Carlisle?"
"Indeed it is, Sir Edward."
"But I wanna watch Edward wake up the princess. Please, Daddy. It only takes a minute to kiss."
"Alice…" my dad started unsure of what to say.
And what could he say? That Bella wasn't a princess? That I wasn't a knight?
"Adults prefer to do their kissing in private," he blurted.
Alice pouted and was clearly about to protest, when I thought of something else.
"It might take a long time for her to wake up after I kiss her. Three days, maybe."
"Three days?" she gasped disbelievingly. "Are you sure you can't do any better than that?"
"I'll see what I can do, little prin…fairy."
"Okay," she yawned as my father carried her toward the elevator.
"I'll take her down to the cafeteria. I think that's where Rosalie is." He didn't want to go over Bella's chart with Alice there – that couldn't be good. "Emmett loves the pudding here…" he mused. "Strange man."
"Wait! Edward!" Alice called when my father bent to push the elevator button. He let her down and she ran to hug around my thighs. "I decided that I'm still a princess. I'm just a fairy too."
"A fairy princess," I confirmed with a nod, then knelt down to her eye level. "But I want you to know, little Alice: No matter what you decide to be, you can still live happily ever after."
"An' Mommy an' Daddy an' you an' Emmett will still love me." It wasn't a question; it was a statement of fact. And I was so proud of her.
"Yes." I hugged her tightly. "Forever."
I took the time my father was away to take a look at the vital stats on the clipboard. Everything looked to be in perfect working order. Aside from the coma, Isabella Marie Swan was in exceptional health. Of course, I would have to take a look at all her test results, but I saw no reason for her coma to last more than the three days I'd promised Alice.
Please don't make me break a promise to that little girl. I wasn't sure to whom I prayed: a god above or the goddess that lay before me. Either way, I hoped she would cooperate. Something told me that she would – if it was within her power to do so. She was just too beautiful to be a bad person. And it wasn't just her exquisite body or angelic face; there was a beautiful soul behind those eyes. I had seen it, just as I'd predicted I would that first time I saw her.
I ran my hand over hers –just to be sure that she wasn't cold, of course. Tracing along the veins of her forearm, I eventually came to the IV on the inside of her elbow. My fingers skimmed the edge of the tape on their way past, mourning the tiny scars that would dot her perfect skin. Too soon, I was out of arm, and out of lame excuses to touch her. In their absence, there was only desire, and I could not stifle it. Gently, I brought the back of my fingers to her cheek and brushed, ever so lightly. It was all wrong though. These cheeks should have been pink with the blush of life, but they were just as white as the rest of her.
"Hands up, dirt bag!" Someone yelled behind me.
Instinctively, I raised my arms above my head, feeling guilty that I had dared to touch her. After a moment though, I remembered that I was not, in fact, a criminal and started to turn around.
"Nice and slow," he said. I now recognized the voice as belonging to Chief Swan. Swan…
Oh! "Chief Swan! I was just-"
"On the ground!"
"I said, on the ground! Now!"
"Listen, this is just a misunder-"
"Charlie? Edward? What's going on here?" My father had come back to the room. Just in time, in my opinion.
"Edward?" Charlie questioned. "Your boy?"
"Yes." My father and I both answered.
I heard some shuffling behind me, and the tension in the room seemed to ease quite a bit. I stayed where I was though, hands up and back to the door, just in case.
"Sorry about that, Edward." Charlie clapped a hand on my shoulder, urging me to turn around. "I thought you went home this morning."
"I came back."
Charlie nodded as I said this, but as soon as it sunk in, he turned a panic-stricken face toward my father. "You called Edward back from Chicago? What's wrong, Carlisle? I thought you said everything looked normal and she'd be awake in a few days."
"She will, Chief," I told him. "I'm just doing this as a favor to my sister." It was only half a lie.
"I can't…" he choked. "You have to help her, Dr. Cullen. If anyone can, it's you."
I had expected him to be looking to my father as he said this, but when Charlie turned his head, I saw that this statement was directed at me. I was Dr. Cullen now to one of my childhood heroes. As if I wasn't under enough pressure already.
"I'll do what I can, Chief," I promised.
"She's in good hands, Charlie," my father assured. "We'll just give you a minute." He steered me away from Bella's room and into a vacant suite to give me all the pertinent details regarding her condition. Unfortunately, there really weren't any.
"It's the damnedest thing, Edward," he told me. "There were no apparent injuries, so we ended up shotgunning the labs."
"Nothing. Her MRI shows nothing but past trauma, nothing from tox, no indicators of significant pain, not even a micro-fracture. Steady heart rate, brain waves, good levels – Bella is in perfect health. If I didn't know any better, I'd say she was asleep."
"Maybe it's psychologically induced," I offered. "She was overwhelmed by excitement and fainted."
"For two days?"
"It's all we have," I shrugged.
"If that's the case, how do we know when she'll wake up? If she'll wake up?"
"Faith," I told him. "All we have is faith." And a promise I made to a sad little girl.
On the first day, I did nothing. Almost literally. I was added to Bella's list of doctors and cleared to make any and all decisions regarding her treatment. Unfortunately, there wasn't any treatment – and I wasn't cleared to help with any other non-emergency patients – so I spent the morning staring at her face and praying a lot. I stood in her room all day, only leaving to eat or use the toilet. And though I knew there would likely be no change while I was gone, I seriously considered combining the acts in order to get back to her faster. Stupid human needs.
I took lunch during Charlie's visit, offering some privacy, and when I came back, there was a young man in the room. He was crying and clutching Bella's hand like a lifeline. Her boyfriend? No. I refused to believe that Bella would have accepted a date with me were she otherwise attached. Or that Rosalie would have tried to set us up. Where was Rosalie? I left the man to his process and went to call my sister. Two rings and then voicemail – she had purposely ignored my call.
When I got back to the room, the man was gone, though he'd left a vase of roses. The card was signed from Billy and Jacob Black. Had that been Jacob Black, future chief of the Quileute tribe? My girl had friends in high places.
My father came in for the evening shift and urged me to go home. What he didn't realize was that my home was with Bella now. Everything I needed – food, a bed, a shower – could be found here at the hospital. Anything more than that was extraneous and easily traded for time with my princess.
On the second day, Jacob came back. This time with bigger flowers, balloons, and a whole stack of cards. I heard him telling her how silly it all was.
"It's not like you can see it. And as soon as you do, you're going to ask me to take it all away. I know how you hate the attention. But I won't let them come in here and bother you, Bella. I promise. I won't let you be an exhibit. The only people allowed in here are Charlie and the doctor. I don't like this doctor though, Bella. He looks at you like… like I do. But maybe that means he can bring you back. If that's what it takes… please. Please just… come back." Jacob started to cry, and I walked away, knowing he wouldn't want me to see that.
I let what he'd said sink in for a while. Was I really that transparent? And had he alluded to loving her too? He obviously did love her, very much, but in what capacity? And did she return his feelings? I put the questions away for a moment so that I could focus on Bella. Both as my patient and as the woman I loved. What would be best for her?
"May I come in?" I asked a still teary Jacob.
"Yeah, man. Sure. Thanks for leaving us alone for a while. I know it hurts you to be away from her."
His observation shocked me, though not nearly as much as the casual way he'd said it, as though it were common knowledge. God, I hoped the chief hadn't noticed.
"Don't worry," he chuckled, obviously reading my panicked expression. "I'm fine-tuned to pick up on everything around Bella. I have to be. We've been best friends for almost a decade. Do you have any idea how many guys you have to punch in a decade?"
For her? Thousands. Easily.
"I was supposed to marry her, you know," he told me while playing with her fingers. "We used to make mud pies together, and my dad would always tell me what a good wife she would make one day. I think he just wanted to end up with his best friend for a brother. That's a big thing on the rez, family and connections. Of course, at the time, all girls had cooties, and I hated the idea." He laughed as if the concept was ludicrous now.
"She'll be fine, Mr. Black. I-"
"Jacob," he corrected.
"Edward." I offered my hand to let him know that, though I was a doctor, I considered myself no better than him. "The truth is, Jacob, there's nothing medically wrong with her. No coma can be cured or even predicted, but we are usually able to at least pinpoint a cause and try to treat it."
"Not Bella though, huh?" He smiled down at her. "So damn stubborn."
"I don't know what you believe in, Jacob – and this isn't exactly scientific – but what I think Bella needs is a reason to come back. Talk to her, play music, hold her hand…k- kiss her if you have to. Get anyone in here that she'd want to see and make sure she knows that being here with you is better than being wherever she is."
"You think I should kiss her?" he asked. "Like Disney shit?"
Damn, he'd caught that.
He looked at me like I was crazy. "You would do anything, wouldn't you? I've seen the way you look at her; it's not some pervy crush. You love her, but you would watch her walk away with someone else?"
"If being with you would guarantee her happiness, then so be it. I have no claims over her."
"But if you did, you'd still feel that way." It wasn't a question.
"I would." There wasn't a doubt in my mind – I would do anything to make her happy.
The third day, D-day, was finally upon us. Either Bella would wake up, or a fairy would be forced to come to grips with reality. I only hoped she didn't hate me too much for letting her believe that I could do this. I was sure she'd understand though… someday.
Charlie came in early that day in the hopes of avoiding Renee, Bella's mother, who would finally be visiting from Florida. Apparently, she had chosen just the right time to lose her phone while on the road with her minor league husband and never even thought to check her messages.
"This is all my fault," she blubbered into my shoulder. "If I hadn't decided to join Phil for his away games, Bella would still be in Jacksonville, and none of this would have happened."
"No one is to blame for this, Mrs. Dwyer," I comforted, awkwardly patting her hair. "It was an accident. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and we can't blame every little thing that brought her there." I had gone over this in my head so many times in the past three days. I didn't know for sure that Bella had been on her way to see me that night, but it was important that she realize exactly what I had.
Renee shook her head. "I… I don't know what to believe."
"Do you blame Phil or his baseball team for going on the road?"
"Do you blame Charlie for living in the city where it happened?"
"Do you blame Bella for driving? Should she have stayed home that night rather than going out and risk getting into an accident?"
"Of course not!" Renee huffed. "There was no way she could have known what would happen. I didn't raise my daughter to be afraid of life!"
She let out a watery chuckle. "You're good, Dr. Cullen. You two will be so happy together."
"Please, call me Edward. And who will I be happy with?"
"I know you're in love with my daughter, Edward… I'm upset, not blind," she added, taking in my expression. I was sure it looked an awful lot like shock. "You're the one from the email, I knew it the moment I saw you."
She only smirked evilly up at me and pointed toward the door. "You have visitors."
I turned to see Rosalie and Alice – in a sunny yellow number – waving me out to the hall.
"Edward!" Alice screeched. "I wanna be here when the princess wakes up today."
"Alice, I'm not so sure…"
"And you must be the fairy!" Renee greeted. "Why don't you come with me? I'll teach you how to make your own dandelion crown."
"Wow… I really will be a fairy princess. Can I go, Edward? Can I?"
"Sure. Just be good, little one. Rosalie, can I speak with you for a second."
"Before you say anything," Rosalie started once we were settled in an on-call room. "I just wanted to thank you. For coming back to see Bella, and for what you said you back there to Renee. It really made me feel better about my part in this."
"And what is your part in this, Rosalie?"
"I don't even know Bella," she admitted. "She and Emmett are opening a book store together, and he said that you guys would be perfect for each other. So I invited her out for coffee thinking I could get you together. Then maybe, if you hit it off, you'd move a little closer to home."
"Why would you want me to move closer, Rose? You don't even like me."
"I like you," she started, then changed tacts. "Okay fine, I don't like you, but I'd like for you to be around. By the time Emmett and I got serious, you were already living in Chicago. We only saw you twice a year, and I never knew how much everyone missed you until that summer you stayed. It was never the same after you left. All anyone could talk about was Edward. 'I miss Edward. Edward would love this.' Your parents, Emmett, Alice – they got a taste of what it was like to always have you around, and the only time it's normal is when you have the time to visit. And I don't want my son growing up in a depressed family."
"Rose, you really need to… Wait. What?"
"If you tell anyone, I'll rip your balls off. I've been trying to get you back here for years, but this really solidified it for me. The family needs you. Besides, I think Bella would make a great babysitter."
"Rose, there is no me and Bella. There's this guy, Jacob Black, I think they're engaged or almost engaged or something. I don't want to break that up."
"Stupid dog," she mumbled, but I ignored her.
"But if it means as much to everyone as you say, I will seriously consider relocating anyway. I don't want Alice or my nephew to grow up in a house of mopers either."
"Really?" She surveyed me with a raised brow.
"If it was just about making your life easier, there's no way in Hell. But this is about family. And they deserve better from me."
"Thank you, Edward. And I'm sorry for trying to manipulate you, and for being part of the reason Bella got into that accident. Maybe if I hadn't been such a bitch to her, she would have been watching the road more carefully and…"
"Her truck hydroplaned. Even if you were in full Bitch Mode and she was as furious as she deserved to be, there wasn't much she could do it about it. Or were you not listening to the speech I gave to Mrs. Dwyer earlier?"
By the time we got back to the room, Renee had gone and left Alice with Jacob. I was sure that she thought that Jacob was okay, and he probably was, but I didn't appreciate the assumption. What if he'd been a psycho kidnapping baby-killer? That woman would never be left alone with my babies. Flake.
Alice was fitting a dandelion crown onto Bella's head. The pillow was causing an awkward angle, and Alice apparently found this frustrating. Jacob was wearing flowers as well, which I found to be quite humorous.
"Ah, look at all the beautiful princesses," I teased, looking to him. He sighed and rolled his eyes, not really amused, but taking the comment in stride. We both knew that he couldn't have escape this.
"I'm getting Bella ready for her wake up time," Alice informed me. "I wanted to get her a dress, but Mommy said they wouldn't lemme change her."
"What kind of dress?" I asked, indulging her.
"A pretty pink princess one."
"Really? I think she might look better in blue."
"No, pink," she argued.
"Pink," she and Jacob said together, probably just to annoy me.
"Well, we'll see what she thinks. Rose, why don't you take Alice down to the cafeteria for some pudding."
"But what if I miss it?" Alice huffed, stomping her tiny feet.
"Well, I said it takes three days to lift the curse, and you still have two hours. I sure hope you don't fall asleep." I was hoping that Rosalie would take the hint and distract Alice until she dropped, buying Bella another day. I really didn't want to shatter any illusions tonight.
"She's a good kid," Jacob said as my sisters walked away. "Is she yours?" The olive branch was out, and I decided to take it.
"No, God no. She's my sister. Adopted," I clarified. "The mother wanted me to take her, but I'm a doctor and a Chicago bachelor. She deserves better. She deserves a family."
"What about Bella?" he asked. "Did you plan to move her into some mansion in Chicago, then never have time for her? 'Cause I'll tell you right now, she won't go for that." He smiled a little, glad to have finally found the chink in this knight's armor.
"That's a moot point, isn't it." It came out a bit harsher than I had wanted, but this guy was really starting to get on my nerves. "She has you, and I won't stand in the way of that. Just, be good to her. If I hear that you hurt her in any way, I swear to fucking God, I will end you. And Seattle's not that far, you know. I could be on your doorstep before you had time to panic."
"You're moving to Seattle," he frowned.
"Maybe," I shrugged. "Somewhere around there." I left it at that. I definitely didn't owe him any further explanations.
"Shit!" He swore loudly, then murmured, "I can't believe I'm doing this."
"Doing what? Leaving? You're more than welcome."
"No, I can't believe what I'm about to say. But if you're gonna be around, you'll figure it out eventually." He paused, sighed, then paced around the room.
"Spit it out!"
"Okay, okay. Anger management, much? It's just that… Bella and I aren't actually a couple."
"What? But you said th–"
"I said that we were supposed to get married. If things were normal, we would have ended up together. I had a plan, ya know? It took me years to work up the courage to ask her out, and she's been letting me down easy ever since. I was wearing her down, though. I could tell. I think, if you had just waited another six months or a year to show up, we would've been engaged."
"So why are you telling me this now?"
"Because she loves you too," he told me through an obvious lump in his throat. "I was in the car that day. The amazon called for coffee, and Bella didn't want to go alone. Your sister doesn't like me very much by the way."
"Just ignore her," I advised. "I do."
"Anyway, Bella spent the whole ride talking about some guy she met at the grocery store. I didn't know it was you until I met Alice. I mean, how many guys hang out with little girls in tutus? She said she thinks you might be the one and wanted me to tell her how to be cool so she doesn't scare you off. But I really don't think that's going to be a problem.
"Listen, I don't know if I can be as big about this as you are. I'll probably be jealous as fuck and try to sabotage you at every turn, but I love her, and I really want her to be happy. Just know that what you said earlier – about ending my life and whatever – it goes double for you. No offense, dude, but I think I could take you alone, and I have, like, five friends on the rez who are just as big as I am."
"You've never met Emmett," I laughed. I couldn't help it. "My brother is a bear, and I'm tougher than I look. But again, that's not the point. I would never hurt Bella. Not that it matters. We don't even know for sure how she feels, and we won't until she wakes up."
"Then wake her up," Jacob commanded, as if it were that simple. After a moment without an answer from me, he elaborated. "Give her a reason, Edward. I told you how she feels, now make sure she knows what she's waking up for. Give her a reason to live." He walked out then, leaving me alone with my thoughts and with Bella.
"What do you think, Bella?" I asked, knowing it was pointless. Even if she could hear me, she sure as hell couldn't answer. "What can I do to convince you to come back? Should I tell you I love you? Because I do, but I think you already knew that. Should I tell you that my little sister is already infatuated with the idea of you being her sister? She thinks you're a princess, you know. No matter what you say.
"You look the part now too, by the way. With these flowers in your hair." I reached out to touch them and move the hair out of her face. I couldn't even remember moving to the bed – let alone sitting down – but now that I was, I couldn't resist touching her. "Should I tell you how your mother thinks we're going to be happy together, and mine is already planning our wedding. At least, that's what Rosalie says, and I wouldn't put it past her.
"Please, Bella," I murmured against her lips. "Wake up." Then I kissed her. And it was the most heartbreaking kiss of my life. I felt a tear roll down my cheek, because I knew she couldn't feel me. I knew I wasn't enough. I knew because her lips remained immobile, and her eyes remained closed.
What kind of a knight was I? What would I tell Alice? What would I do without her? I moved away from Bella's face slowly. The longer I lingered, the more time she had to prove me wrong. But she was still.
I wiped my tears from her cheeks as gently as I could with my sleeve. She looked so peaceful, lying there with her hair splayed on the pillow and in her flowered crown. I wiped a another bit of moisture I had apparently missed on the first pass. I could almost see the pink of her cheeks from that day at the grocery store. I'd missed that, almost as much as her eyes. Another tear. Where were they coming from?
Another came, and another as I watched. Bella was crying.
"Oh my God! Can you hear me, Bella? Bella, squeeze my hand. Try, darling. Please try." I held her hand to my heart, hardly daring to believe that she had regained some consciousness and the tears weren't just a neurological glitch. "Please, Bella. Please." I whisper-prayed. "Please."
A full minute went by, and I thought I would go mad, but then… just the faintest pressure. I was crying again, all over the both of us as I kissed her over and over. Her forehead, her eyelids, those plump luscious lips – no portion of her face went untouched. It hardly mattered to me that her affection had been passed as second-hand information or that the whole thing could get me fired. She was awake, and that was all that mattered.
"Thank you, Bella," I whispered. "I now have a reason to live."
"I missed it?" Alice screeched behind me. She and Rosalie had apparently arrived just in time to have seen at least part of my celebration. Alice was fuming, ranting about always missing the good part. Rosalie said nothing, just looked at me questioningly.
"Yes," I laughed, unable to stop myself. "She just squeezed my hand, but… She's in there somewhere. Hopefully finding her way back as we speak."
"You promised, Edward," Alice pouted. "You promised I wouldn't miss it."
I laughed and cried and huffed indignation all at the same time. My emotions were completely overloaded. "I promised no such thing, Alice," I scolded her, which ended up sounding pretty manic. "There was no way of knowing exactly when she would wake. I only gave you a time frame. I never make promises I can't keep. You know that."
"I know." She pouted some more. "I'm sorry, Edward. You di'nt say that. I was jus' mad."
"It's okay, little one," I soothed, feeling a little calmer myself. "Come sit with me, and we'll see if the princess wakes up."
It was two days before she opened her eyes, and three before she said anything. It was my name, and I rewarded her with a well-earned kiss on the hand. She smiled, then went back to sleep. On the fourth day, we had a lot of visitors. We had called and told them that there had been progress right away, but also that it might be best to stay away so that she wasn't overwhelmed – and so that they weren't disappointed.
But that day, I gave everyone the green light. She knew who she was, recognized a photo of her parents, and she appeared to be solidly awake for several minutes at a time. It wasn't much, but it would give her loved ones peace of mind to talk with her, however briefly.
"Bella, darling," I called softly as I shook her shoulders. "Someone else is here to see you." It was Jacob Black. I had almost told him that she needed rest and to come back later, but I definitely owed him for his honesty and advice.
"Edward?" My name was always the first word from her lips. It never ceased to send a thrill down my spine.
"Someone's here, love. It's Jacob." I tried not to feel threatened by the way her face lit up when I said his name. If anything, I knew that they'd been friends for a very long time. I decided to give them some privacy and headed downstairs for a snack, maybe try the pudding. But halfway down, I got another idea and made my way to my father's office.
When I got back ten minutes later, Jacob was still there, and Bella was still awake. Though she was clearly fading fast.
"I just want you to be sure, Bella. You have a choice you know. Don't feel like you have to be with him just because he saved you from a coma. You would have woken up eventually."
"'S not a choice, Jake," she slurred, eyes drooping. "He didn' even… say anythin' yet. But 'f 'e does, 'e's mine."
Mine, I thought. I like that word.
Jacob turned to leave, only to find me standing there. He didn't seem pleased or surprised by that fact.
"You are one lucky asshole," he informed me.
"Why haven't you talked to her about it yet?"
"Well for one, she's barely keeping her eyes open at the moment. I thought it might be better to wait until I'm sure she's going to remember before I spout off my intentions."
"And…" he prompted.
"And, it is actually against ethical conduct standards for a doctor to be in a relationship with his patient. Technically speaking, I'm supposed to wait a year after our professional relationship ends before pursing her in order to keep my medical license. And even then, she could sue me for malpractice."
"Never!" An astonished Bella squeaked from the bed. I hadn't realized she was still coherent enough to listen in. Stupid.
"It's all right, love." I tried to calm her by running my fingers through her hair, but she was clearly still in a panic.
"Do we really have to wait a year, Edward? A year from whenever I'm better? But that could be months!" She started crying in earnest now, and it was all I could do not to cry with her. I hated that much to see her upset.
"You should never have started this, Cullen!" Jacob raged. "We could have been married by then."
"Oh, God," Bella cried. "Can you even wait that long? I don't know what I'm going to do without you. Don't leave me!" She put her arms over my shoulders in the biggest move she'd made all week.
"You bastard! I'll kill you!"
Between the sobbing and the raging and my own unvoiced reactions, no one heard my father enter the room.
"What the hell, Edward?" he questioned, effectively silencing both tirades.
"Don't look at me," I defended. "Jacob wanted to know why I hadn't asked Bella out yet, and then this happened." I gestured to the other people in the room. "They never let me finish." I chuckled a little, although the situation was definitely not funny.
"Are you fucking laughing about this, you piece of shit?" Jacob moved toward me and my father stopped him.
"One more of those, and you're out of here, Mr. Black. That is not only my son, but the best neurologist in town."
"I'm the only neurologist in town," I added. He ignored me.
"Is that any way to treat the man who spent the past two weeks as a consult to Chief Swan?"
"I know he did a lot, but– Who?" Jacob stopped his rant in its tracks. It was quite comical actually.
"It says here that Charlie Swan has been in this hospital for weeks alongside his daughter," he informed us, reading from a folder. "And Edward here was one of his doctors. I don't see him of course, but if the paperwork says it, and nobody gets sued… I can't imagine that it's wrong. After all, I am the chief of medicine in this hospital, and Charlie Swan is the chief of police. Why would we lie?"
I stood and took the folder from him, looking over its contents. "How did you get this so fast? It hasn't even been half an hour since I left your office. I can't believe he even agreed to it. I was so sure he would accuse me of taking advantage of her."
"Great minds think alike, Edward. The chief had me draw up these forms after Renee's first visit. Something about an email."
Bella blushed, and I vowed to learn the contents of that damn email.
"Anyway, your name has been completely eradicated from her file. So there would be no breeches of ethical conduct if umm… you two happened to meet while you were treating her father."
"You planned this?" Bella asked, pulling me toward her with those eyes.
"I did. But apparently, your parents got there first."
She punched me. And, like the gentleman I was, I flinched like it had hurt."That was for making me worry," she said. "And this is for being worth it." She kissed me then, and it was amazing. Like every fantasy I'd ever had poured into a single moment.
I subtly adjusted my scrubs, praying that no one had noticed.
"What if they hadn't thought of it first?" she asked hesitantly. "What if Charlie refused to play along?'
"Would you still love me if I wasn't a doctor?"
"That would have been good enough for me."
And they all lived happily ever after. At least, that was the plan.
AN: Shotgunning the labs = Running every test you can think of to try and find the cause of a mysterious problem.