Bella woke feeling groggy and slightly disconnected from her body. She understood that there were sensations of pain beneath the surface, but they were muted somehow. She blinked in the grey light. It wasn't quite dawn yet.

"Go back to sleep, darlin'," Jasper's soft voice urged, "it's still very early."

Now she could see him sitting across the room, a shadowy figure in the dimness. "Jasper?" she croaked. "What… what are you doing here?"

"I wanted to be sure you were all right," he replied simply and honestly. "How do you feel?"

"Okay, I think," she said, still a little confused by the disorienting sensation of blunted pain. She wondered if Carlisle had returned while she slept given her something…

As if hearing her thoughts, Carlisle entered the room. In reality, he'd heard the voices and known she was awake. He was anxious to check on her and be sure she wasn't uncomfortable. She had slumbered soundly for several hours thanks to Jasper's influence, but the effects of the Lidocaine were long gone, and he worried that even his son's talents couldn't dull the pain adequately. He understood that Jasper's influence could not take away Bella's discomfort; rather, he infused her with a strong feeling of well-being which masked the pain from her conscious mind.

"Bella," Carlisle greeted quietly, moving to the bed in a few long strides.

The wan light was perfectly sufficient for him to see the wound on her chin clearly. Her lower lip remained slightly swollen, but the small laceration showed no signs of infection and appeared to be healing well. He smiled down at her.

She returned the small gesture, but the motion elicited a flicker of pain. Jasper frowned, refocusing his efforts. Fortunately Carlisle had come prepared with a towel-wrapped cold pack and pain relievers.

"How are you doing?" he asked her, thinking it important to encourage her to acknowledge her feelings fully, be they physical or emotional. His empathetic tone prompted her to reply honestly.

"It hurts a little now," she said, gesturing toward her chin. "But not as badly as when it first happened."

He nodded and offered her two tablets. She began to sit up, but a sharp twinge in her side stopped her. She gasped softly. Jasper took a deep, steadying breath and closed his eyes, but her mind, now fully alert, was registering pain, and his attempts to mitigate it were less successful.

Carlisle adjusted the pillows then lifted her head so that she could swallow a few sips of water with the analgesics. He rested his hand over her forehead, more a gesture of comfort than an assessment of condition. His thumb smoothed back and forth over her cheek.

"Try to breathe slowly," he advised as her heart continued to flutter.

She complied, and soon some of the pain in her ribs had faded. Carlisle placed the icepack against her chin, telling her it would help until the medication took effect. She mumbled a thank you, earning a welcome chuckle from him. Jasper, however, remained serious.

Bella reached up slowly to replace Carlisle's hand on the icepack. He would have been glad to hold it in place indefinitely, but he relinquished control to her. After a few minutes, her chin grew numb, and the pain receded. Her side still ached, though.

Suddenly Jasper stood, murmuring something before slipping quickly out of the room. Bella looked up at Carlisle questioningly, anxiety beginning to bubble through her.

"It's all right, sweetheart," he said. "Edward and Emmett are back. Jasper went to speak with them."

"Oh no," Bella managed around the icepack. She knew that Edward would be upset about her injury.

"Don't worry," Carlisle soothed, taking her hand gently. "He knows about your little mishap now, and I've already informed him that you aren't seriously hurt."

She gave a nod of gratitude. He lifted away the ice to check her chin.

"The swelling's gone down some," he told her. "It looks better."

They both knew this small fact would assuage some of Edward's fears. Still, his face clearly showed his distress when he dashed into the room moments later.

"Bella!" Edward cried, at her side in an instant. "What happened, love? How did you fall? Are you in pain?"

His eyes swept over her, then he focused on the injury visible on her chin. He leaned in to examine it more closely. Carlisle had stepped back, but he rested a comforting hand on his son's shoulder.

"It shouldn't leave a scar," Carlisle said calmly.

Edward looked up at his father. "You did a very good job. Thank you."

Carlisle merely smiled in humble acknowledgment. He was an excellent surgeon, in specialties ranging from cardiothoracic to plastics, but boasting about his work wasn't in his nature. He was simply glad to offer his patients the highest quality care he could.

Bella hadn't yet had the chance to answer Edward's queries. He looked at her beseechingly.

"I'm okay, Edward," she said. "I got up during the night and tripped on the footboard. It doesn't hurt that much—the ice helped—and Carlisle's given me medicine that should kick in pretty soon."

Edward sank down beside her, moving very carefully to avoid jostling the bed. He kissed her cheek and brow and whispered that he was sorry.

"It's not your fault," she said.

He shook his head. "I should never had let Alice get this bed—"

"You didn't know," she interjected.

"Well, she should have." A deep crease appeared between his eyes.

Bella sighed, and Edward's expression shifted back to one of pure concern. He glanced at Carlisle, who immediately answered the unspoken question about the analgesic he had administered. Edward gave a curt nod of acknowledgment as he heard the reply in his father's mind. Short of giving Bella morphine, which he supposed wasn't truly warranted, the Tylenol #2 was a good choice, though it would require much longer to take effect than a painkiller that could be injected directly into her bloodstream. He hated to see her suffer for even a moment longer than absolutely necessary.

Carlisle sensed Edward's distress and silently told him, I think the bruised ribs are causing her the most discomfort at this point. The Tylenol should begin working in a few more minutes, though.

"All right," Edward murmured, too quickly for Bella to hear.

The rib injury worried him, and he listened carefully to her breathing for several long moments. Despite Carlisle's assurance that her ribs were only bruised, he needed to hear for himself that her lungs had not been affected.

Satisfied that there was no pulmonary involvement, he asked Bella softly, "How much do your ribs hurt?"

"They're sore," she admitted, "but not like before…"

Of course she was referring to the broken ribs she'd suffered in Phoenix, but no one in the room needed to hear the actual words.

"May I see?" Edward asked, already folding back the blanket.

She shrugged, understanding that his request stemmed from his love and concern for her. Still, she felt silly and clumsy enough without having to show him the actual injury.

He smiled sadly then carefully slid up her top to reveal the lower portion of her ribcage. She glanced down to see a large, ugly bruise forming—just another in the collection, she supposed with resignation.

Edward's fingertips skimmed over her skin, his cool, gentle touch bringing no additional pain.

"I think I can help until the medication takes effect," he said softly.

She looked up at his earnest face and said, "Yes, please."

He placed his palm over her side, his hand covering the entire bruise. There was no pressure, only a cooling sensation that allayed the soreness.

"Thank you," she said, exhaling slowly as the pain faded.

Carlisle and Jasper slipped silently out of the room, leaving the young couple alone. Bella closed her eyes and rested her head against Edward's strong shoulder, content in the comfort of the new iron bed.


Fin