Chapter 9: The Dove Flies

Please check out my interview with my dear friend Lissa Bryan, in which we discuss my professional pen name, my writing, influences and the progress I've made on my book:

lissabryan dot blogspot ca/2013/01/a-conversation-with-author-j-molly-brown

Yep, that's my name, feel free to share it. LOL. There's a picture of me there, too. Guess I'm out of the Twi-closet now, peeps. My extended family knows, too. They're pretty excited.

I miss you. Please review, visit me on Facebook or Twitter, or send me a PM.

I must thank 2old2care for this beta work: her recovery from surgery has been slow and she's still in a lot of pain. Please think of her.

Lissa asked me if my vamps are squishier than SM's. Oh, yes. They're still very durable, but they can get hurt. Many people have asked me why my vamps can feel pain. The pain centres in the brain are very closely linked to those for pleasure. If one can't feel pain, one can't experience pleasure, either. Also, pain is a defence mechanism that keeps us from doing dumb things that could injure us, like picking up hot coals. An evolved being wouldn't lose that advantage.

Music for this chapter can be found on the jmollytwilight2 Youtube. Link's on my Profile. This chapter's selections begin at #21:

"Boo Hoo," by Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians

"Notorious," by Duran Duran

"Let Go," by Boys to Men

In the Eye-of-storm

you'll see a lonely dove;

The experience of survival is the key
to the gravity of love.

-'The Gravity of Love' –Enigma

Friday, January 30th, 2004 (cont'd):

"Bella first," I insisted needlessly. Sam and Josh took her gurney out of the back, and disappeared. Charlie followed. Emmett and Jasper unlatched my gurney, bumping it into the ambulance wall, and rolled me out. There was a second of delay while they figured out how to make the wheels extend. Then, they were caroming toward the doors of the little hospital like a couple of clowns out of a Buster Keaton flick. As for me, I was too woozy to say anything, and incapable of so much as clutching the gurney for dear unlife.

Carlisle was waiting in the packed waiting room. Obviously, the grapevine was functioning at peak. People already knew that there had been a terrible accident at the school, caused by one Tyler Crowley, who should not have been doing 55mph in a school zone, never mind in a school parking lot.

Good-bye license, asshat.

Carlisle was directing people to go home, marching around and barking orders like he owned the place. Through his eyes, I Watched a medical team whisk my Bella through the doors to the small ER. When Carlisle lost sight of her, I switched to the most clear-headed of the nurses and Watched through her. Soon, Bella was being poked and prodded and made to answer questions. I averted my mind as a couple of nurses cut away her clothes. I was impressed: Bella's medical team was working remarkably quickly and efficiently. She was in good hands.

"I've called Doctor Gerandy," Carlisle told Charlie, who was standing anxiously in the waiting room. I'd like to be the one to see to her, but I'll have to take care of Edward before someone tries to take his pulse.

"Thanks, Doc," Charlie said, his forehead creased. What…tell Renée?

"From the sound of it, it's amazing they survived," one of Bella's doctors said to another. "I want X-rays done immediately: head, neck and spine. She doesn't appear to have any broken bones or internal injuries, but there might be fractures. And that laceration needs stitching."

I decided my mate was going to be okay. "She'll be fine," I said smugly to no one in particular. Then, Jazz and Em joggled my gurney. "Wooch," I yelped. Jasper frowned, and dosed me up again. He and Emmett drove me right up beside our father, who was insisting irritably that the remaining, persistent townsfolk go home.

"Hi Carlisle," I sing-song smiled, back under Jasper's influence. Dear Old Dad gawped at me without comprehension.

Christ aid! You look awful. You've got somebody's blood all over you. Bella's?

"Bella's and Tyler's. I feel like I was run over with a van!" Through his eyes, I could See that I was smiling so widely that by rights my face ought to have cracked. However, I couldn't understand why I was smiling when I looked like I belonged in the movie Saw.

"I want my son taken to Isolation!" Carlisle yelled. "Everybody back up! He's highly susceptible to germs!"

"He's a mysophobe," I giggled. Highly afraid of germs, for no good current reason.

Em and Jasper hauled me past what looked like half the population of Forks. People recoiled when they saw me, their thoughts horrified. Huh. Guess I really did look scary. Probably looked like death warmed over. Snort.

Alice caught up to me, grabbing my right hand. "Jasper, you're way over-medicating him," she said at vampire speed. "If you don't cut it back, he's going to take a nap and it will be awfully hard to explain to the staff here without declaring him dead. Just take the edge off. He doesn't like to feel out of control."

"Titch." I said with satisfaction.

"Yeah?"

"Vampires don't sleep," I cackled loudly. My sister's funny. Who knew?

"Jasper!" she howled. We're going to be outed. Crap crap crap!

"Yeah, okay," he sighed.

Alice glared at him, and addressed him at vampire speed. "If you make him nap now, before they're thoroughly attached, you will deprive his mate of the chance to care for him when he really needs her."

"I have a ma-ate," I sang. Then my attention was diverted. "Hello, Mother!"

"Edward! What ever happened?" Esme asked blankly, hurrying to keep up with my gurney.

"I stopped Tyler from squishing Bella into goo with his big blue van," I declared happily. Yeah, it was a great day.

"Jasper! Stop feeding him endorphins!" Esme snapped.

"Which hormone do you manipulate to make people high, Jazz? Seratonin?" I asked blithely. "And why don't you do it more often? It's awesome." He ignored me. Was that fair?

"Yes'm," he said sadly to Esme, and everything suddenly got heavy and dark. And bone-grindingly painful.

I couldn't keep my mouth shut. I groaned loudly, and whimpered over the pain like a sissy. How humiliating. Carlisle held open a door, and suddenly, we were in a room resembling a fish tank. He zipped around, closing all the blinds. I could feel Jasper messing with my hormones again.

"Ow," I said, feeling oddly detached from reality. I tried to put everything together, and it occurred to me that I had done and said some really unsafe things. "I think I'm in trouble. Carlisle, I'm sorry I almost got us caught."

"What?" Carlisle asked, looking enormously befuddled. I wish he wouldn't fear me. Masen has a lot for which to answer. Never mind, he brought me my boy. God rest him.

Jasper paced by me, staring. Got to help until the venom starts working. You'll be okay, brother.

Carlisle voiced his thoughts. "Edward, why do you think I'm going to be angry with you?"

A surge of endorphins hit me, and I stopped worrying about everything. "I crossed a crowded parking lot at vampire speed, and snatched Bella from certain doom before Tyler's van could whack her. She's my mate. I just couldn't stand around and watch her die, you know?"

Carlisle stared at me for a good twenty seconds. God help us all, he's high as a kite. "What did you do to him, Jasper?"

"I, uh, just can't seem to help myself," Jasper admitted. "He is hurting something fierce."

"Well, there's no reason to let him be in pain. Go ahead."

Wooooo-eeeee this is some good ... goood... What was I talking about, again?

"What if he forces him into a nap?" Esme demanded, gaping at her husband.

"He's got eighty-six years of stress hormones clogging up his innards," Jasper frowned.

"Right. I don't think a few minutes of relief will tip him over. Heavens! His back is dripping venom. Esme, put a few of those blue disposable pads under him, please." Carlisle was busily cutting up my shirt. ◊Wow, I really have blood all over me. I couldn't even lick it off before it started to dry. Pity. Carlisle cut off my jeans, too.

"Aw, I liked those jeans," I complained.

"We'll get you more, honey," Alice told me, taking a hot washcloth to my face, chest and hands. Knowing I was getting clean took some of the stress off me. I hated to be dirty. Perhaps everything would be all right after all.

"Any reason you need the head brace, Edward?" Carlisle asked me. I don't see anything to indicate his neck is broken.

"Nope," I told him, popping the 'p'. "It's just a prop."

"Okay," Carlisle said, taking it off. "Are you feeling all right?" Pain must be unbearable.

I frowned. "Define 'all right'."

"Do you feel like your injuries are healing at all?"

I mulled it over. "Still kicking."

Rose walked in, and leaned against the door. Ew. That's something I never wanted to see. I hope Carlisle doesn't intend to take Edward's underwear off.

Oh my dear God I'm practically naked in front of my female relations. Alice is washing me. And... I don't care. Jasper really knows how to knock down a guy's inhibitions. I shall have to remember that. He wouldn't mess with my testosterone in front of Bella, would he? Nah, he respects my feelings. Right?

"Jasper, you wouldn't manipulate my emotions in front of Bella, would you?" I double-checked.

Tarnation! I just can't seem to keep down his anxiety. Jasper hit me with a mega-dose of an emotion I couldn't quite identify. It made me feel so good that I wanted to wallow in it forever. Trying to maintain rationality was not only futile, but by doing so, I was denying myself emotional healing. I surrendered my attempt to control my emotions, and relaxed.

For the second time that day, bliss engulfed me. "If Bella were here right now, this would be Heaven!"

Emmett was stunned. "Dude, you want Bella here right now?"

"Mmm," I purred, feeling turned on.

"Carlisle, hurry up and get him back to normal. And Jasper, give him something different from whatever it is you're giving him. He's freaking me out."

"Desire is a natural pain killer, Em," Jasper argued.

"He's going to be embarrassed."

"Ew!" Rosalie exclaimed. Edward with a stiffy? This is awful.

"Why would I be embarrassed?" I asked mildly. "There's no pleasing them! Hell, for years they worry about me being a eunuch, and now-"

"If you bulldoze his inhibitions much more, Jazzy, the future's not going to be pretty," Titch warned.

"Fine. Now that he is receptive to experiencing positive feelings, I will try amusing him instead."

"Let's get him over onto his stomach," Carlisle urged, grabbing me around the middle. Emmett latched onto me, too, Esme supported my head, and Jasper picked up my feet. They turned me gently, and made mental noises of dismay, sounding like something out of a television laugh track… only sad. ◊What a soap opera! Hey… 'As the Vampire Turns'…

"Am I permanently damaged?" I giggled.

"No, but you are a mess," Carlisle declared.

"Tell me something I don't know," I said, eyes rolling. I had been a mess since 1918. Nothing new there. The left side of my back looked strange through Carlisle's eyes. Crushed?

"I'm going to have to slit the skin, to get a look inside."

"Cool. Lemme know what you see," I said nonchalantly. Carlisle ran his thumbnail down my back, opening it like a zipper. "Did you wash your hands?"

Not that it matters for vampires, but I know how you feel about germs. "Of course." He turned back my skin like he was doing a blasted autopsy. Seeing it in his mind, I felt rather green.

"Ooh, cool," Emmett enthused.

"Shut up, Emmett," Rose grumbled, giving him a hard pinch.

"How did you do this much damage?" Carlisle demanded. Several of my ribs were broken, and one of my vertebrae had a big chunk broken off it. And the very muscles I had named to the ambulance attendant appeared to be torn. I was leaking venom everywhere, and it was pooling inside me.

"I stuck out my hands and stopped a marauding vehicle that probably weighs three or four thousand pounds." Duh.

Carlisle manipulated my left arm, pinching the part where I'd ripped the pectoral off it. He opened it up and reattached the muscle. "You have a compound fracture to the humerus; scapula looks a little rough; clavicle is broken." He dipped his fingers into my venom, and spread it onto the injuries, which almost instantly stopped hurting.

"That tickles," I growled. Carlisle ignored me, sealed up my arm and started prodding at my back, which hurt like hell despite Jazz's 'medication'. I sighed. This was not an experience I'd ever dreamed of having. "Please tell me you didn't See this coming, Titch."

"I didn't." She stroked my hair. "Tyler isn't on my radar, and he only decided to drive back to the school to hand in his paper a few seconds before he actually did it. I didn't See anything until Bella said good-bye to you, and then, it was too late to help you." Her voice turned soft. "But you saved her. You're so brave. Bella was brave too."

"Yeah," I said, smiling happily into the sheet. I Watched Carlisle manipulate bone, ligaments and muscle. The injuries to my spine were not healing the way that the ones did in my arm, probably because the damage was so extensive.

We'll have to add our venom to yours. It will make it heal faster. It's going to sting. Presently, Carlisle was drooling venom into my muscles, which were binding fibres together and turning pale purple even as I Watched. Looking at my broken vertebra, he hesitated. I'm not sure how to best do this.

"I don't think the method of repair is very important since I can still move," I supplied. "Just stuff the nerves back in, spit on it, and clock it back into place."

"That wouldn't be responsible. I don't want you to suffer any long term ill effects."

"Hm."

"Dose him up again, Jasper. Best stuff you've got."

Post-conjugal bliss,Jazz thought, and hit me with a whackload of it. My entire being turned languid, my body heavy.

So this is way stronger than any release I've experienced.

"Ahh," I smiled. "I 'get' it now." ◊This is why they've all been trying to pair me off. They really did want me to enjoy these sensations on a regular basis. And now, I have a human mate who would be endangered by my nails, muscle, sheer weight, natural urges and teeth. God really has a sense of humour.

"Keep that up, Jasper," Carlisle ordered. "Edward, I'm going to repair your spine, now."

" 'Kay." I Watched him gently rejoin torn nerves, bind the useless artery and seal my spinal cord with venom. "That stings like a bitch. Hey, how come I can move my feet if my back's broken?"

"Vampire," Carlisle shrugged. "We don't follow human rules. Each of our cells seems to carry a complex, independent circulation, which is why we can go without breathing indefinitely. Perhaps each cell also dictates our ability to move."

"Take a few cells for research, Carlisle," I urged.

"You have enough healing to do, Boy."

"Take a couple of the damaged ones, then. You know they'll grow back."

"All right, Doctor." Carlisle took a needle and touched it to my messy insides. Alice presented a slide, and he wiped the needle on it. "I'm going to fix your vertebra now. It's going to hurt."

God bless Edward. I know what that's like, Esme thought.

Jasper dosed me up until I was ecstatic. Perhaps there really was a silver lining to this cloud.

Carlisle gently applied the broken piece of bone to its proper location. Very slowly, it began to bond. There is so much damage. How can I speed healing? "I need venom, here, people." Everyone crowded around me.

Now, the idea of having family members spit into an open wound would probably be repulsive to humans, but vampires are different creatures. The willingness of everyone to assist in my healing by gifting me venom actually spoke volumes about their attachment and affection for me. Nothing says 'you are indispensable to me and I claim you as family' like the administration of venom.

Even if I didn't like being a vampire, I was physically and psychologically designed to find the ritual comforting. Some coven leaders even insisted on all their members biting a new individual to bond him or her to the group. All of us, save Jasper and Alice, shared Carlisle's venom. Carlisle hadn't insisted upon biting Alice or Jasper, but Em and I had purposefully nipped Jazz a few times when roughhousing, and he and Alice bit each other on numerous occasions. They were just as much Cullens as the rest of us.

"Family by venom," I said sappily, watching Carlisle stick pieces of very white rib together, and hold them where they belonged. Rose and Em leaned over, and drooled venom on them, which sizzled quietly. The bones fused and thickened before everyone's eyes. ◊Interesting. This is why I want to be a doctor: bodies are fascinating. It would be cool to be able to help humans, too.

Another blissful wave of happiness hit me. I aimed my gratitude at Jazz, who radiated more good vibes at me.

"I see the lungs, but where's his heart?" Emmett asked curiously.

"As of late, I seem to be wearing it on my sleeve." I sighed melodramatically. They ignored me. Was that fair?

Carlisle grunted, "Can't see it through the tissue, and I'm not doing a science experiment here, Emmett."

"Yeah, Emmett," I grinned. Eu-pho-ri-a.

"All right. I can't see any other damage. Can you, Edward?" my father asked, frowning.

"Do you have any idea how weird this is?" I cackled.

"Edward. Focus," Carlisle ordered.

"Yes, sir, Dom Carlisle. Would you mind concentrating on it yourself? I can't read your mind if you're thinking about Esme. And thinking about the woman who is my mother, for all intent and purposes, like that, while doing surgery on me, is squicky, just so you know."

"Sorry," Jasper said, cutting back my bliss and replacing it with calmness. I didn't mean to spread it around. I wonder if they realize how hard it is to concentrate my talent on one person.

Carlisle cleared his throat. How embarrassing. "Damage, Edward?"

"I can't See any more," I informed him, missing the euphoria. "My butt hurts."

"Okay. I'll look at that in a minute. Let's seal you up." He put the edges of my skin together. At his urging, Alice and Jazz drooled on me.

"That looks really good," I told Carlisle. "Probably won't even scar. I really don't like scars. Sorry Jazz." I sighed again. Carlisle prodded my backside. "Nope, it's not my butt. I think it's my gracilis."

Carlisle started prodding my inner thigh.

"That's the wrong one," I grouched. "There's no damage to my right side at all. And stop tickling me."

God give me strength. Carlisle gave a long-suffering sigh and prodded the other inner thigh. The left one. Hard. He got about four inches away from my groin, and-

"Ow, fuck!" I yelped.

"Yes, you have a good sprain of the gracilis and its tendon." Carlisle said clinically. He took hold of my lower leg and pulled it toward himself, parting my legs.

"Ow! Ow! Ow!" I gasped.

"What's a gracilis?" Em wanted to know.

"It's the most superficial muscle on the medial side of the thigh," Carlisle said, holding my leg out to stretch it.

"Ow! Ow! Ow!" I repeated, without effect.

"It arises by a thin aponeurosis from the anterior margins of the lower half of the symphysis pubis and the upper half of the pubic arch." Carlisle pointed to the location on my hip where the outside of the muscle connected. "The muscle's fibers run vertically downward, ending in a rounded tendon. The damage has occurred mid-way. This tendon passes behind the medial condyle of the femur, curves around the medial condyle of the tibia-"

"In English, Carlisle!" Em demanded.

"It's a hip and knee flexor," I interjected.

"It's not stretching out and surgery wouldn't accomplish anything. We'll have to rub it for you, four times a day, until the sprain gets better," Carlisle told me. I turned my head toward him and gaped at him in horror.

"No offence, Carlisle, but that's not gonna happen."

"Do you want me to send you to one of the Denalis for massage therapy? They're quite good at it," my father said smoothly. I gawped at him some more.

"Hell, no!" I grunted. "Once Bella and I are married, she can fix it for me."

"So you're planning to get married this week?" Carlisle said, looking at me incredulously.

I frowned pensively. Something was missing in my logic department. Oh, yeah! "That might … possibly be a problem, seeing as she doesn't even know I'm her mate, yet."

"I've seen these heal wrong in vampires that have been fighting. It happened a lot with the Volterran Guards. If you don't stimulate healing, you could end up with reduced ability to flex your hip and rotate your leg medially at the knee. Permanently."

"Holy shit, Edward! You might not be able to thrust!" Emmett yelped.

If vampires could blush, I'd have been beet red. "Jeez Louise! Nobody is touching me there!"

"Eddie, it's nowhere near your groin. I'll take care of it for ya."

Um, no thanks. "I'll rub it myself, okay? That's okay, right Carlisle?"

"Suit yourself. I'll have to show you how, though. Now, Edward, your spine is going to take a couple of days to fully heal. You're going to have to hold still." He addressed the family. "People, we're going to have to guard him. All we need is one of the nurses taking his blood pressure."

"Cullen's a little under the weather," I joshed. "Six feet under."

"I'm going to check on Bella and Tyler," Carlisle told everyone.

"Don't bother fixing Tyler up. I'm gonna kick him into next Tuesday," I growled. Jazz zapped me with some kind of hakuna matata. "Mmmm. Bellaaaa..." I pushed my pelvis against the mattress and my eyes rolled back into my head a little. Titch started to snicker. Evil Pixie. How much friction could I obtain without anyone being the wiser?

Carlisle sighed. God help me to endure this. I wanted the boy to grow up. Really, I did. But please don't let him turn into Emmett. "Edward? Do as you're told, or you won't heal properly. Keep still."

"Yes, Daddy."

"Oh, help," Rose said with an eye roll.

"I don't think he can," the Evil Pixie choked. Jasper threw a little lust into the mix because he thought I was close to making an emotional breakthrough. Like that was ever gonna happen!

"Eu-pho-ri-a!" I sang to the tune of Notorious. "Eu-eu-eu-euphoria!"

"Eddie? You're really funny when you're high, man," Em told me.

"Thank you, Emmett. That's a compliment, right?" I smiled.

"Jesus," he whispered, deadpan.

"Jasper, stop that instantly, you're impeding his healing!" Carlisle demanded. I drooped (emotionally and physically).

"Yessir," Jazz mumbled. What about his sexual well-being?

I could take care of that without assistance from him. ◊What is it with my brothers? They are seriously loopy if they think they're going to influence my –ahem- development. And if they think I'm going to tell them anything about it, they've got another thing coming. Time to assert some boundaries! "Jasper, I don't need that kind of assistance. And Em? Don't take the name of the Lord in vain."

It was proper to show the proper respect for God, even if He didn't love me. Besides, if Em got mouthy, Esme might break out the Swears Jar and I wouldn't get away with saying 'fuck' again.

"Emmett? You have to dispose of all the soiled linens and clothing, and the backboard," Carlisle ordered. There was silver venom all over it and some of the natural fibers had melted a bit. "Don't let the staff see anything. Jasper? You keep them out of here."

"I can't create an atmosphere of apathy in an ER, Carlisle!"

"No," Carlisle paced. "Okay, if a nurse tries to come in to take care of him, can you make her or him go away? Can you make them believe Edward doesn't need tending?"

Geewhilakers! "I'm not a hypnotist, but I will do my best to distract them if they try to come in." I'm getting mentally tired from trying to direct my talent so precisely. "It's not easy to restrict my range to a small number of people."

"I appreciate that. If someone persists, perhaps you can him or her think someone urgently needs help. Or maybe you can make them feel afraid of Edward's contagion."

"I'm afraid of contagion," I shared.

Jasper tried to be patient, but his thoughts betrayed his frustration. We know."Yessir." I wish Carlisle wouldn't put so much pressure on me. I'm doing my best.

Carlisle turned his attention to my sisters. "Alice? You and Rose go and do damage control in the waiting room. Get rid of the ambulance chasers."

"Yes, Sir!" they said smartly, and then I was alone with Jazz.

"Jasper?" I asked muzzily.

"Yeah?"

"Can I have some more?"

"No." You're getting enough. We don't need you addicted to this.

"Meanie."

"You need to pursue these feelings with your mate." Jasper texted away with Alice on his Crackberry.

I shut my eyes tight, trying to avoid thinking about sex. "Would you please lay off with the lust?"

"I am not giving you any. What I am delivering is simple contentment."

Well, that was unexpected. "You mean, I'm just …" I couldn't ask him, it would be embarrassing.

Jasper suppressed an impatient answer. "Human males think about sex approximately every seventeen seconds, on average, and our brains work a lot faster than theirs. You must know this; you read minds."

"But you're not thinking about it right now."

Of course, the instant I said it, he started thinking about it. But he was able to laugh at himself, which I wouldn't be able to do were I in his shoes. "Oh, Brother, you might as well get used to being horny. It's going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better, assuming your mate accepts you."

"W-what?" I gasped. It was going to get worse? And what if she didn't accept me? Would I die without ever having experienced a lover's touch?

"Simmer down, kid." I tried to get tense, but it was very difficult. Jazz leaned forward in his chair. "Look, it is very unlikely that your mate is going to reject you. No point fretting about it."

"Okay."

"Something in each of you attracts the other. When it happens, I think your bond is going to be very strong."

"We aren't fully bonded?"

"Hardly. Right now, you're still feeling each other out."

"And… this lack of control over…?"

"It's going to get worse, kid. What was it like when Carlisle and Esme bonded?"

"Awful. I stayed out of the house a lot. Eventually, I ran away. That wasn't the only reason, but it was part of it. I stayed away a couple of years and by the time I came back, they weren't so… demonstrative."

"And Em and Rose?"

"Urgh! None of us could stand to be around them for the first ten years."

"Well, I hate to tell you this, but when you and Bella are in the same room, your amorous vibes are almost as strong as those given off by Em and Rose."

"Jeez Louise, you're telling me that I'm going to be worse than Emmett?"

"Likely."

The future was daunting. Being ruled by my dick would be horrible. And immoral. And my parents would roll over in their graves, for sure.

On the upside, I could feel euphoric on a regular basis.

No, no, wait. That would be wrong. "What if Bella thinks I'm using her?"

"Not apt to happen. Bella will feel the same as you, providing she chooses you as her mate." How is he going to react to the possibility that she won't? Ah, he didn't hide his horror. Yeah, no way she is going to stay human much longer.

"What happens if she doesn't accept me as her mate?"

"You know very well that is not going to happen."

"But, what if it does?" I pressed, feeling panicky.

"Then, you would likely always remain as you are now. You would channel all your feelings into fantasy, and as time passes, your desires would mute down, allowing you to function as you always have. Being an adolescent forever would not be optimal, but it is a far better existence than having your fully-bonded mate and then losing her would be." He shouldn't be thinking he can live until she dies. It's not sane.

If Bella didn't choose me, I would meet my end without having experienced the fullness of a mature, loving relationship. It was an awful thought. Yet the thought of being mated to her, and losing her, was even worse. I would take the first outcome over the second. But there was a third possibility.

It was possible that Bella would decide to claim me for her mate and she would change-

That wouldn't be right.

But even if she was my mate for only a short number of years, as a human, I would get more fulfilment at her side than I could ever experience alone.

But, I had a shot at Forever.

It would be too selfish. To honour Bella, I would have to keep her human and deny my base urges. I would have to hope that she would choose to spend her human life with me, even if it meant we could never consummate our love.

That would be really selfish of me.

Why couldn't my unlife be easy?

"Don't look for troubles that do not exist, yet. Try to rest so that you heal, and think positively. For the moment, I suggest that you picture your girl in the lace nightgown that Lis has bought for her." Jasper Showed me a delicate lace gown, held up in my sister's arms.

"Jeez Louise!" It was impossible to be good with Jasper and Emmett around. "Did Titch really buy that for my Bella?"

"Yup."

Schwing! There was no need for me to make any immediate, life altering decisions.

Don't be embarrassed, Brother. I am right happy for you .Jasper left the room briefly so that I could amuse myself with a short fantasy. Shame I wasn't allowed to move.

Some hours later, there was a gentle rap on the door. Emmett sat up warily. "Who is it?"

"Charlie," I muttered. Jasper had cut back my 'meds' drastically, and every part of me ached. Well, almost every part. Everything that did ache, ached in a bad way. Very. The part of me that could have been aching in a good way had gone back to being catatonic. The old man in me wanted it to remain limp. The adolescent part of me wanted it to come back to life.

The first thing I wanted to do, once I was free, was pay a trip to the forest. Alone. And nickname my hand 'Bella'.

"Jasper?"

"Yes?"

"Drat you and your suggestions of white lace negligées!"

My brother-in-law snorted. "You're a lot of fun, kid."

"Glad I amuse you."

Emmett opened the door and Charlie, noting the quiet of the room, crept in. The blood scent of humanity diffused into the air. "I need to hunt," I decided.

His inhibitions are dropping too far. Jasper cut me back some more.

"Jasperrrr!"

"How you doing, kid?" Charlie asked me.

"Everything aches," I told him, drooling venom into the mattress. Good thing the fabric was synthetic. Plastics are very resistant to venom.

No, I'd never eat Charlie, but I couldn't help being thirsty, could I? "Carlisle says I'll be okay in a couple of days. I'd like to murder Tyler. How is Bella?"

"Doctor Gerandy says you were right. She has a hairline fracture of the C2 Vertebrae, and a slight concussion, and one hell of a lump on the back of her head. She got four stitches. The nurses have to wake her up every hour. How come you're not on monitors?"

"He just got banged around some," Jasper told him. "No serious damage. He dislocated his shoulder, which pinched a nerve and made it impossible to move his arm. Sprained his leg. Cut his back up a little, you know, but all it needed was some of that silver medical glue. See?"

"Amazing," Charlie declared. "The van had holes in the side, you know. It hit that hard."

"He's not allowed to move at all for the next few hours," Jasper added.

Charlie pulled his chair up to me so he could see my face. "The kids who witnessed the accident said Bella was in the direct path of that van and that you came out of nowhere and pulled her out of the way."

"I still wasn't fast enough," I pouted.

"You saved her life, kid. I won't forget it."

"She shouldn't feel beholden to me for this. She wanted to go to the Valentine's Dance with Jacob Black. Tell her 'no hard feelings'." A lump formed in my throat.

Kids ... stupid. "She's been bawling her eyes out. Admits she told you a lie to make you jealous."

"Oh, thank God!" I groaned, and then flinched, waiting for the lightning bolt. Amazingly, it did not appear to be forthcoming. I decided it was okay with God for me to show an interest in my mate. "Is Bella allowed to get up? Will she come and see me in the morning?"

"I'm sure she will. Can I tell her you're not mad?" the Chief checked. I wondered if he'd be helping me get her back if he knew the truth.

"Please," I said, sighing. I decided that I would worry about the future in the future. For tonight, I would just worry about the present.

Saturday, January 31st, 2004, 2am:

My father had surreptitiously moved me in the night to a private room. There was still an Isolation sign on the door. I could only hope he wouldn't keep me in here for a month. There was a quiet knock at the door. Jasper looked up sharply from his Crackberry. I couldn't Hear who it was. Yay!

"Bella?" I called.

Jasper went to the door and opened it. My mood brightened drastically as my Bella padded in. "Edward?"

"Hi, Sweetheart."

Jasper fetched his chair and brought it around the bed so that Bella could sit. She thanked him quietly and manoeuvred it so she could see my face. I stared at her fretfully, noting that she had two black eyes and was wincing. I didn't like the neck brace, either. All she was wearing were two thin, cotton hospital gowns, turned back to front. Couldn't her father have brought her a robe and slippers? She couldn't be warm enough, walking around in paper booties and cotton gowns in January. Somebody ought to have been taking care of her. My poor Bella.

"Edward?"

"Mm?"

The brown eyes I so admired welled with tears. "I owe you an apology. I can't believe you did this for me after I was so mean. What if one of us had died and I never got to tell you the truth?"

"Don't worry about it, Baby."

"No, I was really nasty," she sniffed. "I wasn't really going to go to the dance with Jacob. I just picked him because I knew he would bother you more than anyone else."

I laughed at that. "That's what Em and Jazz told me. Yeah, it worked. I was very jealous."

My throat burned as she leaned in to brush my hair out of my eyes. "You don't need to be. There may be a lot of guys out there, but you're the only one I see."

"Mm," I said, relishing the feeling of her fingers in my hair. Was she going to claim me? I wanted to officially belong to her and I didn't want the young men at school to lust after her any more. "I don't know if I can stop being jealous, Bella. I know how they think of you, and I don't like it."

"Well, you can stop worrying. I don't want their attention." Her fingers stroked and stroked. I felt like I might sink right through the surface of the mattress, I was so relaxed.

"You forgive me?" she checked.

"If you forgive me."

"Can I tell everyone you're my boyfriend?"

"Definitely," I sighed happily. It wasn't quite the same as having her claim me for her mate, but on the human scale it was a sign of commitment.

Bella ran her finger down my gowned shoulder. Mmm...

"How are you?" Her voice was husky. She caressed my hand.

"Don't touch my thumbnails, they're sharp!"

"Oh. Are all your nails sharp?"

"No, just the thumbs."

Bella held my hand; how great was that? "Are you in a lot of pain?"

My mood took a dip. "Well, now that you're here I'm okay. But for the most part, I've been frustrated, achy, and murderously angry. I'm doing my best not to plot murder."

She breathed a laugh. "Get in line."

The idea of my 112 pound girl murdering Crowley was enough to get me giggling.

"Shut up. I can take Tyler any day."

I grinned. "Of that, I have no doubt."

"I'm just going to step out," Jasper said softly. I need a drink.

"Okay," I said soberly. I need one, too.

Bella watched him go, and then turned back to me. "Your eyes are black."

I blinked. "They don't feed me well here."

"Ah. Is this too hard for you?" she winced, gesturing between us.

"No, don't go. I want to know how you are. I bet your head hurts something awful."

"Yeah, they won't give me painkillers because of the concussion," Bella pouted. "They keep shining a flashlight in my eyes, to make sure I'm still kicking. Then, they tell me I should sleep." She punctuated that statement with a huge yawn and I couldn't help humming a laugh.

"You should go back to bed."

"I couldn't sleep. The nurses keep nattering away at their station; it's right in front of my room. Plus, there are two other patients in my room, and one of them snores like a grizzly. Could I... can't I...?"

"What, Bella?"

Her blush was warm enough to heat my bed for a week. "Can't I sleep here, with you?"

Boing! Ahem. Down, boy. "That wouldn't be proper."

"Come on, Edward. I've been worried. I'm not going to rape you. And this floor is freezing."

I considered the matter carefully. My Bella was getting cold. She must be protected. Therefore, she had to get into bed. However, I wasn't likely to keep her warm. I called for Jasper at vampire pitch.

"Are you talking to yourself?" Bella frowned, perplexed.

"I'm calling Jasper." Speak of the devil. "Jazz? Would you kindly fetch me a blanket and sheet?"

"Sure," he frowned, uncertain. Is Edward cold? He ducked out, and reappeared moments later with a flannelette sheet and blanket. I started to shift myself over to the far edge of the bed. Jazz was shocked. I thought he wanted the bedding for himself. He stopped me. "You are not supposed to move, Brother, and besides, having a young filly in your bed would not be proper."

"Holy crow. What is it with you guys and propriety?" Bella shook her head. "Both of you must be ancient. Time to get with the Twenty-first Century. Just how old are you, Jasper?"

All Jasper's hackles went up. He hissed at me accusingly. "You told."

"He didn't tell me, I guessed," Bella said haughtily, taking the bedding from him. She flapped it out over the bed, and began to scramble up awkwardly. Jasper carefully picked her up and set her back on the floor despite my squawk of protest, giving her a look that would have made any mature vampire quail.

"How did you guess?" he growled.

"Jasper, let me remind you that Bella is my soulmate," I growled sub-audibly. He glared at me, but backed down.

"How did you guess, Miss Bella?" he asked more politely.

"You're impossibly fast, and strong. Your skin is cold to the touch, and Billy said a person didn't have a heart unless they had a pulse." She blushed.

Jasper knew she was lying. You showed her you didn't have a pulse? You are pushing the limits of the Law, Brother.

Good thing he didn't know I'd actually had her hands on my jugular.

Bella swallowed, hard. "So, your hearts aren't beating, are they? You never eat or drink anything. You don't go out when it's sunny. Sometimes you all talk like you're from a different era, and your world views are hopelessly out of date. You also have mannerisms from another age." She stopped and took a deep breath. "For example, Edward often walks with one hand in his pocket, while swinging the other arm lightly at his side. He looks just like Carey Grant, in a four-piece suit, when he does it. Carlisle turns out his leg when he's standing still. You walk like you've spent your whole life on a horse, Jasper. Plus, both of you have impeccable manners. And you hold doors for ladies. Even my dad doesn't do that."

"Perceptive," Jasper murmured respectfully.

"Sometimes, someone in the family's eyes turn black, and when they do, the person is cranky. I've noticed that people, especially men, get cranky when they're hungry. I've noticed that one of you will mention hunting, and then the next day all of your eyes are golden, and you're laughing and smiling."

Jasper turned to me, his eyes intent. "We need to be more careful."

Bella continued. "Billy Black referred to you as Cold Ones and Apotampkin. I looked it up on the internet. A 'Cold One' sounds an awful lot like a vampire, and Edward vomited blood at school. Alice's explanation for that just wasn't convincing. So, when Jacob was at my house this week, I flirted with him to get information, since Billy wouldn't give me any."

"Poor Jacob Black," I chuckled. Flirty Bella was a highly dangerous creature.

Bella continued. "Jacob said the Cullens are hated by the Quileute because you're supposed to be Cold Ones. He said you live off of animals, and you aren't supposed to be dangerous."

"The Kwoli Ute don't trust us," Jasper avowed.

"No," she told him. "They still think you're dangerous. And it's obvious why. They think Edward is going to change me into one of you."

"You're breaking the Law, Edward," Jasper sighed, pressing his hand to his forehead. "You must turn your mate, now."

"Mate?" Bella echoed, eyes narrow.

Thank you, Jasper Hale. I couldn't suppress the involuntary snarl that rumbled in my throat.

"Stop growling at me, Edward." He paused, examining Bella. He growled, and this little wildcat did not so much as flinch. "We each have a soulmate, with whom we are meant to spend eternity. Why are you not afraid of us, missy? Are you not afraid of being bitten at all?" Jasper sent off a threatening vibe. Bella's hands balled up into fists, and through him I Saw her meet his eyes defiantly. I decided I didn't need to fight him for threatening my mate. He was only testing her, and he found Bella's response not just amusing, but admirable.

"No. Edward won't hurt me. None of you will." She lifted her chin and glared. "And I'll thank you to stop chaperoning us now. I thought that went out with Prohibition."

Tarnation, Brother. This little kitten has claws, and dang if she doesn't have them all stuck in you. I like her. A lot.

"I need some sleep. Now stop fussing us, mister." Bella put her hands onto the mattress beside me, preparing to climb up. I held myself rigid, braced for pain. Instead, Jasper lifted her onto the bed, setting her down very slowly.

"Pray excuse the familiarity, Miss Bella. It will be several more hours until his bones finish knitting, and if you jostle them out-a place, you are going to be in the soup with Dom Carlisle."

"Dom Carlisle?" Bella asked warily, reclining on my pillow. Her body heat caressed me. It felt so good.

"Vampire coven leaders are called Doms or Donas," I told her, enjoying her warmth immensely. "My family doesn't often use the titles, though. We aren't formal about the family hierarchy."

"This is so cool," she sighed happily.

"You really have no sense of self-preservation, do you?" I asked fondly.

"You're just not scary," she said, shaking her head mockingly. Jazz covered her up with her blankets, and my mate scooted closer to me, putting her hand on my back, and slid her leg against mine. She rubbed my back gently, and my eyes rolled back in my head a little. "Jasper, why are you sitting back down? I'm not going to take advantage of him."

Jasper sighed, pulling out his Crackberry. "I am dulling his pain, and I must keep the nurses away," he said gruffly. "Pay me no mind. We will wake you every hour, Missy. We cannot afford to lose you, you know."

"Why not?" she breathed.

"Because vampires only mate once, and you are his destiny," he said sagely.

"You sound like Obi Wan," I murmured. My mate giggled along with me.

Saturday, January 31st, 2004, 4am:

Bella sighed, rubbed her thighs together, and rolled back onto me. After a prolonged groan, she fell quiet. Thank goodness! I didn't want her to compromise herself in front of Jasper. I didn't want to compromise her virtue at all. Even if he were to leave the room, I should not be taking advantage of her. Well, surely that was best, wasn't it?

The door to my room flew open with a bang, admitting Rosalie. She gawped at me -lying face down on the bed, with Isabella Swan half-draped over my person.

Bella was lightly drooling on my back. Best. Thing. Ever. Shame she didn't have venom. A mate's venom heals better than that of anyone else. Between Jasper's 'medication', and Bella's soft, cushy, warm self, I was having a whee of a time.

"Oh, swell," Rose huffed, throwing out her hands and letting them smack down on her thighs. She put them on her hips, and glared at us. "They're combing the hospital for her, and the two of you are nesting?"

"Don't be cross with me, Rose," I begged, slurring my words like a boozer.

"Jasper, knock it off. Half of the hospital staff is coming and we don't need Edward making any more stupid remarks," Rose snapped. "I'm going to go ward them off."

The giddiness began to fade. Jazz had turned it off.

Carlisle burst into the room. "Oh, good. I thought we might find her here," he said mildly. Charlie Swan rushed in next, hitting Carlisle with the door, which put the door in serious peril of shattering. Unlike Carlisle.

"Aw, thank God!" Charlie moaned. "Stupid nurses are running around like chickens without heads, clucking that she's flown the coop when she's in serious danger of falling into a coma. Sorry I bumped you, Doctor Cullen."

"No big, Charlie. Call me Carlisle." Carlisle came to probe my muscles. "Can you tense the muscles in your back, Edward?"

I did so, and he grunted with satisfaction. "They're coming along nicely. If you're careful, and you don't move your shoulder too much, you can roll over. Would you like that?"

"Yes, Sir! Would you mind Bella so she doesn't fall, please?"

Carlisle put up the railing on the side of the bed by the door, and rolled Bella back a bit, so I could squeak out from under her and turn onto my back. I groaned, and Jasper stood ready to catch me in case I should fall.

"Still painful?" Carlisle asked clinically.

"Yes. I think I need more 'medication'. It's worn off."

"While you're coherent, would you kindly explain why you have a young lady in your bed?" Carlisle asked coolly. Got to maintain the fatherly charade, Cocksparrow. Finding Bella here is hardly a surprise.

"Bella told me the nurses at the station outside her room have been noisy all night and she wasn't getting any sleep. She asked Jasper to let her stay with me. There's nothing improper about it. She's got her own blankets, see?" I lifted the edge of Bella's blanket, demonstrating that it wasn't attached to mine.

"I'll be having a word with the nurses," Carlisle said, grimacing. "You've been waking her periodically?"

"She got here after two, and we talked a little bit, and then she went to sleep. Jasper woke us both just after three. Should we wake her again?"

I'm so relieved you're not blethering about all our secrets any more, Carlisle thought. "Let me have a quick look at her." As Charlie watched with concern, he put his hand on Bella's neck and felt her pulse. He checked her breathing, and rolled back her eyelids one at a time. He also smelled her, but Charlie wouldn't know that. "I think she'll be fine for another hour. Her heart is strong, her breathing is good, and her pupils are looking better. Are you all right, looking after these two, Jasper?"

"I wouldn't mind a nap," Jasper said, "as long as Edward can cope without me awhile." If you think you're going to have any romantic thoughts, I need to have a break, Brother.

"Um, yeah, that's only fair." I didn't think he was 'medicating' me much at this point anyway.

"I'll send one of the others in to keep you company," he promised.

"Please, not Rose. She's mad at me," I said, biting the inside of my cheek.

"How 'bout Esme?"

"Yeah," I said hopefully.

"All right, I will send her," Jasper said. "You get some rest, you hear?"

"You, too," I ordered. "It's been a long day for you, too, man."

He shook his head. "You surely do know how to liven things up around here."

"Glad we're not boring you." I smiled, feeling a bit sheepish.

"Brother? You need to learn to strike a balance between the doldrums and ... excitement. Think you can work on that?"

"Sure," I promised him. I was pretty sure Bella could help me with that.