Disclaimer: All Twilight characters belong to Stephenie Meyer, and only appear here for entertainment purposes. No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: What if Edward did NOT drive Bella home on blood testing day, and Mike DID? Would she bond with Mike out of gratitude? What would Edward do?
This was my entry to The Canon Tour: Twilight round. Many thanks to Katmom for her beta awesomeness! Read her Canon Tour entries: "Blood is Thicker", "Snapshots", and "EAC: The Journal of Edward Cullen".
A Different Driver
The day had started out quite well for Edward Cullen. Only hours before in the pre-dawn morning, the realization that he loved Bella Swan had transformed him from a bored, apathetic immortal in search of the next distraction, to a being who valued the happiness and welfare of a human girl above all else. Against his best intentions to stay out of Bella's life, he had met her in the parking lot before school, hopeful that he might be able to make some kind of connection with her. For a moment it seemed that she might be too angry with him to break the ice, but wonder of wonders, she had accepted his offer of a ride to Seattle.
Even now, the jittery feeling of exhilaration buoyed his thoughts as he sat in his car, replaying the morning's events in his head, down to the expression on her face when she had agreed to let him accompany her. She still didn't seem to have a very high opinion of him – as evidenced by her sarcastic retorts. So when she had suddenly nodded, her deep, brown eyes wide and her hair playing around her delicate features, he had mentally jumped for joy.
He had spent most of his time in class surfing through the thoughts of Bella's classmates, envying them their schedules that placed them in classes with her. Enough of the boys glanced Bella's way that he could see her through their eyes fairly regularly. Unfortunately, this view was sometimes accompanied by other thoughts and fantasies that made Edward's teeth grind together.
Lunch time could not come soon enough, and he surprised her by asking her to sit with him. To his gratification she agreed and while he was still uncomfortable with her knowledge that he was somehow different, he had spent a very enjoyable hour in her company, drawing her out while deflecting her more pointed questions.
The only damper to his current mood was the blood typing experiment in biology class. If not for that, he would be by her side, basking in her warmth, burning with her scent swirling around him. But merely thinking of the aroma of exposed human blood filling the room was enough to set the venom flowing in his mouth. Closing his eyes, Edward searched for Mike Newton's wretched thoughts, one of the most reliable sources for visions of Bella.
Man,is she okay? Mike thought. She doesn't look too good right now. Through Mike's eyes, Edward could see Bella sitting with her forehead propped on two hands, leaning on her elbows with her face shielded by the curtain of her chestnut hair.
"All right, Class, if anybody isn't comfortable pricking their own finger, raise your hand and I'll come help you." Mr. Banner's voice diverted Mike's vision, but not before Edward saw Bella raise a shaky hand.
Mike swallowed his own apprehension, picked up the lancet and, after squeezing his forefinger, jabbed it. OW! Dammit, that hurts! he thought as he dutifully squeezed a drop of blood onto the glass slide. He then began fumbling with the Band-Aids Mr. Banner had provided and soon had his finger bound. It was only then that Edward noticed the commotion reaching Mike's ears from across the room.
Edward shifted to Mr. Banner's thoughts and his fists tightened on the steering wheel, eliciting a cracking sound before he controlled himself. Bella lay with her upper body slumped on the desk, her eyes closed and her arms sprawled out. Horrified, Edward saw the smear of blood across the desk and the slow ooze of droplets from her finger.
Oh God, check her pulse. Is she breathing? Good. Wouldn't mind giving her mouth-to-mouth, though. Ah,stop! Edward's mouth dropped open in surprise at the teacher's less than noble thoughts, but Mr. Banner soon recovered his composure. "Angela? Can you call the nurse, please? Tell her Bella's fainted. Class, I know this is exciting, but please try and focus on the lab before the blood dries on your slides. Otherwise you'll have to prick your finger again."
"I don't believe this!" Edward's exclamation was swallowed by the car's interior. An agony of indecision raged through his thoughts. He dearly wanted to run into that classroom, certain that his two medical degrees qualified him far more than the school nurse or the biology teacher, to care for Bella. But how would he explain his sudden reappearance? Since the mere scent of her drove him to near madness, the scent of her blood would be…it was too soon. There was no way he had enough strength to fight the call of her flowing blood. Edward ground his teeth in frustration and grimly monitored the situation from his car. He turned off the CD that was playing so there was one less distraction.
Mrs. Brown, the matronly nurse, arrived and with Mr. Banner's help, lay Bella on the floor with her feet elevated on some rolled up towels. Edward alternated between Mr. Banner and Mrs. Brown's thoughts to get a more comprehensive view of Bella's condition. Mrs. Brown was satisfied that it was a simple case of fainting, and Bella would recover shortly. A little color slowly began to return to Bella's lips, and she groaned a little.
"Don't try to get up, dear," said Mrs. Brown. "Do you know where you are?"
"Ugh, can I be dead?" Bella mumbled and covered her face with her non-bleeding hand. At that, Edward's humor returned slightly. The fact that Bella was able to be embarrassed meant she wasn't too incapacitated. From what little he knew of her, Bella hated being the center of attention, unlike Lauren Mallory, the popular girl who resented Bella for stealing her limelight.
A faint collective chuckle rippled through the nearby students, and Edward noticed a slight increase in the flush on Bella's neck.
"No, your father wouldn't be very happy if that were the case," Mrs. Brown said with kind humor.
Contrary to Mrs. Brown's protests, Bella rolled to her side and tried to get up, clenching her teeth with effort, using the side of the desk to pull herself up. She fell heavily into her seat and resumed her pose from before the needle stick.
"Bella, if you aren't feeling well, you should come with me to the office," Mrs. Brown reasoned. "There's no sense disrupting the rest of the class. Can you walk?"
"Yeah, I can walk," Bella said heavily, and slowly attempted to gather her things. She was obviously still not clear-headed and Edward frowned at this unnecessary stoicism. Bella was either very hard-headed or truly hated being the center of attention. He stored that observation away for further study.
"Can someone help carry Bella's books, please?" Mrs. Brown asked.
Mike was instantly standing. "I can help," he said, and quickly grabbed Bella's backpack and jacket. Cool, maybe I can get out of the rest of class too, he thought.
Edward rolled his eyes at Mike's blatant opportunism, but then his stomach clenched as the accompanying blast of jealousy took over. If only he could do what Mike could do right now – blithely walk at Bella's side without the temptation to kill her as the blood soaked into the little bandage around her finger. Mrs. Brown supported Bella as best she could while Bella stumbled out of the classroom, clearly not well yet.
"Mike, get her other side. Bella, you need to lie down," Mrs. Brown reproved. "What's your next class?"
"Gym," Bella mumbled, with all the enthusiasm of a mortician.
"Oh, well there's no sense settling you down then sending you to that," the nurse mused. "I can excuse you. Why don't I call your father to pick you up?"
"No, don't do that," Bella objected, the embarrassment obvious on her face.
"I can take her home," Mike volunteered, cheerfully. "I have gym next period, too. I could let Coach Clapp know."
Bella grimaced as if another wave of nausea had struck her, and she muttered something too incoherently for both human listeners to pick up, but Edward heard Mrs. Brown's mental acceptance of the idea.
"All right, Mike, where's your car?" she asked, and began guiding Bella's steps in that direction.
Edward watched in impotent fury as various schemes to ingratiate himself started parading through Mike's head. Too woozy to object, Bella allowed Mrs. Brown to help her into Mike's Suburban while Mike stowed her books in the backseat. Or was it that she really did want to go with Mike? A thousand agonies pierced Edward's chest at the thought. Bella had steered Mike towards Jessica for the spring dance, but Edward still didn't know her that well. Did she do that out of loyalty to her friend, but perhaps harbored feelings for Mike after all? Was she selfless enough to do that? If that was her choice he would respect it – as long as she was happy. But what of his own feelings? An entire lifetime of being on the outside looking in loomed like a frozen moonscape, cold and barren.
Mike started the car, and as he looked over his shoulder to reverse, Edward saw him allow his glance to sweep across Bella's chest; heard him wishing her shirt was cut lower. A crunch resounded in the car as Edward crushed the CD case he had been fidgeting with, and he roused himself to motion. With an oath, Edward started his car, but waited until the Suburban left the lot before he eased the Volvo out of its space.
Edward kept his distance from the utility vehicle, but stayed within mental hearing range. The rage he felt at this cretin only increased with each of Mike's thoughts on how to get Bella to like him.
"Are you sure you won't come to the dance?" he asked with a sideways glance. Bella was leaning away from Mike with her head against the window.
"No, I don't think so," she mumbled without opening her eyes.
"It's okay if you don't have a date. We'll all dance with you." Mike thought eagerly about it and wondered how he would manage it with Jessica there.
"I don't dance, Mike."
Manners, this boy needs to be taught some manners, Edward thought. Edward couldn't see how Mike could be that insensitive to importune a girl when she was obviously not feeling well.
"Are you really going to Seattle?" Edward growled at the resentment in Mike's mind that she might be lying to him just so she could go to the dance with somebody else.
"Yes, Edward's giving me a ride there." Bella's lips seemed to trip over her words.
Silence fell inside the cab of the Suburban. "Edward Cullen?" Mike's outraged squawk finally seemed to rouse Bella from her discomfort.
"I shouldn't have said anything," Bella admitted as her face began to color. "Is that a problem?"
Great! All this time The Great Stick-Up-The-Ass Cullen is too good to bother with any girl in town, until the one I like shows up. Just goddam great! All right, don't blow it in front of her, just be cool.
"Um, no, no problem. Just surprised is all. The Cullens don't usually date anybody."
"This isn't a date. He's just giving me a ride."
"Yeah, whatever." Out of the corner of Mike's vision, Edward caught the frown on Bella's face at Mike's rude dismissal. Mike's thoughts were, of course, totally oblivious to her reaction, now absorbed with the idea that Edward Cullen might have his sights on Bella.
With a squeak of brakes, Mike stopped in front of Bella's house. Edward pulled to the curb several blocks away and turned off the engine to listen. Mike hopped out of the cab and quickly grabbed Bella's books, ignoring her protest that she could carry her own stuff. She gave a heavy sigh and turned up the walkway toward the front porch. As Mike followed, Edward was treated to a fantasy of Mike returning Bella home from their first date.
Bella stopped before the door and turned in expectation. Mike swung her bag off his shoulder and handed it to her, but before she could open the door, he stopped her with a hand on her elbow. Edward bristled at Mike's audacity for laying hands on her.
"Since your truck is still at school, can I pick you up in the morning?" he asked, all smiles.
"Thanks, Mike. You don't have to do that. I can catch a ride with Charlie."
"It's no trouble at all." Keep it smooth, Mike thought. "I'll be by at 7:30." Before Bella could say anything else, he winked and quickly left the porch.
"I don't want you to have to walk!" he called back with a grin, and got into his vehicle.
From his hiding place, Edward watched through Mike's eyes as he got in and drove away. Then Mike pulled out one of his favorite fantasies that involved kissing Bella in the back seat of the Suburban, and Edward shut him out with a growl. It didn't make sense. Didn't Mike understand how dishonorable it was to pursue more than one girl at one time? Edward compared himself to Mike. Was he any better than some hormonal teenager? Some of the thoughts and feelings rising up in him mirrored those that raised his disgust of Mike. Perhaps he was worse, considering he had decades' worth of perspective, but he still couldn't shake the raging jealously that coursed through his body. The mental image of picking Mike up by the throat and hurling him through the windshield of his Suburban hard enough to break through the back window gave Edward a certain amount of grim satisfaction.
If Edward could be certain that Bella held higher feelings for Mike, he would gladly step aside. If that was what she wanted, his barren existence could be tolerated as long as she was happy. But the way she acted towards Mike, the things she said and how she said them made Edward unsure that she leaned in that direction. If only he could get some time with her, pick up the conversation where they left off at lunch. Once again he lamented the fact that he couldn't hear her mind. He needed more time to figure out what was in her head, but tomorrow he was supposed to go hunting with Emmett. Normally he enjoyed Emmett's company, but these days he didn't have quite as much patience for his practical joke-playing brother.
Suddenly, inspiration struck. A wide grin spread across Edward's face, and he started his car, heading back to school to pick up his siblings.
= 0 = 0 = 0 = 0 =
Bella did not sleep very well. She had recovered from her fainting spell, but Chief Swan had been informed of the incident and insisted she not cook that evening. Unfortunately, the pizza had not agreed with her and the resulting heartburn had disturbed her rest. When she woke up, she remembered Mike's offer to pick her up for school. She hated the idea of encouraging him, but Charlie had already left for the station and while it wasn't a long walk, it was rude to simply leave Mike hanging like that.
She listlessly prepared for school, not really enjoying the shower and carefully brushing her teeth. Though she didn't care to impress Mike, that didn't mean she wanted to be a slob in front of him either. While pulling on the inevitable jeans and sweater, she wondered if it ever got warm enough to wear shorts here. By 7:20 she was finished, packed up and ready to go. All that was left was her ride.
At 7:30, Bella pushed aside the curtains and was surprised to see a silver Volvo in the driveway. Edward Cullen waved at her from the front seat.
"What's he doing here?" Bella wondered out loud, but shrugged into her jacket and grabbed her book bag.
"Good morning!" Edward called politely as Bella stepped through the front door.
"Hi," she said, suddenly shy. "Um, this is a surprise."
"Yes, well I noticed your truck was parked in the school lot when I left, and I heard about the blood typing incident–"
"What?" Bella interrupted and made a face. "Does everybody know about it?"
"Not everybody," Edward tried to keep his voice sympathetic. "I'm not sure how far it's gone but I heard. And you now how gossip is in Forks."
"There are no secrets in Forks." Bella's glum observation made Edward want to chuckle, but he kept himself impassive. "Maybe I won't go to school today," she mused.
"That's up to you," Edward said carefully. "I came to offer you a ride to school, but if you stay home, I won't have company for lunch." He wasn't sure if it was too soon for this kind of sentiment, but his desire for her presence was too great.
Bella's eyes seemed to widen as she processed his statement. "Is that a bad thing?"
"Oh, yes. Absolutely devastating." Edward widened his grin to lighten any import his words might have.
For a moment, it seemed Bella had stopped breathing, then she shook her head and re-focused on Edward's face. "I guess I'd better go, then." She frowned in distaste. "Except Mike is supposed to be here to pick me up."
"What about Mike?"
"He drove me home from school yesterday," Bella explained. "And he said he'd come pick me up at 7:30 today."
"Oh, really?" Edward paused and checked his watch. "It's after 7:30 right now. Is he normally on time?"
"I don't really know," Bella admitted. "I've never gone anywhere with him before."
"Well, this is awkward," Edward commented. "I'd hate to leave you without a ride if he doesn't show up, but things could be a little strange if I'm here when he arrives."
Bella fell silent and frowned while she thought. Edward stared, fascinated. He liked the way her brows drew together and her nose wrinkled in a manner he found totally adorable. The chestnut waves of her hair flowed together to be gathered in a barrette at the nape of her neck, before plunging down her back, and he fought off the sudden urge to find out if it was as soft as it looked. Finally she spoke.
"Let's go. I think he'll figure it out when he gets here. It's already after 7:30, and if we wait much longer we'll both be late. I didn't ask him to drive me and he wouldn't take no for an answer." Bella paused briefly. "I hope he won't be too mad, though."
"He might be," Edward said, his eyes dancing for a moment. "But he's got to learn to listen when a girl says no."
Bella absorbed that comment, then with a shrug, turned and picked up her books.
Riding in Edward's warm car was more pleasant than walking through the chilly Forks morning would have been, and it put Bella in a much better mood. It definitely helped with Edward's state of mind, because her acceptance of his ride constituted yet another 'yes' to him. He had a hard time keeping his commentary light when the only thing he wanted to do was profess his undying love to Bella. Only the thought that she might run off screaming kept him in check.
Finally noticing the nearly empty car, Bella asked, "Hey, where's your family? Don't they usually ride to school with you?"
"Since I came to pick you up, they took Rosalie's car," Edward answered.
"Oh, I hope I didn't inconvenience them."
"Don't worry about it. Rosalie likes to show her car off now and then."
"Do you mind my asking something?"
"You were adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Cullen?"
"How long ago was that?"
Edward cocked his head with a wistful smile on his face. "A very long time ago," he said quietly.
Bella's face softened in sympathy for him. "I'm sorry."
Edward shook his head and smiled to dismiss the melancholy air. "It's all right. I hardly remember my real parents. Carlisle and Esme have more than filled their place."
"You're very lucky to have them,"
"I think so. How about you? What made you come to Forks in the middle of the school year? It's awkward coming to any new place, but even worse starting mid-stream."
"My mom got re-married, and her husband is a ballplayer. So she missed him while he was on the road."
"Are you okay with that?"
"What's not to be okay about? That's my mom's life and she's happier that way." Bella shrugged, but Edward felt from the way she spoke that she wasn't completely satisfied with things.
As Edward drove into the school parking lot, Bella caught sight of a number of boys clustered around a bright red vehicle. A space was available near Bella's truck and he pulled into it.
"Is that your sister's car?" she asked as she climbed out of Edward's car.
"I see what you mean by showing off," Bella observed with a laugh and closed the door.
Edward savored every moment as he slowly walked with Bella to her first class. She had a rich, low laugh that he wanted to hear again and again. They chatted about trivial things until she mentioned a weekend trip to the beach.
"Are you going?"
"Who else is going?" More than anything, he would have loved to accompany her, but Alice had predicted sunshine from Saturday through Tuesday. A trip to the beach was out of the question.
"I'm not sure, but I guess all of Mike's friends."
Edward ran through a catalog of the people Mike tended to fraternize with and concluded, if it was a group trip, there shouldn't be any harm that could befall Bella.
"I'd love to go, but I made plans to go hiking with my brother, Emmett." Edward tried to let some of the disappointment show on his face. "I've already postponed with him once and don't think he'd be happy if I put him off again."
Bella nodded silently, and he hoped that meant she was also disappointed, but he couldn't be sure. When they arrived at Bella's English class, Edward promised he'd see her at lunch. As he walked away, he was so eager for the lunch period to arrive, he almost broke into a run, but he controlled himself.
= 0 = 0 = 0 = 0 =
Edward arrived in front of Bella's Spanish class before the door opened. He waited patiently through the flow of students until Bella appeared behind Jessica Stanley. Jessica seemed to freeze for a moment, before Edward nodded his head.
"Hello, Jessica. Bella. May I walk you to lunch?"
"Um, I'll see you later," Jessica stammered over her shoulder at Bella, hardly taking her eyes away from his face.
"How was Spanish?" Edward asked after Jessica had left.
"Que estaba bien," Bella said with a shy laugh.
"Muy bueno," Edward replied, a half-grin touching his face.
Edward and Bella both looked up to see Mike hurrying toward them from down the hall. He came to a breathless stop in front of them.
"Sorry, Bella! I meant to come pick you up, but my car wouldn't start! Sorry you had to walk to school. Let me make it up to you this weekend!" His entire speech came out in less than two breaths as he struggled to catch it.
"Don't worry about it, it's no big deal," Bella smiled. "And I didn't have to walk. Edward stopped by and gave me a lift."
Mike's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "You…you what?"
"Yes, Bella said she was expecting you at 7:30. We waited, but you didn't show up at the agreed upon hour. So I drove her to school. If we had waited much longer, we both would have been late."
Mike suddenly glared at Edward. "Did you mess up my truck last night?"
"I beg your pardon?" Edward looked from Mike to Bella, his expression completely baffled.
"How'd you know to come pick her up, unless you did it?" Mike's fists were balled up at his sides. Edward glanced around the hallway. The usual crowd of rubberneckers had already stopped to watch. A number of responses ran through his head, from violence to ridicule.
Edward rubbed his chin with a thin, amused smile. "You're joking, right? I'm supposed to have some kind of foreknowledge that you planned to give Bella a ride in the morning, go to your house in the dead of night and disable your vehicle? Would you listen to yourself?"
Mike's anger became less certain in the face of Edward's cool logic, but he wouldn't let it go. "Then how'd you know she needed a ride in the morning? You weren't in class yesterday." Mike's book bag had slipped off his shoulder, and he still maintained an aggressive posture. Edward marveled that the boy's level of chagrin and disappointment was enough to overcome the human's innate aversion to vampires. Mike wanted an outlet, and Edward decided to give it to him.
"If you had paid attention," Edward let the derision coat his words, "You would have noticed that Bella's truck was still in the parking lot after school. If you could have put two and two together, like I had, you would have deduced that she might be in need of transportation. And if you had listened, you would have heard Bella telling you she did not want a ride from you this morning. At least she told me that she had told you not to bother. But I suppose little boys like you take a while to learn these things."
Mike's face got redder and redder as he listened to Edward's lecture. At the end, it contorted in fury. "Shut-up asshole!" he yelled, dropped his bag and swung.
Shouts and screams from the surrounding students began to fill the air. Edward watched, bemused, as the boy's fist arced in slow motion at him. This was the first incident he could recall of having an altercation in high school. If he wasn't careful this might also be the first time he would be sent to the principal's office for fighting. He considered and discarded several ways to deal with the situation that did not end in Mike's death. Finally he settled on one that would provide the most benefit.
As Mike's fist made contact with his cheek, Edward leaned into it until he heard the minute crunch of fracturing bone, then he rolled with it at human speed as if being moved by the punch. The rest of his body hadn't moved; his grip on his books was undisturbed. He came to a stop with his gaze resting on Bella's shocked visage, her mouth still dropping open in a scream.
"Stop it, Mike!" Bella's face was outraged and she looked like she wanted to take a swing at him.
"OWW! OW! OWWW!" Mike gripped his right hand under his armpit and backed away, falling against a row of lockers, his face twisted in pain.
"All right, break it up! Break it up!" Coach Clapp's bellow preceded him down the hallway. "What's going on here, Cullen?"
"We were just having a little discussion, Coach." Edward's quiet voice seemed loud in the now somewhat hushed hallway.
"Mike punched Edward in the face!" Bella's accusation rang out, her eyes sparkling with fury. A number of oohs and ahhs sounded from the students further away who had not witnessed it.
"Are you all right, boy?"
"Perfectly fine, sir." Edward turned his face to show the gym teacher. "Not a scratch."
Coach Clapp nodded and his mouth set in a grim line. He grabbed Mike by the shoulder, forcing a cry of pain out of him. "We're going to the nurse, then the principal. Move!" As the two turned a corner of the hallway, Edward heard Coach Clapp begin to berate Mike. "Idiot! How the hell are you going to play if that hand is broken…?"
"Are you all right?" Bella's soft, gentle voice brought Edward's attention back to her, and sent his spirits rocketing skyward at the same time. The concern in her eyes, the furrow between her brows, even the hand half-raised toward his face – they were all for him. A hint of moisture hovered at the corners of her eyes. Was she crying? Edward's fingers itched to wipe them away. What was that sensation in his chest? If he didn't know any better, he'd think that the heart that lay still and frozen within him was starting to thaw.
"I'm fine," Edward assured her, with a soft smile. "Sorry you had to see that."
"What are you sorry for? You're not the jerk punching people."
"Sorry if he upset you."
"I'll upset him," Bella growled. "Damned if I'll go to the beach with him now."
"Please, don't cancel on my account. Aren't your other friends going, too? Don't ruin your weekend unnecessarily."
Bella considered that, then shrugged one shoulder. "I suppose, as long as I don't have to ride with Mike. I guess I'll catch a lift with Angela, if she's still going."
Edward sifted through the mixed feelings swirling through his head. He hoped she would have a nice time, but it would be time spent away from him. As they resumed walking towards the cafeteria, he wondered how he might be able to spend those inconvenient sunny days with her. A private smile touched the corner of his mouth as an idea formed.
"Why don't you call me, and tell me how it went?" Edward invited.
Bella's eyes grew wider, and her heartbeat seemed to give an uneven thump. "Okay." Was it normal for a human's voice to quiver like that? What did it mean? No matter. Edward quickly pulled a sheet of paper out of his notebook, wrote down his cell phone number and handed it to her.
Satisfied? You owe me for last night, bro, Emmett's thoughts intruded. We're leaving right after lunch.
Edward smiled. He was satisfied. Who knew this much pleasure could be gained from a simple act of breaking and entering, and switching on some headlights? He really did owe Emmett, but he wasn't leaving until after biology class.
End Note: Hope you enjoyed the ride! Please let me know what you thought!