Twilight character names belong to Stephenie Meyer. The inspiration for TLB is credited to Lavender Mornings by Jude Deveraux. No copyright infringement is intended.
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A/N: This chapter is a continuation of the last.
Bella wakes in early July after the bombing in Earlsfield. While Edward is battling on the front lines, Bella is battling for her life.
Surrender - part 2
The morphine is my blessing and my curse. When it drips through my veins, there is relief. It is a hazy world where I barely hear or smell or see. I have no dreams. I'm in a numb state where time passes without my active participation. I only recognize that I have no conscious thought when I awaken from the stupor in agony. The few muscles I can control tense and beg for more relief, but I try my damnedest not to allow myself any more than what is necessary for my body to sleep. For when I am in my drug induced bliss, I can no longer feel my child.
I need her. I need her like I need air to breathe. She keeps me sane through the agony. My lips press together and I hum to her. The notes are disjointed and unrecognizable to anyone but me, but still I try. I want her to know some comfort of me. When I can manage the breaths, I talk to her. I tell her I love her as does her father. My shaky hand covers my belly as we talk. I ask her what she wants to be named. When she kicks, I strike the name off the list. It feels wrong to pick her name without Edward by my side. The baby and I haven't picked a first name yet, but we've both seemed to be settled on Marie as a middle name. As I think of names, I tell her of the important women in my life. She hears about my mother and of finding a best friend in Alice. She knows all about Siobhan and how she arranged for her father and me to have our first picnic. It helps to remember pleasant things.
When I can bear no more speaking, I close my eyes and pray.
Today I am conscious enough to speak to the doctor at my bedside. He tells me I've been here for two weeks. He tells me that Carson is dead. I ask about notifying my family. He tells me that they've called my husband, Carson's, mother. The servants have informed him that my in-laws are visiting other family in Scotland. A servant came to retrieve the messages for them. I'm conscious enough to process that my father knows what happened. The switchboard, not a butler answered the call at my "late husband's" address. It's also certain that another operative, not a servant, came to pick up the messages. The intel was transferred. It wasn't all for naught.
My belly grows; she is more active. This too is a blessing and a curse. Feeling her turn inside me helps me. She is doing well. She is surviving inside of me. The pain of her sudden movements tears against my paper thin composure. I try to muffle my cries; they always bring the staff with more morphine. It is a vicious cycle. I want to feel her and I know the medication makes her sleep as it does me. Part of me worries if that's all it does to her. The staff is kind. They do their best for me, but there is doubt in their eyes, always doubt. They don't know me and have no reason to believe I'll live through this, but I will. I made a promise.
Her name is Serena. It's decided. She seems happy with my choice; I pray Edward will be as well. She bears the name of three women I dearly love. Sibohan, who brought Edward and I together, Renee, my mother, and Alice, the friend who couldn't be more of a sister to me if she were my own flesh and blood.
Siobhan – Renee – Alice ~ Serena.
She receives this name for another reason; she is my serenity, my little bundle of peace after the hell of the bombing that night. She is a tangible piece of Edward that I carry inside of me. I soldier on through the pain until she can survive on her own. I won't let her down.
I share my choice with the one nurse I feel understands my fight. Her name is Lauren. She holds a sadness of her own in her eyes. It's always in the eyes. The words that come out of a person's mouth tell only part of the story, and that is only if they're being truthful. It's the eyes, the body language that I dissect. I learned this in the OSS. Her eyes tell me she is afraid, of what I'm not quite sure. I don't have the presence of mind to ask. I barely keep my eyes open long enough to see and recognize her face before the prick of morphine returns me to a near drunken state of consciousness. I am dizzy. I can't see properly but part of me is still conscious enough to feel the pain. It is muted now. I close my eyes.
The pain is bad today. I can't talk to Serena at all. My humming is overshadowed by cries. I ask for Edward's St. Christopher's medal. He had given it to me right before he left for the front. It had hung around my neck every day since then until I arrived here. I'm grateful to have it right now. This little piece of him comforts me and reminds me of my promise to him. They take it from me when I sleep or when I'm too unconscious to know it's gone. Sometimes I hear it, the moment my fingertips give way and it clinks against the floor beneath my bed.
I'm wracked by a new pain in my back. I ask the nurse why the pain travels there. Her eyes widen and I know. I beg, I plead, I cry. She shushes me and feels my stomach. I cry out. My stomach feels hard. It's always hard, but this is as if a metal bowl was lying beneath my skin and is being shrunk around my child. She wipes my forehead and tells me she'll be gone for only a minute before she lets go of my hand. It's in that moment I hear Edward's medal strike the floor.
Other nurses are here with Lauren and Dr. Varner. They lift my legs to help me push, but the agony from the burns steals my strength. I try. I beg and plead for them to make it stop. She's not ready to be born. I've lost track of time but know from the looks on their faces that I'm right. Dr. Varner's eyes betray him. He refuses to look at me. He's decided I've had enough. He looks down and gives an order to one of the nurses. I feel a mask cover my face and arms restrain my hands. The smell of the ether fills the mask, but I refuse to breathe it in. I want to be awake for this. I want to see my daughter born. I don't trust the eyes that won't look at me, that don't have faith in me. I move my chest pretending to draw in the ether. Finally I can take no more. My lungs are screaming for air. My ragged breaths suck in the poison. My body stills but I can still feel. I know the difference between the morphine haze and complete unconsciousness. I hear what goes on around me. I feel their hands pushing down on my stomach. The pain of her birth is followed by the sweetest sound of my life...her cry.
"I'm so sorry for your loss."
My ears hear the words, but my mind won't comprehend it. I tell her she was not stillborn. I tell her I heard my baby's cry. Apparently I've been out for days, the result of enough morphine to put me into oblivion. My child, confirmed a baby girl, is dead. The body needed to be buried, and after two days, they couldn't wait any longer.
I don't believe Lauren. She won't look me in the eye.
Dr. Varner is gone. He left while I was unconscious. His tour is over, and he's headed back to the United States. I yell and scream. They think I am insane, overcome with grief. A needle prick is their answer and the darkness takes over once more.
"We're transporting you to another hospital today. Your in-laws have seen fit to move you to a convalescent hospital in Stoneleigh Park."
I am in a semi lucid state. Without the fear of injuring the baby, it seems as though morphine is the answer to my agitation. It is a way to silence me; I'm sure of it. God, I pray it is or else I really am going insane. I have no child in my arms, no clutching fingers or full lips to suckle at my breast. I am empty. Edward's medal never leaves my body. I've forbidden them from touching it. They've acquiesced as it stays around my neck, morning noon and night. I need a piece of him with me.
Serena, my sweet baby girl, I cry.
My whole heart aches to touch her. I'd gladly pass through the pain of the bombing every day to know she was safe. Desperation hits me and I grasp at any straw I can to bring me through this.
Dad knows. If they're sending me to a military hospital, my dad knows and he'll help me. He'll find her. I just need someone to believe me.
My body is wrapped. I'm draped and covered, secured to a rolling bed and moved from my room. It's the first time my eyes have rested upon anything other than the four walls of my hospital room. Those in the hall part around my bed like the Red Sea. They look grave. If my fingers are any indication of my face, I am gaunt, thin and pale. But it is always the eyes that reveal everything. If any of them would just look into my eyes, they'd know I'm not the corpse they think I am. I know what they're thinking, but I won't just roll over and die. If I give up before I can tell my father, we lose her. Edward will lose it all. I can't; I made my promise.
Dr. Cullen's eyes are kind. They are the deepest blue I've ever seen in my life. He sits on a stool beside my bed and holds my hand as he speaks. It is the first time in a month that I've been touched as a human, not as a patient. The gesture brings me to tears. A handkerchief is held over Dr. Cullen's shoulder. He turns and takes it from a woman a half generation older than me. I see kindness in her eyes; she is earnest as well. Dr. Cullen wipes my tears for me. He speaks softly and tells me what he's going to do. His voice is gentle, experienced, and reassuring. In layman's terms he tells me that in order to heal the remnants of my burned skin must be cut away and replaced with healthy skin. I look in his eyes as he speaks; I see something new, frustration or perhaps disgust. His mouth does not tell me he feels I've received substandard care, but those blue eyes betray his thoughts. He checks to see that I am still lucid. I nod and he continues. He will peel a thin layer of good skin from my thighs and sew it over the exposed skin on my lower legs and feet. The words are ghastly to hear, let alone to imagine what they are about to do to me. Dr. Cullen reads my body's response to his words. He places warm, soft fingers against my gown and over my collarbone. His eyes stare into mine as he tells me to follow his breaths, slow, easy and controlled. The aftereffects of the smoke from that night do not make it easy for me to take full breaths, but still I try. I believe him when he tells me that this is the way to get better. That the tunnel will be dark, but there is a way through it. There is another side.
Dr. Cullen is speaking again, and my mind snaps back to the present. He will sedate me. I'll likely be unconscious for the better part of a week. My body will need a minimum amount of time to heal before I can be expected to make further progress. He is doing his job as a physician, but I know what he's not saying. No one can remain conscious for this procedure, morphine or no. I nod as if I understand, but in truth, I am trying to wrap my mind around his words. When he is done, will I look like a monster of Dr. Frankenstein's imagination? What will Edward think? How will he see me after all of this? I close my eyes, and the words he said before he left come flooding back to me.
"What does this mean to you?" he shouts as he holds up his wedding band before my eyes. "I don't know what it means to you right now, but it sure as hell means forever to me!"
I had hurt him because I lost faith in him. I try very hard to remember the man who pled with me before he left. He always wanted to protect me. This was the main reason for my initial dislike of my future husband. He would do anything to keep me safe from harm, including keeping me from the job I loved most. I thought he was just like every other chauvinistic pig who thought a woman shouldn't be in intelligence. Who thought their light sensibilities were better served by keeping house. I ignored the honesty in his eyes, forgoing my strongest skill, for foolish pride.
Dr. Cullen stands. He's looking for an answer. I nod; there is really no choice. Edward's voice calls out in my mind.
"Listen to me. I do believe in you, and you have to take care of yourself because I won't be here to do it for you."
My bed moves beneath me. I'm rolling down a series of corridors until swinging doors open before me and I am in a large sterile room. Many people surround my bed. I am lifted and transferred to a new bed. They try to be gentle. I can see it in the strain on their faces but still it hurts. I cry out. The nurse with the earnest face is talking to me. Her hand sweeps gently over the hair at the top of my head. She is gentle and soothing. She tells me to have faith. I nod; little does she know that this is the only thing keeping me alive inside. A mask comes across my face; I tense remembering Serena's birth. The gentle woman takes my hand in hers and continues to sweep my hair. Her fingers wipe the tears falling from the corner of my eyes. I see her eyes water too.
"Sleep, sweet child," she tells me. "I'll be here when you wake."
I take in my fill of the mask. My eyes grow heavy. Her voice is the last thing I hear before it all goes black.
"Don't lose faith, Isabella, we'll get you well."
She is there when I wake, watching over me like her own newborn babe. Her eyes are tired, but the light in them grows when she sees that mine are open. She tells me she'll be right back with Dr. Cullen. Before she goes, I finally read the name on the tag above her left shoulder "Platt."
"How is your pain tolerance, Mrs. Masen?"
I recognize two things in his statement. One, he expects me to be in pain, and two, he knows my real name. My legs are on fire. I mean, I can look down at the bed and see the tent that keeps the bedclothes off of my legs. Consciously I know there is no fire, but the pain is nearly the same. There is no smell of burning flesh, only sterile antiseptic.
"We want you to be awake for a little while; I'm going to give you enough morphine to take the edge off of your pain."
He moves before I respond and begins his assessment as my physician. Nurse Platt raises a glass bottle. I'm familiar enough with what she's doing to know that relief will come soon. I will come to learn more about my doctor, but for now, I see him as human being first, physician second. He asks my permission before he lays hands on me. I appreciate this. I'm tired of feeling inhuman, of having no choice in what remains of my life.
Once the formalities are done and Nurse Platt has recorded all of my statistics, he sits beside me. He too has tired eyes.
"How do you know my name?" I rasp.
He holds a small glass of water for me to sip. He answers as I take the water down greedily.
"Colonel Swan placed you here. I am to report to him twice a week on your care. Only a few records followed you here from Mill Hill and the ones that did were transcribed from the original hospital's paperwork."
He doesn't ask for explanation, and I offer none. My father is keeping our program secret from this man, and yet he trusts him enough to share my real name and his. Again, the frustration in my former care is evident on Dr. Cullen's face. He clears his expression when he sees I'm studying him.
"You're doing well, dear. The grafts were removed from the donor site and have been applied successfully. Now we just need to wait, manage your pain and give you time to heal."
There is something else in his eyes. Something he doesn't say, but it nags at him. He pats my hand gently as if the action will ensure his worry stays far away. He stands to leave, and I take my chance. I trust when I have no evidence to do so except for the look in his eyes.
"Carlisle, please, Mrs. Masen."
"All right, Carlisle, I'm Bella," I say, extending my hand. He takes it gently, and I shake hard enough to bring his eyes back to mine. "I want to see the records of my daughter's birth. I need to know what happened to her."
He nods and places my hand back beneath the bed covers. One hand is placed on my shoulder.
"I'll find out for you."
His eyes are sorrowful. He believes the hospital's story that Serena is dead. My eyes are determined.
When I'm conscious enough to have another conversation, Nurse Platt becomes Esme. After she's done her rounds and her duties as my nurse, she sits at my bedside and reads a telegram she produces from her pocket.
Army Message Received August 15, 1944
This C in C message has been received from Lauren Mallory, Head Trauma and Burn Nurse. Mill Hill Emergency Medical Center, Harrow, UK – Message Begins –
All records regarding your patient have been forwarded with her transfer papers. Dr. Varner, her primary physician, has returned to the United States. I will continue my search for the infant's internment records but as gruesome as it is to relay, the reality of the war makes keeping up with records difficult at best. I will respond further if additional information is uncovered. – Message Ends -
Esme's eyes are sorrowful. She confides in me that she lost a child herself. I implore her to keep looking for the records. I know there are none, that she is not dead, but until I can get out of here and prove it for myself. I need to continue to pressure them in other ways. My father can help, but he hasn't come to visit. I fear he won't. I understand why, but I'm still sad. I am his child despite our efforts to conceal it. My fear is that something is bad and that he won't take any risks by putting our relationship on display. Maybe that is why the mission went wrong. It could have been dumb luck; it could have been something else. I don't know. I just don't know.
Where are you, Edward? I scream inside my head.
I know he's where he needs to be, but at times like this, despair fills me. It claws at my throat. It's worse than the pain in my legs or in my chest when I can't catch my breath
"Right here," he vows.
The image of him leaning over me fills my mind. We are at the old vicarage, and it is only days before he leaves me for the front.
"Right here is where you'll find me," he says placing his hand against my chest and over my heart. "I'm always with you, baby. I'll never leave you."
Dr. Cullen is in my room. He is not for talking today. He is all business and I am thrown off kilter. He works on me as his patient. His humanistic side has been tucked down somewhere deep inside of him. When he's done, he assures me that the grafts are coming along nicely that there is no sign of rejection. He should be pleased, but his eyes are holding back. I know that look.
My breaths quicken as I try to steel myself. I know. I can read him before he even takes one step closer to my bed. I hear the scrape of the chair against the floor but can't see anything but my fingers twisting the end of my bed sheet. I know that look because I've seen it once before, on my father's face. I am seven years old again, standing in our kitchen. My father sits on a chair and draws me to him. His eyes are red and swollen. A clear liquid runs from his eyes and his nose. I am afraid. I've never seen my father cry. He is the bravest man I've ever known. It's not just the tears; it's the despondent look on his face. He sits there, looking at my eyes, but he doesn't see me, not really. He's looking through me. I stand there for a long time as he works to compose himself. Then he finally tells me, my mother is gone.
I can't look at Carlisle. I fear he will tell me that another parent is no longer of this world. I stare through my fingertips wondering if someone got to him. Where? How could it have possibly have happened? The war, I tell myself. This God forsaken war.
"Bella," Carlisle calls softly.
I lift my eyes to him as he sits in the chair beside my bed. Esme comes through my door a moment later. Something passes between them. I look in her eyes and see pain that inches toward grief. I twist uncomfortably to stare at Carlisle's face. I brace for his words, remembering the words passed between my father and me when I entered this war.
"Winning the war outweighs any single human life, even mine."
I still believe this; I just never imagined it being applied to the larger than life Colonel Swan, my father.
"Bella, we received a telegram today. It was passed to us by Colonel Swan."
"He's alive?" I ask in stunned disbelief.
"Yes, the colonel is fine. The telegram was from a hospital in Marigny, France."
"No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no."
"Bella," Carlisle tries again, holding my hand tighter. "Your husband was part of an operation to break through the German defenses. He was out on a mission and his vehicle was struck by debris from of a bomb. Bella, I'm so sorry. You were listed as next of kin, but the information went to Colonel Swan first."
My voice is cracking and dry. I feel myself struggling for breaths as I scream.
"He's not dead. He wouldn't leave me. He swore he wouldn't leave me. He's not dead. You're wrong. They're wrong. He's not dead!"
I can feel myself flailing, struggling against their grasp. Carlisle is begging me to calm down and not disrupt the grafts. I can't breathe. I can't think. I don't want to begin to comprehend that he could be right. I'll have nothing else to live for. I try to halt my despair. I think of our baby. I know she's out there.
I take solace from wherever I can find it. It's not the same. I don't feel the pain of death like I did with my mother. The despair was so complete back then, an empty void, a swinging bridge, a chasm below my feet. I am not there. I feel a pin prick followed by the dull burn of the morphine that Esme has injected. The cool liquid seeps through me, pulling me deeper into the abyss. I stand at the edge of the bridge. It wavers in the wind.
Please God, I call out.
He answers me. Edward and Serena are on the other side. Edward is smiling and holding his hand out to me. The bridge is strong and true. He's speaking, but I can't quite hear his words.
I am back at the old vicarage again. I'm pleading with Edward. I don't want him to go. I'm safe with him. I'm home inside his arms.
"Edward—" I try but the words catch in my throat. I wait a moment to compose myself then try again. This time I look in his eyes and his love gives me strength. "Edward, promise you'll come back to me. I know it's unfair. I know it's a promise I can't force you to keep, but I need to hear it. So promise me."
"I promise, love," he whispers against my heart. "I promise; I'll come back to you."
Two weeks pass. We don't talk of Edward. I refuse their attempts to help me grieve. It is futile. He's not dead. Unfortunately this also hinders my efforts to get information on Serena. I'm beginning to fear that they think I've lost my mind. I don't think I have. For now, I need to keep quiet and get well. I can do nothing for them while I'm frozen in this hospital bed.
The pain is worse today. It's different but worse. I tell Esme I'm cold. She brings me a blanket and tucks it around me. Her hand brushes over my hair. I see her jaw tighten. Her training kicks in and before she can mask her face, I see it in her eyes. She is worried.
I'm cold. I'm constantly cold.
Carlisle is in my room too many times a day for me to count. He's probably here even more than I realize as I sleep more often than I have in the past. There are new medications, new foods, new bandages. Carlisle continues to tell me that the grafts are doing well. This is a relief; I don't think I could go through that again. His eyes tell me more as he sits at my bedside and lifts my hand.
"Bella, you have an infection," his voice breaks and the feeling of defeat is nearly palatable. "We've tried so hard to keep this room sterile for you."
I nod. I know how much he cares for me. It is more than a physician to a patient. I feel like favored niece or adopted daughter. Esme wraps her arms around herself. Her lips purse, then roll between her teeth. I can feel the ache in her body and I want to comfort her.
She wipes her face with her hands then places them firmly on her hips. She is determined. I see her eye Carlisle and he speaks for the both of them.
"Your body needs to fight the infection. We're going to try another round of sulfonamide, a stronger, more concentrated dose. You just have to get your rest and keep your fluids up."
It is not lost on me that Carlisle says try. He's going to try another round of sulfonamide. He's running out of options. I see that the worry in their eyes has turned to denial. He is trying to find some way to succeed when nothing is likely to work.
My thoughts turn to my father. He's not here. If it were that bad, he would be here. This is how my mind protects me; I have my own denial to deal with myself.
I am lucid and then I am not. It comes and goes as time passes. When I am awake, I shiver and quake to the point of tremors. Esme is always there. She reads to me. She strokes my head. She presses her cheek to mine as I fade into sleep. Her heart breaks. I can feel it. The pain of watching me suffer is etched across her face. I try. I rest. I drink and eat what I can. It's all for them, for my father, for Carlisle, for Esme, for Serena, for Edward. The pain is bad again. Esme relieves it. The dull burn comes first followed by more cold. The liquid spreads through my veins like ink on fine paper. I hear Esme hum to me, a soft lullaby, as I go deeper into the abyss. For the first time in a long time, I dream of pigtails, green eyes, bright copper hair and orange popsicles.
"You can touch her," a voice calls softly.
I am on the fringe of consciousness. My brain registers pain, but I am not awake enough to really move or speak. I'm tired. I'm so tired. I just want to rest a little longer.
My hand is being lifted. My breaths come quicker. Something smooth rubs over my knuckles. It sweeps gently over and over. It is warm. Finally, something feels warm. I love the warm. I want more warm.
My hand lifts higher. I feel moist pressure, soft skin and warm breaths. Over and over and over.
I struggle hard against the haze, now pleading, willing my body to fully wake. I'm lost between the dream and the prayer. If the dream isn't real, I don't want to wake up. If it's a prayer, I beg God to answer me.
"I love you, Bella."
His voice cracks with emotion, but it's him. I swear on everything I hold dear that it's him.
My breath hitches and I finally feel released from the shackles of my medicinal prison. I have to find him. I have to open my eyes and see him for myself. I summon all of my strength and lurch forward in more movement than I've had in days. The pain is so strong. I try, God, I try, but I can't stifle the scream that falls from my lips. I squeeze the hand that holds mine. It squeezes back as I pull in a deep, agonizing gasp.
His warm arm surrounds my shoulders, pulling me into him. I feel his breaths on my neck. His hand is in mine, trapped between our two hearts. Once more I cry out, but the pain isn't in my legs, it's in my heart.
He's here, he's here, he's here.
I can't catch my breath long enough to speak, but my body reacts for me. I grasp at him, pulling at the fabric of his shirt. I need to feel more of him. My head falls forward in search of his heartbeat. It drums loudly and fast. In response he reaches up and runs his fingers through my hair and down my back. It's so familiar, so real, so him. He says the words again and this time I know for sure he's real, he's alive.
"I love you, Bella."
I weep. I cry that I was right. I cry in relief. I cry over the evidence that I'm not crazy. In this moment I do feel a little crazy and more than a bit light headed. I shouldn't cry. He's here. He's alive. And with every stroke of his hand and press of his lips, he eases my months of agony.
"You're here. My God, Edward, you're really here."
I nuzzle further into him. For a moment there are no words. I only feel. He nods over top of my head and moans so painfully and quietly that I'm sure that no one can hear his agony but me. I worry what the separation was like for him, how upset he must be to see me like this. His chest moves beneath me as he draws in a deep breath.
"I'm here, baby," he cries and holds me a little tighter. "I'm right here." The raw pain in his voice breaks me.
Yes, he's here. Yes, I'm finally cradled in the security of his arms. I will be all right. We will be all right
Minutes pass, I don't know how many nor do I care at least not until our bubble of serenity breaks. Out of the corner of my eye I see Esme step forward and reach for my left hand, the hand that is connected to an IV tube.
It's the first time I've ever been harsh with Esme, but my reunion with Edward won't be cut short by the haze of medication. I'd rather take the pain. He is better at relieving me than any pharmaceutical concoction could ever be.
Edward stalls in mid stroke and pulls back to look into my eyes. It's the first time I've seen his face since December. His eyes are frantic with worry, his skin ashen from not enough food or sleep. He's thinner than he was ten months ago but then, so am I. Still, deep within those green eyes is the man I fell in love with, the one I fought for, the one I survived for. He is beauty and strength. He is my hero, my savior. He is my future and the love I will live for and cherish for the remainder of my days.
"Half," he tells me. "They're going to give you half."
He nods at me. I hear his plea and see the fear in his eyes. He doesn't want me in pain like this. I admit, as soon as he says the words, my mind returns from the bliss of his presence, to the pain in my chest and my legs. I acquiesce and nod at him. Esme lifts my arm, and I feel the cool venom run through my veins. My body slackens, but I refuse to take my eyes from his. Esme steps back and releases us back to our relative privacy. The morphine takes hold, and although I'm awake, I know I am not fully conscious.
"That was a little more than half," I grouch.
He chuckled. This unfathomable pompous asshole has the nerve to laugh at me? If I didn't think I'd faint from the dizziness of the movement, I swear I'd roll my eyes at him. Still, his laughter is the sweetest sound I've heard in an eternity.
"I can never put anything over on you, but God, I do love you," he whispers sending a shiver down my spine.
I feel him loosen his grip and move away from me. Panic runs through my veins.
"I can't," I beg. "I can't let go of you."
He can't leave me again. I won't survive it.
"Don't put me down. Please."
Whatever worry was running through his head, releasing me to lie down apparently wasn't one of them. He hugged me tighter, giving me exactly what I need.
His lips are on my cheek, running down to my neck. I am limp in his arms.
God, I've missed this man so much. More tears begin to fall as I pray. Thank you for bringing him back to me.
"Bella," Dr. Cullen calls from across the room. "Do you know what day it is today?"
I know. He knows. We both know.
"Thursday," I answer dejectedly.
They put me under on Thursdays to change my dressings.
"Please? I can take it," I beg, already knowing he won't allow me to remain conscious for the procedure.
It's better this way; I won't see the gore or be conscious of the pain. I understand this, but I don't want Edward to leave my sight. It's been too long. Too much fear still sits like an elephant on my chest.
"No," Dr. Cullen's voice is firm. He turns to Edward and continues. "She doesn't want to be put under to change her dressings. She wants to stay awake with you."
Dr. Cullen's stare is hard. I don't know what he's told Edward about my burns, but he must know enough as he eyes the tent resting over my legs. He swallows hard as he strokes my cheek with his hand.
"I won't leave you. Not even Colonel Swan's wrath could drag me away."
After all this time and distance he's still playful. He still can make me smile even in a situation like this. I can't help but give him what he asks for and smirk a bit in return. My shoulders shrug but even that tiny movement brings the pain back to the forefront of my mind. I don't want to, but I need to lie down. Edward goes from joking to panic in a half second. I want to calm him, reassure him that everything will be fine now that he's here, but I need to concentrate on breathing evenly through the pain. I don't want to worry him any more than he already is.
"Bella," Carlisle calls. "Edward needs to eat something, and we need to change your dressings. He'll be right here when you wake up. I promise."
A promise is a promise. I inwardly smile. Edward and I have both made our share. I stare into his eyes, looking for the truth within them. He is older, not in years but in experience. The war has aged him. There is fear there too. He's doing his best to hide it but it's there. I smile back at him. He's reading me as I am him.
Look into my eyes, baby, see it. See me in here. I'm a mess right now, but I'm not going anywhere.
Behind Edward stands Esme. She is stoic and professional before Edward, but I can feel the happiness radiating off of her. She lifts her hand to show me the next dose of morphine. I nod slightly. I'm ready. My lips are on Edward's neck as I whisper that I love him. His skin still smells the same. I can't get enough. The cool rush of the morphine hits my arm and begins to travel through my veins. The call of the drug is strong. It wills me to submit, to let go, to sleep. My free arm squeezes Edward tightly, but my grasp is weakening as the edges of my vision blur. His skin is slightly salty when my tongue edges between my lips for a taste. Just one more piece of validation for my brain, then I'll go. My lips travel up his skin, inching slowly towards his ear, pushing against the call of the darkness. When I can fight it no more, I draw a deep breath and I whisper my promise, my vow.
Trust me, Edward.
"I will survive…for you."
My eyes close and my consciousness slips away. I've surrendered to the drug. The pain has won this battle, but with Edward by my side I will win the war.
A/N: Thank you so much for following along with me on this journey. I'm still writing but am taking a chance and entering the world of original fiction. If you're interested in learning about my writing you can visit my blog or send me a PM for updates.
If you've enjoyed this one shot, I'd encourage you to read my continuation of this story called The Last Breath. There is also a follow on called The Long Way Home. I hope you'll give them a try.
Thanks for reading and let me know what you think.
Surrender Historical Research and Reference Guide: part 2
Story reference: Dr. Cullen describes giving Bella sulfonamide to fight her infection.
Historical Significance: Before the prolific use of penicillin, Sulfa drugs help the body combat infection by inhibiting the growth and multiplication of bacteria.