Note: Here is the second half. This is just a fluffy two-shot, but I hope you've enjoyed it!
Bella shifted purposely on the exam table so that her back was toward me.
Carlisle offered her a smile, then he gave me a silent reprimand: I told you that you should have been honest with her from the outset. She's quite vexed with you. Was that a smirk that flickered across his lips?
Bella made a point of turning away even further, her posture stiff. She really was perturbed… Yet I was only trying to protect her, to keep her safe and well. My shoulders slumped slightly.
Perhaps you should wait outside, Carlisle suggested to me.
However, I refused to leave her. Despite her irritation, she might need me. I retreated to the corner and sank down onto the chair. I watched as Carlisle took her temperature then checked her reflexes. He looked into her eyes, ears, and throat; all the structures appeared healthy. His fingers moved gently over her neck and throat next, feeling the various glands for any hints of swelling.
He made a point of telling her exactly what he planned to do prior to accomplishing it. She thanked him, saying rather loudly, "It's nice to know what's going on. I appreciate your candor."
Yes, those words were clearly intended as a dig at me. But really, I did not feel that I deserved it. Why couldn't she understand that I simply wanted to take care of her? I had been worried lately that she was under too much stress with all of the wedding plans and activities. She had lost one pound, seven ounces over the past three weeks, and her sleep had been somewhat fitful of late. I needed to know if she was becoming unwell. Perhaps I had gone about finding out in a slightly underhanded way, but it was only because I loved her so much.
When Bella changed positions so that she could lie back on the table, she studiously avoided my gaze, instead keeping her eyes on Carlisle. After a few words of explanation, he felt gently over her abdomen. Then he helped her to sit up again.
"Everything looks fine, dear," he told her. "However, just to be on the safe side, let's wait for the results of your blood test before I give you the vaccines. I ordered a CBC, which will identify any signs of infection that I might have missed."
She smiled softly. "You never miss anything, Carlisle."
He chuckled lightly. "Even so, it should only be half an hour or so."
"Do you have anything scheduled between now and then?" she asked.
"No. My afternoon is relatively free," he replied, replacing the various pieces of equipment he had used.
Bella slid off the table, sparing a quick glance at me then walking toward the counter. I noticed that she looked out the door as she passed it. Nurse Rebecca was nearby, tidying up the supply closet.
I watched with growing curiosity as Bella opened my medical file and studied the top page for a handful of seconds. She ran her finger over several lines of text. Then she turned toward me, an odd smile forming on her lips. It was almost smug…
"Edward," she said, her voice slightly louder than usual, "are these records current?"
I could see the gleam in her eye, but I had no idea what she was thinking. For the millionth time since I had met her, I wished I could hear her thoughts. But alas, I could not. All I could do was reply lamely, "Yes… aren't they, Carlisle?"
"Of course," he answered confidently.
"Hmm," she mused, tapping at her chin with her finger, a gesture she seemed to have acquired from the time she spent with Alice. "Honey," she paused, infusing her tone with feigned sweetness, "according to this, your last physical was almost two years ago."
Had I neglected to add a report last October? I had been, to put it mildly, distraught and distracted. I had not thought to update the records since our return to Forks; we had only been gone for a few months, although they had been the longest of my existence.
Carlisle peered over her shoulder. "Yes, that's correct," he confirmed. "In all the commotion of moving back and forth, I'm afraid we overlooked that."
I knew that Rebecca was listening to our conversation. Bella's tone and volume had ensured that the nurse's interest would be piqued.
Bella shook her head then looked pointedly at me. "Edward, sweetie, I've been a little worried about you lately… you've been really pale, and those dark circles under your eyes…" She placed her hand on Carlisle's arm and addressed him. "You don't have any appointments for the next half hour. Could you please take a look at him—give him a thorough exam?"
My eyes widened in surprise. What was she thinking? What was the point of asking this? It made no sense to me. However, I saw a little knowing grin flicker across Carlisle's face, although I heard nothing in his mind.
"I think that's a good idea," he said. "We'll make sure all the records are up to date before you get married. You'll both need physicals before go off to school next month anyway."
"And I want to know that he's healthy enough for our honeymoon," she added. "I mean, it's going to be a long trip, right?"
He nodded. I noticed he was avoiding catching my eye, even though I was attempting to capture his attention. He appeared to know what was going on, but I remained in the dark. He was purposefully blocking his thoughts from me, which I found particularly annoying at the moment.
"Dr. Cullen?" Rebecca knocked lightly at the door. "Do you need anything?"
"Thank you, Rebecca," he replied, "but not right now. I'm just going to give Edward a physical…"
She nodded. "I can get him started if you like," she offered. She planned to take temperature and blood pressure readings.
"Carlisle," I hissed softly but vehemently, "what the hell?"
Whatever Bella was playing at was quickly becoming a dangerous game. She understood the risks of exposure; what on earth was she thinking? Carlisle, however, remained composed. Don't worry, son. I've got this under control.
"Edward is rather shy," he explained to the nurse, taking on a confidential tone, "and he's always had a fairly severe case of white-coat anxiety. I think it's best if I handle this myself."
"Are you sure?" she asked, giving me a sympathetic look. I did not have to feign my dazed expression.
"Yes, thank you," he replied.
"All right, then. I'll be just outside in the hallway if you need me for anything," she said. "Oh, you'll want a urine sample… I'll bring a specimen cup."
She hurried off, imagining me providing said specimen. I think I actually cringed.
Bella's lips were tight, but I could tell she was suppressing a laugh. I, however, was fuming. This was the opposite of funny. And I still had no idea what the purpose was.
Carlisle also seemed to be working to repress a smile. He patted the table. "Come on, son."
I shook my head. "This is ridiculous," I muttered.
Bella leaned back against the counter and crossed her arms over her chest. Her eyes shone with mischief.
You're going to have to go through with it, Carlisle told me. I'm afraid if you don't Rebecca will become suspicious.
"Just say that something came up," I suggested, speaking too quickly for Bella to comprehend.
Rebecca would know if an emergency came in. Besides, we've already established that I'm free for the next half hour. Really, Edward, this is a good idea. The more human experiences we appear to have, the better. No one in the family has ever come to the hospital for medical reasons, and you know that has occasionally left my colleagues slightly skeptical—five teenagers, and no one ever gets sick or hurt… He gave a satisfied nod. Yes, this really is a wise idea. We'll have to thank Bella for suggesting it. Then he shielded his thoughts from me again.
I scowled. He had presented a rather compelling argument, but I remained displeased. He patted the edge of the exam table again.
Bella, grinning, said, "Come on, Edward. It won't take long, and I'll take you to lunch afterward." Her words parroted mine from earlier in the day. That was not a coincidence.
I shuffled forward, my jaw clenched. Carlisle motioned toward my shirt.
"Remove your shirt, son," he requested.
I nearly gaped at him. This was too much. He expected me to disrobe here, where anyone could pass by and see me? Granted, there was no window in the room, so my skin would not glitter, but still, I would be exposed.
"Come on," Bella said, "I'll help."
She began unbuttoning my shirt as I stood dumbly. After a moment I brushed her hands away.
"Don't be difficult," she admonished with a little scolding frown.
She's right, Edward. You don't want to draw attention to yourself. The sooner we start, the sooner we can get this over. The look he gave me clearly told me not to argue.
I exhaled a sigh of resignation and finished with the buttons. I shrugged out of my shirt as I got up on the table. Bella's eyes moved over my chest. Normally I would relish such appreciation from her, but here, in this situation, it only made me uncomfortable.
If Carlisle had been conscientious about explaining his actions to Bella, he was utterly tight-lipped with me. He did not even permit me a preview in his thoughts. While I knew the general procedure he would follow, it was disconcerting to wait.
He began by wrapping the blood pressure cuff around my arm. He pretended to obtain a reading, commenting, "Hmm, pressure's a bit low."
Bella's back was to the door, so her expression was not visible from the hallway. She said, "Oh dear. Is that a problem?" However, a silent giggle escaped her.
"No," Carlisle replied, "probably not. Take a few deep breaths, son." I complied, and he looked down again, saying, "That's better; right where it should be." Of course the dial had no reading.
He removed the cuff and set it aside, reaching for the otoscope. He slid the device into my left ear. It was not painful, but it felt strange and made me wish to draw away. I must have flinched, because he placed his other hand against my cheek to keep my head from moving.
This was not the first time he had employed medical instruments on me. His brilliantly inquisitive mind had long sought to obtain a better understanding of our unique physiology. As new devices became available, he was always eager to see if they would reveal novel information. I had permitted him some experimentation, but Esme proved a more willing participant in his endeavors. In later years, he could usually enlist Emmett, as I had become less amenable as time went on.
He checked my right ear, spending more time than he had with Bella. I rolled my eyes at him when he tilted up my chin and peered inside my nose. I found it unpleasant to have the instrument touching each nostril, and when he shone the light inside my mouth to look at my throat, it was tedious.
"Everything seems normal," he reported to Bella, adding silently, for a vampire. A wry grin crossed his lips.
He reached for the stethoscope in his coat pocket and adjusted it in his ears. Pressing the bell over my unbeating heart, he stood pretending to listen. Perfectly silent, just as it should be.
Clearly he was amused by the results of his examination, but I was not. I sat rigidly while he moved the stethoscope around, feeling more and more self-conscious and exposed. I noticed several people pass by in the hallway, and their thoughts told me that they were aware of who was in the room. They were curious, to say the least, about Dr. Cullen's son and whatever malady had brought me here. Fortunately their inquisitive glances showed exactly what they expected to see: A shirtless young man sitting rather miserably upon the table as his physician father conducted the exam. One passerby saw Carlisle checking my ears, while another caught a glimpse of him listening to my heart.
"Take a deep breath," Carlisle instructed, moving the stethoscope as if he were assessing my lung function.
I complied with a mild shake of my head, and he carried on. He did hear some sounds as the air entered and left my body; he had always found this interesting. Perhaps that was why he spent an inordinate amount of time hovering before me then moving around to press the instrument over my back. He had not devoted this much time to Bella's exam, which perplexed me.
Rebecca returned briefly with the specimen container, setting it on the counter. Instinctively I hunched forward to obstruct her curious gaze from roving over my pale body. Thankfully, she did not linger, leaving quickly.
Finally Carlisle removed the stethoscope, saying, "Your heart and lungs sound just as they should."
"That's good," Bella commented, biting back a grin.
"Yes," he agreed, "it is. Now if you'd lie back, son…"
"Oh for pity's sake," I grumbled. "Is this really necessary?"
"Edward," Bella scolded, "you're a worse patient than I am!"
Carlisle smiled. "Bella, you are a model patient, particularly when you are shanghaied into an exam."
They shared a look, and I felt a hint of understanding beginning to dawn. However, before my thoughts could coalesce, Carlisle had his hand on my shoulder and was pushing me down gently but firmly.
For some reason, I felt even more self-conscious and exposed lying there. Carlisle's fingers probed over my abdomen, moving uncomfortably low. He even went as far as to slide them beneath the waistband of my trousers, pretending to feel over my bladder.
"All right," he said, his tone remaining professional, "if you'll just lower your jeans and underwear—"
"What?" I hissed, sitting bolt upright.
"Edward," he replied evenly, obviously fighting not to grin, "please. You've had this exam before. It's a standard part of—"
I shook my head adamantly. "No!"
Bella didn't even attempt to hide her amusement, but she did walk to the door, closing it as she commented, "Maybe he just needs a little privacy."
Carlisle gave her a nod of thanks then stood waiting. Surely he didn't actually expect me to go through with this? The door was shut; no one would see.
"Son, come on," he urged. He gestured toward my groin. "It won't take long." His hand moved toward my belt buckle.
"Carlisle," I growled, "I swear to God, if you touch me there I will take you arm off—and I won't help you put it back on."
Bella burst out laughing, grabbing my hand. "Oh Edward… your face! It's priceless! I wish I had a camera! Emmett would die—well, not literally, of course, but—"
"What the hell?" I demanded, indignation overwhelming me.
Carlisle was chortling, too, wrapping his arm around Bella's shoulders as peals of laughter shook her. They were acting as if they had just heard the funniest joke on the planet… and I realized that the humor was at my expense.
Bella wiped at her eyes, trying to calm her giggles. Carlisle's composure returned, too, but his amused smile remained.
"I just wanted you to know how it felt," she said. "Having to sit there, being poked and prodded…"
"This was some sort of payback?" I questioned, even as the answer became crystal clear to me.
Turnabout is fair play, Carlisle thought, his grin widening.
"It's a bitch, isn't it?" asked Bella, but she was still smiling. She leaned in the kiss me quickly, then she shrugged. "I think we're pretty much even now."
"But darling," I protested, wounded by the prank, if not the intent, "I was only trying to protect you, to keep you safe and well—"
"And I appreciate that," she said. "But I don't appreciate the way you went about it. You should have told me that I was getting vaccines today. And if you wanted Carlisle to give me a check-up, you should have asked me. Going about it in such an underhanded, sneaky way is just wrong."
"I didn't want you to worry," I tried to explain. "I knew if I told you what needed to be done you'd be even more anxious, and I just wanted to spare you that." My words were entirely sincere.
Bella was not unmoved by them. "It's a sweet sentiment," she acknowledged. "But next time, you need to be honest. No more secrets, Edward." She took my hands. "Please."
I nodded in acquiescence. "Yes, love."
Carlisle had stepped back, but his expression showed that he was pleased with our conversation. I hope you really mean that, he told me. I won't be dishonest with her again, either.
He placed his hand gently upon her shoulder, and Bella looked up at my father.
"I apologize, too, dear," he said. "I shouldn't have agreed to Edward's plan. I urged him repeatedly to be forthcoming with you, but when he wasn't, I should have stepped in."
"It's all right, Carlisle," she replied. "I think you've atoned completely." She glanced at the equipment he had used upon me.
He chuckled again. "I hope so."
"Never again," I muttered, too quickly for her to hear. Carlisle, of course, caught the words and offered me a tiny smile of apology.
I reached for my shirt, donning it quickly before sliding off the table. Bella wrapped her arms around me, and I could not resist returning the gesture. I kissed her hair, inhaling her beautiful fragrance.
A soft tap at the door drew my attention to Rebecca's presence. She had the results of the blood tests.
"Come in," Carlisle said.
She entered, noticing our embrace immediately. Poor boy, shethought, he does look a little traumatized. At least the worst is over…
"I have the lab results," she said pleasantly, handing the page to Carlisle.
He thanked her, and she left. His eyes quickly scanned the numbers, then he gave us a nod.
"Everything looks fine," he said. "We can do the vaccines today, or we can wait a day or two if you'd prefer." He was giving Bella a choice, respecting her right to have a say in the matter.
"No, let's do it now," she said, climbing up onto the table. Her lack of resistance surprised me.
Carlisle smiled. "As you wish." He began preparing the syringes.
She looked at me. "Will you hold my hand?"
Immediately I complied. "Always," I said, kissing her cheek.
I kept her gaze while Carlisle administered the three injections. Bella flinched, and after the final one she paled, but she remained upright and seemed in no danger of fainting. Carlisle covered the tiny punctures with bandages then rested his cool hand over the site.
"You may have some redness or mild swelling," he told her, "and a low-grade fever is a possibility, too. Let Edward or me know if you experience any of those."
"Okay," she agreed. "Thanks."
He lifted her chin and gave her cheek a tender caress. "You're welcome, sweetheart. And again, I apologize for my lack of honesty."
"You're forgiven," she said, smiling up at him.
"Am I?" I asked.
She turned her head to look pointedly at me. "Hmm…"
My expression must have shown my deep compunction, because she took my face in her hands and kissed my nose.
"I suppose," she said. "Am I?"
I nodded then helped her from the table. She was relatively steady on her feet, but I kept my arm around her anyway.
"Lunch?" I asked her.
"Okay," she agreed. Some of the color had returned to her cheeks; she looked lovely.
"Start with a glass of juice," Carlisle suggested, "then I'd recommend something light."
She nodded and thanked him. Rebecca was just returning as we stepped out into the hallway. She wished us well then joined Carlisle in the exam room, telling him she would run the urine sample up to the lab.
"I think we'll wait a do the lab work another day," Carlisle said. "Poor Edward has a shy bladder… I'll get a sample at home where he's more comfortable and bring it in tomorrow."
I could have listened to the nurse's thoughts, but I chose to focus only on my Bella. I was glad our visit to the hospital was finished, for more than one reason. As we got into the car, a little giggle escaped her.
"What?" I asked.
"I'm just remembering how you looked there at the end…"
"It wasn't funny in the least!" I retorted, but her amusement was infectious, and suddenly I saw the humor in the situation. I allowed a smile to tug at my lips. "I'm glad I could provide you and Carlisle with some entertainment," I said.
"Enough to see me through those three injections," she replied.
In that case, it was all worthwhile.
Note: I'm taking a little break from substantial writing projects, but I have another fluffy little story in the works. Let me know if you're interested in reading it...