A/N: Thanks very much to everybody for favoriting, alerting and reviewing this story. Your support is very much appreciated and makes the writing worthwhile!
Big, BIG thank you to katmom for judicious application of beta mojo. This MWAH's for you!
Disclaimer: All Twilight characters and situations are property of Stephenie Meyer. We're just playing in her dollhouse. No copyright infringement is intended.
Chapter 6 – Visiting Hours
After our long, tumultuous reunion, I was mentally exhausted. I melted into the bed, luxuriating in the feel of Edward's arms around me, his fingers slowly warming up in mine as I half-dozed. Somewhere along the line, Edward switched on the TV, and the droning of a travel show, plus the pain medication, put me fully under, for once blissfully free of nightmares.
Sometime later, the touch of cool lips on mine roused me, and I cracked my eye open to see Edward's smiling face.
"Wake up, love."
I blinked a few times, trying to come to full awareness. His hair was clean, and his eyes were more serene, the haggard look now soothed away. The scent of clean clothes came to my nostrils, and I glanced down to notice Edward was wearing a fresh, cream-colored polo shirt and a clean pair of jeans. My statue of Adonis had been restored to his former glory.
I must have been asleep for quite a while, and had to clear my throat a couple times before I could speak clearly. "You changed."
"Alice insisted, and brought me some clothes." Edward chuckled, rather ruefully. "I availed myself of the shower you have here."
I ran my fingers into his still-damp hair, pulled him close and took a long inhalation along his cheek. "Mmm, you do smell nice."
Edward's happy smile reached up from his mouth to crinkle the corners of his eyes. "That's my line." He leaned in and placed a soft kiss on each corner of my mouth, before settling in for a long, languid glide of his cool lips on mine. Though I still had to be careful with my kissing motion, before long I was fully awake, and ready to jump out of bed, if I could.
Another low chuckle rumbled in Edward's chest. "That's very nice, but you have some visitors coming," he whispered.
"Who is it?" I mumbled against his lips.
"Sam Uley and Jacob Black."
I was definitely awake, now. At my surprised expression, Edward raised a curious eyebrow. "Is there something I should know about the young Mr. Black?"
Mentally cursing my inability to control my face, I tried to compose myself. "Not really. You know he's the oldest friend I have in Forks, right?"
It was bound to come up sooner or later, but it wasn't like I had cheated on Edward or anything like that. Honesty was the best policy, but I still found myself focusing on the hollow of his throat where the open collar dipped. "We hung out a lot while you were gone. He helped me through…a lot of stuff."
"Then I'm glad he was here for you." I peeked up and couldn't be sure, but Edward's expression seemed to cloud over for a moment, before it became neutral again. "He seems very eager to see you. Should I be concerned about his intentions?"
Jacob's name had come up earlier, and Edward had let it slide at the time. I suppose he was preoccupied with thoughts of my safety. It was a little surprising to me that he could be insecure like any other boy. "I can't speak for what he thinks, because he's never said anything about having feelings for me. But I can tell you that I don't have those kinds of feelings for him."
I molded my hand to his cheek and brushed the corner of his mouth with my thumb. "I went crazy over you. Nobody could ever take your place, so that's one thing you absolutely don't have to worry about. Jacob is like my kid brother."
Edward chuckled, somewhat ruefully. "I've never been jealous over anyone but you. I'll try to keep my instincts under control." He glanced at me through his lashes. "Is he a werewolf?"
I frowned briefly. "No, he's not. Did Alice tell you about them?"
"Actually, Sam and Jared arrived at the parking lot shortly after you passed out. Sam had never met me before, so I needed to talk very fast to convince him we weren't there to harm you. Fortunately we were in the process of destroying Victoria. Once Jasper showed Sam her head, he had to believe us.
"At any rate, they're about to come through the door…" Edward paused dramatically with a finger in the air, then pointed it. "Now," he finished. Sure enough, there was a knock.
Uselessly straightening the blanket about me, I called to them to come in. The door was pushed open, and Jacob entered first, carrying a small bouquet of purple and white wildflowers. Sam followed after, dressed in flannel work shirt and jeans. Jake was dressed in a similar fashion, but with a jacket as an additional layer.
"Hey, Bella!" Jake smiled, cheerily. "We brought you something, hoped it might cheer you up."
"You didn't have to do that, Jake." I flushed slightly, and hurried to make introductions. "Jake, you know Edward, right? And Edward, this is Sam Uley. Sam, Edward."
"We've met," Sam remarked, his voice calm and deep.
Jake reached over warily to shake Edward's hand, but Sam remained near the door, opting to nod and slightly raise his hand in greeting. Sam seemed to be having a little trouble breathing, and his nose was wrinkled, as if against a bad odor. Reaching out, I took the flowers from Jake's hand and sniffed them. The lupine and mountain lily were delicately fragrant, but not overpowering.
"These smell nice, thanks, Jake." I looked around the room. "Hmm, I don't have a vase. Edward, could you stick these in that pitcher of water over there?"
"Certainly." Edward smoothly rose to comply.
"How you feeling, Bells?" Jake gave Edward a furtive glance before he spoke to me again. "Charlie told Billy about the truck accident," he said carefully.
I looked around at Edward, then at Sam, and realized they already knew the whole story. There was no reason for Jake to watch what he said. "It's all right, Jake. You can talk. Everybody here knows what really happened."
Jacob shrugged and jumped right in. "Okay, so what happened last night? I left you safe at home with Charlie. All Embry could tell me was you got a call, freaked out, and told them to go protect Charlie."
I sighed at my stupidity for believing Victoria, then remembered the other casualties of the struggle. I felt a little guilty I hadn't thought of them sooner. "Are Paul and Embry okay? Are they here at the hospital too?"
Sam took a short, quick breath and answered, "Yeah, they're okay, but they're not in the hospital. They'll be ready to go on patrol pretty soon."
"You can't make them patrol, they were on fire!" I exclaimed, incredulous. "I saw it! And she kicked them completely out of the parking lot! They must've been hurt!"
Sam gave a thin smile and, looking deliberately at Edward, said, "We heal very quickly, even from burns and broken bones. It would take far more than that to kill a werewolf."
"Oh, well, that's a relief," I sighed. "I feel bad that they got hurt trying to protect me."
"Thank you for the thought, but they're fine."
"Okay, okay," Jacob interrupted. "Now tell me what happened. Why'd you go off to the trailhead at night?"
I rolled my eyes at Jake's impatience, but answered him. "After you left, Victoria called me. She got my information from the school's records, and she knew where Renee lived, as well as me and Charlie. She said she had made another vampire, and he was going to kill Charlie when he went to go investigate a homicide last night. She was going to hunt down Renee. But if I went to meet her instead, she'd leave them alone."
Jake snorted in disbelief. "And you believed her?"
I held up my hand helplessly. "Hey, I had no way to know she was lying. And she swore if I didn't do what she asked, she wouldn't stop coming after Charlie, even after she killed me."
"So you'll commit suicide for Charlie if somebody lies convincingly to you?" Jacob's incredulous voice rose, and he goggled at me.
"Tell me about it." Edward spoke for the first time. "The same thing happened in Phoenix, last year, only the animal fooled Bella into thinking he had her mother."
"Was that when you ran away from home?" Jacob's eyebrows looked like they were climbing to the top of his head.
"I wasn't running away from home," I said with some annoyance. "We were running from Victoria's mate, James, who wanted to kill me. Anyway, after Embry left to tell Sam what was going on, I went to meet her. Embry and Paul attacked her, but she fought them off, and then came after me. I blacked out at some point because that's all I know until I woke up here."
"At least she won't be bothering you anymore," Edward's quiet voice soothed me, and he reached over and gave my hand a squeeze.
"Thank goodness for that." I returned the squeeze, then turned my gaze on Sam. "Anyway, you'll thank Embry and Paul for me, won't you?"
"No thanks needed, Bella. We're just sorry you got hurt." Sam cleared his throat. "That brings me to another reason I had to come today."
"Oh? What's that?" I asked.
"This concerns him, and his family." Sam indicated Edward with a flick of his head.
"Yes? What is it?" Edward answered. I kept quiet, fairly sure that Edward had already picked it out of Sam's mind. But he was making Sam say it out loud.
"The tribe is wondering what your intentions are. Will your family be returning to Forks?" Sam's deep, calm voice filled the room, as he stepped into the role of tribal spokesman.
Edward gazed back, his golden eyes unflinching, and answered just as calmly. "Yes, that is the plan. I had assumed that our treaty is still in effect? Port Angeles is neutral ground, so we can both be here."
"The treaty is still good. The boundaries are the same as well as the rest of it." Sam pointed at me before continuing. "And what are your intentions towards Bella?"
Edward shifted in his chair, but kept his voice even. "I can't see how that is any business of yours."
Sam mulled that over for a moment. "It looks like the two of you are…involved. It may trigger one part of the treaty, depending on the direction of your…relationship."
"Ah. I see." Edward held Sam's gaze while he thought over his answer. "Then you should know that I intend to stay with Bella for as long as she'll have me."
"No matter how long that will be?"
"As a human?"
Edward's eyes flicked at me so fast I almost missed it. "That is my intent, as well"
"Fair enough. Just remember that biting a human is the same as taking a life, do you understand that?"
Edward sighed. "I'm well aware of that."
I was confused at first, then it dawned on me what they were talking about, and how that related to me. Or to my future. "Wait, Sam. What happens if they bite someone?"
Sam's stern gaze shifted to me. "Then the treaty is broken. We're free to drive them from our land."
"What if somebody wants them to?" I couldn't help it, and just blurted it out.
Edward tried to cut me off. "Bella–"
"It doesn't matter," Sam broke in, ignoring Edward. "If they bite someone, that person is as good as dead."
I stared and felt the flush starting up my neck as I realized I had another obstacle in my way besides Edward's stubborn insistence on keeping me human. "You're damn right it matters!" I cried. "If it's my life then I should get to choose, right?"
Edward smoothly tried to intercede. "Bella, maybe this isn't the best time to discuss that. Sam was just reminding us of all aspects of the treaty. Right, Sam?"
Sam, who had been frowning at me in confusion from my outburst, refocused on the conversation. "That's right. We don't want there to be any misunderstandings."
I glared, all around. This was probably not the right time to try to re-negotiate an old treaty, especially with Edward squarely in favor of keeping the status quo. I'd have to work on him first. "All right. But this isn't finished, buster. Not by a long shot."
Edward had the decency to smile and nod at me before talking to Sam again. "Thank you for the reminder. We will keep your stipulation in mind. Was there anything else?"
"That's all I came to say."
Edward cleared his throat briefly. "All right, then let me say one thing."
Sam raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms, waiting. "Go ahead."
Leaning forward, Edward spoke earnestly. "Thank you. Thank you for keeping Bella safe while I was gone. I owe you a debt I can never repay." He turned to Jacob. "You were quite brave, to face an immortal with only a knife."
Jacob started, surprise all over his face. "How did you know?"
"Bella told me." Edward's smile was as smooth as his voice.
Jake shrugged. "No big. I did what I had to do."
"Nevertheless, you have my gratitude. While I don't plan to be far from her side, I'm glad to know that there are others with Bella's welfare in mind. If there is anything I can do to help you or the tribe, just ask."
Sam grunted. "Just remember what I said about Bella." He reached out and tapped Jake on the shoulder. "You ready to go?"
I caught Jake taking a long look at Edward and me. "Not just yet," he replied. "Sam, do you mind if I talk with Bella for a moment?"
"Sure. I'll wait at the car." Sam turned, opened the door, and left the room, almost too quickly, I thought.
Jacob looked over at Edward for a moment. "Um–"
Edward raised an eyebrow in response. "Would you like me to give you two a moment?"
Jake was taken aback, and blinked in surprise. "Sure, if that's okay."
I was surprised also, considering Edward's confession of jealousy. But he reached out and twined his fingers through mine, and I was momentarily distracted by that tingle that always seemed to run up my arm when he touched me. He gave me a reassuring smile, then got up to leave.
After the door closed, I smiled at Jacob. "What's up, Jake?"
Jacob poked the cast on my arm, his eyes doing a quick inventory of my injuries. "Man, you really should have stayed home last night."
I snorted, and answered a little defensively. "How was I to know? It's not like I've got a vampire lie detector or something."
"Yeah, but next time, at least talk with somebody before you go do something life-threatening, okay?"
I couldn't help it, and began giggling. "Next time?"
Jake joined in my laughter. "Hey, you're the one going around pissing off vampires!" he chortled.
"Laurent wasn't pissed off, he was just hungry!"
Jake rolled his eyes at me. "Whatever, like that makes a difference?"
"Well, Victoria's the last one that I know of with a grudge, so I should be good for now."
"We should be so lucky." Jake took a deep breath, and fidgeted a little in his seat. "Well, I, um– I guess he's back, now, huh?"
I couldn't help the happy expression that spread across my face as I thought about it. "Edward? Yeah, that's what I'm hoping."
Jake stared into my eyes for a while, then blinked and looked down. He took a visible breath that moved his shoulders and nodded. "You know, when I realized what he was, at first I couldn't believe you'd want to be with something like—with him."
Not liking how he said that, I frowned a bit. "I told you how I felt about him."
"Yeah, I know." He seemed a little sad, but then scratched his forehead with the back of his cast and I couldn't be sure. "I see you weren't kidding about that. You might think this is none of my business either, but you're my friend. I just wanted to be sure you know what you're doing, and I'm pretty sure you won't talk to Charlie about this."
"Of course, I know what I'm doing. I've always been safe with him."
Suddenly his eyes were intent upon me again, not angry, but not happy about it either. "That's not what I mean. You started to go off when Sam started talking about…biting humans. Are you seriously thinking about…him…biting you?"
Seeing his attitude about the subject, I dropped my eyes to the blanket. "I have thought about it once or twice," I said slowly.
The heart monitor beeped into the silence as Jacob sat speechless. "Really? Do you know what that means?"
"Yeah, why do you think I've thought about it?"
Jake gave a disgusted snort. "This isn't the same as getting a tattoo, or changing your religion, Bells. You won't be human anymore, and there's no coming back from that. You'll be the walking dead, and you'll have to kill people to survive, is that what you want?"
I winced as he struck one of the reservations I still had keeping me human. I said in a small voice, "I'm not planning on killing people. I'll live Edward and Carlisle's way."
"Yeah, but you and I both know what they're able to do. What if you can't control yourself, and end up killing somebody anyway? Is being with this…guy…worth that risk?"
I didn't like thinking of that possibility, and it shook my resolve just for a moment. My own life, my own sacrifices, that was perfectly acceptable to me. But if someone else were to somehow pay for my choices, that would be horrible. I had to take a few breaths to bring back my determination.
"Jake…I just got him back. I'm just starting to feel happy again, and I'm not going to question being with him. I'm only just beginning to believe that he's really back. So don't throw a wet blanket on me right now, okay?" I didn't see the need to inform him on just how tightly bonded Edward and I were. That might just freak him out.
Jake sighed and fell silent for a while before shrugging and changing the subject. "Yeah, well, you know he doesn't deserve you, right?"
I was starting to get tired of Charlie and Jake warning me off Edward, and my tone grew irritated. "Jake–"
"No, let me finish," Jake broke in. "You went through hell because of him. I know a couple girls on the reservation that would have found a new guy in a couple weeks. That Mike Newton guy was just waiting for you to rebound to him, but you never did. He doesn't deserve your loyalty. Tell me honestly, does he make you happy?"
"Have you been talking to Charlie?" I accused.
"Then I'll tell you the same thing I told him. You have to trust me. This is my life and if I'm going to mess up, I'm going to mess up. But I'm giving Edward another chance, and that's all you need to know about it. He makes me happy. Can't you just be happy for me?"
"Too bad you don't have that vampire lie-detector," Jacob's voice trailed off, and he sat, pensive, before continuing. "Well, as long as you're happy. I want you to know something, though. He may be bigger than I am, and stronger than I am, but I've got a lot of big brothers, if you know what I mean. And I'm sure he can't take all of them, so if he ever hurts you like that again, I'm going to make sure they come after him."
I barked a short laugh. "I guess that's sweet, in a Neanderthal-ish, kinda way. I appreciate the thought, but it won't be necessary."
Jake grimaced instead of laughing, then scratched at the thumb that protruded from his cast. "So, do you want your motorcycle?"
"No, way! Charlie still doesn't know. Just keep it down there, and we'll ride when I get better."
Jacob's voice grew gloomy. "Yeah, well, it doesn't matter now. I know you won't be coming down to the Rez to hang out anymore."
"What do you mean? I'm not going anywhere."
"Face it, anytime one of my buddies has gotten a girlfriend, he becomes 'Mr. Boyfriend'. After that we don't see him too much until they break up. I mean, I get it, it's the way things are. Just…just don't forget who your friends are, okay?"
He had a good point. Last summer I had spent every waking moment I could in Edward's company. The only time I didn't was when I was working, or Edward was away hunting. "I won't forget. But you know that Edward's not allowed to come down to the Rez. The treaty, you know?"
"Yeah, but you don't have to be joined at the hip like Siamese twins, do you? Why can't you come down to visit?"
To be honest, it was too soon to even contemplate spending time away from Edward, when I'd just gotten him back. "Listen, isn't it a little early to plan visits?" I wiggled my foot in its cast. "I'm not likely going to be able to drive anywhere for a while, so why don't we think about that when I can walk or drive again?"
Jacob made a resigned shrug. He still didn't seem that happy. "Okay. Give me a call when you get better. We'll figure something out when you're back on your feet."
Jake stood and pulled on his jacket. "I'll let you get some rest, Bells. Billy will be happy to know you're okay. Seeya."
"Seeya," I echoed, and gave him a little wave.
Pushing the chair back, he walked slowly to the door. But before he could touch the handle, a knock sounded, the door opened and Edward entered.
"Sorry, I just came to tell Bella that the nurse is coming to check her dressings."
"Oh, I was just leaving," Jacob replied.
Edward stopped Jake with a touch on his elbow. "Um, Jacob?"
Jake paused, a raised eyebrow the only indication of his surprise. "Yeah?"
"If I know the treatment regimen, it may be a couple months until Bella gets out of her casts. Once out, she's going to be in physical therapy for a while. She might like your company to break up the tedium sometimes. Would you be available to visit, now and then?"
Jake gave me a confused glance, his expression still rather wary. "Yeah, sure. That would be cool."
Edward's face was open and friendly. "Excellent. We'll give you a call." He held out his hand again, which Jacob took and slowly shook.
"I'll see you soon, Bells." A thoroughly confused Jacob looked over his shoulder at me as the door closed behind him.
Edward beamed at me, and I could almost feel the warmth penetrating me from the radiance of that smile. He quietly sat in the closest chair and took my hand, opened his mouth, then stopped. Someone else knocked on the door.
"Come in," Edward called. He seemed to have a rather amused expression, and I could see there was something he wanted to tell me.
The door swung wide, and an efficient, moderately stocky nurse bustled in, pulling a rolling tray after her. She had short, brown hair that was shot with grey, and a friendly smile on her face. Several bundles of pale blue cloth lay on top of the tray.
"I'm Nurse Cable," she announced, rather cheerily. "How are you feeling today?"
"Okay," I admitted. I still had pain from the broken bones, bumps and lacerations, but didn't see the need to elaborate. Emotionally, I was so much better, my physical ills faded in comparison.
"Good! Well, I'm going to change your dressings and take a look at your sutures, all right?" She positioned the tray close by the bed, and began unfolding the bundles, revealing scissors, packages of gauze, cotton swabs, and sachets of ointment. She selected a pair of scissors, stepped over to the bed, and began cutting through the bandages on my head. I gave a slight wince at the cold touch of the metal.
Before long, she had removed the bandages covering my eye, carefully pulled off the gauze, but cautioned me to wait for a moment before opening my eye. Wetting a cotton swab with some clear solution, she gently dabbed at my eye, removing the crusties that had formed from being closed so long. On her okay, I fluttered my eye open, and sat blinking for a while, getting used to having two eyes again.
"Better?" She smiled, her apple cheeks rounding.
Lastly, she removed the gauze covering the side of my face. The exposure to air felt surprisingly good, so I wondered how long I had been out for it to feel such relief.
Nurse Cable frowned as she examined my cheek. She touched one spot with a very gentle fingertip.
"Do you feel any burning, or tightness?" she asked.
"It hurts when I move my face a certain way, but I thought that was just the fracture."
She pursed her lips and nodded. "That's to be expected. You do have some swelling, but that will eventually go down. There doesn't seem to be any sign of infection so that's good."
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Edward's expression go dark – guilt and anger warring with each other – only to be wiped away to calm innocence when he saw me focus on him. I returned my attention to the nurse, wondering what she had been thinking to get that reaction.
Nurse Cable began working again, chatting amiably as she applied an ointment to my face, covered it with gauze, and finished it with an adhesive bandage that, thankfully didn't cover my eye.
"Nice to have two eyes again, isn't it?"
Nurse Cable smiled and began packing up her equipment and used supplies. "The doctor will be in to check you, soon. If everything looks good, you might be able to go home today!"
"That would be great," I agreed.
"Thank you, nurse," Edward said, with that warm smile of his. Nurse Cable's smile faltered for a second, then she excused herself and took her rolling tray with her.
Edward settled back into the chair, and reached out to touch the other side of my face with cool fingers, that trembled slightly. "Finally, I get to see all of you. I've waited so long." Edward's whisper was very intense, and made my breath catch in my throat.
I grasped his wrist, and pressed a kiss into his palm. "I feel like I've waited forever to see you, too. Now and then I think I'm going to wake up and you won't be here again." I couldn't help the quaver that touched my voice as I said that.
"Shh." Edward lay his fingertips against my lips. "I'll be here. I swear it." Then a fleeting smirk drifted across his face. "And I've read your chart. You won't be mobile for a while, either."
Thinking about my last experience at convalescence, I groaned. It had been a fairly long and tedious process. Then I was reminded that Edward had invited Jacob to visit during my recovery. "Hey, what were you thinking after Jake left?"
Edward settled back into the chair, but kept hold of my hand. He watched my face as he spoke. "Well, I was thinking that Jacob Black seems to be a decent fellow."
I blinked, not expecting that comment. "You were listening, weren't you?"
Edward chuckled, unashamed. "Sorry, love. I was curious."
Surprisingly curious myself, I didn't call him on it. "So…what did you hear that makes you think he's a good guy? I mean, I think so, but you've hardly talked to him."
"As I expected, he does have a slight crush on you. I expected nothing less from a teenage boy." Edward cocked his head, his expression serene, and not the least bit threatened.
"Oh." My face fell and I could feel my neck heat a little. If I was going to need to fend him off like Mike, that might become a bit awkward, later.
"What surprised me is he's putting your happiness first. I expected to hear jealousy when he thought about me, but his thought was, 'if that bloodsucker makes her happy, who am I to judge?' He's still suspicious, but he seems willing to give me the benefit of the doubt. I think that's rather decent of him, especially since the legends he's heard all his life paint a horror story of vampires."
I could feel the divot forming between my eyebrows, my surprise was so great, and my respect for Jacob rose a few notches. He was such a good guy, I hoped he'd find somebody nice someday.
"So, you were serious about him visiting." It was more declaration than a question. Edward, too, was quite a guy.
"Wouldn't you like that?"
"Then, absolutely. I'm not sure what Sam or the elders would think about that, but if they don't object, I certainly don't mind." He ended with his lopsided grin, then reached out and ruffled my hair, before smoothing it back down.
"Wow," I sighed, as my heart misbehaved. His widening smile told me he knew the effect he had on me. He was such a cheater.
I felt a further lightening of my spirit. It hadn't been a very large worry, but once Edward had come back, some things Jacob had said in the past weeks made me wonder if there might be problems between the two of them. If what Edward said about Jake were true, perhaps we wouldn't have to deal with that kind of drama.
Last year – at about this time, ironically – I was also in a cast, and recovering from various injuries. At times it seemed my convalescence would never end, and the frustrations boiled over. But Alice had let my swings in mood blow past, a gentle, knowing smile on her face. She defused my occasional fits of bad temper with a calm demeanor and, as needed, blunt commentary. If I was in for more of the same recovery experience, the last thing I needed to deal with was a jealous Jacob, waiting on the fringes trying to steal me away from Edward.
Contented warmth seeped over me, and I settled in to wait for the doctor and whatever he had in store. My parents were safe, Victoria was dead, I held Edward's hand securely within my own, and he had no problems with Jacob being my friend. I was still a mess of broken bones, cuts and bruises, but at this moment, with all we'd been through, I'd take it.
= = O = o = P = =
To be continued...
Not the Ed and Jake show you were expecting? He's not The Dog anymore. Let me know what you think! :-)