Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and don't we all know it? I'm just playing around with the characters.
Secondary disclaimer: The plotline for this story was not originally mine. A group of people have been hunting for a story with this very plot for days and came up empty handed. We had to conclude that the story they were searching for didn't exist (anymore). Being in love with the plot, I stepped up to adopt this story. So please note that this story was not my original idea. If you are the writer of the original story or if you know her/him, please let me know so I can give that person the proper credit!
AN at the bottom.
Do you know that feeling of being somewhere in between sleeping and being awake? When you're aware of the soft caress of the sheets against your skin and the slow filtering of light into the room but not quite able of opening your eyes and waking up fully. That was the stage I was in. The room was completely quiet, bathing me in drowsy tranquility.
I twisted around, burrowing deeper into the covers and let out a contented sigh. The silence was a rare commodity. Living in a tiny studio on the top floor of a crowded building always ensured enough background noise. A sudden thought busted me out of my tranquil state. It was too quiet.
My bed was on a raised platform nestled between the kitchen area and my computer corner. There was always an electrical hum around me, at all times. It was strangely absent right now. I shot up from underneath my blankets, frantically looking around the studio.
The lights I used as nightlights next to my bed and TV set were turned off, just like my alarm clock. I squinted at the clock on the opposite wall.
"Shit!" I shrieked, jumping out of bed. I was supposed to be at work an hour ago! As I raced through the studio, grabbing a set of clothes on-the-go, I cursed the third power outage that hit this building in the last two weeks.
I jumped through the shower long enough to wash my hair and make sure I didn't smell like a Neanderthal and sped through the rest of my routine. I skipped breakfast, opting instead to yank something out of the vending machine at work, if I could, and was out the door within twenty minutes of waking up.
I fished my cellphone out my purse.
"Ah shit," I moaned, going down the stairs and noting how I had missed 4 calls from my boss. My fingers swiped across the screen of my phone as I bolted through the front door of my building and onto the street.
"Pick up, pick up," I mumbled, rushing towards the train station.
"Bella Swan, where in fucks name are you?" My boss Rosalie Hale shrieked when she picked up. Rosalie was generally a nice person but being editor-in-chief of a major fashion magazine was a stressful job, and damn near impossible to do without an assistant. That's where I come in.
"I'm so sorry, Rose," I panted, picking up my pace for the four blocks I had to walk. "There was another power outage at my apartment. I'm on my way right now."
"Hurry! There's a photo shoot I need to attend in an hour and I still need to okay the outfits for it," she snapped, hanging up immediately. Sighing, I picked up my pace further, almost sprinting down the streets now.
By the time I reached the station, I was panting loudly and there was a sharp cramp in my side. I felt like I could barely move and my head was spinning due to the lack of food in my stomach. But I didn't have the luxury of stopping so I pushed on towards the entrance, already fishing my card out of my wallet.
My head spun automatically towards the cry of distress, my feet slowing.
"Someone help! Please!" It was a man, frantically waving one hand and spinning around in his efforts to find someone to help him. I stopped walking completely. On his arm was a bundle wrapped in what looked like a leather jacket.
"Oh my god," I breathed, realizing what it was. My body responded before my mind could and I was suddenly bolting towards the man on the other side of the street, ignoring the angry horns of the car I almost got hit by.
The man turned around at the sound, his eyes landing on me and a crushing relief filled the green orbs.
"What's wrong?" I shouted, running the last stretch of pavement between myself and him.
"I found her," he rambled. "She was in that alley over there! Shit, she's so cold!" The man was frantic, clutching the leather bound bundle to his chest. There was a small patch of hair visible.
"Please God, tell me she's alive," I whispered, mesmerized by the baby in his arms. I could see her face now. She was ghastly white, her lips tinted blue. I felt sick to my stomach. Just then, she gave a sign of life by gently pursing her lips. The cry of relief bursting from my chest was too strong to stop.
"She's so cold," the man muttered, pulling her impossibly closer to the heat of his body. "So cold."
Before I had a conscious thought, my cellphone was out and I had dialled 911. Stuttering and frantic, I explained the operator what was going on and was rewarded with the promise of an ambulance racing towards our location. I hung up quickly, hovering around the man and the precious bundle in his arms. I shrugged off my coat, placing it around the jacket - which I now deduced was his - and his arms.
"We need to warm her up," I mumbled. He nodded, looking up and down the streets to await the ambulance. Feeling sorry for him I introduced myself in an effort to distract him from the panic coursing through his emerald green eyes. Under any other circumstance, I would've appreciated how handsome the man truly was.
He looked up from the baby and into my eyes. "I'm Edward, thank you so much for helping," he said, calming down a little. I smiled at him, placing my hand on the baby and moving the fabric away that obscured her face from sight. It was a truly beautiful baby, but also shockingly small. It made me realize that she couldn't be much older than three-maybe four-weeks old.
"How'd you find her?" I whispered, stroking my fingers over the baby's frigid cheek. It was a staggering relief to see that her little lips were already less blue than they had been.
"She was in the alley," Edward answered. "She was just lying there with nothing but a thin, filthy blanket around her..." his voice changed, an angry sneer seeping into it "...someone just left her like that to die."
"We don't know that, Edward," I gently admonished. He was about to respond when the sounds of sirens reached our ears and we turned towards it. The ambulance came skidding around a corner about two blocks away, burning rubber as whoever drove it floored it.
"Hey!" I shouted, waving my arms to flag it down. "Over here! We're here!"
It skidded to a halt right next to us, the sirens deafeningly loud. The man that jumped out from behind the wheel smiled in a way that belied his near panicked way of driving. Another man jumped out from the back, while the third stayed inside.
"Good morning," the driver said jovially. "My name's Emmett and this here is Jasper."
The two had an air of calming nature around them and I found myself relaxing as they guided us and the baby into the back of the ambulance.
"Alrighty," the biggest of the two, Emmett, said. He took the baby from Edward's arms and placed her on the gurney. Edward immediately folded his arms across his chest, watching with a frown. I placed my hand on his shoulder and he shot me a grateful look.
With baited breath we watched as Jasper and Emmett took the baby out of the jacket. The blanket Edward had found her in reeked of mildew and the faint stench of vomit. Emmett quickly tossed it out the back, taking the clean blanket that Jasper handed him. He swaddled her swiftly and efficiently before adding a heated blanket.
I took a deep breath, starting to feel frantic suddenly. Why was she so quiet? I took another breath as Emmett dipped his pinkie finger in a cup of water before rubbing it over the baby's tiny lips. They puckered slightly. "Good girl," Emmett cooed. "Come on, little lady."
The baby, stirring slightly, opened her mouth and latched onto Emmett's finger, suckling in an effort to get sustenance. Edward and I let out twin breaths of relief just as Emmett and Jasper praised the baby for being a good girl.
Emmett turned, giving Jasper access to her and as he checked her heartbeat, Emmett told us to buckle into the small seats in the back and got out, closing the doors with a loud bang. Edward rubbed his forehead with one hand.
"Thank you," he whispered, nudging me gently with his shoulder. I kept quiet. What should I have said? My pleasure? No problem? No, I didn't respond. I just shot him a smile that came out more like a grimace. From the minute I saw him standing on the street, I was invested and I was sure as hell not gonna leave the baby now. Edward might have found her, but I found them.
The sirens came back on - I hadn't even noticed they had been turned off in the first place and the ambulance started moving. A hell of a lot more gentle than the way it had been driving before, I might add.
I kept my eyes on the baby as Jasper made her a warm bottle of formula. Without a word, he picked her up and placed her in my arms. With wide eyes I held her a little awkwardly. I'd never before held a baby, never trusting myself with such a precious little thing. And yet, my arms seemed to know exactly what to do, molding and shaping perfectly to accommodate her comfortably. Edward, next to me, reached over to caress her perfect little cheek and I couldn't help the smile that was threatening to split my face. I took the bottle and, following Emmett's previous example, rubbed the tip over the baby's lips first before she latched on with a pretty astounding force.
Jasper sat down on the gurney with a clipboard and started writing on it before he spoke up. I ripped my eyes away from her and focused on him. He was a tall man, although slightly shorter than Edward. His face was handsome but for the large scar that ran over his cheekbone and down to his jaw. His hair was a honey shade of blond and it actually reminded me a little of Rosalie.
My stomach dropped through my ass thinking of her, but Jasper's voice quickly expelled those thoughts.
"Alright," he said, clearing his throat. "She seems perfectly healthy. Just a little hypothermic but nothing major. She's also a little on the thin side but some tender love and care should take care of that quickly."
Edward and I nodded in unison.
"When we arrive in the hospital, the doctor will give her a quick check-up and then we'll see from there, okay?"
Another nod and then both our gazes were back on the baby. She was drinking quietly but I was startled to see her eyes were wide open. Of course I knew that practically newborn babies didn't really stare at people, but I swear up and down that she was staring straight into my soul.
"Hey beautiful," Edward whispered. "You gave us quite the scare."
The smile on my face widened when one tiny little hand made its way out from underneath the warm blankets and touched the nipple of the bottle. Edward reached out to touch her little fingers and she surprised him by gripping his fingers.
"Whoa," he chuckled. "You got a strong grip on ya, beautiful."
My smile grew impossibly bigger and then we were pulling into the ambulance deck of the hospital. Emmett got out from the drivers seat and a few seconds later he was opening the back of the ambulance for us. Jasper got out first, as did the third guy who had never introduced himself, before Edward did. I got up, too, clutching the baby to my chest. Edward and Emmett helped me out the back and then we were inside the hospital.
Emmett and Jasper led us through the sterile, cold halls to a separate room where we'd have to wait for the doctor.
"Alright," Emmett said, reaching out to pat Edward's shoulder. "It's a little crazy in the hospital right now but the doctor should be with you ASAP." He turned to me and rubbed my arm.
"The best of luck to the both of you and you are true heroes for saving that precious little girl."
My responding smile was bashful and stayed on my face well after Emmett and Jasper left to go on their next job. Alone, Edward and I looked at each other and the realisation that we were nothing but strangers hit me in full capacity.
Suddenly I felt awkward. I had no idea what to tell this man, what to say to the man I helped save this precious baby. He was staring at the baby and I took the opportunity to stare at him. He was tall and muscularly lean; narrow hips but broad shoulders. His face was incredibly handsome with a cut jaw and a strong nose. His jaw line was covered in stubble, adding to his masculinity. His hair was an odd sight though. It was hard to define the color of it and it depended on the way the light hit it. It looked plain brown when you first looked at it, but the light hitting it illuminated a strong reddish glow. He pulled his hand through it and it stuck up adorably. Suddenly he looked like a petulant boy.
His emerald green eyes shot up to mine and I was trapped underneath his gaze. He reached out and touched my hand. Where he touched me, my skin tingled pleasantly and it took me by surprise. He pulled back, rubbing his fingers with his thumb. He must have felt that same tingling sensation.
"I don't know how to thank you for helping me save her," he said and now that the panic had left him, his voice was rich and deep, seeping over me like soft velvet. It shot a tiny shiver across my spine.
"You don't have to thank me," I muttered, looking down at her. "Would you like to hold her?"
Edward smiled and shook his head softly. "No, she looks quite comfortable right where she is," he whispered, reaching out to stroke her cheek. She was preoccupied with drinking the last of her bottle and I knew I'd have to burp her soon.
"What do you think will happen to her?" I whispered. Edward frowned.
"They'll try and locate her mother," he said. "Until then, she'll probably go into foster care."
I squeezed my eyes shut but it didn't drown out the onslaught of flashes assaulting my mind. My parents died when I was five, killed in a car crash. I vividly remember the social worker coming to my house with the scary looking police man. My nanny explained to me what had happened and that I needed to go with the social worker.
The social worker had been a scary woman, big and angry and her hand around my upper arm had been painful. When she had placed me in the backseat of her car, she told me to quit crying. That she would find new parents for me and that I would be okay if I just stopped crying. All I wanted was my mommy and daddy, not this overly stout woman that was taking me away. I started screaming for my parents, all the way to the orphanage.
She had brought me inside, once again hurting my arm in her strong hand and told the man she dropped me off with that I would be a little troublemaker.
I stayed in the orphanage for two weeks before my first foster family picked me up. The mom was nice but the father was mean, especially when he'd been drinking. He would scream at me and my little foster brother and threaten to hit us with his belt. I wasn't there for long but it was the first of a seemingly endless chain of foster families, one worse than the other. All I had fit inside a small, worn suitcase that had once belonged to my mother and her cameo necklace.
I couldn't count the times I had lain in bed, clutching her necklace and silently crying for her to come back to me. To save me from the system. To love me like only she could love me. It was horrible, all of it.
"Bella?" I heard Edward's concerned voice.
"Hmm?" I hummed, distracted by my inner thoughts. I couldn't believe the precious baby in my arms would go into the system, to live a half life forever stuck in between people pretending to care. Her mind would be crushed, her person forever labeled in the eyes of society.
I briefly thought about becoming a foster parent myself, just so I could take her in with me but that hope was extinguished as swiftly as it was kindled to life. I lived in a small studio in a dingy apartment building. My job was stressful, long hours and low pay. I would never be considered an appropriate candidate for foster parenting.
"Bella?" Edward repeated as I looked down on the small angel in my arms. A single drop fell from the corner of my eye and landed on her cheek.
"Bella!" Edward's hand on my shoulder shook me out of my thoughts and I looked up into his worried eyes.
"She's done drinking," he whispered and took her from my arms to burp her. He kept his eyes on me as he brought her up to his shoulders. He started rocking her, gently patting her on her back. The door opened just as she finally burped. Panic struck me as the doctor walked in, his eyes on the chart in his hands.
"Good morning," the doctor said, finally looking up. "I'm Dr. Happ."
He walked up to me and gave me his hand to shake. "Bella Swan," I muttered. Dr. Happ smiled and moved on to shake Edward's hand.
As he introduced himself as Edward Cullen, I realized that it was the first time I had heard his last name and it struck me as vaguely familiar. I had heard that name before but I couldn't quite place it. I definitely hadn't met Edward before, it would've been impossible to forget such a handsome man but the name...
"Edward, it seems like you have some regurgitation on your shoulder," Dr Happ pointed out. As Edward grabbed some tissues to wipe the baby and his shirt clean, I looked at the doctor.
He was a mousy man, mid to late forties and about as short as I was as. He had a comb-over and his grey eyes looked like they were bulging behind the thick glasses. He was over all an extremely unattractive man and he certainly didn't seem like the sharpest tool in the shed.
"So," he said, grabbing a set of gloves and putting them on. "Are you the baby's parents?"
I was instantly thrown back into the memories of foster care. Clear as day, I saw the opportunity presented to me on a silver platter by the doctor. Before I could stop myself to think of any ramifications my mouth blurted: "Yes."
I could practically feel Edward's head snapping to my direction and his eyes burning the question in my temple. Play along, Edward. Please play along. Don't let them take her away. She won't survive the system...
I jumped a little when Edward spoke. "Yes, she's our baby."
I was stunned speechless. I had wanted him to play along with me posing as the baby's mother but I had never expected him to pose as her father. To step up like that. I looked at him with wide eyes and he briefly met my gaze. That one look conveyed more than a thousand words.
We will save her. His look said. You and me together.
"Oh good," Dr. Happ said cheerfully and my jaw nearly hit the floor with added surprise. Was he really going to be duped that easily? "What's her name?"
Panicked again I turned to Edward who casually regarded the doctor. "Grace," he lied perfectly. "Her name is Grace."
Grace. It was a perfect name for her and I was shocked by how quickly Edward had thought of it.
"Pretty name," the doctor said with a nod. "And how did she end up in the alley?"
Oh my god, shit!
"Uhm..." I stammered, a cold sweat breaking out all over my body. Feeling like I was gonna hurl, I frantically squeezed my hands and bit my bottom lip.
"Our nanny took her last night," Edward lied again, with just the right amount of frantic anger in his voice to be believable. "We searched for her all through the night. The police have already arrested the nanny."
I was floored. My mind was a big void of nothing as I blatantly gaped at Edward for being such an exquisite liar.
"Oh, you must be so relieved," Dr. Happ gushed and then I was gaping at him instead. Was he really that gullible? Edward was the perfect picture of a worried father as he asked the doctor to please look Grace over. To make sure she was healthy and that she wouldn't suffer from her night outside.
"Well, by the time you arrived at the hospital, her hypothermia was already gone" Dr. Happ spoke. "And she certainly looks healthy so I don't think I'll need to do a lot of tests but I would like to do some blood tests, if you wouldn't mind."
The doctor was looking at me for approval and I nodded minutely, still stunned into a state of shock about the prospect that we might even be able to pull this lie off. In all honesty, the ramifications didn't concern me one bit. I just cared about little Grace. It was astonishing how quickly she had wiggled her way into my heart but she was there now and I wasn't about to evict her.
"Yes, of course," I told the doctor who gave me another smile, the dimwit that he was, and made a move to take Grace from Edward. He gave her to Dr. Happ with a grimace and we watched in silence as he prepped her to draw blood.
But where I had expected big needles and an endless line of vials to fill, Dr. Happ just made a tiny cut into the back of her foot and caught the droplets of blood in a small vial. The cut wasn't even big enough to make Grace cry. She just tried to tug her foot of his hand and when that didn't work, she just started suckling on her little fist.
"Okay," the doctor said, straightening up and tickling Grace on the belly. When he turned to us, he continued. "I'll just run some routine tests and then you'll be free to go."
I nodded and smiled, walking over to Grace on the examination table to pick her up. As the doctor was leaving to run the tests, I put her against my shoulder and I felt this wave of something I wasn't quite able to explain wash over me. I just knew that it felt really good.
I turned to face Edward, who was looking at us with a gentle smile. Frowning, I looked back at him.
"Why did you do it?" I asked.
"What do you mean?" he retorted in confusion.
"Why did you lie to the doctor? About the baby being yours?"
"Well, why did you?" he deadpanned and my questioning died like a flame being held under water.
"Touché," I whispered. "I just couldn't let them put her in the system, you know?"
His demeanor changed, his eyes zeroing in on mine and suddenly I felt vulnerable and small under his gaze, scrutinizing me in ways I've never been scrutinized before. I didn't like it and yet I couldn't look away from him.
"I understand," he whispered after a moment that lasted forever. I nodded awkwardly, afraid that if I would try to speak, nothing would come out. I was burning with curiosity, a million questions rushing through my mind at once but those would have to wait for now.
And as Grace quietly slept against my shoulder, Edward and I waited for the doctor so that we would be free to figure out what would happen next. We were strangers and yet we were oddly bound by other through circumstances too odd for the human mind to comprehend. We had never met before today and now we had a baby to take care of. The thought should have scared me out of my wits but I was strangely calm.
Edward and I would get to know each other and we would do what would be best for little Grace.
The silence in the room wasn't exactly tense or uncomfortable, Edward and I just didn't have anything to say at that moment and so we said nothing at all. The silence held on as time crept past and I briefly thought of my work.
The panic I had felt earlier thinking of Rose wasn't there anymore. I knew she'd understand once I told her about the situation and I knew she'd even pull favors to make sure Grace had everything she could ever want. Babies were Rose's weak spot and I damn well knew it.
Dr. Happ took an hour before he returned to us with Grace's test results. He looked flushed though and muttered something about two emergencies coming in within a few minutes.
"Is everything okay, Dr. Happ?" I asked.
"Yes. Yes. Everything's fine," he assured me unconvincingly. "Gracie here is perfectly healthy it seems. You're free to take her home."
He smiled at us for a moment before his pager started blaring and he bolted out the door leaving me, Edward and the baby alone.
A stunned silence filled the room before Edward cleared his throat.
"Come on," he said, putting his hand on my arm and together we walked out of the hospital with the baby we had just lied through our teeth for to protect.
We silently agreed on a cab to take us from the hospital back to the station. I gave Grace to him for the ride there and watched him watching her throughout the trip. I paid the driver before Edward could when we arrived and we got out simultaneously.
We stood, on the exact same spot we had met hours ago, watching each other with a warm, healthy baby entwining our very souls together and the moment took my breath away.
Edward's lips curled with a small smile as he rubbed Grace's back gently.
"So," he started. "Now what?"
Sooooooo. Pffft. I really hope this first chapter didn't disappoint the people who were anxiously waiting for me to post this story. The total of 189 people who put me on their author alerts for it - Thank you for the encouragment. It's deeply appreciated.
Many thanks to my wonderful Beta Smmiskimen - link to her profile on my own - for being the most loving grammar nazi ever ;-) and a million hugs to Southern Fanfiction Reviews on FB for supporting me in my decision to adopt this plot.
To the people who liked this first chapter, please review? It makes my heart jump for joy.
Kisses from Pixie