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About Time

Bella's POV

Behind Riley, all I could see was the twisting flame of Victoria's hair and a blur of white. The increasingly frequent metallic snaps and tears, the gasps and shocked hissings, made it clear that the dance was turning deadly for someone. But which someone?

Riley lurched toward me, his red eyes brilliant with fury. He glared at the limp mountain of sand-colored fur between us, and his hands - mangled, broken hands - curled into talons. His mouth opened, widened, his teeth glistening, as he prepared to rip out Seth's throat.

A second kick of adrenaline hit like an electric shock, and everything was suddenly very clear. Both fights were too close. Seth was about to lose his, and I had no idea if Edward was winning or losing. They needed help. A distraction. Something to give them an edge.

My hand gripped the stone spike so tightly that a support in the brace snapped. Was I strong enough? Was I brave enough? How hard could I shove the rough stone into my body? Would this buy Seth enough time to get back on his feet? Would he heal fast enough for my sacrifice to do him any good?

I raked the point of the shard up my arm, yanking my thick sweater back to expose the skin, and then pressed the sharp tip to the crease at my elbow. I already had a long scar there from my last birthday. That night, my flowing blood had been enough to catch every vampire's attention, to freeze them all in place for an instant. I prayed it would work that way again.

From Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer


Chapter One: A Leap of Faith

BPOV

Edward was immediately distracted by the sound of my gasp. His eyes, for the briefest portion of a second, met mine.

Concern and confusion mingled strangely in his expression as Victoria took her opportunity to swiftly decapitate him, tossing his head into the fire in the same motion.

Horror and disbelief sped into my consciousness overtaking me like a final act curtain before the murderess could move her feet in my direction I remember the surprisingly cold blackness that overtook my senses was soothing. Mercifully numb, unable to think or feel, I welcomed death and drifted willingly into the nothingness, seeking only to follow my beloved.

Slowly, so slowly the smell of fresh linens and a soft, spring breeze heralded my oncoming conscious thoughts. I realized I must be lying in a bed, I felt the pillow beneath my head and I smelled the remnants of sterile alcohol, human sweat and a faint odor of gasoline fumes in the air coming from the window. The window also brought sounds of a city distant, but unmistakable. Even more prevalent was the close clatter of a bustling building full of people. I lay, unmoving and uncaring, yet my lungs kept pumping the unwanted oxygen into my system. I must have lain there for some time, trying to convince myself that it was a nightmare, hoping beyond hope that it was only another nightmare. If I didn't open my eyes maybe I wouldn't have to face the possibility that it wasn't. I slowly became certain I wasn't in my room at home. The smells and sounds were wrong, so something was definitely off with the whole nightmare theory, I didn't really want to know so I didn't move.

My body stubbornly refused to sink back into the black and I finally gave in, cracking open my sticky eyelids. An old fashioned metal foot board was the first thing that came into view and overhead a single light bulb hung from an unfamiliar ceiling, but it wasn't on at the moment. To my right a small window was flung open wide and dark, heavy curtains fluttered slightly in the cool morning breeze wafting through it. Next to the window, a large metal bowl sat on top of an antique dresser.

Slowly turning my head to the left, I saw a figure walk through the door of this room, absorbed in the clipboard chart she was carrying. Her nearly floor length skirt made a swishing sound with each step she took. She wore a high necked blouse covered with a white apron that taken all together, resembled a very old fashioned nurse's uniform. Complete with the pert little cap neatly pinned into her coiffed hair, it was impossible to mistake her for anything else. The hollow clopping sound of her footsteps announced the floor must be wooden and bare.

She looked up at me and did a double take with her chart, then a slow smile overtook her face, "Hello, Miss. How are you feeling this morning?"

I was still uncertain that I would be able to move my mouth or make proper sounds with it. I blinked at her and then attempted to move my lips. She quickly turned to exchange her clipboard for a glass of water from a metal night stand that stood next to the doorway. Smiling broadly at me, she approached with the glass in her hand and offered it to me. When I made no response, she bent over me and gently lifted my head so that my lips touched the rim and slowly, she directed the liquid successfully into my mouth. I tried my best to swallow it, but I was only partially successful. The stray liquid dribbled down my chin. She patiently continued to help me swallow for a while longer.

"Easy, that should be enough for the moment. We'll try some more later." Her voice was heavily laced with an Irish brogue, "You've been unconscious for quite a while and the doctor left strict instructions that he be notified if you should wake, so please do me the kindness of keeping your eyes open while I go fetch him and I'll be much obliged." With a wink, she turned and fairly flew out of the room.

In her absence, I resigned myself to take stock of the tiny room that seemed to be barely large enough for the three pieces of furniture. Still, I was apparently the only patient in it. I tried to focus on the room, the bed I lay in and the window, it all looked so unfamiliar. I'd been in Forks' Medical often enough to know that this wasn't it.

It was getting difficult to concentrate on not thinking when I heard the rapid approach of hollow footsteps on the barren wood flooring. When the familiar movie star smile on that handsome blonde doctor finally appeared in the doorway, tears of grief, guilt and relief instantly welled up in my eyes. My arms felt like lead as they attempted to reach for him, the kindest, most compassionate person, man or vampire, I'd ever known.

Involuntary sobs started wracking my chest I couldn't stop them. I meant to offer Edward's sire, best friend and father an impassioned plea for forgiveness, but it turned out sounding more like a pathetic, hoarse whisper, "Carlisle! I'm so sorry! Please forgive me!"

He hesitated and his smile morphed into an expression of confusion as he gently took hold of my hands and pressed me back into the pillows. "Have we met child?" He gathered my hands into one of his cold, hard palms and grabbed a stool that had been beyond my field of vision to sit next to the bed and continued, "Whatever could you possibly have done that I would need to forgive you for?"

"It's my fault! It was all my fault. I only wanted to help him, but Edward... he's gone and it's my fault." I choked on the sobs that continued to wrack my body.

Carlisle disengaged his hand from mine and magically produced a syringe. "Shh, now girl. Nothing is as bad as it seems. I'm just going to give you a little something to help you relax..."

"NO!" I struggled to push myself up on my elbows as fast as I could, "Please don't put me back to sleep, Carlisle. Please don't drug me," I pleaded with my eyes for a private communication. Taking my hint, Carlisle promptly waved off the attending nurses.

"Couldn't you please just ask Jasper to help me instead?" Carlisle's adopted son, Jasper, was able to manipulate the emotions of those around him and had successfully calmed me down on several occasions. The blank expression on his face confused me though. What had I requested that was so difficult for Carlisle to comprehend? He should have immediately understood my logic.

"Who is Jasper and how could he help?" For a few minutes the room was silent and I wasn't sure who was more confused between the two of us.

"Wh.. what? Where am I?"

"You're in Cook County Hospital. You came in by stretcher night before last, unconscious. Apparently, you were found lying in someone's front yard in the buff. Any ideas on how you got there that way?"

"Cook County?" I stared back at him, trying hard to take in the words and understand them. Failing at that, I then took in the nurses who had returned to assist the doctor, as though they would decipher the words coming from Carlisle's mouth, "As in Chicago Cook County?"

He smiled, "Yes, of course."

"How did we get here?"

"We?" Carlisle's eyes twinkled at some thought he felt more prudent to not share, "The question, my dear is, how did you get here?"

I could see the hypotheses forming in his eyes, perhaps he was right and I was delusional. Upon second thought, that did seem the more likely scenario. At this point, I couldn't be certain this was happening, no matter how real it seemed to me. Maybe I did need drugs.

"I'm sorry. You've obviously been through a lot and you're understandably distressed. Please, Miss," he motioned to the syringe at the ready in his hand and I acquiesced nodding slowly.

He quickly and adeptly administered the shot and swabbed the area clean. "There now, just relax and get some rest. When you wake up later, things will start to sound much better." Carlisle stood and watched as my eyelids began to droop.

"Will you come back to see me?" I begged drowsily.

"Of course, child." And I was once again cloaked in the blissful black.

When I woke once more, it was Carlisle's smile that confronted me. As I struggled to sit up, he gently assisted, expertly tucking the pillows in behind me to facilitate my efforts. "Hello again," he said as he slowly allowed me to shift my weight back against the bed once more. "How are you feeling Miss?"

"Bella, remember?"

"I'm certain that I would remember making your acquaintance, should I have ever met you, my girl. How do you know me, Bella?"

Suddenly, the weight of my isolation hit me and my traitorous eyes began to water once more. My only friend in this place was a stranger to me. I shook my head to clear my thoughts but also to delay the necessity of forming an answer.

My tears had the effect of making Carlisle clear his throat, anxious to calm me before the possibility of yet another outburst, "Shh, girl. You've obviously been through a traumatic experience, but you're safe now. I promise no one is going to hurt you here. Shh, now." He reached over my lap to lightly squeeze my hand and reassure me, his cold marble-hard hands confirming his undead state of existence. I realized he must have some measure of trust in me already to offer that simple gesture.

"How did I get here?" I managed to squeak out.

Carlisle cleared his throat, "You were found passed out and disrobed on the front lawn of one of our prominent citizens. They naturally called the authorities who brought you here three nights ago. You've been in a coma until earlier this evening. What is the last thing you remember?" At his question my heart began to break again and the sobs welled up harder and harder to contain, "Shh, I'm sorry. This is obviously too painful for you still." Carlisle raised his palm to my forehead, it looked as though he were assessing my temperature, but his cool hand calmed me and soon made my breathing easier. "Can you tell me how you know me? The only name tag I own doesn't display my given name."

I swallowed hard. "Where I come from, we are friends, very close friends," I stammered.

"Where do you come from?" His eyes narrowed, no doubt trying to assess the level of threat I posed.

"I don't understand how it is that you don't recognize me. Honestly we are dear and close friends." I lowered my head and spoke in the smallest whisper I could manage, knowing he would be able to hear me, "I would never betray you, Carlisle. Please know that your secret is safe with me."

Nodding his head, Carlisle lifted my left hand and lightly traced the cold scar on my arm, "Who did this to you and how did you survive?"

I hesitated looking around the room as if to check for spies.

Carlisle smiled, "It's all right. We are alone for the moment. Please answer me girl, I must know."

"A tracker named James bit me, you and Edward saved me."

"Edward? Who is Edward?"

I couldn't help it, my lower lip trembled uncontrollably and my eyes turned on the water works again. I didn't understand the brief look of anger Carlisle's golden eyes displayed, but was quickly replaced by concern. "Shh, I'm sorry Miss Bella, too many questions. Please rest for now. I'll come back to see you soon. Is there anything I can have brought for you?"

At first, I couldn't think of a thing, but then a thought occurred, "Something to read, a newspaper perhaps?"

He smiled at me and patted my hands, still in my lap, "Of course." He rose to retreat, "Rest now." And he was gone.

Then, as silently as I could manage, I gave in to my tears. Finally exhaustion overtook me once again and I fell into a fitful sleep.

When I next opened my eyes, I was astonished to see the same plain room around me, it all seemed so real. A newspaper lay on top of the bed at my feet. I wanted to snatch it quickly, but was disappointed by my sluggish body. When I finally managed to sit up and grab it, my head spun for a few moments before I could focus on the print. Chicago Tribune, Thursday, September 13th, 1917. I simply stared at the date, unable to comprehend the possibility. How?

I pushed the covers back and swung my legs over the bedside, sitting there momentarily to get my bearings. Then I stood up to test my legs, not moving at first, but my destination was imperative - the window. I had to see whatever I could. Slower than I would have liked, I managed to shuffle over to the window sill. The view was pretty, mostly a small pond and beautifully trimmed lawn and trees, but just beyond the corner of the great building to my left, I could see a city street. I waited for what seemed like a long time and then the oldest model car I'd ever seen moved along the street for the brief span of road that was visible to me. I listened carefully and managed to make out the whistle of a traffic cop and the whirring of ancient motors.

This was surely an illusion, but I would take it. It wouldn't matter if this hallucination was of my own making or truly 1917, Chicago... Edward was here, somewhere, alive. The rustle of a long skirt came up behind me. "You shouldn't be out of bed, Miss."

I turned slowly. "Bella, um.. Isabella Swan."

"Miss Swan, then," she smiled at me sternly directing me back to the bed. "You've had a very rough go of it and you need to rest, Doctor's orders."

I allowed her to hustle me back into the bed. Then, as if on queue, my stomach announced itself as she put a tray of food in front of me. It was a beautiful display of toast with jam on the side, a shiny silver pot of hot water and a small, clean cloth tea bag ready for infusion. Perfect white porcelain plates and cup all with matching blue CCH monograms. White linen napkin, real flat ware and, a small but perfect pink tea rose in a tiny vase, gave me the curious notion that the hospital must be attempting to seduce me. "Thank you."

"Doctor's orders!" The nurse smiled at me cheerily and then turned and winked at me as she left with a chuckle.

I managed to eat most of the toast and the tea felt marvelous on my throat. When she returned, I complemented the nurse on the tea and more was brought to me within the hour. I sipped at it, hungrily perusing the newspaper looking for any clue that might lead me to Edward, but had no luck. As lunch and then dinner passed in much the same manner, I began to feel stronger but discouraged and guilty for taking up the sick room. I had a mind to leave, but without any clothes to speak of, I thought the better of it for now. Just as dusk began to fall, Carlisle's smiling face appeared at my door.

"Miss Isabella Swan."

"Dr. Carlisle Cullen," I attempted to respond in the exact same tone, gently mocking him with a smile and a nod.

"You seem to be doing much better." He chuckled as he pretended to scan the clipboard in his hands. "How is your balance?"

"Better."

"Good." He looked up from the clipboard and seemed to quickly assess my mood. "Do you feel strong enough to answer some questions?"

I cleared my throat, "I'll do my best if..."

"If?"

I hesitated before continuing, "...if you'll give me one answer for each of mine."

He smiled, moved to poke his head out the door. Seeming satisfied, he carefully closed the door and then turned back to face me. "Seems fair enough," he put the clip board down and then pulled up the stool next to the bed. Settling himself down on it, he once again placed his hand over mine. "Do you have any idea how you came to be here?"

"No nothing, other than what you've told me."

He took a breath and I quickly waved a finger at his face to admonish him, "My turn. Whose lawn was I found on?"

He grinned, nodding at me, "A prominent Chicago Attorney named Edward Anthony Masen, found you in his front yard at his private residence."

I gasped and opened my mouth, but Carlisle admonished me as I had him and continued, "You know this man?"

"No."

He raised his eyebrow suspiciously at my answer, "You spoke earlier of Edward..." his voice trailed off as I shook my head in a vehemently negative fashion.

"My... our Edward is not a prominent Chicago attorney." I smiled as he nodded for me to continue, "As you can see, I have nothing, could you please help me obtain some suitable clothing?"

"Do you not have a home or any family here?"

"No, no one that I know, except..." I looked up at him hopefully but found only curiosity in his eyes. "No one." I confirmed.

"Except?"

"Uh uh, my turn." I smiled back at him. "As I said, I have nothing, no one. It would seem that I am in need of a position. Could you use an assistant?" His surprise was apparent as he instinctively balked at the idea so I quickly continued, "I could make myself very useful to you (I hoped my face wouldn't betray the sudden thought that my usefulness to Carlisle's research would be quite limited), if you'd train me." I scrunched my eyes at him in the hopeful form of begging that masqueraded as a question.

Carlisle remained very still while he quietly considered the possibility, "Yes, I think that would be an excellent idea, for now. You'll need an advance, of course."

I smiled pleased and not a bit surprised at his kindness, "That would be much appreciated."

His eyebrow raised in mock admonishment as he held up his finger, "No family except?"

I blushed and looked into my lap before I answered, "Except you."


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