It All Falls Down
Edward sat impatiently at the oval conference table, his leg bouncing underneath as his fingers strummed against his thigh from nerves. He felt hot, though he'd discarded his suit jacket after arriving at the small town hospital. His face was drawn, lips in a slight grimace and eyebrows knitted together as he waited for the administrative staff to get themselves together.
"I apologize for the wait, Mr. and Mrs. Cullen. We're just waiting on a few more people to arrive," the plump Patricia Kellerman announced, twisting her mousy brown hair behind her ear.
Tanya sat beside him in a huff, already irritated for having been dragged out to the middle of nowhere without a solid reason. Of course Edward hadn't given her the full details because he, himself, was still unclear on them. All he knew was that the Forks General Hospital lawyer, Patricia, insisted he and his wife needed to make a trip to Forks as soon as possible to deal with a serious incident which had occurred during their time there. When he pressed for more information, he was given none except that it was important to discuss the matter in person as soon as possible.
So, it was with great agitation and frustration that Edward now waited with Tanya and the hospital's lawyer for more people to join them. He was still in the dark about what the entire ordeal was about, which continued to vex him. If it hadn't been for Patricia's vague clue that it pertained to his son, Edward would've never agreed to come.
Enduring a three-hour drive consisting of listening to Tanya's drivel and attempted manipulations to earn her way back into Edward's life was enough to make any man contemplate killing himself, so he hadn't jumped to the chore without a good reason.
Edward was beginning to lose his tolerance completely with the women in the room; both were wearing on his nerves, albeit for different reasons, when the door finally opened and the rest of their party joined them, or so he hoped.
A slightly familiar, official-looking older gentleman in a white button-down shirt and gray slacks stepped in first, followed by a much younger, taller and muscular man, who strutted in wearing dark jeans riddled with holes and a ragged flannel shirt, opened over a dirty undershirt. The younger man had dark hair and sharp eyes which he cast around the room, his unhappiness being there made clear. Edward tensed at his presence, not in fear but suspicion. Edward didn't like the look of this character and, since he clearly wasn't dressed like anyone with an official capacity, his defenses rose, wondering why he was there.
No sooner was the thought in his head before it was stripped from his mind, washed away by the final figure entering the room. This newest arrival took the breath clear from Edward's body, leaving him dizzy.
The woman was petite in stature, trim but curved in the places a woman should be. Long, dark hair fell around her shoulders, ending in soft curls around the fullness of her breasts. Her face was solemn on the surface; the paleness of her skin would have been alarming if it hadn't been so alluring. She had full rosy lips - the top slightly larger than the bottom - and a small but regal nose, with thin, arched brows resting over large brown eyes.
It was her eyes, Edward decided, that gave away her true feelings. While her features conveyed a calm, passive interest, her eyes told another story entirely. He could see a deeper fear, hurt and wariness in her eyes, churning below the placid façade.
She quickly looked up, catching Edward's perusal of her form but he didn't look away, too entranced by her. Their eyes remained locked for only moments even though it felt much longer; Edward wishing it could be forever. It was a completely random and uncalled for thought considering he didn't even know the woman's name.
God, but she was beautiful. Edward's emotions bottomed out and leveled into serenity as he watched the young woman make her way across the room, her supple legs shifting gracefully under her gray skirt, the quickly-rising flush on her cheeks complementing the blue of her blouse. He couldn't keep himself from studying her as she took her seat. Something about her seemed familiar, as if he'd seen her before. He just couldn't place where.
Bella shifted in her seat, moving her chair as far as possible from Jake, who was doing his best to invade her personal space. She had no desire for him to be at this meeting but the hospital administration, as well as the rest of her family, persuaded her that it would be in everyone's best interest to have all involved parties there so everyone could find hear the news simultaneously.
It was just like Jake to balk about coming to the hospital, too. He refused to have anything to do with Noah since he believed the child wasn't his (which, of course, Bella now knew to be true) so it was no wonder he'd delayed the meeting with his tardiness. Bella had to resort to calling Sam Uley, the La Push Reservation Chief to scrounge Jake up and force him to attend.
Even though Bella hadn't wanted to involve Jake, she had to admit that having a familiar face with her was slightly comforting. Her heart was racing as she walked into the roomful of strangers, knowing that before she left, they'd all be sharing a profound and life-altering event together.
When she dutifully followed behind Jake and Dr. Gerandy, her head stayed down in the hopes she could slip in and be invisible for as long as possible. She knew it might make her look guilty but she was scared of what was going to happen in the room. Keeping her guard up seemed the most logical thing to do but the feeling of eyes on her grew to be too much, causing her to lift her head and find the responsible party.
Bella started at the man. He was extremely handsome, more so than any man she'd ever seen in real life. He had kissable lips, high cheekbones and a straight nose. His skin looked incredibly smooth, her fingers twitching at her sides to touch it, to run along the impressively sharp, yet slightly stubbled, jawline.
The man was wearing a dark suit jacket with a light blue shirt underneath, which Bella noted highlighted his broad shoulders nicely. He ran an elegant hand into his messy locks, causing Bella's eyes to widen in recognition. Though his auburn locks weren't an exact replica of Noah's, it was clear the odd shade was a shared family trait.
Steeling her now-frantic nerves for what she knew would be the final clincher for her, Bella raised her eyes and met his.
The room spun and Bella felt faint. The piercing green of this man's eyes were as familiar to her as her own, as she'd seen them each day for the past three years.
Noah's eyes. He had Noah's eyes.
Or, more precisely, Noah had his eyes.
Bella found it difficult to break the intense stare she was caught in, but succeeded after a few prolonged moments. She slumped into the chair beside Jake as she attempted to gather her bearings, pushing thoughts of the gorgeous man across from her from her mind. Despite the overwhelming desire she felt toward the green-eyed stranger, Bella knew his opinion of her would likely change very soon.
Once he learned why he'd been called here, everything would change.
Her heart panged with discomfort at the thought. Bella shook her head, and tried focusing on the others in the room, moving away from Jake's body as he leaned closer into her space.
"Are you really eye-fucking that guy right now, Bella?" Jake harshly whispered in her ear. "You had Sam drag me in here over that kid, and now you're going to make me watch you flirt with that guy? Real class act, Bella! He's married, too, but I know breaking a commitment isn't a problem for you."
Bella flinched at Jake's hateful words, her eyes prickling with tears. Her emotions were already scattered. Even though she didn't have feelings for Jake like she used to, he was someone important to her at one time. His words affected her, no matter how untrue or undeserved, she simply couldn't help it.
"I'm not doing anything," she replied, keeping her eyes averted from everything but the table top for a moment. She inhaled deeply to gather her courage, and looked up.
Her eyes immediately found the green pair across the table, which were warm and comforting. The man's gaze was intense, concern and worry clear in his eyes; Bella imagined for a moment that it could even be over her. But then the thought vanished, disappearing with her next exhale as she saw the attractive blonde beside him lean in and whisper in his ear.
His wife, Bella assumed.
Bella shifted her eyes to the front of the table, not wanting to watch their private exchange; the realization that this man was obviously taken resonated deeply within her heart. Her eyes focused on Dr. Gerandy, grateful that Dr. Kastelic wasn't available for this meeting, and cleared her mind of all thoughts that didn't pertain to the reason they were all here.
Two young boys who were about to have their lives irrevocably changed.
"Edward, what is going on?" Tanya hissed in his ear, her perfume cloying around him unpleasantly. She smelled of stale roses and coconut, a horrible combination that seemed to linger on her fake tanned skin.
"Who are all these…people?" she asked, the disdain she felt clear in her tone. "God, do they want our money or something since Oliver was born here?"
Edward opened his mouth to scold her but was stopped by Patricia's voice breaking the tense air.
"Thank you for your patience, ladies and gentlemen; I believe we're able to proceed if everyone's ready."
Seeing all the nods, Patricia went around the room and quickly introduced everyone. "Mr. and Mrs. Cullen, let me introduce Jake Black and Bella Swan." She pointed toward them and then turned to the older man beside her.
"This is Dr. Gerandy; he was the physician in charge of your care when you were admitted to Forks General in 2008. This is Edward Cullen and his wife, Tanya," Patricia finished with a tight smile, as she motioned to them.
Edward cringed at the assumption that Tanya was still his wife, but he didn't feel that correcting the error was as important as finding out what they were here to learn, so he held his tongue.
Patricia seemed ready to finally get things going, as she quickly moved to the stack of files in front of her and began explaining. "First, thank you all for agreeing to this meeting and for allowing it to happen so quickly. It is our hope that a resolution can also be reached in such a friendly and expedient manner. I don't want to put this off any longer than necessary, so forgive me for my bluntness, despite the sensitive nature of the topic. With that said…
"It has been brought to the attention of the hospital that, on the night both of your children were born, a mistake was made, of which we've only just become aware of in the past few weeks."
"Mistake? What kind of mistake?" Edward cut in, confused and feeling anxious. His body was tingling with nerves, a sense of trepidation and panic growing in his chest.
"A very grave one, Mr. Cullen, I'm afraid. It appears that after the delivery of your sons, the nurse on duty in the nursery made a mistake when the infants were taken there. She mixed up the identification cards distinguishing between your son, and that of the Swan baby boy."
"What? I don't understand…what are you saying?" Tanya queried.
Edward sat frozen, his heart shuddering painfully in his chest as his mind worked furiously to put the puzzles pieces together.
"To put it plainly, ma'am, your sons were switched. You've been raising their son while they've been raising yours for the past three years."
Heavy silence filled the room as all the parties sat for several moments, overwhelmingly shocked by the news. Then, a tidal wave of noise rose up, a cacophony of loud and demanding voices as they all sought answers at once.
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"What? I still don't understand!"
"How is this possible? What the fuck happened?"
"Are you serious?"
"If this is a joke, it ain't fucking funny!"
Bella dropped her head to her hands, covering her face as the tears fell that she'd been holding back. She ached, her heart breaking all over again even though she was already aware of the situation.
She ached for the family sitting across from her, the beautiful couple who'd just had their world ripped apart, as was done to her only weeks before.
She wished she could offer them some comfort, some reassurance that things would turn out fine, but she didn't know if it would.
All she could see was Noah, his warm green eyes shining brightly when he smiled.
"Switched at birth? That's ridiculous, it isn't possible!"
"I assure you, it is possible. And, it has happened." Dr. Gerandy's voice cut across the room, loud and steady as he rose from his seat. He took a moment, giving the people around him time to settle as much as possible before he went on.
"I know it seems unfathomable but, unfortunately, this mistake is very real."
Edward huffed, biting back the rage he felt inside. His heart was racing, disbelief and mistrust running rampant in his veins. "Tell me how this happened! I want to know how the fuck you even discovered this!"
Dr. Gerandy went over the events of the night, reminding Edward and Tanya of the power outage due to the severe thunderstorm that evening. "We believe Nurse Cope was startled by the blackout and dropped the I.D. cards. When she righted herself, she put the cards with whom she assumed they belonged to."
Edward rubbed a hand over his face, still trying to control his anger, though his body was ready to burst. It took everything he had to keep from storming over to the doctor and strangling him for his words.
"Where is this nurse now? I want to talk to her!" Tanya demanded, her own anger clear. She was outraged to find out she'd been spending time with someone who wasn't her blood. Her lip curled in distaste as she looked briefly at the couple across the table from her. She'd been raising their trash. It was no wonder she and Edward had been having problems.
"That isn't possible, I'm afraid. Nurse Cope passed away last year, before any of this came to light."
"Well, isn't that fucking convenient!" Jake barked, derision clear in his loud laugh. "So, why the hell are we just finding out about this now?"
"As I said before," Patricia spoke up, taking the floor back from Dr. Gerandy for the moment. "We were only notified of the situation recently and, as soon as it was confirmed, we notified you all."
"That brings me back to my earlier question, how the hell did you find this out now?" Edward asked, his face flushed red in a mix of anger and frustration.
"It was me," Bella finally spoke up, her voice soft and quiet, her eyes swimming in tears as she looked around the room. "I was the one who found out."
"You knew? You knew and you didn't fucking tell me?" Jake yelled, grabbing Bella by her arm and shaking her roughly. "How long did you know, Bella? Huh? How long?"
"Take your hands off her!" Edward shouted, jumping from his seat and slapping his hands on the table. His eyes were like green fire, shooting out and burning hot as he glared at Jake.
Jake immediately dropped his hand, holding both up in surrender. "Chill guy, I'm cool."
"Don't you dare put your hands on a woman!" Edward growled, his temper flaring high again. He felt a surge of protectiveness for the woman sitting across from him; he had since the moment he'd laid eyes on her.
Seeing how broken and distraught she was about the situation only increased that feeling. And when that animal had put his hands on her… it was all Edward could take, his control snapping.
"Whatever!" Jake attempted to shrug off the outburst, turning back to Bella. "When did you find out, Bella?" he asked, making sure to keep his hands to himself.
Bella felt the heat of Edward's gaze on her; it wasn't hot with anger but warm with concern. She was shocked at his outburst, unprepared to have someone defend her against Jake.
It made her heart ache in a foreign way, yet painful all the same.
Pushing it aside, Bella took a breath and explained to everyone what had prompted her to get a blood test done on Noah and the results Dr. Kastelic had shared with her. When she was done, more tears covered her cheeks, her nose red and eyes puffy. She found the courage within herself and looked steadily into the green eyes staring back at her.
"So, after Dr. Kastelic told me the news, I had Dr. Gerandy check the results. He confirmed the test, and was able to look up the records for any other babies born that night. It was just you… your s-son was the only other boy born th-that night," Bella managed to say around the emotions clogging her throat.
She saw the anguish wash over Edward's features, the last bit of hope he'd been holding onto dying before her eyes from her words. A single tear fell from his eyes before he shut them, cutting her off and breaking Bella's heart even further. She wanted to reach out and comfort him, hold him in her arms and promise it would all be all right.
But Bella didn't know if that was true; if it would ever be true again.
"So, what happens now? With the boys, what happens now?" Edward asked warily.
Patricia answered him, having anticipated this line of questioning. "That's really up to each of you, Mr. Cullen. There aren't many precedents on this type of situation, although some do exist. In most cases, the children are required to be returned to their birth parents."
"No!" Two voices shouted loudly, Edward and Bella locking eyes briefly at the other's outburst.
"Isn't there another way?" Edward pleaded, fear and panic over losing Ollie clear in his voice.
"Please, there must be something else!" Bella echoed Edward's fear, worry etched all over her face.
"Well, they could make a choice of who to live with, like children of divorce are sometimes allowed to do but, obviously, the children aren't old enough to make a decision themselves… you might consider some sort of joint custody arrangement between your families."
"Absolutely not!" Tanya jumped in, her eyes glowing with anger. "I will not be sharing my son, my real son, with these people. We'll be suing for custody to get him back as soon as possible."
"Tanya!" Edward harshly scolded, but she refused to back down. She rose from her seat, her chin high as she continued to gather her things.
"No, Edward! We aren't discussing this. I'm leaving and contacting the lawyers immediately. To both sue this farce of a hospital and its incompetent staff, as well as to get custody of our son!" she barked, glaring at Patricia and Dr. Gerandy. "I want my rightful family back. Now, let's go!"
She didn't wait for Edward to follow her and turned abruptly, striding from the room.
"Fuck!" Edward groaned under his breath, his eyes closing in defeat. He couldn't deal with all this right now and, truthfully, he just wanted to go home and hold his son.
"I'm sorry," he said, scribbling his information down onto a piece of paper hastily and passing it to Bella, ignoring the small jolt he felt when their fingers brushed. "I need to go. Please, get in contact with me as soon as you can so we can talk about…" he trailed off, his pain evident.
Bella took the slip of paper, nodding solemnly, though her lip trembled. Edward didn't have time to worry about this woman, even though it didn't settle well in his gut to leave her either, but he couldn't let Tanya go off with her half-baked plan.
He was angry, yes, and wanted someone to pay for the horrendous mistake made, but he was more concerned about how much this news would change everything in his life; in Ollie's.
Edward was going to do his damnedest to keep from losing the only son he'd known; the only son he wanted.
Blood didn't matter.
Oliver was his.
a/n: Hello there. It's been waaay to long since this story to updated and yet…
The next chapter isn't ready, but I felt you needed an update on what's going on (with me and the story) so here it is:
I'm going to finish. When, I don't know, but I promise I will. Have faith, and keep this fic/me on alert so when it does complete, you'll know.
Thank you for your patience and continued support. Thank you as well to my super beta, mauigirl60, for her continued encouragement and help.
Here's to hoping we see the next chapter much sooner than this one!