A/N: I was honoured to submit a contribution for the Fandom for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Thank you ever so much to mcc101180, who so generously offered to beta this. I'm thankful that she understands these characters, and also that she fixes my comma splices. Huge thanks to Caiteexx for sharing her talent with me, and making an amazing banner that is perfect for the Bulldozer. And last, but definitely not least, to TwiSnFan. Because if it wasn't for her, chances are I would have packed my bat and ball and gone home long ago.
I really hope you enjoy this Yosemite Decimal outtake. It's set during Chapter 5. If you need a refresh, I can wait while you go and re-read :) ...
...okay. Ready? Here we go!
A Yosemite Decimal Outtake (set during Chapter 5)
A contribution for Fandom for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Rated: M for language
Disclaimer: Any publically recognizable entities belong to their respective owners.
Summary: My experience of meeting Bella was like a route I climbed once. I'd gone off course and sure, this new section was fun, but it was totally unplanned...and the result was completely unexpected.
Gronked - Accidentally going off-route while leading and becoming lost on a rock face in an area much more difficult than the climb being attempted.
As I pull up to a stoplight, I allow my head to fall back against the seat rest and exhale. Today seems to have dragged...the same way that most days do lately. Although I did see two new patients in my rooms today—a knee reconstruction and a full hip replacement in an osteoporotic socket that'll probably crack in a couple of years. So when I think about it, I suppose today was a little different—a very little.
The light turns green, and the hum of my SUV rises as the car propels forward. I like this car, I do, but I do miss my other ride.
I shake my head. It's not worth dwelling on. My younger, faster, more daring years are far behind me. I know it's my choice, and sometimes I want, crave, the buzz that comes with driving a car fast and relishing in the way the propulsion pushes me back into my seat...
I sigh again.
Tonight I might push myself. Who knows, maybe I'll even attempt something that's more than six feet off the ground?
Who am I kidding?
I'm on my way to RockFace for an evening climb with my cousin and our friends. Well, they'll climb—I'll boulder. Or watch. Al mentioned she's bringing a friend from work with her. From which job, I'm not sure since she didn't specify. When she so cheerfully told me she was bringing somebody, the evil twinkle in her eyes was enough to tell me that it's not just any somebody. It's a female somebody, whom she hopes to set me up with.
If she's talking about bringing somebody from her fashion design world, then I can only keep my fingers crossed that it's not some dumb model. The ones she's set me up with in the past have been beautiful, yes, flexible, hell yes, but so tedious.
The SUV takes the corners safely as I draw nearer to the industrial area of town where Emmett's gym is. The streets are a little darker, and the bright lights of stores are replaced with filtered beams of light from the windows of warehouses. In such a grungy area, Mozart seems out of place. Almost as soon as the thought flits through my head, the music dims, and Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" kicks in. It makes me grin as I tap the answer button on my steering wheel.
"Hi, it's me." My cousin Alice sounds more high-strung than usual. "Are you on your way?"
"Hi," I reply. "I'm about ten minutes away. The traffic has been terrible."
"Good." I can picture her face in my mind. I bet she's nodding.
"Why, miss me already?" I tease her, slowing as I approach yet another stoplight. Fucking traffic.
Alice's voice sounds serious. "Yeah, my friend hurt herself. I need you to look at her."
My heart skips a beat. "A fall?" It's the first thought that jumps into my head. Shit. "Make sure she stays calm and keep talking to her." I don't want to arrive and find the patient in shock already. An abundance of images flicker through my head—flashes of twisted bodies and vacant eyes. I gun the engine.
"Okay," she says, and I can hear her walking. Or pacing. "We will."
I stop at another fucking traffic light and can feel doctor mode kicking in, bringing with it a sense of calm professionalism. I can do this. "Make sure she's warm and comfortable."
I know my cousin, and I can hear in her voice that she's on the verge of panic. She uses far less words when she's stressed. "Okay."
"And get some ice."
Her rushed words make it sound like bouncing up and down. "I'll get Emmett to do that."
"I'll be there as soon as I can," I say, trying to reassure her. "Just relax."
"It'll be fine, Alice. See you soon."
I end the call and concentrate on the road. Although I'm automatically fearing the worst, I'm a little amused by the thought of my cousin in such a state—Alice has a habit of jumping around like a rabbit when she's panicked. Less words, yes, but it's like she has pogo sticks built into her feet. It's exhausting to watch. If the injury doesn't send the patient into shock, Alice's incessant bounding probably will.
After I pull up in front of Emmett's gym, I kill the ignition and do a mental inventory of the supplies I have in the car. Not sure about what I'm going to walk in to find, and a little pissed at myself for not asking, I roll up my shirt sleeves and grab my phone before getting out of the car. After retrieving my medical bag from the back, I head for the door. As I reach it, it's pulled open from the inside.
"Glad you could get here so soon, man." Jasper ushers me in, slapping me on the shoulder in welcome. "God, you'd think it'd been Alice that fell—you know what she's like."
I snicker as I follow him through the turnstiles. "What happened?"
He shrugs. "Speed climbing, loose hold. Rose thinks she's sprained her ankle. It could've happened to anyone. It was just bad luck."
I nod although I know that's not always the case—someone's usually responsible. And speed climbing? How many times have I told them that shit's risky and stupid? Isn't climbing sufficient on its own?
It's not enough for these guys, apparently, and it certainly wasn't enough for Garrett.
We climb the stairs to the mezzanine floor, where I know their speed-climbing wall of choice is. As we near the upper floor, Alice comes into view first. She's hopping from one foot to the other, dancing around like the Energizer Bunny with a wonky leg, and blocking the view of her friend. Rose is holding an icepack to what seems to be a bruised, rather seriously sprained ankle. She's beginning to wrap a bandage to hold it in place. I'm glad she's here—she knows her first aid, especially when it comes to sporting injuries.
Alice moves to the side, revealing the patient who is sitting on the floor, and big brown eyes look up at me. Her expression looks surprised for a fleeting moment, and I almost smile in response. Not half a second later, the hopeful expression is gone and is replaced by a murderous glare.
I glance from her, to the crack-bunny, and back to her again...and a thought dawns on me.
Alice's friend is her? The delicious-tasting firecracker from the bar? It's the girl who wrote her name—albeit a bit shakily—near mine on the bouldering problem sheet: Bella.
Alice's friend, the one she wants to set me up with, is the demon that has been smashing my routes?
It appears it is...and she doesn't seem happy to see me. Her next words confirm it.
"What the fuck are you doing here?"
Nope, definitely not happy. "You're Alice's friend?"
She turns to glare at Alice, her brown eyes blazing with blind fury. Oh yes, I've been on the receiving end of that temper before—Alice is in for it.
"The Bulldozer is your cousin?"
Wait...what did she call me?
Alice doesn't look panicked anymore, and she's stopped bouncing. She stares at me—she appears to have caught the angry energy radiating from the girl on the floor.
"You're the Bulldozer?" she spits.
Huh? Again, I'm the what? I level my eyes back at my cousin. "What did you call me?"
With his as-usual impeccable timing, Emmett looks from me to the girl on the floor, and I can practically see the cogs turning in his head. A look of recognition dawns on his face. "Oh! You're the brunette with great tits that fell in the lobby?"
What the fuck? Dude, that's not even—
"You said what about me?" She sits up straighter, and her hands are balled into fists so tightly that I can see her knuckles turning white. Okay, I know I said I loved the temper, but this looks like unbridled rage—and it's aimed directly at me.
I open my mouth to tell her what really happened, to explain that I simply told Em that a girl fell, and that I didn't say that, I swear—my mom would kill me if she heard I'd said something like that. And she'd know, because Alice is a snitch. But I don't get a chance to explain all this because I'm hit from behind. Then I'm hit again, and again, over and over...
I drop my bag in shock, because using it as a shield against my cousin is probably not going to be too effective. Again and again, Alice slaps me about the head. I manage to deflect most blows, but a few connect...and they fucking hurt.
For a tiny person, my cousin definitely packs a punch—it's like she's getting her own revenge for the times I taunted her when we were kids.
She hits me particularly hard. "Ow!" That one must be payback for the time my friends and I shoved her down a storm drain at the bus stop to dive for quarters—we couldn't fit, and we held her by the ankles so she wouldn't drown. We shared with her, too, so that makes it okay. "Alice!" The next blow connects even harder. "Quit it!"
Other people are talking, but I'm concentrating on not losing an eye—or my hair. There's enough of it, and Alice seems intent on grabbing a handful. The Angry Girl's voice breaks my concentration and, thankfully, talks reason into my rabid cousin.
"ENOUGH!" Everybody freezes. "Alice, I'm sure he deserves it, but—get down. Emmett, shut up."
Thank fuck he's stopped laughing—between his cackling and Alice's blows, I was having sensory overload. I should've stayed in the car with Mozart.
My cousin lands on the ground in front of me. Her face is still fuming, and frankly, it's pissing me off—she and Feisty over there are the ones calling me names.
"I cannot believe you!" Alice shrieks, the sound echoing off the surfaces of the gym.
Oh, for fuck's sake. "Believe what, Alice?"
"Bella is my friend, and you were so mean to her." She waves her hands at me, and I flinch. "You sent her flying in the lobby! Oh, and don't even get me started on that night in the bar..."
What? What'd I do? Mean? All I did was buy her a drink!
I look at Alice, waiting for her to continue. Sure, the girl bumped into me. Okay, I didn't say sorry right away.
Did I at all?
Alice's face suddenly calms. Uh oh, I've seen that look before. It's a look the Platt women need to get patented. My mom and Aunt Mary have it down pat—it pretty much means one thing…
"That's it," she says, the calm on her face reflected in her voice. It's fucking scary. Here it comes. "I'm telling Aunt Esme."
She wouldn't. "You wouldn't." She knows what my mom would do...who am I kidding? Of course she would.
"Oh, Edward Anthony..." uh oh, middle name. Yep, definitely fucked "...you bet your ass I would. And I will. You are going to apologize."
I look at Miss Furious, who's sitting on the floor. Of course she is; where's she gonna go? She still looks pissed, but she looks to be in pain, more.
I glance at her from beneath my lashes. "I'm sorry." That ought to do it. Works every time.
Bella surprises me when she snorts, and it's pretty cute. Cute, Edward? Handing over your man-card now? She's clearly still pissed.
"I don't want his apology unless it's sincere." Beautiful brown eyes stare intently up at me from her position on the floor. She squares her shoulders. "It's bullshit, so I don't accept."
I've been with a few women in my time, but never—never—have I been properly called out on my bullshit. I should feel angry. I should feel insulted.
I probably shouldn't be feeling turned on.
I force my eyes from hers. Unfortunately, they trail a logical line down the curves of her body. The swell of her breasts under a tiny singlet. Her toned stomach. Her legs that look too long for her body. Legs that I've already seen stretched at a delicious angle as she tackled my bouldering problem. I'm shaken from my ogling when I reach her ankle.
I switch to doctor mode and assess the situation. "Let's take a look at this ankle, shall we?"
I grab my bag so it's close at hand and kneel by her rapidly swelling ankle. I gently take her foot in my hands—trying to forget that I'm touching her skin—and start to move it, keeping my eyes on her the whole time. By touch, I know what her foot is doing—inversion, eversion, plantar flexion, dorsiflexion—but it's her face that's really going to tell me what's going on. I shift her foot inward—inversion—and there it is. She winces and gives a soft "ow."
The nature and location of the swelling tell me we're likely dealing with a sprain, but I want to take her to the Emergency Room and have one of the best check to make sure. There's only one other person, apart from me, who I will allow to touch her.
She tells me she drove and makes a move to shuffle to her feet. She attempts to brush off her injury—is she kidding?
Rose's call to Emmett to help Bella triggers a pang of jealousy inside me. I swallow the growl in my throat and scoop her into my arms, holding her close. She squeaks, and I head for the stairs, calling to Alice over my shoulder.
As I walk toward my car, I wonder when I got so possessive—especially over someone I've really only just met. I mean, we've never been formally introduced, despite the fact she's obviously important to my friends.
"Put me down!"
Aha, the temper's back. Excellent.
It's almost my turn to snort. "Nonsense. You can't walk. There's no way you would have made it down the stairs."
I almost laugh out loud when she insinuates I can't carry her. She's the perfect size for my arms—and I like the feeling I get knowing that.
Shit, Cullen, caveman much? Your mother would have your balls on a plate.
I can't hold in my laugh when she declares the situation to be undignified. Oh no, Angry Girl. Undignified would be me trying to let you walk by yourself. And drive? Er, no.
I place her gently into my car and close the door.
"Here are your bags," Alice says, handing them to me. "Look after her, okay?"
I nod and get in the car.
As I turn to Bella to give her bag to hold onto, I notice that she's starting to look sleepy. Not a good thing—I'll have to keep an eye on her. Sure enough, a few miles down the road, her head starts to nod.
"Stay awake," I tell her. I'm a bit worried. "I don't want you going into shock."
She opens her eyes and turns away from me, the light from the streetlights flickering across her face as we drive through the Seattle streets. Thinking that maybe some music will keep her awake, I switch on the stereo.
I roll in front of the Emergency Room entrance and realize that I should have called ahead. I was so intent on getting Bella into my car and toward medical assistance that I didn't think my plan through very well. I pull out my phone and tell Bella to stay put.
It rings once before he answers. "Edward? Is everything okay? You never call this line."
"Hi, Carlisle," I say, scrubbing my face with my free hand. "I'm sorry to bother you—"
"You're never a bother. You know that." His voice is soft. "How can I help?"
He always knows. "I know you're not really seeing patients, but I don't trust her with anyone else."
I screw my eyes shut—I should have known he'd pick up on that. "Yeah, she's a friend of Alice's." And despite knowing better, I'm completely infatuated with her. "She injured herself rock climbing. It's just a sprained ankle I think, but I'd like you to look at it." I pause to run a hand through my hair. "Only you."
"Of course I'll help. Have one of the nurses assist you with bringing her in. I'll be there in ten minutes." He clears his throat—I know what's coming. "And you? You're okay?"
"Yeah, I am." I take a deep breath and try to convince myself it's the truth. "Thanks for this."
"Never a problem. I love you, son."
"Love you too, Dad."
I walk right up to the reception desk. The receptionist is looking down at some files, her glasses slipping down her nose slightly. I wait for a moment, but she doesn't pay attention. When I clear my throat, and she looks up.
"Oh, Dr. Cullen." She sits up straighter in her chair and shuffles her papers to the side. "I'm so sorry, I didn't see you there."
I ignore the way her cheeks flush, and her gaze darts all over my face. "I have a patient in my car out in the waiting bay. I need somebody to help bring her in—she'll be seeing Dr. Cullen in five minutes. I'd like to be updated on her progress—please make a note of it to her chart when she comes in." My voice slips into a cadence I haven't used in so long: professional, detached, and don't-fuck-with-me.
"Of course, Doctor." She stands, her hand hovering over the intercom. "I'll see to it right away."
"Thank you, Shelly."
Before she puts an announcement over the intercom, she calls to me. "Oh, Dr. Cullen?"
She sounds nervous. "Are you back?"
I pause before I answer. "No."
Unwilling to continue the conversation, I head for the entrance to the Emergency Room. Before I reach the door, a rakish, dark-haired nurse pushing an empty wheelchair hurriedly rushes toward me. I jump to the side to avoid losing my ankles to the wheelchair.
"Do you think that's an acceptable way to move through the ER, nurse?" I growl. "I prefer to maintain the use of my legs."
"I'm very sorry, Doctor—"
I cut her off—did she seriously just flutter her eyelashes? "The patient is this way." Turning my back on her, I walk out to the car where Bella is sitting in the passenger seat. She's beginning to look pale—never a good sign. Now that I think about it, the times I've seen her before, she's often looked pale. Except the times her skin has been flushed with the efforts of physical exertion…
I can't stop the involuntary twitch.
Again, I slide my arms under Bella, lifting her from the car as carefully as I can so I don't jostle her. After holding her a beat longer than is necessary, I set her down in the seat of the wheelchair, placing her bag on her lap. The nurse, apparently not fully getting the message earlier, offers me a flirtatious smile as she wheels Bella away from me and into the ER.
I want to follow her, but if I don't move my car, it'll get towed. After calculating the cost and deciding I'd better move it, I figure I need a drink…but I guess I'll have to settle for D-grade, cafeteria coffee.
I should know better. Even when I worked here, the coffee tasted like weak dishwater—not that I've drunk weak dishwater. Or any dishwater, for that matter. That's not the point—this coffee tastes like shit. Not that I've…oh, forget it.
Walking back toward the ER lobby, my phone buzzes in my pocket. I pull it out to read the new message.
She'll be fine. Have prescribed an analgesic and RICER. Should kick in soon, so make sure she gets home safe. And call your mother - she misses you. -Dad.
I don't know why my dad signs off on his text messages—I've told him that I have his name programmed in my phone so I always know it's from him. Pocketing my phone, I round the corner into the ER lobby and take a direct hit from some uncoordinated, gumby* orderly…except it's not an orderly.
"Fuck, I'm sorry!" Bella exclaims. She's wearing her backpack and is trying to navigate the shiny surfaces of the hospital while using a pair of crutches…and seems to be having little success.
At least she said sorry, which I suppose is more than I could say for myself.
I can feel the coffee seeping through my shirt. I shrug—given I did the same to her, there's not much I can say really. "Karma."
She giggles, and the sound makes the corners of my mouth twitch, and my hands want to touch her. Before I can move, she veers and continues her unwieldy motion through the lobby toward the entrance. I swat at the spreading brown stain on my shirt as I follow her, tossing my empty cup into the trash on the way. "Hey, wait," I call. "Where are you going?"
How does she think she's going anywhere? Her eyes are glassy, and she looks as high as a kite. I shouldn't laugh…but I have a hard time fighting a grin.
"The door," she answers, as if it's a perfectly logical response. "I need to go through the door so I can go home. My home comes after the door."
Oh god, she is as high as a kite.
She lets out another giggle as she approaches the main doorway, before stopping dead just outside it. If she'd paused half a step earlier, she probably would have likely been taken out by the automatic doors. She turns her head in one direction, then the other, as if she's looking for something or someone.
"Where did I leave my apartment?"
This time I can't hold in my laughter—she's cute as hell, and right now, she's fucking hilarious. I approach her, still chuckling. "Come on, I'll give you a ride." There's no way in the world I'm missing this. Narcotic-laden Bella has to be one of the most amusing things I've ever seen.
"Heh. Ride." She snorts. "That's what she said."
Another chuckle escapes, and I have to concentrate pretty hard on not losing it entirely. The feisty, strong veneer I've seen on Bella during our past encounters has fallen away, leaving behind a giggly, funny-as-hell girl with a wicked sense of humor and no filter.
I like it.
Lengthening my stride, I hurry in front of her to open her car door—it's not something I think she'd easily manage with her lightsaber-esque death sticks, and I don't want her to damage my car.
Besides, my mother raised a gentleman.
She splutters. "It's like you're pretending to be a gentleman!"
Pausing with the door open, I feel slightly affronted. "I'll have you know, I am a gentleman," I explain, carefully avoiding her tossed backpack and the swinging arc of her crutches as I guide her into the car. As her words replay in my head, I can't help but mutter under my breath. "It's just not something I've usually done in front of you in the past."
After hurrying around the car and sliding into the driver's seat, I text Alice and ask for Bella's address—I'm not sure Bella can remember her own name at the moment. I get a reply within half a minute and punch the address into my GPS. Bella's apartment is not too far from here. I pull out into the street, and we drive in companionable silence.
It's not long before she speaks. "What, no smart-ass words now?"
I glance at her briefly. She's sitting back comfortably in the passenger seat, her head turned slightly to face me. She wears a slightly dreamy look on her face, and her pupils are dilated. I shift my attention back to the road. "You have more words for me right now than you usually do," I tell her.
"Ha!" Her voice is loud in the confined space. "My words are beautiful. I have lots of words. Lots of beautiful, beautiful words."
I laugh. She may have beautiful words, but right now she needs a thesaurus. Knowing better than to argue with a person under the influence, I placate her anyway. "I believe you."
She looks down, and I can no longer see her eyes. "My words are beautiful," she says to her hands. "People pay me to write them down, and then other people read them. They are beautiful, beautiful words."
Again, needing the thesaurus.
Deciding that another topic might be better than riding this merry-go-round again, I change the subject. Her filter is off, so it's a perfect opportunity to find out more about her. I glance her way briefly. "What do you write about?"
"Things," she answers quickly. "I write important things. About amazing places. And stuff. I don't expect you to have ever read my words." I can feel her staring at the side of my head. "I think you only read words about you."
I'm not sure whether it's in response to her lack of filter, or a need to know more about her, but I keep talking. "You don't think very highly of me, do you?" I don't expect an answer, and she doesn't give me one—until she does.
"You haven't given me reason to, no."
I shake my head slightly, properly chastised. "I suppose I haven't."
We drive for a little while longer, and I glance at her again. She's gone very quiet and is trembling slightly. "Are you cold?" I adjust the temperature to make her a little more comfortable.
She looks at me with a small smile and shakes her head, her eyelids drooping. "I'm just very tired."
I smile back. "We'll be there soon," I tell her, but her eyes are closed.
I drive the rest of the way in silence, and just a few turns later, the GPS announces that we've reached our destination. I turn off the engine and look over to where Bella is curled into the seat, breathing evenly.
Getting out of the car and walking around to the passenger side, I open the door and crouch to her level. "Bella?"
She takes a deep breath and exhales. I give her a nudge. "Bella? We're here."
Bella's lips move, and she murmurs something unintelligible. I take her hand in mine and trace the tendons on the back of her hand with my thumb. "Bella? Wake up, we're home."
Something pangs inside me at that last sentence, but I shake it off. Instead, I look at the pretty brunette curled up on my passenger seat, her crutches, and her bag, and think about how to tackle this situation. Deciding to come back for the crutches, I find her keys in the front pocket of her bag, throw the backpack over my shoulder, and gather Bella up in my arms. She nuzzles into my neck, and I smile—it appears she's a cuddler.
I reach the entrance to Bella's building, only a little distracted by Bella breathing against my neck, just as an older lady with a small dog on a leash opens the door. With a clearly judgemental look, she stares first at me, then at the seemingly comatose girl in my arms. Her already-wrinkled face wrinkles further, before her eyes widen in shock. She opens her mouth as if to let out a scream.
"No, wait!" I interrupt, desperate to cut her off before she can announce to the world that I'm some kind of kidnapper. "She hurt herself…" I shift Bella to indicate her wrapped ankle "…and she's on some pretty strong painkillers. I'm just bringing her home."
"Really?" the biddy asks, arching a pencilled-on eyebrow. "Because this one's a sweet girl—always helps me with my bags. You sure you haven't given her one of those roofie-drugs, and you're going murder her in her bathtub?" She gasps, and her voice turns high-pitched. "Then come after me?! Because I'm a witness?!"
"No," I answer quickly, before she can accuse me of anything else. "I'm her"—what am I?—"doctor. I'm simply bringing her home to make sure she gets in safely. Now, would you mind opening the door for me? My hands are full." I smile at the old lady, and she appraises me for a beat. When she leans in closer to me, I find myself recoiling—I'm not sure if she's going to hit me with her purse, or sic the tiny dog onto me.
"Okay," she says finally. "You're wearing a suit, and you smell nice." Seemingly satisfied with her judgement, she nods and swings the door open.
After thanking the neighborhood guard dog, I make my way up the stairs, carrying Bella and her bag with her keys looped over one of my fingers. I reach the second door on the left, the one that bears the same number that Alice texted me, and carefully balance a still-sleeping Bella while I open the door. I kick it open, drop her keys by the hallstand, and flip a switch by the door with my elbow.
Making my way down the now-lit hall, I enter what must be Bella's living room. I stand in the middle of the open space and look around, pondering what to do. The most logical thing to do now would be to put her to bed, which poses two challenges: 1- I need to find her bedroom, and 2- I need to actually go into her bedroom.
"Door number one, or door number two?" I ask myself in a murmur. Bella wriggles slightly in my arms, but does not wake. I look down at her peaceful features—her lashes are fanned gently across her cheekbones. "Well, I suppose you're not going to be much help, are you."
I give door number two a gentle shove and switch on the light. This is some kind of office—there's a daybed that looks to be a pullout next to the wall and a large desk situated below a large window. Atop the desk are a laptop, a pile of papers, and that Dictaphone I caught a glimpse of on our first meeting. It could be Bella's bedroom, but the lack of clothes and other girly crap lying around makes me think it isn't.
A dark thought pops into my head—what if this is Bella's room? What if she doesn't live alone? I mean, it's eleven o'clock, and there might be another person sleeping in the other room. Shit…why didn't I think of this earlier? I've been crashing around, kicking doors open, and there may be another person here, for all I know. I look down at the face of the sleeping girl in my arms.
"Do you have a roommate, Bella? Is there some boyfriend who's going to come barrelling out and smash me over the head with a frying pan?"
I'm considering dumping her on the daybed, pulling a blanket over her, and making a run for it, when her sweet pink lips move.
Her face contorts a little, tiny wrinkles appearing in her forehead, before smoothing out again.
I keep my voice to a whisper. "Sorry, Bella? What was that?"
One of the side effects of the medication is a disrupted sleep pattern, which includes sleep talking. I smirk to myself—this could get even more interesting.
As amusing as this could be, it still doesn't solve the mystery of if she lives alone. Keeping her cradled close, I walk back to door number one and knock twice with my foot. Satisfied that there's no answer, I give the door a bigger push and flip on the light with my elbow. The room is bathed in a soft, yellow glow from one of the bedside lamps.
Ah…this must be Bella's bedroom.
It's not overly cluttered, but now that I look around, it's obvious that a guy doesn't live here. The pile of pillows on her bed is one giveaway—no self-respecting guy has that many pillows. What looks to be business clothes are neatly laid over the low-backed armchair in the corner, and a pair of high-heeled shoes lie haphazardly near the closet door, almost as if they've been kicked in that direction from the doorway.
I stand just inside the entry to the bedroom and wonder how I'm going to get the sleeping girl into the pillow-laden bed. One side of the bed looks clearly to be the side Bella sleeps on, and I sit carefully on the mattress. Bella takes the opportunity of my shifting position to curl into me farther, shifting against my lap.
An image flickers unbidden through my mind—a rather different scenario, where Bella is on my lap as I'm on her bed, except in my musing she's not unconscious. Like she is now.
Yeah, that wipes the image from my brain pretty quickly.
Keeping one arm around her, I reach back and start tossing pillows onto the floor. I maneuver us so I can pull the covers down, and I lay her down carefully. She looks peaceful, her lashes fanned across her cheeks and her hair spread across her pillow. Her lips purse, and it's easy to imagine her blowing me a kiss. The serene look on her face makes her appear youthful, and for a moment, I capture a glimpse of how she must have looked as a little girl.
Pulling the covers over her and carefully settling them around her sleeping form, I step back. She makes a tiny whimpering sound, which again, if she wasn't unconscious, would seriously turn me on, before taking a deep breath and sighing softly.
I can't help the grin that quirks at my lips. She's kind of beautiful, and the best part? She doesn't act like she is.
With the sound of the steady rhythm of her breathing surrounding me just as much as her scent, I let my eyes explore her space. Atop her dresser are a few framed photographs. There's one with Bella in a graduation gown, flanked by two people who could only be her parents, the three of them smiling into the camera. At least I think the man in the picture is smiling—his mouth is mostly hidden by a moustache like none I've seen beyond pictures taken in the 80s. Regardless, his eyes twinkle, and his posture is proud.
In another photo, Bella has a coiled rope slung diagonally across her body, and climbing gear hangs from the harness fitted to her hips. She's surrounded by two guys…two huge guys. The pale skin of her arms stands out against their rich, russet tones, and one of the guys has her tucked protectively under one arm. She's huddled close to him, and the way he rests his chin on her head makes me wonder what she is to him.
That picture makes my stomach twist. I don't like it.
Scowling at the picture, I move on. There's another picture of Bella standing on a summit, a heavy pack sitting high on her back, one hand on her hip and another shading her eyes as she scans her surroundings. There's another photo, tucked into a thin, wooden frame that, on closer inspection, appears to have been folded. What looks to be a male hand is resting on Bella's shoulder. The Bella in this picture isn't lit up like the one with her parents, or even in the one of her standing by herself.
Other hints of the girl that lives here are scattered around the place. A pair of hiking boots in the corner, a stack of well-worn novels on the nightstand, a framed cover of Outdoors magazine, a girl sitting straight up in bed, brown eyes wide and staring at me—
"Holy shit!" The words come out with a rush of breath, and if I were a girl, I'd probably be clutching my heart right now. My breathing accelerates, and I stand, locked in her gaze.
She cocks her head to the side. "You're here," she states plainly.
"Yeah." My hand reaches up, landing in my hair. "You fell asleep in my car."
"Huh," she says, her eyebrows raised. "I guess I did." Her eyes narrow as she stares me down. "Did you put me to bed?"
Suddenly it hits me—this girl has woken to essentially a stranger, loitering in her room while she sleeps. I'm a fucking creeper.
"Um…yeah." I gesture in the direction of her foot, although it's hidden beneath the covers. "You were asleep, and you need to keep off your ankle."
She looks quizzically in the direction I pointed, then whips the covers back, exposing her long, cotton-covered leg. "Holy shit!" she exclaims, poking gingerly at the bandage. Her eyes are wide when she looks up at me. "My foot's huge!"
I stifle a chuckle—barely. She's still pretty funny. "It was a bad sprain."
Her expression grows even more confused as she looks down the length of her body. "I'm still dressed."
Pressing my fist against my lips to prevent myself from offering to help her out of her clothing, and maintaining my "she was unconscious" mantra in my head, I simply nod. I'm pretty sure my voice would betray me if I tried to speak.
As with most things about her, she surprises me when she throws her head back and laughs. "I can't sleep in my clothes!" She snorts in her laughter. "I'm all manky*!"
My initial reaction is to correct her, because not twenty minutes ago, I held her close and she definitely wasn't manky when she was in my arms. Instead, I reply with a safer response. "You were sleeping."
She mutters something, shaking her head, and before I know what she's doing, she crosses her arms at her waist, and in one smooth, fluid movement, she rids herself of her shirt. She sits there in nothing but a sports bra and her tight black pants…and my own pants become noticeably tighter.
"That's better!" she says, sounding relieved. She wrinkles her nose. "I probably should shower."
I'm pretty sure my eyes widen, because my first thought is that I think that would bea great idea, and something I could definitely help her with, but the professional in me kicks in. "No!" I take a step toward her, raising my hands. She's already on her back, trying to shimmy out of her leggings. She pauses, mid-shimmy, with her back arched and a hint of is that a thong? cast against her skin
"Why not, Doctor Dozer?" she says teasingly. She giggles, and her whole body wiggles in ridiculously delicious ways. "I'm sure it's nothing you haven't seen before!"
For about the first time ever in my career, I can feel my face flush. I'm normally ultra-cool and super-professional, but something about this girl unhinges me a little. She's completely disarming—and she has absolutely no idea that she's doing it.
It probably also helps that she's as high as the Everest summit right now.
"I know you probably feel…" I clear my throat "…uncomfortable, but it's best if you don't get hot water on that ankle. You need to keep it elevated, anyway." She's still writhing, trying to get comfortable, and if I don't stop looking at her, things are going to get really uncomfortable.
Shrugging, she settles back into the pillows. She's still showing a lot of skin, and it's incredibly distracting.
I wave in the direction of her rather svelte form. "Um, can I get you something more comfortable to sleep in?"
Her still-a-little-glazed eyes widen, and a smile stretches on her face. "Yes," she says, a little breathily. "Um…top drawer?"
I give her a quick nod and walk to the dresser. Pulling at the top drawer, I grab the first two items that look like they might resemble women's sleepwear. I'm comfortable with women's sleepwear. It's what my patients tend to wear in the hospital, so I'm quite used to seeing women in their sleep clothes.
Mind you, my patients are usually in their eighties, and they tend to sleep in long nightdresses and cover up for rounds with dressing gowns.
"Here," I say, passing the items to Bella. I step back quickly from the bed and turn to inspect the items on her dresser. Behind me, I can hear the sound of fabric rustling. "Is this your family?" I gesture at one of the pictures.
"Yeah." She grunts a little as I assume she's getting out of her clothes, and I make sure I keep my eyes straight ahead. "My mom and dad at my college graduation." She laughs lightly. "My dad was so excited, although he thought it was too hot. And my mom? She was walking up to strangers saying, 'My girl's graduating today!' I mean, come on, Mom, everybody's kid was graduating there!" She laughs, and it sounds a little sad. "It was a good day. Mostly."
I'm about to ask about one of the other pictures, the one with the two guys in it, when she speaks again. "Would you mind…I'm a little stuck. Could you help me? Please?"
Knowing I'm going to turn and see a probably-naked Bella, I'll admit it—I'm kind of freaking out. Sure, I've seen plenty of bodies in my career, but this is different. I'm in an apartment, alone in her bedroom, with a beautiful girl who is under the influence. I'm not sure what she thinks of me, because not too long ago, she was screaming at me. If she had her wits about her, I'm sure that right now, she'd be feeling pretty awkward.
This is far from a professional setting.
Spying a light blanket in the bottom of Bella's closet, I lean down to pick it up, then, unfolding it, I hold it up in front to shield her. I lower it just enough to see Bella's head and shoulders—which are thankfully clad in a tank-top—and lay it down over her lap, leaving just her feet exposed. I'm glad I did—her leggings are free from one leg, but caught on the other above the thick bandage on her ankle.
"I didn't want you to feel uncomfortable," I tell her, concentrating on stretching the fabric of her leggings around her injured ankle. I keep at my task, aware of her gaze upon me.
"Thank you," she says softly. "For helping me…and for being so thoughtful."
The genuine sound of her words makes me smile. After setting her leggings aside, I slip her sleep pants over her feet and draw them up to her knees, careful not to touch her skin. "Is that okay?" I ask.
"Um, yeah," she says, shaking her head a little. "I got it from here."
I turn to give her privacy again, until she says, "All good."
I remove the blanket, refold it, and set it back in her closet where I found it. "Can I get you anything else?"
She shakes her head, then snuggles beneath the covers. "I feel a little woozy," she says as she yawns.
"Side effect of the medication," I tell her. "You should feel better after you get some sleep."
She mumbles, and I walk to the doorway, flicking off the light. "Dozer?" she says softly.
I chuckle a little under my breath. "Yes, Bella?"
"Open the curtains. I like being able to see the stars."
I shrug and do as I'm told.
"Thank you." She yawns again. "Stay with me a moment?"
Smiling, I take a few steps toward her bed. "Sure."
"One more thing?"
She brings one hand out from under the covers, and in the dim light, I can see her rest it on the mattress next to her pillow. "Hold my hand?"
I smile into the darkness and do as she asks. "Okay."
As I sit there, her breathing becomes deep and even, and before long, she's snoring ever so softly. I bend down to press a kiss to the back of her hand.
Somewhere nearby, my phone buzzes and I reach for my nightstand to shut it off. When my hand swipes through air, my eyes open in a flash. I startle slightly as I sit up, completely unaware of where I am—until it hits me.
I'm in Bella's apartment.
It's morning, and like the gentleman I was raised to be, I spent the night on the couch. After Bella went to sleep, I took the keys with me to go down and grab her crutches from my car. While I was there, I pulled out the small overnight bag from the trunk, the one containing clean boxers, a t-shirt, deodorant, a toothbrush, and toothpaste—I keep it there for emergency, midnight trips to check on patients in the hospital.
After washing up quickly, I have a couple of glasses of water for myself and take a bottle into Bella with a couple of painkillers. She must have rolled over during the night, because she's wrapped up in her sheets like a burrito. The sight of her, still sleeping deeply with her hair a mess around her, makes me smile.
It takes two attempts to write a note to her with some basic instructions, including seeing Rose for a massage in a couple of days. A thought strikes me, and I also scribble a note on a piece of my letterhead stashed in my bag, thinking she might need it to take time off work.
After straightening the living room and folding the blanket I used last night, setting it over the back of the couch, I take another peek into Bella's room to see if she's awake. She's still sleeping—so she doesn't see me peering in on her. I'm kind of glad of that fact—although she was friendly last night, I'm not sure she'll remember much of our exchange…and seeing me here this morning will probably freak her out.
I need to get out of here before I do freak her out.
After gathering all my things, I drop her keys onto the hallstand and slip out the front door. Making sure the door is locked securely behind me, I resolve to come back later and check on her. She probably should have her ankle seen to, and she won't be able to make it to the doctor. I wonder, if she hasn't been in Seattle that long, does she even have a regular doctor? Yes. The nice thing for me to do would be to come back and check on her myself.
On my way to the parking garage, I don't run into any more nosy neighbors—a fact that I'm not upset about. Although I convinced the little old lady from last night that my intentions were nothing but honest, I'm not sure what she'd think of me skulking out of the building wearing basically the same clothes I did last night.
I can't help but breathe a small sigh of relief when I'm safely in the driver's seat of my car.
As I turn the key and direct my car toward my apartment, I shake my head. There I was, following my own, safe path—and then she came along.
As I drive, I think that this situation is exactly like a climb I attempted when Garrett and I did a best-climbing-in-the-UK trip back in college. There I was at the time, happily climbing this really fun multi-pitch, when suddenly I found myself heading off into the great land of Fuck Knows Where. I knew I wasn't on the route I chose anymore, and the climbing was suddenly a whole lot harder. I'd freaked out a little, because I had no idea where I'd gone off the route, and sure this new section was fun, but it was totally unplanned, and completely unexpected.
That route was called "Gronk," and the feeling I have now is exactly the same feeling I had then, when I was lost, clinging to cold rock in England.
It's happened again—I've been gronked.
And for a safe-playing guy like me, it's scary as hell…but I can't help being just a little excited.
A/N: This amazing cause raised over $9000 to support people with blood cancer, and contribute to research to fight this bloody awful disease. I've been up close and personal with Lymphoma and lost someone close to me, so when this popped up, I jumped at the chance to contribute.
I continue to receive alerts and favourite notifications for Yosemite Decimal. I can't tell you how grateful I am. This story will always be close to my heart, and I love, love, love that so many of you have read and enjoyed it.
This outtake has been 'out there' for such a long time, and I'm itching to hear what you think. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for reading, and special thanks to those who donated to Fandom4LLS—whether it was your art, or your money.
Manky – climbing slang for bad gear or rotten rock. Also means disgusting and gross.
Gumby – somebody who is new to climbing.
RICER – treatment for soft tissue injuries. Stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, Referral (to further treatment).