A/N... Hey, guys! :D There are a few things to go over before starting this fic. First, it'll be a short story – shorter chapters than you're used to from me and only 11 chapters total. According to my amazing pre-readers – GooberLou, inkedupmom, and Beffers87 – not to mention my beautiful beta, JenRar...this fic comes with a huge TISSUE WARNING. It's also rated M for many, many things.
I've classified this as Hurt/Comfort/Angst/Friendship, but it's more than that. I will warn you this isn't the usual type of fic from me, so if you're expecting action or lots of lemons, this isn't it. There will be tough topics of physical abuse as well as drug and alcohol abuse. There is a touch of the fantastical to this fic, as well, especially when it comes to the medical part of the story. I need you to suspend a touch of reality for a bit. It IS fiction after all. ;)
Those of you that know my rules of writing, you need to have faith that those haven't changed, but this is a rough ride. Okay?
Finally, I don't, no matter how badly I wish it was different, own these characters. I just own my plot and my original characters. SM owns the rest.
The tires on my car squealed as I turned in to the closest parking space at the emergency room. Yanking up on the handbrake, I stopped, ran a shaky hand through my hair, and tried my damnedest to breathe. Lightning flickered across the sky as rain pelted my windshield, and all it did was reinforce the reason I was at the hospital in the first place. Getting out of the car, I bolted across the parking lot, hardly finding it in me to give a shit about locking the car.
Rushing up to the reception desk, I blurted out, "Bella Swan... Umm, Isabella Swan." I wanted to strangle the old bitch behind the computer when she practically used one fucking finger to type. Instead, I rambled. "She was just brought in...car accident...Carlisle Cullen is her—"
"Edward!" I heard from the side door, and I left the woman still pecking away. My father pulled me into the hallway, grabbed my shoulders, and looked me square in the eye. "I need you to stay calm, son. Okay?"
I shook my head in denial, because he wouldn't start shit like that on a normal basis, but he'd never, ever lied to me. My chest hurt, my eyes burned, and my breathing picked up. "No, Dad... Please."
He grabbed the side of my face. "We're doing everything we can for her, Edward, but you can't panic. She wouldn't want you to. You know that."
A grunt escaped me as I nodded and tried to rein in my emotions, and I focused on what he'd said. "So she's..."
He guided me down the hallway, saying, "She's stable, which means you can see her."
After several turns, I knew where we were: Intensive Care Unit. I stopped dead in my tracks at the end of the hallway.
"Just..." I gripped his sleeve. "Just...tell me, Dad. Before we go any farther. Is she... Will she.. Fuck, what happened?"
I didn't know how to ask him if I was going to lose the one person that had loved me unconditionally my entire life. I didn't know how to stop the shaking in my hands, either. Bella Swan had been in every moment of my life since I was seven fucking years old – through eighteen years of bullshit – including the time the man standing in front of me and his wife took me in off the streets and adopted me as their own son. She was there for it all, and it wasn't supposed to end like this.
My dad studied my face and nodded. "Listen to me, Edward. She's pretty banged up. According to Charlie—"
"Aw, shit...Charlie?" I gasped, gripping my hair.
"Yes, her father knows. He was first on the scene and called me at home. From what he can gather, she lost control on an icy patch and the car ran off the road." He made sure I was looking him in the eye before continuing. "She hit her head pretty hard, son. Head injuries can cause swelling and bleeding in the brain, which puts pressure on the brain stem. As of right now...she's unconscious."
"Coma?" I squeaked.
"Yes, but as I told you, we're doing everything within our power to help her. We'll have to monitor the swelling, make sure there isn't any bleeding within the layers of her brain, and once the swelling goes down, we hope that she'll wake up."
"She was meeting me," I whispered, looking up at him. "If she hadn't..."
"Don't do that, son. You'll kill yourself with the what ifs," he stated, squeezing my shoulder. "Now...can you handle seeing her?"
I could only nod. In fact, now I couldn't get to her quickly enough. I could see that he'd put her at the far end of the ICU, giving her as much privacy as he was able. When he drew the curtain back, my heart stopped. There were tubes and wires and soft beeping machines all connected to her, and if it weren't for the tube in her mouth, Bella merely looked to be asleep. Forgetting my dad was there, I shrugged out of my jacket and slung it across the chair, bending down to drop a kiss to her forehead. I brushed her dark curls out across the stark white pillow, thinking that just that morning, they'd been spread over our sheets.
"Don't you dare leave me now, Princess, you hear me?" I whispered against her skin, squeezing my eyes closed. "You've put up with me this long... I was hoping you wanted the job permanently."
The beeping changed a little at the sound of my voice, and I glanced up at Dad.
"Good, keep talking to her," he praised with a small smile.
"Can she hear me?" I asked him, but then, barely looking away from her, I tugged the chair closer, sitting down on the edge. "Bella, I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere."
The beeps picked up and then slowed down.
"Maybe she can." My dad chuckled a bit, picking up her wrist and checking her pulse. "I figured you were staying. I'm going to let the nurses know. Just...don't drive them crazy, son. And if they need to run tests, just...let them do their jobs. Okay?"
"I swear...just..." I gazed up at him. "Bring her back to me."
"I'll do my very best, Edward," he vowed before leaving me alone with her.
My fingers trailed along her cheek, across the tiny scar on her chin she got when we were climbing trees one summer when we were eight, and down her arm. Picking up her hand, I brought it to my lips, reveling in the sense of complete and utter...home. Inhaling the scent of her, I smiled that she was wearing the perfume I liked.
"I remember the first time I held your hand, Princess," I sighed, playing with each of her fingers. "It was the first day we met, remember?" I smiled at the memory, but kept talking, simply to keep from falling apart. "You were this bright, happy...thing...all in pink. You had this sparkly band holding back all that hair." I chuckled and sniffled against her hand, toying with a long, dark curl. "God, you really did look like a princess to me..."
The sound of laughter made me mad as I walked out onto the playground, kicking a pine cone as I went. I hated being the new kid.
Stupid class. Stupid school. Stupid town. Stupid Mom and her new stupid boyfriend.
Rain dripped on my head, and I tugged my hood up, shoving my hands into my front pockets. It blocked out the sound of the laughter. They'd stared all day, whispering and giggling. I hated it. I knew my black sweatshirt was old and too big – a hand-me-down – and my sneakers were worn out. I didn't need a bunch of kids pointing it out.
"Did you see his hair?"
I glared over my shoulder. A group of girls looked my way and then laughed. I kicked the pine cone again, falling down into the last swing and pulling my hood forward. I wanted to go back home to Chicago, but my mom had wanted to move here. It wasn't fair.
I dug my sneakers into the dirt at my feet, pushing slowly back. When I swung forward, I had to slam my feet back down in order not to hit someone.
"Hi!" she chirped. "You're Edward Masen."
I nodded, staring at her. She was all in pink, with dark hair pulled back by a sparkly thing that looked like a crown. Her smile was big and she had a bunch of freckles across her nose. But her eyes reminded me of the picture of an angel I saw once in a church in Chicago.
"You're new, right?" she asked, and I nodded again. She giggled. "Don't you talk?"
"Yeah," I whispered, frowning up at her. Really, she'd been the first person to talk to me all day, besides the teacher. Everyone else just...stared.
"My name's Bella. Today's my birthday," she stated proudly, sitting down in the next swing.
"I've been seven since June," I argued, rolling my eyes.
"So we're the same." She kicked back and started to swing.
"No." I shook my head, swinging forward. "You're a girl."
Bella laughed, but for the first time all day, the sound didn't make me mad. "I mean the same age, silly!"
"I'm still older," I told her.
We were getting higher and higher, which caused my hood to fall back.
"His hair sticks up like a hedgehog!"
I stopped the swing, pulling my hood back up.
"No, don't," Bella begged, tugging my hand away. "I like it."
I glared at her, thinking she was making fun of me like everyone else, but her eyes were on my hair.
"My mom says I was licked by a cow or somethin'," I told her nervously, raking my hand through it. It always stuck up everywhere. I couldn't help it.
The girl shook her head. "No, it's pretty. Like a dark penny. You know, an old one." She smiled at me, pointing across the playground. "At least you're not boring, like Tyler. His mom uses a bowl to cut his. And Mike looks like a dumb scrub brush."
Grinning, I looked at the two boys she pointed to and then back to her. "Yeah?"
She nodded at me with a smile, but frowned when two girls walked up.
"Hey, Bella... Ask him where he got his shirt... The garbage?" a blonde girl with long braids sneered, while another one stood behind her, giggling.
"No. Go away, Lauren, or I'll tell everyone what happened at Angela's last week," Bella said, standing up from the swing. "Leave him alone. You've been laughing at him all day!"
Lauren's face turned red, but she spun around and walked away.
I stared at Bella when she turned to face me. I snorted, asking, "What happened?"
Bella bit her bottom lip. "She peed the bed."
I laughed, shaking my head.
"You can't say anything," she gasped. "Okay?"
"No, I won't. I swear." I crossed my heart.
"Edward, you like cupcakes?" she asked, and I nodded, licking my lips, because it had been forever since I'd had sweets. She held out her hand for mine. "Come on. I'll get you one. My mom made them for me."
I slipped my hand in hers, letting her pull me up from from the swing. It was warm, but even though she was a girl, it didn't feel funny to hold her hand, because she was my new friend.
"Mike still looks like a dumb scrub brush," I murmured against the palm of her hand, rolling my eyes. "And Tyler's still boring." I chuckled, looking over at her sweet, yet blank face. "I always wondered if you knew – just fucking knew – how badly I'd needed someone...you...right then." I pulled my chair closer, resting my elbows on the side of the bed. "Did you? Did you know at seven that we'd be inseparable? What did your mom call us?"
"Thunder and Lightning, she called you," I heard behind me, and I glanced up to see Charlie standing there, still in uniform. "Because together, you were a storm a-brewin'. She still does."
I snorted, shaking my head.
"How ya holdin' up, son?" he asked, placing a hand on my shoulder. "I spoke to your dad."
Swallowing thickly, I nodded and shrugged at the same time, my eyes going back to the most important thing in the room. "He said to talk to her," I told him, scooting the chair back and looking over at him.
"What do I say?" he asked in a whisper that wasn't really a whisper.
I smirked. Charlie, while an amazing father and police chief, wasn't exactly verbose. We'd gotten along from the get-go, but I always assumed he'd known more about my home-life back then than he'd let on. While Bella Swan saved my soul, my heart, it was her father that had most likely saved my life. Without him stepping in, I was damned certain I wouldn't be alive right then.
"I don't know, Charlie," I said with a shrug. "I just started...talking. Watch." I leaned down to Bella, pressing a light kiss to her forehead. "Princess, your dad's here. Want to see him?"
The beeps on the monitor fluctuated, and I smiled over at Charlie, but it was the nurse behind him that made my smile fall. Tanya, according to her ID, glanced between us, looking nervous.
"I know about you," she said, pointing to me, "but..." She dragged out the word, her eyes landing on his badge. "There really should only be one person in at a time, Mr. Cullen."
Nodding, I turned to Charlie. "I'll give you time with her. I need to make some calls."
"Alice and Jasper?" he asked.
I nodded, rubbing the back of my neck because that was not going to be an easy call.
"Well, both your mothers are on their way, just so you know, son. But you might want to call Emmett."
"Yeah, okay," I conceded, thinking I'd call him first, just simply because Bella's big cousin was easier to deal with than Alice. Leaning down over Bella, I kissed her cheek this time. "I'm going to leave you with Charlie, Bella. I'm not far, I swear." I crossed my heart out of habit, even though she couldn't see me. "Come back to me, Princess."
A/N... I'm not gonna bug you with very many A/Ns on this fic, unless there are questions that need addressing. If you're wondering how often this will update... Well, I'm looking at Fridays and Mondays. It'll fill in for a bit while some of you are waiting for me and Jenny to update In Pursuit over on Sarge's Girls. LOL ;)
Feel free to come look for me on Facebook and/or Twitter. You can find my links on my profile. You'll also find the beautiful banner made for me by Beffers87, not to mention the inspirational pic that started this idea for me. So until next time, hang in there and... Mooches, Deb :)