AN: So…this is it. The last chapter. I want to thank Alice's White Rabbit for beta'ing this for me, Lotty for the awesome banner (it's on my FB & I'll eventually post it here) and everyone who reviewed, fav'd and followed. I had a lot of fun writing this and I'm so glad you all enjoyed it so much.
I was in the hospital, no doubt about it. The noises, smells, and itchy blackets were familiar. I felt the restraints of cords and tubes. The most upsetting, though, were the quiet voices I heard around me.
I had no idea how long I'd been out, but surmised that it couldn't have been that long. It didn't really feel like it at least.
I was conscious for a few minutes already but refused to open my eyes. The voices were hushed around me, not wanting to wake up what they thought was my sleeping form. Why I had visitors, I had no idea. I wasn't even sure who knew I was here. Rosalie and Alice, most likely, but who would have been around to tell the nurse about my next of kin.
My back ached, and I tried shifting unnoticeably into a more comfortable position. People turn when they're sleeping, right?
"Ahhh," I cried out when I began moving my leg. Tears sprang easily to my eyes which had closed even tighter. It felt like I was laying on a bed engulfed in fire. My whole body burned and ached with intolerable pain.
"Give her morphine," the woman I presumed was the nurse instructed.
"No, no, no, no," I insisted, finally opening my eyes. "No more drugs." I would deal with the pain. The effect of the roofie was something that I didn't want to experience again, and while I knew that the morphine wouldn't have similar side effects, it wasn't something I was willing to experience right now.
I reached my hand out for the water perched on the side table, but immediately withdraw at the sensation the movement was doing to my hip. I'd rather have cotton-mouth than go through that fiery pain again.
"Emmett, get her the water," the woman said. I had only seen her one other time- at Charles' funeral. Esme Cullen was not known to get involved in her husband's business.
I watched as Emmett poured the water and inserted a bendy straw into the cup. I looked on warily as he brought it to my lips, holding it there while I sipped gingerly. I nodded in appreciation when I was done.
I took stock of the Cullen family that was holding up the wall. All four Cullen men were dressed in perfectly pressed black suits. Appropriate for someone's funeral.
"Isabella, I assume that you know why we're here," Carlisle finally spoke. He was not a man that made many personal appearances; one of his many attributes that made him a man of mystery. As a matter of fact, unless you were family, having Carlisle Cullen at your doorstep was never good.
Before answering, I chanced a look at the rest of the Cullens that lingered in my room. Each wore their own unique look of gloom. Even Edward's handsome face was marred with sorrow. I brought my gaze back to the head of the family.
"Did I kill him?" I asked.
He shook his head. "Jacob is dead but not by your hands."
"Then, yes, I know why you're here." He was here to kill me. I hadn't held up my end of the deal. I bet my life, and I had lost. Why did he need an audience, though? No matter; it was his show anyway. All I could hope for now was that one, he would kill me mercifully, and two, Rose and Alice knew that I loved them despite the deep heartache and rift I had caused in our once tight family.
"I know I don't have the right to ask any favors, but if you could find it in your heart to make it painless, I could go to my grave with the utmost appreciation." He didn't respond, though I didn't think he would. His expression remained hard, undeterred.
"Isabella-Bella," Esme said kindly. "I think you're mistaken. Carlisle isn't here to … kill you."
"With all due respect, Mrs. Cullen, but why else would Mr. Cullen be here if it weren't to kill me?" I tried holding back a sarcastic look, but I was pretty sure I was unsuccessful. "And frankly, since I'm gonna die anyway, it's really sick that you all came to watch." Pain and fatigue be damned. The more I talked, the more riled up I got myself. The heart monitor beeped wildly. They weren't my family, but I thought I had at least had a friend in Edward. Somewhere along the way, I had begun to trust him. "I didn't do anything to intentionally hurt any of you-to deserve such disrespect in my last moment of life."
I looked over at Edward, physically unable to stop the tears. "I thought we were friends. It would have served me well to remember that personal relationships don't matter in our world." Look at what Jacob had done to me. Edward shared the same hard look as his father, confirming my thoughts.
Fuck him. Fuck them all!
A rustling in front of me brought my attention back to the oldest Cullen. Angrily, he stomped closer to me. This was it. I watched in curiosity and dread has he brought his empty hand up to my bed. There was no gun, knife, or syringe that could end it all.
"Ooowwww," I cried in earnest as his hand tightly gripped my left hip. I writhed in pain, but he wouldn't budge. I tried using my hands to pry him off, but with his free hand, he was able to effectively hold me down.
"Please," I begged with a ragged breath. Death would be better than this insurmountable, crippling pain.
"I will not tolerate the insolence which you've shown my family in the short ten minutes you've been awake. If I didn't have something to say, you'd already be on your way to meet your maker. Now apologize to my wife and son," he seethed. I nodded rigorously in hopes that he would let go sooner.
Once he let go, I tried catching my breath. It was as if whatever injury I had there was directly connected to my lungs and heart.
"Carlisle, that was hardly necessary," Esme chided her husband heatedly. I limply held up my hand to stop her.
"No, Mrs. Cullen," I gasped out during deep breaths. "He's right." Another breath. "I was completely out of line. I hope that you accept my sincerest apology. My tone was uncalled for." Breathing through my nose helped the pain.
"Mr. Cullen," I addressed Edward, "my apologizes to you, too. You didn't owe me anything, and my anger was misdirected. I'm sorry."
"Mr. Emmett, Mr. Jasper, I'm sorry for disrespecting you and your family."
My heart rate monitor continued to beat loudly and frantically. I reached up and pulled the cords off that monitored that particular organ. It was a reminder that it wouldn't be beating for long.
"As I was saying," Carlisle began with an eerily reserved voice, "the reason I'm here, and I speak for all of us, is to thank you for your selflessness and bravery. I have no doubt that there are very few people who would do what you did to help my family."
I snorted, which was actually a bit painful. "I'm sorry, but I didn't help anyone. I really don't know what you're talking about."
"What do you remember two nights ago with Jacob?" Carlisle asked.
I furrowed my brow and felt my eyes narrow in concentration. Honestly, I didn't remember much. "Um, I know he slipped something in my drink, but that's really it. I think we got into an argument, but I don't know for sure, and you've already told me he's dead, but I didn't do it. I'm obviously missing something."
"That's an understatement." Edward's voice was like a magnet, drawing me to look at him, but with all my willpower I managed to keep my eyes on Carlisle.
"Well, according to our son, you saved his life."
"No," I shook my head, "you're mistaken. I didn't save anyone."
"Goddamnit, Isabella," Edward shouted. "Listen to what he's saying!" I flinched, sending excruciating pain all the way down to my toes. "If I had gotten there sooner, you wouldn't be in this hospital bed right now."
"Mr. Cullen," I tried to placate him. His anger literally hurt. "I don't know how I got here, but I'm sure it's not your fault."
"Cut the formality bullshit out, Bella! We're past that." He was still angry.
I rubbed at my eyes. My body already hurt, and my head was beginning to catch up. I wish that they'd either explain what was going on, leave, or just shoot me between the eyes already.
"Look," Emmett finally piped up, "you took a bullet in the hip for Edward. You ran in front of him, got hit, and passed out. You literally took a bullet for him. Simple as that."
I looked at Emmett, wide-eyed. I didn't remember any of that. "Really?" I asked Edward. He refused to look at me but gave me a quick nod. It hurt that he still couldn't look me in the eye, and I didn't know what to make of that. "Then did you kill him?" Another nod. "Thank you." Without thinking, I reached out and touched his knee. He violently jerked it out from under my touch as if he was burned. I took my hand back and tried acting like it didn't bother me.
Embarrassed, I kept my eyes on my hands, which I planted on my lap. I was definitely ready to die now.
"I think … we should let them talk," Esme suggested, though her words were unsure.
With no response, the other began shuffling out of the room. It was a suffocating silence. Edward could have left, too. I wasn't lying when I told him that he didn't owe me anything, even with the latest revelation.
"Thanks again," I breathed out.
"I should be thanking you," he whispered.
"Consider us even, I guess." I wish I could say that he'd do the same for me, but I couldn't know that for sure. I fell for the man that refused to look at me, and if what they said was true, I couldn't regret my decision. Everything about that night was my fault. I should have known better than to invite him over. He probably hadn't wanted to come over to begin with. He never asked before.
"Why are you taking this so easily, Bella?" he shouted. "If I had just gotten there in time, the only one who would be in the hospital would be Jacob-in a fucking body bag."
"Why are you blaming yourself? I was the one who asked you to come over. You would have never been in the position if I hadn't done that. I should apologize to you for that."
"Don't you remember calling me? After you had already invited me over?"
I racked my brain trying to remember. "Uhh … I remember … wanting to call Alice or Rosalie, but I don't know if I ever got in touch with them. Since they're not here, I'm assuming I never did." I guess those relationship were destroyed beyond repair if the only family I had left wasn't here to see me in the hospital. "Were they like Jacob, wanting me dead for the money?" I asked sadly. "Was Charles the only one who really loved me?"
"No, Bella. They're not here because Emmett and Jasper sent them away. I didn't think they'd be able to handle seeing you like this, so I told Em to send them on a mini-vacation. And you didn't call them, you called me. I guess you dropped your phone, I don't know, but I heard you and Jacob talking. I rushed over as fast as I could."
"Why?" He shouldn't have come.
"What kind of question is that? You're … my friend," he hesitated. "I couldn't let anything happen to you. I was too late, though." He roughly ran his hand through his hair. "If I had gotten there quicker, he wouldn't have shot you. By the way, you're gonna need physical therapy," he added casually.
I winced. I hated PT.
"That wasn't part of the deal, though," I continued. "I was supposed to kill him. What's going to happen to me now?" I was angry-resigned was more like it.
"Don't worry about the fucking stipulation in the contract, Isabella. This is a fucking exception, all right?"
"Thanks." What do you say when you're told that you're not scheduled to die anymore? "You didn't have to do that, you know? Come over, I mean. I'd involved your family enough already and now," I paused, formulating an idea. "I'll let them think I killed him, that way the Cullen name stays clean … or clean as far as The Wolf Pack is concerned." It was the best course of action. "Rose and Alice don't need me anymore, so going into hiding won't be such a big problem." The words stung and burned even as I said them, but I'd do it to keep them safe. Though any Cullen protection they had would be better than any I could provide.
"Are you listening to yourself? Do you think those dogs are even a blip on my radar? I wish they would try to get on my level. I don't give a shit if they know I killed the mutt. Let them think I skinned him after. I. Don't. Care."
"Why are you here, Edward?" He cared about something, or he wouldn't still be sitting here.
He was looking everywhere and at everything, but me. "You," he answered, playing with the sleeve of his suit jacket. "I … care … about you."
I couldn't help the small smirk that formed. "So, I'm your friend?" I teased. I'd like to be more than his friend, but I wouldn't push my luck since I was going to walk, or rather limp, away with me life.
"I guess," he shrugged, sounding like a little boy. It was adorable. "I don't like it, though?"
My smile faded, and my heart cracked a little. "Oh, well …" I cleared my throat. "I won't be offended if you don't want to be my friend. I won't stop you from walking away." Though it would hurt like hell to watch.
"No, that's not what I meant. We can be friends, but… I dunno … I want more with you." He looked up at me through his lashes.
"Why didn't you say anything before?" I realized it was a stupid question immediately, and he looked at me as if he could read my thoughts.
"Um …" he began sarcastically, "the first time we met, I thought you were stealing from me and had every intention of blowing your head off. You threatened and disrespected my brothers, you were engaged…" he used his fingers as his listed his reasons.
"Being engaged didn't stop you from fucking me," I countered, smirking again. The corners of his mouth lifted, and a little glow returned to his eyes.
"I'm a man, Bella, not a saint."
"Is that what all those random texts were about?"
He shrugged; he was amused. "I had to make sure I was on your mind."
He definitely was.
"So where does that leave us now. I don't think I'm engaged anymore," I joked.
"This is true," he nodded dramatically slow. "Not that I ever did, but I won't feel bad for doing this." He leaned over my bed, bringing his lips to mine. The kiss was sweet and slow, with only the slightest hint of tongue that abruptly ended when I tried to shift to a better position only to cause another round of horrible pain. "Maybe we should wait until you're out of here for more of that."
I tried pouting playfully but was in too much pain to actually keep it together long enough.
"Do you know when that's going to be?" I asked when I caught my breath.
"About a week. Depends on how the doctors feel about your recovery." He grabbed my hand and laced our fingers together. "I'd never been so scared, so angry in my life. You weren't mine, not officially, but all I could think was that I couldn't lose you." His eyes were glassy with unshed tears. He wiped them before they could become more.
"That's probably what I was thinking, too." I gripped his hand tighter. "I thought about you every day, almost obsessively. Some days, the only good thing about my day was a text from you saying hi."
Was it too soon to think I was falling in love with him? Probably.
"You know, if we start a relationship, your father might not approve. I'm already on his shit list. His finger is probably inching to pull the trigger." I was only half-joking. "He might not hand over the family reins when it's time," I warned him.
"My father doesn't hate you, Bella. He's just found himself in an unfamiliar situation. He's never had to be grateful for anything, and he doesn't know how to handle the situation. Give him time."
"You Cullen men sure know how to sweep Swan women off their feet."
"That we do!" He placed a quick kiss on my lips. "So it shouldn't come as a surprise when I tell you that Rosalie and Emmett are already engaged."
"Oh God," I groaned. "That's probably why Emmett was so willing to send the girls away. He didn't want me killing his fiancée."
"They're happy, and so is Alice and Jasper," he mumbled the last part.
"I can hear about Alice without getting upset. You don't have to hide things from me where she's concerned." My family was altered, but as long as they were happy, with or without me, I would be fine. "But I'd still rather concentrate on us, though."
"I like that-being an 'us'."
"Me, too. It's just too bad that there won't be much of a sweaty, X-rated us for months." I laughed, as much as I could, at his distraught expression.
I'm pretty sure now the mobster was ready to cry.
AN: So, what you think. Good? Too anti-climatic? Let me know. I would appreciate a review of this last chapter of the story as a whole.
Lastly, the EPOV of this story. In good faith, I can't promise you a date for the story, but I can promise you an EPOV. For now, the story is marked complete, but keep it on alert so when I do post it, you'll get it. One last time, thank you all SOOO much for the love and attention that you gave this story. You can find on on FB as Cruiz FanFiction if you're so inclined.