Friday, September 3, 2010

Chapter 18

A Weary Reunion

Thursday morning, Edward awoke at just after five am when the nurse came in to check his vitals and draw some blood. It wasn't the most pleasant way to wake, but he could clearly remember worse than just a tiny prick in the flesh of his arm and a thermometer in his mouth while a machine took his blood pressure. As mild of an awakening as it was, when compared to others he could remember, it still left him alert enough to be unable to fall back asleep.

It had been four days since his fight with Emmett and his father. Four days since Jasper had broken down and unknowingly revealed his need for counseling to battle the post traumatic stress syndrome he was suffering from. Four days since Emmett had walked through his door and stolen his TV remote; even though he'd sent repeated messages away with his parents, Jasper, Peanut, Alec, and even Bella, telling him he was sorry and asking him to come back.

He hadn't yet, though, and his brother's continued absence was weighing heavily upon Edward's heart.

In four days his health had improved enough to be taken off the constant monitoring, his central line had been removed from his chest just below his right clavicle, and he'd been advanced to solid foods—which wasn't saying much considering it still all tasted horrible. His health was improving quickly, but his mental and emotional state were dwindling at the same rate.

His emotions were all over the place on a daily, and seemingly sometimes hourly, basis. He'd shed more tears of anger and anguish in the last few days than he could ever remember having shed in his entire life, most of which had, thankfully, been released in private. It was in the hours of solitude that the weight of his depression fully pressed down on him until he felt he couldn't breathe under the force of it; hours like the ones between being woken up at five am and whatever hour someone strolled in for a visit with him.

As he sat in his bed, the room silent around him with the lights still turned off, leaving him in the darkness of the early morning, he looked to the spot where Bella and his mother had spent so many uncomfortably restless nights—and missed their slumbering presence. Had either of them been there, he could still have been left to his thoughts as they slept, but could have escaped feeling so damn lonely. And to think, just three days earlier he'd asked them to stop spending the night because he couldn't stand seeing them suffer so unnecessarily in those chairs turned makeshift bed.

As selfish as he thought it to be, he wished for one of them to be there to fend off at least a fraction of the crushing weight of his emotions that he lacked the energy to bear that morning. They'd been creeping upon him as he'd fallen asleep the night before, but when he'd awoken, it had felt as if he'd slept under a concrete blanket of debilitating depression all night long.

He roughly rubbed the tears away from his eyes with the heels of his palms just as the faint blue of the morning sky began to dimly illuminate his room. He was so tired; not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Warring with himself between his anger at his family and trying to accept their desire to support him now, on top of the pain and fear of permanent disability he suffered from constantly, left him feeling endlessly drained of any energy whatsoever.

Just as he dropped his hands from his eyes, he became aware of the hulking, shadowed form encompassing the doorway with knuckles raised and just moments away from tapping on the metal paneling.

"Knock, knock," Emmett's voice resounded quietly as he rapped softly, pausing with only a momentary awkward shuffle before moving into the room.

The smile that graced Edward's face was instantaneous, his spirits lifted tremendously with just the sound of his brother's voice. "'d you get Barbara the Barbarian to let you in?"

"I uh..."

"I heard that!" the nurse's shrill voice cut through the room just a moment before she popped her head into the doorway. "Ten minutes, I'm counting. You can come back during normal visiting hours."

Emmett nodded at her just as she flicked the room's lights on, making him squint against the harsh fluorescent brightness, "I know...and thank you, again."

Edward waited until he saw her walk away through the small observation window and turned to his brother with a teasing smile that fell into a concerned frown instantly. It looked like Emmett hadn't slept in days. His face was pale - nearly ashen, and dark, bruise-like bags drooped beneath his bloodshot eyes. "You look like shit. What happened?"

Emmett looked around the room, avoiding his brother's worried gaze as he shrugged and took a seat in the chair next to the bed, "Just haven't been able to sleep."

"Bullshit," Edward countered bluntly. "You can sleep like the dead through a hailstorm of atomic bombs. What's wrong?"

Emmett groaned, slumping down in his chair as he rubbed his hands roughly over his face. When he pulled his hands away, he stared at the wall across the room from him and shook his head. "Everything's wrong. I don't know what to do anymore, or how to make anything right again. Not with you, not with Rosie, or even Jas and Alice."

He shook his head once more, pulling his distant focus back in and looking at Edward.

"I don't know how you dealt with all of this shit for so long...we're all so fucked up it's ridiculous," he confessed. "I don't think I ever realized how much you held this family together until...that night...and every night since. I keep trying to fix everything for everyone, but I just can't...not the way you always could."

"Emmett," Edward uttered sadly as he lifted himself up into a higher sitting position.

"No...just let me talk? For a minute?" Emmett asked anxiously, to which Edward nodded and gave him his full attention.

"I'm sorry, you know...for everything. I wish it hadn't taken something like this to make me wake up and see things straight, but it did. I haven't been here because I haven't been able to face you. It just hurt too much knowing that by the time I finally find it in me to be the brother to you that you've always been to me, it was too late for me to undo the damage I've done to us."

Edward wanted to interject, to correct him, but he held himself back, knowing by the look on his face that Emmett wasn't yet finished.

"Dad told me what you said...about no one giving a shit about you until you almost died," he murmured, feeling ashamed that his past actions had helped form that belief. He shook his head, keeping his eyes locked on Edward's, "It's not true, Edward. It couldn't be further from the truth."

Emmett's gaze fell down to his hands as he leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his knees. In the past few days, ever since their father had told him of Edward's words, he'd done more inner reflection than he'd ever done collectively in his entire life. And after long nights of staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep as he mentally journeyed through years upon years of the family's interactions with his eldest brother, he'd come to one undeniable conclusion.

Edward felt that no one cared about him because no one ever showed him they cared about him.

Not Emmett himself, or Rosalie, or Jasper, or even their parents really. They all, himself included, had spent years expecting the world out of him, but had never truly shown him even the slightest bit of gratitude or appreciation. They just expected and accepted when Edward delivered on whatever it was they needed at the only minimal exception to the rule he could find after days of reflection was Alice, and the realization of how they'd all treated him for so long made Emmett feel physically ill.

"Ever since Dad told me what you said...I haven't been able to sleep," he said quietly, still focusing on his clasped hands between his legs. "At first I was pissed that you'd say something like that, to Dad especially because he's always been closer to you than Jasper or me, but then..." he paused as he raised his eyes to Edward, "but then I started thinking that there had to be a reason you'd say it because you never say shit you don't mean."

Emmett's eyes began to tear as he looked at his brother sorrowfully, ashamed of the way he and everyone else had treated him for so long. If he could turn back the hands of time, he'd do everything in his power to make sure that Edward never had a reason to question just how very much he meant to their family. Edward was, and always had been, the heart and soul of the Cullen family, and for him to not be able to see that, or feel that—it was heart wrenching.

"I didn't...I never realized how much we all took advantage of you, and I'm sorry for that. It's our fault that you feel the way you do. I can see that now and, as much as I hate it...I get it..."

"Your ten minutes are up," Edward's nurse interrupted from the doorway. "You can come back after eight."

Emmett's face turned in her direction, his eyes beseeching, "Just five more minutes? Please?"

She pursed her lips as she looked him over, taking in his exhausted appearance and eyes brimming with heart breaking emotion. With a sigh she looked between the two men and nodded, "Take your time. I'll go get you an overnight visitor's form, but you'll have to run down to security to get the pass yourself. I can't leave the unit and all after hours visitors have to be documented, deal?"

"Yeah," Emmett smiled for the first time in days. "Thank you, Barbara."

"Don't mention it," she smiled softly before throwing a teasing smirk at Edward, "I'm not as barbaric as some seem to think I am."

"Hey now," Edward sniggered, his tone defensive, yet playful. "I feel like a human pin cushion. As far as I'm concerned, all of you needle wielding witches are barbarians."

Barbara tried not to laugh, but found herself unable to. In all the years that she'd been a nurse, she'd found it rare to find someone in such a state with a sense of humor. Still laughing softly, she shook her head and winked at the men, "I'll be back in a few with that form."

As soon as she was out of hearing range, Edward turned his gaze toward Emmett, the signature Cullen grin gracing his face, "What'd you charm the pants right off of her?"

"Almost...if it woulda gotten me in I might've done it, too," Emmett chuckled as he dug into his eyes with his fists to clear his unshed tears. "I just...I don't know. It all kinda just hit me last night and I couldn't sleep knowing you feel the way you do. I had to come because I couldn't stand the thought of you sitting here alone and thinking that no one cares, because we do."

"Emmett," Edward sighed, shaking his head slightly, "I was just having a shit day. I shouldn't have been such a dick, but all this," he said as he waved his hands around in lackadaisical circles, gesturing to both himself and his surroundings, "isn't easy to deal with."

"I know it's not. It wasn't easy for us either; waiting for weeks without knowing whether or not you'd ever wake up, or what condition you'd be in if you woke up," Emmett responded dismally. "Mom had breakdown the day you started talking and you seemed to be okay. If it wasn't for Dad and Jasper being on either side of her, she would have hit the ground. I still don't know how she held all that shit in until we were outside."

Silence descended upon the two men, each lost to their own thoughts. As much as Emmett wished he didn't, he could recall nearly every harrowing moment of those endless weeks. It had been by far the most horrific experience he'd ever endured, and he highly doubted the memory of it would ever fade. Those agonizing days of constant anxious worry and fear had left permanent invisible scars deep within him; scars that no matter how much time could ever pass, would never heal.

As for Edward, just thinking about what it must have been like for them was draining. He'd been awake and in varying stages of awareness for a little over a week, and in just that short time, he'd been driven to the brink of insanity by his fears of the unknown.

Would he or wouldn't he ever walk again? Would he or wouldn't he ever return to active duty? Would he or wouldn't he ever be able to have the family he'd longed and hoped for, for so long if it came to be that he wouldn't ever walk again?

So many questions with absolutely no definitive answers. No "Yes you will" or "No you won't"—just a bunch of "Maybes" and "We hope so-s".

"Did you mean what you said...when you told Dad it might have been better if you'd died?"

Emmett's softly spoken question was saturated with heartache, and both his tone and question broadsided Edward. For a moment, he truly contemplated not answering it at all, especially when he was afforded the distraction of his nurse, Barbara, returning with Emmett's form. Unfortunately, the moment she left the room, Emmett's expectant gaze was locked on him.

"No...Yes...fuck, I don't know," Edward groaned, laying back against the inclined bed. Just another question he really didn't have an answer for. He'd thought through that question repeatedly over the course of the week; most often when he was either alone or alone enough because the only other person in the room with him was asleep, but even after days of contemplation, he still couldn't answer it definitively one way or the other. "Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't."

Edward stared at the ceiling, not really seeing it, as Emmett's mind reeled beside him. He couldn't understand why Edward would ever think it would have been better if he hadn't survived because even if he never walked again—even if he had to use a wheelchair the rest of his life, and buy a one level house and make it handicap accessible—he'd still be alive. Emmett had just been about to make that very statement to him when Edward suddenly began laughing to himself as he shook his head.

"You know what the bitch of it is? Bella asked me if I regretted saving her because of what happened to me, and I don't, not at all, because if I hadn't done what I did, she would have died. Anyone in her position would have died, and it didn't matter that night nor does it matter now who it had been, my actions would have been the would be the consequences of them. I won't ever regret risking my life to save someone else, but if this...if being stuck like this is what the rest of my life will be like...I might regret surviving."

"You can't think like that, bro. I know it's hard, I can't even imagine what you're going through, but you gotta try to stay positive," Emmett urged, worried by his brother's melancholic tone. If he didn't believe he'd ever get better, he wouldn't.

The corner of one side of Edward's lips turned up slightly as he turned his head to look at his brother, "Easier said than done, Em...way easier said than done."

Emmett just nodded, not knowing what else to say to him that would encourage him to think differently. He'd never been all that good at encouraging anyone to do anything; at least not anything that wasn't some form of juvenile behavior. It had always been Edward that had provided him and Jasper with encouragement and motivation, never the other way around, and he was at a loss of how to turn those tables. Unsure, but determined to figure it out because he wanted Edward to recover. He wanted Edward to be happy; happier in the future than he had been for the past too many years.

"I should probably head down to security before Barbara changes her mind...unless you'd rather I left. I know it's been kinda...crowded around here since you woke up," Emmett stammered uncertainly. He wanted to stay, even if it was just to pass out in the chair he was sitting in if Edward fell back asleep, but he didn't want to be a nuisance.

"Em," Edward chuckled as Emmett began fidgeting nervously, "It's cool if ya stay, just keep your hands off my remote."

It only took Emmett a little more than ten minutes to trek down to security and back, and only another fifteen after he returned for him to succumb to the exhaustion he'd been suffering from for days. After the third time his head had bobbed violently enough to return him to consciousness, Edward tossed one of his spare pillows at him, catching him right in the face and laughed as he told him to get some shuteye. Emmett's presence alone was enough to ward off the demons of depression that had been haunting him in the silent solitude that had pervaded his room earlier that morning.

As Emmett snored away at Edward's bedside, slumped down in the chair with his feet crossed and resting atop the edge of the bed, Edward tried to get comfortable. His left leg was throbbing fiercely; a constant, relentless ache that he refused to alert his care providers to because he couldn't stand the thick mental fog the additional drugs put him in. It seemed no matter which way he shifted, though the movements were minimal at best, he couldn't find relief from his discomfort. His leg hurt, his side where his chest tube entered his lung hurt, his stomach and lower back hurt where the stitches were almost healed, the few areas remaining where he'd been badly burnt hurt—everything just hurt. It was maddening.

After a half an hour of adjusting and readjusting his position, he gave up. It was useless. Whether the back of the bed was up or down, he was tilted to one side or the other, his legs were elevated or not—it didn't matter. He was just uncomfortable no matter what he did, so with a discontented groan, he threw in the towel and resigned himself to staring at the ceiling and letting his mind drift away from the pain.

At some point, he wasn't sure when, he'd fallen asleep; most likely having been lulled back to sleep by Emmett's rhythmic snoring. When he awoke, his room was bright, filled with sunshine that momentarily blinded him. Over the low volume of his TV, he could hear the hushed voices of people conversing around him.

"Did they say what time they're moving him?"

"No, just that they would be bringing him down to radiology for x-rays of his chest, leg, and back, and they'd bring him to his new room afterward."

His ears strained to hear the near whispers, not wanting to alert them to his being awake.

"Was Emmett here when you got here? He left the house at four thirty this morning but wouldn't say where he was going."

"Yeah, I brought him to my parents' place to get some rest. He was passed out and falling out of the chair when I got here. I made my mom promise to let him sleep as long as he needed to and feed him before bringing him back here again."

"Thanks, Bella. I hope your mother doesn't feel inconvenienced."

"Nah, it's no big deal. She was saying this morning she was planning on stopping by here when my dad got off work anyway."

The silence that followed stretched onward and Edward grew tired of feigning sleep. He hadn't wanted to interrupt their conversation, but at the same time, he was curious as to what people talked about when he wasn't awake. 'To be a fly on a wall' was his last thought before raising his hands to rub the sleep from his eyes and alert them to his waking.

"Hey sleepyhead, how are you feeling?" Bella's soft voice addressed him. He tried not to smile, grumpy as he was when he first awoke, but the smile in her voice was infectious. The sides of his lips curled up faintly as he lowered his hands and opened his eyes, seeing Bella and Jasper standing beside his bed.

"What time is it?" he asked, his voice hoarse from sleep.

"Just after ten. Did you sleep okay?" Bella responded, reaching out with her fingertip to brush away an eyelash that rested upon his cheek. His eyes bored into her own as her soft skin grazed his face and her face bloomed bright red as she quickly withdrew her hand with a softly whispered, "Sorry, eyelash." It was as if she'd acted upon only instinct without a single moment of forethought to her actions, and she grew intensely embarrassed as his eyes continued to burn into her.

Jasper watched the interaction with rapt attention, a smirk spreading across his lips. He'd been a fraction of a second away from cracking a joke at their expense before Edward's eyes flashed to his in warning. Bella, uncomfortable from her momentary foray into forwardness, cleared her throat and turned away from the bed. She stood at the sink counter in his room, willing her face to cool as she poured a cup of ice water from the jug she'd retrieved upon her return to the hospital after settling Emmett into her parents' family room couch.

Jasper continued to watch her, his amusement growing by the second as she turned and asked Edward if he wanted to brush his teeth. Upon his nod, she filled another cup with water from the tap and prepared his toothbrush, returning to his bedside with not only his toothbrush and water to rinse with, but an empty cup to spit into as well. As Jasper watched Bella fuss over his brother, raising the back of his bed for him and adjusting his pillows so he was in a comfortable position to brush his teeth, he had to begin wondering if Edward knew just how tightly he had her wrapped around his fingers.

"So did you sleep okay?" she asked again as she took the used toothbrush from him and handed him both cups. He shrugged and nodded. He'd definitely had worse nights, or mornings rather, of sleep.

"They're going to be bringing you down to radiology soon and then they're going to move you to your new room. I packed up all your photos and things when they told me, I hope that's okay with you?" Bella asked nervously. Edward hadn't even noticed everything missing from his room until she'd mentioned it.

"It's fine. Where are they moving me to anyway?" he asked curiously.

"Just down the hall. Alice pulled some strings and scored you a private room. She and your mom are down there now fixing it up for you to make you more comfortable. They brought your comforter and pillows from home and a few other things I think," Bella responded as she cleaned off his toothbrush and returned with his fresh cup of ice water and a brown paper bag. "Your, um...your breakfast got kind of cold and gross, so I went down and got you a bagel but I didn't know what you'd like on it, so I brought back a little of everything. There's some cream cheese, butter, and two different kinds of jelly in the bag with it."

Edward stared at the bag resting between his hands on the movable table she'd pushed in front of him, not knowing what to say. Anyone else would have just left his unappealing meal tray sitting there, not thinking to get him something more edible. He wasn't accustomed to people treating him with such thoughtfulness, and it made him slightly uncomfortable. Uncomfortable, but grateful nonetheless.

"Thank you," he murmured, raising his eyes to meet hers as she reached over to remove the contents from the bag. He watched her set everything out in front of him, floored that she'd even thought to toast the bagel beforehand.

"It's gotten cold, I'm afraid, but it's probably still better than what was sitting here when I got here," she grimaced slightly.

"It's fine, really. Thank you, again," Edward smiled, ripping into the single serving container of cream cheese.

A moan rumbled his chest as he bit into his cream cheese and grape jelly bagel, it having been the best thing he'd tasted since waking up. As his eyes opened and spotted her smiling happily at seeing him actually enjoy what he was eating for once, he held half of the ripped bagel toward her. "Want some?"

"I'll take half, I'm starving," Jasper chimed in, jumping up from his chair.

"I didn't ask you," Edward rolled his eyes as Bella laughed. "You want a bagel, go walk your ass down to the cafeteria and get one." He held it out toward her again, waving it slightly in front of her. "Ya want?"

"No, I'm good, thanks," she snickered as Jasper plopped back in his chair with a humph.

The rest of the morning passed by quickly, much to Edward's surprise. His mother and Alice joined them shortly after he'd finished his breakfast and as others passed the time with conversation, Bella and Edward worked together on the daily newspaper's crossword puzzle.

"Edward, I'm telling you it's not racket. The first and third letters are 'R' and 'C', but the 'T' doesn't fit!" Bella laughed, swatting his grabbing hand with the folded up paper when he tried to snatch it from her.

"Then the other word is wrong, because I'm telling you it's racket!" he laughed back, still trying to swipe the paper from her, neither of them realizing the pairs of eyes solely focused on their interaction with each other.

"They'd be so good together," Esme whispered, a soft smile spread across her lips. She couldn't remember the last time she'd seen her son laugh so easily, even before the incident. It warmed her heart to see the joy Bella brought him with such ease. If only she could get the two of them to see in each other what she could so readily see while looking at them, maybe her son would finally have the happiness and family he'd been searching for, for so long.

"I see it too, Esme," Alice sighed, her eyes dancing happily between the laughing pair, "I see it too."

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