Her lips folded in over her teeth, nausea twisting her stomach into violent cramps as she leaned heavily against the bathroom door. He needed to hunt, she told herself, they all did. She had seen their dark eyes, knew that they had all gone too long since their last hunt and insisted that Edward get the bonding time he needed with his brothers. The whole family had been back for a little over a month now and the trouble with Italy was behind them. Whimpering in pain as she slid down the door to sit on the floor, Bella wrapped her arms around her stomach tightly and bent forward. Breathing harshly as she tried to subdue the bile climbing the back of her throat, she groaned painfully and struggled to her hands and knees as she crawled toward the toilet.
Lifting the lid and seat, Bella felt her whole body trembling as she pushed the porcelain pieces back on their hinges to stand against the tank. With barely enough time to wrap her hand around her hair, she lurched forward and emptied her stomach of the dinner she had eaten with Charlie not thirty minutes before. It seemed to take forever until the spasms stopped and she was able to sit back from the toilet. Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, she reached forward and flushed the toilet before falling back to sit with her back against the tub.
Tears pricked at her eyes like acid. The hot salt water drops blurring her vision and falling over her cheeks as she pulled her legs to her chest and touched her brow to her knees. It was only a week, she told herself again, just six days and he hadn’t even left yet. He certainly wouldn’t if he knew the condition she was in now. He needed to hunt; she told herself again and pressed the heel of her hand hard against her stomach as the cramping started all over again. A gasping sob broke from her as she felt overcome by helplessness and despair.
She had never told Edward how broken he had left her, never wanting him to know that she had nearly died without him. There were still times that Charlie would watch her cautiously when he thought she wasn’t looking. She had learned how to fool him, or at least thought she had. Her hands shook as she gripped the side of the tub and stood with difficulty. She needed to get back to her room; she needed the Dramamine she had hidden inside the panel of her ridiculously old desktop computer. The tower was ancient, the machine barely functioning enough to get email and type her papers for school, but over the past several months the tower of the machine had become a hiding space.
She took Dramamine to help her keep her food down. It was for Charlie’s benefit that she took it; he was the only one she ate with over the months that Edward and his family had been gone. A box of Unisom and Advil PM were kept inside the tower as well. The pills helped her get at least a little bit of sleep, but she would remain trapped inside her nightmares until their effects wore off enough for her to wake. Then there was the bottle of No-Doz kept in her backpack. She tried not to take those at all, but more often than not she needed the stimulants just to keep her eyes open enough to drive her truck. The only thing she couldn’t hide were the tremors.
She didn’t have them when Edward was around, but ever since they returned from Italy, whenever Edward was out of sight her hands would begin to tremble. At first it was a very light motion and fisting her hand would stop it from happening, but it seemed to get worse each time he was away from her. Yesterday in class her hands had been shaking so bad that she had to press them between her thighs just to keep them still. Closing her eyes as she reached for the bathroom door, she turned the handle and felt her hands shaking.
Sniffling back the tears, she swiped her hands over her face as she begged for the tears to stop, but knew they wouldn’t. The only thing she was thankful for was that Charlie had accepted Billy Black’s invitation to a three day fishing trip out on their favorite lake and had left directly after dinner. Making her way back to her bedroom on unsteady feet, she closed her bedroom door behind her and looked to the window. Edward wouldn’t be coming tonight. He and the others had left to go hunting in Canada’s big game country barely an hour after school had let out for Spring Break. The only ones still left in Forks were Carlisle and Emmett.
Laughing softly to herself as she fell to sit in her desk chair, she shook her head as she lifted trembling hands to the computer tower. Carlisle had stayed behind because he had to work, but Emmett had stayed behind because Rosalie was still mad at him. He had voted yes to her becoming a vampire and Rosalie was still furious with him over it. Grinding her teeth together as she focused all her energy on undoing the snaps and screws to get the side panel off of the computer tower, she took out her bottle of Dramamine.
“Oh come on,” she whispered helplessly as she heard the distinct lack of sound from the medicine bottle.
Opening the lid took effort and she felt her chin tremble as she looked inside. There was nothing but dust left behind and she knew that she wouldn’t be able to survive the night, not to mention the coming week, without the medicine. Closing her eyes tightly, she was glad that she had been able to swear a promise out of Alice not to watch her through her visions while she was out hunting. She knew that if Alice had seen her like this in her visions, Edward would come home and refuse to hunt as he needed to. A shaking breath fell from her as she stood and moved toward her coat lying across the end of her bed.
Slipping her arms into the sleeves of the coat and biting her lip hard enough that she thought it might bleed; she struggled with the zipper as she was finally able to close the jacket around her. Edward hadn’t stayed with her last night and her resulting nightmares had only been silenced by taking a double dose of sleeping pills. Closing her eyes as she struggled against her shaking hands, she put her key in the door of her truck and opened the lock before climbing inside to start the engine.
She drove slower than the posted speed limit as she made her way down to the drugstore in town and fought to keep from crying. The words wouldn’t go away, the harsh remarks made with the intent of being cruel cycling through her mind like a merry-go-round. Those months without Edward and his family were a daze and while she had been able to shut out everyone else, she hadn’t been able to shut out Lauren Mallory. What was worse was that Jessica seemed to be good friends with Lauren and both shared a jealousy over her relationship with Edward.
Parking her ancient red truck in close to the doors, Bella failed to notice the black Mercedes parked three spaces down. Her legs were unsteady when she slipped from the truck and she feared that she would fall more than once as she made her way to the door and pulled it open to step inside the drugstore. Her arms were crossed tightly over chest, her fists hidden as she fought to keep control of her trembling and moved over the familiar path to the aisle that she needed. Closing her eyes against the bright lights overhead, she pinched the bridge of her nose and fought against the headache pounding inside her skull.
Opening her eyes and looking at the shelf in front of her, she felt close to tears once more. The box that usually held the vials of Dramamine was empty. She moved it, searched behind and around it, but there was nothing. The anti-nausea medicine was gone, out of stock and she fisted her hands against the cramping of her stomach. Shaking her head and turning around, Bella knew she would find no peace tonight and hoped that the medicine would be restocked by the next morning. Blinking tiredly as she made her way out the door, she never heard the conversation taking place behind her.
There had been so many excuses he could have given for his last minute departure from Forks Hospital, but Carlisle was glad now for the one that he had chosen. Stepping out to his car and shaking his head as a lopsided smile graced his lips, he found it amusing how instantly and unquestioningly the hospital staff had believed that he’d been called to fill in for a friend overseas. Everyone was all too ready to believe that he had worked with Doctors Without Borders over the months that he had been gone, his family leaving to stay with friends while he was away. It still surprised him that the Chief of Staff never questioned his excuse, but he was glad that he didn’t.
Pressing down on the keychain remote, he unlocked the Mercedes and opened the driver’s side rear door to drop his medical bag and briefcase inside. He frowned as he shut the door and looked at his things set inside. Normally he put them on the passenger seat next to him, but something was telling him not to. Something inside him was telling him he would need the passenger seat for another reason tonight and he wasn’t sure what that was. Lifting his eyes brows in a fleeting expression of a shrug, Carlisle slipped behind the wheel and started the engine before pulling out of the hospital parking lot.
Slowing to a stop at a red light, Carlisle caught sight of the drugstore ahead of him on the left and waited for the light to change before pulling into the parking lot. While there were a few prescriptions he had written during his shift for patients, he had no reason to stop in at the store, but parked his car anyway. He had almost always called in any drug interaction warnings or special instructions, but tonight he felt the unmistakable need to go inside. If nothing more he could pick up a few teas for Bella, hoping that he would see her sometime this week while his family was gone.
His brow furrowed as he stepped inside the quiet pharmacy and made his way to the back where the man was working. He couldn’t help his worry for Bella, the girl he considered a daughter had most definitely lost weight in their absence. He had been too worried over Edward to pay her the close attention she needed, but even still he had been able to tell that something wasn’t quite right. Her eyes seemed a little too quick to follow Edward’s movements whenever he left her side, and while she had always been a quiet girl, her silence since their return had been disconcerting.
Greeting the middle aged man behind the counter, Carlisle spoke with him quietly as he advised of the patients and prescriptions he had written. He handed over copies of the scripts and listened as the man spoke of his family, nodding every so often in a show of interest. Taking in a breath with which to speak, Carlisle fell silent and frowned as a familiar scent caught his attention. Turning his head in the direction of the girl, he turned and frowned deeply as he looked at her only able to see her from the back.
“Dr. Cullen,” the pharmacist said his name as he turned away from the bottles of medicine and noticed his distraction. Following the direction of Carlisle’s gaze, he sighed softly. “Poor thing, I’m out of what she’s looking for.”
“Does Bella come in here often?” Carlisle asked as he looked back at the man and noticed the bottles in his hands. “This one,” he tapped on the lid in the man’s left hand.
“Thanks,” he said and set the other aside. “Yeah, she comes in here about once every two weeks; at least she has for the past six months. Always the same things.”
“What does she buy?” Carlisle asked curiously as he turned back to see her moving something on the shelf.
“Unisom, No Doz and Dramamine,” the man said and watched as Carlisle turned back to him with a startled expression.
“Sedatives, stimulants and anti-nausea medicine?” Carlisle asked, his brow furrowed in worry and confusion.
“Yeah,” the man nodded. “Though she usually comes in about once a week for the Dramamine. I don’t know how she goes through it so fast, but I’ve tried to keep it in supply for her. I ran out yesterday, won’t be getting anymore in until Wednesday.”
Carlisle nodded slowly and offered the man a few kind words in parting before he followed Bella out of the store. He found her standing next to her truck, her hand shaking enough that the keys fell from her grip. His brows furrowed as he watched her kneel to pick up the keys only to fold in on herself as she pressed a hand against her stomach and grimaced. Sighing silently with worry, Carlisle stepped up behind her when she stood and put the key in the car door to unlock it.
“There is no way in good conscience that I could allow you to drive in your condition,” Carlisle said softly and watched Bella spin around to stare at him with wide eyes. “Leave your truck here, I’ll have Emmett come collect it,” he told her softly as he held his hand out for her keys.
Her lips moved a few times before she found her voice. “C-Carlisle, I’m fine.”
“No, you are not,” he countered gently, and nodded toward her truck. “Give me your keys.”
His voice was gentle; his tone soothing and calm even as he made it clear that he would accept no argument from her on the matter. Biting her tongue as she turned and gripped the silver key stuck in the door lock, Bella closed her eyes as she found that it was taking too much concentration to grip the piece of carved metal enough to pull it from the lock. She heard the soft sound of Carlisle’s sigh and took in a startled breath as he quietly reached around her to pull the keys from the lock. She wasn’t sure what she was expecting him to do then, but feared the disappointment she thought she would see in his gaze if she looked into his face. What she wasn’t prepared for was the moment when he turned her around with his hand on her shoulder and drew her into the circle of his arms.
“It will be alright, sweetheart,” Carlisle promised her gently and smoothed his hand down over the length of her hair as he felt her trembling in his arms. “Come now, let’s go home.”
He dropped a kiss to her hair before loosing his arms from around her and guiding her over to his car with a hand in the small of her back. Unlocking the doors, he stepped up to the passenger side and held her door open for her waiting until she had settled herself inside before closing the door for her. The feel of her trembling had him more than worried and the knowledge he had gained from the pharmacist only fueled his concern. That she had been using such medicines for the past six months, and seemed to still be using them, had his protective instincts in overdrive.
“You can’t keep warm, can you?” he asked as he watched her from his seat behind the wheel, starting the engine as he backed out of the parking space.
“It’s been colder than usual,” she defended softly and fisted her trembling hands when she saw the muscle in his jaw tick.
“When did you start taking the medicines?” he asked gently as he turned the heater and seat warmer on low for her.
“What?” Bella asked with wide eyes and fought to keep her trembling hidden.
Sighing softly as he turned onto the road that would lead them out of town, he took one hand off the wheel and held it out to her. Waiting until she placed her trembling palm in his, he gently closed his fingers over her hand and smoothed his thumb over the back of her hand. He could feel her bones too easily, her skin too dry and frowned at the knowledge that she was underfed and very likely dehydrated. Lifting her hand gently, he placed it over the vent and covered her hand with his for a single moment before returning his hand to the wheel.
Studying her from the corner of his eye, Carlisle watched as she fought against her drooping eyes and pressed his lips together in a worried line. She didn’t want to sleep, that much was clear, but she definitely needed to sleep. He began to hum softly, a low familiar tune that Esme would sometimes sing when she worked in the greenhouse. He kept his voice low and watched her as he turned onto the private drive leading to their house. By the time he had pulled up to the house she was asleep. Turning off the engine, he turned in his seat and looked at her as she slept, taking the quiet moments to observe her freely.
There were smudges under her eyes, the skin looking a bit puffy. Reaching out silently, he touched his hand to her cheek and then her brow frowning as he felt the excess heat of her skin. Looking up at the soft sound of his name being called, Carlisle met Emmett’s eyes through the passenger window and nodded as he unlocked the doors. He watched as his son opened Bella’s door and folded himself inside over her as he unbuckled her seatbelt and lifted her into his arms. Stepping from the car, Carlisle gathered his briefcase and medical bag from the back before following his son inside.
Setting his things down by the door, Carlisle nodded for Emmett to follow him and led him upstairs to the room he shared with Esme. Stepping up to the large bed and pulling back the covers, Carlisle stood aside and waited as Emmett laid Bella down in the bed, watching as his son cradled her head as he lowered her to the pillows.
“Should we change her into something more comfortable?” Emmett asked as he removed her shoes and watched as Carlisle removed her jacket.
“Yes,” Carlisle nodded and debated as he thought of changing Bella’s clothes. “Remove her sweater and jeans while I gather something of Esme’s,” he instructed his son and moved from his seat beside Bella.
His lips bent down in a frown as he moved closer and unsnapped Bella’s jeans. He knew that she wouldn’t be happy if she woke and found them undressing her like this, but Emmett also knew that she wouldn’t sleep well if left in the clothing she was in. Narrowing his eyes as he gently drew the rough denim down her legs, he frowned at how thin she was beneath her clothing. Looking up as Carlisle returned with a set of Esme’s loose flowing lounge pants and a soft top, he watched as his father frowned.
“She’s lost weight,” Emmett said needlessly and watched Carlisle nod.
Bella moaned softly, her heart picking up speed even as her eyes remained closed. She whimpered softly and Emmett bent down over her as he laid his hand on the pillow next to her head and smoothed his thumb against her temple. He whispered to her softly as he watched her eyes flutter open, tears glistening in her dark depths.
“Em’m’t,” she mumbled his name almost incoherently and he nodded quietly before leaning down to kiss her forehead.
“I’m here, Bella,” he promised her and watched her fight against the exhaustion. “No, shh,” he whispered to her and touched her cheek. “Go to sleep for me ok? At least try,” he requested and saw the fear in her eyes.
“Don’t leave,” she begged of him and he knew that she never would have spoken her request had her mind not been so clouded by exhaustion.
“I’ll be right here with you,” he promised her and touched her cheek. “Just go to sleep for me, little one.”
He watched as she blinked slowly, each time longer than the last until her eyes remained closed. He waited another moment until he was certain that she was asleep once more before he sat back and stood aside as Carlisle changed her into the borrowed clothing. Tucking the covers around her, Carlisle bent down over her and kissed her brow before standing from the bed. Gathering her discarded clothes and jacket, he moved to carry them out of the room when heard her phone vibrate and begin to ring. Taking the device from her coat pocket, he stepped into the hall and pulled the door closed as he answered her father’s call.
“Hello, Charlie,” Carlisle greeted and was met with a moment of silence.
“Carlisle?” Charlie spoke the man’s name with confusion. “Is Bells alright?”
“She’s resting,” Carlisle said and pursed his lips. “She wasn’t feeling well and when I learned you were away for the weekend I insisted that she stay with us, I hope that’s alright,” he said and smiled at Charlie’s soft grunt. “It’s just Emmett and I,” Carlisle chuckled softly. “Edward and the others are out camping, but I had to work.”
“Emmett’s a good kid,” Charlie agreed reluctantly. “I can come home, if she’s sick.”
“Don’t worry about it, Charlie,” Carlisle assured him. “She’s fine here, it’s no trouble.”
“Thanks,” he said and Carlisle smiled at how much Charlie reminded him of Bella. “Let her know I called?”
“Of course,” Carlisle smiled and chuckled when the line dropped.
It wasn’t the first time that Carlisle had thought Bella shared more of her father’s traits than her mother’s. He had met Renee in Phoenix and while the woman may have raised Bella, her daughter was nothing like her at all. He had seen how quick Bella was to reassure her mother that she was fine, even going as far as hiding any signs of pain or exhaustion from her during her hospital stay following James’ attack. It wasn’t the first time he wondered who had actually taken care of whom in that relationship. Bella seemed far more motherly toward Renee, comforting and assuring her all the time that she was fine. He wondered then as he had back in Phoenix, if Bella had been the one taking care of Renee instead of the other way around.
Taking Bella’s clothes and jacket downstairs, he put them into the front loading washer and smiled softly as he thought of Esme. She would want for Bella to have clean warm clothes to put on once she woke and would insist upon washing her clothing as he was doing now. His brow furrowed as he added the bit of soap and turned on the machine. Turning around as his mind replayed the brief interaction between Bella and his son, he realized that Emmett had seen her in a similar state before. Perhaps not as sickly as she was now, but her trouble with sleeping did not seem to surprise Emmett. Returning to his bedroom, he opened the door to find his son leaning against the headboard of the bed with Bella tucked against his side.
“You’ve seen her like this before,” Carlisle said softly as he looked at his son.
Emmett nodded silently as he pulled the blankets up around Bella’s shoulders. She stirred against him, her breath hitching as a pained whimper sounded from her softly. He shushed her gently, looking up when Carlisle moved to sit on Bella’s side opposite him. Carlisle touched Bella’s hair as he waited for his son to answer him, hoping to give his sleeping human daughter the comfort of their presence.
“After Phoenix,” Emmett began softly. “After James when we brought Bella home, I used to watch over her sometimes when Edward would leave to hunt.” Emmett was silent for a moment as he looked down on Bella before meeting his father’s eyes once more. “She’d have nightmares, pretty bad ones. I don’t know if she didn’t have them when Edward was with her, or if she just hid them when he was around, but I found after awhile that if I held her while she slept they didn’t seem so bad. She’d still have them, still wake up like she was fighting or searching for something, but they never seemed this bad. This is the first time I’ve seen her since we came back,” he tipped his head, “well since the night of the vote anyway.”
Carlisle nodded, “She’s dehydrated to say the least,” he said as he touched Bella’s face. “Stay with her, I’m going to pick up a few things from the hospital for her.”
“The hospital?” Emmett asked as he glanced down at Bella. “She’s that bad?”
Pressing his lips together in worry, Carlisle met Emmett’s gaze. “I discovered this evening that during the entire time we were gone she has been taking sedatives to help her sleep, stimulants to keep her awake during the day and anti nausea medicine.”
Emmett frowned deeply at that and slid down to lie next to Bella on the pillows as he pulled her against his chest when she whimpered in her sleep again. Kissing her forehead as he spoke to her softly, he encouraged her to sleep and promised her that she wasn’t alone. It had been a point of contention in the beginning that Edward wouldn’t tell anyone what he had said to Bella, only telling them that he had made it clear they were leaving. He wondered now, as he had several times before, exactly what it was his brother had said to the girl in his arms.
Thinking back to the last time he had held her while she slept, Emmett looked up at Carlisle and asked him to bring a book from the shelves by the window. He remembered that she had slept better when he had read aloud to her and smiled softly when his father handed him Anne of Green Gables. Accepting the book from Carlisle as he kept Bella tucked in his arms, Emmett opened the novel and began to read aloud, keeping his voice soft and inflecting just enough of the famous vampire charm to make his soothing baritone work as a lullaby of sorts.
Looking down as he felt her hand move from beneath the blankets, Emmett smiled to see her clutching his shirt in her loose fist. He looked up when Carlisle reached out to tuck Bella’s hair behind her ear and found his father’s expression to be full of worry and grief for the girl. Leaning down over them, Carlisle pressed a gentle kiss to Bella’s cheek and stood from the bed.
“I shouldn’t be too long,” he assured Emmett and reached into his pocket for Bella’s phone. “Charlie called a few minutes ago. Keep this close in case he or Edward calls for her.”
“I want to know what he said to her,” Emmett said in a low voice, his words almost growled.
“So do I,” Carlisle said and walked out of the room.
He released a silent sigh as he pulled the door almost closed and looked at the painted wood barrier. He had been suspicious before that Bella wasn’t doing as well as she wanted everyone to believe, but now he had undeniable proof. His eyes fell closed as his mind once more played over what the pharmacist had told him. Every two weeks Bella needed to buy sedatives and stimulants and almost every week she had to buy anti nausea medicine. She couldn’t sleep, couldn’t seem to stay awake and most likely wasn’t able to keep anything down.
“Oh my daughter,” he thought aloud, his voice barely a whisper as he moved back down the stairs and to the front door. “I will fix this. Somehow, I will fix this.”