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“I don’t know if eating food with chopsticks was the wisest decision,” Bella said, scowling at her bowl of fried rice and beef and broccoli. She growled lowly at the chopsticks next to the bowl. “I’m also not very adept at eating with my non-dominant hand. Add in two pieces of wood to try and shovel this into my mouth? Yeah, no.”
“You’ve got this, Bells,” Rosalie said, handing her a spoon. “I could always spoon feed you.”
“I’m going to drop kick you,” Bella grumbled. “This is so humiliating.” She sighed, picking up the spoon and began eating.
“I bet you don’t feel this self-conscious when you’re with Edward,” Alice chirped, slurping up her lo mein. “God, this is so good.”
“I don’t feel self-conscious because he’s been with me every step of the way while I’ve recovered. I’ve got a long way to go, unfortunately,” she sighed.
“How so?” Rosalie asked.
“My broken wrist … I’ll have to have surgery on it,” Bella explained, scowling at the aforementioned wrist. “I went to a specialist, at Edward’s insistence, since my wrist is still hurting. It shouldn’t be this painful, almost two weeks post break. My ribs feel better, but I’m still taking pain meds for my wrist. I tried to use something over-the-counter, but it didn’t help. It barely scratched the surface when it came to pain management.”
“What are you on?” Alice asked.
“Tramadol,” Bella said. “I didn’t want to be on anything stronger, like oxy. If I stay on a schedule, my pain is manageable.” She dipped her spoon into her meal and managed to not spill it all over shirt. “Speaking of which, I need my pain pill. Rose, next to the stove, there’s my prescription bottle. Can you grab my meds for me?”
“Got it, Bells,” she said, hopping up and opening up the medication. She handed Bella two pills. “So, I heard that you went to the police station today. How did that go?”
Bella swallowed her medicine, grimacing. “It’s over. They just needed some information about what happened in the apartment, to close up the case, since my mom was a little confused. When she’s stressed, she gets very scattered. She lost some time. Her memories were fuzzy.”
“You also lost some time. You were knocked unconscious,” Rosalie said, her lip curled into a snarl. “I also cannot believe that Peter fell in with Aro.”
“Peter is a douche … was a douche,” Bella said. “My dad had every right to fire him. He obviously couldn’t cope with that.”
“I looked into Peter, specifically into his psychological evaluation,” Rosalie smirked. “He applied several times to the fire department. He had a history of mental health issues and he wouldn’t be accepted until he had his issues under control. He didn’t like to be on medication. Well, that’s what was said in his file.”
“Is that allowed?” Alice asked.
“What? Me looking up his psych evaluation or him not being approved to work for the fire department until he got his shit together?” Rose snorted, arching a brow at Alice.
“Both,” Alice chuckled.
“Most high-stress jobs have a psychological test that new hires need to pass,” Bella said. “When I went into medicine, I had to take several classes about the psychology of medicine and the stresses it causes to your body, especially when you’re in the midst of residency. I was rarely home. Essentially, I lived at the hospital. My specialty was not as intense as a surgical residency, but it was insane.”
“You’re going insane staying at home, aren’t you?” Rose snickered.
“Absolutely bonkers,” Bella retorted. “I’m a workaholic and staying home, thinking about what happened, my recovery and reliving that nightmare … it’s too much. I miss work, but I know I can’t go back until I’m free of this mess.” She waved her casted arm with a glower. She put her empty bowl into the sink, padding to her living room. She plopped down, curling up into a tiny ball.
“Are the nightmares as bad as they were in the beginning?” Rose asked. Bella gave her a look. “I was visiting Edward when you had a particularly nasty one. I left before you woke up.” Rose and Alice put their plates in the sink, joining Bella on the couch.
“Yes and no,” Bella replied, huffing in aggravation. “I still have them, though not every night. However, when I do have nightmares, they’re horrible. I wake up looking around for Aro to come out of the shadows, or worse. The most horrific dreams are the ones where I didn’t get out of the fire, meeting my sister’s fate, except I didn’t fall to my death. I was charbroiled.”
“Have you told this to Edward?” Rose asked, her face filled with concern for her friend and tucking her legs under her body.
“No. I don’t want to be a bother,” Bella muttered as she rubbed her good hand up and down the arm of the couch. “I’m already relying so much on Edward as it is. My feminist independent sensibility is taking a beating because of that.”
“Have you spent the night apart since Aro’s death?” Alice asked.
“No, but the big part of it is that Edward keeps the nightmares away,” Bella grumped.
“That may be true, but have you looked at him?” Rose pressed. “I saw him when he left and girl, my partner looks like death warmed over. Does he sleep? Ever?”
“We fall asleep at the same time and magically, he’s always there when I have my nightmares, gently holding me and coaxing me awake,” Bella explained. “What do you think that means?”
“Edward is more than likely having nightmares, as well,” Rose surmised. “If I had to hazard a guess, he hasn’t gotten a good night’s sleep since the fire. Carlisle and Esme are both worried about him. I think that’s part of the reason why Esme called him this afternoon.”
“And, how do you know that?” Bella asked, her temper flaring.
“I was visiting with Emmett,” Rose said. “Alice was there, too, with Jasper. We went out with Carlisle and Esme for lunch the other day. They expressed concern about Edward. The last time Edward was this shattered, it was after the death of your sister.”
“We’re not saying this to make you feel guilty or anything, but we’re just concerned about you,” Alice added. “You haven’t gone out except when you have physical therapy or today, when you went to the police station.”
“I’ve been so selfish,” Bella muttered. “So focused on my recovery.” Bella couldn’t believe what they had said. Why had he not said anything? Why had she not seen that he was hurting?
“Before you start blaming yourself, you need to admit you haven’t told him about your more intense nightmares either,” Rose argued.
“But …” Bella began, but was cut off.
“No buts. You two need to talk about everything you’re dealing with regarding your recovery. Don’t hold things back because you think it would be too hard for him. Lean on him and allow him to lean on you,” Rose challenged. “Tonight was the first step by pushing him out of this condo. I’d drag you to a bar right now, but you are looking a little ragged.”
“I can’t exactly put on my makeup or do my hair with a broken arm. Plus, I still can’t drink with painkillers,” Bella snorted. Alice vibrated with excitement. “And, no Alice. No makeovers.”
“I can agree to that, but what about some girly pampering? Pedicures?” Alice suggested. “I brought my kit.”
Parking his SUV in the garage, Edward grabbed his bag and opened the door to his parents’ home. “Hello? I’m here!” he called out.
“In the kitchen,” Esme replied. “I’m making dinner. Your favorite!”
He ambled into the kitchen, dropping his bag onto the floor near the doorway. His mother, who’s hair was beginning to grow back from her bout with chemo that was styled in an adorable pixie cut, was standing at the stove, mixing something in a large pot. “Smells good. Pasta sauce? Lasagna?”
“Like I said, your favorite. I wanted to make something special for you.” Esme said, giving him a smile. “It’s been so long since you’ve been here. I’ve missed you.”
“I miss you, too, but I had to take care of Bella. Renee is fawning over Charlie,” Edward explained.
“Have you seen them? Renee and Charlie?” Esme asked, adding some more seasoning to the pot of sauce.
“No, we haven’t. Other than going to physical therapy, we haven’t left Bella’s condo,” Edward explained, sitting down at the counter in his parent’s kitchen. “We went to the police department today, which is why I was so hesitant to leave her. She’s been having nightmares.”
“What about you? Edward, I’m saying this from a place of love, but you look terrible,” Esme chided gently. “When was the last time you had a good night’s sleep?”
“I don’t … I have to protect Bella. She’s …” he trailed off.
“Son, I know you love Bella, but you have to focus on yourself,” Esme said, sitting down next to her son. “You were also injured, rattled to the core. What happened at The Stockyards was your worst nightmare, to be perfectly honest. The possibility of losing someone you loved more than your own life, it’s terrifying.” She kissed his cheek. “I think your father can help you come to grips with that.”
“How so?” Edward asked grumpily.
“Why did you fly home?” Esme pressed, arching a brow.
“Because you were sick,” Edward replied. “You’re better now.”
“But, my current good health is not guaranteed, Edward,” Esme murmured. “Your father struggled with my diagnosis. He was terrified that I wouldn’t survive my battle with ovarian cancer. It’s one of those cancers that if not caught early, is fatal. Bella saved my life, sweetheart. My diagnosis was on the cusp of being too late to be treated and if it hadn’t been for Bella, along with her innovative treatment strategies, you would be planning a funeral …”
“Mom!” Edward growled. “Don’t say that!”
“If it weren’t for Bella, that would have been the truth,” Esme said, taking his hand. “It’s also why your father can understand what you’re going through, Edward. He was terrified that he would lose me and he almost did. Just like you almost lost Bella … He’s outside, enjoying a rare day off.”
Edward hated to admit that he was in the same place he was after Bella’s sister, Angela, died. This is what drove him out of his home and prompted him to leave the firefighting profession. He changed the trajectory of his life, becoming a fire investigator because of what happened all those years ago. Years of self-imposed guilt and there was no doubt he would still be in Boston if Esme had not become sick. Stepping close to his mother, he pulled her into a powerful hug. “I never want to think about you dying.”
“I don’t want to die. I want to see you married and I can’t wait to have a house full of grandchildren running around,” Esme confessed, with tears threatening to fall.
Placing a kiss to her head, he let her go and stepped back, giving her one of his crooked smiles. “Grandchildren? Who said I was going to give you grandchildren?”
“Renee and I did,” she smirked.
“I think I’m going outside and hang out with Dad before you start planning a wedding,” Edward chuckled.
“Oh, the wedding has already been planned. We’re just waiting for you to get off your ass and pop the question,” she declared with a wave of her hand. “So, get popping!”
Shaking his head, he walked through the den, through the double French doors and into the backyard. Looking around, he couldn’t help but smile. Every inch of the yard reflected his mother’s green thumb. The yard was filled with multi-colored flower beds, trellises with deep red roses climbing to the tops, and well-manicured lawns, which she allowed the groundskeeper to mow and trim. Looking across the yard, Edward spotted his father walking from one side to the other, much like he was marking off something. Moving closer, he noticed his dad had a pad of paper and was writing something down. “Hey, Dad.”
Carlisle looked up and smiled. “Edward, it’s so good to see you.” He crossed over to his son and hugged him tightly. Pulling back, he stared at Edward. “I’m so happy you’re here today.”
“What are you doing?” Edward asked, grinning crookedly at his dad as he stepped back.
“Oh, just some future planning,” Carlisle replied, looking around at the open space.
“Planning for what?”
“Measuring to see how big of a play structure I can place in this space,” Carlisle answered with a coy smirk.
“First Mom, and now you?” Edward laughed, shaking his head.
“What can I say?” Carlisle quipped. Then, his expression turned serious when he saw the dark circles under Edward’s eyes. “Come, have a seat with me.”
Edward followed his father over to the gazebo, which his father had built for his mother. After tirelessly searching for the perfect gazebo, he found the one. The gazebo was called Alton Broadwell Summer Home. A United Kingdom company designed and built the stunning building. With Seattle’s crazy weather, he wanted to make sure that Esme had a place that could protect her from the rainy days, yet opened for the rare days of sunshine. It was an impressive ten-by-ten gazebo with red cedar siding, solid redwood frames, copper roofs, and Georgian windows. She had decorated in her favorite colors of turquoise and coral, stating that it reminded her of their honeymoon.
After his dad had taken a seat in one of the wicker chairs, Edward sat down beside him, leaned forward and put his face in his hands.
“Edward, tell me, what’s going on?” Carlisle urged, placing his hand on Edward’s back.
“Bella is having nightmares,” he stated.
“Nightmares?” Carlisle questioned.
“Yes … no,” Edward cried. “Fuck, they’re worse than nightmares. She wakes up screaming for me to save her.”
“You did save her, son,” Carlisle said. “It sounds like she’s having night terrors.”
“I should have gotten there sooner. I failed her, just like I failed her sister.”
“Edward, you failed neither one of them,” Carlisle argued. “I understand how you feel. When your mother found out that she had cancer, I wasn’t even with her. I had a meeting that I thought was more important than going to the doctor with her. When I came home that night, I found her curled up on a chair in our bedroom staring out the window.
“Did I ask her how the doctor’s appointment went? No, I didn’t. Instead, I went into the bathroom and took a shower. When I was finished I came out and I saw that she was crying. Rushing over, I asked her what was wrong and after what seemed like forever she told me she had cancer. I felt I failed her, but I didn’t. I was with her every step of the way, but that guilt ate at me. It still does rear its ugly head. Having your mother happy and healthy lessens that guilt, but it never goes away. I didn’t fail your mother, and you didn’t fail Bella either.”
“I DID!” Edward yelled, jumped to his feet and began his own pacing. He had failed her, and no one could tell him differently.
Carlisle knew that this was so much more than Bella’s nightmares. “Are you having nightmares, as well?”
Edward whipped his head around, his green eyes blazing. “No,” he lied. “Look, I am going to call Bella, then I’m going to bed. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Taking off across the yard, he never looked back. Slipping past the kitchen, not wanting to see his mother, he made his way to his old bedroom. Once he was inside, he collapsed on the bed.
Why was he so fucking weak?
Why couldn’t he make her nightmares go away?
Why didn’t he figure out that it was Aro who was starting the fires?
Lost in his thoughts, the sleepless nights finally caught up with him and Edward drifted off.
Carlisle came inside after Edward tore through the backyard and went to find Esme. He found her in the kitchen. She turned from the stove, wiping her hands on a towel. “Did he open up?” she asked.
“Not really,” he answered.
“Where is he?”
“He said he was going to his room,” Carlisle replied. “He’s carrying so much on his shoulders, Es. He’s going to break.”
“Well, he needs to eat,” Esme declared and climbed up the stairs.
Walking down the hallway, she reached Edward’s bedroom door, which was partially opened. Looking inside, she saw that he was asleep, completely dead to the world. Slipping in, she stood over him and watched him for a few moments. His sleep was not restful. Even in slumber, his brows were furrowed and his fears were clearly apparent on his face.
Her little boy was hurting and she didn’t know what to do to help him. Reaching down, she grasped the blanket on the foot of the bed and pulled it over his sleeping body. She tucked it in around him, like she did when he was a child. Leaning down, she placed a kiss on his forehead. “Love you, my sweet boy,” she whispered, before leaving the room and closing the door.
She quietly went back down the hallway and stairs to go find the love of her life. He was in the kitchen, pulling out the tray of lasagna from the oven. He turned around after he had placed the tray on the stand. “Hey, did you check on Edward? What was he doing?” he asked.
“Sleeping,” Esme answered, walking over and placing her arms around his waist. “He looked so helpless and needed sleep so badly that I couldn’t wake him up.”
Wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close, instantly causing her to burst out into tears. “Shh, my love. We’ll be here when he wants to talk, when he’s ready.”
Pulling back she wiped her eyes. “Thank you for loving me.”
“Damn woman. I’m the lucky bastard to have someone as loving and caring as you. You have been the best wife and mother to our sons,” Carlisle confessed.
After a few minutes wrapped in each other’s arms, Esme looked up. “Let’s eat and I’ll fix a plate for Edward when he wakes up.”
“Sounds really good, my love,” Carlisle said, placing a sweet kiss on her lips. Taking their plates to the dining room they sat side by side, eating and enjoying each other’s company.
Dinner was delicious. Then again, Esme was an amazing cook. Edward did not wake up as they ate. The plate that was made for him was covered and placed in the fridge, while the leftovers were packaged for freezing. Some of the lasagna was saved for Emmett, Jasper and Carlisle for lunch, along with a small supply for Edward to bring back to Bella.
Carlisle and Esme watched some television for the rest of the evening, hoping that Edward would wake up and talk to them. When the news came on, it became evident that Edward was down for the count.
They walked upstairs, getting ready for bed. Esme put her head on Carlisle’s chest. “I’m so worried about him, Carlisle,” she whispered in the darkness. “What if …”
“He’ll be okay, my love,” Carlisle soothed. “It’ll take time, but he’s a survivor. As is Bella …”
She huffed out a breath, moving closer to her husband. “I hope so. I truly hope so.”
“I love you, my Esme,” he whispered, cupping her chin and kissing her tenderly.
“I love you more, Carlisle,” she smiled, brushing his hair back before snuggling closer to him. They eventually fell asleep, curled together.
A couple hours later, there was a blood curdling scream from down the hall. Carlisle and Esme startled awake. Carlisle got his bearings first and ran toward the screams. Esme was following close behind. Bursting through Edward’s door, they found him screaming and thrashing in his bed.
Carlisle reached the side of the bed and placed his hand on Edward’s shoulder, shaking him to wake him up. “Edward, son, wake up.”
He didn’t wake up. Edward was trapped in his nightmare.
Inside a burning building, he was holding onto Angela’s arm as she dangled outside the window. She was looking up at him with terror in her eyes. “HOLD ON, ANGELA!” he yelled, as his grip began to slip.
Suddenly, Angela disappeared and Bella appeared, her hair longer and much curlier.
“EDWARD! PLEASE, DON’T LET ME DIE!” Bella screamed.
“BELLA, DON’T LET GO.”
“I’M SLIPPING,” Bella shrieked.
Edward blinked and when he opened his eyes, Bella was gone.
“BELLA! BELLA! BELLA!” he wailed, watching her fall into the flames. Her eyes were never leaving his and her hands, outreaching for him to save her. The nightmare began again as soon as she disappeared.
“Carlisle, why is he not waking up?” Esme asked, concerned for her son.
“I don’t know,” he answered, continuing his efforts in trying to wake Edward up. “Call Bella, maybe she knows something we can do.”
Esme pulled out her phone and called Bella.
Across the city, Rose, Alice and Bella were watching some chick flicks, trying to keep Bella’s mind off her pain. Bella heard her phone ringing from the cocktail table and when she looked at the screen she saw that it was Esme. Picking up and instead of Esme’s voice, she heard screams. “ESME!”
“Bella, Edward is having a nightmare and we can’t wake him,” Esme cried, tears rolling down her cheeks.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” Bella clipped. As soon she hung up, she rushed to her bedroom grabbing up a sweatshirt and slipping her feet in her tennis shoes. When she walked out of her room, she ran into Rose and Alice.
“What’s going on?” Rose asked.
“Edward,” Bella rushed, her eyes wild.
“Has something happened to him?” Alice questioned, hoping that nothing serious was going on with him. Bella couldn’t lose him; he was her other half.
“He won’t wake up from a nightmare,” Bella cried. “I need to get to him.”
“Alice, grab your coat! We’re driving you,” Rose declared, pulling on her coat and slipping her feet into her shoes. Alice did the same, tapping on her cell phone.
They rushed out of the condo and into the elevator. The ride in the elevator car to the basement garage was almost unbearable. As soon as they arrived on the floor and the door opened, they made a mad dash to Rose’s car. Alice jumped in the backseat, while Bella got into the passenger seat. Rose slid into the driver’s seat and pushed the start button.
The loud powerful engine came to life. Damn, Rose loved this car. It was a Dodge Challenger SRT 392, with a 6.4L V8 engine with 485 horsepower and 475-lb of torque. Her baby could go from zero to sixty in 4.5 seconds, and today she was going to put it to the test. Flipping the switch, she turned on her red flashing lights and stomped on the gas, pushing them all back in the seats.
“DAMN, ROSE! SLOW THE FUCK DOWN!” Alice yelled.
“Shush, Alice. Khaleesi is one sweet ride,” Rose purred, rubbing her hand over the dash as she sped out of the garage onto the street. Whipping in between cars, she never slowed down, wanting to get Bella to Edward as fast as possible.
Bella hadn’t said a word since they left the condo, tuning out whatever Rose and Alice were saying. Her thoughts were focused on Edward and the pain he must be experiencing. She knew how it felt to have nightmares that were so real that you believed your heart was going to explode through your chest.
Why wouldn’t he wake up for his parents?
What if he never did?
She was lost in her horrible thoughts, until she heard Rose telling Alice the name of her car. “You named your car after a Game of Thrones character?” Bella asked.
“Hell, yeah. She emerged from the fire with three baby dragons. How fucking cool is that?” Rose marveled, with a huge smile on her face. She loved the television series and so did Emmett. They watched every episode and she even had a Khaleesi gown that she sometimes wore for him in bed. Damn … talk about walking through flames. Holy hell … he was hot in the sack.
Twenty minutes later they skidded to a stop in front of Carlisle and Esme’s home. Bella threw open the door and ran up to the front door. Turning the door knob, she was happy to see that it was unlocked. As soon as she was in the house, she heard Edward’s screams, calling out her name. Running up the stairs, she rushed down the hall to Edward’s bedroom. Once inside the room, she found Carlisle and Esme sitting on the bed, trying to soothe Edward awake.
“Bella,” Carlisle called out when he noticed her arrival. He gave her a grateful smile. “I’m so happy you’re here.”
“He hasn’t woken up yet?” Bella questioned, as she looked at Edward, concern swirling in her eyes.
“No,” Carlisle answered, stood up and made a spot for Bella.
Bella climbed up on the bed and pressed her body to Edward. He was still fighting the demons in his nightmares, calling out her name over and over again. Placing her good hand on the side of his face and began whispering. “I’m here, love. We’re fine. Feel me. I’m here. I’ll always be here. We made it through the fire and I need you to wake up. Please let me see those beautiful green eyes that make my heart burn with desire. Those eyes that see me. Please, baby. Open your eyes. I’m here, love. I’m here. Come back to me. I’m here, love.”
Edward was fighting the fire once more, trying to get to Bella who was tied to a chair. There were flames licking their way closer and closer, threatening his reason for living. Just as the flames were about to reach her, he heard a voice cutting through the heat and smoke. “I’m here, love,” the sweet voice said. He knew that voice. That was the voice of his love, his soul, his very breath. Following her soft voice, he made his way through the darkness, climbing toward that voice … toward salvation.
Opening his eyes, he sighed, “Bella.”
“Oh, love,” she cooed.
Carlisle and Esme were so relieved Bella had been able to bring Edward out of his nightmare. They stood, watching the couple for several minutes to ensure Edward was okay, but they soon realized they needed to give them some privacy. Leaning down, Carlisle whispered to Esme. “Let’s give them some time alone.”
Esme hated the idea of leaving her son while he was hurting. Yet, one look at the two of them, she knew that Carlisle was right. Bella had only been here a few minutes and she had brought him out of his nightmare. Taking Carlisle’s hand, she led him out the room and when they got to the hallway, she closed the door. She saw Rose and Alice standing outside. She guided the two women to the kitchen to offer them some tea.
Inside Edward’s bedroom, Bella smoothed her hand across his forehead, along his eyebrow, down his slightly scruffy cheek, and ended her exploration by cupping his jaw. She was sick with worry, staring at his flushed face and glazed eyes. She murmured, “How long have you been having nightmares?”
“Bella, it’s not important,” Edward grumbled, not wanting her to see his weakness.
“It is important. You have been with me for every nightmare, comforting me, making me safe,” Bella declared. “But, it hurts me to know that you were hurting and I didn’t comfort you.”
“You do comfort me,” Edward said, skimming his hand up and down her arm.
Bella climbed off him and sat on the bed. “We need to share everything with each other, not just the good.”
“Bella, I’m only having bad dreams,” he remarked, not wanting to let on just how bad the dreams were.
“Edward, I heard you screaming all the way down the stairs. These are more than just bad dreams. Please tell me about them.”
Sitting up, he leaned against the headboard and opened his arms to her. Bella crawled into his arms, snuggling close to his chest. Once he had his arms wrapped tightly around her, feeling the rise and fall of her breaths, he began. “I was back in the fire, and first, I was holding onto Angela’s hand, trying to pull her back in the window. I looked away for just a second and when I looked back it wasn’t Angela I was holding onto. It was you. The flames were building and building. Then, I lost my grip on your hand. You fell, screaming out to me and you disappeared in the flames,” he revealed, as tears poured down his cheeks. “Then, the nightmare loops and it begins again, over and over, never releasing me.”
Bella turned and wiped the tears from his face. “You saved me. I’m here today because you saved me.”
“But … ” he began, but Bella put her finger to his lips.
“No, buts. We survived together. We are stronger together,” she pointed out, then took a deep breath. She had been wanting to ask him the next question for so long. “I love you with all that I am and I don’t want to spend another night apart. Move in with me.”
Edward, who’s face had been haggard and exhausted, relaxed and he broke out into a huge smile. He had wanted to ask that very question so many times. It seemed too soon, but the mere thought of not spending a night away from her caused him a lot of stress. Leaning down, he captured her mouth in a kiss of love and promise. When they finally parted, he murmured his answer against her lips. “Yes.”
“Okay,” Bella said, wriggling in his arms.
“Hey, where are you going?” he asked, panicking slightly. “Stay with me, Bella.”
“Nowhere,” she quipped. “I’m just trying to take off my shoes.” He relaxed his hold on her and she kicked off her shoes. She also pulled out her cell phone, texting Rose. She briefly explained that she was staying with Edward. Not waiting for a response, she curled back up in Edward’s arms. “You know, we’re both kind of fucked up.”
“I know,” Edward sighed, closing his eyes.
“We need help, love,” she said. “We’ve lost so much … so much pain and despair.”
“No disagreement there,” Edward snorted humorlessly.
“But, we need stability. I think we can get that together,” Bella explained. “We also need happiness, a lot of happiness.”
“I’m happy with you,” Edward whispered, trailing his fingers down her cheek. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, but we need therapy, Edward. Both of us,” she said. “Will you go with me?”
“You’re right and I will,” he agreed, kissing her. “After we get a good night’s sleep.”
Within a month of that night, Edward and Bella began seeing therapists, both individually and as a couple. Bella finally worked through the death of her twin sister, her commitment issues and irrational fears of being turned into a charcoal briquette. Edward dealt with his PTSD that had stemmed from Angela’s death, which led to a number of other struggles he was trying to overcome. The biggest issue was his separation anxiety, being away from Bella. If he could see her, he would know that she was safe. When they separated, everything went to shit.
But, in reality, being together all the time was unlikely to happen. They couldn’t be attached at the hip twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Eventually, they would have to go back to work.
Bella was off for the rest of the calendar year due to her wrist injury. She had the surgery, setting her wrist properly. Physical and occupational therapy were required before she could return to work at Sloan-Kettering. Victoria and her oncology fellow were covering Bella’s patient load, but occasionally, Dr. Swan was called to consult.
Edward was scheduled to return back to the fire department once he was deemed fit for duty by his therapist. However, the role in which he was returning to was up in the air. With what happened, Edward knew that he could not go back into an active fire. He was uncertain, however, if he could go back to the fire investigation unit either. He’d missed all the clues regarding the situation with Aro Volturi. It was his mistake that caused him to almost lose his Bella.
Also, within that month, Edward began to move into the condo with Bella. He didn’t need to move in any furniture, but they did need to rearrange some of the stuff in her place, namely spots on the walls for his accolades and space in the home office for his books. He was working in the office when he heard the door open to the condo. Bella was at therapy followed by a girl’s night out with Alice, Rose and her boss, Victoria. He wasn’t expecting her home for some time, but still called out, “Bella?”
“Calm your tits, Cullen,” came the gruff voice of his former chief. Charlie ambled into the office, a wry smirk on his face. His arm was strapped in a large contraption. “Are you settled?”
“For the most part,” Edward responded. “I just need to adjust my mailing address and driver’s license and then I’ll be good to go. How’s your shoulder?”
“Completely fucked,” Charlie sighed. “I was at P/T when I got a text from my lovely wife. She’s going out with the girls. Your mom is joining them. I’m not supposed to drive. I decided to drive here to check on you since it’s so close to the rehabilitation center.”
“I can drive you back home, Charlie,” Edward smiled.
“Not yet. I need to get out of that fucking house,” Charlie snorted. “Come on. Let’s talk. I want to hear how you’re doing.”
“Physically, I’m all cleared. My injuries were relatively minor. I’m struggling with the psychological injuries of what happened,” Edward explained as they walked to the living room. “Do you want something to eat? Drink?”
“I wish I could have some beer, but pain killers,” Charlie grumbled. “Have any soda?”
Edward grabbed a couple of drinks from the fridge. He also got some snacks, putting them onto a plate before sitting down on the couch after he’d handed Charlie his drink. “So, if your arm is fucked, what does that mean for you?” Edward asked.
“Retirement,” Charlie sighed, kicking his feet up. “Which brings me to the partial reason why I’m here, other than not going home.”
“What’s that?” Edward asked.
“A promotion for you, Lieutenant,” Charlie said.
“Why? I’m the one who fucked up this case,” Edward sneered. “If it weren’t for me …”
“We’d be planning funerals. You were the one who found the connection between the cases, Edward,” Charlie snapped. “It was that connection to me that saved Bella and Renee. Son, you’re being considered for an award of valor and I want you to take over as the head of the arson investigation team. Chief Edward Cullen has a nice ring to it, hmmm?”
“But, the department is … I need to be cleared by the department shrink,” Edward said. “I’m struggling with what happened.”
“So am I. I also get why you’re panicking. It’s not your fault. The blame solely lies with Aro Volturi and his twisted sense of vengeance,” Charlie explained. “Edward, you’re an amazing fireman, a brilliant scientist and clear-headed leader.”
“What about Rosalie? She’s been in the department longer than I have,” Edward argued weakly.
“She may be, but she doesn’t have your schooling or your leadership credentials,” Charlie explained. “Rose didn’t go to university. She rose up through the ranks from being an EMT, to paramedic, to firefighter and coming to work for me shortly after Angela’s death. I taught her everything and she absorbed it like a sponge. What she lacks is your intuition and your scientific methodology. It’s how you figured out Aro’s bullshit.”
“Charlie,” Edward whispered. “I …”
“Don’t give me a response now. Just consider it. You have time, son. Besides, I have another thing I want to talk to you about,” Charlie smirked. “You moved into my daughter’s condo and there’s no ring on her damn finger. I’m a pretty progressive guy, but I can only take so much. My daughter living in sin is one thing to make my blood pressure sky rocket.”
“Well, according to my mother and your wife, the wedding’s planned,” Edward quipped. “All that’s missing is a ring.”
“And?” Charlie laughed.
“I’ve got it and I’m waiting for the right time. So, this is me, asking you for your permission to ask Bella to be my wife,” Edward blushed.
“You have my blessing, Edward,” Charlie agreed. “Now, enough of this touchy-feely talking bullshit. Isn’t there a game on?”
Charlie stayed for the rest of the baseball game. Edward ordered pizza and they relaxed until it was time to drive him home. Bella was at their house and she eagerly left with her boyfriend, along with a box. She told him about her therapy session, along with the gab-fest she’d had with her friends and their mothers. Edward shared Charlie’s news about retirement, which she’d known, and his possible promotion, which she did not know.
Arriving back at the condo, Bella said that the box was from Esme. Carrying it up to their shared space, he put it on the kitchen counter and opened it up. “I’d forgotten these,” Edward said, pulling out various picture frames. “I never put them up.”
“Let me see,” Bella commanded, taking the frames and giggled at the photos of Edward and his brothers. They’d grown up into handsome men, but were gangly, awkward teenagers. “Wow … those are some glasses on Jasper.”
“Lasik,” Edward snickered. “I was the only one born with good eyes, no glasses or contacts. Here’s a more recent photo from the benefit. We clean up nicely, hmmm?”
“I’m a lucky girl,” Bella smiled. “We should put these on the fireplace mantel. The ultimate glow up.” She took the two frames and walked to the mantel. She saw a picture of her family … the last photo as a family … at her medical school graduation.
“I never realized how much you and Angela looked alike,” Edward said, walking up to her. He slid his arm around her waist.
“Identical twins,” she whispered. “But, we had our own style, as you can see. Ang was very refined and I’m not. That came from her classical music training. I was a little more rough around the edges.” She ran her finger along Angela’s smiling face in the photo. “I’m at peace over her death, Edward. It’s taken a long time, and a lot of therapy but with you, I’m at peace and I’m finally happy again.”
“I was haunted by Angela’s ghost. Hell, when I first met you, I thought I was actually seeing a ghost or having a psychotic break,” Edward snorted.
“Again, we were identical twins, babe,” Bella deadpanned.
“Anyway, after I’d met you, I was finally able to come to grips with her death and that it wasn’t my fault. I felt guilty that I’d …” he trailed off. “I lived with that guilt for so many years, but it was your love and your strength that gave me motivation to put that behind me. I’m not going to look toward the past. Not anymore. I’m eager to live in the present and look forward to our future.”
“Me, too, Edward,” Bella whispered, turning in his arms.
“Don’t move,” he blurted, kissing her. He dashed away, leaving Bella confused in front of the fireplace.
He’d received Charlie’s blessing and there was no time like the present. He was eager to begin his new life, with Bella by his side.
He found the tiny jewelry box inside his watch case. The ring belonged to his grandmother, his Nana Platt. It was left to him in his will. Well, the band had disintegrated, but the three-carat cushion-cut stone was intact. He’d had it set into an elegant platinum setting.
After he got the ring, he darted back to the fireplace, kissing Bella. “I’m living in the present,” he said, dropping to one knee. “I can’t wait to continue on this journey with you, my Bella. Even at my darkest moments, you were my light, the burning fire inside my soul. I love you, Isabella Marie Swan. Will you marry me?”
Bella looked at the beautiful man, realizing that he was laying his heart on the line. She’d loved him with every ounce of her being. Her words were gone and she only nodded eagerly. The exquisite, crooked grin that broke across Edward’s face as he slid on the ring brought tears to Bella’s eyes. He shot up, kissing her deeply as he spun her around happily.
“I love you, Bella,” Edward whispered against her lips as he put her on her feet. “Thank you for saying yes.”
“I love you so much, Edward,” she replied.
Even in the darkest of nights, the daylight will return … and that light and warmth that burns is the fire within the soul.
A/N: So, this was the last real chapter. We have an epilogue, a future-take, to catch a glimpse of FireWard and DoctorElla in the future.
Thank you for sticking with us.
Lots of love,
Tufano79 and HeartForTwilight