TwiFic Doctorward Contest

Title: Shifting Winds

Prompt #: 3

Pairing: Edward/Bella

Genre: Family

Summary: Edward thought he had his life planned out, but one little wrinkle changed things.

Word count: 5,478

Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.

"Mrs. Newton, if you wouldn't mind waiting outside. We'll only be a few minutes." Dr. Cullen requested, hoping he wouldn't have to usher the woman out the door. Susan Newton was kind and well intentioned, but the word overbearing was too polite for her behavior. He knew that this was technically against protocol. However, on previous visits, it had put Mike at ease. Luckily, she left the room without complaint.

"Mike, how are you?" he asked, getting straight down to business.

"Good, I guess," Mike mumbled.

"School going well? Keeping up with your classes?" Dr. Cullen continued.

"It's school. You know, same old shit. Classes, games…" Mike sighed.

"I think I can remember something about that." Edward chuckled. Even though a part of him told him to press for more, he knew he needed to take his time. Cases like Mike's were delicate at best.

"Is your coach still riding you hard? Do you have to practice when you go home?"

"Yep. He wants to make sure I'm keeping my tempo runs fast enough."

"Didn't you say he said he was going to make the harder runs in the morning?" Edward wondered aloud, trying to recall their last conversation.

"Yeah…" Mike responded as a resigned sigh escaped from his lips.

"Mike. I don't think that's such a good idea." Edward cautioned, narrowing his eyes. "You need to rebuild your strength. Recovery is going to be hard enough without you putting more stress on your body. You might need to consider quitting for the rest of the year."

"I can't, all right?" Mike yelled, throwing his hands up as he glowered back at the older man. "This is my one shot! My one shot to prove it to the scouts."

"You said there was always next year," Edward replied dryly.

"Well, there isn't, all right?" Mike hissed, slamming his hands on the seat.

"Are you eating?" Edward asked, gazing firmly into his patient's eyes.

"Kind of. Trying?"

"What do you mean by that?"

Mike's throat constricted. Edward knew he had to do something, or his patient would have been dead within minutes. As the young man's lungs grew heavier by the passing minutes, he fought against the tide that threatened to engulf him.

"Deep breaths, Mike. In and out. In and out," Edward encouraged. "Please try to start breathing normally again. Take your time. Don't rush."

Given his sudden reaction, Edward was worried. Even though they both wanted to deny it, Mike may have been worse off than he had anticipated. At this point, he knew he was treading on thin ice, at best. Every word, every gesture needed to be right, or else he would lose him forever.

As he waited for his patient to calm down, he prepared what he was going to say. He knew he needed to be honest, but cautious. This was technically not in his field of expertise, but he knew he could do something, some that that perhaps other doctors couldn't — or certainly wouldn't do.

"You're eating right and keeping track of everything?" Edward asked offhandedly.

"Yeah." Mike mumbled.


"I am. I knew you mentioned I shouldn't, but I can't help it," he admitted sheepishly. "It's too hard, and it feels wrong."

"Okay. Just know that for you to run well, you need to maintain your strength and to do that, you need to eat. Don't just stick with carrots, celery and cucumbers."

As he looked back at his patient, he could sense the eye roll that Mike was restraining.

"Mike, I get it. I know you don't believe me, but I do. Does your throat tighten when you look at food? Do you want to puke? Do you hate the thought of dinner? Do you avoid going out? Avoid the ice cream shop? Avoid restaurants in general?"

He was only met with a reluctant nod.

"You're where I was fifteen years ago. For me, I ran half marathons. Runner's high? It's addictive isn't it?" Edward spoke.

"It is." Mike smirked.

"I wanted to get faster. I needed to break 1:40 in the half. I was at 1:43. So close…."

"That's only 3 minutes!" Mike laughed. "What the hell?"

"Tell me about it. Just three minutes right? Just a few track days would have fixed it. Maybe a few 3200s or 1600s."

"1600s. I hate running longer intervals," he grumbled, his eyes narrowing.

"Me, too. And I still do. I mean they're helpful but…."

"You hate every minute when you're running."

Edward just chuckled and gave a sharp nod.

"Anyway, nutrition is important. You can't run the way you want to without being fueled properly. Trust me. Running a ten-miler is hard enough well fed. But underfed? You're tired and ravenous. It really is not fun at all."

"You really remember?" Mike asks, surprised at the revelation.

"I don't just remember. I know. I still run and every so often, I get knots in my stomach when it comes to food. The stomach tightening, the nausea, the way I hate my body. Yep. Been there," he said offhandedly. "I'm still there, some days."

"But…but you're normal?" Mike sputtered.

"Normal?" he questioned, raising an eyebrow. "I disagree. I still get flashes every now and then. I have my good days and bad days just like anyone."


"Heh… watch your mouth," Edward replied only half-jokingly. "Your mother wouldn't appreciate the language."


"Anyway… I get it. It's twisted, but I understand. But as your doctor, I'll do a couple things for you. First, I'll set up a referral to a therapist, as well as a nutritionist. Your therapist appointment will probably come through the mail or a phone call, but I can tell you, your nutritionist, barring other incident, will be Reyna Carlson. She's actually a registered dietician, as well as a peer counselor specializing in clients with eating disorders."

"What the hell?" Mike exclaimed.

"Hear me out. She's a peer counselor. She has her own story, too. We all do, Mike, so I think she'll be good for you. She also has some idea about how to work with athletes. I don't know what the both of them will have in store for you but…"

Their conversation was suddenly interrupted by a sharp knock on the door.

Holding up a finger, Edward half bellowed, "Yes?"

"Dr. Cullen, your phone is beeping." A mousy haired nursed named Bree informed him.

"I'm with a patient. It will wait. Please don't interrupt unless it's urgent," he commanded.

With a meek nod, she was gone.

"Sorry about that. She's probably new," Edward explained, turning back to his patient. "Anyways, so that's that."

Seeing the fear and uncertainty in his patient, he continued. "Look, it's not going to be easy. You want to be the best you can be, eating disorder or not. We all want it, too. Just give it a try. If it doesn't work, we'll try another nutritionist and therapist."

With some final words of encouragement, the appointment was concluded. Even though he loved his work, sometimes it was draining. And even though he meant what he said, he also felt a certain degree of fear. Edward Cullen had never disclosed that part of his past to most that he knew, much less a patient.

~~~~~~~~~ O ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ O ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Luckily, as the day progressed, the patients he saw were not nearly as draining. But there were still those times when he was bogged down by his job.

"Dr. Cullen, your wife has been calling," said a nurse named Jennifer.

"And you know this how?" he asked, quirking an eyebrow.

"I noticed your phone was blinking, and she left a message at the nurse's station. I know you told her not to do that unless it was an emergency," she responded.

"Well, I'll just talk to her tonight. I'm sure it's not that serious," he replied gruffly, turning back to his charts.

When his thoughts turned to his wife, he could only shake his head. She was a great person and a joy to be around, but some of her ideas were hilarious at best.

Painting the walls a putrid yellow with brown polka dots? He narrowly avoided that, thanks to a last minute intervention by Alice. Luckily, she had vouched for how absurd it looked. He wasn't so lucky with her warthog clock, though he did manage to avoid that thing, except for the occasional glance. Her attire was also an issue. Bella's outfits ranged from the outrageous, a blasted neon green tracksuit; to that disjointed frilly number he had seen her wear to work one rare morning. Those were just a few of her more recent escapades.

And there was the blasted room she loved to call her craft room. Edward was sure she was a hoarder, or well on her way to becoming one.

~~~~~~~~ O ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ O ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Leah, I'm sorry we're meeting under such bad circumstances," Edward stated, greeting the dark haired woman who had entered the room along with his wife. Turning to Bella, he questioned "What's this about? Why do you have Damien?"

"Tanya and I got to talking and she and I sort of became friends." she blurted, her cheeks turning a cherry red.


"ShenamedyouandIguardiansofDamieninherwill," she chirped at a speed he didn't think possible in real life.

"She what?" he exclaimed as he took a shaky step backwards and steadied himself against his desk.

"She named us Damien's legal guardians," she whispered.

"Okay?" Edward replied, rolling his eyes.

"She did it a few months back, but I didn't have time to tell you." She flushed.

"You didn't have time to tell me," he deadpanned. "Well you said months, and I've been around. When did you plan to tell me?"

"I don't know. You and I? Work? The house? The thing with my parents? There just wasn't any time."

Suddenly, the door creaked open. "Dr. Cullen? And, oh hi, Mrs. Cullen, I didn't realize…"

"What is it, Lauren?" he snapped, glaring at the petite blonde.

"I have the charts for…" she stammered.

"Leave it on the desk," he sighed, carelessly waving towards the mound of files on his desk.

"I'll get to it when I deal with..." motioning towards his wife and the baby in her arms.

As the nurse jetted out, the darker skinned woman made her presence known.

"I think that's my cue to go." Leah muttered. "Call me."

Suddenly, they were alone.

"Let's get this straight. Tanya named us legal guardians of Damien. But it still says nothing about why you have him."

"Well that's what I was trying to tell you," Bella croaked, with tears filling her eyes. "Tanya and Alec were killed in a car accident this morning."

Edward's chest tightened. Even though he didn't think they were close, he knew the pain of a losing a family member. A part of him wanted to hold onto his wife, but something still didn't sit right with him.

He knew he might regret it, he took a step back and spoke what he thought he might have never needed to say.

"Bella, I don't want kids. You know that. Hell, you knew that when we were dating. Nothing has changed. But most of all, you did it again. Not a phone call, not a text, no email. Nothing. You didn't think we should have sat down to discuss this?"

"Edward, please," she sobbed, as tears began to line her face.

"Bella, no. Don't you even dare. I thought we could work past this bullshit, but things just keep going downhill. It was small stuff at first, the wacky changes to the house, the nagging about this and that. I tried to let the little things go, but it just kept getting worse and worse."

Bella tried to speak, but as she attempted to open her mouth, the only sounds she produced were quiet sobs. Worse yet, Damien started to become unsettled due to the tension in the room.

"Hell, Bella, I had a plan. I had a better offer in Chicago, in New York. Hell, maybe DC would have been better for me. Better for us. But no, I moved to Seattle for you, so you could be nearer to your folks."

"We have a life here" she defended, choking back a sob.

"You have a life here. Not me. My job is a dead end. But you don't seem to care," Edward growled.

"I don't think I can do this any more," he hissed, running his fingers through his hair.

"Bella, I want a divorce."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ O ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ O ~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Bella laid down that night, she was exhausted. Damien was at her side sleeping on a mat, as he refused to go down in the pack and play that she had been given.

"Shit," she thought, as she attempted to get some sleep. This was not how she wanted to start out her life with Damien. He seemed to go down easily enough, but understandably reluctant as he seemed to sense her stress.

"It's all so new." she decided. "He's in a weird place with a new person and new smells. He just needs a little time."

She wished she had a little more time to process and decide things. She suddenly realized how wrong she had gone about things.

"I should have told him first, and now he's gone," she quietly sobbed. Bella knew how he felt about the situation. He didn't trust Tanya at all. He had patiently listened as she ranted and raved about Tanya's ludicrous behavior and her various incidents of teenage idiocy incongruent with her status as a young maturing woman. Lying, cheating, stealing, she had done it all.

Her experimentation with drugs had been brief, as it had come to a quick end when her friend Karen overdosed at a party. Tanya swore never to touch that poison again, avoiding all parties and activities where those substances could be found, but she was still reckless. When she had found Alec, all had hoped she could turn around. He was a former misfit himself, but a night in the drunk tank among the dregs of society had sobered him.

Looking over at the baby at her side, Bella realized it should have been Edward. She cared about Damien. He was a precocious baby boy who seemed to be interested in everything. But she recognized that the wrong boy was in bed with her. Edward was the order that could balance out her randomness. Despite his stodginess, he was one of the only people who could elicit more than a polite laugh from her.

He, of course, had used that ability to great effect over the years and she loved him for it. Even though he was known as stiff and unyielding, she knew he had a fun side to him. He had somewhat reluctantly come on many of her adventures, laughing with her as she made new discoveries. When she had fawned over a new novel, he had waited in line at a special release just so that he could get a limited edition signed copy just for her.

But he was gone, saying that he'd be back tomorrow for a few changes of clothes along with his personal items.

"Edward, you don't need to go," she pleaded. She knew she needed to make it up to him, to repair the damage she had caused.

"Bella, you made your bed. Maybe we just weren't meant to be. I'll be around in a few days for my stuff," he said.

Now she was alone. Despite his brief absence, his scent no longer seemed to linger in the house. Whenever he left for work or on one of his business trips, his scent would linger in the house, reminding her that he would return. Only now his shirts only smelled of their shared laundry detergent. She realized his woodsy scent was absent and it pained her.

Bella didn't know how she would do it, but she needed to press on. Her new charge depended on it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ O ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ O ~~~~~~~~~~~

Two weeks later

As Edward walked into his office, a colleague beckoned him over. "I hate to leave you in a lurch, but my case load is impossible today." Dr. Stanley said, shaking her head.

"Don't worry about. I'm glad to help," he countered shaking his head. He had helped her with her caseload over the past few months to the point where many of her patients were comfortable with him, even preferring his care, in certain respects.

Their department was small but busy, so their patients were aware and understanding if sometimes a colleague needed to stand in for the regular physician.

"How's your wife?" she asked. "She came in the other day and she looked worn out. Are things alright at home?"

"They're ok." Edward shrugged "Bella's fine, she's Bella," he noted by way of explanation.

"I know. I was just curious. She came by the other day, and she was, I don't know, flustered? She looked like hell, and not the good kind," she explained. "Looked like she hadn't slept for days, and I'm worried. She's usually, I don't know, perkier?" she ended with a nervous laugh.

"Anyways, I just wanted to pass that along. I assume she was looking for you, but you were elsewhere. She told me not to worry and that she'd talk to you later."

"Thanks." Dr. Cullen replied. "I'll definitely ask her what's going on, because I'm clueless."

She nodded in reply as she returned to her office.

Edward didn't know what to make of the situation. He had barely talked to Bella since Damien's arrival and his resulting declaration that he would seek to end their marriage. He was at a loss. For the first time since their marriage, she didn't even register on his radar. This usually would alarm him, but, somehow, it did not.

Edward knew that Bella was resilient and resourceful. The abrupt changes that she inserted into their lives wouldn't have been as successful if she wasn't. But adding a child into her life was different. She would face challenges no matter how prepared she was, and for the first time in her life, she would hold something fragile in her hands.

Furthermore, coupled with their impending divorce, she would need to truly rearrange her life. Thankfully, she had friends like Rosalie, Angela, and Alice to help her. Alice would be the biggest obstacle among them. Edward groaned as he thought of the trouble his sister could cause for the both of them.

She was close to Bella, but she emphasized family loyalty to the point of exhaustion. He didn't know who she would side with once the battle lines were drawn, but the vein in his head stretched to the near point of over exertion imagining the possibilities. Whoever she went against, that person was in for it.

Edward had compiled some of the most intricate treatment plans for his patients and dealt with extremely large backlogs, yet he was at a loss as to how to deal with his wife. She was the one person he thought he'd love forever, and for a while he did, but now?

Her numerous lapses and her bullshit floored him to the core of his existence. But unless the divorce became official, Bella was his wife. And he did swear to love and cherish her, in sickness and in health forever, so until the judge confirmed otherwise, he figured he should at least try to see what was going on. If anything, he needed make sure his house was still intact.

~~~~~~~~~~~~ O ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ O ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When he stepped through the door he couldn't help but exhale a sigh of relief when he saw the house was almost the same as how he had left it. Except for various items necessary for Damien, the place seemed rather unchanged.

Thank God.

Hearing noise coming from upstairs, he made his way towards the master bedroom.

Entering the master bedroom he couldn't help but announce himself. He hadn't been home for two weeks, and the house seemed a bit foreign to him.

"Bella? It's Edward."

She paid him no mind but was instead fully engrossed in the little boy before her. Cooing at her little boy, she did not notice that Edward had entered their room.

"Bella," he repeated softly but with a firmness in his voice so as to not startle the baby.

Bewildered, she whipped her head around. "Edward?" she sputtered.


"I need to finish up his bath, but if you need something, I didn't touch anything," Bella replied grimly.


Edward quickly gathered up his clothes and a few more items that he had left at the house. Thankfully, his most important reference volumes were at the hospital, so there wasn't much to do.

Finishing up, he realized the vibe in the house was different. There was musky warmth to the place. Even though he always found comfort returning home, there was usually an icy sterility to the place. But now it was different. His absence had also brought warmth into the dwelling. A level of happiness that alarmed him was present. Clearly, this was no longer his home. It was just a place that held some of his belongings.

After writing down his contact information in case anyone needed him or mail needed to be forwarded, he left. He contemplated leaving his key, but he couldn't take that step.

The thought caused his stomach to turn. That was too final, too soon, and he couldn't bring himself to do it.

As the days passed, Edward settled into a routine. Given his increased freedom, he was better able to add in things like an early morning run. Even though it was eerily dark when he set out, he consoled himself with relaxation that he felt when he ran.

His mornings only a held a few tougher cases. Even though he felt an awkward kinship with his patients, he knew that sometimes they needed a more experienced and objective physician. It was with a heavy heart that he advised that two of his patients continue their care with an individual better suited to meet their needs.

~~~~~~~~~~ O ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ O ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Making her way to the hospital, Bella's stomach churned. She hated the smell of the chemicals and aura of illness that were constant fixtures of the facility. This was Edward's world, not hers.


During his marriage, he had always been rigid. Edward awoke at a specific time on certain days, and he also engaged in the same activities at the same time of day. The way his mind worked mystified her. More so, his reactions when his routines were upset shook her, his attitude becoming almost violent during the worst incidents.

But this wasn't about her or even about him. This was about Damien. Making her way upstairs to Pediatrics, she was met with a few curious glances, but she had no patience for hospital bullshit as Edward had put it.

She had only told her closest confidants of their separation and likely divorce and hoped Edward had done likewise. She wanted to call him many times throughout their separation, but somehow resisted the temptation to do so.

Unfortunately, Damien had become unusually ill and irritable in the past few days. Moreover, she had forgotten to schedule a new pediatrician for Damien, so she came to the hospital in a rush. Edward always liked keeping his last appointment before the lunch hour and first after free. Bella only hoped he would not deviate from his routine.

"Mrs. Cullen? I didn't realize that you were scheduled today," a nurse she vaguely recognized greeted her.

"I'm not. Is Dr. Cullen free? This should only take a few minutes," she lied.

"Certainly. He's in his office. Do you need me to show you the way?"

"I'll be fine," she replied, trudging towards what she was certain to be another blow up.

Dropping the diaper bag, she opened the door and found Edward reviewing a few charts.

"Edward?" she asked.

Looking up, Edward had to do a double take. He didn't believe what he was seeing, but there they were. Bella stood before him with Damien on her hip.


"I know I'm the last person you want to see, but can you check out Damien? He's been sick the last few days and…" Bella requested.

"Sure. Let's go find a free exam room."

As soon as they were settled, Edward asked, "How long?"

"A few days. He's running a fever of one-oh-four, but he's thrown up a few times as well. I'm not sure what's going on."

"Did you ask his doctor or call the advice nurse?" Edward asked politely.

"No, I didn't. I've been too busy getting used to all of this," Bella admitted.

"Well, have you given him any baby Tylenol or Motrin?"

"A couple last night." She sighed.

"Have you done anything different in the last few days? Changed the laundry detergent, put him in new clothes, anything? Did you change his formula? Sometimes, babies are allergic to something in it."

"I did buy some formula that seemed cheaper than the others," she realized. "I didn't know it would make a difference."

"Don't worry about it, Bella. Do you know what Tanya and Alec were feeding him? That could be the best for now," he continued.

"I think so? I think I have a list back at the house."

The examination that Edward gave Damien seemed to find no abnormalities. But he also cautioned, "We'll need a few tests to make sure. I'll order up a blood test, a urinalysis and some x-rays so that you know what you're dealing with. I guess I shouldn't need to remind you that you'll need to add him to your insurance."

Almost frozen with fear, she could only nod meekly at the words being spoken to her.

"Bella, calm down. I'm sure it's nothing to worry about. This type of thing is typical, I'm sure everything is fine," he said soothingly.

"I just — I'm not sure I can handle this." Bella sobbed. "I didn't know what to do."

"Bella, if he has anything, I bet it's just a mild fever, acid reflux or maybe at worst a food allergy. The first two we can use medications to treat it and the last, you'll need to make sure he avoids certain foods."

"Thanks, Edward," she replied, attempting to quickly compose herself again.

"He likes you," she noticed, as she watched, fascinated, as Damien grabbed at Edward's shirt and was attempting to target his hair.

"Not sure about that. Babies are just curious."

"He does." She laughed. "He hasn't really taken to anyone else. He'll tolerate Angela, and of course he's fine with Leah, but other than that?"

"I'm sure he'll get better as he gets older. He's had a rough few weeks," Edward quipped.

"He has," Bella grumbled. "With no help from you."

"Hey, little guy, can I have my shirt back?" Edward laughed. He turned back to his patient, sticking his tongue out at the now laughing baby boy.

"Give Edward his shirt." Bella laughed, echoing Edward's comments. "But see? He likes you. When Ben and Angela came over, all he did was whimper and cry." She chuckled, shaking her head at the memory. "He pretty much spent the day buried in my shirt."

"Well that's good to know. Not every baby feels that way about me. Better yet, I'm sure he'll be great once you select a doctor for him."

Bella frowned deeply, her jaw jutting out just a bit.

"What did I say?" Edward asked nervously. Things were obviously not good between the two of them; he didn't want to add to the strain.

Bella let out a breath and sighed, slumping her shoulders. "I was hoping you'd be willing to take him on."

"I'm not sure that's a good idea, Bella. With things the way they are, do you?" he persisted.

Their moment was broken by a sharp rumble.

"When was the last time you ate something?" Edward suddenly asked.

"Yesterday evening?" Bella replied, unsure of the answer herself. Nights were such a blur when it came to handling Damien.

"Come on, Bella. I'll put in the orders for Damien's x-rays and lab tests now, but we should go eat."

"We?" Bella questioned warily.

"Yes, we. It'll give you a chance to refuel and hopefully we can start to hammer out some details."

'Fine," Bella grumbled petulantly.

As they finally made their way out toward the parking lot, Bella felt a twinge of jealousy as she finally saw and sensed just how many eyes, both male and female, fell on them.

She was aware he was a hot commodity around the office — her own coworkers and her friends told her so — but to see it firsthand was almost unbearable. Her throat constricted just broaching the subject mentally about how many times he must have been hit on, "accidentally" bumped into, or worse.

As they made their way towards Bella's car, a slender red hair beauty sashayed towards the hungry couple.

"Edward, baby! Care to catch a late lunch?" she called.

"Can't!" he answered, politely nodding in reply.

The fragile family finally arrived at a nearby bistro. When Bella extracted Damien from his car seat, a seemingly odd thing happened.

He began struggling against the straps of his car seat.

"Hey little man, we'll get you out of there real soon." Bella beseeched, as she hurried to work against the contraption.

When she was finally able to lift him out, he reached out toward the restaurant.

"Edward?" Bella laughed, nervously. He had already voiced his displeasure at being involved with the boy, so she knew this could only add to their tense relations.

"Hmm?" he asked, turning back and walking toward her.

"I think he wants you," she admitted, blushing slightly at the thought.

Though his eyes initially narrowed, he acknowledged her request scooping up the struggling baby boy and nestling him over his shoulder.

~~~~~~~~~~ O ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ O ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Their time at the restaurant was light, but the tension was still evident. Edward furrowed his brow and ruffled his hair in frustration. Even though he hadn't fallen out of love with Bella, he knew their current trajectories were completely incompatible. Her random acts and spontaneous decisions were too much for him to bear.

"Bella? We really need to talk about this," Edward whispered grimly.

"Edward, we need to talk, but not like this," Bella insisted, staring straight into Edward's shining green eyes. Normally such a thing would absolutely melt her, but today was too important.

"Do you still love me?" she asked with baited breath.

"With all of my heart, Bella. Never question that," he answered simply. "I don't think I could ever love anyone else more than I love you."

"I love you, too," she whispered, her eyes threatening to brim with tears.

"But I feel right about this. I know I screwed up and should have told you first. I was going to tell you on your birthday," she admitted. "But Edward, you're great with kids. They adore you. Everyone says that."

"They're wrong. And they would know that being a child's doctor is different than being a parent. I hoped you'd know that, too."

"I do. I do. But isn't our love worth more? And can't we show love to Damien?" she crowed. "I want to make this work. Can we go to marriage counseling? Try to work on us. I know I haven't been the best wife."

"And I haven't been the best husband," he acknowledged with a slight nod.

"So we can work on that. And Edward, I've seen you with Peter and Charlotte. You're great with them. Your parents would be proud. And look, I think Damien has a new favorite person." She laughed.

Looking down, he finally noticed that the boy had burrowed deeply into his shoulder, seemingly trying to escape the world.

The moment was broken by an intrusion from their waitress. "I think we're done." he offered.

"I'm sorry you didn't get to eat." She smiled apologetically. "But I must say, your son is just adorable and he obviously loves his daddy.

Edward could only give a curt nod. Thankfully, the waitress gathered up their plates to put into to-go containers.

He was useless as a caretaker. His marriage lying in shambles only proved the point. Though he loved Bella, mediation would only further highlight his inadequacies and just how unsuitable a partner and presumably a father he would be. But somewhere inside of him, he wanted to be the man she saw, even if it was just a figment of her imagination.

"Let's do it."

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