20

Edward felt like he was moving on autopilot. Ever since he and Bella arrived back at school two days ago, they barely spent more than five minutes alone together. She was scared of him. He understood why, he just hated that he had made the only person who really, truly understood him afraid of him.

The last two days had been hard. They were still waiting for the results from the series of tests Phil had insisted running on Charlie after his unexpected reawakening. That of course had everyone — but especially Bella — on edge, which only added to the tension between the two of them. Not only had Edward fucked up as a husband, but her father came back. But for how long?

"I'm going to the library after class," Bella said as she shuffled out of their bedroom with her backpack on her shoulder. "Do you want to meet me for dinner in the caf?"

"I, um," Edward shook his head. "I can't. I'm going to go see Dr. Davis."

Bella's eyes widened.

"I'm okay. I just. . ." Edward pushed his chair back and stood up, bringing his hand up to his chest. "I'm still having a lot of tightness, and figure I should probably, I don't know, get it checked again. Just . . . just to be safe."

Frowning, Bella dropped her bag onto the floor. "What time? I can skip the library and go with you."

"His office told me to come in whenever, so I'm heading over now."

"Oh," she said, bending over to pick up her bag. "Of course it's when I have a class I can't miss."

"Bella," Edward started, but paused with a sigh. "I'm trying to be the man you need again."

"And that means I don't get to go with you to doctor appointments?" she asked, and he could hear the hurt in her voice.

"You shouldn't have to take care of me," he murmured.

"I like taking care of you." Bella walked over to him, placing her hand in the middle of his chest, right over his scar. He shivered, as he always did when she touched him there. "If you don't want me to go, I won't, but don't think for one second that I'm not here for you, okay? I love you, Edward."

"I love you, too," he whispered, the words slipping out thicker than he wanted. "I'll call you when I'm done."

"Promise?" she asked, leaning up so that her lips were almost touching his.

"I promise." And closing the distance between them, Edward kissed her with as much passion and love as he could.

Twenty minutes later, Edward was parked outside of Peter Davis' office. The last place he wanted to be was there, but almost losing Bella taught him that he had to take care of himself. He could feel the tension in his shoulders as he climbed out of the car and headed inside, which did nothing to relieve the tightness and pressure in his chest. There were only two other people in the waiting room when he entered, the receptionist smiled and motioned for him to have a seat. In all the time he had been coming there, he hadn't learned her name. Just one more way he was an asshole, but there had been dozens of receptionist and nurses in his life over the years. Too many to remember all of them. One of the curses of being weak, pathetic — broken.

"Edward."

At the sound of his name, he looked up and saw Peter Davis standing in the doorway that lead to the back of his office. It was unusual for him to call his patients back himself, something that scared and made his feel better. Tall with blond hair and blue eyes, Peter had always been an odd man. Not rude or unfriendly, just professional.

"Are you waiting for Bella?" Peter asked, one eyebrow raising upward.

Edward cleared his throat as he stood. "No, it's . . . it's just me today."

Peter frowned, but didn't say anything else as he motioned for Edward to follow him back to an examination room. Or so he thought. Instead of one of the exam rooms, Peter lead Edward down to his office, closing the door behind him, and motioning for him to sit in one of the two leather chairs in front of his desk. As he settled in his own chair, he opened a thick, manila folder and placed in top of his desk.

"So, you've been experiencing some tightness," Peter said, dryly. "How long have these been going on?"

"Um," Edward paused. The urge to lie was intense but the moment for bravery was over. "Ever since my last surgery, but if I'm honest, they've been more intense over the last seven or eight months. Bella and I have been keeping track of them," he explained, digging his notebook out of his back pocket and laying it on the desk between them. "I had some tests ran while in Chicago a couple weeks ago, but Dr. Cameron said everything is okay."

Peter nodded and picked up the notebook, flipping through the dozens of pages. "And how is your sister?"

"My . . . my sister?"

"Yes," he said, shifting his eyes from the notebook to Edward. "Dr. Cameron said she'd tried to kill herself. That's why you were in Chicago, wasn't it? To save her."

"I . . ." Edward blew out a deep breath. "I guess so."

"And how is she?" Peter asked again.

"I don't know. I haven't . . . she can't." Edward dragged a hand up to his chest. "They won't let me talk to her."

Peter pressed his lips together as he leaned back in his chair. "Do you know why Dr. Cameron recommended that I take you on when you moved here, Edward?"

"I assumed that he thought you were a good doctor."

For the first time in the two years that Edward had been coming to see him, Peter smiled. "Might be a part of it, but it's not all of it."

"No?" Edward asked, and when Peter shook his head, he found himself pressing for more. "Then why?"

"Because you were the first patient I ever operated on."

"What?"

Peter smiled wider. "I was in the first year of my residency when Dr. Cameron, who was my attending, got your case. When Dr. Cameron offered me the chance to perform the patch that would prolong your life for a while, I jumped at the chance. Babies born with HLHS usually didn't live more than a few days, and I was naïve and cocky at my ability, I guess. Just before we took you in for surgery, your mother grabbed my hands and made me promise that I'd do everything I could to save your life. You were a very sick baby, Edward, but your mother and father believed that you would be okay. Obviously you survived the surgery, and the dozens that followed. I eventually moved on, settled out here, but Dr. Cameron always kept me up to date on your case, knowing that you were the one that stuck with me."

"Why?" Edward asked. "I'm nothing special."

"Aren't you?" Peter raised an eyebrow. "You've had dozens of surgeries over sixteen years. And then you had both a heart transplant and a mitral value replacement in the three years that followed, and yet, you're still alive."

"At what cost?" Taking a deep breathe, he shook his head, his hand dropping from his chest. "I'm glad I'm alive, I really am, but my mom and dad, sister — it's not fair that in order for me to live, they suffered, they died."

"Nobody ever said life was fair, Edward." Peter slid his notebook across the desk to him. "Dr. Cameron sent me your test results. Everything looks normal. I think, as he does, that you're experiencing panic attacks, and they are manifesting as tightness in your chest. It's not uncommon in patients who have had multiple surgeries."

"So what do I do?" Edward asked. "And don't suggest yoga or meditation, either."

Peter laughed. "I wasn't going to. I do think you need to find some way to deal with your anxiety. I can make a recommendation for a therapist, and we can talk about medication, but I'd like to table that option for now."

"I'm, um, I'm already waiting for a referral to a . . . a therapist," Edward murmured, and when Peter looked surprised, he added, "I've been angry for a long time. Too long, and, um, it's cost me a lot. Almost cost me everything, so I asked for help from a family friend."

"Good, good." Peter leaned forward and placed his hands together. "I would like to see you again in a month. Rerun some tests, make sure we're covering everything. Keep tracking any tightness you feel." Peter stood up and walked around his desk, sitting in the chair next to him. "It's okay to be angry. It's natural, considering everything you've been through. You and Bella, for that matter, but holding on to that anger is dangerous."

"I almost lost her," Edward whimpered. "Because of my anger, I almost lost her. I can't . . . she's the only reason I have left to live, Dr. Davis. I . . ."

"I know, son." Peter patted him on the arm before standing up. "If you need anything else, I'm here. Anytime."

Edward nodded, muttered a quick thank you, before bolting out of the office, feeling like a food for letting his emotions get the best of him.

—WH—

Edward drove back to campus in a daze. His conversation with Peter Davis had been unexpected. Yet, he felt better. A little, at least. Knowing that his heart was still working as intended was a relief, but he still worried. The day would come when the replacement value would fail, or his mother's heart would weaken. It was only a matter of time, and that's what scared him the most.

Parking in front of the dorms, Edward climbed out of the car and started toward the front, but stopped when someone called out his name. He looked over his shoulder and saw James and Tyler running toward him. He felt his shoulders tense, his first thought was Bella. That something had happened to her.

"Hey, man, where you been?" James asked, laughing.

"We're heading over to Matchlight tonight," Tyler added, his grin matching James'. "You and Bella in?"

"Um, no," Edward scoffed, knowing that last place Bella would want to go is a bar, not after he'd come home sloppy drunk and cruel. And she especially wouldn't want to be around James. She hadn't made her disgust of him a secret, though Edward knew it wasn't his fault. Edward was the one who accepted the drink. "We can't. Family thing tonight."

"You sure?" James asked, looking down at his watch. "Shit, I'm going to be late for class. Hey, think about it, okay? We're going to meet here at nine, if you change your mind."

James took off before Edward could say anything.

"You okay?" Tyler asked, and when he looked back at him, he saw Tyler watching as he caressed his chest.

Edward dropped his hand to his side. "Yeah, I'm fine."

"Okay, if you're sure," Tyler said before following after James.

Edward blew out a deep breath before he hurried inside the dorm, down the hallway to his and Bella's apartment. When he unlocked the door, he was surprised to find Bella curled up on the couch, her knees pulled up against her chest, and her head laying on her knees. At the sound of the door opening, she sighed and stood up.

"What'd he say?" she asked at the same time he asked, "Aren't you supposed to be in class?"

Bella shrugged her shoulders. "I emailed my professor. Told him I'm sick."

When he cocked an eyebrow, she coughed a couple of thick, fake coughs. "Yeah, you're clearly dying of the flu."

"I . . . I was worried," she whispered, almost sounding ashamed. "This was the first appointment since we got married that I . . . that I didn't go with you. That you didn't want me to go with you."

Edward sighed. "It's not that I didn't want you to, baby. I did, it's just . . ."

"Just what?"

"I need you so fucking much," he whispered, unsure if she could hear him. When she placed her hand in the middle of his chest, he knew she had. "I let you down. I let you down and I hate myself for not being stronger, for not being the husband you deserve."

"You are," she insisted, sliding her other hand up and around to the back of his neck. "But when you push me away like this, when you don't let me in, I get scared."

"I don't want to scare you." Edward placed his hands on her hips, pulling her body flush against his. "But I needed to man up and take care of myself. I'm sorry if that made you worry. That's not what I wanted."

Bella nodded. "And is everything okay?"

"Seems to be. He and Dr. Cameron seem to think I'm having panic attacks, that's why I'm feeling the tightness in my chest. He wants me to come back next month to run some tests again, and wants us to keep tracking my episodes."

"And what's his solution for the panic attacks?"

"Therapy," he said, leaning his forehead against hers. "And maybe medication at some point. I told him that Phil was looking for someone for me to . . . to talk to."

Bella hummed, but didn't say anything. He knew she doubted that he was serious about finding a therapist, but he was. He hadn't been lying when he told her that he was tired of being angry.

Before he could reassure her once more, her phone started ringing. Grumbling under her breath, she yanked it off the coffee table, her eyes widening as she looked from the caller I.D. to Edward. "It's Phil. Do you think it's about my dad?"

"Answer it," Edward told her.

Bella sucked her bottom lip between her teeth as she slid her finger across the green talk arrow and placed the phone on speaker. Taking a deep, ragged breath, she said, "Hello."

"Hey, sweetheart," Phil cooed through the phone. "You okay?"

"Um, yeah," she lied, shifting her eyes to Edward. He could see the fear and doubt that lingered. "Did . . . did you get his test results back?"

"I did," Phil said, quietly. "I wanted you to be the first to know. I haven't told Emmett or Esme yet."

"Tell me what?" she cried. "Is . . . is it bad?"

"Sweetheart," Phil started. "It's not bad. It's good, actually. There are no signs of the tumor, no signs of brain trauma, or anything. All of his tests came back normal. Charlie's as healthy as can be expected, considering he just spent the last two years in a coma."

"Don't lie to me, Phil," Bella sobbed, falling to her knees. In a heartbeat, Edward was next to her, holding her against him. "Don't fucking lie to me!"

"I'm not, Butterbean, I swear. I wouldn't do that," Phil insisted.

"I . . ." Bella let the phone fall from her fingers and hit the ground as she turned and folded herself into Edward's arms. Though her emotions overwhelmed her, he knew she was relieved and happy. Her father was back, and once more, Edward felt a pang of jealousy that had his chest tightening.