DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction for which we will receive no compensation, especially since all characters belong to a different Stephenie. But this story helped save the babies, which we are all for.


Thank you to May for prereading. You actually got to do your job this time. LOL

Hellooooo, friends! We're so glad to be with you again that we won't even bother with a long A/N.

This little chappie is nearly 4,000 words, so enjoy!


Chapter 38

Rose stared at Emmett in shock. "What?"

"I said," he repeated slowly. "I didn't fuck Tanya."

She snorted. "Oh, what? You 'made love' to her?"

Saying those words made Rose's stomach turn strangely, but she had no time to think about that as Emmett stood and backed away from her.

"Forget it," he muttered, heading toward the cafeteria doors.

"Dr. McCarty, wait." When Emmett didn't turn around, Rose jumped up and jogged after him. "Could you wait? Please?"

The plea in her voice made Emmett stop, but he didn't face her right away.

Rose frowned. She wasn't sure why she'd chased him, and now that he'd stopped, she didn't know what to say.

"Could you turn around?" she asked. "I'm not fond of talking to people's asses."

"No," he said. "But you seem fine talking out of your own."

Rose huffed, clicking her tongue. "Fuck this."

"Wait, no. I'm sorry," Emmett said quickly, reaching for her arm. She raised an eyebrow, and he dropped his arm at his side. "I don't know why I'm being so rude to you. I'm sorry."

"I haven't been a picture of propriety either," she admitted. "I'm sorry too."

Emmett nodded, and Rose took a step forward. "What do you mean that you didn't fuck Tanya?"

He paused, his jaw tight. "Just what I said."

"But he… Edward said he caught you ass-naked in bed with her."

Emmett reared back in surprise. "He told you?"

"You're changing the subject," Rose said. "How did he catch you doing that if you didn't do it?"

He folded his arms. "I don't want to tell you that."

"Why not?"

"Because I don't know you."

Rose hid it well, but she was taken aback—not just by his words but by the realization that he was right. Worst yet, she was shocked to care anyway, to want his side of the story. Not for Bella's sake, certainly not for Edward's, and not even for her own. But because something about Emmett made her feel sorry for him, made her care about his feelings.

Which scared the shit out of her.

"You're right," Rose said eventually. "You don't know me."

Emmett ran a hand down his face. "Look, I didn't mean to burden you with this, and I really don't want to talk about it. But I just… it fucking sucks to be blamed and hated for something I didn't even do."

"So why did you let it get this far?" Rose asked.

"What?"

"Why didn't you tell Edward the truth right after it happened?"

"Because I was..." Emmett closed his mouth, shaking his head. "It doesn't matter now."

"Oooo-kay, then why not tell him now? You only see him every day."

"You've seen what happens when I try to talk to him. Because Ed thinks I slept with Tanya, he refuses to look at me more than professionally required."

Rose sighed. "He needs to know the truth, Emmett."

If Emmett was surprised that Rose used his first name, he didn't show it.

"I know," he said. "And I'm going to tell him. But only after he decides on his own that he's ready to talk to me." He looked at Rose seriously. "So you need to stay out of it."

"What?"

"If you know about Tanya, that means you're close to Edward or Bella." He tilted his head, studying her. "Maybe both, based on him warning me to stay away from you."

She started in surprise. "He did what?"

"Telling Bella would only complicate the mess they're already in," Emmett continued, "and make my working relationship with her harder, so just... I need you not to say anything to either of them. Don't even hint that Edward is wrong about me or that there's more to the story. Promise me, Dr. Hale. Please."

Rose hated secrets of any kind, but neither did she trade in gossip. This was a bit of both, and she was torn. Bella would definitely want to know the truth about Emmett and Tanya, but Emmett was right: knowing that would only complicate things for everyone involved.

And apparently, Rose was now involved too.

"I promise," she said. "They won't hear a peep about this from me."

Emmett sagged in relief. "Thank you."

His pager beeped again, and he held it up, angling his head toward the door. "I have to..."

"Of course, yeah."

He nodded and started walking again, and Rose heard herself call out, "Dr. McCarty?"

This time, Emmett stopped and turned immediately. "Yes?"

"If you, um..." She walked toward him, suddenly nervous. "If you ever needed to talk or... just so you know you're not alone in this..."

He blinked in surprise, then his azure gaze softened. "Thank you, Dr. Hale. I might just take you up on that."

As he continued on his way, Rose stared after him.

"I sincerely hope you do," she whispered to herself.

***STYB***

The minute Edward burst through the rear doors of the cafeteria, his walking pace burst into a storming retreat, frustration fueling his steps.

That was not how he wanted that to go. He wanted… hell, he didn't know what he wanted or even expected when he walked up to Bella. He just wanted a moment with her. A moment to try and explain… or just be in her presence without something horrible or awkward happening.

But then that damn Crowley showed up, interfering where it wasn't necessary. And that damn Emmett… his entire presence wasn't necessary. What the hell was he doing there anyway? Why was he trying to talk to Bella outside of a patient room or an OR?

A sickening thought ran through Edward's mind, and he stopped short, causing Jake to nearly crash into him. Did Emmett want Bella too? Was that his game now?

He'd kill him-there was no question. Fucking Tanya was one thing and bad enough. But if Emmett had set his sights on Bella, Edward would murder him with his bare hands and not even feel bad about it.

Then again, he thought, what right do I have to be angry? Bella's not mine anymore, and if she wants Emmett, then…

"NO!" Edward said aloud, startling Jake who was wisely walking beside him now.

"No, what?" Jake asked, and Edward jumped, having forgotten he was there.

"What? Nothing," Edward snapped. "I don't have time to explain everything to you, Black. Keep up!"

Edward fumed in the direction of the elevators, nausea rolling through his stomach at the thought of Bella with Emmett. The worst part, though he hated admitting it, was that the man he'd known Emmett to be (before he became the selfish bastard who'd fucked his wife and ruined his life) was exactly the kind of man Bella deserved.

The kind of man Edward knew he'd never be.

Another wave of regret rushed through his body, and he needed to get a grip. God, he wished he could talk to Bella about this Emmett situation, about anything and everything, really. He could use her advice, her listening ear and sense of fairness. To say nothing of her gentle kiss and soft sighs…

Edward glided through the open elevator doors and heard Jake curse as they almost closed on him. He shook off thoughts of Bella and tried to figure out what to do with the intern he'd grabbed but didn't need.

Jake side-eyed Cullen as they settled on the elevator. Cullen pushed the button for the third floor, so maybe he'd get some surgical action today. But with the way Cullen looked and how his fingers wouldn't stop twitching, maybe operating on someone today wasn't the best idea.

Cullen also looked like he wanted to punch someone, and Jake remembered the murderous look on Cullen's face when he saw Dr. McCarty. The thought of Edward going up against someone as big as McCarty made Jake laugh to himself, but he tucked his amusement into a cough when Cullen glared at him.

"So what do you need help with, Dr. Cullen?" Jake asked hesitantly.

"Patients," Cullen muttered.

Well, no shit, Sherlock, Jake thought. Hospital is full of them.

The doors opened, and Jake followed Cullen to the nurse's station. Jake winked at Jessica, knowing she would tell Jasper, and he looked forward to riling up Whitlock for nothing.

Cullen slammed a chart into Jake's chest, and Jake caught it with a groan. Jessica smirked, and Jake ignored her as he flipped to the first page.

Brad Smith, 47. Saccular aneurysm. Admitted yesterday.

"So... prep him?" Jake asked.

"No, his surgery isn't until tomorrow." Cullen checked his watch and made notes in two other charts before shoving them at Jake.

Nicole Stanford, 58. Seizures.

Monica Allen, 27. Neuropathy. Having a tens unit installed.

Cullen started to hand Jake another chart, and Jake stopped him. "What do you want me to do with these?" Jake asked.

Cullen gave Jake a look that would make a lesser man step back. But Jake was only afraid of his mother's disappointment and tight spaces, so he held his ground.

"Your job, Doctor Black," Cullen said tightly. "You do know how to do your job, don't you?"

"I do, but you're just handing me charts without…"

"I'm not going to hold your fucking hand," Cullen snapped. "So either man up or get the fuck out of my face."

Jake looked at him, rage coloring his vision. He knew Nurse Tell-It-All Stanley was watching his every move, so he nodded, gathering the charts in his arms.

"Sure thing," he said to Cullen, taking the fourth chart from his hands. "Let's start by looking at the x-rays."

He walked toward the x-ray viewing room, knowing Cullen would follow if only because Jake had all the charts. When he got there, Jake angled his head toward the door, silently telling the radiologist at the table to beat it.

When Cullen entered the room, Jake closed the door and glared at him. "You first."

"Excuse me?" Cullen asked.

"You told me to man up or get the fuck out of your face. I said, You first."

"Who the hell do you think you're talking to?" Cullen cried.

"I don't fucking know half the time, do you?" Jake snapped back. "Sometimes you seem like a good doctor and an asset to the hospital. Sometimes, like right now, you seem like an asshole who throws tantrums when he doesn't get his way. And sometimes you seem like a miserable drunk who gets so wasted at Sam's that someone has to cart your sorry ass home because you live too far out in the sticks for an Uber to bother with the fare. Maybe if you spent less time drowning your sorrows and more time cleaning up your disgusting trailer, your life wouldn't be such a mess."

Cullen's eyes narrowed, then he gasped as Jake's words caught up to him.

"Bella… she cleaned up my trailer, didn't she?" Cullen asked.

"Dude, I'm her friend not yours, so I'm not talking to you about her," Jake said. "But get your shit together. Cause it's messy and it stinks. Now, I'm gonna figure out what to do with these patients, and I don't need your help because I'm a damn good doctor and I know what I'm doing."

Jake walked toward the door, leaving Cullen gaping after him. As Jake turned the handle, he turned back to Cullen. "Oh, and you still owe me a pair of sneakers. Suede, size 13."

He wiggled his eyebrows at the last line and left the room. He returned to the desk and sweet-talked Jessica into telling him what his patients needed so he could do his damn job, wondering how he got caught up in this damn drama.

Edward stared after Jake and locked the room door, needing some time to process what he'd just heard.

Bella had been there, at Sam's.

Bella had been at Sam's then brought Edward home.

Bella had been at Sam's, brought Edward home, then cleaned up his trailer.

"Fuck," Edward muttered, scrubbing his face with his hands. He couldn't believe she'd done that, couldn't understand why she would.

Did she… did she still have feelings for him? After everything he'd said and done, could she possibly still want him?

He pulled out his phone and opened his photos, scrolling to a picture of Bella from Connecticut. He'd snuck it while she was sleeping beside him after one of the nine times they'd made love in the cottage.

Yes, he'd kept count.

She looked so peaceful lying on her side, her lips parted slightly and her face relaxed. It was all he could do not to drown in her loveliness or kiss and wake her up so he could show her exactly how she made him feel. Instead, he'd grabbed his phone and taken this picture, using it as a lifeline ever since.

His phone rang in his hand, and he cringed when he saw his mother's name. She'd been calling a lot this week, leaving messages, and he felt guilty for not returning them. He'd promised to stay in touch after the reunion, but once things went to shit with Bella, he hadn't had the heart to talk to anyone who might want to talk about her. Which ruled out his mother and all of his sisters.

Well, almost all of them.

Edward pulled up Kate's number and put the phone to his ear, figuring he could take care of two things at once. Calling Kate would prove their recent truce was intact, and once that news reached his mother, Elizabeth would be satisfied enough to give him some peace until Thanksgiving rolled around.

"I'll be damned," Kate said in lieu of a proper greeting. "You remembered Lee's birthday!"

"I… of course I did," Edward said, covering quickly. "He's only my favorite nephew."

"That's only because he wants to be a doctor like you."

"He does?"

"Yep. He's been saying that for years, but after the reunion, it's all he talks about."

"Well, that's…" Edward trailed off when he heard sniffling. "Kate? Is everything okay?"

"I was such a bitch to you at that reunion," she mumbled. "To you and to Bella."

A stab of pain hit his heart, and he rubbed his chest where it hurt. "It's okay."

"No, it's not. I was an unfair, selfish bitch and never should have taken Tanya's side over yours. Why would I believe that you'd want to see her after the way she betrayed you with Emmett?"

Now we have to talk about him too? "Kate, I really don't…"

"And Bella is so perfect for you, even I can see that. I was so awful to her, yet she accepted my apology and even asked me to play poker with the girls one night."

Edward had guessed as much, but it was still nice to hear. "I'm glad you had a good time."

"It's more than that," Kate said. "After what I did to you, I knew our sisters were going to keep their distance to make Bella comfortable. Even after the moment we had at the bonfire, I accepted that. But when Bella openly forgave me, all the tension disappeared like it had never been there. She's so good for you, Edward, so right and good for you and I just…"

"Kate, stop," he said, fearing he might actually die if she said Bella's name again. "It's okay. That's all in the past, and we… we can just move on."

"We must move on at some point, yes. But the past informs the present, so until I deal with the one, I'll keep struggling with the messes from the other."

"Damn, that's heavy. Did Charlotte tell you that?"

"No, one of her colleagues. I, uh… I started therapy last month. After my behavior at the reunion and a loooong call with Mother, I thought I could use it."

Edward scoffed at the thought of therapy but wasn't cruel enough to say it out loud.

"Is it helping?" he asked instead.

"Yes. I'm starting to see some of my patterns and the importance of understanding them. I think everyone should go to therapy at least once. Especially anyone who's been through any type of trauma. Like divorce, infidelity, or even the death of a parent."

A different sort of discomfort rumbled through Edward's chest, and he was grateful when the loud ping of his pager rang through the phone.

"I have to go," he told Kate. "But can you shoot me Lee's email address so I can send him a gift card?"

"Okay, but if you send a gift to one of your nieces or nephews, the other thirteen will expect something also."

"If you send me all their birthdays and interests, I think I can handle that."

"You betta think fast. Lila's birthday is next week, and the twins are in two. I'll call your sisters and email that list to you."

"Thanks."

"Thank you for calling." Kate paused. "I… I love you, Edward. I always have, and I hope you know that and can start to believe it."

"I do know that." A genuine smile graced his face. "I love you too, little sister."

***STYB***

Normally, Bella liked silence. It was rare and precious in the hospital, so normally, she'd cherish those moments when it came her way.

But Bella was with Crowley. When Crowley was silent, that meant someone had messed up. Badly. And as Crowley had all but dragged her out of the cafeteria, Bella assumed she was at fault.

As they walked, she scanned her brain for what she could have done wrong, but nothing came to mind. The only mistake she'd made in days was not bolting from the room a few minutes ago when she saw Edward heading her way. She shouldn't have stayed and let him corner her. She shouldn't have made that deal with him, shouldn't have gone to Connecticut, and definitely shouldn't have slept with him.

Though if she were honest, she only regretted doing that because she missed it. Missed him, his touch and taste and scent. She missed that sound he made when he pushed inside her and...

She shook her head and focused on trying not to get hit with the door when Crowley led her down the stairs leading to the basement. The basement? Why would he lead her down here? The basement was the place for the morgue, billing, and other rooms interns seldom had any use for.

Bella cleared her throat. "So what are we…"

"Hush." Crowley glanced at her then fished a set of keys out of his pocket. Unlocking the door in front of them, he pulled on the handle and indicated she should go in first. But Bella didn't move.

"Is there a problem?" he asked.

"I don't think I should go in first," she said shakily, wondering why he didn't turn on the light. "This looks like the scene of a horror film."

"Bitch, please," he said. "If this were a horror film, you and I both know the black guy would die long before the pasty white girl."

Bella patted her cheeks. "Pasty?"

He rolled his eyes and walked into the room, feeling along the wall for the light switch. Though the fluorescents overhead came to life, they did little to truly light the space.

"Welcome to my research office," he said, gesturing around the windowless room with a dramatic flourish.

"Thanks," Bella said, looking at the oddly colored walls and old furniture. "It's…nice."

"No, it's a shithole," he said. "But it's mine. And now it's yours."

"Excuse me?"

"I need my interns to be well-rounded and to reflect well on me, and doing good research is an important but often overlooked aspect of your education."

"Okay…"

"Chief Carlisle reminded me this morning that I'm behind on my publishing responsibilities. Which only happened because I've been too busy policing my immature interns to focus. So you're going to help me remedy that."

"By…"

He shoved several file folders at her. "By helping with my research."

Bella gathered the folders, confused. "Why me?"

"I have my reasons. But after that little display in the cafeteria, I'd think you would be grateful for a valid excuse to get away from Cullen for a few weeks." Crowley started toward the door. "You can familiarize yourself with the space, rearrange your schedule, then officially start tomorr-"

"No," Bella said firmly, setting the folders atop the nearest surface.

Crowley turned to her, raising an eyebrow. "Excuse me?"

"I said No. I am sick and tired of every part of my life being tied to Edward Cullen, and I'm not going to be shoved into some dark corner of the hospital to make his life easier. I worked so hard not to be overshadowed by my mother's legacy, and now because I was stupid enough to let my libido convince me that fucking my attending was a good idea, I have to rearrange my entire schedule? I'm a surgeon, dammit, and I will not be pushed aside and treated like some fragile little girl. So you can take this so-called opportunity and shove it!"

Crowley had folded his arms during her little speech, his mouth twitching as she fell silent. "Are you done?"

Bella's chest heaved, and she swiped a hair out of her face. "Yes."

"All right. Setting aside the very personal details I did not need or want to know, I can appreciate the spirit of your little rant. But to be clear, I meant you'd probably want to stay away from Cullen because, and correct me if I'm wrong, the drama between him and McCarty has nothing to do with you, yet you keep finding yourself in the middle of it, yes?"

"Y-yes."

"As I thought. This assignment would get you out of that. And as there will be times when you'll be running minor experiments or waiting for data from current patients, you would also find extra time to study for your intern exam."

"Oh."

"Also, you have repeatedly demonstrated all the qualities I want in a research assistant: attention to detail, the ability to focus, the belief that all parts of patient care are important, and professional discretion. This assignment may seem like a demotion because it will reduce your time in the OR, but I hope you take it as the compliment I intend it to be."

Bella demurred. "Thank you."

"Lastly, no matter your current relationship with your mother, you are every bit as talented a surgeon as she was. Possibly more so."

Bella's eyes welled up, and her lip quivered.

"But if you shed one tear, I swear to Beyonce I will drag Cullen down here, lock you up together, and demand you talk all this shit out."

Bella sobered immediately, laughing as she wiped her face. "Okay."

"Good," Crowley said with a small smile. "Now let me show you around."


Story Rec: Inexplicable by LyricalKris. ladylibre has the privilege of prereading this gem, and chapter one has already posted with a bang. Don't miss it!

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