Thank you all for being patient with me. Work during the holidays gave me little time to write, and then I got slammed with some terrible writer's block. I'm hoping that the next chapter will come more easily. Many thanks go to my pre-reader/half-beta 4theluvofmary.

Chapter song: I implore of you all to please listen to the chapter song - Goodnight, Travel Well by The Killers. I also appreciate you all voting in my poll about music in fiction. It was very enlightening.

I don't own Twilight, and I certainly don't understand the fckery that is "Robsten" in England right now ;)

We swayed from side-to-side as the car trampled over potholes and uneven pavement.

Greater metropolitan Seattle was silenced as the largest police funeral to date prepared to take place. Pedestrians stood still with muted expressions as their curious eyes took in the never-ending funeral procession. The car that Bella and I sat in was just one of the many that continued down this doomed path.

A large part of me wanted the driver to keep driving, to never stop this journey, because I wasn't ready to face the broken souls and grieving loved ones. I didn't want Bella to have to face this hurt. Her deceivingly tranquil expression was enough to show that it wasn't time yet. She wasn't ready for it.

The driver followed the long line of cars. Bella simply stared out the window, seemingly fighting back tears and a possible breakdown. Her disposition hadn't changed much since she had been released from the hospital.

She spent her days putting on a brave face, but I could feel her tremble next to me at night as she cried silent tears. I would lay there, my hand in midair, hoping to touch her or reach out. I knew it would useless though, so each night I returned my hand and tucked it back under my pillow. She didn't want my help it seemed. She was determined to do this on her own.

The car slowed as the driver began a crawl towards the church. Men in black suits and women in black dresses crept up the stairs to enter the doors of St. James Cathedral. Yet they were nothing in comparison to the masses of men and women who wore navy blue uniforms in remembrance of one of the best police commissioners Seattle had ever seen.

I noticed the subtle tense in Bella's jaw as the driver announced our arrival.

"Ms. Swan, Lieutenant, we're here. The officers will escort you back to my car after the service."

She swallowed first and then turned her head away from the window.

"Thank you," she said evenly—detachedly.

Bella placed her hand on the doorknob, readying herself to go outside.

"Wait," I stopped her, leaning over to place my hand on hers.

I sat back in my seat as she stared at me, not understanding the interruption. My eyes were fixed on the window that separated us from the limousine driver. It was hard to look at her these days.

"Bella, I know what you're doing and I understand why. I just want you to know you don't have to. I don't know what to do anymore to make you understand that you don't need to do this alone. You can't keep pushing me away like this or we'll never make it. Just please don't ruin things," I said shamefully.

I was ashamed of myself for not having a better handle on this.

Bella swiveled slightly in her seat to stare at me. I looked at her determinedly. The look she gave me, however, was not what I expected. It was disbelieving, angry, hurt, and a collection of other emotions that brought me up short. She seemed offended or like the audacity I had to say that was remarkable. It was a long beat before one of us moved. And it was me.

I opened my door, a swell of cool air hitting me, before I walked over to Bella's and opened her door for her.

The moment between us was forgotten as we continued on again. The dark umbrella she carried was the only thing that I knew was hers. All the clothes had been purchased by Alice at my request. I didn't want Bella shopping for clothes for her father's funeral.

Nothing she had at my place fit the occasion, and I wasn't too sure she was ready to visit her home. The memories ran a little deeper throughout those walls.

I reached for my cap and placed it on my head before reaching for Bella's hand. Surprisingly, she placed her cool hand in mine without any sort of hesitation or thought. I squeezed her fingers, hoping to show her how much I was here for her right now. Even if I didn't quite understand how she was feeling at this moment and what the motivation behind some of her actions were.

The moment between us was short-lived as Mrs. Dwyer sniffed from behind us and breezed past me to look at Bella. Hirsch waltzed up to her side. He seemed to be a permanent fixture when Renee was around. Apparently he took his loyalty to Charlie very seriously.

"Bella, I wish you would have done more with your hair. You look crazy."

I involuntarily narrowed my eyes at the slight, bony, and cold woman.

I knew a lot of love went into making someone as special as Bella; it was hard to believe that the woman before me could be half of that equation.

Bella's lips moved imperceptibly as she muttered something under her breath and tugged me away from Renee and company. We were quiet as we approached the doors of the church. It was slow walk to the front as people stopped to have conversations and reconnect. As the wide doors came more clearly into view, Bella seemed to get defensive.

Her body froze as her steps became smaller and her breathing quickened. It was like the door meant that this whole ordeal was set. If she was uncertain that this was all just nightmare, it was real now. Her father's closed casket at the end of the walkway once we fully entered the church—that was real.

I leaned my lips down by her ear and whispered to her.

"I'm here."

She nodded her head as if the words helped to remind her that she wasn't doing this alone. I supposed it was all she needed, because she was soon walking again. Bella entered the church with her head high. People glanced at us, just assuming we were guests. No one realized the worn brunette with a hand still covered in gauze was the daughter of the man they all knew on a very basic level.

It was common knowledge now, thanks to Teri's work, that Bella was the woman involved with the shootout. Teri had also managed to keep her identity under wraps, explaining to the press that Bella wanted to keep her life private. Everyone seemed to respect that, understanding how sensitive things were for her now.

We had also been lucky—not really needing to get into the Isabella Woods situation. Technically that persona was irrelevant.

We sat up towards the front, but stayed far away enough that Bella didn't need to see each grain of wood in her father's casket. That level of ostentation was left up to Renee, who plastered on a sad smile that I couldn't decide was genuine or not.

Bella reached up to take my cap off for me. I'd forgotten all about it. I reached for her hand, holding it delicately in my hand because I knew it was still sore for her.

Some organ music began playing as people started to file in. It had been a while since I'd been in a church, especially a formal one, so it was hard to acclimate. The program that had been on the pew Bella and I were sitting in gave a rundown of what to expect. Renee, Hirsch, Commander Laine, and several other people were all speaking. Bella had politely declined the offer when her mother brought it up last night.

I generally paid attention during the funeral, but my attention drifted more than I would have liked. My eyes scanned every person within sight several times. I felt too vulnerable in this open setting. It felt like the amount of police officers here wouldn't change anything if the worst happened.

Commander Laine stepped up to the podium and pulled my attention away. He wasn't a man I encountered often but I respected him. He was decent guy from what I knew. I figured anything he had to say was worth listening to.

"Good morning. Um, I was asked to speak today on behalf of the department. I had something planned out to say, but this morning I woke up feeling like I just needed to speak from the heart. Charlie never planned a speech in his life. Even the ones that were written for him, he barely followed to the letter. I think anyone could recall one of his press conferences. They were the best of the worst," he smiled.

A low hum of laughter echoed throughout the church. Bella lowered her eyes to the floor.

"But that was the thing about ole Charlie. He was a simple man with a lot of responsibility. He wore it gracefully and never complained one damn bit. He kept to himself, didn't ask anyone for anything, and offered his hand to anyone in need. Most importantly, though, he was one of the few men who lived for justice. He had few passions in life. His daughter was one of them and his dedication to his job was another. Charlie didn't bend to the pressure of others and that's why he died in honor last week. If everyone had an ounce of the morals and dedication he had, this world would be a different place. I personally like to think he changed some of us in the years he was around.

"His secret mission in life was to bring justice. He succeeded…especially at the end. His family should be proud and his colleagues should be humbled to have worked for him. Chief Swan was a great man and I knew him well. Those are the facts and I only work with the facts. So in honor of the hard work he died for, all I have to say is 10-24. Thank you."

People clapped immediately and I noticed a standing ovation seemed to be happening.

Commander Laine placed a hand on Charlie's casket as he walked away. He murmured something that would forever stay between him and Charlie as he paid his final respects.

Bella stood, clapping, the look on her face suggested tears wanted to come. It was my guess that maybe she just didn't have any more.

We sat back down as the priest ambled his way to the podium again. The next speaker was scheduled to go.

It occurred to me that Bella was staring at her mother, who was crying. The sobs from the older woman looked very real and I wondered if Renee was finally being human. Several minutes of staring, Bella finally looked away.

But it wasn't my Bella. It was a ghost, a further escape from the woman who had slipped away from me this past week.

Speakers, guests, and others moved around up towards the front of the church but I didn't notice it. They all moved in slow motion around us. I was just trapped in this bubble with Bella, watching her slip away from my fingers and into the painful memories of her father.

Before I knew it, Renee was speaking. I tried to listen to her speech, but Bella continued to slip further and further away. Without a chance to stop it, the crowds began to stand.

Charlie's casket was being carried out of the church. I could tell the casket was heavy and I was thankful I hadn't been asked to be a pallbearer. The weight of it all would have been too much for me. I refocused and found Bella sitting down in the pew, still. People brushed past me roughly as they made their way out of the church. I sat down next to her.

"Bella, we have to leave. They're taking him," I whispered to her. It was hard to keep a low voice as the bagpipes played outside with intensity.

She was fragile. I felt like I was talking to a child instead of a woman. Bella placed a shaking hand in my own.

It was still shaking as I held on to it. It was everything I could do to try and stop it. Nothing worked.

We took the stairs to the limousine one by one. An officer seemed to perk up as he noticed us; he waved me over, directing me to our limo. Bella slid in first, her hands wrapped around her midsection.

The car started again, hoping to catch onto the convoy. We drove to cemetery. The entire trip would have taken 15 minutes on a regular day, but we made it there quickly. Most traffic gave way to the procession. The escorting police officers were serious about blocking off our trip.

Guests were already walking towards the gravesite as we stopped. The driver parked the car, glanced back at me, but said nothing. I appreciated that he understood this was very personal for us.

"Do you want to go? We don't have to. We can turn around right now and we'll go home. Renee will have to understand," I spoke quietly as I gently rubbed my fingertips against her cold hand.

"I can't back out now. I made it this far. I couldn't live with myself, knowing that I didn't use every opportunity I had to be close to him."

There was a flicker of the Bella I knew as she spoke. Still, she was distant.

Bella closed her eyes, clenching them quickly to suppress tears.

"I'm sorry I'm doing this to you. I feel like if I give into the pain that I might not surface."

"You will. I'm your anchor," I tried to assure her.

"I just…I can't explain how much pain I'm in. I know you're no stranger to grief, but…it's unnatural. I know this is. I don't want to bring you down with me. All I think about are all the plans he had for us, and his stupid jokes," she was breaking down as silent tears dripped down her pale face. "I never wanted to let him down. I wish he was proud of me."

"He is, Bella," I said fiercely as tears of my own started to well up.

I tried to reach for her hand, but she just shook her head. Bella opened the door and walked out, leaving me alone in the limo as cool air invaded the space she had just occupied. I stared after her blankly as she walked away. Her navy blue coat breezed behind her.

I got out after a moment. The shock of her simply leaving me overwhelmed me. I eventually caught up to her, but the second part of the funeral was about to take place.

Everything tuned out as the priest spoke.

It was just Bella standing in front of me, my hands clenched at my sides. I noticed Emmett off to the side, but he was staring at the casket. Renee was crying into Hirsch's shoulder. It was wrong that this would be my last memory with Charlie.

The firing party did their part as a flag was handed over to Renee. Quicker than I could respond, Bella pushed away from me and started back towards the other side of the cemetery. She collapsed to the ground, her weight on her knees, as she cried out. I could vaguely hear his last call being played.

I kept moving, having no interest in hearing it. Suddenly a hand was placed on my shoulder. I turned around, startled, ready to attack whoever had just touched me. Surprisingly, it was Emmett.

"Don't, man," he whispered, "just let her be for a few minutes."

I watched helplessly as Bella fell apart in her own arms. It should have been mine that were around her. Emmett's advice was sounding less wise as the seconds ticked past us.

I noticed a figure appear in periphery. Tensed once again, I was stunned to see Jacob Black get on his knees next to Bella. Emmett just looked at me. The shock was too much for either of us. The pain of her wrapping himself in his arms was next. He was comforting her…and I was standing here.

"She didn't lose Chief Swan, Edward. She lost her Dad. I know you want to be the one to help her, but maybe you should let him take over for a minute. I know it's not what you want to hear, but he really knew Charlie."

"I never got the chance to," I mumbled helplessly.

Emmett tugged on my shoulder.

"C'mon," he whispered as he tugged me away.

I couldn't help looking over my shoulder as Bella sobbed into Jacob's chest. His dark hands smoothed over her hair.

"Come on," Emmett said again.

I turned around, knowing that there was nothing I could do for her right now. When she was okay, she would come to me. Forcing her into something would only get me negative results. I was resigning myself into this limbo for now.

Getting back to the funeral procession, I noticed people I hadn't paid attention to earlier in the day. Stefan and Garrett came up to me. The look on both of their faces was interesting. I was certain they weren't sure how to discuss what had happened last time I'd seen them.

"I'm sorry, Edward," Stefan said gruffly.

I shrugged, just being without an answer to anything right now.

"That's her, isn't it?" Garrett asked in a tone that only the four of us would be able to hear.

I nodded before looking away.

"I'm really sorry about what happened last week, Edward. If I would've known," Garrett began but I cut him off.

"Forget it. It's not your fault, so don't apologize. That needed to happen in any circumstance and I'm glad it's behind me. I'm sorry. I just…," I didn't finish as I walked away.

I didn't know where I was going, but I continued moving. Headstones taunted me, one-by-one, as I walked further away from the large party of officers from all over that had gathered.

Regular line-of-duty funerals brought out officers from different areas. The death of the Chief of Police only magnified that by dozens.

Bella had been with Jacob for at least 10 minutes now. I wanted to say my blood was boiling, but I couldn't. I wasn't angry. I just felt inept. It was like there was something wrong with me. I wanted to fix it, but I knew I couldn't. In the same way Jacob had been cut off from things in Bella's life previously, this was something I was cut off from in the present.

There was a small gathering to take place at Hirsch's house, but no one seemed in a particular hurry to get there. It was always an especially somber mood during police funerals. This was my fourth one and I wanted no immediate plans to attend a fifth one.

"Lieutenant," a young rookie nodded at me as I stood off by a tree.

"Hey," I nodded back.

He continued onward, making his way to another grave. It was rude of me as I followed him with my eyes. The young man kneeled in front of a grave with dead flowers. He pressed a kiss to his fingertips and placed them on the modest headstone. I looked away.

Enough was enough.

I started to turn my head back towards the group. It took my breath away when Bella was walking towards me. She was messy, but she was contrite and shy.

"I'm so sorry," she bawled as she approached me and wrapped her arms around my neck.

I was mad at myself for giving into her when she'd hurt me so badly. Yet I couldn't stop myself when my eyes closed and I wrapped my arms around her torso. I needed her too much to be prideful.

"It's okay. I understand," I whispered into her hair after I pressed my lips to her head.

She pulled back slightly, looking worn.

"Can we go home? I have some things to tell you," she said.

"Yeah," I nodded, "Of course."


We made our way back to the driver. I opened my mouth to tell him to drop us off at my apartment, but Bella interrupted me.

"Sir, could you take us to this address?" she asked before spouting off her address.

I looked at her in surprise.

"There are some things you should know about me if we're ever going to move forward from this," she answered quietly.

Traffic was more hectic this time around and it took us much longer to get to her place than normal.

I expected that if either of us had our cell phones people would be calling us insistently, but I was glad this was a non-issue. I wanted to hear everything Bella had to tell me without distractions.

She unlocked the front door with a spare key she kept hidden above one of the front windows. I gave her a disapproving look. Bella simply shrugged at me.

We entered her house. It shouldn't have been surprising that nothing had changed since I was last here so long ago yet it did.

"It's been a while."

Bella nodded in agreement.

"Come upstairs. I want to lie down for a little bit," she requested as she grabbed my hand and led me to her bedroom.

I was assaulted with all the memories of our first time together as we moved silently throughout the house. The memories in this home seemed to be so intense. It was like the walls held secrets I would never even know about Bella.

She undid her coat, dropping it to the floor and crawling beneath the sheets. I grabbed her feet, taking her shoes off for her. Then I kicked mine off, threw my cap to the ground, and crawled in with her. We faced each other, our hands between us.

"Hi," I whispered.

"Hi," she said somewhat sleepily.

"What do you want to tell me?"

"Everything. I want to tell you everything that's important. Everything that happened to me the other night. Everything about my father. I want you to know it all."

"Okay," I agreed.

"I guess I should start with what happened with Jay," she decided.

I didn't nod. She was the one leading this.

"I assume Angela told you about Jay finding out about our message. He tied me up in the back of his car and delivered me to this random building. I still couldn't tell you where it was. I just remember glimpses of what it looked like. They threw me in this room. It was cold and wet on the floor. I was crying and shaking. I knew Jay had sprained my wrists by that point. I knew there were going to be bruises, too.

"I was in there for hours before anyone showed up. I was starting to think they were going after you, too. Eventually, Danny showed up. The minute he got there, he was angry. I don't want to tell you all the details but he s-smacked me around for a bit. Jay was the only reason it stopped. I thought it was going to be my saving grace, but no. There was some water torture while they tried to get information about you, my father, Angela out of me. I wouldn't tell them anything, so that's when Danny got really angry. He said some things that I don't really want to repeat, but he basically insinuated that I was...sleeping with you for information."

My jaw tensed. I could only imagine the things that had come from his mouth. Bella ran a finger along my jaw line, trying to ease my anxiety and frustration.

"Hey, it's over now. Don't be that way," she whispered, stopping her story for a moment.

I shifted my eyes, concentrating on the window behind her.

"I'll never forgive myself for what happened to you. I know that's not what you want to hear, but that's how I feel."

"If that's how you feel, then I want to hear it," Bella declared.

I could tell she didn't really feel that way but she was trying to convince herself that that was what she needed to say. I continued to look out the window, noticing that it was raining steadily at this point. I imagined it wouldn't let up anytime in the near future.

"Do you want me to stop?" Bella asked shyly.

That grabbed my attention quickly as I looked back into her eyes.

"No," I decided, "please keep going. I've needed you to do this for a while. I won't stop you now because I'm being immature."

"Okay," she said and snuggled a little closer to me.

"Well, after berating me, Danny thought it would be funny to dress me up. Apparently I needed to dress more appropriately. I was strangely thankful when it ended up being Jay that the task was left to. I was terrified he would do something to me—I was never blind to his advances—but luckily they left him alone. So he turned around and asked me to change into it quickly. I hesitated for a while, trying to figure out how I could take advantage of his charity and run away, but it didn't last long. Besides…I knew this had to end at some point. Whether it was with me dying or being saved by you or my father, I just wanted the end to come already. I was sore and aching. My throat was dry and worn from the screaming. Danny came back in. He told me he'd give me one last chance to give it all up. I said something and it set him off."

Bella suddenly stopped. I stared at her as she looked at me with a faraway look. My instincts told me immediately to shake her. I was terrified of losing her again like I had done at the service.

"Bella," I spoke softly, not wanting to scare her.

"And then he...he hit me. Again and again until…I don't remember what happened after that. I woke up in the hospital with the nurse."

Her brown eyes reconnected with mine. Before I could do anything to stop them, tears started to spill silently from her eyes. The rest of her face stayed strangely calm as she cried. I was willing to bet she didn't even notice the tears.

"Thank you for telling me."

I placed my thumb along on her cheekbone while running my fingers down her jaw line as she had done to me.

"I wish my dad was still here," she confessed. "I never thought this day would come so soon. He just…I never told you enough about him. I never told him I loved him as much as I should have. He would have been so proud of you, Edward. One day he would have realized how good you are to me and it would've made him proud.

"I feel like I let him down. I gave up fighting against Danny when I made that comment at the end. I knew it would set him off, but I couldn't keep my mouth shut. Charlie taught me better than that."

It would have been easy to interrupt her with a simple: "Bella, you can't blame yourself." But I was in the same boat she was, and I would do my best not to be hypocritical. It was the least I could give her right now until we moved on from this.

"Shhh. Let's not talk about that right now. We have all the time in the world now. Tell me everything you want to," I offered instead.

"His favorite movie was Braveheart. I think it suited him well," she smiled in spite of herself, "I picked up my bad habits of the newspaper on Sunday and black coffee from him. It was always instant coffee, too. He was terrible at cooking. I'm not sure how he and my mother survived for those first few years. I guess they were loyal patrons of the only diner in Forks. In each year of high school, he bought me a piece of jewelry with my birthstone. I still have them all. They're in a jewelry box on my nightstand. I wore the earrings he got me on the night of his last banquet."

"You tell me something about him," Bella prompted surprisingly.

I was taken aback by her request, simply because she seemed intent on telling me about him. Yet also because I felt anything I had to say would be silly in comparison. How does one lifetime of memories with a father compare to the formal recollection I had of Chief Swan?

"Um, I don't really know, Bella. I don't think anything I have to say would be all that great," I admitted.

"No, tell me. I'm sure it'll be wonderful," she disagreed with a hopeful smile.

"Uh," I stuttered as I tried to recall something that was a little more directed to her. "Well, after I found out about your real name, I went to him. I remember noticing that little fish in his office. It was probably fate that after all those times that I finally noticed it then. He was so proud when he realized what I was staring at. He told me you hated it, but he would never get rid of it. He told me something along the lines of one day when I had kids, especially a little girl, that all those little fish would be important."

"Thank you, Edward," Bella said as she picked up my hand and squeezed my fingers.

I leaned forward, pressing my lips to her forehead.

"When does it start to feel better, Edward? It feels like I'll never get over this."

"Bella," I sighed while I decided what words to choose, "this is something you don't get over. It'll stay with you for a long time. I don't think you'll ever really stop hurting, but eventually the pain will let up."

"When was the first time you saw someone killed on the job?" she asked me directly.

I was startled by her question.

"Um, it was a few years ago if I remember correctly. It's not something that happens with as much frequency as you think. And it's most certainly not something to be proud about. It was also the first police funeral I had attended. A cop that was on a mission with me was shot by the assailant. We were looking for a fugitive and his son. I almost got shot that night, too."

"How many funerals have you been to?"

"Four, including…today."

"Do you still miss Vanessa?"

"Of course I do, Bella. I know it seems like I don't think about her, especially when I'm with you, but I do. There was a long time when I couldn't go to sleep without thinking of her. She would have never been to me what you are, but she was special. I still wish things could have ended differently."

"I think tomorrow we should go get that fish from Charlie's office," Bella suggested randomly.


"Tomorrow I want to go get that fish. I want it back before someone gets rid of it accidentally. It meant a lot to him," she explained. "You reminded me of that."

"Okay, we'll go."

Bella and I lay there in silence for a half hour before either one of us said something.

"We should go home. Your family is waiting for us. They came all the way over here. I don't want to be rude," Bella said.

"They understand, Bella."

"No. I think it's time to go home."


Bella sat up first, brushing her hair out of her face, and getting herself together. I threw my legs over the side, looking on the floor for my shoes. It was harder now that it was getting darker outside. The poor weather didn't help the situation. I grabbed Bella's shoes first, noticing them before my own, as I took her feet and placed them on for her. She kissed my temple after I finished and stood up.

"How are we going to get home? We don't have the car anymore. We could take my truck, I guess."

I chuckled at her simplicity.

"Your truck is probably dead, love. It's been weeks since you've driven it. It's archaic on its own."

"A cab, I guess?"

I nodded.

In any other weather I would have suggested walking the few blocks back to my apartment, but I didn't want to run the risk of getting Bella sick.

Several minutes later a car service pulled up. Bella stuck her key in her pocket when I gave her a warning look. It was warm in the small cab and Bella and I had to sit close in the backseat. I knew I only had a few minutes left to ask her what had been on my mind for a while.

"Bella, can I ask you something?"

"Absolutely," she replied determinedly.

"What happened with Jacob?"

She stiffened slightly.

"You saw him?"

"He was a little hard to miss. I went after you when you left the burial."

"He…I…he saw me on our way out of the service. He knew he wouldn't be able to get in, but security during the burial was a little looser so he managed to sneak in. Jacob noticed us during the burial. He was going to leave, but I lost it. He actually wanted me to tell you he was sorry. He didn't want you to think he was waiting for an in or something."

"Wow. He sent an apology to me? I feel like it should be the other way around."

Bella smiled ruefully at my astonishment.

"Well he mentioned that, too. We spoke for a while."

"I gathered that. It took Emmett to keep me away from you. You have no idea how much you worried me this morning."

"I know. I just…"

"We're here," the cabbie interrupted.

I gave him a severe look before shoving a twenty dollar bill in his face. I grabbed Bella's hand, pulling her out of the cab with me and towards the apartment. Our umbrella was useless now. I stepped into the elevator car with Bella, hoping she would continue what she was about to say.

"I'm sorry he interrupted you. You were going to say something…?"

"I was just going to say I had a lot on my mind."

It was short and certainly not what I was expecting. I wasn't too sure I believed it either, but decided to let it go for now. When we reached my floor, Bella stopped.

"What's wrong?"

"My mother's here. I can hear her voice."

Looking at Bella carefully, I listened intently. Sure enough, I heard a terribly grating voice from my apartment.

"We were going to have to see her again sooner or later. Let's just be thankful that she leaves tomorrow."

"You're right," Bella nodded.

I unlocked the door, pushing it forward to reveal Renee in my kitchen along with my parents. Alice and Jasper were in the dining room setting the table.

"There you guys are! We were ready to call Emmett," Alice announced.

My mother bent down, peering at me from the opening between the cabinets and my kitchen's bar. Renee took action immediately, walking into the hall as I let go of Bella for a moment to close the door behind me. I turned around to find her inspecting Bella.

"Where were you two? It's been hours!" she complained.

"We stopped at my house, mom. Edward and I just needed some time alone to talk."

Renee laughed.

"I'd almost forgotten you owned a house, Bella. I mean you spend every waking moment locked up in this apartment now."

I flexed my hand, getting angry but reining myself in. She was a woman and she was also Bella's mother.

"Right. Well, I still do."

Bella walked past her mother, brushing her rather rudely in the process, to say hello to my parents. Esme welcomed her with open arms, hugging her tightly as Carlisle smiled down at Bella. I spared Renee a glance as I walked over to help Alice and Jasper. I looked down to see the table was already finished and I smiled embarrassingly.

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be. We were glad to do this," Alice reassured.

Carlisle came up from behind me to pat my shoulder.

"Did everything go well today?" he asked quietly.

I shook my head.

"She seems better," he replied with confusion.

"It was better towards the end, but I'm still worried. It's not something we're going to be able to get over quickly."

"Okay. We'll talk later," Carlisle ended the conversation quickly as Bella walked into the dining room, carrying dishes with my mother.

Carlisle, Jasper, and I had started to have nightly conversations on my balcony. It felt nice to express some of my frustrations about Bella and recent events to two people who were much more intelligent than I could ever hope to be. I hoped to take this small window Bella and I had opened today to make more progress.

I took one of the seats, realizing rather belatedly I was now in for a terrible family dinner. The thing that would make it the worst wasn't even Renee—it was knowing that Charlie wouldn't be here, and that was especially obvious on today of all days.

It started with all of us sitting down. Bella sat between Jasper and my mother while I sat next to Alice and Carlisle. Renee was sandwiched between my parents and directly across from me.

I stared at the dish on the table. Maybe I was hoping for the food to simply materialize, because I wasn't interested in serving myself and I definitely didn't have an appetite. I happened to look up, noticing a fixed glare from Renee. Uncomfortable, I immediately looked away and began to aimlessly place things on my plate. It was distracting as my hands raced to do different things across the dinner table.

"Hungry, Edward?" Carlisle chuckled.

I glanced at him; my head moved so quickly I was afraid my neck would get stuck.

"Yeah," I replied with a bit of nerves.

Esme served Bella like a child, placing things on her plate after she gained approval. The situation was completely fucked.

"So, Edward, what did you think of the service? I assume you've been to a number," Renee worked to make her tone conversational, but I could detect the venom from a mile away.

Carlisle shifted in his seat, frowning as he took a distracted sip from his water.

"Um, it was the biggest funeral I've ever been to. They did a good job, but it's not something I like to think about too much, Mrs. Dwyer."

Then she sniffed—with a smirk on her face and everything.

"Exactly how many have you been to?" she asked.

"Four, including Chief Swan's."

"Interesting…so you would admit this sort of thing happens frequently?"

"Not exactly. It's not an everyday occurrence, but it's not an exception to the rule either."

"It's interesting that you should say that, Edward. That was always one of my biggest issues with Charlie. It was certainly one of the reasons why we divorced. Being an officer's wife is no easy task. Right, Bella?"

Bella looked down at her plate. From the look on her face I could tell she wasn't amused by her mother's antics. I was ready for her to explode. I had seen that look on Bella's face before.

"Actually, mom, I think the reason why you divorced Charlie is because you left him. The divorce was never mutual. He only indulged you because he wanted to make you happy."

"Semantics, Bella," Renee laughed.

She even had the nerve to look at my mother and giggle. Esme studiously ignored the shrew.

The dinner was quiet once again. Alice tried to make conversation with Jasper, asking him about things in their social circle, but even the sounds of their voices couldn't reignite the failed dinner.

Without warning a fork suddenly landed on one of the dishes with a clank. We all looked up to see Renee glaring at me yet again.

"Okay. I've had enough. I need to say some things," Renee announced.

"You always have something to say," Bella muttered loud enough for us to hear.

"Hush, Isabella. Edward and I need to discuss a few things."

"Wouldn't you like to do that in private?" Carlisle suggested politely.

"No," Renee snapped, "Bella needs to hear this, too."

"You are nothing but poison to Bella. If you had kept your nose where it belonged, that lunatic would have left everyone alone. Charlie is dead now and Bella is a basket case. She barely sees the sun because of you and you have the nerve to parade around like some martyred hero!"

"Enough," Esme interrupted, "we don't need to upset Bella anymore than she has been today."

"Bella is sitting right fucking here and she would like everyone to stop tip-toeing around the bullshit!"

I stared at her helplessly. I opened my mouth to speak, but I was interrupted.

"No! You don't get to say anything! This is all your fault. If Bella is the woman I raised her to be, too, then she'll realize that sooner rather than later."

"Stop it! It's not his fault anymore than it is mine," Bella defended me.

"Ugh! How you can defend him, Bella? He's lethal. You'll spend the rest of your life dedicated to him while he spends his dedicated to his job. You would also do well to remember the kind of life you used to have before he destroyed it. You're an idiot for leaving Jacob. And you'll spend the rest of your life shackled to him while you realize it."

Renee stood up promptly as she disappeared to retrieve her purse and coat. She only returned to say one thing to Bella before she left.

"When you get your head out of the clouds, call me. That or if he gets himself killed, too."

The door closed with a bang. Alice flinched and Jasper immediately put a hand on her shoulder to soothe her.

"Bella, Edward, I'm sorry," Carlisle spoke without hesitation.

Bella and I stared at each other. We were tired. Despite the progress we'd made earlier today, I was afraid we'd never get past this.

"I'm hurting. I'm shutting you all out. I know all of this. But I didn't just lose a father. I lost the single most important person to me. I'm trying to be sensitive and I know you all well enough to know I'm not the only who's been through something like this. I just need you to understand that I can't be reasonable right now. He left me…I can't accept that right now. I've tried and I just…," Bella stopped as she was overwhelmed by tears.

Before I had a chance to stop her, she stood up and went into the bedroom.

"Bella," I called after her.

The door shut.

I groaned, smacking my hand down on the table. With my face buried in my hands, I closed my eyes and just sat there.

Eventually my family started to move from the table and clean things up, but I simply sat there.

My life consisted of very few basics. I had Bella, my family, my job, and my friends. Half of the equation was falling apart and I feared that it might drag down the other half with it.

I needed to make changes.

The solution was obvious and my hand was clearly being forced now. I had to make a choice. It wouldn't be as easy as I once thought. After today, especially, it felt like I was quitting a central part of me. With Bella pushing me away and no signs of a quick return, who would I be without Lieutenant-Detective at the front of my name?

Forgive the impending long A/N, but I have some news to share:

Next monday, January 25th I will be submitting a chapter for Ninapolitan's Smut Monday feature on Twilighted(dot)net. It will be posted a week later, February 1st, on my FanFiction profile. I invite you all to come check it out - you'll be treated to some Casinoward!

On February 4th, I will be doing an interview for the Perv Pack's Smut Shack. It's an interview with none other than my bestest friend 4theluvofmary. You are all invited to come check that out as well. And you are also invited to submit questions. Do you want to know what my favorite food is? How many songs I have in my iTunes? When I will finally decide wth is going on with ANS? Send your questions through a PM to either my profile or 4theluvofmary's. I promise to answer any questions - except what's going to happen next in Secret :) A link will be posted to the PPSS on my profile.

I'm also partaking in a glorious charity project with some of the other authors here in the Twilight fandom. Ms. Kathy has organized a Twifans for Haiti project in which anyone who contributes $5 to the charity of their choice will receive an extensive document that features original pieces from a plethora of authors here on FanFiction.

I've donated and will be writing a piece for the project. Unless you'd like to wait until March 1st to see what I've written, you can make your way to: mskathyff(dot)blogspot(dot)com/?zx=a9b3fc56d5812d69

You'll find a long list of the participating authors and how much the fandom has raised. At press time, we had raised over $30,000!!

Finally, at some point or another an outtake of Bella & Jacob's chat from this chapter will be posted underneath the Secret Side-shots, Outtakes, and More story. Put that story on alert to find out when!

Thank you all for reading!