Dearest, most patient, most beloved readers I am here to offer you two things. The first is my humblest, most sincere apologies. This has taken far too long. There has been so much time in between these last two chapters and for that I am so sorry. It shouldn't have taken me so long, but alas, life sometimes gets in the way.

The second is this new chapter! My dears you have reached the final chapter in our little saga, the one that ties it all together, that brings it home, that ends the tale. I hope it has been a (mostly) pleasant journey for you, as it has been for me.

Enjoy


I.

Breathing hurt.

James went to touch what was a very tender part of his chest but upon moving his arm he found it extended no more than a few centimeters past its resting place. For a moment he was able to think how strange his limited motion was, which was followed by the very brief memory of a fight he had with some strange copper headed man and then he disappeared into a haze, a blank space.

The pain disappeared.

There was only fog.

II.

Breathing hurt.

Broken ribs would do that, the doctor assured her. Edward told her the same thing. He had broken his fair share through boyhood antics, drunken college shenanigans and sparring matches at the gym during what he claimed was a more or less responsible adulthood.

Bella looked up at the ceiling tiles, concentrating on breathing while moving her chest as little as she could. She had decided she didn't want to take all the pain medication the nurses and doctors kept telling her she could have. Her feet, her arms, her hands, her ribs—everything hurt but she didn't want morphine clouding her mind. She needed to be sure she felt what she felt and that what she said she meant, and that what she was deciding to do now was as clear as it could possibly be. She could have slipped into the fog of the pain, or into the calming, drowning sea of the drugs, but everything was so fresh now, everything was so real now, it felt like really living after almost a decade and a half of just existing.

Pain, it seemed, had awakened her to life in a way that so many other things had been unable to. She glanced to the cot in her bedroom and to the man who had decided to quickly nap there before greeting his boss, the district attorney, an entire city's legal team, and his partner for a briefing about the case they were mounting against the man that had tried to kill her, twice, and what she was sure was going to be a very severe tongue lashing with possible unsavory ramifications over his involvement with her. Edward had fallen asleep as soon as he had touched his head down to the hospital pillow. He had slept so little the past few days, first looking for her, and then because he said he hadn't wanted to take his eyes off of her.

"In case you disappear on me again," he had told her before going to shut his eyes for a short while. She had smiled and told him to rest, that Emmett would come get him when it was time to go to their meeting and she would be here when he got back. She loved him. She loved him more than she knew it was possible to love another person.

But he was in trouble. He wouldn't tell her, he would never say it, but his wearied, angry eyes told her more than he would ever need to say. He was full of a rage that she could never cool, but he was also afraid, afraid of what he was going to do. Edward wasn't a killer; he would kill for her, make things right and take someone out of the world that had hurt her, restore balance as it were. But he wasn't the kind of man who took death on his hands lightly and he was struggling. He would do this thing she had asked him to do, in fact he would have done it whether she had asked it or not, but she was afraid of what he would think of himself after. Killing a man like James could hardly be considered a sin, but something told Bella that Edward was not the kind of man that would do anything without thoroughly punishing himself for it after if he had even the slightest misgivings about it after it was done. It was in the way he had looked at her when she had asked him to do it, like she had simultaneously given him permission to do something he greatly desired and condemned him to do something he loathed simultaneously. Not to mention she knew that he and Emmett had spoken and agreed to take care of him together. Emmett was too good a man to be burdened.

She couldn't let them do it.

She could see where it would lead. Edward would have done the right thing, and he would know that he had done the right thing, but it would eat at him. He would tell himself that he deserved die, and he did deserve to die, but she could not demand that he take that on his conscience. When she had spoken to Emmett and told him that if she had been able to get up out of her bed she would have killed him herself, she had not been exaggerating. In fact, what she had been doing was leaving things out.

She could get out of bed if she wanted to, she had practiced getting into a wheel chair with the nurses to get to and from the bathroom, and she could do it herself if she tried hard enough. Not being on the morphine helped her coordination bit, though it didn't take away her natural clumsiness. It had taken about a half an hour of practicing but she had gotten it down, at least the most basic moves required of her. She could set weight on her feet if she really needed to. She would try not to for as long as she possibly could, but she knew it was possible that she would need to bear the pain of her burned feet to put an end to all of it. And that was exactly what she planned to do.

It wasn't only because Edward had done so much already, or because she didn't want to saddle him and Emmett with that kind of burden, or even because she was terrified out of her mind that they might have gotten caught doing it, though all those things were true. She had only to remember the feeling of peace she had gotten when she thought he was dead, and the accompanying sensation of victory over being the one who finally won after all these years to tell her that really, rightfully, if it was going to be anyone to take him out of this world, it should be her.

A soft knock touched on the door before it was opened a crack. Emmett peeked only his head in, which Bella found amusing considering the mass of the body on the other side. She told him to come in. He moved through the small opening in the doorway with surprising grace and with a quick smile to Bella sat down in the chair beside her bed.

"How's he doing?" he asked quietly, not trying to wake him yet.

"Tired; he hasn't been sleeping much the past few days so I have to practically force him just to nap here and there," she answered, glancing at him affectionately. Emmett nodded.

"Now Bella, I have to tell you something that you might not so much like to hear right now," he told her after a pause. She waited for him to continue.

"I spoke to the doctors, and they said that James has been regaining consciousness in bits and pieces, a minute here, two minutes there, but it seems like he is pulling out of his post-surgical coma pretty steadily. I just wanted to tell you before you started overhearing it from nurses and doctors who don't know what patient confidentiality means."

If he had told her yesterday that he was coming out of his coma, that it looked like he was going to survive, she would have been furious, terrified, too shocked to really move. They were in the same hospital for God's sake, he was closer to her than she liked, unconscious or not. But she already knew what she was going to do. Even conscious he was still weak—she had shot him four times after all—not to mention he was in restraints. He was practically a sitting duck. It seemed fitting for a man who liked to tie down and torture children to die helpless. It wouldn't be hard to end him, conscious or unconscious.

"Thank you for telling me, Emmett," she answered quietly. He only nodded.

"I think it might be time to wake our boy up. We need to get going to this official meeting slash ass kicking before we're late and give them another reason to be pissed off."

Before Bella could quietly, kindly say his name enough times for him to hear her and wake up calmly, Emmett cleared his throat and began to sing, loudly and off key.

"I want to be an airborne ranger, live the life of guts and danger, airborne ranger, guts and danger!"

"Oh shut it, Emmett!" Edward said, still lying down. It was clear he had woken up. He sat up slowly, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand. He blinked a few times and looked over at Bella with a smile. His clothes were a rumpled mess, he had the worst bed head Bella had ever seen, and she had gotten some pretty bad bed head herself. Even still, the only thing she could think of was how much she wished she wasn't attached to a bunch of wires and tubes, or she might have jumped him right then.

"That might literally be the most unpleasant way to wake up on the planet," he grumbled, standing up and straightening himself out. He smoothed his hands over his shirt and pants and ran his fingers through his hair to try and calm it down. He succeeded minimally, but looked more presentable than he had when he first got up. He stretched, lacing his fingers up over his head, and then slumped back down with a sigh.

"All right, let's get this done," he said in a quiet, defeated voice.

"Ten four, good buddy; I'll be there to back you up if you need it. The brass can kiss my grits if they think they are going to make you bend over on this one," Emmett replied.

"What pleasant imagery," Edward retorted. "Are you okay, Bella? Do you need anything?"

"I'm fine. Go to your meeting and then come back to me, please."

"Always. I shouldn't be long."

He came over to the side of her bed and kissed her forehead and smiled at her. When he caught her eyes he paused.

"Are you sure you're okay?" he asked, suspicion laced into his voice.

"Yes, I'm just a little tired. I think I'm going to take a nap before you come back."

He stood and looked at her for a moment. She wanted to tell him the truth, but he would never have let her do it. He would have stopped her, and when he did, everything could be ruined. She couldn't take the risk of him trying to be noble or getting them all in more trouble than they were already in. So she lied. It didn't feel good, but she knew that she had to, to protect him, to save him, really to save them both.

He decided she was telling the truth and left her in the room with a quick flash of a smile over his shoulder as he shut the door. Bella counted to one hundred twice before pulling the covers off her lap. The wheelchair was on the other side of the chair that was next to her bed, usually moved closer to her by a nurse or Edward, but she figured she could just maneuver from the chair, to the wheel chair and out. She leaned over the side of the bed and pulled the chair as close as she could, so she could try and just shift herself down from the bed directly into it.

She braced herself with a quick pull of breath and then shimmied herself to the edge of the bed, and then reached down and grabbed the sides of the chair. Without thinking too much, she pulled herself down from the bed, and into the chair. She landed with a thud and a tingle that shot up her coccyx. The wires and tubes attached to her jiggled and pulled a bit. She knew that once she was disconnected from them there would be some kind of alert to the nurses, and one or more of them would come running to her room thinking something was wrong. She was going to have to detach from them and get out of the room quickly enough to be away by the time they came looking. She decided she would wait to unplug herself until she was mobile in the wheelchair.

She reached over and grabbed hold of the arm of the wheelchair and pulled it closer to her. It was going to be harder to pull herself into it being on the same level instead of shimmying down from the bed as she was used to doing, but she figured she could do it if she really tried. She grabbed onto the arms of the wheelchair, and pulling herself gradually up, thought she might be able to hoist herself up over the arm of it, and then move herself into the right position. For a moment that looked like it might happen, until the wheelchair moved the slightest bit—she had remembered too late that she needed to put the wheel break on—and her balance evaporated.

She fell to the floor, bracing her fall with her hands. She felt the stitches on her arm tear as her skin flexed and strained and pain radiated out from her middle as her bruised and broken ribs touched down to the linoleum floor. Bella stifled a scream, closing her eyes against the pain. There was a second when she thought she might as well just lie on the floor, defeated. She was in too much pain, she wasn't strong enough. She opened her eyes and saw the blood already beginning to seep through the gauze on her arm, just tiny dots of red against the startling white. The stand that connected her to an IV was leaning over, trying to accommodate the strain of being pulled to the floor without disconnecting from the port in the back of her left hand. The machine that monitored her heart beat had sped up briefly and was now settling back down.

In a movie there would have been a moment where she remembered some cruel thing James had said to her, or where she flashed back to some terrible torture and felt suddenly more righteous and strong. Instead, when she thought of all the hate and fear all she felt was small and scared. So it was small and scared that she dragged herself back to the wheel chair and pulled herself up to her knees. She rose up on them, like she was praying for a moment and then she lifted a shaky leg and touched her gauze covered foot to the ground.

She didn't feel pain until she put pressure on it. She had to hold her breath to keep from screaming. It was like standing on knives. But she swallowed the screams she felt beating against her throat and leaned forward, pulling the wheelchair against her shins. She maneuvered a slight spin, so she was mostly facing away from the chair and lowered herself down into it. When her weight was firmly resting in the chair and not on her feet she let out a small sob, picking up her shaky hands to wipe the tears off her face. She sniffled a little and steadied her pounding heart and fast breathing until she felt mostly normal.

She reached down to her hand and pulled out the tube connected to her IV. She reached into her hospital gown and felt for the little suction-cupped receivers on her chest that monitored her heart beat. She pulled the wires from the receptors and unclipped the finger receptor and left them behind her on the floor as she wheeled clumsily to the door.

Emmett hadn't been exaggerating about doctors and nurses who didn't know how to be quiet about their patients. Bella had heard them talking about plenty of other people in the hospital, but of course she was only interested in one. She only ever heard them talk about James twice, but it was enough to glean the information she wanted. He was in room 325. She was in room 416. She was able to find the elevator without much trouble, and fate was on her side when she pressed the down button and the doors immediately dinged open. She wheeled herself into the waiting elevator and pressed the 'three' button, waiting for the doors to shut on their own. It took only a minute for it to trundle down one floor and the doors to open, opening up to the floor she needed, where she could find James.

The first door she found was room 302. She started to go left first until she realized that she found room 300 next. So she executed a shaky turn and started wheeling in the opposite direction. It was slow going, turning the wheels of the chair was hard work, and she got tired so easily, not to mention that extending her arm hurt her already torn stitches. Trying to inconspicuous in a wheelchair in a hospital wasn't hard; trying to inconspicuous in a hospital with bleeding stitches a more difficult feat. She tried to appear as normal as possible, wheeling down the hall. She passed 317, and then a moment later 321, and finally 325. She stopped outside the door, unsure she could make herself go in.

There was so much evil behind that door. So many bad memories, so many nightmares, so much pain and hate and death and fear and she was terrified that it was going to swallow her whole. If she opened the door, if she saw him, she was afraid that every panic attack, sleepless night, bad dream, anxiety ridden bus ride, or walk home, or night spent with a knife under her pillow was going to flood her and she would be useless. She would be found in the doorway, paralyzed, useless, empty, finally the shell he was so sure he had created from her. How could someone so small go up against something so evil and come out untarnished?

What kept her going was the hope that if she knew he was dead she could put it all behind her. She had tried to kill him once, but that had been a reflex. She was shooting because if she didn't he was going to kill Edward and then he was going to kill her.

A voice in her head asked, what do you think he is going to do if he is allowed to get up out of that hospital bed? And through a wave of nausea she reached over and grasped the handle of the door and turned it, before pushing it open. He would never stop, she realized. If he got up, if he got out, he would never stop until she was dead. He wouldn't even care if he went to jail then, if his work was done. As much pain as she was in, as much fear and pain and anxiety as she had been through, she didn't want to die.

She wanted a life, with her career, and a nice apartment and maybe even one day a dog. She wanted a life with Edward, time together without having to feel like they were doing something wrong, and Emmett coming over to watch baseball games and being friends with his girlfriend because they would inevitably double date. She wanted a life without looking over her shoulder. She could never have that while he was breathing.

She was as quiet as she could be, as though she were afraid of waking a sleeping baby as she wheeled through the doorway. Machines beeped in a steady rhythm. There was a soft whooshing noise as oxygen pumped through a tube, positioned under James' nose. If Bella had been attached to her own beeping machines they would have picked up and started blaring rather annoyingly as her heartbeat and breathing increased, first by two and then by three.

He looked smaller, lying there in the bed, covered by the same off colored green blanket she had been covered by in her own bed downstairs. His eyes were closed, but she didn't need them to be open to remember what they looked like. They were like chips of ice, empty, blue, and cold. His mouth was slightly open, pinkish lips parted, breathing loud. She imagined it hurt him to breathe, like it hurt her to breathe, those gunshot wounds would impede his breathing the same as her broken ribs. She wished it hurt him more.

She wheeled a bit closer, slowly approaching until she was right beside the bed. She looked at the morphine pump that was connected to his IV, similar to the one she had asked the nurses to remove. She reached up and pulled the tube from the port in his hand. It separated without much give. Liquid dripped out the end of the tube, liquid saline, morphine, antibiotics to make sure he didn't get an infection after his surgeries. The machines monitoring his vitals kept being away steadily.

The hand she had nearly touched while removing his IV was surrounded by a cuff, which was attached to the sideboard of the bed. His other hand was similarly restrained. His hands looked so ordinary, lying there on top of the blanket, just like ordinary hands that had done nothing but make sandwiches and write letters and put away groceries all their days. They certainly didn't look like they had ever held a blowtorch to a child's skin. They didn't resemble hands that had worn brass knuckles and broken a six year old face into so many pieces it was no longer recognizable as a face. Close cut nails, rough palms and callused fingers, they looked like the hands of a man who worked for his daily bread—a mechanic, a welder, a construction worker. They looked like honest hands.

Bella started to cry.

She hadn't really thought about what she would do when she got into the room. She was focused on getting into the wheel chair, and then getting to his room without being detected or intercepted. Now that she was here, she wasn't entirely sure what to do. How did one go about killing a killer? Everything seemed both too grotesque and too kind at the same time. Scenes from crime movies and Law and Order episodes flashed through her memory. Cause of death wasn't even the hardest thing about it; it was actually taking the life, removing a person from the earth. He would cease to be.

And she would be free.

III.

Breathing hurt.

They had been in the middle of the most severe tongue lashing Edward had ever gotten when there was a blare of bleeping alarms and ringing phones, and cheeping beepers from the doctors running around outside the door.

His captain and the District Attorney were both in the middle of telling him how stupid he was for sleeping the woman in the biggest, most explosive case Boston had seen in since the Strangler. He couldn't take the stand anymore; anything he had gotten evidence-wise was no longer usable because he had tainted it, if Emmett and Edward hadn't found Bella being held by him themselves, they wouldn't even have been able to tie him to the case at all. Between his favors from Tanya and from Felix, both of which they were as yet unaware, and his sleeping with Bella, the case they had was more or less useless.

Emmett was doing what he could to back him up, but he was getting his ass handed to him, regardless. They were in the middle of a diatribe about the responsibility he had to the public above all other things as a police officer when the cacophony of high pitched alarms interrupted. The DA pulled open the door quickly and they all saw a few doctors rushing down the hall in the direction of the surgical recovery rooms.

"Guess somebody coded; if we're lucky it was our boy James and all this wrist slapping can wrap up and we can get back to being detectives," Emmett said darkly.

Edward glanced at him. He appreciated the sentiment but he didn't think his being snarky was going to help the situation. Before anyone could go back to talking, the captain's phone started ringing. He picked it up and immediately looked to Edward.

"James," he said quietly. Edward squinted at him, unsure what he was trying to tell him. Then he said, "Bella."

Edward was out the door.

He had known something was off with her when he said goodbye to come to this stupid fucking sit down he was having with the big wigs. Something had been off in her face, in her eyes. She couldn't look at him directly and when she did it was like she was somewhere else. She told him she was tired, but that was a lie. He had known it was a lie when she said it, but he had let it go because he didn't want to push her too hard. Now he wished he had pushed her. If he had, he would have seen it.

Emmett had told him in passing about what Bella said regarding her limited mobility and how if she were able she would kill James herself. Edward never thought for a second that she really meant it; even if he had, she was so broken that it hadn't occurred to him that she could do it. He had just enough time to wonder how she had gotten to his room with such terribly burned feet and injuries covering her body before he turned down the small hallway in the recovery wing and pushed open the door to James' room. There were doctors standing around, looking at Bella and James but not moving. Bella was sitting in a wheelchair, holding a pillow in her hands.

It was obvious he was dead; the machine that would normally have been beeping away steadily was now emitting one single sound that persisted even though the subject on the other end of the line did not. Edward couldn't tell if James had woken up or fought. There wouldn't have been much he could have done, being restrained in the bed the way he was. She could have killed him and he couldn't have even lifted a finger to fight her off, in the chance that he had been conscious at the time.

Edward considered that justice had been done. A killer had been taken down by his most damaged victim, and maybe now, after all these years she could rest and not have to think about the what ifs surrounding him. But he also knew that Bella had just killed a man. She must have taken the pillow from the bed and smothered him with it. The medical examiner could confirm it later during his autopsy. Right now, he needed to take care of the scene.

"Bella," he said quietly. She didn't look up. She was staring down at the pillow in her hands. He said her name again, louder. She looked up at him then. And there she was. Right back in her eyes the way she should have been, there she was. Her expression was mostly blank.

Edward reached over to the cart that was sitting by the door and pulled a set of latex gloves from the box sitting atop it. He put them on and then went to Bella, and slowly pulled the pillow from her hands. She let him take it without much of a fight. The doctors in the room were just staring at them, watching them move with widened eyes.

"Can one of you―"

"I've got this," Emmett said from the door. Edward hadn't even heard him come in. "You take the girl. I've got this."

Edward could not have thanked him enough in that moment for letting him get Bella out of there. She was in shock; those empty eyes, empty movements, he could see it in the way she blinked at him that she was there and not there. He had to get her out of that room before she lost it.

She let herself be wheeled from the room without saying a word. He took her down the hall and after checking to see there were no patients inside, into an empty room. She was just sitting, placid, eyes glassy.

"Bella," he said quietly. She flinched. He said her name again and her whole body moved, seemed to ripple like she was shaking herself back into this plane of existence.

"Do you know what you've done?" he asked.

"What I had to do," she whispered. After that she said nothing.


Edward watched her.

He had just gotten off the phone with the district attorney. They had decided not to press charges against Bella. She had, albeit belatedly, acted in self defense, at least she thought she was acting in self defense. She had been so traumatized that knowing that her would be killer was going to survive could have scared her so badly she thought her only course of action would be to kill him.

They had some trouble at first, because she wouldn't speak, so they were unable to interview her and get any kind of statement from her. They pieced it together based on some of the footage from the security cameras, and what Edward saw upon entering the room, as well as the coroner's report and the physical evidence. Bella had entered the room, and smothered him with the pillow on his bed. Her epithelial cells were in the fabric, as was his saliva. There was pitikial hemorrhaging in his eyes, which indicated suffocation. All signs pointed to Bella.

It was Emmett, not Edward, however that talked some sense into the DA. He had been on some diatribe about vigilantism and justice and why we have court systems when Emmett told him that if he had ever laid his eyes on a child that was beaten until they didn't look human, or burned until their skin turned black, or cut up until they bled out he would give her a goddamn medal not press charges. The DA had ordered a psych evaluation. Bella hadn't spoken to him either, but the shrink had determined that she was suffering from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and that not only had she operated under the assumption that she had no choice but to kill James, but that a trial might push her into a downward spiral from which she would never recover. He called it cruel and unusual punishment, said it violated her eighth amendment right and that he would launch a law suit against the DA's office if they even thought of pursuing the idea of pressing charges. As it turned out, they thought that perhaps it was in everyone's best interest not to go any further.

Her apartment was still trashed, the damage hadn't been repaired, she didn't have any clothes, a bed, or a working bathroom, so naturally Edward bought her a new wardrobe with the help of Emmett's lovely girlfriend and had Bella staying at his place. She wasn't talking to him, yet, but he wanted to give her time. She had seen more, experienced more, done more, in the past few days than most people went through in a life time. The poor woman was bruised and broken, and she was suffering more than Edward could bear to think about, but she hadn't broken, not for one moment, and he so he watched her, with love and concern and anguish.

She was sitting on the couch, the television on in front of her, but he could tell she wasn't watching it. Edward put on What Not to Wear reruns and she would sit in front of the screen, her eyes open but not watching. He went over and turned the TV off, and she looked at him, vacant expression gone. She regarded him calmly, like she always did.

"I just got off the phone with the district attorney. He decided not to press charges, so this whole mess can just be over. You won't have to go through a trial. You won't ever have to talk about it ever again, if you don't want to. It's all over now, Bella."

Her lips pursed and her brow furrowed. Her eyes turned glassy, wetness spreading over them in an even sheen. She shook her head slowly.

"It will never be over," she whispered.

Those were the only words she spoke for three weeks.

Every day Edward would wake up beside her, make her breakfast, bring it to her while she was still in bed and eat with her. They would go for a walk, go grocery shopping, do laundry, eat lunch, see a movie, catch a nap, go for a drive, eat dinner, watch television and go to bed.

Edward was taking time off indefinitely both as a result of his indiscretions and because he wanted to be there to take care of Bella. She had nowhere to stay while they were redoing her apartment, for one. Not to mention that no one, Edward included, liked the idea of Bella being alone. The court appointed shrink had suggested a voluntary intake at a mental health facility. Edward had declined. She didn't need nurses and doctors poking and prodding her, locking her into a place with a bunch of certifiably crazy people who thought they had government chips implanted in their arms or that voices were telling them to execute the president. Getting doped into a stupor wouldn't help her find her way out of wherever she had gone.

What Edward thought would help her most was finding her way back to her normal life, at whatever pace was easiest, in whatever way was easiest. So while he was taking her through everyday tasks, letting her readjust to life, he was talking to her. It was what he considered to be his most important task. She never said anything back to him, but he could tell she was listening. She would sit and sometimes he would think she was somewhere else again, but then her face would flicker the briefest hint of a smile at a funny story, or frown when he suggested something for dinner she didn't want to eat. There was enough of a reaction to indicate she was hearing him, even if she wasn't talking back. He found her minor reactions encouraging.

He spoke to a doctor about Bella's condition, her PTSD, and her not talking. A psychologist, psychiatrist and medical doctor all assured him that it wasn't unusual for someone suffering from the kind of trauma Bella had suffered from to completely withdraw from her life. Her not talking, her frequent nightmares that she woke from screaming and crying, her constant flinching at loud noises, at accidental touches and crowded places wasn't unusual either. Patience and love was what she needed, they all agreed on that. From there the opinions diverted everywhere from medications, extensive psychotherapy, support groups and inpatient programs. Edward began to worry, however, that she was suffering too much, too long.

Her first had come two weeks after the day at the hospital, after he had told her about the DA's decision. He had thought she would start speaking after that. But the following weeks were filled with more nightmares, and more silence. She didn't speak for almost another month.

When she did, they had been watching a movie and Bella had fallen asleep. Edward had gotten up from the couch to get a glass of water, and while he was in the kitchen, Bella must have woken up. When she found herself alone she shouted his name from the living room. Edward came running.

She was sitting up on the couch, her hair a bedheaded mess, her eyes wide and frightened, instantly melting into relief when he came through the doorway.

"Bella, love, I'm right here," he said crossing the room. She mouthed his name again as he sat down beside her. She started crying as he took her in his arms. She just kept saying his name over and over as he rocked her, the movie playing in the background.

The next morning, after going to bed early, Bella sat up in bed when Edward brought her breakfast in. He set a plate down on her bedside table with scrambled eggs and toast. She looked at the plate of food on the nightstand and the one in his hand and smiled.

"Thank you, Edward," she said.

Edward stopped in his tracks on his way to his side of the bed. Bella laughed at his wonder filled expression. Edward closed his eyes and savored the sound of her laughter. It had been so long since he had heard her laugh.

"How are you feeling today?" he asked when the shock and elation had worn off enough for him to process words.

"I feel…found, does that make sense? I feel like I have been so lost for so many days, just floating through the every day and even last night I didn't know if I was ever going to come back. And then I woke up this morning and I realized that I knew exactly where I was."

"And where is that?" Edward inquired, setting his breakfast plate on his nightstand and sitting next her on his bed.

"Home, Edward, I'm home. Being with you is like being home, with all the windows shut and the door locked in a blizzard. The rest of the world can be freezing cold or coming apart or falling to fucking pieces, and I wouldn't care. You brought me back to your apartment, you took care of me when I couldn't take care of myself, you talked to me every day, you brought me back to life. I don't have enough words to ever tell you how much that means to me, or how much I love you."

Edward had been hesitant to touch Bella over the previous month and a half, because at first she had flinched away from his touch, like he burned her when his hand brushed her skin and later because he was afraid her pulling away from him was going to kill him and he couldn't take that kind of hurt over and over. He had tried to be patient but it was hard when he felt rejected again and again when all he was trying to do was comfort her. It wasn't her fault, not after what she had been through, but Edward was only human. He had stopped touching her because he couldn't take it. But he went to her now, pulled her close, wrapped his arms around her and held her as tightly as he dared. He buried his face in her neck, breathed in her smell, like flowers and honey and home, just like she said.

"You killed James so I wouldn't have to," Edward said into her hair. She flinched just the smallest bit, but her face reverted back to its previously placid state seconds later. "That told me enough, more than enough, more than words could ever say."

They stayed just like that, tangled, entwined, two made one, pieces made whole, for a long time. Edward thought, while he was laying there quietly with Bella, that maybe he would propose to her, maybe he would marry her, maybe they would fill a house with children, two girls and boy, hell maybe they would even get a dog. He could get used to the idea of a life with her in it, couldn't imagine anything else, in fact. They would work and play and live and learn and grow together and they would get old in the same bed and he would love her every single day of the rest of his life. They would fight, they would go through rough patches, just like all couples did but in the end they would come out of it closer, stronger than they had been before, their foundation tested but proved sturdy.

He smiled at that idea and pulled her tighter. She hummed in pleasure.

Their breakfast got cold, and neither one of them seemed to care.


I hope you liked it, in fact, I hope you loved it. You have all been so wonderful through this whole story, your support and encouragement has been both appreciated and treasured. You, faithful readers, have been what pushed me to reclaim my inspiration and dig into this, to find its end, even though sometimes it was hard. I welcome your final thoughts.

Chedea