A/N: After a completely unplanned hiatus, I'm back. I urge you to check out my story blog for RFTA if you want to know the gory details on why I had to stop writing this fic.

We hit 100 reviews! :o) Thanks to all who have reviewed, I can't express how much they mean to me… the fact that you guys take the time to send some love means the world to me and I truly appreciate each and every one.

Where we left them: Bella knows that Edward is a vampire. When asking questions about Edward's family, she triggers anxiety about her brother and has a bit of a meltdown. She asks Edward for help, and to stay for dinner. With Charlie. This should be fun.

And now… without further ado, Chapter 13 of Rising from the Ashes of a Former Life

Chapter 13: Edward
Give Thanks… for Nothing

Her voice was barely a whisper through her tears, "Edward?"


"I think… I need help." At this admission of defeat, I began rubbing her back in soothing circles in an attempt to calm her body-wrenching sobs. She couldn't handle it anymore. The grief was winning, and I couldn't let that happen to my Bella.

"Okay, angel. I'll help you," I whispered, forcing my voice to stay even.

"I… I can't do this… alone." She was breaking.

"I know. I'm here." And I will be here for you until the end of time.

My chest was ripping apart with her grief. Her pain was now my pain. As I watched Bella mourn the loss her brother and the life she once had, I struggled to keep my own emotions at bay. I wanted to be strong for her, but the tide of overwhelming despair was almost too much for me.

After nearly four centuries, I had never felt this much.

Even much later, when she finally calmed enough to look at my face, I had to deny the devastating grief that was rolling off of her in waves. "Edward? What's wrong?" she asked, her voice so small… so raw from the crying.

"It's nothing…" I replied. "I just hate seeing you so sad. It makes me sad." That was the fucking understatement of the century. I was starting to wonder if this is what Alice had been talking about… if this transference of emotions was one of those 'things' that Bella and I would discover about our bond. If so, it was currently sucking ass.

"Oh. Well, listen. I think Charlie is going to be coming home soon… so I should probably start dinner… actually that might be nice. You know, doing something normal…" Normal. Ha. Like not hang out with a vampire. Her comment reminded me just how much she had been through today; my confession seemed so long ago, though it had just been this morning.

"Yeah, I didn't realize it was getting to be so late. Would you like me to leave before he gets here? I wasn't really supposed to be here anyways today… and I wouldn't want it to be an issue with the two of you." The last thing she needed was a strained relationship with her father.

"No!" Her answer came quickly and loudly, startling me. I almost asked her what was wrong, but she continued, "No. He's already met you, so it's fine that we were here. We can say your brothers were home and being loud or something, so we came back over here for the peace and quiet. Please stay for dinner. I mean… obviously you won't eat… hmmm… but will you stay?" Ummm… let me think – YES.

"If you want me here, I wouldn't dream of leaving." Like I could ever leave her…

"Good," she said with a deep, satisfied sigh. As she settled back into my lap, I realized that she really, truly wanted me here. Me. After everything that had transpired today, she didn't want me to leave her. It was… heaven. I let my eyes shut for a few seconds so I could enjoy the wonderful feeling of being wanted.

Too soon, she moved to get up and start dinner. Her demeanor had changed entirely, and I was reminded of how she would change in class on lab days, using the class work as a way to avoid her from her issues. It appeared as though she used cooking to get the same result - distraction from the raging grief inside. "I would ask you what you'd like for dinner, but that would be a bit useless, huh?" She was looking up at me as we made our way into the kitchen.

I smiled down at her, "Here's what I want you to do: you make whatever you would normally make and I'll deal with it."

Her brow furrowed, "I just don't think this is going to work… you don't eat food. Holy shit. This isn't going to work. I can't even believe I'm having a conversation about this, you know?" Tell me about it. The concept of telling anyone what I am wasn't even an option until I met Bella. "I really think my dad is going to notice something. He's a cop for christsakes." I could feel her becoming more nervous as she spoke.

I kept a calm expression on my face and moved my hand to her cheek in an effort to assuage her fears, "Then I'll just have to take a few bites. It's not like it's going to kill me," I offered with a wry grin. As soon as my hand touched her face, she took a deep breath and seemed to calm down right in front of me.

"Really?" she asked with her head cocked to the side. "What do you mean? What happens?"

"What happens when I eat?" I asked to clarify her question. She nodded. "Well, I can chew and swallow food... it's just that my body has no way of digesting it. If I do need to consume some food this evening, I'll just have to… expel it later." I really hoped she would get this without me having to spell it out for her – discussing vomit was probably the last thing she wanted to do while cooking dinner.

Bella mulled over what I said for a few moments while staring blankly into the pantry. She suddenly turned to me with the cutest expression on her face – nose wrinkled up in disgust, eyebrows drawn together. Yeah, she figured it out. "Ew! Really?"

I tried to brush it off, "It's not as bad as it sounds. I don't have any digestive enzymes… no bile at all… so it's rather dry… and I'm just making this worse, aren't I?" She was staring at me with a slightly horrified look on her face. Way to completely gross her out.

"No, not worse. Just… um… I'll let you deal with that later." She turned abruptly and started pulling cookware out of various cabinets.

I was going to apologize and try to change the subject to something non-vomit related, but I didn't have to. The front door opened, and I heard the Chief's voice call out, "Bells? Is that Edward Cullen's car outside?" Yup. I'm just basking in the presence of your daughter, don't mind me.

She glanced at me briefly before calling out, "Yeah… we're in the kitchen dad!"

Now, I don't care if you are an actual seventeen year old boy or a 372 year old vampire pretending to be a seventeen year old boy, police uniforms make you sit up a bit straighter. So, when Chief Swan came around in the corner into the kitchen – with his gun belt still on, mind you – I immediately stood from my chair and extended my hand. "Good to see you again, Sir."

Apparently, I had no reason to be nervous though as he took my hand warmly and smiled. "Good to see you too, Edward. Decided to study here again today?"

"Yes, sir. We-"

But Bella cut me off before I could explain, "Edward's brothers and sisters were all home today – they're off school too. It was really hard to concentrate with so many people around, so we came over here. I hope that's okay."

"Oh, yeah," he replied, "That's fine. Will Edward be joining us for dinner?" The question was directed at Bella, but he was looking in my direction with raised eyebrows.

I nodded to him while Bella answered, "Yeah, I'm just starting dinner. Is pasta okay with you guys? Maybe a fettuccini?" She was asking us both, but looking at me. Pasta was perfect – easy to move around and easy to… get rid of, if need be.

I spoke softly, "Pasta sounds wonderful. What would you like me to help with?"

"Nothing, you can just sit and keep me company." This made sense. Based on what I had learned from her the other day when I tried to make soup, she seemed to be very protective of her kitchen utensils.

I, however, was not about to let her do all of the work for a meal that I wasn't even going to eat, "Let me at least set the table, Bell."

She looked up sharply and seemed to consider my suggestion. After a few seconds of internal debate, she relented, "Yeah. Sure… here, I'll show you where everything is."

Her father was still in the kitchen, and he cleared his throat before speaking as if he didn't want to interrupt our exchange, "I'll just run upstairs to shower and change… what's it going to be? About thirty minutes?"

"Yeah, about thirty," she answered him absently.

"Okay, see you kids in a bit," he responded gruffly before turning abruptly and making his way up the stairs.


Once the table was set, I did as I was asked and kept Bella company while staying out of the way. After spending weeks sitting up on the hillside by her home, having to use my imagination about what she could possibly be doing inside… this was like my greatest fantasy come to life. Well, not my greatest fantasy, as that involved Bella in far less clothing and me doing far more touching, but this was a close second.

Watching Bella cook was captivating. She moved around the kitchen with such purpose and grace… it was obvious that she felt completely at home here, and that cooking was second nature to her. I found myself wishing I could truly enjoy the meal she was preparing for me. It was such a shame that I wouldn't be able to taste the oregano she was carefully mixing into the sauce or the garlic on the bread that was warming in the oven.

The thirty minutes went by rather quickly, and soon Chief Swan was back down in the kitchen grabbing a beer out of the refrigerator and asking me if water was okay with my meal. No, disgusting. But I sucked it up and answered politely, "Water would be fine, thank you."

As soon as her father had come back down and into the kitchen, I felt Bella tense up in front of the stove on the other side of the room. She really was nervous about this dinner going well. Sensing her anxiety, I made my way over and stood behind her while she put the finishing touches on the pasta sauce.

I let my hand rest gently on her shoulder while I leaned in and whispered quietly into her ear, "Bella, love… it's going to be fine. It's going to be just fine."

She turned her head to face me and whispered back, "Thank you… I needed that." Yeah, I know. Apparently I can tell when you're distressed.

"You're welcome. Now… let's eat!" I said with a smile, letting the last part of my statement come out loudly so her father could hear my fake enthusiasm.

Dinner… actually went surprisingly well.

I only had to take a few bites of the food, and while I had been expecting the third degree from Chief Swan – I mean, this guy didn't make it to Chief of Police for nothing – his questions were polite and inquisitive, not demanding at all. I found answering them to be relatively easy.

When he asked about my family, I lied. When he asked about my reasons for moving to Alaska, I lied. When he asked how I was liking school, I lied. Come to think of it, I lied about pretty much everything. Of course, he didn't know that… but just knowing that I had to lie to Bella's father left a bad taste in my mouth – a taste that had nothing to do with the food I was forced to eat, though that was pretty disgusting as well. I couldn't help but leave the table wondering what he thought of me.

Especially when Bella wouldn't let me help with the dishes. I felt like a compete douchebag for not helping her clean up after she spent all that time cooking, but she shooed me into the living room saying that she found it enjoyable. Riiight. And I like men. However, since the absolute last thing I wanted to do was argue with her over something as fucking ridiculous as the dishes, I let it go.


And that's how I ended up in the living room. Alone.

Suddenly, without any warning whatsoever, Charlie Swan was standing inches from me. I didn't hear him come in the room; I don't know how the fuck I missed it. Okay, that's a lie… I missed it because I was staring through the doorway to the kitchen completely enthralled while Bella washed and dried the dishes. Her small frame moved fluidly from the sink to the drying rack… back and forth… the way her hips swayed slightly was almost eroti-

"Son, I think you and I need to have a chat before she gets done in there." Well, that killed the moment.

My eyes grew wide as I whipped my head toward the sound of his voice and I came face to face with the Chief. Thinking quickly, I smoothed out my shocked expression and steadily replied, "Of course, sir."

His eyes traveled a circle from my right ear… to my lip… to my left ear… and back to my eyes. For some reason, watching him take in the outward expressions of my social defiance left me feeling… nervous. I genuinely wanted his approval. When he finally cleared his throat to speak, he said the last thing I ever expected, "You're a good kid."

Actually, sir, I'm a lethal predator. But since I crave your daughter, we'll let that slide and go with what you said. "Uh… thanks."

"I mean it. I wasn't sure about you at first… but after dinner tonight, I can tell you're a bright kid. A good kid. And after yesterday… I think you could be good for her." He motioned with his eyes towards his daughter in the kitchen.

"Yesterday?" I asked, confused. What did I do yesterday to impress him?

He took a deep breath – looking slightly uncomfortable and avoiding eye contact – before speaking, "Well, I… I'm not very good at this. Never have been. I think that's why my Bells in there is having so much trouble these days, to tell you the truth. She's too much like me." He paused, but I could tell he wasn't finished so I merely nodded my understanding and waited for him to continue. After a few tense moments, he brought his eyes to mine and stated, "I heard her. Yesterday. When you two were in here going over all of those books… she talked to you. She told you a story… about Brandon. I haven't even heard her say his name since July, let alone talk about him so freely. But she talked to you." It wasn't a question.

I wasn't quite sure how to respond to that. Yes, sir. I share a special connection with your daughter that has allowed her to open up to me. See, it all has to do with the fact that I'm a vampire… and we have this 'vampire-soul-mate' thing going on… I'm not sure how to explain it exactly. But I do know that I want to spend forever with her. Definitely not the way to go. The Chief still looked like he had more to say so I simply answered, "Uh… yeah. She talked to me."

His eyes again snapped to mine, "So. She's told you what happened then?"

"Yes, sir."

"How much did she… uh… tell you?" He was skirting around the issue of her suicide attempt, probably wondering if she had been able to talk about that as well as the accident. I felt awful. Here I was, a perfect stranger, telling this guy that I might know more about how his daughter was feeling than he did.

"Honestly, sir? I'm almost certain she's gone through most of it. I mean… she hasn't go into too much detail… but she spoke about the accident, as well as what happened after." I saw a brief shot of pain pass through his face – whether it was for remembering her attempted suicide or for the fact that she had opened up to a stranger, I wasn't sure – but it was very quickly replaced by relief.

The tension he had been holding in his shoulders left abruptly; I watched as his eyes slipped closed and he let out a long breath, murmuring, "Good... that's good." When he opened them again, they were glistening with unshed tears; he blinked rapidly to hide them while I respectfully pretended not to see them. "I was so worried… I thought…"

Chief Swan was momentarily at a loss for words, but I knew that if we didn't hurry this little talk up Bella would be finished with the dishes and we wouldn't be able to continue. "Yes… well… I don't blame you sir. For being worried, that is. It's… uh… it's rough what she's had to deal with this year."

He let out a long sigh, "Yeah… rough. Too rough. And too much. She shouldn't ever have had to deal with this kind of pain… it's too hard on her. I'm afraid she's going to-" He stopped himself as though he had gone too far and scrutinized my expression; he must have liked what he saw in my eyes, because he continued, "Edward, I'm afraid she's going to shut down again. She's… not talking. To anyone but you. She's bottling it up… and I can't… I can't go through that with her again. She's… everything to me. She's all I have left."

His voice had become strong, but… pleading? Was he asking for my help with his daughter? Do I tell him what she asked of me? If I told Chief Swan about Bella asking me for help, I was potentially breaking the tentative trust that we had. But looking into the pleading eyes of her father – the one person from her former life who had yet to abandon this grieving girl – I knew I had to give him something. "Sir?"


"I think… well, I think you need to know something."

"What's that?"

"This afternoon – right before you came home actually – she um… asked me for help. She told me that she couldn't do it alone anymore."

That broke him.

His eyes closed and a lone tear fell down his cheek.

"And what did you say?" he asked, his eyes still closed.

The time for dancing around the truth was over. I went for straight-up honesty with my answer, "I told her I would help her. I told her I would do anything for her." While I spoke, he brought his hands up and rubbed his eyes furiously in attempt to dry the tears. Once he had focused back on me, I met his gaze head on. My voice was almost trembling with the depth of emotions that I felt, "Your daughter is… Bella is amazing. She is beautiful and kind and generous and… in a lot of pain. And it kills me. I mean it when I say I would do anything for her. Anything."

It was my turn to plead with him. I had to let this man know that I would be good to his daughter… be good for his daughter. If I was going to spend time with her and help her overcome the crippling despair that her life had become so entrenched in, I would need his support and trust. Try not to look too undead. It must have worked because he took in a deep calming breath and started sizing me up again.

Chief Swan was back. "Well, then. That's good. I expect I'll be seeing you around more often," was all he said as he made his way over to the recliner in the corner. I could see that Bella was wiping down the kitchen table – almost finished with what I could have easily helped her with. As I moved towards the doorway, I heard her father call out one last question, "So, she lets you call her 'Bell'?"

I turned abruptly, caught off guard. Did I call her that? I must have… I suddenly recalled a brief moment from the kitchen earlier – Let me at least set the table, Bell. "Yeah… well, I guess she did today at least. I didn't even notice I did it… why?"

He looked thoughtful for a moment before replying softly, "That's what Brandon called her."

"Oh." What the hell was an appropriate response to that? "Maybe… maybe she didn't notice…" was all I could come up with.

He smiled wistfully, "She noticed. She made Renee – her mother – stop using that nickname the day she woke up in the hospital. Believe me. She noticed." With that, he clicked on the TV, put ESPN on mute and picked up the paper, effectively ending the conversation.

The last thing I heard from Chief Swan as I made my way into the kitchen was a soft question, "Hey, kid?"

"Yes, sir?"

"Call me Charlie."


The two days before Thanksgiving were tense for me, but I tried not to let it show. Bella didn't talk about anything but our project – there was nothing said about my mild vampirism issue or her own severe depression. How could she completely ignore everything that happened between us? It was almost like Monday had been a figment of my imagination, and it was making me edgy as fuck.

Rationally, I knew that she was most likely putting it aside until she could deal with it… but still. I thought we had made more progress than that. I thought… well, I thought we'd at least be able to talk openly now. Apparently that was not the case.

Thursday was Thanksgiving, and when Charlie asked me about my plans for the holiday, "spending time with my family" is what I came up with. Technically, this was true. We are spending time together… hunting animals and draining them of blood for sustenance… because we are vampires. So I left that part out. Sue me.

But by the time Thursday rolled around, things didn't go quite as planned. As much as I knew I needed to hunt, I hated being away from Bella. The past few days had left me accustomed to spending almost every waking moment with her – well, all of her waking moments, that is – and leaving the area for a hunting trip with the others was simply out of the question.

Because I couldn't stand to be far from her, and because she was turning me into a "pussy whipped tool" (thank you, Emmett, for that lovely imagery), I made everyone stay local. Initially, Emmett was pissed at me since it was my fault we were staying near Denali National Park, but something Alice said must have changed his mind. He was still grumbling about it, but his accusations were less pointed at me. I really hope she told him how completely fucking lost I am over this girl. That would be awesome.

But Emmett being pissed wasn't the only issue of the day… I was moodier than a goddamn preteen girl and I couldn't stop myself from lashing out at my family for no reason whatsoever. After seven hours, nine kills and three fist fights with Emmett and Jasper, Alice's tiny body came out of nowhere and collided into mine, effectively stopping my chase.

"What the fuck, Alice!" I growled at her.

"What's up with you today?" Her innocent eyes were wide and searching.

"Nothing," I answered with a snarl.

She ignored my overt rudeness and kept going, "No… something's not right. You just punched Em in the face for calling you Eddie. What the hell, Edward? Isn't that a bit extreme?"

"You know I can't stand it when he calls me that. He needed to stop, so I stopped him." I was blatantly ignoring the fact that my reaction was in fact way over the top and completely uncalled for. I knew that, but I couldn't do anything about it. My anger was running the show… something that hadn't happened in, well… ever.

She narrowed her eyes at me, "Yeah… but you don't normally resort to physical violence. That's not your thing…"

"Alice," I growled lowly, "just fucking let it go." I couldn't deal with this. It felt like bugs were crawling all over me. I wanted to jump out of my skin.

She didn't respond at first, just studied my face carefully. After a painful thirty seconds, her eyes widened and she grabbed my arm. "It's Bella!" she whispered intently. "It's got to be."

Alarm bells went off in my head, "What's Bella?" If Bella is in trouble, I am going to rip someone's fucking face off.

"Your attitude. It's got to be Bella… that's the only explanation." Alice was smiling smugly now, as though she had figured out the cure for cancer or some shit like that. I wanted to throw her into the nearest river.

"Only explanation for what!" I shouted at her. "Jesus Christ, Alice. What's with the cloak and dagger shit… just fucking tell me what you're talking about, because I'm getting pretty tired of this conversation!"

She quickly put her hands up in surrender, "Sorry, sorry… geez… give me a second here to organize my thoughts."

"Time's up."

"Alright…" she drawled while rolling her eyes. "It seems to me like a part of your bond with Bella might include a strong emotional connection… like, really strong. Jas and I often feel what the other person is feeling, but it doesn't go much beyond a few hundred yards. Emmett and Rose don't have anything like that. But then, I guess you don't really need an emotional alarm when you're literally attached to each other at all times. Theirs is a more physical bond to begin with, you know?"

"Alice…" I warned. The absolute last fucking thing I wanted to talk about at this point in time was Emmett and Rose's sex life.

"Sorry, just got a bit off track there. Anyways, if Jas is having a particularly bad day.. or if I'm watching a particularly sad movie or something, we can feel that. It's like… a way for us to know that our mate needs us. Needs to be comforted… loved. But I've never heard of it travelling this far before. You must be completely attuned to each other, more than I've ever seen. It's really incredible."

"Incredible, my ass! I don't even know who I am today!" My hands were pulling at my hair and I'm quite sure I looked deranged. Escaped mental patient… this winter's new 'it' look.

She laughed. She fucking laughed. "You're probably just not used to feeling anything. There is such a fine line between anger and all of the other emotions… I bet you just don't know how to deal with what you're feeling." I glared at her. I knew how to deal with shit just fine on my own. Mostly. "Just go home Edward. Go to Bella. She needs you… and we need you to leave so we can eat in peace."

"Fine," I growled. And as soon as the word left my lips, I felt better. I was going to Bella. It was where I had wanted to be all day anyways. It was where I was supposed to be.


Walking up to the Swan's door, I realized that I didn't even have my car with me which could prove to be an interesting conversation if Charlie noticed… but I didn't have it in my heart to care. Running here was the fastest option, and I wanted to get to Bella as quickly as possible.

Knocking swiftly, it briefly entered my mind that I really had no valid reason for stopping by unannounced, but the door swung open before I could come up with a good excuse. Charlie looked surprised to see me, "Edward! I wasn't expecting you today. I thought you were celebrating the holiday with your family…" He looked at me expectantly, waiting for me to explain what the hell I was doing on his front porch on Thanksgiving Day.

"I'm… uh… I came to see Bella?" I meant to sound determined, but it came out as a question. I was really hoping he wasn't going to press the issue too much. As it was, I had to physically restrain myself from forcing my way into the house in search of my angel. You've got fifteen seconds, old man… then I'm busting my way in.

Luckily, it didn't come to that. After studying my panicked expression for a few moments, Charlie moved aside and motioned for me to come in. "Are you okay, son?"

"Yeah. I'm fine. Where's Bella? Is she here? How is she?" My voice came out strained and loud, and I mentally smacked myself on the forehead. Coming across as a complete raving lunatic wasn't the way to stay on this guy's good side. Taking a deep breath, I tried again, "Sorry… what I meant was… is Bella here?"

He met my gaze straight on, "She's upstairs."

"Thank you," I said as I went to make my way to the stairs, but I felt Charlie's hand on my arm. Looking over my shoulder, I stopped dead in my tracks as soon as I saw the pained look on his face. "What is it?"

"She's-" his voice cracked, and he had to clear his throat and start over. "She's in her room. We had an early dinner… that's what Renee always did on Thanksgiving. I helped her with the dishes, and she kept trying to call her mother. I can't… I tried to get her to come back down… I thought maybe we could hang out while the games are on, or something. But she won't talk to me and she won't get out of bed." God, I really felt for the guy. He truly loved his daughter so much, and judging by the look on his face… her pain was killing him. "I… I just don't know what else I can do for her."

Instead of ignoring him and pushing my way up the stairs – which I really wanted to fucking do, but Charlie was a good man and I didn't want to disrespect his home – I politely asked, "May I go up?"

With a deep sigh he softly answered, "Please… please try to get through to her. I can't…" He was at a complete loss when it came to Bella. I was his best option. If he only knew…

"Okay," I said with a curt nod of my head. My voice came out louder than I meant for it to, determination lacing my tone.

"Her room is on the right at the top of the stairs."

I know. See, I've been watching your home for about two months now from that hill over there. All night, every night. But not in a creepy way, I swear. I can tell by the layout of the house which room is hers. "Thanks."


Bella's door was cracked slightly; perhaps Charlie had left it open a bit in case she cried out. I pushed it open easily, and was immediately immersed in the scent of Bella. My eyes scanned the room, quickly landing on the bed where I could barely make out her small form. She was buried underneath a mountain of blankets and quilts, looking so damn tiny and alone.

I should have been here. I should have been here all fucking day.

I made my way slowly around to the side of the bed she was facing and gingerly sat down near the pillows. Her eyes were closed, but her breathing didn't sound as though she was asleep. I spent about three seconds debating whether or not to reach out and physically touch her, my own desires ultimately winning out. It was just too hard to be near her when she was hurting and not touch her. Running my fingers through her silky hair, I couldn't believe how much my life had changed. I was in Bella's bedroom, sitting on her bed, actually fucking touching her. All of the emotional confusion and anger from earlier today was gone… she took all of that away.

"Edward?" She knew it was me without even opening her eyes.

"Yes, love. It's me. I'm here." I kept my voice soft while gently running my hand down her cheek.

"Mmm… you came," she whispered. She shifted toward me, opened her eyes and looked up at me from the pillow. Her pupils were slightly dilated… I wondered what she had taken.

I moved down on the bed so that I was lying next to her, my body facing hers. I kept my voice calm and low when I asked, "What happened, Bell?"

Her face twisted up in agony and tears trailed toward the pillow, "I can't…" Her voice was barely audible. "I can't do it anymore…" Oh my God… I can't do this either. It was no wonder her father was falling apart. Seeing her in such despair was agonizing, but I had to keep going if I was going to figure out what she meant by that statement. If she was thinking that she couldn't go on without her brother anymore, it was going to destroy me.

I took a moment to wrap my arms around her before gathering up the courage to ask, "What is it, Bell? What can't you do anymore?" Please… please want to live…

The few seconds that I waited for her answer felt like an eternity. Just the thought that my angel could leave me was inconceivable now that I had found her. With a shuttering breath, she answered softly, "I just can't talk to her anymore. It's too hard." Oh thank GOD.

"You don't have to." It was her stupid mother. Ihad never wanted to punch a woman in the face more than I did at this moment.

"But… I… I... it's just not fair!" her voice was stronger now.

"What's not fair?" Either I wasn't following this conversation well, or I needed to get my girl off the drugs. I'm going to go with the latter. However, it was too late to do anything about that today. The damage was done. Because I wasn't fucking here to stop her.

"She said she would call. I had to call her. Seven times. Seven. Seven different times until she finally answered the phone. Is it too much to ask to talk to your mom on Thanksgi-ving?" Bella's voice cracked on the last word and she curled into my chest, breathing deeply.

"No, love… that's not too much to ask." I began rubbing one of my hands along her back in what I hoped was a soothing circle.

"It's just not fair… you know? I mean… fucking Fiji!" Okay, I now officially had absolutely no idea what she was talking about.


She sighed deeply, "Yeah?"


"Yeah. She's in fucking Fiji and couldn't answer her goddamn phone because sometimes the phone satellite thing fucks up and doesn't forward calls to the brand spanking new international cell phone Phil got for her." Bella had gone from crying to angry in about five seconds flat and was apparently very fond of profanity at this point in time.

"Oh." What was I supposed to say to that? Your Mom's a bitch?

Apparently I didn't need to say anything, because she just kept right on going, "Yeah. I know, right? My mom is living it up in Fiji and I'm falling apart in this snowbound wasteland. I don't even know who I am anymore. I mean… I'm struggling to find a reason to get out of my own fucking bed in the morning, and she's on a damn vacation. Fuck! It's just not fair."

"No, it's not fair." I mean, what was I supposed to say? It sounds like your mom is ignoring the situation that happened with you and your brother, and that Phil is enabling her to do so. What you are doing, though difficult, is much better and healthier in the long run. Except for that thing with the pills. That is going to stop. Tomorrow. Something told me she wouldn't want to hear that… especially not right now in her altered state. So, I agreed with her. "None of this is fair. You shouldn't have to deal with any of it… and if I could take it away, I would. But I can't. So I'm going everything I can to help you, okay?"

"okay." God, she sounded so defeated. It broke my heart. "Edward?"


"Is this part of that stuff I'm too afraid to talk about?" Her question was a bit garbled, but I was going to assume she meant, 'was my being here a result of our supernatural vampire connection.'

"Yes. I think so."

"I think I want to talk about that now. But tomorrow."

I had to stifle a laugh at her ridiculous rhetoric, "Okay. We'll talk tomorrow. Why don't you try to get some sleep, Bell."

Bella was still curled on her side against my chest, her head buried between us. And ohmyGod being this close to her was the most phe-fucking-nomenal thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life. Moving my hand from her back, I began slowly running my fingers through her long, silky hair again. "Mmmmm… that feels so good… I'm so glad you're here…" My heart soared. Me. She wanted me.

"There's nowhere else I'd rather be." And that was the fucking truth.


Long after Bella fell asleep in my arms, I heard movement in the hallway. Charlie peeked his head in the room and met my eyes. After a few moments, he nodded once and made his way down the hall to bed.

A/N: Self-Pimpage time! Want to see what I've been up to during my hiatus? Well then, I urge you all to read my one-shots… Custom Built won First Place in the Men at Work Contest and A Different Kind of Southern won Third Place and Judge's Choice in the Southern Twi-Nights Contest. All links to stories, banners, blogs, etc are on my profile.

Thank you to all who are still reading. To quote Edward, your support is… phe-fucking-nomenal.