ALTERNATE HEA TO THE ORIGINAL WHITE BLOOD

***

Well I have been quietly standing in the shade
All of my days
Watch the sky breaking on the promise that we made
All of this rain
And I've been trying to find
Whats been in my mind
As the days keep turning into night
-alexi murdoch; all my days

***

Edward

"Are you sick?" she asks. I fight a grimace. I know she is referring to the fact that I am constantly running to the bathroom, but that question never ceases to make me wince.

"Yep," I say with a lie of a smile on my face. "Don't worry, you won't catch it." She looks at me with wide eyes and I feel awful. Really bad. Not just sick physically, but emotionally. Lying to Bella makes me feel sick, even if it is a lie of omission. I force down as much sandwich as possible, and look up just in time to see her yawn.

"Go to sleep, Bella," I say. I love saying her name. Bella, Bella, Bella. She hesitates and then nods, turning around. Suddenly, she is back, as if from second thought.

"I'll see you in the morning?" she asks. I want to scream out 'yes', promise her that I'll be there, but I know I can't. But, she doesn't know.

"Maybe. But Happy Thanksgiving, just in case," I reply.

"Happy Thanksgiving," she mumbles. And then she is gone.

I follow her path a few minutes later with heavy limbs and heart. I pause in the hall and watch as the light is turned off from the slit underneath the door. Barely satisfied, I turn the corner and head to my own room. I fall on top of the blankets, suddenly feeling much worse. But I want to stay for Thanksgiving. Bella will be leaving after that and I'll never see her again. I need Thanksgiving.

I lay on my bed, chest up, back down, and ponder my magnetic pull to her. Her sweetness, I am pretty sure that is my main draw. I can feel her selflessness, her stability, her silence. She is neutral ground, forever pure, ivory silk of the rarest kind. And as I shake, tremors racking my body, all I can think about is how soft her skin would feel under mine, and the number of variations I could discover in her smile. I am heating rapidly and my breath is coming quickly. I know these signs well, but I want to stay for Thanksgiving.

It must be early morning, for I hear birds and coffee and footsteps padding lazily down the hall. I lay in a haze of freesia and sweat, unblinking and immovable.

My door cracks open.

"Edward?" It is Esme. My mother. Her voice is muted. "Oh my... Carlisle..."

I just want to stay for Thanksgiving.

I just want to see Bella, the epitome of everything I want but will never have.

And then I am gone.

***

Bella

"Are you sick?" I question him even though Carlisle already said he was. I don't expect him to answer, but I ask anyway.

"Yep," he pops the 'p', completely carefree. "Don't worry, you won't catch it," he winks and takes another hesitant bite of his sandwich. I try to stop the flurry in my stomach that occurs after his wink. I watch him eat for a few moments, and then I am forced to stifle a yawn with the back of my hand. He notices. "Go to sleep, Bella," he chides. My heart thumps erratically at the sound of my name on his lips.

I debate whether to protest, but another yawn building inside me forces me to acknowledge my body's needs.

"I'll see you in the morning?" It comes out as a question.

"Maybe. But happy Thanksgiving, just in case," he says.

"Happy Thanksgiving," I reply halfheartedly, turning back to my room. He doesn't stop me.

***

Edward

The second time I see Bella is in the hospital, begrudgingly of course. It isn't until later, much later, when I have time to look back on everything that happened, that I realize it was quite possibly one of the best days of my life. It is only a short stint in the hospital. Minor, really. She sees the worst of it, which is once again upsetting to me. Yet she comes back. Persistently, she returns. Even as I protest vehemently, objecting to her stay, she comes to visit me. Right up until the day that she has to go back to Portland, she comes to visit.

I sit up when she enters that room the last time, her cheeks flushed and splotchy. I watch Alice's black tuft of hair flash by the window to the door, but it disappears too quickly for me to discern it as her. Besides, I only have eyes for Bella.

She crosses the room quickly which causes the machine monitoring my heartbeat to obnoxiously increase the frequency of its beeping. She doesn't notice. At least, I assume she doesn't, for her eyes dart everywhere but my face and her teeth bite down on her lip, turning it an aching white. I touch her cheek to make her face me, and though she does, it seems almost reluctant. I tilt my head to the side, questioning, for seeing Bella this frazzled is a first. My life with Bella is filled with many firsts; passionate, beautiful, angry, wonderful firsts. I treasure them and they scare me shitless at exactly the same time.

"What's wrong?" I ask tentatively. Her fingers reach out to stroke my own, and even though she is haphazardly perched on the edge of my bed, I want to pull her closer.

"I don't have to go today," she speaks in the rush of a confessional.

"Yes you do." I smile a calm façade. She has tickets; she will go back to Portland. That is the end of that. "You have to go to work and live your life, and other things like that." All of a sudden her eyes flash, angry. I gulp.

"That's not important to me anymore. You know that's not important to me anymore. You know what I've chosen."

Yes, I know. It is me. She chooses me.

"Yes," I say aloud, stroking her cheek from eye to the tip of her chin. She sighs briefly and closes her eyes, fluttering lids delicate as a moth's wing.

"Stop distracting me," she murmurs quietly.

"Sorry," I acquiesce, dropping my hand. Her eyes open.

"Well, wait, don't be sorry." Her eyes, wide as saucers now, are trained on me. I snort in response.

"Are you saying you like it when I touch you?" She blushes fervently, the red spreading slowly from her nose, along her cheekbones, neck, collarbones, mystery.

Instead of responding to my question, she returns to our original debate.

"I'll be back soon. As soon as I can, I'll book another plane to come back up here. Okay?" She grips my forearm tightly. I know better than to contest her. I know that she is on her wits end, and if I were to say anything at all she would probably freak out. Bella on full freak out mode is rare, few and far between, but when she is panicking - duck and cover. So instead I smile with a slight nod, reaching up to stroke her cheek again. She relaxes into my touch, finally. I pull her towards me until she is resting on my chest, my arm draped around her shoulder blades. I feel her breath, heavy and slow, rush across my neck. I wonder how long our perfection would last.

Not long, it seems, for Alice comes in but half an hour later with one finger pointedly tapping the watch strapped on her wrist. I watch Bella glare followed by Alice's retreating figure, and then we are alone for just a bit longer. We are silent for a moment, until Bella speaks.

"Please don't forget me," she says, her voice in a rush again. I am shocked by her words, but carefully transform my face to neutrality. She often jumps to crazy conclusions, and that is what I am trying to prevent.

"I could never," I reply. "Even if I had my brain extracted through my nose like an ancient Egyptian, I couldn't."

She snorts a laugh.

"Romantic."

She leaves shortly thereafter. Moments after her departure, I scold myself for not kissing her goodbye. What kind of a fool am I? Not even sure when she could return to Forks, yet I still don't tell her how I feel. I still don't kiss her. I do nothing. I scrunch the sheets of my hospital bed in my fists, ball them up and turn them fitted and unfold-able. My family meets me later that night, only a few hours, because I am finally allowed to be discharged. After a quick goodbye to the hospital staff that I am regulars with, we are out the door and into the cold night.

The air is crisp and dry and aching for snow, early December at its finest.

Rosalie and Emmett are outside of the hospital, which is unexpected.

"We're on our way to the airport," Emmett says. His tone is still exactly the same as when he used to live with me - childish, carefree. Rosalie stands idly aside. "Wanted to say goodbye. Sorry we couldn't spend more time with you, Bud."

"It's fine," I reply, thinking of times spent with Bella like the hopeless fuck I am.

"I'm sure it was fine," Emmett winks, always knowing exactly where my mind is at all times. He claps me on the back, ignoring Esme's protesting cry of 'Emmett!', and pulls me into an awkward man hug. Rosalie scoffs and looks away, but when she turns to Alice I see that they share a grin. "You should go home." He waggles his eyebrows obnoxiously. I fight the urge to roll my eyes. I lose the fight.

"Let's get out of this cold!" Esme calls after both her and Carlisle exchange parting sentiments with Emmett and Rosalie. In the car, we talk of mindless things. We talk of Thanksgiving (the parts I was present for, of course), and of Alice, Jasper and Bella's departure back to Portland, though only briefly. Carlisle and Esme sit in the front two seats and I feel like a small child again, sitting in the back after a long day of school, being asked a series of questions that I always did not want to answer. I feel reminiscent towards the childhood naïveté.

When we pull up to the drive something is off. Carlisle and Esme don't get out of the car. Instead, they sit still with the car running.

"You guys?" I question, sticking my head in between their seats. Esme looks at me, smiles.

"Go on inside, we'll meet you in there."

My mind immediately darts to a disturbing porno scene with my parents as the stars in the trunk of our car, and I leave without a second glance. I walk eagerly into the house, the cold nipping at the bare skin of my arms, neck, and face. I throw open the door and turn on the light, only to be assaulted by something heavy and heavenly.

I hold her up in my arms and she wraps her arms around my neck. I want to kiss her.

"I couldn't leave," Bella exhales. "I got all the way to the airport. Alice, Jasper and I were standing in line to pick up our boarding passes and the line was so freaking long! I was waiting there for ages and I kept looking out into the rain, wondering what you were doing and when I could get a ticket back, which probably wouldn't have been soon. And there was this crying baby and it was staring at me. I tried to not make eye contact but it just kept staring. And then it dropped its milk and started to cry again -"

I hold my finger to her lips to quell her rambling. I feel her slide slowly down to where her feet touch the floor. I tilt her head up and kiss her, finally, finally.

***

Bella

It is so utterly Titanic. My life is the part where Leo Dicaprio tries to put Kate Winslet in the boat (I can't, for the life of me, remember their movie names) and he's watching her descend lower and lower to safety. That is what I feel like, leaving the hospital. I descend farther and farther into the airport, and the security is like the water. The freezing-ass cold water that Leo dies in, in the end. That is security. That is the point of no return. So, with hardly a goodbye to Alice and Jasper, I pull a Kate and jump right on back into the sinking boat.

I hail one of the taxis waiting in the long line, relieved that I am now back on my destined path. When I return to the Cullens without the aid of their daughter and my best friend, it would be an understatement to describe Carlisle and Esme as anything less than shocked. Emmett, though, welcomes me like he is surprised I ever left. He laughs and Rosalie smiles quietly, but politely, as I explain to Esme, primarily, my predicament. She nods her complete understanding as anyone with her extreme level of compassion would do, and she informs me that she would be picking up Edward in two hours time anyway.

It is Carlisle's brilliant idea to have me wait at the house. Otherwise I'd have been at the hospital the second I informed the Cullens of my extended stay.

"It'll be perfect," Carlisle smiles, his blond tresses shadowed deep gold in the muted light of their kitchen. "I promise. I know my son. He doesn't like you seeing him in the hospital, anyway."

"I know that," I protest, not wanting to wait any longer.

"Trust me, my dear. Patience is a virtue."

"A virtue I don't have," I mutter, to which Emmett booms his laughter of approval.

"McSassypants," he howls, when I'm really just acting bitchy.

After they leave to pick up Edward I pace the house anxiously. And I mean, really, really anxiously. I am surprised I did not leave a permanent worn groove in their hardwood. It is only when I hear their car crunch the gravel that lines their driveway that I feel like I can really breathe. A quick peek out the window ensures that I can see nothing but headlights, but a car is definitely there. I grin and hold perch right inside the door, my teeth planted firmly on my lower lip. Why it takes him ages to enter the house, I'm not sure. Perhaps it is just my mind playing tricks on me. Either way, it feels like an eternity before I see the knob turn.

When I finally see him, my nonexistent patience has officially run out. I throw myself on him, in no uncertain terms, and am grateful when he keeps me from falling on my ass. My eyes and lips land on the curtain of tattoos that creep elegantly up his neck, intricate patterns interwoven and falling away. He turns to face me and they twist shape. Yet I am distracted by his face. His perfect, clean face, and I find myself rambling impossibly. He shuts me up with his finger, a delicious smirk caressing his lips, pulling them upward to one corner, mischievous.

He kisses me.

I can use thousands upon thousands of adjectives to describe it, but I find none that truly fit. None that truly, exactly, fantastically fit.

Yet after only a brief moment, he pulls away.

"I can't believe you wasted a perfectly good plane ticket." His lips brush against mine again. "That you already paid for."

"It wasn't perfectly good..." I can't even get out the rest of my sentence, for his tongue is begging for entrance to my mouth, and his hands are laced in the bottom of my shirt. "Mmm," I end up sighing when I feel the tips of his fingers brush naked, untouched skin. I sense us walking slowly, but it is almost dream-like, for I have no perceptions except for how good Edward feels against me. So it takes me by complete surprise when Carlisle and Esme attempt to discreetly interrupt us, sidling through the front door. The cold wind of the outside air betrays them, for both Edward and I are jolted from our situation when freezing wind hits our bodies simultaneously. I jump and Edward glares at the wind as if it were an offender.

He then sees his parents and looks almost impish, taking a half step away from me and rubbing the back of his neck. If it the room wasn't so dark I bet I could have seen his blush.

"Don't even bother," Carlisle scoffs. "We are no longer horrified by the idea of our children… you know. I mean, have you met Emmett?"

I laugh and Edward chuckles, though it seems fake as he still looks a bit embarrassed. We all stand awkwardly in the foyer, each of us trying to anticipate the other's next move.

"Well, um, we're just going to go... now," Edward finally rattles off, grabbing my hand and making for a quick exit. I only manage a small wave before Edward is pulling us up the stairs. It is our abrupt turn in the hallway that leaves me stuck to my spot. Edward loses his grip on my hand. Surprised, he turns around with a questioning glance. I twist my hands together.

"I've never been to this part of the house," I confess, forcing myself not to ramble.

Edward stops, thinks for a moment.

"It doesn't bite?" he offers, sort of like a question. I suppose he doesn't understand. I take a deep breath, drawing out my explanation.

"I don't know if I'm ready to go to your room yet," I spout off quickly, all in one breath. I watch as Edward's eyes change color, the former ebony green transforming into its lighter, brighter counterpart. I let him breath heavy breaths for a moment while I stay rooted to the spot.

"Of course," he grins, and I can't find disappointment in it. "Well, we don't have to... how about... do you want to just look around?" He reaches out for my hand, an invitation I cannot possibly deny. His smile returns to an easy set when I take his gesture, and he pulls me down the hall. Our gait is leisurely, the former rush all but completely gone. We stop in various parts of the house and Edward explains a picture, a book, a certain mark on the wall, along with a story from his childhood. I greedily drink up the knowledge, happy to know a bit more about him. While the tales would seem superfluous to most passerby, to me they are literary genius, just a bit more of Edward, and for that I am eternally grateful. "And this is my room."

We have finally made it. I swallow, filled with trepidation that I shouldn't be feeling. Edward seems to sense my anxiety, for he turns away.

"Or we can look later. It's no big deal," he says, and moves to the stairs.

"No, I want to see," I protest. I trust Edward. I do. I feel as though I can trust him with my life, even in such a short time. There is no reason for me to be afraid of this. No reason at all.

I push the door inward, listening as the wood lightly scraped across the carpeting. His room is primarily muted colors, and the blinds are drawn carelessly over the window behind his bed. The curtains themselves are a dark, deep blue that keep out the offending light, and instead cast an ocean-like hue to the room, igniting all of its contents like if I were to deep sea dive. I step into the room and inhale deeply as if I expected not to be able to breathe. Edward follows behind, an omniscient presence. He explains things that I touch - various books that look well worn, the lamp on the side of his bed, a smattering of drugs (prescription, thanks) that litter a table in the corner. Alas, once we have seen about everything visible to me, we sit down on the bed.

Moments like this, in the beginning of the relationship between Edward and me, are infinitely awkward.

He albeit refuses to look at me, as if even meeting eye-contact would be some sort of pressure. While I, on the other hand, try to meet his eye. It isn't until I stroke the top of his hand that he finally looks over. His eyes darken slightly, from what I don't know. I trail my fingers up his arm, tracing various patterns in his tattoos, a winding, winding web. When I reach his shoulder I move the cuff of his shirt out of the way, eager to follow more trails to his back. I know, from when he showed me at the hospital, that he has no tattoos on his chest. There is nothing there but pale, pale skin. I know what to expect, yet it is as if every pass my fingers make ignites a new fire, discovers a new mystery, creates new life. I push his shirt up in the back, and by now it is getting simply tedious.

"Take it off?" I whisper in his ear, his response only being a moan. It is then that I look at his face, raw with lust and fierce desire. He does not hesitate to pull it over his head, mussing up his already abused hair. I move him so that he lay on his stomach, sprawled across the bed. I sit beside him, cross-legged, marveling. His muscles are long and lean, and they tense when my fingers press hard enough. I trace faces drawn and inked by talented tattoo-artists, black and white portraits of people I did not know, nor would I ever. I assume them to be cancer patients Edward knew at some point, but he never tells me. Not ever. I use my fingernail to outline nose and eye, chin and chest. At one point my fingernail accidentally scratches, causing Edward's spine to visibly shake and shiver.

"You have no idea how that feels," he says suddenly. His eyes are closed, bluish-purple lids stretched tight. Long, dark lashes mesh together, stick together. I feel the breath escape his nose.

"You are beautiful," I reply, to which he opens his eyes immediately. He sits up, cross-legged, knees touched, abs flexed.

"You are an angel."

He leans forward and our foreheads touch, resting together, synchrony.

***

Edward

"Edward, come on, it'll be fine!"

The hell it'll be fine.

It'll not be fine.

It'll so not be fine.

"Remember, point your legs inward! Like an arrow! A pizza slice!"

The fuck?

"You can do it, just a bit farther now. I promise it'll be fine!"

Yeah, she makes it look so easy. Skiing down a mountain is not my idea of fun. I mean, think about it. Here I am hugging a tree for dear life because the two greased up sticks of wood attached to my feet make me whiz down hard-packed asphalt-like snow at a million miles per hour. Sure, we are on the bunny hill, whatever the hell that means. I mean, does that mean it is a hill for bunnies? I don't feel like a bunny. I feel like a dumb ass stuck to a tree with a bunch of 6-year-olds who are skiing circles around me. Like, literally. They ski around me in circles. And then they point and laugh.

Bella stands at the bottom, her skis perpendicular to the hill, just like she taught me earlier. It isn't like I want to make her trudge all the way back up the hill to save me, but it isn't like I want to lose a limb tumbling down on my ass either. And it is fucking freezing. I swear my lips are going to fall off any moment. Bella has this unique thing called a turtle, which is basically a tube of fabric that covers her cheeks and lips from the stinging wind. I remember scoffing when she offered me one. Once again, dumb ass. I pull my hat farther around my ears. Did I mention mountains are freezing?

I see Bella begin to stomp back up the hill, her skis picking up and dropping snow beneath her. I stare at the distance between us. It isn't much. I can do it. Right? Shit.

Before I can think about the injuries I will definitely sustain from my actions, I push myself away from the tree. My poles dangle awkwardly at my wrists because I can't figure out how to use them, and I begin my slow and steady straight-as-an-arrow drift down the hill. Gradually, I pick up speed. I find myself wanting to close my eyes, yet keep them open at the same time. People dodge me. I watch snowboarders on their butts swivel their heads and push themselves out of the way, just in time. I am coming up on Bella. Fast.

"Move!" I cry, but of course she doesn't. She instead makes an arrow motion with her hands. Turn your legs inward. I actually listen to my brain and do something.

It's not like I stop once I have the massive epiphany to turn in my skis. Rather, I hardly slow down at all.

"Move!" I try again, but it is too late and we're tumbling on hard-packed snow. Snow looks like it should be a cushion. Yeah, it isn't. At all.

I end up on top of Bella. Of course. I quickly move to push myself off, but the skis are making me awkward and slow. They swing haphazardly until they land on stable surface, where I manage to roll to the side of her.

"Oh my," she whispers, and her eyes are wide.

And then she's doubled over, and tears are falling from her eyes at an alarmingly rapid rate.

"Bella? Bella, are you okay? Bella?" My gloved, icy hands try and move the frosted hair away from her cheeks. She looks up at me through watery eyes. Shit.

"Your face! You should've seen your face!" she cries, pushing at my chest. "You were - and then... the little kids, you're all, 'move!'" She can barely get the words out, and I am still alarmed until she snorts. That is when I realize she is laughing. "Oh my," she says again, wiping stray tears from her cheeks. It begins to snow again, though online it said no precipitation on Mt. Hood at all today. She turns to face me suddenly, a mischievous grin on her face. I am still pissed that she is laughing at me, my arms crossed over my chest, my skis resting limply to the side. "You realize you were going like, 1 mile per hour, right? The only reason we fell at all was because you put your ski in the middle of mine."

"You're a bad teacher," I scowl, embarrassed. It really did feel as though I was going fast.

"Edward, I don't think skiing is your forte," she giggles again, and I quickly come to realize that it is impossible to stay mad when she is happy. "Don't be mad," she coos.

I roll my eyes and pull down her turtle, pressing my frozen lips to hers. She shrieks at the cold and pulls away quickly, stuffing her turtle back over her mouth.

"You're freezing!" she cries. "Let's go back to the car."

I refuse to ski any farther so I take them off, clunking awkwardly in my boots through the snow as Bella glides gracefully beside me. I swear, the girl can't walk on her own two feet, but give her skis and apparently she's fine. We walk the long trek through the parking lot, and by the time we get to my car we are both shivering and tired from the cold. We take off a few layers, struggling in the confines of the car. The heater blasts cold air at first, but quickly warms. We toast our hands to it and allow the car to heat before I carefully pull out onto the icy road. Bella hums along with some song on the radio, and when I glance over to her I find myself thinking that she looks almost ethereal. Back-dropped by the fogged passenger-side window, her hair is wild from the hat, slightly dripping from melting ice. Her cheeks are flushed a healthy pink and her eyes are closed, face tilted upwards as she listens to the music.

Someone honks behind me, breaking the both of us from our reverie. Apparently, I hadn't noticed the light turn green. Oops.

She looks at me through the corner of her eye and grins slyly. I refuse to acknowledge the reason behind my blatant distraction, though I am completely positive she already knows.

It's her. It's always her.

A few hours later we return to Portland, opting to leave our snow stuff inside the car to retrieve later. Much later, in my opinion.

Bella, already tired from nodding off in the car, climbs the stairs to our apartment slowly. I follow close behind her steady tread, listening as a light bout of rain hits the various windows on the stairwell. We are on the 5th floor, and though there is an elevator, we often opt to walk. On the fifth and final descent Bella turns abruptly around just before the door. She quirks her eyebrow, and I still see remnants of icy snow on the tips of her hair.

"What?" I mouth, but no sound comes out for she abruptly grabs my dick through my pants. I inhale and pull her to me, cold layers but hot underneath.

"Have you ever thought about it?" she asks.

Yes.

"About what?"

"Every time we're in the stairs..."

Yes.

"Uh huh?"

"And I just think, maybe next time."

Damn.

"Oh."

"Or maybe this time."

Yes.

She grins and wraps her arms around my neck, sweet and unstoppable pressure. Our mouths only touch briefly, for she has other ideas. She runs her lips over my cheek and jaw to my ear, ending with a startling bite. I grunt and push her up against the worn door of the stairwell, her back pushed against the chipped paint of the number '5'. She sighs and I feel it on my neck and on my skin, eager to continue, to go faster. The thrill of being discovered by our dear neighbors increases the rapidity of our act, and I feel her hands, hot like fire, push against my shirt. I pull it quickly over my head and she sighs, her fingers tracing the familiar patterns on my skin.

Closing her eyes, she leans in close and traces her tongue along her name. Rounded 'b' and looping l's cause me to strain against my jeans and lift her higher until she is wrapped around my waist. We cry out simultaneously upon impact of clothed skin and I feel her hands frantically attempt to unbuckle my belt. My eyes only give one quick dart to the side to check for lurkers before my face is in her neck - sucking, licking, biting. I wish that she is wearing a skirt instead of jeans. I need to go quickly. Now.

I release her enough to pull her pants off. She giggles when I struggle at her shoes. I end up growling and chucking them down at least two flights.

When I stand back up Bella is smiling peacefully. She runs her fingers through my hair and pulls me closer, immediately turning our ferocity to calm. She wraps her arms around my neck, head on my shoulder, waists aligned as I push up into her. I feel immediate, gratifying relief that never dulls or lessens, only somehow gets stronger every single time. I feel Bella's lips at my ear. She presses into me every time I thrust in, shielding her back from the cold metal door with my palm. I feel the calm die inside of me. I am unraveling quickly and I know I have to take us there. I feel Bella's muscles tighten with every pass, and by the time she comes my jaw is locked in restraint. I feel.

I follow soon after, one or two moments at best, all gasping and shuddering breaths, moans and tranquil sighs.

"Edward," Bella whispers after a few minutes of silence.

"Mm," I barely respond.

"You are a horrible skier."

***

Bella

Edward is anxiously jiggling his leg up and down. Still.

I roll my eyes and place one hand on his knee, stifling it. He shoots me a look that screams 'help me', which I politely ignore. Of course. I look out the window instead.

"Bella," he snaps to get my attention.

"What?" I ask, for the thousandth time.

"I don't know about this," he answers, for the thousandth time.

I sigh slowly. "Let's just wait to hear what the doctor has to say, okay?"

As if on cue the doctor enters. He takes a seat across from us, resting his forearms on his heavy wooden desk. Edward's leg starts right back up again, and I see one hand slide into his mouth, biting away worn fingernails. The doctor, Dr. Scott, looks through the folder that I assume contains information on Edward and me. Once he is done he looks up, smiling politely. I can see that he immediately recognizes the trepidation in Edward's stature.

"Mr. and Mrs. Cullen, it's a pleasure," he starts. I hear a soft snort from Edward, obviously in disagreement. Dr. Scott ignores him, while I shoot him a glare. 'Behave', I mouth angrily. His lips set in a hard line. "So you were curious about donating stem cells to your husband?" I see that he addresses me and me only. Smart man.

"Right," I reply.

"Fantastic."

As he talks us through the specifics, I see Edward gradually begin to loosen up. Dr. Scott says that the stem cells have a real shot at helping him, and that, after extensive chemotherapy, the umbilical cord blood can be given just like a blood transfusion. No surgery.

"The great thing about it," Dr. Scott says, an enigmatic smile on his face, "is that the stem cells in the umbilical cord blood should make new white blood cells in the body, replacing the cancerous cells killed off by the chemo before the treatment." I can tell that Dr. Scott is passionate about his work. He leans forward, excited for us just as I am excited for Edward. Now he has a chance, one I never thought he could have. "It is often successful in younger patients like yourself, as well. You would be in isolation after the treatment, but if all goes well it should be less than a month."

We are silent for a moment. I am grinning ear to ear.

Suddenly, Edward speaks.

"And this experimental, correct?"

"Correct," Dr. Scott replies.

"We'll have to check with our insurance," Edward sighs, his fingers on his temples.

Insurance. I know from my online research that stem cell transplants can cause upwards of $100,000, and if our insurance does not cover it, there would be absolutely no way to pay for it. Even with the help from our families, paying for that plus the hospital bills for when the baby comes will be an impossibility. Dr. Scott sees it, too. His forlorn expression, his far-away eyes. He has seen many patients turned away under the inability to pay. He doesn't like being the one to turn them, he feels it gives him a God complex. He finds it an almost impossibility to turn away the sick. All of this is clear just in the deep set of his eyes.

"We'll figure it out," I whisper, only for Edward. He allows me to place a hand in his palm. We both stand. "Thank you so much for your help, Dr. Scott."

"Of course. I wish you both the best," he replies, shaking our hands.

We sit in the hospital parking lot, ignition off and stoic. I watch Edward, whose eyes stare out the windshield, empty.

"It'll be fine," I say quietly.

"You don't know that," he replies, though his tone is much sharper than I anticipate. He pinches the bridge of his nose in the wake of my silence. "I'm sorry. I just don't like seeing you get your hopes up when I know... it probably won't work out."

"Hey!" It is my turn to be angry. "Don't you dare say that. Don't you dare give up. I swear, Edward. If I'm not giving up on you, you better not give up on yourself. Or I'll... I'll..." I trail off when I realize there's absolutely nothing I would do to hurt him, even if he did give up. He looks toward me, his eyes softened, the creases in the edges no longer defined. He cups my face in his hands, warm yet calloused.

"I don't deserve you," he smiles sadly.

"Yes you do, I love you," I reply.

"I love you, too."

It is later that night when the insurance company calls, telling us they've denied our claim.

***

Edward

It is Carlisle's idea to start a fund raiser. He decides to begin with all of the people in Forks, concentrating on the hospital that he works at. He then pages friends and colleagues, years of connections built up and used. He asks for favors, puts ads in the newspaper, and does all of it without Bella or me knowing. Carlisle then goes and makes a donation to our bank account under the guise of anonymous. $87,000, he put in there. From donations. From good will. From the simple, true, pure good will of people knowing that others need help, and are willing to spend money to contribute.

I find it the day after Jude is born, taking money out to pay for the various expenses surrounding the labor. I come home to Bella passed out, exhausted and in bed, and Alice cradling Jude to her chest. She sits on the couch, allowing my son (my son) a bottle with some milk. She looks up when I enter the room.

"Edward, what's wrong? You look like you saw a ghost."

I hold up the bank statement.

"You finally checked your bank account. Yay!"

"I-um, yes," I manage, still staring with blank amazement at the inoffensive piece of paper.

"Great. Dr. Scott's number is still on the fridge from a few months ago. Go call," she says, speaking as though this entire conversation is one formerly rehearsed. I stare at her blankly. She smiles and stands, walking slowly to me as not to disturb Jude.

"Glad we decided to save Jude's stem cells, or what?" she smirks, to which I can only nod dumbly. She moves her free hand to pluck the statement from my hand. "All right. I call, you hold Jude. Can you handle it?" I once again nod. She hands Jude to me, the small little life, feather-light in my arms. The second Alice leaves the room, Jude immediately starts to cry. I jump up, snapping out of my stupor, and attempt to push the bottle into his mouth. Jude cries harder. I don't know what to do. I start rambling through all of the curse words I know in my head.

"Burp him!" Alice calls from the kitchen.

I get baby upchuck all over the back of my shirt.

***

Bella

Edward loses his hair. All of it, gone. I tell myself that it is just the chemotherapy, and that it will grow back, but for some reason the loss is monumental. I know that after the chemo, (after the side affects of the chemo, that is) that it will be better. All he has to do is receive Jude's stem cells, and then we cross our fingers. Dr. Scott begins early, too. Only 2 months after Jude's birth Edward starts chemo, scheduled dates until that of the transplant. The weeks fall away. Edward gets sick, gets better, gets sick again. Jude grows older. Alice and Jasper are frequent visitors, and I keep hearing Alice talk of having a child with Jasper as well.

Edward has to stay in the hospital because his white blood cell count is too low to risk the infections of the outside world. In the later weeks I am no longer allowed to visit, but I know by the overly-circled date on the calendar that it is finally the day for the stem cell transplant. I hold Jude and point it out to him in the over-inflection of baby-talk. He coos when I tell him that it is he who will save his dad's life. I figure the coo may be coincidence.

Alice watches Jude when I drive to the hospital. I hope to be ensured that everything occurred smoothly.

Dr. Scott greets me in the waiting room after only a few moments, a small smile on his face. This is nothing like when Edward fell, greeting a relieved doctor covered in a loved one's blood. This is calm happiness, pleasant finality, crossed fingers.

"It all went well. We're going to monitor Edward's cell count, and we'll call you when it reaches the proper amount," Dr. Scott smiles. What I like about Dr. Scott is that he never uses the word 'if', he only ever says 'when'. I leave the hospital aching for Edward, but I do my best to put selfishness aside. Upon the return to my apartment I find Jude sleeping and Alice watching reruns of Full House on ABC Family. I smile and sit beside her. She doesn't ask me how it went. She knows my tells better than to ask. She will always be one of my best friends.

It is over a month before I see Edward again. I am patient, I am frantic. His white blood cell count is rising. They are healthy. I am happy. But, I miss him. I miss him intensely.

When I finally get the call that allows me to visit, I am out the door only moments after Alice arrives to take care of Jude. I say goodbye to him, a quick kiss on his forehead. I break a few (more than a few) traffic laws on the way to the hospital, but I find it hard to feel remorse. Waiting to see him is nerve-wracking, as always. Every time I am in this hospital I feel putrid and wrong, out of place.

But this time feels different.

This time feels different.

But it doesn't feel like the end. It feels like the beginning. A new beginning.

Dr. Scott greets me in the waiting room with an affectionate hug. I know I will miss him, but not enough to ever want to come back again. I will never want come back because Dr. Scott says the magic word. Remission.

Edward is awake and sitting up. Oddly enough, the first thing I notice is that the majority of his hair has grown back to a bit longer than a crew-cut. It isn't as long as it usually is by any means, and I can see the lines of ink that snake up to his hairline that are usually covered. But the fact that it is growing and normal makes me feel so much better than any doctor who tells me he's fixed. He smiles when I drop my purse by the door and run to his side. I think back on how he had to spend the majority of his time in the hospital alone, through his childhood and through the last few weeks.

"I'm so proud of you," I say. Our lips brush gently, softly. He rests his forehead on my own, his eyes closed.

"I'm normal for you, Bella."

I breathe out a sigh of sweet, sweet relief.

"I love you."

***

Alice

I hold Jude while Jasper and I walk with Edward and Bella to the tattoo parlor. They are holding hands, and I am positive that I have never seen my brother healthier. They decide, once Edward returns from the hospital and our whole family meets up to see him, that they want to get a tattoo at the same time. They choose the word 'survivor', after a tallied vote from the whole family. They work it out so that it can be simultaneous, two artists working side by side.

Jasper and I watch stoically as they set themselves up, keeping Jude pacified. Jasper dangles a small toy in front of Jude's face, and smiles when he does. Jasper wants a son, too. I want to give him win.

I watch as Edward and Bella hold hands, and am glad that I brought her to Thanksgiving. I know in my heart that my true intent was to see them together. I know it my heart that I was confident in the fact that Bella would be the one to fix him, to make him healthy for the world. I know in my heart that it was the right decision.

The needles buzz simultaneous and they lock eyes.

When the needles touch their skin, they smile.

***

Now I see clearly
It's you I'm looking for
All of my days
Soon I'll smile
I know I'll feel this loneliness no more
All of my days
For I look around me
And it seems He found me
And it's coming into sight
As the days keep turning into night
As the days keep turning into night
And even breathing feels all right
-alexi murdoch; all my days

***

A huge-ass AN

So much thanks needs to be given to The Fandom Gives Back, and everyone who contributed to it. Thanks to the generous people of the Twilight fandom, approximately 87,000 dollars was raised for Alex's Lemonade Stand. The money helps so many people in so many ways, and I am so very proud.

I don't know the names of all of the ladies that make up that weird little 'cancerwardHEA' group, but you guys are all wusspervs ;). This was incredibly nerve-wracking to write due the fact that real money was spent on it! Gah! But I am very glad that this contributed to Alex's Lemonade Stand.

I hope I didn't disappoint. Thanks to my beta revrag. Antiaol is a freak.

I probably forgot a million thinks that I wanted to put in here. Crap.

Um, thank you everyone so much. Live on, Edward! –fistpump-