I'm coming back from a long hiatus, and I'm sorry for the wait. This chapter was something I've been planning since I first started writing this story, but it wasn't easy for me. You'll learn more at the bottom, so please read that note as well. Though I do read all of your reviews for all of my stories, responding to reviews on two different sites would eat into the time I have to write, but I try to answer any questions asked if they haven't already been answered in AN's or would spoil the story. Thank you for your continued love and support. Love to mizzdee for her amazing work, as always.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. Story is rated M for language and lemons.
Chapter 12 – As Time Goes By
It was amazing how fast time flew.
It seemed like it was just yesterday that we were shopping for the twins first Christmas, and now they were 16 months old and spending the night at my parents' house so that Bella and I could enjoy our New Years Eve.
Last year had been low key, but this year I booked us a fancy dinner and then was bringing her to Ballet Studio so that we could ring in the New Year with our family and friends.
My siblings and their spouses, as well as Eli and Leah would be there, making it a night to celebrate. Eli had worked hard to regain his ability to walk and in October he danced with his bride at their wedding. The small affair was exactly what they wanted and we were thrilled to see them reach this milestone.
The book that Eli had inspired had gone through an extra round of proofing by someone with a military background, which I was eternally grateful for, so it was now set to release in mid-January, meaning I was soon going to be off on another book tour.
With the kids being a little older I didn't feel as bad, but I still knew that it would be tough. We had agreed on three weeks for the tour, which meant that I would be home in plenty of time for Valentine's Day.
From the bathroom I heard the hair drier turn off so I knew Bella would be out any minute, prompting me to finish tying my tie and pulling on my coat before my wife walked out in what was bound to be a sexy as sin dress.
Not disappointing a bit, Bella exited the bathroom in a silver sequined dress with a low scoop back. Her heels were black and her hair was curly as it flowed down her back and shoulders.
"Babe, we might be repeating Halloween from a few years ago if we spend the night at Ballet Studio with you looking that sexy."
"Oh, hush before I drag you over to the couch by that tie and have my way with you," she teased, but I was already peeling off my suit jacket. "Don't even think about it, Mister. I need some adult conversation."
Laughing at just how true that statement was, I escorted her into the living room where I grabbed our coats and walked her down to the waiting car.
Dinner out with my Bella was a nice treat, as we so rarely got a night to ourselves, and going from our late meal to her bar made it the perfect evening.
"There you are," Emily hollered over the crowd. Seth was behind the bar with the new guy and our gang was anchored at the end of it.
"Hey, Emily, how are we doing tonight?" Bella asked as I ordered a beer for myself and a long island ice tea for Bella.
"Amazing, this place has turned into one of the hip places to hang out on New Years," Emily laughed as she handed us the drinks Seth had just finished getting.
"Do you want another coke, Alice?" Seth asked, and I immediately looked at my sister.
"Why aren't you drinking, Ali?" I asked.
"Someone has to be the designated driver for this band of hooligans," she teased.
"Hey, I offered to get us a car service, but you said that you didn't mind," Emmett defended himself.
"And I don't, so just get off my case, damn it," she groaned and Bella gasped beside me.
"Baby, what is it, is something wrong?" I asked, turning her to face me.
"No, but Bella just figured it out," Alice groaned and all eyes were on Bella.
"You're not mad?" Bella asked.
"God, no. For everyone who didn't guess the quasi-obvious, I'm pregnant," Alice announced, earning cheers and hugs all around.
Leah and Eli arrived a few minutes later and joined us in celebrating Danica's little sibling.
"Are you ready to hit the road?" Eli asked as everything calmed down a little.
"I hate that I have to be away from Bella and the kids for three weeks, but at least I'm not traveling back and forth to LA like I was when the movies were being made."
"I understand that, now that our life has settled down and Leah's back to her teaching full time, I'm ready to find what I'm going to do next. I've had to spend so much time working on my recovery, now that I'm as good as I can get, I need something to keep me from rattling around the house."
"You ever need any help with that, you let me know." I'd help Eli however I could after all Leah and he had done for us.
Bella ended our conversation as she led me onto the dance floor. For most of the last hour before midnight, we bounced between the bar and the floor, leaving us back in the corner of the bar as the TV showed the countdown. Bella leaned up towards me as I bent down, capturing her lips right around the five second point in the countdown.
The cheers surrounded us as I pulled her closer, my fingers dancing along the exposed skin of her back. Needing to catch my breath, I broke our kiss and looked down at my wife with a smirk.
"Are you ready for what the year has in store for us?" I asked her and she nodded.
"As long as you're beside me, I'll be fine."
January moved forward faster than I liked, but there was a lot going on. Edward was putting together the last details for his book deal, the kids had their check up, and even I had an appointment for two days after Edward left.
Abby and Masen were starting to pick up words now that they'd started talking, but so much of it was still gibberish. It was so cute to watch them have these conversations that only they understood, and true to their personalities, Abby was the quiet one and Masen screamed as he tried to tell us what he was thinking.
That was how breakfast was the morning of Edward's first book signing. The publishers had decided to start him close to home and then move towards the east, with his last event being in Boston three weeks from now. So three hours before he was due to make his appearance, the four of us were sitting at the table eating breakfast. Edward took Abby while I had Masen, making it a little easier as they fed themselves their cereal.
"My parents offered to take the kids for you while I was gone if you needed some personal time, so please call them if you need it." Edward was worried since I had been so exhausted the last few times he'd had to leave on business.
"I will. Your mom is taking them during my appointment tomorrow and I'm sure Alice and the girls will come over to give me a break too. You just enjoy this trip."
"I'd enjoy it better if you were coming along with me," he pouted and I laughed.
"When the kids are older we'll tag along on one of your tours. Speaking of which, any idea for your newest book?"
"Nope, but I told them that I needed a longer deadline for this one with the kids, so I don't have to give them an outline for a while yet." Edward looked at his watch and grimaced. "We should get moving if I'm leaving you with clean babies."
Using the divide and conquer tactic that had saved us many times in the last sixteen months, I washed Abby in the master bath while Edward took care of Masen in the second bathroom. With the kids clean, dressed and playing in the nursery I gave Edward a quick kiss goodbye and settled in with the kids for a relaxing day.
Edward's text the next morning woke me up a few minutes before the kids did, but thankfully, Esme was already letting herself in.
"Thank you, Esme, let me just get their bottles and we can-"
Cutting me off before I could continue, Esme lovingly pushed my back towards the bedroom. "Bella, I have this covered. Go get ready for your appointment and we will still be here when you come out."
Taking her advice, I showered and got dressed, kissing the babies on the head as I drove off to my gynecologist's office.
Dr. Snyder had taken over for my previous doctor when he moved last year, and I was thankful that he was supportive of my pro-active stance on screenings. I sat in the waiting room reading until my name was called, following the nurse back so I could change into my paper gown and wait for the doctor.
It took a few minutes, but soon he was walking in with his normal, warm smile. "Hello, Mrs. Cullen. How are the babies?"
"They're great; my mother-in-law has them this morning."
"It's nice having a big family that can pitch in." He put on a pair of gloves as he spoke, gesturing for me to slide down the table.
The pelvic exam passed quickly, with him asking all the routine questions before he moved up to do my breast exam. I was lying on the table, watching his face when I saw a minor change in his expression.
"Bella, have you noticed any changes in your breasts? Any pain or swelling, or a change in the appearance of the nipple?"
"No, why?" I was suddenly terrified of what his answer might be.
"Give me your hand for a moment." I did as he asked and allowed him to guide my hand as I palpated my left breast until I felt a change. "Have you been doing self exams?"
"No, I mean I check quickly, but not like I used to. With the kids and everything, I forget…what are you trying to tell me, Dr. Snyder?"
"I don't know anything yet, Bella. But I'm going to send you for a diagnostic mammogram, which will give us a better idea of what this might be. There are a lot of possibilities, cancer being only one of them, so please try and stay calm until we have all the answers. I'll call ahead and get you in as soon as possible, and the lab will have the results here tomorrow so I can look it over and we can plan our next move. I'll leave you to get dressed."
I did as he told me robotically, taking the prescription for the mammogram from the nurse along with the card for my appointment the following afternoon. Driving to the lab, I was brought right in after they had my insurance information. Mammograms were something I was used to after my years of aggressive screenings thanks to my personal and family history, but today I was scared.
I stood as they performed the test and then returned home to be with my children.
If Esme suspected anything, she didn't say it, and after she left, I called Rosalie to watch the kids during my appointment tomorrow.
Edward hadn't called last night, something I was grateful for as I dropped the kids at Rose and Emmett's so that I could get my test results. Bypassing the exam rooms and going straight back into his office, Dr. Snyder asked me to have a seat before he began.
"Bella, speaking with the radiologist as well as my own examination of your mammogram have us a little concerned. The lump is visible, and appears that it could be cancerous, but we will need to do a biopsy to be sure."
"I might have cancer?" I whispered.
"It is a possibility," he told me. "We can schedule a biopsy for next week and we can go from there. I will have my nurse call you with a time, but it will likely be next Friday, is that okay?"
"I'll be available as soon as you can schedule it," I told him woodenly.
"Bella, I know you're scared, but from what I can see, we caught this early. Let us just wait to see what the tests show and go from there."
Saying goodbye to Dr. Snyder, I drove over to Esme and Carlisle's for some comfort. I knew that I couldn't handle this alone, and short of calling Edward and begging him to abandon his trip for something that might not even be what I was afraid it was, his parents were my best option.
I walked up to the door and was surprised when Carlisle opened it before I could knock. "Bella, this is a pleasant surprise. What can we do for you?"
Unable to hold it in any longer, I started crying, my father-in-law calling out for his wife as he ushered me inside.
"Bella, what is it? Is something wrong with the twins?" Esme pulled me away from Carlisle as I shook my head.
"No, they're fine, Rosalie has them. It's me. I went to my doctor yesterday and there was an abnormality with my physical exam, so he ordered a mammogram, which he got back this morning. It confirmed the lump has a possibility of being cancerous and I have a biopsy sometime next Friday, his nurse is going to call with an exact time."
"Oh, Sweetheart, what did Edward say?" Esme pulled me closer once she had me settled on the couch between her can Carlisle.
"I haven't told him. I was hoping I could tell him that I had a slight abnormality but it ended up being nothing, but now…"
"Are you going to call him now? Or are you waiting until you get the biopsy results?" Carlisle asked.
"I don't' know what to do. If I call him, he'll come home, but I won't know anything for at least another ten days. By the time I get the results he could be home. But I also know that he'll be upset if it is something and I didn't call him right away. Not telling him that I had cancer before we met almost cost me our relationship, I can't imagine what he would do if I kept the possible diagnosis from him."
"Then don't keep it from him," Carlisle said. "If you want to take the stress off of you while you're waiting for the results then stay with us. We have the nursery set up for the kids and it'll be an extra two sets of hands for you. One of us will go with you to your biopsy and when Edward comes home we'll hopefully have positive news to give him."
"Okay, I'm going to call him."
I reached for my phone and dialed his number. "Baby?"
"Hello, love. I just finished the morning event, so now I'm headed to the airport to jump down to California. What's up?"
Taking a deep breath, I started my explanation. "I need you to listen to me, and let me finish telling you what I have to say before you jump in, okay?"
"I went to my doctor yesterday and he noticed something abnormal, so he sent me for a test to check it out. That test didn't give us a definitive answer so he scheduled another one for next week."
"Is it serious, Bella? Do you want me to come home?" Edward asked.
"No, don't come home. Between the week's wait for the test and then the wait time after it's done, you'd just be sitting around waiting like I am. Finish your tour and we will be together again soon. Either Carlisle or your mom will come with me next week, and I'm going to be spending a few days at their house so I have extra help with the kids. I'm taking care of myself, Edward."
"If you need me, you'll call me, right?" His voice was tight, a sign of his stress.
"Absolutely, and I want you to try and relax. Don't stress over something that isn't confirmed. This could very well be nothing," I tried to reassure us both.
"I love you, Bella."
"Love you too, Edward."
I hung up the phone to see Carlisle alone in the living room. "Esme went to get the kids. So if you want to go get your things and come back, we'll have an early dinner and talk more about everything."
I nodded as I walked over to give him a hug. "Edward knows that I'm going for another test next week, but I didn't tell him it was a biopsy or that Dr. Snyder was the doctor to order it. I hate keeping that part of it from him, but if he knew that it was a biopsy for breast cancer, he'd be on the next flight home."
"When he gets back we'll either give him the good news, or if it is bad news, we'll call him and tell him that we have a bit of a fight on our hands. Now, I know it's hard but we have to keep you positive until we know what we're dealing with. Why don't you stop by the condo and pack while I order some takeout for dinner," Carlisle offered and I agreed.
Driving to the condo, I rode the elevator in silence as I tried to think about everything I would need. Esme, being the tour de force grandma that she was had all the major things, so I worked to pack the everyday stuff I'd need for the babies, their favorite toys, tons of bottles and food for them, and then focused on my own things. My laptop was quickly shoved in my bag and soon I had a big suitcase of my own to juggle as I walked out of my home. My large Steve Madden shopping bag was overflowing with the kids' toys on top of my rolling suitcase, while I dragged a large suitcase for the kids behind me.
One of my neighbors was polite enough to hold the elevator for me, and soon I was walking back into the Cullen house to see my children's' excited faces. Enjoying the time with them that evening, I had a calm dinner with my in-laws while we discussed the next few weeks.
Edward had called me almost every night this week, asking how things were going at home. I had been honest and told him that I'd gone to stay with his parents while he was away, which immediately raised all sorts of red flags. He'd been mollified when I explained that I was taking his mom up on her offer to watch the kids while I took some me time, and it was easier to not have to cart them back and forth. Edward had also asked about my test, but as I hadn't gone to the appointment yet, I didn't have anything to tell him.
The week had been torture for me, wanting an answer already as to what was going on. The day of my biopsy, Carlisle had taken the day off and went with me to the outpatient wing of the hospital that Dr. Snyder was affiliated with and waited for them to call me back.
Carlisle was left in the waiting room as they prepped me, and soon I was lying there, very much awake, as they inserted the needle into my breast to take the sample. The procedure itself didn't take as long as I thought it would, and after a short while in recovery, Carlisle was driving me home.
I was sore from the test, and was whiney when Edward called to check on me that night, finally telling him I was overreacting when I heard him talking about canceling the last week of his trip.
"Edward, it's only a week, I'll be fine," I admonished him as he shuffled around in the background.
"This doesn't feel right, Bella. You have a lot going on there and I feel like I should be there for you."
"Edward, my test is done and it'll be at least Wednesday before I hear anything. So you would be coming home to sit at the house with me and wait. Try and enjoy the rest of your trip, and I will see you in a week."
"I love you, Bella," he whispered.
"I love you, too, Edward. With all of my heart," I told him back.
"Kiss the kids for me, and I'll talk to you in a day or two."
"I will, talk to you soon."
Hanging up the phone, I moved into the nursery to watch the kids sleep, only to have Carlisle wake me up in there the following morning.
"How are you feeling?"
"I'm okay," I told him, before looking at my children. "I'm just scared. My mom died before I was ready to say goodbye to her, and then Charlie and I wasted all that time. I wanted children so badly, and Edward and I were amazingly lucky to have it work so quickly. Now, I'm just worried that I'm not going to get to see them grow up." I tried to hold in my tears, but there was no use. "I can't leave my kids behind…and Edward, I begged him not to die on me, and now I may do it to him."
"Bella," Carlisle spoke firmly as he crouched in front of me, "you're not dying. We don't even know that you have cancer yet; I need you to try and stay positive. Doubt can be just as deadly as the disease. You have to believe that you'll beat this, that you and Edward have decades ahead of you with your children. You've made our family complete, Sweetheart, and we're not letting you go without a fight."
Sobbing into his chest, I sat on the floor until Abby woke up, whimpering at the noises that woke her up. Cleaning myself up, I brought Abby downstairs for breakfast, with Carlisle following behind me with Masen a few minutes later.
The weekend gave me a chance to hang out with Leah and Eli, who tried to get me to talk about what was bothering me, but I couldn't tell them before Edward, so I played it off as missing Edward.
Even though I knew not to expect a call from the doctor's office, I watched my phone all day Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday was the worst, knowing I could get a call, but never seeing the phone actually ring. I was ready to scream Thursday afternoon when I still hadn't heard anything, and then as if it was finally giving in to my obsessing, my ringtone went off as my phone danced across the coffee table.
Boston was a great town, but I had no patience for it as I boarded my flight back to Seattle. Ever since I left Bella, something felt off, but there was no getting information out of her over the phone. She danced around it like the ballerina that she was and told me that she was tired and missing me, but I knew there was more to it.
She still hadn't heard back from her doctor's office when I spoke to her on Wednesday night, but yesterday I'd been too exhausted and passed out before I could call to check on her. Now, I was stuck on a nine and a half hour journey home.
The ninety minute flight to Newark wasn't too bad, and with an hour and a half to kill in the airport I stopped at a Starbucks and got myself some caffeine before using the men's room and going back to the gate to wait for my connecting flight. I could have called Bella while I was waiting, but with it so close to the time when I'd be able to see her beautiful face, I decided I would wait until I saw her to find out if she'd heard anything.
Once the plane to Seattle boarded, I had six and a half hours trapped on my flight before I would be able to take my car service to my parents' house.
The hours crawled, until at last, they announced our descent into Seattle. I was one of the first people off the plane, and after impatiently waiting for my baggage; I spotted Tyler's familiar face near the exit.
"How was the trip, Sir?"
"Good, but I'm glad to be home," I told him as he took my bags and loaded the trunk while I slipped into the back seat.
Baby, I'm back. Are you still at my parents or should I go home.
My text was quickly answered by my beautiful wife.
Come to your parents. The kids are sleeping and we're staying for dinner at your mom's request.
Sighing, I slid my phone back in my pocket and tried to relax as Tyler brought me to my childhood home. I tipped Tyler as he got my bags and then ran up the steps, opening the door and leaving my luggage in the entryway.
"Bella, Baby, where are you?" I called and heard her response come from the living room. As soon as I entered the room, I could tell things were far from okay. "Bella, what's wrong?"
"Remember the test I had last week, the one I was waiting to hear back about? Well I got the call yesterday to stop in to see Dr. Snyder this morning and he gave me my results."
My stomach dropped. They only called you in because they couldn't give you bad news over the phone. And Dr. Snyder was her new…
"Bella, what are you saying?" I asked, imploring her to not keep me in the dark anymore.
"They found a lump in my breast. I have breast cancer, Edward."
I dropped to the floor as I gasped for air, trying to come to terms with what she was telling me. "No…NO! You can't…we…I…no. There has to be a mistake. You get screened more often than women your age normally would, you look out for everything…how? Oh, my god, Bella, are you okay?"
"Edward, I'm so sorry," she cried. "I didn't want to tell you about the possibility over the phone because you would have come home and there was still a chance that it could have been benign or a cyst…I needed to believe that I was going to be fine, but then they gave me my results this morning and started talking to me about possible treatments and planning my next step. And I'm scared, Edward. I love you so much, and I need you to be there with me. I need to know that we're stronger than this."
I didn't know if she was asking if I would leave her because of the cancer, or if she was asking if I was strong enough for the both of us to get through this, but I wasn't about to question her emotionally charged pleas. All I could do now was reassure her and get all the information I could. "In sickness and health, Bella. We will get through this together. But first I need to know exactly what has happened and where we have to go from here."
Taking a shaky breath, Bella and I moved to the couch to continue our discussion. "I went to have my normal appointment with Dr. Snyder when he felt a lump in my left breast. I haven't been as religious in my self-exams as I used to be, but I was still getting screened, so I didn't think it was too serious. Knowing my history, Dr. Snyder sent me to get a diagnostic mammogram and those results showed a mass that could potentially be cancerous. So last Friday, Carlisle took me to the hospital so they could do an outpatient biopsy on the tumor. This morning they called me into the office to confirm that I have breast cancer. It is stage 2A, which is good, because it hasn't spread to any other part of my body, including my lymph nodes. But he had me stop taking my hormone replacement therapy, which means on top of cancer, I will also be going through all the symptoms of menopause, instead of the gradual symptoms from when I was on the estrogen."
"Did the hormone therapy make it worse?" I asked, because I remember hearing that some of the cancers almost fed off the hormone.
"It could have, but there's no way to know how much it affected it. My body was still producing estrogen, just not as much as it used to. But either way, you're going to have a crabby old wife a lot sooner than you planned."
"Whatever this brings, we'll face it together, love. Now what have they told you as far as moving forward?" I needed to know what they were planning on doing.
"Dr. Snyder has given me the name of an oncologist that he forwarded my results to, Dr. Banner. He was there this morning for my appointment and discussed a few options. Surgery will definitely be in play, but what type of surgery will determine my treatment options as far as chemo and radiation go. He's going to review my file and the test results and I have an appointment with him Tuesday to start to discuss it in more detail." Bella squeezed my hand as she sat there staring up at me. "I want you to come to this appointment and hear all of the different options with me, because I know I'm going to be a wreck."
Pulling her close, I pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "Bella, there is nowhere else I would rather be. But right now I'd like to spend some time with you and the kids. How about we go upstairs until dinner's ready?"
"Oh, Edward…I love you so much. You're my world," she said in a shaky voice.
"And you're mine, Bella." As we walked up the stairs I said a silent prayer to God to keep Bella with me, because I couldn't live without her at my side.
EN: Okay, I know some of you will be very unhappy with me for doing this, but you have to know…this was always the plan. Dance with Me dealt with Bella finding a person to be her HEA after she thought she had given up on that dream due to her previous bout with cancer. The Family You Make is about the ups and downs in their marriage, and Bella's family history coming back to haunt her was something I've been working up to all along. This will be a rough road for the next few chapters, so please stay with me. If this is a tough subject for you to read about, I completely understand, just remember that this is a HEA as well. Thank you for sticking with me.