Chapter Notes:

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Bella POV

I barely focused on the hunt, but I exhilarated in the run. I replayed the "meeting" with Jacob and the wolf pack over in my mind. Luckily for me and my multi-tasking vampire brain, conversations with Carlisle attempting to "reason" with me played simultaneously.

It seemed it didn't matter - wolf or vampire - the guys in charge did not want me with my husband.

Forget that! He is my husband. I had a life before that stupid accident, and instead of dying, I was given a second chance. I don't know why, and I don't care. Even if it's only a half-life of watching over him like a guardian angel, while I draw every unnecessary breath, I will watch over him and help him in any way that I can.

I am not giving up my little chance to be with him, to hold him again, to pretend to sleep by his side. If I never have more than that, then so be it. It will be enough.

I will not give him up! I would sooner set myself ablaze, or provoke the Volturi, before I would do that. He is part of me. Forever. I am not whole without him. I am not human without him.

I noticed that in my distraction during the hunt, I had gotten blood on my shirt. I started back to the Cullens, but then an epiphany hit me. I would just "borrow" one of Edward's shirts. I made a lap around back to our house. I hovered at the edge of the yard watched as the lights in our home went out, one by one.

EPOV

Jacob was a tool. Plain and simple. I'd always known it, but never said as much to my Bella. His actions and words were inexcusable and I was sure that if Bella were here, she would say the same thing.

I wasn't sure what his game was with Seth, but I was going to find out. Jacob had no right to treat Seth the way he had - the intimidation alone was enough to make me want to charge him and offer him a solid beat down. But I was better than that - better than him.

I knew that a conversation with Seth was coming. How he could shift so quickly from believing Bella was alive to being on his side of the argument? It made no sense. None.

I slammed the door to the house and threw my keys on the dining room table. Jacob Black and his heavy handing had finally reached my breaking point.

I put up with him for Bella's sake, and I still was following the rules - be nice, play fair, and remember he was her friend. Ha! Friend my ass. No friend of Bella's would ever talk to her or about her the way Jacob had.

He had tried so hard in the past to win her affections, to steal her away from me - but it never worked. She was loyal, faithful, and loving to me always - from that first day we met until the night she . . . .

I pushed the cold, stark reality away. I had been living in its wake for two years. I knew I had lost her, but it didn't stop the longing and emptiness I felt.

I grabbed a beer from the fridge, tossed the bottle cap into the sink and went to our small living room. I kicked my feet up on the coffee table and that quickly, a small, warm smile graced my stoic face.

If Bella were here, she would tease me about my feet on the table, and scold me for the cap in the sink. I would in turn tease her about the bras hanging over the towel bar in the bathroom and we would settle onto the couch and spend the night enjoying the fact that we had the other in our life.

We had more than our fair share of laughter and tears, but it was what made us whole. We leaned on each other when things were tough, and laughed together until our sides hurt.

I thought back to the day I met her - how I couldn't take my eyes off her. The first time I dared talking to her, she stole my breath away.

In the two years since I lost her, I struggled to remember if I ever actually asked her to be my girlfriend or if she just became that after our first date. I found myself turning to my left to face her seat on the couch to ask her, only to be reminded that she wasn't there to hear my question.

There were so many moments in our shared life that I thought of and wished we had more time to remember together. But it wasn't to be.

I remembered the day I asked her to marry me. She was so clumsy sometimes. When I asked her to spend the rest of our lives together, she stared at me - her eyes brimming with unshed tears, and her lip quivering. She silently nodded "yes', then took two small steps toward me before she lost her footing. I quickly caught her and pulled her to me, steadying her against my frame. It seemed I had a sixth sense when it came to catching her.

We talked about our future and all the dreams we had for it. All the dreams she wouldn't be here to make sure came true. But the cruelest was the lack of children. Dear god, how we wanted a family. I still ached with the knowledge that our biggest dream was the one that we never saw happen. All the rest was filler, but the family was key. She wanted to be a mother almost as much as I wanted to be a father.

I wanted to give her everything I could. I would have given my life if it meant saving hers.

I closed my eyes, fighting back the tears and the pain that missing her always brought. They had become my most constant companions. I saw flashes of Bella from our life together. I saw the look on her face when our Christmas tree fell over, and when I told her I could handle Easter dinner and burned the ham. I could see her when the nozzle on the whip cream can malfunctioned and sprayed all over her. I saw the stunned looked on her face when her father announced he was going to marry Sue. The sleepy smile she gave me when she first woke up and the feel of her last kiss before she went to bed at night.

Then the feeling gave way to the strong echo of the words of people who meant well, but had no clue what they were talking about. Taking a full swig from my beer bottle, I fought against their words.

I wasn't imagining it; it wasn't some hysterical apparition. I wasn't dreaming her being real, or making the stories up to make myself feel better, or to stay closer to her. Hell, I knew better than anyone that she wasn't here anymore. I was the one that had to live in the empty house and see her clothes still hanging in the closet. I was the one that still had to see her name on the mail that was still coming to her. I was the one that had to sleep and eat alone every damned day. I was the one that had to announce that I was looking for a table for one, or go to a movie alone. No one else had to do that. She was a past to them, and missing to me.

Angela and Charlie had suggested I go back to see the therapist, and I told them I would consider it. But really, there was no point. I knew she was there - solid and just outside my grasp. I didn't need their version of smoke and mirrors telling me she wasn't.

I needed Seth. He was the key to this. He opened up and trusted me with his confession and I needed to see what else he knew. Jacob would see to it that I never got that chance, but screw him. He didn't own Seth and there was no way Seth would allow him to control his every action or thought.

I downed the rest of my beer, bitter once again with the world that took Bella from me and angry as hell with Jacob for his bullying ways.

"Christ, Bella. I miss you. Every day is a damned eternity keeping me from you," I said to the now empty bottle that I rolled between my palms.

I felt the pain welling up in my chest and the suffocating weight descending in my lungs. There was only one way to deal with this. I was going to bed and cry myself to sleep. Again. Just as I had many nights since she was lost to me.

I padded back to the kitchen. I rinsed the bottle out and placed it in the recycle bin. My actions were void of any feeling or thought. I was on autopilot just as I was nearly every evening.

I turned to the stove to dry my hands and as I turned back, I swear I saw her through the kitchen window. Standing off in the distance, she stood as still as the house itself, unmoving. I locked eyes with her.

"I'm not insane. I swear, I'm not." I clenched my eyes tight and when I opened them, she was gone.

The pain in my chest doubled and I fought the shaking that was my body's reaction every time I thought of her.

I didn't bother locking the doors. Hell, it was Forks. Nothing bad ever happened in this town. Even Bella's accident hadn't happened here.

I walked silently to our bedroom and the pain of missing her slammed into me like a tidal wave. I couldn't breathe and I couldn't think. I walked around the bed and sat down on my side, my back to the bedroom door. I felt my body bob and sway as I stared blankly at the floor.

"God, Bella. I miss you," I said, whispering the words. "I know you're real. I'm not insane."

I knew what I saw. I always knew what I saw. It was Bella, clear as could be.

I felt a tear slid down my cheek before it splashed to the hardwood beneath my feet.

"You're not insane, Edward. I am real."

End Notes:

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