Forsaken In My Mind's Past
Chapter 58, Guide Me Home

A/N: I know! Can you believe it? An actual chapter! The only thing I can say is, it was a VERY long dry spell. For those of you who've stuck around, bless your little fic-reading hearts! I know I was a total fail on review replies last time, but just know that I read all of them and thank you from the bottom of my heart. Big love, folks.

To my betas: All of me loves all of you, ladies! Mwuah! (I don't deserve either of you, just so you know.)

I do not own the Twilight characters, nor do I own the songs used in this fic. But I hope you enjoy the twisted roller coaster ride I've created. Remember to keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times until it comes to a full and complete stop. The crazy plot below, I do own. So please respect.

Song: Daylight~Ron Pope

~*fOrSaKeN*~

"I've seen sad, dark times, and I have waited for the sun to rise,
I've seen sad, dark times, and waited for rain.
And all I know is that whenever I am far from home,
There are nights when words seem out of place…
I have walked alone, and the stars have tried to guide me home,
I have walked alone, lost in the fog.
And all I find are faded pictures from a distant life,
And I wish to God I could see your eyes...
And I ain't got no magic potion; all I know is that
We're better off together than we ever were alone.
So if you let me try, give me time, woman,
I will find a way to help you ease your troubled mind...
If the morning comes, I'll be thankful just to see the sun,
But the daylight seems so far away…"


~Edward~

I felt like I'd been out for weeks. A sleep that was never-ending. I had fleeting memories of sounds, faces and words...like dreams that I couldn't remember, but no coherent thoughts of my own. I didn't recall being worried or scared. Didn't really remember much in the way of emotions other than peace. Physically I didn't feel anything, really. It seemed as though I was floating...in space or on a cloud, or some other fucked up metaphor people used to describe being neither here nor there, wherever there was. I still didn't know. Hell, I wasn't sure if I was dead or alive. If I was dead, then this was just a sad, pathetic disappointment.

I remembered hearing Bella's voice, some of the doctors, and Esme, but mostly Bella. Always Bella.

I heard her crying, and I wished I could tell her to stop. I felt her holding my hand, but I couldn't squeeze it back. I heard her say she loved me, yet I couldn't say it back. I felt like I was reaching for her, stretching my fingertips as far as I could, but she was just beyond them.

If Hell existed, this was it.

I came to once, and was able to see her beautiful face looking back at me. I thought I managed a few words, though I couldn't be sure if it was real or a figment of my imagination. Of one thing I was certain: I could only bear mere seconds of being half awake before the pain overwhelmed me. That was when I knew I wasn't dead. Death wasn't supposed to hurt. Was it? In death there was supposed to be peace, calm, not sharp, screaming pain that clawed at my insides.

I never thought anything would consume me more than Bella, but I was wrong about that...so wrong. This pain was all-consuming, eating me alive from the inside out and demanding that its presence be known before anything else important in my life. It was too much, and only one thing could take it away. So I gave in. I surrendered to the morphine that coursed through my veins and sent me floating on that cloud again. I let Bella's grief-stricken face fade slowly until I could no longer see it...until I could no longer see anything but blackness, and no longer feel anything but chemically-induced bliss.

I wanted to be pissed off about it because it stole the moment with her away from me, but all I could feel was relief. Relief that I could no longer feel anything.

I was certain I'd have time for anger later. I knew it was there, just bubbling under the surface of the anesthesia. Anger at the situation I found myself in; anger at the son-of-a-bitch who had done this to me; and anger at myself for letting him do this to me. I wanted the time I'd lost back. Time with the ones I loved. I wanted my fucking life back. But right now, I just wanted Bella's face back in my line of sight. So I tried to think of her as I drifted off, and I dreamt of her.

I tried to get my subconscious to conjure up a happy, smiling Bella, but my mind could only see her blue eyes full of sadness and despair. It would only hear the sounds of her muffled cries, and I felt like I was in a nightmare.

On the day I woke up, finally opening my eyes to the world around me, I was both relieved—that I might actually recover from this—and saddened because she wasn't there. I understood why; she had a family to worry about, but still, I was a selfish bastard. I wanted nothing more than to have her by my side.

Though my head felt like it weighed a hundred pounds, I lifted it and looked around. The goddamned room looked like a florist's shop - that explained the pungent smell of shrubbery and flowers—and my throat felt like I'd been sucking on a hot branding iron. My fucking tongue felt like Death Valley in July, my entire torso was throbbing, and my dick had been crudely invaded by the most uncomfortable catheter in the fucking free world.

Jesus...Christ.

I was a mess.

But I was alive.

Barely.

Fuck.

I suppose I should have been happy about that. On the contrary, I found myself perpetually fucking depressed. I didn't belong here...battered, bruised and impaled by tubes of all shapes and sizes. I belonged on the other side of this bed. Helping people like me. Better yet, helping bring new life into this world. Although that was a depressing thought in and of itself...delivering babies into a world where asshats like Jacob Black and James Campbell existed.

Nevertheless, I didn't want to be here. Laid up in this goddamned hospital bed, unable to do anything but be a nuisance. I wanted to be home; I wanted to see Kellan and Kendyll...and I wanted my Bella. Always.

I reached up to scour my face with my palms, but gave up when I realized my arms—like my head—seemed to be made of lead.

"Shit," I muttered in frustration, sighing. As my eyes searched the room again, I finally noticed my mother in the corner, curled up on what I knew was one of the most uncomfortable pieces of furniture ever mass-produced, a hospital love seat. Part of me was thankful that my father and I (more so my father than me) had enough pull in this hospital to get me into a private suite, as they called it. Though there was nothing suite-like about it, it certainly was better than having to share a room. But the rest of me was eternally grateful that she was here. I studied her for a moment as she slept. She looked peaceful, but the lines carving into her forehead and the purplish hue just under her closed eyelids weren't lost on me. She was exhausted. Suddenly I was almost overpowered by the guilt. Guilt for what I put my poor mother through. I didn't want to wake her; it was obvious she needed to continue resting, but I was desperate for a drink of water. In fact, I had never wanted a simple sip of water more in my life than that very moment.

Christ, now I was being melodramatic over water.

The pitcher sitting on the side table next to my bed, condensation on its beige exterior glistening in the stream of sunlight from the window, mocked me. I glared at it as my throat burned, deciding once and for all that I was going lift the damned thing with my lead-filled arm...

And pour myself a cup of fucking water.

I reached for it, grunting like a fool, and completely overestimated its distance from me. Apparently my depth perception was totally screwed as well. My fingers slammed into it like a wrecking ball, knocking it over, drenching the table and floor below, and sending a plastic cup bouncing across the floor. In the silence of the room, the sound of that little cup bouncing was deafening. So it was no wonder Esme startled awake, sitting straight up on the cushion and looking around frantically.

I felt like an asshole.

Her panicked but weary eyes finally landed on me, and she shot up immediately.

"Edward? Oh honey, you're awake!" The emotions that flooded her face hit me hard, causing a lump of my own emotion to develop right in the middle of my throat. I tried out a chagrined smile to reassure her that I was alright, but when she began to march toward me, arms outstretched, headed straight for the puddle on the floor, my mouth reacted before my brain.

"Stop!" I yelled, groaning in response to the pain that surged through my throat.

Esme stopped suddenly, grabbed her chest—which made me panic for a split second thinking I'd given my own mother a heart attack—and let out an exasperated sigh.

"What? What is it? Are you okay?"

I paused for a brief moment because, no, I really wasn't, but not in the way she was asking.

"I'm...fine," I croaked. "I'm...sorry I woke you, I just...needed a drink, and..." I waved lamely toward the spilled pitcher and then the puddle of water. "Seems I made a mess."

Her eyes followed my movements, realization dawning on her pretty features when she saw the water a half-step in front of her.

"Oh," she replied, no doubt still stunned by my outburst.

"I-I'm sorry I yelled." Jesus, my voice sounded like a cement mixer. "I just...didn't want you to be laid up in a bed next to me...with a broken hip when you slipped on that puddle." I smiled sheepishly when my mother arched a perfectly shaped eyebrow at me. Finally her mouth curled up into a loving smile as she stepped around the spill and reached out to caress my arm.

"Because I nearly lost you, Edward Masen Cullen, I'm going to let that adorable little dig at my age slide." She patted where she had just caressed and picked up a clean cup before gliding over to the sink and filling it with water from the tap. It was a glorious sound, indeed. She grabbed several paper towels and, despite my pleading with her not to worry about it, proceeded to clean up my mess.

After my parched throat was thoroughly quenched, Esme sat down next to me and sighed. "I'm so happy you're awake, sweetheart. I was so scared I would never see those beautiful green eyes of yours." Her eyes started to tear up and I couldn't fucking handle it.

"Mom..." I started, begging her with my tone to just not go there.

"Okay, I'm sorry. No waterworks. At least, no more today." She glanced over where the spill had been and then winked at me, smiling coyly. It seemed my mother wanted to lighten the mood as well.

"Har-har," I retorted, trying to adjust myself to sit higher and wincing as pain shot through my left thigh. Esme's expression sobered at once, her eyes reflecting the anguish she must've been feeling for days, but my forced smile and the slight nod of my head seemed to appease her as I watched her features soften.

She sighed. "Well, you look better. How are you feeling?"

I shrugged my shoulders and bit through the searing pain in my ribcage. "Like I died and went straight to hell...was ripped apart by Satan's minions, then crudely sewn back together and thrust into this hospital bed. How are you?"

My mother's face hardened, her gaze steely as she glowered at me. "Edward," she hissed.

I ducked my head sheepishly. "Sorry. Too soon for that joke?"

"I would say so," she bit out.

I chuckled under my breath, but she wasn't laughing. "I'm sorry, I feel...okay. Sore, but okay." I offered up a genuine smile this time and she nodded her head, squeezing my arm gently.

I talked with her for a while. I asked about Kellan, and she promised to bring him in to see me later. That eased my mind a little. Even though Esme said he was doing okay, it shredded me that he had to go through this. I wanted to see him as soon as possible—to reassure him, if nothing else, that I was still here, still going to take care of him for the rest of my days. She told me Emmett had been spending as much time with him as possible, and I suddenly felt the urge to hug that motherfucker as hard as I could. Although in the back of my mind, I was laughing, thinking of all the crazy things he was teaching my son. Hopefully Nicci had kept that big Neanderthal in line a little.

I asked about Kendyll and when she replied, it seemed almost like her answer was rehearsed...she was doing okay; she was tired; they were still running tests; she was worried about me. I wasn't sure how I felt about it. But I knew it wasn't good.

Finally, I locked eyes with Esme, searching them as I simply asked, "Bella?"

A flash of emotion passed over her face before she recovered and smiled sweetly. When she told me that Bella had met Kendyll, had been visiting with her often, my heart swelled to the point of bursting, only to pinch and squeeze for both of them just as quickly. For Kendyll, lying in her bed helpless, probably worrying her little self even more sick over me. And selfishly for Bella, because God, I missed her. And I knew this was killing her.

"But, honey, please don't tell her I told you. Let her tell you, and act surprised," she begged.

I chuckled. "Okay, Mom. Scouts honor."

But her jovial expression turned dark. She shook her head. "She thinks this is all her fault," Esme said softly, watching my reaction carefully.

"That's Bella," I replied sadly.

"You have to set her straight, honey. You're the only one she'll listen to."

"I will." I nodded. I was hurt that she hurt. That she would even entertain the idea that this was remotely her fault tortured me. I wanted her in front of me, right now. So I could shake her and tell her to stop. So I could kiss her and tell her I loved her. I looked at my mom, and I muttered the only four words I could think of when it came to Bella. "I need her here."

Moments later, Doctor Kelley came in. Bright-eyed and beaming smile, I found myself jealous of the fact that she was walking around, able to actually be a doctor. I had known Monica Kelley from my brief internship in the ER, when she was working her way into head of emergency surgery. It seemed she solidified her position. Especially after saving my ass, I knew my father would see that the board rewarded her accordingly. I was glad. Doctor Kelley was damn good at what she did and she deserved the promotion. Probably the only time I would enjoy hospital politics at play.

The exam must have pleased her because she ordered a reduction of the pain meds, which was pretty great news, but she wanted to keep me in the ICU at least overnight for observation, which did not please me in the least. Guess I had to pick my battles.

I had to choke back emotion when I saw my father who, like Esme, looked worn and weary. He didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. I had a gunshot wound to the lower left abdomen, a couple broken ribs, a pneumothorax on the left side, a tear in my femoral artery, and a partial splenectomy. I had been thoroughly briefed by Doctor Kelley, but I listened again as Carlisle gave me the run-down, clinically, trying to mask the unbridled relief I could hear in his tone. And he didn't touch me, didn't caress my hand for assurance or gently place his hand on my face as my mother had. It wasn't necessary, because in his voice I heard what I needed to hear. His pupils dilated slightly as he took in the sight of me; reached out and grabbed me by the throat as they conveyed what his mouth couldn't seem to with pools of tears not allowed to be shed. Externally, he was a professional, keeping himself together. But in those brief moments, I saw the father in him. The father who almost lost his son. And after the moment flitted away, it was back to the clinical assessment and talk of recovery. Just as the physical pain urged its way back into my system and a nod of his head resulted in the morphine flowing through my veins, rendering my eyelids once again oppressively heavy, I mumbled one name, hoping he could hear it through my garbled, sleep-induced timbre.

"Bella."

I felt, rather than saw, his hand as it landed softly but firmly on my shoulder, and heard his reply as sleep whisked me away from the pain that gripped me.

"I'll call her, son."

~*fOrSaKeN*~

My dreams were torturous and beautiful. No doubt brought on by the blanket of unconsciousness that the morphine pulled me under. I dreamt of chestnut waves of hair, untamed, flowing in a soft wind. I dreamt of eyes the color of sapphire; clear and serene; they gave way to churning, tumultuous seas and tears that fell like rain drops, scorching my skin. I dreamt of lips as pink and supple as a rose bud, kissed by the morning dew. And buttermilk skin, smooth, flawless porcelain begging to be caressed by my hungry fingertips. She teased me, moving close but just out of reach. I felt my body pleading for her, but I was unable to make a sound; her musical laughter taunted me. Snowflakes danced around her naked skin—which didn't seem odd at all, considering I was higher than a fucking kite—until they thickened, obscuring my vision, only giving me glimpses of the treasure before me. I felt myself chasing her, calling out to her silently, reaching her only to have her disappear in the blinding white of the snow my mind had so agonizingly conjured. It was hell just on the fringes of heaven. A glimpse of paradise dangled in front of me like nourishment for a starving animal, and I wanted to scream at the audacity of my subconscious. But, again, I was mute.

Finally my hands felt her, like velvet, and I wouldn't let go. I pulled her to my body as if she were a life vest before I drowned, feeling her arms circle me; she enveloped me with her whole being as I breathed her into my lungs, exhaling the only appropriate word through trembling lips.

Heaven

It was only then that I felt whole, as my fingers sank onto her silken hair and my lips ghosted across her delicate skin, journeying over the hills and dipping into the valleys her body mapped out for only me. Her echoing moans and soft whispers drove me onward, teasing her lips with my own; nibbling on the delicate shell of her ear and gliding my tongue along the salty sweetness of her neck.

For once, my dreams were good to me.

Until just as quickly as a bullet ripping through flesh and bone, I felt the earth shift beneath my feet, jarring me, shaking the very axis of my fucking existence. Bella was gone. And just like that, my subconscious mind turned on me, snarling out images of a fiery red-headed demon. She leaned over me; her blood-red lips curled into a smile that any stupid man would fall to his knees for. But I knew better. I knew the callous selfishness behind that smirk—because to me, it was nothing more than that—an evil, cold-hearted smirk. And she glowered at me with icy, unfeeling eyes.

Stop thinking about her, Edward.

No words were spoken by her lascivious mouth, but somehow I understood her. Immediately, I did the opposite of what she commanded. I thought of my angel; filled my mind with her, much to the disdain of the bitch invading my subconscious.

Fuck you! I wanted to snarl back at her with all the rage and hatred she evoked in me but once again, I was rendered mute.

I watched as she turned her head, and I followed her gaze to across the room from me. Confusion settled in my gut as I saw a small form lying still in a bed that seemed to swallow her whole.

Kendyll.

Victoria tossed another smirk in my direction before sauntering over to the child and looming over her bed like a flame-haired grim reaper. Nausea gripped me. I couldn't, for the life of me, understand why I would sabotage myself in such a way as to let my eyes see this shit...let my dream take a hard left and careen into darkness.

Fucking morphine.

No, get the hell away from her!

I felt my head shake vehemently in protest, but watched paralyzed and helpless as the bane of my existence turned to face me. She lifted her hand, in which she held a syringe, her eyes narrowing at it infinitesimally with a strange mixture of boredom and contemplation. The excessively long needle oozed and dripped some of the liquid that filled the syringe and I knew in that moment, that it held the worst kind of poison.

Death in a tube.

All it takes is one...little...stick... She mused devilishly. Her lips curled up again, mocking me as I tried unsuccessfully to lunge from my bed.

I was paralyzed, and fucking powerless.

Please, I heard my mind pleading, thoroughly disgusted with myself, but it continued. Me, begging this unfeeling shell of a human female filled with nothing but blackness, to let my little girl go. To let her live. I wanted to shove the poisoned needle into my own vein at the mere thought of it. It repulsed me...she repulsed me...right along with where this dream had gone. Why couldn't I just wake up already?

I want you back, Edward. And I don't want anyone getting in the way of that. No one. It's tragic, what might happen if you deny me, but let's face it. Bad things happen to good people... Her eyes cut to Kendyll's sleeping form and then back to me. Even innocent ones. Every day.

I felt my head shaking violently, my nails digging ruthlessly into the palms of my clenched hands and finally...finally I heard my own voice roar to life as I watched in terror, Victoria's murderous hand plunge the needle into the little girl I wanted so desperately to call my own.

"No!"

I felt the starched sheets, dampened from my sweat, underneath me before I realized where I was. Felt the stiff, uncomfortable mattress that was all too familiar; heard the general hum of the equipment surrounding me. My body was trembling. From a clinical standpoint, I knew it was from the effects the drugs had on my system, but I also knew the more pertinent reason. The only one that mattered.

Victoria was in this hospital, working, under the guise of some innocent charade, and I knew no matter who I charmed to keep her away from Kendyll, she would eventually find out about her. And there wasn't a doubt in my mind that that woman would do her best to bring my nightmare to light.

Though I knew I was coming awake, my body protested; my eyelids remained shut, my ears acclimating to the sound of my steady breathing, my heartbeat as the morphine slowly gave way to lucidity. Voices were heard as I lay there, trying to blink my eyes open, and they got louder, less muffled.

"I think he's coming around," someone said. "Hey, sleeping beauty. Don't make me kiss you again, bro," the other one said, followed by a chuckle.

A pause. A disgusted scoff.

And then a very familiar...

"What? What the hell is that look for?"

"Why do you say shit like that, man? Really, it makes you sound ridiculous. Like you actually watch those annoying Disney cartoons."

I knew these voices. I knew these guys. And all I wanted to do was jump out of this hospital bed, and tackle-hug the shit out of both of them. Unfortunately, my mind and my body weren't on the same page at all.

"A real man, unlike yourself, can admit when he watches things his girlfriend likes. And in return, she does things I like."

"You're a disgusting pig."

"Spoken like a true pansy-ass. Come on, admit it, when Alice bats those eyelashes at you, you're toast. Admit it!"

"Fine! She snaps, I jump. Is that what you want to hear?"

"Why yes, yes it is. And?"

"And what? I admitted it, didn't I?"

"Half of it. Now, tell your good buddy what feminist shows she tortures you with."

Even though my eyes were still tightly sealed, and I wasn't sure if my friends' voices were a only a product of the dream-like state I found myself in, I could almost see Emmett's eyebrows wiggling in delight.

"Jasperrrr."

Now he was goading. Of course he was.

"Alright, I may have watched a marathon of Project Runway with her."

Chuckles began, followed shortly after by raucous laughter.

"Go ahead and laugh, Disney boy," Jasper said, disdain clear in his tone. "It was only one day, but shit, if I never hear the word fierce again, I'll be a happy man."

"That's funny; I was just about to tell you how fierce you look today."

"You know you're an asshole, right?"

"Touché, but who's the idiot now, huh?"

"You're both idiots." I grunted as my eyes blinked open and my arms struggled to get my body upright. All talking ceased as my two best friends stared at me with a mixture of shock and awe, followed closely by amusement. "Hell, we're all idiots," I continued, coughing a little then groaning as pain shot through my ribs. "The things we do for the women we love."

"Edwina!" Emmett all but shouted, throwing his arms up in the air as If I just scored a game-winning touch-down. "I'd hug you, brother, but given all the tubes and whatnot."

"Yeah, please don't."

"Well, you win the prize, Ed, for the things we do for our girlfriends," Jasper said, half grinning.

"Right? Dude, you got fucking shot!"

"Emmett, what the hell?" Jasper hissed, punching him square in the shoulder.

Emmett grabbed his shoulder and glared at Jasper. "What the hell yourself, dick?"

"Thank you, Captain Obvious." I rolled my eyes, feeling the slightest tinge of a headache coming on. "I'm well aware of what landed me in this bed."

"Oh, yeah, sorry." He grinned at me sheepishly, perhaps realizing the insensitivity of his statement, but I should have known better with what came out of his mouth next. "Well, ya look like shit, brother."

Jasper just glared at him, shaking his head as I began to chuckle. But when I groaned again at the pain in my ribs and reflexively placed my hand there, it seemed to sober the both of them up, especially Emmett.

"Hey, you okay, man? Do I need to get the nurse?" Jasper asked in concern. Emmett was unusually quiet. I glanced over at him, noticing the look of pain on his face and felt the smile fade from mine before I shook my head.

"Nah, Jazz, I'm alright. Really." I tried to reassure them both and then tried to lighten the mood a bit. "But, you're right, Em. This has to be the shittiest I've ever looked huh?" When he didn't respond, I continued. "I'm probably a bigger idiot than the two of you." I chuckled humorlessly. "What I did was incredibly reckless and stupid."

Emmett finally looked at me, concern and disdain with a little bit of fear residing in his expression. "Don't ever do that to me again, bro. You scared the hell outta me."

I saw the way his eyes clouded in anguish and his jaw clenched. Suddenly I was thrown back to seeing him hunched over me, telling me I was going to be alright but not believing a word of it, and I had to swallow hard to keep my own emotions at bay. I shook my head minutely, though, in the slightest bit of defiance at his heartfelt demand.

"When it comes to Bella's safety and our kids, or anyone I love for that matter, I can't promise that I wouldn't take a hundred bullets. I'd do anything to keep them safe, Em."

He nodded his head sadly. "I know, brother, I know. Did you know Belly's been here every day and night at your side?"

It was my turn to nod my head sadly. Of course, having been so out of it, there was no way for me to know for sure just how long she was in this room with me, but given what Esme had said, I knew. It made me both elated and horrified at the same time, that she stayed by me and what she had to endure. I only hoped I could see her soon, talk her down off the ledge so-to-speak.

"She's broken over this, man. I've never seen her—"

"I know, Em," I cut in. I knew what he was about to say, and I wanted to fix it. I just wanted to fucking make it better for her. "Carlisle said he'd call her. And when I see her, I'll make it right."

Emmett merely nodded his head and pursed his lips. Jasper laid a calming hand on my shoulder and smiled one of his encouraging smiles. That lump in my throat was back again because all at once, I realized what a lucky son-of-a-bitch I was that I'd been given a second chance—at least I wanted to believe I had—to be here. To laugh, love, even cry with the people that meant the most to me.

The conversation turned lighter after that. It seemed that the three of us had dealt with enough of the heavy, and we returned to our normal, easy banter. Emmett insisted that he let Kellan beat him, several times no less, at the new skateboarding game Kel got for Christmas, because he—and I quote—'felt sorry for the little snot.' This was a load of bullshit, of course, because as much of a computer genius Emmett was, he sucked at video games. Jasper and I both knew it, and began to recall all the games we played together, in which we'd kicked his ass. Mainly Madden Football, among others. He always scored the lowest...and he always whined about it for weeks after. Emmett effectively turned the tables on Jasper, teasing him about anything and everything he could possibly think of until we were all rolling with laughter. I wanted to punch him for making my ribs hurt so badly, but in some masochistic way, it felt good. It seemed that my best friends didn't mind being the butt of each other's jokes as long as it put a smile on my face, and there wasn't an adequate word to describe the way that simple fact made me feel. It was incredible.

It was then, in the midst of Emmett's roar of laughter, that she entered the room.

I was consumed with her presence at first, worried; unsure of what she would think she was walking into. She looked much like I expected, tired, lines etched into her forehead from her devastation and constant worry over me. It made me infinitely sad. But she looked so incredibly beautiful even still, after all she'd been put through, that I couldn't take my eyes off her.

She didn't look at me at first, her eyes wide as she took in Emmett's wild antics. She shifted her gaze to Jasper, and back to Emmett, who gestured wildly, in a grand-standing nature toward the spectacle that was apparently me.

And then she did something I wasn't expecting. She laughed. Her face was alight with joy. Her eyes were bright and everything from her hair—disheveled from her hands nervously running through it, I was certain—to her crinkled nose, her rose-kissed cheeks to her open, curled up lips, all the way down to her plain blue sweater and jeans. Everything about her was overwhelming. I was in awe of her and I simply couldn't help the ridiculous smile that spread across my face like a weed. It was all I could do not to jump off this bed and run to her, bare-assed in this hospital gown and all, and scoop her up into my arms.

When her eyes finally met mine, it was a moment I would never forget as long as I was lucky enough to live with her on this planet, and there were only two words my feeble brain could conjure up in that second, so I said them.

"Hi, baby."

~*fOrSaKeN*~

"Okay, Doctor Cullen, looks like you're all ready to go. Shall we get you up and into the bathroom?"

I just glowered at the male intern standing over me. He was tall and lean, built similar to myself with jet black hair, parted and combed neatly to the side, matching sleek eyebrows, and he looked younger than an intern should look. Brand-spanking new. Like a newborn baby unleashed into the exciting new world of medicine. I thought his name was Josh, though I couldn't be certain. His name tag was not something I sought out on purpose. Christ, I was a very intelligent, grown man, getting ready to be bathed by another man. Goddamn it, unpleasant didn't even begin to cover it, and I didn't even want to know the kid after this.

"Doctor Cullen? Are you alright? Do we need to call for Doctor Kelley?"

Oh hell no. That was not happening. I most definitely did not need more of an audience than I already had at the fucking moment.

"No, nope, no," I shook my head vehemently. "I got this." Even though I felt like digging my fingers into the mattress, holding on with my legs for dear life, and screaming like a petulant child that I didn't wanna. After all, I was a goddamned professional, and I could handle this.

Maybe.

Fuck.

The only good thing to come out of this debauchery—albeit mortifying and excruciating in and of itself—was that Doctor Kelley felt that I was strong enough to remove the catheter. So, no more pissing through a tube as I lay in my hospital bed.

Yay me.

Now it was up and at 'em and off to the shower...with another man. Not that there was anything wrong with that if one happened to swing in that particular direction, which I did not. The only person I wanted anywhere near the shower with me was the beautiful brunette who happened to have been by my side not twenty minutes prior.

Trying to quell the rage I suddenly felt for one Jacob Black for helping me into this most precarious situation, I took a deep breath. I planted my hands next to my hips and pushed in an attempt to lift my torso off the bed.

"Fuck!" I groaned as searing pain ripped through my ribcage, and plopped back down onto the hard mattress. This wasn't going to be as easy as I thought.

"Here, let me help you," the all too chipper intern offered with an almost cocky smile. I held my hand up to stop him, and stupidly tried the same approach again...to no avail. "Doctor Cullen, if you would just let me help you—" He reached for me again, and I recoiled.

"I said..." The pain made me grimace. "I've got this." I took a few deep, aggravated breaths, trying to summon some strength. What I didn't notice was how, with cat-like reflexes, his hand swiped the controller off the side of the bed. When I finally looked up at him, he was holding the damned thing up, grinning slyly.

"How about we try this?" With the press of a button, I was slowly elevated to an upright position. I knew in that moment, the look on my face had to have been priceless. Annoyed was an understatement. The look on his face, however, was smug. And I thought for a second—wait a minute—yep, he was smirking.

I tried out my most menacing glare, but I was certain that the fatigue enveloping me only allowed it to come across as weak and ineffective.

"See? Now, that wasn't so hard, was it?"

Okay, now he was really pissing me off. "You're a real smart ass, aren't ya, Doogie?" I grumbled, wincing as I maneuvered myself sideways.

His brow pinched in confusion. "My name is Josh, not Doogie," he said, shaking his head slightly. "Doctor Peterson, actually." He emphasized 'doctor.' Of course he did.

Riiiiiiiiight. Doctor, my ass.

Besides, I should've realized he was probably too young to know who Doogie Houser was. My sarcasm went unnoticed, and it irked me the hell off.

"Well, Doctor Peterson, you mind wiping that smirk off your face for five damned minutes?" Oh yeah, professionalism...straight out the window.

"No problem, Sir," he replied sardonically.

I huffed and swung my right leg off the bed, then carefully slid my left leg over. He spotted me, as well he should have if he was doing his job, and I began to gingerly put weight on my feet. Unfortunately, gravity was not on my side; my head was suddenly spinning and my legs felt about the consistency of half-melted Jell-O. He grabbed my arm just as my knees decided they had nothing important to do, like hold my legs steady, and I muttered a quiet, discontented thank you under my breath. I wasn't quite ready to play nice.

"Steady now," he coached. As if I needed that. I glared at him again, only to find his mouth curling into another smart-assed grin. My sour mood must have done the trick, though, because as soon as I gained my bearings, he let go of me.

"Now, Josh, I'm all good here. I think I can handle this on my own. Don't you have a test to take or something?"

"No sir," he laughed...laughed. I fumed. "And I'm staying right here with you. Doctor Kelley would have my head if I left you alone." Which was precisely what I wanted him to do.

"Doctor Kelley is the least of your worries," I grumbled, waving him away as I shuffled geriatric style to the bathroom. Much to my added annoyance, he stayed close, arms out as if I was about to break a hip at any moment.

"I guess it's true what they say," he baited me, and his chuckling was grating on my last nerve.

"Oh yeah? What's that?" I winced again. This walking with a bullet wound in the leg and broken ribs thing was for the fucking birds.

"Doctors make the worst patients."

I almost laughed at that one myself. Almost. "Careful now, intern. I may just be your boss someday."

"I doubt it..." When I stopped abruptly to give him the stink-eye, he held his hands up as if I was a wild animal. "I-I just mean, I like critical care. I think I'd like to stay in this field."

I grinned condescendingly. It really was cute how he thought he'd just do whatever he wanted...as an intern! "Just a word of advice, don't put all your eggs in one basket, little bird."

"Thank you, Mister Miyagi," he said, pressing his hands together as in prayer and bowing, "for your words of wisdom."

This kid was a total smart-ass, and frankly, to my unabashed horror, I was starting to like him. At any rate, I pressed my lips together to keep from smiling. That was, until I thought of something.

"How the hell do you know who Mr. Miyagi is and not know who Doogie Houser is?" I was genuinely curious. He simply winked. Like I said, total smart-ass. "Nice. Well, try not to feel inadequate once we get in there." I nodded toward the looming bathroom. "One can't be held accountable for the gifts he's born with."

At that, he threw his head back and let loose a hearty laugh.

"Speaking of inadequacies," his eyes grew wide, "have you seen the new nurse on this floor?" He let out a low whistle. Like we were buddies in the locker room or something. "She's got nearly every man in this hospital salivating like dogs."

"Yourself included, I assume?"

"Absolutely!" He looked at me like I was crazy.

I shook my head. "Well, I haven't noticed."

"Trust me, this one you'd notice."

"No, I wouldn't. I wouldn't care if she was Aphrodite in the flesh. The only woman I notice is the one you people interrupted my time with today...which I should have all you assholes fired for." I was sulking again.

He chuckled. "Well, I can definitely respect that. But you're in the minority, my friend." I pointedly ignored the 'my friend' part. "The rest of us numb skulls will keep fantasizing about long red hair, equally red pouty lips and legs that go on for miles. Although, it doesn't seem to be doing me any good. I think that woman hates me."

I wanted to tell him that I didn't think we were at the point in our friendship where we discussed women's body parts, but I did agree with the numb skull part...

Wait a fucking minute.

"Did you say red hair?" I asked, trying to keep my voice passive.

"Yeah, man."

I glowered at him again.

"I mean, yes sir, I did," he corrected as he followed me into the bathroom. I reached the sink and glared into the mirror. Emmett was right; I did look like shit, but that was beside the point at the moment. "She's so hot, she looks out of place. More like a porn star playing the part of a naughty nurse or something...not that I would know anything about that," he tactfully added on at the end. "Do you know her? Her name's Vickie, I think."

"No," I lied.

"Well, she seems to know you."

"What do you mean?" I didn't really want to fucking know what he meant, but sick curiosity got the better of me.

"Oh, I just heard that she's been asking the charge nurse about you, if they need help with you, et cetera, and since she found out I got bathing duty..." he had the decency to look a little chagrined, "she's been shooting daggers at me. I mean, if looks could kill," he mused, shaking his head. "If she doesn't know you, she's definitely intrigued by you."

I couldn't speak. I was too busy spewing every hate-filled expletive I could think of in my head. How could I have forgotten what Doctor Ramirez told me? The psycho worked in the ICU, for Christ's sake! If she overheard any of my family talking about Kendyll...I couldn't even think it. It made my blood boil instantly. Had she come into my room while I was out of it? The thought made my skin crawl. If I knew anything at all, it was that Victoria was as sneaky and conniving as James, and probably just as fucking dangerous to my family. I had to do something, though I had no idea what. Hopefully, I'd taken care of pediatrics after schmoosing the nurses there, but I didn't think I had to worry about the ICU. Well, not until I went and got myself shot. It was a miracle that none of my family or friends had seen her, although the bitch could definitely be elusive when she wanted to be. This was a nightmare of epic fucking proportions.

"Hey, are you okay? You look pale. I mean, paler than usual."

I blinked and looked over at the intern, who was staring back at me with a befuddled expression.

"I'm f-fine," I said, though my voice conveyed that I was anything but. "Can we just get this over with so I can spend more time with the woman I'm obsessed with?" And figure out how to get rid of a certain redheaded nurse, I added in my head.

The intern smiled reluctantly; he didn't seem convinced in the least. "Sure Doctor, whatever you say."

~*fOrSaKeN*~

"So how'd it go?" Bella asked. Her eyes were wide and inquisitive, almost too much so. I still wasn't convinced she was alright, though she kept trying to assure me that she was.

I knew something happened; her eyes always conveyed the truth even when her words and mannerisms were less than convincing. It seemed like ages had passed before she finally returned to my room after my more than awkward shower, so needless to say, I was elated to see her. But she lingered in the doorway a little longer than she should have; it seemed as if she was avoiding direct eye contact with me. She seemed lost in thought, as if her mind was elsewhere, and she could barely concentrate on things I was telling her. It was frustrating me. I mean, I was the one with the morphine drip, after all.

I panicked initially, of course, knowing she'd gone to see Kendyll and something bad had happened. Or, that she'd heard Kendyll had taken a turn for the worse. I made a mental note that as soon as I was able to get up and about, I would make my way to see her. Poor little girl was probably worried sick about me, and she didn't need that right now. Not ever.

I questioned Bella vehemently, wondering why she'd been gone so long, what had happened, and she made a show of rolling her beautiful blue eyes. She told me that Kendyll was fine. She was asleep the whole time, she said, and then my unrequited love for her increased ten-fold when she produced a Jimmy Johns bag from behind her back that made my mouth water and my stomach growl shamelessly. The questions on my mind were overshadowed momentarily by my hunger for something other than barely edible hospital food, and I moaned as I took the first bite, chewing with precision, much to her enjoyment. It was the best meatball sub I'd ever had in my entire life, I decided. I swallowed the huge bite, took a sip of the incredibly delicious Mountain Dew she'd gotten me and grinned at her.

"Baby, I told you already. It was traumatizing. I can't...talk about it." I shuddered. She giggled, and it was the best sound in the whole world. "Why are you laughing?" I teased. "I'm scarred for life!"

Her eyes grew darker. A shadow of frustration and guilt clouded her features and my own laughter died in my throat. Apparently, it was going to be a while before I could joke about scars and trauma.

I sighed, reaching over to caress her soft face with my fingertips. "I wish you would tell me what's wrong."

She placed her hand atop mine, leaned her cheek into my palm and closed her eyes. "You have to ask?" she replied quietly.

I knew she was worried about me, but that wasn't it. I felt like she was using it as a ruse. "Bella, look at me." I slid my fingers under her chin and guided her face up until her eyes opened and met mine. "I love you." As soon as the words left my lips, I watched as her eyes welled with tears. "Baby, please tell me what happened. Whatever it is, you can tell me," I pleaded.

To my surprise, she abruptly pulled away and averted her gaze. "I'll tell you what happened." There was an edge to her tone I didn't like. "My ex-husband nearly killed you because of me!"

"Bella, stop." I reached for her again, but she shook her head and glared at the ceiling. She was breaking my heart.

"No, you stop. I need to feel this! So that I remember what he's capable of...so that I never trust him again!"

"Baby, c'mere, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you."

She bowed her head slightly and wiped just under her eyes. "It's a ridiculous notion, you upsetting me. I'm more grateful for you now than I've ever been in my life and I love you more than you'll ever know."

She was looking at me again; her eyes endless oceans of blue piercing mine, and I couldn't stop myself from pulling her face toward me. I kissed the corners of her perfect mouth, then her top lip and plump bottom one before guiding her head gently to my chest.

She sighed; her fingertips caressing my shoulder, leaving goose bumps where she touched me. "I could listen to your heartbeat all day."

I smiled against the top of her head. "It's yours for as long as it keeps beating."

"Hey, aren't Emmett and Jasper coming back today?"

"Oh, tired of being alone with me already, huh?" I chuckled.

"You know that's not what I mean, ass." Her voice was light, teasing. It made me grin like a fool again.

"I think they got the hint when you crawled into bed with me."

She pulled back and looked at me, one eyebrow quirked the way I loved so much. I grinned, showing all my teeth, and then winked at her. Her answering giggles made my heart thud mercilessly against my sore ribs, but I didn't care. The sound was like my favorite song. It never got old.

We stayed like that for a while, her gently in my arms with her head against my chest, until we were rudely interrupted by a knock on the door. A nurse walked in—Tracie, I believed that was her name—and smiled apologetically as two uniformed police officers, a male and a female, followed behind her. I knew they were only there to take our statements, but Bella stiffened immediately against me. I tried to soothe her by stroking her back gently, but she pulled back, standing to face them. They cordially introduced themselves as officers Fry—the man, and Shaw—the woman, and asked if we had a moment to talk. As if we had a choice.

"Where's Heather—I mean-Sergeant Hawkins?" Bella asked, her voice stressed.

Officer Shaw smiled and spoke calmly to Bella as if she was a scared child. "She's at the station, but she's aware that I'm here. Would you like to come with me and talk?"

"I-I have to go? I don't want to leave him." Bella's voice became more urgent with every word. It made me want to scoop her up and shield her from all of this. The woman officer started to speak, but I cut in quickly.

"She doesn't need to relive that nightmare alone." I all but growled the words.

"It's okay," the male officer—Fry—spoke congenially, but with some authority. "This is all just routine, Mr. Cullen."

"Doctor," I corrected him with disdain.

He nodded in response, but there was no condescension in his tone when he said, "My mistake."

"It'll just be for a moment, and we won't leave the hospital. Doctor Kelley has offered us her office, if that's okay with you, Mrs. Black?"

I saw Bella's back stiffen at the sound of her last name. She looked back at me almost pleadingly, silently begging me to protest, but I nodded my encouragement instead with a soft smile. She mouthed 'I love you' before giving a resigned sigh and turning again to Officer Shaw.

"Please just call me Bella," she said with an air of stubbornness as she strode out the door.

I recanted as much as I could remember to Officer Fry as quickly as I could, hoping that Bella was okay and we could be back together soon. He scribbled notes as I spoke, interjecting questions here and there to clarify. When I finished speaking, he put his pen down and looked at me.

"I'm just curious," his blonde brow furrowed as he looked again at his notes, "when you pushed his arm down, were you trying to dislodge the gun?"

"I wasn't trying to grab it, if that's what you're asking," I replied, knowing full well that was exactly what he was asking. As much as I fantasized about killing Captain Douche, I would never hurt Bella or the twins like that. "I was just trying to get it away from him, incapacitate him so he couldn't hurt anyone," I explained. The officer raised his eyebrows in response and I chuckled humorlessly. "Look, I don't need you to tell me it was a stupid move. I've got broken ribs, a half collapsed lung, bullet holes and a fraction of my spleen to tell me that."

He nodded, half grinning. "Okay, thank you Mr.—uh, Doctor Cullen. I think I've got all I need." He stood from the chair he was sitting in. "I'll go see if the ladies are finished." He turned toward the door, but stopped himself and turned back to me. "Oh, one more thing. Were you aware that Mrs. Black had a restraining order against her estranged husband?"

I leaned forward and tried not to bare my teeth. His question—and the way it came across—had my hackles up instantly. "She's not going to get in trouble for that. Do you understand? You tell whoever's in charge that she's been through enough at the hands of that asshole!"

Officer Fry raised a hand to stop my tirade. "I understand this is frustrating, but I'm not the bad guy, here. And given the circumstances, and the fact that Jacob Black pled guilty to everything, I don't think the DA will be coming down on her at all."

I breathed a sigh of relief. Bella felt enough guilt as it was. She didn't need to be punished for loving her kids so much that she let her guard down. Even if that was a mistake.

"What about Detective Uley?" Sam's name came out like acid.

The officer looked around the room then leaned toward me as if he wasn't supposed to be telling this top secret information. "Well, he's on desk duty while Internal Affairs conducts their investigation. But word around the station is that he'll be demoted and stripped of his detective status."

Interesting. It wasn't quite good enough for me, but I'd take what I could get, and the humiliation alone would probably be enough to bury that idiot. I was just about to make a snide remark about the subject of dirty cops when Bella and the other officer entered the room, thus saving me from getting arrested for being a dickhead. My poor Bella looked even more exhausted than she had before she left, if that was even possible, and I was filled with the sudden urge to kick them both the fuck out of my hospital room. Luckily, I didn't have to. They thanked us both for our time, as procedure would have it I was sure, said they'd be in touch if they needed anything else, and quietly made their exit.

Bella shuffled slowly toward me and sat in the chair right next to my bed. She didn't speak a word, only laid her head on my lap and sighed, long and exasperated. I placed my hand on her head, stroking the soft tendrils of her hair, letting the silky strands caress my fingers and heal me slowly.

"Are you okay?" I asked in a low, soothing tone.

She nodded. "Just don't stop doing that."

"Of course, baby," I whispered. "Do you wanna talk about it?"

She shook her head, lifting it to look at me. Her eyes were tired, sad. It threatened to shatter me. "I'm okay, really. It was just...hard...to go through that again. Well, I'm sure it was for you too."

"It was," I nodded, "It was scary; I'm not gonna lie. But Bella, I can't imagine what you went through having to watch that. I'm so sorry."

She closed her eyes, shuddering as if she was seeing the images over and over again in her mind. "It was the worst day of my life," she whispered, her voice catching.

"Hey, hey." I brushed my thumbs over her eyelids until she opened them to look at me, and cradled her face in my hands. "I'm here and I'm okay, baby; I'm not going anywhere."

"Are you in any pain right now?" Her gorgeous eyes searched my face for truth.

"No, I'm fine. Please don't worry about m—"

"Good," I heard her say as I was talking, but before I could get the rest out, her lips crashed into mine. I was stunned at first, but I melted into her. She moved closer to me, her arms encasing my head, her fingers curling into my still damp hair, her lips urgently moving against mine. Her head tilted; her tongue glided over my lips, my tongue and my whole body came alive. My hands gripped her beautiful head, pulling her impossibly closer and she moaned against my mouth. I inched her head back, just for a moment to look into her eyes. They were tumultuous, fiery, conflicted.

"Baby," I whispered softly before my eyes flickered to her plump lips, and I was lost to her. Warmth began to consume my body in the most incredible way as we kissed. My hands brushed over her shoulders, roaming her back, wanting to go further and further. She shifted her body slightly, arched her back as I caressed it, allowing her breasts to press tightly against my chest, and I nearly lost my fucking mind. It was then—as my hands reached the swell of her ass, aching to lift and position her where I desperately needed—that I realized where we were; that any moment, anyone could walk through that door unannounced. While it was thrilling, I knew that my injuries wouldn't allow the activity. Reluctantly, and with much discontent, I began to slow down.

"Bella..." My voice was barely audible; my jaw clenched as her lips made their way across it. She hummed in response, the vibrations reverberating through me, causing the sweetest kind of pain. But pain, nonetheless. My body's not so subtle reminder that this shouldn't be on the to-do list today.

"Bella...we really..." I pushed her back as gently as I could to make my point, "should...stop."

She stared at me for a moment, emotions I couldn't necessarily place flashing in her eyes. Confusion, perhaps, annoyance? But the last one I was sure of, embarrassment. Her eyes widened. She took a fleeting glance around the room before sitting back down in the chair hastily, and dropped her head into her hands.

"I'm so sorry," she mumbled. I could see the crimson washing over her face through her fingers.

"Hey come on, Bella look at me."

She raised her head after a few agonizing seconds, but kept her hands in place; peeking at me. Sometimes this woman was maddening.

"Could you put your hands down, please?"

She made no attempt. I huffed, scrubbing my face with the heels of my hands. "Bella..." I tried to sound stern. "Put your damn hands down, please." Finally she did as I asked, but stared at something over my head. "You're not looking at me," I huffed again. Her eyes cut to mine and the imperious tone I held disappeared immediately. "You have to know how much I want you, right?" I asked cautiously, glancing down at the slightly tented sheet around my midsection. I mean, it wasn't fucking obvious or anything.

"Yes, but you're injured and that was just really stupid of me!" she blurted. "I wasn't thinking!"

"Obviously I wasn't either, baby." I half grinned. "I just don't think we want an audience unexpectedly. Unless you're into that sort of thing."

She cracked a smile and smacked at me playfully. "And then, we'd have to explain how you got another cracked rib or two."

"Hmm, that sounds very intriguing." I wiggled my eyebrows. "Please go on."

"Oh shut up, you perv!"

Just then, a shadow in the doorway caught my eye and I tensed. My mind instantly jumped to the conversation with the intern. "Who's out there?" I called out, causing Bella to whip her head around. Then there was a crash, as if a tray of instruments had hit the floor, followed by muffled cursing, and Bella jumped up from her chair.

"What the hell is going on out there?" She was holding her chest now, startled as I was. But I was more suspicious than anything. "Should I go see what happened?"

"No," I replied a little too quickly, so I attempted to dial it back a bit. "I'm sure someone just spilled something. Happens all the time, right? Nothing to worry about."

She narrowed her eyes at me slightly, and my pulse quickened. "If you say so, but this place has got me thinking I've lost my mind."

"What do you mean?" My eyes stayed on her, watching for any sign that she knew Victoria was working here. She gave nothing away, only shrugged and looked toward the door again.

"Nothing. It doesn't matter."

"Bella," I hesitated, unsure I wanted to bring this up now, but I continued. "Have you noticed anything...I dunno...strange here?"

She furrowed her brow in confusion at first, but then shook her head. A humorless laugh escaped her lips as she rolled her eyes. "Edward, my whole life is strange at this point. I told you I'm going insane. Why do you ask?" She cocked her head to the side slightly.

"No reason," I lied, deciding to change the subject as quickly as possible. "Let's not talk about strange happenings in this hospital; they're rampant. Let's talk about how you are going to help me shower tomorrow." I grinned coyly, wiggled my eyebrows and leaned into her, landing an open- mouth kiss right on her stunned lips. Her resulting giggles made me forget all about creepy redheaded nurses lurking around every corner.

"It's easy to forget about...things when I'm with you," she said wistfully. Her eyes were far away again, remembering nightmares, thinking out loud. I took her hand and kissed her knuckles slowly, one at a time until her gaze was trained on mine again.

"You have nothing to worry about with me, baby. I promise." The words were whispered to keep the tremor out of my voice. She smiled a genuine smile at me, but there was a bit of transience to it I couldn't understand. She sat on the edge of my bed, laying her head on my chest.

This is how we stayed—me caressing her hair, rewarded with her satisfied sighs—until we heard a knock at the door and my mother's voice calling my name. Bella jumped back into the chair, red-faced and looking chagrined, as if we were teenagers getting caught making out. I had to chuckle, which earned me a glare from those mesmerizing blue eyes.

"Come in, Mom," I said, sideways glancing at my girl and shaking my head.

Esme popped her head around the corner, looking much more rested.

"Oh good, honey, you're up!" And sounding very chipper, at that. I smiled at her, nodding my head as she walked into the room, but she wasn't alone. "I brought you a visitor," she said with a wink as Kellan appeared from behind her back, looking timidly in my direction. A wave of gratitude washed over me at the fact that she brought him as she promised, but seeing him look so shy and frightened nearly had me in tears. It was out of character for him, but then again, when does a child expect to see their parent looking like I was with all the machines around me. Intimidating? To say the very least. I decided I needed to be the tough guy here. To show him I was fine and never ever going to leave him.

"Hey little man!" The excitement poured out of me; there was no pretending as the huge smile spread across my face and my arms outstretched toward him. "Come here!"

His eyes reflected contemplation for only a second before it changed to certainty, as if something clicked in his little brain and he realized that though I was stuck in this bed, I was still me.

"Dad!" he exclaimed. His feet propelled him forward with such speed that for a moment, I was worried he would jump right on me. But he stopped just short of doing so and carefully wrapped his arms around my neck. "I missed you."

"Oh, buddy," I whispered, barely able to keep my voice steady, and squeezed my eyes shut. "I've missed you too," I continued gruffly to my son.

Opening my eyes again, and stealing a glance at Bella, I noticed that hers were already swimming in unshed tears. Esme had walked over and taken Bella's hand in hers. The beauty of it was not lost on me in the least. I was the picture of amazed.

Kellan pulled back from me and looked up at Bella curiously. "Nana says you've been taking care of my dad while he's hurting."

Bella's eyes widened in shock. She looked from Kellan to Esme, who smiled warmly at her, and back to Kel. Her brow knitted together and her eyes brimmed with tears.

"I-I..." She cleared her throat and struggled to smile. "Well, I've been trying."

Kellan launched himself at her, wrapping his arms around her waist and hugging her tightly. "Thank you," he said, his eyes squeezed shut and his lips curled into a grateful smile.

Bella gasped, her eyes darted to mine in disbelief, as if she'd expected him to lash out at her or blame her in some way. Her arms, suspended in mid-air and stone-like from this unexpected hug, slowly began to meld around him until she clutched him to her as tightly as he had. I could see that the guilt she shouldn't have felt was overpowering her though, and her head dropped forward. She sniffled and gasped as the emotions she could no longer hold in broke free. Finally, she tried to wipe the tears from under her eyes and gently unclamped Kellan's arms from around her waist. She held on to his hands, though, and knelt down in front of him.

"I would do anything for you and your dad, Kellan," she managed brokenly. "Anything."

He nodded in response but said nothing, a little taken aback—I assumed—by her strong show of emotion. She stood up and leaned over me, whispering 'I love you' as her lips brushed mine softly but too quickly. "I should go," she said in a quiet voice, glancing at Esme and Kellan before her eyes landed on mine again. "I've been here a while and the twins are probably driving my mother insane." She rolled her eyes and laughed just a little.

"Will I see you tomorrow?" I suddenly felt desperate for her to stay, but I kept my voice steady. I knew she wanted to give me some time alone with my son, but it stung a bit that she was leaving.

She nodded and smiled, but it was weak and looked all wrong. "Of course."

"Bella!" I called out as she turned to leave. She stopped and looked back at me. "Thank you...for being here...for everything. I love you." I mouthed the last part. She smiled and placed her fingers on her lips before stretching her hand out toward me. But I saw the sadness filling her eyes again, and I saw the way she tried to hide it as she turned and hurried out the door. It filled me with a sense of dread I didn't understand and it was all I could do not to call out to her again to make her stay.

~*fOrSaKeN*~

The visit with Kellan was incredible. I hadn't realized how much I missed the little shit until I saw him. He was full of questions, naturally, some of which I couldn't answer truthfully—like how I actually got hurt—but I simply explained that I stupidly tripped and fell on Bella's porch stairs trying to run up them too fast. A lesson for little boys always in a hurry, even if it was a lie. He told me all about cooking with Nana and beating Uncle Emmett on all his video games. It made me laugh just picturing Emmett's face each time he lost to a child. Priceless.

The time I got to spend with my son was priceless as well, and all too soon, it was over. I received some of the best news, though, just before he and Esme left when Doctor Kelley came in to assess me. She must've liked what she saw, because soon after, she informed me that I was going to be moved out of ICU and to a regular room, assuring me another 'suite' of sorts, first thing in the morning.

My sleep was fitful that night, despite the periodic doses of Demerol to curb the lingering pain along the left side of my body. I felt a strange presence. Something that kept waking me up occasionally throughout the night, only to find a darkened, empty room, or a nurse checking my vitals. I kept expecting to see her, the demon haunting me, and I thought I did once. But it wasn't her, thankfully. This nurse was kind; she had deep blue eyes, much like my Bella, and a warm smile. Her hair wasn't the same severe shade of red either.

I fell into a more peaceful slumber after she left, but awoke just as the first rays of the filtered winter sun shone through the window. It seemed I couldn't sleep in even when I was half dead. A smile crept over my face though, because today was the day I was moving out of the confines of ICU, and into a regular room. Sure, I would've been happier had I been going home today, but baby steps were all I had at the fucking moment, and I needed the damn silver lining. Besides, it was a small victory in the war with Captain Douche. He was going to be confined in his own personal hell for a while, hopefully. I refused to think of the other two psychos who desperately needed to be confined to tiny little cells. Fuck that. Today was my day, and it was going to be good. I was looking forward to seeing Bella again, my boy, everyone else, and I was sure as hell planning to see that beautiful little girl I missed so much.

And then...my father walked in.

It wasn't that I was unhappy to see him. On the contrary. But his behavior was bizarre, especially for him, and it set me back a few paces on the 'Edward's having a good day' plan. He asked the pertinent questions about how I was feeling, but he was distant and seemed preoccupied with something. It was definitely out of character for him, but eerily similar to the way Bella had been the day before.

"Dad, I feel fine," I said, exasperated at the fact that he'd already asked me that very question at least three times. Each time, he had checked my chart, completely ignoring the same answer I gave him, now for the third goddamned time. "What is up with you? Is it Kendyll?"

His head snapped in my direction when I said that, but he shook it off, like he was dazed. When he didn't answer me, only mumbled to himself while busily checking my machines, I felt my temper flare.

"Damn it, Carlisle!" That finally got his attention and he stared at me in both shock and annoyance. "What the hell is going on?" I threw my hands in the air.

"What are you talking about, Edward? Nothing is going on."

My eyes narrowed in suspicion. I was calling bullshit in my head, but opted not to say it for sanity's sake. "You're pacing around here, checking things that are unnecessary, asking questions and ignoring the answers, and you're acting very strange! Besides the fact that you didn't answer me about Kendyll! Now, what is going on?"

He sighed and ran his hand through his hair. Something I only saw him do when he was thoroughly stressed out. This didn't help matters. "Edward, Kendyll's condition hasn't changed...for the worse or the better. I just have...other things on my mind."

"Well, what is it? Maybe I can help?" I offered, feeling like I was begging for information and not liking it one bit.

"You can't help," he answered immediately. I had to admit, I was a little taken aback by his abrasiveness.

"You don't know that, Dad." I tried a gentler approach. "Why don't you just run it past me? I'm smarter than I look." A little humor never hurt anyone, right?

"Trust me, you can't," he said adamantly. That stung a little. "And if you must know, Son, it seems I've...misplaced a file."

My brow rose in surprise and my mouth fell open a bit. "A patient file?"

He averted his gaze, jaw clenched.

Well, this was definitely new. Doctor Carlisle Cullen did not misplace anything, let alone something as important as a patient's medical file.

"Uh, have you asked your staff?" His expression was my answer. Right. Stupid question. I started to offer another suggestion, but he interrupted.

"Look, it's nothing for you to worry about. I'll...take care of it."

"Okay," I sighed, dropping the subject since I knew pressing the issue would've gotten me nowhere. Besides, no sooner had he muttered those words, did a group of staff trail into the room to prepare me for my transfer. Carlisle looked almost relieved and it left me unsettled. Maybe I was the one going insane as Bella put it?

~*fOrSaKeN*~

"New bachelor pad?" I heard her voice before I saw her. Upbeat and chipper as always, I couldn't help but smile...and feel a pang of guilt at the same time for leaving all my work on her. "You're moving up in the world, Doc."

"Hey, Heidi." I grinned at her as her bright, smiling face came into view and she pulled me into a quick but gentle hug. "It's definitely a step up from ICU, but I am not a bachelor." I painted on a frown and tried to look offended. Her smile grew wider.

"Ah, Bella, right?"

I tilted my head slightly, knowing they'd never formally met. "How did you know?"

She looked at me like I was mental. I'm not saying she didn't have a point, but I digress.

"I'm a woman, Doc. We know things." I quirked my eyebrow at her and she laughed. "Besides, word gets around in these halls." She shrugged. "Let's just say, there are many broken-hearted nurses in this place jealous of a certain Bella. She is one lucky lady."

"Who's a lucky lady?"

We both turned to see Bella walking in looking a little timid as well as conspiratorially between the two of us. Heidi rushed to her, grabbing her hand as Bella's eyes widened and darted from Heidi to me and back. I couldn't help the stupid smile I wore suddenly.

"You must be Bella; I'm Heidi. It's so good to finally meet you!"

"Um, h-hi," Bella stuttered. "Good to meet you too, H-Heidi, right?" She looked at me questioningly and back to Heidi. "Who-who are you?"

Heidi laughed in her good-natured way, and apologized to Bella for being so brash, as she put it. "I'm a nurse..." She rolled her eyes at herself and waved her hands in front of her pastel scrubs. "Like you couldn't figure that out. But I work for the doc over there."

"Oh." Bella almost looked relieved, but not quite, and I found it amusing. I knew Heidi was no threat to her, but she didn't seem to.

"And I was just about to vehemently disagree with her," I piped in. Both girls looked confused. "I'm the lucky one, not you, Bella." I added with a wink and a coy smile, made even bigger when I noticed the reddish hue creeping up her neck. "Heidi's been with me the longest of all my staff, and she works her tail off for me."

Bella smiled awkwardly and nodded, shifting her weight from foot to foot and finding an invisible string on her coat to work between her fingers.

"Well, speaking of work," Heidi said, seeming to conclude from the silence that hung in the air, that it was her cue to leave, "I'd better get back to it. This guy's kind of a slave driver. It was so nice to meet you, Bella."

This time, Bella smiled genuinely, hopefully seeing that Heidi was actually sincere. "You too, Heidi."

"Keep this guy in line, okay?" My very sarcastic and replaceable nurse sneered in my direction. But it was difficult to pretend I was peeved when Bella laughed loudly.

"Oh, har-freaking-har." I rolled my eyes. "Why does everyone think I'm so out of control?"

Both of them got another good laugh in before Heidi waved her goodbye and left me with my girl.

"You are pretty...what's the word I'm looking for?" Bella tapped her pursed lips with her forefinger while squinting over my head with a playful gleam in her eyes. With the other hand resting on her out-swung hip, she was exquisite. "Persnickety!" She tossed her hands up in the air and grinned widely at me.

I snorted then laughed. "Persnickety, huh?"

"Yep. Definitely persnickety." She leaned in close to me, the scent of her driving me wild.

"Interesting word choice." I chuckled

"Well, I am somewhat of a writer," she teased. "Vocabulary is one of my specialties."

"So, you've reduced me to a sniveling, finicky, difficult perfectionist? I should be thoroughly offended." Of course I tried to look the part, but half-smiled instead as I took in her teasing attitude. This was different—lately—and I was going to revel in it for a change.

"Hm, I don't know about sniveling," she murmured with a wink that made me want to moan in response. "But the rest is just one facet of your personality that I love so much."

"Mmm, I love you," I mumbled with the dopey grin of a love-sick fool.

"Ditto, Doctor Cullen," she breathed, her tongue darting out to moisten those plump lips I was suddenly desperate for. So I closed the gap between us, pressing my lips to hers hard and strong, making her gasp. It was always satisfying, yet never enough. I felt the familiar stirrings in my body and cursed the fact that I was still in this goddamned hospital. Still, you couldn't condemn a man for trying, right?

"It's so cold outside...don't you think..." I whispered between kisses, "it would be...so much warmer...if you snuggled between the sheets with me?"

She giggled, pulling back to look me in the eyes. "I think I learned my lesson on that. You know we are still in a very non-private hospital room."

I glanced behind her, across the room. "Well, the bathroom is nice and private."

"Edward," she groaned. Frustration laced her tone. "I can't. You...your injuries." She sighed, her face losing all playfulness, becoming sober and guilt-ridden again. I didn't like it at all. "I just, I don't want you to hurt anymore because of me."

"Because of you? Bella—" I started to argue, but thought better of it. I certainly didn't want to get into it with her again, if I could avoid it. "Do you know what I am right now? Besides persnickety, of course." That worked to bring the smile back to her beautiful face.

"What?" she asked softly.

"I'm very dirty. Filthy, in fact." I held the back of my wrist up to glance at an imaginary watch. "And look at that." I pointed to said imaginary watch. "You're just in time to help me with my shower."

She looked confused for a moment, brow furrowed, eyes darting from my empty wrist to my shit-eating grin and back several times before her oh, so tempting mouth opened to speak.

"Edward..."

"Baby..." I whined just a little, rolling my eyes.

"I-I don't know if that's such a good idea. What if, what if something happens? I mean, I'm not a nurse or anything. I won't know what to do."

I took her face in my hands. "It'll be fine, I promise. Look at me, I'm stronger now. Nothing will happen...nothing bad, anyway." I grinned again, trying to put on my best sexy-face. Although, I didn't know how I could possibly pull off sexy in a fucking paisley hospital gown, but again, couldn't blame a guy for trying.

"I-I don't know." She shook her head, her expression still riddled with concern.

"It'll be fine," I tried to assure her. "I'm a doctor; you can trust me." This time I smiled showing all my teeth and I saw her mouth curl up into a grin she was trying to hide. "Besides, if anything were to happen—which it won't," I added quickly, "I can walk you through it."

When she still hesitated, biting her lip and look anywhere but my eyes, I curled my fingers under her chin, determined not to be assisted by another male intern—or anyone else for that matter—and made her look at me.

"Please?" I shoved my bottom lip out and did my best to look as pathetic as I could. Of course, I also batted my eyelashes at her a few times for effect. I wasn't beneath that shit, and it seemed to work. She began to giggle and roll her eyes at my blatant attempts. Maybe I just looked ridiculous, but it didn't matter because finally, she agreed with a breathy 'okay.'

"But if you so much as cough, I'm calling in the nurse," she added sternly.

"Of course," I nodded in acquiescence as I pressed the call button next to my bed. Seconds later, a nurse's voice crackled through. "Yes, Doctor Cullen, did you need something?"

"No, I just wanted to let you know I'm taking a shower."

"Okay, I'll send someone in to assist you," she replied matter-of-factly.

Not happening this time.

"That won't be necessary." My mouth curled into a mischievous grin. "I have a family member here, and they're able to help me." I winked at Bella and she rolled her eyes. "I'll call you when I'm finished so there won't be any need for interruption until then." I waited for a moment but only heard and uncertain silence on the other end. "Hello?" I said impatiently.

"Um, Doctor Cullen, I-I'm not sure we're supposed to allow that." She sounded exactly that, unsure, so I played it to my advantage.

"You don't have to allow anything. I'm allowing it, and if anyone has a problem, they can deal with me directly. Now I'll say it again, I don't want to be interrupted until I call. Understood?"

"Um, y-yes Doctor."

I grinned at my girl. "See? Easy peezy."

"You're so mean." She shook her head, throwing me a narrow-eyed glare. "You probably just got that poor girl in trouble."

"She'll be fine. Now, could you please help me up, Nurse Bella?"

We made it to the bathroom in record time. At least I thought so. Bella insisted on bearing most of my weight, so I let her believe that she was, and there was surprisingly minimal limping on my part. My brilliant doctor brain assessed that if I kept up at this rate, I might be able to get out of this joint a little earlier than first thought. Once inside, she made sure I was steadily leaning against the wall before she turned toward the shower to get the water going.

I had a better idea.

"So, I'm a family member, huh?" she mused aloud as she took a step toward the shower. Her musings soon turned into a gasp as I hooked my hand in the bend of her elbow and spun her back toward me, pulling until her body was flush against mine. I clenched my jaw against the onslaught of pain that hit my ribs, not wanting her to see it, but not giving a shit about it either, and gazed into her wide, surprised eyes.

"Would you rather I had said the love of my life is here? We can go back. I'll call her again and tell her right now," I murmured, my lips a fraction of an inch from hers. I felt her body quiver in response.

"No, it's okay," she whispered in return. Her breath washed over my face, and it was her turn to notice my body's reaction. She bit her lip, staring up at me until I placed my thumb on it, pulling it gently from the grip of her teeth.

"Thank you," I said, my breath picking up at the sight of her. "For helping me."

She nodded as my fingertips traced her brow, her cheekbones, and her jaw, framing her face as I captured her bottom lip between my own. She sighed, her hands reaching gently for my sides and caressing. The feeling was incredible. I deepened the kiss, our tongues melding together, tasting, pulling back, only to touch again and again. Finally she pulled away, breathless, her chest heaving as was mine. It hurt, but I ignored it.

"We should probably get you showered," she whispered between breaths.

"I'd rather continue this for a while," I replied with a grin.

"Edward," she chided. "Let's just get it over with, okay? Lean forward, so I can help you off with the gown."

I obliged without argument, at first leaning my forehead on her shoulder, then trailing my nose along her collarbone. I heard her sharp intake of breath and it only fueled my own desire. Pressing my lips into the dip of her throat, I dragged them up, capturing her jaw between them, sucking gently. Her hands trembled slightly as they untied the string around my neck, and her fingertips never left contact with my skin as they slid softly over my shoulders, down my arms and around my waist.

I could feel her heart racing in time with mine, her breasts pressed against my chest as her fingers nimbly worked the knot of the string loose at my lower back. I felt her hands clench into fists, holding tightly to the material of my gown as my lips continued their assent along her jaw to the shell of her ear. She shivered as I exhaled slowly and my hands roamed over the valley of her shoulder blades down to the soft swell of her ass. She gasped when my fingers kneaded into her flesh, pressing her into my aching erection, barely sheathed by the thin material. I hardly registered the pain in my groin; the pleasure I felt was far greater, and I greedily wanted more. But her body stiffened, her arms tightening, yet pulling away from me at the same time, forming a cage to keep me at bay.

"Please, baby," I whispered in her ear, feeling her knees shake slightly and knowing I was affecting her as much as she affected me.

"Edward, we can't," she replied weakly. "I-I'm afraid to hurt you."

"No..." I trailed my fingers up the contour of her back, through the silken strands of her hair—worn down around her shoulders today specifically to make me fucking crazy—and cradled her head in my hands. I licked just under her ear, replacing my tongue with my lips to gently suck before whispering, "You won't hurt me. Do you have any idea how much I want you? Can't you feel it?"

Her chest heaved even more, but she gripped the back of my hands in hers and pulled them off of her, stepping back away from me and hugging herself tightly. Goddamn it, I was losing her.

"It's too dangerous," she murmured, looking anywhere but at me. Fuck.

I pulled at the front of the gown without saying a word and wadded it up, tossing it across the room. I wanted to get her attention; I wanted her to see me, standing there, naked and exposed, dick standing at attention like a fucking soldier waiting for instruction. I wanted her to see how much I wanted her, wanted this, that I was okay. But I obviously wasn't using my goddamned brain because I didn't expect her reaction when her gaze finally shifted to my body.

A strangled sob erupted from her mouth, which her hands quickly moved to cover. "Oh God," she whimpered. Her words were muffled, garbled as her eyes roamed down and back up. I followed her gaze, cringing when, like an idiot I realized what she saw. The left side of my ribs was dark purple, decorated by angry bruises. Long, blood-stained bandages covered the incision site of my splenectomy, joined by smaller ones where the bullet holes had been stitched up. I felt like a complete and utter moron. Instead of making her see that I was fine, I successfully traumatized the hell out of her even more.

"Shit," I muttered, hobbling toward her until I was standing right in front of her, and cradled her face, lifting it. "Baby, don't look at it. Bella, I'm sorry. Look at me; look at my eyes."

"Oh my God, Edward, I'm—I don't know what to—say. I'm so—sorry! I—" Her arms flew out from her sides, so as not to touch me, but I continued my mantra of trying to calm her down. "Shh, baby look at me." When she finally did, her panic-stricken eyes and tear-stained cheeks nearly crushed me. I tried to smile at her, but I was afraid it only came across as sad and desolate. "I'm okay, I'm okay, I promise. Wrap your arms around me. I need to feel you." When she hesitated, the panic entering her eyes again, I kept doing my best to talk her off the ledge. "Please, Bella. You won't hurt me. I'm standing here in front of you; I'm not in pain, just trust me. Can you do that?" Her widened eyes darted between mine before she finally let out a slow exhale and blinked once. Her arms gingerly wrapped around my torso and it was all I could do to keep from moaning at the feel of her warm, bare skin on mine. She rested her forehead softly on my chest as her breathing steadied.

"It looks so bad," she murmured, but it seemed as though she was talking to herself. I answered her anyway.

"It's not as bad as it looks," I tried to assure her.

Her fingertips began to ghost up and down over the plains of my back, my muscles quivering in response to her touch. Her hands rested lightly on my hips and I felt her lips press into my chest. My eyes rolled back in my head as she peppered my pectorals with kisses. She pulled back, her eyes shifting down to look at my wounds again, but I tried to stop her.

"Baby, please just don't look at it," I pleaded.

"I'm okay now, I just..." Her whisper trailed off as her right hand glided up my side to ghost over the tender, bruised area of my ribs. There were no words for how it felt. All I could do was breathe. Her lips followed her fingers, caressing my skin until I felt I might spontaneously combust. Her fingers continued their descent to the bandages, and though she didn't touch them, the circles she lightly drew around them set my skin ablaze. At the same time, the feeling of her lips and breath made my skin pucker with goose bumps. She was dangerously close to my...

I felt my knees go weak when her hair brushed it and I couldn't suppress the moan from my lips.

"Baby...fuck," I breathed.

"I'm sorry," she said immediately, standing upright. "Did I hurt you?"

"N-No." I could barely speak, trembling from head to toe.

"Are you cold?"

That was an obvious negative.

I shook my head. "I know I said I was okay, but what you're doing to me...if I don't sit down, I'm afraid my legs are going to give out." I chuckled a little, to keep her from panicking again.

Realization spread across her expression. Her eyes darkened to a midnight blue, pupils dilated as she licked her lips slowly. Fuck, what this woman did to me. She grabbed two towels from the shelf close by and turned toward the shower. There was no tub, only a lone, orthopedic seat in the very large space sectioned off by a beige and off-white curtain. She placed one towel on the seat, nudging me gently to sit, and then dropped the other on the shower floor at my feet. Her eyes never left mine as she knelt down in front of me. Her hands glided skillfully over my knees and up my thighs, careful of the bandage near my groin, and back down again. I kept my eyes on hers, my jaw clenched taut as her nails ever so gently traced circles on my thighs. My erection was straining so much so that I thought I might come from the feel of her nails on my skin alone. Her eyes left mine and ventured down, watching her own hands as they traveled closer and closer toward my inner thighs. She glanced one more time at me before wrapping her hand around my aching dick and licking the head.

"Fuck!" I jumped slightly, pain etching into my ribs with my sudden movement, but I ignored it. She hesitated and looked up at me questioningly. I couldn't help but take her face in my hands, my thumbs brushing over the apple of her cheeks.

"Baby, you don't have to do this," I whispered. God, I wanted her to but I also had to make sure she was okay. I always wanted her to be okay.

She shushed me immediately. "I want to do this for you, okay? Because I love you more than you'll ever understand."

I couldn't fathom the sadness I saw in her eyes, but I nodded, pulling her up to kiss her mouth strong but soft, stroking her tongue with my own. Her soft moan made me strain impossibly more.

"I can reciprocate," I offered lamely, punch drunk from where her actions had already driven me, but she shook her head.

"No, baby, just let me do this for you."

With that, she slid her fingers up my shaft, rolling her thumb over the head as she pumped again and again at a perfect pace. My eyes fell shut, jaw went slack as my shoulders and the back of my head met the cool tile behind me.

"Sh-Shit, okay," I stammered, a slave to her demands.

When her lips closed around me, I gasped, muttering unintelligible curses even to me, feeling that familiar, incredible fire that only Bella could light in me and the impending euphoria that only she could bring me to. Her lips and tongue did things to me that I couldn't even coherently form words to express; only grunts and hisses escaped my lips as her tongue swirled and her lips sucked me into oblivion. My right hand had to be touching her, caressing her head as my left curled around the chair in an iron-like grip.

"Baby...baby...ah...f...fuck...I'm close," I groaned. "You...fuck...you should...probably...ahhhh...st-stop...Bella..."

But she didn't, and when I felt her lips tugging even harder, I couldn't hold out anymore. It hit me like a tidal wave of heat and electricity through my entire body in the best fucking way possible.

"G-God...baby...fuck!" I gasped as I released into her mouth, hissing as endless sparks of pleasure came with each swallow and suck.

"I'm so sorry," I said on heaving breaths when she finally let me go. She shook her head, stretching up between my thighs and kissing me passionately. I felt myself immediately harden was the effect she had on me. Always.

"No apologies, Edward." She smiled

"I-I don't know what to say," I stumbled over my words, once again and always in awe of her. "But I feel the same way you do. You cannot possibly fathom how much I love you."

Her eyes glossed over and that strange air of sadness was back for a second before she kissed me again.

"We'd better get you clean, Doctor, before the nurses send in a search party."

~*fOrSaKeN*~

Bella stayed for a while after my shower. She was quiet, reserved, and I could barely get a word out of her. I got the sinking feeling that she was upset with me, or that she regretted what happened in the bathroom, but I didn't ask. Maybe I didn't want to know, truthfully, though I had to bite my tongue to keep from wondering aloud. Instead, I invited her into my bed, where I held her as close as I could and she curled into me.

After a couple hours of flipping through mindless daytime dramas, cooking shows and talk shows, I heard a soft snore coming from the slightly open mouth of the sleeping beauty next to me. At first it made me smile, but that smile soon turned to a frown when I realized she probably wasn't sleeping well. I was sure she thought I didn't know about the nightmares that plagued her and the lack of rest she got, but the evidence was written all over her face. I tried not to dwell on it. I had told myself, after all, that this would be a good day, and so far despite my insecurities, it had been spectacular.

I felt my eyelids drooping, and had just settled myself to nap with my girl, when a quiet knock sounded at the door. Before I had time to respond, an elderly gentleman entered the room, obviously an attending dressed in a bright white lab coat, followed by a gaggle of fresh-faced interns behind him.

Shit. So much for that spectacular day.

His friendly face fell slightly, changing to that of discomfort and a bit of embarrassment as he took in Bella's form curled around me. The interns looked on in astonishment, a couple of them pressing their lips together, trying not to giggle like teenagers. I cleared my throat and pushed myself up a little, nudging Bella, who seemed to be out cold.

"Hey," I whispered in her ear, but she only moaned sleepily and barely stirred. "Bella," I said a little louder, nudging a bit harder.

"Mmm?" Her eyes blinked and flickered open a crack.

"Hey, wake up. We have company," I said, leaning into her for some semblance of privacy. She blinked harder before opening her eyes and staring at me in sleepy confusion. I smiled apologetically, wishing so much that we were alone, and looked toward our...audience.

She followed my gaze, finally aware of her surroundings, and shot up quickly. She teetered on the edge of the bed before stumbling to her feet, mumbling a barely audible 'hello' and then slinking down in the seat next to the bed as if she wished it would swallow her whole, face flaming red. As always, I found myself fiercely wanting to protect her from her own mortification. So I threw her a sidelong glance and a half smile to try and let her know it was okay.

My new attending physician introduced himself as Doctor Phillip Crane—someone whose name I recognized almost immediately. Carlisle had learned under him when he was an intern many years before and had raved about his intelligence and skill level. It struck me how old the man had to have been, and I hoped he wasn't still under the old school notion of staying in the hospital forever and a day until one was completely healed because I was ready to get the fuck out if this place...as a patient, anyway.

His bedside manner was impeccable. Of course, he had to ask my opinion for the interns to gawk at me, but I allowed it. It was expected. After all, I was a doctor, and this was a teaching hospital. It didn't make it any less embarrassing, though, and I was pissed that Bella felt she needed to put herself as far away from me as possible. I silently chided myself into checking my childish attitude because I knew she was only trying to stay out of the way, but still. Holding my hand wouldn't have killed her, would it?

After Doctor Crane bombarded his pupils with questions about my injuries, my recovery time and what they suggested, he asked them to wait in the hall. He asked Bella to wait in the hall as well, but I wouldn't allow it. I made sure he noticed my irritation as I motioned for her to come stand next to me, then took her hand in mine like I'd been wanting to do the whole damned time. All in all after his assessment, he was pleased with my progress in such a short amount of time. He wanted to continue monitoring me, as expected, but his opinion was that I would more than likely be able to check out of this microbial hotel in just a few more days. He wanted to set me up right away with physical therapy for strengthening and in helping to get my motor skills back in line and that was perfectly fine with me. Hell, if I couldn't get discharged right away, at least I could get out of this room for a while. Besides Bella's always welcome presence, these four walls were getting ridiculously mundane. Though, I'd never look at that bathroom the same way again.

I tried to make myself focus on him when he spoke, but as he blathered on about watching for signs of infection, wound care, keeping the sutured areas dry, blah, blah, blah—like I didn't know all this, like I hadn't taken two showers and made sure the areas were not touched by water—my mind drifted. I thought about Bella's soft hand in mine; I thought about Kendyll and how I couldn't wait to go see her today, and how I hoped Bella would go with me. Finally, I tuned back in to the old man when he said he schedule my first PT session for later that afternoon. At least that gave me plenty of time to visit Kendyll, get my boy in here to see me, and hopefully spend more time with my girl.

But my hopes were trampled as soon as he excused himself from the room.

"Hey, I'm going to see Kendyll this morning. You wanna come with me?"

"I wish I could," Bella replied, looking slightly dejected. "But I really have to get going." I wanted to know what was eating at her, of course I did, but I didn't ask. After her blow-up the day before, I figured it was obviously the situation itself and I was sure, quite frankly, she was tired of me asking. To my surprise though, she offered an explanation.

"I have to go over some notes for Nicci...for the column. She's been working on it for me through all of this." She waved her hand toward me and a pang of guilt settled in my stomach. "And I need to do my part."

"Sure, I understand," I muttered. I didn't like it, but I tried to keep my petulance down to a minimum. "Will you come back later?"

"Of course," she replied, not at all looking concrete on the matter. "I'll...have dinner with the kids and see if Alice can keep them for a while. My mom could probably use some time alone." One corner of her mouth lifted into a half smile. When she noticed I wasn't smiling back, she sat in the chair with a huff and laid her head on my lap. "Edward, you know how much I hate leaving you, right?"

I nodded. "As much as I do." Of course then I felt like an asshole. "But I get it, I really do. Tell the twins I said hi, and I miss them."

A genuine smile lit up her face then. "Krissy told me she wants to see you."

I would have been lying if I said my heart didn't melt a little...okay, a lot when I heard that. "I would tell you to bring her, but..." I hesitated a moment. "Well, Kel, he's used to the hospital. I'm just afraid it would be traumatic for her?"

Thankfully, she nodded in agreement. She told me she'd see me later and gave me a kiss that melted my bones into jelly before leaving me to wallow in my own self-pity.

I had forgotten how overly friendly the pediatric nurses were, but was quickly reminded as I wheeled my way through the entrance. At one point, I was surrounded by pastel-colored scrubs covered in rainbows and teddy bears. I felt like a celebrity fighting my way through the paparazzi. It may or may not have elevated my ego a bit. Finally, I found a bright-eyed brunette named Megan to escort me to Kendyll's room. I knew my beautiful little girl had made quite an impression on the staff here when the nurse continuously doted on her all the way there.

She left me at the doorway, telling me to take all the time I needed, and I intended to do just that. Kendyll's room was the same as I remembered it, warm and welcoming, friendly like all the rooms in peds. I was struck with a sense of deja vu as I went in; the TV was on, showing some morning cartoon I wasn't familiar with, and she was curled up a little, watching it with an air of boredom. What I wasn't prepared for was just how sick and inexplicably more fragile she appeared to be. Her skin was so pale, it looked almost translucent. And her eyes were sallow, tired. I gripped the arms of the wheelchair and took a deep breath. Time to put on a happy face. If all the nurses could do it, goddamn it, I could too.

When I cleared my throat, I watched as her eyes lazily dragged from the TV and focused on me before widening in surprise. Her little mouth curled into a beautiful smile almost as fast as she'd seen me, and she pushed herself higher on the bed.

"Hey, beautiful girl," I said, my grin making my cheeks hurt.

"Doctor Edward!" Her eyes shifted downward and she gasped. "Why are you in a wheelchair? Are your legs broke? Oh no!" She covered her mouth with her hands. "Are you paralyzed?"

I wheeled myself over to her bed and took her tiny hands in mine.

"Hey, I'm fine. My legs aren't broken and I'm not paralyzed, look." I locked the wheels and grabbed her bed rail, standing up...a little wobbly still but I tried to control it.

Kendyll plopped back against her pillow and sighed dramatically. "Thank goodness. You almost gave me a coronary!"

I chuckled at her word choice and leaned over to kiss her cheek. "Well, I'm sorry about that. The wheelchair is only because I'm a teeny bit weak still, but I'm pretty tough so you can stop worrying." Before I could lean back, she grabbed me around the neck and squeezed, tucking her face under my chin. It caught me off guard, and I found myself fighting away the emotions that sprang on me. When she finally let me go, I sat back in the wheelchair and took her small hand in mine. I noticed the IV bag when I came in, dripping saline steadily, and followed the line down to where the needle disappeared into her left hand. But I didn't mention it. Kendyll stared at me with those extraordinary aqua eyes for a moment, as if examining every inch of my face before she spoke.

"So what happened to you?" Her words were no less potent than that of an interrogator, head cocked to the side, expression intense yet inquisitive. The little girl wanted answers.

I looked around the room suspiciously before leaning into her, much like the cop that had questioned me did. "I was bitten," I said, my voice just above a whisper, "by a radioactive spider...at Bella's house."

"Edward!" she whined, rolling her eyes. I tried to hold back my laughter, but it was futile.

"What? It's true! They're fumigating her house right now!"

"Do you think I'm stupid?" She scowled adorably. "Radioactive spiders don't exist."

"First of all, what kind of question is that?" I chided playfully. "I think you are way too smart for your own good. And second of all, yes they do. How do you explain the weird string shooting out of my arm at any given moment?"

She quirked an eyebrow, looking at me like I was completely insane, and I had to laugh again. Weird how she reminded me so much of the woman I loved when she did that. "Well, why didn't Bella tell me that, huh?"

I widened my eyes and gasped, playing like I didn't know they'd met. "What do you mean Bella didn't tell you? You talked to her?" Then I narrowed my eyes for effect, of course.

"Oh yeah...I met Bella!" She squealed, her curls bouncing a little with her excitement. And just like that, she forgot about the mysterious reason behind my injuries.

"So...how'd it go?" My excitement equaled hers, and this time, it was genuine.

"Oh m'gosh, it was great! She's so pretty, and nice! We talked about you and I told her about me, and did you know she wants me to meet her twins? She's so cool. I really, really like her a lot!"

I nodded, listening to her ramble on and on about Bella. It was pretty much one of the most amazing moments of my life. We talked more about Bella's kids because Kendyll was curious and wanted to know everything, and because I couldn't resist anymore, I finally asked her how she was feeling. Her expression turned forlorn. I wanted to regret asking, but the doctor—and father –in me had to know.

"I'm sick," she answered simply, her little mouth turning down into a pout. "Really sick." She held her hand up to show me the IV. "And I hate this thing."

"I know, sweetheart," I said softly. Like with Bella, I wanted to protect her from all of this. "But that helps keep you hydrated, which keeps you from getting sicker."

"Well, I hate it. It's so itchy." She frowned. "Did they tell you what's wrong with me?"

I hesitated for a moment before slowly nodding my head.

"I have cancer." She said it almost nonchalantly at first, but I saw the terror in her eyes and it gutted me. "Cancer, Doctor Edward!" Her voice raised a little and then I saw the tears. "And they might move me to the cancer unit with all the cancer kids. I don't wanna go there! All those kids are bald and I don't wanna go bald! I wanna keep my hair!" The tears were flowing freely now and it was all I could do to keep mine at bay.

"Sweetie, it's better for you there. And even if you did lose your hair, which I'm not saying you will, it will grow back even more beautiful than it is now." I tried my best to console her and keep myself in check at the same time, but what she asked next tested every ounce of my strength.

"Am I gonna die?"

"Oh no, baby girl, no. You are not going to die. I promise you, do you hear me?" My stomach sank to my knees as the words left my lips. Little did she know I was as terrified as she was, if not more. But I meant what I said. Whatever it took, I would do it to make sure she lived a very long life.

I wiped her tears away and kissed her little forehead, holding her head gently against my chest until her breathing evened out. When she rested against her pillow again, I smiled at her.

"I almost forgot something," I said coyly as I produced a pink rose from behind the wheelchair and presented it to her with a bow of my head. She grinned widely and took it, mumbling a quiet thank you. "Take care of that; you have no idea the mountains I had to scale and the beasts I had to fight to get that one rose for you."

She giggled. "You're full of stories today, Doctor Edward." Like I said, smarter than her own good.

"Yep," I replied, popping the 'p.' "Now, you wanna watch me crawl up the walls and on the ceiling?"

I got an amazing, hearty laugh out of her for that one.

~*fOrSaKeN*~

The rest of my day was filled with quiet comfort. After I visited Kendyll, I had lunch with Kellan and Esme in the cafeteria. I had insisted on that, wanting to be free of that damned hospital room as long as possible. I was walking much better also, but the PT session had ultimately exhausted me, so I was back in my cell and resting when Bella showed up.

As soon as I saw her, my exhaustion faded away, and all was right in the world. Well, mostly. I remembered something Kellan had brought up just in conversation at lunch. It seemed innocent enough...they had stopped by his grandpa's office to see him, but they saw someone else too. Bella had come out just as they had shown up. She must've gone to see him after she left here, but I questioned her as to why. She responded that it was no big deal. Apparently, he was being overly concerned—in her opinion—about her hand and had caught her as she was leaving, asked her to come to his office so he could check it more thoroughly. It seemed odd to me, if I was being honest, but stranger things had happened and if I knew anything about my father, it was that he excelled in tracking his patients from beginning to end. So I shouldn't have been surprised, but his elusive behavior lately had me questioning things I normally wouldn't.

I slept surprisingly well that night. Being out of the ICU and away from the redheaded witch must've given me a sense of relief. There were no nightmares to report, but I should've known that the nightmare would begin as soon as I opened my eyes.

I awoke to a voice quietly humming, fingernails gently massaging my scalp. With my eyes still closed I smiled lazily and hummed back. Somewhat because it felt amazing, but mostly because it was incredible waking up to Bella here with me.

"Wake up, sleepy head," she whispered. That whisper didn't sound right. "I've got something for you."

I felt lips on my face, but they didn't feel like the right lips. And suddenly the nails massaging my scalp felt too long to be Bella's. I opened my eyes to see ones that belonged to someone else and a face I'd hoped to never see again, flaming red hair cascading down around it. I hoped to God that I was dreaming.

"There you are! How nice it is to see those gorgeous green eyes looking at me, finally."

But I wasn't dreaming. And the more I blinked my eyes, the more I woke up. And the more I woke up, it became clear to me that she was actually here. Victoria was right in front of me, touching me like she was one of my best fucking friends. The sick, fake smile that adorned her mouth and the fact that those lips had been on my face made my stomach twist in disgust. When she leaned in toward me again, I put my hand on her face and shoved her away.

"Well that wasn't very nice. Is that how you treat all your friends?" the bitch huffed.

"We are not friends, Victoria. What the fuck are you doing in here?" I glared at her as murderously as I could in my groggy state, my voice still gruff from sleep. I went to grab the nurse call button, but she was too quick; she lunged forward and grabbed it before I could.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you." She clicked her tongue a couple times, and I wanted to rip it out of her head. She tucked her hand into the pocket of her scrubs and pulled out a syringe full of a substance I was positive I didn't want to know what it consisted of. "And I'd hate to have to knock you out for a very long time." She pouted.

"The fuck is that?" I hissed. "Knocking me out is the only way you'll get anything from me. Get the fuck out. Now!"

"Aww, you're so cute when you're angry, Doc. But I'm here to give, silly, not to take." She sashayed across the room and sat in a chair facing me. She picked up what looked to be a manila file folder and opened it casually, before sighing like she was settling in for a good read.

I sat up higher in the bed, in-fucking-furiated. "Victoria, you have about three fucking seconds before I start yelling for security to escort your ass outta this hospital for good! Get...the hell...out!"

"You, yelling for help?" The bitch laughed. "That's so unlike you, Eddie-boy. I thought you liked to, ya know, fight your own battles. Besides, wouldn't you like to know how your beloved daddy and...whatever Bella is to you, have been lying to your face?"

I scrubbed my face in frustration. "You need to step off the crazy train Vickie." She all but snarled at me when I used her pseudo name. "I don't give two shits what you think you know. I'm not interested. And Bella is my girlfriend. Now for the last goddamn time; get out!"

"It's about your daugh-ter," she sing-songed.

Well, that got my attention, and unfortunately for me, she noticed my immediate change in demeanor.

"Oh, but wait." She covered her mouth with her fingers like she almost felt sorry for me. She was the worst actress in the history of, and I felt violence coursing through my veins. "You didn't know she was actually your daughter, did you? I mean like, flesh and blood, Edward. Your biological daughter."

I sat in stunned silence for a moment, watching as a sly grin spread across her face. "I...don't, I don't know what you're talking about."

She raised her eyebrows in faux surprise. She was dangling a fucking steak in front of a starving lion and she knew it. "Oh, well it's all right here." She held up the file, sauntering toward me slowly. "This is really interesting reading." She opened up the file as If studying it. I, on the other hand, was trying to control my rapidly increasing heart rate. "What, with the secret DNA test, done while you were, ya know..." She waved her hand toward me. "Out of it. And the birth certificate. One in particular is quite intriguing, I must say. Mother's name, Bella Marie Swan. Hmmm. Oh, and of course there are all these notes from dear old dad saying how he's suspected all along that...what's her name? Oh yeah, Kendyll is all yours. Well, yours and Bella's love child." She spoke Bella's name like acid. "Scandalous, Doctor Cullen."

"What the fuck...I-I...you're a liar! I don't believe a fucking word of it!" Rage filled my body. I ripped the covers off and swung my legs over the bed, prepared to take that file and shove it down her fucking throat. She looked alarmed, but only for a second before the cold, calculated expression was back.

"Calm down, baby, before you hurt yourself. I think your anger is a wee bit misguided, don't you?"

"If you ever call me that again, I will wrap my hands around your neck and take pleasure in watching the life leave your eyes," I seethed.

She rolled said eyes, and my hands automatically clenched into fists. "Oh, don't be so dramatic. Here, read for yourself. And don't shoot the messenger. Oh, and the reason I know your precious Bella has been lying to you, is that a little birdie saw her in daddy's office freaking out over this file. Now I've gotta run. As much as I've enjoyed our little chat, nursing duty calls. But I'll be around, lover. Maybe I'll check in on your little girl."

"Don't you fucking go near her!" I shouted.

"Toodles." The psycho blew me a goddamned kiss before walking out the door with a satisfied smile on her face.

My hands shook as I opened the file. What I found inside had my head spinning and my stomach in knots. It was all there. Everything Victoria had said was true. Oh God, it was fucking true? I could barely hold the DNA results, my hand was trembling so much. But there it was...ninety-nine point nine percent. How could they keep this from me? I still wasn't sure I believed that Bella knew. But how could my own fucking father do this?

I studied the goddamned file inside and out all morning, looking for answers and realizing finally that they'd been there all along, right in front of me, in Kendyll. The connection I felt, how she reminded me so much of Bella, how she was from Florida. How did I not see it? I guess I wouldn't have. After looking at it until my brain felt numb, I'd had enough. I picked up my cell and paged my father to come to my room ASAP. Ironically enough, I had a text from Bella that said she was bringing lunch and would be here in fifteen minutes.

Ten minutes later, Carlisle hurried into the room with a concerned expression.

"Edward, are you alright? What's going on?"

I just sat there, glaring at him for a moment, noticing him begin to squirm. That was a tell-tale sign. Finally, I picked up the file. "Is there something you need to tell me, Dad?"

His eyes widened as he took in the file. "Where did you get that?"

"Doesn't really matter right now, does it?" My tone was lethal. I watched as he swallowed, took a deep breath, and smoothed out his lab coat.

"Well, yes it does, because whoever took it from my office is about to lose their job."

"You're wrong, given the fact that this isn't a real patient file and doesn't violate HIPPA since I have a right to know what's going on with my daughter!" I shouted the last word and Carlisle jumped. "Who I got it from is beside the fucking point!"

"Edward, calm down."

"Don't tell me to calm down! When were you planning on telling me that she was mine, Carlisle? When!"

He held his hands up to me. "Son, I'm sorry. I was going to tell you soon, but I felt you were too weak right now. You have to know that I was going to tell you."

"What about the fact that you suspected all along, since her accident? Why would you even suspect I had a child out there when I only found out recently, myself?" I studied him, and as his eyes dropped to the floor, a cold chill crept up my spine. "You knew? You knew she was pregnant?"

He raised his guilty eyes to look at me. "I got a call from Charlie...after Bella moved away. Edward, I—"

"How fucking dare you! How could you not tell me? You're supposed to be my father!" I yelled.

"I was trying to protect you."

"Oh, bullshit! I'm so tired of hearing that! I was a grown man! I could've handled it! But no, you just decided for me." I was disgusted. I felt betrayed all over again. I threw the file at him, papers scattered all over the floor, but he just stood there, like a fucking statue. "What about Bella? Does she know, about this?" When he didn't answer, only stared at me with a pained expression, I lost my temper again. "Does Bella know about this?" I roared.

"Do I know about what?"

Both Carlisle's and my eyes cut to her as she appeared in the doorway, a bag from Panera in her hand. She had been smiling, but when she took in both of our faces and the mess of papers strewn around the room, her color turned chalk white, the bag dropping with a thud at her feet.

"Tell me you didn't know," I said, clenching my jaw and shaking my head.

"Edward, I-I can explain..." she began.

"No, no, you didn't keep this from me too." I said adamantly.

"I had to, Edward. Carlisle said—"

"I don't give a shit what Carlisle said! How many days have I been awake and alert now? Huh? Three? Three days that either of you could've told me!"

"I'm sorry," she whispered.

I shook my head. "I need you both to leave."

Carlisle said nothing, only nodded his head, but Bella took a step toward me. "Edward, please."

I held my hand up to stop her. "I said I need you to leave. Now." When she stared at me with those ridiculously beautiful eyes, all I could do to protect myself was unleash my anger on her with one word.

"GO!"


Chapter End Notes: As always…Thank you so much for reading! (And I promise to respond this time if you feel like reviewing!)