AN: Happy New Year to everyone! Hope all of your holidays have been pleasant! It was completely crazy at my house. =)

The song for our chapter, "Peace of Mind" by Krezip was posted on this week's Teasers Unplugged at TwiFicNews(dot)com. Check it out! The video is also up on the Parachute Blog! KitsuShel(dot)blogspot(dot)com.

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O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O

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August 19th, 2010

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Bella sighed and leaned on Edward's arm as they made their way inside the house. When they had been exiting the car a few minutes ago, she had gotten dizzy, a lingering effect of her concussion. She was also sporting a nasty-looking bruise over her left brow and part of her cheek. She dreaded walking into this house and having the talk with Jack. How do you tell an eight year old that the birth mother who never wanted him had just been killed by a psychopath, who had also meant to kill your adopted mother?

She rubbed the back of her neck with her free hand and sighed. Edward glanced over in concern.

"Are you okay? Should I call Dad?" he asked.

She smiled tiredly and shook her head. "No, I'm fine. I'm just wondering how to go about telling all of this to Jack."

He gently helped her to sit and smiled sadly as he sat down next to her.

"All we can do is be as honest as possible, without giving him more to worry about than necessary."

Bella sighed. "I know that, but the line between 'enough' and 'too much' gets blurred with him, since he's so inquisitive."

Edward nodded thoughtfully and then looked up quickly when the sound of running feet thundered down the stairs.

"MOM!"

The boy was a blur of feet and arms and floppy hair as he slammed into Bella. As much as her body ached, she wrapped her arms around him tightly, as if he were a life preserver and she was drowning. She breathed in his scent, a lingering mixture of his apple body wash and cinnamon from the cookies that he and Esme had baked earlier in the day.

"Jack," she sighed into his hair, tears welling up and spilling down her cheeks. "Oh, baby, I missed you."

He pulled back and his loving gaze turned into a look of horror. "Mom! What happened to your face?" He reached out and gently touched the side of her face.

His eyes flashed with emotion and he looked angrily up at his father. "What happened to her? Who did that?"

Edward swallowed and placed his hand on Jack's shoulder. "I think you should sit down, son."

The boy's eyes cut between both of his parents warily as he took the seat next to his mother. Edward smiled slightly at him and sat on the coffee table facing them.

Bella turned slightly and took her son's hands in her own.

"There was an... incident yesterday when I went to meet your dad for lunch."

Jack eyed her curiously and nodded for her to continue.

"Mr. Brooks- James," Bella started to say, but stopped when she felt Jack stiffen next to her. His eyes were wide and frightened.

"Did he- Did he do that to you?" he whispered brokenly.

Bella felt tears prick her eyes again as she nodded. Jack's eyes filled with tears and his face scrunched up in pain. Bella rubbed his back lightly.

"Hey, calm down, baby. I'm fine. Everything is going to be fine."

"Why did he do that, Mom?"

Bella sighed. "Mr. Brooks is a sick man. He thought that by hurting me, he'd hurt your dad. He's in jail now and hopefully he'll be there for a very long time."

She hesitated and looked at Edward helplessly, not knowing how to breach the subject of Victoria. Jack caught onto her hesitation and narrowed his eyes slightly.

"What aren't you telling me?"

Bella's face flashed in surprise. "What do you mean?"

Jack rolled his eyes and shook his head. "I know you, Mom. There's something that you're not telling me."

She bit her lip nervously. "Victoria was there as well. James shot her and she died."

The boy's jaw dropped in shock. "She- She's dead? Like, she can never hurt me again or take me away?"

Bella blinked in surprise. She wasn't sure of what his reaction would be, but that certainly wasn't it.

"Yes, baby. She can't hurt you, never again," she responded quietly.

Jack bit his bottom lip and nodded resolutely. "I mean, I guess it sucks that she's dead, but does it make me a bad person being kinda happy about it?"

Bella smiled sadly. "No, baby, it doesn't make you a bad person. It's just the way you feel. I'll call and make an appointment with us to see Dr. Kate when we get home, okay?"

Jack laid his head on her shoulder, nodding softly. Bella's eyes met Edward's and he gave her a confused glance.

"Kate is our therapist," she explained. "I think I've mentioned her before. We started seeing her when Jack was little to help him adjust. The last time we saw her was just before we came here to visit. Before that, it had been about a year."

Edward smiled sadly in acknowledgement and gazed at his son. It was quite easy to tell that the boy was agitated and upset, even though he tried to deny it.

A few hours later, Bella found herself curled up next to Jack on her bed. It had been such an emotional day and neither of them wanted to be apart from the other. She gently moved a few strands of hair from his face and sighed, thinking about how thankful she was that he had stayed home with Esme when she went to Edward's office. A horror scene of the possibilities played in her mind. James could have taken Jack instead, or both of them together. It could have been her son on the other side of that bullet instead of Victoria. Letting the worst case scenarios filter through her mind set her on the verge of a panic attack. The slightest notion of anything bad befalling Jack made her want to throw up.

She was so consumed in her thoughts that she didn't notice Edward come into the room until he was sliding into bed behind her. Startled, she jerked her head to the side, which caused him to reach out for her in concern.

"What's wrong?" he whispered. "I didn't mean to scare you."

She sighed and leaned back against his chest.

"It's not your fault. I was preoccupied and didn't hear you."

"What's got you so worked up, baby?" he asked.

She blinked back tears and responded in a very small voice. "I was just wondering about what could have happened if I had brought Jack with me on Wednesday."

Her voice cracked on the last word and he wrapped his arms around her in comfort.

"Hey, cut that out. There's no sense in torturing yourself. You're safe. Jack's safe. Neither of them can hurt you again."

She swallowed and nodded. "I know that, but I can't pull my mind away."

He made a humming noise that she felt rumble through his chest against her back. "Well, how about we take your mind off of it?"

"And just how do you propose we do that?" she asked cheekily.

"Let's talk about this move of mine."

He was very clever because her heart started to beat quicker, her previous thoughts of dread replaced by anticipation.

"Well?" she replied, slightly breathless. "You have my attention."

Edward chuckled lightly and rested his chin on her shoulder. "I know I said that I probably wouldn't be able to make it out there before Thanksgiving, but I now have a definite date for my last day of work - October 14th. As soon as things are cleared up that day, I'll be on a plane home to you two."

Her face split into a wide smile and she kissed him swiftly.

He chuckled and smoothed back her hair. "So I take it that's good news?"

She sighed and melted against his chest. "The best actually. Well, aside from you being able to go with us when we leave in ten days."

His body tensed, before letting out an enormous breath. "Ten days? Really?" he whispered incredulously.

Bella tried to swallow the lump in her throat before replying. "Yes," she whispered back. "Tanya called me earlier and our flight out is on Sunday the 29th."

"What about your car?" he replied in confusion. "I thought you were driving it home?"

"She's going to call around and find a transport for it. After recent events, I don't want to take any chances driving cross country."

He kissed the top of her head. "I guess that makes sense."

She closed her eyes and drifted off.

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The next day dawned bright and early with Bella alone in her bed. She stretched and yawned, looking around the room for any trace of Edward or Jack. Not finding any, she made her way quietly into the bathroom to go about her morning rituals. Once she was finished, she slid her feet into her slippers and threw on her robe before making her way downstairs.

Sounds of laughter and clanging pots echoed from the kitchen. When she reached the doorway, all she could do was lean against the jamb and feel her heart melt at the sight before her. Edward was at the stove frying bacon in Esme's frilly pink apron while Jack sat on the counter stirring something in a bowl.

"Why do seagulls fly over the sea?"

Jack giggled. "I don't know, why Dad?"

"Because if they flew over the bay, they'd be bagels!"

"What's a pirate's favorite instrument?"

"What?"

"A guitarrrrrrrrrrrr!" Edward responded with the silliest pirate voice that she had ever heard.

Jack groaned and shook his head. "Really, Dad? You're so corny."

Edward laughed. "I'm kinda proud of that, son."

Jack's eyes lit up when he spotted Bella across the room.

"Hi Mom!" he called out, waving the spatula and in the process, flinging batter across his father's face.

Bella burst out into laughter as Edward slowly wiped the mixture from his cheek.

Jack's cheeks pinkened and he smiled innocently. "Oops, sorry, Dad."

Edward glanced at Bella from the corner of his eye and grimaced. "It's okay, Jack."

Bella stifled her giggles and pulled up a chair at the island to sit down. Jack grinned at her. "Dad was just telling me some corny pirate jokes."

"Really?" Bella replied in amusement. "I know some corny jokes, but no pirate ones, I'm afraid."

Jack smiled excitedly. "Tell him the one about the mice, Mom!"

Edward turned and raised an eyebrow. "This I've got to hear."

Bella rolled her eyes. "What do cats call mice on roller skates?"

"Meals on wheels!" both she and Jack called out together, dissolving into fits of giggles.

"And I'm the corny one?" Edward scoffed, turning back to flip his bacon.

Bella stood and wrapped her arms around him from behind, resting her head against his back.

"I seem to remember explicitly stating that the joke was corny, Edward."

He turned his body slightly and captured her lips in a light kiss. "Good morning, baby," he whispered.

She looked up into his shining green eyes and smiled. "Good morning to you, too, handsome."

They both turned to look at Jack when he made a coughing noise. He was surreptitiously looking up at the ceiling, waiting for his parents to conclude their heartfelt moment. When he looked back down and noticed them watching him, he shrugged.

"What? The kissy-kissy is only cute for so long."

Bella blushed and hid her face in his shoulder as Edward let out a boisterous laugh.

"One day, kid, you're not going to think that," he chided his son.

Jack shrugged once again. "Maybe, maybe not."

Bella laughed lightly and returned to her seat. Soon Esme made her way into the kitchen and joined them for breakfast. Bella sat back and watched the adorableness of the moment pass by, taking in every corny joke and cheeky comment. Esme even jumped in with a few of her own.

When they were all finished, the boys ushered the ladies out of the room while they cleaned up their mess. Not wanting to miss the opportunity of speaking with Bella alone, Esme ushered her into the study to have a word with her. Bella sat in one of the wing-backed chairs as Esme took the other and reached down to take Bella's hands in her own.

"How are you doing, dear? I mean really doing? I've been worried about you," the older woman expressed in concern.

Bella sighed and looked down at their entwined hands. "I'm not going to lie and say that I'm completely fine, but for the most part, I'm okay. I have Jack and I have Edward and we're going to be fine."

Esme smiled brightly. "That's just what I wanted to hear. It's okay to feel overwhelmed and still upset over what happened, but as long as you remember that everyone is here for you, well, that's all I can ask. I'm here for you if you ever need to talk."

"Thank you, Esme," Bella whispered, feeling a lone tear make it's escape down her cheek.

Esme reached up and brushed the moisture away. "Now, how about Jack? Have you had a chance to sit down and have a heart to heart with him?"

Bella shook her head slightly. "No. We told him what happened and he seemed to take it better than expected. We spent some time decompressing and then fell asleep early."

"Why don't you take him out for awhile? Just some Mommy and son time? I used to do it for my boys occasionally. Carlisle would stay home with one while I took the other one out to lunch with me and to the park. I treasured those moments and I'm pretty sure they did as well."

Bella smiled appreciatively. "That sounds like a wonderful idea Esme. The only foreseeable problem would be getting Edward to go along with it. He's been understandably clingy the past few days. Not that I blame him; I needed him with me as much as he did."

Esme smiled mischievously. "Let me take care of my son..."

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Later that afternoon, Bella sat back on a park bench as the hot Chicago sun warmed their skin as it filtered down through the dense grouping of trees. True to her word, Esme had handled telling Edward about their outing and he had taken it better than she expected. He did ask that she call and check in after a few hours, just so that he'd know that they were safe. She sighed and bit her tongue, stopping herself from reminding him that in ten days, he'd have more to worry about than a two or three hour outing.

She looked over and watched Jack swing and play, as if he hadn't a care in the world. It made her heart ache to watch him like that. He deserved to be carefree and happy like any other normal child. With Victoria and James out of their life completely and the Cullens now a part of it, maybe it could start to happen now. Slowly but surely, their hearts would mend and they'd be happy, with no traces of lingering sadness.

She watched as he dug a soccer ball out of the bag that they brought with them and he began to kick it around, as well as bounce it on his knee. The light hit his hair at an angle that made it shine in a coppery brilliance. His green eyes met hers and her breath was literally taken away at how much he looked like his father.

Bella motioned to Jack and patted the spot next to her on the bench. The boy sighed, picking up the soccer ball that he had been kicking around and plopped down next to his mother. He laid his head against her shoulder and sighed again.

"I'm fine, Mom," he murmured quietly.

"How do you know what I was thinking?" She nudged him with her shoulder and laughed lightly, belying her current mood.

"I know you. You don't have to worry about me, you know. I'm fine," he replied, his voice steady and strong.

She reached up and ran her fingers through his unruly hair, praying that his words rang true.

"I don't really know what to think or feel about Victoria right now. I'm kinda sad that she died and I never got to tell her how much she hurt me, but I'm also kind glad that I'll never have to see her again. But I have you." He turned and looked up into her face, his eyes shining earnestly. "I know you love me and that you'll still love me no matter what."

Bella nodded, her voice silenced by overwhelming emotions. "Forever and always, Jack," she whispered in his ear as she hugged him tightly. After spending a little bit more time at the park, they packed up and then made their way to a restaurant for lunch. After flipping through the channels for a few moments, Jack plugged in Bella's iPhone and began to scroll through her playlists. The plinking sounds of a piano came through the speakers before a woman's voice began to sing prettily.

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I wish I could sit down and read
All of the beautiful stories I need
I'd know all of the secrets they tell
And all of the fantasies I have as well

I'd go through every page
And I'd read every word

No matter how hard I try
Keep losing track of time
See how the days fly by
Even though everything, everything's fine
I wish, I just wish, I could find
Some peace of mind

...

When the song drew to a close, Jack looked over at her and smiled. A real, heartfelt smile that she hadn't seen in so long.

"That was a pretty song, Mom," he mused quietly.

Bella nodded in agreement. "Yeah, I agree. Kind of fitting too, huh?"

Jack smirked slightly and looked out the window. "Yeah, I guess it is."

After a quiet and uneventful lunch, they headed back home. Edward was sitting at the piano, fingering the keys, when they walked into the house. He looked up at the sound of the door and smiled brightly.

"Did you two have a nice time?" he asked, continuing to caress the ebony and ivory keys.

Jack slid onto the bench next to him and nodded. "I had fun. It was nice to just spend some time with Mom."

Edward caught Bella's eyes and she smiled, letting him know that everything was fine. He smiled and looked back down at the keys, before beginning to play Chopsticks. Jack laughed and joined in.

"You're just corny all the way around today, huh, Dad?"

Edward smiled happily. "It's your fault, kid. Being happy makes me silly."

Jack's fingers stilled momentarily as he looked up into his father's face thoughtfully. "That's fine then. I like you happy, so I can deal with the corny."

Bella felt her heart melt at her son's words. Edward leaned over and kissed him on top of his head. "I love you, Jack. I will always be happy as long as I have you and your Mom."

Jack smiled. "I love you, too, Dad. I can't wait until you move closer to us. It's going to be awesome."

Edward ruffled his hair and smiled. "I've been looking online at apartments, so hopefully we'll find something good."

"Will I have a room at your place?" Jack asked in curiosity.

Edward laughed. "We'll see."

Bella felt her heart clench and the smile slip slowly from her face. She turned and quietly turned to walk up to her room, while the boys went back to playing the piano and having a good time. She had never considered that she'd have to share her time with Jack, at least for a little while. It was only fair to his father, but her heart wanted the three of them together, as a family. She knew that it wasn't feasible for Edward to move in with them, no matter how much they loved each other. The fact still remained that they had only known each other for a few months. When Edward had mentioned to her about his plan for getting an apartment at first so that they could get to know each other and date like a normal couple, Bella had been understanding. Slightly disappointed, but understanding.

She meandered over to the desk and fired up her laptop, hoping to distract herself from the sad thoughts floating around her mind. After about an hour of playing some games, she was sufficiently distracted enough to pull up the new story that she was working on. A heart rendering tale about a lost little boy who found love and a family. Jack had given her the idea at the New York signing. It was close to their own story, but watered down and more simple.

A knock on her door caused her to look up, seeing Edward poke his head in the door.

"Feel like going out for dinner? Jack suggested Chinese."

"That sounds like a great idea," she responded, before hitting save and closing her laptop.

She walked over and placed her hand in his. Edward pulled her closer and kissed her gently, cupping the back of her head.

"Are you feeling all right?" he asked her, his eyes shining with love and concern.

She gave him a genuine smile and hugged him tightly. "I'm absolutely fine."

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AN: A shorter one this week, but the next part's tone is a bit different, so I didn't want to mesh them. Hopefully the promise of some sweet loving in the next chapter will make up for it. ;-)

I'm sorry that the EPOV hasn't posted yet, the holidays kinda kicked my ass, so it was pushed back. It should be up soon though!