A/N: Endless thanks to my beta, TwilightMundi. Thank you also to carenl/nerac for pre-reading this for me.

This outtake takes place covering EPOV for chapters 22 & 23. This was the top outtake voted for when I polled on my profile. I still have two Fandom Gives Back DBS outtakes that I'm writing, and those will hopefully be done soon :).

All copyright and trademarked items mentioned herein belong to their respective owners. The remaining content is all mine. No copying or reproduction of this work is permitted without my express written authorization.

EPOV

Alice had told me that she wanted Bella to come with us to Chicago for Thanksgiving, but Bella declined, saying she had plans.

Sure, it occurred to me to ask what her plans were, but she was sitting in my lap and I could tell from the way her body tensed and tightened that it wasn't a topic she wanted to cover. I kept trying to figure out how to bring it up and find out more about what she was going to do, but school was kicking my ass, and practically every moment not spent thinking about classes was spent sleeping.

When we arrived at my parents' house, we all settled in to our rooms, Rose and Alice sharing a guest bedroom, even though they could have had their own. My mom was a frantic ball of energy, making sure Thanksgiving would be up to everyone's standards, but there was palpable grief in the air.

I felt awkward. I didn't know what to do with myself, and I didn't know what to do or say to help my mom. Several nights had been spent in the library with my father, sipping brandy and soaking in the quiet of each other's company. Even when we couldn't find the words we needed to help, we shared space and somehow that reconnected us.

"Edward," he began the evening before Thanksgiving, "What's new with you?"

Mom had been in the kitchen, Alice and Rose helping her and chatting the night away, and I thought about all of the things I could tell him about.

"Med school is kicking my ass," I said, laughing a bit.

He nodded and smiled back at me. "I'm sure it is. Does that to the best of us. Only gets worse, in fact."

My gut churned at that thought and I desperately wanted to tell him about my doubts and uncertainties. Was I really cut out for med school? Was this the path and life I wanted? I didn't know anymore. Everything in my life was uncertain, except for Bella.

At that thought, I smiled.

"There it is," he teased.

I tiled my head. "What?"

"That smile that's crossed your face several times this week."

Looking down, I swirled my drink, ice cubes melting and making patterns in the alcohol.

"I met someone," I said.

"Yeah?"

Nodding, I continued. "I … I love her. I've missed her so terribly these last few days. You know how they say absence makes the heart grow fonder? I get it now. I don't ever want to be without her again."

"You sound certain," he said. "You look happy. How long have you known her?"

I thought back, counting the months. "Not long. Three or four months?"

As I said the words, I couldn't even believe them. Had it only been a matter of months? It seemed like we'd been so wrapped up in each other, time passed without acknowledgment or marking.

"Maybe give it some time, Edward," he said. "You don't want to rush into these things, not with school ramping up. You never know."

But his words only solidified my feelings, in my heart and in my head. I knew what I wanted to do for Christmas in that moment, and smiled again.

"It's not rushing, Dad. I know how it can seem that way to you, but I promise, we'll move at a reasonable pace. I just can't be without her."

As if he understood, and he probably did, he just shrugged and went back to his paper.

The next morning, fresh homemade cinnamon rolls were breakfast, and the day was a non-stop orgy of food. I wasn't going to complain, having lived almost exclusively on cafe food, and the occasional meal cooked with Bella.

Sometime after dinner, my phone rang, and I was surprised to see it was Bella. Answering quickly, I settled into a comfortable chair for what I hoped would be a nice conversation. Instead, her frantic and panicked voice made me immediately worry for her.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine... just a fucking idiot," she said, pausing to take a deep breath. "Edward, I need to tell you something. When I told you I had plans for Thanksgiving, I wasn't being honest." There was another pause, and I waited for her to explain. "It's not like I out and out lied, I just had plans to stay here."

My mind was spinning with possible explanation. Why would she not want to come with us? Did she not feel as strongly for me as I felt for her?

"Do you hate me?" she asked, her voice tiny and small.

I hated myself for allowing the silence to make her think that, even for a second. "What? No, Bella, of course I don't hate you." In a heartbeat, I decided to go with honesty and just ask what I'd been wondering. "Why didn't you come with us? Do you not want to meet my family?"

After she reassured me that had nothing to do with it, we talked a bit more, and I found out Jasper had been over. I was angry and hurt, not only that she'd clearly opened up and confided in him, but that he'd been there for her when I wasn't. When I couldn't be, physically, and when I'd been too busy to check in with her emotionally before I left.

Of course the holidays would be difficult for her. Why hadn't I realized that? As I berated myself mentally, the call came to a natural conclusion, and I could see Alice out of the corner of my eye, motioning for me. I didn't want to let Bella go, but I needed time to think, and said as much. It practically broke my fucking heart when she asked if she could still plan to pick us up, but of course the answer was yes.

Alice could tell something was wrong, so we talked quickly in the hallway on our way back to the main room.

"What happened?" she asked, taking my hands in hers.

"Bella's at the dorms. She didn't have anywhere to go, probably didn't feel comfortable coming with us, but..."

I shrugged. I wasn't pleased with Jasper, but I also didn't want to have to explain things to Alice on the way back to everyone.

"It'll be okay, sweetie," Alice said. She gave me a quick hug and we walked back to join the group.

I didn't want to text Bella that night; I knew if I did, I'd risk making things awkward or uncomfortable, unable to find the right words to say in that moment. Sometime later, Alice excused herself to take a phone call from Jasper, and the game broke up. None of us had been particularly interested in playing, in truth.

The next morning, I expected to wake up to a text from her, but my phone was still and empty. No texts, no missed calls, nothing. I wasted the day doing nothing, just trying to keep myself busy and my brain occupied. By night, I couldn't help it; I texted her to let her know I missed her, and ask if she missed me. When she replied, it felt like I could finally breathe again, and slept soundly.

Leaving my parents was difficult, but I knew we'd all be back for Christmas. I'd already decided that I wanted Bella to come along with my family, and hoped she would be okay with me making the plans.

After we'd eaten breakfast, I spent more time with Dad in his study, talking. I realized that all of my life, I'd taken his presence for granted. He was wise and caring, and had a lot of insight into life. Going through losing Anna with my mom was clearly something that impacted him, even still, and I noticed he had a much more laissez-faire attitude about life. Whereas before, he was adamant that I should be a doctor and placed emphasis on success, now he spoke more about being happy and surrounding myself with joy.

I found his words to be uplifting and exactly what I needed, but I felt a sort of weight over me still. I really wasn't looking forward to talking to Bella about what had happened, mostly because it meant digging into my own pain as well. I knew what it was like to want to seal yourself off from everyone, and I also knew the consequences of that. I'd spent too much time lonely and miserable after my sister died.

Finally, it was time to leave for the airport. We said our goodbyes, and after a round of hugs and kisses, Mom wiping her eyes and looking the other way, we went back to school. Everyone had been giving me space, and even though I knew Rose and Alice wanted to talk, to defend Bella, they kept quiet. I listened to music through the flight, allowing my mind to wander and work.

When we arrived, Bella was waiting for us and her anxiety was palpable. Alice practically tackled her, then Rose, and finally, I got my hug in. It felt wrong and forced, but I was glad to be back and have her in my arms.