Author's Note:

So, a great deal of my readers were concerned with the ending to THIS TIME. I felt bad about that, so I decided - well a song decided it for me, so here is a few glimpses from Bella's experience. See you on the flipside

I belong to you (Mon coeur s'oeuvre a ta voix)

"Eh, why do all my Doc's love Muse and Jimmy Hendrix as part of the OR mix?" Isabella questioned herself as she continued to scrub, the tune from Muse floating thru the door as another of the tech's passed thru into the main operating theater. She listened to the words, clearly sung as only Muse could.

When these pillars get pulled down

It will be you who wears the crown

And I'll owe everything to you

In her mind, for a moment it all made sense, that was exactly what some of those surgeons must think. Isabella had always taken the team approach to her practice of medicine, the Doc's could set the course, but it was up to her and her team in the OR as well as on the unit to see the plan carried out, and the real work done. The work she had seen here sometimes did border on the miraculous, but the teams took the credit in her mind, it took everyone to pull it off under these conditions.

It was beginning to look like a very routine day; no emergent cases so far, just touch up and prep procedures to get troops ready for transport. Few would recuperate all the way at this station, the occasional local might, if they were caught in the crossfire and brought here. It was the pediatric cases that always came closest to her heart, that and redheads. Any redheaded troop always got just a little extra attention. It would never be him, thank the Lord; but he had always said that gingers had to look out for each other, the whole redheaded stepchild thing having more than a bit of truth to it.

How much pain has cracked your soul

How much love would make you whole

You're my guiding lightning strike

After lunch, there was a change in the atmosphere. She couldn't put a finger to the problem, it was just at the edge of her mind, more a feeling than a conscious thought as she entered the theater, checking to see all was prepped in case of use by the next shift. There were a few techs finishing the set and prep tasks, she had her back to the center of the room as she checked a cart of equipment and supplies.

Suddenly she felt a charge in the air, and she began to turn to see what was coming into the room. In her mind the rest would remain flashes of sights and sounds. Fragments of time that someone else would fit into a narrative. For her, the glittering, sharp memories would only leave her in a painful confusion, one she would work to forget.

There was shouting and screaming, the scrape of gurney wheels, a flash and silence. White light and white sound surrounded her, a fog of pain and heat on her skin as she worked to force open her eyes. She could hear someone calling for the Lieutenant. Are they calling me? Where is Jackson, Sergeant LePage? She struggled to find her voice.

"Sergeant, clear the room. Get every one assessed." She heard her name being called, but the voice was wrong. Everything became muffled and she wanted to close her eyes. She had to check on her troops, her patients but she just had to close her eyes for a moment; the white was so bright and so loud. Suddenly, maddeningly, everything faded to grey.

One of the Doc's, who rushed into the OR, swore she'd asked someone to check her troops and call Edward, but others' deemed that impossible from the severity of her injures. The angels must have surrounded her as she was moved to the undamaged OR, without any further damages. Word spread fast in camp: the Little Lieutenant was down. Staff scrambled to get word to her family before it ran on CNN or FOX

At each stop on the return trip, an update was sent off. In the grey that was all Bella knew, the only things that penetrated her fog were scents, she would swear she smelled baking bread and citrus, antiseptic and ozone. The change in the air would be her only marker of the multi stage journey home.

I can't find the words to say

They're overdue

I've traveled half the world to say

I belong to you

Cinnamon and sandalwood sometimes damp leather; these are the scents that Bella would identify as Edward. She had yet to put a name to them while she was on her journey, but the slightest whiff of any was like a pat on the back, a hug to her unconscious mind, willing her to keep going, to find the prize at the end of the grey, the brass ring she would be able to grab.

Then she attacks me like a Leo

When my heart is split like Rio

But I assure you my debits are real

The grey was becoming whiter again, and this time there were familiar smells, canned vegetables; a hospital cuisine staple, coffee and cinnamon. Isabella felt her ears were under attack with a steady beep of a monitor, a monitor that was much too loud. Something was weighing down her arms and her legs ached. How long did I close my eyes, was I in the theater? Who is my patient? Why am I not standing? She could not tease her eyes into opening, the light leaked in, pushing out the grey and there was something brushing her lips, something warm and perfect, sandalwood and cinnamon and more.

She heard his voice, HIS voice, clear, not like the speakers on her computer, but like he was close by, more than a dream. She had no idea what he was saying, but it sounded nice. Sad, but nice.

The beeping continued on. Something warm rested in her palm. She concentrated on holding it; something told her it was the key to the prize. She felt her lips dry as she sucked in a breath that contained more of the taste of overcooked vegetables, and she let it go as a prayer, of the one thing she wanted even more than opening her eyes,

"Edward" slipped past her lips, it surprised her she had actually said it. She felt a hand on her forehead, and a kiss on her lips. She continued to squeeze, her hand around something very precious. In her mind she was convinced she heard him talking, clearly this time.

"You're home love, you're safe. I'm not going anywhere." It was a nice dream as the grey slipped back over her.

She didn't let go of her prize; she'd just squeeze it from time to time.

I can't find the words to say

When I'm confused

I traveled half the world to say

You are my muse

Bella would later comment to a friend, that hospitals in the morning have a distinct energy and smell, so tangible that she could feel the shift change in her bones, even in her unconscious state. It was morning. It was time. She gave her hand a squeeze and was shocked that her prize was gone. She had to find it. She cracked open her eyes and flexed her fingers. To the observer, they barely fluttered. Her eyes were met with blinding light and overwhelming thirst, next, soft fabric and softer hair under her fingertips. As focus returned, she recognized pale blue and bronze; bronze hair on a blue blanket.

She carefully wiggled her fingers in the hair, sensing the scalp must be just past her fingertips.

Reponds a ma tendresse

Verse-moi, verse moi l'ivresse

Reponds a ma tendresse

Edward woke with a start. He'd been dreaming about her running her finger through his hair, her absent-minded habit when they were alone and spread out on the couch or the bed, her way of soothing him or waking him. It had felt so good, so real.

It was real. He looked up to see his hand was now over her wrist, and hers was flicking his hair. Her eyes were still dazed, but working to focus.

Yesterday they had not opened, only her monitors and his observation formed the evidence that she was there, she was fighting her way home.

He had to fight between the doctor side of his brain and the husband side, as he gently checked her vitals and pushed the cord for the nurse. The staff had ignored protocol and left him to sleep at her bedside; he barely noticed them coming in at all during the night.

The morning light was filtering in through the curtains, the lights in the room were brighter, but not full strength yet. Her eyes followed him around the room, and lit up when he approached with a cup of water and a straw. She managed a few tiny sips without choking.

I'm home? I'm here with Edward? I'm not going back to the grey. This became her mantra. His mantra was a mirror. She's here, she's alert. She will be fine.

And the road back home came clear. She just had to follow it.

I belong

I belong to you alone

The cast on her other wrist kept her from giving him the hug she knew he deserved, frankly she just wanted to crawl into his lap and be held, the hug would do for today as his lips found hers in a proper kiss. His whispered "Welcome home" filled her with the desire to get out of this room as fast as possible. If this was a dream, just let her wake on a plane home was her plea as a gentle sleep stole over her. It was soft and light; no grey anywhere to be found.

A rhythm developed to her days, therapy and testing and visits from friends and family and always Edward. In the back of her mind, she wondered about his internship and their future.

A few weeks on a Rehab floor, a few weeks at Esme and Carlisle's house and finally, at the beginning of November, Bella was able to go home. Home with Edward, just the two of them at last.

I can't find the words to say

They're overdue

The snow held off for Thanksgiving that year, and Bella made it up the walk and into the house without one stumble. She did let Edward carry the casserole; she remembered that last year she had not made Charlie his favorite sweet potato dish and she was determined to do it this year. Edward had taken three trips to get her the correct ingredients, but he was happy to have the chance to do it.

Esme was happy to accept the dish, she quietly put hers in the chest freezer, it could come out another time.

"Bella, thank you for bringing these. I know Charlie and Edward will be glad you made them"

"Happy to do it, Esme. It's good to do a few things from memory."

Edward watched his wife. Every day she spoke a little faster, moved a little better. That night, she insisted she was not too tired to go to Sam's for at least one dance. Her eyes sparkled again as he took her in his arms as the music began. Bella was truly home.

I've traveled half the world to say

I belong to you

fin

A/N (Mon coeur s'oeuvre a ta voix) = My heart opens to your voice. So, dear readers, I hope you enjoyed this little view and may the remainder of the Holiday Season Bring Joy to you and yours!

Reb