Hello, sweet ladies :-)

Oh, what's this? A new update in less than a month? Shocking! Well, like I said before, this was already written, it just needed some prettied up ;-)

Even though I can't say it enough, many thanks to my beta Songster with her help in betaing the monsters chapters I send her way. How is she not flouncing me, amazes me.

Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and all its characters, I just have a little fun with them.

So, this is it. The last chapter of this story. Let's see what becomes of these kids ...

O~o~O~FM~O~o~O

I knocked and knocked on Edward's door, praying he'd open soon. I needed to feel his touch, his warmth after the fight with Emmett. After a few moments, he opened it and upon noticing the state I was in, his face turned so concerned that it made me wish I had taken a little more time to pull myself together before heading to his studio.

Still, my craving for him and the comfort I needed was stronger, so a second later I threw myself into his arms. The relief was instant.

"Bella? Did something bad happen? Why are you crying like this?" He was frantic, holding me to him.

I couldn't speak; I only wanted to feel and lose myself in him. Forget the world around me and everything that had happened in the last twenty-four hours, go back to the last time we had been in his bed.

He led me to his couch and held me tight, moving his hands up and down my back, whispering calming words to sooth me.

"Shhh, baby. Just calm down and breathe. Breathe."

I wanted to tell him everything that had happened and at the same time, I didn't. Things with his brother would change the moment he knew how Emmett had reacted and I didn't want to add more to his pain.

"Please baby, you're scaring me. Talk to me." His tone was desperate as he let his lips kiss my tears away.

I looked up at him and through my tears I saw his own trying to make their way down his cheeks. I was scaring him and hurting him anyway.

"The talk with Emmett . . . it's over." I placed my hands on his cheeks, trying to dry his tears with them and with my words.

However, the look he gave me was not one of relief, but of sadness.

"Do you regret breaking things off with him?" He whispered and looked so vulnerable, almost childlike, that it broke my heart. I was the one making him look like that. He thought I was sad for ending things with Emmett; he thought I had changed my mind about us. Was that the reason he'd wanted to come with me?

"No!" I shook my face. "Of course I don't. It's what I've been waiting for … for so long. What we've been waiting for."

"Then why are you shaking like this?" He looked confused. "Did something hap-" He said while bringing my hands to his lips and that was when he saw them.

The bruises on my wrists.

"What's this?" He was barely holding it together and I regretted not covering them in the first place, at least until I explained what had happened.

"Some bruising, nothing much, but let me explain." I brought my hands closer to me, out of his hold, since seeing them like that was only making it worse. Understanding that it was for the best, he let them fall.

Edward stood up and started pacing back and forth in front of me, gripping his hair and muttering under his breath. He was livid and I feared for what he would do now. I had to calm him down.

"Edward, please. Calm down. It's just a little bruising, nothing bad happened. I'm here, safe and sound, aren't I?"

I stood up in front of him, stopping his pacing, and grabbed his shaking hands in between mine while stroking his knuckles. As usual, my presence and touch seemed to calm him and ground him, as his often did to me. Bringing our foreheads together, his breathing started to slow down and he was finally calm enough to talk.

"I just feel so helpless now, Bella. Safe and sound? Safe and sound would mean you not having black and blue wrists right now. I should've pushed to go with you harder; I should've been there with you." He was torturing himself for something he had no control of.

"No, you shouldn't have. I told you before, Edward. I had to do this on my own and now it's over between the two of us. You going there would've made things worse."

"I just can't stand the thought of someone hurting you in any way. Fuck, someone touching you makes me go crazy, but doing this?" He lifted my hands higher to show his point. "This makes me crazier than I've ever been, Bella. And to know that is was my brother, I-"," he said frustrated, now rubbing my wrists lightly, careful not to hurt them even more.

"I know, baby, I know." And I loved him for it.

He was not only worried about me; he was also feeling torn between being mad at Emmett for what he did to me, even when Edward didn't know exactly what had happened; and feeling guilty for causing Emmett such great pain.

A loud knock on the door broke our moment.

"Open up, Edward! Open this damn door up!"

Emmett.

"Edward? Please don't open it; he sounds drunk and mad. Please."

"I have to, Bella. Don't worry, everything will be alright. Go into my bedroom and stay there." He urged me, making his way to the door.

"No! Enough hiding. I will not hide from anyone anymore. We're in this together." I grabbed him firmly. I would not leave him alone.

He looked at me for a few seconds, reading my face, searching for the truth of my words. "Ok then, together." He smiled, squeezing my hand and headed to the door.

When he opened it, an angry Emmett stormed into the studio his bulk looming as he pulled back his arm, and punched Edward in the face, making me lose my hold on his hand and stumble back.

"Edward!"

Emmett stood there and turned to me, having just noticed that I was there.

"Bella. How lovely to see you, twice in a day. I see you came here to fuck Edward. I shouldn't be surprised really, not after our talk today."

Edward got to his feet and came fast to stand between me and Emmett, protecting me from him. Emmett looked so angry at seeing Edward's protective stance.

"You do not talk to her like that, Emmett. You have no idea the kind of restraint it's taking me not to knock you on your ass right now for leaving those marks on her wrists." His voice was low and by the way his hands were shaking, you could tell it really was a feat for him to keep it together.

Emmett moved his eyes to mine for the briefest moment, looking regretful, but it only showed for a second.

"I can talk to her the way I want to. She was mine before she found you." He was trying to taunt Edward. It was working.

"She was with you, you asshole; she wasn't yours."

Emmett's smile dropped at this.

"Why the fuck are you doing this, Edward? Why are you taking what's mine? Wasn't it enough to be the golden boy?"

"What the hell are you talking about, Emmett? I never took anything from you. Bella was free to choose the man she wanted to be with. I'm sorry things happened this way, but I truly never meant to hurt you like this." Edward looked pleadingly at Emmett; he needed him to understand that this wasn't an attack on him.

"And what do you mean golden boy? I was never a golden boy, if anything, I was Mom and Dad's biggest mistake. I was a screw up that only broke their hearts and made their lives impossible. If anyone here deserves some credit, it's you, Emmett. You were the one that held them together when I left; even before then, you were the one that stood by them when I was at my worst and consumed by drugs ... I'm so thankful for your presence in their lives."

Emmett looked a little taken aback at Edward's words. No one had expected them, not even Edward himself. Emmett's face showed his inner struggle at hearing these words; he seemed to feel that Edward was being truthful about them, but at the same time he was trying to hold his anger at bay.

"That may be, but the moment you got back into town, they forgot all about the crap you put them through. The prodigal son returns home. What a joke."

Emmett charged once again toward us and Edward pushed me to the side to move me out of the way. They fell to the floor in front of the couch, pushing and yelling at each other with harsh words.

"Why didn't you just stay there in Italy?"

"Mom needed me back."

"We needed you to stay here in the first place!"

"I had to leave."

"No! You left because you are a pretentious coward and I was the one picking up the pieces after you left."

"I made mistakes, but I'm here to make them better."

"No, you're here to steal everything that's in my life now and to ruin our family once again and I won't let you." And they started to punch each other.

I could barely understand what was going on, all I could see were arms and legs kicking and pushing and pulling, clothes being torn. Besides my own crying and begging them to stop, the sounds of punches connecting, grunts and things hitting the floor were the only sounds you could hear around the room.

It was surreal.

"Stop it, you two! You need to stop." I went ahead and tried to separate them, but it turned out to be a bad move.

The moment I got close to them, Emmett made a move to punch Edward in the stomach, but at the last moment he moved and Emmett's fist hit me on my shoulder, making me stumble back and fall to the floor in pain.

I looked up and saw that they had both stopped and were looking at me with shock on their faces. Emmett's face turned remorseful and Edward's enraged.

He turned to Emmett and grabbing him by his shirt, he started hitting him with his fists.

"You do not touch her ever again, do you hear me?" He yelled, punctuating each word with a punch and Emmett did nothing to stop him.

But I had to stop him, he was on his way to do something that he'd regret for the rest of his life and then I'd lose him forever. He'd lose himself. I couldn't let that happen.

"Edward stop, please stop!" I got up from the floor to reach them.

"You don't hurt her or even think about her. You do not touch the woman I love, you hear?" He yelled.

And we all stopped. Edward stopped hitting Emmett. Emmett just stared at him with a shocked face and I stopped breathing.

Edward had said he loved me?

He turned his face to look at me and then I knew he had really said the words.

He looked wild standing over Emmett, his hair and clothes disheveled and his breathing hard. But the moment we locked eyes, we knew.

His eyes still had some burning intensity from fighting with Emmett, but it was fading fast and replaced with, well … love. They showed such certainty, like the fact that he loved me was the only truth in the world. He didn't say them because he got carried away in the moment, he said them because he just … did love me. Simple as that.

Everything clicked, even stronger now than that time at dinner when I felt he loved me and I realized my own feelings. The air was buzzing with electricity and all the pain in my shoulder disappeared; the world disappeared. All I wanted to do was to run to him, put my arms around his neck, bringing him close to me, and tell him that I felt the same way.

But the moment I heard Emmett speak, I knew that would have to wait.

"You love her?"

Edward released and dropped him to the floor. He never took his eyes away from me.

"Yes, I love her."

I wanted to cry, to laugh, to yell. Feeling every emotion at once, I was overwhelmed and absolutely at peace at the same time.

"I never knew," Emmett whispered, shaking his head. "I thought it was you being the asshole you were all those years ago, doing crap to push my buttons. But love, Edward? Love? Even that, you get in the end."

"What the hell are you talking about, Emmett?" Edward turned to him for the first time.

"Everything Edward, everything! For years I had to watch how you were the free spirited son that got his way with everything. Well, newsflash, people grow the hell up. They go to college and get jobs and move on with their lives."

"But that was not the life for me. I had to go down my own path." Edward stood next to me, only our arms were touching, but that made me feel grounded.

"Oh yes, the artist path. That's the road of people that don't know what they want and are too lazy to find out. It was easy because of our money, but what if that hadn't existed? Huh?" Emmett started pacing back and forth.

"What the hell are you saying? That I really didn't want this? Can't you see that it's my passion? My life?"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. And in the meantime, we were the ones having to witness how you got so high that you probably don't even remember half the crap you did to mom and dad. That you thought you were better than us and told us to fuck off. Do you have any idea how hard it was on mom? For months she stayed up late at night, crying because she worried you'd end up dead in a ditch somewhere or overdose in a crappy room."

Edward took a step back at Emmett's words, like he had physically hurt him.

"Yes, you were out there making it on your own, but I was the one here with them, consoling mom. And then you show up again and they forget everything that happened. Well, I'm not gonna be played for a fool anymore."

I remembered Esme's eyes the first time I met her. She was a beautiful woman, but there was a missing piece in her look. The moment Edward came back, she got that piece back.

"Emmett." Edward took a breath. "I see what you're saying, and I'm truly embarrassed by it, but do you really think it was easy for me as well? I had been battling my inner demons for years and I was weak and caved in to the drugs. I can't blame my behavior only on that fact, because I made the choice, but it sure didn't help it.

"For years I'd been afraid that I was letting them down, all of you down, that I was the one they wished they didn't have. I looked up to you, saw everything I wanted to be in the future, but it just didn't fit with me in the end. It didn't.

"Well, have you ever thought that maybe I needed my brother as well? I had been the one carrying this family for years, Edward. Me, not you and your free spirit! Did you ever think that maybe I didn't want that? That maybe I wanted something else but had to put that on the back burner to fix the mess you were making?

"You not only left them, Edward. You turned your back on all of us as well and now with Bella I thought that maybe I had something you didn't have ... maybe something I could have. I see how wrong I had been."

Edward and I were looking at Emmett like he had grown two heads. But for Edward the surprise and the guilt was worse, since he was the cause for much of Emmett's pain. God, how would I save him from this?

This had been the most any of them had said in all the months Edward had been in the country and pretty much the most I had heard from Emmett about his feelings. Ever. Their entire family had been hiding what they really felt in order to keep the rest happy, when in reality, none of them were.

Emmett was tired, tired of carrying too much weight that he didn't have to, taking the role of protective son. But even that role he took for granted in the end. He barely visited his parents on his own now; and he blamed it all on Edward for years.

And Edward had been too much inside his own head and battling his own fights to realize what was happening.

"We both had been living with an image of each other that is not real and in the process, I lost my big brother."

Emmett's breathing was fast and hard, he looked like he was going to pass out at any second, and the fact that he looked like shit after the fight, didn't help.

"God, what is happening? I need to get out of here."

He turned around and headed limping to the door, his face and shirt stained with blood. He left without another word.

I turned to look at Edward and found him sitting on the couch, his head falling forward.

"I can't believe this shit," he murmured.

I approached him slowly, clutching my arm to my body, and sat next to him. His hands were in his lap and it was then that I noticed they were bloodied.

"You need to get these cleaned." I held one carefully.

"It's nothing."

"Edward, look at me," I pressed.

God, listening all of this from Emmett and also saying he loved me? I needed to give him something to alleviate the pain.

He turned his face to me. It was red with the punches Emmett had gotten away with and his upper lip was bleeding a little. There would be bruises covering his cheeks tomorrow, but what hurt me the most was the way he was looking at me. He was hurt for Emmett and his family and all he had put them through.

My beautiful and broken boy.

"I love you." And that was it. Nothing more to say to reassure him that I was with him in this, that I was feeling the same as he was.

I knew it had worked, for I could see him relaxing and coming alive once again. He smiled so brightly; it was a smile that I haven't seen in a while. I had missed it.

"Say it again." He was close to my mouth.

"I love you, Edward Cullen. Forever and ever." I smiled back and he kissed me, hugging me close to him.

Until we both whimpered.

"God baby, I'm sorry. Does it hurt too much?" He was getting angry once again.

"A little, but it won't kill me. Come, let's tend to your cuts and go to bed."

We lay there, naked under the covers an hour later. Just grinning at each other and softly touching and kissing the other's skin. We were both mindful of the bruises from earlier, but despite the pain, the electricity of his touch was still there.

After our confessions, we had truly made love even though it was what we'd been feeling for a while. Now that it was in the open, every touch and caress, every kiss and lick felt stronger, more powerful. When we came, it was the release not only of our bodies, but of everything that we had been holding in for the last few weeks, months and years even. Pain, hurt, fear, it all went away and was replaced in that single instant by love and a future and happiness and hope.

Yes, we were truly making love.

"I love you. I can't believe I get to say it whenever I want to now. I never wanted to tell you that this way." He looked like a kid on Christmas morning.

"I know."

After a few moments of quietness, I asked. "What will happen with Emmett now?"

I felt bad about this night, that this had to happen for Edward to tell me he loved me, and that Emmett was there to witness it. I didn't know how much it had hurt him.

"I don't know." He sighed. "He now knows that I feel more for you, but I don't know how will that change his views. Better? Worse? We need to talk, but I don't want to push him. And all the stuff he said about mom and dad? And me? I need to give him space."

I could tell he hated doing this though, but he needed the space as well. He was angry at Emmett and very much hurt, so talking to him now, could turn things for the worse.

We fell asleep a little later, listening to each other's heartbeats, heartbeats that now sounded different to my ears. Stronger, singing to me, calling me.

Little did I know that it would be last peaceful night of sleep that Edward would have in the next few weeks.

O~o~O~FM~O~o~O

It had been two weeks since that night at Edward's studio. And every single day I felt so guilty and sad about how things had unravelled. I had no one to blame but myself.

I spent almost every night with Edward after that, and to see him slowly lose his light, was killing me. He had been sleeping less and less, whether from nightmares plaguing his sleep or worrying about the future, only wanting to hold me or make frantic love to me. He needed the reassurance that I was not going anywhere, that I was real. That we were real.

His work had changed as well, much darker paintings and sketches lining up the walls. Angry shapes, dark colors and strong strokes filling up the blank spaces. I often found him almost stabbing the canvases, loud music surrounding him, paint all over the floor even.

It was his way of letting it all out and I gave him his space, but it didn't mean it didn't hurt to see him like that.

There were times when he was better though. Times when he was calm enough and the paintings were much softer, but not like before. They were even better. I didn't know how he did it actually, but my heart cried or laughed when I saw the end result of them. He was reaching a new stage in his work, one that would definitely take him to a level of greatness.

And God was I proud of him.

"Hey."

I had woken up alone in bed, his side cold. So after putting on one of his t-shirts, I went looking for him, finding him where I often did on nights like this. Sitting by the window, staring up at the sky.

"Hey, you. Sorry I woke you up." He didn't even turn to face me.

"You didn't. The bed just felt cold without you. You couldn't sleep?" I encircled his waist from behind, resting my head between his shoulder blades.

"Yeah. I had an idea for a sketch, but when I got to my sketch book, the inspiration just ... disappeared." This was one of his bad days, days when ideas just flew away.

I tried to hold the tears from falling, but I just couldn't. He sounded so defeated. The Edward from two weeks ago, would've found new inspiration, not because he'd force it, but because on his way to the sketch book, he would've seen something else that caught his eye. This Edward, however, was so numb now that he couldn't care enough to see anything else around him for the moment.

"Bella?" He turned, a concerned look on his face. It was almost as if he had just realized I was there. He didn't even know what was going on.

I only shook my head and buried my face in his chest. He understood that was all I needed and rocked me slightly back and forth.

That night, I was the one that couldn't sleep.

I kept guard on his restless sleep.

O~o~O~FM~O~o~O

That Sunday, Edward had to spend the morning at brunch with his agent, talking business and the prospect of an exposition in the next few months. Edward hated dealing with those sort of things, but he had been procrastinating for too long and that was the only day Peter could do it before flying out of town.

He went alone and I took the opportunity to do some grocery shopping to cook for him that night. It was fun doing that with Edward, even though he didn't cook that much. Though he had forgotten a lot, he did pick up some tips for cooking Italian food, real Italian food as he often said.

I only rolled my eyes.

As I was opening the door to my place, carrying all those bags, a voice behind me startled me almost making me drop the bags.

"How many people are you cooking for, Bella?" Her voice was soft and carried a little bit of amusement, but the undertone of it was sadness, pure and raw sadness. Just like her son's.

"Hello, Esme. You scared me there." I went inside, leaving the door open, an invitation for her to enter as well.

"I see you got the lamps we saw a while ago." She was being polite and the epitome of poise as she made her way to the couch.

I was a mess. My hands were shaking as I set the bags aside.

"Yeah. I came back the weekend after we saw them. I couldn't keep away." I laughed nervously. "Would you like something to drink?"

"Yes, I'd love some iced water if you have any."

After a few minutes of me trying to keep my hands steady and not drop the glass, we were sitting on opposite sides of the couch.

"Bella, I am here to talk about my son," she said after a while as she set the glass down on the table in front of us.

"How is Edward?" She looked at me with the same sad eyes that Edward had been carrying around.

"He's not well, Esme." I couldn't lie to her about Edward.

"I thought as much," she sighed.

"He had always been so in touch with his feelings, even as a child. Everything he does is with passion, even when he was at his lowest. That's why Carlisle and I worried so much for him when he got into the drugs." Esme closed her eyes, as if she was reliving those hard years.

"We knew that once he got in that world, it would be next to impossible to get him out of it. He refused our help time after time, and the few times when we got him into rehab, he never put an effort into it. It didn't help that he thought he was better than all of us, so our opinions meant next to nothing to him."

I had heard this story from Edward and he was so sorry for what he did to them, what he made them go through. Hearing it from Esme would make him feel even more guilty, but he needed to hear it.

"Have you talked to him about this?" I knew they hadn't, but I still felt I should ask.

"No. We had been avoiding bringing up the subject ever since he got back and after that dinner a few weeks ago ... we haven't talked at all."

"Why don't you? Why don't you talk to him, Esme? He's so tortured about your rift and I've tried to help him, tried to pull him up, but this is cutting deep into his soul and I know yours as well. You need to talk, but you need to take the first step. He needs to know that you're open to talk, to listen. As it is, he's like a hurt little boy, afraid to have lost his mother's love over this."

Esme cried when she heard this and it wasn't even half of the things that I'd seen Edward go through for the past weeks. But it wasn't my place to say more.

"I know, I know. That's why I'm here today, Bella. I wanted to talk to you before I got to him, because he will need you much more from now on. He will torture himself even more now and he won't look for comfort in me this time. He'll go to you and I need to know that you're in this one hundred percent."

She was asking me for my help? That was the last thing I thought she'd ever say.

"I am, Esme. I'm in love with Edward and I'm not going anywhere without him. I know my word means nothing to you right now, but I'm giving it to you. I'll be there for him for as long as he needs me."

There was a slight change in her face when I said I loved her son. Happiness?

"You're right, it might be hard for me to believe your words now, after Emmett. But you do love him; I see that. You were willing to go through all of this to be with him, so I may have trouble believing your words, but I do believe your heart. And it's Edward's."

"I'm not happy about what happened, as I said before, but it did and I can't change that. I see the way you both take care of each other, move as one. I tried to deny it, bit it's clear as water now." She shook her head.

"I can't totally trust you anymore, Bella. You were like a daughter to me; you were going to be my daughter-in-law in a few months, but you'll be in our lives for a long time now. I want my son back, but not the one I had before Italy. I want the son I had after he came back, after he met you."

"Esme, I-" She interrupted me.

"But you can see that it's not easy to accept what you two have, even if it's the best thing that has happened to Edward. Because at the end of the day, this hurt my other son. As it is, this is an impossible situation. The happiness of one is the pain of the other and that's something I can't accept, can't support."

"And I am that happiness and pain." I whispered.

"Yes, you are. Like I said, I know you'll be with us for a long time, but right now I can't welcome you with open arms. Right now you are the one tearing my sons apart."

"You want me to stay away, don't you?"

"Yes and no. Like I said, Edward will need you more than ever now and I know neither of you will survive without the other. But I can't have you in our lives yet. Maybe someday, just not now. I need to trust you again but, before that, I need to work on my own family."

"I understand. I know I have to earn my place in your family again and I'll wait for as long as I have to, for you, for me and mostly for Edward. I told you Esme, I'm not going anywhere without Edward."

"I'm glad to hear that." She smiled a knowing smile and stared at me for a minute, I guess trying to read the truth of my words.

"Ok, now I have to go." She stood up. "I'm glad we talked about this."

She made her way to the door and just before she reached it, I just had to ask.

"How is he, Esme?" She froze instantly and for a second I regretted my question.

"He's ... Emmett. He looks fine, tough on the outside, but he's confused and angry, more after the encounter he had with Edward two weeks ago. We asked him to stay with us for the time being. He shouldn't be alone right now." Esme didn't turn as she said this.

"You're right, he shouldn't." And I didn't mean just now.

"Goodbye, Bella."

"Goodbye, Esme."

And she left, leaving me feeling lighter to some extent. Things may not ever be the same between us, but for Emmett and Edward we would make it work. It would take time, but I was being truthful when I said that I'd wait for as long as I had to.

That night I told Edward about Esme's visit. He was anxious about it and wanted to know every detail. But there was also hope in him, hope that things would turn out for him and his parents.

And for the first time in two weeks, Edward had a peaceful sleep that night, with me no longer needing to guard against the nightmares, but to watch him smile with no worries.

O~o~O~FM~O~o~O

Two weeks later, I was spending the morning buying new books to add to my collection and also to do some research for this new author I was going to start working with.

Edward was spending the morning with Esme and Carlisle at brunch. He didn't like that I wasn't going with him, but after much talking, he realized that it wasn't the time for me to be there. If he wanted to start patching things up with them, they needed to talk. Alone.

The day after Esme's visit, she had called him to have lunch on Thursday. He had been so nervous, his stress levels off the charts. But he knew it was the first step he had been waiting for all along.

When I saw him that night he looked like a zombie, sitting there by the window. I was sure things had gone terribly wrong between them.

He didn't talk, but he let me hold him and slowly started to relax. We made love that night, but it was more to comfort him than anything. He needed to feel something other than pain and sadness, and I wanted to be that comfort.

They had gotten together a few times since and every time, it left him raw and exposed. Sometimes, he wanted to fuck hard and fast, others slow and tender. Sometimes he just wanted to be held while he cried over what Esme had said, for what they should've talked about years ago.

It didn't matter what his mood was when I saw him after those meetings, I was there for him, giving him the only comfort I knew he needed and craved. Esme had been right, it was now that Edward needed me more than ever, and I was not going to let him down.

As I was reaching for my keys to leave my apartment, there was a knock on the door. The person on the other side surprised me.

Emmett.

"Hi, Bella. Can I come in?" He looked insecure and vulnerable. An Emmett I never thought I'd see.

After what happened the last time we saw each other, I was a more than a little apprehensive about letting him in. I didn't know his state of mind right at the moment and he had been very violent at his place and then at Edward's studio.

He saw my hesitance.

"I'm only here to talk, I promise." He smiled and raised his hands in surrender.

Emmett's relationship with Edward was another thing altogether. They hadn't talked to each other since the fight and for the moment, Esme was the one trying to build a bridge between them. They had yet to cross it.

After a few seconds of thinking it over, I let him in reluctantly. Still, I kept my distance from him; I was still a little afraid. As he made his way to the couch, I couldn't help but think about the last time someone sat there and had a very important discussion with me.

"Your place looks nice. Is this new?" He motioned to the couch.

"Um, not really. I've had it for years now; I think it's time to change it out now." Especially after all the intense talks that had been held there for the past month.

"Oh yeah. Sorry, I guess I never noticed." Which was obvious really, considering he had been in my apartment only a handful of times.

"You want something to drink?"

"No thanks." God, this was awkward as hell. I wanted him there, finally open to talk, but at the same time I was afraid it could turn into a repeat performance of the last time.

"So, how are you, Emmett?" That seemed harmless enough.

"Well." He sighed. "I've been better to tell you the truth." I cringed at that. "But I'm getting there."

"Good."

There was such an uncomfortable silence. This was worse than with Esme.

"God, I deal with assholes every day, managing thousands of dollars and I can't even talk to you now." He was shaking his head, frustrated with our situation.

"I'm sorry, Bella. I'm sorry for how I reacted at Edward's and at my apartment. I shouldn't have treated you that way, no matter how angry I was. It was disgusting."

"Are they ok?" He looked at my hands then, I assumed trying to see if the bruises were still there.

"Yeah, they healed alright. My arm is better now as well." It was true, it was nothing but bruising, but it did make Edward angry to see them, to know why they were there. I was glad he hadn't approached Emmett after that. I was sure of another fight.

"It hurt me to see you like that," I said softly. He was scary looking that day, but the pain radiating from his body was what shook me the most.

"I'm sorry, Emmett. I know it probably means nothing to you right now, but I am. I'm truly sorry for how things turned out and that I hurt you and your family."

"You're sorry for how things turned out, but not for being with Edward." His tone was not angry, but more acknowledging what he said as a fact. He was looking at his hands in front of him now, refusing to look anywhere else.

"No, I'm not."

"I know I asked you this before, but what happened to us, Bella? I thought we were happy. You looked happy."

Ok, this was it. What we should've talked about a long time ago.

"I thought I was at the moment. I thought I was happy with you and what our future held before us, but the more time went by, the more I realized that I couldn't see a future with you anymore. I couldn't picture us together years from now." I sighed.

"We changed so much during our relationship and didn't even notice. We slowly drifted apart and in the end, we just went with the flow of things. I guess it was easier than to face the reality."

He said nothing, just letting my words sink in.

"It all became clear the moment I met ... Edward." I didn't want to rub my relationship with Edward in, but he needed to hear it.

"It was clear then that what we've been having up until that moment was not how things were supposed to be. Edward was not an itch I needed to scratch before we got married, Emmett. I know it's wrong of me to say this to you right now, but I love him and I see a future with him. A future I also wish for you ... with someone else."

He stood up quickly and made his way around the room. It suddenly felt very small.

"I can't say it doesn't hurt to hear that, to hear that I wasn't enough. But I see what you're saying. I saw that too, you know, but I thought it would pass, that we'd be ok in the end. How wrong was I." He stopped right in front of me.

"I've been staying with Mom and Dad for the last few weeks and we've been talking a lot about not only this situation, but about all the crap we'd been holding in all these years. I love them, Bella, but seeing their happy marriage sometimes made me feel bitter and afraid that I might never find that for me, and that feeling only made me feel guilty."

He sat next to me.

"I guess the reason I didn't see that we were not meant to be together, that I didn't want to see it was that, in the end, I wanted what Mom and Dad had for myself. I had been so tired of being surrounded by shit; Mom worried about Edward, me trying to, somehow, compensate that by being the perfect son I thought they needed, but pretty much failing at that. I just wanted some happiness for me for once and I saw their marriage as the happiest thing around me.

"They adored you from the first day. You'd be a great wife and mother one day and I let that blind me to what was really in front of me. I didn't see what you wanted, what you needed from me ... a partner, someone to share your life with. I only saw that you fit into my idea of a perfect life and I continued to act as if I was still single, not really including you or asking for your opinion. It could've been anyone that fit that idea. You just happened to be there at the right moment."

Wow, that hurt. He truly wanted a Stepford wife and I just didn't fit into that picture. Images of that night at his place, being overwhelmed in his apartment assaulted me.

He saw me frown and added. "Don't get me wrong. I cared for you, I care. I saw that you were gentle and funny and just so good the more I got to know you, and that solidified my decision to marry you. I convinced myself of that.

"But that turned to guilt when I thought about what I was doing. I wasn't being honest to you at all. And I realized it when Rosalie entered my life."

He was smiling now. The mere mention of her name made him smile and be happy. Just like Edward for me, this woman was his future, or at least the possibility of one. I felt happy for him.

"When we talked and joked around, it was so damn easy, you know? Easier than being with you. She listened and didn't take any of my crap." He smiled a little, remembering something. "So I ended up spending more time at the office just to see her. Coffee, meetings, anything. I justified my behavior by thinking that you would be ok with it and that you could spend time with my parents since you seem to be so close, and then also Edward, seeing that you had so much in common.

"It's not like you didn't listen to me; really, I just didn't feel like I had anything to say to you. I wanted things to stay the same with you, easy, happy, without problems. But she was the one that opened my eyes to what really surrounded me and with her I realized that you and me, Bella, we were not meant to be." I wanted to laugh at that. It had taken outsiders to point out what was right in front of us.

I felt the same way about Edward. I wanted him to really know me, to see my flaws, to see me cry over the silliest things, to give me space when I felt like it and come back when I needed him. From the way he talked about this girl, I could see these were things Emmett wanted as well. We just weren't willing to give them to each other.

"Are you with her now?" I hated to sound so weak asking him this, like it pained me to hear his answer. It really didn't, but still, it was hard to imagine him with someone else.

"Not that is any of your business anymore," he said a little tense. "But we've talked. I don't know how things will be from now on with her, but after a long time, I'm happy not knowing what's gonna happen."

It was strange not being in his life anymore, not knowing what was happening with him, but this Rosalie girl was giving him just what he needed and for that I was grateful.

From what he said before, he was ready to break things off a long time ago. What made him change his mind? … And then I remembered his words from a few weeks before.

Edward.

"You changed your mind when Edward came back, didn't you?"

"Yes. I was so angry at him and Mom and Dad for accepting him with open arms just like that. I just couldn't even think straight. And when I saw a connection between the two of you at dinner and even more when I saw you at the park, I all but lost it. Suddenly, I couldn't let you go because it was the only way to hurt him."

We both leaned back to the couch, thinking about what he had just said. Emmett had used me all this time, first to give himself some kind of satisfaction that he had the perfect life, much like his parents, and then to hurt Edward. It was so much to process.

"It wasn't just you, you know," I told him, and he turned his head to me.

"You weren't the only one using someone. In a way I was using you as well at the beginning and then I was too much of a coward to break things off. My mother left my dad when I was young and it's hard to admit that as much as I didn't want it to affect me, it did. I saw how my dad was after her. It was so unfair to him, to give up on his life to take care of a little girl. I know he doesn't see it that way, but I do."

I had been so naive to think that my mom leaving wouldn't leave a big mark on my life.

"So when we started dating, I saw you were a great guy, someone that could make me happy and give me the life I always thought my family should've had. And I held on to you, held on to the possibility of happiness. But as time went by, I realized how stupid that was and that it wasn't enough to just want to have a happy perfect life, for there is no such thing. There was something missing between the two of us and it was Edward's presence in my life that showed me that. That I didn't have to settle."

The thought of Edward at that moment made me smile and feel the warmth of his love spread throughout my body. Yes, Edward was different than anyone I had ever known.

"God, what a pair we are." He groaned.

"We both got into this for all the wrong reasons. It was doomed from the start but we stupidly clung to it. I can honestly say that we all made mistakes here and admitting that to myself has helped a little, but I'm still angry and hurt."

I was glad he was starting to see things like this. We all made mistakes not only about our actions, but also they way we handled them. Even him. And hearing him say this made me feel a little more positive about things for the future, especially for Edward.

"Are we going to be ok?" I knew it was a long shot, but I had to ask.

"I don't know. Not right now but maybe someday. I know you're with Edward and from the looks of it, you'll be together for years now. So I'm gonna have to at least get used to the fact that you two are together, but it's too soon. I hurt you, you hurt me. A big clusterfuck. I don't think we can be completely ok ever again."

And I truly did understand.

"We all need time now. Things with Edward are still difficult and it still makes me angry and sad to see you. We won't ever be what we used to be, but at least we can be civil to each other ... in time."

Time.

It was incredible to see this man in front of me, so changed from the first time I met him. But after all of this, we all changed, some for the better and some for the worse. It was inevitable that it would reach him as well.

He stood up and headed to the door, once he reached it, he turned.

"I'm sorry, Bella. For everything I did and especially for what I didn't."

"I made that mistake as well, Emmett. And I'm sorry."

"Good luck with everything. I know he loves you, I should've seen that earlier."

"And good luck to you, Emmett. Hope you find the peace you've been looking for."

And he left, leaving a past behind him that never should've happen, but walking toward a future that was already shaping before him.

O~o~O~FM~O~o~O

"This is nice." I heard Edward's voice beside me.

"Mhmmm." It was all I could say at the moment. It did feel nice.

We were sitting under his tree at the park, warmed by a blanket. My eyes closed, leaning on his shoulder while Edward drew. The little sun that came out earlier felt great shining down on us, warming us.

"Thank God, for these little rays today. The weather is freezing." I said, still with my eyes closed, trying to prolong the moment.

"I know. I'll miss coming here though, but I guess we could find new things to do at home." He smiled against my cheek and ran his hand through my hair, bringing my mouth to his.

It was still rather surprising to feel him be this affectionate in public. We had nothing to hide anymore and we were truly free to touch and kiss in public, but it was still something that sometimes made me feel apprehensive. He had been like this for a few weeks now and even though we had been together for longer than that, everything about these last weeks felt new and exciting.

I guessed it truly was.

It had been a month since Emmett's visit and things had been slowly changing for the better.

Edward had taken me on dates all around the city, places I hadn't even noticed when I had passed by them occasionally, like little restaurants, galleries, parks. Places that he had discovered throughout the years in his need to see the world, to truly see it. Every date felt so special, made only for us, that it was impossible to contain the feeling of happiness and to keep our hands to ourselves once we got back to his place.

Home.

I had been spending so much time there that now it truly felt like home. Well, any place that had him in it felt like home, but this felt even more special. Edward had made sure to make space for my things, to make a place for me in his life. It was hard not to think of that little studio as home after that.

He gave me a drawer in his bedroom, the left side of his bathroom cabinet, which quickly turned into the whole thing for myself; he even bought a shelf to keep my books in order. I thought it was adorable of him and the sweetest thing anyone had ever done for me. I cried for ten minutes when I saw the shelf. I felt him roll his eyes more than once while he tried to console me.

It made my heart swell with happiness as I understood what that all meant, proof once again of how serious he was about us. I cried some more.

As for his family, he had been talking to Esme more often now, but there were bigger issues there that they needed to deal with before moving on and getting past everything. But they were working on them, working on them because that was what you do when you love someone, you work and fight for them.

There were still days when he came home distraught by their talks and as always, I was there for what he needed. Although these days were becoming few and far in between.

The situation with Emmett was more complicated. There was still the fact that I had cheated with Edward, but their relationship had been fractured for years before that. It was a slow process but they were also getting there. Now they were able to stay in the same room for at least an hour without yelling at each other.

My relationship with them had changed as well. I missed Esme and her talks, but I understood she was hurt and needed time to process what had happened. She needed time to trust me again, if that was to ever happen again. As for Emmett, we were civil to the other whenever the opportunity arose, but it still felt awkward and forced. Still, I encouraged Edward to attend family dinners with them, even when I didn't go myself.

"I bet you'll find us something to do," I laughed against his mouth. Now that I had full access to it and everywhere I wanted it, I couldn't get enough of those lips.

Edward dropped his sketch book to the side and brought me closely to him, his beautiful lips kissing and whispering 'I love yous' to the top of my head. He made me feel so giddy sometimes. It was sadly a foreign concept to me until I met him, but one I was thoroughly embracing and getting used to. I felt so loved and cared for; I made sure he felt the same way every single day.

As we held each other and watched as people passed by, I couldn't help but think of how much we had gone through in the last couple of months. We had both come the park to escape the world for a few hours a day, never knowing that it would be there, under those trees, that we'd find what we'd been looking for ... new life.

Our road had been far from perfect, handled in a way that hurt people we cared about deeply. Relationships that we probably could never mend completely again, at least not to the way they were before, but we were willing to wait for however long it took. In the end, I could truly say that it was a price we were willing to pay again, if it meant we could be together like this.

Even with the consequences of our actions, we were now facing a new future, one full of possibilities. It was exciting and scary and one that I knew I wanted to face with him by my side.

Edward often said that I was his muse, forbidden at the beginning, but one that inspired his life and brought him back to life again after years of darkness. He said that I was his light. And in him, I found life again as well. I had been sleeping for so long, just existing. He showed me that I didn't have to settle, that I was worth more than I was getting.

In the end, we were the sparkle that had been missing in each other's lives and hearts and I couldn't wait to see where that would lead us. What kind of new colors and light we would create together.

"Let's go home, baby." He whispered to my ear.

I turned to him and in those beautiful eyes, I could already see the colors of new things to come.

"Yes, let's go home."

The End.


And that's that. The end of this road for these two kids and the beginning of a new path, one where Bella is no longer forbidden and they don't have to hide :-)

Like I said before, everything you read was in my original outline for the Pick A Pic O/S (minus few scenes I added in time) but never got to write because I went too wordy. As it is, I always thought of ending this story here, the point where Bella stops being forbidden. After this, she's his heart's muse more than anything. Hope it made sense for all of you.

Also, I can't thank you enough for taking the chance to read my oh so many words, and being that this was my very first story in the world, the thanks are double in amount. The fact that you were willing to read anything I write, besides my tweets, is amazing. To the people who read the enormous original O/S … wow, you're brave. And to the rest who showed up later, thanks for stopping by.

Thanks for reading and if you feel so inclined to do so, drop me a few lines to tell what you thought, I'd love to hear it. Good? Bad? Made no sense? I should just stick to O/Ss? I don't know, whatever you want to say. It's a learning experience for me.

Once again, thanks for reading :-)

Love, CL82