Title: Bridging the Gap
Author: AgoodWITCH
Disclaimer: Twilight is Stephenie Meyer's, I finally had the guts to have a little fun with the good doctor.
Summary: After having her heart broken, Bella comes to meet the handsome and caring Dr. Carlisle Cullen, her sister Esme's best friend. Can they find in the other what they've been searching for?

My FGB piece, "Ruby Lips & Words of Want" was posted during the ffn fail of the last few weeks, please take a moment to check it out, if you haven't already!

We are in the last few weeks for contributing authors to sign up for "Finding Your Voice: Fandom Fights Mental Illness" links are on my profile.

A/N: This was originally written for the FoxyFics fundraiser, thank you to everyone who participated. Special thanks to my WC girls for encouraging my first step into non-canon pairing and my awesome beta Mizzdee for dropping everything to spend a night with Carlisle so this would be in on time…there aren't words enough for how much I love you! Enjoy~

"I'm going rip his throat out! Let's see how good he can croon to his tramps then." Bella could hear the venom in her sister's voice and it cracked her up a little. Esme Platt was the sweetest woman you could ever hope to meet, until you messed with her 'people'. And Bella Swan was definitely someone worthy of her sometimes motherly protection.

Renee and little Esme met Charlie Swan when her car broke down just outside of Forks thirty-four years ago. Renee was recently divorced and moving back to her childhood hometown to regroup. In the beginning, Chief Swan was nothing more than a friend, not wanting to push too hard when she was trying to find her place in the world with her young daughter. Friendship developed into a slow-moving relationship, which six years after they met, became a marriage.

Even though Renee had sole custody of Esme, her father refused to allow her to be adopted by Charlie. That was the last time Esme ever spoke to her father. Charlie became her dad in every way that truly mattered and when her mom became pregnant a few years later, Esme was excited for her parents. Bella Swan was born into the family and from the moment Esme first saw her, she started mothering her. The eleven-year age difference was a blessing to the Swan's as Esme helped out with her little sister, giving both of her parents a little bit of rest when they came home from work.

When Bella began to grow, it was Esme she ran to with questions about boys, her body and the ways of the world. Esme's decision to go to college in New York broke her young sister's heart, but they continued on as they always had and when Bella went to the same school years later, Esme helped her find her way in the city.

Therefore, when Esme received the hysterical call from Bella, she was more than ready to help her through this break up. "Es, please. Edward's only-"

"Edward Masen is only thinking with his dick! He's out there on the road and enjoying himself, only now he's worried you may find out, so he called and told you it wasn't fair to you to have to wait around for him to get back in town. We both know what he meant by 'really enjoy the tour' and for you to defend him-"

Bella growled, silencing her sister long enough to get a word in edge-wise. "I wasn't going to defend him, Esme. I was just going to say that he's being him. He thinks I'm going to wait around for him, but I'm done. I want to date someone who'll put me first for a change. Besides, I think he already found someone, that's why he called, so he could have a clear conscience and then come back to me if it doesn't work out."

Esme squealed into the receiver, causing her sister to pull her phone away from her ear. "Oh sweetie, I'm so glad to hear you say that. I want you to come out with me and my friends this week; I've got some great guys that you'd be perfect for."

"Esme, aren't these guys going to think I'm too young? No offense sis, but you're old."

Esme scoffed and then leveled her final threat. "You, little girl, are the stuff wet dreams are made of, and you're 25 now, so you're a grown woman and I'm giving them the okay to be respectful, or risk castration. I'll call you with details on when you're coming out with us. Talk to you soon."

"Bye Es." Bella hung up and climbed back under the covers, content to sleep the morning away before heading to work that evening. Bella's job at the NYU main library was a blessing in college, but when she was promoted to one of the supervisor positions after graduating, it was a godsend. Bella loved to read and write, so being paid to be around books was something she enjoyed. She also did data entry for a Brooklyn-based company, so between her two jobs, she had a decent income and time to play at her dream of being the next great American novelist.

As a low-on-the-totem-pole supervisor, Bella had to work with one other supervisor closing the library, but she preferred it because the late night shift meant less people to bug her. Esme called her three times during the week to confirm that she was coming to meet them at the bar when the library closed at 1am on Saturday, so when 1:05 rolled around, Bella wasn't at all surprised that her big sis was calling. "Yes, Esme, I'm still coming. I'll be there in 15 minutes."

The time it took Bella to answer her phone was all it took for him to slip past her notice. As soon the phone slipped back in her pocket, a hand covered her mouth and she instinctually tried to fight back. No matter how many times her father tried to instill in the girls that money and possessions could be replaced, but they could not, Bella's stubbornness won out. Bella managed to get in a few good swipes before the assailant got annoyed and slammed her into the nearby car before he pulled out his knife to cut the strap on her purse, catching her cheek on his upstroke.

The mugger made his getaway while Bella slipped out of consciousness, her phone and keys the only things she still had on her.

Meanwhile, Carlisle Cullen had just finishing his shift at NYU Medical Center a few blocks away and hoped that he'd make it out in time to catch his friends, but as he approached his car, something caught his eye on the sidewalk. Carlisle looked over the hood of his car to see a young woman who was lying on the wet cement. He quickly checked for any signs of neck or back trauma, but acknowledged that it was most likely a couple of bumps and bruises before bending down to pick her up. With her pressed to his chest her ran over the few blocks to the hospital and sat her on one of the empty beds. With no identification, he started his work-up, hoping that his patient had insurance to cover the tests he would need to run.

The nurses helped get her coat off and he began examining her, noticing that besides the cut on her face, nothing too serious was presenting itself, but as his patient was unconscious, he sent her for a cat scan to check out any possible damage there.

In the thirty minutes that the young woman was gone, her phone rang six times. When it began to ring for the seventh, Carlisle reached into her coat pocket and prepared himself to inform whomever it was that was this worried about the beautiful woman he'd carried into the ER, that their fears were well founded.

"Hello?" Carlisle answered, but was quite shocked by the response he received.

"Carlisle?"

"Esme, who were you calling?" Carlisle's mind was racing as his best friend began to panic on the other end.

"Why are you answering Bella's phone?" Bella, Esme's younger sister, the one who was coming out with them tonight, was his patient. And now he had to inform his best friend of the reason for both of their delays.

"Esme, you better come by the hospital, Bella's all right, but she's going to need you."

After a few minutes, Carlisle ended his call with a now hysterical Esme and made his way to the computer at the nurses' station to check on Bella's scans. Entering her name while he waited, he was happy to see that the CAT scan showed no damage other than a concussion.

As the orderly returned with Bella, Carlisle set up the supplies he'd need to stitch up her face, hopefully before her sister arrived. With his tools ready, he looked over at his sleeping patient and began to wonder how he didn't see the family similarities. Both women had heart-shaped faces, and although it was a different shade, Bella's hair had the same soft curls; they also had the same slender body type.

It was as he stood over her, admiring a person he knew so much about, but had somehow never met, that she began to stir. The sight of a man hovering over her had Bella jumping in the bed and almost falling off the opposite side. Carlisle raised his hands in surrender as he spoke to calm her. "Bella, I need you to calm down, you're in the hospital."

"What the…?" Bella scrunched her face and then recognition flashed across it. "He got my purse, shit; I have to cancel my credit cards and everything."

"Who?" Carlisle didn't know what led to her lying next to his car, but figured it was better that she talk it out while it was still fresh.

"The guy who mugged me. Can you check my pocket to see if my keys are in there? Otherwise I'm going to come home to an empty apartment."

Carlisle checked her coat and showed her that her keys were still there before he explained what he knew about the attack. Once she was a little calmer about the situation, Carlisle was able to stitch the gash in her cheek closed. No sooner did he have her cleaned up and ready to discharge, than Esme came flying into the ER, crying as she pulled her sister close.

"Bella, oh my God, are you alright?"

"I'm okay, Esme, its a few bumps and bruises, a cut and a concussion. Luckily, Carlisle found me when he did."

Esme pulled back and narrowed her eyes at Bella. "How did this happen?"

"I got mugged, it sucks because I have a lot of BS to deal with tomorrow, but it could have been worse."

Her sister's eyes bulged out of her skull before she took her arm. "You aren't going back to that apartment. I'll pay for you to break the lease, but you are not going to live in a place that some nutjob knows the address to."

"Es, I can't live with you, you're all the way uptown. I can't deal with that ride and the wait to get on the subway at all with all the Wall Street types trying to get downtown. I'll change my locks and it'll be fine. I'm sure he's not going to give me any trouble."

Bella looked at her sister, without a hope in hell that she'd allow it, but still trying to keep her independence. After watching the back and forth between the two, Carlisle posed a more immediate question. "Esme, are you going to be able to keep Bella up for the next several hours, because you've been up all day?"

"What are you offering, Doc?"

"You two could stay with me and we could take shifts keeping Bella awake until she's in the clear."

Esme smiled brightly and threw her arms around Carlisle's neck. "See, I knew there was a reason I kept you around. Come on, B. Let's go spend the night with the good doctor."

Bella looked uncomfortably between the two of them before sighing and nodding. Esme linked her arm through Bella's while Carlisle excused himself for a moment. Once Carlisle was ready to leave, the three of them walked to his car and Bella and Esme saw the small dent that she'd made. Both offered to pay for the damage, but Carlisle brushed them off as they drove to his condo.

Twenty minutes later, Carlisle was giving Bella a tour of his loft in the large brownstone industrial building, while Esme was changing into one of the pairs of scrubs he grabbed for them to change into before leaving the hospital. Bella marveled at the impressive space with four bedrooms and an office, not to mention a gallery and an open living and dining room across from the kitchen. The view was breathtaking and the décor was modern without being snobby. "This is amazing."

Carlisle chuckled as he scratched at the back of his head. "Thanks. This apartment used to belong to my uncle, so when he retired, my parents bought it from him. I never wanted anything this grand, but I managed to graduate high school two years early, and my grades and extra-curricular activities got me a full ride, so they wouldn't let me fight them on this. I saved them half of what this apartment costs in tuition alone, and my mother liked the idea of me living here, she always loved visiting my uncle here. Why don't you get changed and we can play some cards while Esme takes a nap?"

"Sure, thanks for getting us something to change into."

Carlisle smiled at the blush that tinted Bella's cheeks as she turned to head to the bathroom next to the kitchen. "My pleasure."

The next two hours were spent at the ebony dining room table that sat across from the kitchen, threats thrown across the table as the two played war. Their laughter did nothing to disturb a sleeping Esme, as they talked about their lives. After a slip, Carlisle had to tell Bella about the accident that took his parents from him; all the while, she offered comfort in the form of her hand gently resting on his forearm across the table. From there, Bella tried to lighten the mood with tales of her own misadventures at NYU, even admitting that she once got hopelessly lost in the very library she now works at.

As 4am approached, Bella took the stack of cards from Carlisle and began shuffling them. "You should have never let Esme go to sleep; she's down for the night. Now you're stuck with me."

"I definitely wouldn't call this 'stuck', I'm enjoying myself. You're an interesting woman, Bella Swan."

Bella's skin heated as she blushed from the tips of her ears down to her chest at his statement. "Most of Esme's friends still think of me as the little girl that followed her big sister across the country. Its part of the reason I use work as an excuse to not go out with them, I still feel like the seven year old tagging along while her and her friends hung out at the mall."

Carlisle dropped his voice and leaned across the table. "Believe me, when people look at you, the last thing they see is a little girl."

Bella's eyes flashed up before she divided the deck once again and handed him half. "Do you know how to play spit?"

Carlisle chucked to himself as they began setting up their cards before they looked up and a brilliant smile spread across her face. "Ready?"

"Whenever you are."

The two held each other's eyes as they counted down the start of the game. They continued to laugh and fight over who got their card to the stacks first, but when they both went out at the same time and their hands collided on top of the short stack, both gasped, yet neither made a move to pull away. It was at this time, just after 6:30 that Esme finally popped out of the bedroom yawning loudly. "Carlisle, if you want to get some sleep, I can stay up with Bella for a while."

Carlisle looked at his friend, her hair a mess and her eyes fighting against the sunrise that had lightened the sky enough to be visible on the south side of the building, and smiled. "Go back to sleep, Esme, I'm fine."

He wasn't sure if he was hearing things, but it almost sounded like Bella muttered 'I'll say' under her breath, a thought that made him smile to himself. With Esme now settled into the guest bedroom for a few more hours, Carlisle worked to learn more about the beauty that was sitting in front of him. He felt like she was a kindred spirit and hearing her talk about her work and her writing found him smiling often as she discussed researching the ways that men used to court women and how chivalry was almost extinct, present company excluded.

While Margaret Mitchell's story of the Old South had a heroine who used her femininity as a weapon against the men that surrounded her while she fought to get what she wanted, Bella was writing the story of a woman who had not made so many advancements in the fifty years that followed. However, when the boys once again were called to arms in the War to End All Wars, she used her wit to survive in the world left behind until her love returned.

The passion with which Bella talked about the life of a woman in the time leading up to and during WWI entranced Carlisle in the same way he found himself mesmerized by the workings of the human body. It was something that only enthusiasm could properly encourage an interest in, and Bella's knew no bounds.

By 8am, the desire to sleep was beginning to nag at Carlisle, in his mind he knew that the teasing, laughing and boisterous antics Bella had been exhibiting all night were proof that she hadn't sustained any lasting injury, but he was afraid that the connection he felt to her would vanish the moment she walked out the door. Hoping to push past his exhaustion for a few more hours, he excused himself to shower.

The hot water assaulted him as he leaned against the cold tile, trying to clear his mind. It wasn't until he caught a whiff of coffee and what he thought was bacon did he finish washing the shampoo out of his hair and threw on a comfortable pair of slacks and a light sweater and padded down the hallway to the kitchen where he found Bella plating breakfast.

"Bella, you didn't have to cook, you're my guest."

Bella shot a look in his direction as she handed him the food and turned to get their coffee. As she reached for the second mug, it slipped from her hand and crashed on the counter, breaking before scattering on the floor. Carlisle turned at the sound, running towards the kitchen before Bella screamed. "Don't move, you'll slice your foot open. Go get your vacuum while I pick up the big pieces."

"Bella, forget the mess, you dropped the mug and weakness is one of the symptoms that you're supposed to look out for after a concussion." Carlisle began mentally berating himself for not noticing that something was wrong, but Bella's laughter broke through his thoughts.

"Carlisle, you can quit the Dr. Cullen routine." She placed her hand, fingers fanned out wide, on her chest as she spoke. "I'm a klutz; it's one of my many charms, that was me being Bella, not brain damage. But thank you for worrying. Now, please get the vacuum and put on some shoes so we can get this cleaned and eat before it gets cold. You don't have much food in there and I don't think I'll be able to find enough to remake breakfast."

Still slightly thrown by the intensity of his instinct when it came to her, Carlisle put on his slippers and grabbed the vacuum out of the hall closet so he could help her clean the kitchen. Once everything was straightened up, they sat down to eat. Carlisle was appreciative of the rare home-cooked meal and thanked Bella profusely as she smiled and told him it was the least she could do. The dishwasher was filled and Bella was requesting her third replacement card when Esme came out of the guest bedroom.

"What, no breakfast for me?"

Bella shot her sister a glare before ending the call. "If you're going to move me out of my apartment, we have to figure out where I'm living. I need to go to the police station and get the paperwork so I can go to DMV tomorrow, but I'll need to give them the updated address as well."

Carlisle felt an urge in him that he hadn't before, but tried to fight it back, not wanting to scare Bella off. However, when the discussion over her apartment got loud he jumped in quickly. "What if you stayed with me while you're looking for something?"

The words were rushed, but it didn't slip past either sister as silence filled the condo. Panic struck, Carlisle started rambling. "I'm sorry, that was forward of me, I was just thinking that with the library being so close and the security in the building, you might think it was a good option for the short term. But we only just met and I-"

"Carlisle." He shut his mouth with a snap at the sound of Bella speaking his name. "It's sweet of you, but I…I don't want to g-get in your way. I'll be fine with Esme until then. We better go; I really need to get this taken care of."

Esme smirked; the proverbial feathers from the canary she had swallowed were threatening to escape with the laugh she was desperately holding back. They're perfect for each other. She thought to herself smugly. "Bella, Carlisle was the one to find you, plus he's the doctor that treated your injuries. Not to mention the dent in his car, I think it's smart if he joins us. That is, if you don't have something else to do?"

Carlisle happily admitted that he was free and they all changed to go to the 6th Precinct. Three hours later, after both were interviewed and Bella presented her discharge papers; she had the proper paperwork to claim that her license was stolen. After that, Carlisle drove them to Bella's apartment and Bella went in to speak with her landlord. Esme and Carlisle went to wait in her apartment while she hashed out exactly what it would cost her to break her lease. As soon as they were alone, Esme turned on her friend. "You'll be good for her."

Carlisle blanched and then attempted to play dumb. "Your sister is a lovely person and I'd like to get to know her better, but only as friends."

"You're a fool, Carlisle Cullen, but I love you, so when you realize that you have fallen for my sister, I won't hold this moment against you."

Carlisle tried to play off Esme's comment, but deep down, he was thrilled. He knew that there was something more on his side, but he didn't know how a young woman would react to where he was in life. He was content in his job, finally settling in to some semblance of authority in the ER and he had a beautiful home, great friends, but no one to share it with. He couldn't do casual, and more than anything, he couldn't handle falling hard for someone who wasn't ready to fall just as hard.

Bella's grumble alerted them to her arrival as she sat down on the bed. "Two months' rent, which was what my deposit was, so now all I have to do is get my stuff out. I don't even own a car, and where am I going to put it?"

"I've been using one of the rooms in Carlisle's place as a storage place for ages, I'm sure you could put some of it there, if for no other reason than it will save on a storage place. What do you think?"

"Sure. Just let me know when you have to be out by."

Bella smiled and grabbed her sister's hand. "My month ends on Thursday, so I have four days, or it will cost me three months."

Carlisle laughed and offered to help Bella pack up a U-Haul and get herself all setup at Esme's while she was at work. Bella thanked him, and they exchanged numbers before Bella and Esme started packing her things, asking Carlisle to get some boxes from a local bodega.

Carlisle found it safe out in the main room with her books and was once again impressed with the variety she had. Bella popped out of the bedroom to pack her kitchen. The rest of the day was spent packing a majority of her things and getting things set up for the following day. Carlisle had to be back to work Monday night, so he drove the girls' home and then settled into bed early; hoping to recover some of the sleep he'd willingly lost the night before.

Bella was done with the DMV relatively fast for a Monday morning, and soon sat beside Carlisle in the front seat of the U-Haul he rented to move her furniture to a storage facility close to Esme's place uptown. As they drove over the Brooklyn Bridge, Bella looked out over the water and sighed happily. "I love this bridge. There are times when I want to forget it all, and this is where I come. I walk over the pedestrian walkway and just hang out. Something about standing between the two boroughs and being able to see both sides, it's calming."

"You know, I've never walked across the Brooklyn Bridge." Carlisle mused as they got closer to her building and soon they were going through the process of emptying her place of her possessions for the trip back to Manhattan.

The day was tiring, but finally, they'd moved most of her belongings into storage or Esme's place, leaving some of Bella's more important things to go into Carlisle's spare room. As the last box was put in the room, Carlisle stood behind her with a smile on his face. "This time, we're getting take-out."

Bella giggled and grabbed the menu from a local Chinese place that she lived at in college and decided on what she was getting. Carlisle called in the order and went to get his things ready. Used to working the afternoon shift, Carlisle had switched his day a few weeks back and was now going to be at the hospital for the next 24 hours. Grabbing some time in the on call room would be a necessity while he was there, but he was well rested for now. Walking into his kitchen, he saw Bella standing by his fridge throwing things into the garbage without discretion. "When was the last time you went through your fridge?"

"You really don't want to know." Carlisle answered truthfully, as he watched her continue to clean out the entire appliance. "Why is it that every time you're here, I find you in my kitchen?"

"It's my favorite room in the house. Esme taught me to cook, so I have a lot of happy memories in the kitchen back home."

"Are you ready to be living with her again?"

"We'll be on different schedules; it will cut down on the shouting." Both of them laughed as the knock on the door signaled that their food had arrived.

Sitting down for another meal together, the conversation was still easy and there was no shortage of laughter. Bella had work tomorrow afternoon, so she'd be getting out around the same time as Carlisle, their schedules seeming to match up perfectly at such a late hour, so Carlisle made Bella promise let him walk her to her train on nights when he worked his usual shift.

The two friends fell into a routine over the next few weeks. Bella would cook enough dinner for three before heading to work, leaving Esme's in the microwave and packing two travel plates, one that she dropped off at the nurses' station at the ER, and the other she put in the fridge in the library for her own lunch hour. The nurses' quickly got to know Bella by reputation as much as from the moments she was at hospital, although not all of them thought of her fondly. The older nurses were pleased to see Dr. Cullen being taken care of by such a sweet girl, but the single nurses were jealous of how much he talked about someone they saw as being too young and mousy for a man like him.

At night, Carlisle usually left the hospital between midnight and 12:30 and went straight to the library to walk Bella to the subway, before waiting up until he got the text saying she'd made it home alright.

One day in May, Carlisle was enjoying an evening at home when there was an unexpected knock at the door. Across town, Bella was swearing as she through an overnight bag together, ignoring a fuming Esme as she slammed the apartment door.

Forty-five minutes and several deep breaths later, Bella wave hello to Carlisle's doorman as she ran to catch the elevator. Seven floors later, Bella stepped into the hallway and was soon standing in front of Carlisle's door. No sooner had he opened the door to her, a smile gracing his face, did she launch into a rant about Esme. "I hope your offers still good because-"

The sentence died in her throat though when two curious faces appeared in the entrance of the gallery. Bella's coloring paled before turning a deep scarlet as she looked between the older couple and Carlisle. "I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have barged in here like this…I'm gonna go. I'll call you later tonight."

Before Bella could make a clean getaway, Carlisle caught her wrist and pulled her into his side. "Its okay, Bella, this is Carmen and Eleazar. Carmen, Eleazar, this is Bella Swan. They were two of my teachers in Med School before they moved to Baltimore. They're in town for the week, so they stopped by to catch up before meeting some of the other NYU professors for dinner."

"And speaking of which," Carmen looked at her watch and then over to her husband, "we really should get going. Carlisle, a pleasure, as always. And it was nice to meet you, Bella." The pair of academics ventured to their dinner reservation as a flustered Bella stood in the entryway.

"Bella?" Carlisle's voice pulled her out of her stupor.

"I seriously shouldn't be allowed around people, I'm an idiot."

Carlisle chuckled softly as he took the bag that she still clutched in her hand and walked her across the end of the hallway to the second bedroom. Most people who stayed with him used the bedroom next to the master bedroom, but he wanted Bella to have the most space for her belongings, plus a few extra feet would hopefully help quell the pull he knew would be there.

"This is your room. We'll go get the rest of your stuff tomorrow morning, but why don't we sit down for now and you can tell me what happened."

Bella plopped on the bed and looked up at Carlisle, waiting until he sat before she started talking. "I've been avoiding Edward. I can't be just his friend, it's always been all or nothing and he was the one to decide we were nothing because of the tour. So I guess he called Esme's apartment when someone new answered my old number at the apartment, and she laced into him. She told him about me getting mugged so I got a bunch of frantic calls and when I answered, he started yelling. He was angry that I didn't call him after it happened, but it isn't as if it would have made a difference. He wouldn't have come home, and he wouldn't have told me that breaking up with me was a mistake, so I told him that there wasn't anything to discuss and he should enjoy the rest of his tour."

Carlisle pulled a now crying Bella into his arms and tried to quiet her. "Esme should have stayed out of it, but she's a meddler, it's her nature. Her loss is definitely my gain, though. You can stay as long as you like, and the only thing I want you to do is buy the groceries, because I am incapable of walking into a store and coming out with food that could make a complete meal."

Bella laughed and then turned to him seriously. "All you want me to do is feed you? I have to give you something else, I don't know; pay the cable bill or something?"

"Bella, as nice as this apartment is, it's awfully lonely. I wake up during the afternoon, work until the early morning and come home to an empty house. We're on the same schedule most of the time and I enjoy your company. You're doing me a favor by moving in."

"Thank you, Carlisle. Now, let's see if you have any food in the fridge so I can make us something to eat."

With Bella living in his apartment, Carlisle had to curb a few tendencies, although he would have continued walking out of the bathroom naked if it meant that Bella would do the same, but he would never dare admit it. The feelings that had started to grow for him were only spurred on by her proximity, with the night being the worst. When they came home from work and said goodnight, Carlisle went down the hall to his room where he lie awake, tossing and turning until sleep finally took him.

In the first few weeks that Bella lived with Carlisle, she slowly gave him the full story of Edward and her relationship, right down to the phone call that sent her running to his apartment. Although he couldn't understand how Edward could be such a fool as to let Bella go, he was happy that it had brought her into his life. Bella flew into his world and fixed all the things he didn't know were broken, filling the hole in his life with joy. On days when they were home together, they spent the hours watching movies and TV, Bella's favorite being the History Channel. They played games and talked, or sometimes they'd just sit on the large couch in the living room and read.

While Carlisle would willingly tell you how much he loved having Bella there, he'd be a gentleman and leave out the details that drove him to distraction. Nonetheless, Carlisle started storing a few snacks in his office and doing his laundry a few days after Bella in an effort to avoid the laundry area. The reason for this was Bella's bras couldn't go in the dryer, so she hung them out on the drying rack, unknowingly teasing her roommate. All it took was one glance at the satin and laced draped over the wooden dowels for his mind to instantly think of what Bella would look like if she were to model them for him.

In the same respect, Bella found it difficult to go into the small home gym that Carlisle had because the idea of him hot and sweaty, lying on the bench press, left her with an undeniable need to 'take a nap'.

May turned into June, and the pair continued their dance around one another, much to Esme's annoyance. However, she knew better than to get involved at this point, that they'd figure it out quicker without her assistance.

The dance came to a screeching halt mid-June with the wailing of ambulance sirens. The shift had already been a difficult one for Carlisle, but when the buses rolled in with three family members involved in a domestic dispute turned violent, the night turned ugly. His co-workers fought to save the wife and her husband, who had used his gun when words failed him, while Carlisle worked on their daughter. The six year old had been caught in the middle of it all. Carlisle knew that she had to be stable for her to go into surgery, but she was struggling to hold on. When after nearly an hour of pushing meds and trying to get blood into her faster than it was coming out, her little body finally gave up. Upset, he ripped off his gloves only to hear the doctor who had been treating the father say that his self-inflicted gunshot wound wasn't serious and he would likely survive surgery. That pushed Carlisle right over the edge. He went to the locker room and showered before asking one of the other doctors to cover his last twenty minutes.

The drive home took minutes and the entire time Carlisle tried to forget the brown hair in pigtails, which if they hadn't been stained with blood, would have been the same shade as Bella's. He got up to his floor and opened the door to the smell of Bella's muffins. Locking up, Carlisle made a beeline for the kitchen, where he was met by a surprised Bella. "Carlisle, you're early." The surprise faded as the look on his face instantly worried her. "What's wrong? Did something-"

Bella's question was cut off by Carlisle's hands grabbing her head and pulling her mouth into his. There was an intensity to the kiss that he hadn't originally intended, but seeing her erased all logical thought. She was the only thing that could make this impossible day better and after dreaming of it for so long, they were sharing their first kiss. It was as that thought entered his mind that he quickly registered the fact that he was the only one kissing. Bella wasn't kissing him back. Panic shot through him when he realized that he'd pretty much attacked the one person he wanted in his life without knowing how she felt about him. Carlisle pulled away and at the stunned look on Bella's face, he immediately tried to minimize the damage. "Bella, God, I didn't mean to attack you like th-"

This time, it was his sentence that was silenced as Bella grabbed his shirt and pulled him to her, reaching up into his hair as she kissed him. Carlisle's reaction time was much better as he wrapped his arms around her and held her to his body, enjoying how it felt to hold her like that. When they broke apart for air, Bella moved both of her hands to cup Carlisle's cheeks. "Rough shift?"

Carlisle nodded and they walked into the living room to talk. After the story was out there, Carlisle reached out to take both of Bella's hands in his. "I didn't just kiss you because I had a crappy night. I've wanted to do that for a while, but after today, you were the only thing that could take that feeling away."

Bella smiled as she squeezed his hands. "I'm glad I was able to kiss it and make it better."

The bark of a laugh that escaped him lightened the last of the tension as Carlisle readied himself for his next question. "Will you go out with me tomorrow? Like a real date."

"Yes, I'll go out with you. But right now, I think we better go to bed."

Nodding in agreement, Carlisle and Bella went to their separate bedrooms to get some much-needed rest. The following morning, Bella got up and made breakfast before signing into her work account and getting through some of the data entry she had waiting for her. When Carlisle woke up to see her sitting with black square glasses, he just stood there, staring. "You wear glasses?"

Bella looked up and shook her head at the expression he was wearing. "I normally wear contacts, but it's too early to fight with them. Are you hungry?"

Carlisle bent down to kiss her forehead and walked over to the kitchen. "I think I can manage. By the way, be ready by 6:30. I'll be picking you up at your door."

Getting off the couch, Bella followed Carlisle as he made his breakfast. "Carlisle, you don't have to pick me up. I'll just meet you out here."

"Let me do this part right, please? I've managed to mess everything else up-"

Bella reached out to take his hand, cutting him off. "Carlisle, you haven't messed anything up." Carlisle looked up at her and she realized how much it meant to him that this be done his way, so she conceded. "Fine, I'll wait until you pick me up."

Soon after he finished eating, Carlisle vanished into his office for a few hours, making arrangements for that night. Bella didn't know what to wear, but thankfully, a text from Carlisle helped make that decision. She took her time getting ready, having completed the work that had been waiting for her, doing her hair in a French twist and carefully doing her make-up, before slipping on her strapless, royal blue cocktail dress and a pair of kitten heels. Bella sat in the bedroom, smoothing out her dress nervously when the knock came right at 6:30. She opened the door to see Carlisle standing before her in charcoal slacks and a blazer with a warm gold button up on beneath it. The intake of air brought Bella's eyes back to Carlisle's face fast enough to see the lustful look they held before he smiled and managed to control himself. "You're exquisite, Bella."

Bella blushed and reached over to take Carlisle's arm. "Thank you, you look pretty fine yourself."

They both laughed as Carlisle walked her into the entryway and pointed out a bouquet on the table. "Those are yours, you can put them wherever you like later, but I wanted to get you something special."

"They're beautiful, Carlisle, and I'll leave them right there, that way they're the first thing I see when I come home."

Leading her downstairs, they got on the subway and had dinner at a small Italian place that Carlisle was fond of. The food was delicious, and the conversation was easy, just as it always was between them. Both had been nervous that it was going to be odd transitioning what they had into something more, but the time they had spent together eliminated the awkward getting to know you moments and allowed them to just be.

From the restaurant, they took a cab to the American Museum of National History. Walking up the steps, Bella stopped Carlisle. "The museum's closed, what are we doing here?"

"Not tonight, it isn't." Carlisle tried to lead Bella inside, but she was glued to the steps. He turned and laughed at the nervous look on her face. "Bella, I didn't pay them to open the library for us, it's a fundraiser for the museum."

"Oh, so they open the museum to people who buy tickets? This isn't a $1000 a person type of event, is it? Because if so, I feel completely underdressed."

Pulling her closer, Carlisle whispered into her ear. "You're perfect. This is an event aimed at the younger crowd; drinks, dancing, and a midnight show at the planetarium. Now, shall we?"

"I'm sorry, yes, let's go in."

"Don't apologize, I've gotten to know you well enough that I wouldn't do anything that grand for a first date. Plus, I thought you'd enjoy getting to party at the museum."

Bella and Carlisle walked in, where he printed their tickets from the kiosk and then headed down towards the planetarium; where there were tables set up with wine and beer and outfitted the large room with a band and lights to give it a club feel. Carlisle purchased some drink tickets and then walked over to the drink table to get them two glasses of wine. They stood off to the side, enjoying their wine while they continued the conversation from dinner, discussing books and movies that they insisted had to be added to the lists of things they had to try.

As they were talking, Carlisle noticed Bella swaying and humming as the band started playing a new song. "Would you like to dance?"

Bella looked up and smiled at Carlisle before shaking her head. "I'm not very good; I'll probably break your toe."

"I'm sure you aren't that bad. Please?" Bella gave in to the adorable pout and let him lead her to the dance floor.

The first few minutes were comical, as Bella found Carlisle's toes a few times until she huffed and stepped back. "You're going to be a cripple, can we please just stop."

He lifted her chin so that their eyes met and shook his head. "Stop looking at your feet and just relax, focus on me."

Bella did as he said and they were soon dancing across the floor. Her laughter tinkled through the hall and when they stopped to get another glass of wine, she still couldn't believe that she'd danced that long without tripping or stepping on him.

Before they knew it, they were herding everyone into the planetarium and Carlisle and Bella found a seat near the back, the armrest between them was pushed up and Carlisle tucked Bella into his side as they reclined and stared up at the night's sky that was projected above them. The presentation began and Harrison Ford's voice rang out, speaking about the possibility of life on other planets. The next hour was filled with sporadic musings of how much better the show would be with some weed, and Han Solo being yelled out more than a few times, but it didn't enter the happy couple's bubble. Carlisle's arm was around Bella's shoulder and her hand sat on his leg, her thumb tracing back and forth over his kneecap.

Those gentle touches turned into sweet caresses, which led to kissing in the darkened room. The heat between them was palpable as the slow burn that they'd been building over the last few months was erupting into a smoldering fire and neither one of them wanted to fight it. The lights came up, stopping the impromptu make out session.

Exiting the museum, Bella shivered at the drop in temperature, which had her enveloped in Carlisle's blazer before she could ask. "Tonight was lovely, that was the most thoughtful date I have ever been on. Thank you for that."

"I'd do anything to see you smile like that. Let's go home."

Carlisle hailed a cab and 30 minutes later, they were walking into their apartment. Continuing to be a gentleman, Carlisle walked her to the door and stole one last kiss before saying goodnight.

In the next few weeks, Carlisle and Bella went on several dates and tried to spend a little time together on the days they both worked. He had a bouquet of flowers delivered for Bella every week and it sat in the same spot as the one he got her on their first date.

The hospital administrators made changes to the scheduling system, so he was now working 6am to 6pm instead of the noon to midnight. The changes made Carlisle happy, as he now got more time to spend with Bella. He'd pick her up every night when the library closed, and one night during the second week of July, Bella came bounding out of the library with a smile that naturally caused Carlisle to smile in return. "Good shift, sweetheart?"

"Angela is going to grad school and she asked to switch shifts with me so she can study after her classes. I'm on the same schedule as you! No more late nights or boring shifts. I don't care that it means less research and writing time, because I can do that at home, with you."

"Oh, Bella, I'm so happy for you. I hated these late nights after the night we met. I can't believe that it's been three and a half months since that night. Even with how scary it was with what happened to you, I'm happy that I met you."

"I'm happy too. You've…you're one of the best things to happen to me." Carlisle kissed her and then walked her to the car so they could go home.

Angela and Bella got the supervisor to approve the schedule change and started working the new hours that following week. It was while trying to get used to the new sleep patterns that she felt herself coming down with something. Carlisle had offered to have a friend of his look her over, but she had a doctor at the local health clinic and told him if it got bad, she'd visit him.

Carlisle came home one evening to see the latest flower arrangement in its vase in the entryway and smiled, that meant Bella was home from work, the new schedule in the ER meant that he was seeing more daylight, and with that, more of his girlfriend. He could smell that dinner was almost done, but was a little confused to see that all the lights were off in that half of the house. He stepped into the living room to see Bella relaxing on the chaise lounge, a bunch of pillows propping her up and a washcloth over her eyes. He knew that she'd been feeling poorly the last week or so, but knew the cold would run its course and soon enough, he'd have his Bella back.

"Still feeling sick?" He asked, but she quickly shushed him and slumped down further, her hand pressing the washcloth over her eyes.

"My head is killing me and I wish the front of my face was a mask I could just take off and fling against the wall."

He snickered softly before bending down to place a kiss on her forehead, but as soon as his lips met her heated skin he pulled back. "Bella, you're hot."

"Carlisle, I don't feel good, and I'm sure I look like death warmed up."

"That's what I'm talking about, you have a fever, sweetheart."

She sat up, the cloth falling to her lap as she turned to look at him. "You always feel cold to me, I think it's just that throwing you off."

Carlisle walked down to the master bathroom, got the thermometer, and came back to where Bella was squinting at him. "Please humor me?"

Bella opened her mouth and let him take her temperature as his hand brushed the hair from her face, his palm resting against her forehead until the thermometer beeped and he took it out of her mouth. "What's the verdict?"

"You have a fever; now tell me, besides your face, what else is wrong?"

She rubbed her head and really thought about it. "It just feels like a cold. I'm congested and I've got a constant headache, my neck is killing me, but that's more the tension headache on top of the one I already had from feeling so crappy. I just want to chop off my head." The whine that escaped Bella on the last sentence tugged at Carlisle's heart, Bella was not a whiner.

"Okay, now does this hurt at all?" Carlisle applied some pressure to her nose and cheeks and Bella hissed in pain. "I'm sorry," he pulled her to his chest and rubbed her back. "You have a sinus infection. I'm going to call in a prescription for some antibiotics and have the pharmacy deliver it, now go change into something comfortable and I'll finish up dinner."

Bella walked off as Carlisle placed the call, then turned his attention to dinner. When Bella returned they sat down to eat, but she only picked at it, claiming it tasted off, another clue to her condition. Bella called the library and let them know she'd be out sick for the next three days and would pick up the shifts when she came back, giving her the next five days off to get this under control before returning to the harsh lights and long hours at work. Going to bed after taking her medicine, Carlisle stayed up a little while longer, before heading off to his room as well.

Around 2:30, while on his way back from the bathroom, Carlisle heard noises from Bella's room so he poked his head in to check. There he found Bella crying as she tossed and turned in the large bed. Carlisle went to her and shook her shoulders lightly until she woke up. "Shh, Bella, it's alright. Why are you crying, sweetheart?"

"It just hurts. I can't sleep and I can't relax, it just aches." Bella looked up at Carlisle as he placed a kiss on her cheek and then vanished for a moment, returning with a large triangle pillow.

"Move over a little bit." Carlisle climbed onto the bed and sat the pillow at the head of the bed, before moving Bella up the pillow and slid in behind her.

"Carlisle, I'm sick and pathetic, I don't want you to see me all disgusting."

He looked over at her, turning her chin to face him. "Do you not want me here because you don't want me here, or because you're worried that I might love you less seeing you like this? Because if it's you being sick and not wanting someone in your space then I'll see you in the morning, but if you're worried about it grossing me out then move over, because I work at a hospital and nothing is so gross that it will make me love you less."

"You love me?" Bella's eyes were dancing in her sleep-hazed state, causing Carlisle to laugh as he pulled her heated body closer to his.

"You would pull that from my entire monologue. Now try and sleep, the incline should help alleviate some of the pain."

The next few days consisted of Bella in her room, doing extra work from home when the computer wasn't bothering her while Carlisle was at the hospital, and nights cuddled together in her bed. It was a little difficult for him to be that close to her and not push for more, but he knew that his patience would be rewarded.

The last evening before Bella was supposed to go back to work was spent cleaning, now that she was feeling better she took to making the apartment look nice and making a nice dinner for Carlisle to come home to after a week of soup and sandwiches. Taking a nice shower, Bella got ready and was waiting for Carlisle when he got home. "You seem to be feeling better?"

"Much better, now why don't you get washed up and I'll get the rest of dinner finished up."

Carlisle was so happy to see Bella excited and smiling again. Dinner was fabulous and he was quick to compliment before they cleared the dishes and settled in to watch some TV. He noticed Bella trying to stretch her neck out some, so Carlisle slid in close and started massaging her shoulders. "You're still stiff? Come here, I'll help you work out those kinks."

Bella moved so Carlisle could slide into the corner of the couch so Bella could sit between his legs. "It's my neck and shoulders that are really bothering me."

Carlisle worked slowly to get the knots out of her shoulders and Bella's moaning was so not helping his problem. Bella could feel it pressing against her and feeling the tension leave her, her hands started kneading his thighs. Carlisle faltered and he leaned in to whisper to her. "Darling, that feels amazing, but if you keep it up, this massage will be over very quickly."

Bella's hand trailed up his thigh and down his crotch, rubbing him through his slacks as she looked at him over her shoulder. "You want me to stop things like this?"

He leaned in and kissed her, before pulling away long enough to grab her and lead her to his bedroom. At his door, Bella stopped and kissed his chin. "I'll be back in a minute." She winked and padded off towards her bathroom.

Carlisle stripped to his boxers and turned down the bed, hoping to kill the few minutes until Bella returned. He heard the door open and turned to see Bella walk in with her nightgown clutched to her chest. A chill raced up her spine as she sat the clothing on the dresser and she crossed to where Carlisle stood. He took her into his arms and kissed her as passionately as he could. Her hands ran up his chest as she held tightly to his shoulders.

His lips left hers and travelled to her ear as he whispered his love for her. They removed the remainder of their clothing as Carlisle led her to the bed. Bella climbed on top of Carlisle as they moved together, his hands travelling down to her thighs where he massaged them in a similar way to the attention she'd given him earlier. The combination of sensations had Bella bucking against him. It was as they slid together that Bella was so happy that Carlisle had talked to her about her birth control and the fact that they'd both been tested after their last relationships ended. Bella had been embarrassed to admit that she gotten herself tested regularly when Edward came from a tour, hoping it would hint to him, but it never caught on.

Any thoughts of her ex flew out of her mind as Carlisle lifted her enough so that he was positioned at her entrance. She looked down and captured his lips as she slid onto him, the mutual moans dying in each other's mouths. Needing to lead their lovemaking, Carlisle rolled them over and started moving within her. The angle of penetration as Carlisle hooked Bella's legs over his hips was unlike anything she'd ever felt. Carlisle knew how to please a woman and the woman below him, who was praising any god who would listen, was the only one he wanted to be with. "Oh, oh God! Carlisle…hmmm."

"That's it Bella, I want to hear you scream my name. Let me know how good it feels, because you feel perfect around me."

"So good…oh…right there. Yes! Oh baby."

Carlisle's pace quickened at the sound of Bella's pleasure, his own words pouring from his lips. "Bella, I'm close, so close."

"Me too, Carlisle." Carlisle's thrusts became sporadic as his orgasm hit him, Bella's following soon after as they both called out for the other. Carlisle slumped to the mattress as Bella's legs unwrapped from around him. He tried to shift his weight off her, but she just held him closer. "No. I want to feel you next to me."

"Okay, come here sweetheart." Carlisle shifted and pulled Bella to his chest. And that's where they stayed for the rest of the night.

The next morning, Bella made breakfast while Carlisle jumped in the shower, his day of errands had a few more stops after last night. Bella was working an earlier shift and he was already cooking up a very special evening as the water pelted his back.

The library was busy so Bella was trying to keep ahead of the piles of books that the students were using, hoping the day would end uneventfully.

Bella was still putting books away in the stacks when a voice she never expected to hear again called out to her. "Baby!"

She spun to find Edward's lips insistent on hers, but she pushed him back, shushing him for yelling in the middle of the library. "Edward, what are you doing here?"

"I know, I should have called, but you'll never believe what happened when we were in LA for the last few shows. Some record exec was in the crowd and he had me come and meet with him, and he signed me! Now before you ask, yes, I had my dad look over the contracts and they're good. I'm going to be an opening act for NKOTB, which is kind of lame, but I'll get to party with Donnie Wahlberg. Then when we get back to LA I'm gonna record an album. Just think about it, you and me, on the road. Then we'll find a place in LA while I'm recording and you can really write, not play at it while sitting here sorting books."

Bella pulled back and started shaking her head, confused by his ramblings. "Edward, what are you talking about?"

"Baby, we're moving to LA. What do I have to get on one knee?" Edward dropped down just like he said, still clinging to her one hand. "Marry me, Bella."

Bella ripped her hand from his and stared at him like he was crazy. "Edward, you dumped me. I'm not marrying you; I'm not even dating you. I've moved on."

"What do you mean, 'moved on'? I've only been gone a few months and it's been what, two months since I asked to take a break?"

"It's been more than that, and in that time I found a great man. He's a doctor and he has an apartment in the industrial brownstone on 13th Street. I'm living with him now."

Edward's face turned, repulsed by the things he was hearing. "Didn't take you long to find a sugar daddy. He's a doctor, so he must be one of Esme's friends, or he treated you when you tripped over air and started perving on his patient…oh my god…you're fucking that doctor from when you were mugged, aren't you? It's nice to know you found someone to keep you warm while I was gone."

Bella was shocked silent as Edward stood there hurling one accusation after another at her. "Get out," Bella barely whispered, but Edward heard as he stormed out muttering what sounded like 'gladly' as he went.

Bella ran back to the help desk and grabbed her phone, making her way for the break room so she could call Carlisle. He answered on the second ring, his normal, chipper self. "What's up sweetheart? Slow evening?" Bella let out a stuttered breath as she cried into the receiver. "Bella? Bella, what's the matter? Why are you crying?"

"Edw—Edward was…here. He got signed and asked me to…marry him, but I told him that we were over…that I'd moved on. He was so cruel, Carlisle. How could I have ever stayed with him? He made me sound like I'm some kind of whore for dating you-"

"He called you a whore?" The anger in Carlisle's voice was barely masked, but Bella quickly quieted it.

"Not in those words. Look, I'll be home in about two hours, would you mind if we ordered in? I don't feel like cooking."

"Of course, sweetheart, whatever you want. I love you."

"I love you too, Carlisle." Bella hung up and then fixed her face before returning to work.

Meanwhile, Edward used his time to stew a little more before remembering one important bit of information he'd learned from Bella. Hopping in a cab, he arrived at their building and made it as far as the doorman before he had to think fast, his mind already two steps ahead. "Sir, can I help you?"

"Yes, you can. I'm in town to see my sisters, and one of them moved in with her boyfriend recently, Bella Swan? I just…I can't remember the apartment. Would you be able to help me out?"

The older gentleman postured, not sure if he should let the young man in. "I don't know, if you aren't announced…"

"She doesn't know I'm here, I actually called her boyfriend when he was at the hospital so I could surprise her."

Seeing how much he knew about them, the doorman relented and gave him the correct number as Edward jogged to the elevator. Stepping up to the door, he knocked, not expecting that Bella wasn't going to be the one home alone.

"Can I help you?" Carlisle wasn't sure who the man at his door was, but definitely didn't expect the greeting her received.

"Dude, she dumped me for you? You've gotta be fucking loaded."

Carlisle took one look at the kid in front of him and tried to close the door, but his hand was faster, pushing his way in. "Get the hell out of my house!"

"I bet you don't let Bella see that temper, you probably play it really cool for her, throw a bunch of money at her. Is that how you snaked my girl?"

"You must be Edward." Carlisle chuckled to himself as he looked over Bella's ex. "You had an amazing woman, and you threw her aside so you could play like a child. We got to know each other and it developed into something more, but unlike you, I don't' ever plan on letting her go."

Edward stepped up into Carlisle's face and tried to intimidate him, but it wasn't working. "You were a rebound, old man; she needed someone to help her get over me. I've got my whole future ahead of me and I can offer her a lot more than a cushy apartment. She could see the world with me, meet all types of celebrities, she'll come back to me once she gets bored."

Carlisle laughed and shook his head at the ignorant man in front of him. "Do you really know that little about her? Bella's more comfortable in sweats watching the History Channel than she is in a dress out at a party. It's no wonder she came running to me the last time you spoke to her. And she called me today too, so I know that she turned you down. You're just here to raise a little hell on your way out. So you've done that…now leave."

Edward turned but instead of leaving, he caught Carlisle right in the cheek, sending him back a step. "Whatever man, enjoy your girl, you've paid for her."

That comment sent Carlisle off, causing him to run at Edward before he felt the pair of arms wrap around his waist. "Carlisle, don't!"

Bella's voice was enough to calm him as he turned to see her staring at him, not paying any mind to Edward until she saw Carlisle's cheek. Her hand ran up to lightly brush over it before she turned on Edward. "You hit him? What the fuck is wrong with you? I knew there was trouble up here when they told me my brother was here, but seriously? Just leave me alone. I don't ever want to see you again."

Edward saw how she turned back to Carlisle, fussing over his cheek and for the first time since she'd spoken the words this afternoon; he realized he really had lost her. The couple heard, rather than saw Edward leave as Bella led Carlisle into the bathroom to get him cleaned up.

"Carlisle, what was he doing here? Why did you let him in?"

"Bella, I didn't. He barged in and started talking about you and…I tried to keep calm but that last dig-"

Bella smoothed her hand over his cheek one more time as a sigh escaped her. "I never thought I'd see you that upset, I mean, you lunged at him."

Carlisle took her hand in his, a sorrowful look in his eyes. "Sweetheart, I'm so sorry you had to see me like that. That isn't me, Bella, I'm not violent but he just pushed me too far. He could have called me every name in the book, but to go after you, I couldn't take it."

Bella shushed Carlisle and kissed his lips lightly before tugging on their joined hands. "Come on, let's go to bed." Bella led Carlisle to his room where they curled up together and relaxed, falling asleep without ever having dinner.

The next two days were busy as work took most of their energy, but on the morning of her next day off, Bella went into the small room they used for storage, hoping to dig out one of the books she wanted Carlisle to read, but instead, she came face to face with several large boxes blocking her way.

"Carlisle?" She called out and was surprised by how quickly he popped his head in.

"Sorry hon, I was hoping to surprise you with that the other night, but things got derailed."

She shot him a curious look. "What is all of this?"

"A library, or at least it will be. I have a ton of books from my parents plus my own and now you have yours, it's an impressive collection. That is, if you want to combine them?"

"You want to combine our books? That's like…"

"It's like asking you to move in, except we already live together, so I want you to be more than my roommate. We're together, I love you and I want us to break down those last few things keeping us separate. Help me put together our library and move out of the guest room."

"I haven't slept in there since…"

"But your clothes are still in there and there was that night last week-"

"I fell asleep reading when you had to stay late at the hospital, but if it will make you feel better, I'll move my things after we get these bookshelves built. Fair enough?" Bella quirked an eyebrow at Carlisle, which only made him smile more. Leaning in to kiss her, they wasted quite a few minutes before they got to work emptying out the room.

Once it was empty, Bella swept the wood floor before they started working on the bookshelves. In a few hours, the two of them had the shelves lining two walls of the small room and then Carlisle set out to find the perfect couch and rug for the room, as Bella demanded that she was going to organize the books properly. When he returned, many of the boxes were opened and the books were all stacked, Bella's need for her library to have a system made him smile.

It took most of the evening, but finally the books were up by category, with room for new additions, and a romantic meal, delivered from the Thai place down the block was a nice end to their hard day of compromise.

Time continued to pass for the couple, both busy, but never so much that they couldn't make time to spend together. Summer escaped them, and as September came around both started thinking about how much had happened in the past six months.

One afternoon, Bella was restocking Carlisle's snacks in his office, something she thought was too funny once she forced him to divulge the true reason, when she accidentally found something that she was never meant to find.

To open the bottom drawer in Carlisle's desk you had to open the top one as well to trigger the locking mechanism, but as she did, the sight of a tiny velvet box stopped her movement. Reaching in stealthily to see what it was, desperately hoping it was a pair of cufflinks, Bella gasped at the sight of an antique engagement ring.

Fear shot through her as she thought about how it was too soon, that he couldn't be thinking of asking her to marry him yet, but then another thought crossed her mind, one she'd never once let bother her before. You're eight years apart, he's at the age where he'd want to settle down and he hasn't been shy about telling you that you were it for him. This is what he wants, he's ready for it.

But I'm not.

With that final thought, Bella had to go and get some air, she needed time to think and compose herself so she could figure out her next move. Making sure the ring was in the same spot she found it; Bella grabbed her coat and hopped on the 4 train, taking it to the City Hall stop.

Almost two hours later, Carlisle came home, surprised that Bella wasn't there to greet him. He stopped in the kitchen to get a drink and then went into his office, wanting to get a little work done before her return. As he went to grab a snack from his not-so-secret hiding place, he noticed the top drawer was a little too neat for how he left it this morning, and he now knew why their apartment was empty.

Calling Bella's phone, he got her voicemail just as he entered the elevator. Using the same method as she had in her panic, Carlisle arrived at the one place he knew to look for her, the place she loved to spend time when she had something to think about, a place he'd never been to on foot before, the Brooklyn Bridge.

Coming out of the station, Carlisle made it to the pedestrian walk and started looking for Bella, needing to know what had made her flee. Near the Brooklyn side, Bella was leaning near one of the light posts, trying to think. It was the sound of his voice that brought her back to the present. "Why did you run?"

"Carlisle."

He walked up to her, placing an arm on either side of her so she couldn't escape this conversation, he asked again. "I know what you saw, so why did you run away?"

"I needed time to think, to make sense of everything and decide what I was going to say to you."

Carlisle nodded and then whispered to her, "What did you decide?"

"I love you, and you've made me so happy…but I'm not ready for marriage. It's too soon, Carlisle. We've only known each other six months and we weren't together for the first two. I know that being older, you're in a better place to think about settling down, but I need more time. I'm not saying no, I'm only saying not yet."

"Are you finished?" There was no anger in his tone, it was simply him needing to know that she was finished speaking her peace.

"Yes." The fear was back, but now it was because Carlisle had the ability to save her or destroy her with his next words.

"Bella, that ring you found, was my mother's. Now I have been looking at it more now that you're in my life, but I wasn't planning on using it yet. I know that you aren't ready, and that's okay with me. I've never pushed you for more than you were willing to give and I wouldn't ask that question until I was sure of your answer, because I couldn't survive a refusal. Edward was almost three years of your life between the on and off, and he hadn't thought about it until he came home this last time, so I understand that we have to really be ready for that step. But we will take it, someday. My age isn't an issue in the matter, unless it is for you. It's never come up, but if dating an old man-"

"You aren't old! I just know that you have your life and your job and the one thing missing is a family. I see it with you, and it's more real than it's ever been with anyone I've dated. I just need more time, I need to fight with you more, and make up with you. See new things together and share our worlds…"

"Like walking across your bridge?" The smile that overtook Carlisle's face was breathtaking and Bella used her excitement to surprise him with a kiss. As they broke apart, Carlisle looked down at her, knowing that what they had, had not been shaken by this night, that no matter how large the gap between them was, they'd bridge it together. "Let's go home, my Bella."