A/N: Hmmm… What can I say, other than I have been totally blocked for a while! The sad part is I knew where this chapter was going to go, but I just couldn't get it on paper. Not to mention, real life has been a real pain in the ass lately! So, this chapter is short, but hopefully the next one is on its way soon! Thank you all for the lovely reviews you have left me… They make me want to get this story done for you all! And it will be finished!
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Twilight except for my well-worn books and DVDs. Matthew is mine, however, everything else belongs to Stephenie Meyer.
The judge sighed. "Mr. Bradshaw, do you have any further information you or Ms. Swan would like to include in your deposition?"
Suddenly, Bella saw Edward stand up out of the corner of her eye. She turned around to look at him, her mouth open in shock.
"Your honor, may I say something?" Edward asked.
Bella's mouth had gone dry. His perfection and beauty always took her breath away, and today, standing in the courtroom in his navy suit and gray tie, he looked as if he'd just come from a photo shoot.
"And you are?" Judge Payne asked.
"I'm Edward Cullen. Bella Swan is my girlfriend, and I've spent a lot of time with Matthew. I love him as if he were my own biological child. And I want the court to know that if Mr. Taylor wishes to sign his parental rights over, then I am more than willing to step in and adopt Matthew Swan as my son and provide him with full financial and medical support." When he looked down at Bella, she could see that he was trying to convey his sincerity to her.
She was speechless. Edward's announcement had come completely out of left field, but she found herself imagining life with Edward as Matt's father. Someone to love him. Someone to help care for him.A real man in his life to be a role model… She looked up at the judge anxiously, hoping that he would consider it.
Once again, Edward, her knight in shining armor, had stepped forward to save her and Matthew.
Judge Payne pulled his glasses from his face and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Ms. Swan, is this something your attorney has discussed with Mr. Taylor's attorney?"
She shook her head. "No, your Honor."
He flipped through a few more pages of the file in front of him. "And this arrangement would be a satisfactory conclusion for you?"
Bella's mouth was dry, and her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth. "Y-Yes, sir." She felt as if she would burst from joy.
The judge wrote a few things in the file before closing it and handing it to the clerical assistant on his right. "Reset this case for one month. That should give Mr. Bradshaw enough time to draw up the adoption paperwork and Mr. Stratton to draw up the termination papers. Next case!"
Bella stood on wobbly legs and gathered her purse up before following her attorney out of the courtroom. She stood with him in the hallway, waiting for Edward, Dr. Cullen and her father. She looked to her left and saw James standing with his wife and son, his attorney obviously aggravated with him.
"– believe you weren't honest with me! You're lucky you weren't thrown in jail!" He pushed his thinning brown hair back absentmindedly.
"I'm sorry," James said so quietly that Bella had to strain to hear. "I didn't know what else to do. I was desperate."
Before she could stop herself, she was walking toward them. "James, can I talk to you for a minute?" she asked softly.
He would not meet her eyes. "Uh… I guess." He looked at his wife uncertainly.
She waited for a moment before speaking again. While her nerves were jagged, she took a deep breath and forced herself to smile at the woman standing beside him, not wanting them to know how nervous she was. "Hi. I'm Bella. And you are…?"
The woman looked at her shocked. "I-I'm Victoria Taylor."
Bella smiled at the young boy in her arms. He looked chronically ill. "And this must be Caleb?"
James looked at her warily. "Yes, it is."
The more she talked, the stronger she felt, so she kept going. "When was he diagnosed with leukemia?" she asked. She felt, rather than saw, Edward walk up and stand behind her. The warmth of his hand on her shoulder was reassuring.
"A year ago. He's been through three different chemotherapy treatments, but none of them worked. The doctors say a bone marrow transplant is his only chance. Without it, he'll probably die within six months."
Bella looked at James and Victoria and felt nothing but compassion. She understood how it felt to know such a terrible fear. She knew how it felt to be so helpless while wanting nothing more than to move mountains to save your child. "I'm sorry," she said simply, and she meant it. This was nothing she would wish on her worst enemy – who was actually standing right in front of her.
James shrugged. "I guess I deserve this after what I did to you."
She stared up at him shocked and felt the pressure of Edward giving her a squeeze. "I-I don't…" She trailed off, not sure what to say. "No… No one deserves this, James," she said stoutly.
He looked up at her with surprise on his face. Suddenly, his face paled.
Bella turned around at the sound of her father approaching. "Everything all right, Bells?" Charlie asked coldly, staring at James.
She saw his right hand twitch toward his belt where his service gun always was when he was in uniform. She was grateful he was in civilian clothing today. "Everything's fine, Dad. Don't worry." She jerked her head slightly, trying to tell him to go back to the other end of the hallway.
Charlie continued to glare at James. "You sure, honey?"
"Yes," she replied, slightly exasperated.
"Okay," he growled. "But I'm right down here if you need me."
She smiled at him slightly. "Okay, thanks, Dad."
Charlie gave James one last drop-dead look before he turned and walked back down the hall to stand with Evan. Bella could feel his gaze on her, and she tried to control the flush that she knew would color her face.
"Sorry about that," she mumbled. She smiled softly at Caleb and melted a bit when he gave her a shy grin back. It was not his fault his father was a total jackass.
"'S'okay," James murmured. "I figured it would be much worse." He took a deep breath and straightened up to look her in the eye. "Bella, I really am sorry about everything. I know I'll never be able to convince you of that, but I am."
Bella was taken aback by his seemingly genuine apology. She felt tears prick her eyelids as a plethora of emotions all rushed to the surface, so she just nodded and tried to get her raging emotions under control. After a few moments, she spoke. "Were you serious in there? About signing your rights over?"
He nodded. "I just don't know what else to do. I won't be able to pay for Caleb's treatment if I have to start paying you child support, and I know that sound awful, but it's the truth. I know what that makes me, but if it saves Caleb, I don't care what anyone thinks of me," he said in a rush.
"I know," she said, surprising everyone, especially herself. "I know how it feels to be willing to do anything to save your son. I feel the same way about Matthew, and I've almost lost him several times."
"Will you agree to it, Bella? I promise, I won't cause any more trouble for you and Matthew. I'll disappear from the face of the Earth, and you'll never hear a word out of me again."
Bella bit her lower lip and looked at him thoughtfully. She turned her head and looked up into Edward's emerald green eyes. Then, before she could stop herself, she turned back to James and said, "No."
"Bella?" Edward asked sharply. "What are you doing?"
James blanched. "Bella…please…"
"No, I don't want you to disappear. Caleb is Matthew's brother, and I want him to have the opportunity to get to know him." She had been thinking about this ever since she had learned about James's younger son, and when she spoke the words, she realized she meant them.
She ignored her father's look of astonishment from down the hallway and gave James a hard look. "I accept your offer to terminate your rights. I know that will make it easier on everyone, but I am not going to be the person to keep Matthew away from his only biological sibling."
Victoria looked at her with wide eyes and clutched Caleb tighter.
James opened and closed his mouth several times before speaking. "Bella… I-I know what you're saying, but Caleb is out of options and doesn't have more than six months…" His voice broke, and he blinked back tears.
"He has to have a bone marrow transplant," she said matter-of-factly.
He nodded. "Yes, but now that Matthew can't be a donor, we're out of options. This was our last hope."
Bella looked back at Edward briefly before reaching back and squeezing his hand. "I'll do it. I'll be his donor."
End Notes: So Bella has had a sudden change of heart it seems… You all didn't really think she would be so heartless as to let a poor child suffer, did you? She just has a lot of anger toward James to work through, but she's made great progress! And if you are wondering about James, having to deal with a terminally ill child will change your perspective about everything, so maybe we can cut him a break… Of course, Edward could still give him a good punch in the nose! What do you think?