A/N:

Huge love, thanks, & schmexy Edward texts to the dynamic beta duo, without whom, I wouldn't sound as smart as I do: Mel/mcc101180 & itsange.


Chapter 15:
Driving Miss Tessie

BPOV

It was about twenty past twelve when I finally staggered in the door, dropping my purse and keys on the kitchen counter, not even caring that my bag fell in the sink of dirty dishes. I had to be up at five to get ready for work, although, I could probably push it to five-thirty if I just wiped down in the sink and put my hair up instead of taking a shower. Even as I thought it, I knew I'd never do it. I smelled like "bar" and needed to wash the stench of cigarette smoke out of my hair before I could set foot in a client's house.

With heavy limbs, I stripped out of my clothes and crawled under my blankets completely naked – I was too damn dog-tired to care about how embarrassed I'd be about that otherwise – and rationalized that I was that much more ready for my shower in the morning this way.

It seemed like mere seconds later when the alarm's irritating blaring set my brain afire like a gasoline drenched railroad spike had been hammered into my head, but I obediently crawled – almost literally – out of bed and into the bathroom to get ready. I must have blacked out, because the next thing I was consciously aware of was getting behind the wheel of my car and praying the eighth of a tank of gas I had was enough to get to and from Tessie's and then into town to pick up and cash my paycheck. I was oh so thankful that today was pay day but was seriously considering using said check to hire someone to beat the shit out of Edward for having kept me out so fucking late.

Another chunk of time dangerously disappeared from my consciousness, and I was walking through the door, almost plowing over Gail, in the process. She was one of the overnight caregivers – she shared duty with a sour-faced older lady named Marcela who always smelled like pickles, garlic, and tuna – and was the one who had taught me some of my new texting lingo. I jumped back, suddenly wide awake and alert.

"Fucking … sorry, Gail. I didn't know you were still here."

She raised a single – amused? – brow at me and looked over my shoulder. I turned and saw what she was silently pointing out to me: her giant-ass SUV parked where I normally would have landed my rusty UFO.

Um … was that there when we got here?

Damned if I know, but I would assume so.

"Oh, yeah." I blew off my embarrassment with a chuckle as I came in and shut the door. "So, is she awake yet?"

Gail rolled her eyes while putting on her jacket and wrapping a thin, colorful, knitted scarf around her neck several times. "Woke up at four-thirty this morning and has been causing trouble ever since." She had started to exit while talking but turned back and smirked at me. "But she's your problem now. I hope you're full of energy today!" Then she was gone, and I was alone with an, apparently, hyperactive ninety-plus-year-old. Fuck my life sideways on a broken pogo stick.

With a sigh of resignation, I straightened my shoulders and breezed into Tessie's room with a bright smile firmly in place. She was sitting up in bed, a fairly large book propped up on several pillows in her lap. I was taken aback momentarily at how serene she looked. Certainly not the hundred pound ball of "fun" I'd been expecting, but I wasn't gonna complain. I needed a "quiet" day.

"Good morning, Sneaker," I enthused.

She inclined her head to look at me over the top of her glasses. "You look like shit, girl," she deadpanned, then cackled and went back to reading her book.

Great! It was going to be one those days. I sighed wearily but kept my perma-faux-grin in place.

"And you look absolutely lovely, too. Now, do you want eggs or oatmeal for breakfast before I start a load of laundry?"

"Neither, actually; food can wait. I, however, have been waiting four days to find out how things went on your date with that charming – and very lickably handsome – doctor friend of yours ..." my gob smacked gasp and "deer in the headlights" look was met with a sinister chortle "… and I'm not waiting a moment longer."

We ended up compromising: she let me get her out of bed and dressed, and I let her sit in the kitchen with me. I cooked the cheesy grits and turkey sausage she finally agreed to eat – but only if I talked – and replayed the last several days for her. She found my teasing, flirting antics to be hilarious and wasn't the least bit surprised that they had driven Edward to stealing a kiss or five. My running away, however, garnered me a stern glare and rap on the forearm with her butter knife as I sat beside her folding dishcloths.

"I could report you for caregiver abuse, ya know?" I couldn't keep the giggle out of my voice. We both knew I'd never do any such thing.

"Whatever, child. It was a foolish thing you did by running off and worrying him like that; I hope you apologized to that young man."

I rolled my eyes, but smiled, nodded, and proceeded to tell her about the rest of the night, the texting the next day, and the picnic on Monday. I edited here and there, not telling her the full Jared story, but I did tell about asking him if he was married and even confessed to my freak-out on the phone where I called him by Jared's name.

"Well, I'm glad your Dr. Cullen isn't married," she declared indignantly. "That would be very awkward at your wedding if his wife suddenly appeared."

The sound of me choking on the sip of coffee I'd just taken was drowned out by her obnoxious guffaws. I'd just finished regaining the ability to breathe again when she'd settled down, but I wished she were still laughing because in the next breath, she was chastising me – complete with a wagging finger.

"I don't know what's going on in the pretty little head of yours, Bella, but your man had every right to get irate with you for calling him by another man's name. It's not just sex where that's a no-no, honey. The male ego is a fragile and delicate thing, m'dear, never forget that!" She tweaked my cheek, nodded sagely, and winked, then picked up the weather section of the paper off the table. "Now, what else happened?"

As I sat about starting a load of clothes and cutting up the vegetables for the stew I was making in her crock pot, I told her about my new Tuesday client – vaguely, of course – and Edward's not-so-little temper tantrum when he couldn't get a hold of me. Tessie agreed that Mrs. Quin's son was, as she put it, "a dunder-headed ninny-hammer," but thought Edward acted adorably besotted.

By ten o'clock, I'd given Tessie an extremely abridged version of last night's escapades, gotten her bathed and redressed – those two activities having happened simultaneously – and was just getting settled on the sofa to fold the clothes I'd washed during breakfast. After her bath, Sneaker had decided she wanted to watch some television while working on the crossword puzzle from that Sunday's newspaper, so the couch had seemed the best place to set up my little folding station of sorts. She was happily watching Drew Carey call people down to be the next contestant, and I had just reached in to grab some socks when my phone buzzed loudly in my pocket.

"There's Doctor Sexy Mouth again, dear," Tessie chimed happily without raising her head, but I could still see her smirk as I fished my phone out.

Edward had texted me at about seven to make sure I made it to work alright and to tell me good morning, but he'd had to jump in the shower and get ready to go himself, so I hadn't heard from him since then. I quickly flipped my phone open, not even bothering to hide my smile when I saw his words.

I'm glad you're having such a good morning, love. Sorry, I didn't reply sooner. Emmett crashed the charting system this morning, though he denies doing anything wrong, & it's been chaos here. ~E

My giggle drew a questioning glance from Tessie, who erupted into laughter so hard it shook her entire body and caused a severe coughing spell. I jumped up and ran to fetch her inhaler for her, wrapping her hand around it so she could dispense the two puffs herself – I wasn't licensed to dispense medication, only to assist the client with proper administration when needed.

"I like that Dr. Emmett; he's a real character," she declared with a snicker. "I think I might just have to switch to him as my primary doctor."

I agreed. Emmett had far more personality, patience, and general concern for Tessie as a human than Dr. Biers ever had, and I made a mental note to be sure to leave comments in the notes for her family so they could make the necessary arrangements.

Now that the excitement of a few moments ago was over, the adrenaline that had coursed through my veins, waking me up and enabling me to perform my job, had washed away. I felt even more worn and thinly stretched than I had before, but I still had a good five and a half hours left on my shift. Knowing there wasn't much else I could do, I went back to folding clothes and trading flirty texts with Edward – we were in an okay place, so I saw no reason not to have a little fun – while Sneaker flipped to some documentary on concrete on The History Channel and continued to work on her puzzle.

~BB&B~

EPOV

I'd been home all of forty-five seconds, not even enough time to set the security alarm, when there was a quiet, but insistent rap on the door. Who the hell was knocking at … I glanced at my watch … ten-to-one in the morning? I put my eye to the peephole and ripped the door open so fast that I nearly didn't get my face out of the way before the heavy wood slammed into it. Standing on my front step, wringing her hands in agitation and fidgeting from foot to foot, was Rosalie. Screeching alarms started going off in my head.

"What's wrong, Rose?" I asked frantically, fear gripping my heart. I continued in a panicky rush before she even had a chance to do more than open her mouth. "Is it Bree? Emmett? Who is hurt, and have you called nine-one-one yet? Is there blood? Are they stable? Never mind …" I spastically waved my hand in dismissal "… I'll assess them when I get there. Just let me grab my–"

She jumped across the space, one hand grabbing my upper arm to keep me from turning away, and the other one clamping tightly over my mouth.

"Edward, stop. No one's hurt or injured."

I instantly relaxed, the knowledge that no one was in need of immediate medical attention having sapped me of my burst of energy and left me irritated. It wasn't my intention to snap at her, but I was exhausted, and this long-ass day had left my nerves frayed and raw.

Ripping her hand from my mouth and flinging it away, I snarled, "If everyone is alive and healthy, why, for fuck's sake, are you on my doorstep at one in the morning?"

She went back to her very un-Rosalie-like nervous twitching and finger wringing, and as I watched her, I noticed what she was wearing. Growling, I grabbed her by her upper arm and yanked her inside, casting a furtive glance around to make sure no one had seen my daft sister-in-law standing at my door in nothing but a knee length, strappy nighty and a pair of fuzzy slippers before soundly shutting the door.

"For the love of all that's fucking holy, Rose, have you lost your damn mind? You know that gossip whore, Mrs. Friegle, across the street would just love to tell all her afternoon Bridge Club about you traipsing around the neighborhood in your pajamas."

"That nosy old bitch has never liked me."

I raised my eyebrows and threw my arms in wide, opposite arcs as if to say, "Thank you, Captain Obvious, for making my point for me." The uncharacteristic blush that stole over her cheeks let me know she fully understood my gesture, and I took pity on her, sweeping my hand out to indicate she should precede me into the den.

We walked in, and I immediately settled into my favorite armchair, Rosalie taking the cushion nearest me on the adjacent loveseat. I leaned forward, my elbows resting on my knees, and my hands hanging limply between them, staring at her. When she just kept flicking her eyes around the room, everywhere but to me, I felt compelled to prompt her.

"So, are we gonna do this? Or are we waiting for my half-naked brother to join us?" I smirked as I went in for the money shot, the one that would let her know I wasn't angry but that she should start talking. "Because, you know, Rosie, I've never really been in to threesomes."

Her head snapped up, her jaw dropped open, and her eyes widened to the point that it had to be painful. She held that expression for all of a half a second before she threw her head back and started laughing uproariously. She then proved why she was the perfect mate for my ape of a brother.

"As if you could handle everything I have without another man helping you."

Eventually our mutual chuckles over my inappropriate humor settled, and she relaxed back into the sofa, the ice having been broken.

"I'm sorry I scared you, showing up the way I did, but I couldn't sleep until I'd apologized for what I did earlier tonight."

I slumped back in the chair, her verbal punch making me quickly release all my breath in a single gusted groan. I had been afraid this was why she had risked becoming the neighborhood scandal of the week after she reassured me it wasn't a medical emergency. This wasn't something I wanted to discuss right now, and I felt the tension throbbing through my head. It wasn't that I felt she shouldn't apologize, more like, I wasn't in the mood to hear it when my and Bella's fight was still so fresh, the barely healed wounds still ragged and raw.

Sitting up wearily, I swiped a single hand down my face, feeling the day's worth of stubble I probably wouldn't bother shaving off before work in the morning. My elbows found their way back to my knees as I ran that same hand through my hair to scratch at my neck and sighed.

"Rosalie, I–"

"Edward, please …" she dropped to her knees, placing both of her hands on one of mine and beseeching me with her enormous blue eyes "… just let me explain, okay?"

I was really uncomfortable with her – given her attire, and the fact that she was my sister-in-law – in that position, but reasoned that at least she wasn't directly in front of me, and waved her on.

She smiled sheepishly and plunged right in, sounding more like Alice as she rushed through her speech. "I didn't know, okay? I mean, that's really no excuse, because even if I had known that you hadn't told Bella about Irina …" she smacked me on my closest arm "… by the way, why didn't you tell her?"

I simply glared as my answer, and she swallowed thickly, plunking her ass down on her heels as she did so.

"Right; it's none of my business, and so not the point! At any rate, even if she had known, what I said was rude, crass, tacky, and otherwise disrespectful to you, Irina, and especially to Bella." She scooted a bit closer to me, to where she was practically hugging my knee, and her voice took on a pleading edge, almost a whimper. "You have to know how sorry I am. I just got carried away with the adult conversation, Edward. I know you know what it's like to have no one but an infant for company for hours – days in your case – on end."

I sagged in defeat, because I did remember those times when the twins were still so tiny, and my family would come and visit me after it'd been just me and the babies for several days. I would be so fucking happy to see another human who could hold their head up on their own that I would babble on incessantly about the stupidest shit on Earth – sometimes embarrassing myself in the process. I stood up and moved over to the small sofa, tugging her up as I went then pulling her down beside me to rest against my side, my arm around her shoulders.

"It's alright, Rose … honest." I kissed the top of her head and felt all the nervous tension drain out of her shoulders. "And you're right, I do remember acting like an ass whenever someone who didn't drool, or even Emmett …" she giggled, my joke relaxing her even further, just as I knew it would "… would come to visit. So, yes, I forgive you."

"Thank you." She sighed in relief and hugged me tightly around the waist.

We just sat there quietly for a while, but never being one to like "warm fuzzy" moments, she sat up and moved so that her back was to the upholstered arm behind her and tucking her legs under her as she leaned against the plush back.

"I take it since you forgave me, and you're not being an emo bastard right now, that your talk went well?"

My head thumped back, and I scrubbed both hands over my tired face several times, wishing more than anything I could just fast forward past this little chat and go to fucking bed. I dropped my hands into my lap and turned my head toward her, a wry smile barely moving my lips.

"Yeah, so I guess I should be the one thanking you."

She cocked her head to the side and furrowed her brow. "Why would you thank me for making an utter ass of myself?"

"Because I'd been being a fucking coward, telling her how much I loved her and asking her to trust me, but never laying my own cards on the table for her to accept or reject, and your comment forced the issue." She started to open her mouth, but I already knew what she was going to say, and I held my hand up to forestall her. "I know … I know! If I truly loved her, I shouldn't have had to be pushed in to admitting something that I'm honestly not ashamed of. We've got some work to do." I saw her bottom lip twitch again. "Yes, I said 'we.' Bella's not without her own baggage, I'll have you know. But we're going to work on it."

She leaned forward and patted my leg like it was a dog that'd just "done good" and left it there, a genuine smile playing at the corners of her mouth. "I'm glad I didn't ruin your shot at true happiness, Edward." Her eyes took on a sentimental gleam. "I mean, we all love Irina – she's a real firecracker, and a hoot to have around – but she never made you smile as wide as Bella did tonight, or for so long that we were afraid your face was going to stick that way. She never made you act all goofy and giddy and girly at just the mention of her name. And she definitely never inspired you to look at her as if she were the only thing keeping you alive. Bella does all of that for you, and more, I think."

I treated her to the aforementioned silly smile and sheepishly nodded my head.

"Then I'm glad I forced you to talk to her. I don't know what baggage you're talking about, and I don't want to know …"

I cast a dubious look her way.

"Okay, so I do …" we both chuckled, because Rosalie was just as nosy and salacious about gossip as Mrs. Friegle – only not in a vicious way "… but whatever it is you two have to work through, do it. I saw the way she looked at you tonight too, and if she's not already in love with you, she soon will be. Just remember, though, love worth fighting for isn't meant to be easy."

It was my turn to wear the perplexed, cock-eyed expression, prompting her laugh deeply.

"I know that sounds ass backward, but it's true. You know the phrase 'easy come, easy go'?"

I nodded, sort of starting to see where she was going with this.

"Well, that applies in spades to love. If it comes to you too easily, and you never have to work for it, then it's easy to take it for granted and let it go." In a roundabout way, that actually made sense. "But love that's worth having is worth the hard work in the end. So … is she worth fighting for, Edward?"

I didn't even have to think about my answer. "Yes."

She patted my leg again, tilted forward to place a quick kiss on my cheek, and then pushed herself up off the couch. "Then my big nosed, interfering work here is done."

I followed her to the door, giving her another hug and thanking her yet again, and made sure to turn both locks and set the security system before climbing the stairs woodenly and collapsing fully clothed on top of my bed at just past three. I didn't remember setting the alarm, but I must have because it started blaring at me at seven o'clock. Groaning, I rolled over and smashed my hand down on it, possibly breaking it – not really giving a shit about that.

My phone was still in my pants, so I took it out and, after checking to make sure I hadn't pocket dialed anyone in my sleep, fired off a quick text to Bella.

Good morning, beautiful. =X ~E
I wish I could've been there to give you that kiss in person. I would hope my lips on your neck would be better than your alarm clock. ;) ~E
I hope you managed to get some sleep and made it safely to work. Getting ready to shower and head off to the salt mines. Have a great day, & I'll talk to you later. ~E

I plugged my phone in to get a quick charge and schlepped my way into the bathroom to clean up. The pounding spray of my massaging showerhead went a long way to working some of the kinks out of my stiff neck and shoulders and managed to bring a bit of alertness to my sluggish brain. Just as I had predicted, I didn't feel like shaving and left the hint of stubble on my face. If anyone had a problem with it, they could kiss my exhausted ass. Besides, weren't women always swooning over those actor guys with the five o'clock shadow, or who looked a bit scruffy? Who was that one guy all the women at the grocery store lusted after when he was on the cover of the tabloids? Bob? Todd? Rod? Whatever; if he could get away with it, then so could this Joe Schmoe.

When I went to the nightstand to get my phone, after having gotten dressed for the day, I saw that Bella had texted me back. I felt that giddy tingle Rosalie had mentioned flutter through my gut as I touched the little message bubble on my phone.

LOL Yes, your lips would've been much more pleasant to wake up to. ~B
I made it to work in one piece and, so far, am having a good morning. Thank you for the kiss, btw. =X ~B

I wanted to text something playful back, but a look at the clock showed me it was going on eight, and I had a full patient load today. I stuffed my phone and wallet into various pockets, grabbed my keys and suit jacket, and bounded down the stairs. I made it to work with just a few minutes to spare and was still shrugging into my white coat – the gray one that matched my pants having been carelessly flung somewhere in my office as I grabbed this one off the hook just inside the door – as Maggie was handing me the info paper on my first patient.

My first three appointments were all first check-ups for babies who I had cared for in the NICU, and despite the intense stress of such visits – it was always sad to have to send a baby back to the hospital – I was always excited when I was able to give my NICU kids a clean bill of health. The relieved sighs and near tears of joy on the parts of the parents – especially the dads – never failed to make me smile. All three of this morning's babies went home with smiling parents, and I enjoyed the contact high their happiness gave me – until I went out to the nurses' station to find a frantic Maggie practically pulling her hair out by the roots and Katie stomping around behind her muttering, "I told him not to touch it. But does he listen? No, of course he doesn't."

I cautiously approached the two women, not eager to earn their wrath – this place couldn't function if the nurses revolted. "Dare I ask?"

Two sets of burning eyes whipped toward me at my softly spoken question. Maggie started to answer, but Katie apparently needed to work off a bit more frustration because she started ranting right away, jumping in to answer me before Maggie could even finish opening her mouth.

"Your impatient, asshole brother decided that since he had a break between patients, he was going to be 'helpful' …" wow, those were some damn angry air quotes "… and enter the previous patient's information into the charting system while I restocked the gloves in room seven. I told him it would only take me a minute, but could he wait? No! And now the system is down, we can't pull any information without running to the other end of the building to D Pod, Jessica can't get the tech guys on the phone, and Emmett is hiding somewhere in the building but isn't answering his phone or pager."

Before she was even half done, my arms were folding onto the counter so that I could slam my head into them repeatedly. This was the third time – in as many months no less – that Emmett had crashed C Pod's system. The entire clinic was linked into a master back-up server via a hub, but each pod had their own server that operated autonomously so that in situations like this, if one pod went down, the others could still function. Several months ago, we had switched to a new system, and everyone took a two hour tutorial course on how to use it – everyone except Emmett that is. He never got around to doing it, and thus, was banned from inputting information until he had, but when had Em ever done what he was supposed to?

An hour later, the system was back online, the nurses had cancelled their revolt, Emmett had been chewed out by me, Dad, Mom, and half the staff, his patients had been shifted to Doctors Biers and Langley for the remainder of the morning, and he was shut in our shared office … taking the fucking tutorial! We never did figure out what he did to take it down in the first place, and I didn't really care. All that mattered was that it was over, and I finally had two fucking seconds to reply to my girl.

I'm glad you're having such a good morning, love. Sorry, I didn't reply sooner. Emmett crashed the charting system this morning, though he denies doing anything wrong, & it's been chaos here. ~E

I'm sorry to hear that your morning has sucked. =( D'ya want me to rough 'im up a bit for you? I took you down, I'm sure I could take him. =P ~B

Baby, the LAST thing I want to imagine you doing with that tongue hanging out is "taking down" my chimp-ass brother. ~E

Ok, no "taking" of the brother, gotcha! So … ummmm … what would be the FIRST thing you'd want to do with this =P ~B

Hmmm … baby, wouldn't you like to know! ;P ~E

No fair bringing out your own tongue out to play! =( ~B
Should I just start naming body parts you'd like my tongue on or in? Or are you going to tell me? *batting eyelashes* ~B

*stern glare* I'll have you know you caused a VERY embarrassing situation for me right before I had to go examine a 10 month old baby. ~E

Aww … poor baby, want me to =P it and make it better?

Love, don't tease me … you don't know what you do to me. ~E

Then perhaps I should start by letting you have my tongue in your mouth. Would you like that?

You're making me sweat here, but yes. I can still taste your kisses from last night, and, baby, you're fucking DELICIOUS! ~E

Where else am I delicious?

Everywhere … fucking everywhere! ~E

Nah-uh, you have to TELL me where you want to put your tongue. Or better yet, where you want me to put mine.

Hmmm … there're so many places on you I can't wait for my tongue to explore, so many pleasures I can't wait to share with you. You always taste and feel soooo good, baby. ~E

Where do you want to explore first?

LOL I'm already well acquainted with your luscious lips, but wouldn't mind starting there. ~E
Then I'd like to move down and finally get a peek and a taste of your tantalizing breasts. ~E
Would you like that, love. Do you want my lips and tongue wrapped around your nipples? God, baby, is it 4 yet? I need to taste you again! ~E

And where should MY tongue be during all of this?

We'd been at this for almost two hours now, and it was getting hard to concentrate. Of course, that might be because all the blood had vacated my brain down in my rock hard cock for the last two hours. I knew we'd parted on better terms last night – she'd let me hold and kiss her for the longest time after our talk – before she left, and I went about my usual post-Bella-date activities, but I had no idea she would revert to our text flirting … and with a renewed gusto, at that! I wasn't complaining, but something didn't feel quite right.

~BB&B~

BPOV

A soft chuckle floated to me from beyond the blackness engulfing me. Blackness? That didn't seem right. Wasn't I at work? I struggled to push beyond the heavy blanket impairing most of my senses as another mischievous giggle tickled my ears. Who was that laughing?

I managed to pry one of my eyelids open just a crack, finally having figured out I must have fallen asleep while folding the laundry. The pajama top draped across my limp hand was testimony to that conclusion. But that didn't explain the laughter that had suddenly stopped. Ugh. I hated when I fell asleep sitting up, everything hurt. I moaned in pain as I moved my stiff neck and succeeded in getting my other eye to open at my command.

"Oh good, you're awake! You've been out for about two hours now."

Two hours? Great. I hoped my supervisor didn't stage a surprise inspection during that time, and I started looking around me for the giant "You're fired," note I'm sure would accompany such a disastrous visit.

"By the way, your boyfriend is a naughty, naughty boy with a filthy mouth."

She immediately burst into great fits of belly laughter as I sprang up and snatched the phone I had just noticed was in her hands from her. I quickly scrolled back through the texting history and started reading from the last text I knew for certain I had sent, feeling as though my head was going to spin off into another dimension with each new message I read.

"Oh … my … God. Sneaker!"


A/N:

Oh my goodness! Hehehehehehehe Send me some love, & I'll send a little back to you! =P

As always, you can join me & my psychotically insomniac ass in causing mayhem and mischief by following (a)artemisleaena over on Twitter, or by friending artemisleaena(a)aol dot com over on that Facebook doo-hickey thang! =D