xxxxxxx

Bella came into the hospital extra early to visit Seth before starting her morning rounds. She raced to his room only to find an empty bed.

"Where is he?" she shouted.

The orderly paused from changing the sheets and turned around. "The little boy? He's gone. Passed sometime late last night."

"Seth," she cried. "His name was Seth."

She knew she had to be strong but couldn't hold back the tears any longer. The dam burst. She couldn't rope in her emotions anymore. She was drowning in a sea of pain and feared that no matter how hard she tried to resurface, she would be lost at sea. Just as she was about to fall apart, a pair of comforting arms swooped in around her, pulling her into a tight embrace. The sobs ripped through her and she hugged him tighter, holding onto the only life preserver in her life of sorrow.

"Shhh, Bella. It's okay, I'm here." She looked up at him and smiled through her tears.

"He's the only one who called me that...besides my mother." She choked back another cry. "I like the way it sounds when you say it."

"Bella," he whispered again, his chest suddenly feeling heavy.

"This is all my fault! If we didn't...he wouldn't..."

Edward interrupted her. "It's not your fault. You made him so happy but this would have happened, regardless. It's what God wanted."

She wormed her way out of his hold and took a few steps back, starring at him incredulously. "How can you say that? That beautiful, wonderful little boy is gone. Dead. This is what your God wanted, Edward?"

He didn't understand what he said wrong. He missed Seth already, but it was meant to be. It was his path, even though Edward didn't quite agree with God's intentions.

"I'm sorry." He walked back over to her and took her hands in his. "I wish very much that you could have saved him, but no amount of tears can ever fix anything..." He paused. "I promise you he's in a much better place. He is no longer suffering."

"He was just a boy," she cried. He merely nodded, unable to find the words. "How can you be so calm about this? I know you're upset because you loved him too. Say something...get angry! Cry! Scream!"

"I...I'm not very good at expressing emotions," he stuttered. "I'm okay..."

"No you're not." She squeezed his hand. "Come on. I want to take you somewhere."

As they drove in silence, reflecting on their loss, Bella decided to give a piece of herself to Edward. It was all she had to give.

"You know why I became a doctor?" she began. "Because I couldn't cut it as a dancer. After my mother died, all I wanted to do was make her happy. Some ridiculous part of me thought that maybe she was looking down on me from heaven, that if I made her proud then maybe I would get to see her again. So I trained for hours. I danced until my toes bled. And when I went to my audition at Julliard, I bombed. I fell apart on stage. After that, I decided I was done."

"She is very proud of you," Edward said quietly.

She just chuckled humorlessly.

Soon, they pulled into the dance studio's parking lot. Bella's CD was still in the player. As she pressed play, the sorrow filled voices of a man and a woman startled Edward, but he never stopped searching Bella's eyes. She stalked towards him and extended her hand as the tortured man sang, "I don't know you, but I want you."

He paused, looking at her hand and finally took it, following her to the center of the dance floor. She turned to face him, her eyes scanning the inhumanely beautiful features of his face. Everything about him is perfect, she thought, from his perfectly chiseled jaw line to his impervious eyes. She guided his arm to the proper position and grasped his hand. His other hand rested on the small of her back as she pulled herself closer to him.

"Just relax. Feel the music," she said.

They slowly started to sway as the music picked up. Before he realized it, they were gliding across the floor. She never took her eyes off of his. The little flecks of gold around his irises caught the dim lights of the studio. So much was hidden beneath those eyes, she longed to find out what exactly it was. Taking a few steps back, she twirled around so her back was pressed into his chest. His face was impossibly close to the back of her bare neck. She could feel his warm breath, causing her hairs to stand on end. Their eyes met in the mirror as the man continued to sing, "Falling slowly, eyes that know me and I can't go back."

Bella had spent the majority of her adult life building walls around her heart. She tried so hard not to become attached to anyone or anything because she knew how easy it could disappear. What she felt for Edward was so intense she wondered if it would be worth the fall.

She reached behind her and wrapped her hands around his neck, forcing them closer. She couldn't get close enough. Edward took his own hands and rested them on her abdomen, a surge of warmth shooting through her. Everything was falling apart and coming together at the same time. The life she knew, the cold, the distance, was crumbling around her feet as they danced. The hope of something better was blossoming inside her. He slowly traced his hand up her side, the crook of her neck and lingering behind her ear. Her cheeks were stained with tears, and he used the pad of his thumb to wipe them away. As Edward soothed her silently with his touch, the singer soothed her with his words. "You have suffered enough and warred with yourself. It's time that you won."

The song ended and they stood still, so close that it was burning hot where they touched. She was afraid of the unbidden pull she felt for him, but she didn't have it in her to resist anymore. When her eyes darted from his eyes to his lips, she gasped, Edward felt like his whole body started humming with some intangible current. The control he had over it was slipping with every second, giving in to curiosity and something else, something inconceivable but potent. His hands moved as if on their own volition, cupping her face.

She felt his hesitation—as if he's never kissed a woman, she thought. His beauty in such proximity was shocking and yet inviting; she found herself enveloped in his scent that made the need to taste him almost compelling. And she did it. Very slowly, holding her breath, she leaned in and softly pressed her lips to his.

It lasted barely a second before he pulled away, overwhelmed by the intensity of his own reaction. It was like a shot of some powerful drug, making his blood boil all over from his lips to the tips of his fingers. Too much and not enough.

"Sorry," he whispered. He didn't want to wound her, but he knew without reading her mind that he had.

"It's okay. Really. I understand." She stepped back, instantly regretting her weak moment. She shouldn't have let him into her world. She was wrong. Whatever it was that she felt during the dance was misplaced. She was emotional over Seth and let her guard down.

"No, you don't." His eyes shot up to hers. "I like you, Bella. But it's just...complicated."

There was no amount of words that would do any of it justice. Bella had changed his whole vision of the world, and he desperately wanted to give her something wonderful in return—something amazing, something that would change her own life, enrich it and make her smile. Ironically, the way he was made out of God's love for humans, he could guide and comfort them but not make them feel joyful and happy. It was beyond his abilities to give her the love that she deserved.

She pulled her bottom lip between her teeth and shook her head. Without saying a word, she turned away and practically stormed out of the room, leaving him standing there alone, completely and utterly lost.

He didn't follow her. He was supposed to make her feel better but somehow managed to hurt her instead and it upset him greatly. To distract himself, he decided to take up his obligations. Still overwhelmed after what just transpired, he reached the deserted post office in the outskirts of the city, opened his mailbox, and produced a stack of new assignments. He flipped through the papers, one by one, finding it hard to concentrate because his mind was elsewhere, until he reached the last sheet and froze, suddenly alert. His eyes must have been deceiving him; it couldn't be true. He didn't know if angels could hallucinate, but he was hoping with all his being that was the case.

He squeezed his eyes shut and opened them again. The words were still there. They didn't go away, the finality of black on white.

He had never felt so hopeless. His mind raced; he wanted to scream, to break something. He grabbed the mailbox, intending to tear it from the wall, when suddenly his arms were in a vice grip. He tried to break free, but it was pointless. There were two of them, dark figures, expressionless faces. The messengers.

"I wouldn't do that," a calm voice warned him.

They led him outside, holding him tight like he was a prisoner. A flashy Porsche with tinted windows was parked just around the corner. One of the messengers opened the door while the other pushed him inside. The car started a second before the door was closed behind him, gaining speed on the highway towards Olympia.

"He knew you would overreact," a clear voice to his left chimed. "So He asked me to make sure you won't do anything reckless."

"Why, Alice?" he gasped, turning to face her. "Why her? Is it because I felt something I'm not supposed to? Because I have overstepped my bounds? Is He trying to punish me?"

She hissed. "Don't be stupid. You know He doesn't punish anyone. Didn't it occur to you that this has nothing to do with you? That her time has just come?"

"But she's so young," he whispered. "So selfless, so kind... she deserves to live."

Alice nodded, her eyes trained on the road. "Did you ever happen to think that maybe she deserves something better than this life? That she deserves some peace?"

"I refuse to accept that answer," he spat. For the first time, he questioned his ability to do his job.

"This is why He asked me to bring you. He wants to talk to you."

He stared ahead of him, frozen. They were silent for a while; Edward tried to peek into Alice's thoughts but her mind was impenetrable as usual. The car made its way up the mountain, slowing down as it almost reached the top.

"You don't have to do it," Alice finally said. "But He assumed you'd want to."

"I want to." He suddenly realized that if there was one thing he could do for Bella, it was this and he just couldn't bear the thought of it being someone else.

"Great." Alice smiled wide. "I bet on you, by the way. And Edward, don't take it too hard on Jasper. He's just doing his job."

"Did you know it would end up this way?"

"Uh-huh."

"You should have warned me."

"Would it change anything if you knew?"

He didn't reply. The car came to a halt in front of a modest white house. "You should go," Alice said. "He doesn't like to wait."

Edward opened the door but paused with his hand on the handle, suddenly remembering something. "Alice, I met someone whose name is Carlisle. He asked me to say hi to you."

"I know."

"So it's true what he told me?"

"Every single word."

Edward nodded.

"Good luck," Alice whispered as his lean form retreated towards the house.

xxxxxxx

The following night, Bella couldn't sleep again. She kept replaying the scene from the dance studio in her head, feeling ashamed of her immature behavior. By the time the morning came, she was determined to talk to Edward and apologize. She was going to prove to him, and most of all to herself, that their relationship was strictly professional and it would be better for everyone if it stayed that way.

When she arrived at the hospital, he wasn't there yet. He didn't even appear by lunchtime. It was odd; she knew he was supposed to be there. By the end of the afternoon, she grew antsy and before going home, decided to go ask Carlisle.

She knocked tentatively on the hardwood door of his office.

"Come in," a soft voice said.

"Afternoon, Chief."

"Afternoon, Isabella." He smiled sincerely and motioned her to the chair in front of his desk. "What brought you here?"

She took a seat and her hands found the hem of her blouse. "I just wanted to ask about Edward. He didn't come to work today and I started to worry about him...and then I realized I don't have his number." She chuckled nervously. She hadn't felt so stupid since her high school days.

Carlisle sighed and put aside the papers he was reading. "I'm sorry to say that but Edward won't be coming back. His mission here is complete and he has returned home."

She cocked her head to the side. "Where is home? I don't understand. What do you mean 'mission'? I thought he was an intern and the program was fourteen weeks."

"Edward wasn't an ordinary intern." He prayed that she would at least try to understand what he was going to tell her without calling him a psycho. He took a breath. "He's not like the rest of us."

"What do you mean, not like us? I thought he was going to be a doctor." Something inside always told her he was different...but different was oddly comforting.

Carlisle imagined this talk would be hard, but he had no idea just how much. "You remember once I asked you if you believed in God?"

She nodded. "But what it has to do—"

"What would you say if I told you that God exists and Edward is one of his messengers?"

Bella snorted. "Are you kidding me? Very funny, Dr. Cullen. Ha-ha. And what was his so-called mission?"

He hated to say the words, but he had to. "It was the boy, Seth. Edward came after him."

"Don't." She got up abruptly, pushing the chair with a loud squeak. "How can you joke about that?" Her look was pained. She came to find some support, but he was being cynical and cryptic with her instead.

Carlisle shook his head. "I'm not joking."

"I don't believe you," she snapped, turning to leave. She had nothing left to do here in this office, in this hospital, in this city. She was done with cruelty.

"Some things are true whether you believe in them or not," he said softly. The loud banging of the door was the only reply he got.

Bella didn't remember how she got home. Choking on her tears, she thought about Carlisle. She trusted him and now she felt betrayed. She was glad she hadn't unpacked yet; it was easier to move, even if she didn't know where she was going yet, it would be somewhere far from here.

She started pacing across the room, Carlisle's words still ringing in her ears. It was a complete nonsense but for some reason she couldn't get them out of her head. Always a rational being, she didn't believe things she could not see. But as her thoughts returned to Edward, she was confused again. He was too good to be real. She assumed he was shy, but what if... Leave it to me, she thought bitterly, the only guy I am interested in isn't even a guy. He isn't even human.

She shivered as she suddenly remembered the creepy feeling that someone had been watching her... It can't be true, she kept telling herself. But what if it was? What if it was him? What if God really existed? Frustration was grabbing a hold of her and there was only one person that could give her the answers she needed.

She stopped by the window, impassively watching the raindrops rolling down in intricate rivulets. It was dark outside and no matter how hard she tried to make out the familiar ghostly silhouette, she failed.

"Come to me," she whispered, tracing the patterns the rain had drawn on the cool glass with her fingers. "Let me see you. Please. I need to talk to you."

She held her breath, straining to hear any indication that she wasn't alone in the room. There was none.

She sighed and it suddenly occurred to her that he might be waiting for her in a different place—the place where she had left him.

She turned abruptly, grabbed her car keys from the rack, and rushed out of her house into the raging storm.

What she didn't know was that he was there. He was always there and this time was no different.

xxxxxxx

Tyler Crowley was driving home from work in his "new" old car. It was raining hard and the traffic was heavy, so he decided to use a different route. He only had his driver's license for a month and he didn't know this part of the town well, so he kept the speed low, watching out for the road signs to indicate that he was going the right way. Invisible to him, Jasper shifted uncomfortably in the passenger seat.

The whole situation annoyed Tyler because he was tired after work and just wanted to get home. It was too late when he realized that he missed the right turn; he cursed and grabbed the map. His hands left the wheel for a second, but it was more than enough time for his car to lose grip of the slippery road and shift to the lane of the oncoming traffic. Hating what he was doing, Jasper grasped the wheel, saving his charge from an inevitable head-on collision with an oak tree.

Bella turned the stereo volume to the max, because it numbed her senses, and drummed her fingers on the wheel in a life-long habit of beating time. She turned onto the narrow road and noticing it was empty, except for the one car coming in the opposite direction, stepped on the gas.

The blow was so sudden the she didn't have time to process what was going on. In no time at all, her small car spun around uncontrollably, hit the telephone pole, and finally stopped.

The pain was everywhere; it felt like there wasn't a single cell of her body that wouldn't ache. She wanted to scream but she couldn't find her voice. And then she was dying. She had stared death in the face so many times that she knew it so well. In the back of her mind, a voice told her to fight but she dismissed it. She was so tired and all she wanted was some rest. She wasn't afraid of the death; she even welcomed it as deliverance from all the pain—the physical pain she felt now and the pain of her soul that accompanied her through the years.

She heard distant voices, grinding of metal, ambulance sirens, but it was so quiet compared to her own hammering, frantic heartbeat, getting louder and faster with each second. Thud, thud, thud...

And then there was silence.

Suddenly the pain was gone and when she opened her eyes, she found herself standing in a very strange place. It looked like a meadow, the bright sun shining upon the green grass sprinkled with thousands of flowers. It wasn't hot but comfortably warm and very peaceful and quiet. It was the most wonderful dream she had ever had.

"Bella." The familiar musical voice called. She looked around her in amazement and gasped as she saw him. Her memory didn't pay him justice; he was breathtakingly, flawlessly beautiful and what shocked her the most—he had wings. It took her a second to take in his new attire and she found that these unusually pale clothes suited him even better than the casual things he used to wear to the hospital.

"Is this real?" she asked.

"Yes."

"So you are..." she struggled for a word. "...An angel."

"Yes."

She looked into his eyes; they were immensely sad. It surprised her; she used to think angels weren't supposed to cry, but she wasn't sure about her notions anymore. "And this place is..."

A faint smile finally lighted up his features. "You can call it whatever you like." He held out and took her hand, sending familiar tingles across her skin. "Let's go. There's someone waiting for you."

They walked together, holding hands, and even though Bella had a thousand questions, they suddenly became irrelevant. She heard the distant sounds of music, more beautiful than anything she heard before. Finally, they reached the intricate fence, behind which stood an apple tree garden in bloom, and stopped by the gate. There, among the trees, she saw white swings. A lone figure in white sat on the swings with his back to them so Bella couldn't see his face but everything about him was suddenly familiar and dear. She pressed her hand to her mouth because she understood. She wanted to cry but there were no tears so she just choked back the sob and turn to face Edward. He was smiling sheepishly.

Without saying a word, he released her hand and opened the gate. She made two hesitant steps and noticed that he hadn't moved. "Aren't you coming?" she asked, confused.

He shook his head. "I haven't deserved that."

"Have I? I didn't believe in God."

"It doesn't matter. He loves you all the same."

Bella nodded. She suddenly realized it was time to say good bye and she didn't want to let him go.

"May I ask you something?" His melodic voice carried the trace of melancholy.

"Sure."

"What did you like best in your life?"

She didn't think for a second because she knew the answer. "You."

If he were in his human form, his artificial heart would break into thousand pieces. He wasn't supposed to feel anything as an angel, but something deep inside of him hurt nonetheless as he thought he would never see her again. The longing to be with her, to give her all he could, all the love he suddenly realized he had, overfilled him.

And then he knew.

He knew if there was just a glimmer of hope, no matter how small the chance that he would deserve to see her again, he had to take it. He would try his best, and then maybe...

He smiled again and it seemed to her she saw a tear rolling down his perfect face. And then the pulled her into an embrace so warm that it felt like she was dissolving into him. She didn't feel regret or sorrow anymore, only the desire to stay wrapped in his arms forever.

She felt loved.

xxxxxxx

Seven years later

A shiny silver Volvo pulled into the staff parking lot of Seattle Children's Hospital. The driver stopped the car but didn't turn off the ignition until the last notes of the music track stopped resounding. He inhaled deeply, letting the smell of new leather fill his nostrils. He chose this car because of its safety but it also suited his tendency to surround himself with things that pleased his senses.

He grabbed his briefcase and his Starbucks cup and stepped outside. It was chilly and he shivered, cursing himself for not bringing a jacket. Winter started early this year and he was too absorbed with work to notice it.

He made his way down the hallway, stopping a few times to shake hands with his co-workers and giving mysterious half-smiles in return to the women's always too enthusiastic greetings. He didn't particularly like the attention, but he tried his best to be friendly with his peers.

"Morning, Mrs. Cope," he addressed the receptionist in a soft, melodic voice. "My first appointment is at eight thirty and I'd like to see the Patient and Family Information form."

He looks tired, she thought. He's working too much. Does he even sleep? Hmm, what I wouldn't give to see him in other color than black...

"Good morning," she said aloud. "Are you ever going to bring that dog of yours again to visit? The kids really loved him."

He smiled kindly and nodded. Proceeding to the window of his office, he opened the Venetian blinds. He stood there for a while, watching the morning sun paint the sky in a thousand shades of red and pink, then came up to his mahogany desk and touched his MacBook keyboard. The screen came alive, revealing a picture of a woman. Her slender, pale body was a beautiful contrast against her black leotard. Although the photo was taken from afar, everything about this woman showed unbridled happiness as the camera caught her mid-air in a grand jeté.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

The day of Edward Masen, MD, professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, had begun.


Author's End Note: Thank you for reading! If you liked this, you should definitely check Between Dusk and the End of Summer by my collaborator Maxipoo1024 (FFN Story ID 6824582). It is such an incredible, sincere, heartbreaking story.

Merry Christmas and God bless y'all! xxx