Full Summary: "Everyone has labels attached to them that they acquire over a lifetime…mother, daughter, wife, lover, friend, co-worker. I happen to have all of those labels attached to me, plus one in particular that I'm not happy about…widow. I have a daughter who never met her father, and parents who try to help me out but drive me crazy, along with a father-in-law who I take care of in the absence of his son. Along with the label of "widow" came another label that I'm not happy about and it's one I assigned to myself…crazy. The reason I'm crazy is because every night in my dreams, I talk to my dead husband as if he was still alive. I was perfectly content to live with those labels until someone showed up in my life that caused me to add another label to my seemingly never ending list…screwed. –Bella Black

AH/OOC. Canon couples, eventually. This is a story of a woman trying to deal with a devastating loss, so there will be sadness, but there will be humor and there will be love. There's foul language, eventual lemons, and it's told in Bella's POV. It's rated NC-17 for a reason. It's a love story at its heart, but it's not an easy one.

A/N: This is my first story on this site. It's taken a while for me to figure it out, but hopefully, I've done it right and you'll actually see the first chapter! Okay, let's get started, shall we?


Chapter 1

August, 2007

As I sat there watching all of the pomp and circumstance around the absurd event, I couldn't believe I was in the position in which I found myself. I had on an ugly black dress, which I hated, but I had no choice in the matter. Mom had forced me into it that morning, and I had no strength to stop her. I watched what was happening around me as if it was a movie, and I couldn't help but laugh a little to myself. It wasn't appropriate to laugh out loud because everyone was watching me carefully, waiting to see if I was going to cause an embarrassing scene. If he'd have been there, he'd have been laughing hysterically at me, I just knew it. Neither Jacob nor I ever wanted to be in the limelight, but there we were, front and center with everyone staring at us. He'd have hated it as much as I hated it in that moment.

When the Chaplain showed up at the door of our small house on post in Ft. Hood, I was shocked, but it was actually what I expected all the while he was gone. Every time I saw that fucking car drive by my house, I held my breath. I remembered it far too well that day as I sat in the metal chair at the cemetery, listening to the droning on of the minister that neither of us knew. I glanced around the small gathering and saw his father and my parents and the rest of our family and a few friends. I couldn't help remembering exactly what had taken place ten days prior.

"Mrs. Black, it's with a heavy heart that I come here today to give you the news…" the man I didn't know began. I didn't listen to the rest of what he had to say. I knew what it was. My old life was over, and a new life was growing inside of me...a new life that Jacob would never know...a new life that would never know its father. We'd been married all of three weeks before he'd deployed in May, and I got pregnant immediately after we said "I do." We were young and carefree, and we foolishly thought we had a long life ahead of us, so we decided to shoot the dice and if I got pregnant, then we'd have the latter part of our life to party with our friends and have good times after he retired from the Army. That wouldn't be exactly the way our life would play out. I was so supremely pissed about it that I couldn't cry.

He'd fucking promised me that he'd come home, and I was prepared to tell him about the baby on our Skype date the Sunday night two weeks prior. He sent me an e-mail that he'd been called to take extra duty because someone in his unit was ill, so he'd catch up with me the next day. Yeah, that wouldn't happen either.

As I sat there watching the scene play out in front of me, I tried to keep from throwing up. Not necessarily because I was looking at the flag-draped coffin in front of me or the Honor Guard that was beginning to fold it, but more because I was still suffering from morning sickness. I was twelve weeks into it, and I was all alone with the information. How I'd cope with doing it alone was something I didn't understand, but I knew that I had to figure it out because I only had a few months to stay on post before they kicked me out. I'd have to find a job and a place to live. Nobody wanted to hire a pregnant woman, much less a pregnant widow, so that part was going to be pretty difficult to get a handle on, but it wasn't like I had a lot of choice in the matter.

I was in a mess, and the full impact of it kept me from thinking about the fact that I was, for all intents and purposes, alone in the world. I didn't have the luxury to mourn my loss because I had to think about the baby inside me, and after the Honor Guard presented me with the flag, I quietly rose from my seat, walked slowly to the bushes off to the side of the grave where my young husband would be laid to rest, and I puked my guts out, half-daring anyone to give me shit about it.

I walked back to my seat and sat down as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened and hugged the flag in my arms. The horrified looks on the faces of everyone in attendance didn't even register with me. I'd heard my mom and dad talking about the fact that I hadn't cried and Mom said that she didn't think I was coping with the loss. How the fuck do you cope with the loss? You meet your soul mate once, and when they're gone, your soul goes with them. That was something of which I was certain. How one survived without a soul was an interesting concept for me. If I figured it out, maybe I'd write a book about it someday.

As the gunshots went off and the bugler played, I didn't register much about what was actually going on any longer. My mother was sitting to my right, and Jacob's father was sitting to my left holding my hand. I knew it was just as hard on him as it was on me because he'd been so proud of Jake when he'd enlisted, and he was the only one of our parents who didn't pitch a fit when we snuck off and got married at the ripe old age of twenty.

Jake had been back in Forks for a week on leave. He'd gone into the Army right out of high school, and we wrote and spoke to each other every day when we could. We were high school sweethearts, and I was attending community college in Port Angeles while he was stationed in Texas. When he came home for his leave, he wasted no time telling me he wanted us to get married, and he wanted me to move with him to Texas before he deployed. I didn't hesitate when he proposed, and we found a justice of the peace and got married with his friend Embry as one witness and my friend Angela as the other.

When we went home that night and told my parents, they were pissed, but we didn't care. I packed my clothes and a few mementos from my childhood, and we went to a cabin on the reservation for the remainder of the week. We called it a mini-honeymoon, and we promised each other that someday, we'd go on a full-fledged honeymoon somewhere tropical. On Friday, we flew back to Texas and moved into a small one-bedroom house on post. Jacob had training for two weeks, but he was home every night, and that was the extent of our playing house.

When I went to the airstrip the day his battalion left for the Middle East, I cried the whole time. "Hey, now, that's not the face I want to take with me to Iraq. Where's that beautiful smile?" he asked as he held me when it was time to say good-bye. I gave him the best one I could come up with under the circumstances, and he was gone. I remember him looking over his shoulder at me and blowing me a kiss, which caused his Sergeant, Sam Uley, to smack him on the back of the head and make a comment to him, sending Jacob into a fit of laughter. That was the last time I actually saw my husband of three weeks alive, save seeing his torso on Skype when he could get away to meet me for our too few scheduled dates.

I acclimated to life on a military base with the help of Emily Uley, Sam's wife, and when I found out I was pregnant, she was with me at the doctor's office because she was the only friend I had at that point.

She'd flown to Washington for the funeral, which I somehow noticed during the fog that followed the news that my husband was dead. I appreciated her being there, even though I had nothing to say to her. Her husband was still in Iraq, and I knew she had worries of her own. No wife wanted to have to go through what I was going through, so I couldn't blame her for keeping her distance. I'd be worried that I'd be going through the same thing if I was her. I knew it wasn't contagious, but if I were her, I'd be keeping my distance in case it was.

When we arrived back at Billy's house later that day after the funeral, everyone began pulling out food and milling around the small house. I had nothing to say to anyone, so I went into Jake's childhood bedroom and lie down on the bed. I wasn't tired, though I should have been because I hadn't slept since I'd received the news, but I wanted to be alone, and I was sure that everyone would respect the fact that the widow needed her space.

No one except Emily knew about the baby, and I wasn't looking forward to telling the rest of them. I heard my mom tell my dad that she'd fly back to Texas with me and help me move back to Washington. I was fine with it, I supposed. That's where Jake would be for eternity, and I wanted to be close to him. It wasn't as if I had anything holding me in Texas.

I settled on the bed and crossed my arms protectively over my miniscule baby bump, and I closed my eyes, reliving significant moments in mine and Jake's courtship and short marriage. I reached into the neckline of the ugly black dress and pulled out his dog tags with my left hand feeling the metal clink against my thin wedding band, having buried Jacob with his. I just wanted a moment to reflect. I didn't want to talk to anyone, and I didn't want to have to listen to their stories about Jacob's antics when he was growing up. They needed to tell them for their own sake, but I didn't need to listen. I knew most of them anyway because I'd been involved in most of them. I could reminisce alone, which was what I'd be for the rest of my life, even after the baby came.

I felt the faint sensation of a finger sweeping from my forehead down between my closed eyes to the end of my nose, just like I always had when he… I opened my eyes and was stunned at the sight before me. "Jake?" I asked in disbelief. There he sat next to me on the bed like he'd done so many times before, but he looked different. His hair was long again just as it had been when we were in high school, and he was wearing his signature sleeveless black t-shirt and torn jeans.

"Bells. Why so glum?" he asked. Was he fucking kidding me?

"Um, I just…" I began. I looked down my body and saw myself still dressed in the ugly black dress. I was still clutching the dog tags around my neck so obviously, the death and funeral hadn't been a nightmare.

"Yeah, that was pretty bad. Sorry 'bout that," he responded, sounding apologetic. Clearly, I was suffering from some type of a mental break or a bad dream, or maybe I was dead too. Fuck if I knew.

"I wish I'd have known about this little one before…" he began as his hand caressed my stomach, though I couldn't actually feel the contact.

"I was going to tell you on our phone date on Sunday night. How are you here?" I asked.

"You tell me. I don't know how this shit works, but you brought me here, so what's up?" he asked in his typical careless manner. It was one of the things that made me fall in love with him in the first place.

"How am I supposed to do this without you?" I asked feeling the tears prick behind my eyes.

"Hell, you're one of the strongest women I've ever met. You kept my ass in line for six years. I'm guessin' it won't be easy, but if anyone can handle this, Bells, you can," he answered. I couldn't help the tears as they tumbled down my face.

"Now, none of that. I know that it's gonna be tough raisin' this one by yourself, but Dad will help you, and Charlie and Renee will be happy about the news, I promise. Now, you need to make quick work of gettin' out of the house on post and get back here to family. You'll need to move on soon, you know. You're too young to be alone, and this one is gonna need a dad," Jake remarked.

I was shocked and completely pissed. "How dare you! Move on? I just buried you this morning. How the fuck can you say that to me?" I hissed.

"Oh, calm down, dammit. You know you're going to have to move on. I'm not saying go to the bar tonight, I'm just saying that eventually, you'll have to move on, and you need to just prepare yourself for that," he answered.

"Really? Well, Swami, how long would you recommend I wait? Next week?" I sniped at him.

He laughed his familiar warm laugh and leaned down and kissed my lips, though I couldn't feel it. "Honey, you'll figure it out. Now, I'll be here if you need me. Don't go out there where everyone else is with Dad. Those people are fucking depressing. I love you, Bells. I always have," he answered. My eyes blurred with tears, and when I blinked to clear them, he was gone.


Present Day

"May I ask you why you're lying on a gurney next to the nurses' station with a sheet over your head?" I asked. I knew exactly who it was under that sheet. It was our new resident playboy. I'd been sent up from the morgue to retrieve a deceased patient which wasn't thrilling because I fucking hated my job, and when I saw two bodies with sheets over them in the hallway, I pulled back the first one, seeing it was Dr. Cullen. It wasn't the first time he'd pulled the stunt in his short time at Forks Hospital, and I was pretty sure it wasn't going to be the last.

"Angel of Death…again we meet. I'm waiting for Whitlock to come back on duty and shove an IV in my arm to help me rise from the dead. Can you just put that sheet back unless you want to crawl up here with me, you beautiful apparition? If that's the case, then wheel us to somewhere more private before you do," he whispered in a raspy voice as he opened his right eye to look at me.

I knew he'd attended Dr. McCarty's bachelor party along with most of the other male doctors on staff, and I'd seen from the duty board that he was due to be on in a few hours, so it didn't surprise me that he was at the hospital instead of his own home, wherever that was. The bar where they were having the party was across the street from the hospital, and it wasn't like they hadn't drifted into the hospital before in various states of drunkenness in the past. I always laughed at them, but it was because I had no real life of my own aside from taking care of my nearly three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Jacqueline, so I was entertained by their antics on a regular basis.

My daughter was the light of my life, and we'd made a pretty good life for ourselves. Well, I'd made us a pretty good life, but that was beside the point. I still talked to Jacob every night in my dreams. He'd been instrumental in helping me decide how to invest the bulk of the death benefit from the Army, and he'd helped me find the house we lived in by suggesting I talk to Dr. McCarty's fiancée, Rosalie Hale, who was a realtor in Forks. My house was across the street from the house where she and Dr. McCarty lived, and they'd proven to be great neighbors in the nearly two years I'd lived there. The first two years I was back in Washington, I lived with my parents. I couldn't wait to get the hell out of there again, remembering how much my parents got on my nerves when I was growing up.

Every night for four years, I found myself in our little house at Ft. Hood, sitting at the kitchen table and talking to Jacob about what was going on in mine and Jax's lives just as he and I had done in the brief two weeks we lived there together before he was deployed. He listened with rapt attention to everything I told him, and he even offered his two cents every now and again.

I didn't tell anyone about my continuing relationship with my dead husband because I was certain that they'd give me a one-way ticket to the nearest padded cell, but he'd gotten me through the worst part of dealing with his death, and his continued support and comfort had kept me from losing my mind. I doubted that anyone would understand it, but it wasn't really theirs to understand.

I'd taken a few classes at the community college in Port Angeles that led me to the job at Forks Hospital. It was in the morgue, unfortunately, but I could work nights and be home with Jax, as I called her, during the day. Mom and Dad watched her from 4:00 PM until midnight when I got off work, and Billy spent time with her on weekends when I took her out to La Push, which wasn't as often as it should have been. From time to time, I could see Jacob milling around Billy's house unnoticed by anyone except me, and it reminded me of our time in high school when I would go visit with him and his father. It had been a great comfort to me to think he was around his dad's house looking after him.

"Dr. Cullen, what would your girlfriend say? I don't think she'd be happy about the fact that I wheeled you into a dark corner and took advantage of your drunken ass," I teased, still holding the sheet up from his head.

"Girlfriend? I don't have a girlfriend, Angel. I'm waiting for you to realize that I'm the best thing that's ever going to happen to you, and until you do, I'm filling my time with nameless and faceless bimbos. Now, take us to the on-call room and have your way with me," he insisted. He truly cracked me up. He had a girlfriend, and she was a harpy, so his assessment of the situation left me puzzled. I'd dealt with the bitch on more than one occasion because she was one of the pathologists at the hospital, and bitch was the kindest thing I could say about her.

"Dr. Cullen, you can't remember my name unless you're intoxicated, and even then, you don't use it. I've run into you in the hallways since you got here, and all you do is nod at me. I think Dr. Tightass would be less than thrilled to hear you refer to her as a nameless and faceless bimbo," I answered as I stood over him. He was cute, even in his drunken stupor. He was the first man since Jacob had died who I'd even given a second glance. It figured it would be a surly bastard who'd catch my eye.

"She's fucking Dr. Simmons on the side, as I found out tonight, so I don't really give a shit. We were never exclusive, and I actually wear a double jacket when I'm with her, but don't tell her that because her voice grates on my fucking nerves and I don't want to hear her complain about it, though she can give head like nobody's business. That woman could suck the chrome off a tailpipe. Do you give head, Black?" he asked. I couldn't help but laugh. The conversation was so inappropriate, and if his mother knew what he was saying, she'd kill him.

Esme Cullen was the hospital administrator and the chief of psychiatric medicine at the hospital where I worked, and she prided herself on her decorum, but she knew that her son wasn't of the same mind. I couldn't wait until the latest discussion with Dr. Fuck-Em-All circulated amongst the staff. In the three months since Edward Cullen had joined our staff, at least once a week, we'd hear word of shouting matches in his mother's office because of one stupid thing he'd done or another. Rumor had it that he'd transferred to Forks Hospital because of a run-in with a nurse in Boston. Since Dr. Cullen had joined our staff, the gossip mill was churning away in overtime. Someone had even set up a Twitter account for hospital staff to report his whereabouts and his antics. I was probably the only female at the hospital who didn't follow Dr. Sex Hair on Twitter.

"Dr. Cullen, I've been commended on my oral skills in the past, but I'm a lady, and I don't suck and tell. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a recently deceased that I need to find and take downstairs for an autopsy. If I see Dr. Whitlock, I'll send him your way," I responded as I laid the sheet back over his face and moved away from the gurney.

From beneath the sheet, I heard him ask, "Do you, Angel, by any chance swallow?" as I walked over to the other gurney, identifying my deceased based on the chart on the end of his cart. I didn't answer Dr. Cullen because I knew his type too well, and he wasn't relationship material, though from what I heard around the hospital in the short time he'd been there, he was a hell of a good time. I had no interest in being girl number thirty-three, which was the tally that the hospital staff tweeted. I wasn't looking for a relationship because I was still in love with my dead husband, but Dr. Cullen was cute.

I had the dubious distinction of being known as "That Poor Widow Black" around town. I tired of the pitying looks I got from everyone from the deputies and officers at the Forks Police Department to the bag boy at the Thriftway. Only a select group of people, mostly close family, didn't treat me that way any longer, which was probably why, despite his reputation, I actually liked Dr. Cullen. He didn't treat me that way either. I didn't know if it was just because he didn't know my story or because he didn't care, but I appreciated that he treated me like a normal person. Above all else, I craved to be treated like a normal person.

Another person who didn't treat me that way was my colleague in the morgue, Eric Yorkie. He was a breath of fresh air in the depressing jobs in which we both found ourselves, and if it hadn't been for him, I'd have likely quit my job shortly after I started. "Yorkie? I've got our next guest," I yelled as I wheeled the gurney into the morgue. The latest deceased was scheduled for an autopsy the next morning, and he needed to be logged in so that when Dr. Aro Volturi, not to be confused with his screech owl of a daughter, Dr. Jane Volturi…a/k/a Dr. Tightass…came on duty, he could get to work immediately. He was a nitpicker, and he'd chew our asses out if we didn't log them in properly and send e-mail to his account so he knew how his day would progress. He was a prick, to be certain, but he was definitely a stickler for details. His daughter…she was just a bitch.

"Name?" Eric yelled from the desk. He was the only bright spot in my nights. He was funny and he was a great person with whom to work. Eric was gay, and he and his boyfriend-of-the-day always had issues. I was pretty certain that the issues were Eric's alone because that many gay men couldn't have that many issues. It was always entertaining to listen to his rantings on the latest relationship problem.

"Carl Preston," I called as I read the toe tag and double checked it against the chart. The deceased was 49-years old, and he had died of cancer, so why his family wanted an autopsy was beyond me. It was an awful way to die from what I'd heard, and the only good thing that came from working in the morgue was that I was taking better care of myself. I wasn't ready to be a guest anytime soon because I had a daughter to raise…alone…so I'd started eating better and actually had started getting more exercise.

"What the hell took so long?" Eric called as I pushed Mr. Preston into a drawer. It was still eerie to me when I remembered that I was surrounded by dead bodies every night, but it was part of the job, so I did it. It paid the bills on our small house without having to dip into the death benefit from the horrific loss that we'd suffered, and the hours meshed with my home life. There weren't that many jobs in Forks, so when I was offered the one I had, I didn't really hesitate to accept it.

"I had a Cullen encounter. I'm surprised someone hasn't tweeted it yet. I saw Bree Tanner watching us from the nurses' station. Dr. Cullen was passed out on a gurney again, and I almost brought him down by mistake. That bitch, Jessica Stanley, had Mr. Preston just parked in the hallway so that she could clean the room. I oughta report her to the Director of Nursing. That is so disrespectful," I complained as I closed the door on poor Mr. Preston.

"God, I wish you would have brought Cullen down here. I still think I could turn him my way if I had some uninterrupted time with him," Eric called in his high-pitched voice as I walked back into the office and peeled off the gloves I'd worn, disposing of them in the hazmat bucket in the corner of the room.

"I doubt it, but if you want him, he's up on three waiting for Dr. Whitlock to wake up. Maybe in his drunken state, you can have your way with him. He asked me if I swallowed, so you might stand a chance. He told me Dr. Tightass was just a nameless, faceless bimbo who is fucking Dr. Simmons on the side, and I had a good laugh at that. Wonder what the bitch from hell would think about that little description?" I asked as I logged the latest guest in the hospital's database.

"God, I'd swallow him whole. It's truly a shame he doesn't go my way. I could show that man a good time," Eric responded, clearly not listening to anything I was telling him. I could tell by the glazed over look on his face that he was once-again fantasizing about Edward Cullen. I'd seen that look on a lot of gay males' and females' faces around the hospital when in the presence of said playboy. I'd even talked to Jacob about it one night, and we'd had a good laugh at Dr. Cullen's expense. Yeah, I was truly crazy.

"You'd be number thirty -four…I'm sure in that tally there might have been a few guys along the way. You should go upstairs and see if you can make any…headway…pardon the pun. Who knows," I answered as I walked to the refrigerator in the office and pulled out a Coke.

"Naw, I doubt it. No matter how drunk the guy is, I'm pretty sure he can tell a cock from a pussy. Wonder if Mama Cullen will get wind of his latest antics and write him up again? He's only been here three months, and I think she's suspended him twice. Good thing she's his mother. Anyway, how's your little sweetheart?" Eric asked. He'd met Jax when I'd had to bring her with me to the hospital to pick up my paycheck or go to therapy, and Eric had no problem with keeping her occupied while I took care of business or went to my grief support group. He worked a lot of double shifts, and it seemed like he was always there.

"She's good. She's starting pre-school this fall. I can't believe how quickly time has gone by," I remarked as I continued the job Eric had abandoned which was logging the charts of those departed souls that had occurred over the weekend when the stoner, Mike Newton, worked. He never did anything, but neither Eric nor I felt the need to report him because neither of us wanted to pick up his shifts over the weekend. He was better than nothing, we'd both come to decide.

"I can't believe that. You've been here, what, a year? How're Mama Swan and the Chief?" Eric asked. He'd met my parents on more than one occasion…one occasion being when my father picked him up for loitering outside The Body Shop, a gym in our small town, because Eric liked watching the guys work out through the windows. The owner had received a complaint based on bitching by the customers, and she'd had no choice but to call the police. My dad laughed and scared Eric into agreeing that he wouldn't lurk outside the gym again.

"They're fine. I haven't heard any more stories about your perverted ass stalking guys at the gym. Who're you dating these days?" I asked as I worked. He cleared his throat and flipped me off, causing me to shoot Coke out my nose. If he didn't keep me laughing all the time, I'd probably have been crazier than I was.

At midnight, I clocked out and made my way upstairs to the third floor. Curiosity got the best of me, and I had to see if Dr. Cullen was still on the gurney next to the nurses' station before I went to pick Jax up at my parents' house. As I climbed off the elevator, I saw Dr. McCarty swaying down the hallway, clearly feeling no pain. I couldn't help but chuckle at the sight of the huge man bouncing off the walls on his way to the locker room. I had no idea what time the bachelor party had started, but if the soon-to-be-groom was showing up at the hospital at midnight, I was pretty sure it was all over.

"If it isn't Bella Black. How are you, gorgeous?" Dr. McCarty slurred as he scooped me up into his burly arms. The man was a mountain.

I laughed and hugged him in return. He'd been so sweet to me since I'd moved in across the street from him, but he was one of those people who looked at me with pity which I despised. Rosalie never seemed to, but Emmett certainly did. He also loved my daughter. When Jax was around, he played with her and teased her relentlessly, and she absolutely adored him. "I'm just on my way to pick up Jax and go home. How was the bachelor party?" I asked.

"It was too fucking short! My friends and colleagues are all light-weight pussies. Now, you got your invite, right?" he asked. I'd been invited to the nuptials, and I was going to invent a reason why I couldn't attend because, while I could do most things that involved couples, I still had a hard time attending weddings. When my friend, Angela, had gotten married to her high school sweetheart two years ago, it sent me to my bed for a day and a half before the wedding. The only thing that got me up was Jake telling me that I wasn't being fair to Angela. He reminded me how great she'd been when we got married, and I couldn't disagree with him, so I got up out of bed and dressed, showing up with the biggest smile I could fake. I'd been able to avoid being a member of the wedding party, but I wanted to be there for my friend, and I'd mustered the strength to do it…thanks to my dead husband. I should have probably sought out professional help at that point, but I was a proud, strong woman, or so I kept telling myself. I waited until I started working at the hospital to seek it out, but I didn't tell my support group about my nightly discussions with my dead husband.

"I did, but I'm not sure that's going…" I began as Dr. Cullen appeared from the on-call room. "Hey, Em. You close 'em up?" he asked as he sidled up next to where we stood talking…or at least I was talking. Dr. McCarty was swaying and maybe drooling a little.

"Me and Paul closed the joint. Anywho, I'm on in eight, so I'm going to get some sleep in on-call. See ya later, Cullen. Blacksheep, I expect to see you at the wedding. I'll accept no excuses," Emmett called as he strolled away from us.

"Ah, Angel, we meet again. Anyway, I was on my way down to Hell to find you. I have a huge favor to ask, and I won't accept no for an answer, just like McCarty said. I need a date for that wedding, and I want you to go with me. Dr. Tightass and I are no more, and I suddenly find myself without an escort, which isn't something I want to be. You've got a pretty good reputation around the hospital, and my reputation can certainly use an overhaul, as my mother told me when I got called into her office yesterday. Plus, I'm pretty sure you were about to beg off, but if Emmett or Rosalie found out that you lied about the reason you're not going to show, they'd hound you mercilessly, and since you live across the street from them, it would be difficult for you to carry on the charade that you were somehow incapacitated enough to preclude you from attending the wedding. So, what say you?" he asked.

I was freaking out. I didn't date, and I had no idea why he'd chosen me, a mere technician at the hospital, to be his date for the wedding. As far as I knew, he was in the wedding party, and surely there was a bridesmaid among the mix with whom he could hook up. I wasn't going to be the hook-up girl for anyone. I never had been, and I certainly didn't plan to become one at the ripe old age of twenty-four.

"Dr. Cullen, I happen to have a very good reason for not going. My parents are going away for a long weekend, and my father-in-law obviously can't babysit Jax while I go to the wedding. I don't know anyone else who's not going to the wedding to ask for a babysitting favor, so I'll be sending my gift and waiting for Dr. McCarty to bring in the pictures," I answered.

He gave me an odd look at my reference to my father-in-law, and I felt the need to clarify. Before I could explain, he asked, "So you still keep in contact with your ex's father? That's very forward thinking of you. Where's the deadbeat dad anyway? I hope he at least pays you child support," he responded. It was then that I could tell he had no idea about my situation, and I really hated explaining it to people. I was waiting for the pitying head tilt.

"Um, it's not exactly like that. Jax's father isn't a deadbeat dad, he's a dead dad. He was killed in Iraq almost four years ago before she was born. I'm actually surprised that someone around here hasn't informed you that I'm the infamous Young Widow Black," I responded, trying not to sound upset. He'd only been at the hospital for three months, and I didn't expect that he'd have made any inquiries with regard to my status because I wasn't like the other insipid women at the hospital who chased after him. My guess about his request to accompany him to the wedding was that I was the first woman he saw after he dumped Dr. Tightass.

"Fucking hell. I'm so sorry, Bella. I had absolutely no idea. Nobody said anything to me about it. I feel like a complete and utter ass," he answered, looking quite embarrassed. I didn't want him to be one of those people who treated me with pity, so I needed to stop him in his tracks.

"Please, don't worry about it. Anyway, like I said, I don't have anyone to take care of Jax, so I won't be attending. Maybe check with Bree Tanner. She's nice enough, and she's got a thing for you, I think," I offered as I was about to make a break for it before I started crying again.

"I don't want to take Bree Tanner. I want to take you. With regard to your babysitting dilemma, I believe I have the solution for that. I know someone who would be more than happy to babysit that adorable little girl of yours. Now, next excuse," he responded as he crossed his arms over his chest, seemingly over his embarrassment. He completely threw me for a loop, and that wasn't good for me at all.

"I don't know that I need another excuse," I answered honestly. I looked at my watch and saw that it was edging onto 12:30 AM, and I usually picked Jax up by 12:15. I'd have to explain it to my parents if they happened to be up, and I wasn't looking forward to it in the least.

"Bella, please…I don't want to go to this wedding unaccompanied, and I know that you won't go without an escort. Look, I don't know your life story, but I'd like to get to know you. Jane and I are over, and I'm done with random dates. I like you, and I know you like me because you're the only woman in the whole damn place besides my mom who actually treats me like more than an underwear model. Please, go with me or at least consider it. Call me over the weekend. I'm on duty all weekend, and I know you know my number because it's on the employee roster. Please call me," he asked. I couldn't answer him directly, so I merely nodded as I left him standing next to the nurses' station that morning.

I went to my parents' house and collected Jax without waking my mom and dad. I didn't know how I'd be able to do it when she got older because she was nearly as big as me, but I was still able to lift her and carry her to the car.

I took her home and carried her to her room, tucking her snuggly into her bed. After she was settled, I took a quick shower and pulled on one of Jake's t-shirts and fell into bed. I was exhausted, and I needed to fall asleep because I needed to talk to Jake about what had happened at the hospital.

"Bells, what's wrong?" Jacob asked as we sat at the table in our small kitchen in Ft. Hood. It was where we always met.

"Well, you had to see that Dr. Cullen asked me to go with him to Dr. McCarty's wedding. I don't want to go, Jake. I can't do weddings. Angela's nearly took me out, if you remember," I answered as I sipped the coffee in front of me, not tasting it at all.

"Honey, you like Dr. McCarty, and Rosalie has been really good to you with regard to helping you find the house and watching Jax so you can go to the grocery store, and you know you like Dr. Cullen through you won't admit it. You should go. You've got to let go of me, Bells. I'll always love you, and I know you'll always love me, but it's been four years. You need to move on," he answered as he sipped his coffee as he'd always done.

"Jake, I can't. He didn't know anything about you, and I'm pretty sure that now that he does he wishes he could take back his invitation. I don't want another fucking person to treat me like the poor young widow. I'm so tired of it," I sobbed. I couldn't help but cry. He smiled at me, but I could tell he wasn't giving up.

"Well, if you don't want to be treated like that, then stop actin' like it. Hell, you never do anything without your mom and Jax. You need to make a life for yourself outside of being a mother, Babe. Cullen seems like a pretty normal guy…a bit of a fuckhound, maybe, but maybe he wants to change his ways. You need to go out with someone, so why not him? The only guy who's had the guts to ask you out since you moved back is the weekend stoner, Mike Newton, and I gotta tell ya, I really don't like the idea of him bein' around Jax," Jacob answered.

I took another sip of the tasteless coffee and pondered the predicament I was in. Then, it occurred to me that Jacob knew everything that happened at the hospital. Even things I didn't tell him. I wanted to know why. "I've got a question. Do you follow me around all day?" I asked stupidly.

He laughed heartily, and it was good to hear it again. I'd missed it. "Bells, honey, you know that I'm not really here, don't ya? I'm just an outlet your subconscious uses to help you cope. I look the way I do because you can't bear to think about me when I shipped out. Hey, that's okay. I was much cooler when I was young," he explained.

It actually made sense. I knew it wasn't really Jacob sitting across from me, but I didn't care why he was there. He'd kept me sane for nearly four years, and I didn't really see myself not ever seeing him again, but maybe as time went by, I wouldn't be so fucking dependent on him.

"Jake, am I nuts?" I asked. It was definitely something to consider.

He laughed. "No more than anyone else who's gone through what you have. What did Dr. Denali say? Everyone has their own coping mechanisms? Well, I guess talking to me is yours. We always talked about everything when I was alive, so just because I'm not physically here any longer, it doesn't mean that we can't still talk. Hell, at least you didn't start drinkin' like some of the other wives did. Go to your grief group tomorrow. Get Rosalie to watch Jax for an hour. You know that she doesn't have anything goin' on tomorrow mornin', so go. It seems to help ya," Jake reasoned. He had a good point.

"Bells, I gotta go. Your alarm is about to go off. I love you, honey," he announced. I looked at my cup and when I looked up at him, he was gone.

Just then, my alarm went off. My eyes sprung open and I saw that it was 7:30 AM. I shut off the alarm, took a shower, and called Rosalie. Unfortunately, she wasn't home, so I was going to have to take Jax with me to the hospital. She could take a book and sit quietly in the corner of the room where we had our group meeting, entertaining herself. She was great that way.

END NOTE: So? Let me know if you're interested in the story continuing. If you're not…I'll let it die. Till next time…(hopefully) xoxo