Hope Springs Eternal Contest

Number of Prompt Chosen: #16, #19, #1

Pen-name: XXX
Title: Cherry Blossoms and Second Chances

Word Count: 19,749

Rating: M

Pairing: Edward/Bella

Summary: Torn apart by drugs and insecurity, a chance meeting in the Metro station offers them a second chance at love. Will hopeless circumstances bring them together or tear them apart forever?

Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and all characters. No copyright infringement intended.

The lyrics to You're Beautiful by James Blunt are the property and copyright of their owners.

My life is brilliant…

March 2012 Washington D.C.

It had been another long overnight shift and while his decision to walk to work the day before had seemed like a good idea, Edward's tired legs weren't happy today. He wished again he'd driven to work as he sat on the bench waiting for the Metro bus. He rolled his neck on his shoulders and upper back and rubbed the sore muscles with his hand. He cringed when he noticed one of the nurses from the Cardiac Cath lab walking toward him. He regretted flirting with her when they'd first met. She was like a pitbull trying to get him to ask her out. He closed his eyes behind his Ray Bans, hoping she'd walk by and not notice him.

"Hi, Dr. Cullen. You need a lift?"

"Good morning Tanya. No, thank you. I have some errands to run on the way home," he lied.

Tanya blatantly adjusted her sweater, pulling it a bit lower to show off more cleavage. "I don't mind taking you wherever you need to go. Maybe we can get coffee when we're done?"

Thankfully, the bus pulled up behind her. Edward stood up and thanked her again, declining her invitation. He sat down on the bus and shook his head at her chagrined look as the bus pulled away. No matter how often he turned her down Tanya still kept trying, but he didn't have time for a woman in his life.

Edward Cullen only had a couple of months until he finished his fellowship in Cardiology. It was no coincidence a broken heart had led to his obsession with fixing hearts. He wasn't interested in the emotional fixes a psychiatrist could render. He wanted to make a difference in the field he'd chosen, and being accepted into the program at Washington Hospital Center was quite an honor. He'd struggled through the bad decisions that had almost derailed his career. They were a daily reminder he needed to keep his head focused on the future instead of the past.

Some people could look back on their past and be happy for how it had changed their future, especially when they'd resulted in success, but Edward looked back with regret. He'd hurt so many people, and while he had repaired the damage he'd caused with most of them, especially his family, the person he'd hurt the most had disappeared from his life.

He'd never been able to apologize to her. She'd cut every tie she had to him, including her friendship with his sister. No one knew where she had gone, and if they did, they refused to tell him. Even her father refused to give him any information about her whereabouts, telling him to stay the hell out of her life. Edward shook away the thoughts that plagued him still, even after nine years, annoyed he'd let his mind go to that dark place.

He stepped off the bus and rode down the escalator to the Metro station. He swiped his Smartcard and rode down another escalator to the platform to wait for his train. He was glad he'd looked up when he realized he'd gone down the wrong side and would have caught the red line going in the opposite direction from home. He picked up his bag and ran up the escalator, almost knocking a lady out of the way in his haste. He went down the correct escalator and breathed a sigh of relief when the train pulled into the station seconds later.

Edward flopped into a seat on the far side of the train and glanced up at the opposite platform. It never failed that a woman with long, brown hair would catch his eye, especially after the thoughts he'd had of her. She was being pulled along by a laughing man holding her hand, a smile evident on her face even in profile. The man threw his arm around her shoulder, and they stopped while she fixed her shoe. The train beeped its alert that the doors were closing, and the woman looked up, her eyes meeting his. They widened as she recognized him and gave a little wave.

Edward jumped to his feet, almost falling as the train pulled away from the station. He couldn't believe it and blinked to be sure he wasn't seeing things. He ran to the back of the train trying to keep eye contact with her until it was too late and she was out of sight.

He flopped back down in his seat. It was her. His heart was pounding. He jumped off the train at the next stop, racing to the other side to catch the train back to the Brookland station. As he stood waiting for the train, he knew it was too late. There was no way she'd be waiting. The train came, and he stood by the door, tapping his fingers against his leg in nervous impatience.

He wondered what he'd say to her if she was there waiting.

He wondered what he'd do if she wasn't.

The doors weren't even fully opened before he jumped off and frantically looked for her face. He spun around, dramatically, searching every corner, until his heart sank. She wasn't there.

Mechanically, he got back on the right train and then off at Dupont Circle. He walked the half-mile to his apartment on 22nd street, paying no attention to the city around him. His tiredness was forgotten. His only thoughts were of her. He tossed his bag on the dining room table and, with uncharacteristic sloppiness, tossed his jacket on a chair and kicked his shoes under the table.

He walked into his room, running his hands through his hair, and went back and cleaned up his mess. His need to control his environment bordered on OCD, and there was no way he could lose it now. He flopped down on the bed, staring at the ceiling, and couldn't help but remember how his spiraling loss of control had changed his whole life. How he'd let it take her away from him.

I saw your face in a crowded place…

UCLA (1999-2003)

Bella and Edward had been together since their first year at UCLA. They met the first day in Biology lab. He sat next to her, his mouth twitching at the double take she gave him. Women were always stunned by his looks, and she wasn't immune. He was gorgeous with wild bronze hair and beer-bottle green eyes. The air surrounding him crackled with energy. She fought the urge to get up and choose another table.

Bella was a good student. She'd gone through high school avoiding boys and had worked hard to receive the scholarship she had. She wasn't about to let some playboy take advantage of her because he was charming. She worked hard to keep their relationship professional despite Edward's best attempts at drawing her out of her shell.

On the last day of class, Edward finally persuaded Bella to join him for dinner. He took her to a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant and somehow that one little yes turned into love. They were together from that moment on, and the love they shared was at first too intense for her innocence. It took Bella finally succumbing and just going with the wave that was Edward to accept his love fully.

After graduation, they got engaged. Edward was accepted into med school at Stanford, and Bella gladly moved with him to a small one-bedroom apartment near the campus. He went to school, devoting himself to his studies, while Bella worked as a nurse in the Pediatric ICU at Children's Hospital.

Both of them were under an immense amount of stress. Edward was unprepared for the rigors of med school, and Bella had a hard time separating her job and her heart. Seeing children in pain, or dying, each day took a toll on her well being. Her father, Charlie, was also having health problems, and her worry for him was another thing adding to her stress to her already emotionally complex life.

She supported Edward, but somewhere along the line it became too hard. He found other ways to deal with stress that didn't add to hers. Unfortunately, the way he dealt with it was by using drugs and alcohol.

For three months she tried to talk to him about the substance abuse, tried to convince him to get help, but he denied it was an issue. It had become so bad he was failing his classes. All Edward ever wanted was to be a doctor, and if he couldn't pull himself together he would fail.

February 8, 2003

She could see from my face that I was fucking high…

Bella received a call late one night after a long shift. Her father had been hospitalized. She took some time off work to go to Washington and care for him. He'd suffered from hypertension for years, and it was worse each time he was admitted. Every time she got the call, she was afraid she was going home to say goodbye. Bella had been bugging her father for years to leave his small town doctors for a more prestigious practice that would more aggressively treat his hypertension and find a cause instead of only treating the symptoms. He was stubborn and set in his ways, and no amount of prodding would change his mind.

Bella saw him through the hospitalization and headed back to California. She hadn't heard from Edward in three days, and each time the answering machine picked up the lump in her throat grew.

She called him once more from the airport and hung up when he didn't answer. He didn't even know she was coming home. She debated taking a cab, but the cost of the ride would be expensive. She took the Caltrain and was exhausted by the time she made it home.

She trudged up the stairs to their fourth floor apartment and heard music and the sound of people coming from the cracked door before she made it to the landing. Her heart sank. Bella hated people she didn't know in her apartment and cringed at the thought of having to pretend it was okay when all she wanted was a hot shower and a good night's sleep next to Edward. Their physical relationship had been the one part that hadn't suffered from the stress tearing at every other part of it. When she was in his arms all of their problems disappeared, only to be waiting for them at the end of the bed.

She pushed the door open and set her bag down by the door. Edward was on the couch and didn't even look up when she came in. There were three guys sitting in her living room, watching sports of some kind. On the coffee table she'd found at a yard sale and painstakingly refinished, sat a water bong and a mirror dusted with white powder. Edward was on the sofa playing with a small straw, flipping it though his fingers. There were two girls sitting at the small table in the kitchen. They didn't notice her either. She looked past them at the disarray covering the counters—beer bottles, empty pizza boxes, and an empty bottle of vodka lying on its side.

Bella was invisible to everyone in the apartment. She slowly went into their bedroom only to find it as torn apart as the rest of the place. She flopped down in the chair in the corner and spied a pink lace bra peeking out from under the blankets that had been haphazardly thrown across the bed. It wasn't hers. The lump in her throat doubled in size. She sat there shivering – from shock or maybe it was just cold. She waited for someone to notice she was there.

It felt like hours before the door opened, and one of the girls came into the room like she owned it. She was tall and thin, beautiful, with long blonde hair and legs that went on for miles. She was everything Bella wasn't. She pulled the bra out of the tangled mess and started rummaging around for more. She found a whole array of clothing and then started digging under the bed. She came up with one black heel and was grumbling about the missing match. Bella reached down and picked up the pump lying near her foot.

"Is this what you're looking for?" she said quietly.

The girl was startled and let out a scream. "What the fuck?"

Bella handed her the shoe. She hated confrontation and even more that her voice wavered as she asked, "Did you fuck him on my bed?"

The girl straightened to her full height and gave Bella a dirty look. "Yeah, why do you care?"

"I guess you didn't hear the 'my bed'."

The girl flipped back her hair. "I heard, but what's it to you? You weren't here to give him what he needed, and I was. In fact, both Kate and I were here at the same time." She smiled smugly, and the lump in Bella's throat tripled.

Her courage was gone. She jumped up from the chair and ran out of the room slamming into Edward's chest. His arms came around her and held her close.

"Bella, when did you get back?" He sounded so happy to see her it tore her heart to shreds.

Bella looked up into his eyes; they were almost entirely black. The ring of green barely visible because his pupils were so dilated. He was high. All she could do was stare up in disbelief at the man she loved with all her heart. She grabbed onto his shirt, praying for strength, and leaned her forehead into his chest. He saw Irina walk out of the room over her shoulder.

"It's not what you think." She couldn't hear him over the blood pounding in her ears. She pulled away and walked to the front door, picking up her bag. He grabbed her arm, but she shook it off and gave him a look that devastated him. It was filled with hurt, disgust, pain, and other emotions he couldn't even fathom. And in that moment he knew it was over. He'd lost her.

"Bella, please don't leave me. Please. I love you so much, and I need you." He begged her. "I'll get help. Please."

She wanted to reach out and comfort him, but she saw the woman behind his shoulder, waiting for her to leave, and knew she couldn't anymore.

"I can't. I'm sorry, Edward, but I can't."

She walked out the door as he ran his hands through his hair, pulling it from the roots. He didn't try to stop her.

My love is pure…

March 2012 Washington D.C.

Isabella Swan sat on the edge of her bed, holding her hands between her thighs. Her shoulders were tense from the memories that flooded her mind. She released a sigh and let her shoulders relax. She flopped back on her pillows and closed her eyes. Why did she always have to dream of that day—of the end?

She stood up, determined, as she was each day, to keep moving. She carried her clothes into the bathroom and frowned at the dark circles under her eyes.

"For God's sake, Bella, it's been almost ten years. You need to let it go," she whispered to her reflection.

Maybe it was from the stress of going to the hospital every day. Maybe it was because of Jacob. Bella often dreamed of Edward, of the life they could have had, and because of the space he still took up in her head and her heart there was no room for anyone else. Her failure to be what he'd needed made her too afraid to try with another. She should have stayed and helped him, but his infidelity had been too much. She'd called his sister explaining that he needed help and that was all she could do. She'd crashed on one of her coworker's couch for three days and left her job suddenly, using her father's health as an excuse for not giving more notice.

She let the shower wash away the lingering sadness and got ready for the day. Bella worked hard to keep any hint of unhappiness out of her eyes. She didn't want her father worrying about her.

Bella's father's health hadn't improved in the time she'd been living with and caring for him. His hypertension was so severe he'd been forced into early retirement. It had taken years but Bella had finally convinced him to seek help from a different doctor. She'd contacted a friend of a friend from college who had received a grant for a study involving a process used overseas called renal ablation. The treatment had achieved great success in lowering the blood pressure in patients and prolonging their lives.

Charlie was accepted into the study at Washington Hospital Center in Washington D.C. They rented an apartment across the river in Arlington, Virginia, while he was being treated. Because Bella had moved home after college to take care of her father while still working, combined with her father's disability, she'd saved enough money to rent the apartment and care for him full time.

She spent most of her days at her father's side, but he was in the middle of a long admission. When her childhood friend, Jacob, came into town for a visit her father insisted they get out and see some of the sights.

Bella couldn't remember when she'd had such a fun day. Jacob was so easy to be with and all it would take was one little show of interest and he would be hers, but going from friendship to a relationship wouldn't be fair to him. Bella could never love him the way he deserved, and until she was able to give him that she kept things platonic.

They grabbed some sandwiches at an Italian deli by the zoo and took the Metro back to the hospital. As she stepped off the train she tripped over the threshold, her shoe falling off her foot. Jacob caught her and laughed at her lack of balance. The train pulled away, and he threw his arm over her shoulder. She didn't know what made her look into the other train, but she did. Even from across the station his eyes stood out—beer-bottle green. He recognized her, and she couldn't help but smile at him and gave a little wave as his train was pulling away.

She couldn't believe her eyes. It couldn't have been him. It had to be her mind playing tricks on her, her subconscious was telling her to let Edward go and give herself a chance at love with Jacob.

They ate dinner with her father, who was tired but in good spirits. Her mind wasn't on dinner though. It was on Edward. She never mentioned him to her father or Jacob. Since he was leaving the next morning, Jacob said goodbye to Charlie, and they walked back to the Metro for the ride into Virginia. As she walked into the station, she searched every corner hoping he was there.

Jacob wanted to hang out, but Bella feigned exhaustion so she could go to bed. She kissed Jacob on the cheek and walked into the bedroom. She dug into the bottom of her drawer and pulled out a Stanford t-shirt that had been Edward's, needing a piece of him close to her tonight. She changed her clothes and folded back the blankets on her bed.

She'd resisted the urge for years and had never searched for him, never asked friends about him, but seeing him today made her pull her laptop onto the bed. She searched Facebook first and didn't find him, but found his brother and sister. She could have contacted Alice for his number, but that didn't seem like the right decision. Speaking to Alice would be too hard.

She did the next logical thing and Googled him.

Tears sparkled in her eyes as she read of his successes. The latest entry was about him completing his residency in Internal Medicine at UCLA Medical Center and accepting a fellowship in Cardiology there. That didn't explain why he was in D.C., but Bella couldn't read anymore. She closed her laptop, lay down on her pillows and cried. They weren't sad tears, though. She was so thankful to see he had accomplished what he'd always wanted to do and became a doctor.

But I won't lose no sleep on that. Cause I've got a plan…

Edward pulled the drapes closed, dousing the room in darkness. He had four more night shifts to get through before he had two days off and then started a new rotation on the day shift; he needed to get some sleep. He walked over to his dresser and opened the top drawer. He dug to the bottom and pulled out a picture frame. It had been months since he'd looked at the picture, probably since he'd put it there when he moved in. He sat on the bed and turned the side lamp on. He touched her face and sighed, remembering the day so well.

It was their college graduation, and they'd had their whole lives ahead of them. Bella's smile was so big as Edward lifted her up. Alice had snapped the picture of him smiling up at her. It was that night that he'd surprised her at dinner, in front of his family and her father, with his grandmother's ring. He asked her to marry him and she said yes with happy tears in her eyes. There had been a picture of that moment, too, but he hadn't seen it since his parents helped him check into rehab and packed up the apartment. He was sure they still had all of their things, but he'd never asked for them. He knew for a fact Bella didn't have them because no one could find her to return the things she'd left behind.

He laid the picture on the pillow next to him and stared at her face. From across the station she'd looked exactly the same as she had the day the picture was taken. That made him think he'd been seeing things at the metro station. He threw his hand over his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose with his finger and thumb to keep the tears away. He hadn't cried over Bella in years.

The last week he'd been in rehab had been the hardest. To maximize the therapy he hadn't been allowed contact with anyone until family day, the weekend before his release. He knew his parents would be there and thought that she'd be there, too. She'd always been there for him. He'd been so nervous, and when they walked in he'd been prepared to fall at Bella's feet and beg her forgiveness. He hadn't been clear about the day she left him. He'd been so messed up he barely knew his name. He'd remembered the pained look in her eyes and begging her not to leave him, but after he stumbled to the couch he didn't remember anything until his parents came and made him check into the hospital. When she wasn't there and they told him they didn't know where she was, only that she'd called them and told them he needed help. He was devastated.

Bella hadn't told his parents anything about the day she'd left when she called them. She took all the blame, and it was only after Alice had told him how Bella had struggled taking care of the kids in the ICU that he realized just how self absorbed he'd been. She'd been willing to be the bad guy to get him the help he needed. She'd also asked them not to try and contact her. She'd needed a clean break she told them. He'd looked for her for weeks and couldn't find her. Her father's phone number was disconnected, and when he showed up at Charlie's door he was met with a very angry father who told Edward to leave and never show his face again. He waited for three days and never saw Bella before he gave up and went back to school.

Because of his father's connections, Edward had been able to get back in the program the following semester. He'd moved back into the dorms and had worked hard to stay away from the influences that had practically destroyed his life. It took one meeting with his old friend, James, who had been at the apartment the day Bella left, to put all the pieces together. James thought it was hilarious when he explained that he'd let two girls he met at a club think the apartment was his and fucked them on Edward's bed. Bella had thought Edward cheated on her with the two girls when he'd actually been passed out on the couch. Edward almost killed James and it took three of the restaurant staff to pull him off.

Edward turned the lamp off and hugged the picture to his chest. He knew he was responsible for losing Bella, but knowing she was out there thinking he'd cheated on her still tore him apart. There had never been anyone but Bella, and there never would be.

He tried to fall asleep, but his brain wouldn't stop. He had to find her. Maybe it wasn't her in the train station, but it could've been a sign. He didn't know if it would change anything. She'd probably moved on and had a family by now, but he realized he needed closure.

His first call was to his sister.

She answered the phone on the first ring. "It's so weird, I had a feeling you'd call me today."

"Oh yeah? Why's that?"

"I don't know. It was just a feeling. How are you? It's been weeks since you called."

"I know, I'm sorry. I've been on nights. I just come home and crash. I did get the pictures you sent, though. The baby's beautiful. How does Jackson like being a big brother?"

"So far so good. He's still hoping she'll grow a penis. Jasper told him it snapped off when she was born and that's why Lexi's a girl. Three year olds will believe anything."

He laughed at her. Alice and her husband, Jasper, lived in Atlanta. Alice was a wedding gown designer, and Jasper took care of the business side of the company. Edward missed his sister and couldn't wait to meet his newest niece.

"I have a question for you." He was hesitant to ask, but Alice was his best hope. "Do you know how to reach Bella?"

There was a pause on the other end. "Uh—Edward. I, uh, well..." she stuttered and then took a deep breath. "Why the sudden interest in finding her? It's been so long."

"I know it has, but I can't get her out of my head. I know it's crazy, but I thought I saw her today. Do you have her phone number?" He ran his hand through his hair.

Please, please, please!

"I don't have her number. I haven't had any contact with her. About eight years ago, when the showroom first opened, she sent flowers congratulating me. Then a week later a FedEx box came. She sent back Grandma's ring. The note inside simply asked me to give it back to you. The return address was a P.O. Box in Seattle. I sent a thank you card for the flowers and a note asking her to contact me, but it came back." She paused. "I'm sorry, Edward."

"Yeah, me, too."

"I have Grandma's ring in my safe if you want it back."

"No, you keep it and give it to your kids someday. I gotta go, Alice. I have to work tonight, and I need to get some sleep. Kiss the kids for me, and tell Jasper I said hi. Love you."

"I love you, too, Edward."

He hung up the phone and opened his laptop. He began his search on Facebook and found tons of Isabella Swans. He flipped through the pictures, but none were of his Bella. He looked up a couple college friends and thought about sending them a message but decided to wait. He Googled her and didn't find anything. He found an article about her father, Charlie, and how he had retired from the Forks, Washington, Police Department the previous year. There was a picture of him from the newspaper but no mention of Bella.

He shut down his laptop and took a shower to wash away the tension that had left his neck and back tense. He went to sleep with her on his mind.

As we walked on by…

A week went by, and Edward and Bella continued to pass each other. Their daily lives moved on parallel paths but never intersected. They passed in the train station. He joined his friends for lunch; he was seated upstairs and she was down. They both jogged in Arlington Cemetery but took different paths. She spent every day in the hospital, and he was there every night. It was like there were invisible forces fighting, an angel to get them together and a devil to keep them apart.

Bella was startled awake by a loud sound. She'd been having another dream, but not one that made her sad. This one had been the hot and steamy kind that made her wish for a man in her bed. She laughed a little, but then realized it was her phone ringing that woke her up. It was only 11:30, but it had been a stressful week at the hospital; she was exhausted.

She picked up the phone and frowned. It was the hospital.


"Miss Swan, this is Karen. I'm your father's nurse for the night."

Bella was frantic. "Is my dad okay?"

"He's stable right now, but we've moved him to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit."

Bella was close to crying. "What happened?"

"Charlie's blood pressure spiked tonight, and we gave him a dose of IV Labetalol to bring it down. Unfortunately, it worked too well, and his pressure plummeted. He experienced severe chest and back pain. I don't have any answers, but the doctors are in with him. I thought you'd want to know right away."

"Oh my God! I'm coming. I'll be there as soon as I can."

She hung up the phone and called a cab while she frantically got dressed. She rushed to the hospital and was shocked when she arrived at the CCU. When the nurse said he was stable she expected him to be awake and waiting for her, but he was intubated and under sedation. One of the nurses called the doctor, and he briefed Bella on her father's condition.

"Hi, Miss Swan, I'm Doctor Bryan." He shook her hand, and she asked him to call her Bella.

"Well, Bella, as you know your father's blood pressure has been resistant to all our efforts. He's to begin the renal ablation study with Dr. Zuniyet next week, correct?"

Bella nodded her head.

"We've been working to stabilize his pressures and have been trying to achieve the parameters set by Dr. Zuniyet's team of 190 over 120. Your father's pressure spiked tonight to 259 over 160, and he was having back pain he'd never complained of before. He was taken for an EKG and a CT scan. He was also given his normal dose of IV Labetalol, and his pressure bottomed out at 112 over 80, which, in his case, is too low."

Bella put her hand over her mouth to keep from crying out.

"He's in serious but stable condition right now. We've got him under sedation to keep his pressures stabilized. I'll be here all night until Dr. Vanniyar comes in tomorrow."

"Can I stay with him?"

"Of course. I'll have one of the nurses bring in a chair." He patted her shoulder and walked away. Bella walked over to her father's bed and held his hand. She couldn't stop the tears from falling. She had tried to be so strong for him, and she'd been close to breaking down for days. She refused to cry in front of him. She was wiping her tears away when a nurse rolled in a recliner.

The nurse, Karen, pushed the chair into the corner. "We have to keep it out of the way in case we need to get to your father." Bella nodded, understanding perfectly. "Here's a blanket. Pillows are a luxury here in the hospital," she said apologetically.

Bella thanked her and went back to stand by her father. He was so pale. She brushed his hair back and bent down to place a kiss on his forehead. She'd helped him shave the day before and was glad she'd taken the time to do it or the tape stuck to his cheek, holding the tube in place, would've been attached to his beard. As it was, it was partially attached to his moustache and would probably hurt like the devil when they pulled it off.

Bella stood next to him until she couldn't stand anymore and went over and sat on the edge of the chair, not touching the back for fear of not being awake if he needed her. The nurses noticed her vigilance and worried over her. She'd been awake for twenty-four hours, and the little sleep she'd been getting between the dreams and the worries about her dad were catching up. There were dark circles under her eyes, and as the sun started to rise, turning the sky a light purple, Bella gave in and curled up in the chair waiting for the doctor's rounds to begin.

You're beautiful, it's true…

Edward was well rested after his two days off and was ready to start his new rotation on the Cardiac Care Unit. He would be working with Dr. Vanniyar, who was a magnificent doctor, and Edward always learned so much from him when he was on his rotation. He'd driven into work today because, as usual, the weather hadn't held, and it was freezing.

He arrived an hour early, changed into scrubs and went onto the floor to review the charts. He pulled the last of the nine critical charts and was shocked when he read the name—Charles Swan. He swallowed hard and walked over to bay twelve, and peeked into the room. There in the chair, curled up like a small child, was Bella. Her hair was covering most of her face, but her lips were showing; he recognized the pout she made when she slept. The jolt of lust he felt shocked him. He'd loved pulling her from a deep sleep by kissing that pout, and he had to restrain himself from pulling her into his arms and doing it right then.

He backed away from the room and jumped when one of the nurses greeted him. "Good Morning, Dr. Cullen."

"Morning, Jackie." His cheeks felt hot. Jackie was one of Edward's favorite nurses. His father had told him a good doctor learns as much from the nurses as he does the other doctors. Edward took that to heart and had learned so much from her. She was in her sixties and had no qualms telling a doctor he was being an ass if his bedside manner wasn't up to her standards. She cared deeply about her patients and was more than their nurse when she was there; she was their staunchest advocate.

Jackie looked into the room. "Poor lamb. She only fell asleep an hour ago. When they transferred him down from the medical ward, Karen had as much to say about her as she did about Charlie. Bella has been by his side every day – such a loyal daughter – but she's running herself ragged. Karen says she's lost at least ten pounds since they came. She's a tiny wisp of a thing and can't afford to lose any weight." Jackie shook her head in sympathy and looked a tiny bit embarrassed to have been gossiping about Bella. "Her father's not doing well and neither is she."

Edward went back to the counter and opened up the chart again. The EKG and CT scan from earlier showed a slight bulging on the thoracic aorta – an aneurysm. With his history, he was already at an increased risk of an aortic dissection, and an aneurysm greatly increased that.

Charlie's blood pressure had been so high for so long it had damaged his body immensely, and even if he was stable enough to be entered into the renal ablation study, he may not be strong enough to survive the surgery. Bella didn't have any other family, only Charlie, and if he died she'd be alone.

A horrible thought popped into his head that maybe she wasn't alone. There was the man from the Metro. Maybe he was her husband? Maybe she had children? He looked up at Jackie. "Is she married?"

"Dr. Cullen," she admonished, "Her father is dying and you want to know if she's single?"

He took a deep breath, hesitating before he said, "We went to college together." He wasn't entirely truthful about the extent of their prior relationship. Hospital gossip traveled as fast as wildfire, especially among the nurses, but he could trust Jackie not to make more of it than it was.

She raised her eyebrows at him, like she could see through his understatement. "No, she's not married. Never has been. In fact, Karen has gotten quite friendly with her dad. He says she was in a bad situation in college, and after leaving it, she's never been the same."

Edward felt the color rise in his cheeks again and just nodded. He was saved from having to say more by Jackie's phone going off. He sat down behind the desk and put his head in his hands.


She was right there, and he was on the team that was going to tell her that her father was probably going to die. He couldn't do it.

He saw Dr. Vanniyar walking down the hall and jumped up to talk to him.

"Good Morning, Dr. Vanniyar. Can I speak with you for a moment, privately, before we begin rounds?"

"Certainly." He led Edward to a small office the attendings used and closed the door behind them.

Edward had Charlie's chart in his hands, and he handed it to Dr. Vanniyar. He opened it and nodded his head. "Dr. Bryan emailed me late last night about Mr. Swan. This is a challenging case, do you want it?"

He shook his head. "No, sir, quite the opposite. I have a prior relationship with the family, and I'm afraid my presence would only cause more stress."

He looked at Edward, waiting for more of an explanation. Edward kicked the toe of his shoe against the floor and looked down. "Mr. Swan's daughter was my fiancée, and our break-up was… bad." He looked up at the other doctor and was surprised by the sympathy he saw there. "I don't know how she'll react to seeing me."

Dr. Vanniyar came around the desk. "In my religion, we believe in karma, the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds. Maybe she's your destiny, and this is God's way of bringing you together."

Edward was momentarily stunned by his words. He'd always believed she was his destiny and he'd ruined what they'd had, cursing them to live on separate paths for the rest of their lives.

He took a deep breath and looked up. "If this is my second chance with her, I can't be the one responsible if her father can't be saved. He's all she has, and she'd never be able to forgive me. Please, I'm begging you, don't assign me his case. I'm willing to consult with the doctor assigned, but I can't be the lead."

Dr. Vanniyar carefully searched Edward's face. "Very well, but don't let your fear keep you from her."

He placed his hand on Edward's shoulder and squeezed. Edward followed as he left the office. They began rounds, and Edward was assigned three of the cases. He was glad Natalie Kelburg was assigned to Charlie's case for the rotation. She was also a third year fellow and a great doctor.

Charlie's room was the last one they rounded, but Edward didn't enter. He stayed outside, hidden by the curtain, pretending to be engrossed by his most complicated case. He heard Jackie gently wake Bella, who jumped up quickly by the sound of feet hitting the ground. There was the sound of some kind of scuffle and Bella apologized. He couldn't help but smile. Bella had always taken her first waking steps like she had her shoelaces tied together.

Dr. Vanniyar introduced the team and explained that Dr. Kelburg would be Charlie's doctor. Dr. Kelburg took over and explained the aortic findings on the CT scan. He heard her sharp intake of breath, and his heart hurt for her. He wanted to go to her and be there holding her hand. It felt unnatural to not be by her side. Dr. Kelburg was optimistic but was also realistic. She explained to Bella that they would be weaning him off the sedative throughout the day while closely monitoring his blood pressure.

Edward walked away before the team left Charlie's room. He wasn't ready to face her yet. Now that he knew where she was, he needed to figure out how best to approach her.

The team of doctors left the room and left Bella in shock. She sat down on the chair, her legs too shaky to hold her up. The new day nurse, Jackie, came in to check Charlie's vitals. She was worried about Bella and came over, resting her hand on Bella's shoulder. The caring touch caused Bella to choke up and tears filled her eyes. It was so hard to stay strong.

"You need to take care of yourself, sweetheart. When was the last time you ate something?"

Bella shook her head. If she opened her mouth she'd start crying in earnest, and she may not stop.

"Ok, here's the plan. I'm going to get you a pair of scrubs to change into, and you're going to go into the locker room and take a shower. Then you're going to go down to the cafeteria, get something to eat, and a cup of strong coffee. While you're off taking care of you, I'm going to take care of your father. He's going down for another CT and by the time you get back here, refreshed and fed, Dr. Kelburg will be back with a treatment plan. Okay?"

She helped her up, and Bella realized she needed exactly what Jackie was suggesting. She was physically and mentally exhausted. Jackie left the room and came back quickly with a pair of scrubs, a towel, and toiletry kit. Bella followed her to the locker room. She went in and sat on the bench in front of the lockers. She'd seen the stress the families of her patients endured, the mothers who never left their children's sides, and she vowed to remember they needed to be taken care of, too.

Bella took a long shower, washed her hair twice and shaved her legs. She stepped out and dressed in the extra-small scrubs. She usually wore a small and was shocked by how much weight she had lost. In her regular clothes, it was easy to ignore the changes in her body, but standing in front of the mirror, in the thin scrubs, she realized she hadn't been taking care of herself.

She pulled her brush out of her purse, took advantage of the blow dryer left on the counter, and dried her hair. She folded her clothes up and went to check on her father before she went downstairs to the cafeteria. He was still sedated, but they had begun to wean him off the oxygen and would probably begin waking him up after he came back from the CT scan. Bella kissed his forehead and felt her throat getting full again.

Charlie was all she had. She'd leaned heavily on him when she left Edward. He was the only thing that kept her going those first bad months. The best thing that came from her leaving Edward was the closeness she and Charlie had gained. He was her best friend, and if he died she didn't know how she would go on without him.

Bella stumbled out of the room, drawing Edward's attention as he was leaving a patient's room down the hall. She kept her head down and didn't notice anything around her, let alone him. The shower had done nothing to revive her. The nap she had taken hadn't either. She felt like a zombie walking down the hall and leaned against the wall, too tired to stand, while she waited for the elevator. She'd been so happy when her father agreed to actively seek treatment and even more so when he'd been accepted into the study. Bella was planning to have him around for a long time, but as she stood in the elevator, she felt hopeless.

Edward went over to the desk, Jackie was sitting there working and didn't even look up at him when she spoke.

"I sent her to the cafeteria to get something to eat. She could probably use an old friend to lean on right about now."

Edward didn't hesitate. He went after her.

Yeah, she caught my eye…

He walked into the cafeteria and immediately found Bella in the sea of people. She was walking around looking at the breakfast offerings, but didn't seem to be seeing them. She placed a bottle of water on her tray and stood before a fruit display. She chose a red apple and placed it on the tray. Edward walked up behind her and stopped about five feet away.

"Water and an apple aren't going to help you be strong for your dad."

Bella gasped at the familiar voice and spun around, her eyes wide and searching for his face, the bottle fell and the apple flew off, bouncing across the floor. She dropped the tray and burst into tears. He opened his arms, and she flew into his embrace, sobbing wildly. Edward closed his eyes, and rested his cheek on the top of her head. She fit in his arms as well as she always had.

He held her, right there in the middle of the cafeteria, while people glanced at them speculatively. Her tears slowed and she pulled away enough to look at his face. Even with red-rimmed, puffy eyes and tear-stained cheeks, her beauty took his breath away.

"I can't believe you're here." She sniffled and pulled away, looking for a napkin to wipe her nose.

He didn't want to let her go. "I can't believe you're here, either." He smiled at her.

Bella wiped her nose and her damp cheeks. He picked up the tray and bottle of water and reached for her hand. She took it, intertwined their fingers and held on to his wrist with the other hand.

He led her through the line and filled the tray with enough food to feed ten people. He squeezed her hand gently when she began to protest.

"I'm hungry."

He added two bottles of orange juice and two cups for coffee. He paid for the meal and led her to a booth in a corner. She slid onto the bench, and he went to get their coffee. When he came back with the steaming cups he slid onto the seat next to her, wanting to be as close as possible.

Bella leaned her head on his shoulder, wanting him close, as well. She touched the name badge hanging from his coat.


"Yes, I started a new rotation this morning. I was shocked to see your father was a patient." He started to say more but didn't. "The nurses rave about how devoted you are to your dad."

Tears welled up in her eyes again, but she wiped them away and took a sip of her coffee. He offered her a fork and pushed the plate of scrambled eggs toward her.

She nodded, "He's all I have. I love him so much. It's so hard seeing him this way. I pushed him to come here, and instead of getting better he seems to be deteriorating before my eyes. I should have let him stay home and enjoy whatever time he had left."

"He's very sick, Bella, but Dr. Vanniyar and Dr. Kelburg are amazing doctors. He's in good hands."

She held the fork above the eggs and wiped an escaped tear off of her cheek. She squeezed his hand. "It's so good to see you. You look great." Her smile sent a jolt of longing through him that had been long hidden.

"I'd say you look great, but to be honest, you look two steps from having to be admitted yourself. Eat, please."

They didn't speak while Bella ate her breakfast. Edward held her left hand and tucked her hair behind her ears, causing a blush to creep up her cheeks when his hand brushed it. He played with the cap from the bottle of orange juice. The silence wasn't awkward.

"Thank you for being here for me. I needed a shoulder to cry on."

"I'm glad it was me." He wanted to kiss her so badly but was mindful of not scaring her away. His feelings for her were so strong. "Are you ready to head back upstairs?"

Bella nodded, and they went back up to the Cardiac ward. Charlie was being rolled past the elevators when the doors opened. Bella rushed out to walk next to him, following the gurney back to his room. Edward followed behind and waited in the doorway until Charlie was settled before he approached her.

"I get off at seven or so. Can I drive you home?"

Bella shook her head and looked down at her dad. "No, I'm going to stay with him."

Jackie entered the room with his medicine as she said it. "Oh no, you're not, young lady. You're going home tonight to get some rest—doctor's orders. Right, Dr. Cullen?" Edward nodded to Jackie.

"You do need to sleep, Bella. I'm not asking anything of you. Just let me drive you home."

She looked at her dad and then back to Edward, and with a tentative nod she agreed.

"I have patients to see. Jackie knows how to reach me if you need me." He pulled her close and kissed her head. She felt his heart beating when she touched his chest. He didn't want to, but he left the room to check on his patients, willing the time to pass quickly.

"He's such a nice young man and so handsome." Bella had never met a female that wasn't charmed by Edward, even the grandmotherly nurse.

She nodded. "It's really great to see him."

Bella was saved from having to dwell on what seeing Edward meant to her when Dr. Kelburg came into the room. She had a team of doctors with her, including Dr. Lopez, her father's internist, Dr. Zuniyet, from the study, two other doctors Bella had seen during their rounds that morning, and a medical student. Charlie had been weaned off of the sedative and was beginning to move around. Bella held his hand while Dr. Kelburg asked him if he could open his eyes. His eyelids fluttered, and he started to cough from the tube still in his throat. Bella pulled his hands away and whispered that everything was okay.

Dr. Kelburg had the nurse take his blood pressure and wasn't impressed with the 200 over 150 they got. She explained to the other doctors that the parameters of 190 over 120 were where they needed to keep his pressures. Charlie opened his eyes while she was talking and panicked. His heart rate sped up. Dr. Kelburg stopped talking and came over to him. She placed her hand on his arm.

"Its okay, Mr. Swan, I'm Dr. Kelburg. I'm going to remove the tube from your throat so we can talk." She put on gloves and moved the bed down so she could stand at his head. She lowered the back so he was flat. "I need you to blow out when I remove the tube. Are you ready?"

Charlie nodded yes and, almost painfully, grasped Bella's hand. Dr. Kelburg counted to three and pulled the tube causing him to double up from the coughing. Bella rubbed his hand until he stopped. Dr. Kelburg listened to his lung sounds and then lifted the head of his bed up.

"I know you're probably wondering what's going on. Last evening you were given your rescue med of IV Labetalol when your pressure spiked. Do you remember?" He nodded. "Unfortunately the meds worked too well and along with your BP plummeting you complained of severe back pain. A CT scan was ordered, and we found an aortic aneurysm." His eyes widened, and he looked up at Bella. "Do you know what that is?"

He shook his head and Dr. Kelburg explained. "An aortic aneurysm is a general term for any swelling of the aorta, the largest artery in your body. The swelling usually represents an underlying weakness in the wall of the aorta at that location. While the stretched vessel may cause discomfort, a greater concern is the risk of rupture. Your chronic hypertension is most likely the cause of the aneurysm."

Charlie closed his eyes and then asked, his voice scratchy sounding from the intubation. "What does this mean?"

"It means you're going to be monitored closely. Our goal is to keep strict control over your blood pressure. We've set the parameters at a reasonable 190 over 120. It's higher than ideal, but in this case we need it to be stable, and if that means it needs to be a high stable then that's what we'll aim for right now."

She flipped open her chart and walked over to the computer, pulling up his medicine list. "Right now you are on eleven different medicines. I'm going to add a beta blocker to the list. Our goal is to bring this list down to a more manageable number. We're going to keep IV Labetalol as a rescue medicine, but because of the adverse effects you experienced you'll be staying here in the CCU for a while."

Bella listened to the plan. "What about his place in the ablation study?" She directed the question to Dr. Zuniyet.

"For right now he's still slated to be a part of it, but the aneurysm throws a wrench in things, and we need to decide if he's stable enough to undergo the surgery."

Bella nodded. The hopeless feeling was creeping up again. She'd heard this same plan many times before. Every time her father was admitted they did the same thing – pumped him full of meds that didn't work and then released him when there didn't seem to be an answer. The renal ablation wasn't approved in the United States yet, but the treatment given as part of the study was supposed to have been the answer.

"Do you have any questions?" Dr. Kelburg asked.

Bella shook her head, and Charlie said no. The doctors left the room, and Bella sat down on his bed.

"Hi," she simply said.

"Hi, yourself," was his gruff answer.

"Can I get you something?"

Charlie pointed at his water, and Bella went to fill it. As she walked out of the room, her eyes met Edward's. He smiled at her, that little smile he used each time he walked into Biology, or when he walked in the door and had his mind on a little cuddle time—his panty-melting smile she'd teased. She felt a rush of heat hit her, not from her blush, although she was blushing, but lower in the pit of her stomach.

She entered the galley kitchen, set the pink pitcher down on the counter, and took a deep breath to abate the panic that threatened to set in. She knew the real risk of a ruptured aneurysm; massive internal hemorrhage and, without prompt treatment, death. She couldn't believe this was happening. She twisted her hair around her hand and secured it in a messy bun on her head. She leaned her back against the counter, looked up at the ceiling tiles and thought about Edward. She was surprised by how happy she was to see him.

Sitting next to him in the cafeteria had seemed natural and had, weirdly, relieved some of her stress, when the opposite should've been true. She didn't understand her feelings, but she refused to think of the past, or the future. The past was too hard to revisit and she was unable to think of the future without knowing whether or not her father was going to be a part of it.

Unfortunately, it was too easy to picture Edward in her future. She believed in soul mates and had always felt Edward was hers. If he hadn't been it would've been easier to get over him, and deep down she could admit to herself that she hadn't done that.

She was deep in thought when the door opened, and Edward peeked in the room, startling her. She jumped and put her hand over her heart.

"You scared me."

"Are you okay?" he asked, furrowing his brow.

Bella remembered what she'd come in for and reached for the pitcher, adding ice and water to it.

She sighed, "Yeah, I'm okay, just trying to take everything in."

"I talked to Dr. Kelburg, and I agree with her treatment plan."

His assurance made her feel better. "I didn't ask her about surgery to repair the aneurysm. Is that an option?"

"With his pressures being what they've been it's too risky. If they can stabilize him over the next week, then maybe, but only if it's necessary. Dr. Kelburg has ordered daily ECHOs and close monitoring. We'll know when it becomes necessary."

Bella nodded. She knew that was the answer but wanted to hear it from him. Edward moved closer to her, wanting to pull her into his arms when his phone beeped a code blue. Her face went pale, and she followed him quickly out of the room. He raced down the hall, the opposite way of Charlie's room, giving her a reassuring smile over his shoulder.

Bella took the water into her dad and apologized for the delay. She was so relieved when Edward turned down the hall. When she heard the code call her stomach dropped, scared it was Charlie. She hated that in her mind she'd wished it on someone else.

The worst part of being a nurse was death. It was something she'd faced many times. She'd always found it hard to keep her heart safe from her patients. When she'd worked in the Pediatric ICU in California each time a child died they took a piece of her heart with them, until she was a mess. She hadn't been able to leave the pain behind when she went home at night.

She knew Edward wasn't entirely to blame for their break-up, even if she allowed her father to think that. She'd been depressed and had retreated into herself. She hadn't wanted to burden him with her problems, and he'd probably done the same. Their break-up could be solely blamed on a lack of communication and trust. She hadn't trusted he would be there for her if she revealed she wasn't all together.

She sat on Charlie's bed and held his hand. They discussed his test results and Dr. Kelburg's plan. Charlie seemed a bit defeated.

"I'm sick of fighting, Bella. I'm tired of being sick all the time and you're wasting your life taking care of me."

Bella kissed the back of his hand. "I'm not wasting my life. There is nothing I'd rather be doing; nowhere I'd rather be than right here beside you. I love you, Dad." Tears sparkled in her eyes as she hugged him.

"I love you, too, Bells. Always have, always will."

She noticed he was getting sleepy; the sedative still lingering. She tilted the blinds closed and pulled the sliding glass door to the room shut most of the way, leaving it open six inches. She straightened his blankets and kissed his forehead.

"Take a nap, Dad. I'm going to use the bathroom, and then I'm going to take one, too. I'll be right here if you need me." She pointed to the recliner. He nodded and closed his eyes.

Bella blew out a breath to keep from crying and slipped out of the room to use the bathroom. She saw Jackie at the desk, told her Charlie was resting and asked for another blanket. Jackie gladly brought her a blanket from the warmer. Bella went back in the room and curled up in the recliner. The warmth of the blanket lulled her to sleep.

When the techs came to take Charlie for his ECHO, Jackie told them to be quiet and not wake Bella if they could. Bella slept through him leaving and coming back and woke up four hours later when the doctors came in for their final rounds.

Dr. Kelburg was pleased with the way her father's blood pressure had been more stable. It was still higher than they wanted, but they wanted to go slowly with the treatment plan. Bella felt refreshed from her nap and when she looked at the clock, she realized it was already six. Only one hour until Edward's shift ended. She felt butterflies in her stomach—anticipation, but then guilt that she was looking forward to leaving her dad's side.

Charlie's dinner arrived, and she gently prompted him to eat. He hated hospital food and was craving fresh fish. His complaints reminded Bella she needed to call Jacob and Billy and let them know what was going on. She'd tell them to go get some of the fish out of Charlie's freezer so it didn't go bad. She had to hold out hope that he would be healthy enough to restock it when they went home.

At seven, Jackie came in and shooed Bella out the door. She explained to Charlie that Bella needed some rest, and he readily agreed.

"Go home, Bells. Get some rest. I'll still be here tomorrow." The stupid tears filled her eyes again, and she fervently prayed he was right.

But we shared a moment that would last till the end…

Jackie had told her the biting cold was back, so Bella went to the bathroom and put her jeans back on. She grabbed her coat and said goodbye to her dad. Edward was waiting for her by the elevators. He'd had a successful day. One of his patients, a young man with a congenital heart defect, had coded but had been revived. He was on the transplant list and was waiting for a heart.

He'd been so busy his day flew by, and when it was time to round with the next shift he felt the excitement that he'd soon be with Bella building. Jackie told him Bella had gotten some rest, and when she came around the corner he could see she looked better.

"Ready to go?"

He could see she was torn between going and staying when she looked back toward her father's room, but she nodded and they took the elevator to the parking garage. Edward was glad he'd driven in to work. It would've been inconvenient to have to take the metro.

"Do you have a car here?" he asked her as they walked through the parking garage.

"No, I usually take the Metro. My apartments only three blocks from the station."

They walked up to Edward's car, and Bella cocked her eyebrow at him and gave him a smile. The car was so him. "Nice car."

It was a nice car. It was a 2011 Audi TT coupe. He didn't leave the city much, but when he did he enjoyed his car even more. He went to the passenger's side and opened the door for her. She slipped into her seat and closed her eyes. The car smelled like him.

He got in the car and asked for her address to put in the GPS.

"1550 Clarendon Blvd, Arlington."

"That's a nice area. I'm glad you aren't staying closer to the hospital."

While the area around the hospital wasn't bad, there were neighborhoods nearby that weren't safe. He pulled out of the garage and drove through the city, passing close by his apartment. They talked about her father and the patient he'd almost lost.

"He's so young, only twenty-one. He's been on the transplant list for three years. If he doesn't get a heart soon he'll die. We almost lost him today."

"I was so afraid it was Charlie when I heard the code," she said quietly.

He reached over for her hand and squeezed it. "I know you did. I could see it in your eyes."

Bella looked out the side window at the storefronts in Georgetown. It was a Monday and it was cold outside, but the streets were full of people going to the stores and restaurants. She didn't let go of his hand. They went across the Key Bridge and drove into Rosslyn. As he turned onto Clarendon Boulevard, he realized he didn't want to say goodbye yet.

"Can I take you to dinner?"

She looked over at him and smiled. "Yeah, I'd like that."

"Any suggestions?"

"Um, well, there's Piola, if you want pizza or Café Asia for Asian food. I love their gyoza. Sometimes, I walk over and pick the food up; by the time I've made it home I've eaten them all."

"Then I say Café Asia. Is there parking?"

Bella thought for a minute. "It's probably easiest to park in my building and walk. I have a parking space I never use, and it's only a block away."

They parked and walked to Café Asia. The restaurant had a loungy feel to it. The lights were low, but it didn't feel romantic. It felt easy. They sat at a small table toward the back of the restaurant. Bella hadn't wanted to be by the windows because of the cold.

Their waitress made eyes at Edward as she took their drink order, but just like she remembered, he didn't notice. He gave Bella his undivided attention.

"Can I get you something to drink and an appetizer?" She looked only at him. Edward gestured for Bella to go first, but she waited until the waitress looked at her before ordering hot tea. Edward asked for a glass of water and an order of gyoza.

"Would you like a drink from the bar?" the waitress asked him.

"No, thank you, just the water."

The waitress walked away and Bella said, "You can have a drink if you want one."

Bella's mother had been an alcoholic and had died in a car accident when Bella was thirteen. She never drank and when she was in college she'd shied away from anyone who did. It always bothered her when Edward ordered a drink when they were out, but she knew it had been an immature reaction. She was flattered to think he chose not to drink because he remembered how much it had bothered her.

He looked up at her, his face serious. "I haven't had a drink since February 8, 2003."

Bella put her hand to her mouth and closed her eyes. That was the day she left him. It brought their past up to the surface, and it should have been the perfect time to discuss it, but neither of them wanted to. There seemed to be a silent agreement in the air to stay in the present only. They were saved from an awkward moment when their waitress returned with their drinks. Edward smoothly changed the subject by asking about the job Bella left when she'd moved to D.C. with her dad.

"When I first moved back to Forks I was hired to work on the Peds unit. I didn't want to be there, but it was where my experience was. I worked there for a year and then transferred to Antepartum/Postpartum. I went back to school and got my MSN. I also went to school to become a Lactation Consultant and helped open a Breastfeeding Clinic in the hospital. I'm much happier working with mothers and babies than I ever was in the PICU."

Edward was so proud of her. He watched her talking about how she'd done all the research and pushed to open the clinic. She'd applied for grants and had even opened a mobile clinic that traveled to the Quileute Reservation. She was so beautiful as she talked about her accomplishments. He couldn't help but realize she probably wouldn't have accomplished those things if they'd stayed together.

Their appetizer arrived, and they order their entrees; Thai Basil for Bella and Red Curry for Edward. While they enjoyed the steamed dumplings, which were as tasty as Bella had claimed, the topic of conversation switched to him.

"How did you end up on the East Coast?" she asked him.

"I was offered a fellowship at Stanford, but I had applied to a lot of different hospitals. When I was accepted at Washington Hospital Center it seemed like the best fit. I was ready to leave California. My mother's still upset I turned down the program at Rush in Chicago. She wanted me to be close to home, but Alice and Emmett live in Atlanta, so I'm sort of in the middle".

"How much longer do you have till your fellowship is completed?"

"The end is near, June in fact. After that I'll decide where I'm going to go. I like Washington Med. I applied for an attending position, but haven't heard anything yet."

Their food came and they made small talk, mostly about the area, while they ate. They shared dessert before he paid the bill. She wanted to pay since he'd paid for breakfast, but he wouldn't let her.

They held hands as they walked back to her apartment. He had only been back in her life for fifteen hours, but she was amazed by how natural it felt. They didn't talk as they walked along Pierce Street. He didn't want the moment to end, letting go of her would be too hard.

She shivered from the cold wind that whipped between the tall buildings. He pulled her to his side and put his arm around her shoulder holding her close. He kissed the top of her head and inhaled her scent, bringing memories rushing back. He felt himself hardening as he remembered making love to her. It was too soon to act on those thoughts, but his body was connected to her in a way he didn't understand.

Bella put her arm under his jacket when he put his over her shoulder. Her hand felt the muscles of his back and desire struck deep in her belly. She could feel her nipples tightening, and it wasn't from the cold.

They walked into the lobby and stood at the elevator for an awkward moment. He pressed down at the same time she pressed up.

"Do you want a cup of coffee before you leave?" she asked breathlessly.

He gave her a crinkly-eyed smile and held open the elevator door for her. "I'd like that."

They rode up to the eighth floor, and she opened the door to her apartment with the key card. She turned on the light in the kitchen. Her cheeks felt flushed, and she needed to get a hold of herself before she did something she might regret; like taking him to her bed.

She took his coat from him and hung it next to her's in the hall closet. She turned on the side table lamp, bathing the room in soft light, and let him wander while she started the coffee. He opened the curtains covering the door to the balcony and looked out at the view. She came up behind him and when he turned he saw the unmistakable look of lust in her eyes. He pulled her into his arms, and she moaned in response, a soft sound that told him she wanted him as much as he wanted her.

He kissed her softly. Thoroughly. He couldn't hold back. His lips and tongue explored every corner of her mouth, and he wanted more.

"Edward," she said his name breathlessly as he traced her jaw line with little kisses. She slid her hands around to his back, pressing against him so he could feel every inch of her. His hands remembered her body, every warm contour, every touch that pleased her. He stroked her body until she was panting into his mouth. He wanted more though.

"Bella, I want you." His voice was hoarse from need, and she nodded. He lifted her into his arms and carried her to the couch.

"Not here. My bedroom's over there."

She pointed the way, and he carried her into the room, pushing the door open with her body. He laid her on the bed and stood over her, taking in the sight of her. She leaned up on her elbows, her breasts jutting out, begging to be touched. He unbuttoned his shirt and threw it down, followed by his t-shirt leaving him bare-chested. His body had matured and was more muscular than she remembered.

He helped her remove her shirt, leaving her in her black cotton bra. The starkness of the black against her pale skin was stunning. He kissed the tops of her breasts and unbuttoned her pants, pushing them off her legs until she kicked them off completely. She wasn't wearing panties.

He needed to get his pants off, but he was so hard it was difficult. She sat up and kissed his stomach, causing another surge of blood to rush to his dick, while she unbuttoned his jeans. She reached her hand in and pulled him out. He thought he would come the minute she touched it. He threw his head back and panted trying to gain some control.

Bella reached behind her and unbuttoned her bra. He looked down under heavy-lidded eyes; she was gloriously naked, laid out on the bed for him. She scooted up so he could crawl between her legs, and he knew he wouldn't last a minute if he sank into her. He could see the moisture on her thighs, and he suddenly had to taste her. He kissed her flat stomach and she cried out as his breath hit her. She put her hands in his hair and arched off the bed when his tongue touched her. She cried out when he pushed her legs open so he could reach more of her.

His tongue lapped at her and when he flicked it against her clit she lost all sense, screaming his name for all to hear. He put a finger inside of her and stroked the ridges while she writhed on the bed in ecstasy. She was so close to coming she clung to his fingers. He could see her stomach muscles spasming and remembered it was her telltale sign. He inserted another finger and sucked her clit into his mouth, gently biting it, sending her over the edge.

He slowly removed his fingers and gently lapped at her while she came down from her high. She was panting, and the color on her cheeks and her breasts made his dick drip with need. He kissed his way up her body to her mouth and kissed her lips. She tasted herself on him and felt desire building again.

He raised her thighs up over his hips and pressed into her. He stopped and dropped his head against her chest. She was thankful he kept his mind enough to ask about protection.

"Are you on the pill?"


Edward lifted himself off her, his body screaming at the loss of contact, and pulled his wallet from his pants. He prayed he had an emergency condom stashed in there. He did. He ripped the foil packet open, slid it on, and lay back down between her legs. Her nipples were hard, little pebbles, and he drew the left one into his mouth tasting her sweetness.

She pulled her legs open and threw them around his lower back begging him to fill her. He slowly pressed into her, and it was heaven. It felt like coming home. He wanted to be gentle and prolong their pleasure, but she didn't want that. She spurred him on, lifting up as he pushed down. She was so tight, and so hot inside, he couldn't help himself. He wanted to make her come again so he raised himself up until he was kneeling and held her lower back in his hands thrusting into her.

Watching himself slide in and out of her was the most erotic thing he had ever seen. Her eyes were closed and when she reached up to caress her own breast he felt the first pulse of his orgasm. She watched him lick his thumb and knew exactly where he was going to put it. She cried out his name as he rubbed it in circles against her clit.

"Oh, Bella! Come with me baby. I want to feel you." He arched his shoulders forward. Her pussy clamped down on his dick, and she screamed out her release. He grabbed her ass in his hands and thrust himself into her frantically before he came. He threw his head back and yelled her name while he emptied himself into the condom.

Her legs limply fell to the sides, and he slowly laid his body down on hers. He buried his face in her hair and let the last of the spasms subside. He rolled to the side, pulling her with him and held her tightly against his chest until their breathing returned to normal.

They both started to feel the cold air on their sweat-slicked bodies. Bella was the first to lift her head. She kissed his shoulder, but wouldn't meet him gaze. She hid her face behind her sheet of hair. She wanted to ask him to move under the blankets, but was too afraid he'd say he had to leave. When he ran his hand down her back he felt goose bumps form on her skin.

Making love to Bella had been the most amazing experience of his life. He knew her body and what she liked. He didn't know where they'd go from here, but he knew he wasn't ready to let go of her.

He tucked her hair behind her ear and whispered into it, causing her to shiver. "Can I stay with you tonight?"

Bella felt instant relief. She smiled up at him and released a breath she'd been holding. "I'd like that."

He tipped her chin up with his fingers and kissed her swollen lips. "Can I use your bathroom?"

She smiled at an old joke that never failed to make her giggle. "Only if you put it back when you're done." He flopped back down and smacked kisses all over her face causing her to giggle even more. She pointed to the correct door and enjoyed the view of his butt as he walked away.

She debated whether or not to throw a shirt on or stay naked and decided to pull on a tank top. She folded back the blankets and crawled in between the cool, crisp sheets. He came back and slipped into bed next to her, pulling her close. He tsked at the tank top and ran his hands up her back pulling the shirt off.

"I want to feel your skin against mine." He pulled her tightly against him and closed his eyes at the pleasure of having her body twined with his.

Bella was almost asleep when he spoke. "I never stopped loving you."

She put her finger against his lips. "Shh. I'm not ready to talk about this. Just let me stay in today for a little while longer. Please."

He sighed but let it go. He wanted to talk about the past so they could talk about the future. Now that she was back in his life and back in his arms, he knew he couldn't let her go. He moved away from her to set the alarm on his phone. She cried out and grabbed him.

"Don't leave!"

He rolled back and kissed her lips softly, surprised by the tears filling her eyes. "Shh, baby. I'm not leaving. I was just getting my phone so I could set the alarm. I have to be at work tomorrow."

He could feel her trembling. It seemed she was just as afraid to let go as he was. He set the alarm for five, so they could shower and stop by his place for clean clothes. He assumed she'd go back to the hospital with him.

Bella closed her eyes, blinking away the moisture and felt stupid that she'd overreacted. The past hung over them like a storm cloud, just waiting to pour rain on them. She knew they needed to talk about it, but she didn't want to. She just wanted to savor the present. The past was filled with hurt and disappointment, and the future was filled with uncertainty. The present, the moment right then, was perfect. Her father was alive, and she was in the arms of the man she'd always loved.

After setting his alarm, he rolled over and pulled her back against him. She fell asleep almost instantly, lulled by the safety of his arms, the warmth of his body, and the steady beat of his heart against her cheek.

Edward, on the other hand, didn't fall asleep as easily. His thoughts were of the past. He never wanted to make the same mistakes again, but unless they were defined, the chances of it happening were too high. He knew his drug abuse had been part of their problems, but it had been bigger than that. He was probably just expecting too much from her too soon, but he was afraid to lose her again.

He stared at her face. She hadn't changed much. Her face had lost the roundness of youth, but she was just as beautiful as she'd always been. He gently brushed the dark circles under her eye with his finger, smoothing away the barely noticeable lines that stress had added. He wiped away a stray tear drop that lingered on her cheek and softly kissed her plush lips.

He woke up to the alarm five hours later. They hadn't moved from the position they'd fallen asleep in. Her lips were in that familiar pout and he placed little kisses and nibbles on them until she woke up. She smiled at him with her eyes closed and stretched, rubbing her breasts against his chest. He leaned back a little, enjoying the sight of them bathed in the early light, and amended his thought from the night before. Unlike her face, some things had changed—a lot. Her boobs had gotten bigger, and he adored them.

She must have felt his gaze on her because her eyes popped open and her hands covered her breasts in a display of modesty.

"What time is it?

"It's a bit after five."

Bella pulled the sheet off the bed and wrapped it around her body. She brushed her hair out of her eyes and turned her head toward him. Her cheeks were blazing.

"I'm going to take a quick shower."

She hurried into the bathroom, the sheet dragging behind her like a train.

Bella sat on the toilet and put her head in her hands. She rubbed her hands down her face and stood up to start the shower.

She was having a hard time believing last night really happened. It had been amazing, and she didn't regret it a bit. She only wondered where it could lead. She had so badly needed the physical release last night. The stress of taking care of her father had built up, and she felt lighter than she had in a long time. She felt renewed and ready to face anything the doctors might throw at her.

Thinking of her father made her rush through her shower. She pulled her bathrobe on and went into her room to get dressed.

Edward walked in after she had pulled her sweater over her head and handed her a cup of coffee.

"Thank you."

"Good morning, beautiful." He pressed a soft kiss on her lips. "You're welcome." He set his cup on her dresser and pulled her into a loose embrace. "Are you okay?"

She nodded. "I'm great. Did you want to take a shower before we leave?" She was anxious to get back to her dad.

Edward took a quick shower, got dressed and they headed out the door. He pulled up outside his apartment and ran in to change clothes quickly, leaving Bella in the car. He tossed some extra clothes in a backpack hoping for an encore of the previous night. He mentally made a note to stop at the drugstore for condoms after work.

He parked his car in the garage with only fifteen minutes until rounds began and noticed Bella's sudden nervousness. She was gnawing on her thumbnail, a sure sign of distress. He reached over and pulled her hand to his lips, kissing it.

"What's wrong?"

She shook her head. "Nothing, just thinking about my dad. Every day he seems worse. I never know what I'll walk in to." She glanced at the clock. "You need to go. You're gonna be late." She opened the car door and met him by the hood. She pulled him close for a quick hug. "Go, you need to run!"

He turned to go but came back and gave her a quick, smacking kiss. "I'll see you soon, gorgeous. You know how to find me if you need me." Then he ran.

Bella was pleasantly surprised to find her father sitting up in the bed. She gave him a hug and kissed his forehead. His blood pressure was still higher than the parameters they wanted, but not by much. They were changing his meds, and while the side effects weren't pleasant, they at least seemed to improve his condition.

Edward met Bella in the cafeteria as she was buying lunch to share with her dad. Her smile when she saw him melted his heart even further. They made plans for dinner that evening, and he hoped for an invitation to stay with her again.

I saw an angel…

Charlie continued to do well the rest of the week. On Friday afternoon, he lay in bed watching Bella as she watched a movie on her laptop next to him. He didn't know what but something had changed in her. She was more relaxed. The dark circles under her eyes had disappeared, and she looked happy. She would get this smile on her face, but when he asked her about it she explained it away as just being happy he was doing well.

As she had all week, she waited until the doctors came around and then said goodbye, that secret smile on her lips. She told him she had some errands to run in the morning and wouldn't be in until later the next afternoon.

He hadn't done much in his life, but if he died he could go knowing he'd given Bella everything he had. He'd been both mother and father and had loved her with everything he had. Bella was his angel and his greatest accomplishment.

His one regret was that she'd be alone. He wasn't a religious guy, but he had taken to prayer lately and his most impassioned plea was not for him. It was for her. He prayed she would find love and never have to be alone again. Charlie had let Renee walk out of his life rather than push her to get help and had lost the true love of his life.

He felt he'd done her a disservice. After she'd left Edward she came home and was a fraction of the girl who'd left. He'd let her make the same mistake he'd made, shutting down instead of healing. When Edward showed up at their house he should have let her deal with it, but he'd sent him away in anger without her knowing. He'd thought she would get over him and move on, but each year passed and she didn't. It was like looking in a mirror. He didn't want her to be like him and mourn his lost love forever. He hoped her eagerness to leave his side meant she'd met someone. Jackie was working the next day. He would ask her if she knew what was up with Bella.

He repeated his prayer and rubbed his forehead. His headache had been bothering him all day and when the nurse came in his blood pressure was very high—264 over 189. She gave him the IV meds to bring it down and his pressure went too low. He vomited and was having a hard time keeping his eyes open. The nurse asked if he wanted her to call Bella, but he told her no. He could feel horrible alone as easily as he could while she sat by him worrying.

And I don't know what to do…

The last five days had been bliss. Bella's days were spent at her dad's side, and her nights were spent with Edward. Their reunion had been flawless. Physically, it was better than it had ever been. She'd read that women hit their sexual peak in their thirties, and she could testify to that. The sex had always been amazing, but was even more so now.

She blushed while remembering the spectacular orgasm he gave her before they left for dinner. They'd barely shut the apartment door before he was on her. He bent her over the couch and took her from behind. She rubbed her hand on her neck where it and her shoulder met, feeling the spot he'd marked. He smirked at her over his glass of water like he knew exactly what she'd been thinking about.

Emotionally, there were doors that were still closed. She refused any mention of the past or the future, and Edward hoped tonight would be the night they could clear the air. He waited until their dessert arrived before he broached the subject.

"Are you ever going to talk to me about what happened?"

Bella's face fell. She sat higher in her chair. "I don't want to talk about it."

He pressed on. "I never stopped hoping I'd find you again. I tried to move on, but you've always been the only one I want."

As soon as she did it she knew she was overreacting, but she couldn't handle the conversation. She balled up her napkin and threw it on the table, then walked away. He threw some cash down on the table and raced after her. She was already outside when he caught up to her.


She swung around when his hand grasped her arm. There were tears in her eyes.

"Why won't you understand? I can't go back there. Why can't we just enjoy today?"

He stared at her exasperated. "Why? Because I want tomorrow with you and until we talk about the past and what happened I can't move on. There are things you need to know."

"I know all I need to know." A cab turned down the street, and she waved it down. "I know I left you when you needed me most because I was stupid and jealous and hurt. What happened happened, and no amount of talking about it will change it." She opened the door to the cab.

"Don't go. I'll drive you home."

She shook her head and put her hand out to stop him. "I'm not ready for this. I thought I was, but I'm not. I need some space." She got in the car and shut the door.

He stood there on the curb, trying to understand what had happened. He wondered if his strong feelings for her had prevented him from seeing if she felt the same. He walked back to the restaurant to make sure he'd left enough cash and to have the valet bring his car around.

He drove through D.C. trying to decide what to do. He felt his throat getting full and thought he was going to cry. Being away from her felt wrong. He drove past the WWII Memorial and turned onto Independence Ave. and took the circle that would lead him past the Tidal Basin and into Virginia. He couldn't leave things that way. If he had to keep his mouth shut to be with her then he would.

He pulled into her parking garage and parked; grateful she'd left the gate card and parking pass in his car. He rode the elevator up and hoped she'd answer the door.

Bella heard the knock at her door but was too ashamed by her behavior to open it. She'd acted like a child. She felt overwhelmed and so scared of how strongly she felt for him. Nothing had been resolved between them, and if it didn't work out she didn't know how she'd survive. He called her phone, but she didn't pick up.

He knocked again and then said through the door, "Please open the door, baby. Please. I'm sorry." She looked through the peep hole and saw him. He looked bad. His hair was standing straight up, and his eyes were red. Her heart broke for putting him through this.

She opened the door and moved aside so he could come in. He walked in and threw his jacket over the counter.

"I'm sorry," he said, his eyes blazing with emotion.

She was the one that needed to apologize but she was afraid if she did he would think it was an opening to talk, and she still wasn't ready. She led him to the bedroom and apologized physically never giving him a chance to talk.

The next morning they could've slept in, but both were used to waking up early and only slept an hour later than usual. She opened her eyes to him watching her.

"When I was driving over here last night I noticed the cherry blossoms had started blooming. How 'bout we get dressed and go walk down by the Jefferson Memorial. The weather is supposed to be warm. We can pick up some lunch and have a picnic. Then I'll drop you off at the hospital. Sound good?"

She nodded and watched as he went in the bathroom. Her stomach was still in knots from what happened the night before, but she didn't know how to broach the subject. She did know she loved him and wanted to tell him.

He came back into the bedroom, showered and dressed, to find her still buried under the covers. He kneeled on the bed and gave her a kiss.

"Are you getting up, lazy girl?"

He'd expected a laugh but was instead met with a serious expression. He sat down next to her and she crawled into his lap until he was cradling her.

She barely whispered, "I love you."

He closed his eyes. To hear her say the words meant so much. He hugged her tightly. "I love you, too."

They sat there for a long time hugging, and Edward swore to himself he would do whatever was necessary to keep her as his forever.

They went for a walk down by the Tidal Basin. The sweet scent of the early blooming cherry blossoms filled the air. The gentle breeze, as they sat with their legs hanging over the edge watching the paddleboats, sent a shower of petals raining down on them. She laughed as they brushed against her face. He pulled a bunch of blooms off a low hanging branch and tucked it into her messy bun.

After they ate their lunch on the steps of the Memorial, he had her drop him off at his apartment. They'd always ended up at her apartment, but he wanted to see her in his bed. He told her to take the car and come back when she was done at the hospital. He wanted to cook her dinner instead of going out.

Bella had an uneasy feeling as she walked into the hospital. She rushed a bit more than usual wishing she'd come earlier. When she walked into her father's room she was shocked by his condition. He was pale and obviously in pain. She tossed her stuff down and ran to his side.

"Dad, what's going on?"

She grasped his hand and kissed it. His skin was clammy, and there was sweat on his brow.

"Just had a bad night. My BP was all over the place, and I'm feeling pretty crummy today."

"Have the doctors come in this morning?"

"Dr. Kelburg came in earlier, but she's off today. Dr. Bryan is on."

"What did they say?" He rolled his eyes at her and tried to sit up in the bed, but cringed at the pain. "Is your back hurting?"

"Yeah, it has been, off and on all night. They did an ECHO, and I'm waiting to go down for a CT. I expect them anytime." He grabbed her hand and pulled her over until she was sitting on his bed.

He took a deep breath and hated the creases her worry for him put in her brow. "I know you don't want to talk about this, but there are things I need to get off my chest." Bella swallowed hard past a growing lump. "I love you, Bells and I don't want you to be alone for the rest of your life."

"I'm not going to be alone, Dad. I'll have you."

He shook his head at her. "I'm not going to be around forever..."

"Dad, stop talking like this." She interrupted him and tried to stand up, but with surprising strength he pulled her back down.

His jaw was set, and he spoke more firmly. "I'm not going to be around forever, and I don't want you to be alone like I've been. You need to let someone in. I know you're afraid you aren't able to love someone as much as you loved Edward, but that wasn't your fault. Sometimes relationships don't work out."

Talking to her dad about Edward brought tears to her eyes. He was the one person she could talk to about her feelings, and she was too afraid to upset him by burdening him with her problems. She wiped the tears away and reached for a tissue to wipe her nose.

"I wasn't strong enough to help him when he needed me most. I walked away. How can I ever trust that I won't do the same thing in the future?"

Charlie sighed and pulled her into his arms, holding her against his chest like he had when she was a child. He'd spoken to Jackie that morning and knew it was Edward she was seeing.

"You can't predict the future. You can only do your best. When you left Edward and came home, I should've helped you find the courage to work things out with him," He stroked her hair. "But I hated seeing you so hurt, and I wanted to protect you."Bella was crying on his shoulder in earnest.

"Bells, Jackie told me about your doctor." She lifted her head and looked at him in surprise. She swiped the tears away and looked guilty. "I'm glad you and Edward have a second chance. I'd hoped for this for a long time." He hesitated before adding, "He came to the house for you a couple of months after you left, and I turned him away. That was my mistake. I should've let you make the decision."

Bella was surprised at his admission but understood he'd done it out of love. Who knows what would have happened.

"I love him, Daddy, but I'm so scared." He pulled her back against his shoulder. "What if I fail him again?"

"There are no guarantees in life. You can only do your best and do what makes you happy."

She sniffled and said quietly, "He does make me happy. He makes me feel whole again."

It was a strange feeling that came over Charlie; if he'd had to describe it in one word he would have said it was peace. They sat there for a long time until his back started hurting too much.

He rang for Jackie and she brought in some pain medicine and took his blood pressure. It was high again. She paged the doctor who ordered an immediate CT.

As he was being rolled away Bella kissed him. "I love you, Daddy."

"I love you, too, Bells. Never forget it."

Bella sat in the chair in the corner and cried. She was so scared for her dad and about her unknown future. She wanted nothing more than to be with Edward, but the mistakes she'd made in the past were hanging over her head. She stared out the window at the blooming daffodils and waited for her dad to come back up.

Edward had walked to Trader Joe's and was unpacking the groceries for the dinner he'd planned. He knew she was going to be tired when she came home from the hospital and wanted everything to be perfect. He set the table and started putting the lasagna together when his phone rang. He hoped it was her calling. He missed her already.

He wiped his hands on a towel and picked up the phone. It was the hospital.


"Dr. Cullen, its Jackie Rollins. I thought you'd like to know. Charlie Swan has been rushed into surgery. His aorta dissected while he was headed down for CT. They just called me. I'm going in to tell Bella now."

"No!" he yelled. "Wait for me. I'm coming." He hung up the phone and snatched his keys off the hook. He pressed the button for the garage and remembered Bella had his car. He cursed and hit the button for the lobby, hoping he could catch a cab quickly.

He ran out the front door and looked up and down the street for a cab. Not seeing one, he took off running down 22nd St to K St where he knew he could find one. He hailed the first one he saw and urged the driver to hurry.

He jumped out at the front doors and ran up the stairs to the CCU. He asked the nurses at the desk where Jackie was. She came out of a room, relieved to see he'd arrived. Just as they were going into Charlie's room to tell Bella, Dr. Bryan came down the hall.

From the look on his face Edward knew the news was bad. Edward stopped him in the hall and asked him how Charlie was.

"It was too late. His aorta was shredded, and he bled out before they even opened him up." Edward closed his eyes in disbelief. "I have to go tell his daughter."

"She's my...girlfriend. I'll go in with you."

They walked in to Charlie's room together, and Bella looked away from the window at them. She saw the look on Dr. Bryan's face and saw Edward standing behind him, his face pale and drawn. She jumped up instantly knowing what they were going to say.

"No!" she screamed.

Edward came around from behind Dr. Bryan and pulled her into his arms.

"Miss Swan, I'm sorry to tell you your father suffered from an aortic dissection while on the way to CT. He was rushed into surgery, but it was too late, and he passed away."

Bella's knees went weak and she would have fallen if Edward hadn't tightened his grip on her. She fisted the front of his shirt as he moved them over to the chair and pulled her on to his lap. He whispered soft words to her while she cried.

"He can't be gone. He's all I have." Tears rolled down her face.

"I know, baby. I'm so sorry. I'm so, so sorry."

He held her for a long time before her sobs dissolved to hiccups. He was holding her when an orderly came in to strip the bed. He frowned at the lack of time she'd been given to grieve. Bella was so lost she didn't even notice.

Jackie came in the room and stood next to him. She rubbed Bella's back comfortingly. "Bella, you can see your father now if you'd like."

Bella raised her head off his chest and nodded. She looked in his eyes, and the heartbreak he saw in them struck him.

"Will you come with me?"

He wouldn't have dreamed of letting her go alone. "Of course."

She climbed off his lap and stood on shaky legs. He kept one arm around her to support her and held her other hand while they walked to the OR. They had cleaned Charlie up and he was resting on a table. The lights were low, and he looked like he was sleeping.

Bella walked over to him and touched his shoulder. He was already cold. "Oh, Daddy, what am I going to do now?" She cried over him.

Edward gently rubbed her back. When the tears had lessened she turned to him, wrapping her arms around his waist.

"Let me take you home," he gently suggested.

She nodded and turned back to her father. She kissed him on the forehead and let Edward lead her out of the hospital.

He took her to his apartment, and she spent the night crying and walking around in a daze. Early in the morning, Edward finally persuaded her to lie beside him, and he held her until she fell into an exhausted sleep.

She woke six hours later and became a woman with a mission. He helped her find a funeral home and went with her while all of the details, including flying her father back to Forks were taken care of. Bella had him take her to her apartment, and he helped her pack their things to be shipped to Washington. The apartment was paid until the end of the month, but they notified the management she was leaving.

He sat by her as she made the call to friends in Forks, including Jacob and Billy. She cried with them as he held her. Bella had booked a flight home to Washington the next day, and Edward planned on following as soon as he made arrangements at work.

Bella lay next to him in bed, and he could feel the distance building between them even as his chest pressed against her back. She was pulling away emotionally, and it filled his chest with panic. He couldn't lose her.

They woke up early. Bella didn't speak to him as she locked herself in the bathroom to get ready for her flight. She knew she was being cruel, but she couldn't deal with the sadness of her dad combined with the sadness she felt knowing she was leaving Edward.

She couldn't think beyond the next step she had to take, and because of that couldn't see him in her future. The grief that had welled up inside was worse than the last time.

He pulled her suitcase out of the car at the airport and sighed. "Bella, I need you to hear me for a minute." She raised her head but didn't look at him. "I feel like I'm losing you, and I want you in my life. You left me once, and I never stopped loving you. Not for a minute. I know I fucked up by using drugs, and I almost let my whole future go, but you have to know the truth about that day. I never cheated on you."

She swung her head around and the fury on her face shocked him. "How can you do this right now?" she sneered at him, her eyes wide and wild. "Look, this has been great, but I can't do it anymore. I can't be with you. I barely survived the first time, and I won't go through that again." She grabbed the handle of the suitcase and started walking through the garage to the walkway. He tried to take the bag for her, but she pushed his hand away and stopped.

"Go home, Edward. I don't want you. You're not good for me, and I can't pretend anymore." She started walking again, and he stood there—frozen.

The pain from her words was as sharp as a blow to the stomach that had knocked the wind out of him. He stumbled back to his car and rested his head on the steering wheel. He sat there for a long time, her words echoing through his head. He put the car in reverse and drove home.

He opened the door to his apartment and could still smell the scent of her hanging in the air. He launched his keys across the room and swiped the candles and flowers off the table. He slid down the wall and hid his face in his knees and cried.

She was gone, and he'd let her walk away with barely a fight. Again.

But it's time to face the truth, I will never be with you...

Bella pulled up in front of the Mt. Olympus funeral home and sat in her truck for a moment, gathering the courage to face the people who came from all over to pay their respects to her father. She climbed out, her black dress catching on the rough seats, and stumbled in her heels over the rocks in the parking lot. She slammed the heavy door shut and pulled in a deep breath of the familiar, moist air to bolster her more.

The director had set up a private viewing for the family before the public one and as she sat alone in his office, she'd whispered that she was his only family. Billy and Jacob offered to go with her, but she'd wanted to do it alone.

She entered the chapel, and as she stood in the back she could see Charlie's coffin surrounded by flowers. She went to the front pew and sat down. She didn't need to see his body. He was gone, and she already couldn't get the memory of him laying on the gurney in the OR out of her mind. She preferred the memories she had searched through the day before – pictures of him, pictures of them together. She'd poured all her grief into making a slideshow of his life.

She inhaled the sweet smell of the flowers and moved to read the cards; yellow roses from the Forks Police Department, an arrangement from the Quileute Tribal Council, and so many more. She looked at each card, smelling the flowers as she wiped away the tears that fell when she thought of the kindness of so many. She was surprised by the arrangement from Carlisle and Esme Cullen, Edward's parents, and a sweet bouquet from Alice, Jasper and their children. She didn't even know they had kids.

She was ready to walk away when a small glass vase caught her eye. It didn't seem to be a structured bouquet. She moved it away from the others. In a rectangular, glass vase was a simple branch of cherry blossoms.

She plucked a small blossom from the branch and sat down. Her tears turned into sobs, not for her father but for Edward. She'd tried to put all thoughts of him aside long enough to get past Charlie's funeral, but it had been impossible. Her red swollen eyes could be attributed equally to the two men she'd lost. She tucked the bloom into her hair and turned as the director came in to see if she was ready to greet the guests. She nodded, wiped away the tears and stood up straight. Today was the day to honor her father's life and she would do that by being strong.

Edward pulled into a gas station to buy a bottle of water; his throat had been dry since he'd decided to go after her. His heart ached so completely, and he didn't know if he could handle her breaking it again. He noticed there were at least twenty police cars lining the street.

"Are those cars for Chief Swan's funeral?" he asked the lady at the register.

She nodded. "They're from all different surrounding counties. Chief Swan was a good man. Poor Bella, I feel so bad for her."

Edward nodded and went down the block to the church. He wanted to be by her side, but he resigned himself to sitting in the back row. The funeral was not the right place to reveal his presence. He'd left the cherry blossoms at the funeral home and hoped she'd seen them.

He was proud of her strength as she walked behind Charlie's casket. Her eyes were red and tears sparkled on her cheeks, but she was beautiful. He saw the blossoms in her hair and was filled with hope.

The ceremony was beautiful. Bella hadn't wanted anyone else to eulogize her father. She'd wanted to do it, but she hadn't imagined it would be so hard. Her tears splashed on the notes she had written, smearing the words that expressed every feeling she had for her father. Her speech was perfect. There were few dry eyes when she finished. Music, more hopeful than sad, filled the quiet sanctuary, noting the end of the service.

Edward waited until everyone else had left the church before he followed slowly. He walked out of the double doors into the vestibule and saw her standing there.

She was bathed in light shining through a stained glass window, and as always, she took his breath away. She turned to him.

"You came?"

He put his hands in his pockets and ducked his head. "I couldn't let you walk away from me again."

He walked over to her and stood so close he could almost hear her heartbeat, but he didn't move the last inch to touch her.

She lightly twisted the lapel of his jacket in her fist.

"What if we fail? What if love isn't enough? What if I'm not enough for you again?"

"Bella, I only need you. I don't need you to be anything but with me. I love you. We made mistakes before. We let ourselves get lost, and the only thing we can do is learn from the past."

She leaned her head against his chest. "I love you, Edward."

"I love you, too. I always have, and always will."

He kissed her lips and felt her melt into his arms. Bella was his past, but she was also his future, the only one he had ever seen. Together they could make it through today, and through tomorrow, and every day of forever.

There must be an angel with a smile on his face…

Washington D.C. 8 years later…

Daddy, look at all flowers I have in my basket." Edward looked down at his beautiful daughter, Elizabeth, and couldn't believe she was going to be five years old in less than a week. The petals falling from the trees were stuck in her hair, reminding him of the day he sat by the water with her mother.

"They're lovely, sweetheart, and so are you." She looked like a miniature Bella with her brown hair and big, brown eyes.

He held her hand as they walked through the tents at the Cherry Blossom festival. He looked behind him to see Bella with a tight grip on three-year-old Charlie, who was throwing rocks into the Tidal Basin. She stood up from squatting next to him and rubbed the small of her back. Their third child was four days overdue, and he knew Bella was hoping this walk would speed things along.

He stood back watching the wind swirl cherry blossoms in the air and whip strands of her hair out of her braid. She was still the most beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes on.

On the day they stood together at the altar and said their vows, he hadn't thought he could love her more than he did in that moment, but seeing her belly round and swollen with his child, a smile on her face from the pure enjoyment of their children's enthusiasm, made his heart swell even more.

He walked over and swung a squealing Charlie up in his arms and kissed his cheek. He tossed him on his back, and the little monkey clung to him as he held Elizabeth's hand. He smiled over at Bella and pulled her close, placing a soft kiss on her lips.

"I love you so much."

She patted Charlie's butt. "Hold on tight, monkey boy."

She grinned as Charlie squeezed Edward's neck. "I love you, too."

Bella could see her future in her little ones' eyes and gave thanks for her family.

As they walked along the Tidal Basin, she thought back on the days after her father died, the darkest days of her life, and found solace in the fact that it had brought her and Edward back together.

She hoped her father was looking down on them with a smile on his face because love found them again. Edward was her destiny and Bella was his.

And nothing would ever tear them apart.


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Medical Glossary-

** Renal ablation involves inserting a catheter at the groin and advancing it to the renal arteries where radiofrequency (RF) energy is delivered that disrupts sympathetic nerves around the renal arteries. The application to the sympathetic nerves is novel in the U.S. In earlier studies conducted in Europe and Australia, results indicated that the procedure reduced blood pressure significantly.

**MSN- Master's of Nursing

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A thoracic aortic aneurysm occurs in the part of the body's largest artery (the aorta) that passes through the chest.

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