Hope Springs Eternal Contest

Prompt number: 18

Pen-name: XXX

Title: 746 minutes

Word Count: 5,855

Rating: M

Pairing: EdwardXBella

Summary: Her betrayal diminished his chance at happiness. Six years later, they meet again under a deadly circumstance. But has anything really changed? EXB; AH; HEA; O/S

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight or Creep by Radiohead.


Italicized phrases = thoughts

Bolded italicized phrases = sign language

"Bolded italicized phrases in quotes" = talk while signing


From atop Masen Enterprise, a gray fluffy blanket of industrial cotton spread out for miles over what Edward Cullen could see while he basked in the opportunity to cocoon himself from reality. It seemed quite ironic to him how often the weather reflected his inner musings. In Seattle, the sun rarely shone, while clouds and the rain were constant companions to a resident which was strikingly coincidental to Mr. Cullen's lifestyle. It was a very rare occasions that he genuinely smiled, and even then it was all simply an act to diminish his family's concern for him. What he didn't know was that his family saw through his act every time, and it broke their hearts further to see him try and fail to recover from the betrayal.

Edward had just come back from another family lunch and another fight with his sister. Edward hated fighting with Alice, but it had been inevitable in the past few months. Alice was done. She was done watching her brother sulk over his ex, she was done with his mood-swings, and she absolutely loathed that it affected the entire family, including her Jazzy.

If it had been anyone else, the family would have tracked that cold-hearted bitch down and made her pay…but this bitch was Bella, and she had broken their hearts with her leave almost as much as she had Edward's. To this day, no one knew the reason for her disappearance, not even her own family. They only knew that she had left a note at Edward's condo, begging for time and forgiveness.

Bella…

The simple name drove a rusty knife through Edward's heart, twisting and shifting along the way, leaving behind a gaping hole. Sub-consciously, he wrapped his arms around his torso. A small thought flitted through his head at what his staff would say if they saw emotionless, professional Mr. Cullen at that moment. The answers humored him for seconds before she conquered his thoughts again.

September 13th, his Love's birthday. It had been six years, eleven months, and twenty-three days since he'd last seen his Love.

In the beginning, he had firmly believed she would come back to him, that she couldn't live without him, but the belief had faded away slowly and painfully as the days…months…years passed. Now there was no hope in his heart, just the agony which was swallowing him whole; the pain of rejection and betrayal. He could not fabricate one single reason why she had left. He had given her everything, from the small, everyday things to jewelry from Tiffany's. He had given her his heart, and he believed she had given him hers; thus, the day he realized that he didn't have her whole heart had been pure torture for the entire Cullen clan.

He often wondered how she was. Was she happy? Had she finished her degree? Had she ever gotten a part-time job at a bookstore? She loved books. Had she finally bought a Husky? What had she named him? And finally, the question that twisted rusty knife deeper: had she found a man who had given her what he couldn't? Sharp pain jolted him from his feet and to his bathroom, where he vomited his lunch. The mere thought of Bella with someone else had gotten him queasy when they were together, but now his reaction had magnified to a point of complete despair.

Despite this, his mind still acknowledged that Bella, no matter where she was or who was with, deserved happiness that kept her smiling for the rest of her life. She was happy where she was, and he had to believe that. It was the only barrier between him and calling a private investigator.

But I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo, what the hell am I doing here? I don't be—

Edward picked up the phone, cutting off the haunting lyrics. His brother, Emmett, had changed the ringtone, hoping he might see the humor in it, but all Edward could see was the truth—his life—in those words. It was as if the song were specifically created from him; it poured out, in words, the very thoughts and emotions of his Love.

Clearing his throat and thoughts, he addressed the caller. "Hello, this is Edward Cullen speaking."

"Edward! This is Dr. Heffer. Remember me?" Why is he calling me at seven p.m.? Edward wondered and was sure he hadn't misheard the panic in Dr. Heffer's voice.

"Yes, of course. Is everything alright?"

"Yes, um, no, not really." He sighed. "Your father—" he began before Edward cut him off, his panic overruling his body.

"DAD? What happened to him? Is he okay?" Words tumbled out of Edward's mouth as he grabbed his car keys and jacket.

In a split moment, images of his father raced through his brain, and he suddenly remembered that it had been at least four days since he'd last spoken with him. Carlisle hadn't been at lunch d lue to an emergency surgery for one of his patients. Guilt threatened to crush Edward, and he sprinted his way to the elevator, practically jumping up and down to make the elevator move faster. Drowning in his own misery, Edward completely missed Dr. Heffer's assurance that Carlisle was, indeed, okay. Only when Dr. Heffer resorted to shouting did Edward snap back into reality.

"Uh, what?"

Dr. Heffer repeated his consoling words, and Edward sucked in all of it like a sponge. Relief surged through his veins so forcefully that he leaned up against the elevator door for support. He reveled in the emotion for seconds before questioning Dr. Heffer of the reason behind his call.

"He's just in shock. I think. He was frozen for a bit before he came to his senses, and even now, he's looking a bit shaken up. He told me to call you instead because Esme would overreact." On his side of the conversation, Dr. Heffer glanced at his colleague who was pacing himself a whole into the ground in front of his patient's room. He had refused to let Carlisle operate on her for the woman's safety. Even from where he was sitting, he could see Carlisle's fingers trembling. He shook his head. Never in a million years had he expected to see Dr. Carlisle Cullen in this state. The man was one of the most respected doctors in the Midwest and was known for conducting miracles. Of course, honest man that he was, he never took advantage of this fact and insisted on modesty.

Disbelief and panic had woven an ugly pattern in Carlisle's mind, causing him to act in the atrocious way he had. But he couldn't have helped it. The minute he'd seen her name on the medical report, it'd been as if his mind had shut down. He could still hear his heart pounding in his ears, feel the sweat forming on his forehead and trembles controlling his body every so often. Questions raced through his mind, some more prominent over the others: What is she doing here? How did she get here, in the hospital bed, with six broken ribs, a punctured lung, and heavy bleeding? Why was she here? This was the important of them all, because he was not about to let his recovering son go through hell twice.

Edward peeled out of his garage at 55 mph. In shock? Frozen? What the hell happened? For someone who had seen Carlisle perform the countless procedures and stay calm in the aftermath when lives were lost, what Dr. Heffer had described frightened Edward. His dad had never frozen or even hesitated in his methods; he was always so sure. What could have possibly made Dad react like that? Edward didn't understand. His dad was an experienced doctor who had dealt with all manners of injuries in the past. Why would he—?

Edward growled in frustration. Impatience was getting the best of him, and his foot pressed down harder on the accelerator. Swerving into the hospital parking lot, he sensibly slowed down to 15 mph and coasted along the rows to find a parking spot. Once he had his Martin parked, his oppressed hurry freed itself and he dashed through the automatic glass doors. Having been in the building more times than he'd kept count, he didn't need to stop at the front desk for directions; he hopped in an elevator with a younger couple. Not having anything to do, he began analyzing the couple in front of him. Carlisle had taught him enough that he knew the woman was pregnant. There was an air of excitement and eternal joy that surrounded them, and the fact that the woman's palm was on her belly was a dead giveaway.

His heart dropped a little when it occurred to him that could have been Bella and him. Happy, expecting...a family. Water filled his eyes, and he brought his right hand up to tug on his hair. His mind wandered before he could catch it, and he caught a glimpse of what he thought their children would have looked like. This time his heart squeezed so excruciatingly that he doubled over. He was glad that the couple had gotten off at the second floor…he needed this silence.

By the time the bell chimed indicating that he had arrived at his floor, he had cleared his mind and controlled his thoughts, focusing it on his father. Worry rose within him, making him power-walk down the hallway and around the corner. He stopped when he saw Carlisle pacing and examined his father's appearance. Edward noticed the paleness of Carlisle's skin, the panic that seemed to be written over his face, his trembling frame, his clutched fist, his chest rising and falling as he took in deep breaths as if to calm himself, his messed-up hair—that one made Edward chuckle silently. He had gotten his habit from his father. But Carlisle had been able to control it while Edward had not. So what has frazzled Dad so much that he started his habit again? Edward wondered.

Carlisle's head snapped up at the sound of a chuckle, and when he realized it was his son, his alarm grew ten-fold. He shouldn't have told Charles to call Edward. He wasn't ready yet. He wasn't ready to witness his son's agony increase. He wasn't ready to share the news with Edward, but he knew he had to.

"Dr. Heffer called," Edward informed him as an explanation to his appearance.

"Yeah, I know. I told him to."

Edward sighed. Looked like he was going to have to dig for the answer. "What happened?"

Carlisle rubbed his face with his palm, wondering if he could come up with an acceptable lie quick enough, but then decided against it, knowing that it would probably come back to bite him in the ass one day. With a heavy heart, he reached for the metal clipboard and gave it to Edward.

Edward was confused. A medical report? That was what had reduced him to this state? Frowning at Carlisle, he glanced at the paper…and the metal clinked when it hit the floor.

As blackness closed in on him, Edward recalled the patient's name: Isabella Marie Swan.

.o0o.

Silence welcomed Edward back to the world, and for a moment, he thought he was back in his condo, waking up to another monotonous day, before remembering the previous night's events. His head whipped to the wall-clock to notice that it was only 11 p.m. That was when he noticed the bed and that he was in a room. In the bed sleeping was the most beautiful girl, no, woman that had ever graced his eyes.

Isabella…Bella was here. In a room. With him. She was right there.

He didn't even notice his arm extending before he was visually able to see it, and then he yanked it back as he recalled that she wasn't his. The fact dug itself to the bottom of his soul and began tormenting him as he sat there, unable to tear his eyes from her. It seemed that she had taken care of herself. She looked healthy…except, of course, for all the gauze. And even then, Edward decided that she was an angel.

An angel that wasn't his. That hated him. That had run away from him.

Edward bolted to his feet with every intention of leaving the room and never coming back, but as he stood, he got a clearer view of her. Awe settled in every pore in his body. She was…gorgeous. She had always been the most beautiful woman he'd known, inside and out. Kindness was the first thing he'd noticed about her, and everything else just lined up. She was good. Just pure, simple good. No matter her past, her cup had always been half-full. He recalled how she used to cheer him up. How she supported him in his decision to be an engineer rather than a doctor. How she'd always known what to say. How her body had felt against his when she'd hugged him. How soft her lips had been. How gentle fingers had been as they caressed his cheek.

Edward closed his eyes, trying to contain the tears. It was as if someone had punched him in the gut. He had specifically avoided thinking of her for the last six years, knowing that it could only end in disaster. She left him. She didn't want him. But she was here now. She doesn't want to see me. Gazing at her, he came to the realization that this could be the last time he would see her. Ever. As much as this epiphany tortured him, he knew that he had to use this one last chance.

Just one touch, he promised himself. And then I'll leave. It was as if someone had switched on a plasma globe in the room as he walked towards his Love. The electricity crackled between them as reached forward carefully, almost afraid that she would disappear if he touched her, that it was all a silly dream. His vision was blurred as tears remained in his eyelids. It was her cheek that he first brushed. The emotion bursting within him caused his knees to buckle, and he ended up supporting himself with his elbows. Salty liquid left a wet trail as it rushed down his cheeks. A strangled cry emitted from his lips as his fingers glided along her smooth skin.

"Angel."

.o0o.

A psychiatrist. She'd been seeing a shrink, Edward realized as he shook Angela Weber's hand. Apparently, she had been the one that had encouraged Bella to come back to Chicago. According to Angela, she'd met Bella at a bar and they became fast friends. And of course, as a caring friend, she gently eased Bella into her "shrink" world, ultimately helping and aiding Bella through her struggles.

She had rushed over as soon as possible when she'd heard about Bella's accident. Edward heard from Dr. Geoffrey the details of the crash. The driver had been slightly intoxicated and hadn't seen the stop sign. Bella, talking on her phone, hadn't noticed the car until it was too late. Edward thanked God that Bella was alive.

Carlisle had found Edward in Bella's room, on his knees, clutching her hand, and when Carlisle had taken him out, he'd let go. Hiding his face in his Dad's shoulder, he'd let go of all the pent-up emotions, his fears, his questions…everything. For the first time in six years, he had cried. Sobbed into his father's shoulder. Carlisle had said nothing. He had simply held onto Edward, supporting him.

"Now Mr. Cullen, before we go on. I have to tell you something." Angela firmly interrupted Edward's constant questions about Bella. He asked about everything from what she wore to where she worked. He was more than eager to find out each facet of her life. Did she still prefer her mocha decaf? What was her favorite meal? How long did she work each week? Did she go to a salon to get her nails done? Did she get a new car?

Edward looked at her impatiently. This woman was cutting off his Bella time. But curiosity held him from ignoring her as she reached into her bag and brought out a manila envelope. His brow frowned. They looked like legal documents, but he couldn't depict why.

"I made Bella write this just in case anything like this ever happened. I never imagined it would be used so soon." Looking at Bella's husband with what she hoped was a sympathetic yet serious visage, Angela sighed and reached for Bella's letter inside the envelope. She handed the letter to the man and observed his eyes widen at the manuscript and the salutation. Dear Love, it began. She had had the opportunity to read the letter at Bella's insistence. Bella had wanted to make sure it wasn't overly-…anything. She'd wanted the letter to simply inform Edward of her thoughts and their—

Angela grimaced as she watched Edward's posture change as he read each word. His eyes clouded over, his mouth hung open, his fingers shook; his right hand tugged painfully at his hair, and tears fell from his face in a rapid free-fall. She had always thought Edward must have done something wrong, maybe belittled her or hit her, to make Bella leave him but now she knew the cold truth: he was the complete opposite. Simply observing him, she knew that he would have brought the entire world to Bella's feet. Everything Angela thought she knew about her friend changed. She had never understood why Bella always took the blame for her leaving, but now that she knew it to be true…

He read her apology, her love, her reason for coming to Chicago again, her plea for forgiveness, and her news…a child. Bella had been pregnant when she'd left. Truth hurts was not enough to describe the anguish Edward felt the moment he read the words.

I was too afraid to tell you, but I'm too afraid that you'll never know. Love, we have a child. We made her together. She is the most wonderful, amazing person that I'll ever meet. I think—I hope—that you'll love as much as I do, but if not, I beg you to give her to Angela. I'd rather she not know her father at all than force you to love her. She deserves better.

As if Edward would have been able to leave the child. The moment he read that he had a child that he'd made with Bella, it was almost as though his heart had doubled to fit his love of this unknown child. Her, the letter had said. He had a daughter.

"I—" Edward cleared his throat. "Is she—?" He trailed off, not quite knowing what to say.

Angela placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Yes. She's in the playroom with Carlisle."

Carlisle? His own father had known before him? Why did his father hide this from him? Fury rose within him, and he felt…betrayed. Although she noticed his stiff posture and the steam practically pouring out of ear, she c c continued, hoping that her next words would calm him. "I took him to meet her while you were with Bella."

So Dad only knew a couple of hours ago? Way too overreact, prick. Edward shook his head at his own reaction. And Carlisle didn't even have the small warning that Edward had with Bella's letter. Wonder how he reacted. Even though professionalism often oozed out of Carlisle Cullen—the man wore khakis and a button-down shirt to the beach—his love for his children never compromised. Edward could imagine his Dad crying meeting his granddaughter for the first time. Though a small part of him was still irate that his Dad had gotten to see her first, he motioned Angela to walk with him to the playroom. Angela happy obliged.

During the journey to the first floor playroom, Angela's mind wandered. She wondered how Edward would react to his child. The man obviously already loved Carlie, but would the love remain when he found that she was deaf? Her heart went out to the child that had already taken up permanent residence in her. She concluded that she would lose all respect she had for Mr. Cullen if he dared to look at Carlie as if she was an invalid, or worse, with pity. As much as it hurt for her to admit, she had seen the expressions of people's faces when she or Bella told them that Carlie couldn't hear or speak.

On the way to the room, Edward's nervousness appeared. He could hear his heart pick up its rhythm as they strolled closer. His hands were clammy. His breath came in small gasps. He wondered what he'd find. Would she hate him? Love him? What if she refused to believe that he was her father? The fact that he had no idea what Bella had told her began to seem like a growing problem in his eyes.

Coming to a stop in the entrance, he forced his eyes to wander throughout the room. In the right corner, he came to a stop at the sight of Carlisle's platinum blond hair. He couldn't see the girl yet; she was hiding behind her grandpa. Edward let out a wry chuckle. He could imagine the joy Carlisle had experienced when he'd first met Edward's daughter. It didn't matter to him that he hadn't met her yet; she was amazing simply because she'd been born. Angela gently guided him forward until they were standing in front of the Eiffel Tower-building duo. Edward could see his little girl's hair now. It was curly and silky, and the color was a perfect mix of his bronze and Bella's brown. He wondered if he could see any red in it if they were outside in the sun. Angela cleared her throat to make herself known to Carlisle.

Carlisle jumped a little at the noise and whirled so fast that he hit Edward.

"Goin' somewhere, Dad?" Edward joked.

Carlisle let out a sigh. He had been worried about how his son would react when he found out that Carlisle had met his daughter before him, but he could never bring himself to regret it. Carlie was the most wonderful girl he knew. Everything about her fascinated him, from her favorite clothing to her perceptiveness. She was a ball of sunshine, and her disability never seemed to hinder her from anything. She was like Bella in that sense, Carlisle concluded within minutes of meeting her. Even though she looked fine, he wondered what kind of upbringing she'd had. How had Bella managed to feed and take care of this child? Did Bella give her everything she wanted, or was she refused sometimes? After playing with her for half an hour, Carlisle began to notice the maturity of the child. She seemed way beyond her years. Not surprising, considering the parents. One more trait she had gotten from her parents was stubbornness. Carlisle smiled at how she repeatedly had been trying to build a real-size Eiffel Tower with building blocks for the last hour.

"How are you, son?" At first, Carlisle had been hesitant to leave Edward alone, especially after the state he had found Edward in. But Angela had promised him that she would take care of Edward and bring him down soon after he woke up.

Edward barely heard his father's question. He was too busy trying to look at his daughter around Carlisle.

Carlie was in her own little world, building the tower, and she was happier than she had ever been. Even though she had a feeling that something was wrong with her Mama, she had finally met her Grandpa. Mama was right, she thought. He's wonderful. Carlie sometimes thought that her family was really mean because they never came to see her, but her Mama always told her that they wanted to but were too far away and couldn't. Mama had always told a lot of stories about her family. Carlie knew about how everyone had met each other; how they spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, April's Fool, and birthdays; what games they played and what they did on vacations. Bella had thought it was best for Carlie to at least know her family even if she'd never meet them.

Her grandpa had spent the last three hours just with her, and he didn't even leave to go work on his patients. He just sat there and helped build buildings that always fell down. He always smiled at her and tried to understand what she was saying with the motions of her hand. Sometimes he actually got it, but sometimes he pretended. She noticed but never said anything, deciding to wait until Aunt Angie came back so that she could show it to her and make Grandpa understand.

She felt them coming. She didn't know who because she didn't look up, but she felt some one walk closer. They stood there for a while, and then her grandpa suddenly stood up. Carlie still pretended not to notice and continued building. She saw a pair of brown flats—Aunt Angie had taught her about different shoes—and she looked up, knowing it was her. Hi, she waved.

Angela crouched down and held her arms open as Carlie rushed into them. A hug had always been their greeting. Angela pulled back first, and Carlie knew there was something Aunt Angie wanted to tell her. She also noticed the man Grandpa was talking to.

How are you? Angela questioned. Carlie's happiness was the most important thing to her.

Fine. Carlie was a bit confused. Why is Aunt Angie stalling?

Angela sighed. I brought someone here to meet you.

Is he talking to Grandpa now?

Angela shook her head at the little girl's insight. "Yes. That's your father."

Carlie noticed Angela's mouth move and the man's—her father's—head peek over Grandpa. Carlie's eyes widened as she stared into her father's. They were the same color as hers. Of all her family, if she ever had to have picked the one she was most angry at, it would be her father. It had always hurt her that her own father never came to see her. But that anger disappeared into a ghost at the sight of him. Carlie had always been good at reading people, and the longing, pain and fear she saw in her daddy's eyes made her want to hug him. So she did.

Edward's eyes grew almost comically round as the little girl walked towards him, smiling. His daughter, Carlie. He hungrily examined her, from the top of her oval head to her cute, tiny feet. He had almost frozen in shock when he'd first met her eyes, but Carlisle had silently nudged his son back to this world. Pride and joy filled him at fact that she had his eyes, and now he noticed she also had his nose. Carlisle had told him that she couldn't hear or speak, but that didn't matter to him. She was his daughter. She was a miracle. He wondered what else they had in common. Did she like classical music? Play the piano? Like fast cars? Had she fallen in love with chocolate cake? Did she run her hand through her hair when she was nervous, or did she bite her lips like her mother? She had her mother's cheekbones and lips, and Edward thought she got her curly hair from Bella's biological father.

As his daughter came closer, he sunk to his knees so they'd be the same level. Not really—he was still inches taller. Carlie noticed his action and cocked her head to the left. It didn't make sense to her. Most of her life, she'd thought her father hadn't wanted her, but he seemed…nice. It didn't add up. Edward saw her hesitation and panicked. But before he could drown into fear again, Carlie ran forward and hugged him. Edward froze at her touch but then melted into the embrace. When he wrapped his arms tightly around Carlie, she felt safe. She felt like she could stay like this forever. Love radiated from her daddy to her and that made her smile bigger. This was all the reassurance she needed. He loved her. She pulled away and stood on her tippy-toes to do something she had always seen her friends do, but she never could because she hadn't had a daddy.

When he felt his daughter's lips on his cheek, he couldn't describe the feeling of happiness and optimism that lifted him. His heart soared higher than it ever had before, and his clutch around her tiny waist tightened. A sudden urge overwhelmed him, and he pulled back. Staring into her eyes, he spoke the words that he was sure had never came from her father.

"I love you."

.o0o.

Esme Cullen sat across from his son, waiting for him to wake. For the first time in the last six years, he was sleeping peacefully.

Carlisle woke her up at six a.m. with a phone call which she had rushed to answer because he rarely called her during his shifts. She was glad that she had, because she had been welcomed to the sight of her son and his daughter napping together on a bench. They both had had their arms around each other, and Carlie—the name she'd learned when Carlisle came in seven minutes after her arrival—had been resting her cheek over his heart.

She still couldn't believe that she had a six year old granddaughter. As much as she was truly happy, hurt still held its territory in her heart over the fact that Bella had hidden her granddaughter from her and everyone. Was the pregnancy the reason she left? Esme wondered when Carlisle first informed her of their addition to the family, and the answer only solidified to a yes as she learned about Carlie's disability and Angela's stories. So Bella was scared, Esme concluded, but that still didn't answer why she had run. She couldn't have possibly known that her daughter would be born deaf. Esme's pondering was interrupted when she heard her son shift on the bench. She watched as he woke himself and flailed his arms to find Carlie. When he found that she wasn't there, he shot upright and scanned the room, panicking. When he noticed his mother sitting across from him, he exhaled loudly; the panic deflating like a popped balloon inside of him.

He's already such a good father, Esme squealed on the inside. On the outside, she smiled at her son and moved forward for a tight hug.

"Where is she?" Edward's voice was muffled by Esme's cashmere sweater.

"She's taking a bath with Angela." Esme pulled back and made a show of examining her son.

Edward raised an eyebrow with annoyance that he couldn't see his daughter, and Esme grinned. "Hey, don't shoot the messenger. She insisted. She felt icky. The least I could do was send h her to the house."

The mere thought of his daughter in his childhood home gave him great pleasure. And then his mind wandered to her mother.

"Bella?"

Esme grin faltered a bit, not because Bella was any worse, but at the uncertainty of her and Edward's future together. For all she knew, Bella could wake up and leave, taking Carlie with her. "She fine. Doing better, actually."

Edward looked at her, his worries mirroring hers, and then smiled slightly. "Good. Great," he muttered.

A throat cleared in the doorway, and they both turned around to see Alice standing in there, playing with her fingers awkwardly. Esme smirked a bit, knowing of Alice's purpose, and left the room while the tension increased a notch. Edward looked at her, confused. A part of him knew that she was there to apologize for lunch the day before, but things had gotten so rough between them lately and…

Alice was tired of fighting. She'd spent all of the previous night thinking about their fight at lunch and how Edward had flinched at everything she'd yelled at him and how relentless she'd been. She had blamed her pregnancy hormones in the beginning, but she couldn't have helped it even if she hadn't been excepting. She only wanted him to be happy, and seeing him as a shell of the person he had been was killing her. But she should have known that he would never move on, and she hated that. She also wished she could hate Bella Swan for making him this way, but having been her best friend, she knew in the back of her mind that Bella had probably had a very valid reason for leaving, but that was just never enough justification for Alice.

Hating the gap that was between them—literally and figuratively—she quickly crossed the room and sat down next to Edward. Edward stared at her expectantly. Alice stared back and for the first time in years, she found a little bit of joy—of the Edward he h had been—in his eyes. Tears sprung to her eyes, and she jumped up to surprise her brother in a tight hug. After the surprise of the gesture wore off, Edward hugged her back, and the gap between them rapidly dissipated.

"I'm so sorry. I-I just…I wanted you happy. And you were just so…I hated seeing you like that. And I was so frustrated because I couldn't blame anyone and—and…" Alice continued to feverishly apologize. Edward would have happily stopped her, but he realized that she needed it, so he simply sat there with his arms around his sister.

Once she was done speaking, their relationship flawlessly fell back into place. Edward detangled himself from her and grinned at her. "Missed you, Ali."

Alice grinned back and gave a quick kiss on his cheek before gushing about Carlie and harassing him over having a baby first. But about twenty-five minutes into their conversation, her phone rang, and she had to leave because she had promised Jasper that they'd go baby shopping that day. After giving Edward a quick hug, she danced out of the room in her usual pixie-like style. A style that he hadn't seen in a long while, Edward perceived.

Edward shook his head and leaned back on the wall. It was seven twenty-six a.m. About 746 minutes ago, he had been in his office, alone, in an empty-shell state. But now, right here, he felt…complete. Even though his Love was in a hospital bed, he now knew that she was alive and well. He knew that no matter what life threw at him, he would make her stay. He would not—no matter what—let Carlie go, let her go. From the moment she opened her eyes, he would make her see what she had left behind. He had a plan, and it involved a second first date, a kiss, time, a trip to Paris, and a proposal. He would make her his. Forever.


A/N

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