Summary/Disclaimer: None of this is owned by me. (HA! I wish…). Stephenie Meyer created the world of Twilight. I just like to visit and make them do pervy things, like have sex and swear. Normally, I'm not one to beg for reviews, but I'd like some more loving with this story…I'm not feeling it. Wah…Please?

ALSO PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU'VE READ THE CORRECT CHAPTER SEVENTEEN! I changed it after I posted it. I didn't like what I had originally planned. So, the chapter that's up there now is the correct chapter.

I told you there would be angst. Sorry about that…Now, I know that I'm an evil cliffie h00r. I've changed this...I've removed the first one. Read the new update. I do not, in any way, want to belittle what happened to Bella or Edward. Also, this is drastically different from what I originally planned. But, there will be a happy ending. I promise you. It'll just take time. Mmmmkay?

Chapter Eighteen: Recovery

BPOV

Beep.

Beep.

Beep.

Beep.

What an obnoxious sound…someone turn off the alarm!

Beep.

Beep.

Beep.

Beep.

"Doctor, she's coming to," came a soft woman's voice.

"Miss Swan, can you open your eyes for me?" asked another woman, whose voice was huskier and rougher.

Not really. I like the dark. It makes my head stop hurting.

"Miss Swan, please?" the rougher voice pleaded.

Ugh, fine. My eyes fluttered. It felt like I was trying to peel back dry skin off my eyes. It was foul and I didn't want to do it. Seriously, the dark was amazing. However, the doctor was relentless in her pleas. After fifty-seven beeps, my eyes finally opened only to be shut immediately. It was too fucking bright in here. There was some bustling and then I heard the voice again. "It's darker, Miss Swan. Can you try again?"

Thirty-three beeps later, I pried my eyes open and saw two figures in the dim room. My heart began racing and I wanted to run. "Miss Swan, please calm down. You're safe," said the first voice. She took my hand and she came into focus. She was a nurse. "Breathe slowly, sweetie."

It hurt to breathe. In fact, everything hurt. I blinked a few times, staring at the nurse and then the doctor. I went to lift my hand, seeing it was in a cast. I frowned. "What happened?" I rasped.

"What was the last thing you remember, Miss Swan?" asked the doctor.

"I was at the wrap party for Midnight Dawn," I explained. "I had to go to the bathroom. After that, I don't remember anything. Why am I in the hospital? Where's Edward? What's going on?" I felt a panic grow deep inside of me. I was freaking out. I didn't know what happened and it scared me.

"Miss Swan," the doctor began.

"Bella, please," I insisted.

"Bella, I'm Dr. Korbel and this is Jane. You're at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center," Dr. Korbel explained, taking my hand. My good hand. "On the night of December 20th, you were brought into the emergency room. You were beaten quite severely and there was evidence possible sexual assault."

What?

"I think I'm going to be sick," I whimpered. Jane jumped into action and she held a bowl underneath my mouth as I vomited. She rubbed my back as I retched up bile. It made my body, which was already sore as hell, feel even worse. "Possible sexual assault?"

"Bella, when you were brought in, your tox screen came back with high levels of GHB and rohypnol. In addition to your physical injuries, there was evidence of two separate men's semen on your stomach," Dr. Korbel whispered quietly. "They performed a rape kit. It came back negative, thankfully."

"Do you know?" I cried. "Who did this?"

"One semen sample came back from Jacob Black. The other was too compromised to register in the system," she frowned. "You also have bruises all over your body, hepatic bruising, ruptured spleen and four cracked ribs. Your wrist was broken and we needed to perform surgery to correct it."

"You said the night of December 20th," I whispered. "What day is it today?"

"December 29th," Jane replied. "We kept you heavily medicated due to the extent of your injuries. Your family have been floating in and out of here, but visiting hours are over."

"Family?" I asked.

"Yeah, Emmett McCarty, Alice Cullen, Esme Cullen, Carlisle Cullen…" Dr. Korbel said, arching a brow.

"What about Edward? Why hasn't Edward come?" I choked out.

"Edward Masen?" Dr. Korbel asked. I nodded. "He was attacked the same night you were. His injuries were far more severe."

"WHAT?!" I shrieked. "I need to see him!"

"Miss Swan, you need to calm down. Your body went through a great deal of trauma," Jane chided.

"Get some Ativan," Dr. Korbel ordered.

"What? No! I have to see Edward," I sobbed. "I need him. Please!" Dr. Korbel put her arms on my shoulders, trying to keep me in the bed.

"You can see him tomorrow, Bella," she admonished. "I promise you."

"Tell me. What's wrong with him?" I cried, clawing at my doctor's white lab coat.

"I shouldn't even tell you since you're not family," Dr. Korbel argued. I sobbed harder, tears streaming down my face. "But, his family spoke to me and my staff to allow us to give Edward's medical status to you. But, I need you to calm down."

"I'll try. Just tell me," I whimpered as she laid me back on the pillows.

"He was stabbed three times. Once in the belly and twice in the back. The stab wound in the belly managed to miss every major organ, thankfully. However, the stab wounds in the back nicked Edward's right kidney and it lodged very close to his spine. There is swelling around his spinal column, but based on the MRI, it doesn't appear that he has any permanent damage to his spine. The kidney, however, was a loss. We had to remove it."

"Has he woken up?" I asked, my heart stammering in my chest.

"Very briefly. He was worried about you, but we need to keep him flat on his back to prevent further injury to his spine," Dr. Korbel said, brushing my hair from my face. "We sedated him. The faster the swelling goes down, the faster he can be released, pending a positive neurologic exam."

Jane came back in and injected the medication into my IV. I felt woozy immediately. "So, I can see him tomorrow?" I mumbled drunkenly.

"Yes, Bella. We'll bring you up to ICU to visit him. Also, now that you're awake, we can also discuss releasing you," Dr. Korbel said. Her voice had a sing-song quality to it and she grew very fuzzy. "Sleep, Bella. We'll be here in the morning."

My eyes drifted shut and the sound of the quiet beeping lulled me to a deep, dreamless sleep.

Beep.

Beep.

Beep.

Beep.

xx STARLET xx

The next morning, I woke up and found Esme sitting next to me. Alice was in the closet of the private hospital suite, shuffling some clothes inside of it. I blinked rapidly, trying to shake off the Ativan fog. "Good morning," I rasped.

"Oh, Bella, you're awake," Esme crooned. "How are you feeling?"

"Confused, hurt, violated," I frowned.

"We're sorry that you were alone when you woke up," Alice muttered. "The only person they would have allowed was Emmett, since he was technically your family, but he didn't feel like it was right. He raised holy hell to get us to stay, but the hospital has a strict visitation policy which is a load of crap."

"What did the doctor say?" Esme asked.

I explained to them what Dr. Korbel told me and I began shaking when I described how they found semen on my belly. Esme crawled into bed with me and held me tight as I began to have a panic attack. I wanted to shower, rub my skin raw and get the filth off me. "Bella, stop," Esme said sternly.

"I feel…" I sobbed, scratching at my skin.

"I know, sweet girl," Esme soothed, taking my hands and holding them.

"You know what might make you feel better?" Alice suggested. "Taking a shower."

"How can I?" I held up my broken wrist with a wrinkled nose.

"We'll help you, Bella," Esme said, tucking my greasy hair behind my ear. More tears fell down my cheeks. I wanted my mom. She couldn't come, though. She was dead. "Don't cry, Bella. We'll take care of you."

"What about Edward?"

"Carlisle is with him, as is Jasper," Esme explained. "Emmett is in the hallway, speaking with your doctor and will be in as soon as we're done with your shower." She rang the nurse button and a different woman came in. She unhooked my IV and helped me to the bathroom. I sat down on the toilet, exhausted from the short journey from my hospital bed to the small bathroom. How was I supposed to go home if I got winded after ten steps?

"Miss Swan, Dr. Korbel will speak with you once you are done washing up," said the nurse. "She and Jane will be here in a little bit. They're rounding through the shift change."

I nodded and she left. Esme came into the bathroom with some clothes, underwear, soap, towels and shampoo. "I bet you'll be happy to be wearing clothes."

"Honestly, yes. Though I'm afraid to look at myself in the mirror," I frowned.

"Let's get you washed and then you can look in the mirror," Esme conceded. I huffed out a breath, nodding in agreement. Esme turned on the shower and she pulled her hair back into a ponytail. She helped me out of my hospital gown and wrapped my cast in a plastic bag to protect the plaster. Gently, she sat me down on the bench in the shower stall.

"Can you make the water hotter?" I asked.

"It's as hot as it will go, Bella," Esme said. "Sweetheart, I know you feel…"

"No, you don't," I snapped. I frowned. "I'm sorry, Esme. I feel so dirty. I hate what happened to me. Dr. Korbel said I wasn't raped, but it was going to happen."

"Edward managed to stop it," Esme said. She smiled sadly and began washing my body. I was helpless and weak from being asleep for nine days, not to mention clumsy as hell due to my cast. As she washed me, I noticed my body was riddled with bruises, all in the shape of hands and fists. The bruises were fading, but still quite apparent.

"Do you hate me, Esme?" I whispered.

"Why would I hate you?" she asked, arching a brow.

"Because of me, Edward's in the hospital and hurt," I sniffled.

"No, Bella. I can't hate you. My adoptive son saved you and I'm proud of him because of that," she smiled. "My heart aches for you and I wish I could do something to make you feel better, but that will take time, a lot of talking and great deal of healing."

"Does Edward hate me?" I asked in a small voice.

"He was so worried about you, Bella. He was only awake for a few moments and he begged to see you. I have never seen him so frantic. But due to his stab wound, they sedated him quickly to keep him still."

"Dr. Korbel said that there's swelling around his spine column," I blanched. "What if he's paralyzed?"

"The doctor said that there may be some nerve damage but his spinal cord is intact. He won't be paralyzed," Esme chided. "Let me wash your hair before you get sick."

I nodded and shifted so Esme could run the water through my hair. She massaged my scalp before she added some very fragrant shampoo. Tears fell down my cheeks unabated as I felt helpless and despite the fact I was clean, I felt dirty. Esme finished washing my hair and conditioned it thoroughly. With a fluffy towel, Esme dried me off and I was so tired from just sitting in the shower. "Come on, Bella. I know you're spent." Esme helped me stand and I managed to finish drying myself.

"Can I get a moment?" I asked.

"Sure, sweet girl," Esme said, kissing my temple. "When you're done, I'll brush your hair." I smiled, but it probably looked more like a grimace. She turned and left me in the bathroom. I looked up in the mirror, which was covered in steam and condensation. Wiping it with my good hand, I gasped. My face was virtually unrecognizable. My left eye was nearly swollen shut. I had several cuts along my cheeks and my eyebrows that required stitches. I had hand marks around my neck along with hickeys and bite marks. Tears, again, streamed down my face. I was hideous. I tried to calm myself, but I felt more and more out of control. I couldn't breathe and the walls of the bathroom were closing in on me.

The door flew open and Jane, along with Dr. Korbel came inside. They lay me on the floor to prevent me from crashing into the sink. I was covered with a towel and was injected with something. My eyes grew heavy and I drifted.

When I came to, I was back in the hospital bed, dressed in a pair of yoga pants and one of Edward's sweatshirts. I looked around and saw Alice sitting by my side, snoozing. The television was on quietly. Reaching over, I shook Alice's arm. "Ali, wake up," I hissed.

"Wha?" she mumbled, rubbing her eyes. "Oh! You're awake. Are you okay?"

"I'm a bit hungry," I said. My stomach was aching and that was the main reason why I woke up.

"Let me send Jasper to pick you up a burger and some fries. It's been awhile since you've eaten a full meal and you need it," Alice smirked. "You want a milkshake?"

"Strawberry," I said.

"Also, there were a few detectives here earlier. They needed your statement. Dr. Korbel went on a tirade explaining that you had just woken up and were dealing with the backlash of an attempted sexual assault. I presume they'll be here soon," Alice grumbled.

"Do you know when I can visit Edward?" I whispered.

"Let's get you some food and then we'll visit Red," Alice smiled. She tapped out on her cell phone, ordering my food. Jasper was out and about, running errands and said he'd pick it up. While we waited for him, there was a knock on my door and two detectives walked in. One of them was big and dark, just like Jacob. My heart began racing. "Bella, deep breaths, sweetie."

"Bella," came another voice. I looked and saw Kate, Eleazar's daughter. "Do you remember me?" I nodded, unable to speak since my throat was dry and breathing was an issue. "Rafe, go outside."

"But, I'm the lead detective on this case," the male detective whined.

"Get the fuck out. You look like one of the men who attacked her," Kate snarled. Rafe crossed his arms and stood firm. "Look, rookie, you need to step out of this room before Miss Swan suffers a panic attack. Do you not see her struggling to catch her breath? Do you not see the fear in her eyes?" Rafe growled, turning on his heels and slamming the door shut. I flinched, moving away from the sound. "Fucker. I hate him and I want my old partner back."

"He…he…he…" I stuttered. "Looked like…"

"I know, Bella," Kate said as she sat down. "Now, I know that this is tough. I need you to tell me exactly what happened." I relayed my story, up until I woke up. Kate wrote down everything. She didn't say much but I could tell she was troubled. Once I finished, she put down her pen and looked up at me. "I'm so sorry, Bella. I can't even imagine."

"Me neither," I muttered. "I feel so…out of control, dirty, used, lonely, empty, terrified…did you catch Jacob?"

"No. We also know that there were two others involved in your assault, Bella. Victoria and James were also a part of it."

"Are they in custody?" My voice shook and my body was trembling.

"No. Emmett and Jasper beat the shit out of them, but they weren't caught. By the time the police arrived, they were in the wind. We've frozen their accounts and put an APB out on them. They can't get out of the country, if they're flying; they're passports are flagged."

"So, my attackers are out, free and walking around like nothing happened?" I cried.

"I'm afraid so. I'm am truly sorry. We are providing you with a police escort wherever you may go. Additionally, you've been given additional security by your publicity firm. You will be safe," Kate said fervently.

"Also, you'll be staying with my parents until you're okay. They want to ensure your safety," Alice said, tucking an errant curl behind my ear. "Plus, Uncle Carlisle feels responsible for some odd reason."

"Why?" I asked.

"It was at his wrap party. He doesn't know how they got in since it was a closed, exclusive party. He also sent out notices to the owners of the Viper Club that James shouldn't be allowed entry, nor Jacob. The only way they could have gotten in was through the catering company or the DJ," Alice explained. "The police interviewed everyone at the party. They're wading through the catering crew and DJ, but it's fruitless."

"Bella, if you remember anything else, please call me," Kate said, handing me her card. "We'll try and put an end to this quickly. Until then, make sure you're not alone and have protection with you at all times. You're licensed to carry, correct?"

"Yeah. My dad was the police chief in the town where I grew up. He insisted that I knew how to handle guns. I kept my license active here in California," I replied.

"Bring a gun with you. At all times," Kate said grimly. "This is something that these two will give up easily. You got away. I know that they will want to try and complete what they started." I felt dizzy, terrified and sick. Kate saw my look of absolute fear and she took my hand. "We won't let that happen, Bella. I promise you."

There was a quiet knock on the door and Jasper poked his head in. "Food's here," he said, giving us a crooked grin.

"Call if you need anything," Kate said. "That's my personal cell phone."

"Thanks," I replied, curling up as she left. Jasper put my meal on the tray table. I was starving but the thought of eating made my stomach turn.

"Bella, you have to eat," Alice said, pushing the table closer to me. "Yes, this sucks. Beyond all recognition, it sucks. But you have to be strong for this. For yourself. For Edward."

Edward…

"I'll get to see him after I eat?" I asked. Alice nodded and darted out of the room to make the arrangements. I nibbled at the burger, barely taking two bites. The fries were a little more appetizing, but I had only half of those. The shake sounded like a good idea but I couldn't bring myself to drink it. Edward would bring me strawberry shakes and we'd share. Jasper eagerly took it, slurping it down and giving himself an ice cream headache.

A short, rather masculine looking female nurse rolled a wheelchair into my room. She gruffly helped me into it. Alice said that she'd take me up to the ICU to visit Edward. The nurse began to argue but the woman at the desk barked that it was okay. The ICU was a floor below mine and strictly for 'family-only.' Esme and Carlisle said that Edward and I were engaged to allow me entry.

In the ICU, Alice rolled me to Edward's room. Carlisle and Esme were waiting outside. Carlisle crouched down and hugged me. I began trembling. I knew that Carlisle was a good man but the thought of someone touching me without my permission. "I'm so sorry, Bella. I didn't mean…"

"I'm fine, Carlisle. Just a little jumpy," I said, my voice quaking. "How is he?"

"They're weaning him off the sedative," Esme explained. "That's why I wasn't with you when you woke up after your panic attack. I'm sorry for leaving you, Bella, but…Edward…"

"I know. I understand," I nodded. "Is he awake?"

"He's aware," Carlisle said. "I must warn you. He's battered and bruised, just as you are."

I nodded and got up from the wheelchair. I hobbled to the room and saw Edward, lying flat on his back. His bronze hair was limp and his skin was very, very pale. He looked like he was wearing his makeup from when he was Daniel in the movie. He wasn't intubated, but he had some assistance in breathing with the tubes up his nose. I know that they had a name, but I couldn't really think what they were called, nor did I really care. His right hand was casted and he looked so small on the bed.

"Edward?" I whispered, my voice sounding small. I put my hand in his. "Can you hear me?"

His heart monitor began beeping faster and his fingers wrapped around mine. His eyes were still closed and his face was impassive, but his body remembered me. The emptiness I felt had dissipated but I felt unworthy of him. I was no longer his. Yes, as far as I was told, I was not raped, but someone else had touched me. "I'm so sorry," I whispered, tears falling down my face. "It's my fault you're here, Edward. You must hate me."

The beeping increased and Edward's nose wrinkled. His hand was squeezing mine tightly. "What? It's true. It's because what happened to me that you're in here. I'm so sorry," I sobbed, falling back into the recliner next to his bed. Leaning forward, my ribs protesting, I cried quietly. I hated what happened to me. I hated what happened to Edward.

"Don't cry, dolcezza," I heard in a deep, raspy voice.

I looked up and saw Edward gazing at me. His golden eyes were sad, tired and his face was drawn. "You're awake."

"I waited for you," he said, smiling crookedly. More tears fell down my cheeks. I wanted to crawl into bed with him and cuddle against his chest. I wanted to run away for this, causing his anguish. I hated myself. "Don't, Bella. This is not your fault."

"I'm sorry," I whispered, sobbing quietly.

His thumb caressed my cheek. I closed my eyes, relishing in the intimacy but something caused me to jerk back. "Don't touch me. I'm dirty," I hissed, wrapping my arms around my waist.

"Bella, you're not," he cried, tears slipping from his own eyes. "Please, dolcezza. I love you. I'll always love you."

"Even if I'm broken?" I whimpered.

"You're not broken, baby. Just bruised. Just like me," he said, reaching his hand out toward me. "Please, Bella?"

I walked back over to him and sat down. His large, warm hand cradled my cheek. "I'm sorry I couldn't get to you sooner. If anything, it's my fault." I shook my head, cradling his hand with mine. "We'll get through this, dolcezza."

"I hope so," I whispered, still feeling unworthy. "How are you? Are you in pain?"

"I'm fine," he replied. "Tired of laying in one spot, but fine."

"Can you wiggle your toes for me? I want to make sure that you're truly fine," I said, giving him a stern look. He sighed and his feet moved freely underneath the blanket.

"See?" he smirked. "Fine." Fat tears trailed down my cheeks. "Everything will be okay, Bella. I love you and you love me."

If only I could believe him…

xx STARLET xx

I stayed in the hospital two more days. Edward stayed an additional week. While he was able to move his legs, he didn't have much control over his movements and needed the assistance of a physical therapist to get his gait back to normal. He would continue his therapy while we stayed with Carlisle and Esme.

I had been a wreck. My sleep was riddled with nightmares. I didn't want to eat and I holed myself up in my room. I felt like someone was watching me everywhere I went. Plus, the fact that my condo was broken into and trashed didn't help matters either. I was withering away and I couldn't find it in myself to really care. I just sat in the room that I stayed in when I was at the Cullen's home for Christmas nearly two years ago, not talking to anyone.

Not even Edward.

A month had passed since my attack and I was lying in bed, holding the stuffed rabbit that Edward had gotten me for Christmas. The door opened and Edward limped in with his cane, his golden eyes determined. "Bella, get up."

"No," I answered, turning over.

He threw down his cane and he crawled into bed with me. I jumped out, running to the corner, clutching the rabbit and trembling. "Bella, I won't hurt you! Dolcezza, you need help!"

"I'm fine," I hissed. I really wasn't. I took five to six showers a day. My skin was raw from the beating it took from my relentless washing. I had lost a lot of weight and was painfully thin.

"Bella, you're wasting away," he said, crawling on the floor, moving closer to me. "I want my girlfriend back."

"She's gone, Edward. You've got this instead," I snapped. "If you can't take it, then no one's stopping you."

"I don't want anyone else," he said, his eyes softening. "I want you. Fuck, Bella. I miss you. And I don't mean to sound selfish, but I hurting, too. I can't walk right. My therapist says I've got another two months of intense therapy to get my gait back. I lost a kidney. What happened to you was horrific! No denying that, but you're not the only one who's in pain. The biggest pain is not being able to help you."

I looked up at him and I saw that he was crying, his chest heaving as he tried to get himself under control. "I'm scared, Edward," I muttered.

"I know, baby. I am, too. But, I will do everything to keep you safe," he whispered, holding out his hand. "But, you need to get better. Bella, I can't…can't lose you. I've lost my parents. They were the only other people who made me feel like you do. But, what I feel for you is a hundred times more profound. I can't…I won't give that up." He reached his hand closer to me. I wanted to grasp it, but I was so afraid. I was dirty. "Bella, I love you. Please…please come back to me."

Tentatively, I put my hand in his. He pulled on me and I was in his lap. His warm arms enfolded me in a tight embrace as he sobbed against my shoulder. I melted against him, joining him in his crying, clutching at his shirt. We stayed that way until Edward shifted and moaned in pain. I shot up and led him to the bed. We lay down. He held me tightly, still sniffling as he caressed my back. "I'm sorry, Edward. I don't know what to do. I feel so dirty. And out of control."

"I can imagine," he whispered, kissing my forehead. "Bella, what happened to you, no woman should have to endure. I mean, I managed to stop it before it became something more, but the fact that you were even put in that position…I can understand why you feel that way. But, taking six showers and not eating? Bella, I can count your ribs and your skin is…"

"What should I do?" I asked, fear lacing my voice.

"First, you need to eat something," Edward chided. "Then, you need to talk to someone."

"Like you?"

"No. Like a therapist," he whispered, holding me tighter to his body. "I'm going to go, too. Like you, my sleep is plagued with nightmares, but it's of what I saw. What he was about to do…"

"Tell me," I whispered.

"Bella, no," he muttered back.

"You don't understand. Ten days of my life were taken from me because of what he did to me. I want to know what you saw. If I know, I have an idea of what he did and how I can make myself better," I cried, sitting up and looking at him. He took my hands and he told me about what happened that night. His eyes deadened as he explained how he searched all throughout the club, finding me in the backstage area. He told me of how Jacob was about to rape me and how he was using my body as a punching bag. He spat out how James and Victoria were fucking on the couch as I lay on a table, unconscious and naked from the waist down, like a pig at slaughter. He stalwartly told me of his own fight with James and his drift into unconsciousness, reaching for me. After he told me this, I shot up and ran to the bathroom, heaving up bile and retching dryly. Edward soothed me, holding me in his arms as I sobbed over what had happened.

I don't know how long we sat in each other's arms, but I weakly looked up at Edward's haggard face. "Do you have a name of a therapist?" I croaked.

"My aunt found someone. Dr. Stephanie Myerson is known for working with patients with PTSD and women recovering rapes and sexual assaults. I know I'm suffering from depression and PTSD, very similar to when my parents died. I almost had to be medicated due to the sadness I felt," Edward said. "You are much worse, dolcezza. I can hear you cry in your sleep. I can feel how thin you are. You. Need. Help." He wiped my cheek, frowning when I flinched. "I know it will take time, Bella. But, I promise you that I will not hurt you."

"I know. My heart knows that but my brain doesn't understand it," I sniffled. I needed help. I knew this. I ran my finger over the pattern on Edward's shirt. "I'd like to try, Edward. I don't know if I'll ever be better."

"You will, dolcezza," he whispered, pressing his lips to my forehead. The warmth of them radiated through my body. "I love you, Bella."

"Even after all of this?" I asked, looking up at him.

"Nothing will change my feelings for you, Bella. You're hurting. Nothing feels right. I get that. I still love you. Do you still love me?" he asked, his twinkling with tears.

Did I? This man who sacrificed his very body to save me. Could I is the better question? Could I get over this feeling of filth and fear to be with him again? I reached up and for the first time since my attack, I initiated contact. He shuddered when my fingers touched his slightly scruffy face. His eyes closed and tears streamed down his cheeks. When will we both stop crying? Tenderly, I traced his high cheekbones, strong jawline, crooked nose (thanks to James' punches) and soft pink lips. When my fingers glided across his mouth, his jaw fell slack and he moaned quietly. Moving my hand to his neck, I pulled his face to mine. His lips were a hairsbreadth away from me; I could taste his breath on my lips. Timidly, I pressed my mouth to his and this overwhelming feeling of safety, home and devotion washed over me. In comparison, this was a fairly chaste kiss, but it solidified everything I needed to know.

I wasn't broken…just bruised, like Edward said.

We were both hurt and needed each other to make this right, to survive this.

The biggest one was that I did, indeed, still love Edward. Pulling back, I brushed his hair back from his face. "I do still love you, Edward. I need you…you need me…"

He smiled, his face radiating with joy as he pressed another soft kiss to my mouth. Keeping his forehead pressed to mine, he sighed contentedly. "We'll get through this, Bella. I know it. But we need to something first."

"What's that?" I asked.

"We need to feed you," he chided. I scowled, afraid of losing whatever he wanted to put in my stomach. "Please, Bella. You're skin and bones." He stood up and stumbled a little bit from being on the ground for so long. "It won't be a lot of food, just a snack." He helped me up, wrapping his arm around my waist. Slowly, we made it downstairs to the kitchen. Esme and Carlisle were there, putting away food from dinner. Esme's eyes sparkled when she saw me. "We need something to eat," Edward explained, sitting heavily on one of the chair at the table. "I'd offer to cook…"

"Nonsense," Esme said as she went about making plates for me and Edward. "I'm happy to see you up and about, Bella. We were getting so worried."

I smiled timidly, feeling like an ass for hiding in my room like a frightened little girl. Esme placed a plate in front of me that had a fairly large snack of apples with caramel, string cheese and a glass of milk. "I feel like a kid."

"Your stomach has shrunk. We can't exactly give you a pizza," Esme snickered. "Alice had a bout with anorexia when she was sixteen and we had to slowly get her to eat. This was one of her favorite meals. Eat what you can."

"I'm not anorexic," I frowned.

"Bella, when was the last time you actually ate?" Carlisle asked.

"The hospital…eating the hamburger. I nibbled on some things when you all were asleep, but not a whole lot," I frowned. "Okay, I have a problem…"

"That's the first step: admitting it," Edward smiled as he dug into his plate of pasta.

"Why did you not eat, Bella?" Esme asked.

"Control. I needed to control something," I answered, dipping an apple into the caramel, nibbling it slowly. "Everything is out of control and this," I said gesturing to the apple, "was what I could control. My fear, my anxiety, my pain, my hatred…all out of my control. Food and sleep, in my control."

They didn't say anything more. Esme just kissed my forehead before going back to the sink. Carlisle squeezed Edward's shoulder and walked into his office, presumably to edit Midnight Dawn. I tried to eat the meager meal in front of me. I managed to force down half of the apple and most of the milk. The string cheese and caramel weren't looking all that appetizing, really. Plus, my stomach was churning with everything that I was feeling. I still felt dirty and out of control, but with the patience of Edward and Cullen's, I could hopefully get through this.

That night, Edward and I slept together. No, not sex. Sleep. You know, sleep? However, it was different than before. When we first starting sleeping together, Edward was fairly comfortable with me. He never wore a shirt. Well, the first time he slept with me, he wore a shirt but it came off during the night. Now, I was afraid to see Edward without a shirt. He had four scars on his body. Three were caused by the knife that stabbed him and one was from the surgery to remove his wounded kidney.

When I woke up, trying to shake off a particularly bad nightmare, I noticed Edward had removed his t-shirt. Tears sprang from my eyes. Damn it, with the crying. His once muscular and toned body was now covered in healing bruises, angry red scars and mementos of the torment he endured. I scrambled out of bed and ran into the bathroom, pushing open the toilet.

"Bella, don't," Edward said sleepily.

I turned to him and saw him. He had put his shirt back on and his eyes were sad. "It's my fault!"

"No, baby, it's James' fault. He's the one who was higher than a kite and stabbed me," Edward said, sitting down on the edge of the tub. "Bella, my scars are outward and will fade. Yours, I'm afraid, are inside and will take time. I'm still me. Minus one kidney."

"Edward," I chided. He smirked at me. "It's not funny. You could have died. You could have been paralyzed!"

"Too soon to make jokes," he said, sobering his features. "Got it. However, let me tell you this, I'd rather be covered in a million stab wounds and have you alive then to be unscathed and not have you at all. I love you, dolcezza."

"I love you, too. I just hate that you have physical reminders of that hellish night," I scowled.

"Bella, it will be a long road to recovery, but we can do it," he murmured. "Come on, let's go back to bed. It's still early." He stood up, offering me his hand and I took it. He wrapped me in his arms, kissing my forehead. "Thank you for listening to me."

I nodded, allowing him to guide us back to my bed.

xx STARLET xx

The next two months were spent in recuperation and recovery at Carlisle and Esme's home. My condo was trashed due to a break-in. The cops dusted for prints and all clues implicated Jacob. He stupid and didn't wear gloves. Knowing that he had invaded my sanctuary scared the shit out of me. I donated the furniture that wasn't ruined to charity and had a company empty it out. Nothing was salvageable. It was put on the market immediately after I changed the locks. Edward and I could have moved into the house, but Carlisle and Esme insisted we stay with them. I didn't disagree. I needed help…a mother figure and I found that in Esme.

I also backed out of my roles that I committed to this year, wanting to focus on my mental, emotional and physical health. Edward tried to do the same, but the director of the circus movie wanted him so badly that he delayed shooting for a year so Edward could heal as well, thankfully. As far as I know, Edward may be shooting both Waning Moon and Lion Tamer, the circus flick, at the same time.

Edward was almost back to normal. He still experienced back pain from his two stab wounds, but his walk was unassisted and strong. His physical therapist helped him regain his strength and he was now back to his pre-attack form, muscular, confident and athletic. He suffered from nightmares, but they were waning. I think that it helped that we both went through extensive therapy with Dr. Stephanie Myerson. She came by daily to speak with us. Edward and I went through couple's therapy, discussing how to get over the trauma of the attack on our relationship. I still harbored a great deal of guilt of what happened. I couldn't swing it. It was my fault that Edward was injured. Edward was insistent that it wasn't and Dr. Myerson agreed. I didn't know how to get over this feeling of guilt. Dr. Myerson said it would take time, but my mind will eventually catch up with me.

Doubtful.

Edward also explained in our joint sessions that he felt guilty as well. Dr. Myerson said that he was experiencing a case of the 'if-onlys.' If only I could have gotten there sooner; if only I stayed with her; if only…the reasons for his guilt were all stemmed from his need to protect me. I didn't blame him. He saved me and I was eternally grateful for that.

In our individual sessions, I dealt with the overwhelming feeling of dirtiness and the reemergence of my extreme need for control, almost to the point of OCD. I still took five to six showers a day, but managed to not rub my skin raw. Esme saw my forearm one day and was shocked at the skin. She gave me some lotion and told me that I needed to stop hurting myself. I just needed to get the feeling of Jacob and as we found out, James, off my skin. Dr. Myerson told me that I needed to curtail my showering and she gave me tricks on how to do it. If I didn't stop, she would have to put me on medication for anxiety and I refused to do that. I don't want to be on medication for the rest of my life.

I was working on my shower issue. I had to talk to someone before I took my showers so they could calm me down. Sometimes it was Esme. Other times it was Edward. I even contacted Dr. Myerson. They would explain to me that I wasn't dirty. It was a perception my mind had. My goal for next week was bring my showering obsession down to four a day.

I'm not sure if I can do it, but my skin is begging me to.

I did start eating more, but was very fastidious in what I put into my body. I wouldn't eat red meat and freaked out if my food was touching. I gained about ten pounds back and was able to fill out my clothes. Alice even quipped that my appearance improved from being a walking skeleton. I even stopped smoking. My outward injuries have healed, but my inward ones were kicking my ass.

I had night terrors. I would wake up screaming, clawing at the sheets, the pillows, Edward…whatever was close by. Dr. Myerson explained that my attack was cruel and sadistic because I didn't know what was going on. My eyes were open, my mind was there sort of, but I was helpless to stop it. The night terrors were flashes of what happened that night. The most disgusting flash was of James and Jacob coming all over my stomach. I remembered that clearly and that was my main reason for wanting to shower all of the time. After that, it's bits and pieces. Nothing clear, only sounds, smells and glimpses of that night.

After my therapy session, I was up in my room. I was trying to make sense of what Dr. Myerson was saying. She encouraged me to journal but I'm not that kind of girl. Not now. Perhaps in my past, I was, but now? I just needed to sit back and process it all. I was curled up in the window seat, staring out over the sunny day of late February.

"Bella?" called Edward.

"Bedroom," I replied, playing with my stuffed rabbit. He strode in and looked all sweaty. "Work out?"

"I ran five miles today with Emmett," he said. "Only towards the end did I start feeling discomfort." He sat down on the bed, slipping off his sneakers. "How was your session with Stephanie?"

"The same. She's concerned about my lack of progress," I sighed, clutching Rapoo to my chest. "I don't know what she expects."

"She wants you to get better, dolcezza," Edward said. "We all do. I've seen your improvement and I'm proud of you…"

"What improvement?" I snapped. "Sorry."

"I know you're frustrated, but I'm on your side," Edward admonished gently. "Anyhow, you're gaining weight. You don't flinch around me anymore. You can sleep for longer periods of time. Bella, take pride in that."

"The way Dr. Myerson's talking sounds like I should be back to normal," I said flatly. "I can barely stand the sight of myself, Edward. I've got scars on my face. However, that's the least of my worries. I still feel tainted. I can hardly touch me; hold my hand, kiss me chastely and keep me safe at night. I'm afraid that I won't be able to get over this and we'll never have sex again. Then, you'll leave me and I'll be alone."

"Bella, I won't leave you because we can't make love," he said, arching a brow. "I love you with my heart and soul. Physical intimacy is important, but it's not the backbone of our relationship."

"What is it, then?"

"Our friendship. Bella, I spent two years protecting you and building a friendship with you. It's that friendship that makes us indestructible. Do I miss making love to you? Yes, I do. But, I know if we try, it would cause a rift in our relationship and cause your emotional and mental healing to regress. I will keep doing what I'm doing because I love you. You also need to know that Jacob didn't rape you. Yes, he did things to you that were against your will but he didn't take that. He didn't take us."

"I feel like he did, though," I replied, frowning deeply. "I'm terrified of men now. Well, not you, but I was scared in the beginning." I put my head on my knees. I was still sad, for obvious reasons. "Why don't you shower? You're quite fragrant, Edward."

"Yeah, sorry about that," he chuckled, plucking at his tight shirt. "This conversation isn't over, Bella. I'll be back." He shot up and went into the bathroom, turning on the shower. The door wasn't closed and I could him moving, in shadow, inside of the spacious bathroom. He tossed off his clothes before going into the shower stall. I was still terrified of his scars. I know it seems stupid and childish, but seeing them freaked me out, a physical reminder of that night. I moved from my perch in the window seat and moved so I could see him. The shower stall was glass, coming up to Edward's waist. I stared at his back, tears building in my eyes as I saw the angry red scars on his back. Whenever I saw them, I cried. When he turned, I darted back to the window seat, sobbing into the rabbit. I had to get myself under control. I didn't want Edward to know that I was losing it.

The shower turned off and Edward began moving around the bathroom. A few minutes later, he strode out wearing a pair of jeans and long-sleeved t-shirt. He saw me huddled up on the window seat, crying. "Hey, baby, it's okay," he said sitting down next to me. He smelled fresh and clean, like his body wash and cologne. He reached for me. I eyed his hand before rushing into his arms, burying nose into his neck. "Scars again?" I nodded, clutching at him wanting to make him perfect like before. He held me tightly as he gently rubbed soothing circles on my back.

"It's so stupid. I know you're better but seeing them…it brings back everything from that night," I sniffled.

"I want to try something," Edward said as he set me onto the seat.

"What?"

"I'm going to take off my shirt, Bella," he began, "and I want you to touch my scars."

"No," I said, digging my heels in, crossing my arms across my chest.

"Bella, you need to know that I'm okay," he said, shirking off his shirt. I turned my face out the window, not wanting this. His warm hand cupped my cheek, turning my face slowly towards his. "I need this, too." His eyes were sad and lonely. I bit my lip, allowing the tears to flow freely down my cheeks. He moved his hand from my face, inching it down my arm. He took my hand, bringing it up to his lips and kissing my knuckles. He let go of my hand and it hung in the air awkwardly. I quickly moved it to his shoulder. I searched his eyes and the love he felt for me was evident, but so was his sadness.

Slowly, achingly slowly, I moved my hand down his chest to his scar on his side, just above his navel. I stopped just inches away from it. It was the least scary looking of his scars, also the one that caused the least amount of damage. I scowled at the angry red line that marred his torso, pressing my hand to it and finding it to be a touch cooler than the skin surrounding it. The scar itself was soft and slightly raised due to the skin adhesive they used to bind it together. However, I was touching it, but I pulled my hand away. "There, I touched one of your scars. I can't do the rest," I said indignantly.

"Honestly, I'm shocked you touched this one," Edward chuckled, pulling his shirt.

"It's cooler than the rest of your skin. Why?"

"The doctors don't know for sure. They guess is due to nerve damage? I couldn't really feel your hand on my stomach even though I could see it," Edward replied, poking at his scar. "It's the same for the one near my spine."

There was a knock on the door and Carlisle poked his frazzled head in. His blonde hair was disheveled and he had red rims around his eyes, hidden behind thick glasses. "Edward, Bella, Kate's here. She has some news for you," Carlisle said curtly.

"Can you be more of an ass Uncle C?" Edward grumped.

"Sorry. I can't get this one sequence to edit right. I have this vision in my head but it's not translating to film. I'm miffed that I'm losing my flow," he said, wrinkling his nose. "Kate's in the family room." He turned to leave.

Edward looked at me and I was quaking in fear. "Hey, it's probably good news."

"The only good news will be that Jacob was decapitated by a wolf and James was eaten by a shark," I hissed. "Oh and Victoria got flesh eating bacteria in her cooter and she died a slow painful death as a result of that."

"Quite descriptive, dolcezza," Edward snorted. "Flesh eating bacteria in her cooter. That would suck." I rolled my eyes and smacked his arm. He laughed lightly, weaving his fingers with mine and going down the stairs to meet with Kate and her assclown partner, Rafe. Thankfully, in the family room, Kate was there, alone, talking to Esme.

"I'll be in the kitchen, Kate. We'd love it if you would stay for dinner," Esme smiled.

"I'd love to but I've got a date tonight," she smirked.

"Have fun and don't do anything I wouldn't do," Esme giggled.

"That doesn't leave much, Esme," Kate deadpanned. Esme blushed and laughed as she walked into the kitchen. Kate gave us a smile when she saw us, hugging me tightly. "Looking much better, Bella. I was worried for a while."

"We all were," Edward said as he kissed my hair.

"I'm working on it," I said as I sat down on the couch. Edward sat next to me, holding me to his side. "Carlisle said you had news."

-"Yeah. We were working on your case today. We found a few connections that might be interesting for you. Do you know a Royce King?"

"No," Edward answered.

"The name sounds familiar. Is he in the business?" I asked.

"He was, but he got into trouble ten years ago for sleeping with an underage actress. He was sent to prison under a statutory rape charge. He recently released due to overcrowding the prison system for good behavior. He's a registered sex offender. Anyhow, we think he may be linked to your ex cousin-in-law, Rosalie," Kate explained.

"How does this relate to Jacob and James?" Edward asked, exasperatedly.

"I'll get to that. Anyhow, Royce was the main reason why Rosalie went to the tabloids with her fake story about Emmett beating the crap out of her," Kate said. "He's so far in debt that he's looking for money everywhere. He figured that Emmett would pay Rosalie off to shut her up, but it didn't happen."

She flipped a few pages in her notebook, looking up at me. "Now, here's where Jacob and James are connected. Royce was one of Jacob's first clients when he became a publicist. Also, James Cobb's last name wasn't Cobb. It's King. James is Royce's younger brother. He changed his name after Royce was convicted of statutory rape. Despite that, Royce and James are incredibly close. It was Royce's idea for James to change his last name, taking his mother's maiden name."

"How do you know this?" Edward asked.

"Public records, investigating Jacob's old client list, and a very talkative Rosalie," Kate smirked.

"Say what?" I squeaked.

"She came into the precinct, bloodied, beat up and a mess. She wanted protection from Royce, James and Jacob. They were having some sort of gangbang or something and Rose said no. The guys beat the shit out of her while they took turns with Victoria," Kate grimaced. "Rosalie has been taken in protective custody after she had her wounds treated. She told me all about the plan to rape you and break you. She also explained that it was Jacob who broke into your condo, searching for some drugs or something."

"I don't do drugs. I haven't in nearly three years," I frowned.

"Well, she said that Jacob was higher than a kite when he broke into your condo. He had help with a security guard who let him in," Kate said. "That guard was dismissed when I confronted them about it."

"Do you know where Jacob and James are?" Edward asked, his eyes black with fury.

"No. After taking Rosalie into protective custody, we went to their last known location and it was vacant. Royce, Jacob, James and Victoria are in the wind, again. It's very frustrating. However, they can't travel by standard means. All airports, train stations and buses have their pictures. Their passports are flagged and they can't leave the country. My best guess is that they're staying in California. They want to be close to their target, but far enough away to allude capture."

"Doesn't Royce have to check in with a probation officer?" I questioned.

"He supposed to, but hasn't. He also hasn't been to his halfway house since your attack. Now, I know that this not news you want to hear, but I wanted you to know about everything we've learned." She took my hands and smiled sincerely. "We're going to get them all."

I wanted to believe her. Truly, I did. But, I couldn't.

The news made me more terrified. Jacob and James were still out there. They were working with Royce King, a convicted rapist and ex-con. Rosalie helped them.

Would this nightmare ever end?

A/N: First off, I lost a few readers from the last chapter and I changed it. I hope I get them back but if I didn't, I apologize. Secondly, I'm not going into Bella or Edward's therapy because I'm not, nor ever will be, a therapist. I've been to therapy, but that does not make me an expert in that field. I do not want to presume that I know what I'm doing with that, so I'm just saying that they're going to therapy but not really covering it. If I'm doing something that you all disagree with, please PM me. Thirdly, we're roughly halfway through this story, maybe two-thirds of the way through it. I won't say much else, but I will promise you that there will be a HEA for everyone. Angst, at times, but all will work out.

No real pic teases for this. You can see all other picture teasers on my blog (link in my profile) and pervy pic teasers on my tumblr (again, link in my profile). I also have a Facebook group: Tufano79's Twilight Fanfiction Appreciation. Find me there or on twitter: tufano79. Please, leave me some lovin! I need it with this one. Am I going in the right direction? Thanks!

Up next will be Edward's point of view, more recovery and slight angst…