Stress.

Stress: (noun) /stres/ 1. a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation

Stress can be found all around, if one only looks. Many things can cause stress for people: a sick child, a paper due, unemployment, sickness or perhaps a lost relationship.

Over the years, she had grown quite apt at dealing with stress. In fact, it was usually one of her strong points; something she had prided herself in.

But now, she was in situation where she didn't how to deal with her stress. Nothing she did could relieve her of the burden on her shoulders.

The only thing that brought her comfort was him.

~O~

Bella had a headache and stomach cramps. The headache was expected given the stress she was under, but the cramps were much more of nuisance and had nothing to do with her period. She figured that she had finally reached that level of stress.

The next morning, she had to be on airplane at 7:45 which would be flying her to New York for a six day business trip. The head of Gray Books was located at the heart of the city, and even though Bella had fallen in love with the city of lights, she was dreading it.

She hated travel. Getting to the destination and being there is one thing, but traveling was a whole other thing and she just had no patience for it.

Traffic in New York City. Another thing she hated which needed no explanation.

Meeting with all of the executives at Gray Books was another thing she wasn't entirely keen on. Mr. Collins, the CEO, she loved. The rest she wasn't too inclined to like.

Not being in charge. She was used to being the boss, and with her boss usually hundreds of miles away, things were usually done her way. By leaving her office, she was relinquishing most control and for a person like Bella, it just didn't sit well.

And above all, six days was a long time.

She didn't want to leave Edward and Molly for a week's time. She was absolutely dreading it. The only way Edward slept was if he was near Bella, and she worried what his state would be after six days. A hopeful part of her thought that he might actually be able to sleep but the realistic part wasn't really agreeing.

And she would miss the hell out of Molly.

That little girl had become so much in her life, impossibly more than she already had been. Molly had become a constant joy whose toddler charm and adorableness never failed to make Bella smile, even after shitty days.

So, in sum, she was stressed.

But, just to add to that –because the universe didn't think her she was freaking out already- a manuscript came onto her desk the afternoon before she left.

It had been delivered by a strangely quiet Landon who didn't say much about it other than that it was James Freeland's latest edited manuscript.

Landon was the last of the original interns left. The rest had left, their summer contract expiring and most of them went back to school or began a new job. Landon, however, had asked to extend his contract, as assistant to Bella's colleague, until the new year when a new bunch of interns would begin.

With wariness, Bella picked up the manuscript James had submitted to be published. Grimacing, she began to flip through the pages and stopped when she saw the first highlighter mark.

James had missed three errors in the first four chapters. Granted, Bella acknowledged they were not entirely glaring errors. Most of the story was about a court case, so the word jury was in it a lot. Jury had special subject/verb agreement rules that not everyone knew. And that's fine, because everyone didn't need to know it. But if you're an editor? You better figure it out. And it was clear he had not.

With a sigh, Bella picked up her phone and dialed Gwen's extension.

"Gwen, can you get me James Freeland in my office please?" she asked.

"Of course, Miss Swan, right away."

Bella had warned James two months ago that he had one more strike before he was out. This had been it.

So, just for fun, because she was so bored, she had to fire one of her senior editors. It was a blast.

The fact that she was down an editor would be fun to bring up in meetings that coming week.

Bella made a phone call to Mr. Collins, easily getting through his secretary. She confirmed a couple things with him before wishing him a falsely cheery yet entirely believable "See you tomorrow!"

Since the door to her office was open, and she didn't really feel like moving, she merely called, "Hey Landon, how you feel about meeting me in New York on Thursday?"

His reply was confused, but an affirmative.

By the time Bella fell into bed that night, she was drained. And she quite literally, fell into bed.

Edward perched on the dresser and looked over at her sprawled out body with an amused grin.

Finally, she raised her head from the bed and looked over at him, raising an eyebrow at his smirk. He tried to lose it.

"You know what sucks about New York?" she complained.

"The perpetual smell of weed?" he tried.

Bella rolled her eyes. "Not what I was going for, but good point."

Edward slid off the dresser and went to the bed. He sat back against the headboard and looked at her curiously.

"Are you really dreading going that much?" he asked.

Bella sighed and adjusted so that she was rested against the headboard too. "I don't know. Usually I don't hate these things so much, and I love New York."

"But now?" he prompted.

She shrugged. "Everything's changed."

"But isn't that life, sorta?" Edward wondered, surprising Bella with his calm introspection.

"I suppose…but, I don't know; it just feels different. I don't want to leave you and Molly."

Edward gave her a small smile. "It's not like you're leaving forever. You're coming back."

Silence weighed down on them as both of them contemplated that she would be leaving. After six months were up, Bella would go back to her apartment…and the idea seemed so frighteningly foreign to them both.

"Are you sure you're going to be fed?" Bella asked, changing the subject.

Edward grinned.

"Perhaps."

Bella rolled her eyes.

"You can cook."

"True. But my mom did already call and offer to bring us food."

"And how could you turn her down?" Bella teased.

"Exactly."

Bella nearly responded, but a large yawn fought its way out of her mouth instead.

Edward laughed.

"Looks like the weary traveler needs to get sleep.

Bella didn't protest the notion as they adjusted so that they were lying under the covers.

"Don't you have to travel to then be weary?" she wondered.

"I feel like you're a preemptive weary, so it's basically the same thing," he replied.

Bella situated so that her hands her folded under her face and she was facing Edward who mirrored her position.

"Edward, we've never really talked about this," Bella said, gesturing to the two of them sharing a bed.

"I know," he admitted, looking sheepishly hesitant, "I've never really known how."

Bella knew exactly how he felt.

"I want for you to be well rested and healthy…you know that's my concern, right?"

He cracked a wry grin, "Yes, I've noticed that."

Bella rolled her eyes.

"But my point is that I don't care if this seems weird to anyone else, if me being here helps you sleeps that is truly all that matters."

"Still," he replied, "the concept is weird, you gotta admit."

"Oh yeah," she agreed. "But it's never really felt weird to me."

"Me neither."

"Do you think you're going to get any sleep this week?" she asked quietly after a silent moment.

Edward shrugged and tried to hide his frown. "Probably. I'm sure Molly will wear me out."

Both of them knew that no matter how tired Molly made him, it wouldn't have any impact on whether or not he would sleep. Tiredness had never been the problem. Thoughts had always been the thing to keep him up, and those were never really diminished alone with energy.

Bella's eyes fluttered shut, "I hope so," she mumbled sleepily. "Night, Edward."

"Goodnight, Bella."

Within less than two minutes, Bella was asleep. Edward heard her breathing even out and watched as the crease between her eyebrows disappeared.

Something kept Edward from shutting his eyes as he gazed at the sleeping brunette.

Bella shifted slight in her sleep, and a few locks of hair slipped down over her face, resting directly on her nose.

Edward quietly leaned over and ever so gently tucked the locks of hair back behind her ears, letting his hand linger for just a moment before lifting it away.

"Goodnight, Bella," he whispered again.

~O~

Bella's sense of dread had not lessened overnight. In fact, as she buckled her seatbelt in the airplane for landing, she realized that she was actually truly depressed about her looming week in the Big Apple.

She was dressed to kill in black pumps, grey dress slacks which fitted fabulously and a simple black cashmere sweater. Her jewelry was sparkling and accented the black and her hair was twisted in an intricate knot. She made sure that her presentation did not reflect her negativity.

Once the plane was landed and Bella was truly stuck in New York, she let out a deep sigh before lifting her carry on out of the overhead bin.

Navigating through the airport proved to be slightly stressful. Usually she did not have any problems knowing where she was going, but since there had been renovations occurring she had issues finding the luggage carousal. And naturally her bag was literally the last one to make it around.

After retrieving her suitcase, she set about trying to figure out her way through the ever present renovations. Eventually she found what looked to be an intern holding up a sign which read ISABELLA SWAN.

"You must be my escort for the day," she said in way of greeting as she walked over to the young man.

The intern looked startled. In fact, he actually did a double take and let his eyes trail up and down her body before finally meeting her eyes.

"You-you're Ms. Swan?" he stammered.

"Yes." Bella raised an eyebrow. "Did you have expectations that I have somehow failed to meet?"

"No!" he replied quickly. "It's just…you're hot!"

Despite the shitty day which inevitably set a precedence for the shitty week she would have, she actually cracked something between a mixture of a grin and a smirk.

"I see."

"Fuck!" he gasped, realizing what he had just inappropriately said. "I'm sorry! Please don't tell my boss; that was super inappropriate of me! I'm sorry."

Bella just smiled.

"You know what kid, thanks for that self-esteem booster."

"You're welcome?"

"Let's make a deal: you carry my suitcase and I'll keep away from the topic of you with your boss."

"Yes, yes, of course Ms. Swan! Right away!" The intern rushed to take her suitcase and made every effort in the next 20 minutes to be cordial and polite, his efforts only making Bella grin with wry amusement.

Unfortunately, being called "hot" by a college kid was the highlight of her day.

The intern, Tom, helped her in a car and road with her through the city to the hotel she was staying at. Bella had time only to figure out which room she was in and deposit her suitcase before she was back in the car with Tom going to the headquarters of Gray Books.

Without fail, Bella was almost immediately thrust into a welcome seminar. She was one of the six people arriving from the Northern branch that she headed up. The others had arrived the previous evening. The rest of the people in the room were from the other three branches, each seeming to have brought quite a few interns with. A slideshow of what their goal for the week was laid out and schedules were passed out, directed by a young woman who gave the presentation.

Bella tried her hardest to suppress her boredom, but three yawns managed to slip out. She was able to discreetly cover them from everyone but Maggie Smith, the head of the western branch. She was a woman in her 40's who had an infectiously wonderful outlook on life but was not afraid to put people in their place. She grinned at Bella's yawn and winked conspiringly.

Halfway through the riveting presentation, Bella's phone buzzed. Inconspicuously, she checked her text.

Do they at least have anything fun for you to while there? -E

Bella grinned and checked the itinerary she had received.

They're sending us to a football game.

That should be fun!

Jets game.

I take it back.

Bella actually had to stifle her laugh at his text. Maggie raised an eyebrow at her, but it was done so teasingly.

The term cruel and unusual punishment means nothing to these people.

Who are they playing?

The Bills.

Bella actually loved football season more than many things. But as a Minnesota girl, her allegiances laid with the Vikings.

Good God, skip it.

Bella typed out a reply, smirking to herself. By the time she looked up again, everyone was rising from their seats and Maggie was looking at her in amusement.

"Where are we going?"

Maggie grinned and lightly tugged Bella up. "They're all going out to lunch."

"They?"

"As for us, we are going to meet Mr. Collins and the other branch managers for lunch."

Bella grimaced slightly as she walked next to Maggie. She liked Maggie, was fine Shane White, who headed the southern branch, but she absolutely despised Jeremy Locke from the eastern branch. And as far she was concerned, they were in his home turf and he was sure to be even more obnoxious and cocky than usual.

"Do I have to sit next to Locke?" she muttered quietly.

"No dear, you can sit next to Shaun. I'll take one for the team and sit next to Jeremy," Maggie grinned. Bella smiled in return.

"He's still all bent out of shape that I turned him down last year when he asked me out," she grumbled.

Maggie laughed. "Oh dear, he's far too old for you."

"That's what I said! He's at least 10 years older than me!"

"He's going on 39 actually."

Bella's nose wrinkled. "I'm 25."

Maggie chuckled, "And that's why I'll sit next to the ass."

The next three days passed by in an exceedingly dull whirl of meetings and workshops. And one very boring Jets game. Maggie was a Godsend, and Bella quickly remembered why she loved the woman. However, Jeremy Locke was a pain in the ass that Bella was getting closer and closer to telling him off in a big way. And everyone was so fucking interested in her personal life that she was going crazy.

And at night, she felt so alone.

She was in a city with literally millions of people, but she was so alone that she was quickly losing it.

Her hotel room was nice, but staring at the generic setup and decorations made her want to scream. She felt trapped, like a caged in animal who was could see the outside world but couldn't get out…at least not for long.

The city was beautiful. New York to her would always remain the city of lights and the city of dreams. But some of its charm had worn off. Instead of seeing a future and adventure, she only wanted to go back home. And not home to her hotel room, but home to Edward and Molly.

And she was done playing nice with all of the other employees of the company. She felt out of place and off her game. She wanted to go back to her office and be in charge and be back in the routine which she not only relied on, but loved. Damn it, she wanted to be the boss again.

Bella also was dying for a home cooked meal. Eating at restaurants or having catered food for every single meal was really wearing on her. The food was good, but it was just something that her homesick. And the fact that going out to eat always meant she had to make small talk for sometimes two hours was further depressing her.

On the evening of her third day in the city, Bella was anxious as hell. For dinner, all of the branch managers had to take their "teams" out to dinner to discuss what had happened so far during the conference. Once that was over, she had the evening to herself. She was beginning to think that wasn't such a good thing.

Bella flipped through every channel the TV had to offer twice before giving up. With a frustrated sigh, she rose from her bed and went out to her balcony. She was on the 17th floor, and her view of the New York night life was nothing short of amazing. For a while, she simply leaned against the railing and looked out over the lights.

A cell phone ring broke Bella out of her thoughts. She pulled her phone out of her pocket and saw that it was Landon calling. With a slight frown, she slid to unlock the screen and answered the phone.

"Hello?" she answered.

"Hey, babe!" he greeted her, a smile in his voice.

"Are you all packed?" she asked him.

"I am. Not a fan of the really early flight, but I'll live." Landon would be arriving in New York the following morning for an interview with Shane White.

Bella had arranged with Shane, -who was a nice, likable guy in his late twenties- an interview for Landon. She was in need of an editor with James Freeland's dismissal. She knew he would be perfect for the job, but didn't feel comfortable interviewing him given their relationship. If Shane would theoretically hire him, Bella would speak with Mr. Collins about it.

"Yeah, those early ones will kill you," she agreed.

"Bella, is everything alright?" he wondered. He had picked up on her subdued tones almost immediately.

She sighed. "I don't know. I just want to come home."

"I know," he said, "But hey, I'll be there tomorrow. You won't be so alone then."

"Yeah," she agreed, trying to hide her doubt, "you're right."

"Maybe you should get some sleep, you sound like you need it," he suggested sweetly.

"That sounds like a good idea actually," she agreed.

"Well goodnight, sweetheart, see you tomorrow."

"Night, Landon."

But, instead of doing as he had suggested, Bella remained out on her balcony for nearly an hour, trying to figure out why she couldn't just pull herself together…and why it felt like something big was missing from her.

~O~

"Sam! If you will let me be, I will try them. You will see," Edward read in a soft voice as he rocked with Molly on his lap, lulling her to sleep with Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham.

"Sam!" Molly clapped as Edward turned the page.

"That's right, baby girl, Sam!" Edward chuckled as he turned the page.

"Say! I like green eggs and ham! I do! I like them, Sam-I-am! And I would eat them in a boat! And I would eat them with a goat..." he continued to read, his voice falling into a soothing rhyme.

"Sam!" Molly babbled again.

Edward grinned and kissed the top of her head.

He finished read the story before setting the book on the dresser and flipping off the lamp switch. Molly cuddled up against him, burrowed in the blankets and he rocked steadily on the glider. It didn't take long before he could hear the faint snore his adorable daughter had, and he knew she was out like a light.

Edward rocked with Molly for some time longer, even though it was not necessary to get her to fall asleep. He loved the way her small little body felt against his chest and her warm breath against his skin. He felt nothing but adoration and love for the tiny being who was his world, and he knew the quiet moments such as those would not but be available forever.

"I love you, Molly," he whispered, kissing her warm head and soft hair once more.

Eventually, Edward realized he had other things that needed his attention. So after rocking for nearly half an hour, Edward slowly stood up from the glider and was careful not to jostle his sleeping toddler. He tenderly lay her down into her crib and held his hand lightly on her back for a moment before turning and slipping out of the nursery.

Once he was in the hallway, Edward let out a sigh. The house was a disaster. Molly's things were everywhere he turned, their laundry was admittedly sprawled around, dinner needed to be put away, dishes needed to be done and to be honest, the kitchen floor was just feeling so sticky that Edward was actually considering mopping instead of his work.

Instead of doing any of it, he walked into his bedroom and fell back onto his bed, exhausted.

He already knew how much Bella did for him, but really seeing the physical results of her absence was unsettling to say the least.

She hadn't even been gone for four days, and he was already going perhaps a little crazy.

He missed her.

Fuck, did he miss her.

Bella had begun such a sure, constant presence in his life, and without her, he was lost. He felt really alone for the first time in a while.

It wasn't that Edward missed her because of all of her help around the house and with Molly. To be honest, he didn't desperately need her to give Molly a bath or pick her up from daycare. He was managing.

But, no, he missed her. He missed their quiet nights in front of the fireplace when Molly went to sleep, he missed the sense of partnership he had with her whenever Molly fussed, he missed her sarcastic, teasing comments and he missed the little talks they had in bed before they fell asleep.

When Bella had asked if Edward would be able to get any sleep without her next to him, he had truly thought that he would be able to. He thought he had worked at calming himself down and clearing his thoughts before falling asleep. Fuck was he wrong.

Sure, he was getting some sleep, three or four hours at most. But it wasn't connected nor did it feel restful.

He realized that he wasn't able to calm himself down alone. Bella was that calming presence he needed in order to fall asleep. It wasn't even so much as her lying next to him, but more the way she would speak to him in a whisper and usually not say anything too meaningful, but for some reason, it put him at ease.

Without seeing her daily, he was lost.

Edward worried he had come to rely on her too much, too. He was concerned that since Taylor died he had attached himself to someone and he was unable to make it through life by himself.

But a part of him knew that wasn't true.

To him, Bella wasn't filling Taylor's role. On paper, perhaps, but not truly. Bella was something else entirely.

Edward knew he would be able to adjust to life as a truly single dad without Bella's help. It would be entirely possible and eventually something he would have to do. He did not think of her in the role of a wife or anything similar. No, she was something different.

She had become his best friend.

Bella wasn't someone he needed, but instead, someone he wanted. Someone he wanted around simply for reasons due to human's selfish nature.

Three more days, Edward sighed.

But then what?

Three more days until she was back. But what about in a couple months? When the six months of the living will were up? Yes, she was coming back.

But she wouldn't stay forever.


Another summer day has come and gone away
In Paris and Rome, but I want to go home
May be surrounded by a million people I,
Still feel all alone, I want to go home
Oh, I miss you, you know

Another airplane, another sunny place
I'm lucky I know, but I wanna go home
I've got to home, let me go home
I'm just to far from where you are, I want to come home

Let me go home, I've had my run,
Baby I'm done, I'm coming back home
Let me go home it'll all be alright,
I'll be home tonight, I'm coming back home
Home by Blake Shelton


AN: Guys: take this look into Edward's mind seriously! I think a majority of you feel that Edward would be settling for 2nd place, or trying to replace Taylor with Bella. But you have to look at what he's feeling, not what you assume he's feeling.

However, that's not to say your thoughts are baseless. They come from a very real place. But right now, Edward and Bella are coming together just as Edward has said: they're best friends. Friendship is the basis of relationships...but that's still yet to come and won't be without conflict.

So now I ask, what do you think about Edward's thoughts? Or about how Bella is handling her business trip? Do you believe he wants her rather than needs her? Or do you think he's putting Bella in a place to fill the void Taylor left? This is some heavy shit, ya'll. Love to hear your thoughts(:

Also, stressed spelled backwards is desserts for a reason. Come on Bella!