Game Changers.

The term is widely used when referring to sports, ranging from football all the way to rowing.

It applies to either a person or an event which changes the momentum and possibly outcome of the game. It can be good for some, but every game has losers.

He had played football in high school. He'd been a quarterback, odd considering it hadn't even been the position he respected the most. He had always respected the defensive players that had the opportunity to get an interception at any throw and change the whole game.

He also learned football is a lot like life. In life there are game changers, and some can't even compare to a football game.

He wasn't sure if the game was changing for good or not.

~O~

For a single moment in time, the only noises that filled a room were the gasps from two people and the crackling of a roaring fire.

With a very intense and passionate kiss just occurring only moments before, both were frozen over what had just occurred.

As Edward's forehead was still resting against Bella's, he was able to pinpoint the exact second in which Bella stiffened.

The wine they had shared had dulled his senses and it took him longer than it usually would have to figure out why she had suddenly mentally withdrawn.

"Fuck," he whispered.

Bella agreed with sentiments silently.

Abruptly, Edward pulled away from her. Bella watched him as he stood up from the chair, clumsily placing the stack of pictures they had been looking at on the coffee table. He turned and started walking in the opposite direction, towards the front door.

He didn't meet her eyes even for a second.

"I need to go out."

And he was gone.

The kiss had ended, and within almost a minute, Edward was out the door. Bella heard his car, which was parked on the driveway, start up.

Bella brought her knees up to her chest and buried her face in her hands. "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck," she chanted quietly to herself, distraught.

"What the hell did I just do?" she whispered to herself.

Bella wasn't sure if she had leaned in to initiate the kiss or if it had been Edward. She couldn't say exactly how long it had lasted, or what had been going through either of their minds at the time. Only one thing registered in her mind.

She had just kissed her dead best friend's husband.

"Fuck," she repeated again. She had screwed up so fucking bad that her heart clenched at how stupid she was.

Bella lifted her head from her hands and looked at the coffee table in dismay. The picture of her and Edward dancing was still on the top of the stack which Edward had hastily discovered.

In that photo, she was frozen in time, laughing at something she couldn't even remember. And he was smiling at her in way that could describe their relationship; warmly.

But looking at that photo, she didn't see that smile. She only saw what his face looked like when he had pulled away from her only moments ago.

Disgust.

The look of complete and utter disgust on his face, consumed her.

She had fucked everything up. She had just screwed up any normalcy they had had and now, she was certain of nothing.

And she didn't know what to do.

Bella had no idea where to go from here, and she had no clue how to get an idea of where to go. In a situation like this, she would call Taylor; Bella wouldn't always get sound advice from the blonde, but she could at least get it off her chest.

Since Taylor died, her and Edward had turned to one another and formed a very strong friendship. He would be who she would go to. But she couldn't.

With shaky hands, Bella pulled her phone out of her pocket. Alice. The sister who she had always had a good relationship with, but had always seemed to pale in comparison with Taylor.

Bella dialed her sister's number and waited for an answer. It was on the last ring that she picked up. She didn't wait for Bella to speak.

"Hey Bell, Mom and I are at a movie, can I call you later?" she asked in a hushed voice, implying that she was in fact at a movie theater.

"Sure," Bella choked out. And then there was a dial tone.

Feeling the tears threaten to spill out of her eyes, Bella dialed Rosalie's number. Her heart sank with each passing ring, and by the time she got to Rose's voice asking her to leave a message, tears of frustration and confusion were slipping slowly out of her eyes.

Ignoring the tears, she dialed the last number who she could think of. It was a Saturday night in the fall, meaning her father would be enthralled with college football and would have no idea what was going on. So that left both her parents out.

She called the one person who had never failed to set her straight.

"Hello?"

"Hey, Kessler," Bella sighed.

"Swan, what's up?" he asked seriously, recognizing her less than upbeat tone.

"You know how you've always given the team your number? And told all of us to call you if we ever are struggling?"

"Yes," he answered.

"Does that apply only to tennis issues?" she asked, trying and failing to hide the tremor in her voice.

"Of course not. Bella, are you okay?"

In a quiet voice, she told him, "I messed up Kessler. Big time"

"What happened?"

"I kissed my dead best friend's husband," Bella let out, finally wiping at the tears, though they didn't stop. "Really fucked up, huh?"

"Bella-"

"I know. God, I can't believe it. I betrayed Taylor; she hasn't been dead for six months, Kessler! I just ruined everything, and now Edward hates me, and I don't know what to do," she choked on her breath, "I just don't know what to do," she repeated quietly.

"Are you by yourself now?" he asked calmly.

"Edward left a second after it happened. He couldn't even look at me. I don't know where he went…oh shit, he shouldn't be driving! We had wine…damn it, it had to have been the wine."

"Sit tight. I'm on my way. It's easier to talk you out of a tree in person."

And she was listening to a dial tone again.

For the five minutes that followed, Bella stared at the roaring fire as if she was in a trance. The tears leaked out of her eyes and steadily continued down her cheeks, only leaving one line as they made their way down her face.

A doorbell rang, and for one terrified moment, she thought it might be Edward. But then she realized that it wasn't likely.

"Come in," she called, her voice cracking.

Bella didn't have to turn to know it was her former tennis coach who seemed to have become her life coach in the span of a few months. She felt the couch next to her dip as he sat down.

"Alright kid, start at the beginning, what happened?" he asked softly.

Bella finally turned her face so one side of her face was resting on her knee as she looked at him. "We were looking at pictures, and drinking wine since Molly's gone and just talking…and then, I don't know, we looked at a picture from his brother's wedding and…it just…yeah."

"How much wine?" he wondered.

"We each had a couple glasses. I'm worried about him, he took off driving and I don't think he was sober enough…" she trailed off, "See? I've fucked everything up," she cried.

"I'm sure Edward's body can handle alcohol better than yours. He has more body mass; he should be okay."

"Kessler, I just keep seeing Taylor's face. This is man was her husband! She should have been sitting next to him tonight, not me! And he knows it too…you-you should have seen his face!"

Bella turned her face back into her knees and began to cry harder, unable to continue to the quiet tears.

She was vaguely aware of the man next to her wrapping on his arms around her shoulders.

"Ah, kid, why do you do this to yourself?"

"I don't know why I did it," she choked, "I-I'm just...God, I'm such a bitch.."

"No, I meant, why do you always carry the weight of the world on your shoulders and blame yourself whenever possible?"

Bella was silent with the exception of her cries.

"And when have I ever let any of my team call others or themselves female dogs? It's demeaning and you're above that."

Bella looked up, and tried to gain control of her breathing long enough to speak. "Taylor was nice, but even…even she would have been thinking it about m-me."

"Bella…" he seemed to weigh his next words carefully, "Taylor…she's not coming back."

"That doesn't change what I did. Edward was figuring life out, he was starting to heal! I was starting to heal! And how, I don't know, because I don't think he'll talk to me again…I- life is just so fucking hard." She looked at him sadly, eyes immediately watering once more, "Why…why can't I just get a break?"

Kessler squeezed her shoulders as she began to cry again. "Ah kid, come on, don't cry."

But Bella was unable to listen to him. She continued to cry, and cry harder when the thought of why? continued to surface in her mind.

Finally, she was sure that she had cried herself tired and felt only a drained feeling of dismay.

"I'm sorry, Bella, that you've been having such a rough go at it lately. You don't deserve it. However, you're still so young yet, and this is making you a remarkably strong person."

He sighed but continued. "Taylor was a fantastic person and so many people will always miss her…but she's gone, Bella. And she left a husband and a kid behind. You've been working yourself tirelessly to make sure that they've been cared for, which you've done admirably."

"But?" she asked tiredly, sensing a further point.

Kessler looked at her with true empathy. "But I think you should remember that these are different circumstances than simply stealing a prom date."

Bella stared at him blankly. "What?" she asked, her lips tipping up a bit.

"I'm saying that even if you two aren't in a relationship or have no desire to be…you're both single adults who have gotten closer in these past few months than some actual couples, add in a little bit of wine, and it's almost predictable what happened tonight."

"And does that make it okay?" she whispered rhetorically.

"It doesn't make it as wrong as you're thinking."

"How do you know that?"

He gave her a haughty look. "You've been listening to my crap for the past 13 years, and now you're questioning me?"

Bella gave him a small, almost unwilling smirk.

"All I'm saying is that this isn't earth shattering. It's going to take a while for you to work through all of your thoughts, but you and Edward should be able to keep going with your lives. Besides, Bella, aren't you only here for a couple more weeks?"

She didn't know what to say. The week after Thanksgiving, six months would be up and she would be free and able to go back to her apartment and on with the life she had been living before Taylor died.

"And I'm sure that's going to be a difficult change as well…but Bella, you're your own person. You're a strong, kick ass young woman and the definition of independent. You know what's right for you. Don't let circumstances define the rest of your life."

"Circumstances?"

"You're not just Bella Swan: friend of late Taylor Daniels, godmother of Molly and healer of Edward. You're Bella Swan: a person in your own right."

"I've only vaguely grasped what you've been saying," she told him.

"That's how I feel whenever you talk in that speed voice of yours," he retorted.

She grinned.

More somberly she said, "Thanks for always having my back."

He smiled. "Once you come onto my team, you're one of my girls."

Bella had appreciated Kessler since she was a teenager. He had always been a unique blend of a father figure and a big brother. And for some reason, her respect for him and their similar personalities had always made it easy to talk to him.

"Is that a ring I see on your sister's finger?" he exclaimed, looking at the proposal stack of pictures on the table.

"Engaged on Halloween," she said as he moved to pick them up.

"Good for Woody Alice!" Bella rolled her eyes at his nickname for the elder Swan.

A soft knock on the front door interrupted Bella's reply. Both she and Kessler glanced over at it.

"That should be Mary and Nick with Molly," she explained, moving to get up.

"I'll get it. I haven't spoken to them since the funeral."

Bella watched as Kessler went over to the front door and opened it. Mary, Taylor's mom was carefully holding a sleeping little girl in her arms, bundled against the cold.

"Patrick!" she exclaimed, surprised at seeing him. He smiled at one of the many tennis moms he had interacted with. "What are you doing here?"

"Oh, Bella and I are working on our never ending Scrabble battle," he explained, lying easily.

"How fun! I'll leave you two to it then, I left Nick in the car." Kessler held his arms out to take Molly out of her grandmother's hold. "She was an angel," Mary said, leaning over to tell Bella.

"She usually is," Bella agreed, "Have a good night!"

"You too! Nice seeing you Patrick," she added before slipping out the door and back in the harshly frigid winds.

Kessler walked back to the couch and sat down carefully so not to wake the sleeping child.

"I feel like the end of the 6th, or I guess 3rd Star Wars movie where Obi Wan gives the uncle a sleeping baby that is Luke Skywalker."

Kessler stared at her incredulously.

"Nerd."

Bella rolled her eyes. For the time being, she felt lighter. It might have been the assuring presence brought by Kessler or the soft joy she got when looking at Molly.

"I remember when Hayden was this little," he commented, looking at the little child. Hayden was his son, who was about 11.

"She's a good kid," Bella smiled as Molly shifted closer to his chest in her sleep.

"You know, she's probably going to grow to be a combination of both you and Taylor…Lord help us all."

~O~

It took him six minutes to reach the cemetery.

When he left the house, he hadn't known where he was going; he just knew he had to be somewhere. Within six minutes, he found himself at the cemetery where Taylor was buried. He was almost surprised when he slowed his car down, having been a little out of it while he was driving.

What the hell did I just do?

The thought was repeating itself like a broken record, over and over in his head.

He had kissed Bella. And it hadn't just been a peck on cheek or lips; it had been a full blown, passionate and incredibly intense kiss that had lit his body on fire.

He had just kissed his dead wife's best friend.

It was the very best friend who had put her life on hold and moved into his house to help him take care of his daughter and himself.

It was the best friend who slept next to him at night to ensure he got rest.

It was the best friend who had found him sobbing on the bathroom floor when he discovered the Children's Benadryl.

It was the best friend who had reminded him that he was not done with life.

It was the best friend who had saved him.

Bella had saved him.

Over the past six months and as he struggled with everything under the sun, she had been there for him in a way that no other person had ever been. Bella was strong and compassionate, and he couldn't have done it without her.

Yet, something had made him kiss her tonight and jeopardize everything.

He'd like to think it was the wine, but he knew he hadn't been that intoxicated at all.

Edward also wanted to blame it on the setting. It had been cozy and familiar with a cold night and a roaring fire which bathed the room in a golden light that had made her look so breathtakingly pretty.

He could blame it on loneliness...well, no, he couldn't, because he wasn't lonely. He missed Taylor but he had been consciously seeking to replace her.

In utmost honesty, Edward had kissed Bella because he had wanted to.

Edward slowly got out of his car and was attacked by the late November winds. He shrugged his hands into his pockets as he started to walk through the snowy ground, littered with tombstones.

It didn't take him long to read one of the newer ones: Taylor May Cullen. He brushed the couple inches of snow off of the top of the granite before letting his hand rest on the chilled stone.

"I'm sorry," he whispered into the darkness.

He was sorry for two things. Taylor had not been gone for six months and he was kissing a woman in a way that was completely inappropriate: it was a complete disrespect to her memory and he was disgusted with himself.

But he was also sorry about whom that women had been. He had taken advantage of his wife's best friend who was practically her sister. Taylor had been fiercely protective and loyal to Bella, and Edward had completely done the latter a dishonor.

"I just don't know what to," he said quietly, his eyes watering. He was unsure if it was from the chilling wind or the state of dishevel which his life was now in.

"I miss you Tay, and accepting that you're not coming back was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. But I did…and I'm still not sure what that means for my life yet."

Edward wiped at his watery eyes before hastily shoving his hands back into the warmth of his pockets.

"I'll never forget you Taylor or the times we spent together, no matter what happens."

Feeling marginally lighter, Edward turned away from the black granite and began to walk back to his car.

Once he was back inside the car, his head fell back against the head rest and he closed his eyes. He needed to figure life out and get his shit together before he went back to the house.

Edward knew he needed to speak with Bella and apologize…but he was also unsure of what her reaction had been or what she had to say about the subject. He had been so appalled with himself that he had left before even looking at her.

He took a calming yet somewhat unsteady breath.

You went to Harvard, man, he told himself, use your fucking brain and figure it out.

Edward sat in the cold car for two hours.

By the time he put his keys into the ignition, ready to go home, he arrived at a conclusion. He needed to mend things with Bella enough that it wasn't overly awkward and so that she left his house in a couple weeks on good terms.

For the first time, he had really thought about Bella leaving the house. The thought had always been distant, yet never completely out of his mind. He didn't want her to go, but it wasn't even remotely reasonable to ask her to stay any longer than she had.

He needed to let her go with her life.

When he was within eyesight of his house, he was confused to see a car that wasn't Nick nor Mary's pulling out of the driveway and heading the other direction. The thought that Bella had had to call someone made him feeling guiltier than before.

With a held breath, Edward entered the front door. The living room was empty. He crossed the distance to the kitchen which was also empty?

Had she left?

Her car had been in the garage but she could have left with whoever had been pulling out of the driveway. Where had she gone?

Edward was growing more and more panicked as he climbed the stairs. His shoulders sagged in relief when he saw a crack of light from behind Molly's door.

More nervous than he cared to admit, Edward cautiously opened the door.

Bella was in the cozy rocking chair, cuddling up with a sleeping Molly. She had her cheek resting on the little girl's head in a tender embrace. Her eyes fluttered open at the sound of him entering.

Edward leaned back against the door frame as Bella seemed to hug his daughter closer to her.

"I'm sorry about before," Bella said quietly, not quite meeting his eyes.

Edward was shocked. What was she apologizing for?

"No, I'm sorry; I shouldn't have done it."

Bella looked up at him through her eyelashes, trying to hide the sorrow she felt when gazing at him.

Standing on the other side of the room, he looked lost and so alone.

"Let's blame it on the wine," Bella suggested with something between a smile and a grimace. Kessler's words rang through her head: neither had been drunk.

Edward mirrored her odd expression. "Okay."

Bella kissed the top of Molly's head as she carefully stood up. The little girl was out like a light and did not stir from the movement. Bella crossed the space over Molly's crib and laid her down there, covering half of her body with a soft knit blanket. She ran her hand over the tiny back before turning to face Edward who had watched the whole exchange.

"I think I should be sleeping in the guest room again," she said softly.

With those words, despites Edward's hopes, he knew their relationship had shifted.

"That's probably for the best," he agreed, even though his heart was ferociously disagreeing with his words.

Bella walked across the room and paused next to him in the door frame. "Good night then, I guess."

Edward offered her a tiny smile, "Good night Bella."

For the first time in nearly four months, Edward and Bella lay under the same roof but in different beds. Each of them lay in a darkened room, staring up at the ceiling long after the time they were usually asleep.

Try as they might, each was unable to shake something out of their minds. There were internal battles taking place within both of them.

They were battling with the part of themselves that didn't regret the kiss at all.


My head is on fire but my legs are fine
After all they are mine
Lay your clothes down on the floor
Close the door, hold the phone
Show me how no one's ever gonna stop us tonight

'Cause we are, we are shining stars
We are invincible, we are who we are
On our darkest day, when we're miles away
Sun will come; we will find our way home

If you're lost and alone
Or you're sinking like a stone
Carry on
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground
Fun., Carry On


AN: I think this chapter is why Kessler is leading the poll of favorite character on my profile by over 40%. Always there to be the voice of reason...think he's had experiences like Bella's?

A lot of you predicted there would be freak outs, however, can we acknowledge that the heart of Edward's worry is that he disrespected someone who means so much to him? What a sweetie (:

We have only one chapter left before Part II is over, and then the time jump you've all been waiting for. Before that, however, we'll get to the six months end and see what these two do. Up next, Thanksgiving with the Cullens! What do you think Edward is thankful for?