Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. Story is rated M for language, and lemons.

AN: This was originally my submission for the Fandom Fights Hurricane Sandy Compilation. As someone who fell victim to this storm, though thankfully survived without any major damage, this charity was very dear to me. I've seen the money given to the Red Cross used first hand as they gave out hot meals to those who had no way to cook for themselves, opened shelters to those who had to be evacuated, and helped set up warming centers in the cold snap that followed behind Sandy. The gas lines have ended and power has been restored, but people are still struggling, and every dollar is another bit of hope for those who are in desperate need.

I want to thank DICATAKADD for her speedy pre-reader skills, mizzdee for not only betaing my words, but for being my connection to the outside world during those first days. Telling her everyday that I love her wouldn't begin to be enough. And to the Alexandria for organizing the charity, and all of you who donated, I thank you.

This final chapter will most likely not be in a compilation, so as soon as I finish it, this story will complete.

Chapter 2

EPOV

I woke up at 6:45 the next morning and was disoriented until I felt the warm weight beside me. Bella was still pressed into my side and she seemed to still be sleeping soundly. I had gotten five or so hours sleep, which was encouraging, but now I had to plan for our day. Pike Place Market could be a zoo and as it was Sunday it would probably be crowded. I knew that it was better to go around nine so that way we could start at the places that were open already and by the time we worked our way through the market, the places that opened later on Sunday would be ready for business.

I slipped out of bed and went into the kitchen, going through my fridge and cabinets to throw out all of the food that I should have a while ago. I'd cook if I needed to, or if I was feeling up to it, but for the most part I ordered out so a lot of what I was getting rid of hadn't seen the light of day for a while.

I made a list based on what I was throwing out so that I could replace the basics, then decided that I'd ask Bella what she liked to cook and allow her to control the shopping. It would make the day a little less stressful. We should probably eat before we went too, shopping on an empty stomach always resulted in me buying a cart full of junk food, soda, and beer.

I was about to carry out the garbage bags when Bella came into the kitchen in a grey sweater and jeans. "Where are you going?"

"I have to throw out the garbage. Come with me and I'll show you how this works," I told her, taking the three bags I'd filled.

We walked down the hall and I opened up the chute door and asked her to hold it open while I threw in the bags. "See, you just take the bag from the garbage can, tie it up tight, and drop it down there. There's a dumpster in the basement that catches all the garbage and is emptied by the building super."

"Super?" she asked.

"The super is the person in charge of the building. We don't own these apartments, so when something breaks or we have a problem, we call him to fix it."

"Okay, I understand that," was her response as we went inside to wash up.

"I'm going to get changed and then we can go out for breakfast before we go shopping. We'll go to the fresh market first and then the supermarket after. I want to show you both, and besides, there are some things that the farmers market won't have that Safeway will."

"And that's the supermarket?" she asked, placing extra emphasis on super.

"Yeah."

I threw on jeans and a long-sleeved shirt and then took my coat out of the closet. Bella was waiting for me in the living room, her coat already on as I met up with her. "Will we be taking your car or the bus again?"

"I don't drive," I told her.

"Oh, I just assumed that you would own a car. I'm sorry." Bella blushed again and I took her hand.

"Don't apologize, and I do own a car, but I haven't driven it in months," I explained.

"Why not?" she asked innocently.

"Because with my insomnia, everyone is afraid I'll fall asleep behind the wheel."

"But you've been sleeping better, right? And you got quite a few hours last night, so wouldn't today be a day that driving would be safe?"

Smiling at the tiny bit of freedom she'd given me, I said, "You're right. I haven't felt this good in a while. Let's take the elevator to the basement and then we can drive to the café for breakfast."

The trip to the basement was thankfully uneventful, and soon I was pulling out of the basement garage in my Volvo, the shopping bags tucked into the truck until we needed them. I parked outside the café I'd wanted to take Bella to, walking around to open her door for her. She blushed again when I offered her my hand and I had to ask.

"What are you blushing about now?"

"I couldn't find a gentleman in my own time, but the person I stumble across in a time when gallantry is dead is the most chivalrous man I've ever known. I think that I would have trusted you even if I hadn't been hearing my great aunt's voice in my head."

I was honored by the complement, but her mention of men in her time and her great aunt had me wondering about something she'd mentioned in passing earlier. "I don't mean to be rude, Bella, but when we talked about what happened to bring you here, you mentioned that your father was trying to marry you off. But at 23, wouldn't you have already been married?"

Bella smiled sadly as she took her seat at the table by the window of the café. "My great aunt, the one who had told me about the lion that would save me, didn't have any children, but her late husband had left her quite comfortable after he died. My father stood to inherit a great deal if he kept her happy, so when she told him she wanted me to be a live-in companion, he agreed. But once she was gone and the money was his, he didn't want to have to house me anymore. That was when he did what he did."

The waitress came over and we placed our drink orders, asking for a minute to decide on breakfast. Bella and I talked about inconsequential things over breakfast, and soon we were on our way to the Market.

I took the bags out of the trunk and then guided Bella to the first shops and stands of our visit. I let her pick out some fruits and vegetables while I answered my phone.

"Hello?"

"Edward, it's Jasper. Jenks wants to know what information he should use for Bella's new identity. We didn't tell him her background, and he didn't ask, but he wants to start working on it now that Alice got me a picture he can use."

"Alice did the picture already?" I asked surprised.

"Yeah, one of the stores had a passport photo booth, so Alice got it at the mall yesterday."

I tapped Bella on the shoulder as she selected apples and covered the phone so Jasper wouldn't hear. "When is your birthday?"

"September thirteenth," she said and I nodded, doing the math in my head.

"Tell him to put her birthday as September 13, 1988."

"And her name?" Jasper asked.

"Isabella Swan," I told him, seeing a picture of the bird on a label on the table across from me, thinking about the purity and grace that radiated off of her. She was just like a swan, it was perfect.

"Okay, man. It'll probably be about a week or so, but once he's done she'll have a birth certificate, a social security card, and a driver's license. Everything will be legit thanks to his old contacts, so she won't have any problems."

"Thanks, Jasper. Let me know what the cost is and I'll have the cash for him."

"Will do," Jasper said before hanging up, leaving me to check on Bella.

"Is everything okay?" she asked when I walked back to her.

"Everything's fine, we just need to pass along some information." I handed the shop owner my credit card as we talked and Bella watched me pay for the purchases.

"I wish you didn't have to spend so much of your money on me," Bella whispered as we left the store.

"Hey, this food is for both of us, and as far as the money I'm spending…it's the only thing I have from my father, but if I can use it to help you get your start it'll feel like I'm doing something good with the money. Now, come on, we have a lot more to see here."

We walked all around Pike Place, getting a ton of fresh food and specialty items, but it was when Bella stopped for a moment to look at a pocketbook that sat on one of the stalls that I decided to spoil her a little more today.

"Do you like it?" I asked.

"It's pretty, and it looks like it would hold more than what Alice uses." Bella giggled to herself.

"You'll need a purse, pick out a wallet as well and we'll get them." I waved over the woman sitting behind the counter and she helped Bella pick out a wallet before I paid for the purchase and walked her back to the car.

"Do you still feel up for the supermarket?"

"I do, we got some good food at the market, but I noticed that a lot of what you had at home wasn't sold there." Bella commented.

"Yeah, I'm more of a pre-packaged guy. That's why it'll be nice to have you cook a few real meals," I joked as we drove the ten minutes to the store.

Shopping at Safeway was another comical experience. Bella kept asking what everything was and why I was getting it, showing me the list she'd created with Alice yesterday so she could cook things she knew. Alice had also explained oven temperatures to her, giving her a little chart to go by.

It was almost two in the afternoon by the time we got all of our purchases back to the apartment and Bella was all smiles about her work in the kitchen. She organized the food and put it away, calling me in when it was time for me to show her how to use the stove.

The oven dial was easy enough; set it to the temperature you needed and then wait until it heated up. But Bella's reaction to the stove burners and how they ignited was adorable. She played around with it for a few minutes before getting to work on her first dinner for us.

There was a lot of banging around in the kitchen, but Bella hadn't asked for my help so I left her alone to her work. Instead, I took my laptop out and attached my keyboard to it, opening my composition software so I could see what came to me. At first I opened my old piece, but it didn't seem right, so I opened a new document and began playing what I felt.

The emotion poured out of me as I sat there, not even turning up the volume so that I could hear it. I let the notes flow, filling the pages of sheet music on the screen until Bella's voice caught my attention.

"Edward, I'm sorry to bother you, but dinner's ready."

Joining her in the kitchen, I looked at the plates that were sitting on the small table. "This looks delicious."

"I wouldn't say that yet, I'm not sure my timing was right," Bella said as we sat down for our meal.

I cut into the chicken, which looked perfectly cooked, and took a bite, moaning at the flavor. "This is amazing. I'm a little shocked that you got it perfect your first time using the oven, but-"

"I cheated," she said with a chuckle. "Alice found me a book at the mall that explains how long and at what temperature to cook foods, so I looked up the chicken and knowing how thick it was it told me the time and the temperature."

"Still, this is great and you should be proud of yourself."

We spent the rest of the meal in comfortable silence and after another Disney movie, we went to bed together.

The next few weeks were pretty much the same. Bella and I went grocery shopping, we'd watch movies and hang out, and I'd get a few hours sleep beside her. I was in a bit of a dilemma, because even though I'd get restful sleep with Bella around, I wouldn't use my eye mask and ear plugs with her there. I needed to be alert for her if she needed me and those wouldn't help.

It was mid-April and I told her that I'd be spending the afternoon after class in the music lab using one of the upright pianos to work on my composition. The piece had come along well since I'd restarted it, the haunting beginning flowing into the joyous middle section, but much like my life, it remained unfinished.

BPOV

Though Edward told me he was feeling better, I could see in his eyes that he wasn't doing as well as he could be. His sleep was still not nearly long enough to sustain him and he was starting to get jumpy again, as though he was waiting for something to happen.

Alice had done some research after her curiosity won out and pulled up an old obituary from a newspaper dated a few weeks after the day I'd run. Though a body was never found, accounts from my father's crew said that I'd fallen and hit my head before landing in the water one evening after visiting my father to deliver his dinner. It had been too dark to properly search for me and the officials believed the body went out to sea.

It didn't surprise me that he'd had me written off so easily, and in fact, it made it easier to calm Alice's ideas that I might want to go back there someday. That article proved to her that I stayed dead in my time, so I was staying put in hers.

With Edward's late afternoon, I decided to take the journey to the supermarket on my own, after all it was a short enough walk for me and it was still a nice day.

The list was tucked into my pocketbook as I took the shopping bags and began my journey.

The purse Edward had bought me held a lot more than it used to. After Jasper's friend delivered my papers, Edward put the birth certificate and social security card away for me to keep safe, but the license was in my wallet next to the three new cards he'd given me.

Once I had identification, Edward brought me to open a bank account, saying something about building credit and a history, none of which I really understood. But when he told the woman at the bank that we were opening up an account, she took all of my information and I gave her the hundred dollars that Edward had given me that morning to open the account. Edward had also gotten me a credit card and told me that I should use it for my purchases and then we'd pay it off every month with my bank account. I didn't understand how it would work, but he kept telling me to trust him, so I did.

The last card was what Edward called an ORCA card, which was used for things like the bus he'd taken me home on that first night. I had only used it with him, but it was an option if I had to get around town.

My time in the supermarket was strangely calming. For all its harsh lights and bright colors, the noise and the familiarity of it was soothing, and soon I had the items I needed for the next few days. I paid for the purchases with my credit card, as Edward had said to, and then began my walk back to the apartment.

I used my key to the building and then rode the elevator up to our floor. As I approached the apartment, I heard Alice inside and noticed the front door was still slightly open. I was confused as to why they hadn't closed the door, but when I entered the sight before me terrified me.

Edward was crumpled up on the floor, shaking and as pale as I'd ever seen him. He was mumbling something, but Alice's frantic pleas drowned out what he was saying. The door slammed behind me as I dropped the bags and ran to Edward's side. I took his hand as I dropped to the floor and Alice turned her ire on me.

"Where were you?"

"I went to the supermarket to get a few things we were running low on," I explained not knowing what the commotion was about.

"She's gone…can't help…not safe…" Edward rambled and I realized what this was all about.

Taking his hand in mine, I pressed it into my cheek and then reached out to turn his face to me. "Edward, I'm right here. I'm safe, everything's okay."

"Bella?" he asked in a broken voice, his breath coming in shallow pants.

"It's me, Edward. Please try and calm down. Take a deep breath with me." I moved his other hand to my chest so he could try and match his breaths to mine. I watched as he slowly began to calm down and really see me.

"Bella," he whispered as his eyes closed. Settling into his side, I stayed there holding him for several more minutes, just watching him come back to me before I started to move from my spot beside him.

"I'm going to put away the groceries and then start on dinner if you want to relax for a while," I told him and he used the hand that was still cradling my cheek to pull me to him for a kiss.

I'd never kissed someone before, but in the moment that Edward's lips grazed mine, I understood what my great aunt had been saying. The world shifted beneath me and there was a new center to my life, and he was sitting on his living room floor broken because I'd gone out without him.

Never again.

Edward said something about taking a shower, so I stood to collect my groceries. I'd almost forgotten Alice was there until I found her putting the onions I'd bought back in one of the bags. "I'm sorry for snapping at you, but I was worried about Edward. He hasn't had an attack like that in a while, and I was so upset by it that I took it out on you, which was wrong of me."

Shaking my head, I grabbed Alice's hand. "Never apologize for the way you defend him. We're both blessed to have you to help us out and I take full responsibility for my part in his relapse."

"I'm going to leave you alone, but if either of you need anything, just call me and I'll come down." Alice handed me the bag of vegetables and let herself out.

I went to work in the kitchen, cutting up the various ingredients before I lit a small candle to help while I diced the onion. The tears that flowed while I started browning the meat and onions in the skillet had nothing to do with the onions, but had everything to do with the man who'd taken me into his home and captured my heart.

"Bella, why are you crying?" Edward's voice startled me.

"It's the onions," I told him as he crossed to me.

"This is more than onions," he challenged me and I collapsed into his arms. "Shh, Bella, it's okay."

"No, it isn't," I argued. "I literally brought you to your knees this afternoon with my stupid choices. I never want to be the cause of your illness, even though I'm too selfish to do the right thing and rid you of the burden I seem to be. I promise, Edward, that I will never leave this apartment without you or Alice and I will make sure that you're aware of what I'm doing."

"Bella, no," Edward said, backing away enough for him to be able to meet my eyes. "I was afraid for you, because I didn't know what happened, or if you were gone. You fell into my life and you could easily fall back out of it. But that doesn't mean that I want to keep you locked away in here so that you can't live your life."

Remembering the food that would soon be ruined if I didn't return to it, I walked back to the stove. "Edward, Alice found proof that I stay here, because the last mention of me is my mysterious death with no body recovered. So this is my new home, and I would enjoy having a little freedom, but not at your expense."

Edward rubbed my back as he thought over what I'd told him. "We'll get you a cell phone, that way I will be able to call you if you're not here, instead of freaking out. I'm actually proud of you for making it to the store and back without any problems."

"You're proud of me?" I asked, warmed by his encouraging words.

"Yes, you've come a long way in the last few weeks," he whispered against my hair before kissing the top of my head. I sighed in contentment, but it didn't go unnoticed. "What was that sigh?"

"I like it when you kiss me," I told him and his face lit up.

"Well then, I'll have to do it more often," Edward teased as he kissed me sweetly on the lips.

That night started a new chapter for us, where we were openly affectionate towards one another. Edward seemed to be doing better as he focused on work at the school and his composition. His friends came by and they were careful not to try and scare me, but I soon learned that Edward had been right; Jasper, Emmett, and Ben were all very nice and infinitely supportive of me.

Only Jasper knew the truth of how I got here, the others thinking that I'd been in an abusive relationship before and that was the explanation for my behavior when we first met.

True to his word, Edward got me a phone and taught me how to use it, and I did the shopping on my own now.

May began and Edward appeared hopeful about the summer. He told me that with school being over in a few weeks, we could enjoy our time together before he started work in the fall.

One Friday I was in the kitchen making dinner for Edward and me so it would be ready when he came home from student teaching later that night. He had taken on a few of the other sections from the man who was retiring, so he spent at least an hour at the school each day now.

Looking at the time on the oven, I had expected him home sooner than now, but it seemed that something had delayed him. I was getting to the point where I would have to cover the food and reheat it later when my phone rang.

Seeing as it was Alice, I answered it to hear her crying on the other end. "Alice, what's the matter?"

"Bella, you have to come to the university hospital, its Edward, he collapsed at the school."

Hanging up the phone, I turned off the stove, grabbed my purse and ran for the door, locking up before I took the stairs. As soon as I exited the building, I sprinted for the streets with heavier traffic so that I could hail a cab. I was lucky when one stopped as soon I as made it to the corner, telling him to take me to the hospital.

I paid the fare and ran inside; asking where I could find Edward and thankfully, the woman took pity on me and gave me a room number and directions on how to get there.

Edward had no visitors when I arrived, so I moved to sit by his bedside. A part of me longed to climb in beside him, but I knew that would be frowned upon so I settled for taking his hand in mine. I hadn't heard the door open, but the yelling that began when those entering the room saw me was deafening.

"Who are you?" a severe looking man with blonde hair and a white coat with the name Dr. Cullen stitched above the pocket asked.

"I'm Bella Swan," I told him.

"So you're his new girlfriend?" a blonde woman sneered at me. It seemed that those two of Edward's relatives had more in common than their hair color.

"Yes. Could someone please tell me what's happened to him?" I asked, looking at the older woman with kind eyes who I assumed was his aunt.

Dr. Cullen answered me with a clipped tone. "I'm sure you're aware of his anxiety disorder and depression, not to mention his insomnia. Well it seems he has been fighting a particularly difficult bout without many of his normal aids, which led to his collapse this afternoon. I had him sedated until he has-"

"Sedated?" I asked. "He hates being medicated. Why would you do that to him?"

"Don't you dare question how I look after my nephew? Just because he's told you of his childish notions about his treatment, doesn't mean-"

I cut him off again because it was obvious he didn't get it. "Edward's mother was an addict. He's terrified of becoming dependent on medications and he had been doing better. I don't know what caused this to grow so far out of control, but we can get him back to where he had been."

"You've known Edward a few weeks, you have no clue what this will take," his uncle bellowed.

"I'm the one who's been beside him through it all, he had been doing much worse and until the last few weeks. I had thought he was back to normal for the most part. It seems that he hadn't been sleeping as much as I thought. But I will make sure he is taking better care of himself when he goes home."

"The only person going home is you," his uncle said. "We will take care of my nephew and I'd appreciate it if you didn't come around here again."

"Carlisle," the kinder looking woman spoke but was instantly cut off.

"Esme, not now," he said, confirming for me that she was his aunt.

"I'm going to go because I know that our fighting won't help Edward, but this doesn't mean that you've run me off." Leaning over Edward, I kissed his forehead and whispered, "I love you, Edward, and I will see you soon."

I brushed past Edward's family, meeting Alice and Emmett in the hallway. "Did you find him, Bella?"

"I did, Alice, but your father threw me out after I yelled at him for sedating Edward," I told them both.

"You yelled at Carlisle?" Emmett asked in amazement. "Okay, that has to be celebrated when Edward wakes up, because he will be damn proud of you for standing up for him like that."

"I hope he is, Edward is the only person to ever tell me they were proud of me," I said.

Emmett wrapped an arm around me and began leading me back towards the elevators. "I'll take you home, Bella. Alice can give us an update tomorrow morning."

I looked back one more time to see the Alice talking to the two women who had been in the room with Carlisle and I, before letting the elevator doors block out their discussion.

I followed Emmett out to his car and we sat in silence as he drove me back to the building. I told Emmett that he didn't have to walk me up, and after putting away the food I'd been cooking I changed into my pajamas and crawled into bed. Hugging Edward's pillow to me was the only comfort I found as I cried myself to sleep.

The sleep I found was not restful, and by six a.m. I decided to give up and work around the apartment. Edward's uncle may not want me around his nephew, but I would make sure his home was ready for him when he returned.

It took three hours, but I'd cleaned everything there was that hadn't already been spotless, leaving me with nothing to occupy my thoughts. I was debating whether or not I should begin Edward's laundry when the front door opened and his aunt walked in.

"Can I help you?" I asked, a little surprised to see her here.

"I came to get a few things for Edward, so he has them when he wakes up. What are you doing here?"

"I live here," I told her.

His aunt paled a little and then the color rushed to her cheeks as she gestured towards the couch. "I think we got off on the wrong foot. Maybe we should start over."

Joining her on the sofa, I waited for her to begin.

"It's been just under two months since I last saw Edward, and he made no mention of you that night, so I'm a little thrown off to find you here."

Taking a deep breath, I started to tell her the story that Jasper and Edward created for me when I needed to explain my past. "I grew up in a very rural, remote area. I was home schooled and kept secluded as much as possible by my father. He wasn't abusive physically, but he was very controlling and condescending. I don't like to talk about it much, but I want you to understand how I came into Edward and Alice's lives.

"I ran away and came to Seattle, only to literally bump into your nephew one evening by the arboretum. I was so afraid, but he was able to settle me down and brought me to meet Alice. I told them about my past and they offered to help me get settled, but I have a lot of work to do before I would be able to take care of myself. I don't have a diploma and I have limited skills, so I've been cooking and cleaning to pay Edward back for all of his help."

"When exactly did you fall in love with him?" she asked.

"I started falling in love with him from the moment he helped me up that first night, but a few weeks ago when he had an attack and I saw him vulnerable like that…it made me realize how deeply I feel for him. I do love him, Mrs. -"

"Esme, dear, and we'll see what we can do to help you." She stood up and looked around. "I'm going to go pack him a bag, why don't you get washed up so we'll make it there when visiting hours begin."

"But your husband…?"

"Carlisle means well, and he never planned to keep Edward sedated like he did last time, but your little outburst last night fell very much in line with how I was feeling. Carlisle still sees him as the broken little eight year-old boy who came into our home and was as much a son to us as we could ever want. But he's a man now and it's time we get him the help he wants and watch him learn to live with his illness, instead of letting it rule him." Esme smiled at me and I nodded, leaving her alone to shower and change into the outfit I'd laid out while I was picking up.

Twenty minutes later, I was sitting in Esme's car as we drove to the hospital. About halfway there, Esme asked, "Do you know how to drive?"

Thankful that they'd gotten me a state ID instead of license, I shook my head. "No, don't know that I would have too many opportunities without a car-"

"I'll teach you," Esme offered. "I will give you this piece of advice; having your boyfriend teach you how to drive is never a good idea. It leads to way too much fighting. Also, we'll have to get you the information on getting your GED, and-"

"Esme, I'm happy that you're being so accepting, but this is a little fast for me. As much as I would love to not have to rely on Edward's kindness and flat out refusals to allow me to one day repay his kindness, I'm not ready for it all. Where I lived was very minimalistic. There weren't many modern conveniences, and most of them were off limits to me." I took a deep breath, hoping Esme would understand, and from the gentle brush of her hand on mine as she pulled into a parking spot, I knew she did.

"All right, dear. I'll let you and Edward move at a pace that's comfortable for you. But I'd also like you to contact me if there's ever a need." Esme's watery smile tugged at my heart, so I leaned over to hug her across the center console.

"I will, Esme, thank you."

We walked into the hospital and returned to Edward's room to see Carlisle and the blonde standing there having a heated discussion.

"Oh look, if it isn't the little gold-digger," his cousin sneered.

"Rosalie, that is quite enough. Why don't you go home and get ready for work? The last thing Edward needs around him is negativity." Esme pulled me a little closer into her side as she spoke.

"I need to make a call to Jason," Carlisle said, but Alice cut him off from the doorway.

"Jenks already knows all about Bella, Daddy. Jasper had him run a check on her when we first met her and she's everything she said."

"You mean that you and Edward had her checked out?" Esme asked.

"Of course," Alice smiled at me. "Edward is very careful of who he lets into his life since he's about to come into full control of his inheritance in a little over a month, and I'm very protective of him. Bella isn't going to hurt us. In fact, she's done a great deal to help him."

"You keep saying that he's been doing so well and yet here he is back in the hospital." Carlisle was now focused on Alice, who was still talking, so I moved to Edward's bedside and began to brush the hair from his eyes. He looked so peaceful while he slept, and I'd give anything to ensure it lasted a little longer.

"While he's doing better, he's still not getting a full night's sleep and the stress of graduation and finally entering the real world has been getting to him. Yesterday was his final day of student teaching because the principal and the teacher he's replacing in the fall have to write his final evaluations, so he's feeling the pressure. His education class work is completed, his composition for his thesis is nearly done, he's coming into more money than any twenty-five year old could ever hope to spend…wouldn't you crack under all of that?"

"I wasn't aware that he'd already secured a position at the Bush School," Carlisle answered.

"They're thrilled to have him joining the staff, Dad," Alice said, but the conversation began to fade into the background as I saw Edward's eyes flutter open.

His opened and looked around wildly as the beeping in the room sped up. Knowing he was quickly becoming upset, I leaned into his field of vision and grasped his hand. "Edward, it's all right. I need you to keep calm for me, okay?"

"Bella?" he asked. "What am I…?"

"You were rushed to the hospital yesterday evening and your uncle had you admitted for observation. They had to sedate you briefly so you could recuperate overnight, but you're awake now, which is so wonderful."

"Oh, God, I collapsed at the school," he groaned, his breathing growing fast again.

"No one will think less of you for being ill. They don't know the specifics of it and I'm sure all they're worried about is your well being. You can call and check in with them in a day or so once you're feeling better."

"At least I was able to complete the recording of my composition before this happened. I don't' have finals in my classes, so I just have to email the last assignment in to my Education teacher and I'll be ready to graduate." Edward sighed as he sank back into the pillow.

"Good, then we can focus on getting you better. Your graduation ceremony is in a few weeks and I want to see you smiling when you walk across that stage."

"Edward," Carlisle said behind me and I felt him stiffen beside me. "I'm going to speak to one of my colleagues and get you an appointment. Maybe talking to a professional will help you get through the problems you've been dealing with. From what Alice tells me you've been making marginal progress on your own."

"I have," Edward told him, "with some help."

I looked at him as he squeezed my hand and smiled. "And I'm going to be right there with you the entire time, Edward."

Though still annoyed at my presence, Carlisle left to make the call he'd promised Edward. Before Edward was discharged from the hospital, a man walked in to speak with him. I used the time that Edward spent with the doctor talking to Alice to make sure that Edward really was covered as far as his schooling went. She promised me that finals week was starting in the middle of next week so he truly was done.

It was late in the afternoon when Edward was finally released from the hospital, and after he changed into the outfit Esme had collected for him, Alice and I drove him home.

"It's good to be back in my own place again," Edward said as he walked into the living room.

"Well you just rest there and I'll make us something for dinner."

"Bella, I can help you," he started, but I ended his attempt to move.

"No, you're going to relax. I promised Esme when her and I talked this morning that I would take care of you and I meant it," I told him.

"How much does Esme know?" he asked.

"What you and Jasper told me to say when I was forced to. Alice also told your family that you and her had Jenks look into my past and that he said I was what I claimed to be, so Carlisle doesn't think I'm digging for gold."

"Carlisle called you a gold-digger?" Edward said, clearly upset.

"No, Rosalie did, actually."

"I'm sorry they gave you a rough time," Edward apologized for them.

"It'll get a lot worse until people realize I'm with you because I love you."

"You love me?" he asked and I froze, realizing I'd just said that out loud so he could hear me for the first time.

"I do. You're the only person to ever make me feel important, and you've worked so hard to make sure that I feel safe and taken care of. Please let me do the same for you now?"

Edward motioned for me to come closer and as I sat beside him he pulled me to his side. "You make me so happy, Bella, and one day soon I'm going to show you just what that means to me. I love you."

His lips were slow and soft against mine, but the rumble of his stomach had me standing up. "First dinner, then macking out."

"Making out, Sweetheart," he corrected me as I went to finish cooking what I'd started making the day before.

The first few days after Edward's trip to the hospital were relatively easy. He was home all the time, so I made him rest as often as possible. He was doing his therapy sessions with Dr. Denali twice a week and though they'd just begun, he said that talking about it helped.

In the time we spent together, Edward and I were doing a fair deal of not talking. Since our declaration in the living room, his kisses were more insistent and his touches were bolder. I couldn't adequately describe what I was feeling, but I loved what he did to me.

Alice had just finished her own finals, she would be receiving her undergraduate degree on the same day that Edward received his masters, and now we were looking forward to the summer ahead of us.

We were sitting around discussing his birthday just a week before his graduation ceremony when I noticed a change in Edward. The look in his eyes was so intense, and when we turned off the TV for the night and moved into his bedroom I discovered why.

While I enjoyed his touch, I felt our physical relationship escalating past a point that I was comfortable with.

"Edward, stop," I said.

Edward looked down at me, confused by my tone, no doubt. "What is it?"

"I'm sorry, but I'm not ready to be intimate with you like that. In my time, that's something that's reserved for man and wife. I'm not saying no," I assured him, "I'm just saying not yet."

His lips turned up into a smile, "Does that mean you've thought about marrying me?"

"Edward, I will be twenty-four in September. I'm not getting any younger and if I'm in a relationship, it's because I see the potential for marriage down the line. People didn't date for sport in my time," I teased him.

"It may be sooner than you think," he teased me back.

Alice had bought me a few dresses when we had gone shopping; so on the day of their graduation, I chose the red dress with floral vine pattern and a gathered waist. Alice had said it was very Tuscan looking, but I had no idea what that meant. I paired it with a simple pair of low heels and took extra time with my hair, as it was a special occasion.

Alice's graduation was first, so Edward and I drove together, his smile radiating through him. "You seem to be doing well today."

He turned to look at me at my statement and his smile grew. "I am. Dr. Denali is helping me to understand that I'm not my parents and that I have a good life. My job is secure, I've got a woman who I love and loves me back, and all the paperwork is complete, so my trust fund is transitioning so that I will have full control of it by my birthday. Which is good, because I have a surprise for you."

"Edward, I don't like surprises," I told him.

"You'll like this one, I promise," he said, kissing my knuckles before he turned his attention back to the street light that was about to change.

As I'd been warned, Alice's graduation was long and arduous, and I had a feeling that Edward's would be as well. I sat between Edward and Esme for the entirety of the ceremony, and when it was done we moved to find Alice so that we could travel to another location on campus for Edward's ceremony.

Alice took the seat beside me as I made it through another graduation. When Edward walked across the stage I cheered for him along with his family, and when it was over he rushed to me, twirling me in the air before embracing his family.

Carlisle had made dinner reservations, but we had a few hours before then, so Edward asked me to come with him to see something. After a quick goodbye to his family, Edward and I drove to a house that was near the water. I was confused when he parked in front of the house and opened my door, leading me up the front walkway.

"Edward, what are we doing here?"

"I found this house last week, and I wanted to show it to you. Come inside and look around with me?"

Nodding, I allowed Edward to escort me around the gorgeous house. As he explained it had four bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms, evidently meaning that the bathroom downstairs only had a toilet and a sink in it, and it was built about ten years ago. I fell just the tiniest bit in love with it, but I had no idea why we were here and I told him as much.

"You really love it?" he asked.

"I do, it's a beautiful home," I told him.

"Well I'm glad because it's ours if you want it to be."

"I'm sorry, I don't understand," I told him truthfully.

"You told me that you being in this relationship meant that you saw it going towards marriage someday, well, I hope that we can start that journey today." Edward dropped down to one knee in the middle of the empty living room and pulled a small box out of his pocket. "Bella, you've brought more joy to my life than I ever thought possible, and when it feels as right as we do together, I have to grab a hold of it. Will you marry me?"