A/N: Hi! This outtake picks up right where The Gauntlet Part I left off, so you may want to reread Part I before you read this, as they are two halves of a whole.
We headed to the courthouse at around eight in the morning. The trial was set to resume at nine, and Edward was to be called to the stand first thing. He was dressed in a blue suit today, with a dark blue tie, which was now buried under a heavy black overcoat. I had opted for a black pantsuit—it was too cold for bare legs. Edward looked…amazing. I had never actually seen him in a suit, and I could tell that the one he was wearing was expensive, and had been tailored to fit him to a tee. The jacket hung on him a little due to his recent weight loss, but he still looked incredible. After he finished dressing, he slipped his sling over his head and situated his elbow into it. I smiled as my eyes raked over him, but it faded a bit as I remembered the somber occasion for it.
He had been nervous this morning. He was quiet as we'd dressed, and I'd had to repeat the few questions I'd asked him more than once before I received a distracted answer. He didn't look afraid—just…determined. And I was about to find out why.
We took seats behind the prosecutor's table, and the lead smiled at Edward as we sat down. Edward nodded to acknowledge him, and I helped him slide off his overcoat before we settled in to wait. We actually didn't have to wait long—the bailiff called the room to order about five minutes later, and the accused was brought in. This was my first look at Aro Volturi, and I could immediately see that he was born to lead, and to intimidate. His jet black hair was down to his collar and long on top, but slicked back into the suave style of a businessman. His features were not distinctive, but his eyes were a piercing blue, the kind that held you with their gaze. He was shorter than Edward, but he carried himself as if he were bigger than everyone around him, and his manner was overbearing.
As he sauntered into the room, his eyes scanned the crowd and came to rest on Edward. I glanced over and noted that Edward was staring intently back at him, and then snapped my head back to watch as Aro looked pointedly at Edward's injured arm and raised his eyebrows in mock concern. I felt Edward tense beside me, and the cold fury on his face was terrible to behold. His eyes had narrowed and his lips formed a thin line—I could almost hear him growling. I had never seen him look like that—it was a little frightening.
Then Aro had taken his seat and the judge was speaking, and before I knew it Edward was giving my hand a farewell squeeze, rising at the sound of his name. He walked to the stand purposefully, the picture of confidence, and when he turned to the female bailiff who was about to swear him in, he flashed her a brilliant smile. He was ready for this, and then some.
As expected, Edward spent the day answering the prosecution's questions and helping to make their case. He made eye contact with the jury when he talked, and he spoke clearly and plainly—his confidence and honesty ringing in every word. I could tell that they liked him, and more importantly, that they believed him. There was evidence to back up most of what he said, but I think they would have believed him anyway. He looked at me frequently as he testified, and I smiled back at him, offering the strength of my love as support. And every once in a while he would make eye contact with Aro, and for an instant I would see the fire glint there, but he was very careful to contain it quickly.
We had lunch together, but it was mostly a quiet affair—I didn't want to interfere with his focus on what he had to do. He was back on the stand again right after lunch, and time seemed to drag. Late in the afternoon as the questioning continued, Edward started to look really angry. His eyebrows were scrunched into a scowl, and his face seemed set in stone. He glared over at Aro, and I had no idea what was making him so pissed, since the questioning seemed rather benign at the time. When the judge finally called a halt for the day, Aro was led out and Edward rose and stalked over to me.
"Let's go," he grated out, and I hopped up to follow him.
As we exited the courtroom with everyone else, I whispered to him, "What has got you so pissed off?"
He snapped his head toward me. "Is that how I look? Pissed?"
"Yes, you look like you could murder someone right now."
He breathed heavily. "Well, that's better than the alternative…" he murmured. He raised his voice a little and said, "I need a minute before we go out to meet the press."
I looked along the hallway and saw there were a few little conference rooms with their doors open, so I led him into one of those and shut the door behind me.
I turned around to find him leaning against the wall, his fingers digging into his forehead, groaning softly with each labored breath.
"Edward, what the hell?!"
"Migraine," he replied tersely. "It started about an hour ago."
"Holy shit, that's why you looked the way you did! Why didn't you ask the judge to call a recess?"
"No!" he said vehemently, and the sudden fire in his eyes matched what I'd seen earlier in the day when he was on the stand. "There's no way I'm going to let Aro see what his guys did to me. I won't let him have the satisfaction. It's bad enough he gets to see my arm in a sling—at least he doesn't know about the nerve damage." His voice became gentler as he continued, "Hopefully I'll be okay by the morning. I'm going to need you to lead me out of here, though. I'm so dizzy right now I can't see straight."
"Here, I brought your meds with me," I said, rummaging in my purse. "I knew how stressful today was going to be for you, so I came prepared."
The corners of his mouth raised in what was almost a smile as he took the pills and my bottle of water from me. "Remind me to thank you properly for this later."
"You got it," I said, winking at him. "Are you ready to go?"
"No, but I don't have any choice, so let's just get it over with," he said resignedly.
As soon as I opened the door, I saw Garrett standing right outside.
"I saw you guys duck in here—what's wrong?" he asked, concern evident in his tone.
"Edward has a migraine and he doesn't want anyone to know he's not well," I answered. "Can you help keep the press off him when we go outside?"
"I can do one better than that—I'll get Chicago PD to do it," he declared. "Wait here and I'll be right back."
I turned around and explained to Edward, and he nodded gratefully. A few minutes later we were making our way out of the courthouse—Edward holding tightly to my arm, head down, as I led him down the stairs. It was pandemonium—there were reporters and cameramen everywhere. He squeezed my arm tighter as the flashes went off, and I knew he must be in agony because of the light sensitivity from the migraine. But he never flinched, he just stared downward and let me lead him blindly through the throng. Four officers from the Chicago PD created a space in front of us so the press couldn't get in close enough to harass us, and Garrett and a few other agents crowded behind us to keep anyone from coming up from behind.
"Let's go to my car," Garrett whispered from behind me, and I nodded my agreement. He circled to the front and told the officers, and soon we were loaded into Garrett's car and headed across town. As soon as the car started moving, Edward collapsed against my shoulder, burying his head against me as I reached up to shield his eyes from the bright light.
"Thank you," he whispered.
Garrett glanced at me in the rearview mirror, and I nodded to him to let him know Edward was all right.
When we got home, Garrett helped Edward up to the bedroom, and I managed to gently undress him before the dizziness finally got the better of him and he got sick. At least it didn't happen at the courthouse.
"I've been up too long," he explained as I helped him down the hallway and back into the bedroom. "If I can fall asleep before the dizziness gets really bad, I usually don't get sick."
"I know, baby," I said indulgently. "You should try to go to sleep now. Is there anything else I can get for you?"
"Just some water and more meds. I can't take them now, but maybe the next time I wake up… I just have to sleep it off, as usual. Say a prayer that I'm better by tomorrow, though. I don't know what we'll do if I'm not."
"Don't think about that now," I said soothingly as I tucked the blankets around him. "You just rest and we'll worry about it when we need to."
"Thanks, Bella," he said as he curled into his typical migraine-induced ball. "I couldn't do this without you."
"You could, but it would suck a lot more," I said lightly, and he chuckled. "I'll be downstairs if you need me. I've left your phone there next to you." I stayed until his breathing evened out and I knew he was safely asleep.
As I came down the stairs, I heard Garrett in the living room talking to Esme. As I entered the room, they both looked over at me.
"How's he doing?" Garrett asked, before Esme could beat him to it.
"He'll be all right. He's sleeping now, and probably will be for the rest of the day."
"He was fantastic on the stand today," Garrett enthused. "I was worried that Aro would be able to rattle him, but he held it together like a champ."
"They…exchanged a bit of a look this morning when Aro was led in, but I think it got Edward fired up to do a thorough job more than anything," I told him.
"Well, whatever got him fired up, I hope it continues tomorrow. Another day like today and this trial will be all but over."
"I just hope he's able to testify tomorrow," I said, meeting Esme's eyes. "A few of his migraines have lasted longer than twenty-four hours."
"There's no way he could testify with a migraine?" Garrett asked.
"I don't think so," I replied doubtfully. "You saw what happened today. His headache started about an hour before they broke for the day, and he was so dizzy that I had to lead him out of the courthouse. I don't know how he managed to answer questions and then walk a straight line out of the courtroom. Usually when he has a migraine he's in bed curled up in a ball, hoping he can fall asleep before the dizziness makes him sick."
"Did he make it today?" Esme asked.
I shook my head.
"Shit," Garrett swore. "Well, if he's not better by tomorrow, I'm sure the judge will grant a continuance."
"Let's just hope he is better," I said. "Edward doesn't want anyone to know the extent of his injuries, and him holding up the trial for health reasons will just call attention to what happened to him."
We stared at each other in unhappy silence.
"Well, we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed," Esme added. "You said it had been quite a while since he'd had a migraine that lasted so long, Bella."
I nodded my head, thinking about the fiasco on the plane and Edward's unerring capacity for bad luck. Maybe we could catch one break this week.
Garrett filled Esme and Carlisle in on all the details from the trial that day, and I added my observations here and there. Garrett even joined us for dinner, which was good, because the lively flow of conversation kept me distracted from worrying about Edward. Throughout the evening, I went up and checked on him, but his medication and water were still on the nightstand, so I knew he hadn't been awake.
Around ten I excused myself to go to bed, and when I got up to our room, I found Edward sitting up, his head buried in his hand.
"Hey," I said softly, sitting down beside him.
He flinched a little as the bed dipped, and I knew immediately that he wasn't any better. "Hi," he breathed.
"How can I help you?" I asked simply.
He smiled underneath his hand. "Well, since you're here, can you help me get down the hall to the bathroom? I was just about to head there when you came in."
"Of course," I told him, ducking my head under his arm. "You should have called me. I would have come up."
"I know," he answered, as we stood and I helped him keep his balance down the hallway. "But I can do this myself. I'm used to it by now."
"Well then, I guess I'm glad I came at the right time, because I actually like to help you."
"You're too good to me," he said as I slid my head out from under his arm and placed his hand on the doorframe.
I waited outside the bathroom, and then helped him back down the hall and gave him his meds before tucking him in to bed.
"Thanks, Bella," he whispered. "Keep hoping that I'm better by morning, okay?"
"Absolutely," I replied, getting into bed as gently as I could so I wouldn't jostle him. He reached his hand over and patted my shoulder blindly, before curling up on his side again, facing away from me.
I couldn't help but let a few tears fall, thinking about the lousy week Edward was having. I said a silent prayer he'd be better by morning, and that tomorrow would be a good day in court.
Edward stirred next to me, and I opened my eyes to find him staring at me. I jumped a little-I always found it a little unnerving when he did that.
"Good morning," he whispered, moving in closer to kiss me on the forehead.
"Are you feeling better?" I asked, my mind immediately going back to the awful day that was yesterday.
"Yes, quite a bit. I'm a little lightheaded, but hopefully that'll pass as the day goes on. At least I get to sit down to testify."
I couldn't help but cringe at the thought of going through all that for the second day in a row, and he reached up to caress my cheek.
"Hey, the worst is over now. We knew I'd get a migraine sometime this week from the stress—I would have preferred that it not be when I was on the stand, but that's the way it went. Anyway, now that that's over with it should be easy from here. I can finish testifying and we can go back home."
Warmth spread through me when he referred to Forks as home. I shook my head and smiled.
"What?" he asked, his emerald eyes soft and questioning.
"You amaze me," I told him, leaning over to kiss him gently on the lips.
"Why, because I can still remember what happened last spring after being knocked in the head twice?"
"No, because you just keep going no matter what happens, and hang in there no matter what."
"What other choice do I have?" he asked in bewilderment.
"You always have a choice. You could choose to not go on. To just break down and not be able to deal with it. I swear I would have been committed somewhere by now if I were you. But you just keep going, no matter what life throws at you."
"Oh. I guess I just never considered not going on as a choice...except for once," he added, as a shadow crossed his face.
I had a pretty good idea when that was, but I filed that one away for later. "Well, I'm glad your list of possible courses of action doesn't involve giving up, because I'm rather invested in you being here."
He just grinned at me. "Come on, let's get this over with so we can go home."
If it was possible, things went even smoother Edward's second day of testimony. The evidence against Aro was damning, and when the prosecution presented a video of Aro overseeing a large transaction personally, with Edward providing narration, I saw Aro lean over and begin speaking to his lawyer. His face never showed any expression, but some of the spark of arrogance faded from his eyes. Edward spent most of the morning on the stand, but he was excused before lunch with the court's thanks. We needed to attend the trial that afternoon and the next day, in case Edward was called for re-direct, but with any luck his part was over.
As he stepped down from the stand, Edward met Aro's eyes and raised his eyebrows in concern, a mirror of the look Aro had given him the day before. Now it was Aro's turn to scowl, and Edward smirked in satisfaction as he passed the defense table.
He sat next to me through the afternoon proceedings, his hand in mine and a satisfied smile on his face. He looked more relaxed than I'd seen him in weeks—he had been dreading coming down here for the trial, and I could tell the weight had been lifted the moment he stepped off the stand. I hoped the return trips for the remaining two trials would be at least a little easier for him, now that the first one went so well.
As the afternoon wore on, Garrett and a few other agents from Edward's unit joined us—some because they would be called to testify soon, and some just to lend moral support. I let my mind wander off for a few minutes as a witness was finishing his testimony, and was brought back to reality with a start as Edward squeezed my hand. I could feel the tension radiating off him, and it seemed as if the temperature in the room had dropped a few degrees. As I looked down the row, the eyes of every agent were fixed on the man being led into the courtroom, and if looks could kill, he would have been bleeding out right now.
Felix was the star of Edward's nightmares, and he had been directly involved in Tanya's death. Even though Edward remembered everything now, the nightmares had continued. A few times I'd been awakened by Edward's cries before he was, and I had witnessed him flinch in his sleep as if he was being struck, so I knew his dreams now included Felix beating him. Angela had warned him that now that he remembered everything, those events could easily trigger PTSD, so she was watching him carefully and helping him work through the trauma. I was so grateful Felix's trial hadn't been first, and that Edward had some more time to work with Angela before he had to face Felix across the courtroom.
I had seen a picture of Felix online when I was reading about his arrest, but he was even bigger in person than his photo had made him appear. He had to be at least six foot five, and his arms and shoulders were enormous. As the bailiff put a hand on his arm to guide him to the stand, he roughly shook it off and gave the man a menacing glare.
I looked over at Edward to see his reaction, but he wasn't even looking at Felix. He was staring straight ahead, and as I watched he started breathing more heavily. No… I put the hand he wasn't holding on top of his arm, and rubbed forcefully to try to get his attention, as a thrill of fear shot through me. "Edward. Edward, come back," I whispered as I continued to massage his arm.
Suddenly, he sucked in a rapid breath as if I'd scared him, and disentangled his fingers so he could put a hand over his eyes. His breathing was still fast and uneven, and I put a hand on his elbow as I stared at him, anxious and worried.
"Just…just give me a minute," he managed, taking slow, deep breaths to try to calm himself.
I looked past him, and Garrett and the other agents were all watching him, a mix of anger, pity, and fear on their faces. Every one of them knew that it could very easily have been them, beaten within an inch of their lives and left in the forest to die, and that they would be sitting here losing their shit, too.
After a few moments, Edward's hand slid down his face and came to rest as a fist in his lap. He glanced over at me, his expression both sad and frightened, and I knew that it mirrored my own. He took a few more slow breaths, then he whispered, "I'm all right."
I took that as leave to touch him, and I uncurled his fist and threaded my fingers through his again. The corners of his mouth rose in a half-smile, and he squeezed my fingers, but this time it was in reassurance.
On his other side, Garrett leaned in close. "I'm sorry, Ed. Felix wasn't supposed to testify until after you were gone, but they must have changed the order for some reason. I would have warned you."
"It's all right," Edward responded. "I'm glad I saw him for the first time now and not on the stand at his trial. I didn't expect…that."
I couldn't stop the shiver that rippled through me. This was the first time that anything had triggered a flashback for Edward since he'd gotten his memory back—at least that I knew about. I wondered if it had happened before, but considering his reaction just now, I doubted it.
"How did they get him to testify?" Edward asked Garrett.
"He's got a deal on the table—that's why his trial will be the last one. If he testifies against Aro and Marcus, the DA will take the death penalty off the table for the murder charge."
"Dammit," Edward muttered, his fingers flexing against mine in frustration.
"He can still get life without the possibility of parole, but the DA wanted some insurance that he'd get the convictions for Aro and Marcus. What you and Tanya collected should have been enough, but no one wanted to take any chances."
"I get it," Edward replied. "But I don't have to be happy about it."
Garrett chuckled a bit and grinned at him.
Edward's eyes now turned to Felix, and as I watched it seemed as if Felix could feel his stare. His eyes flicked to Edward's as the prosecutor questioned him, and he narrowed his gaze angrily. Edward met his stare and gave it right back, and I could feel Edward's anger and hatred as his grip tightened on my fingers. I pulled on his hand, distracting him and breaking up the stare down. I knew nothing good could come of the two of them having any kind of contact, even if it was just staring across the room.
Edward smiled at me and whispered, "Thanks," under his breath.
The rest of the day proceeded without incident, and as we were leaving, the assistant DA caught up with us to say that Edward didn't need to be in the courtroom tomorrow, as long as he was reachable and available should the defense want to call him for redirect. Edward promised that he would keep his phone on him, so we were free to spend our last day in Chicago away from the courthouse.
Similar to the day before, we were mobbed by the press as we exited the building, but this time Edward was prepared to handle it. He smiled for the reporters and politely replied, "No comment," to a few of them, and determinedly led us out of the throng and back to his dad's car.
As he slid into the passenger seat, he gave an audible sigh of relief. "One down," he said tiredly.
"You did fantastic today," I told him, reaching over and putting a hand on his knee. "I'm sure they're going to convict, and after this one, the next two should be easier."
"Maybe the next one…" he said quietly, and I knew he was thinking that Felix's trial would be a whole different ballgame.
"You'll get through it," I reassured him. "You've already made it through times that were much harder than this, and come out stronger on the other side."
He gave me a warm smile. "Thanks again for coming, Bella. I can't imagine how much harder this would have been without you by my side."
"Well, by your side is where I intend to be from now on, so you better get used to it," I snapped playfully.
He smiled at me, but it didn't really reach his eyes.
"Are you really okay?" I asked him, concerned that he didn't seem to be able to shake what had happened in the courtroom.
"Yes. I just…didn't expect that to happen. The minute I laid eyes on Felix, I was gone from the courtroom and back in the forest. I had no control over it at all," he said, trying to suppress a shiver. "Thanks for pulling me back to the present when you did. Your timing was excellent."
"It wasn't my timing," I told him. "I'd been trying to bring you back for a few minutes already when you seemed to finally hear me."
"Oh," he answered, looking a little more concerned. "This makes it pretty likely that I have PTSD, doesn't it? The nightmares haven't been that frequent, but a flashback in the middle of a crowded room..." He ran his hand through his hair and sighed in frustration. "Great. More quality time with Angela to try to ensure that doesn't happen again the next time I see Felix."
"Oh, come on, it's not that bad," I reasoned. "It's only happened to you once, and shit, I was afraid of Felix when I saw him, and he's never laid a hand on me. I mean, it's not like you're afraid of trees now, or something," I said, trying to lighten the mood.
It worked, because he cracked a smile and chuckled, but then his expression turned serious again. "I'm not so sure about lead pipe, though," he said quietly.
I couldn't suppress the shudder that rolled through me with that admission. "Is that what he used?" I whispered, as my heart began to race.
"Yeah. They...found it when they were searching for Tanya. The forensics team was able to match it to the...photographs of me from the hospital, among other things. It'll be a major piece of evidence in his trial," Edward said, swallowing audibly.
"Among other things?" I prodded.
He dropped his gaze. "My blood. And my DNA, and his. He gripped the pipe so hard he actually left skin cells. They couldn't pull any fingerprints, since the pipe had been exposed to the elements for so long, so we're lucky they were able to lift DNA.
"After what happened today, I'm thinking it might be a good idea to have Garrett show me all the evidence for Felix's trial when we come back for Marcus'. That way if I'm going to react badly to something, it'll be in private and not in the middle of the courtroom."
"I think that's an excellent idea, and I think you need to talk to Angela about all of this. I just know she'll be able to help you."
"Yeah, I know," he said, sounding dejected.
"Hey," I said, squeezing his knee. "We've got lots of time before Felix's trial—I'm sure you'll be ready for it by then. One thing at a time, right? Today we can celebrate that you did a fabulous job testifying against Aro, and that he's likely to get convicted because of it. I am so proud of you for these last two days!"
"Thanks," he said. "I do feel good about it, and I hope it was enough."
"It will be," I said confidently. "You just wait and see."
He chuckled, and he never took his eyes off me as I drove us back to his parents' house.
When we got back to my parents' house, I excused myself to lie down for a while and let Bella fill them in on the day's events. I was still pretty rattled from the encounter with Felix, even though I hadn't admitted that to her. The thought of having one more damn thing to deal with was enough to make my skin crawl, but I couldn't deny that I'd had no control over my reaction to Felix today, and I was sure that meant something. And it scared the hell out of me.
My "old" memories had merged with my new ones pretty seamlessly when I got my memory back, and the only event that gave me any trouble was that night in the forest. When I was awake, it seemed vague and fuzzy—as if my mind didn't want to go near it. But at night I dreamed it in Technicolor, complete with sounds and smells…and full-body contact. Before I got my memory back, the nightmare would start with me on the ground already, right before Demetri brought out Tanya, but now, it began as Felix dragged me from the van and continued all the way through his interrogation.
To say the nightmares were vivid was a gross understatement—I had never experienced anything that felt so real, even when I was awake. I felt every scrape and cut as Felix pushed me through the undergrowth, and after that, every strike of the pipe against my flesh as he tried to coerce me to give up James. I knew Bella was aware of what I was going through, but we hadn't exactly spoken of it directly. She knew I was talking with Angela about it, so that was enough for her, unless I decided I wanted to talk about it. And I could hardly bear to think about it, let alone talk about it. The only saving grace was that it had only happened a handful of times in the last three months. I was hoping that's because it wasn't that big of an issue, and not because I had been on pain meds for a lot of that time.
I fell asleep almost immediately after I laid down, and it seemed like only seconds later that I felt Bella's arms wrapped around me as I shook uncontrollably.
"Shh…shh…" she said comfortingly. "It's okay, you're safe. I promise. You're safe."
I was panting as if I'd just run a marathon, and I could feel the tears streaming down my cheeks. I held tight to Bella, trying to bring myself back into the here and now and away from Felix. "What happened?" I rasped out, my throat feeling raw and damaged.
"Oh God, Edward, I couldn't wake you!" Bella said brokenly.
"I'm sorry," I whispered, the scenes from the nightmare still playing in my head.
"You must have fallen asleep. You were screaming and trying to get away, and it was like I couldn't reach you, no matter how hard I tried."
I buried my head in her shoulder, and all of a sudden I was sobbing. I had held it together all week, despite everything that had happened, and finally, I just couldn't anymore.
Bella held me and gently rubbed my back as I went to pieces, and I wept until all the stress and pain felt as if it had been washed away, and there was nothing left. And then I just held her, feeling empty and spent.
"Oh, Edward, I'm so sorry," Bella said softly. "This week has been beyond hell for you, I know. But you got through it, and now we can go home. Let's not think any further ahead than that."
"Okay," I mumbled, wanting nothing more at that moment than peaceful, dreamless sleep.
"Do you want to go down and get something to eat? We didn't wake you for dinner because I thought you needed some time."
I shook my head and lay back on the bed, closing my eyes wearily.
"Why don't you get ready for bed then? I'm sure you're exhausted, and things will look better in the morning."
"Thanks, Bella," I said softly, opening my eyes to take in the beauty of the woman I couldn't live without.
She just smiled that sweet smile of hers, and helped me get changed for bed. I was asleep again before she crawled into bed with me, and thankfully, I remembered no dreams.
The next day, things did look better. I felt refreshed in the morning, and a lot of my stress and anxiety over the trial had disappeared. I had planned to take Bella around the city that day, but as the morning wore on, I developed a headache. I was frustrated, but the more I thought about it, I realized that this particular problem hadn't troubled me all week. The migraine was a separate issue, and the headache from the flight had been a given, but other than that, I didn't have any serious headaches all week, and I certainly could have. I guess that was something to be thankful for.
So, we spent the day visiting with my parents, and I lay down for a few hours in the afternoon, and when I got up, the headache was gone.
I was anxious about the flight back, but this time we had a plan in place, with the help of my dad. He gave me an antihistamine and another drug to lower my blood pressure, and although it made me a bit lightheaded, the pain from the altitude change was nowhere near as bad as it had been during the first flight, and I was able to manage it with codeine.
A week after we got back, I got a call from Garrett. Aro had been convicted on all counts, and sentencing was to take place in a few weeks. With all the charges, it was likely he'd get at least twenty years, maybe more. It was a major victory, but I knew the worst was yet to come.
That night we went out to dinner to celebrate, and Bella insisted on champagne.
"To victory," she said, raising her glass and grinning at me.
"To victory," I agreed, but in my head this one was for Tanya. I hoped she could rest easier, now that those who had hurt her were getting what they deserved. And maybe I could let go of some of the guilt I felt for failing her, and for being the one who survived.
Bella cocked her head as she watched me, but I smiled to reassure her that everything was okay, because in truth, it really was.
As she smiled at me from across the table, I was reminded how very lucky I was, despite the lingering effects of my ordeal. I was here, and I had the incredible fortune to be loved by the most amazing woman in the world, and she and I were beginning to build a life together. Everything that was still wrong in my life was fixable, and I had someone strong and capable by my side to help and encourage me. I knew there were still difficult times ahead, but Bella made it all seem bearable. I truly was the luckiest man in the world.
A/N: Thank for you reading! *hangs head* I am SO sorry it's taken me this long to post the second part of this outtake! I had a really good reason, though. I was swallowed whole by another story, for almost a year now, and I just couldn't get my head out of that one and back into our dear amnesia-ward. But I finally did, and the good news is it's because the other story is almost complete!
(For those of you that really pay attention: no, this isn't the one that I mentioned in the notes near the end of HTF. THAT one is still waiting in the wings and I do intend to finish writing it. But this particular story just wouldn't wait.)
The new story is called Come Back Tomorrow.
Bella, a psychologist with a curious side job, meets Edward, a terminal cancer patient who no one visits. Who is this young man at the end of his life and why is he all alone? Will she discover his secrets, and will he find his way into her heart?
ExB AH Summary: Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly in the path of the best things that will ever happen to us.
I'm going to start posting the new one in January, so if you don't want to miss it, put me on author alert!