FAGE Six Pack

Alright Ladies, and all who read and review - this is a gift for Blue Eyed Cherry, Who gave me prompts that thrilled me thru!

Aha Shall we begin? See you at the end!

Title: Stars

Written for: Blue Eyed Cherry!

Written By: Rebadams7

Rating: M

Summary/Prompt used: First prompt is a song by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals "Stars" - /54DMWdzROH0.

Second prompt: College aged couple meets on a group outing at a carnival.

If you would like to see all the stories that are a part of this exchange visit the facebook group: Fanficaholics Anon: Where Obsession Never Sleeps, or add the C2 to get all the stories direct to your inbox.

www . fanfiction community/FAGE-6-pack/93625/

All those times we looked up at the sky, Looking out so far, We felt like we could fly. And now I'm all alone in the dark of night, The moon is shining,

But I can't see the light,

Stars

Monday

Angela is the new paralegal taking over Lauren's place now that her early onset Alzheimer's has finally been diagnosed. Angela began to work through the files left in her desk and discovered a client folder with eight letters. Picking them up, she carries them to her supervisor, who sends her on to Ben, the attorney for the listed client. He doesn't even look up or look at them, he just says to send them on. He mentions the original lawyer on the case has retired. Ben tells her it's an old case, not to worry as he then finally looks up at the newest member of the firm and notices she has nice eyes, even with the glasses...

Wednesday

Edward had just succumbed to a brown-haired groupie and thinking it's just room service as he answers as the courier knocks on his hotel room door. He doesn't even read the return address on the FedEx box. He pulls it open and the envelopes spill out onto the floor. He has no idea what is in the letters, doesn't bother to read the envelopes and rips one open at random.

November, 5th 2010

Dear Edward

I'm listening to beautiful music today. I heard your band's new song on the radio, and I am glad that your career is giving you joy. Isn't that what you are saying in that song, that only music can make you happy? That people are just pain?

I can understand, but I have to tell you, there are some people worth that pain. The music that I find beautiful is made by our son, your son as he has shown me his musical talent again. This morning I surprised him with a very good keyboard. He'd outgrown the little piano he'd gotten for Christmas from your parents. He's playing something by ear, some little tune off the kid's radio station, but he is playing.

I hope you come for the music he has in his soul if for nothing else, since that is what you proclaim is your only joy.

He's four today. Mostly my hair and your green eyes. I'm enclosing the latest photograph. I believe he loves you in his own way and if he knew I was writing, he'd say to send a "Love You" like he puts in his drawings for Charlie and your parents.

Charlie and Carlisle have held your place, but I want, no I need him to know his father. I guess though, some needs are never met. I still hope this will not be one of those. He's old enough to recognize your band on the radio now. He's begun feeling the absence in his life. I don't want to find someone else to fill it, but I will do what is best for our son. Right now he is my reason to get up in the morning and put one foot in front of the other. What is yours?

I still miss you, my heart still holds you and part of my heart will always be yours, even if you have let mine go.

Toujours

Bella

He started punching the wall shortly after that.

Sunday

The rain had relented by the time the car turned down French Avenue. Tanya was glad of the respite that ceased the infrequent swipes of the wipers. The inability to play the radio - because he found it too irritating - combined with the occasional thumps for the past hour, had set her teeth on edge. Nerves enough quaked in her frame as she parked the car. It would be an unannounced arrival, barely forewarned and if not for the address and the aid of Siri, she'd never have found the place. It was the last solid thing that had fallen from his lips.

"I can't fix it. I gotta see...?" He'd shaken his head, insisting. "Take me home."

Surprisingly, the house wasn't what she expected as she opened the front door at Edward's insistence and set two bags in the entry. It was sufficiently grand to announce someone of stature called it home, but it wasn't cold and stuffy. The faint sound of music, a piano? floated over her voice as she called out "Hello. Mrs. Cullen? Dr. Cullen" It was early Sunday evening, she just hoped they were at home.

Footsteps sounded softly on the tile floor as someone approached from the door way at the far side of the space. Tanya's attention was so fixed on that portal that the entry and passing of Edward behind her slipped her notice.

Esme stepped into her foyer. "Hello there? Ah, you must be? with ...Edward?"

She stepped up, hand extended in best business manner mode. "Mrs. Cullen, I'm Tanya Anderson. I've brought Edward at his request. I hope that's alright? I called the house and left a message. Edward said he'd called you both."

Before Esme could reply, the air was cut by a sharp retort.

"Gads man, can't you? Cant you ..you..coordinate pedal action when you play!"

Esme's hand flew to her mouth and she motioned Tanya to follow. They crossed through a comfortable living room and drew up short at open french doors. A piano dominated the smaller room, nothing but windows for walls, late afternoon light filling and spilling through the glass. The music had stopped, only the sound of wet leaves dripping onto the patio like a metronome, plop, plop, plop...to accompany a small boy now still on the bench. Edward had dropped to his knees on the floor next to the piano leg. The smaller set of eyes were trained on the keys, the larger set seemed to focus past him and be lost in the view of the garden.

For a beat, there was no sound.

"Nana?"

Esme and Tanya turned their faces in unison at the voice and recognized the questions written on the small face. With barely a nod, he spun himself around on the bench and popped to a standing position. In two steps he was in front of the kneeling figure, extending his hand just so as he spoke. "Hello. I'm EJ. I don't think you are the surprise Papa mentioned, but I'm pleased to meet you."

Edward barely breathed. He simply stared silently, the last clouds moving off, releasing a sunbeam that caught the truth in glittering tracks running over his cheeks. Rising to his knees, his large hand surrounded the small one and in the space of a sigh he pulled this little boy into his embrace.

Thus, seven years and seven days after his birth, a father held his son for the first time.

Carlisle noted the Blue Chrysler 300 in his drive and wondered who might be visiting. He'd hated to leave the hospital, but there was nothing more he could accomplish there tonight and he'd made double promises. He would read to his favorite audience and he had a package of Double Stuff to deliver. The scent of dinner greeted him as he entered the kitchen via the garage. He heard the murmur of voices from the great room at the rear of the house. Even all that knowledge could not ease the shock from his system at the scene before his eyes.

His little man, his grandson, sat on the couch, next to his son who was covered in EJ's special quilt. He'd not seen Edward in this house in over five years. The shadows under his eyes and pallor on his cheeks was more than road weariness or shock. The doctor part of his brain came back on high alert as his heart went into hiding. A clinical appraisal led him to suspect a chemical imbalance was torturing his once beautiful boy.

"Esme?'

Before he could get out another word, a set of small arms blurred to his side, wrapping around his torso in a hug of relief. "Papa. How's Mom? Please? Please say she's better!"

Carlisle dropped to a knee and embraced EJ. "She's sleeping now. We have to let the medicine work for a bit. I'll see if perhaps you can see her tomorrow."

The words seemed to release the strings that were holding his small form to this room.

"Thanks Papa. I know you will take care of her. You always made me feel better. May I go...? Before supper?"

"Lego's?" He was met with a nod, and with a smile and a little hand motion he send his lad toward the room he usually shared with Bella. Carlisle had long noted that this was the way EJ dealt with things that needed quiet thinking. He'd pour his energy into those little blocks while his brain worked over whatever it needed to. Both had been born with a warm heart and an old soul, he mused as he now stood closer to his second son. He began to give him a once over when his attention was caught by his love's soft voice.

"Carlisle, this is Tanya. She assists Edward. She brought him here just about an hour ago."

They were standing together at the windows that overlooked the garden and the play-set at the edge of the property. Esme led the two of them over to the other sofa across from Edward. The casual small talk could only avoid the elephant in the room for so long. Finally Tanya found the break in the conversation that gave her the pause to explain.

Edward had become secretive about his health. He was an energetic performer, often flailing and pounding around his stage and instruments. A few years back he'd taken to seeing different doctors in different cities, for a few injuries and ailments. He'd amassed a veritable pharmacopeia and continued to source his medications from the various places, having the prescriptions sent from separate pharmacies.

He'd balanced it under their noses until here, close to his 'true home' he'd missed a shipment or a dose or something. He'd started to crumble over the past few days after opening a package from one of his attorneys. Something had gotten him mad and then he'd been found smashing his hand against a wall.

As if on cue, Edward sat bolt upright, pushing off the cover and stared hard at his dad. His voice was a whisper of its usual strength.

"I fucked up Dad. I really did... Help?"

While Esme and Tanya remained at the house, Carlisle had driven his son to the hospital. Sitting at bedside as a parent left him feeling uncharacteristically helpless for the second time in as many days as he listened to the recitation of medications and dosages that the firm intern pulled from Edward. He was a balanced... mess. Three different pain meds, muscle relaxants plus scripts for anxiety, stomach, migraine...

The irony of two precious hearts beating under the same roof for the first time in over seven years was not lost on him. They were each now battling their own demons and he was powerless. Perhaps his own hubris had brought them to this point, but at least they both loved something enough to hang on and damn their personal pride, asked for help.

Bella had driven them to Forks to celebrate Charlie's birthday, and had set up camp there for this weekend. She'd called very early Saturday, trying to downplay her symptoms, hoping for a chuckle and a prescription for rest and ginger ale. Something in the tone of her words put him on alert. Her responses didn't quell his unease. He should have insisted she call 911 or at least let him drive her to the ER, not just meet her at the hospital. Esme had been glad to come and spend the day with her little man, and didn't seem too concerned when he'd had to inform her that Bella would need an appendectomy. Esme had organized a few extra things for EJ and Bella from Charlie's and brought EJ back home.

The surgery had gone to double time when the call came to his office. Carlisle had distracted himself with paperwork and lost track of time while he waited. The appendix had ruptured. Peritonitis. Other complications. Bella wasn't in just recovery. She'd be going to the ICU.

He'd called and told EJ that Mom was extra sick, and the doctors had to remove the little bit that made her so. That they were working hard with the medicine and Mom would have to rest for a bit. No falsehoods or hope, but enough to calm and tell her ever so smart little man. He'd promised a surprise. He'd bought the Double Stuff. That had been his father's favorite also, Emmett had always preferred Ding Dongs. Fate had left them to speaking with their second son only a few times a year, a call at Christmas, some times meeting for dinner near his birthday or the other holidays. Never at their home. Never. No mention of Emmett. No visits together. No mention of her. No direct order not to mention her. Bella had tried, knowing that she had never heard back from him or his attorneys. Bella had told them she had sent a letter after EJ's arrival and one on each birthday.

EJ had always laughed whenever the grown ups talked elephants in the room. Now there were elephants tramping everywhere.

He'd been allowed to visit with him for a few minutes. Even with his lanky frame filling the bed, his son seemed smaller and fragile surrounded by hospital guard rails. Edward had his fog lift and focused his stare directly on to his father's face.

"Why? Not one word" His tone didn't hide any of his agony or confusion.

"She asked us not to bring it up. We figured you would ask. Edward. Over and over she'd tried to contact you. Dammit, we were there when she tried. When she cried." It'd come out close to a whisper and after a pause he continued. "Bella promised she'd let us know if you contacted her, if she got any sort of response." Carlisle stared down at his son. "I trusted her to tell me if you did."

Edward had turned his face to the ceiling, his voice cool and clinical as he spoke. "I got a package last week. I thought it would be from one of my pharmacies. Joke was on me - it was from my old attorney's office. My divorce lawyer." He snorted, "Apparently one of the Paralegals quit and in reorganizing the work and files, a set of letters was discovered. I got a package with eight envelopes. Eight. I only opened one of them. Why? Why didn't she try harder?"

"She's got her responsibilities too. Edward! Why didn't you answer her call? I know she called you each year - from our phone."

Edward had no response and had closed his eyes. Carlisle dimmed the lights and kissed his son's now unconscious forehead before he left the room.

Passing cars who took note of the driver might have seen the gleam of wet tracks on his cheeks, but the Sunday roads were very quiet, few headlamps crossing his line of sight.

He found Tanya and Esme staring at, without really seeing, the television. Esme rose and joined him in the kitchen.

"He's still up, reading in his room, waiting for you." She smiled and held a plate with the Double Stuff, nodding to a glass of milk on the counter. "I knew. It's your thing with the boys."

As he started up the stairs, Esme told him dinner would be ready when he came down.

Tanya and Esme had waited to sup with Carlisle. The enigmatic Tanya, always alluded to and mentioned in passing - business manager and confidante to their son, was a welcome gift at the table. She filled in with the details of the past years. The cities and countries visited. The tiny condo he called home base in Los Angeles. The fortune that just had come down as his last tour had finished. Now, he was set to go back into the studio. In other words he could slip off the radar and not cause a scandal, if there even existed such a term in the world of Fivepenny Cinema. He had months before any deadlines.

The space between. As they quietly ate, the sound of the old-fashioned telephone ringer, Carlisle's cell ringing from inside his pocket, startled them all.

It was the night charge nurse, letting them know all was quiet for now, no changes and she'd call if there was anything more to report

Blackness, velvet soft and no white lights, no pain either. Just the steadying rhythmic thump. A space to rest, away from turmoil. No forward but no back either. Just resting without waiting or wanting. No needing. Nothing at all. Perhaps, gathering forces and resources for the next fight. Sure as shit there would be one. One hell of a fight. It would be welcomed when all was ready, but for now the velvet black was a safe haven. Why leave this warm, quiet place. It would do.

For now.

EJ woke in the middle of the night, and since his keyboard and headphones were still in the living room at home, he decided he could at least go down and pretend to touch the piano. Always as his thoughts went, when he was upset, he put it into music. Most children just pound on their musical instruments as toddlers - that had made him cry. From his first tiny red piano he made music. Mom had called him his father's son. EJ though his Mommy was silly like that. Who else's son could he be? He was his Nana's and Papas' little man.

The piano was cloaked in silver from the rare moonlight as he barely touched the keys. If Esme and Carlisle heard the music, it would be recalled as a dream. EJ hoped his mother could hear it in hers. He knew she had put too much on her shoulders and he worried it would pull her down and away. He was just too small to carry much of it on his own.

He felt his eyelids grow heavy at last, and he hopped off the bench and paused at the windows. Papa Carlisle and Charlie both called him an 'old soul.' The visible stars seemed cold and lost in the dark. He wished on the first twinkle he spied. He'd rather burn short in the bright light of day than linger as a cold bright bit in the vast night, but he worried he'd not get that choice. His father was a "star" from what he'd heard on TV. Nothing in that appealed to him at all

The nursing notes on two separate patients would look achingly familiar if they were viewed side by side. There was a marked decline in both sets of vitals and level of consciousness at about 4AM. Darkest before the dawn never felt as true.

It didn't take long for EJ to realize that the man who'd listened to him practice was in fact, the star, the Edward in the photographs in his room and at the "big" house. He'd not asked about his father in a while. Mom had simply said there had been a misunderstanding and a lot of hurt. So much that it had made his father so sad he'd left. She hoped one day he'd learn the truth and find them, at least to say hello. This wasn't the most helpful of explanations, and he pondered it often. The idea that if his father knew he existed? Well he'd be sadder yet? That confused him because he'd heard the phrase "ignorance is bliss" one time too many. He never liked it when he didn't know what was going on or coming next.

Something was very strange. Mom had said Dad must be happy and Mom always wanted others to be happy. The Edward...his Dad? Well he didn't seem happy.

He remembered his grandmother's voice had woken him once, he'd heard her speaking with Mom in the hall outside his room. "I wish I could change things"

His mother spoke. "I wish...I know it will crush him."

Nana's voice had completed the thought, "Once he realizes all the lost years..." He'd never forgotten hearing that conversation.

EJ wandered back to bed at about 4. He counted the church bells and knew he had to go and try to sleep. He would need to be strong and good for the morning. Momma always said he has to stay in bed till six bells. Today, Momma might need her little man.

Neither Esme or Carlisle could really sleep that night. Neither of them had all the pieces, but the lack of concrete knowledge was no solace. Carlisle knew that Edward had gotten a musical break after he and Bella finished their undergrad degrees in Portland. It was with a band based in Seattle and it had seemed a perfect situation - Bella had been accepted into a graduate program in Seattle and Edward had the band and a job, so that August they'd wed in a garden ceremony right here at this house.

Things had begun to deteriorate shortly after the return from their honeymoon. The band had been asked at the last-minute to play a couple of dates that would pull them apart over Bella's birthday. That night Esme and Charlie had gone up to Seattle to take Bella to dinner, Carlisle couldn't get away from the hospital, so he'd sent a bouquet to Bella's on campus job, a bright arrangement - no roses, as Bella didn't like them much and was allergic to them to boot.

Esme had told him that a dozen roses had been waiting inside their apartment when Charlie and Esme brought Bella home from dinner that night...

In the morning Esme and Carlisle realized they'd had the same sad dream memory.

Charlie had come over to Esme and Carlisle's at noon the day before. He'd seen Bella just before her surgery and kept himself busy with work. He wanted to see his buddy and maybe the two of them could keep up their spirits. Renee was on a cruise, she would probably get the news at the next port, when she'd then turn on her cell. Carlisle wasn't ready to let Charlie know Edward was here in town.

Rose and Emmett were in upstate New York for her parents anniversary. They had reconciled with her parents a while back, when Baby George, named after the great grandfathers', was born. Carlisle hadn't updated them yet, just telling them yesterday that Bella would need an appendectomy and that EJ and Bella might be with them for a few weeks while Bella recuperated. Rose merely commented that he might enjoy the local school for a bit. To Rose,it had just seemed an inconvenience, but certainly not a tragedy.

In the early hours of the morning Emmett woke and expected to hear his sons cries. Instead there was a nagging feeling in Emmett's gut that a dire prediction might be coming true. He mulled over the fact that Bella had made him guardian and godparent of EJ, and her father trustee of her insurance just in case - if anything happened to her; she'd joked about it, that it was a big if and since it was now set pen to paper, nothing would happen. Emmett suddenly wasn't so sure. He decided to call his father after sunrise to see how things were going.

Monday

EJ had woken a little later than his usual time, and asked Nana if he could bake a cake, with a little help, of course. He was supposed to have done it with Mom on Saturday, for his Papa Charlie's birthday. She was happy to have him in the kitchen, calling Charlie to come for dinner, and bring Sue of course. She spoke to Emmett, and let him know that all was not going well for Bella. He told his mother he'd be in touch later in the day to let her know when they could get there. Emmett knew it was serious when his mother did not protest his plans.

Edward woke that morning from his most frequent nightmare. He'd been away again and was still hung over from the celebration over the new contract and tour offer.

Those few dates had been an opening for the Band and he'd figured after a couple of weeks home, and a huge apology, something about if you want it done right, just do it yourself...

Edward was lost in thought when he noticed a white coated man leaning against his door frame.

"It's not the Zoo, you can come in and I can talk."

"You seemed to be thinking. I just wanted to give you some space. I'm Garret Andrews. Dr. Fawcett asked that I drop by."

Edward regarded him with a snort. "Shrink?"

"Well, If your ego needs adjusting, I know a few sassy folks who don't care much for Fivepenny Cinema, but I don't think that is what landed you here?" He pulled a chair closer to the bed and continued. "I don't object to that nickname if it helps. Things get big in our heads, they don't fit. I just help you sort them till they do."

For whatever reason, the stars alignment, the so no bull demeanor of the doctor's delivery, whatever it was, it was the key that opened the lock in Edward's head. He began to tell their story.

"It began the middle of my junior year of high school. I was at the carnival when..."

...And then the band was invited as an opening band for Coldplay - as they were about to embark on a most of the year world tour. Bella wanted to join us, just not until the New Year after she finished her first semester and could put her program on hold. This is what the world knows. There had been a small fight, and the next thing they knew, I wasn't speaking to Emmett or Bella."

Garret held up his hand. He knew that part of the story.

Instead of Edward showing up, the divorce papers were served at Esme and Carlisle's on Thanksgiving. New on staff, he and his wife had also been at that dinner.

Bella and Emmett hadn't said much that afternoon - and all Esme or Carlisle or anyone knew was that by February the papers were signed. Bella left her program after her first year and got a job with an insurance company in Seattle. She hadn't communicated with anyone again till she showed up in Forks on Father's day. That's when Charlie and the Cullen's learned they'd be grandparents.

As the closest relative of sorts, Emmett had taken it upon himself to check in with Bella on a regular basis and so Emmett had grown close to Bella's neighbor, Rose. At three, EJ had been the ring bearer at their wedding. Emmett's college roommate Jasper had been the Best Man, as Edward hadn't spoken to Emmett in years.

The three of them, four counting Rose, might know more of the story, but whatever was in Edward's head was the missing piece

Garret recounted what he knew and waited. "Edward, what brought you here, to this now? It's been years?"

Edward knew once he said this, it would be real. He closed his eyes before he spoke. "I have a son. I have a son I ignored for seven years. What kind of monster does that? What monster am I in his eyes.?"

Edward had felt he was a man, but in that moment, he was a lost little boy, remembering the pain of not feeling wanted by his own father...

"So"

"Do you really have time to listen to this, listen to my side of everything..?"

"My wife and my mother are at my sister's house, in Portland, with a new niece and nephew. Eight days old. Other than dinner in the microwave, I have no big plans. Tell me the Edward side of the story."

"Get comfortable." My head is way too..full "Hey, maybe you can talk to her, too. Someday. We should get it straight for our.. the .."

"Your son."

"Exactly"

Edward stared up at the ceiling as he spoke, his voice almost wistful.

"I was adopted by Esme and Carlisle when I was seven. My parents were in the military and my mom got posted first, when I was small, maybe three. I stayed with my grandmother but I remember she was older. When they came back, I guess I met my father when I was four? I remember I was playing the toy piano. I remember I heard him say I couldn't be his son if I was a musical wuss. I lived with them for a while and then when I was to start kindergarten, they both were deployed I guess? I don't know all the details, I just know they were killed far away. Grams looked after me till one afternoon in Second Grade I was brought to the hospital by our neighbor. Grams had a heart attack. Esme, well she was the one to tell me that Grams had to go far to get better and if I wanted to, I could stay with her and her son Emmett. Then Grams died. Esme became my guardian and when she and Carlisle married when I was nine, he adopted me. I felt really wanted then. The whole family had to talk to someone for a while and I thought I had learned how to deal with everything. I was just a cocky kid I guess."

He rolled his head and looked at the drapes.

"I'd studied Japanese for years and was getting ready to leave for Japan. I'd gotten posted to a prestigious science and technical school that didn't take many foreigners, so it was a big deal. I'd only met her the afternoon of the spring carnival. It was a beautiful night, and on a whim I asked her, well I persuaded her to leave her escort, Angela and come on one ride with me. I told her I was leaving for a year next week, and I wanted a beautiful memory. She snorted at that, she never fussed over her appearance, but she didn't have to. I kissed her under the stars, her first kiss, and well, for me, my first real one...

The white was cool and frustrating. Silently, she willed her mind to? Change channels? Slowly the white shifted to pale blue. There was something warm in her arms. She was whispering. "It's just " She stroked his tiny cheek with her hand as she continued. "It was early days...I had met and known Edward, your d-daddy... for only a day then, when I arrived and when he left to do a year abroad program. Your Daddy gave me my first kiss. Under the stars. On the...I'll tell you when you're older. He returned mid way through the senior year and we, well he didn't really talk to Mama, that's me, until prom. He wasn't bad just... Different lunches and opposite schedules. We had both come alone. Papa Charlie, he bought me a dress, said I was too much his girl to miss this night. Silly Uncle Jacob had shown up at the last-minute, trying to look grown up in a shirt and tie, arguing that your mama shouldn't walk in alone. Daddy stepped up and offered to escort me in and we talked at last. We'd missed each other.

Edward, your daddy, was smart . He was music and pre med student, with a minor in Japanese. Mommy was going to study english and psychology. I wonder what talents you will have my little man? " She rubbed noses with the sleeping one.

The baby grew lighter in her arms and she found herself slipping into blankness.

Garret offered a cup of coffee, and when Edward declined, he'd gone and come back with his coffee and a Sprite for Edward. The sweet beverage felt strange on his tongue but not completely unwelcome and he decided to continue.

"After we got back from our honeymoon gift trip from my folks, I got a call from our agent. We had a fantastic gig waiting for us and after that night, things began to move faster for me. We'd be on a California tour for the rest of September and into October. We had no idea then how crazy the schedule would get. Bella had just started her classes and with her loans and such, she couldn't just quit. It was the day before her birthday when I realized what day it was and Jane with the band - offers to make the call to the florist for me as my cell is dead and she claimed to also need to send flowers to her mother...the florist misunderstood the order and sends all roses to Bella..."

"That's bad?"

"Garrett, She's allergic to roses."

"Bad, definitely bad."

"Yeah, and I made it worse. In October we got word on the tour. The big, year plus tour and I wanted Bella to come on tour from day one, Bella, well she wants to finish her first semester. We argued and I left to work with the band on the set ups for the tour ..ended up out of the apartment for a few days. I was maybe high? and I was definitely hung over when I came back. The one time I'd talked to her she'd been a little distant, something had been off."

The morning shift in the ICU had settled down after one discharge to Med-Surge and one death. The kind folks in the black suits had just left when the alarms for bed four began to sound.

She was deep in a nightmare, and couldn't seem to breathe.

She was in the old place. It was as when she had food poisoning. The white had faded to grey and there was an ache deep in her abdomen, and she doesn't realize how sick she is. So dizzy again. Suddenly back in the empty apartment she pulls her old phone off of the charger and places it in the pocket of her sweats, Nowhere is comfortable and she casts an evil eye at the leftover Chinese container on the breakfast bar. She's heaving over the toilet. WIthout realizing it she must have pocket dialed Emmett, who came over

Emmett has a key to their place from when he watched things over their honeymoon and he'd stayed there when he first came to Seattle for his residency, she remembered.

Shortly after coming over, well, as she had given him a hug, then she threw up all over Emmett and herself. Then Edward is a little high and drunk when he comes in. His eyes grow wild for a moment, next the gaze on her is cold and flat. Then the screaming started and the grey beckoned her again. She gasped and slid off with it.

"I've, I've never. I just." Edward grabs his hair in frustration, rubbing his hands over his face before he continues. "Well this is it. I saw Bella in just her underwear, standing, shaking in the living room and Emmett came out of the bedroom /bathroom door to see who's there - in just his scrub pants. I just started yelling and I bolted before Emmett or Bella can explain anything to me. I was a mess. I though he'd liked her too much.

I..."

"What did you do about that."

"I was an ass Garrett. I ignored their calls and I gave that phone to the band's road manager. I told him to only give me the phone if my parents called. I stayed pretty much drunk. I crashed at different apartments and hotels. Fivepenny Cinema's first tour date was Halloween in New York. The band is incorporated in Nevada, so I changed my address and filed for divorce from there. The sleasebag from the management team said to cut ties fast, to save money and to free me for the tour and publicity."

"You were their new toy."

"Shiny and pretty and broken-hearted. Ha! with a bow. I wasn't done being an ass yet."

Just then a lunch tray arrived. The young girl wore a bright apron and a genuine smile. She didn't care who she served, they all deserved at least that while they were in the hospital. She grabbed the over the bed tray and moved it closer as Edward raised his head.

"Salisbury steak, Jello, mixed veggies, salad, milk and lucky us, chocolate cake."

"Lucky us?"

"Yeah, when there is cake on the tray, for some reason, people eat more and I don't have heavy trays to clear later. I hope you feel better soon."

"Jessica" he read from her id badge, "Thanks."

She left with a soft smile and she closed the door, that neither had fully realized was open.

"I'm gonna check on a few things. Maybe grab a sandwich. Half hour?"

Edward merely nodded and Garrett left him munching in silence. He headed toward the Chief's office. Garrett was pretty sure that Carlisle would be busying himself even though it wasn't necessary. Perfectionist.

Charting is a sort of netherworld, where doctors record bits and pieces, Nurses observe and post lab notes, treatments, etc. Dr Fawcett was picky. She read every note, every word as much as possible. There was a note from admissions on Isabella Swan's history. Isabella had been given the wrong antibiotics for Food poisoning. She stayed sick, off and on them for months until the right ones were found. She has a high resistance to several ones she is receiving right now. The doctor breaks her usual confident stride into a sprint toward the ICU.

Esme and Tanya sat in the kitchen while EJ worked on his cake. It's a typical rainy morning in Forks, the light filtered by a cover of thick clouds and EJ muses about having missed church. When he goes with is mom he likes the pretty windows and the lessons and crafts with the other kids. He remembers he can pray anywhere so even though he is stirring the batter, he thinks a prayer for his mom and for that man who's probably his dad. He doesn't pay any attention to what Nana and the blonde lady are saying.

"Tanya, none of this is on you. You've been with the band, I mean Edward since?"

"I was hired in November,about 2 years ago, right after "Stars" became a hit. Jane was the lead vocal but the label wanted someone to keep track of Edward. He'd been a looser and looser cannon and I think they just wanted more hit songs."

"I'm not a fan of November, it's been a tough month." Esme set her much on the table and flattened her palms on her thighs. "It was in November that the divorce papers, and a letter informing us that Edward would only communicate with her through his lawyers arrived. Thanksgiving day! He had the gall to have the server come to our house." Her hands were fisted as she placed them on the table. "I was so mad at him that day. He swore it was his lawyer."

"He never told you why? He never said much to me, just to delete any messages that weren't from you two."

Esme got up from the table and helped supervise the final mixing and the pouring of the batter into the pans. Once the two circles were safely in the over, she sent EJ off to wash his hands and then play the piano while waiting.

Grabbing the coffee pot, she returned to the table and refilled the mugs. "We had been shocked by our son's behavior. We had to advise Bella to get a lawyer as well. It broke our hearts. She put on such a brave face. Now she's so ill and EJ..."

"I really had no idea. I..."

I lit a fire with the love you left behind,

And it burned wild and crept up the mountainside.

I followed your ashes into outer space

I can't look out the window,

I can't look at this place,

I can't look at the stars,

They make me wonder where you are

Stars,

Up on heaven's boulevard

And if I know you at all,

I know you've gone too far

So I, I can't look at the stars

The ladies fall silent as they both recognize that EJ is playing, "Stars"

Tuesday

Edward woke with the clearest head and the heaviest heart he'd had in years. He'd had that dream, that almost nightmare, again. Edward's thoughts again re-lived that week surrounding the start of the tour with Coldplay. Waking with different women each morning, or sometimes afternoon. Never knowing their names. Memories that lead him to believe he was unfaithful to Bella. With that in mind, that belief, he'd filed to free her from his mistakes...thinking it will spare her pain.

His parents had told him that she had reluctantly signed, hoping to open communication with him...He'd gone back that once...and he'd never spoken to her since.

Over in ICU, there was little change in the patient in bed 4.

If they could see inside her head, they would wish her a deeper coma, just to chase those images away. Doctors approach their patients, hoping to release them to better health, better places, but not everyone gets their wishes.

Dr Garret Andrews did not usually let his schedule implode, but he felt a sense of urgency in dealing with Carlisle's son. In his gut he knew if he didn't get him to some sort of acceptance, he might lose his chance. He'd been helped by listening to his instincts before and so, he asked his assistant to reschedule anything he had before two, and headed over to his newest client. It wasn't long before he was opening the door.

"So, Edward"

Bella was again lost in a sea of lights of all colors. It was that December again, the one they were supposed to hang their ornaments on a tree together. The Holidays came without him coming home or calling She is in a sea of broken glass from when she tripped and smashed a box of ornaments. She is seeing him on television on New Years Eve and can hardly recognize him. He was thinner and sharper, his smile was not for her or that camera. Is she crying again,wherever this is?

Her sats are low, her pulse is thready again and her breathing is agitated.

"It was the start of sophomore year. I was considering a transfer from California. It never felt right and I came to see my brother who was in Med School. He was dating a girl named Maggie? or Maria, and his room mates Paul and Sam. It was a carnival, I think for charity? Anyway I couldn't believe my eyes. Bella was there with her dorm - they had a sweet treat booth of all things. I charmed her back onto a ride with me, and I was transferred by the second semester."

"That doesn't sound so bad."

"I'm hot and cold with her. I always found a way to make it better and then ruin it."

"We all go through ups and downs."

It isn't ups and downs. Its cruel - I'm cruel. I can't stand the "me" the world knows

"Garrett. I've been too horrible. I can't. She is probably much better for him than I can be..."

Garrett just waits. Silence can scream questions only the heart can dare to ask.

"Where is she?"

"Who, Edward?"

"My wi... I mean his mot..." He closed his eyes as if in pain with the next words. "Bella. She wasn't there. Where is she?"

I'm in the old apartment again. It's cold and snowing, the windows are foggy. I'm sitting in the bent wood rocker in the living room, the one I burned. It was that night again. The night that had killed the light in her eyes and luckily left a little candle in her heart.

Garrett can't answer his questions. There are rules but he can assure Edward that Bella isn't too far and hasn't abandoned their son. Edward winces every time he hears that word or EJ mentioned by name. A causal observer might think he disliked the idea of fatherhood or the child. Garrett saw something deeper.

Guilt, anxiety and fear had taken up residence in Edward's soul.

When the key sounds in the lock, it made her heart jump. Maybe, maybe, maybe they could talk. Maybe he listened to Emmett at last. She felt herself fill with hope as she stood as the door opened. She tried to hide her disappointment when James was the first one in the door, followed by an Edward who couldn't have seemed more distant if he was on the top of Everest.

"Why all the drugs Edward?"

"Why not? I was needed. I had to be on and I didn't want to be drunk all the time. It spoiled the looks." Edwards sarcastic tone did not deter Garrett one bit.

"Edward, you were only married a few weeks when you walked away."

Through gritted teeth, Edward finally began to release his beast. "You wanna know?" He bellowed. "You wanna know that the good, dashing son of Esme and Carlisle couldn't be faithful for six weeks. That I was so strung out I brought my band mate James, the one Bella liked the least and I tried to get them to..." At this Edward grabbed a basin on the side table and emptied his stomach into it. "Fuck. I can't"

"Yes you can. You can get this out." You have to. Maybe not just for you for once.

In an effort to comfort EJ and assure him that his mother was getting the best care, Tanya and Esme brought EJ to see his papa in his office. EJ had brought a carefully constructed picture. He wanted it placed where his mom could see it. EJ was no slouch and as he listened to papa and the ladies talk he could imagine where exactly he could find his mom. It didn't take much to slip out and head for the ICU area.

He found his mother, connected to monitors and tubes like the one papa had given him when he'd had the flu one time. Mom was lying with more tubes and wires but still sleeping, breathing softly. He put the cardboard masterpiece on her table with wheels and scooted up a small stool to the far side of the bed, where he could rest his head and hold his mother's hand.

"I showed up with James on February 13, the night before Valentine's day. I was cruel, promising this would make me happy. I demanded. she be with James while I watch.

Bella just seemed a shadow of herself and I know I did that to her. James was into it in a vile way. She missed me so much she agreed. I swear that night she'd do almost anything if I would stay and talk to her. I told her to start by kissing James. I wanted to watch, hoping that would make me feel the playing field is level again. " Edward fell silent,clenching and unclenching his fists.

Garrett watches the wheels turning in his patient's brain. His imagination wants to conjure up a scene but before he can speak, Edward begins again.

"I watched him grab her and I watched her fold up and vanish before my eyes. I couldn't stand the tears - Hell! James got off on them. I pulled him off her but not before he twisted her wrists. For some twisted reason, she fell into my arms. She felt so tiny. I was losing her. I wanted to keep her and push her away, push her to safety at the same time. "

A small boy watches a scene he's witnessed many times before. His mother stiffens in her sleep. It its anguish on both sides as Bella freezes up. Her mouth moves in agitated speech without a sound made. James let go! Stop manhandling me. In her dream state, her sobs eventually cause Edward to rip her out of James clutches. 'Just hold me for a moment. Please feel that I love you. That I want only you. Please.

Please.'

EJ holds his mother's hand, like she does when he has a bad dream. He knows it makes him feel better, he can only hope it helps his mom.

"Why did you want to do that Edward?"

"I thought." Edward's voice fell to a whisper, "I thought I could..fuck!...I thought I could be hard...get us out of each other's system. It was."..It was desperation and rough kisses that melted against her skin. Her hair was flat but it still smelled so sweet and her arms around his neck, running up through his hair. He tried to be rough as clothes shed tossed aside and covered a path from the couch to the bedroom but her soft hands on his chest ruined him for that. Her kisses over his heart. He couldn't not make love to her. Oh when they came together, how she fit him. How her breasts fit his hand and thrilled at his slightest caress. How she knew him - every inch and everywhere to touch. He realizes and speaks. "I can't ever just be loved and love like that back. I just fuck now..."

Garret studied the now silent man in the grey light. He knew his mind was in a private moment as Edward's face turned toward the window. He knew he was getting there now. Where Edward would go with this was the X factor in the room.

"Perfect. Doctor. It was. Well, it was as much or more than I thought it was because there is the perfect evidence. I, uh, no we created one perfect thing. He is ...seven and I swear...I don't know if I left her with the worst thing or the best thing but..."

"Left her with what?"

"I was an idiot. I'd sent her the papers for the divorce before I'd signed them. I got up in the middle of the night to get a drink. I went into our kitchen and wandered around the living room while I drank my water. I saw them on the table by the front window and I thought the best thing I could do was leave her - leave her- her freedom. I was a mess and I didn't see how I wouldn't stop. I was hurting her. I would only hurt her. I signed them. I didn't leave a note or anything. Garret she looked so peaceful in her sleep." His eyes watered as he finished. "I gathered my clothes. I watched her from our rocker. I kissed her forehead and wished her sweet dreams before I left. I'd called a cab and headed to the airport. I was told I was a hot mess on stage that night in Chicago. I was the Valentine's hot mess. I found the notebook with the lyrics to "Stars" a few days later. I must have written it on the plane... I guess I write well when I do horrible or stupid things. So, of course the management."

"The management Edward. What do you mean?"

"They liked me single. They liked me brooding or wild on or off stage and they didn't stop anything stupid. They never discouraged or encouraged what I did, but I'm sure they profited from it. They took that ..those..bits of me and voilĂ , they put them out there. Jane was the vocalist for "Stars."

"The breakout song."

"More like break up song but yeah, it made us famous, like headline famous. Hearing that on the radio for a while every time I got in my car...after hearing it in my head ...I just wanted to turn off the pain. I didn't want to get lost again, do something that ...so I just let go. Did whatever - Jumps, rolls, diving off the stage. Skydiving. Motorcycles. I just took a little here and a little there and then I'd rotate. Feel too ...whatever on one drug I'd switch to drink for a while, then onto another and round and round I went till. Till I read the letter." I was expecting to lose myself in something. Well I guess this is my wish.

Wednesday

Mid week is the lightest day for travel. Emmett and Rosalie spend only a few hours in Seattle after landing before they re-pack their bags, hoping George will nap in the car, and head off toward Forks. Emmett has learned from his father that Edward is a captive audience. He plans to seize the opportunity.

Dr Fawcett orders a course of much more aggressive antibiotic therapy for Isabella and she notes the people she has authorized to be informed of her condition. She expected to see the Cullen's and Charlie. She did not expect to see the name of her ex-husband. As the head resident, she knew he was an inpatient here too. TIme for an update, for everyone on her list.

There was no beating around a bush with Garret. He called it like he saw it. "You seem to like to be addicted. To managing your addictions. You like to hide in the pain?

"It was better than facing what I lost each day."

"What did you lose?"

" Me. Her. Us. I broke her. I broke us. I thought I set her free. I..we..just trapped." He grabbed onto the lowered bars of the bed and held himself stiffly. "I can't seem to... I don't really want to. Dammit the pain reminds me we were real. That I could feel once."

That was the end of the session, as with a knock to the door, the smiling face of Jessica appeared with another lunch tray.

Dr Fawcett caught up with Carlisle just as Emmett entered the office. He'd left Rosalie at the house with EJ, George and his mother. He'd promised to share what he knew as much as he'd shared his night of fear with his wife that morning. Bella had been as much her close friend as his and the fear was contagious.

"Carlisle I think I have a handle on why Bella hasn't responded well. She's been overdosed in the past on several of the best antibiotics."

Emmett was known to the staff and his presence and piping in was no surprise.

"That was years ago . The damage has to have been a lot worse than we imagined."

"She seems to have lost weight since the last time I'd seen her." Carlisle was musing aloud as he tried in his head to plot out the best courses of action. It was going to be a long climb. Bella had hidden her health for longer than anyone realized.

Edward had fallen into a light sleep when his brother pushed open his door and looked at his sibling live for the fist time in eight years. It pleased him that he looked better than he had in the last interview he'd caught on TV.

"Hey."

"Hey yourself."

"So. I think I should say long time no see. However it's been more like long time Berlin Wall, mother effer. I still think Mom is going to come and chew me out for cussing around you. "

"Emmett. I guess I owe you an explanation."

"The hell you do. I have no Idea how I pissed you off, unless you had such an addled head that you thought for a moment ...Did you..." The wheels that didn't exist in Emmett's mind before Rosalie had suddenly begun to work overtime. "You... You thought I would consider touching ...shit that is it isn't it. The night I ended up taking Bella to the hospital and she spent the next week there."

"You did? Hosp-it-al... She was sick?"

"I don't know what you think you know or think you saw, but Bella had a nasty strain of food poisoning. She was in the hospital for five days, and then in and out of the ER for almost a month before they got the right medicine in there. Edward. She was a mess for a long time. "

"Oh hell." Edwards voice was back in whisper mode. "Emmett. Oh gawed! I am an ass. I get that." He shook his head as he spoke. "I wasn't there for you."

"Yeah, well. I didn't feel especially special for being ignored. You know you are an uncle, right? I guess Rosalie sent you the announcement and pictures. Edward, I don't give a shit. You are my brother. But, I guess I am not the one you need to worry about."

"Bella"

"Yeah, well, that may be ...complicated."

"What?"

"I dunno why she did it, but you are on her contact list. You sonnafabich, I shouldn't. This could be so... I dunno even if she will pull through."

"Emmett"

"Listen up. Over seven years. No answer to my calls, no showing up

"Ok, she came in for some stomach pain. It was her appendix. It burst! It burst on the table Edward. Bella's in ICU."

Physically there was nothing keeping Edward from walking after his system began to clear of the drugs and a few filling, if mediocre, meals were actually eaten. He got stiffly out and onto his feet, in a loose long sleeve Henley shirt and sweatpants. He and Emmett made the trek over to the ICU wing. Bella had the corner, it was the largest of the 6 bays. Edward almost froze before the nursing stand. Emmett grabbed his elbow and brought him to the consultation lounge.

Dr Fawcett and Dr Lahota, the surgeon had gathered every one on Bella's list into the small lounge. They passed on the good news that the incisions and all were healing, the latest antibiotics seemed to be turning the tide, but overall her system had been overtaxed and run down. She was still out, her body working hard to recover with limited resources. There was discussion of NG support for nutrition, and guarding the situation on the potassium from damaging her veins. In short, the tide was turning but it was far from smooth sailing yet.

The unanswered question was how had she come to be in such poor shape. Emmett had stood in the back, arms folded and quiet. Finally he felt he had to come clean.

"I'm not really sure how much history Bella was able to give you before her surgery. I don't think she's done much for herself since EJ. I started treating Bella just before she and Edward...ran into trouble. She had fought a rare strain of campylobacter. After a few wrong courses of medication in October, Bella finally got the right medication in late December, when she came in on my rotation and I was assigned as her doctor in the ER."

"Oh" Esme looked around, "I thought that she'd looked run down almost every time I saw her, but I can't, I should have..."

"Esme, you couldn't fix everything. When Bella felt weak and nauseated again, two months and a half later she asked me if I could write her another script I didn't like what I saw and Rose, her neighbor at the time, went to get the test. The divorce decree was lying on the table, right next to where she set the test. I had no idea then that we might lose you both."

None of them knew how far Edward had fallen in his band life. Edward listened to the rest of his family recount the past few years. How Bella puts school on hold and finds full-time work in a training position at an insurance company. It isn't what she wanted to do, but now she has to think about two people...she decided to wait and tell

"The Grandpa's" on father's day,and she arranged to go to Forks with Emmett, Rose came as her support as she had not been in contact with her parents after not marrying the jerk and had moved cross-country.

He learned, that in that July, Jasper had become Bella's OB as he wanted to help his college roommate out. Alice is a manager in Forever 21, she and Jasper had met in Philadelphia after each had the most awful day ever! Alice was all too happy to put in for a transfer to the west coast and had arrived when EJ was just a few moths old.

They reconnected when she needed a GYN appointmentt and ran into Bella as she was in the building with EJ...a whole family, almost a life around him and he simply watched on the sidelines. It was as if he'd shelved himself in their eyes, their world. To whom it should matter most, he'd made himself matter the least. He'd thought he was indispensable, and to those to whom he was...it was just money. To his family he'd made himself invisible and insignificant.

"Why didn't anyone tell me?" Edward whispered to the gathered group, the doctors long gone on their rounds, the family and friends knit up into smaller groups. Alice turned toward him and gave him a pointed once over.

"I think they all tried. You just wanted to hear the applause. Anything else...?"

"What was going on?" Esme looked at Alice and Rose, as they lived the closest and had the best chance of understanding everything. Esme felt Carlisle's hands on her shoulders and she reached back, placing her hand over his as she listened.

Rose looked a bit sheepish as she began to speak. "Bella finally was trying to complete her degree. You know she started up again when EJ turned four, taking a course here and there. She really didn't like her job much and was really worried about a layoff. She was close to completion when she told me she wasn't feeling well. You know Bella, she was just putting off her concerns. She was so close to finishing and submitting her thesis. She promised she'd rest this coming summer, when she could start to look for new positions with her new degree. You know she didn't want anyone's help."

"Or she would never ask..." Esme had as many tears running down her face as Edward. Hers were born of concern for her stubborn mostly daughter and anger at her actual idiot of a son. Edward felt a new burn in his gut. He hurt for her, and his mother and his child. He'd made this mess, and now he knew what was burning him...shame.

He managed to slip out of the lounge and made his way down to her spot. The sliding glass doors were partly open and the curtain pushed almost all the way back. He stood at that point, watching. A little boy raised his head up and those green eyes bore right into his own. He slid off the stool and came to stand next to Edward EJ grabbed his dad's hand and lead him into her room. For an incredibly gifted little boy, he still has his hopes and dreams that are not walled in by science. "Mommy. I found my daddy. Can I keep him?" His little face showed no fear or annoyance when there was no reply. Edward knelt down next to EJ

"EJ how do you know I'm your Dad?"

"You are in the pictures in my room. Mom has shown me some of your videos on the computer. Who else could you be?"

Edward scooped the little boy into his arms without protest and carried him over to the now empty lounge. He sat next to him on the sofa, unsure about what his next move should be. "What..what do you know about me?"

"Well. you make rock and roll. Some of your songs make momma cry, so I don't listen to all of them. You joined a band back out of college where you studied both music and medicine cause both make people better." He hopped back off the couch and began to pace a little as he spoke. "Jane and Alec founded the band. They play things like Banjos and mandolins They found you as their keyboardist and decent singer. At least mom said you were a decent singer. Have you sung anything recently? I sang last year in the spring concert at school. James played the drums, and his girlfriend, Vickie plays bass and Laurent was sax and brass on your last CD cause his picture was with a saxophone on the back." EJ took a deep breath and sat back down. "I think that's all." He cocked his head and looked at Edward. "How did you get the name of the band you are with?"

"Fivepenny Cinema was a line in one of the first songs Jane wrote, so Aro, our manager made it the name of the group. I think that was when I joined them. They were something else first, but I can't remember what it was."

"We can look it up on mommy's computer. She lets me sometimes so I'm sure she'll let you." Just like that he was a little boy again.

Edward shook his head as they walked together down the hall toward what he remembered as his father's office. This hospital was all on one level, the departments branching out like rays from the center. They chatted about things like favorite colors and cartoon characters. He crossed them through the back of the ER towards the offices on the far side. He knocked on the closed-door of his father's office. His mother opened on the second tap.

"Who? Oh Edward and EJ. Where were you?"

"Nana, I had to see mom. Look who I found." His face beamed with so much joy that the scolding he was most likely due was long forgotten.

Later that night, after another session with Garrett where Edward had agreed it was time for rehab in order to be any help to Bella or EJ. Edward signed off of the borrowed laptop. He'd finished the self assessment on-line and had registered. Now he just had to decide when to go. Padding down the darkened evening hallways was soothing. It gave him strength to go where he felt he was needed.

He pulled a chair up to the bedside and took her hand, pausing only to glare at the one nurse who came in to shoo him off.

"Oh Bella. I knew I made you hate me a little the first time I stole that kiss at the carnival. I hugged you after prom and didn't kiss you then, because I knew if I did I couldn't stop. Every time I closed my eyes that year in Japan I saw your face. I knew all I would do is leave. It's what I know. Then to see you with those others at homecoming." His voice had dropped to a whisper and he placed her fingers up to his lips. I saw you with those other boys, those idiots from the other dorm. You looked like you wanted to run, yet you smiled and stayed with your friends, trying to stay away from them. You saw my eyes. You saw me. I couldn't stay away from you one more minute. I took you out of circulation while we rode your favorite ride. It was always the same every time we saw a carnival. If they had one, we stopped. I still can't see one without thinking of you. I can't see anyone without seeing you a little bit. Every day! What have I done. Why did I think? Why did I do those horrible things? Why can I just love you like you deserve. Why will I make everyone leave me?

He kissed her knuckles and held her hand against her cheek as her eyes fluttered. It was too bad his eyes were closed and he didn't see it.

Thursday

Change of shift found Edward still in the chair, holding Bella's hand. There was no one on the night shift that felt a need to disturb either of them. The noise and routine of the hospital on day shift was another matter entirely and between the breakfast tray smells and the general rise in noise and activity, a very stunned Bella realized someone was holding her hand just as Edward was being roused by Bernice Laidlaw, the charge nurse of the day shift. She wanted to ask him to stay but she couldn't quite make a sound yet. Her return to the land of the living was well received by the rest of the family.

By noon she was released from ICU and moved, ironically, directly across the hall from Edward. He spent his day organizing himself for a trip to Minnesota. Hazleton came highly recommended and he stood a chance of being released by the holidays. Bella wasn't 100% sure she hadn't dreamed him up, it took a little child to lead them together.

Rose and Emmett had kept EJ busy for the morning, but shortly after lunch, EJ mentioned that Papa Charlie had shown him the path over to the big playground at the elementary school and that it went right past the hospital. He announced his intention to take a walk, and at that point it was decided Charlie should supervise his afternoon.

Of course he and his papa Charlie would visit his mom. He couldn't imagine anything else.

Edward was waiting for his parents, he wanted to talk with them and Tanya, he'd asked her to get him a decent coffee before he left. He had no idea if he should or could see Bella or EJ before he left. His eyes lit up when the smile and voice of his son filled his room.

"Dad. I brought papa Charlie to see mom. I heard she was awake now. Papa Carlisle called Nana and told her."

"Edward."

"Sir, EJ."

"Why are you all dressed? Can you come home?" Leave it to the innocent observations of a child to thwart the best laid escape...never-mind, there hadn't been much of a plan in Edward's head. Seeing EJ with the Chief was proof of that fact.

"I'm going to have to go somewhere else to finish getting better EJ." Once again saying the words made it real.

"Well, we'd better go talk to mom. I always get in trouble if I don't talk to her first. I have to commun -it- cate. I'd bet it works for you too. I know you weren't supposed to meet me yet, but you did and you seem to be over it."

Both Charlie and Edward were puzzled by his pronouncement and EJ was smart enough to recognize the questions all over their faces.

"Papa Charlie, dad, I know mama said you'd be sad when you first met me because you were so sad you left and you'd be sad you missed what you didn't know you missed...right...see...so lets go!" EJ was holding his papa's hand then and reached out with his other. "Now, please!"

Almost intuitively he seemed to pull the men across the hall.

Bella was sitting up and talking with Alice, who had helped her with her hair and a change into a set of her own pajamas. Still pale and a bit wan, she was nevertheless a good bit better looking than the night before. The sight of her son along with two other of the most important men in her life continued to buoy her spirits.

"Sweetheart...dad...Edward"

"Mom, I'm so glad you are awake. Papa Carlisle said the medicine had to work for a couple of days, but I missed you. Look who I found. He's not so sad to meet me after all."

Charlie noticed the puzzled looks on both Bella and Edward's faces. Although he'd almost like the opportunity to ...never mind it would hurt his little girl too much. If Edward stepped out of line he wouldn't hesitate, but for now he knew it had to play out between the two of them.

"Sport, it looks like your mom really could use some ice cream. I think we'd better go find her some."

"Okay...can we get enough for all of us?"

With a nod of his head, EJ was glad to scamper off with the Chief and he nodded to Edward. Realizing he had one chance before he'd leave. Edward closed the door and came to stand next to Bella's bed.

She gave him a long look from head to toe, noting the thinner build and shadows beneath his eyes. Music was supposed to be his joy but now he looked like someone had run over his puppy. She really wanted to be furious with him, but right now he still looked like he needed a hug. Drawing in a deep breath she patted the side of the bed, inviting him to sit. "You look like I think I feel."

"I...I finally got your letters. I've read them."

"Just now?"

"They came recently...I"

"Edward it's been years. I'm sure you were surprised. I'm sorry if it bothered you that I asked for everyone who knew to wait until I could tell you. I wish it could have been sooner." With the knowledge that EJ was out of earshot, she let a little steel creep into her tone. "I've been alright. This isn't now, nor will it be about money. However I will fight you if you think you can come and take him from me."

"Bella I promise I would never.."

"You promise. Your promises have no value to me. You never told me why, and maybe I have lost my right to know for me. As a parent I have to know. Do I need to call my attorney?" Her whispered tone was sharp, harder than Edward had ever heard her speak before. In that moment he realized he had one chance.

"I'm not going to lie to you Bella. It's on me, this mess. I chose to join the band, I chose to drink and then ignore you. It's me."

"I should .."

"No, you were right when you said you needed to set your own things in order. I have people who do that for me...because I was fifty shades of stupid and management liked me that way. I chose to stay that way till I got your letters. I can't ask you to forgive me or forget. I can't do to EJ what ..I ..what happened to me."

"Edward I'm tired. What do you want? Why are you here?"

"I'm here because I have no where else to be. To be. I can't stay away and I can't be here till I'm...Till I'm unstuck on stupid."

"What does that mean?"

"It means I'm going to get help. I haven't promised EJ I would do anything but finish getting better. I won't be here for Thanksgiving. Maybe Christmas?"

"Maybe. We're usually here. EJ thinks Santa can only find him in Forks."

"I know I have no rights, and I have a lot of fences to mend."

"I don't have any idea where to start with you. I used to hope for this day. Now..I.."

"Don't shut me out, please. I have an idea. Let me write to you." He slid over an envelope he'd worked on after his last meeting with Garrett. "I have to get to the airport. I've signed myself in. I've also given instructions to my assistant Tanya. I want her to work for you while I'm gone. Please don't say no. She wants to help."

"I don't know. I'll try Okay. "

"You won't regret it."

"I can't just...You left me. You ignored.."

"I didn't know, but that doesn't matter. I just want a chance to make it right. First I have to get my head on straight. Garrett showed me that. I told him you could ask him anything. I know how careful you have to be. I would be too. Please talk to him."

By this time, he had her hand again and quickly brought it to his cheek. "I want to hold this. I want a change. I want.."

"Edward, you taught me one doesn't get what one wants or needs sometimes." Her eyes were softer, the fire of earlier was now more of a warm glow.

"I wish I hadn't. Please just read what I write. I have no right, but please."

He had to content himself with a nod of her head as a nurse came in and shooed him from the room. Carlisle and Charlie were waiting with EJ in the lobby. Edward promised to write EJ and to finish getting better. He had a goal as he sat with Esme and Tanya on the ride to the airport.

Write Bella and EJ a letter each day...

After the family convinced her, Bella allowed EJ to be transferred to Forks elementary for the rest of the semester. Alice and Rose made arrangements for her apartment and helped bring out what was necessary for her and EJ to remain in town while she finished recuperation. Somehow she managed to accept the gift of Tanya's services and as fall blended into winter, the letters kept coming.

She only spoke briefly with him on Thanksgiving, letting EJ take up most of his allotted time.

It was snowy on the twenty-third of December, when Emmett and Rose arrived with George and Edward. He'd mended that fence as well. With his priorities in a new order, he'd decided to see what happened with his band mates in the new year. It didn't bother him one bit that aside from a note from Aro, he hadn't heard from a single one of them while they were on "hiatus". Getting back into the studio with them was so far down his list, it didn't even make it to a written page.

He was disappointed at first to find Bella and EJ had moved to Charlie's for the holiday. He knew what he wanted to give them for Christmas, and he had to content himself that his family agreed with his plan.

Vowing that he would be able to see his son's next Christmas morning, Edward worked to rejoin all the traditions of his families Christmas. He sat right behind Bella and EJ at the candle light service on Christmas eve. He tried not to crowd them.

His gift, presented at the present exchange after dinner at his parents home, was met with excited squeals by everyone.

Thus, it was again a little child that led them ...all through Disneyland. After studying the map and walking about the park, EJ proclaimed failure at finding his mom's favorite ride. Edward just smiled at his son and promised they'd simply need to cross the plaza to California Adventure.

Sure enough, a giant Ferris wheel, with Mickey's face on the Hub, awaited them. The cars on this model would easily hold an entire family.

Didn't matter. All that mattered was two people, one coaxing the other on to the ride where someone was waiting.

All that mattered was a set of letters...28 letters...and the right woman to read them.

The night sky was clear and every pinpoint of light was visible as a re-peat first kiss stole the breath away from two weary hearts.

It took the right letter, and a new song. Avicii made it famous, but they knew the hearts that wrote and inspired the tale

Feeling my way through the darkness

Guided by a beating heart

I can't tell where the journey will end

But I know where to start.....

FIN

Thanks for all the fun of FAGE and a Big thank you to my inspiration and my partner in Banner fun - Chantel Knight...

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