The Path We Choose

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

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chapter 43


It felt like I was floating…or in that in between state where you were sort of awake, but still kind of asleep.

I heard a beeping sound and then the sound of a pump of some sort off to the side. My eyelids felt so heavy, like they were made of lead. My throat was raw and it burned. When I tried to swallow a few times, it hurt so badly. As I became more and more aware of the sounds around me, I tried to open my mouth. Jesus, my tongue felt like sandpaper and when I tentatively flicked my tongue out to touch my lips, the cracked skin burned where my tongue landed.

My left side ached, like there was something pressing down on it that wouldn't budge. I breathed in and out through my nose a few times and though it was painful, it lessened bit by bit with each breath I took. I was finally able to pry my eyes open and it took a moment for them to focus.

I felt something heavy across my abdomen, though I could tell it was on top of me. The fog in my brain finally cleared just enough for me to recognize the sights and smells around me and I could tell I was in a hospital room.




Distorted images flashed through my muddled mind and I had trouble concentrating on any one long enough to make much sense of anything. I got the sense that something had happened; I just didn't remember what it was.

I moved my right hand gingerly and winced when what was apparently an IV pulled and shifted in my skin. I decided to try to move the left one and it took me a few bewildered seconds to realize that someone hung on to my hand.

I slowly lifted my right hand so that I didn't hurt myself again. I reached across my stomach and touched the hair of the person laying on me. One touch and I knew immediately it was Edward and my heart filled almost painfully. I had to blink a few times to keep the tears from falling down the side of my face.

"Bella, please come back to me," he whispered in an anguished voice.

I stretched and reached across my stomach. I ghosted my fingertips down his cheek, the tingles that I had come to crave over the past six months flared the instant my skin touched his.

"I'm here, Edward," I rasped out, my throat dry and scratchy but I knew he'd been waiting for me.

"Bella, oh Bella! Baby, oh God, I love you," he cried, tears immediately falling down his face.

"I love you, too," I whispered hoarsely.

"I missed you," he said softly and picked up my left had where I noticed a very large piece of jewelry.

One that had definitely not been there before.

I had so many questions and I had such a hard time focusing on any one thing. I remembered pieces of conversations. I remembered hearing Edward's voice, the kids' voices though it seemed like they were far away and I couldn't answer them for some reason. I remembered sharp pains and then nothingness.

"Edward," I choked out, my throat was so sore and dry. It felt like it was on fire.

"Just hang on angel, okay? Let me tell them you're awake," he said and swallowed a few times.

"Can you tell Dr. Owens that Bella is awake please?" Edward said after he pressed the call button. His smile was so big it practically lit up the entire room.

"Of course, Dr. Cullen," came the somewhat shocked but pleased sounding voice from the nurses' station.

Edward quickly looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. "It's been a really long week, baby."

"A week?" I rasped out, the sound somewhere between a squeak and a wheeze.

I started to cough painfully and Edward was immediately at my side. "Easy, Bella," he said soothingly as he rubbed my arm up and down.

I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to take a few burning but much needed breaths to calm down.

What the hell? A fucking week? No wonder Edward looked like a dead man walking. The poor guy looked positively wiped out.

"Edward what…I don't understand…how?" I asked, a bit frightened at what was going on, about what that meant.

He bent down and brushed his lips across mine lightly but oh so tenderly and whispered, "Shh, angel. There is time for all of that later. I'm just so fucking glad you're awake," he said, his voice so rough and his green eyes full of so much that I couldn't even begin to decipher what it all meant.

I had so many thoughts racing through my mind. What the hell happened? Where were the kids? What happened to Jane? How was the rest of the family? Was Edward okay?

"Well, well, look who's awake!" A friendly, young female nurse said cheerily as she entered the room.

I smiled weakly at her, my mind still a muddled mess as I tried to catch up to what was going on around me.

"It's okay, baby," Edward said gently. "I know it's a lot to take in, I'm here," he said.

I nodded my head at him as the tears leaked out of the corners of my eyes.

"I've missed those beautiful brown eyes so fucking much, you have no idea," Edward murmured softly as he swept his thumbs across my cheeks.

My heart continued to race and I knew my hand was shaking, even though Edward had yet to let go of it at all.

The activity in the room increased by the second as more and more people filed in. Someone had turned the overhead lights on and the room was almost blindingly bright. Machines were brought in and the whole thing was beginning to overwhelm me.

"Edward," I whispered, as he wrapped an arm tightly around me.

He bent his head close to my ear and nuzzled me there for a moment before he whispered, "Bella, I know sweetheart, but you've been unconscious for over a week now."

"Maddie and Masen!" I exclaimed wondering how my poor babies had handled all of this, if they even knew what happened.

Edward inhaled sharply but he turned my face to look at him. "They are safe, Bella, and they're here. Uncle Marcus and Demetri brought them right away. They've been in to see you a number of times. They've been scared baby, and they've missed you. They'll be so excited to see you," he said as his voice hitched.

"We weren't sure we ever would again, Bella," Edward breathed out and he closed his eyes and ran a hand through his hair.

I was finally able to concentrate a bit and for the first time took in his appearance. He hadn't shaved in days was the first thing I noticed followed by the hair on top of his head that was pulled in every possible direction. The green eyes that I loved to look at every morning weren't their usual emerald color, instead they were almost black. From lack of sleep and from worrying if I was to guess. His clothes were wrinkled and his skin was an unhealthy chalky color. He looked like he hadn't slept or eaten in a week.

I suddenly had so many things I wanted to say but all the activity in the room overwhelmed me and I couldn't. I tried to keep calm and I reminded myself that even though I didn't know what had gone on while I was unconscious for seven days, I was awake now and that was all that mattered…that and making sure Edward was alright.


"Bella," Dr. Owens said as he looked from me to Edward. "From all initial appearances, I don't see that there will be any lasting effects from the head injury or the coma," he stated as gave us the results from the CAT scan. "You are liable to be sensitive to light for the next few days as well as have moderate to severe headache pain. All of that is normal as your body adjusts to being awake," he said with a smile to both of us. "Now that your results are back and things look good, we'll be moving you to a private room shortly as soon as it's ready."

"How much longer will I need to be in here?" I asked, already ready to go home even though I knew I was nowhere near ready to leave the hospital based on just the last few hours.

"You are an impatient little thing, aren't you?" he teased with a wink and Edward snorted, making his opinion known. "Bella, I'm not sure you are aware just yet of all the trauma your body has been through in the last week," Dr. Owens said, his voice having turned serious.

Edward hissed beside me and I could feel the tension rolling off him in waves and apparently Dr. Owens could too because he said, "How about we talk about that after we get you moved?"

Edward relaxed against me and I had to admit I was relieved, too. I was tired, weak, hungry, and even more than that, I wanted to be alone with Edward and make sure he was truly okay. My brain slowly started to catch up with everything going on around me and I knew if the situation had been reversed and Edward was the one that had been in a coma for a week with no apparent end in sight, I would be ready for a room with padded walls.

Dr. Owens reached over and patted my leg and said sincerely, "It's so nice to finally meet you my dear. I'll be around to check on you in the morning." He then patted Edward on the back before striding out the door.

The air in the room got decidedly…tense with Dr. Owens' departure. I leaned back against the pillows and closed my eyes. I had them that way for who knew how long before I felt the bed begin to shake. I opened my eyes and Edward was in the same position he was when I woke up and just like before it brought tears to my eyes.

"Sweetheart?" I questioned softly as I ran my fingers through his hair. He shook his head at me and I watched his throat constrict as he swallowed many times in succession. "I can't, Bella…I'm just so happy you're back with me," he said, his voice heavy and weary.

I was fading fast; I could feel sleep pulling at me but I shook my head and tried to fight against it. Edward needed me; I could tell the week had taken quite the toll on him.

I continued to run my fingers through his hair, neither of us said a word, but really…none were needed. I blinked when the light bounced off the ring on my left hand and bits and pieces of a conversation flitted in my mind. I thought I'd been dreaming and I distinctly remember the rush of feeling I'd felt hearing Edward's words.

…tired of waiting for the right time

…I dreamed of you

…where one goes the other will walk side by side

…say you'll be mine for the rest of all time

What I remembered most of all was the way my heart exploded when I felt the warm metal slide down my finger.

"You asked me to marry you," I breathed out in an awed voice.


Edward asked me to marry him!

My heart sang as I remembered everything he'd said.

"You heard me," Edward said, not in question but in a statement of fact and I nodded my head.

"Every word," I whispered, my heart so full for the man in front of me…the man that I was going to marry and be able to call mine for the rest of forever.

It was in that instant that I knew he brought me back. It was his love for me, his need for me that pulled me out of the darkness. I had gotten so tired, tired of being alone in the dark and tired of fighting. I remembered wanting to just stay asleep but it was Edward's voice; it was his words that pierced the dark and let in the light.

I couldn't leave him. I couldn't leave Maddie and Masen. I never wanted to spend another day without any of them and now, I didn't have to. Now, we could become the family I always wanted.

I swallowed a few times so that I could answer the question I had been waiting to be asked for what seemed like forever, but before I could we were interrupted by numerous people. Nurses came in and disconnected me from machines. Edward had to grab our things to take to my new room. An orderly came in with a different bed and after I was moved from one to the other, we were on our way through the hospital.

As we bumped and rolled along, all I could think about was how much I wanted to give Edward my answer.


I finally got settled in my room, a much nicer room than most were afforded I was sure, but I was so damn tired I couldn't find it in me to care too much.

A nurse breezed into the room, carrying a cup with two small pills and handed them to me. "Ms. Swan, my name is Kelly and I'll be your nurse for the night. Here are your meds," she said.

I hesitated for a second knowing that once I took the pills, I would be out and I felt gross and nasty. I wanted to, at the very least, brush my teeth.

"Can I clean up and change my clothes?" I asked, somewhat pitifully I would admit.

She nodded her head and moved to come help me when Edward stopped her. "I can do it," he said softly.

The nurse looked like she wanted to say something but one look at the furrow between his eyebrows and the frown on his face and her expression softened. "Of course you can, Dr. Cullen. I'll be at the desk if you need me. Just make sure she takes her meds," Kelly continued as she set the cup on the table beside the bed. "Dr. Owens has cleared her for clear liquids in the morning so breakfast will be brought in around seven," she said before she left, leaving just Edward and I.

I was so tired. I felt weak and I wanted nothing more than to go to sleep but the sour, stale taste in my mouth reminded me of what I wanted even more than sleep. Edward and I slowly and methodically made our way into the small bathroom. My legs were like rubber after being in a bed for seven days and I swayed with almost every step. Of course Edward had an arm wrapped tightly around me, being extra careful of the bandages and such on my left side, not to mention my still very tender ribs. At the same time, he was hyper aware of the IV and the pain drip attached to my right hand.

"You okay, baby?" he whispered after I swayed again and I nodded after I took a deep breath.

I wasn't really okay. I childishly wished that somehow the sink and my toothbrush would magically come to me instead of having to make the slow, arduous trek of a mere fifteen steps to the bathroom.

For some reason I noticed for the first time that I had socks on my feet. Soft, fuzzy socks…the kind I liked to wear around the house and wore when I wanted to snuggle with Edward on the couch while we watched TV or a movie.

I gasped softly as I thought about Edward getting them for me and the gesture brought tears to my eyes.

"Bella?" Edward asked worriedly when I stopped moving and I looked at him, amazed once again at the strength of my future husband. "You got me my favorite socks," I mumbled, still so incredibly touched.

At my statement Edward's eyes smoldered with so much emotion, he positively vibrated with it all. 'Our' electric current flared to life and bounced all around us, enveloping the two of us in its comforting cocoon.

"I know you hate for your feet to get cold so I wanted to make sure they weren't," he said simply, but there was nothing simple about the words or the man who'd just spoken them.

"I love you," I breathed out as my body came alive with the need to touch him, to kiss him.

"Always and forever, baby," Edward said with a smile as we finally reached the bathroom.

Edward reached in and turned on the extremely bright light and we shuffled so I stood in front of the mirror. When I finally looked up I cried out in shock and horror at what I saw.

"Bella, baby! Oh God, what's wrong? What hurts?" Edward questioned frantically as his hands flew over my body as he tried to decipher what caused my reaction.

My eyes filled with tears as I continued to stare at my grotesque reflection in the mirror. My eyes had huge dark circles underneath them, my cheekbones were sunken in my face, my lips were red and chapped while my face was an unnatural ashen color. To top it off…I had a huge chunk of hair missing out of my head.

I looked horrific.

With trembling fingers I reached up and touched the bandage and the bald spot beneath on my head and heard Edward groan. "Oh, Bella. Angel, I'm so sorry. I should have warned you," he said softly as he stood beside me and wrapped an arm around my waist.

I hung my head but almost immediately I felt Edward's strong fingers lift my chin until I was forced to look at both of us in the mirror. He bent his head down so he could kiss my cheek and then he spoke softly in my ear, all the while keeping his eyes trained ahead so he could talk to me in the mirror. "You're beautiful, Isabella Marie almost Cullen. From the top of your partially bald head down to your fuzzy sock covered feet. Hair grows back, bruises fade, injuries heal, and chapped lips just mean coconut flavored Chap Stick I get to have fun kissing away. Bella, I thought I'd lost you. This," he said as he reverently touched the bandage on my head, "just served as a reminder that you were still here and still fighting your way back. This," he whispered through his tears, "is beautiful and not something ugly or to be ashamed of my Bella."

His words highlighted the struggle he'd been through over the past week. His voice as well as his hands shook with everything that quickly began to drown him. I turned, almost too fast, and kissed his extremely stubbled jaw and stepped up to the sink so I could brush my teeth. The crisp, minty taste was so very welcome, almost as much as the cool water I used to swish in my mouth before I spit it out. I grabbed a washcloth and used it to wash my face. Feeling a thousand times better, I haltingly turned back to Edward and reached my hand out to his and pulled him forward.

"I'm here because of you, Edward. You, Maddie, and Masen were the last thought I had before going in the operating room. It's kind of fuzzy and hazy, but I remember feeling your presence, hearing your voice while I was in the coma. You, my future husband, saved me and I love you more than there are enough words in the English language, hell any language ever, to describe what I feel for you. You, Edward Anthony Cullen, brought me back," I finished.

Both of us had tears streaming down our faces and I fell forward, a bit painfully, into his arms. Trying to be somewhat careful of the chest wound, my aching ribs, and the various tubes and needles, I pressed my body fully against his. I heard his breath exhale in a stuttering rush of air and his arms wrapped fully around me.

"Oh fuck, Bella. Seven days I've waited to do that," he hissed out, almost as if he was in pain. "Don't ever leave me for that long again, do you hear me?" Edward begged and then our mouths were fused together in a scorching, soul touching kiss.

Every fear, every ounce of pain, and every helpless feeling he'd had over the past seven days he poured into that kiss and I greedily took every last fucking bit of it.

Happily, I melted even more in his arms and felt our bodies come alive with need.

"Bella, damn baby," Edward panted against my neck when we had to separate so we could breathe. "I've needed that, so fucking much," he sighed. His body actually twitched beside me and I smiled at him.

"Come on sweetheart. Let's crawl into bed and you can hold me," I giggled when he nodded his head enthusiastically at me.

We shuffled and scooted back to the bed and Edward helped me change my hospital gown. Dr. Owens told me if I had a good night, he would take out the catheter in the morning and I couldn't freaking wait for that!

"Here, baby," Edward said softly as he sat me on the edge of the bed carefully.

He quickly walked and shut off the overhead light and the room immediately felt quieter and more calming.

Edward walked into the bathroom again and returned carrying a brush. I started to tell him I was too tired to care about what my hair looked like when I felt him crawl on the bed after he kicked his shoes off.

"Let me brush your hair for you, sweet girl," he said tenderly as he helped me scoot back against him.

The brush felt heavenly as it moved through my hair. I could tell he was trying to avoid the place covered with the bandage. The feel of the brush was soothing, and that coupled with his humming softly in my ear had me almost falling asleep within minutes.

"Angel?" Edward whispered in my ear. His voice was so deep and rough, but there was a hint of a smile there, too.

"Hmmm?" I answered as I leaned my head back against his chest. I was so relaxed, for the first time since I'd woken up, and I relished in the feel of his hard, muscular chest against my back.

He maneuvered himself on the small bed so that his legs were on either side of me. He bent his head down and nuzzled my neck for a second before I felt his tongue flick my earlobe. I groaned in the back of my throat at that and felt his chest rumble against my back when he chuckled.

Edward moved his lips to where his nose was and placed a few wet, open mouthed kisses on the skin before he whispered, "You know you have yet to answer my question, Isabella Marie. Here I thought you would be jumping up and down for joy or something at the prospect of spending the rest of our lives together. Maybe I need to ask you to marry me again?" he teased and I turned my head to look at him.

Sure he reminded me I hadn't actually said yes in a teasing manner but there was a hint of doubt and desperation lying just beneath the surface and that was just …wrong.

Really fucking wrong.

"Hmmm," I teased him as I tapped my finger against my chin as I pretended to think over my answer.

As if!

If it was possible, I'd be running down the hallway yelling 'Yes!' at the top of my lungs…hospital or no hospital.

"Bella!" Edward admonished but he looked so expectant and so worried I couldn't make him wait another second.

"Yes, Edward!" I said with a bit of a squeal, although I worked hard to keep my voice from quivering at the same time as the thought of spending my life with the man in front of me flowed down around us. "A thousand times yes," I giggled as he wrapped his arms around me.

"Thank fucking God," Edward sighed dramatically.

It may not have been the most conventional of proposals, but it didn't matter. It was perfect for us and just the fact that I now had a ring on my finger and he had a yes was all that we needed.

Before we said anything else, Edward passed me my medicine and then helped me get comfortable in the way too small bed, but honestly, neither of us gave a damn. Edward reached back to turn off the light and the room was silent except for the soft whir of the machines and our breathing.

I was lying on my right side and Edward faced me. The moonlight streamed into the room and his face was awash in shadows. The bruises beneath his eyes from the stresses of the last week, hell the last few months were more pronounced in the pale light. He was hauntingly beautiful, but he was so vulnerable at the same time. My heart was so full of love and thanks for the man across from me. He was truly the reason I was here, no matter that I got hurt trying to protect him. He saved me. It was his strength and his faith that pulled me back from the brink of never ending darkness…I believed that with all my heart and soul.

I didn't see the light or have any dreams of Charlie telling me to go back or anything like that, but I do remember feeling his presence surrounding me, constantly. I remembered feeling my hand engulfed safely in his, remembered hearing his voice, even though it sounded like it was from far away, as he reminded me over and over again how much he loved me and needed me. I loved Seth, Jasper, and Rose…I loved the rest of our family equally as much, but what I felt for Edward, Maddie, and Masen went so far above that I didn't think it could ever be measured. I knew for a fact it could never be described adequately…there just weren't enough words, enough superlatives to even come close to what I felt for the three of them.

And now, we were here, together and about to have our fairytale.

"My Superman," I said, barely above a whisper as I reached a hand out and ran my fingers across his face.

He scoffed and then squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. "Some fucking Superman," he snarled derisively. "I should have protected you better, Bella. I never should have let Jane get that close to you. It should have been me that saved you, not the other way around," he said.

"Edward, no! Please don't say that," I cried, horrified that he would think he'd failed me somehow. "Edward, I never would have been able to survive it if anything had happened to you. I wouldn't have," I stated with certainty. "Please don't ever feel guilty about what happened, I can't bear to think that you feel you failed me somehow. I love you baby, please don't be angry with yourself. You are the reason I'm here now, Edward," I cried out, sobbing for the pain he'd gone through.

"Shhh, Bella," Edward comforted me as I pressed my face into his chest. "It's okay, sweet girl. Let's not think about any of that right now. We're engaged, we need to concentrate on that…and the fact that the family is going to kill me for doing this without telling them. Em's the only one who could have had an idea and for once in his damn life it seems like he managed to keep a fucking secret," Edward chuckled. At the mention of Emmett's name, I wanted to see him and the rest of the family so much.

I missed them all. Seven days must have seemed like forever to everyone, not just Edward.

"I'm sorry it took me so long to wake up, Edward," I told him. I couldn't stop touching him and from the way his face relaxed against my fingers, I didn't think he minded.

He shook his head after a few moments and reached up to grab my hand. He pulled it to his mouth and ran his lips back and forth over my ring before he whispered, "I'm sorry it took me so long to put this on your finger. I had been waiting, foolishly, for the right time to ask you. I just got tired of waiting, Bella."

"The family is going to be so pissed you didn't call them right away," I whispered right before I fell asleep.

"Maybe, but I needed to be with you without them vying for your attention, Bella. I told you, I don't like to share and you're mine. Besides I waited for a week to lay in bed with you. They can kiss my ass if they don't like it," he said with a smile.

"Can Maddie and Masen come right away in the morning?" I asked. I knew today was Thursday but I didn't know if he'd sent the kids to school in the middle of all this or not.

He nodded his head. "I sent Pop a text while they were moving you to let him know that you'd woken up and that we needed a little time to get you settled before they all descended. I imagine the second they are able to, they'll be here…kids included. Everyone missed you so much, baby, and everyone has been so worried," he said gently.

"I can't wait to see them all. Are Maddie and Masen okay? I know you said they'd been to see me…did they handle it okay?" I asked through a yawn.

"Bella, honey, you're their mommy and you were hurt…how do you think they handled that? I tried to be as honest as I could with them without scaring them but it was hard, Bella. I'm not going to lie, Masen took it the worst I think, but it's hard to say. Our daughter just internalizes more, Masen is too much like me to keep anything inside," he said with a chuckle.

I yawned again, and Edward leaned forward and kissed my forehead as the medicine began to pull me under. "Sleep, baby. You'll see everyone when you wake up. Thank you for coming back to me and for saying yes, Bella. You've made happier than anyone has a right to be," he whispered.

"I came back for you, Edward, you and the kids. I love you," I mumbled as sleep took over and I smiled to myself. The last thought I'd had before I succumbed was that soon, I was going to be Isabella Marie Cullen…and I couldn't fucking wait!


Friday Morning~

I felt warm fingertips and soft lips against my cheek very early the next morning as I woke up. "It's going to take me awhile to not be afraid you won't wake up," Edward told me when I opened my eyes.

"Baby," I sighed. Time…it was just going to take some time for us all to get over everything. I didn't want to dwell so I teased. "You think I'm missing out on you telling your sister and Tanya that we got engaged without you telling them first? No way buster," I giggled when his eyes got big and then he huffed.

"Shit, they're gonna kill me, Mama too!" he exclaimed.

I nodded my head. "Yep, no doubt about it. Oohh, don't forget Uncle Marcus, baby." I laughed as he looked even more scared.

"Hey, why am I the only one that's going to get in trouble here? You said yes, Bella. You didn't tell anyone either," he needled and I shook my head at him.

"Edward, do you forget who has been the one unconscious for seven days? I think I get a pass on this one sweetheart, sorry," I laughed when he rolled over and almost fell out of the bed.

"Yeah, yeah, play the sympathy card why don't you?" he grumbled.

I laughed and then moved to get up. My legs were still really weak and still felt more like rubber than bones and muscle but like everything else, time would make it better.

"Everyone is coming?" I asked, wanting to know how long I had before things turned to chaos. My head ached, thankfully it wasn't too bad but I was starving.

He nodded his head and got off the bed coming to help me stand up. "I think Mad and Mase should come in first, without everyone around. They will need some time to adjust and it will be easier if there isn't an audience present, don't you think?" he asked.

"I think so, too," I said softly. I ached to see them but I was scared, too and of course the instant my arms tensed Edward wanted to know what was the matter.

"Baby?" he questioned immediately. I looked up at him, and felt a bit foolish for what I was nervous about.

"I'm scared to see everyone, Edward," I admitted.

"Why?" he questioned and moved so he stood in front of me.

I took a deep breath; damn it hurt like a bitch, and then let it out slowly as I tried to get my thoughts in order. "I'm tired of everyone being so concerned about me. I'm tired of being the reason everyone has had to have their lives in an uproar. I'm just ready for peace and quiet and normalcy."

Edward groaned and then wrapped his arms around me, resting his chin on my head. "Bella, I'm not going to tell you not to worry about any of that, because I'd just be wasting my breath. You're kind of stubborn that way," he said with a chuckle and then squeezed me tighter. "One of these days you'll realize that no one has given up anything for you that they didn't want to. No one regrets anything that has happened, except you getting hurt of course. Angel," he smiled at me as he lifted my chin to look at him, "this is what it means to be part of a family, so get used to it. This time, it was you that needed our help, next time it might be Ali, Em, or Seth. It all means the same thing baby. Families stick together and as an almost Cullen you just need to accept it and move on." He then kissed me soundly on the lips.

"Okay," I murmured, knowing he was right. If any of the others ever needed my help, there would be no question of giving it.

I brushed my teeth again and washed my face, and it felt even better than it did last night. I could tell I was beginning to feel more like myself again and I was so happy about that.

"Damn, I want to take a shower and wash my hair," I whined to Edward as he sat on the commode keeping a careful watch over me.

"I think you should be able to by tonight, Bella," he said and I grinned. "Thank God! Does that mean this," I winced as I pointed to the catheter, "comes out too?" I asked, hoping he said yes.

"Yep, I would imagine so," he said as he stood up and we went back into the room to wait for breakfast and the family.

After a breakfast of apple juice, broth, and green jell-o all of which would be positively horrid on any other day but tasted as good as anything I'd ever had, there was a timid knock on the door.

Edward had helped me to sit up in the bed and with my hair and teeth brushed and some food in my stomach, even I had to admit I looked and felt a hundred times better than I had last night. I hoped it would help Maddie and Masen realize I was going to be okay.

"Deep breath, baby," Edward whispered as he stood up. "It's going to be just fine," he assured me and then walked to the door.

My heart started to pound in my chest and my hands shook. I couldn't really understand why I was so nervous, and I suppose it wasn't really nervousness I felt anyway. It was more like a desperate need to see them and assure myself they were okay.

The second my ears heard their excited voices I got tears in my eyes but I took a deep breath to keep from falling apart. Tear time was over; it was time to be happy and stop dwelling on what had happened and concentrate on moving forward.

I waited for them to walk all the way in and when they did, my heart exploded in happiness.

"Mommy!" they each exclaimed when our eyes met. I looked back and forth from one to the other. It had been almost a month since I'd last seen them and though it really wasn't that long, it felt like forever.

"Well, don't just stand there," I giggled as they each stood frozen in place. I held my arms open, "Come give me a hug and a kiss!"

They shrugged off their backpacks then raced forward. I tried to bend over to hug them, but that didn't really work too well and I winced just a bit.

"Bella, wait!" Edward exclaimed and hurried to the side of the bed. He scooted the chair forward and said, "Mase, climb up here buddy." He picked Maddie up and set her on the edge of the bed. "And princess you sit here, that way Mommy doesn't have to bend over so much."

"Mommy, you're awake!" Masen exclaimed and I nodded my head.

"I am. You look so good, both of you!" I said as I kissed them each on the cheek.

"So you're all better now?" Maddie asked, squeezing my hand in hers as tight as her little hands could manage.

I nodded my head and said, "I am. I feel so much better. My head still hurts a little bit and so does my chest, but I'm going to be just fine."

"I was so scared," Masen said quietly as he tried to climb up on my lap. Edward tried to keep him back, but there was no way that was going to work so I shook my head at him. I scooted back and motioned for them each to come on the bed with me.

"I know you were, Masen, Maddie you, too. But things are okay now. I'm all better and we don't have to worry about anyone trying to hurt any of us anymore, I promise. I'm sorry we all had to go through all that, but we don't have to worry anymore," I told them as I squeezed them to me.

"I love you both, so very much," I told them softly and kissed them both on the top of the head.

We sat quietly for a few minutes. I think the kids were just trying to reassure themselves that I was okay and I was just enjoying feeling them beside me. I knew the rest were waiting outside, but the kids came first.

After a few minutes Masen suddenly picked his head up and looked from me to Edward and then to his sister. He smiled so big and reached out for my left hand. "Daddy, are you and Mommy going to get married now?"

Edward laughed and shook his head. Masen missed…nothing, ever. I had to admit, I was a little anxious at what the two of them thought about it all anyway.

"Yeah, little man, we are. That okay with you two?" he asked with a grin and Maddie squealed adorably beside me and bounced up in down, shaking her curls back and forth.

Masen looked back and forth between me and Edward and then said, "It's about time, Daddy! What have you been waiting for?"

Edward stood up from the chair and walked to the bed and ruffled Masen's hair. "That, my son, is a really good question. Good thing Mommy said yes, isn't it?" he teased.

"You ready for everyone else?" Edward asked and I nodded my head.

"Wait!" Masen yelled, halting Edward. "I wanna tell everyone, can I? Please?" Edward grinned and looked at me. I laughed and said, "You and Maddie can both tell everyone."

"Goody! Nana is gonna cry isn't she?" Maddie asked her dad as she climbed off the bed. "Yep, I would assume so babygirl. Nana cries at everything! But, who wants to bet me Uncle Emmett cries too?" Edward teased, his green eyes danced with amusement as he smirked at me.

"I'm not taking that bet, Edward. Em cries all the time," I joked.

Well, not only did Emmett cry, but every last damn one of them as well. The second Jasper, Rose, and Seth saw me sitting up in bed, the three of them rushed to my side and enveloped me in a group hug that I wasn't sure would ever stop…well until Emmett ,Alice, and Tanya squeezed in, too.

Hugging Demetri and Heidi, I couldn't help but become overwhelmed with what they did for Edward and me when they took the kids to the lake to keep them safe. "Thank you," I whispered hoarsely to them both, barely able to form words.

Esme cried as she held my face in her hands. "Don't you ever do that to me again, Bella, do you hear me? This family can't survive without you," she whispered the last part and kissed my cheek.

"My dear, you are such a sight for sore eyes," Carlisle said as he kissed the top of my head. His eyes and the way he held my hand said more than words ever could.

"Okay, everyone, let me through," Uncle Marcus bellowed as he gently pushed Carlisle out of the way. "Little one, you look a hell of a lot better than you did the last time I saw you," he said with a wink, though the tears that leaked out and fell down his cheek let me know in no uncertain terms how much he loved me.

"Gee, thanks," I replied back and giggled at him when he flashed me a trademark Cullen smile.

I looked around the room, that was way too crowded and noticed Seth was missing. "Where did Seth go?" I asked wondering why he would leave already.

"I'm here, Shortcake," I heard, though I couldn't see him yet. When everyone stepped aside, my hand covered my mouth and tears sprang from my eyes when I saw who stood next to him.

"Sue," I breathed out and held my arms out so I could give her a hug.

"It was supposed to be a surprise for your birthday, baby," Edward whispered in my ear and I nodded my head while I clung to the woman who I loved like a mother.

"Isabella Marie, I've been waiting for seven days to see your beautiful eyes. Shame on you for keeping me waiting, you know how much I hate to travel," she teased and squeezed my hand. "I'm so glad you're alright, Bell, we've been so worried," Sue said as she kissed my cheek.

"Sorry," I mumbled and she bent her head and whispered in my ear. "I'm so happy for you, Bella. Edward is such a good man, Charlie would have loved him," she said and I nodded my head.

"Yes, he would have," I replied back, looking at Edward who watched us with a tender look on his face.

"Okay everybody listen! Mad and I have to tell you somethin," Masen yelled and Edward moved to stand next to the bed and held my left hand in his. I couldn't believe that no one had noticed my ring yet, but I suppose they were a bit more focused on the fact I was awake to pay attention.

They had climbed in the chair and stood on it and everyone turned to face them. Sue held my right hand in hers and when she noticed Edward rub my ring on my left hand she sucked in a sharp breath. I looked up at her and she had tears in her eyes and she squeezed my hand and nodded at me.

"Well, go on munchkin," Seth prodded and Masen giggled at him. "Daddy and Mommy are getting married!" he yelled and then clapped.


The room when absolutely silent…for about thirty seconds before it exploded in screams and cries.

"Holy shit!" Rose exclaimed and then the hugs and the tears started again.

Yes…Emmett cried again too. "What?" he asked when everyone stared at him. "I've known longer than all of you so kiss my ass," he huffed and then ducked when Rose tried to hit him. "He had me bring the ring," he said with a shrug of his shoulders. "I didn't know he was gonna do it already though," Emmett finished as he stared at his brother.

"Okay everyone," Dr. Owens laughed and looked incredulously at the overcrowded room. "If you don't hold it down, Bella's going to go back into a coma just for some peace and quiet!"

"How about you all give me a minute with my patient and then you can take turns visiting. She still needs her rest, so not too long at any one time," he instructed everyone and they all filed out, leaving just Edward, Maddie, and Masen with me.

"Well, hello you two," Dr. Owens said as he looked at Maddie and Masen. "I'm Dr. Owens."

"Are you the one that made Mommy better?" Masen asked and he nodded as he looked over my chart.

"I am, but your Mommy is one strong lady. She did just as much work as I did," he said with a wink.

"Wow!" Maddie said in an awestruck voice.

"Mmmhmm," Dr. Owens said and then looked at both of them. "You two need to help your Daddy take good care of your Mommy. She needs lots of rest for a little bit longer so make sure she takes it easy, okay? If you help me do that, you'd be doing me a big favor."

Maddie and Masen both nodded enthusiastically and I knew I was in for it now. Between them and Edward, I'd be lucky if I did anything more than pee by myself for the next few weeks.

"Enjoy it baby," Edward smirked at me and I nodded my head at him.

I sure as hell would.


Saturday Afternoon~

"Bella," Jasper exaggeratedly sighed as I laid my cards down with a grin and giggle.

"You suck ass at gin, J," I laughed at him and he shook his head at me.

"Whatever, Shortcake," he said as he rolled his eyes at me. Rose snorted in the corner as she flipped through the pages of the magazine on her lap.

"Brother, you can count the number of times you've beaten Bell at cards on less than two hands and we've been playing since we were five damn years old," Rose teased Jasper who crossed his arms in aggravation at her smug tone…even though it was a true statement.

Jasper determinedly reached for the cards again and began to shuffle so we could play and he could lose…again. "You'd think, Bella," Jasper said with a grin, "that getting knocked unconscious for seven days would have made you a little slow or something. I really hoped I would be able to take you." He smirked as he nudged my leg.

"Jasper!" Rose shrieked at her brother but I laughed out loud when he winked at me and shrugged his shoulders.

"What?" he asked, feigning innocence, and horribly I might add. "I really just want to win, just once, Rose."

"You're an idiot," she said as she laughed at his dismissal of her anger.

Emmett had finally been able to, with my help of course, convince Edward to go to Carlisle and Esme's to sleep in a real bed, take a decent shower, and eat a home cooked meal with his parents and Maddie and Masen. It was next to impossible to get him to leave but he needed to. The kids missed him, tremendously, and they needed him as much as I did. Not only that, the time away from the hospital would do him a world of good. He'd lived here for over a week, with no break whatsoever, and he needed a change of scenery. I missed him. I missed him the second the door shut behind him, but he needed to go.

Besides, if I was being honest, after the flurry of activity that began the moment the family knew I was awake, the quiet time with Jasper and Rose was welcome as well. Edward and I had been practically inseparable for the past month and I missed my best friends…my family.

Jasper and I finished the hand and I won again as per usual. After I laid my cards down, I looked from Jasper to Rose, finally ready to talk about what had been going on while I had been in the coma.

"Jasper, how bad was it?" I asked quietly, taking him completely by surprise I knew but I couldn't help it.

"Oh, Bella," he said sadly and scooted his chair closer to the bed so he could hold my hand.

Rose got up from her chair and came and sat on the other side and held my other hand.

"We've never lied to each other, Bell, so there is no way in hell I'm going to start now," he began as he looked me in the eye. "It was bad, Shortcake, really bad. Not only did we come precariously close to losing you forever, when the doctor told us you'd slipped into a coma and that there was the possibility of brain damage, well, I'm sure you can imagine how devastated we all were to hear that."

I nodded as I tried to hold back the tears while I processed what he'd just told me. I could only imagine Edward's reaction at the words, Carlisle's too. Being doctors afforded them both more intimate knowledge of my condition and the ramifications of my injuries so I was sure they reacted more strongly than the rest of the family.

"And Edward?" I questioned, needing to know but not really wanting to know at the same time. The thought of him in pain, scared while he wondered if I would recover, was enough to take my breath away.

Jasper and Rose both stilled and shared a look which, since I knew them so damn well, told me all I needed but I pressed anyway.

"Tell me," I partially demanded and partially begged.

"Bella, you are that man's entire life. He was almost inconsolable as you can well imagine. To be honest, after Dr. Owens spoke to us after the surgery while you were in recovery, Edward left to be by himself. He went to the chapel," Jasper said quietly. "I don't know how he was there, Bella," he finished then looked at Rose.

"Rose?" I asked and she sighed, closing her eyes briefly before she opened them and gazed at me.

"Bell, Em and I followed him to the chapel. Carlisle didn't want him to be alone; even though Edward had told us he wanted to be. By the time Emmett and I made it to the chapel, Edward was already inside," she said. She turned her head and took a deep breath before she faced me again. "I've never heard anything like it in my life, Bella. The man was absolutely shattered," Rose said tentatively.

"My poor Superman," I sobbed, unable to take knowing what he had had to go through.

I asked and I didn't really expect a much different explanation than the one she'd just given me, but to hear it verbalized, to picture it in my mind and to know that Rose and Emmett witnessed it just made it that much worse.

Rose squeezed my hand and waited until I looked up at her. "He is the strongest man I've ever known, Bella. I talked with him a lot. I even told him the story about jackass one," she winked and pointed at Jasper, "and jackass two when they got all pissy about the fact that you kicked their asses in Kick The Can; followed by your spraining your ankle when you fell out of that damn tree trying to beat them because they dared you. Edward was rather impressed with the fact you played on that ankle the next day and made sure not to let those two fools know you'd hurt yourself the day before."

We both laughed at Jasper's choking as he tried to talk. "Jesus, Shortcake! You played that game with a sprained ankle?" he asked incredulously and Rose nodded her head, looking every bit as proud now as she did more than ten years ago after the actual game.

"Damn straight she did, brother. She was stronger than any of us back then and she still is. With Edward's help, there was no question she'd make it back," Rose said, her voice shook as she talked. "I just reminded him of that, Bella. Reminded him that you had too much to live for to give up and he needed to help you because together there wasn't anything you two couldn't overcome."

I shook on the bed as I cried. I was so grateful, obviously, that I was here but heartbroken at what Edward had gone through in the meantime. Even as I realized that, I faced the truth that if the situation would have been reversed, I never would have been as strong as he had been. I was here, well on my way to a full recovery and engaged to the man of my dreams. Honestly, every ounce of pain, heartache, and anguish was worth it since it brought us to this place.

"I just couldn't let Jane hurt him," I whispered as I stared at the beautiful ring on my finger. "It was instinct, you know?" I asked rhetorically, neither wanting nor needing an answer. "I remember I promised Jane I would leave, go away and leave Edward if she let him go."

"Fuck," Jasper growled protectively…even after the fact.

I snorted and looked at him. "Tell me about it. I'd felt like my heart had just been ripped out of my chest while it was still beating. It hurt in ways you couldn't even imagine to say those words but I would have done it if she would have let him go…if I knew he was going to be safe," I said. Even remembering the words I'd spoken hurt and I reached my hand up and rubbed my heart. My ring cast prisms around the room as the sunlight hit it and the pain immediately went away leaving nothing but love and happiness in its wake. "She didn't win," I said quietly as my voice wavered. I looked from Jasper to Rose. "She tried to take him from me, but she didn't."

"No fucking way that bitch is ever, fucking ever seeing the light of day again," Rose hissed menacingly. Her blue eyes glinted evilly and I'd sure hate to be on the receiving end of a look like that.

Jasper reached down and picked up my hand, staring at my ring with a beautiful smile on his face while he ran his thumb back and forth across the obscenely large diamond that currently resided on my finger.

The ring was beautiful, and way, way over the top, but I loved it. It was absolutely perfect…much like the man who put it there. "So," he said as his blue eyes twinkled, "it seems like we have a wedding to plan. Have you and Edward given any thought at all about how or when?"

I smiled and shook my head. "Well, we have talked about it but haven't really decided on much except that we don't want to wait too long," I told him as an idea came to life.

Holy shit, it would be perfect I thought to myself as the image of the perfect ceremony blossomed in my mind.

"Isabella Marie, whatever is that shit eating grin for?" Rose laughed as she pushed my leg with hers.

"You'll find out as soon as I talk to Edward," I told her cryptically.

"You know what you want to do, don't you?" Jasper asked with a raised eyebrow and I shrugged my shoulders but nodded my head.

I really, really did. The times that Edward and I had talked about getting married before, I had a sort of vague picture of the kind of wedding I had wanted but now I knew definitively what I wanted. Edward was going to be thrilled and I anxiously looked at the clock on the wall as I tried to decide on how much longer it would be before he got here.

"You're not even going to give us a hint?" Rose asked. She tried to sound offended but the smile she had on her face totally gave her ass away.

"Nope," I said succinctly and grinned like a damn fool at the both of them.

We were going to have a lot…A LOT...of work to do in a really short amount of time but with Alice and Esme Cullen leading the charge I had no doubt it could get done.

"Fine, be that way," Rose huffed and then we talked about what else had gone on while I was unconscious. Jasper told me how he had to make a statement to the press about what had happened. He gave the barest of facts possible, after getting direction from Alec and Riley, and asked for privacy while we dealt with my recovery.

"How is Aro?" I asked, truly wondering how the man was coping.

It wasn't his fault his daughter went off the deep end. She fooled all of us. I was sure he was just as shocked as anyone by what she did.

Jasper sighed. "He's embarrassed, heartbroken, and worried about you, Shortcake. He wanted to come see you but Seth and I thought it would be best to wait until you woke up before he came by. I'm not sure Edward would have been able to handle that," Jasper admitted.

I nodded, agreeing completely.

"Jane?" I asked. I should have asked Edward, but figured it was better to ask Jasper and Rose first.

"Riley and Alec haven't been by the hospital since you woke up, Bell. They do need to speak with you and Edward though, soon. As far as we know, right now she's under psychiatric evaluation until you are able to give your statement of what happened, what she said. Once that is done, according to Ali, the DA will take into account her mental state and yours and Edward's statements before they decide what charges to file against her. She won't be a threat to you ever again, though, that I promise you," Jasper stated with feeling.

"That is for damn sure," Rose vowed vehemently

I wasn't really worried about Jane coming back to be honest. Now that I knew it had been her, I wasn't afraid any longer. In all actuality, as strange as it was to think and believe, I was almost grateful it was her. At least now it was over and she had been dealt with. I didn't have to, we didn't have to keep looking over our shoulders any longer.

It was over.

A short while later the door opened and I could tell Edward was here before he even poked his head around the corner. I could feel him and I knew the smile on my face would let him know in no uncertain terms how happy I was to see him.

He stepped around the corner and immediately his eyes found mine and they widened in shock before his entire face softened as he smiled back at me.

"Baby," he said on a breathless sigh and I heard and felt Rose and Jasper get up to leave.

"Love you, Bell," Rose said as she stepped up and kissed my check while her brother kissed the other one and repeated the same sentiment. I couldn't take my eyes off Edward and I smiled even bigger when Rose stopped on her way out and kissed him as well. Jasper slapped him on the shoulder then shook his head at the both of us.

I barely registered the sound of the door close before I watched as Edward strode to the bed in three long strides. I didn't even have time to say his name before his lips were on top of mine and his tongue delved possessively in my mouth. He kissed me until my lips hurt but I didn't want him to stop so I wrapped my arms tightly around his neck and ran my fingers through his hair. When I tugged on it just the way he liked me to, he growled and I couldn't help but giggle against his bruised lips.

He moved his mouth to my neck and he nipped at the skin there until I was barely coherent. "Oh my Bella," Edward purred in my ear in a deep, raspy voice. "You have no idea how much I ache to be inside of you, how much my body craves yours." His tongue did delicious things to my neck and collarbones, not to mention his hands that had somehow managed to slip beneath my t-shirt. The pads of his thumbs brushed the underside of my breasts and I moaned in a way that was part pleasure and part burning need in his ear.

"Mmmm, Edward," I whispered as he continued to tease and tantalize. "That feels so good baby."

"Mmmhmm," he concurred and I grinned devilishly to myself. I flicked his earlobe with my tongue and tried to ignore the insistent way his hands were moving.

I placed my lips against his ear, wishing I could see his face when I told him this, but figured I'd get the best of both worlds because there was no way in hell he would answer without looking at me.

"Sweetheart," I began, smiling against his skin. "I decided when and where I want to get married." Sure enough he stilled immediately.

He was pressed so close to me that I felt his heart positively pound in his chest and I heard him take a very uneven breath before he pulled back to look at me.

"Really?" he asked. His green eyes shone as bright as I'd ever seen them.

I nodded my head and smiled, hoping that he would love my idea as much as I did.

Unfortunately Edward removed his hands from beneath my t-shirt. I glared at him for a second to let him know I was a bit put out by that but when he picked my left hand up and kissed my ring, I completely forgot what I was going to say.

"Tell me angel, please?" he asked sweetly as he kicked his shoes off and got comfortable on the bed with me.

The nurses had pretty much given up on telling him what he could and couldn't do when it came to me. I suppose they figured as long as I was still recovering well and no problems came up it was better to go along than to try to fight him. I had no doubt who would win when it came right down to it and maybe they did too. Why rock the boat when you didn't need to?

Edward adjusted the pillows behind him and rested his back against them and then carefully pulled me to his side so I could curl up against his chest. I laid my left hand over his heart and he picked up my hand and kissed the back of my hand…again before he said, "Okay, baby. Tell me what this plan of yours is."

He ran his fingers softly through my hair and we sat in a comfortable silence for a few minutes. I pressed my ear against his chest, letting his steady heartbeat soothe me.

"Bella, you're killing me here," he groaned after a few more minutes had gone by and I hadn't said anything.

I shook my head in embarrassment. I'd been daydreaming about the wedding and got lost in thought. I picked my head up and kissed his chin. "Sorry, I was just thinking."

"Talk to me, Bella. Tell me what you want," he said.

I took a deep breath, probably unnecessarily because there was no way Edward would tell me no, but it was here…we were really going to get married! I had a bit of a hard time wrapping my mind around that, still. Not that I didn't know I was going to spend the rest of my life with him some time ago, but the reality of it all was just…so much.

So much to be happy about, so much to be thankful for…so much of just everything.

I gingerly picked myself up a bit, completely ignoring the twinge my ribs gave me, and focused only on Edward's expectant face. "I want to get married at Thanksgiving…at the lake house," I said softly. I watched his eyes widen in surprise and then watched as the emerald green became distorted due to the tears that filled his eyes. I suppose the ones in my eyes didn't help either.

"Thanksgiving," he said with a smile and I nodded my head slowly. "Yes?" I replied back in question though I didn't know why.

"Isabella Marie in two months Cullen that is the most perfect thing I've ever heard. You're a genius, baby. I think it sounds amazing," he breathed out as he leaned forward and captured my lips with his.

The kiss was slow and tender, but it made me dizzy. It also ignited a need deep inside of me and if I didn't get to feel Edward move inside of me soon, I had a feeling I was going to explode.

"Do you really think it's a good idea?" I asked once we had to stop kissing…though for the life of me I didn't know why we really had to stop.

I suppose it could have something to do with the fact that anyone could walk in at anytime and it probably wasn't the best idea to lose control here…or just yet. But soon damn it. I wanted him. Badly.

Edward nodded and ran his fingers through my hair and brushed it back behind my ears. "I do, Bella. I think it's perfect. We have so much to be thankful for...what better way to celebrate that than to get married as a way to always remember that fact," he said sweetly and I nodded.

That was it exactly, and I was so excited he understood why I wanted it then.

I giggled when I thought about the looks on Alice's and Esme's faces when I told them we had barely more than two months to get everything set up.

"Your sister and mother are going to kill me," I snickered and Edward rolled his eyes and nodded in agreement.

"Well, that would kind of defeat the whole getting married thing, don't you think? I think drive us both crazy and make us think about eloping is more like it," he teased.

"I'm good with that, baby. The sooner the better if you ask me," I said as I pressed myself against him. "Just think, Edward, the sooner we get married, the sooner we can think about taking a honeymoon," I teased as I ran my leg up and down against his.

"Bella, you better behave sweet girl," he threatened me. He moved so that I was on my back and he was raised up on his elbow with his head in his hand. He traced the outside of my v-neck t-shirt, allowing the tip of his finger to dip below the material. His eyes darkened in such a way that it made me ache between my legs and I moaned when he pressed even farther inside my shirt and brushed across the tops of my breasts. "I want you so fucking bad, Bella. I can't wait to get you home and in our bed and make love to you all night long. We've got a lot of catching up to do, not to mention properly celebrating the fact you said yes," he said huskily as he lowered his head and nuzzled the side of my neck. His tongue flicked out and swiped the skin behind my ear and I arched against him.

"Edward," I begged, demanded, warned in turn. I knew we still had to wait awhile and it sucked…so bad.

A loud noise from the hallway caused us both to jump and we each blew out a very frustrated breath.

"Damn hospital," I grumbled.

"No shit, baby," Edward concurred and reached back for the remote to turn on the television.


Sunday Morning~

"Bella?" Esme called as she entered my room late Sunday morning. I had just finished getting dressed and stepped from the bathroom. I smiled as soon as I saw Father O'Connor behind her and he stepped around her to walk toward me.

"Isabella, my dear girl, you look wonderful," he said charmingly and hugged me. After kissing me on the cheek he helped me to the bed and then sat in the chair beside the bed.

"Bella, is Edward in the cafeteria?" Esme asked and I nodded my head.

"He went down to get me a muffin and a Coke," I told her.

"I'll let you two visit and go find him. We can check on Carlisle, too," she said and waved before she left the room.

Father O'Connor's eyes immediately settled on the ring on my finger and he smiled sweetly at me. "You have no idea how happy Esme and Carlisle are that," he snickered, "is on your finger."

"Tell me about it," I said and laughed at his raised eyebrows.

"Of course, I imagine it is nothing compared to the way Edward feels," he said meaningfully and I nodded my head at his very correct statement.

"Maddie and Masen, too," I added after a moment.

"How are you doing, Bella? Really?" he asked pointedly and I shrugged my shoulders.

Physically, I was healing and getting stronger every day. Mentally and emotionally, I was still a bit all over the place and told Father exactly that. "It's going to take some time," I sighed.

"It is, Bella," he agreed. "You have to focus on the good things and try not to dwell on the bad as much as you can, dear."

"I'm so angry at her," I admitted. I had tried, mostly successfully too, to not think of Jane any longer than necessary but I knew that expressing my fears to Father O'Connor would help. "She tried to destroy me by taking away the person I love more than anyone in this world. She tried to take away the father of my children which would have destroyed them. She tried to take away someone that has never done anything even remotely deserving of her anger and hatred and she would have done it, too. Why did she hate me so much?" I asked, hoping to somehow assuage the festering guilt and anger I had that boiled just beneath the surface.

The last few days I'd spent so much time concentrating on Edward and the kids along with the rest of the family. It wasn't until this morning when Edward went down to the cafeteria that thoughts of Jane began to creep into the forefront of my mind.

"Bella, you know there isn't a logical reason or answer to that question. Jane is obviously a very sick and disturbed woman who needs help. You are a good person who didn't deserve any of this. You didn't deserve to be tormented and you certainly didn't deserve her attempt to harm you and Edward," he said gently.

I knew that what he said was true. I knew, as I remembered her incoherent mutterings and her vacant, soulless eyes, that she needed help, that she wasn't in her right mind. In all honesty, and as hard as it was to believe, I felt sorry for her. Felt sorry that she was trapped in a mind that made her think that she wasn't loved or good enough. I felt sorry for Aro, too. He lost his only daughter. The Jane she used to be wasn't here any longer and that was just…sad.

"I know," I admitted.

"Will you be able to forgive her?" Father O'Connor questioned and I nodded my head, having already done so.

I was here. I was going to recover. Edward and I were getting married, and Edward, Maddie, Masen, and I could be a family. There was no reason to hold a grudge, and that wasn't me anyway.

"I already have. She's lost so much more than I have. There isn't any reason not to," I said quietly.

"You are an amazing woman, Isabella soon to be Cullen," he said as he stood up and kissed my cheek just as Edward and Esme returned.

"Get your lips away from my woman old man," Edward glared playfully at him and his eyes swept over my face to make sure I was okay.

I smiled at him and reached out for his hand, which he took instantly. "Knock it off, Edward. The ring on her finger blinded me the second I walked in the door…trying to make sure no one gets mistaken that she's spoken for huh?" he teased and Edward nodded, not ashamed in the least.

"Keep Thanksgiving weekend open," Edward said and I watched as Esme's smile grew even larger. "We need your services if you're available."

"I've waited for this day for a long time, Edward Anthony; you know I'll be available. We'll talk after Bella goes home," he said and kissed Edward on the cheek before doing the same to me.

"Two months, baby," Edward whispered and I nodded at him.

"I can't wait," I told him, already counting down the days.


"Good morning, Bella," Dr. Owens said as he breezed into my room early Monday morning. Edward had gone to Carlisle and Esme's to eat breakfast with the kids and take them to school and then hopefully come back and get ready to take me home.

Jesus I was ready to go home…like yesterday already.

My ribs still hurt every now and then and I my head still ached pretty much nonstop but it was getting better by the day and I was ready to get the hell out of here. I wanted to go home and I wanted to see Rufus. I wanted to watch movies on the couch with Edward and the kids while we ate popcorn. I wanted to spend Sunday afternoon at Carlisle and Esme's with the family and eat dinner.

I wanted to put this whole fucking nightmare behind me and never look back.

Dr. Owens pulled my chart out and glanced at it quickly before he put it down and looked at me. He pulled a chair up and sat down next to the bed. I knew he didn't have bad news for me. I felt great and was getting stronger every day but I couldn't help but feel a bit uneasy at what he was about to say.

"Bella, everything looks really good. The chest wound is healing quicker than I expected and all of your tests for the head injury have all come back clean so I see no reason why you can't go home this morning, especially since you live with a doctor," he chuckled.

I rolled my eyes at his statement. Even when I got home, I was positive Edward would hover for days, if not weeks by my side and yell every time I moved, but I'd take that over being in here any damn day.

"I normally wouldn't do this, but I wanted to tell you how extremely happy I am for you, Edward, and your family that you are going to have a full recovery. I've never seen, in all my years, a family quite like the Cullens and quite honestly, between me and you, if things would have turned out differently, I already had a back up plan to get the hell out of dodge that is for sure. Between Edward, Carlisle, Emmett, and your two friends Jasper and Seth, I was afraid for my life," he laughed.

"They can be a bit on the overprotective side," I said with a smile realizing how big of an understatement that was.

Dr. Owens laughed at me, apparently realizing the same thing before he went on. "Just a few reminders for you, Bella, before Edward comes back to whisk you away from here. Take it easy, you still haven't gotten all your strength back yet and you will still tire easily. It's easy to overdo when you get home, but try to let Edward, those adorable children, and the rest of your family take care of you for a bit longer. You deserved to get pampered after all you've been through, so let them," he said.

Clearing his throat, he looked a bit embarrassed as he began, "I need to remind you, though I'm sure Edward would remember this, but um…well, things happen in the heat of the moment so I need to tell you as well. The antibiotics you are taking for the infection for the chest wound will render your birth control ineffective so be aware of that. You still need more time to heal before I can clear you for sexual activity, though if things progress the way they have it won't be much longer. You just need to regain more of your strength and I want to eliminate any chance of infection," he coughed again and I couldn't help but blush at this conversation. " But when I do, remember until you are through with your antibiotic treatments, extra protection will be needed until you begin taking your birth control again," he said with a deep breath, obviously happy that was out of the way.

Thank goodness he reminded me. I had no doubt that when the time came, and I hoped it was really damn soon, using protection would be the last thing either Edward or I would want to think about.

Dr. Owens took a deep breath and then began somewhat hesitantly. "Bella, there is another thing I'd like you as well as Edward to consider. What happened to you was very traumatic, for you and for your loved ones, especially Edward. From talking with Carlisle as well as Edward, not to mention what has been on the news and in the papers, it's obvious that your family had been tormented for quite some time before the incident at the fashion show. It is not inconceivable that there are some lingering fears, hurts, and resentments built up among everyone…especially for you, Edward, and the children. I think it would be a very wise decision if you all were to seek some help in dealing with the aftermath," he said gently and I gasped as I focused on what he said to me.

I knew we needed to. I could tell in the way Edward held onto me that he was terrified of something else happening. I could tell in the way Maddie and Masen stared at me when they thought I wasn't looking as if I would somehow disappear. The rest of the family cast furtive glances at each other and then at me. And then, then there were my own nightmares that I tried to hide from everyone.

I nodded at him and wiped my eyes before I said, "You're right, Dr. Owens, I know you are. Thank you for reminding me that we still have a ways to go to put this whole damn nightmare behind us."

He stood up and grabbed my hand. "I have no doubt you all can do it. You have an extraordinary family, Bella. Things may be up and down for a bit, but you have a wedding to plan," he said with a smile as he tapped my ring. "Be happy, Bella. You and Edward deserve it after all that's happened. Focus on that and don't dwell on what could have happened. Concentrate on the future after you've dealt with the past."

"Thank you so much," I choked out, the lump in my throat made it really difficult to speak. How did you thank the man that saved your life, that made it possible for you to have your future with the man of your dreams? There weren't enough words; there wouldn't ever be enough words to thank him for all he'd done. "You'll come to the wedding won't you?" I asked him.

"I wouldn't miss it for the world, Bella. You just tell me when and where, and I'll be there," he said with a gentle smile.

I sighed as I thought about our plan for the wedding and I couldn't help but get excited again. "We're hoping for Thanksgiving at Lake George," I answered him just as I heard the door open and Edward walked in.

"What did I miss?" Edward asked as he walked in and looked from Dr. Owens to me and then back again.

I giggled at him. "Nothing baby. Dr. Owens was just giving me some advice for when I get to go home…this morning!" I exclaimed excitedly.

"For real?" he asked, and I nodded my head, and Dr. Owens laughed at both of us.

"Yes, Edward, for real. There is no reason Bella can't finish recuperating at home. I imagine you'll take better care of her at home than we can here so I have no problem whatsoever releasing Bella into your capable hands," he said as he turned to leave. "Just try to keep her from doing too much, Edward. I'm holding you responsible so be mindful of that. You don't want to make me angry…you never know what kind of wedding gift you'll get if you do," he said with a wink before he left the room.

"Wedding present, Bella?" Edward asked, confusion all over his gorgeous face.

I got off the bed, still a bit slowly and walked to stand in front of him. "He wants to come to the wedding, Edward, that's all."

He stepped forward and wrapped his arms around me, hooking his hands at the small of my back. He bent his head down and kissed me quickly on the lips and then said, "Guess what, baby?"

When I raised my eyebrows at him he leaned down by my ear and whispered, "I get to take you home today!"

I rolled my eyes at him, but I was thrilled beyond belief that I got to leave. I wanted to spend some quiet time at home with the kids and Edward and I wanted to start planning my wedding.

"Not only that sweet girl," he teased as he nipped at the side of my neck, "I got specific instructions from your doctor to spoil the hell out of you so yeah me!"

"Edward," I huffed, but I couldn't stop the smile that split my face.

"Don't you Edward me, Isabella Marie. He said not to let you over do, so I'm only following orders. When we get home you are going to sit that fine looking ass on the sofa and let the rest of us cater to your every whim and that, my love," he said as he kissed me soundly on the lips, complete with a lipsmack and all, "is that."

"Really now?" I teased him as I may have, accidentally on purpose, grazed the front of his pants with my fingertips. Dr. Owens said we couldn't have sex yet, he didn't say anything about me touching Edward. "I was thinking that perhaps, just maybe, you would keep your fine looking ass in bed…naked, with me," I purred as I pulled his earlobe in my mouth and bit down on it lightly.

"Fuck Bella. You can't do shit like that to me here," he whined, but it didn't really sound like a whine. It sounded more like a starving man who had just been told he'd have to wait just a bit longer before he could eat.

"No, I suppose not," I pouted playfully. "But," I said coyly, wanting to see how long it took him to understand what I was telling him. "I can do shit like that to you at home…tonight," I said pointedly and watched his face as the comprehension dawned.

"Yes?" he squeaked and pressed himself against my fingertips that still laid against the front of his jeans.

I giggled at him, though I knew exactly how he felt. It had been far, far too long since we'd made love and I was almost desperate to feel that connection with him again. It went so much beyond being just merely a physical act. It was emotional, it was spiritual. It was a way for us to reaffirm our love and our commitment to the other, as cheesy as that might sound. Didn't make it any less true though. I needed him, and I knew he needed to be with me in that way, too. We would still have to wait to be fully intimate with each other again, but laying in bed with him, touching him, and feeling him close to me would do for now.

"Yes, baby," I sighed. Right at the moment I wanted nothing more than to rip his jeans off and touch him, but it probably wouldn't be the best idea. "Although, we still have to wait to make love, I can touch you. Dr. Owens reminded me that when the time comes though, you'll have to use…something. I'm still taking antibiotics and you know as well as I do that taking those and birth control doesn't mix. So…" I trailed off, a bit embarrassed at the whole prospect of Edward having to buy condoms.

"Bella," Edward said softly, the change in tone of his voice startling me immediately. He pulled me toward the chair and sat down. He carefully pulled me onto his lap and held one of my hands in his while he cupped my face with the other. "Are you sure you want me to use something?" he asked. His voice was wary and I could tell he was unsure of what my answer would be.

This was a topic that needed to be addressed before we got married; I just wasn't planning on it being today. But as they say, no time like the present. "Edward, are you trying to tell me you're ready for me to have a baby?" I asked, a bit shocked if that was truly the case.

"Bella, I've made no secret of the fact that I want to have children with you, as many as you'll give me. I can't wait for the day when your stomach is round with my child inside and I get to watch it and you grow every day. I want it so fucking bad I can hardly see straight sometimes," he whispered with feeling. His thumb traced circles on my cheek and I lowered my eyes for a second.

I wanted it too, so badly…but I wasn't ready yet.

My breathing picked up and I could feel tears running down my nose and I watched the teardrop fall from the end and splash on Edward's jeans. Jesus, what if he changed his mind and didn't want to marry me at all if I didn't want to get pregnant right away?

"Angel, look at me," he demanded gently. "Why are you crying?"

I shook my head, terrified of disappointing him.

"Bella, tell me," he demanded again.

"I'm not ready yet," I breathed out, barely able to force the words out.

"I'm not either," he said just as softly.

My head snapped up and I stared at him, speechless. I did not expect that answer…at all!

I opened my mouth to say something, and then closed it again. Open. Close. I couldn't even find the words to address when he'd just said. Thankfully he did. "Bella. I love you and we are getting married in two months. We need time to be a couple and you, me, and the kids need time to be a family. I want to take you on trips, I want to take you, Maddie, and Masen camping. We need time to just…be, Bella. Having a baby with you will be a blessing and a gift I would never take for granted, but it is a gift that can wait. Not too long I hope," he asked and I nodded my head. "But it doesn't have to be right away. I want to have you to myself for a while baby, not to mention," he teased as he nuzzled my chest, "you know how bad I am at sharing."

I enjoyed the lighthearted moment for a time before I picked his head up and admitted something I'd been afraid of since the first day I saw him in the park and knew he was the one. "Edward, what if I can't have children at all?" I asked and the tears began in earnest again.

The thought of not creating a child that has half me and half Edward tore my heart in two. I knew it wasn't the right time right now, but I wanted it in the future. Badly.

"I've given this some thought too my beautiful girl," Edward said as he sat back in the chair and looked at me. "Why don't we think about going to see Tanya in a few weeks once all the bandages are gone and your ribs are healed? I know you've been worried about this, even if you haven't said anything," he said as he narrowed his eyes at me. "Tanya is one of the best specialists in the city, Bella. She can give you the answers you need."

"Us, Edward," I responded back to him and he nodded in agreement.

"Yes, us, Bella. But I want you to know something love of my life and my future bride," he said seriously. "If Tanya determines that you can't have children, then I'm okay with that, as long as you are. I love you, Bella. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Having another child, one that is parts of both of us would be a blessing, but if by some chance that is not in the cards for us, then I'm able to be okay with that. Promise me, Bella, if you can't have children you'll still marry me," he begged.

"Oh, Edward," I cried out and turned to wrap my arms around his neck. I burrowed my nose into the crook of his neck and took a few deep breaths to calm myself before I picked my head back up and stared at him. I grabbed his face in my hands and rested my forehead against his and spoke with every ounce of feeling my body possessed. "Edward Anthony Cullen, you, Maddie, and Masen are ALL I ever need in this life. While I would be infinitely sad to not be able to have your child, nothing could ever, ever make me walk away from you. Nothing. You're stuck with me forever I'm afraid," I teased with a grin and then lifted my lips to kiss his forehead and then his cheeks before settling them against his. "I love you, Edward, and all I'll ever need is you," I told him honestly.

He nodded his head. "Always and forever, angel."

The rest of the morning passed quickly as I was finally disconnected from the last of my IV's and Edward signed my paperwork after looking over my discharge instructions. He had called Emmett and Seth to let them know I was coming home and they made arrangements to pick me up at a side entrance. Since a good bit of time had passed since the fashion show and since Jasper and Aro had both made statements, the furor over what had happened had mostly died down.

Jasper and Alice both agreed that Edward and I should make one final statement to the press after I'd been home for a few days and finally put everything to rest. I was so ready to do that, and I knew Edward was too.

"You ready to go, baby?" Edward asked and I nodded, excited to leave and to begin the rest of our forever.


I walked into the loft and it literally felt like forever since I'd been home. I could tell that Esme and Diane, and probably Rose and Tanya as well, had been in to clean and freshen the place up. The dead give away was the large bouquet of flowers on the coffee table in the living room and the smell of freshly laundered sheets in the air.

There was no way I was complaining about either so I just took a deep breath and enjoyed being at home. It amazed me how much different, better, things looked after being out of it for over a week.

"Welcome home, angel," Edward whispered sweetly and with much feeling once he put our bags in our room.

I blinked back tears; I was really tired of crying all the time. "It's good to be here," I told him honestly…though there was a part of me that realized the loft wasn't our home any more. We belonged up at the lake house in Lake George where we could enjoy being together as a family away from all the hustle and bustle that came from living in one of the biggest cities in the world.

That was a conversation that could wait for another time though. Today and tonight I just wanted to enjoy being with the three most important people in my world.

"You tired?" Edward asked me after another moment of silence and I nodded my head.

Dr. Owens told me that until I got all my strength back, I would tire easily and the trek from the hospital home had taken a lot out of me.

Edward helped get me in bed after I changed into boxers and a t-shirt; one of his of course. As soon as my head hit my pillow, I was immediately assaulted by his smell. It was all over the sheets and the pillows and I inhaled deeply a few times. "Damn, I missed that," I muttered before I fell asleep.

I felt Edward chuckle beside me and felt him kiss my forehead before I drifted off to sleep.

A short while later I woke up to the sounds of banging in the kitchen and the smell of something…awful.

"Son of a bitch," Edward hissed and I heard the water come on in the sink and the sizzle of water hitting a pan that obviously had something in it that he just burned.

I giggled and turned to press my face into my pillow until I could stop laughing as I pictured Edward in the kitchen.

"Uhmmm hmmm," I heard a throat clear and looked up to find Edward leaning against the doorway wearing basketball shorts, a white t-shirt…and an apron. He'd never, ever looked sexier.

"Mind telling me what you think is so damn funny?" he asked me, as one side of his mouth rose in a sexy as hell smirk.

"What were you doing out there?" I asked as I slowly sat up.

He huffed and blew out a frustrated breath before he ran his hands through his hair. "Well, I was going to try to make your favorite fettuccine alfredo for dinner but I burned the damn sauce," he groaned as he flopped on the bed adorably.

"Aww, thank you baby, for trying," I told him truthfully and bent down to kiss him.

"Mmmm, upside down kisses, I like those," Edward mumbled against my lips and I couldn't help but agree.

After we kissed for a few minutes he rolled off the bed and stood up, and shook his head as he looked at me. "I can't wait to be inside of you," he stated simply as he stared at me.

My breath hitched and I could feel the delicious ache between my legs as I thought about how good it would feel. Damn having to wait, I thought to myself. I wanted to feel him inside of me and it couldn't come soon enough if you asked me.

"Unfortunately, Mama will be here in a few minutes with the kids," Edward said, quashing my thoughts right away. "Let's get you out on the sofa. I didn't tell them you were coming home today, so it'll be a surprise," he grinned.

Edward walked over to the bed and bent down. He lifted me up and held me in his arms. "This, feels fucking good," he whispered and bent his head down to kiss my temple. I nodded in agreement because I loved it when he held me.

He set me on the sofa and almost as soon as we turned on the television, I heard the elevator and I knew the kids were home.

"But, Nana!" Maddie whined. "I wanna see Mommy!"

"Yeah, me too. Why did we have to come home first?" Masen argued and I smiled at my children.

Edward got up and opened the door before they could even knock and I heard, "Daddy! Why aren't you with Mommy? Is she okay?" Masen asked quickly and I watched as Edward stepped aside without a word so I could see the two of them.

"I'm fine," I giggled as I watched their mouths drop, followed immediately by their backpacks. They raced to the sofa and immediately I was engulfed in hugs from both of them.

"Are you home for good?" Maddie asked me and I ran my fingers through her hair before I kissed her on the cheek. "Sure am babygirl, for good."

"And we don't have to go anywhere anymore? We get to stay here with you and Daddy?" Masen asked and I nodded my head at him.

"Yes, my brave, strong boy, we get to stay together. Forever," I whispered as I pulled him toward me.

Edward was suddenly on the couch next to me and he pulled Maddie on his lap. Masen snuggled up next to me and I knew, without a doubt, there was no place I'd rather be.



  1. Oh My Erin!

    Well thank goodness our Bella is awake now. Edward can breathe SOMEWHAT a sigh of relief, as can everyone else :)

    I loved that Bella could hear him as she was coming out of her coma. It is such a hard thing to know if people in a coma can hear their loved ones, some say they can and some say they can't. I am glad you made it so that Bella did and it pulled her out.

    Her mind must have been going a million miles an hour trying to figure everything out after she just woke up and for Edward to be there, I'm sure helped keep her grounded.

    The kids were awesome! SO SO happy to see Mommy. They were so adorable asking Bella if she was there to stay and not going anywhere anymore or them having to go anywhere. They must have been very happy to know that the danger was over. And now Masen can stop being mad at Edward ;) I completely understood his anger, but it was still hard to see him so upset with Edward.

    I loved that Sue showed up. How wonderful was THAT!! So emotional, but of course, the person that was for all intents and purposes Bella's mom, of course she would be there! That was beautiful!

    I had to chuckle at the doctor convo about birth control and such. I can just see both of their faces beet red!

    I was glad they both agreed to spend some time as a COUPLE after they get married and it's not right away they plan on children. Yeah I don't want them to wait too long, but at least they agree on the timing! And I think Maddie and Masen both deserve to have Bella as their Mommy for awhile without adding another child. See my total and complete optimism that Bella will be able to have kids with Edward. It's just not even a question for me HEHE!

    As much as she says she's not angry with Jane, I think there is more there than she realizes. I think finding out how much it hurt Edward, is going to cause a lot of anger to boil. I know it would affect me that way if it was me. Bella is very forgiving, but she's also insanely protective of her family. She only knows what it has done to Edward, and I wonder if anyone will tell her the reaction of Masen. Maddie held it in for the most part, Masen did not, and people saw it. I'm sure someone will say something to her and THAT is going to cause her to be angry. Rightfully so, in my opinion. The aftermath of Jane is not over I fear.

    I think the Thanksgiving wedding is a fabulous idea (that's when I got married, for almost the exact same reason!!!) And as if Esme and Alice can't pull that off. I hope that Sue will still be there or come back because she is so very important to Bella!

    I will be curious to see if Aro tries to contact Bella now that she is home! I almost feel sorry for him with everything he is going to have to deal with. Bella being hurt, his daughter going off the deep end, him not seeing that he might have contributed to her insanity. It's a lot to take in!

    SOOOOO much happened this chapter and it was great!!

    I'm very excited about what is coming up my dear friend!!! Love you!

  2. are you getting better now? Pei Pa Koa ( ) is one of the few Chinese natural cough remedies that have been scientifically studied. it's something like herb plus honey, and it's sweet, thick and black in color. If you have a cough, look for it! It used to be one of my favourite natural cough remedies.

    if your cough persists, seek professional help such as traditional Chinese medicine physicians - I have had very good experiences with them.