Friday, November 26, 2010

Chapter 26

A Turning of the Tables

On the morning of the fourteenth, the morning after her twenty-fifth birthday, Bella awoke to both Edward's text message, and a strange tightness in her chest. When she'd returned home the night before, she'd cried herself into a restless sleep quickly, exhausted from spending the entire day out on the water, but more so from her confrontation with Edward. Her hand rose to rub against her chest as she tried to cough and clear her air passages. It wasn't uncommon for her chest to feel slightly congested when she first woke in the morning, but the tightness she felt that morning was something altogether different than anything she'd become accustomed to. What was worse was that her sleep shirt was drenched in sweat.

As her coughing persisted, Renee and Charlie, seated at the kitchen table, reading the paper and enjoying their morning coffee together, both turned their concerned gazes toward the ceiling. At the faint sound of their daughter's voice rasping, "Mom," Charlie and Renee were out of their chairs and heading toward the stairwell; their early morning coffee swaying within the abandoned mugs and papers sliding off the edges of the table and onto the floor in their wake.

"Honey, what is it?" Renee asked breathlessly as she crouched slightly to get a good look at her daughter.

"I don't feel chest is tight."

Renee reached up and pressed the back of her hand to Bella's forehead and flushed cheeks, and frowned, "'re burning up."

Charlie sighed, scratching the back of his head, "I'll go get the thermometer and call the doctor."

"Dad, no," Bella whined. "It's just a cold."

"Bells, you're going to the doctor," he responded, leaving no room for argument. "We can't take any chances, kiddo, not with your lungs the way they are."

After bringing the thermometer to Renee, Charlie called Bella's primary physician's office and left a message, knowing it was too early for anyone to be in the office yet, but also knowing someone would call as soon as they got in. In Bella's twenty-five years, Charlie had dialed that number in the middle of the night more times than he could count, and the women in the office had always been amazing at squeezing them in on a moment's notice. As soon as he hung up on the messaging system, Charlie called the department and notified his superiors he wouldn't be in that day. With all the time he'd taken off in the last two months he highly expected them to be disgruntled, but instead, they just extended their best wishes for Bella to feel better and told him they'd see him when he was able to return.

By the time he returned upstairs to his wife and daughter, Bella was hunched over a bucket held between her legs, heaving.

"Maybe we should bring her to the ER instead..."

"No!" Bella's terrified face shot up from the bucket, overwhelming fear gripping her at the thought of being admitted again. "I'll go to the hospitals, please."

As Charlie and Renee looked at each other helplessly, Bella groaned, her stomach lurching and rolling again. She had the flu, she knew it, and she should have seen the signs of it approaching. It never failed; every year her weeklong bought with the illness was preceded by aching muscles and headaches—all of which she'd passed off as being caused by the strain and stress she'd been under while caring for Edward.

By seven thirty, the doctor's office had returned Charlie's call and, much to his relief, were able to sneak her in at nine. He wasn't sure what to expect from the visit this time around. Usually they gave her a prescription to help with the severe nausea she suffered when she got hit with the flu and sent her home with instructions to rest and drink lots of fluids, but Dr. Gerandy in the hospital had informed them that even the slightest of illnesses, such as the common cold, could potentially hospitalize her.

At quarter after ten, Edward sat at the bottom of his stairwell yelling for his brother who was knocked out cold in his bedroom. He'd told Jasper to set the alarm clock before he disappeared up the stairs the night before with his gaming console, but it had done little good. Either he hadn't set it, or he'd shut it off when it began to blare, because he'd been yelling up the stairs for fifteen minutes and had yet to hear even a creak in the floorboards.

"Jasper! Come on, man, get up!" Edward hollered again over the sound of Tango scratching and barking at the bedroom door upstairs.

Edward spared one last glance down at his watch and grumbled to himself as he wheeled his way into the kitchen to grab the cordless phone. He hit the speed dial for his father's cell phone and pressed it to his ear as he listened to Tango continue to howl and scratch at the door one floor above him.

"Edward, is everything okay?" Carlisle answered, forgoing his typical greeting.

"Not really," Edward huffed. "Your son won't wake up and I'm gonna be late for my doctor's appointment before physical therapy. Are you at the station? I need a ride."

"I am actually...Bella isn't there with you?" Carlisle asked curiously. She was usually there every day by ten at the latest.

"No, we kind into a fight...well not really a fight, but...oh fucking hell," Edward huffed and emitted a frustrated growl, "I was an asshole and I messed shit up between us and I don't really wanna talk about it right now. Can you give me a ride or should I call Emmett? I don't wanna ask Mom because if something happens again when I'm trying to get into or out of the car, she won't be able to help get me back up."

"No, don't call Emmett. I'm on my way," he answered instantly and Edward could hear the jingling of his keys as he grabbed them up off his office desk. "I'll be there in about ten minutes."

"Thanks," Edward sighed, irritated at his brother, but relieved he wouldn't miss his appointment.

While Edward waited for his father to arrive, he called Tango down the stairs and let him and Cash - who had been waiting patiently at the backdoor - outside. With them outside, it was easier for him to wheel himself around the kitchen to prepare and set out fresh bowls of food and water for them, and it was a slight distraction to keep him from thinking about how Bella hadn't called or responded to his text from the night before. When he'd woken up that morning and found no waiting messages for him, he resolved himself to be patient and give her the time she needed to decide whether or not she wished to forgive him.

Carlisle arrived just under fifteen minutes after hanging up with Edward, and breezed through the door expediently, "Just give me two minutes and we'll leave."

Edward nodded as his father disappeared up the stairwell, his feet pounding against the stairs quickly, and chuckled to himself as he turned his chair around and went to let the dogs back in. From his spot at the back door, Edward could clearly hear his father ripping into Jasper.

"Get up! I've been calling you for ten straight minutes and your brother's been trying to get you up all morning! If you can't be a responsible adult and do what we asked you to come here to do, then you have no business coming here at all..."

He couldn't hear what Jasper was saying, his voice to low and muted to filter through the vents, but whatever it was had infuriated their father.

"I don't care!" he hollered. "Your problems are nothing compared to what your brother is going through! Do you have any idea how disastrous it could've been if he'd needed help and couldn't wake you up or reach a phone? Grow up, Jasper...this is getting goddamn ridiculous already."

As Carlisle's feet came pounding back down the stairs, Edward wheeled himself toward the front door. He wanted to gripe at his father for insinuating that he couldn't manage helping himself, but after the shower incident just over a week before, he realized he couldn't refute the truth in his statement.

"Ready?" Carlisle asked, slightly winded.

Edward nodded, wheeling himself through the front door, "How are we doing this? I think I can get in the truck, but getting back out is going to be an issue..."

"We're taking Jasper's car. It's not like he has anywhere important to be today."

Edward looked at Carlisle as they made their way down the driveway and wondered to himself when his father had aged so dramatically. Just months before, at his fifty-two years of age, he could have easily passed for being in his early forties, late thirties even, but now he looked every bit his age—and then some. Deep lines had been etched across his features and the spattering of gray hair at his temples had begun to fill into shocking white streaks. He wondered if his father's signs of aging had occurred while he'd been in a coma, or if he'd been oblivious to them progressing for years right in front of him.

After heaving himself into the passenger seat, Edward shut the door and waited as Carlisle folded up his wheelchair and shoved it into the backseat. The second Carlisle slipped into the driver's seat and cringed, Edward burst out laughing.

"What the hell is that smell?"

"I have no idea," Edward chuckled, "There's probably a six month old bag of fast food under one of the seats."

"Jesus...roll your window down, will ya?" Carlisle grimaced, shaking his head as he started the car. "How does he drive this thing? It sounds like it's going to fall'd think instead of blowing his paychecks he would have bought a new car."

"It's probably a good thing he didn't, seeing as how he doesn't have a paycheck anymore," Edward chuckled, amused by the rumbling and shaking of the car.

"Don't remind me," Carlisle muttered as he went to pull down the visor, unaware of the stash of mail shoved above it. When it all came down on him like an avalanche, he cursed under his breath in annoyance.

"Collections...collections...unopened bill with a stamp dated for a month ago, guess that'll be in collections soon, too," Carlisle huffed, grabbing the wad of envelopes and tossing them over his shoulder into the backseat. Edward just laughed under his breath and shook his head.

"What? It's not like he's going to pay them."

As they rode down the highway, Edward watched the scenery pass as his thoughts turned to responsibilities in his own life. Most specifically, his financial responsibilities. That morning, Edward had gotten up early and collected all of his bills and budget planner. Within an hour, he'd come to the conclusion that his savings could keep him afloat for the next six months; seven if he stuck to a really tight budget. After that, he didn't know what he was going to do.

The money that had been raised at the department sponsored fundraiser had been spent on the installation of his new handicap accessible shower and the construction of the ramps to his front door and backyard, and he was grateful to have had that tremendous help. His biggest issue was that the disability payments that had just started coming in were less than half of what he'd been making while working—and he'd need them to pay for whatever medical bills would start rolling in at any moment. If he wasn't recovered at the end of those six months that his savings could support him, he'd be financially screwed because his disability payments just wouldn't cut it no matter how strict of a budget he stuck to.

"Up shit's creek without a paddle," he muttered to himself under his breath.

"What was that?" Carlisle asked, having not heard him clearly.

"Nothing..." Edward sighed, rubbing his face with his hands. "Just worrying about money."

Carlisle glanced over as he frowned and reached out to grip his shoulder, "We'll figure it out, Edward. With summer break over and your mother back to work at the school, we should be able to help a little more than we could before."

As Carlisle focused his attention back on the road, he thought about how many sleepless nights he'd had recently worrying over the same issue. He wished he could take care of all of his son's financial needs while he was out of work, but with two mortgages, their own monthly bills and expenses, and his having been living off of vacation hours for the last month on top of Esme having been off work all summer—it just wasn't feasible. They were already almost behind on some of their bills due to the strenuous weight of the second mortgage they'd had to take out on their home when Edward was just a Junior in high school.

Getting a second mortgage on the house had been their only way out of their impending financial ruin. Years of tuition loans for the boys' educations at the private school where Esme worked as the office secretary/manager, occasional costly home and vehicle repairs, and keeping up with the cost of raising three boys had quickly accumulated and nearly sent them to the poorhouse. The medical bills, however, had been the worst. Between Emmett's broken arm at age six, ankle at age eight, and braces at age eleven, Jasper's tonsillectomy at age nine, broken wrist at age twelve, and appendectomy at age thirteen, and Edward's countless visits to the ER for stitches seemingly nearly every few months, Esme and Carlisle had often felt like taping all the bills to a wall, and throwing three darts to see which ones would get paid that month, because there just wasn't a way to pay them all.

During the first twenty years of their marriage, it seemed as though if there had been a financial crisis to be found within a twenty mile radius of where they stood, it invariably sought them out. They'd spent the better part of their wedded years struggling, but they had always managed to somehow keep their heads above water. He just hoped that with whatever help they could give him, Edward wouldn't ever come as close as they had a time or two to losing everything he'd worked so hard for.

Inside the doctor's office, Edward and Carlisle were greeted by smiling faces and pleasant voices that, within minutes of arriving, were ushering them back to an exam room.

"Are they taking the cast off today?" Carlisle asked as they waited in the small room that positively reeked of antiseptic cleanser and plaster.

"I hope so because it's just a giant pain in the ass anymore," Edward replied, shifting in his wheelchair to try and get more comfortable.

A soft knock at the door sounded just before Dr. Karges entered the room, smiling kindly as he extended his hand out toward the men in turn.

"Hello, Edward. How are you doing today?" he asked.

"Been worse," he chuckled lightly.

"I can imagine," Dr. Karges laughed as he sat upon a stool and rolled closer to Edward. "How's the physical therapy coming along?"

"Not too bad, actually," Edward shrugged. "The therapist is cool...he's kind of a friend of a friend. Works me pretty hard, but it's not as bad as I'd thought it would be."

"Any progress?" the doctor asked.

" my right leg, anyway. I've been hoping it's just the cast on the left holding me up," Edward responded. "It's kind of heavy and there's not much room to move in there."

"Well then, let's see if we can get rid of it today. Sound good?" he asked and Edward nodded. "So here's the plan, I'm going to cut the cast off and then send you down the hall for some x-rays. Dr. Ashford isn't running clinic today, but he ordered for some films to be taken of your back today since you'd already be coming in, and he wanted to review them before your appointment with him next week."

"Okay," Edward nodded again.

"Alright, let's get this off and hopefully get you out of here a few pounds lighter."

An hour, one workout of bending to and fro and side to side, and fifteen x-rays later—nine of his entire leg and six of his back—Edward wheeled himself back out to the car, sans one highly annoying cast. He knew he still had a long road to travel toward recovery, but leaving that hunk of plaster behind felt like the first victory he'd had in a streamlined plethora of failures.

Unfortunately, that victorious feeling wouldn't last long.

Just as they were getting ready to pull out of the parking lot, Carlisle's cell phone rang.

"Hello?...Hey Charlie, what's going on?...oh no...uh huh..."

Edward's brow furrowed as his father's expression turned to one of worry. Worry of his own began to flood his system as his father mouthed Bella's name to him silently while listening to Charlie on the other end of the line.

"What happened? Is she okay?" Edward asked, only to have his father hold up a finger at him telling him to wait a second.

"Okay...yes, please, and if it's not too much, give me a shout when they get her into a room. Thanks for calling, Charlie."

"What happened?" Edward asked again as Carlisle snapped his phone shut and sighed.

"Bella's in the emergency room. They're admitting her...Edward, relax," Carlisle urged as his son began running his hands through his hair; a sure sign he was stressing himself out. "It's nothing to get worked up about, she'll be fine. She just came down with the flu overnight and they think she has an upper respiratory infection as well. Her doctor only wants to admit her as a precaution because of all the trouble she had with her lungs just two months ago."

"But I just saw her yesterday," Edward said, shaking his head. "She was fine just yesterday."

"These things happen," Carlisle shrugged. "She's probably been coming down with it for a few days now. It just didn't hit until early this morning...what are you doing?"

"Calling Seth...I'm not going to physical therapy today," Edward replied, searching for the number in his contact list.


"Pop, it's one day," he shook his head, not wanting to argue. "I'll be fine, just drop me off at the hospital. I'm sure Charlie and Renee can give me a lift home later tonight."

"They probably won't have to. Renee was calling your mother while I was on the phone with Charlie. I'm sure she'll come as soon as she gets off of work, so if I can't bring you home, she will."

Once Edward had gotten Seth on the line, he explained the situation and, at Seth's request, he took down his cell number and promised to call when Bella got into a room. Edward wasn't even sure if Bella would want him to visit her, but not attempting to see her wasn't an option. She'd dropped everything in her life for him, and he could do the same for her—because that's what good friends did, and he'd been a horrible one to her thus far.

When they got to the hospital, Edward and Carlisle went straight to the emergency room, but were told they wouldn't be allowed back because Bella already had two visitors and that was the maximum they'd allow at one time. Just as the woman had finished speaking to them, Carlisle spotted Alice walking away from the triage area and toward the exam rooms.

"Is there any way I can speak to Alice Cullen for a minute? I'm her father in-law," Carlisle asked politely.

"Sure, let me go get her for you," the woman smiled before turning on her heel.

Within minutes Alice was approaching the registration station, smiling and shaking her head. "Trying to pull strings with your connections, are we?"

"How is she?" Edward asked, unable to even crack a smile in response.

Alice sighed and chewed the inside of her lip for a moment as her head turned back in the direction of the exam rooms. "Not so good right now," she answered, turning her gaze back toward him. "I'd let you back but they're getting ready to bring her upstairs. You should be able to visit her up there in about a half hour or so. She'll be in room six-ten. You'll want to keep your distance, though. You don't need to get sick right now, Edward."

"Yeah, yeah. They gave me a flu shot right before I got discharged, Peanut. I'll be fine," he replied, waving it off.

"Don't you yeah, yeah me, Mister. I'm only looking out for you," Alice chastised lightly through her smile. "I have to get back to work. I'll see you upstairs after I get off. And Edward?"

"Yeah?" he asked.

"Be gentle toward her today, will you?" Alice frowned. "She feels like crap, she doesn't need to take any of yours right now."

"I wasn't planning on giving her any, but thanks for the reminder, Peanut," Edward grumbled as he turned his chair to head out of the ER and into the main part of the hospital.

After calling Seth, and making a quick run through the gift shop for flowers, they headed up to the waiting room on the sixth floor. As they got off the elevator, Carlisle sighed miserably at the sight of the room he'd spent far too much time within while his son had been a resident of the same floor.

"If I never see this room'll be too soon," he grumbled, following closely behind Edward.

"Funny...I feel the same way about this entire hospital," Edward retorted, a wry laugh leaving him by way of a single burst of air flowing through his nose.

"Something wrong with that chair?" Edward questioned as his father halfway lowered himself into it and then stood, only to cross the room and sit in the one directly across from it.

"Yeah, it's the one I sat in when I thought you wouldn't make it out of surgery," he replied, leaning forward to brace his elbows on his knees. "Never could bring myself to sit in that one again after that first night."

"Did it really look that bad?...That I wouldn't pull through, I mean?" Edward asked after a few moments of pungent silence. He'd heard plenty of what had happened to land him in the hospital, and of things after his surgery, but not much of anything that had happened between being pulled out of the basement and being brought into the ICU.

"Honestly? My biggest fear was you'd already be gone by the time your brothers and I got here."

"What made you think that?" Edward asked, painfully watching the moisture collect in his father's eyes as he frowned and lowered his gaze to the floor.

"You coded in the rig...the driver was clearing their unit from the scene with dispatch when the medic with you in the back started yelling that you were crashing. Everyone on scene heard it over the radios..." Carlisle trailed off, remembering that moment with horrifying clarity. Much of the rest of the night might blur together over time, but that moment would forever stand out in his memory. "It took us fifteen minutes to get off scene because two volunteers had pinned my truck in. When we got here, they told us you'd coded twice...once in the rig and again right after they brought you in. You'd already been rushed up to the O.R. by the time we got here, but they hadn't yet assigned you an ICU room. They didn't even have you registered under a were just Trauma Seattle."

Silence fell over the men as Carlisle relived those terrifying endless hours and Edward attempted to let the information of just how close he'd come to losing his life sink in. Everyone had kept telling him it had been a close call, but they'd never divulged just how close it had been. Hearing about it now was—unsettling, to say the least.

"I don't even think I can begin to tell you what we went through that night," Carlisle spoke again, his gaze unfocused as his mind traveled back to those first few hours. "After they told us you'd been taken to the operating room, a chaplain came and led us to the ER's quietroom, where God knows how many families have sat and grieved after being given the news that they'd lost one of their loved ones. I don't even remember the words he said to us in there. I just kept thinking brace yourself, he might not make it.

"Every hour that passed with no word on how you were doing felt more and more like I was just waiting to have a bomb dropped on me."

Edward barely had time to contemplate what that must have been like for his father when his mother breezed through the door, took one look at the chair beside the one his father had almost sat in, and veered away from it as though repelled by a magnetic force field. It was in that moment that Edward realized both his parents had visually aged years from what he remembered them looking like prior to his accident. The distress they'd endured while he'd fought for his life had taken an incredible toll on them, and it was right then that it dawned on him that his fight for his life was something neither one of them would escape the haunting memories of.

"How'd you get out of work so quickly?" Carlisle asked, looking down at his watch with furrowed brows.

"I told them there was a family emergency. Janine's filling in for me, but I have to be back in time for the staff meeting. How is she? Have you seen her?" Esme asked, fraught with worry.

"Not yet...they were getting ready to bring her upstairs when we got here. Hopefully we'll be able to see her soon," Carlisle answered as she leaned down to kiss the top of Edward's head.

He almost wanted to gripe and swat her away because he'd begun to grow weary of her constantly showering him with affection, but after having the extent of what she'd gone through finally sink in, he figured the least he could do was not put up a fuss about it. If smothering him with affection somehow eased the pain she'd suffered, his masculinity could take a hit or two. She'd earned it; a thousand times over.

"Poor dear...she wasn't looking all that well the other day, but every time I tried to tell her to go home and get some rest she just kept telling me she was fine..."

Edward looked down at his lap as his parents spoke quietly to one another. The previous conversation of their time spent within that room while he'd been fighting for his life was pushed to the back of their minds as they spoke of someone in far less critical condition than he'd been in, but no less deserving of their concern. As his fingers absentmindedly toyed with the stringy ribbon wrapped around the stems of the flowers, he tried to think back and remember if she'd seemed at all under the weather during the last few days he'd spent with her—but he couldn't. He'd been so lost in his own aggravations and mental battles over his condition that he'd been oblivious to any signs of her starting to get ill. Realizing how blind he'd been to her deteriorating health that even his mother - who hadn't been around nearly as much since she'd returned to work - had taken notice of and worried over, he had to question if even if he'd known she was getting ill, would he have done anything about it?

He'd been so horrible to her, always taking what she offered and never giving anything back; just as she'd called him out on doing. He'd become selfish and self-absolved to the worst degree. And when Emmett strolled into the waiting room looking concerned just twenty minutes later, with flowers and a teddy bear wearing a pink bathrobe, bunny slippers, and holding a hankie that said "Get Well Soon", Edward had to wonder when he and his brother had switched bodies. Tendencies to only ever think about one's self had always been a less than desirable character flaw Emmett and Jasper had shared; not him. That had never been him...

Until recently.

"Never thought I'd step foot in this room again," he mumbled, lowering himself down into the chair next to their mother. Turning toward his mother, he asked quietly, "Do you think she'd mind if I didn't go in there? I mean...I want to, but it's just...I don't wanna risk bringing anything back to Ian, ya know?"

"Oh, honey. I'm sure she'll understand. It was nice of you to bring her these though," Esme smiled softly, patting him on the knee.

"Actually, the flowers are from Rosie," Emmett chuckled, shrugging. "I was just gonna get her the bear."

"Oh?" Esme smiled wider, appearing surprised.

"Yeah," Em laughed. "She and Ian are waiting out in the truck for me because she didn't want to bring the baby into the hospital—sick people and all. Speaking of which, I should probably get back down there. Could you just tell her we're sorry we can't visit but we hope she feels better soon? I tried calling her cell, but she didn't answer."

"I'll make sure she gets the message," Edward finally spoke up, rolling backwards and holding his hands out for their gifts for her.

Emmett only hesitated for a moment, thinking it might be better for either of his parents to pass the message and items along, but sighed and nodded as he handed them over. "Thanks, bro."

Shortly after Emmett took his leave to return to his wife and child, Edward looked down at his watch and noted that they'd been in the waiting room for an hour already. "Should we check and see if she's up for visitors yet?"

"Can't hurt to try," Carlisle shrugged, standing and stretching his limbs.

When they got to the closed door of room six-ten, the one Alice had told them Bella would be in, Edward rapped softly against the wood. From inside the room, he could hear the muffled sounds of Renee and Charlie talking, and Charlie's voice getting louder as he approached the door to open it.

"...don't try to make her, Renee. She's sick. If she wants something later, I'll go get it for her."

"Hey...uh," Charlie stammered after he opened the door and realized who'd been knocking. He rubbed the back of his neck as it craned back toward the sound of Bella heaving again, and with a pained look, turned his head back around to face her visitors—Edward's parents more specifically—as he shut the door behind him. "I'm sorry. I really don't think she's up for company right now."

"Poor thing," Esme sighed sadly. "Could you please give these to her and tell her we all hope she feels better soon, and that we'll stop by tomorrow to see how she's doing?"

"Sure," Charlie nodded, taking the bouquet of flowers his father had purchased from her.

"I'm not going anywhere," Edward shook his head, handing Charlie the flowers and bear Emmett had brought for her, "These are from Emmett and Rosalie, they asked to tell her they wanted to visit, but they didn't want to chance Ian getting sick."

"Do you want me to give her those, too?" Charlie questioned, pointing at the bouquet still in Edward's lap.

"No, I'd rather give them to her in person. Can you just tell her I'll be in the waiting room if or when she feels up for some company?" he asked with a pleading look. He could tell in the way Charlie's eyes hardened each time he lowered his gaze to acknowledge him that his behavior toward his daughter, as of late, had struck a raw nerve.

"Are you sure you wouldn't rather me just have her call you then?" Charlie asked, unsure if Bella would even want to call him when she was feeling slightly better; not after the way she'd come home from his place with a tear-streaked face the night before. She'd tried to hide her upset, but Charlie knew his daughter like the back of his hand. It had only taken him a momentary glance when she'd come in the door and bolted for the stairs with no more than a quick "I'm beat, I'm going to bed" for him to know something had happened between the two of them.

"That sounds like a better idea, Edward. You'd be much more comfortable waiting at home, son," Carlisle commented, severely unsettled by the thought of Edward sitting in that wretched room the rest of the family had spent far too much time within.

Edward bristled, tired of people thinking that just because he was stuck in wheelchair that it meant he was entirely incapable of making a decision for himself, much more, assuming he needed round the clock babysitting service. Enough was enough already for him.

"No, it doesn't. And no, I won't," he objected, fighting to keep his agitation from leaking into his tone. "Bella's spent plenty of nights sleeping in uncomfortable chairs to be by my side, and there's nothing physically wrong with me that renders me incapableof doing the same for her.

"Short of any of you taking away what little independence I have right now, nothing's going to make me leave hers. She deserves to know that, even though I've been an impossible asshole lately, I'm here for her as much as she's here for me."

Carlisle, Charlie, and Esme looked down at him with shocked faces, each of them taken aback by the determination blazing in his eyes as his gaze flickered between them. When they finally settled on Charlie, Edward spoke his last words before turning and wheeling himself away...

"I'll be in the waiting room."

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