AN: So, I don't have a beta. And this story has been written now over the course of ten years. The earlier chapters are pretty rough—I am aware of this fact. I was more worried about getting the chapters out quickly in the beginning that I didn't take the time to give it the finesse it deserves. Once the story is completed, I plan to go back and edit, and fix things up. But until then, please be patient with me. I love reviews…it makes my day to see people are actually reading and responding to the material. However, lately, I've been getting a lot of reviews telling me every grammatical thing I've done wrong. While I appreciate constructive criticism, these reviews hurt—and make me question my writing ability. Sorry for putting this all here, but it also doesn't help when they come from guest reviewers who I can't message directly to take a chill pill.

Anyways, onwards and upwards.

CHAPTER SEVENTY-THREE

EDWARD'S POV:

I spared one more look at Bella before heading upstairs. I know that Sam just unloaded a lot of information on us, most of which was rather disturbing—but we already have enough going on in our lives that we couldn't afford for Bella to revert backwards, or shut down. I hoped that she would see that I am here for her to bounce things off of. She didn't have to do this alone. But from that last glance, I would venture a guess that Bella was turning inwards, which made me sigh.

Once I was upstairs, I headed straight to Tony's room. While he may have excused himself to let the adults talk, Bella was worried he might have been spying instead. Truthfully, I wouldn't put it past him, but was pleased to see his door was shut. He didn't need to hear about how much of a douchebag his uncle was being.

I knocked on the door, and then let myself in. "Hey Tony. What are you playing?"

"I'm playing safari. All the animals are in the wild and stuff. There are lions, and zebras, and elephants. It's the circle of life."

"The circle of life, huh?" I asked, surprised he understood such a concept.

"Yup. Simba's Daddy told him about it. Things come and things go."

At first, I was confused—but then remembered Simba was one of those Disney characters. I'm going to have to brush up on these types of movies if I'm going to be able to keep up. "That's from a movie, right? Which one is it again? The Lion Cub?"

"No, it's called The Lion King. He's in charge, the king of the jungle. It's one of my favorite movies. I like that one and The Jungle Book bestest. Mommy says I like them for the animals. We watch them all the time, but sometimes we watch Mommy's favorite too."

"Oh yea? Which one does she like?" I asked, truly interested in learning more about Bella.

"She likes the one that's like her name. The one with all the books and the scary Beast."

I chuckled. It figures that would be the one to draw her in—Bella was never very big on the Disney Princesses. "That's nice that you let her watch her favorite sometimes. Sharing is important."

"That's what Ms. Angela always tells us. Its important to take turns. By seeing what other people like as their favorites lets us try new things, and we might get new favorites," he explained to me.

"Well, I'd love to watch those movies with you, Tony. I don't remember them—maybe they're my favorite too. Or, we can call Grandma later and ask her what ones I liked to watch when I was a little boy."

"Daddy, you're not little," he said, before he broke out in giggles.

"Not anymore, but I used to be little just like you before I grew up."

"Really?"

"All grownups were once little kids. That's why its important to eat your vegetables and drink your milk so you can continue to grow nice and tall."

"I want to be tall like you Daddy."

"Anything's possible buddy. But its almost time for dinner. You want to help me finish up? And don't forget, we need to have that conversation with Mommy about me staying over."

Tony smacked his head, "Oh, I forgots about that. Do you think she'll be mad I didn't tell her I was scared?"

"I don't know Tony, but what I do know is that honesty is the best policy, and its important for your Mom to know that you are scared. You shouldn't try and keep that a secret."

"I guess," he said, though it didn't sound like he believed me. Standing up from his safari game, he asked "The cheesy pasta is ready?"

"I have to finish it up now. Come on, you said you would be my stirrer."

Tony was excited to be given a task, and ran out the door ahead of me. I wasn't sure if I should have made him pick up the toys first, but dinner had already been delayed because of Sam's visit, and I didn't want to nitpick right now. As I made my way downstairs, I was pleased to see that Bella was no longer sitting aimlessly in the living room, but instead, was folding napkins and placing silverware down on the table. I hoped that was a good sign.

The pasta was cooked and drained. The only thing left to do was make the sauce. Thankfully, I had seen my mother make this dish multiple times, so I wasn't a complete novice. In a saucepan, I melted some butter, then added some flour. I helped Tony pull up a chair to the stove, and handed him the spoon. He started stirring right away. After the two ingredients started to come together, I slowly started to pour the milk in. I instructed Tony to keep stirring until everything was nice and smooth. When that was ready, we added the Cheddar cheese to the milk mixture, and occasionally stirred that to help the cheese melt faster over the heat.

"It looks so yummy. I just want to lick it all up," Tony said, still stirring. The look of concentration on his face made you think he was solving equations. He really took his job of being a helper seriously.

"If you lick it all up, there will be none to go on the pasta, silly. Give it three more big stirs, and then I think we're done," I told him, while I finished cubing the ham to mix into the pasta.

"No licking. Too hungry" I heard from behind me. Tony just giggled at his mother. I turned and offered Bella a smile. Addressing me, she said "Bowls. Above you." I forgot Bella wouldn't be able to reach things from her chair, and quickly grabbed the bowls, as well as cups so that she could finish setting the table.

"Now, Chef Tony. We need to put the ham inside with the pasta. Are you sure you want to try it all mixed up, or do you want me to make some without so you can have the regular kind if you don't like it?"

"I like cheesy pasta and I like ham, so I think I will like them together. Let's mix them all up," he reasoned.

"That okay with you Bella?" I double checked before I proceeded any further.

She nodded, and said, "Sounds good."

Turning to my helper, I said, "Alright. Once the meat is in, then I need you to help me make the pasta cheesy."

"With my hands?" he asked, all excited about potentially getting sticky.

"No buddy. With the spoon. No need to get so messy before we eat."

Once the food was fully blended, we sat together at the table. I tried the mac and cheese, and was pleased that it wasn't half bad. I'm sure if my mother had made it, she would have used spices to amp it up a bit. But with the way Tony was shoveling it in his mouth, I was pleased to see I did okay.

"Slow down. Don't choke," Bella cautioned.

"But its so yummy Mommy. Didn't me and Daddy do a good job? It's better than the box kind, right?"

"Did great. Like the ham."

"Me too Mommy. Can we make it this way all the time? Daddy was right. Growing boys need lots of meat."

Bella shrugged, and said, "Sure."

Tony thankfully slowed his eating down as the meal progressed. He also got quieter, which I took to mean he was preparing for our conversation with Bella. I decided to start things off for him.

"Bella, while you were napping earlier, the two of us went to the store. While we were there, Tony and I had an interesting conversation." Bella was looking between Tony and I, no doubt trying to figure out where I was going with this. Not wanting to keep her waiting, I continued, "He has something that he wants to say—but he was worried about telling you. He was trying again to be a big boy."

Bella reached towards Tony and grasped his little hand. "No worry. Tell me. Anything."

"You ready to tell Mommy what you told me?" I prodded, showing him it was his turn.

"I'm scared to sleep upstairs by myself. I know 'cuz you are in the wheely chair and you can't go upstairs, but my bed is upstairs, and I'll be all alone. What if I have a nightmare? Or a monster comes and gets me? What if something bad happens, but you're too far away to help me?" Tony rattled off.

Bella's face crumbled when she heard Tony's fear. "Sorry baby. Sleep downstairs. With me?"

Not liking that idea, I interjected, "Bella, he hasn't been home in almost three weeks. He should sleep in his actual bed. And you're too injured to be sharing your bed with anyone." Bella raised her eyebrow at that one, making me realize the connotations behind what I just said. Clearing my throat, I tried to rework my thoughts. "What I mean is, Tony isn't very still when he sleeps. He jostles around so much that I would be worried that he would accidently cause you more injury. Plus, he shouldn't be displaced in his own home when there isn't a good reason for it."

"So, your solution?" she asked, though by the tone of voice, I was beginning to suspect she was on to us.

"Edward should stay here Mommy. So that way I'm not alone upstairs, and he's here in case something goes wrong. Its always good to have more grownups around," Tony answered for me.

"His idea? Or yours?" Bella inquired, her eyes squinting into a glare.

"Both. I really don't feel comfortable leaving you overnight. There are so many things that could go wrong, and it really would ease my mind to know that I was nearby if I was needed. Hopefully, I won't be needed. But its like Murphy's Law. If I wasn't here, you would have needed me to be." I let that sink in for a bit, before leaning closer towards Bella, and added, "I'm not trying to step on your toes here Bella. I have already mentioned my thoughts to you before. I'm only pressing again now after hearing what Tony had to say earlier. He shouldn't be the one who suffers just because you want to try and do this on your own."

Bella was biting her lip, showing me that she was at least considering this offer.

"Please Mommy? Edward can read me stories, and sleep in my room."

I didn't want to pressure Bella, but I wanted to leave her with one more thought. "If it makes you feel any better, think that I am here more for him than for you. You don't need me—but he does." I then stood up, and said to Tony, "It was a big thing to ask buddy. Let's leave your Mom to think things over. You finished with your meal? Want to help me do the dishes now?"

"Kids don't do dishes," Tony said.

"But you helped me make the mess! Shouldn't that mean you help me clean it up?" I jested.

"You just gots to put it in the cleaning box Edward," he schooled me.

The blank look must have been a dead give away on my face. Thankfully Bella saved me by explaining, "Dishwasher."

"Well, will you help me put them in the cleaning box then? The faster we put them in the box, then the faster we can watch one of the movies you said earlier."

"Can we watch The Lion King, so I can show you the circle of life part?"

"As long as that's okay with your Mom, that works for me."

Tony shot his mother quite the convincing pair of puppy dog eyes. He really was too much sometimes. The look obvious won his mother over, because she said, "Be ready. For bed. Before movie."

Tony threw his fist up in the air and said, "Yes!" It was such an Emmet thing to do that it made me crack up. He then took his empty bowl and brought it over to the counter, before rushing back upstairs.

"Help him. Going to. Try to. Skip bath." Bella got out.

"All little boys think baths are evil Bella. But I'll make sure he at least washes up a bit before putting on his pajamas." Getting up from my seat, I pointed to the remaining dishes. "Leave these be Bella. I made this kitchen a mess, and I'll clean it up."

"Sure. Sure," was all I got back, though I doubted the sincerity of it. Shaking my head, I started up the stairs to catch Tony before he put his pajamas on.

BELLA'S POV:

So, Edward was trying to finagle an invite to stay over. And using my kid to do it! Okay, I don't necessarily think that was the case, but still, how convenient—he was going to get what he wanted all along.

I really didn't believe that Tony made this up, or was being coerced by Edward. From the tone in his little voice, I could hear just how scared he really was. I hated that Tony still had this concept of what was required of him to be a big boy, which again made me remember Jake and his "rules". This just made me angry at him all over again. That bastard, I thought. I still hadn't had a chance to discuss these stupid rules with him—but with him trying to take my son away from me, there were more important matters at hand. And I sincerely doubt we'd ever be able to have a civil conversation again. I may forgive, but I never forget. Jacob was in for a rude awakening should he come crawling back here trying to make amends. But I was distracting myself from the issue at hand.

Tony was scared. And he shouldn't be scared to sleep in his own house. Did I want Edward staying over? No. I didn't want to have to rely on him more than I already was. Especially since he wasn't going to be around that much longer. But were his points valid? Yes. Having another adult here made a lot of sense—but did that adult have to be him?

Unfortunately, I was limited in who else I could ask. Alice and Esme went back home. Jake and Jessica were M.I.A., and considering the hell Jake was putting us through, he definitely wouldn't be someone I considered for this job. There was always Angela, but she was getting to the end of her pregnancy, and it wouldn't be fair to add more stress and responsibility to her life. There was the nurse, but she wouldn't stay upstairs with Tony when I'm her patient she was hired to watch over. I guess when it came down to it, I really didn't have any other options.

But if I gave in to this request, would this just prove that I would always cave? This co-parenting thing was so relatively new, I didn't want to come off as a pushover so early. It seemed that I was already giving Edward so much. First a room at his apartment for future sleepovers with Tony; then the trip to Chicago. It seems that all I do is say yes to him. Well, I did veto him helping me around the house and got the nurse. I guess he didn't win all the battles. Yet, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do here.

While the boys were upstairs, I grabbed my cell phone, and decided I needed a second opinion. Thankfully, I had mastered the art of texting with one hand since I was always multitasking as moms tend to do.

Ang, you busy? Need your outlook on situation. –Bella

Her reply was quick. Just finished dinner. Whats up? –Angela

Tony told Edward he's scared to sleep upstairs by himself. He wants Edward to stay over. –Bella

Edward wants to stay over. Asked to do so in hospital, but I told him no. Didn't want to blur lines. –Bella

Now feel like I'm getting ganged up on. If I say yes, does it look like I'm caving? —Bella

I'm glad Tony was able to verbalize that he was scared. It must be weird that he went to Edward with this first though. —Angela

A little. I'm glad he told someone, but now it seems to play right into Edward's hands. How convenient. —Bella

Him staying really isn't a bad idea though Bella. You did just get out of the hospital. At least for the next couple of days, you should have someone with you around the clock just in case something goes wrong. –Angela

But does that someone have to be him? :( :( :( -Bella

I could come stay if you want me to Bella, but the number of times I have to get up at night to pee due to this halfling sitting on my bladder, I probably would keep Tony awake. –Angela

I don't think telling Edward he could stay is caving. You are doing this for your son. You don't want him to be scared and Edward can easily fix that. –Angela

Just seems like I'm giving him a lot. The room at his place for Tony, the trip to Chicago, introducing him as Daddy. I just don't want to look like a pushover here. –Bella

This is a weird situation Bella. The things you've already said yes to had a lot to do with the fact that you were trying to make up for the time Edward had lost with Tony. By giving into these requests, you were keeping this civil, and proving co-parenting is possible. –Angela

That doesn't mean you have to say yes to everything, but that also doesn't mean that you should say no just to make sure you don't come off as a pushover. In this instance, I think saying yes will make Tony happy and feel safer, and will relieve Edward's concern for your safety. Kills two birds with one stone. –Angela

I guess. He better not smirk and act all smug for getting his way though. Otherwise, it'll be you and your overactive bladder who is the houseguest instead. –Bella

I doubt he will throw this back in your face Bella. It really does seem like he's trying. –Angela

I can see that he is. He even went grocery shopping so we had food for tonight and tomorrow. Though Tony conned him into making mac and cheese from scratch. Told him I didn't allow for the box kind. –Bella

LOL! That little sneak! Edward made you all dinner? How domestic. –Angela

Yea, well, it's not something to get used to. He goes back to Chicago in two weeks. I'm just worried that him being around too much is going to hurt Tony more when he does leave. I don't want him to get used to Daddy being here day and night. –Bella

Is that why you said no in the hospital? –Angela

Yes. Told him he could be here all day if he wanted, but I didn't want Tony to get used to him being there 24/7. So much for that. –Bella

While your points make sense, you can't fault that Tony should get to spend as much time with him as he can before Edward has to leave. They need to solidify their relationship. –Angela

They're practically inseparable as it is. I just hope this doesn't backfire on us. –Bella

Still doubting his intentions? –Angela

I know he wants to be a family and whatever, but I just don't trust that he won't change his mind. How about when work and life gets busy…will Tony get put on the back burner? Forgotten about? Only considered when the moment calls for it? –Bella

Sometimes, this feels like everything is moving so quickly. Again, I understand that I deprived him of so much time with his son, but I also hoped I had more time to judge how much Edward was willing to make this work before introducing him as Daddy. –Bella

Again, only time will tell. But I witnessed quite the transformation in him Bella. I truly believe he's in this for the long haul. And as much as you want to deny it, he's in it for both of you. –Angela

Uh huh. Thanks for your input Angela. I'll let him know he can stay for the next few days until Tony gets more comfortable. Then we can reexamine things later on in the week. –Bella

You hear from Sam? –Bella

YES! I can't even think about it right now without my blood pressure rising again. It took Ben forever to calm me down earlier. How are you handling it? –Angela

Shocked. Disgusted. Ashamed. Confused. Angry –Bella

And I'm still processing it, so I'm sure there will be more emotions to come. –Bella

What are you ashamed about Bella? This is all on him babe. We all knew he carried a torch for you, but I never realized his feelings still ran that deep. And the way he truly believes that Tony is his is a little scary. –Angela

Did I lead him on? –Bella

No way Bella. You were always clear that he was your friend. And you didn't think you had anything to worry about since he was with Jessica. It's her I feel truly sorry for. –Angela

I suppose. –Bella

Don't turn this on you Bella. You have done nothing wrong but be true to yourself. I'm seriously hoping that he comes to his senses and doesn't move forward with his. However, I'm also concerned because I've never known him to be this out of sorts before. –Angela

Are you going to tell Tony about this? Not all of it, but he should know that his uncle won't be around for a while, and that he shouldn't go anywhere with him. –Angela

I doubt we'll be seeing him anytime soon. With Edward around, he wouldn't dare show his face right now. –Bella

I'm just getting this weird feeling over how possessive he's acting towards you and Tony. I wouldn't have thought he was capable of trying to take custody away from you. If enough lawyers tell him no, do you think he'd be capable of just taking Tony? –Angela

You think he'd kidnap him?! –Bella

I don't want to seem alarmist Bella, but what Sam told me really shook me to the core. I think you should at least tell Tony that Uncle Jake isn't welcome right now, and to let an adult know if he sees or hears from him, just to be on the safe side. I would hate for Tony to get taken or be tricked into something because he was kept in the dark. –Angela

I'm not sure what I should do. I'll talk it over with Edward before bed. I'm sure we can figure out a G-rated version of the story to tell Tony. –Bella

Thanks again for being my soundboard Angela. I would be lost without you. –Bella

Anything for you chickie. You're my best girl. –Angela

Tony coming to the day center, or spending time with dear old Dad? – Angela

I pulled up the calendar on my phone to figure out where we were in the week. After spending so much time in the hospital, my days were starting to blend together. Okay, its Wednesday night.

I'd like him to get back to his normal schedule, but I wouldn't count on him coming tomorrow or Friday. We'll start fresh next week. –Bella

Okay hun. I'll just have to stop by after work to see you guys then, or definitely will be by sometime this weekend. I need my Swan dosage. –Angela

Sounds great. Love you. –Bella

Night hun. And good luck with your man. –Angela

La, la, I can't hear you, la, la. Good night. –Bella

Putting my cellphone down, I tossed my head back, and stretched it back and forth—trying to get the tension out of my neck. Angela was seriously my saving grace—I don't know how I would of handle all of this Edward stuff without having her to hash things out with. While sometimes she pushed a little too far, her input has truly been appreciated, and helped me see beyond my own insecurities.

"You okay?", came from somewhere behind me. I hadn't realized I was no longer alone. I must have closed my eyes when I was stretching.

"Fine. Muscles tight."

"Are you due for new meds?" he asked, though I'm sure he already knew the answer. He was there when the doctor ran through everything before I was discharged.

"Yea. Wait Til. Sue gets here." I left the kitchen, and rolled into the living room to get my beloved whiteboard. "You manage to get him to bathe?"

Edward chuckled, "Barely. He agreed to a wet washcloth. He's just brushing his teeth now, and putting his toys away. Then he'll come down for the movie. I probably should have asked you first about the movie. I hope I didn't overstep."

"He probably won't last through the whole thing, which is why I wanted him ready for bed beforehand. Not a big deal. Once I take my meds, I won't be much company either—hopefully you have enough to entertain you while we're both asleep."

Edward's mouth dropped open, but he quickly tried to hide his reaction. "So, you've decided? I can stay?"

"You make valid points. I don't like that I felt ganged up on, but I you are right. Tony shouldn't be afraid in his own home. I don't want this to become a permanent arrangement. Let's give it a week, and the we'll reevaluate. I don't want him to get used to you being here—it'll only make it harder for him when you have to leave."

"Thank you, Bella. I really didn't intend for you to feel ganged up on. I wanted you to be apart of the discussion that Tony and I were having earlier, which is the only reason I brought it up between the three of us. I guess I was worried you wouldn't believe me if I brought it directly to you."

"Prob. Ably."

"Regardless, I will try to be more mindful of what should and shouldn't be discussed first before introducing Tony into the mix. I'm still learning."

"I understand. You're doing pretty well. Thank you for giving me time to think it over. If you hadn't, I probably would have just said no without giving it proper thought."

"I want us to be a team Bella. I knew you were already overwhelmed from Sam's visit. I didn't want this to send you over the edge."

I really didn't want to get into Sam's visit, but I couldn't get what Angela said out of my head. Hesitantly I began writing on the whiteboard. "I spoke to Angela. She thinks that we need to tell Tony something regarding what is going on. She says that Jake is acting unstable, and who knows what he is capable of. She was thinking worst case scenarios of if lawyers turned him down, then he might try and just kidnap Tony. If we tell him that Uncle Jake isn't being a nice person right now, and to tell us if he sees him or hears from him, then we at least know he won't go with him willingly without realizing it."

I watched Edward's face get stonier as he read through my message. I was worried he was going to be upset with me, but instead, he just sighed, and said, "While I would love to continue to shelter him from this, I think Angela is right. But let's worry about that tomorrow. I want some time to figure out just how much to share. While I wouldn't care if his precious image of his uncle is ruined, I understand that he has played a prevalent role in Tony's life, and I don't want to scar him if that is a relationship that can be salvaged in the future."

"Doubtful. Hurt me."

"I know that Bella. But again, people say stupid things when they're upset. Maybe once he calms down, he'll recognize this for himself."

We both turned when we heard the hurried footsteps of Tony coming down the stairs, signalizing our conversation was over. Tony came barreling in the room, humming Hakuna-matata. He obviously was excited about the evening's activity.

"Ready to see the circle of life, Edward?" Tony asked, before jumping onto the couch to claim a good viewing spot.

"Definitely buddy. I haven't seen this movie in a long time." Turning back my way, he addressed me, "Are you going to watch it with us Bella?"

"Til Sue comes."

Edward put the movie in the DVD player, and the three of us got settled in for the movie. I watched Tony cuddle into his father's side, and felt a tad bit jealous that I was missing out on cuddles with my little boy because of this stupid chair. But I didn't want to get settled on the couch to only move once Sue came to help me get ready for bed. This is only temporary Bella. You'll have your cuddle partner back in no time, I thought to myself, trying to get out of my foul mood.

I must have zoned out with a scowl on my face. I was brought back to the present when I heard, "You sure you don't want your meds now? I can get them for you?"

"Fine. Watch movie," I tried to ward him off, but his attention was now fully on me, and not the film. I pleaded with my eyes to leave it be. Thankfully I was saved by the bell—the doorbell that is. I rolled myself away from the stare down to let Sue in.

"Hello hello!" Sue exclaimed, coming right in and heading back towards the den. "Are you ready for me?"

"Yes please." I stopped behind the couch, wanting to say goodnight to Tony before he passed out. "Bedtime for Mom. Kiss?"

Tony quickly extracted himself from his cuddles to jump up and stand on the couch. He reached over the back to give me a big hug, and then kissed me on both cheeks. "Night Mommy."

"Love you. Edward here. Don't be scared."

"Edward can stay? Oh, thank you Mommy!" he said, coming back in for another hug.

"See you tomorrow," I said to both of them, then rolled myself into the den. This new normal was going to take some time to get used to. I felt like I was the child in this relationship going to bed so early, but I knew that sleep was the best medicine for me. Hopefully this recovery won't take too long, and things will settle back into a normal I was more accustomed to soon. Sue helped me get changed into pajamas, and fetched my nighttime medicine. Once I was fully settled for the night, she left me alone to get some sleep. At first, I didn't think sleep would come since I had so much on my mind. But my drugs were still relatively powerful, and in no time, I was out like a light. If only everything could be so easy.