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War of the Heart

Summary:
Lieutenant General Charlie Swan moves his family to Forks while he and his sons our deployed to Iraq. Can the Cullens & the Hales help Bella survive while her whole family is on tour overseas? What happens when the only family member she can rely on runs away? Or when a brother is injured in a road side explosion? Thanks to XxBleedingSoulxX for the amazing banner :) NOTE!! I'VE GIVEN UP UPDATING ON THIS SITE, IF YOU WISH TO KEEP READING YOU CAN FIND THE STORY AT FANFICTION. THANKS FOR ALL THE LOVE.


Notes:
Everything belongs to the one and only Stephanie Meyer.


17. Austin

Rating 5/5   Word Count 4186   Review this Chapter

Chapter Seventeen – Austin

**last time**

I took the letter from Alice and tore open the envelope to find a card with a short hand written message.

Bella, Stay strong

Take Care of Austin

Be Home Soon

- Jack

*****

BPOV

It had been almost two weeks since I had received the note from Jack, and I had still yet to see any sign from him. Everyone kept assuring me that Jack would come home at his own time and there was nothing we could do to control this situation, and we honestly had bigger fish to fry.

I had been back to school for a little over a week now, and I was quickly starting to adapt to a new routine. Wake up, go to school, visit with Austin until visiting hours finished around eight, and then head home to work on homework. I hadn’t really had much time to socialize with the guys out of school, but they were quite understanding and would make time to see me whenever I got a free minute.

Edward had absolutely been godsend to me over the past two weeks. Whenever I wasn’t at the hospital, he never left my side. While I was busy looking out for Austin’s health, he put himself in charge of looking after mine. He would remind me daily about the importance of taking time to sleep and eat, even though I hadn’t had much of an appetite since I arrived home from Seattle. But he wasn’t above threatening to tie me down to a kitchen chair and force feeding me if need be.

It had also become a regular occurrence for Rosalie to wake me up early in the mornings, before school, to go running. She insisted that this was to look after my health, but I think she just missed hanging out with me outside of school, and this was really the only opportunity we had to talk.

It was Wednesday afternoon, and I had just gotten dismissed from school before rushing over to the hospital to see Austin.

Lately, other than the nightmares, he was doing much better. His ribs were almost completely healed, and his right leg was healing rapidly. Almost all his bruising was gone, and the cuts were healed. Slowly but surely he was starting to resemble the Austin I remembered. He was still stubbornly refusing to see a therapist, but he was in high spirits lately so I decided to postpone that topic until later.

“Hey Big Brother, how are you doing today?” I asked, entering the room and throwing my bag and coat onto a nearby table before taking my regular seat by Austin’s bedside.

“Completely and utterly bored out of my mind,” he sighed. “How was school?”

“Same old,” I replied, “but that doesn’t matter I have some good news! I was talking to Carlisle and he says that as long as you continue to progress like you’ve been doing, then he should be able to discharge you in a of couple days.”

“That’s great Squirt,” he said relieved. “I seriously don't think you understand how crazily bored I am!”

“Um... Austin, I was wondering if you’ve given anymore thought to getting some therapy? It wouldn’t be forever... just for a little while. I was looking online, and all the sites recommend counselling to help prevent nightmares. Austin, you’ve witnessed some of the most gruesome things, I just don't want them haunting you anymore.” I cried.

“Seriously Bella, I love you and all but you gotta let this therapy thing go!” he groaned.

“I guess I'm just Worried Austin, I'm scared you’re repressing your emotions. I love you so much big brother, just promise me you’ll at least think about it?”

“Fine, I promise baby-girl” he sighed.

EPOV

Over the past two weeks, I watched Bella’s spirit deteriorate. She wasn’t the same Bella that I met back in September. She was forced to grow up in a drastic way in a very short time. She was forced to face problems she didn’t know existed, and watch her family life crumble to pieces. I knew she was trying to handle her family and brother’s situations with as much grace and dignity as possible, but I could see it eating away at her.

She wasn’t one to admit it, but she wore her heart on her sleeve. She cared a great deal for her friends; I think that was proven with everything she’s done in the past few months for Jasper, Rosalie, and the newest little member of her family, Riley. But as much as she cared about her friends, that couldn't replace the feelings of protectiveness she felt for her family. She desperately wanted her brother to seek help.

I knew I needed to do something to help her somehow; I loved her too much to watch her suffer like this. I decided to skip my last class because there was somewhere I needed to be, I knew there was at least one thing I could do to help her and I needed to do it quick before Bella got out of school.

It was finally time to meet her family.

APOV (Austin)

Over the past few weeks I’d been trying to put out a good front for Bella, but truly, I was a fucking train wreck. No matter what I did, the mental images of the war refused to subside. Since the afternoon I woke up in Seattle, my life had been plagued with images of burned and mangled bodies and it was coming to a point that I wasn’t sure I could take it anymore. While it was a liveable discomfort in the beginning, now it seemed every time I closed my eyes, I found myself reliving the war.

No matter how much I joked around with Bella, I was scared she was beginning to see through my charade. Honestly, I don't think Bella realized just how much she was really doing for me, how much it help just to spend a couple hours of my day talking with her. But I could tell that she was continuing to bombard herself with things that were out of her control.

I was pulled out of my reverie by someone knocking on the door. I knew it couldn't be Bella because usually she just let’s herself in, and a nurse or doctor would have knocked and entered by now. “Come in” I yelled.

Just then, the door to my hospital room slowly creaked open, and a bronze haired boy, looking about Bella’s age, popped his head in.

“Hi Austin, may I come in?” he asked, sounding a little nervous. I nodded and he proceeded to enter the room and closed the door behind him before continuing to speak. “My name’s Edward Cullen, I believe my father, Carlisle Cullen has been working on your case? He asked. I nodded in response, still confused to why this kid was here rambling in my room.

“I'm actually a very close friend of Bella’s and I'm here because I'm scared for her health. I guess there’s no easy way to say it, so I'm just going to spit it out. Bella’s extremely worried for you. She been like the walking dead; she hasn’t been sleeping or eating, and I’ve had to practically force food down her some days.” I sighed; I hadn’t realized it had gotten that bad. I guess I wasn’t the only Swan putting up a false front these days.

“I'm glad to know someone’s looking after my sister and all, but what exactly did you want to accomplish my telling me this?” I asked warily.

“I really don't know how to say this, so again I'm just going to spit it out. Bella means a great deal to me and as long as I'm here, I won’t stand for anyone hurting her, even if it is her own brother.”

“That’s good to know, kid” I murmured sarcastically. This kid had some nerve coming up here, telling me I was hurting my sister.

“I'm not done,” he exhaled, pinching the bridge of his nose. “What I don't understand is that as her brother shouldn’t you want to be looking out for her? Not sitting up here wallowing in self-pity?”

“If you hadn’t noticed, it’s not like I'm physically capable of moving around here!” I yelled, honestly, what was this kid’s problem?

“I know, and I'm sorry about that, truly I am.” He sighed. “I really don't want you to feel like I'm bombarding you, I guess I just want you to start thinking of her. I just don't understand how you could be so selfish, if you know that all it’s going to take to make Bella happy is for you to talk to a counsellor, then why not just humour her?! She’s not asking for you to make a commitment to going every week, all she’s asking is that you at least try to talk to someone. She’s scared for you and she just wants you to get help.”

Yeesh, I wasn’t expecting this guy to go off on a spiel. “I guess, I can see where you’re coming from kid, and I guess I’m glad that my sister has someone who cares enough about her that their willing to go tell off her brother. I understand that you have her best interests at heart, and for that I do respect you for having the courage to come talk to me today.”

I sighed; despite my predicament I was very grateful to have my little sister with me. It wasn’t as if I could feel my physical pain with the amount of pain meds I was on; it was more that I could feel this absolute terror every single time I was alone. And having Bella here by my side some days seemed to help calm it. I think it was the fact that she was so young and innocent, and I wanted to be strong for her; I wanted to be her strong older brother who she looked up to because he could make it through anything. I just couldn't believe that it took some punk-ass kid to come in here and tell me just how much I was hurting her by suffering in silence.

“Fine, I’ll agree to this if you answer one question for me, exactly how long have you been in love with my sister?” I asked, deciding to put the little bugger in the hot seat. His expression turned to that of a deer caught in a headlight, as a slight blush started to color his cheeks.

“What makes you think I'm in love with your sister?” he asked in a surprised tone, trying to keep a steady voice. Oh God, who does this kid think he’s fooling?

“Honestly, who do you think you’re trying to fool here kid? Who in their right mind would go out of their way to confront their best friend’s brother? It takes a lot of gut to do what you’re doing, either that or there’s another underline force driving your actions... catch my drift?”

“No. I really don't...”

“Just answer the question kid. If you want this from me then I want to know exactly what you’re feelings are towards my baby-sister.”

“Fine,” he sighed. “I love her; I’ve loved her since I’ve first laid eyes on her in English class. But I know she’s not quite ready for a relationship. But that won’t stop me from being here looking out for her best interests.” He sighed.

“I'm not going to pretend like I approve of your adoration for my sister, honestly if my brothers and I had our way, she would have joined a convent years ago. Just know that if you hurt her, you’re going to have four very angry brothers to deal with, got it?”

“That’s understandable, but I won’t hurt her.”

“I’m guessing there’s absolutely no way I can persuade you to stay away from my sister?”

“Sorry, but no. Absolutely nothing can keep me away from her,” He grinned before getting up and leaving my room. Smug little bastard.

Now that Lover Boy had finally left, I could feel my hands start to tremble with fear as I started to think about the prospect of sharing my emotions and memories with a professional. But unfortunately he was right; I needed to do this for Bella since I knew it was killing her to see her big brother suffering like this. She’d already done so much for me and if this could relieve some of her pain, than I guess I could manage to man up and talk to a damn counsellor for an hour or so.

BPOV

“Hey, Edward” I smiled, greeting him as I entered the hospital lobby. “I'm surprised to see you, what are you doing here?”

He looked a little nervous, like he was caught doing something he wasn’t supposed to do. “Umm... I had to talk to my father for a moment and now I'm headed back home.”

“Hey, while your here why don't you come meet my brother? I know I said in the past he wasn’t really strong enough to see visitors, but I think a little extra company might be good for him” I smiled.

“Ugh, sure. I guess I could spare a minute or two...” he managed to squeak out before I grabbed him by the arm, leading him towards my brother’s room.

“Back so soon?” my brother asked Edward, looking a little smug as we both entered his room. I threw my brother a confused look, not really understanding the exchange going on between them.

“Austin, this is my best friend Edward.”

“Hey Edward, did you realize that practically every man in this family is able to kill a man five different ways using something as simple as a toothbrush?” Austin asked, raising an inquisitive eyebrow at him.

“Ugh, no I did not...” he replied nervously. “Bella I’ll call you later, I really do need to be getting home. It was nice meeting you Austin.” Edward said, before rushing out of the room.

“Austin! Was that really necessary?” I scolded, frustrated at my brother for causing Edward’s hasty exit.

“Trust me Bella, the kid deserved it, and it’s not like I'm getting much entertainment around here, that’s actually the most fun I’ve had around here in weeks.” He laughed.

“Can’t you watch TV or read a book or something else to get your kicks, you know, instead of scarring away my friends?” I sighed.

“Nah, this is way more fun” he chuckled. “Plus he really did deserve it; you don't see how he looks at you.”

“And how exactly does he look at me?” I sighed, frustrated.

“Like he’s in love!” he choked out, pretending to gag. “Hmm... Maybe we should get a restraining order?” he recommended, raising his eyebrows suggestively at me, trying to get a rise out of me.

“Austin! That’s absurd, you can’t keep us from seeing each other” I sighed. “Edward’s one of my best friends” Which wasn’t a complete lie, he was one of best friends, just the best friend I happened to be harbouring feelings towards.

“I don’t think I get it though Squirt, seriously… Is it the hair? Or do you just like ‘em thin and scrawny?”

“He’s not thin or scrawny!” I argued, which was probably a bad idea seeing as how I just gave my brother the reaction he was looking for. “Can’t you just let it go?”

“Sorry Squirt, but it’s my job as your big brother to scare away any potential suitors. And since none of the guys are here to help me, that responsibility rests solely on my shoulders.” He said, cracking his knuckles, going into over-protective big brother mode.

“Anyway Bella, I’ve been thinking about what you said the other day, and I think your right. It couldn't hurt for me to speak to a professional about what’s been going on and maybe it’ll even help. What do you think squirt?” honestly I was ecstatic. Tears started welling up in my eyes; I was just so proud that my brother was finally going to seek the help he so desperately needed. I wasn’t sure what exactly happened to change my brother’s frame of mind, but hopefully this was the change we needed to help get him back on track again.

Friday, November 18th

Friday afternoon, after school had wrapped up for the week, Austin and I sat around his hospital room waiting for the therapist to arrive from Port Angelas. After he had finally agreed to get some counselling I immediately jumped at the opportunity to get him help and approached Carlisle who gave me the name of a supposedly great counsellor in the Port Angeles area who had experience with these sorts of situations. I called her number, and she was more than willing to travel up to Forks to meet with me and Austin at the hospital, seeing as how he still wasn’t able to be transported anywhere yet.

When the therapist arrived shortly after four, she quickly introduced herself as Mrs. Brideau. She was an older woman, who looked to me in her early fifties, but seemed friendly enough. We all agreed that I would be able to stay for the session so I could be there for my brother to give him moral support. I just hoped that Austin would be able to open up enough to discuss some of the things he’s been feeling with her.

“Austin, why don't we start with something simple today, your sister Bella tells me you’ve been having trouble sleeping, that nightmares have been a regular occurrence, is that right?”

“Yea,” He murmured. “There are many nights I just lay here in my hospital bed because I can’t fall asleep, and the meds the doctors are giving me don’t seem to be helping at all.”

“I want to assure you that nightmares are a very normal thing for men in your situation. There’s no sure fire way to cure them, but many people find it helpful to talk about it. If it’s okay with you, why don't we discuss some of your assignments overseas, what exactly was your job?” Dr. Brideau asked.

“I worked in Iraq as a medic. I was routinely assigned to deal with some of the most gruesome scenes of war like the aftermath of suicide bombings, kidnappings and roadside bombs.”

“That must have been very difficult to handle, Austin.”

“Yea, it was. I had recovery missions where I’d go out to a site where guys got burnt so bad you could still smell their flesh — still charred, still burning and smoking when you get there,” he said. “You’d get out and be stepping on somebody’s private parts or you got an arm over here. … It was a regular occurrence.”

“I understand. What exactly are your nightmares about Austin?”

“One of my regular occurring nightmares is of a time when I was called out in the field to help treat a soldier with battle wounds. When I was there, working on the injured soldier, I noticed a family trying to cross a checkpoint. They’d just shot three guys who’d tried to run a checkpoint. And during that mess, the family was just trying to get through to get away from it all. And we ended up shooting all them, too. It was a family of six. The only one that survived was a 13-month-old and her mother. And the worst part about it all was when I went over to assess the injuries of the civilians; there was an 8-year-old girl there. I tried my best to bring her back to life, but there was no use. Every time I close my eyes at night, my dreams are haunted by her face. She was so young and innocent, and she lost her life to a situation that was completely out of her control.”

“I think that’s enough for today Austin, you did very well. Bella may I see you in the hallway for a moment?”

I nodded getting up. “I'm very proud of you Austin. It takes a lot of courage to talk about the things you did. I want you to know that I’ll never leave you, and I’ll be here for as long as you need me,” I said kissing his forehead, before following Mrs. Brideau into the hallway.

“Honestly Bella, a lot of the things your brother discussed reminds me of the characteristic symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, a common mental illness for soldiers returning home from Iraq. What I need from you is to look out for Austin expressing any symptoms of anxiety, depression, irritability, feelings of isolation, intrusive memories of traumatic moments in war, and difficulty sleeping.

“What I can’t emphasize enough Bella, is that you have to remember that Austin is not alone. One-third of all military soldiers who have served in high levels of combat in Iraq have been reported to have depression, generalized anxiety and of course posttraumatic stress. Once your brother is feeling better, I'm going to recommend he joins a support group for soldiers dealing with similar issues.

“But anyway, that’s a conversation we can save for later on. I’d like to schedule another session for Austin sometime next week, maybe after he’s been discharged from the hospital and returns home? How about you call me when he gets home and settled and we’ll arrange an appointment then.”

I thanked her and went in and spent the rest of the afternoon with Austin. After his session he was pretty much emotionally drained, so I genteelly crawled into bed with him and we spent the rest of the afternoon keeping each other company as we watched TV in his room.

*****

Emotionally drained, I made my way home from the hospital late that night, only to find even more activity going on at the house. As I entered the house, my senses were immediately assaulted with the smell of paint fumes. Investigating further, I followed the smell until I found Esme, Alice and Jasper moving furniture into the freshly painted room that used to be the downstairs office.

“Esme?” I asked startled, I hadn’t expected to see her here so late on a Friday night. “What are you doing here?” I asked, sceptically looking around at all the box’s and paint supplies.

“Carlisle informed me that you’re brother was getting released in a few days, so I enlisted the help of Alice and she got Jasper to let us in. We thought we could help you by getting the down stairs office changed into a room that would allow Austin and his wheelchair to move around freely. I also contacted a contractor, and he and his team are going to come in on Monday and convert the closet space into a bathroom.”

“Oh my god, Esme, this is too much!” I cried.

“Nonsense darling, your family has been through so much, it was nice to be able to finally use my expertise to help out.”

“Thank you Esme. You and your family have been so great to us. I’ll cherish your family’s kindness always.”

“Shh...” She ordered, just settling for the emotional hug. I obeyed and fell silent, hugging her tightly as well as she patted my hair and pulled away, before she kissed my cheek in her motherly way, smiling at me tearfully. I was never more thankful than now to have Esme as a mother influence, her kindness and generosity was truly a blessing.

“Hello? Bella?” someone called out as I heard the front door open.

“Who’s that?” Alice asked hesitantly, as Jasper stood up behind her, ready to protect us if necessary. I darted out of the room, not bothering to answer a very stunned looking Alice, before coming face to face with the person I’ve been waiting so desperately to see.

“Jack?!” I squealed, surprised to see my youngest, older brother standing here, in our doorway.

“Bella!” he cried out in delight before dropping his begs in the entryway, and capturing me into the biggest hug he’d ever dare to give me, not even bothering to try to hold back his tears of contentment.

“Oh my god, Jack!” I shrieked again, right before clamping a hand over my mouth to old back a sob, I couldn't believe he was finally here, he had finally come home.

“Shh.” He said gently, “don't cry baby girl, I'm sorry it took me so long to get here, but I'm here now and everything’s going to be okay.” He assured me, whipping the tears from my eyes.

“Oh God I missed you.” I said joyfully, making him smile sadly at me. As much as I wanted to still be mad at him for leaving me, I couldn’t do it, I was just too happy that he had finally come home.