|The Demons in My Dreams
Author: littlecat358 PM
27 y.o. social worker Bella Swan has seen her fair share of troubled souls, but nothing like Edward Cullen, part owner & manager of The Cullen House Group Home. Will he allow her into his life? And can she survive the demons that haunt him? OOC.Rated: Fiction M - English - Hurt/Comfort/Drama - Edward & Bella - Chapters: 33 - Words: 323,739 - Reviews: 7,566 - Favs: 3,573 - Follows: 3,334 - Updated: 12-05-12 - Published: 04-26-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6942309
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
AN: Going to save the thank yous for the end.
Here it is.
"Are you gonna stay here?"
"Where else would I go, Edward?"
"I mean, back here? Or are you going to go out there?"
I look out over the filling auditorium, and then back at him.
"Is there somewhere you'd prefer me?"
He chuckles. "Yes."
I shake my head and snort. "You and your dirty mind."
"You ask a loaded question, you get a loaded answer, sweetheart."
He leans in. I think he's going to kiss me, but a voice stops him.
"Mr. Cullen, can I speak with you for a minute?"
Sighing, he pulls away. "I'll be back."
"Take your time."
I watch him as he talks to the guidance counselor. Her eyes are darting around, never staying on him too long. She didn't do that when I spoke to her, so I'm thinking he makes her nervous. The last couple of years haven't really changed him much physically. He still looks a little like a thug. A gorgeous, sexy thug, but he's definitely rough around the edges – just the way I like him. Today, he's wearing jeans, a black long-sleeved henley, and his dark blue Docs. When he asked if I thought he should dress up and wear a tie, I just laughed. That's not him, and these are high school kids. If they sense he's fronting in any way, they'll tune him out before he even gets started.
When he's done talking to the woman, he walks over to a giant mirror that looks like it might be for last minute checks before some stage production. He was wearing his knit hat, but he took it off when we got here. Now he's trying to fix his hair.
He catches my eye and smirks. The whole reason he put the hat on this morning was because I couldn't control myself. I'm not sure what he expects when he walks into the kitchen bare-chested – his pajama pants hung low, and a layer of scruff covering his jaw. Nothing says good morning like good, old-fashioned counter sex.
He gives up and approaches me. "This is your fault," he says, pointing at his head.
"You want me to apologize? Say I'll never do it again?" I bite my lip, trying to at least look serious.
"Good. 'Cause I wouldn't have been able to promise something like that anyway. Are you nervous?" I ask. He shrugs. I raise my eyebrows, not buying it.
"A little," he admits.
"You'll do fine. Look, you've already won over at least half of your audience," I tease, nodding towards a group of giggling girls. Edward turns his head to look, and then quickly returns his gaze to me.
"That's not funny."
"Oh, come on, baby. Admit it. It's a little funny."
"Not even remotely," he says, shaking his head.
I purse my lips together and look around to make sure no one can hear me. "You look a little tense," I whisper playfully. "Do you need me to take you into the bathroom and loosen you up a little?" This gets him to crack a smile. "Relax, Edward. You've been ready to do this for a long time." He leans in again.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" Edward growls under his breath. He rolls his eyes and huffs. Turning to face the middle-aged, balding principal, he plasters on a smile.
"I think they're ready. The slides are set up and ready to go. I'll introduce you."
"I'm going to go sit down out there," I say quietly.
I start to walk away, but Edward's hand darts out, snatching mine. He looks into my eyes for just a second and lets go again. "I love you."
"I love you, too, baby."
I sit down on the chair at the end of a row of teachers. I know some of them from my days at DCFS. I smile and wave, and then turn my attention to the principal, who has just reached the podium. He hushes the chattering group of kids. And introduces my husband.
The last few years have been a whirlwind.
I left my job at DCFS at the end of the summer after Sally's death. It was harder than I thought it was going to be. I loved my job. I loved my kids. But I just didn't feel like I was at the place I needed to be, and I had no idea if I would ever be there again. Everyone understood, though. I was comforted by the fact that I'd be able to play a bigger role in the lives of some kids who really needed to know that someone cared.
I was able to help transition my replacement, Carol, and introduce her to all of my kids and foster parents as well as a couple of biological parents. A few days later, Alice, Jess and I took Rose down to Santa Monica for a long girls' weekend before her correspondence courses and my new job at Cullen House started. For four days, we sat on the beach, shopped, and ate.
When we got back, I took Tyler with me to meet my dad and Sue. He was really nervous. His legs bounced and he couldn't keep his hands still. It was the first time he'd ever met with prospective foster parents prior to being placed, and he knew what was at stake.
"Do they know about everything?" he questioned once he was in my car.
"What do you mean?"
"About me. Do they know, like, what happened?"
"Emmett's told them a little bit, but I don't think he went into detail, no. I haven't told them anything. What you want them to know is up to you." He nodded and bit his lip, but didn't stop fidgeting.
We met for dinner at Sue's restaurant. Tyler thought it was cool that she owned the place. They stayed away from anything involving his past and focused instead on telling him about themselves as well as talking about what he liked to do. My dad mostly just listened, but Sue was extremely engaging. After our meal, she took him back to meet her head chef, and then showed him how to make crème brûlée.
"That was cool," he said as we made our way back to Cullen House. "It was like a little blow torch."
"That's exactly what it was," I laughed. "What did you think of them?"
"They're really nice," he answered quietly.
"Yeah." I nodded. "I know. I told you they're good people. Do you think you'd like to go live with them?"
Tyler shrugged. "I don't know. Do you think they liked me?" The question broke my heart.
"Of course they did, Ty," I assured. "You're an amazing kid. Everybody loves you. I think you guys would be good for each other. But it's up to you."
He turned his head to look out the window. In the reflection of the glass I could see him smile.
We had four more, longer visits, including an overnight and a weekend, before he officially moved in with my parents. By that time, I'd begun working at Cullen House, so it was much easier for me to help him through the transition.
The rest of the boys had a hard time when Tyler left. Especially Marcus. He began acting up in school and his grades plummeted. I got a call one day saying he'd been caught in a sexual act with a fourteen year-old freshman in a supply closet and was being suspended for two weeks. When I went to pick him up, he was high as a kite.
I tried talking to him, but he didn't want anything to do with me. Edward, too, became the enemy. I'm not exactly sure why, though. Jasper had a little better luck trying to get him to open up, but it was a slippery slope. He eventually admitted that it was hard to see other kids be wanted. After that, things started to improve again, but he still struggled.
While Edgar and Eric remained fairly stable, the newer kids, Will and Zander, were up and down like freaking roller coasters. Will tried to run twice, but he didn't get far. I had my doubts as to whether he really wanted to go, but it was habit for him. Edward and Jasper sat him down, warning him that they wouldn't tolerate another run.
Zander had a manic episode in October after hiding that he wasn't actually taking his meds. He was out of control for several days and the crash was hard. It wasn't his last either. Eventually, he attempted suicide and had to be removed and hospitalized. Luckily, I wasn't there the day it happened. Edward spared me the details.
Emmett went to college. It was a little more reality than he expected. Even with Ryan – who seemed to have his head on straight – supporting him, Emmett had a difficult time balancing his early morning classes with his full-time job. He started drinking and partying pretty heavily whenever he had time off, causing my sister to refuse to see him for a good six weeks. There were a lot of loud phone calls followed by tears, but eventually, he pulled his head out of his ass and showed up on my doorstep with a dozen red roses and puppy dog eyes, begging for forgiveness.
Despite the drama and her growing pregnancy discomfort, Rose continued to do well in school. She finished her correspondence courses, qualifying her for her diploma in November. Just in time, too.
December first, two weeks early, she went into labor and delivered a beautiful, healthy baby girl. Kiley Isabella McCarty. I stayed with her through everything. Emmett made it from work just in time and the two of us cried like babies when Kiley came out all squished and wrinkly.
Watching Emmett hold his little girl for the first time was an experience I don't think I'll ever get over. He was in such awe. I could see why, too. Cradling that tiny, little person in my arms, I suddenly realized just how much I did want to be a mother – someday.
Leaving them alone, I let Edward, Tyler, Caitlynn, Ryan, Sue, and my dad – who were all in the waiting room – know that mom and baby were well. Then I lost it again. Emmett and my baby sister were parents.
Even though Emmett protested, I insisted that Rose and Kiley stay with Edward and me. Mother or not, she was still only seventeen. On top of that, Emmett and Ryan's place seemed to be a gathering place for kids who either lived in the dorms or still with their parents. Not exactly infant or new mommy friendly.
The first few weeks were an adjustment for all of us. None of us slept well. Kiley had a strong set of pipes and wasn't afraid to use them when she wanted something. Funny enough, Edward was the only one other than Rose who could calm her down.
One night, I woke to find Edward gone from bed. I crept out and after not being able to find him in the kitchen or living room, headed back down the hallway.
"What are you doing?" I whispered, quietly pushing open the door to the nursery, which used to be Seth's room. Edward was sitting in the rocking chair, Kiley secured in his arms. She wasn't asleep, just staring up at him. She had his finger in her grip and was contentedly sucking on her pacifier.
He shrugged. "We're just visiting. Shootin' the shit. Ya know." I smiled at them.
"Okay. But . . . when you're done visiting with her, come back to bed. It's cold in there by myself." He looked up at me and offered a lopsided grin.
About half an hour later, I was woken up by his naked body slipping under the sheets and curling around me. His hands caressed my skin gently as he pulled off my pajamas. We made love twice over the next couple of hours and even though we were both exhausted the next day. . . it was so worth it.
Our first Christmas together was nothing short of amazing. Alice wasn't kidding when she said Esme went all out at the Christmas ball. Cullen Estate was spectacular. The lights, the music, everything was perfect. Even Granddad Cullen was lucid enough to join us for a couple of hours. He made Janice Rochester's day when he commented that she was as beautiful as she'd always been. Smooth as his grandson, that man.
This time, there were no socialite hussies trying to grope my boyfriend, or arrogant, outspoken assholes criticizing him for past mistakes. In fact, it was a record-breaking fundraising night for Cullen House.
And Edward in a tux. . . I'd nearly forgotten. I was lucky enough to see several of his old hiding places throughout the night.
With Alice, Jasper, and the kids spending the holiday in Chicago with Alice's grandparents, Carlisle offered to spend Christmas Eve at Cullen House so that Edward and I could be together. We let Emmett stay the night Christmas Eve so that he could spend Kiley's first Christmas with her. He was supposed to sleep in the spare bed in her room, however. I never did say anything about waking up to find him snuggled up in Rose's bed with her. They were both clothed and they looked so happy, I left it alone.
When we arrived at Cullen House the next morning, we were surprised to see Esme there, too. We all had breakfast and spent the morning with the boys opening presents and watching football. Later that day, Tanya arrived to take over and Edward and I joined Rose, Emmett, Kiley, Seth, Jess, and Ty at my dad and Sue's house for Christmas dinner.
Three weeks into the new year, Granddad Cullen passed away. Edward took it particularly hard, but he tried not to let me see it. He spent hours in the garage with the heavy bag. Sometimes, I'd just sit on the step and watch him – watch his muscles stretch and strain – watch the sweat drip from his body. Just like he took care of me when I needed him to, I did everything I could to help him through it.
In February, we accidentally got the news that things had not worked out for Angela and her children. I was surprising Jess with lunch at work and walked in to her talking to someone on the phone, her back to me.
"Angela Weber. Yes. She's missed the last three visits with her kids. I don't know where she is. She was doing fine and then poof. Gone. The super said she didn't pay rent this month and when he went to collect, the place was trashed. I can't find her anywhere," Jess huffed, unaware that I was standing in the doorway. "Yeah, and when I called the testing center they said her last urine from three weeks ago was dirty."
I cleared my throat, feeling guilty for standing there listening. She turned around in her seat and grimaced. "I'll keep trying, but I'm not putting up with this. Okay, thanks. Bye."
"Sorry," I winced. "I brought you lunch." I held up the bag of burgers and french fries.
"Awww, thanks, sweetie." She motioned me over and cleared a chair for me to sit in. "Did you hear all of that?"
I nodded. "I didn't mean to."
"It's fine. Do you happen to know where she is?
I shook my head. "No. I can ask Edward, but I doubt he would have heard from her and not said anything."
"I figured, but you know how it is. I can't move forward before I've tried to find her," she sighed. "I had high hopes, too."
We dropped the subject after that, talking instead about how things were going with her and my brother. He'd told me a few days before that he was getting ready to propose. Keeping that from her was hard, but Seth made me promise.
Their wedding was beautiful – very formal and fancy. Jess looked like a princess. Edward was the best man and I was the maid of honor. We all laughed when Edward's toast included the fact that he really didn't like Seth when I first introduced them and was pretty sure the feeling was mutual. Seth nodded.
When the wedding photographs came back, Jess gave me a couple 8x10s. I hung them on the wall of our living room.
"Have you ever seen our wedding photographs?" Alice asked, staring at them one night when we were getting ready to go out.
"Uh, yeah. A long time ago, why?"
She dug through her purse and pulled a crinkled old wallet photograph out, handing it to me. I did remember seeing it – on the wall of the office in Alice and Jasper's house the day Edward and I decided to be 'friends'. Best. Decision. Ever.
"Tell me that's not a difference." She smiled. I looked down at the photo – hating the dead eyes staring back at me – and then back up at the vibrant ones from just a few weeks before. "Maybe we need to get re-married," she teased. "Or maybe you and Edward?"
I ignored her comment. Edward and I were happy and comfortable. If we never got married, I didn't care. I didn't need the title.
At least that's what I thought. Until the day that changed.
He did it in typical Edward fashion. No bells, no whistles. It took him nearly five minutes to get the question out as he stood in front of me in our bedroom while I towel dried my hair after a shower.
"What are you talking about?" I asked, after he'd mumbled his way through something about the beach house and a dream he'd had.
He swallowed and held out his hand, a little green velvet box perched in his palm. My heart stumbled over itself. Opening the box, I found a gorgeous, solitaire diamond.
"Uh, will you marry me?"
I stood there, staring at the ring – stunned. Edward fidgeted. "I should have gotten down. . . on one knee, I mean. That's the way it's supposed to be done, right? Shit. I'm always fucking things up," he muttered.
"Shut-up. You did it perfectly. Yes, I'll marry you."
"You will?" he asked as if he were expecting a different answer.
I grinned. "If you actually put it on my finger. I suppose I can manage a lifetime with you," I teased.
Almost exactly two years after our first trip there, Edward and I were married in a small ceremony at the beach house in Oregon. There were less than twenty people there – family and close friends only. It was a perfect, gorgeous afternoon with only a few clouds in the sky.
My mom wasn't there. I didn't invite her. She no longer lived at the penthouse, that's about all I knew. Phil had been found guilty of felony insurance fraud and was sentenced to fifty-two months in jail with three years probation and ordered to pay back almost a million dollars to the insurance companies. He was also accused of medical malpractice, which resulted in him losing his job, his license, and most of his and my mom's money after multiple civil suits were filed against him.
I'm not going to lie and say that I didn't still worry. Regardless of the fact that she'd essentially thrown Rose and me away, she was still my mother, and deep down I loved her. But she'd made her choice. Someday, she'd realize the mistake she'd made. Whether or not Rose and I would be willing to forgive her was still unknown.
"What are you wearing on your feet?" Alice asked as I lifted my simple, fitted lace gown up to walk down the stairs.
I shrugged. "I'll take them off. Edward likes these ones. . . a lot."
"You two are so weird," she snorted.
I did take them off to walk down the sandy aisle – but not before Edward got a good look at them. The look in his eye as I neared him was enough to make me blush.
"You don't play fair," he whispered in my ear, kissing my cheek after my father handed me off.
"You're marrying me. I thought you'd know that by now." I smirked.
"You'll be putting them back on. . . later."
The minister cleared his throat. "Are we ready?"
"Absolutely," Edward said, gripping my hand.
The ceremony was quick, and just like that, I became Mrs. Edward Cullen. Isabella Cullen. We drank and danced well into the evening and when it started pouring down rain, and everyone else scrambled for cover, Edward and I stood outside, letting our fancy clothes get drenched. I'm sure we would have been freezing had we been paying any attention. . . but we weren't. We just kept dancing.
After everyone had left to go to their respective rentals, Edward and I retreated to the beach house alone.
"Are you cold?" he asked, wrapping his arms around me and gliding his fingertips over my bare arms.
"N. . n. . .no," I lied, my teeth chattering.
"That's a shame. I was thinking of warming you up, but if you're okay. . ." he let go of me and began walking away, loosening his bow tie as he went. "I'm going to take a shower."
I followed him and watched as he turned the water on and undressed. I had no plans of letting him do anything naked without me for at least the next few days. "Will you unzip me before you get in?" I asked, turning and lifting my hair. I could feel him behind me, but it took him several minutes before he actually pulled the zipper down my back, ending just above my tailbone.
"You look so beautiful in this," he whispered, his warm breath touching my ear. "Thank you for marrying me."
I let the dress slip from my shoulders. Edward unclasped the bra and slid my panties down my legs, leaving me bare.
I turned around, looking down at him as he kneeled in front of me and brushing my fingers over his smooth cheek. "I always intended on spending the rest of my life with you, Edward Cullen. Being able to do it as your wife is an honor. Thank you for asking me."
He smiled and leaned in, kissing the skin just below my belly button. When he began moving lower, I got excited. I didn't realize how excited until his tongue slid languidly over the tender and swollen flesh between my legs. My knees started to buckle. Luckily, Edward caught me, laying me gently on the bed and draping my legs over his shoulders while he tasted me. He wasn't in a hurry, choosing to torture me by licking and sucking slowly. He brought me to the brink twice, before stopping completely.
"Come on, baby," he said, helping me up. "Let's finish this in the shower."
"It's too small," I protested.
"For showering maybe." He smirked. "We'll figure it out."
We stepped into the tiny stall, letting the steaming water drip down over our bodies. Edward dipped his head, taking my mouth in a kiss to end all kisses – his tongue tasted of me as it drew me in, making my head spin. My senses lit up like a million little pinpricks. It would have been too much for any other night. But it wasn't any other night. It was our wedding night and I relished the feeling.
Without breaking away, he lifted me up, pressing me against the wall. My mouth dropped open as he slid into me and I let out a soft cry.
"You okay?" he asked.
"Yes," I gasped. "God, I love you."
He took my lips again, this time while thrusting upwards into me. I could feel him everywhere. Unable to hold back anymore, I came with a violently intense shudder. Edward sped up and before the aftershocks of my own orgasm had faded, he was pulsing inside of me.
He continued to hold me until we had both come down, but with the water beginning to chill, he had to let me go. He kissed me one more time and grabbed a towel.
"See. I told you we'd figure it out." I laughed as he turned off the water and wrapped the towel around me. "Ready for bed?"
I bit my lip. "Bed or sleep?"
"Sweetheart," he smirked. "I hope you're well-rested, because I don't intend on letting you sleep at all for the next twenty-four hours."
Best twenty-four hours of my life.
The giant screen above the stage lights up with a picture of Edward, Jake, and a group of friends from before the accident. They're smiling and happy. A few more, each one showing carefree kids. But this is not a marshmallow presentation about the joys of being young.
The next slide shows an image of the crash. The twisted metal and burnt out shell of Edward's car. There's a series of gasps, groans, and other noises of surprise.
"I was driving that car," Edward says solemnly. "I was sixteen. My best friend Jake was a passenger." Another image of Jake and Edward before the accident pops up on the screen. Then a picture of Jake that was taken about six months ago when he agreed to be a part of Edward's presentation. More gasps. He's shirtless, wearing only a pair of shorts and he's standing using braces instead of his prosthetic leg, the stump prominently on display along with the scars that cover his body. "Jake was a state champion swimmer. He was popular and smart. Was looking at a full-ride scholarship to college. Now he's a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. He struggles every minute of every day to stay sober. He can't keep a steady job. He has no family and very few friends. I did that to him."
Next is a series of pictures of Edward in the hospital. He chose not to use the most graphic ones of his burnt and peeling flesh, but they're still pretty shocking. The bruises, the bandages, and the scarring.
"You'd think destroying your best friend's life was the worst part," Edward says, looking down. "But you'd be wrong."
The slide changes. He doesn't look back up. Last year, David contacted the family of the Benjamins. Although they didn't want to meet with Edward, they agreed to allow him to use the family's picture in his presentation.
"This is the family I killed."
I look over at the illuminated faces of the students. Expressions are solemn, mouths are agape. Every single one of them is paying attention.
"I thought I was cool. I had a fast, new car and I wanted to show it off. I didn't listen when Jake told me to slow down. I didn't even see the other car." Edward takes a sip from the bottle of water he'd brought out to the podium with him. "They were just coming home from dinner when I lost control. Just. . . out doing family things. I heard her scream for her baby. I watched her die."
They listen to him as he describes the accident, his trial, his fear, his sentence. He talks about what it was like in juvie and afterwards, including his jail time. He doesn't get into why he went to jail or anything about Angela, but instead focuses on how his decisions affected not only his life, but the lives of others.
"I'm not here to treat you like children or to scold you for the things you do or the decisions you make," Edward says, wrapping things up. "But if my story can prevent just one person from the pain and hurt I caused, it's worth telling over and over again."
Edward stops talking. The room is eerily silent. "Does anyone have any appropriate questions for Mr. Cullen?" The principal asks, stepping back out on the stage. A few hands shoot up. This is the part Edward wasn't looking forward to. His presentation he could control, but the questions. . . Most of them are centered around his scars and what it was like in jail. One kid does ask what he was sent to jail for. He glances at me.
"I was arrested on possession charges," he answers truthfully. "It's a slippery slope. I couldn't stay on my feet."
After a few minutes, the principal takes the podium. He thanks Edward and the room applauds. While the principal goes over a few announcements before dismissal, I stand up and meet Edward as he comes off the stage.
"You did good, baby," I whisper. He lets out a puff of air and smiles. There's a look of relief on his face. We stay for another half an hour, talking with teachers who commend Edward on his ability to hold the kids' attention and for telling his story so openly. I can tell when he's done. All his nervous, irritated habits come out at once. The second there's an opportunity, I politely make excuses.
"Let's get out of here," I whisper in his ear, pulling him towards the door.
That was, by far, one of the hardest things I've had to do. But I'm glad I did it. After years of preparing, I finally let Bella book me a presentation at one of the high schools just outside of Seattle. David said it was time. I don't see him weekly anymore, just whenever I need to. He's helped me through a lot. He's become a good friend.
Bella and I drive home in silence. It's been ten months since she became my wife. Life has been crazy. We've had a huge rotation in boys at Cullen House. Marcus is long gone. After turning eighteen, he left Cullen House. I don't know what happened to him. He simply disappeared. Eric and Edgar are just about to graduate. Both have been accepted into college. Eric plans to attend Notre Dame studying theology. When he decided that's where he wanted to go, Alice helped him apply for several scholarships. Cullen House is also providing funding. He'll most likely still have to work, but I think he'll be fine. Edgar is heading to LSU. I'm impressed with both of them.
I ran into Sam not that long ago. He said he made it to graduation living at the RTC he was transferred to after I had to let him go. He's got two kids with two different girls and is working his ass off to support them, but he's drug-free. He looked good, albeit tired. I can't help but wonder how well he would have done if I'd let him stay. I wish it had been an option.
Ryan did so well at community college that he was able to transfer to the University of Washington last year. He's got one more year before he graduates with a degree in computer technology. He's already working for a pretty big company as a programmer and makes more money than I do. He and Caitlynn aren't together anymore, but she and Rose are still really tight, making for some awkward gatherings every now and then. Ryan continues to be a huge player, but he's a good kid.
Will is still with us, but it hasn't been without its problems. After three years, I honestly don't know what to make of him. I doubt I ever will.
Bella is amazing with the boys. Despite the fact that most of them are bigger than she is, it doesn't take long for her to establish who's boss. I find myself falling more and more in love with her all the time. I was worried that things would change after we got married, but they haven't. Not really. If anything, she's more of a wildcat than she ever was. She teases me and turns me on constantly. I still can't get enough of her.
As I turn the corner onto our street, we see Rose's car in the driveway.
"Oh, Jesus. I hope Emmett's not being an ass again," Bella sighs.
Em's been a handful over the last few years. He tries, but he's still a pretty messed up kid. He and Rose have lived together for a little over a year, but she's kicked him out twice. He's in and out of therapy. Rose is patient with him, but when it comes to disrupting Kiley, she doesn't let him mess around.
"Hey," Bella calls to her sister as she steps out of the car. Rose turns, a strained smile on her face. "What's up?"
"Can you look after Kiley tonight? I've got class and Em has to work late." Bella hugs her sister.
I glance around. "Where. . .?" But I don't have to finish my sentence. From the other side of the car, Kiley comes running towards me.
I pick up my two year-old niece. She looks just like Emmett with dark hair, big, blue eyes, and dimples. I never really understood what Bella and Rose were talking about when they said they couldn't resist Em's dimples. Until the very first time this little girl smiled at me. Now, I get it. And I'm such a fucking sucker for her smiles.
I can see Rose and Bella talking quietly. Rose shrugs and takes a deep breath. She's matured a lot over the last few years. She works full-time in a bakery and is going to night school for special education. I know that Bella and I can never make-up for the loss of her parents, but we do our best to support her however we can.
I carry Kiley over to her mother and put my arm around Rose's shoulder, kissing her head. "Hey, kid."
"Hi," she says, leaning into me. "I gotta go, but how'd your presentation go?"
"Good. I guess," I say, shrugging.
"It went fantastic. Don't let his modesty fool you," Bella scoffs.
Rose laughs. "Good. Okay, I love you, baby," she whispers, planting a kiss on Kiley's nose.
"Love you, Mommy," Kiley's high-pitched, little voice chimes.
"She's had her nap. I gave her a cheese stick on the way over, but she might still be hungry." She hands Bella the diaper bag. "Thank you so much."
"What's going on?" I ask, setting Kiley down when we get inside.
"Nothing. She's just tired."
"Have they figured out what they're going to do with Ky this summer?"
"Yeah." Bella grins. "Tyler's going to take care of her."
"Edward!" she scolds. I glance over at the little girl who is eyeballing the cookie jar on the counter top.
"He's got until August before he has to head to school, so he offered to help them out. No charge."
Tyler has grown up to be the kind of kid every parent dreams of. He's smart, athletic, and incredibly kind. He's volunteered at the Seattle Youth Center for the last two years as a mentor for young kids from unstable homes. He's still fairly soft-spoken, so different from his brother. The relationship between the two of them has had its ups and downs, but they're as close as ever. Sue and Charlie have been exactly what he needed. His adoption was finalized a year after he was placed with them. They left it up to him if he wanted to change his name. He did. . . in a way. He became Tyler McCarty Swan. He said he never wanted to forget where he came from.
Tyler McCarty Swan is headed to Stanford in the fall.
We spend the rest of the afternoon entertaining Kiley. I'm much better at the uncle gig now than I used to be. I don't really give a shit what I look like anymore – if it makes her laugh, I'll do it. It usually does make me look like a complete asshole, though.
Emmett doesn't show up until almost nine. Kiley's fallen asleep on the couch.
"Sorry," he mutters, flopping down on the chair and staring at his daughter. "How long's she been asleep?"
"About an hour. What's up?"
"Nothing. One of our guys is out so I'm picking up slack." He runs his hand over his face.
"You want something to eat?" I offer.
"Nah. I ate at the shop. Thanks though."
"You look tired," Bella says, picking up Kiley's toys and stuffing them in the diaper bag.
"I am. And Rosie's gonna be pissed that I'm so late." He leans back and closes his eyes.
"You're fine, Em," Bella soothes. "She knew you were working late. Take your baby girl and go home to your bed."
Emmett smiles up at her. "Are you kicking me out?" he teases.
"Yep! You fall asleep in that chair and we'll both be in trouble with my sister."
Em chuckles before standing. He lifts Kiley up into his arms. She doesn't wake, just slumps over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
"Thanks, guys," he says, taking the diaper bag.
Once he's left, Bella goes and gets ready for bed, while I finish cleaning the kitchen. It's only nine-thirty when I turn out the lights in the rest of the house and make my way to the bedroom, but we both have to work in the morning and it's been a long day both physically and emotionally.
Stripping off my shirt, I quickly change into a pair of pajama pants and sit down on the edge of the bed.
Bella's fingers begin to trace over my back – first low and then moving higher.
"You still can't feel that?" she asks.
"I can feel it. I know you're there."
"But you can't feel it, feel it."
I shake my head. I had my scars on my back and down my side removed last year with a series of laser treatments. It's not perfect, but the skin's a lot smoother than it was. I never expected for the feeling to be restored, but the procedure wasn't exactly painless – especially when they got to the lower layers – so Bella suggested I get treatment to see if they could restore sensation. Unfortunately, it hasn't worked.
Bella sighs. "I'm sorry."
I lay back, my head in her lap. "What are you sorry for? It's not your fault."
"I know," she says, running her fingers through my hair. "But I got your hopes up."
I chuckle lightly. "You got your hopes up, baby. I never expect anything."
"That, I know," she laughs. We're quiet for a few minutes. "Are you ready for it?"
I turn my head towards her. She's looking at me with concern. I take a deep breath and glide my hand gently over her slightly swollen belly. She's three months along. We found out four weeks ago. Well, I found out four weeks ago. Bella's known for about six or seven. She was afraid to tell me, because we weren't trying. It was a matter of a birth control glitch. She was trying to switch from the shot to the pill. We probably shouldn't have been having sex until we knew it was effective, but we were out drinking with Warren and his new boyfriend and things got a little crazy. She was all over me in the cab on the way home, and we barely made it inside the house. It was a fantastic night.
She sounded like me when she told me – all mumbling and stumbling over her words. I have to admit, I was in fucking shock, but. . . over the last month, it's been different. I'm not scared – not any more than any guy is to be a father.
Am I ready?
As ready as I'll ever be. I love Bella more than life itself. She gave me my life back. And now, she's giving me a new life to look forward to.
I lean forward, pressing my lips against the soft skin of her stomach.
"Absolutely, sweetheart," I whisper. "Absolutely."
AN: There you go. Complete! I hope you liked it.
I very much enjoyed writing this story. As most of you know, it's so close to my heart. Working both in the foster care system and with at risk individuals dealing with domestic violence and substance abuse, I like to write what I know and bring a little bit of awareness to the issues.
There are WAAAY too many people to thank to mention everyone. Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed. I was not nearly as good at replying as I used to be, but please know how much I appreciate every single one. You all have made many bad days better with your words. Thank you to everyone rec'ing this story. Nic and all my friends on Facebook and twitter (although I know I've disappeared a little from there lately) who are constantly providing support. All those who have provided words of encouragement and friendship.
Thank you also to whoever nominated me for Rob Attack's The Best Rec'd on FanFiction Fridays 2012 ~ Complete fic. xoxox
Biggest thanks to the three people who have kept me sane and talked me down from every ledge known to man. Jayhawkbb, Melee03, and Lexie2516, I am so happy to have you as friends. There aren't enough words to tell you how much you all mean to me. Thank you for everything.
I know I am probably missing something, but if I am I will go back and correct it later as soon as I remember. :oD
For those asking. I AM finishing The Hive, which for anyone who doesn't know is a VERY different kind of story. If you go there, proceed with caution. LOL. It will be a much shorter story than the others. Then I will be taking a little break. Without going into too much detail, I am expecting a new baby soon and unfortunately we were told a few months ago that there are some issues. I just don't want to make any promises in regards to writing. Thank you for understanding.
After that long-winded AN, I once again say thank you for all the love and support. Xoxoxox