She makes me smile.

When the world is crushing me — slowly and all at once — it's her voice and touch and scent. It's her embrace. The way her fingers trail down my cheek as our eyes meet. When we connect, the world fades away.

The sickness.

The death.

With her, it falls away and I forget. If only for a moment, I'm at peace.

I'm not fighting a losing battle.

. . . . .

She makes me laugh.

It can be a word or an expression. I can be falling apart and she can take all that pain away, and I laugh.

"It's going tibia okay."

So stupid. So simple.

She smiles and I don't care. I laugh because she does. Because her lips curve up effortlessly.

It isn't hard for her to smile.

She doesn't see what I see, and I was always told we wouldn't work because of that. I was told I needed someone who understood.

She understands because she doesn't.

. . . . .

"Let it out."

Her arms wrap around me from behind as I drop my scrub top to the floor — mentally promising to pick it up, though I know she'll do it before I get the chance.

"He was three," I say, laying my hands over hers against my chest.

Her breath is on my back, tickling my neck. The warmth is comforting in an inexplicable way. She's here. She has me.

"You did everything you could."

I lift her hand, kissing her soft knuckles. "I know."


She pulls away and I turn my head, watching as the moonlight shines on her soft smile and glitters against her skin. She pulls the t-shirt over her head and her chestnut hair falls in waves against her pale, luscious skin.

I'm in bed without thinking. Her head's against my chest as I hold her in my arms. It's all I need.

To feel her against me.

To know she's here.

Her back slowly rises and falls with each breath, and I revel in the motion. I appreciate the seemingly simple action, knowing exactly what it takes to happen.

"If I lose you . . ."

She lifts her head, shaking it slowly. "You won't."

"I could."

"You won't," she repeats as if the words will make me forget what I've seen. "I'm here. I'll always be here."

I pretend to accept her assurance, giving her a gentle smile as I caress her shoulder. My head dips, capturing her sweet lips. My tongue entwines with hers and I let the day go with a sigh.

"Tomorrow will be better," she says, pulling away before lifting back up and touching her lips to the tip of my nose.

. . . . .

She's right.

Today is better and the trend continues for a week. No one dies — not on my watch, at least.

It's still there, though.

That feeling of knowing it's coming. It's always coming. Everyone dies. Sometimes unexpectedly and sometimes death is sweet relief after a battle well fought, but unwinnable.

She knows the feeling never goes away, so she makes every day better than the last. She doesn't have to try. Her presence is all I need.

And I know I'm the lucky one.

I'm lucky because I have her. Because in this world of sickness and death, I have someone to ground me — to keep me from being consumed.

My head is above the water, which is more than I can say for most. She keeps me up and breathing — from floating down into the abyss. She keeps me happy and makes me feel loved.

And for her . . . I cannot compare.

I cannot do for her what she does for me. To give so much and ask so little . . . she seems like a dream.

But she's not. I feel her and hear her and see her. She's here, lying in my arms once again. The TV plays a show I couldn't name and she watches with tired eyes.

She's here.

"I'm ready."

My voice startles her and her head shoots up, cocking to the side. "For what?"

I lay my hand over hers against my chest and smile. "A child."

"You said . . ."

"You're here. And for all you do for me, conquering this fear is the least I can do for you."

"If you don't want a child — really want one—"

"I've always wanted one."

She shakes her head. "You know what could happen."

"I know you can leave this house tomorrow and it could be the last time I see you. I know tomorrow isn't promised, but I know you and I know me, too. I know what we want and fear shouldn't stop us."

"You . . . want one?" she asks ever so slowly. "You always said you didn't."

"And you accepted that, but I know you always have. I'll be terrified each step of the way, and overbearing, and always imagine the worst-case scenario, but . . . not every child has cancer or a fatal accident. What I see hurts, Bella. It makes me afraid of the possibilities, but it shouldn't hold me back — hold us back. Let's do it."

A smile creeps onto her beautiful lips and her eyes glass over with tears. I'm fulfilling her biggest wish. She wants kids. She loves kids. I do too, but what I do day in and day out makes me fear them.

I fear the love I'll have for a child — our child. I've seen the devastation on parents' faces when I tell them they've lost the thing they love most. It's awful and heartbreaking and something I never want to experience.

But with never experiencing the possibility of that, I'll never experience the joy, and love, and pride. Bella will never get that, and she deserves it.

. . . . .

The tables have turned.

It's my arms wrapped around Bella, trying to comfort her as another month passes and no child has been created.

We know it can take a while.

We know five months and no progress isn't unusual after years on the pill.

But we also know it hurts.

"What if it doesn't happen?" she asks with a whisper.

The break in her voice does the same to my heart.

"It will."

I don't sound convincing because I'm not convinced. All this effort could be for nothing. We could have missed our chance because I let fear rule me. Her tears could be my fault, and nothing hurts more.

I lift her chin, gazing into her gorgeous, yet sad eyes. "It will," I say again, trying to inject more confidence in my voice. "We'll have a baby, Bella. Maybe it'll be next month, okay? And if it's not, we'll do what we need to figure out why."

She kisses the tip of my nose before nuzzling her head into my chest again. With a sigh she says, "I love you."

"I love you, too."

. . . . .

As I'm wrapped around her, my mind is only filled with thoughts of her body. The way her cheeks and chest flush. The way her lips fall apart and a moan escapes. The way her breasts move with my thrusts.

Her body is gorgeous.

My hands glides up the curve of her hip as my movements speed up. I hold her down as she tries to lift up. She wants more. The words need not be said.

I give her more.

I kiss her lips and her jaw and her neck. My lips close around her breast and again she moans and moans. My name falls from her in a whisper.

A plea.

And I worship her. I'll always worship her. She is beauty and love and good. In this world, she is what I rely on. She's what I need.

And I'm what she needs.

In the back of my mind, I think this could be the time. I try not to, knowing it's just as likely it's not. But the thought is there. It's always there.

And I know it's on her mind too.

"You're perfect," I hiss, dropping my head in the curve of her neck.

I kiss her ear as her fingers lace through my hair, tugging at the back of my neck.

She's close.

Her breathing picks up and she holds me tighter and I know if I pull back and look at her, her eyes will be closed tightly and she'll look heavenly — like the angel she is.

She doesn't scream. She cries my name in soft whispers and pulls head up, pressing her lips to mine as her body stiffens below mine. I feel her around me and between the kisses, I tell her how good she feels.

How incredible she is.

How beautiful she is.

How I love her.

She whispers the words back between pants and I come. My mind is blank as the pleasure courses through me. She's all I feel and all I hear.

It's amazing.

It's love.

. . . . .

Tonight we cry together.

Between my day and the negative test, it's all we can do. We tell each other it'll be okay. She tells me it's not my fault and I say the same.

We sit on the couch and her legs are over mine and we hold each other. We hold on to the good we have.

"Tell me what happened," she says as I wipe the tears from her cheeks.

I shake my head. She doesn't need to know about the little girl whose father decided she needed to stop crying. She doesn't need to know how he shook her so violently that her brain hemorrhaged and I couldn't save her.

She doesn't need to know that someone took the gift we've been praying for and killed her because she cried. The selfishness astounds me and makes me angry — makes me want to do the same to him.

Bella doesn't need to carry this.

"You always confide in me," she says as her brow creases. "Please, Edward."

I sigh, knowing she's right. I've always turned to her as much as I'm able, and keeping this from her feels both wrong and right.

"A little girl," I say. "She was too far gone, and I couldn't save her."

She doesn't push for more, though I know she understands there is. I'm thankful it's all I need to say for her to comfort me the way she always does.

"You're a wonderful surgeon. I know you did all you could."

I nod and kiss her cheek. "I did."

It's the truth — it always is. I'm good at what I do and I never give less than my best. Maybe that's why it hurts so much.

Because my best is often not enough.

"Let it go," she says. "Tomorrow is a new day and I know you'll walk into that hospital and give your patients all of you once again."

"Maybe I shouldn't," I confess. "Maybe . . . I should stop — do something else."

She shakes her head and takes my face in her hands. "Remember the inoperable tumor you operated on a few months ago? Remember how you removed it and that child is now smiling and learning and healthy and her parents were so overjoyed you had to hold the mother as she cried and thanked you for a half hour?"

A soft smile spreads over my lips as I remember the little girl fondly. "I do."

"You did that. You took that chance and tried when no one else would, Edward. You tell me — do you want to give that up?"

I don't.

My job is hard and it hurts and it takes so much from me, but it's what I'm meant to do. It costs me so much. No . . . It costs her so much, but here she is, telling me I shouldn't give up. She puts the good of what I can do above the hours I could be with her and the pain I cause her. She's married to a man that feared giving her a child for eight years because of his job. She married me knowing this.

And honestly, I don't know why sometimes. I know I love her and she loves me. I know she means more to me than I could ever say — that without her by my side, I couldn't do this job.

But what have I done to deserve her?

"Thank you."

The words are simple — too simple — but she smiles and I know it's all she needs to hear.

"You're welcome," she says with her hands still on my face.

She leans forward and kisses me, and once again I'm at a loss. How can I be so lucky to have such a selfless woman by my side?

. . . . .


I jump from the bed, slamming my laptop closed and flinging it away. I'm in the bathroom in an instant with my heart hammering against my chest.

Tears are streaming down her cheeks and my eyes search her, looking for the injury that causes such alarm. Then I see it.

Through her tears her lips are curved into a smile and her hand holds yet another test.

"Is it?"

She nods and shoves it into hands. "It's positive," she says joyfully.

The test falls from my hands and I don't even bother looking at it. She's in my arms instantly and I'm holding on to her for dear life as I cry.

As we both do.

"Bella," I say with a smile so wide it almost hurts.

She laughs and nods, kissing me softly before I fall to my knees in front of her. My hand covers her stomach as I push one of my old college t-shirts out of the way. Her skin is soft and pale and beautiful and no different, but I know it's in there.

Our child.

"Hi, baby," I say and she starts crying again. Sobs this time, but happy ones.

I kiss below her navel, imagining the change that'll occur in the coming months. When will she show? How will it look? Will her back start to hurt early on? What can I do to ease the pain? I mentally add up the things she needs — prenatal vitamins, an appointment with an obstetrician, the cat box cleaned for her, and the coffee out of the house so she isn't tempted. And I think about what she wants, like ice cream or doughnuts — maybe she wants carrots, even.

"Edward." She pulls me out of my own mind and I look up at her as she runs her hand through my hair. "We're having a baby."

I nod with a grin, kissing her skin once more. "Yeah, we are. I hope she's like you."

"She?" she giggles. "Have you already decided something, Dr. Cullen?"

Her tease reminds me I'm a doctor. "Shit. Are you nauseated? Do you feel okay? Sit down."

I'm back on my feet and forcing her down on the edge of the tub as she rolls her eyes.

"I'm fine. Now back to my question."

I shrug, though the vision in my mind feels so real.

I see her sitting in a rocker, holding a bundle of pink blankets.

I see her putting a bow in a toddler's hair.

I see her reading bedtime stories of princesses and princes.

I know what I see and I know what I feel, and I cannot seem to envision a boy.

"We're having a girl," I say.

She laughs and shakes her head. "We'll see."

She doesn't believe me, but that's okay. One of us will be right and it doesn't matter which. All that matters is that she and our child are healthy — that my fears don't come true.

. . . . .

This feels strange.

I'm sitting in a doctor's office, holding Bella's hand as I look at the posters and models of ovaries and uteruses and fetuses at different stages.


The word doesn't feel right in my mind anymore — not when I'm thinking about my child.

My baby.

"I've always been kind of on the fence about wearing socks during these appointments," Bella says and I look up, finding her head cocked slightly. "I mean, yeah my feet will be near her head, but look where her fingers will be."

I let out a chuckle as I realize her nerves are just making her blabber. It's something I've always loved about her. The ability to just . . . talk.

"So, should I really have to wear socks? You know how I feel about socks. But I feel weird not wearing them because again, feet by her head. It seems polite to wear them, even though I hate them."

"Your feet don't smell," I say, indulging her and getting my mind off of what's about to happen.

"I know! And I spend quite a bit of time on pedicures."

"I love your feet."

"But not in a weird, you suck my toes when I'm sleeping way, right?"

I smirk and lick my lips. "Maybe."

She reaches out and shoves me playfully and I admit I've never sucked her toes as someone knocks on the door.

A woman I've never met, but with whom Bella is well acquainted enters and we get down to business. The test confirms what we already knew and my wife is most certainly pregnant. I ask specifics about numbers and the woman indulges me. I'm sure she regrets doing so when I fire more questions at her, but she never falters in her answers.

I hold Bella's hand through the exam and the rest of the appointment goes smoothly. She's six weeks and three days, according to her last period.

Our baby is due on November ninth and it hits me so hard I about fall from my chair. In about seven months we'll have a child in our arms. A little being that will depend on me to live. My life and moods will affect her, not just Bella.

And suddenly I'm terrified again.

. . . . .

"What if she hates me for not being around enough?"

Hours have passed and we're home — in our bed and she's in my arms. I try to let her presence comfort me, but I've never been so terrified in my life. I'm afraid of failure in a way that's both unhealthy in my personal life and good in my professional life. I think steps ahead, planning for complications of every event. I'm methodical and clinical, but right now I'm not.

I'm human.

And she knows this in ways no one else does.

She's seen my tears and heard my fears — things I'd never expose another person to. But she doesn't judge. She listens and understands, and that's why we work.

"She won't hate you," she says, lifting her head from my shoulder. "She'll love you because you'll be there when she needs you — really needs you."

"But how will I know the difference? Maybe something I miss will be what she needs. Then what?"

She smiles softly. "I'll be there. We're in this together and we always will be. I'll rely on you sometimes for things — like when she has a fever or biology homework. And you'll rely on me when she needs her mother."

"Will you handle the sex talk?"

"Yes," she laughs. "But you get potty training."

I nod and caress her shoulder as I kiss her temple. "Are you scared?"

"I'm terrified."

My brow cocks and she looks up at me again. She doesn't look terrified. She's glowing and more beautiful than ever. There's no worry in her eyes.

"How are you handling that? Because I'm terrified and I feel like I'm falling apart."

"You don't look it. Or sound it, either. Like today, you knew what to ask and what she was saying. You were calm and collected and that strong man I depend on."

"I think you have our roles reversed."

She shakes her head. "Edward, you do more for me than you'll ever realize. Without you by my side, I'm not strong. I'm like everyone else — lost in this life, searching for what to do next. I don't have to search with you, though. I've found my other half and we fit together like a puzzle."

Two pieces could never fit as well as we do, and I'm grateful every day of my life that I found her. And because I have her, I'll be a good father. I'll be what my daughter needs.

There's no one else I could do this with.

. . . . .

We're celebrating.

Bella's out of her first trimester and her morning sickness has finally eased. She likes food again and I decide to give her anything she wants.

She wants steak and chicken and potatoes and onions. She hates onions, but not right now. It's a craving and one I don't understand, though I didn't understand her need of having a chocolate chip cookie sandwiched between bread that was lathered in Nutella and marshmallow fluff either.

It looked like diabetes.

But she loved it.

"So you had a good day?" she asks as I look over the feast that could feed six.

I went overboard, but I've never seen a brighter smile on her lips than when she walked into the house.

I nod and sip the apple juice she decided to replace our wine with. I don't miss it, to be honest. If she can't have it, I decided I can't either.

"It was an average day, I suppose. You?"

She tells me about the hoard of teenagers she's trying to help navigate through high school. They give her hell but also show her love. How could they not? Their guidance counselor is the most compassionate woman in the world. She gives her all to help them succeed and I just hope they appreciate it.

They're lucky for knowing her.

"I think I want to stay home."

I lay the dishes in the sink and look over the counter at her. She's sipping her juice and avoiding eye contact. Her words sink in and I realize what she's saying. Drying my hands off, I walk back to her and kneel down beside her chair.

"I think you should do what you want."

She chews on her lip before letting out a sigh. "I know my income is nothing compared to yours, but it's still money. We'd lose it."

I shrug. "We don't need it."

"What if, while putting together the crib, you crush your hand and can never operate again?"

"I'll teach."

"What if you get sued for malpractice and the judge and jury are idiots and take away your license and no one will let you teach?"

"I'll do something else."

"Edward, be serious," she says as tears fill her eyes. "If I stop working we take a hit, and I don't want us to suffer."

I cup her cheeks and smile. "We will be fine. I can support us — all three of us."

I lay a hand on her stomach and she joins me. I can see her mind is racing and she's worried, but I don't know why. I'm a pediatric neurosurgeon and I'll never be out of work. We live well within our means and have more than enough in our savings. My school loans have long since been paid off and our bills are entirely manageable on my salary alone.

But she's worried.

"You love your job," I say and she nods.

"But I want to be a mom more. I want to always be here for her and not come home too tired after a long day to play. I want to take her to the park and the zoo and not just on weekends or during the summer."

"Then make it temporary. When she goes to school, you go back."

"But what if I don't want to then?"

"Then you don't have to. Bella, I want you to do what you want. I have no doubt you could be the most amazing mother and still work — many incredible women do it. But if you don't want to do that, I'm telling you I won't care either way. As long as you're happy, we'll make it work."

Her arms are around my neck before I finish my sentence. I don't know what she wanted to hear, but I think she heard it somewhere in my words. She makes the decision to tell the school this is her last year — for now, at least.

"Thank you," she says as we sit on the couch. She licks the spoon from her ice cream and dips it back into the container without another word.

She's thanking me for taking care of her.

She's thanking me for understanding.

She's thanking me for not telling her one way or the other.

But she doesn't need to.

There's nothing I wouldn't do for her and it all seems to pale in comparison to what she does for me by loving me.

. . . . .

She has a bump.

She thinks she just looks chubby from the ice cream and cookie, Nutella, marshmallow sandwiches, but she couldn't be more wrong. Her bump makes her body look more beautiful to me than it ever has — and she's always been incredibly gorgeous.

Her body is changing from the child we've created. Her breasts are fuller and her hair is thicker. She has a glow to her.

She tries to tell me about the zit on her back and how she has stains on her shirts from sweating so much.

I don't care.

She's beautiful.

"And that, sweetpea, is how I met your mother in an emergency room," I say with a chuckle before kissing her bump — our bump, as she calls it.

"You left out when I fell off the gurney when rolling on my side," she laughs.

"I also left out the tent I pitched in my scrub pants and how I used a chart to cover it. I figured we'd keep the embarrassing parts to ourselves."

She nods. "Seems like a good idea. Though . . . you can tell me about the tent."

She smiles slyly as I climb back up her body.

"It was hard."

"Can you show me?"

"It's not like I can just make it pop up on command."

"Then let me help."

She slides her hand into my boxers and my dick proves me wrong. Well, somewhat. I couldn't make it happen on command, but she could.

Her hormones are going crazy, and if she's not crying her clothes are probably off. I can't say I mind this part of pregnancy. I can't say I mind any of it, really.

She has a few choice words for her body, but mine are only appreciative.

. . . . .

I miss the appointment where we find out whether I've done irreparable damage to my son by calling him sweetpea.

I hate myself and my job, and it's all I can do to keep calm and get out of the hospital before taking my anger out on someone who doesn't deserve it. I hate that Bella did this alone and I plan on never forgiving myself for missing such an important moment in our life.

But she isn't mad.

I walk into our home and find her in the kitchen. She's sitting at the counter with a cake in front of her and I'm ready to apologize but I stop when she lifts a knife.

She's smiling and flips it around, holding the handle out to me. Honestly, I wouldn't have blamed her if the other end continued pointing at me.

"I made a cake," she says.

"Is she a sweetpea?"

"Ask the cake," she giggles.

I cut into the cake with zero precision until I see pink. My hand freezes and the knife falls to the floor, narrowly missing my foot.

"I was right!"

"You never doubted that," she says.

I wrap my arms around her and kiss her until the need for air reminds me she needs it too. We part for as few seconds as we can before our lips reconnect and I lift her from the bar stool. Her legs wrap around my waist and I'm careful as I carry her upstairs.

She tells me the cake is meant to be eaten, but I don't care right now.

She says after-sex-cake is good too, and I agree wholeheartedly.

I'm gentle and try to take it slow. The need to be with her is overwhelming and I don't know why. We should be talking and celebrating, but this seems like a good way to celebrate.

. . . . .

"And what did she say her measurements were?"

Bella bites her lip and I know she doesn't remember. I can't blame her, though. She saw our daughter and that's all I would have been thinking about, too.

"Dr. Black wrote them down for you," she says. "It's in my purse."

I smile and nod, kissing her bump again — our daughter. "And there were no deformities? Nothing abnormal?"

"She said her brain and heart looked perfectly normal. I don't know the exact numbers, but she said her measurements were right on target for eighteen weeks. Oh, and the DVD is in my purse, too. Crap. I can't believe I forgot that."

I'm off the bed and rummaging through her purse before she can blink. I look at the measurements on the note and grab the DVD, popping it into the player before settling back on to the bed.

"I just . . . want to see her," I say sheepishly.

She laughs and waves me off. "You're fine. I want to again, too."

I play the ultrasound and watch with rapt attention. I'm taking in our child's form, inspecting the structures with a critical eye. There's nothing to be found but perfection.

She's perfect.

She's like her mom.

I smile again as tears fill my eyes.

"What is it?" Bella asks worriedly.

I shake my head. "Nothing," I whisper. "There's nothing wrong."

"That's a good thing, Edward." She rubs my neck and kisses my cheek.

"She's so perfect. You're her mom, so I don't know why I ever doubted."

"I'm going to be a mom."

I nod. "An amazing one."

"And you're going to be a dad."

"Dad," I repeat. "It's something I never realized I wanted so badly."

And I do. Nothing in the world means more to me than my wife and now my child. I'm going to be a father to a beautiful little girl and I'm going to raise her with an angel. I don't know what I did to deserve this kind of luck, but I pray I won't mess it up.

My child is healthy and my fears are calmed. In a few short months I'll hold her and kiss her and protect her.

And I can't wait.

. . . . .

My sweetpea can't wait, either.

At twenty-six weeks, the most terrifying thing happens. I'm awakened at two in the morning and Bella says it hurts.

My groggy mind thinks it's her back again, but the look on her face tells me I'm wrong. My hands are against her stomach, feeling a solidness I didn't expect. Within seconds I'm out of the bed and pulling on clothes, tossing sweatpants and a hoodie at her.

We get to the hospital in record time and are immediately taken upstairs. There are doctors and nurses gathered around the loves of my life and I'm falling apart but trying to keep it together. My mind is filled with complications and the idea of losing my daughter.

I'm told we caught it early.

I'm told medication might help.

But I know the truth. I know the medications will just prolong the inevitable and my daughter will most likely not make it to term.

I sit by Bella's hospital bed and hold her hand as the side-effects hit her full force. She throws up and shakes and can't keep her eyes open because she's so dizzy.

I hold her hair back and wipe her brow and tell her it's going to be okay, but I don't know if I'm telling the truth. I've already contacted the best neonatologist I know and plan for the problems our daughter may have.

"I love you," I say as she moans.

"Don't leave me," I beg.

I pray.

I fold my hands together and pray to a God that I'm not entirely convinced exists, but it's all I can do right now.

Hours pass and the contractions stop. It's not a guarantee that things will be okay, though. They've given Bella medications for the contractions and steroids for our sweetpea. She needs at least twenty-four hours for them to do any good.

She gets more.

Miraculously, the contractions remain stopped — for a day, then two, and then three. We don't know why this happened. The doctors can find no cause and they say all we can do is hope for the best and take precautions. Bella is put on bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy and she agrees to everything the doctor says.

"I just want to go home," she says, caressing her bump. She looks around the room and sighs. "I don't . . . like it here."

I can't agree with her more.

After five days in the hospital being closely monitored, Bella is released. I'm on edge and worried and scared, but she's now at twenty-seven weeks. It's one week closer.

I decide I can't be scared in front of her, so before I bring her home, I cry and let out my frustrations on my steering wheel.

My biggest fear is losing my wife and child, but I can't let that rule me for however long her pregnancy lasts. She's scared and she needs me to be strong.

After all the times she's been strong for me, I know I can't let her down when she needs me.

. . . . .

I take time off work.

My mother and her mother both offer to come to us — to stay as long as we need. But Bella doesn't need them.

She needs me.

I'm strict and she doesn't argue with me. She lays in bed and lets me wait on her, though I know she hates feeling helpless.

"Thirty-two weeks."

"Almost one-hundred percent survival with medical technology," I say. "We want her to get there."

She nods and we both lay our hands on her stomach. "Then we will, won't we, sweetpea?"

"I've never met a more determined woman, so if anyone can, it's you."

She smiles. "We're actually aiming for longer, but she knows not to try anything funny again before then."

"Are we grounding her in-utero for this attempt?"

She shrugs. "Nah, but no three-strikes crap. Another attempt of escaping and it'll earn her not leaving the house alone until she's eighteen."

"That's already my plan," I chuckle. "And no dating until I'm dead."

"Good plan." She smirks.

Every day that passes is a victory, and when we hit the thirty-two week mark without another sign of premature labor, we celebrate.

Bella gets her cookie, Nutella, marshmallow sandwich but on a larger scale. The bakery has never taken such a request, but they say they can do it.

And they do.

I bring home the cake box and open it up. Her face lights up and she laughs at the writing on top.

"Congrats on thirty-two weeks of baby hostaging," she says. "Is that a word?"

"Technically, I don't think so," I chuckle as I sit down next to her with two forks, holding one out to her.

"I thought you called this diabetes. Are you really going to try it?"

"I mean, we are celebrating."

It tastes awful.

My teeth hurt from the pure sugar and sweetness, but I choke down a few bites. Bella gives in after only five and I'm allowed to put the concoction away.

She's happy and that's all that matters. She's reached a goal I feared we'd never see, and I'm amazed by her.

. . . . .

Bella breaks down as we pass thirty-three weeks.

The worry consumes her and I hold her as she cries. She tells me she feels like a failure for not being able to have a happy, healthy, normal pregnancy.

I tell her she's done nothing wrong, but she continues to cry. I stay strong. I remind her how good our daughter's chances of being healthy are, but it doesn't help.

She needs to cry.

She needs me to be the one to hold her and tell her it's okay — that she's done everything right. Because she has.

"You're an amazing mother," I say, kissing her temple. "You knew something was wrong right away, and that's what saved our sweetpea. You did that. You endured awful side-effects and weeks in a bed. You're the strongest woman I've ever met and I'm lucky to call you my wife."

"I just . . . it should have been perfect," she sniffles. "You had fears and I pushed you, and I'm sorry."

I shake my head. "You didn't push me and you have no reason to apologize. You're giving me a child, Bella. You're giving me a life that's part you and part me and that's the most incredible gift in the world."

"Tell me she's going to be okay."

I cup her cheek and wipe away her tears as I smile. "She's going to be perfect. Maybe a little early, but perfect. She's part you, after all."

"And part you."

"Our daughter will be healthy. I promise you this."

It's a promise I don't know if I can keep, but I think I can. The chances get better with each day that passes and I know our sweetpea is a fighter.

That's all I need to make that promise and to say it with confidence.

She believes me.

. . . . .

We have more baby clothes than I can count.

Being in bed all day once I go back to work gives Bella too much time online — and our mothers do nothing to deter her.

I come home to another box every day for two weeks, and that's not counting what our mothers have found on their trips to get groceries and other necessities.

"You two should be folding these," I say as I sit on the floor with yet another basket of laundry in front of me.

My mom laughs and Renee shrugs.

"We've each done a basket," Mom says. "And Bella's done her fair share, too. It's our first grandchild — we're spoiling. You know, Renee, this is why we should have had more kids. These two took forever."

"Eight years of marriage," Renee sighs. "It's about damn time."

They leave me alone with the laundry basket and head back to my bedroom. I've been in there for five minutes today, and I wish I hadn't gone back to work and our mothers hadn't arrived.

I miss my wife.

But, I'm also appreciative — or try to be. They didn't have to come, but they did so willingly. I mentioned maybe going back to work to my mom and the next thing I knew, they'd talked to Bella and booked plane tickets.

They're a huge help aside from the enabling of what I've decided is an addiction. Bella has an addiction to baby clothes and blankets and toys. But everything has found its place thanks to our mothers. They put the finishing touches on the nursery Bella had only just begun and my wife is over the moon.

We're ready.

. . . . .

I'm not ready.

It happens at thirty-five weeks and four days, and it's real this time. We're having a baby. Bella's contractions start hard and fast and in under three hours from the first, they're already regular and becoming incredibly strong.

We call the doctor and I double check the bags and put Bella in the car. Our mothers decide to give us space for now and say to call when it's close.

It's closer than any of us realize.

Only an hour after being admitted, Bella is almost there. She's tired and sweaty and in more pain than I can imagine.

And she's freaked out.

She tells me I can freak out, too.

We decide we can panic until she's ready to push, and we do. We double check our lists and it seems to take her mind off of the pain some.

But obviously not for long.

She asks me to check out our sweetpea and not just take the doctor's word for it. I agree because she didn't even have to ask. When we decide the panicking is done, it's really done.

The room is filled with too many people and it makes Bella uncomfortable.

But she makes a joke.

"I just never thought I'd have so many people staring intently at my vagina unless I did porn."

I hold her hand and roll my eyes with a smile. "You should take it as a compliment. These people could be looking at something else, but they chose your vagina."

"It is a nice one," she says. "Hopefully it stays that way."

Another contraction begins and I hold her leg in one hand and her hand in the other. She pushes and the doctor says she's doing wonderfully — that it's time to meet our daughter.

Once her legs are in stirrups and my hands are free, both of them take hers. I'm positioned awkwardly beside and behind her so she can hold my hands, and I don't care how uncomfortable the position is.

I watch her.

I watch her face contort in pain as sweat beads on her forehead. She's giving it her all and I'm in awe. She refused drugs and can feel the horrid pain full force, but it doesn't deter her.

She's determined.

"Look at that hair," the doctor says.

I glance at Bella and she nods. I watch as she pushes again and our child's head emerges. It's beautiful. Soon I can see her face and my body courses with anticipation to meet this little girl.

"She's gorgeous," I say, leaning down and kissing Bella's lips. "You're so close."

Our daughter is born at eleven-fifty-six p.m. on October seventh. She screams and cries, and the sound is better than the most incredible music.

I'm holding my daughter and she's squirming. I never want to let her go, but Bella deserves her more right at this moment. I lay her on her chest and watch as my wife gazes upon the beautiful being we've created.

"She's perfect," she cries and kisses her head.

We don't get her for long. She's only a month early, but she's taken from us to be assessed properly. It's good. Everything is good — better than we ever could have hoped for.

Bella finishes the delivery and we get our daughter back. She's against my wife's bare chest, already peacefully asleep.

I can't believe what I'm seeing and I try to wake myself up.

This isn't a dream, though.

"She's so beautiful."

I nod, running my fingertip over my sweetpea's cheek. "She's perfect."

"Ten itty-bitty fingers and toes. She smells incredible."

She ducks her head and inhales and I can't help but do the same. She's right.

"What does she look like?"

It dawns on me the moment she asks. "Penelope."

"Penny." She smiles at me before looking back at our daughter. "Our sweetpea Penny."

It's right in a way I cannot describe. It fits the precious girl in her arms and I realize my daughter has a name.

I have a daughter.

Penelope Marie Cullen

My heart feels so full of love and I've never been happier in any moment than I am right now. I still feel like I'm dreaming but this is the certain thing in the world.

I hold my wife closer and she lifts her head, kissing the tip of my nose.

"I love you," she says. "Here, hold her."

Our sweetpea lays against my chest peacefully and the warmth goes straight to my heart.

"Thank you," I say, though I should say more. "I love you."

She smiles with tears in her eyes as she watches me hold our little girl.

We're complete.

No fear.

Only love.

Disclaimer: SM owns Twilight, not me.

I owe a massive thank you to Bookwormbaby25 and MelissaMargaret for taking their time to beta. And thank you to Kelley for prereading.

A/N: This idea hit me out of nowhere and I wrote it in a day. I plan on adding a second part at some point, but I'm not exactly sure when or what it'll turn into. Thank you all so much for reading!