A/N: Hola, my dears!
Laying with his feet hanging off the couch, Charlie looked over to where his wife was standing face to face with his daughter, and he started to laugh. It was a low chuckle that started deep in his chest. He threw an arm over his eyes, just laughing and smiling to himself.
"Just what is so funny?"
Speak of the devil. Charlie opened his eyes and grinned up at his ex-wife. "I was just thinking about you," he said.
Renee crossed her arms. "Oh, really?"
"You jinxed me."
Charlie nodded to where Bella and Alice were still talking. They were a comfortable distance apart but as they were both pregnant to there, their bellies met in the middle. "Remember?" he asked Renee. "You said I'd have a baby and a grandbaby at the same time. You jinxed me."
"Ah, you're not blaming me for this one." She huffed, shaking her head. "I realize it's hypocritical of me to say so, but really? Both you and Bella should know better. I learned from our mistake. Apparently, you didn't."
Charlie just chuckled again.
The pregnancy hadn't really been an accident. They weren't trying for a baby, that much was true. It had been one of those things. In the heat of the moment, they found themselves lacking any method of birth control. Alice had hedged it wasn't likely she'd get pregnant that night. He'd pointed out it wasn't impossible, and she'd looked at him, her eyes sparkling, and said, "Would it be a bad thing if it happened?"
Alice was finishing up her degree, and they were settled in Seattle. No, it wouldn't be the worst thing, and it wasn't.
Bella, on the other hand. Well, that had been a surprise, but it wasn't the end of the world either. He looked across the room, watching as Edward came up behind Bella. He put a glass of lemonade in her hand and put his hand to her belly, kissing her cheek. That boy-his brother-in-law, christ that was weird-cherished Bella. He would cherish and protect their daughter.
They were young, but they would be okay.
"I still think you're crazy," Renee said, drawing Charlie's attention again. "I can't imagine doing it all again. The crying, and the helplessness, and oh my goodness, the poop."
"So much poop," Charlie said, but he was grinning.
Renee smiled back at him. "You're happy," she said. It wasn't a question.
"So you like teaching at the police academy?"
Charlie sat up straight and shrugged. "I was good at being a cop. I'm good at teaching people to be cops."
"I'm just surprised. You uprooted your life, but you're still a cop."
"A job was never going to be my passion, if that's what you're getting at. It works for me, though. I put in my eight to five, then I come home. I've been trying to figure out the whole cooking thing, because Alice is way too busy with school and at her new job."
Charlie's lip twitched. "It's good. I have plans, you know? Billy wants us to open an ocean fishing charter."
"What does that mean?"
"We take people out on the ocean. Help them fish. He's got the boat already." He waved a hand. "We were thinking about trying our luck on the weekends during the season. We'll see how it goes. It'd be a nice way to pick up a few extra bucks, but mostly I want to come home every day to my family."
Renee laughed. "Your family. You know you puff up like a peacock when you say that?" She patted his shoulder before she wandered off again, going to talk to Bella.
At first, Alice stayed chatting with Renee, Bella, and Edward. But after another minute, she began to dig her fists into her back, and Charlie cleared his throat. Alice looked over and smiled ruefully when he extended his hand. She came willingly, and let him pull her down on the couch beside him.
Charlie put his hand to her skin under her shirt, massaging from the base of her spine on upward. "You're overdoing it," he said. "I don't know much about baby shower etiquette, but I'm pretty sure the mother-to-be isn't supposed to be the one throwing herself a baby shower."
She screwed up her face, glaring at him with no heat. "I'm not throwing myself a baby shower. It's not my fault Bella decided to steal my thunder."
"Steal your thunder? Alice, you're due after her."
His beautiful wife waved a hand. "Semantics," she said, then she moaned as he moved his fingers out from under her shirt to her neck. "God that's good."
"Try to take it easy, sweetheart," he said, knowing full well it was useless to tell her to sit her ass down and rest.
She turned her head to smile at him. "I'll try."
Alice wasn't over her past. Charlie doubted she'd ever fully be over it. Her mother's death at her father's hands, his and her stepmother's abuse, the loss of her little sister due to circumstance, ostracization from her peers in the wake of her marriage to Jasper, and then losing him on top of it? Of course that wasn't going to be something she could just shake off.
She still went to therapy once a month, and she had for years. There were bad days-bad weeks really-and there were a few very bad nights.
Charlie blinked awake in the middle of the night to the sound of Alice's whimpers. He reached over to turn on the light, already calling her name in a soft, soothing voice. Slowly, giving her a chance to get used to his presence so he wouldn't drive her further into panic, Charlie wrapped an arm around her and drew her back against his chest.
"Alice." He pressed a kiss behind her ear. "Wake up, sweetheart. You're fine. Shhh. You're fine." He caught her flailing hands and pressed her palms to her belly. Recently, whenever her anxiety got the better of her, this had helped more than anything-feeling their son safe and snug beneath her hands. "Wake up for me."
Gradually her whimpers quieted. She moved her hands, following the kicks and taking deep breaths. Charlie stroked her hair back away from her face and kissed the side of her temple. She turned in his arms and buried her head at his neck.
"I dreamed you were gone," she said in a shaky whisper. "That's the only thing in the world I'm scared of. Losing you. And Peter." She trembled. "I'm just so scared."
He wondered if she knew how amazing she was. It took an incredible amount of strength to live again after what she'd lost. Not to survive, to truly live. And this was why. The more she gained, the more she stood to lose, and she knew what that loss felt like. The fear it could happen again, there was no promise it wouldn't, would have been crippling in another person.
"Peter's fine, sweetheart," he said, putting his hand over hers on her belly. He stroked along her knuckles and kissed her forehead again.
In the darkness, it was easier to put words to things he didn't like to think about. "It scares me too," he admitted, lips against her hair.
She raised her head to look at him.
He raised his hand to trace the shape of her nose and wipe the remnants of tears from under her eyes. It felt silly when he was looking at her, when she was warm and solid in his arms. Sometimes, though, especially after she got pregnant, his heart would seize, and he'd be positive she would come to her senses. She could decide as easily as Renee had that she couldn't be with someone like him.
Would she take Peter if she ever did?
Alice sniffled, some of the misery draining from her features as she reached up to take his face in her hands. She offered him a watery smile. "I promise I won't leave you if you promise you won't leave me."
He chuckled and took her hands in his. "Easiest deal I'll ever make."
"Well, I'm going to hold you to that." Her grin turned wicked. "Might be a challenge for you later."
"Oh, really? Why is that?"
"Well you are so much older than me."
She squeaked when he tickled her beneath her neck and groaned when he stifled her giggles with his mouth. Since he wasn't about to be rough with her while she was pregnant, he concentrated instead on kissing her senseless in retaliation.
The end result was the same. Alice's sex drive hadn't abated at all even though her belly was almost as big as she was. She was ungainly, but with his help, she straddled him. He helped her balance, holding her hands steady as she lowered herself on him.
More than anything else, this connection, being able to see the love in her eyes and feel her around him, reminded them both that neither of them were going anywhere.
Two months later, Charlie blinked awake again in the middle of the night. Beside him, Alice groaned, and Charlie figured out the noise that had woken him was a squalling from the baby monitor.
"I'm going to die," Alice said, mostly into her pillow. "Our child is trying to kill us. People aren't meant to go for three weeks straight without sleep, Charlie. It's not possible."
Despite his tiredness, Charlie smiled. He drew his fingers down her cheek. "I'll go."
She didn't argue. She just slumped into her pillow, already asleep again.
Charlie stretched, trying to shake off the stupor of sleep. The soft whimpering was beginning to get urgent, so he hurried down the hall to his son's nursery, yawning all the way.
"Oh," he said, leaning on the crib. "So you're the troublemaker." He reached down and pulled not his three-week-old son, but his four-week-old granddaughter up. Settling her into the crook of his arm, he ran the back of his knuckles over his still-sleeping son's cheek.
Michella gave an impatient cry, and Charlie shushed her. "Hush, Ella. You're going to wake your uncle up."
"You know, if Bella catches you calling her Ella, she's going to have a fit," Edward said around a yawn, startling Charlie. Bella had conked out on the couch mid-visit, and since Charlie's new house had a guest room, she and Edward had stayed over.
He turned to his son-in-brother-in-law, setting Ella on the changing table. "See, of the two of us, I'm not actually scared of my daughter." He wrinkled his nose as he undid the baby's diaper. "Your daughter on the other hand...this is a little scary."
Edward rubbed his fist in his eyes and stood by Charlie, catching the baby's foot and looking down on her with sleepy, adoring eyes. "Micky, tell Grandpa he can't be mean to you."
"Grandpa," Charlie repeated with a snort, shaking his head. "I'll get used to that never." He looked over his shoulder when Edward yawned for fourth time in a minute. "Go on. I've got Micky."
Edward nodded obediently and ambled off down the hallway.
No sooner had Charlie gotten Micky changed and settled back in the crib than Peter woke. "Don't be a follower, Petey," Charlie admonished, setting him on the changing table.
Finally, both babies were dry, content, and still awake. Charlie looked down on them, bemused and in love. It was strange. They were the physical embodiment of the two lives he straddled, both nestled snug, existing together in harmony when it all could have been so much drama.
His granddaughter. He fingered one of Michella's chocolate brown curls. His curls. His and Bella's hair color. Bella had been the beginning of his first life, and Micky was the end result. She was the end of his journey as a parent, watching his daughter start the cycle all over again.
Then, his son. His life had restarted almost from scratch when he fell in love with Alice. Peter was the second chance he never let himself dream he could have. He was bald as bald could be, but he had Charlie's nose.
He stuck his hands down in the crib, letting each of the babies grip a finger. "Well, kids, I'll tell you one thing. Life...It's interesting. Never would have believed this story if I hadn't lived it. And I apologize in advance for all the confusion. Family trees shouldn't get this tangled, but you know, sh...stuff happens. Guess we have a family bush."
"You are goofy as heck, Charlie Swan."
Charlie glanced over his shoulder as Alice wrapped her arms around his waist. "You're supposed to be asleep."
"Yes, well. You talk too much, and the baby monitor is on." She looked down at their son and smiled. "Don't tell Edward and Bella, but our baby is prettier than theirs."
"You know you're Micky's step-grandma, right?"
Alice giggled. "Oh, my god. And her aunt." She peered into the crib. "You poor kids are going to need so much therapy."
She tugged on Charlie's waistband. "Come on, Uncle-Grandpa. We should get our twenty minutes of sleep."
Charlie curled his fingers around Peter and Micky's hands and then let go. He twined his fingers with his wife's and followed her back down the hallway to their bed.
A/N: Many thanks to barburella and jessypt, for whom this story was lovingly crafted.
I think for now I'm going to mark this complete. I want to write another gratuitous chapter, but it hasn't gelled in my head yet.
So for the time being, thank you for taking this journey with me. I'm very proud of this little piece and it was fun frolicking with Charlie and Alice. I hope you had a good time too.