A little bit of fun to round this story off.
I've had hundreds of requests for futuretakes, already, but I was one step ahead of you all this time ;)
"Fifty bucks says he goes with yes," I snigger as I dig out a bill and wave it in front of the others.
Seth thinks on it a second before accepting my bet, Jasper is in before I've completely unfolded the bill.
The double doors swing open and the walking dead comes towards us.
"I need a smoke," Ed moans as he nears.
I nod towards the end of the hall and the four of us head towards the elevator bank. Ed enters first, the three of us in a line in front of him. Jasper presses the button for the rooftop and as soon as the doors begin to close Seth elbows me in the side, tosses his head back towards Ed and raises his eyebrows in question.
I silence him with a scowl, hoping my mark hasn't noticed the interaction. He hasn't. His head is elsewhere.
We go out onto the roof and make our way to the far left corner where there are bench seats and as much privacy as I've been able to find for our group. We're eight stories above ground level and even though I'm fairly certain nobody knows we're up here there is always the chance that some maggot with a telephoto lens has just hit pay dirt.
I shove that thought aside and sit by Ed on one of the benches. Jasper and Seth are standing sentry, one at our left and the other on our right, both with their backs to us too as they survey the night sky.
"You okay?" I ask as he lights his cigarette and takes a long draw.
"I'm wrecked," comes the groaning answer as he slouches back on the bench.
"It's been a long day," I concede as I too lean back. "Can I ask you something?"
"Shoot," my mark says instantly.
"If you had the chance, or the choice I guess, and it was possible on a whim, would you switch to being James or Rupert right about now?" I chuckle.
I see Seth shift on his feet. He's interested in the answer and I know he wants my fifty bucks. Jas, as usual, has no tells but I know he'd like nothing better than to relieve me of my money too.
"Damn straight," Ed chuckles beside me. He runs his hand through his hair, a sure sign he's stressed, and takes the last draw on his cigarette. "Maybe as James I'd come up with some gadget that would get that fucking baby out of there faster?" He laughs as he gets to his feet. "Come on, I gotta get back before she has the doctor by the balls."
To their credit the guys say nothing as we head back to the elevator. Ed goes in, we stand in front. When we get back to the maternity floor Ed goes back through the double doors and we join the others in the waiting room.
"You found some coffee?" I ask as I sit by Alice.
"It's awful," she shudders, but she shows me a half full cup all the same.
Jas and Seth take seats opposite me and in turn they hand over their fifties. I grin but say nothing. Alice eyes Jasper beadily but that's his problem I think as I stuff my winnings into my jeans pocket.
"Any news?" Carlisle asks as he and Esme rush into the waiting room.
"Ed's been out for a cigarette and he says he's okay," Seth tells them as they too take a seat.
Esme's huff is no surprise to me but it is to Seth. He looks to me and raises his eyebrows in question. "She doesn't care about Ed," I laugh.
"Oh," Seth says sheepishly. "No news about the baby yet, sorry."
"It's not that I don't care about Edward," Esme giggles, "or Bella," she adds hastily, trying to cover for the omission, but we aren't buying it and it makes the rest of us twitter too. "It's a grandmother thing," she huffs finally.
"Speaking of grandmothers," Alice pipes up, "How are you getting on with your mom in the house?" she asks me.
I grimace, it's noticed, and before I can defend myself Jas and Seth are ribbing me.
"Oooh, the mommy and the wife don't see eye to eye," Seth guffaws.
"Rosie won't be liking having to share you with your mommy," Jasper chuckles.
"Shut up," I pout. "It's fine."
Even Esme is hiding behind her hand as she laughs.
Rosie isn't the easiest of people to live with, even when its just me, her and our six month old son in the house. My mom had come to stay for a week or so and so far it had been pretty awkward. Tense.
She went out with Aro every night. .To see shows and plays and movies. So at least it was peaceful in the evenings.
The days were horrible. And I was home for all of it.
The timing for this visit had been bad. Very bad.
Ed had wrapped his movie six weeks before and had nothing on his schedule until after Christmas, giving us all ten full weeks off. That had never happened since I'd been working for him. Ten full, clear weeks off. It had sounded like bliss when we realized it was going to be possible.
Rose and I had moved out of the Cullen Compound - as Ed and Bella's house had come to be called – when we found out Rosie was pregnant. We wanted a home of our own, some privacy and some time away from our jobs.
We loved living with the group, and we missed them still, but we'd all known we couldn't remain in the one house forever.
So Rosie and I had bought a house a few blocks away and had settled in just before the birth of little Bobby.
Everyone else stayed put. It worked. For all of us. I got a little separation, Rose got some peace without her clients on hand day and night and the others had a little more room to spread out.
Rosie's mom came to stay for a week after the baby had been born and it was all good. And then my mom wanted a turn.
I'd said yes without consulting Rose, thinking that she'd have no problem with it as she'd just had her own mother there. I'd been an idiot. And I'd been wrong.
Turns out girls and their own mothers are fine. Girls and their mothers in law, not so much.
They didn't dislike each other. That wasn't the problem at all. They liked each other plenty. They just had very different ideas about homes, and raising children, and how their sons liked their toast cut. It was the toast thing that irked Rose the most, so she said. I didn't get it.
"She's going home day after tomorrow," I tell the still twittering group.
"Esme won't have that problem with Bella," Alice chimes in.
"Rose doesn't have a problem with my mom," I protest, but it falls on deaf ears. They're all still laughing.
"How much longer?" Seth asks, "I'm getting hungry."
"You're always hungry," Jas whines.
"Growing boy," Seth says, getting to his feet and patting his stomach. "Call me if there's any news, I'm going down to the cafeteria."
"Check on the press," I call after him and get a thumbs up as he goes into the elevator.
"What bet did you lose this time?" Alice asks her husband as she shifts chairs and goes to sit by him.
Jas points to me and then gives me the bird with the same finger. "He bet us that if given the choice Ed would choose to switch to James or Rupert today."
"Of course he would," Alice says, slapping his arm. "It's been nine hours of agony for his wife. There isn't a guy alive who wouldn't take the chance to 'check out' on reality for a bit at a time like this."
Jasper looks to me for confirmation and I nod firmly. He shakes his head as though he doesn't agree. "I can't wait until it's us," he says with a wink to Alice.
"I can," she huffs. "I've watched Rose and now Bella go through their pregnancies and from where I'm sitting it doesn't look like a lot of fun."
"It's not," Esme agrees. "But the second they put that tiny little baby in your arms it's all worth it," she says wistfully. "Trust me."
Alice doesn't look convinced at all. "I suppose you guys are betting on whether it's a boy or a girl?" she asks, staring straight at me.
"Why ask me?" I grin.
"Because you take half his wages back every week with your bets," she scolds playfully.
"I pay him twice what he's worth so it all comes out even," I chuckle as she pokes her tongue out at me.
"Well?" Carlisle asks as he leans forward in his chair down the row. "What odds can I get that it's a boy?"
Esme pinches him good in his ribs but he's not deterred so I lean around her and grin at him. "Three to one that it's a boy," I tell him while Esme scowls and Alice tutts. "Minimum bet is a hundred."
He thinks on it a moment then holds his hand out for me to shake. I do and the deal is sealed despite his wife giving me the evil eye.
I hold my breath, hoping Alice won't ask me how much and which way Jas has bet. She doesn't get a chance because Ed comes back out through the double doors just as she opens her mouth.
"Any news darling?" Esme asks, getting to her feet and folding her boy into a tight hug.
"They've called for an operating room to be made ready just in case her contractions keep slowing down," he says nervously.
"Well they know best," Esme concedes. "Can we get you something to eat or drink?"
He shakes his head and comes to sit with us. He plonks himself down into a chair and blows out a long breath. "She's eight centimeters but she's been that for more than two hours now," he tells us. "The nurses are putting something into the back of her hand now and they hope that will speed things up, but if it doesn't she may have to go for a c-section."
I nod along but I'm worried. I can't control this. And I like to control situations. This one is above my pay grade.
Esme is telling him about a cousin who had to have a c-section when a blue gowned nurse bursts through the double doors.
"Mr Masen you need to come back inside now," she shouts across the way and Ed jumps to his feet immediately.
He runs after her and disappears into the maternity suite where we can't follow.
"It's still weird to hear him called Masen," Seth says as he rejoins us in the waiting room.
"Yeah," I agree and so does Jasper. "It took me a while to get my head around it. But then it took me a while to get used to him not switching too."
"I never did get used to that," Jasper says quietly.
Everyone is quiet for a moment. Probably all thinking back to that terrible time where Ed was trapped inside his own mind reeling from the trauma of Charlie's death. I still consider it a miracle that he survived it and that he was as healthy today as he was.
"What gadget do you think he'd come up with to get babies out faster?" Seth asks, breaking the silence with a chuckle.
"God I don't know," I tell him with a shudder.
"If James made it it wouldn't work anyway," Jasper laughs.
"Some of his inventions weren't half bad," I concede, "but yeah, I can't see James pulling off a baby extractor successfully."
"I never saw any that weren't half bad," Jasper scoffs.
"There weren't many," I laugh. "He usually had good intentions. Sometimes his ideas were pretty good but badly executed. Other times the idea and the execution were ridiculous."
"Tell them about the ejector seat," Seth begs. "It's a classic."
"Ejector seat?" Esme gasps. "To eject him from what?"
"From his car," I sigh. I lean forward in my seat so she can see me and then I tell them all about Ed/James' idea. "I don't remember why he decided he needed to be able to eject out of the driver's seat of his car, but he was determined to try to make that one work.
"I had absolutely no confidence in the plan but couldn't see the harm in him ordering the few parts and pieces he said he'd need to build it. So I let him. Big mistake as usual.
"He was out in the garage for hours. Hours and hours. There was no video feed back there then so every hour or so I went to check on him. For the first few hours it looked pretty harmless. He'd ripped out the driver's seat and installed this industrial strength air bag into the floor.
"A couple hours later he had the seat back in, a button installed in the dashboard and said he only needed another hour and he'd be ready for the test run. So I went back inside and back to work. Not five minutes later I hear a huge bang.
"I get out to the garage and there he is, pinned. It took me ages to work out how he'd done it, but there he was. In his wisdom he decided to be safe and only remove two of the four bolts that hold the seat in place. He figured the force of the airbag deploying would sheer the other two bolts off, so he only removed the back two.
"When he pushed the button for his under seat airbag the front bolts held tight and the seat was forced upwards and forwards. The impact of him hitting the steering wheel deployed the real airbag and then he was stuck.
"Sandwiched between two airbags, his legs stuck in the foot well, blood pouring out of his broken nose. Then I noticed the real problem."
"That wasn't the real problem?" Alice asks through her tears of laughter.
"Oh, no," I chuckle. "The real problem was he hadn't cut a hole in the roof of the car, so if the plan actually had worked like he thought it would he would've been crushed against the roof. I asked him why he hadn't made the hole and the idiot told me that there was no point cutting out the hole if the seat didn't work right.
"It cost thousands to have it repaired, and the airbags replaced. He had a mighty headache with the broken nose for a few days and the continuity people on the set went berserk."
Everyone is laughing, even his parents, though I think it's begrudgingly. That's why I'm surprised when Carlisle asks me to describe another gadget.
"There's so many," I muse, "Hmmm, I guess my favourite one, for want of a better word, would have to be the inflatable suit."
"You're kidding," Seth chortles, "why the hell would he want to invent an inflatable suit?"
"For ocean missions," I deadpan, "obviously. Well, that's what James told me when I asked the same thing. Like ocean missions were a thing and they were a completely normal part of his job and he did them often," I say, rolling my eyes.
"I remember this one," Rosie laughs as she joins us in the waiting room. She bends to kiss my cheek and places a sleeping baby into my arms. I nuzzle him a little and take a good hit of his baby smell. "This one was way back at the start, one of his first. One of his more memorable ones," she laughs as she takes a seat beside me.
"Oh yeah," I agree, "I remember this one like it was yesterday it was so funny.
"The basic principle was that if he was going to be doing ocean missions, which he assured me he was, then he wanted a full body suit that he could use to contain all his weapons and gadgets in – not that anyone would ever let him have an actual weapon – that would keep him afloat if he happened to find himself stuck in the middle of the ocean."
"Isn't that what life vests are for? Or those suits they wear on fishing boats on Deadliest Catch?" Alice asks.
"Of course that's what they're for, but this is James we're talking about," I laugh.
"Most of his ideas were about modifying already existing ideas to suit his own ridiculous needs," Rose adds before I can.
"So," I continue, "he tells me he wants some rubber compound fabric and cans of compressed air. It sounds harmless to me and to be honest I sort of wanted to see what he was going to come up with.
"So I get what he needs and he dismisses me from his lab," I laugh.
"Oh that lab," Jasper says, rolling his eyes.
"The lab was funny, being dismissed by James never was," Alice gripes. "That indignant look and that wave of his wrist like 'I'm done with you now peasant, away with you'," she groans and we all laugh.
We'd all been dismissed by James at some point and we all felt the same way about it. "So he locks himself in that room and I leave him to it. I check on him now and then but he's fine. Late that afternoon he comes out and he's got the suit on. It's hilarious," I laugh.
"I never got to see it," Rose whines.
"You should've taken photos," Alice complains.
"I wanted to," I assure her, "but those kinds of photos always have a way of finding themselves on social media and I couldn't have that.
"So, anyway, out he comes in his suit. He's got penknives and flashlights in little pockets all on little lengths of rope so they wouldn't get lost if he ended up in the water.
"He's got rubber divers boots on his feet for 'a proper airtight seal, Emmett'," I laugh, doing the quotes with my fingers. "He's even got goggles in his hand. He announces he's going to the pool to test the thing and I just nod so he knows I've heard him. it still looked pretty harmless to me.
"I don't hear him shouting, or a loud pop because the suit had burst open, so I figure he's either made it work or he's in the pool having a nice time.
"After a while I get a bit concerned though. He hasn't come back indoors to tell me it worked, or didn't work, so I go and see for myself.
"There he is," I laugh, "face up in the pool. Stranded. The suit has done exactly as he'd wanted it to. It's inflated alright. It's so full of air he can't move his arms and legs and he's stuck there, floating on the surface, like a turtle stuck on its back!"
Everyone cracks up, even Esme. The sudden cacophony wakes my son who lets us all know that he aint happy by beginning to wail and flail. I toss him up onto my shoulder and pat his tiny butt.
"Was he hurt?" Carlisle asks.
"Not at all," I tell him. "But he did get a rope burn from where I tied it around his ankle to get him out of the pool," I chuckle. "Oh, and a welt on each wrist when I popped the suit."
"He's had some weird injuries," Rosie giggles, though she out of all of us shouldn't. "He never gave up on that one though, did he?" she asks me.
"Nope, he didn't," I agree. "A week later he announced that the initial suit had passed his test and that he considered the whole trial to be a success.
"He said that with a few tweaks he could make the thing a viable option in the spy game. The next morning I come out of my room and there he is, at the table with his cereal bowl in front of him dressed in the modified suit.
"He's cut it down, trimmed a few things and painted the front of it to look like a tuxedo. James Bond-ish. He's looking pretty pleased with himself so I play along and ask what else he's modified.
"He tells me that the suit now has moisture sensors in it so that he doesn't have to manually inflate it using the air cans. Now if he happens to hit water the sensors will trigger the cans on their own and he'll be able to float out of danger.
"I'm a little bit impressed. A little bit. For a second. Until he accidentally spills his juice on the suit and the sensors do their thing.
"He's trapped at the table. Suit inflated around him. Flailing like an obese but very well dressed penguin. But he's so happy. Sitting there grinning like a moron because his suit has worked. I point out that he's trapped, but he's not interested in rationality. He's just pleased that the sensors worked.
"Cue another pair of welts on his wrists and another pair of pissed off continuity girls on the set the next day."
"I remember him coming to a session with both his hands in bandages. Was that from that invention?" Rose asks me.
"Nope," I tell her. "The bandages were from something else entirely. He wanted to electrify the lock on his lab door. I bought a kit, from one of those hobby places, that's meant for kids just learning about electricity.
"There shouldn't have been enough juice in the little kit to do any damage, but it turned out he figured that out after testing his door lock. So he hooked the set up to the mains.
"I found him, swearing and cursing, in the hallway outside the room with a hardcover book in each hand trying to open the handle without getting another jolt.
"He burnt all ten fingers and had to have them bandaged for a week. The continuity people went nuts over that one too."
"God," Carlisle huffs, doing his best to hide his laughter. "I'm surprised his doctor didn't report his injuries as suspicious."
I shake my head, "Emily has been his doctor for years, she's used to it."
"Emily might have been used to it but even she didn't believe you when you explained how he got himself branded," Seth reminds me with a pointed finger.
I roll my eyes. "No. She didn't believe that, she probably still doesn't," I chuckle. "I wouldn't let him have a safe room, or a bunker, or at least I wasn't willing to let him know that we already had one. So he decided that he needed an escape route of his own.
"He used yet another fake eBay account to buy a zip line, grappling hook and harness and before I even knew about the delivery he had the zip line installed. He'd tied it off from the balcony of the upstairs bedroom and had run it down into the yard onto one of the light poles that cornered the gazebo.
"I knew nothing about all this until I see him on a monitor, dripping blood from his forehead, weaving his way back into the house like a drunk. I race out there but it doesn't take me long to work out what's happened.
"He'd done everything right, for a change. He'd hooked the zip line to the high point, the balcony. He'd hooked it up to a low point, the pole on the gazebo. He was wearing the correct type of harness and all. What he hadn't factored in was gravity.
"He'd hit the gazebo with such force he'd split his eyebrow open on impact and dislocated his shoulder when he bounced back and hit the ground."
The others are laughing and I wonder which of them will work out that he hadn't exactly been branded. It doesn't take long.
"You said he busted his shoulder, where does the branding come into it?" Jasper asks.
I nod at him and smile. "I'm getting to that bit," I chuckle. "I traced that eBay account and cancelled it, effectively thwarting his attempts to modify things for a while after that. He'd only just healed from the dislocation when he asked if he could have a mag hook."
"What's that?"Esme asks.
"Marines use them," I tell her. "It's a harness around your waist with a strong magnet on the end of a line. A propellant fires the magnet, usually upwards, and then you hit a switch that pulls you up to where the magnet is holding. It reels you in towards the magnet.
"This time I was pretty confident he wasn't going to hurt himself because he swore to me that he didn't want to modify the set up, he just wanted to practise his skills using one.
"So I acquired one. Almost legally too," I chuckle. "He's pretty happy with it so I let him have at it. It isn't even five minutes later that I hear a crash that would wake the dead, followed by a dull thud.
"He's in the kitchen. Out cold on the floor. I still don't know how he managed it, but knowing James he'd gotten the harness on and accidentally hit the switch. The magnet had shot out and connected with the fridge.
"Trying to free it he hit the retract button, simultaneously opening the door of the fridge and propelling him into it.
"He woke up an hour later with LG branded into his forehead. Emily so didn't buy that one," I laugh.
I'm about to start regaling the group with another tale of James' gadgets gone wrong when the double doors burst open and a beaming Edward barrels through them. Smiling from ear to ear.
We all know what that means and we all get to our feet as one.
"It's a girl!" he announces at the top of his voice and is immediately swallowed up by the group who all want to hug and congratulate him as one.
All I can think is damn; I owe these bastards a pretty penny.
Pretty soon it's my turn to offer my congrats to my boy. Rosie takes the baby from me and then there we are. Eye to eye. Father to father. Finally.
"Bella doing well?" I ask, my throat thickening with a mixture of pride and amazement for the journey my boy has been on and conquered.
"Absolutely," he tells me, still beaming.
We shake hands but I pull him to me. Folding him into a tight hug as I slap his back.
"Congratulations, Ed," I tell him sincerely when we part ways. He tells me thanks and takes a second to compose himself before turning back to the group.
His family. Our family.
"Eight pounds, four ounces of screaming baby girl," he chuckles. "Fingers and toes all accounted for and a mop of dark hair just like Bella's," he grins.
Another round of congratulations ripples through the gathered group.
"A name?" Esme asks excitedly and I can tell she's already itching to get her hands on her first grandbaby.
"Elizabeth Rene," Ed tells her proudly.
Its Esme's mothers name followed by Bella's mother's name and it has Esme in tears instantly. I hear Rosie begin to sniffle beside me and roll my eyes. She already wants another one, preferably a girl, and I've been told that she's done the research and knows what we have to do to try and force the gender.
I watch as Ed tells everyone about the labour, how pleased he is that a c-section was avoided. He's smiling so widely I think his face is going to crack open and I find myself taking a small step back to just watch as he moves through the group.
He's not the same guy I met on my very first day in his employ. He looks the same. A little older, maybe. But I know that he's changed so much in the past few years. On the inside.
He's survived and shaken off the horror of what happened to Charlie and what happened in his house the day Jake tried to kill him.
He's overcome the pain and guilt of it all. Mostly. Most days.
He's found his footing.
He grew up.
But most of all he became my brother and most trusted friend.
He throws me a nod over his mothers head as she hugs him yet again and I return that nod proudly.
I know he's scared. I know he's nervous. Being a dad for the first time is frightening stuff.
But I give him a thumbs up and it makes him smile. He knows I'll be there. He knows I'll have his back.
Just like he has mine.
"Come and meet my daughter, Em," he tells me once he's extracted himself from the hugs.
I can only nod my agreement as I choke up with emotion.
The group moves as one through the double doors and along a corridor to where the viewing room is for the babies. Ed is right beside me and tugs my arm so that I'm at the front as they wheel Elizabeth up to the window.
"She's a beauty," I tell him as I swallow thickly.
"Yeah," he whispers at my side as the others crowd around. We get shoved to the back as everyone jostles for a look. "I'm scared," he whispers over the dim.
"I've got you," I assure him.
"I know," he nods as he wipes at his eyes.
He's breathing and I'll keep him breathing because that's what I do. I'm his bodyguard.
And that's a wrap.