A/N: Our tale comes to an end. Let's see how our kids are doing.
"Coming to accept that this body is mine has been strange for me," Edward said, his tone musing. "It is as I told you once. Bodies are merely vessels for our essence. As an angel, I was capable of many forms. This body was a mask, a means to an end, and I have struggled to feel any kind of attachment."
Bella raised an eyebrow, tearing her gaze away from the baby in her arms to look at him. Edward wasn't looking at her, but down at their son. He turned and pressed a kiss to Bella's hair. "Yet your body is dear to me," he said against her ear, wrapping an arm around her shoulder. "Your body sheltered and grew our child. And now, look what you can do." He brushed the tips of his fingers against the baby's cheek.
The boy grunted, disturbed in his suckling, but quickly got back to business. Bella laughed. She ran her thumb over the silky hairs on her son's scalp and looked up at Edward. "Has anyone ever told you you're melodramatic?"
He grinned. "You, frequently." He rested his cheek against her, tracing the shape of her breast above where the baby was latched. "Gabriel," he said with a voice full of wonder.
For Edward, Gabriel was the name of an angel in Carlisle's echelon. It served the dual purpose of being an homage both to Bella's nerdiness—Gabriel was a beloved Supernatural character—and the actual angels for protection. Of all the high angels, Carlisle aside, Edward figured they could do worse than to name a patron of sorts. Gabriel was most likely to look on them as benevolently as Carlisle did.
Bella took a deep breath, trying to push aside the worry that was always nearby when she thought about the unanswered question of what Gabriel was.
The technical term was nephilim—the product of a human and an angel. Edward had thought the creature was no more than a creation of man's imagination, and yet there was Gabriel. It was hard to conceive—no pun intended—of something her angel couldn't explain.
Despite their pleas, Carlisle hadn't made a reappearance since that day in the hospital. Still, Edward said he suspected the cherub toy he'd left behind was a talisman of sorts, imbued with divine protection. They kept it near Gabriel always.
"You still can't tell, can you?" Bella asked, unable to help herself.
She'd spent the entire pregnancy waiting for something weird to happen. When she felt the baby move, she'd been more than a little freaked out. It felt like tiny wings fluttering. But then she'd remembered many women used the same description—like butterfly wings instead of angel wings. Doctor visit after doctor visit she was told the same thing: the baby was perfectly normal.
"Do you think he's...special?" Bella asked Edward.
He gave her a patient smile and kissed her forehead. "Of course I think he's special. I'm his father."
Despite her worry, Bella couldn't help but smile at the note of pride in his voice. She hoped he never got over his incredulity that he was a father. It was too adorable, and pretty funny. Human now or not, Edward had held limitless power for millennia. Yet he was floored by a process almost as old as time itself—reproduction.
"You know what I mean," Bella said.
"Yes, I know what you mean." Edward returned his eyes to the baby looking him over. He smiled gently, both of them watching as Gabriel's eyelids drooped. "Sincerely, it's difficult to say. I'm biased. Er, what's the term Emmett used? I'm inclined to think sunshine comes out his ass."
Bella snorted. "He obviously hasn't changed a diaper."
Edward chuckled. "He glows. I'm sure you can see it."
Bella nodded. It wasn't something she could explain—and heaven knew neither the doctor nor Emmett nor anyone else who had no personal knowledge of angels had noticed anything—but there seemed to be something other about Gabriel.
"But again, you and I are biased," Edward said. "Truthfully, even Rosalie is biased given how she feels about him. He's normal enough." His lips quirked up and his arm around her tightened "I can admit now that I worried when you were pregnant too. If he had wings or even if he had power, what could that do to your human body? He's a baby, after all. He wouldn't have done it on purpose."
"Someone's been dipping into my comic collection," Bella teased, pretending she hadn't been scared about the same thing. She sobered quickly. "Then there are the marks."
Gabriel had two birthmarks. They looked like two slash marks carving a half crescent each on his back, along his shoulderblades. They were miniature replicas of the thin scars on Edward's own back—the only indication he'd ever had wings.
"An imprint perhaps," Edward said, musing aloud.
Gabriel's mouth went slack in sleep and he fell away from Bella's nipple with a tiny, wet pop. She let Edward take him. "It doesn't matter to me, you know. He's perfect." She sighed, getting to her feet to walk with them to the crib. "I just need to know how to protect him; that's all."
Edward wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her closer as they looked down on their sleeping son. Bella pressed a kiss to her fingers and then pressed her hand to Gabriel's cheek. "But don't you worry, bub." She eyed the cherub propped up on the edge of the crib, against the wall. "Angels are watching over you."
Gabriel had no shortage of adoring playmates. Theirs was a busy household—the house they were renting was big, but three couples, a baby, and a dog in one house was always going to be hectic. He was a plump, happy baby whose laugh made everyone smile.
By the time his son was five months old, Edward was sure Gabriel had more than human playmates. Sometimes, when he was on his own, in his crib or on his playmat, he would tilt his head up, giggling and cooing the same way he did when someone was with him. His eyes seemed to track something no one else could see.
Watching his son wave his hands at the air, Edward spoke. "Carlisle, if that's you, some advice would not go amiss." He laughed at himself, rubbing a hand over his chin as he considered. "I become more and more human each day, don't I? Wishing I had a father to go to for advice. What a strange thing.
"Rationally, I know I'm doing as well as anyone. I work to support my little family. I spend time with my son. I care for him and his mother. I love them as well and truly as I know how."
Gabriel squalled, and Edward went to his son. He picked him up, marveling as he always did at the child's weight and warmth. Gabriel grinned at him, waving a toy he had clenched in his chubby fist. Edward grinned back and kissed the tip of his nose, which Gabriel thought was the funniest thing ever.
Edward continued his conversation not with the invisible entity who may or may not have been in the room, but with his impossible child. "Still, you will live a wholly human life, and that's something I know nothing about. Can I be enough for you?"
Gabriel blinked up at him. After a moment, he pitched forward, resting his head on Edward's shoulder, his hand grasping at his shirt. Edward swayed them both, filled as he always was, with a love so powerful, he almost couldn't breathe.
How precious and amazing his baby's trust was. "You're right, Gabriel. There's no one truth, is there? You'll know how much you're loved, and that will be enough. I, of all people, know that life will surprise you." He laughed at himself. "If I can teach you nothing else, it would be that."
"What's your favorite thing about being human?"
Bella still asked Edward that question every once in a while.
These days, everyone in Bella's sphere was happy and stable. She didn't quite know how to deal with it. She wondered if she would ever shake the feeling it was all about to fall apart. That was what life had taught her, after all. Nothing stayed the same. Nothing lasted. It was why she hung on to those she loved with both hands and all her toes.
Her best friend was healthy, safe, and desperately in love with a wonderful woman. He wrestled with guilt over his brother's estrangement, but life wasn't meant to be perfect.
Her son—her impossible miracle, her surprise—would have all the things she never got. He would have all the consistent love and support she could give him. He was the living symbol that her life was worth something. He needed her in a way no one else in the world did.
It was all more than Bella ever could have expected. Her life was far from perfect. She had so much to accomplish, but she also had the tools and support to accomplish it. She had a family, crafted not by blood but by circumstance.
So who could blame her when, every once in awhile, she let fear get the better of her. She started to imagine everything that could go wrong. Some part of her, scared to invest her entire self into the idea any happiness she had could be permanent, still expected Edward to say he regretted everything he'd lost to stay with her.
Ever patient, Edward smiled and kissed her. He kissed her slowly until she melted against him. He made it impossible to doubt his love for her.
"Oh, I don't have a favorite thing. Not anymore," he said.
Bella blinked. She'd almost forgotten what she asked him.
Edward chuckled. "That look." He tapped the tip of her nose. "That look right there, is one of my favorite things."
"Mmhmm." He kissed her eyelids. "And that look you give me when you think I'm possibly the most exasperating thing in the universe."
Bella rolled her eyes.
"Exactly," he said, grinning. "And I like when you explain things to me, when you're into a new show or movie, and you're blown away by some aspect of it. You get so passionate. You wave your hands and start talking like they do on the Internet."
He touched the tips of his fingers to her cheek. "That's one of my favorite things too." He sighed and kissed her lips sweetly. "You're my favorite thing. You and my son."
"Gabriel is all kinds of awesome."
"Yes. He's a favorite of mine."
"Mine too." Bella kissed him. "And you." She kissed him again, her hands beginning to roam his body. She cupped him between his legs, biting her bottom lip to fight her grin when he hissed. "I don't know about my favorite thing, but I enjoy this quite a lot."
"Ah, yes." Edward sucked in a breath, bucking up against her hand. "This...I like this too."
"Sex?" She rubbed her hand over him.
"It's, ah...it's quite a marvelous invention."
Bella snickered. "Makes you believe in a higher higher power, right?" The idea angels didn't even know if god existed never failed to amuse her. "Clever of them to link the survival of the species to this."
He growled and lunged at her. Bella yelped as she suddenly found herself on her back, pinned beneath his body, his mouth voracious on hers.
Before they could get to the good part, though, Gabriel began to whimper from his crib. Bella moaned. "Timing, kid. We've got to talk about your timing."
They disentangled themselves and went to attend to their child. "Before you can ask, poop is still my least favorite part of humanity," Edward said, reaching down into the crib to pull the unhappy baby into his arms. "That's the one thing of yours I don't find amazing, little one. I am not a fan of poop. Not even yours."
Gabriel screwed up his face and let out a mighty holler. Bella laughed, stepping up beside Edward. "Here, let me— Ouch!"
Bella pressed a hand against her cheek. Gabriel, in true, pissed-off-baby fashion, had swung his hands out. His too-sharp nails had caught Bella's face, taking skin with her. She grimaced. "Oh, that one's not going to be pretty."
Sometimes being a parent hurt. Bella had learned that right away.
"Let me see," Edward said, concerned. He stepped closer, shifting Gabriel to one hip to check out the injury.
Bella shook her head. "It's not a big deal. I…" She trailed off, laughing as Gabriel reached out for her. She laughed, taking him from Edward. "What, first you slap me, then you want a hug? That's not how it works, bratty boy."
Gabriel tilted his head, looking at her with wet, wide eyes. He raised his hand to her face, putting his fingers over the scratch.
Bella gasped. She felt warmth flood through her and the sting of the small wound eased almost instantly. She stared at her son. She heard Edward's startled cry.
Gabriel dropped his hand and shoved his fingers in his mouth, looking up at her pensively.
"It's gone, isn't it?" Bella asked, her voice shaking. She couldn't take her eyes off the baby.
"Yes." Edward's voice was as shaky as hers. "He healed you."
Bella stumbled a few steps backward and sat down hard on the bed. Gabriel whimpered, ready to start crying again, and that helped her unfreeze. "Oh, baby. Shhh. Shhh. It's okay. You're fine. You just startled Momma is all. You're perfect." She rocked him, kissed him, and stroked his hair.
Edward sat beside her and wrapped an arm around them both. She could feel he was trembling.
"What does it mean?" she whispered.
"I don't know."
"It doesn't have to mean anything," Rosalie said, watching out the window as Emmett threw Gabriel in the air and caught him again.
Edward half expected him to spread wings and fly away. He tightened his arm around Bella and turned back to look at his sister. "Rosalie, of course it does. It means something. What if—"
"Stop," Rosalie said. She laughed. "There have always been firsts, Edward. There was a first of everything, and you have seen so many. The universe remains. The world keeps turning." She looked at Bella and reached across to squeeze her hands. "He's unique. That's all."
"I just want to know what it means for him." Bella took her hands back, covering her face to hide a raw laugh. "This is the start of a superhero backstory. Christ. Is he doomed to a life of fighting crime to avenge the death of his human mother? That'd be fitting. Agh."
Despite himself, his own worries, Edward laughed. He squeezed her tighter. "I won't let that happen."
Bella raised her head. "Oh, you don't want to know what happens to the superhuman dad in these stories, bucko. Have I taught you nothing? The best you can hope for is to be dragged back to heaven by the angelic choir or something."
"Hey," Rosalie said, her voice gentle. "We're all going to be fine. Gabriel has a lot of people to look out for him no matter what happens." She smiled. "You don't get to live a normal human life, Bella. Those are the cards you drew."
Or rather, the cards Edward had drawn for her when he saved her life so many years before.
Bella looked to Edward. She threw her arms around him, ducking her head against his chest. "You're right, and I wouldn't change it." She sighed, and he could feel the tension draining from her body. She looked up at him. "An extraordinary life is bound to throw a few curveballs, right?"
"Such is life," Edward said. "Unexpected and fantastic."
A/N: As always, so many thanks to my wonderful band of prereaders. They put up with my pestering. Thanks songster, barburella, MoH, Packy, and Mina.
And thanks to all you for coming along on another ride with me.