A/N: Yes, I still intend to write Charlie and Bella's story. For now...let's wrap this overblown outtake up.
Bella woke up screaming.
Rather, she woke with a cry. The screaming had all been in her head. Her nightmares.
"You're okay, sweetheart. I've got you."
Bella groaned, but she leaned blindly into Edward's embrace. The fear hadn't left her; she wasn't entirely sure where she was yet, but she knew she was safe in his arms.
"Fuck," she muttered a few minutes later when her heartbeat had returned to normal. She sighed and rested her head against his chest. "Did you know you say the exact same thing to Katie when she has a nightmare?"
Edward brushed her hair back from her face. "Well, you're both my sweethearts." He cupped her cheek and tilted her head up. "And I have you." He kissed her forehead and let his lips linger there. "You want to tell me about it?"
"I don't know why this is happening. It's been years since I've had nightmares like this."
Edward's lips twitched. "Really? You don't know why this is happening?" He drew his fingers down Bella's arm, tickling lightly. He cupped his hand over the swell of her belly. "I think I have some idea." He kissed the tip of her nose. "It was James again then?"
Bella shuddered and nodded. She put her hand over his, squeezing her eyes tightly shut as a wave of fierce protectiveness went through her. "He was standing over me again." She breathed in and out, steadying herself. "And he was going to hurt me and the baby."
Edward shifted, and they moved until she was cradled in his arms, her back against his chest. He slipped his hands under her shirt. Bella leaned back, calmer and more content by the minute. Edward was so endearing about her pregnancy. He was right. She knew exactly why she was having nightmares about James. It was no warped fantasy-they were memories. Her first pregnancy had been such a desperately lonely, frightening time.
"I'm not going to let anything bad happen to you," Edward said, kissing along her jaw. "Not to you or Katie or our little alien."
Bella remembered how alone she'd felt in her mother's house, how she'd stayed up so many sleepless nights, her legs tucked up and her arms wrapped around her belly. She used to talk to her baby, to imagine it was there with her, its warm little body and happy gurgle filling the emptiness she'd felt
She leaned her head on Edward's shoulder. No. This was the opposite of what her first pregnancy had been. While she ached because of what her isolation had cost her, she couldn't let herself dwell on it. She wasn't alone anymore. She had a wonderful family, both her own little family and her extended support system. They were all looking out for her, Katie, and her baby.
It was impossible not to have some lingering doubts, regrets, and resentments about a situation like theirs. Edward reminded himself frequently there were positives about how everything had gone down. He liked to believe he would have been able to give Bella all the help she needed, but that was probably untrue. If she'd told him when she was pregnant with Katie, she might never have found her father, discovered what it was like to be given unconditional love and support from a parent. Her mother and stepfather had warped her psyche. All of that might have gone untreated, and she might not have been the great parent or partner as she was now.
Still, it chafed. Yes, the intervening years had made them both better adults, and better for each other, but he'd still missed six years of his daughter's life. Nothing could undo that.
This pregnancy had done a lot to soothe old wounds, though. He could fume all he wanted that he would have been the perfect partner during her first pregnancy, but now he could live that reality.
Lately, Bella had been obsessed with crappy, processed cheese-the kind that came in individual packages. He'd gone with a coworker at lunch time to Costco and gotten a huge block of the stuff.
"You are going to love me so hard right now," Edward said as he came in the door.
Bella quirked an eyebrow at him. "Right now? I'm not sure that's a good idea. We don't want to traumatize our daughter with public sexcapades."
Before he could quip back, the daughter in question finally cottoned on to the fact he was home. "Daaaaddddddddyyyyyyyy!" she called gleefully as she ran down the stairs.
Of course. He'd just interrupted homework time. He was a hero.
He opened his arms so Katie could leap into them. Rather than release him right away, she wrapped both her arms and legs around him. She was a little needy these days. Nothing too drastic; just moments like these where she tended to be clingier. She'd been the star of her world all her life, first with Jasper and Emmett and then, when she joined Edward and Bella's family. She was used to being the only. The only child. The only grandchild, all the more special because of their unique situation.
Normal, Edward figured, and he liked the extra hugs.
"Guess what," Katie said, releasing him enough so that she could look him in the eyes as he carried her to the living room.
"I decided on a name for my baby brother."
They'd found out they were having a boy a week before. Katie wanted to name him. They had come to the compromise that each of them-Edward, Bella, and Katie-would submit a name, and they would decide from that pile.
"You didn't tell me you'd picked out a name," Bella said, ruffling her daughter's hair as Edward set her down on the sofa.
"I just decided."
"What is it?" Edward asked, sitting on Bella's other side and putting an arm around her.
Katie tilted her head. "Do you have your names picked out? I think I want to hear them all at once."
Edward looked to Bella and raised an eyebrow. He was curious about that himself. He knew that if Katie had been a boy, she'd wanted to name him Edward, but he'd put a kibosh on that this time around. He preferred babies to have their own names, unique in the family.
"I'm ready if you are," Bella said.
"You first, Mommy." Katie bounced in place.
"I like Xavier."
Edward raised an eyebrow. "Like the X-Men?"
"Yeah." Her smile was bashful. "I used to like the cartoon. I watched it a lot when I was young. The professor was wise, but he could kick ass when he needed to."
A rare happy memory from her childhood, he recognized, and he squeezed her hand. "What about a middle name?"
"Xavier Cameron. I like Cameron. I don't know why."
"Cameron is weird," Katie said, crinkling her nose. "I know a boy and a girl Cameron. That's why it's weird."
Bella crossed her arms. "Pffft. I think it's nice. It's okay if it's a boy and a girl name."
"It's nice. Just weird." Katie gave her mother a consoling pat.
"I like it," Edward said, squeezing Bella. He loved that both Bella and Katie could get wrapped up in beautiful fantasies.
"What about you, Daddy? What did you choose?"
"Hmm." Edward rubbed his chin. It was strange how he felt almost protective of the name. As though the name were attached to a baby he could already hold in his arms, and if he lost the name game, he could lose the baby. "Rowan Charles Cullen."
"Charles?" Bella asked, her eyes shining.
"I know what I said about not liking the idea of naming a kid after someone in our lives, but it's a middle name." He reached over to brush Bella's cheek. "I'm so glad you found him, Bella, and that he loves you so much."
"Yeah," she said. "I really like that." She took a breath. "Rowan sounds like a fantasy hero."
"I think so." He waggled his eyebrows at her, and she put her hand to his chest.
"Our little adventurer," she murmured and kissed his cheek.
"Okay, kiddo. It's your turn now," Bella said, turning to Katie.
Katie pulled her feet up on the couch and angled herself so she was facing her parents. "I thought it'd be cool if he had a science name. Because I'm going to be a scientist, so maybe he can be too."
Edward nodded, hiding a smile. "Sure. It's all in the name."
She gave him a disparaging look. "Well, no, Daddy. Just because you name him like a scientist doesn't mean he'll be a scientist. He's his own person."
"Oh, yes. That's right. I'm sorry."
"Anyway. I really don't like geneticists' names, except for Nino Jasper, and you can't name him that."
"Right," Bella said, looking amused.
"So I like Nikola. Like Nikola Tesla. Nikola Galileo," Katie said proudly.
Edward's eyebrows shot up. "Galileo. That's a mouthful."
Katie furrowed her brows. "Galileo is my favorite. And it's only a middle name. I think it's cool."
"It is cool." Nikola had some merit, after all, and both Edward and Bella liked unique names.
"I think we should ask, Brother," Katie said. She slid off the couch onto the floor and rested her head against Bella's stomach. She'd taken a liking to this after she saw Edward do it, and she chatted frequently with her little brother. She knocked on Bella. "Hello in there? Will you tell us your name? Do you like Nikola Galileo?"
After a moment, Katie peered up at Bella. "Did he move?"
Bella ran a hand through Katie's hair. "I think he's sleeping right now."
"Maybe you just have to listen." Edward got on his knees on the floor and lifted Bella's shirt so he could rest his ear against her skin. "Hey, buddy. Are you an Xavier, a Rowan, or a Nikola?"
Laying her ear against Bella's opposite side, Katie giggled. "Mommy, your tummy is talking."
"Have you considered that maybe it's your brother? Maybe he's not a baby but a sea monster."
"Ewwwww. That's gross."
Bella laughed, and Edward liked hearing it through her skin. He felt her fingers in his hair and craned his head up to see her smiling down at him.
The past didn't matter anymore. His present and his future looked amazing.
"Are you sure I can't go with you?" Katie pouted as she looked over at Jasper. "I can help."
Jasper smiled. "I know you could, sugar, but I think it should be me and Emmett this time." He reached back to squeeze her knee. It had been a difficult decision-Katie would always be their daughter in their hearts-but it was only fair to their perspective child that clear lines were drawn. Katie would be a special person in their lives, but she couldn't be the same. She wasn't a part of their immediate family unit. "But I think it's great you're so excited."
"Well, yeah. I could tell him or her that it's great being at your house. That you get to go to lots of museums, and Nino Emmy is really funny. And you're really smart."
"Hey," Emmett said from the driver's seat. "Does that mean you think I'm not smart?"
"No. You're smart, but it's not the same kind of smart. Like being a cop is not the same as being a scientist, that's all. It's still really cool though."
"Thanks for your vote of confidence, kid."
The next day, Jasper was so nervous he couldn't sit still as they drove to the park where the adoption event was being held. "Seems so weird to pick a kid out like you go to the pound."
Emmett shrugged. "Means to an ends, babe. A lot of these kids have been in the system way too long. If there's a chance, they need to take it. Besides, it works. Easier to want to adopt a kid when you have a connection, you know?"
"I know. It's just one of those things. I wish it'd never gotten to that point for any of these kids, but if it hadn't, we wouldn't have this chance."
They pulled into a parking space, and Emmett took Jasper's hand. He brought it to his lips, locking eyes with his husband. "We got this," he said.
Jasper shivered. He was scared, but as always, he was calmer when he remembered Emmett was still there by his side. "Course we do."
They got out, and their social worker checked them into the event. Once she was assured they had no questions, she set them loose to wander.
It was more heartbreaking than not. Children of all ages were scattered around the park. Some of them were simply playing, looking as carefree as any child should. Others were glancing around warily.
As Jasper understood from their conversation with the social worker, these kinds of events could be stressful for kids. Most of them knew they were on display. The less jaded children put on a show, trying to make themselves more attractive to prospective parents. Some of the older children, who had dared to hope before only to be disappointed time and time again, were hanging around, trying to look like they didn't care as much as they truly did.
Jasper took Emmett's hand and squeezed, needing the comfort. There were so many children here in need of homes. So many frightened and hopeful faces. Beautiful, unwanted kids. He wanted to help them all.
As they strolled, Jasper began to wonder how this was supposed to work. Was it like when he'd picked a puppy out at the pound? His mother had told him to go in without any expectations. The one who comes up to you, interacts with you, calls to you, that's your dog.
Children weren't pets, and Jasper wasn't quite sure where to start.
They'd stopped walking. Jasper tore his gaze away from a little girl who looked too much like Katie, and turned to see where his husband was looking. He was looking at a set of sullen, pre-teen boys who were sitting on a picnic table, isolated from the larger group. Emmett looked to Jasper and quirked an eyebrow.
Before Jasper could nod his acquiescence that they could go talk to the lads, something very small barrelled into his legs. "Oof," said a tiny voice, and Jasper looked down to see a brown haired, brown eyed girl shaking herself off. She was wearing a pretty dress, but it was rumpled, bits of dirt and debris stuck to it as though she had been rolling in the dirt recently.
"Oh, man. Are you okay?" Emmett asked as the girl climbed to her feet.
The girl looked up and her eyes went wide. She craned her head to look all the way up at them. "Whoa. You're tall." Her eyes went even wider as she concentrated on Emmett. "And big."
Jasper chuckled. "Are you okay?" he repeated for his husband. "You're bleeding. I think you should get that looked at."
"Huh?" The little girl looked down and extended one leg in front of her to look. She teetered, and Jasper had to stop himself from steading her. "Oh, that's nothing. Doesn't even hurt."
Before any of them could say anything else, a boy about the girl's age-perhaps a little older-came romping up. He threw his arm around the girl's shoulders and grinned up at Jasper and Emmett. "Hi. I'm Felix. Me and Heidi are best friends. Huh, Heidi. Huh?" He tickled the little girl as he spoke.
All at once, Heidi's features twisted. She growled and threw herself at the boy. Despite the fact he was built sturdy and she was a tiny slip of a thing, she knocked him over. They began to wrestle and yell at each other.
Jasper started, somewhat shocked, and Emmett took a step in their direction. One of the social workers called the kids' names. Before any of the adults could step in, another child-an older boy-ran up to them. He grabbed Felix under the arms and dragged him to his feet. "Hey, why'd you do that?" he demanded. "You know she don't like that."
The boy turned and scooped Heidi up in his arms. She automatically hid her face at his neck. He looked at the adults. "She didn't mean it, I swear. She told Felix before not to tickle her. She don't like it, that's all." He looked over to Jasper and Emmett. "She's a good girl. Really."
The social worker sighed and turned toward the men. "Demetri, Felix, and Heidi are all in the same foster home along with three other kids." She craned her head, scanning the park as though looking for them, but gave that up after a moment. "Heidi and Felix don't always see eye to eye."
"I was just tickling her, Miss Ramos," Felix said, scowling at Heidi. "It's just a tickle. It's just to make her laugh."
"I don't like it!" Heidi's words were muffled against Demetri's neck.
"He was just trying to play with you, Heidi," the social worker said.
Emmett cleared his throat. He stepped cautiously closer to Demetri and Heidi, and patted the little girl's back with a gentle touch. "You know what I think?"
She lifted her head, giving him a dubious look.
"I think that it doesn't matter if he was trying to make you laugh. If you don't like what someone does, I don't think they should do it." Emmett glanced at the social worker. "It's her body. If she doesn't feel comfortable being tickled, Felix shouldn't do it."
"But-" Felix started, but the social worker held her hand out.
"Come on, Felix. There's a couple just over the hill who are looking for little boys like you." She gave Jasper and Emmett a wan smile before she wandered off with Felix.
Demetri made a disgruntled noise, watching the social worker retreat. He looked back to Emmett and smiled, then he looked to Heidi. "I like what he said. You told Felix to stop before, and he should have stopped. You know Carmen would have stopped him."
"Who's Carmen?" Jasper asked gently.
Demetri smiled at him. "She's our foster mom. Cool lady." He sat down with Heidi still on his lap.
Her mood seemed to have swung again. She was pressed up against Demetri, staring at Jasper and Emmett. "You don't think I'm a bad girl?"
Jasper squatted so he could look up at her. "I think there are other ways to handle things than hitting someone, but no. You're not a bad girl. It sounds like Felix doesn't know how to keep his hands to himself, huh?"
Heidi nodded, her big brown eyes wide and mournful. "I just don't like it," she said, hiding her face again.
"That's okay. I understand that."
"Is this your sister?" Emmett asked Demetri.
Demetri seemed somewhat surprised by his attention, and again he smiled. "Oh, nah. Not like… blood or anything. She's in my house right now." His smile grew wider. "That's how I know she's such a good kid." He nuzzled Heidi's cheek-apparently she trusted him enough that she giggled instead of freaking out on him. "Heidi-Idaho, show them your trick."
She ducked again and shook her head. "No, they won't like it."
"I'm pretty sure we will," Jasper said.
Heidi eyed him, but she slid off Demetri's lap. She opened her hands, palms up. "See my hands?" she said, displaying them first to Jasper then to Emmett.
They both nodded and she flipped her hands over for good measure. When she was satisfied her small audience had examined her hands well enough, she flipped her hand again, revealing a shiny quarter. Jasper and Emmett made a big show of gasping in surprise and wonderment. Heidi beamed.
"How old are you?" Emmett asked.
"Five," Heidi said. She reached back and patted Demetri's knee. "An' this is Demi. He's thirteen. That's almost grown-up. But he still needs a forever family. Coz Mommies and Daddies are supposed to love you forever, even when you're all grown up."
Demetri ruffled her hair. "Don't worry about me, kid. They want little cuties like you, not big kids like me." He shrugged in Jasper and Emmett's direction. "Don't worry. I know how it goes. Heidi is the coolest little kid, though. For real. I've lived with a lot of brats, right? She's cool."
They chatted a while longer, and Jasper wasn't at all surprised when his husband turned to him as they walked away.
"Yes," he said before Emmett said anything.
Emmett's smile was blinding.
"Demetri is very protective of Heidi," their social worker-not the same woman who had led Felix away-explained. She grimaced and gave them a sad smile. "He found out she suffered a very similar trauma to what he suffered, and so he started to watch out for her. She does have some anger problems on occasion-the same kind of thing you witnessed where someone touches her in a way she doesn't like-and he's been particularly effective in calming her down."
The woman brightened as she looked at them. "But she's not so far out of hand that she can't be reached. She's been working with a therapist who's very optimistic. A little consistency and love, and Heidi will be fine without Demetri. She's a sweet child most of the time."
"You misunderstand us," Emmett said, glancing at Jasper and then back to the woman in front of them. "We want them both."
"I...oh!." She gave a blustering kind of laugh. "Oh, my. I'm sorry. That's not what I expected."
"Assuming it's a good match, of course," Jasper said. "The… trauma that they suffered. How would they handle living with two men?"
"Well, they have no problem with their foster father. Demetri has been in the system longer. He's had the occasional problem with a foster father or brother, but I think that has more to do with… well…"
"He's gay," Emmett said.
The woman flushed, but she smiled again. "Yes. And because of what happened to him, that causes perhaps more than the usual confusion." She cocked her head, stroking her chin. "Perhaps that would make you an ideal match. It would be good for him to have two positive role models in his life."
Emmett and Jasper looked at each other again, excitement and hope growing stronger. Emmett had tried to keep it tamped down-hope was dangerous-but he just couldn't any longer. "How do we make this happen?" he asked the social worker.
~Two Months Later~
"They're here, they're here, they're here, they're here." Katie bounced around the living room, bubbling over with excitement. "Is Baby Brother ready?"
Her mother raised an eyebrow at her and yawned. Mommy was always tired. Baby Brother cried all night long. "Calm down, Katie," she said. "You're going to scare the poor kids."
"I've already met them." Mommy also forgot a lot of things. But Grandma had said Katie needed to be patient with Mommy and Daddy and Baby Brother. The baby was only two weeks old, and he was exhausting, she said. "Remember, I told you? Demetri carries Heidi around everywhere. She's just a baby, but maybe Tyler can still play with her."
Bella snorted. "Honey, you're not that much older than her."
Katie shrugged. That was a ridiculous thing to say. She was not even close to five.
"You said you liked Heidi," her father said, coming into the room.
Katie shrugged again. "She's very pretty. I like Demetri." She went over to where her mother was changing Baby Brother on the sofa, and she tickled his tummy. She liked when he kicked his legs like that. "I think it's cool Heidi has a big brother. He likes to carry her around." She shook her head. "Anyway. Is everyone ready?"
"Yeah," Edward said, putting his arm around her. "They're in the back, though. They don't want to overwhelm the poor kids."
"They can handle it. They're tough," Katie said. That was what Nino Emmy had said about them. Tough kids. But not in the bad way. Not like mean. He only meant that they had been through a lot of bad things. But they were here now, and Katie had told them that Emmy and Jasper wouldn't let bad things happen to them. They were good daddies. "I'm going to say hello."
"Katie-" her mom and dad said, but she was already out the door. She darted down the driveway just as Demetri was hopping out of the car.
"Hi, Demi," she said, liking the name Heidi called him.
"Hey," he said. He seemed more quiet than before. Like he was scared. He looked over at the door.
"Everyone's here," Katie said, peering around him to where Heidi was struggling with the strap of her car seat. Jasper had gotten out to help her. "Everyone came. Even Grandpa Charlie and my uncles and aunt. My uncle Tyler is younger than me. Isn't that weird? And-"
Nino Emmy put his hand over her mouth. "Settle down, Katie," he said. He sounded amused. "This is a lot for Demetri and Heidi to take in."
Heidi, by that time, had made her way to the other side of the car. She lifted her arms up, and Demetri picked her up, hugging her close. Katie wondered if he was strong enough to pick her up. Maybe she would ask him later.
"She's been so excited for today," Daddy said. He had followed her outside. Mommy was right behind him, and that made Katie happy.
"Look, Heidi, look. You want to meet my baby brother?" Katie asked, pointing at the baby Mommy had against her shoulder.
Her mother smiled at her Ninos. "She's been calling him Baby Brother since he was born. You would think he didn't have a name."
"I know his name," Katie said, frowning at her mother. She looked up at Heidi. "His name is Lucas Charles Cullen. Charles because that's my grandpa's name. Lucas because that's what we all liked. You want to see him? Mommy, let Heidi and Demi see him."
"Katie," Daddy said, a warning in his tone.
"Please let them see him," Katie corrected.
Heidi was curious as she craned her head to look. Demi ducked his head and smiled at Edward and Bella. "Cute kid."
"We like him," Daddy said, putting his arm around Mommy. He was smiling really big.
Katie told Demetri and Heidi her mommy and daddy's names. Then she told them about everyone waiting inside, and how they were all very nice.
"This is a good family," she said, nodding.
When they headed inside, Katie hung back. She took Emmett and Jasper's hands, walking with them toward the house. "Hey, know what?"
"What's that?" Jasper asked, looking down at her. She liked how their hands were so big.
"I'm happy you get to be daddies again. I think this is our happily ever after for everyone."
They both grinned and they leaned down, each of them hugging her for a long moment. "I think you're exactly right," Emmett said.
When they let her go, Katie ran ahead. She took her daddy's hand and then wrapped her other arm around her mother's waist.
It was a really, really good family.
A/N: Many thanks to the lovely ladies of my group for helping me come up with boys' names. Thanks to barburella, myonlyheroin, songster, and Packy 2.0 for making my docs a wonderful place.
Like I said, I'm planning on writing Charlie and Bella's story, but I have to catch up on some of my other fics. So ta ta for now. It's been wonderful as always.