A/N: Let's get down to it!
Physical therapy was a family affair.
Bella sat off to the side, laptop balanced on her knees. She wasn't working on her homework as she was supposed to but watching the sweet scene in front of her instead.
Edward was walking step by laborious step, trying to get his wonky leg to straighten and cooperate. He had one hand gripped tightly on the rail, but the other was holding onto Melody. The little girl held herself as though she were bracing her father as he stepped along. Every step or so, she would shower her daddy with praise. "That's so good, Daddy. You got dis."
The physical therapist chuckled, and Bella put a hand over her mouth, hiding her smile. "You know, Miss Melody, you'd make a good physical therapist. We have an opening if you want a job."
Melody looked at him briefly. "No, thank you. Momma said I can't have a jobs cuz I'm just a kid."
"I see. Well, if you want to consider it when you grow up, I'll write you a letter of recommendation."
"I like the letter M, cuz my name is Melody. That starts with an M. Momma told me."
Bella palmed her forehead, and Edward chortled. He leaned heavily on the bar, obviously drained, and met her eyes. Despite how tired he looked, Edward's eyes were bright as they shared a smile.
Their kid was awesome.
"Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?" the physical therapist asked, kneeling at Edward's side as Melody 'helped' him ease himself into a chair. He took Edward's ankle and extended it out.
Melody patted her father's knee consolingly as she answered the physical therapist. "I want to be a ranger. But not a mountain ranger, because mountains are scary. I want to pet mountain kitties!"
"Melody," Edward groaned. "No one pets mountain lions."
"The big man said he pets bears. Why not mountain kitties?"
The big man was what Melody called the man Edward had referred to as the big boss—one of the directors of the National Park Service, the one who had offered Edward the Yellowstone job. He'd held Melody's attention for ages, recounting tales from the trail. And he had, indeed, petted a bear cub.
Edward leaned down and kissed Melody's forehead. He looked her in the eyes. "You're going to make Mommy change her mind about moving to Yellowstone."
An hour later, they were back home. Melody had been shooed off to play, and Bella had argued Edward onto the couch instead of trying to help her cook dinner. "By the way, I'm not going to change my mind about Yellowstone."
"Not even if your child threatens to get eaten for a living?" He quirked an eyebrow.
"She's three. I have time to fix that."
He grinned. "You want to fix it in the middle of a park otherwise known as Wonderland? There actually will be bears there. And mountain kitties. And they're super cute."
"Until they try to eat you."
He wrinkled his nose. "So the plan is, we teach her to respect nature...not think of it as her own personal petting zoo."
"Exactly." She took a deep breath, trying to soothe the nagging voice in the back of her head. Yellowstone was a thousand times more dangerous than Olympic National Park.
But, none of them could stop living just because Edward had almost died.
"So, I'm not going to chicken out." She bent down and kissed his upturned lips. "How about you? You still sure about me? Even if it means no more kids?"
His smile was wistful. "Melody will always be enough for me."
She kissed his cheek again and retreated to the kitchen. She'd barely been in there five minutes before Edward came in, leaning heavily on his cane. She made a point of sighing at him before she went about her business.
"So, I have a question for you," Edward said, sitting gingerly at the breakfast table. "Something I've been thinking about, but I don't want you to read anything into it."
Bella set the pan she'd taken out to the side and leaned on the counter, looking at him. "Okay. You have my attention."
His lips quirked, and he ducked his head. He took a steadying breath. "When you say you don't want kids…"
She pressed her tongue to the roof of her mouth, struggling to keep her expression straight. Her heart started to pound.
She was a confident woman, but that didn't mean she could completely silence that little voice in the back of her head whispering that Edward could come to his senses any moment just when she was easing into the idea of permanence with this man.
"Do you not want anymore children because the idea of having more than one is just something you can't fathom? Or is it that you don't want to be pregnant again?"
Bella furrowed her brow, startled. Edward hurried to fill the silence. "I'm only looking for clarification. You didn't like being pregnant."
"And I know you want to concentrate on work and, now, school. So, I was wondering how you felt about adoption."
"Oh," Bella said, the word coming out as a soft, startled huff. She cocked her head, staring off into space as she processed the words. "Oh, wow."
"I meant what I said before. Melody will always be enough for me." Edward leaned across the counter. "I'm just trying to see if there's any wiggle room." He gave a shrug, a smile playing on his lips. "Maybe a school aged child we don't have to potty train or even a teenager."
She snorted and grinned. "You want a son or daughter who was born when you were ten?"
"It would keep our life interesting."
"Because lions and tigers and bears aren't interesting enough."
His grin turned devilish. "There are no tigers in any of the national parks. But you never know. I could be the one to change all that."
Bells huffed. "Have I mentioned I'm proud of you for having long-term professional goals?"
"Back at you, babe."
Crossing to him, she leaned across the counter. "Adoption?"
"You don't have to answer for sure. I'm just asking if you're open to the idea."
She chewed the inside of her cheek and nodded slowly. "You know…adoptions can be complicated. Especially when you're not married."
It was worth it to see Edward's eyebrows shoot up and his mouth gape open. "It would… I mean… Would you…"
Bella laughed and leaned in to kiss him, her hand cupped to his cheek.
It was a long day at work followed by a long night at school. Bella was looking forward to an amazing dinner of whatever drive-thru was open.
Her car had broken down earlier that week, so she scanned the parking lot, looking for Edward's Volvo.
Bella whirled around, having an intense flashback. Esme Cullen was there. She blinked several times, remembering time and place
There was no way this woman could ruin her second school career anyway. And Bella had known she was in town.
"Esme," she greeted, shouldering the messenger bag that doubled as her bookbag. "What happened to Edward?"
"Impromptu jam session." Esme smiled fondly. "The Cullen Men and their pint-sized lead singer."
"Oh, man. The things I miss."
"Rosalie is filming it for you."
Bella chuckled. "It's nice. A holiday season with everyone. We had three Christmases alone. Just us and Charlie's family."
Esme sighed. "A phone call from Emmett has been our Christmas these last three years." She started the car and flashed a smile at Bella. "Both my sons are alive. I have a beautiful granddaughter, two strong, beautiful daughters-in-law. One of them rather sneaky with this eloping business…"
Bella snickered. She knew Esme had been less than pleased at the fact she and Edward had run off to the courthouse to get married, but the woman has worn out the number of tantrums she was entitled to the first day they met.
"Life is good," Esme concluded. "How about you? All this. Going back to school. That's good of you. To change your whole life for my son."
"Ah." She'd been waiting for this subject to come up. "I don't change my life for anyone but me and my daughter. Turns out John Lennon was right."
"All you need is love?"
"Hell no. May we all need more than that." Bella watched the landscape go by. "'Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans'. When Edward told me he wanted to move to Montana in two years, I remembered something I'd forgotten about."
"My Bachelor's degree is in Biology. That was my first love." She let her head lull on the headrest. "I got involved with the student paper, and my life went in a different direction."
"But there are plenty of things for a biologist to do in Yellowstone?" Esme asked.
"And I was looking for a new career." Bella waved a hand. "Sometimes life leads you. I've got another year and a half to complete another Master's program. I'm excited about the possibilities of my professional life again. I think I'm on track to be impressively happy."
Some minutes later, they arrived back at the house Bella now shared with Edward. As promised, she found her young husband mid-jam session, this time playing the rockband video game with his father and brother. Melody had the mic, and she was crooning Blind Melon's No Rain.
As the song ended, Bella whistled and clapped. She was rewarded when both Melody and Edward flashed matching grins and dropped their game pieces to come greet her.
Sometimes, she thought as she kissed her incredibly sexy, rocker-ranger husband and lifted her daughter onto her hip, she had to marvel at the perfection of bad timing. Sometimes, she had to admit the life she didn't plan ended up better.
A/N: Many thanks to Packy, songster, MoH, Eleanor, Mina.
And all of you for taking this journey with me. It's been an interesting one for sure, and I've enjoyed seeing your reactions to this Bella for so many reasons. Thank you for the discussions.