Hi everyone, just a quick author's note to explain a few things about this one. It's a continuation of the Where the Heart Is stories, but it can probably be read quite easily as a stand-alone if you've come across it first. (Although if that's the case – you could go and read Where the Heart Is! It's lovely!)
Anyway, I have some mental health issues that can drop me into some pretty severe depressive episodes, and when I started this story I was in a pretty dark place. I was desperate to write something that would take me out of myself, but the only way I could write was if it reflected how I felt. Which was really, really bad. The WTHI world and characters were still very much at the forefront of my mind and so I took my fictional babies and thought, "What is the worst thing that can happen here?" and I wrote about Rosalie's death. Emmett's alone. The story was brutally, uncompromisingly, depressing.
I wrote for myself, because all I could write in that moment was sadness. I didn't intend to post it online. Partly because I thought everyone would hate it (and I wouldn't blame them!), partly because I loved my Where the Heart Is characters so much that I never wanted to think about them having anything but the wonderful happy ending I gave them, and partly because it grew out of such a terrible place inside me that it felt like being too vulnerable to share it.
Having said that, the story kept growing and became more than just a dumping ground for my feelings. I took my own bleakness and gave it shape as something completely different, and then I started writing my way out of it. And I took Emmett with me. He doesn't have Rosalie, but that doesn't mean he has nothing, or that his life has no meaning or joy or hope for the future. I wanted to challenge the prevailing Twilight narrative of one-true-love-only-suicide-or-revenge-the-only-option-when-one-dies. (Which is hard to do, because Emmett and Rosalie are my OTP hardcore – I love every version of their relationship and they will always belong together in my mind! This story does have Emmett with someone else and writing that feels bizarre.)
So with all that, in the end I've decided to share it. It won't be everyone's cup of tea (and I'll understand if people would rather leave WTHI where I finished it), but if you like some seriously gut-wrenching misery, heartbreak and hurt, then you've got it in spades here! But it's also a story of healing. It's a story of family – the other Cullens are all here and there's loads of Daddy!Emmett. It's a story of hope and family and love, and the second chances that sometimes come along when you've lost everything. I hope you like it.
Chapter 1 - Birth
"I wish I didn't have to wash it off." Daisy admires her tiger face paint in the bathroom mirror as she cleans her teeth. "You do better Halloween faces than any of the store masks."
I slather some more cleanser onto Mac's face, smearing the Spiderman face I'd painted that morning. "You guys looked awesome. But we have to wash it off or it'll end up all over your pillows and just be a smudged mess by morning."
Noah, his face already pink and shiny where I've scrubbed off his red panda face, spits out his toothpaste. "What about the Things' blue hair?"
"Well, that's going to have to wait until they have a bath tomorrow I think," I say. "It's pretty late now and Mommy is putting them to bed." At least Bram and Zeke's Thing One and Thing Two costumes were simply their pyjamas – a swipe with a face washer and baby toothbrush and we could put them in their bed and steal all their Halloween candy for ourselves.
I finish cleaning Mac's face and beckon Daisy. "Come on tiger, let me clean that off. And you two," I add in the twins direction as they start heading off to bed. "The Halloween candy stays downstairs on the kitchen table. ALL the candy, got it? So whatever you hid under your bed McCarty, you go and bring back downstairs!"
"How did you know?" Daisy giggles, scrunching her eyes closed as I wipe off her makeup.
I laugh. "Mac's not as sneaky as he thinks he is! Now little bug, you're all clean, so say goodnight to Mom and run upstairs to bed."
I quickly scrub my own face clean of face paint, and then toss all the make up smeared wipes into the trash before I head upstairs. Daisy is already in bed, her wave light on, and I kiss her forehead and say goodnight.
Even though it's late, the big twins are still hyped up on candy and Halloween excitement and are bouncing off the walls in the next bedroom, and it takes some time to settle them down. In the end I put on a bedtime story podcast and sit with them, combing my fingers through Mac's dark curls and Noah's fair straight locks until they're both half asleep, before kissing them goodnight and creeping from the room.
Downstairs I find Rosalie in Bram and Zeke's room, lying on the mattress on the floor that they sleep on together. The babies are stretched out beside her, Zeke chewing on the ear of a stuffed cat while Bram grips the tail. The hand painted skeleton t-shirt I made her for, with a little foetal skeleton curled up over her enormous belly, is glowing faintly in the dark.
"I can't get up." She sounds exhausted. "Why do we make these babies sleep on the floor?"
"Because they don't fit in the crib together any more, and they're only ten months old and will fall off a big bed." I kneel down beside her. "Here, let me help you up."
"It can't be long now." Rosalie cups her hands under her bulging midsection. "Walking around trick-or-treating tonight should help move things along; she's so low it feels like she'll fall out if I sneeze." She sighs. "I know my due date is still a couple of days away but the twins all came at eight months- I've never had to go forty weeks with a pregnancy and I am so over it!"
I hug her. "I know. Let's go raid the kids' Halloween candy and then I'll rub your back for you."
"Sounds good." Rosalie closes the baby gate on the twins' room and grins at me. "You can rub something else if you want?"
"Seriously?" I can't help laughing. "Are you propositioning me?"
"Maybe." Rosalie trails a hand across my face. "You were a pretty sexy wolf tonight. And…okay, I'm sick of being pregnant and sex can get labour going so come on, help a girl out here!" she ends with a laugh.
"Oh, I'm more than willing to help you out. When have I ever said no to you?" And I take her into my arms and kiss her, because this is Rosalie and there is nothing I wouldn't do for her. "Beautiful girl, you don't even have to ask…you know how much I love you."
So I take her to our room and once again we give ourselves over to each other, and the tender passion of what we are together. Sure, sex at nine months pregnant is crazy awkward, but there's laughter and closeness and bliss in it still, and above all else there is love. So much love for this beautiful girl who has been the centre of my world for almost twenty years. I fall asleep spooning her, the scent of her hair in my nose, feeling the baby move under the great swollen round of her belly as I lay my arm over her.
Rosalie's restless during the night, finding it hard to get comfortable, getting up and down to the bathroom. I sleep through most of it, although when I wake early in the morning to find her gone I get up and go looking for her. I find her in the living room, rocking her hips in slow circles on the exercise ball, the Little Mermaid playing quietly on the tv in the background. She's wearing her Halloween skeleton t-shirt, and her hands rest over the painted bones of the foetus.
"Are you okay?"
She gives me a half-smile. "Depends on your version of okay…but I hope you're ready for baby number six, because she's on her way."
"You should have woken me up!" I cross the room and kneel in front of her. "What can I do?"
Rosalie cups my face in her hands and kisses me. "Nothing right now. The contractions are regular but not too strong…you may as well go back to bed and get some more sleep. I'll call you if I need you."
I don't go back to bed though. Instead I sit in the coffee table behind Rosalie on the exercise ball, brushing her hair in between contractions and pressing hard against her lower back when the pains come. By the time the credits roll she's pushing against my hands much harder and more frequently, and her formerly slow, even breathing is sometimes irregular. When the next contraction hits and she makes a noise I lean forward and kiss the back of her neck.
"This seems to be kicking up a notch. I think we might need to go to the hospital soon. Should I call Esme to come over?"
Rosalie nods and I go back to my room and grab my phone, dialling Esme who picks up almost immediately.
"Emmett? What's happening?"
"Feel like babysitting today?" I try and sound light, but I can't stop the idiotic grin that's spreading over my face. "Your newest granddaughter seems to have decided that today's going to be her birthday."
"Oh, wonderful! How's Rosalie doing? Are we in a big rush or do I have time to shower? Carlisle….Rosalie's in labour!" I hear Esme shift the phone away from her mouth and shout for Carlisle.
"She's okay. You can probably shower, but don't take too long. Her water hasn't broken, but the contractions are regular and getting stronger," I say.
"Great, we'll be over as soon as we can."
I check on Rosalie, who is now playing the singalong version of The Little Mermaid and frowning, and then have a quick shower myself. When I'm finished and dressed I go into the living room to find Rosalie gritting her teeth and rocking on the exercise ball with Daisy hanging off her arm, and Mac and Noah jumping on the couch and demanding breakfast.
"Here," I say, grabbing the pumpkin buckets off the kitchen table. "Eat Halloween candy."
Mac and Noah whoop and grab for the chocolate, but Daisy's eyes flash from me to Rosalie, going as big as saucers. "For breakfast? Really?"
"Yes." Rosalie closes her eyes for a moment, and I can see the shape of her belly changing as another contraction grips her. "Go nuts."
"Are you okay?" Daisy lays her hands against Rosalie's forehead like an experienced, worried mother, her face creased in concern. "Because you have never let us eat candy for breakfast."
I laugh, gently taking her arm and pulling her away from Rosalie and into a hug. "Mom's fine. The baby's coming though, so she's got a bit of a bellyache and needs you guys to just leave her alone, okay? Grandma and Grandpa are coming over so Mom and Dad can go to the hospital, and they'll get you some breakfast later. But for now you can eat some candy…although you'd better save me the Skittles!"
From down the hall I hear Bram and Zeke babbling in their baby language and then rattling the baby gate on their door so I leave the others in the living room and go to tend to them. I've changed two diapers and am just doing up Zeke's snaps when I hear Carlisle and Esme at the front door.
"Come on in," I yell.
Esme joins me a second later, giving me a quick hug. "Oh Emmett, I'm so excited for you!" She doesn't wait for a response, but hurries off in the direction of the living room.
Carlisle takes Zeke and I hoist Bram up onto my hip. "Thanks for coming. It's been a few hours of regular contractions and they're getting stronger. Everyone said we can be a bit more relaxed about a single birth, instead of twins, but I'd feel better if we headed into the hospital now."
"Sounds good." Carlisle follows me to the living room, where the children greet him effusively.
"We're having Halloween candy for breakfast!" Mac announces. His pumpkin bucket already looks half empty, and his cheeks are bulging.
"And Mom's having a baby!" Daisy adds excitedly. "Today!" She wraps her arms around Rosalie's neck and hugs her. "I love you Mom! I can't wait for my baby sister!"
Rosalie is in the middle of a contraction and Daisy's hug is pretty obviously NOT helping, but she bites her lip for a moment and then breathes out hard before smiling a little shakily. "I love you too."
"How about we let Mommy and Daddy get ready to go to the hospital?" Esme suggests, holding out her hand to Daisy. "I thought I might make some pancakes for breakfast?"
"Great idea," I say, stooping down and fishing a wrapped mini chocolate bar out of Bram's mouth. "Watch all your candy; the babies might choke on it."
"We'll sort it out," Carlisle says, gingerly taking the soggy, mangled chocolate bar out of my hands. "You just worry about Rosalie for now."
Rosalie has been holding it together in front of the kids, but once she's in the car the mask slips and by the time we get to the hospital she's sobbing.
"Emmett, I can't…oh god, this hurts…"
"I know, I know…" I hate seeing her in pain. "But you're doing great. You're a superstar- just a little bit longer and it'll be all over."
I help her out of the van and we make our slow way into the hospital and up to the maternity wing. Elena is the midwife on duty and she takes one look at Rosalie and leads us straight into the birth suite.
"Good morning! How are you feeling Rosalie?"
Rosalie's answer is nothing but a long drawn out howl as what looks like the most powerful contraction yet rips through her.
"Okay then, feeling strong contractions," Elena says calmly. "How often?"
"Every couple of minutes," Rosalie mutters, leaning against me and breathing hard.
Elena nods briskly. "Let's get you up on the bed. I'll check your dilation and get a heart trace on the baby, and you can sign the admission paperwork."
"Never again!" Rosalie snarls at me as she kicks off her flip flops and drops her pants. "We are….NEVER…doing this again…oh FUCK." Burying her face in the pillow she screams her way through another contraction.
"No bloody fear! The appointment for my vasectomy is booked!" I hold my hands up in surrender. "Believe me, one surprise pregnancy and six kids is enough!"
Elena waits until the contraction has passed before strapping on the monitors, sending the thump of the baby's heartbeat echoing reassuringly through the room.
Rosalie's eyes meet mine, her eyes bright as she smiles. "She sounds happy."
I reach out and take her hand. "I can't wait to meet her."
"Nice strong heartbeat there. Let's see how you're progressing." Elena slips on some gloves and reaches in between Rosalie's legs. "Let's see…I'd say you're almost seven centimetres Rosalie, that's brilliant."
Another contraction mounts, and Rosalie twists away from Elena, my hand almost crushed as she grips it through the pain. We ride out the next several contractions like this, the straps monitoring the baby's heartbeat and the strength of the contractions, Rosalie moaning and breathing hard. In between we sign the admission paperwork and the midwife fastens id bands on Rosalie's wrist and ankle and inserts an IV lock into the back of her hand.
"I don't want any drugs," Rosalie says through clenched teeth.
"I know, this is just in case." Elena fastens down the last strip of tape. "But you're doing well and that heart rate on the baby is just about perfect, so we don't need the continuous monitoring. Would you like me to set the tub up for you?"
Rosalie nods and pulls at the elastic belts looped around her middle. "I love hearing her heart beat, but these are driving me mad," she mutters.
"We'll listen regularly on the handheld Doppler," Elena reassures her, helping her remove the monitors. "You can put some music on the sound system if you'd like."
As Rosalie paces restlessly around the room, I connect my phone to the speakers and start the playlist she's put together for this moment, turning it down hastily as a pounding rock beat pulses through the room. I laugh and look at her affectionately. "I thought labour music was supposed to be all relaxing instrumentals and whale sounds."
"This is relaxing," Rosalie grunts, "To me." She grips the bed and moans, long and low, as another contraction rolls through her. "Oh god, this is so painful…is that bath ready yet?"
It takes another couple of contractions before the tub is filled. I help Rosalie step into it, and she sinks down into the water with a long sigh. "That feels good."
Elena checks the baby's heart rate again with a waterproof Doppler. "Great," she says, making a note in the chart. "I'm going to leave you to it for a while. Rosalie, keep doing exactly what you're doing, and Emmett, use the call button if you need anything."
Left alone, I flip off the bathroom light and sit on a small stool by the tub. In the dimness I lean over the side so that Rosalie can lay her head on my shoulder as she reclines, and I gently kiss her hair and feel the beat of her heart under my hand. For a moment, caught between contractions, the two of us are quiet and still.
"I love you," I say softly. "Let me know if there's anything you want me to do."
"I love you too." Rosalie's eyes are closed, her concentration focussed inwards. The warmth of the water, the shadowy room and my arms around her has relaxed her, and even as I see her belly tighten and bulge with another contraction she only flexes her feet and breathes a little deeper as it passes.
I've never been at a birth like this. When it was Daisy it was Alice in labour, and the room had been crowded with family. Rosalie had fought for vaginal births for the twins and, although the labours had been uncomplicated and the births as straightforward as these things could really be, with two babies involved it had been a much more high-risk proposition. There had been constant monitoring and a stream of medical staff, and a sense that we were always half a minute away from drama. This time it's quiet, and although Elena comes in and out regularly to listen to the baby's heart rate and check Rosalie's vitals, most of the time it's just the two of us, together in the strangely dreamlike intimacy of the warm, dark room.
It gets harder later on. Contractions are strong and almost constant, and Rosalie hangs over the side of the tub, her eyes closed, keening through the pain. I pour hot water over her back and kiss her forehead and tell her how strong she is, how well she's doing, how soon it will be all over and we'll have our baby in our arms. She doesn't open her eyes, but she smiles at me and grips my hand and kisses my fingers. Her strength as she endures the agony and works to bring our baby into the world astounds me.
I tell her that I love her. Again and again, I tell her that I love her.
When the time comes Rosalie pushes, hard and focussed, and then almost before I know it there is one final heave, one last exultant yell, and our baby girl enters the world. Her eyes open under the water and I reach in and scoop her up, as slick and slippery as a fish, feeling her chest expand as she takes her first breath. She opens her mouth up and wails, and my eyes burn with tears as I lay her into Rosalie's arms.
"Oh baby, oh hello little girl…" Rosalie's eyes are shining, her face luminous with happiness as she cradles our daughter close to her, kissing her face and smoothing her hands over her vernix smeared skin. "Oh Emmett, look at her…"
"She's beautiful." I choke out, kissing Rosalie and cupping my hand around the baby's back. She's not crying now, held close against her mother and feeling her heartbeat, the warm water soothing and familiar to her, she's blinking around with bewildered blue eyes. "I love you Rosa-girl…and you too little one. Or…not so little one." Compared to the newborn twins or even Daisy, the baby looks enormous.
I grab my phone and take a video of Rosalie and the baby in the tub, capturing forever the magic of this perfect moment. My beautiful wife and our brand new daughter, our lives made whole in this sacred moment of birth.
"Holly Esme," Rosalie whispers. "Look Emmett, it's Holly…oh sweet baby, I love you…look what we did, Emmett, look at our beautiful girl…"
She kisses the baby and laughs, and kisses me, tasting the salt tears dripping down my cheeks. I stop the video and hug them both, heedless of the water soaking into my t-shirt, too happy to notice anything but the feeling of love making my heart swell. All the angst and heartache and worry of our long journey to get to this point…it fades away to nothing in the beauty and bliss of this moment.
Until it all goes to hell.