The next morning we were all waiting when Bella sleepily entered the kitchen, trailed by a smiling Edward. Esme had been in the kitchen half the night and had arranged an artful buffet with sliced fruit, scrambled eggs, sautéed onions and mushrooms, bran muffins, toast with jam, cantaloupe wedges, and a tall glass of milk. Bella's mouth went slack as she took in the spread and then her face reddened. She gave Edward an aggravated look over her shoulder, but he just smiled more widely and pushed her to her seat.
"Eat up!" he chuckled, and kissed her forehead.
"You shouldn't have gone to all this trouble! I'm perfectly capable of making my own food!" Bella spluttered, glaring around at all of us. "And you can't possibly think I can eat all of this!"
I couldn't tell if she was more embarrassed at the quantity of food or that someone had put such work into making it for her. I tried to hide my amusement. Edward wrapped his arms around her from behind, pulling her against his chest and lowering his mouth to her ear.
"Just eat what you want," he murmured, his face still lit by a small smile and he placed a lingering kiss on Bella's neck. Edward! I complained. Why did he always have to be so, ugh, seductive with Bella? What I did with Rosalie was one thing, but Edward's public displays of affection made me want to scoop Bella up and lock her in a nunnery.
Edward rolled his eyes at me over Bella's head.
I guess since they were married and she was already pregnant, I would let it go.
Bella was still shooting mutinous looks at the full plates of food. She huffed, gave us all a last glare, then settled on a stool and raised the glass of milk to her lips. Her stomach grumbled and she blushed even more furiously at our laughter.
Esme swooped gracefully in front of us, shooting us a reproving look. "Please Bella, I know I over did it a little, but just let me take care of the food. I need to know that you are eating healthy." Esme's face was beseeching, and Bella immediately looked contrite. She picked up her fork and shoveled a scoop of eggs into her mouth.
"Thank you Esme, it's delicious," Bella told her earnestly, around her mouthful.
I found the aroma of human food interesting, but it held no appeal to me. Nonetheless, watching Bella eat with obvious relish made me wish I could remember more of my human life. While all of my senses were now heightened, there were also many human sensations that ceased after the transformation. I watched Bella take a bite of toast and lick her lip to capture a smear of jam. She hungrily ate her eggs, and then cut a bite of cantaloupe, her eyelids drifting down as she savored the taste.
Her clear enjoyment made me think of my own feeding habits and I was mollified. I visualized the moment of excitement when I first smelled my prey, followed by the chase and the powerful surge of the attack. Then I imagined sinking my teeth into the pulsing neck of a bear as it thrashed below me. Whatever pleasure Bella was receiving from her meal lacked the thrill that my own meals provided.
I felt Jasper twitch next to me and I looked up to see Edward staring at me intently. His eyes met mine, and I could tell he was assessing how dark my irises had grown. I looked away, embarrassed and annoyed. Sure, thinking of feeding had peaked my thirst, but it wasn't like I was about to jump Bella!
Jasper shifted from foot to foot and I felt worse. I also hadn't meant to project my thirst onto him. I shot him an apologetic glance.
"Maybe you two should go hunt," Edward said quietly. I could see his tensed stance, and could tell that he wanted to crouch defensively in front of Bella, who continued to contentedly work her way through the meal Esme had provided. I looked into Edward's eyes and he met my gaze squarely. He sighed, and forced himself to visibly relax before stepping out from behind Bella's chair and walking over towards us. Bella looked up as soon as he removed his hand from her shoulder. At her look, he walked past me to reach into the cabinet for a glass.
With his back to her, he spoke quickly.
"I believe what both of you said yesterday. If you think you won't harm her, I have to trust you. But I cannot restrain my need to protect her."
Jasper and I kept our faces impassive as Edward took the glass to the sink and filled it with water. Bella was watching us curiously. She obviously suspected that Edward was speaking with us.
Don't worry about it, I reassured him with my thoughts. I think it's hard not to feel protective when it comes to Bella. And there's no point in taking chances—we'll go hunt.
Jasper, obviously guessing my agreement with Edward's sentiments, turned to go.
"Hunting?" Carlisle questioned.
"I would like to take Bella to the hospital for an ultrasound, but if you wait until afterwards, I would like to join you."
Alice thrummed with excitement and Bella looked nervous. I felt my face light up.
"Of course! I wouldn't want to miss our first glimpse of my nephew!" I agreed excitedly.
"Nephew!" Alice spluttered.
I grinned down at her.
Alice looked at me reproachfully, but was too excited to give my taunt a response.
"When are we leaving?" she asked Carlisle, bouncing on the balls of her feet.
"We will leave as soon as Bella is ready," Carlisle replied. "But Alice, you are staying here, I'll just be taking Bella and Edward."
"Wha-, but-, you want-? huh?" Alice spluttered.
"Didn't see that one coming, did you?" Edward smirked at her, amused.
Alice shot him a deadly look, and began sulking for all she was worth. I was ashamed to admit that my facial expression probably mirrored her pout. Jasper looked entertained, but I could tell he was trying to suppress excitement, and Rose looked indifferent to the extreme, telling me she was as eager as I to participate in this pregnancy milestone.
"But Carlisle!" Alice cried, "that's not fair!"
Perhaps seeing Carlisle's response and realizing the absurdity of her protest at the same moment, Alice had the prescience to look embarrassed.
"Of course it is. Edward and Bella are the child's parents," Carlisle said firmly, ending our hope.
Bella glanced up at Edward before looking at Carlisle.
"It would really be all right if they came," she said softly.
Bella's dislike of being the center of attention was battling her aversion to conflict. If it meant we could all troop along to the ultrasound, I was definitely in the stadium for the conflict averse.
"Edward?" Carlisle questioned.
We gave him our most pleading expressions.
Please, please, please, please?
He grimaced slightly, but nodded.
"Let me go take a shower," Bella said, pushing away from the table with a slight wobble. Edward braced her and followed her out of the room.
Carlisle turned to us, his face serious.
"If Bella and Edward want us to accompany them to the ultrasound, that is fine, but I think we also need to give them room to be a couple," he said, eyeing Jasper and me especially. "Edward needs some time to play the father. He has missed so much, and needs the space to grow into his role."
I nodded my understanding. Jasper and I had already had our turn with Bella. We had fulfilled the role of protector and confidant while Edward had been forced to sit at home in the dark. While it was hard abdicating that job back to Edward, I knew Carlisle was right. Edward was Bella's husband, and the position was rightfully his. Nonetheless, I couldn't help but hope that he would let us be involved in Bella and the child's life as closely as we could.
Soon enough Bella descended the stairs, her hair damp and clinging. Edward looked up when he entered the room, reading the conversation we had had with Carlisle in our thoughts. He just shrugged.
"I am too grateful to feel anything else," he said with a smile, pulling Bella to him. She looked at him curiously, but he tilted her face up and deposited a soft kiss on her lips.
Carlisle cleared his throat to get their attention.
"Bella, I'm not sure if you've thought about this yet, but how do you want to tell your father about the baby?"
Bella's eyes widened and she blanched.
"I-, I-, I hadn't thought about it," she stuttered in surprise. "I never really thought beyond getting away from Aro."
"If you don't mind, I called in a favor and reserved a room at the hospital in Port Angeles. Unless you are ready to tell Charlie now, it would be better to avoid the Forks hospital."
We all smiled at this statement. Small town life definitely lacked obscurity.
Bella nodded. "Port Angeles would be fine. I need some time to think of what to say to Charlie," she agreed.
Edward suddenly stiffened, shooting an angry look at Jasper before trying to regain his composure.
Jasper looked surprised and embarrassed. He shrugged an apology, muttering, "It's a valid concern."
We glanced between them, Edward quietly enraged and Jasper looking uncomfortable but determined under Edward's glare. I raised my eyebrow.
Edward broke the silence.
"It has a heartbeat!"
I punched Edward in the shoulder and he turned his glare on me.
"Jasper is wondering if it is right to tell Charlie about the pregnancy," he hissed by way of explanation.
I raised an eyebrow at Jasper. Why should Charlie be kept in the dark now that Bella was back with us?
Jasper shot Bella a sheepish look. "Because we don't know exactly what the child will be," he explained. "If it is a vampire, or in some way dangerous, it might be better to leave him in the dark."
Bella's eyes widened and Edward looked pained.
I frowned in thought. It had not occurred to me that the child would be anything but human. I turned my attention to Carlisle. Bella, too, was looking at Carlisle with large, questioning eyes.
"As far as I can tell, the pregnancy is entirely normal," Carlisle told us calmly. "But that is one of the reasons I want to take Bella to the hospital for an ultrasound and full exam. I will also be the one administering the test, as I think it would be best to keep this little medical miracle as private as possible until we know more. As this situation is completely unprecedented, as far as I am aware, the more I know, the better care I can take of Bella and the fetus."
Edward nodded, and, with a hand on the small of her back, led Bella out to his car without another word. The rest of us piled into our respective vehicles. I could tell that Jasper had wanted to speak to Edward before the Volvo tore out of the driveway, to apologize or explain, but had resignedly compressed his lanky frame into Alice's Porsche.
When we pulled in, Edward was already sweeping Bella through the hospital doors. Carlisle quietly conversed with the supervising doctor in Obstetrics, and motioned us to follow Edward and Bella into one of the hospital rooms. Edward settled Bella on the examination table, still not acknowledging our presence, while the rest of us tried to get comfortable in the too-cramped space. Maybe Carlisle was right and this was a trip we should have left to Edward and Bella. What were we doing trying to squeeze into their little happy family? Why would they want to remain a part of our make-believe family, when they had created a real, flesh and blood one on their own? Neither Edward nor Bella truly had any concrete ties of marriage or blood that locked them to the rest of us.
Carlisle had entered the room as I brooded darkly. Since when had I become such a processor? I did not enjoy my new deeper, darker mind. I frowned but continue to watch as Bella pulled her shirt up over her rounded belly. I gripped Rosalie's hand. At least Rose and I had each other. Carlisle smiled down at Bella as he squirted a clear jelly-like substance onto her abdomen.
"Are you ready to learn the sex of the baby?" he asked, more to make conversation than because he doubted her answer.
Bella shook her head. Carlisle frowned. Bella smiled sweetly. "And I don't want Edward to know either."
Carlisle gulped and I let out a bark of laughter. Bella could always snap me out of a funk.
"Is that really necessary?" Edward asked, catching Bella's attention and gazing intently into her eyes while giving her a lopsided smile.
Bella grinned impishly up at him.
That's my girl.
Edward rolled his eyes to the ceiling, and I snickered, but before I could tease or torment him, my attention was captured by the screen to the right of Bella's bed as it flickered to life. Carlisle held a probe against the swell of Bella's abdomen, and began to move it slowly. It was emitting a high-pitched buzzing that made me want to rub my ears. Alice was shifting from foot to foot and Esme shook her head, as if trying to shoo a bug. Bella seemed unbothered by the noise. Must be out of her hearing range.
My eyes were glued to the screen as an image formed. I stared at the black and white picture. That was it. I was looking at the tiny life I was willing to do anything for; the tiny life that my brother and Bella had created and that would be my new family. I tilted my head to the side. Right now my tiny life looked mushy and misshapen. Sort of like a bobble-toy. I squinted. And then I could see it. I saw baby. And, bobble-toy or not, when that child, my baby niece or nephew, was in my arms, it would be the most beautiful thing I would ever see.
Jasper was right.
I was completely in love.
I tore my eyes off the screen and glanced over at Jasper. He met my eyes, and smiled a smile I had never seen before. Edward also looked up at Jasper from his position at Bella's side and reached out a hand to grip his shoulder. All was forgiven. Edward then turned to me.
"We aren't going anywhere, Emmett," he assured me softly. "I think all three of us will need this whole family now more than ever."
I nodded. Damn, why did I feel choked up? I don't even remember crying when I was human. You'd think I was the one with the raging hormones.
Edward laughed, and even Rosalie was smiling as Jasper radiated unadulterated joy out to the rest of us.
Carlisle turned to Bella with a grin.
"You're in luck. Or I am. I can't determine the gender because of the positioning of the fetus. I am going to run some more test, and I am recommending an amniocentesis to check the chromosome count, but from what I can see, this appears to be one perfectly healthy, perfectly human baby. I'll print a photo for you that I'm sure Alice or Esme will want to frame."
Bella laughed and squeezed Edward's hand. "I guess I can tell Charlie then," she said happily. "All I need to figure out is how to keep him from shooting Edward. I don't think he's quite ready to be a Grandpa." She paused thoughtfully. "And I guess I should think about how to prepare him for when I am turned. Maybe he could even do some babysitting."
I was smiling and nodding until, wait, what?
I heard a crack, and saw the metal railing on Bella's bed fall and clatter on the ground by Edward's feet, his white-knuckled fist now grasping thin air.
"Edward?" Bella questioned hesitantly.
"When. You. Are. Turned?" he repeated slowly.
Bella stared at him.
Oh crap, here we go again.