AN: This is it, the last epilogue for this story. The last chapter I'll post for it. It sort of feels like an end of an era. I cried, no, I sobbed while writing it, and especially after typing The End. My sweet beta recommended I put a trigger warning for this chapter, if you want to know why please feel free to PM me here, Facebook (Erica Marroquin), or on Twitter and I'll give a heads up. Thank you, see you at the end :(
Punch Me, Love Me, Save Me
Five Months Later
Edward closed the door softly behind him, taking a moment to catch his breath. He kept it short, so his mind wouldn't wander. It wasn't something he could afford yet. His wife would nap for at least an hour, he hoped, locking up securely.
He shivered as the ocean breeze picked up his too long hair along the top, tickling his ear. Numbness had so consumed him, that he hardly felt it. Tipping his head up to the sky, he watched as clouds overhead carried a fine mist to dampen everything in their path. He zipped up his jacket, not needing a damn cold on top of everything else.
His chilled fingers curled into the palms of his hands, and he swore for a just a second that he saw the blood still on them. A mixed of a sob and groan threatened to spill from his lips, but he kept it contained.
Bella's BMW still had to be cleaned, and he promised himself to be rid of it before she could see it again. It held too many memories now, and not good ones. He hopped into his truck instead, heading to the pharmacy a mile away to pick up Bella's prescription.
Coming home had been a mistake, one that Edward would regret for years. Work had called him back to California the previous week, and Bella decided to join him to check on the progress of the gazebo and new deck of their house. It had a been a pleasant return until things took a bad turn when a lost tourist rear-ended Bella.
Edward never had been so scared in his life than when she called him about the accident.
After an overnight stay for observation concluded that Bella and the baby were fine, Edward had taken her home. He had worked from home after, delegating and scheduling work for his small construction crew. Bella, of course, had insisted she could take care of herself, but Edward remained by her side, basically serving her hand and foot.
It was something she loathed, but she didn't complain about when he reminded her to take it easy for their baby's sake.
Edward's fist pounded against the steering wheel, the slight pain forcing the memories from his thoughts. He had to focus before they pulled him under. Two neighbors down the street waved, which he returned, realizing their usual bright smiles didn't reach their eyes.
He turned his attention to the road, speeding up. His cell phone rang as he waited for a stoplight, pulling over to answer. "Hi, Mom."
"Edward. I'll be landing in a few hours, are you sure you can pick me up? I don't mind grabbing a taxi or one of them Uber things."
"It might be a g-good idea," he said, having to clear his throat. "I don't want to leave her for that long."
"Charlie isn't happy."
Edward expected as much, but between Charlie's broken leg and the circumstances, it was for the best.
"He has every right to be upset, but she needs time before a bunch of well-wishers drop in on us."
"How you are you doing?"
"I'm holding it together." He didn't have the heart to tell her the truth.
"I'll text you when I land."
"Thanks for coming, Mom." Edward ended the call before she heard the pain in his voice. He allowed his head to fall back against the headrest. It was taking longer and longer to catch his breath, to gather some control, and not come apart at the seams.
He pulled onto the road again upon collecting himself, soon reaching a tiny shopping center. There were a handful of familiar faces and some tourists that filled up the local beach house rentals. The shopping list in his hand gave him something else to think about for a while, though not for very long.
Once he had the items he needed, he headed to the pharmacy counter, asking for Bella's prescription. The kind face of the pharmacist he recognized as a client named Ben rang him up. "My wife loves the deck you built us last summer, already has in mind an outdoor kitchen."
Edward nodded, grateful for another reprieve from his thoughts. Work always took his mind off things he had no damn control over.
"If you extended the pergola on the right, my crew and I can match it up to the deck, add the grill and sink on the opposite side, no problem."
Ben looked thoughtful for a moment, envisioning what Edward stated. "That would work well, yeah, I'll have my wife give you a call and we'll work something out."
Edward offered him a smile, and instantly felt horrible. How the fuck could he be smiling when his wife was at home with a gaping hole in her chest?
"I should go, thanks." Edward turned away, unable to handle watching Ben's sympathy fill his eyes. Even in a town where half the residents only lived in their homes for five months out of the year, everyone knew the locals. It had the small-town gossip feel, and he hated it.
Tossing the prescription and the bag of items he bought in the back seat, Edward decided cooking was not on the agenda. His appetite had disappeared, but Bella needed to eat to regain strength. He hoped her favorite soup and some chicken would coax her out of bed. The restaurant wasn't too busy, but it would be fifteen minutes before his order was ready.
The red-headed, flirty waitress fluttered her lashes. "You can wait at the bar if you'd like, or here with me."
Edward cocked an eyebrow, purposely tapping his wedding ring on the counter. Her eyes flicked to the metallic sound, but instead of deterring her, she amped up her game by pushing her breasts out at him. He only rolled his eyes and headed toward the exit. "I'd rather wait in the truck, thanks."
Any other day, he and Bella would've gotten a laugh about a woman flirting with him. He wasn't sure he was capable of the laughter anymore.
He paused at the door, memories assaulting him, each one as brutal as the one before it. Bella smiling, insisting she was okay, of him carrying her from the bed to the couch as a precaution, of waking up to Bella screaming from the bathroom, and he would never forget the blood on his hands as he carried her to the car.
Something called to him, a need that made his mouth water and hands shake. He turned away from the door, catching the waitress' eye again. She smiled and had appeared to have unbuttoned her blouse more.
Edward stuffed his hands in his jeans, sneering at her. "Fuck off." He stalked toward the bar without looking back, recognizing several faces, but gave them nothing more than a curt nod.
They all knew. Every single one of them knew that he shouldn't be there. They knew that he and his wife had miscarried shortly after getting married. His eyes stung, but he beat back the emotions with brutal force, knowing if he allowed them to come up, he'd lose his shit.
His wife needed him to be strong enough to get them through this.
He sat down on a barstool, realizing he'd been in the bar section of the restaurant before with some of his work crew. They'd come in after a grueling day of pouring and stamping cement. He'd stuck to some cola and chowed down on some wings, and he hadn't craved a drink. Didn't want it.
His eyes closed, but the memories forced them to snap open. He wasn't ready to face them, his mother, or his wife. He needed something, anything to keep it all contained, if only for another night or week.
Edward didn't recognize the bartender, who introduced himself as Paul, a transplant from the valley, as he took Edward's drink order. He kept his answers simple, mostly one word, needing to be alone before he went back to Bella.
Paul was experienced enough to sense Edward's need for space and solitude, dropping off his drink and left him. It was strange to think how vastly different and yet similar the situation was to the night he walked into a bar after losing a very young patient that reminded him of his late twin sister, Vanessa.
Back then, he wanted to be surrounded by people, rowdy and loud, obnoxious and oblivious to anything outside the bar. Now, the thought of people, even family, being around him made his stomach churn and his chest ache so acutely, he struggled to breathe.
Edward stared at the stout glass of amber liquid, one the cubes melting enough for the one on top of it to shift. The tinkling sound almost seemed obscenely loud. His entire focus, all his senses, were on that glass. It wouldn't be long before the ice would dilute the whiskey, taking away from its quality.
The color reminded him of his wife's eyes. The first time he'd looked into them, there had been a mixture of fury, determination, and a deep sadness as she explained that he was at her rehab facility after almost dying, and that saving him had put Alice in the hospital. Slowly, over time, her eyes reflected her growing affection for him, eventually turning to love.
He was afraid of what he'd see in those eyes. Sadness, of course, but did she blame him as he did? Even if she didn't, how could he meet Bella's eyes when all they held was pain? Their daughter would've had her eyes; he was sure of it. Dreamed of it when the doctor confirmed the pregnancy shortly after returning from their honeymoon. They'd been only a couple of weeks away from finding out what they would have, only to never get the chance. Why the fuck hadn't he'd just driven her into town that day instead of working?
Her fast, little heartbeat was Bella's ringtone and he knew he had to change it. It would kill him to hear it, knowing it was gone, and to realize he would never feel her little chest fall and rise as he held her close. He dropped his head into his hands, realizing for the first time since walking in the bar that he needed to be somewhere else.
If he felt as he did, Bella did, too. All he wanted in that moment was to hold her, talk to her, listen to breathe. To whisper in the subtle light of their bedroom, expressing their pain and hopes.
This wasn't the end for them.
He pushed the drink away, rising to his feet and pulling out his wallet. Paul waved from the other side of the bar and shook his head. "On the house," he gestured to Tyler, one of his crew members. He hadn't even seen him come in, but Edward stopped by his table to say thanks, grabbing his food and leaving.
He needed to be with Bella.
The house seemed quieter than usual, but Edward expected it. Whenever he'd return from work, Bella would be on a Skype call with her brother, Jamie, or someone in her family. The first trimester had been a bitch, making her sick most of the day. Every member of their families took it upon themselves to make her smile and laugh, calling often.
Laughter wasn't what greeted him that time. It was the sound of his wife's heart breaking, her soft sobs shattering what was left of his. Taking only a moment to place everything on the counter, he took a deep breath, and walked into the bedroom. With every step closer to her, he tried to pick up the pieces, finding it hard to hold on to them. He would, of that he had no doubt; if anyone could get through this kind heartbreak, it was them.
He slipped out of his jacket, tossing it on a chair, nudging his shoes under the bed.
She didn't still or turn away from him as he settled in beside her, but looked at him with tear-filled eyes. Her arms came around him, her face nuzzling his chest, and his hands gently slid down her back. "I brought us some food."
He felt her nod. "We'll eat in a minute, because this is what I need." She snuggled a little closer, taking in a deep breath and sighing.
Edward's eyes clenched tightly, his fingers doing the same for a moment. "I got your prescription, too. Are you in any pain?" He cringed at his choice of words, realizing that of course his wife was in pain.
"I don't feel much right now." She sniffed, shrugging. "Mostly just tired, a little sore."
Edward nodded, the tips of his fingers running through her hair. "How about a bath after lunch?"
She looked at up, her palm cupping his cheek. "Are you okay?"
His head fell back against the mattress, and he knew he couldn't lie to her. "No." It was strange to acknowledge it out loud for the first time in days. People would ask him and he either didn't answer or shrugged. Bella wasn't just anyone, though, and she'd see right through any lie. "I'm not okay. I can't even close my eyes anymore."
"You haven't slept much." Her head rested on his shoulder, her hand on his chest. "I feel awful for checking out for a while there."
His hand curled around the back of her head, pressing just enough for her to know he wanted to look into her eyes. Though he feared what he'd see in them, he had to face it or else the avoidance would eat away at him.
She looked up at him, her eyes softening under his gaze. "I'm sorry."
His thumb brushed away her tear, but it was futile—more followed and flowed freely. "You had every right to 'check out'. You felt our baby girl move, felt her flutter around for a while."
She whimpered, nodding. "You felt her move, too."
The seemingly endless weeks of morning sickness had made her lose almost ten pounds, so it was no surprise to feel their baby move at just under twenty weeks, only to have their hearts break days later.
Edward realized in that moment, seeing the love she felt for him was still there. It was in her tender touch of her fingers, her soothing whisper of her voice, and the tears that said they shared the same ache. "You don't blame me?" he had to ask.
"I could never blame you, love." She wrapped her arms around him more fully, his face nuzzling her neck and shoulder. "It's one of those things we'll never understand, but it's natural to point fingers, to lay blame on something or someone. The what-ifs are going to plague us for a while, they already are. All we can do now is just take it minute by minute."
"I blame myself."
She didn't try to placate him, she knew he would do this to himself. The words "it's not your fault" would fall on deaf ears when the emotions were too raw, too new to absorb their meaning. He loved her more for it. All the "it's going to be okay" and the "you'll get through this" meant little when the pain laid claim to the hole in his chest.
"Let go, Edward. I'm here."
Edward wrapped his arms around her tightly, the words that said he'd be okay died on his lips. He settled his head on her chest, the steady beat of her heart made a sob tear through his throat. "She'll never be able to sleep on my chest."
He felt her nod against the top of his head. "I imagined you holding her like that, never letting me take her to put her in the crib after she fell asleep."
It sounded like something he would do.
Another sound tore through him, and he felt it make his whole body shake with the force of it. Bella soon joined him, each of them whispering what they had envisioned of their precious daughter. They named her then, Elizabeth Grace, their little Lizzie. Though it was painful to listen and say everything she would never get to do, it helped them in a way, too.
"My mother will be here soon." He kissed her temple sometime later, her back to his chest, spooning up behind her. "I told everyone else to give us some time."
"Bet that went over well." Bella didn't laugh, but the tears had dried. For now. Her fingers running up and down his arm over her waist. "We should eat and I need some of those pain meds."
Edward nodded, shifting to sit up against the headboard. He watched her stretch beside him, wincing at whatever physical pain she felt. "I went to Aro's earlier."
She gave him a small smile. "Soup?"
He couldn't give her one, considering what he almost had done. "Yeah, but I went into the bar."
Her eyes didn't narrow in suspicion or accusation. He was met with the same softness as when he revealed he wasn't okay.
"You're not going to ask, are you?"
"Ask you what?" She genuinely seemed confused. "I figure you'd tell me if you had a drink, or if you didn't. Whatever the case may be, we'll get through it."
"It's that simple?"
She sighed, shifting until she was partly on his lap and the bed. "Nothing about recovery and losing a baby is simple, Edward. I know you, though."
His thumb smoothed over her cheek. How he hated the shadows under her eyes. Sleep would be elusive for them both for a while.
"I sat down, angry at some stupid waitress who wouldn't take a hint. But most of it wasn't directed at her."
"You blame yourself."
He nodded. "I ordered a drink, the new bartender didn't even bat an eyelash, left me to wallow."
"Heard newbies moved into town, a bunch of guys are renting the Miller's place."
It was strange to hear her sound so casual, as if what transpired at the bar wouldn't change everything. It was at that moment, he realized she knew he hadn't taken a drink.
"I didn't drink it."
Bella nodded and hugged him hard. "I'm guessing it wasn't easy."
"To order it, sure it was. Taking a drink of it, no. I kept thinking that I wasn't where I was supposed to be. That I didn't need to take the drink, what I needed was this right here." He pulled her a little closer, kissing her temple. "I needed to talk to you, and maybe even let go."
She lifted her hand to brush away some hair from his face.
He kissed the tips of her fingers as they swept along his lips. "I love you."
"I love you, too."
"Well, everything is cold, but it should be okay, right?" Edward checked the containers of soup and chicken.
Bella looked at the time on the microwave. "It's only been a half hour, should be good." She walked over to grab some bowls to heat up everything quick. His stomach had been rumbling; his appetite returned with a force.
"The soup is still warm," she whispered, her eyes on the packaging from the restaurant.
"Did you get a call?" Edward wondered if she had talked to all the restaurants and bars in their area like she did after he returned from Montana. Everyone that stepped foot out of one of her facilities were carefully watched for the first year. She had connections with all the local bars that would call her if one of her clients stepped inside, she'd pay a hefty sum when they did.
Her brow tightened, shaking her head. "When we moved here, I didn't feel the need to talk to anyone or make deals for them to call me if you do."
Edward felt his whole body relax, as if her words took away some of his worry.
"You were worried I had?" She handed him some glasses for the fresh lemonade he finished making.
"To me, it would mean you didn't trust me."
She rubbed his arm. "I do."
He looked away. "I wouldn't blame you if you changed your mind and decided to talk to them."
Bella bit her lip and cocked an eyebrow. "Do you feel I should talk to them?"
Edward groaned. "You're talking like a therapist again."
She shrugged. "Old habits die hard. Honestly, Edward. Today you've shown me that you'd rather talk about it and face everything, and not seek a solution at the bottom of the bottle. You were honest with me from the start. You walked away from the temptation and came home. I don't feel the need to talk to them." She placed her hand on his chest, tapping a finger there. "If you feel I need to, I will. I personally think, I'd never get a call from them if I did."
He couldn't help but wrap his arms around her, loving her more than ever. She believed in him. "I'm never going to let you go."
She laughed, but it caused her to still, like when he smiled earlier and couldn't believe he was capable of it.
Edward didn't try to tell her it would be okay, or that it was all right to laugh. Instead, he held her a little tighter, whispering how much he loved her.
Four weeks later
Their first Christmas as husband and wife was quiet, they spent most of it with the family, but they rented a few houses down the road from their California home. Everyone was aware that they needed some time alone, after a long day.
Edward stoked the fire and returned to the large chaise where Bella awaited him with a cup of hot cocoa. "Thanks." He sighed as she settled her head on his chest, his hand pulling up the throw over them.
Words weren't exchanged for a while, each of them watching the fire burn and the lights from the nearby Christmas tree flicker.
"You know, I haven't been able to say, 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holidays' to anyone this year." Edward kissed the top of her head, shrugging a little. "It felt like it'd be a lie if I said it out loud. Does that make me an asshole?"
"You're not an asshole," she whispered, her fingers tracing some indiscernible pattern on his sweater. "You're still reeling over losing Lizzie, and for some people, it's hard to smile or laugh without feeling guilty. Others have trouble expressing any form of happiness. That doesn't make you an asshole, just human."
Edward didn't offer any type of response, allowing himself to let go some of the guilt.
"Our first Christmas as husband and wife."
She sighed softly, looking up at him.
Edward set down his mug and brushed her cheek. "What is it?"
"Just that I love you and here's to many more Christmases together." She pressed her lips to his, taking the kiss a bit farther than she had in weeks.
Processing the loss of their baby had dampened all arousal for them both. Health-wise, Bella had a couple more weeks before they could do anything. They only sought comfort in each other's arms. In the glow of the holiday trim and firelight, Edward felt the first stirring in weeks.
He kissed her like a starved man, so utterly grateful she wanted him in such a way. She whispered his name softly as she brushed his tears away and letting him to the same for her.
"I love you so damn much, Bella." He cradled her on his lap, holding her close. "I wanted to talk to you about something."
She waited, humming a Christmas tune softly and settling her head on his shoulder. "I'm always listening."
He smiled at that, but only for a moment. "I was thinking I want to go back."
She looked confused. "Go back where? Washington?"
He shook his head. "No, I know we're going back after the holidays, but that's not what I meant."
She motioned her zipping her lips closed.
It took some time for him to gather the right words to get her to understand. "I want to be a doctor again. I'll probably have to do my entire residency again." He finally glanced at her, mentally prepared for her reaction.
She didn't look surprised. "Sounds good to me, I'll support you in any way I can."
"You're not even remotely surprised," Edward groaned, squeezing her tight. "Miss-Know-It-All."
"Well, I knew you've been feeling helpless because of what happened. I know I felt that way, too, at first, but I'm not ready to go back to being a therapist. At least not yet, maybe down the road." She pecked his lips quickly. "Plus, you left your pages open on my laptop."
She giggled as he started to tickle her and gently laying her out beneath him. "You're such a smart ass."
Her fingers curled into his hair, a beautiful smile on her lips. "Your smart ass."
"Yeah, mine," he whispered, kissing her again. It felt like the most natural thing to do. "You're really okay with it?"
"Did you really think I'd object to something like that, Edward? I've seen you with Jamie and William, you're always checking with their wellbeing, especially Will."
Emmett and Rosalie's little boy was responding well after surgery and some chemo treatments.
"I can't go into pediatrics as I had initially inspired to do." He shifted until he lay beside her, trying not to fall off the chaise. "Eventually, I'd like to open a small general practice near here."
"I want to be the one that sees something wrong early and sends that patient to the right specialist, if that makes sense. I don't think I can do something that would have me losing patients often, where it would become the norm."
"You're still going to lose some, Edward. You may be able to send…Little Jimmy to the right doctor, but there's no guarantee he'd make it through treatments."
He loved her no sugar-coating approach to difficult matters. It wouldn't be easy, at all. "I know, but I think I can do this. I want to do this."
"Then I'll be right there with you."
Two Years Later
"Ugh, I should be able to get out of a car," Bella whined, taking Edward's hand to help her out. "I am so thankful we bought another car, getting out of your truck would be awful."
Edward chuckled, wrapping an arm around her waist. "Oh, I don't know. You would look cute hopping out of it right now."
She playfully smacked his chest, snuggling up to his side. "You're lucky you're hot, Dr. Cullen."
"About time, fuckers," Emmett yelled from the restaurant's door, his son William waving them over. His hair had grown so much since his last treatment, light brown curls popping up. "Shit, don't tell your mom I said a bad word, kid."
William simply held out his hand for the money Emmett owed him. Five dollars for every curse in his presence around the family would pay for his college education.
Emmett grumbled and slapped a ten in his son's hand, ruffling his hair. "Go help your Aunt Bella."
Bella huffed beside Edward, handing over her purse and Edward's gift for her nephew. "I'm fine, guys. If I wasn't, I'd say something."
Edward smirked—his wife had been a horrible patient in the last month or so. "We can't help but worry," he whispered in her ear as they stepped inside the restaurant and helped Bella out of her jacket. "Do you happen to notice we always host for the holidays?"
Bella snickered, nodding. "They think we're not onto them. We move to California and suddenly we're playing bed and breakfast."
"And lunch, don't forget dinner." He laughed, leading her toward the small room reserved for parties.
A round of enthusiastic hellos and waves greeted them as they stepped inside. Everyone had made it in on time, despite flying in from various parts of the country. Edward's parents had come in from Seattle earlier, but had been busy unpacking their belongings. They were officially owners of a house down the road from Edward and Bella. Charlie and Sue had driven up from San Diego, where they'd been vacationing for the last month. Emmett, Rosalie and William had arrived the day before from Oregon after visiting with some of Rosalie's family. Jamie and Jr. were watching something on an iPad, and Jamie's girlfriend of a year would join them after her shift at the hospital. He and Jamie moved about an hour away, taking over Edward's old construction company.
Alice and Jasper had yet to make an appearance, but considering the designer hand bag on the table, they were somewhere close. Edward pulled out a chair for Bella after all the greetings and hugs. "Thanks everyone for coming."
Esme laughed, running her fingers through his son's hair. "As if anyone would miss out on you officially finishing your residency, Dr. Cullen."
Edward ducked his head, smiling at the wife and winking. "It's sexier when you say it."
Bella rolled her eyes, yelping a little. Edward's eyes widened, his hands immediately settling on her stomach. He felt the punishing roll of one of their babies' movement, wincing as Bella groaned. "He or she is playing soccer with my bladder." She smiled at everyone as Edward helped her up, Esme escorting her to the bathroom.
Edward sat down, sighing. "I can't believe we're having twins."
Emmett laughed, slapping Edward's back. "Personally, I don't find it hard to believe that your babies' decided to keep their sex private."
Carlisle chuckled along with Charlie, both of grinning ear to ear. "They're both so stubborn," Carlisle stated. "Edward doesn't know this, but he did the same thing during every ultrasound. Nessie had no problem showing us. For the last trimester of the pregnancy, we thought we were having twin girls."
Jamie howled with laughter. "Didn't you say the same thing about Bella, Charlie?"
Charlie nodded fondly. "My baby girl wasn't letting anyone take a peek. Renee knew we were having a girl, though. She dreamt about her. Bella came out exactly as she described her. The pediatrician said she was the prettiest baby he'd ever seen. I thought so, too."
Edward couldn't help but smile. It was strange to talk to freely about babies after so much heartache after the miscarriage that took their Lizzie away. It wasn't until Nessie visited him in a dream that he brought up trying again with Bella. She agreed, and after one in vitro treatment, they were pregnant, and they had a lot of fun getting there.
It was a shock to find out they were having twins.
Edward pulled out the latest photos from the 4D ultra sound, passing it around the table as Bella and his mother joined them again. "You okay, love?" he asked her, rubbing her stomach gently.
Bella gave him a soft smile. "I'm real good, Edward." She kissed his cheek, resting her head on his shoulder as the family all oohed and awed over their babies.
Alice and Jasper walked in with gifts for Edward, making him once again the star of the party.
"Edward, man, one of your babies has Bella's lips."
"She isn't dating until she's likely in college," he said firmly. "Maybe until after college."
"It could be a boy." Bella grabbed the pictures and examined them closely, her fingertip tracing the curve of the tiny bow mouth. "If it is, he's going to be as handsome you are."
"You got yourself a pair of heartbreakers," Jasper drawled. He'd spent time in Texas with his family and his southern accent returned in full force. Alice landed on his lap as he pulled her down. "Just wanted you all to know, Alice agreed to be my wife."
Alice and Rosalie squealed, as she held out her engagement ring. Another round of hugs and "congratulations" went around the table, and suddenly, four waiters and waitresses came in to finally take their orders.
"What will you be having, Squirt?" a waiter asked Bella.
Edward heard Bella gasp then scream, jumping up on her feet a lot more gracefully than one would expect a woman who was seven months pregnant with twins would. Her arms wrapped around the stranger, confusing the shit out of everyone.
Then Jamie dropped his glass and gaped. "No fucking way."
Edward stood up, taking a good look at the man with his arms wrapped around his sobbing wife. The new hair color and matching blonde scruff to his jawline, much different his usual dark brown—Alec.
Somehow Alec had tracked them down; they hadn't seen him in years. They'd heard from him on occasion, flowers and strange things suddenly showing up their front door.
Edward shared a look at Charlie, who shook his head, a finger on his lip.
One of the other waiters smiled. "Jason just moved here last week. Glad to see he knows somebody."
Bella sniffled and laughed at something Alec whispered to her. "I'm so happy to see you, Jason. Seems like forever," she said to him, playing her part. "Everybody, this is an old buddy of mine, Jason Crane."
Edward clapped the man's shoulder, hugging him, too. He was grateful for helping Bella in the past and checking in on her over the years. It wasn't long before the orders were taken and Alec took a break to talk with the group, those associated with the facility in Mexico. Soon Edward, Bella, Emmett, Rosalie, and Jasper formed a little bubble to talk.
"Are you here for good?" Edward asked.
Alec shrugged, giving them a non-committal nod. "There are only a handful left of Carlos' men and most disbanded after his former boss put a hit on every one of them. The group of Americans that have it out for me are in prison, but I'm relatively safe. I haven't had any trouble in two years. I wanted to come home."
Bella smiled, taking his hand and giving it a squeeze before letting it go. "And home is here?"
"Home is wherever all you crazy assholes are, Bella." Alec held out his hands, hovering over her stomach. He was kind of enough to ask, Edward and Bella had dealt with strangers coming up to Bella and rubbing her like they had the right, most of the time without warning.
One day, she pulled on a shirt that said, "Touch My Stomach, I'll Punch Yours".
They hadn't had many problems around town since.
Alec marveled at that the movement beneath his hands. "This couldn't happen to a better people." He looked at Bella and Edward; somehow, he knew about Lizzie. Edward wouldn't put it past him—he always seemed to know when Bella needed a pick me up from one of her oldest, dearest friends.
Emmett kissed Bella's temple, Rosalie rubbed her hand on Edward's back. "I completely agree." Jasper nodded and ruffled Bella's hair, much to her annoyance.
Edward looked up at their little group, the same people that had seen him at his worst, and now have seen him at his best.
Life would only get better.
AN: I'm sure I'll get some hate, it's expected considering the subject matter. I want to thank Vicky who convinced to write this story eight years ago and helped me develop these characters personalities. I want to thank Dawn aka kyla713 for convincing to pick it back up when I had almost given up on it for two years. You held my hand and even flicked me when the characters strayed way too far from the path. I also want to thank all the readers who have been so patient when it comes to this fic, and even to those who weren't so patient. I have received countless messages from people who could relate to the characters and story, thank you for you sharing something so deeply personal. I do plan to write something for Christmas, I really want to see this Edward with his babies, but it will be posted separately, so look out for that this December.