This was written for the lovely and generous ctforget, who won two outtakes in June's Fandom Gives Back Auction. This is the first of those outtakes. Her prompt was very broad (future in EPOV) and this is what I came up with. She was happy with it, and I hope you are too.

Thank you to Lucette21, SR and mycrookedsmile for their help with this.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

I opened another patient file and rubbed my eyes under my glasses. It had been a long day and Bella left me a note saying that she had some errands to run after work, so I was killing time updating patient information until she came home.

I looked down at the file and made some additional notes about the session I had with Alec Wright that day. He had seen and experienced some terrible things at Iwo Jima and Okinawa and he was suffering from flashbacks and nightmares. He was the husband of a colleague of Bella's named Victoria, and he was the one exception I made to my rule of never seeing patients socially. Bella and Victoria were close friends and we made it a point to never talk about them privately, but I felt, somehow, that Bella was good for Victoria, which would ultimately be good for my patient.

I made my notes about our session and moved on to my last file, glancing at the name written on the side.

James Reynolds.

I had asked after him when I reported back all those years ago, intent on asking him what the hell he thought he was doing coming into my house uninvited and basically propositioning my wife, but I had been told that he was deployed. I had all but forgotten about him until one night three years ago when I was working late and one of the hospital orderlies came to find me, needing a doctor to come and calm an agitated patient.

It took me a few minutes to realize it was him, but at the time it didn't matter; I was a doctor and he needed assistance. I injected him quickly with a sedative and the orderlies moved him into a bed.

When I checked on him a few hours later I saw recognition flash across his face, followed by something I could only describe as fear.

I quickly realized that I didn't want that. I didn't want him or anyone else to be afraid of me; it was the exact opposite of what I wanted my patients to feel around me. So I sat down next to him and asked him how he was feeling and if there was any way I could help him.

"You're a doctor?" he asked.

"A psychiatrist, yes."

"You want me? Do you know what...?"

I took a deep breath and ran my hand across my mouth. "Bella told me everything. That has nothing to do with the here and now," I said firmly. I did believe it, but that didn't stop my insides from churning a little bit when I pictured what he wanted to do with my wife. I quickly willed the images away and focused on helping the damaged man in front of me.

"Are you seeing someone? A doctor?" I asked.

He looked up at me, an indiscernible look on his face. "You had quite a bad time a few hours ago," I said, trying to ease him into the conversation. "Does that happen often?"

He shrugged his shoulders and looked away, still not saying anything. I was used to this from my patients, so I just plowed ahead. "It might help if you talked to someone. It doesn't have to be me if I make you uncomfortable. I can recommend someone."

He shook his head and turned back to me. "I've tried. They don't fucking get it," he said bitterly.

I gave myself a moment to weigh my options, but I already knew what I needed to do. "I do. I get it," I said.

He looked at me with interest in his eyes, so I continued. "I went through some pretty bad things during the war. I came home and couldn't find anyone who I could talk to who understood how I felt. That's why I do this now. I can help you, if you'll let me."

"I don't understand. How did you...if you had no one?"

"Bella," I said, shrugging my shoulders. "I was lucky. I don't think I would be alive today if it wasn't for her, and I certainly wouldn't be able to help anyone else."

"How is she?" he asked softly, with what seemed like genuine interest. I saw nothing inappropriate in his demeanor or in how he asked about her, much to my relief.

"She's good," I answered, not holding back my smile.

He nodded his head and looked at me. "I'm sorry about what I did. I was foolish and I never meant–."

I held up my hand. "I appreciate that, but there's no need. It was a long time ago and we need to move past it if you're going to let me help you. What do you think?"

"Yeah, okay," he said, nodding again and running a hand across his face.

I went home that night and told Bella that I was going to start seeing James professionally. After I promised her that my interest in helping him was genuine and that I had forgiven him for his behavior toward her, she kissed me and told me she had never been prouder of me. The warmth I felt in my chest at that moment is something I would never forget.

I started seeing James regularly after that and quickly understood why he was having trouble managing his life. He had been on the USS Indianapolis when it was struck by Japanese torpedoes in July of 1945. He survived the initial attack, along with almost nine hundred other crew, only to be left to fend for themselves when the Navy failed to notice that the ship never made it to its destination. Beset by thirst, hunger and most horribly, shark attacks, only three hundred of the initial nine hundred men survived the nearly five days in the open water before they were rescued.

James was one of the survivors and he had been struggling ever since. He couldn't fathom why the man on one side of him was taken away by sharks, and the man on the other side lost his will to live and simply drowned, while he was rescued relatively unscathed. He couldn't understand the rhyme or reason behind life and death and chance and wondered why he survived when so many others didn't.

His was one of the toughest cases I'd had since I started practicing psychiatry, but after three years of intense therapy, he was doing markedly better. As in my case, I was sure his experiences would be with him forever, but he was able to manage his emotions now, and was even in a stable relationship that he was confident would lead to marriage.

I closed the file, rested my head on the back of my office chair and closed my eyes, willing my wife to come home to me. I still struggled with nightmares and depression and the occasional bout of insomnia, but I was so much better than I had been. Still, her nearness brought me the kind of peace and comfort I couldn't find anywhere else and I already felt edgy from some of the patient sessions I had earlier in the day. I needed her soothing presence.

Bella had been much happier and lighter lately. I don't think either of us realized how stressed and tightly wound we had been while we were trying to get pregnant. We decided to stop trying right after Bella turned thirty, if for no other reason than the stress of anticipating every month as the one was weighing on us. Once we released ourselves from that cycle of disappointment, the difference in both of us was glaring. We were a little sadder, to be sure, when we realized we would never have children of our own, but overall the way we dealt with each other and with life eased considerably. The area where it was most obvious was in our lovemaking. Once we started to relax and enjoy ourselves again, we realized just how tense it had been. We had fun now and enjoyed each other in ways we probably hadn't in years.

I was convinced that we simply weren't meant to be parents, that whatever happened to me during the war had damaged me physically and mentally to such an extent that conceiving a child would be impossible for us. I don't know that either of us was resigned to being childless, but we were dealing with it the best way we knew how. Together.

I felt my body relax perceptively when I heard the front door open. I went to go to her but before I could even rise from my chair, she was in the doorway looking at me with a brilliant smile on her face.

"Hi," I said, feeling myself respond in kind to her obvious delight about...something. "What is it?"

She didn't say anything until she came to sit on my lap, the only place she usually sat in my office, which suited me just fine. She put her hands in my hair, her face still lit by a smile, and kissed me softly.

"I was late," she said, releasing my lips from hers.

"It's okay, I saw your note," I replied, running a thumb across her cheekbone.

"No. I was late. But I didn't say anything because I didn't want to get your hopes up so I went straight to the doctor." She was practically bouncing up and down and had an expectant look on her face.

It took a minute for what she meant to sink in. "Bella?"

My eyes searched hers, desperate for confirmation of what I thought she was telling me. She nodded her head vigorously and I placed my hands on either side her face.

"Really?" I asked. "You're...?"

"I am. About six weeks along."

"You're pregnant?" I asked, my mind still not able to completely wrap around what she was telling me.

She nodded her head again, her eyes filling with tears just as I felt a sting behind my own. I held her close as I tried to get my emotions and furiously beating heart under control.

Once I regained coherent thought, I moved her away from me and took her face in my hands again. "How do you feel?" I asked her, running my thumbs under her eyes. "What did the doctor say?"

"I feel fine so far. In shock. Maybe a little tired," she said, kissing my hand softly. "The doctor said everything looks normal."

"I can''re pregnant," I stated, no longer questioning the fact that we were going to be parents, but still trying to comprehend that it had happened after we had all but given up hope. I put my hand on her abdomen and looked at her beautiful face, astounded by the miracle we had created together.

She placed her hand over mine and I kissed her gently on the lips before touching my forehead to hers.


"Yes, sweetheart?"

"I want cheesecake."

I went out that afternoon and bought her a whole cheesecake from the bakery. I overdid it, of course, wanting to make her happy, but despite her protests, I continued to spoil her throughout her pregnancy.

She never asked for much, which was typical Bella, but I provided what I thought she would need. I drove her to and from work, I fulfilled all of her food cravings to the best of my ability (fried chicken at midnight proved to be a challenge, but one that I was up to), rubbed her back when it hurt and read to her when she couldn't sleep.

I read as many journals of obstetrics as I could get my hands on, and Bella found a book by an English doctor named Grantly Dick-Read called Childbirth Without Fear. It claimed that the heavy sedation that came along with childbirth was unnecessary and that the pain was so intense because it was expected to be intense. But with proper breathing and "natural" methods, childbirth could be easier for both mother and child.

We decided, along with Bella's doctor, that if nothing else, it was worth a try.

The one negative consequence of reading all of those medical journals was that I couldn't escape the reality that childbirth was difficult for women and the potential existed that Bella wouldn't make it through alive. That had never occurred to me in all the years we'd been trying to have a baby and I had to admit to myself that if it had, I might never have wanted her to get pregnant. The thought of my life without Bella made me anxious and unhappy and those thoughts plagued me late at night when she was sleeping soundly next to me.

I never shared my fears with Bella. I told her everything else; keeping anything from her was no longer an option, but I didn't want to frighten her or have her worry about me unnecessarily. She had herself and our child to be concerned about.

As she entered her second trimester, Bella's body began to fill out. I adored her new curves and the fullness of her breasts and I had trouble keeping my hands to myself. But as it turned out, she didn't mind one bit; pregnancy had made her desire for my physical attention more pronounced than usual. But even out of the bedroom, I almost ached to touch her constantly, she was beautiful and perfect and she was carrying within her the life we created together.

About six weeks before the baby was due, we had plans to meet everyone at the park for a July 4th picnic and fireworks. It was a town tradition and we had been going for years.

I ran up the stairs to see what was taking Bella so long; she had been getting ready for almost an hour, which was very unlike her.

I poked my head in the bedroom door and saw Bella standing in front of the mirror in a pretty yellow sundress, a decidedly unhappy look on her face. I walked up behind her and ran my hands gently up and down her arms, kissing her shoulder lightly. "You're beautiful," I said, knowing full well what was causing the look on her face.

Her eyes met mine briefly in the mirror before she looked down, shaking her head.

"Hey," I said softly. "Look at me." I reached over and tilted her chin up so her eyes met mine once again in the mirror. "It's the truth. You're more beautiful to me now than you've ever been. Nothing will ever change that." I wanted her to feel the way I did when she looked at me. When she saw the damage that had been done to my body, she didn't flinch and I would do the same for her. Even though my body was different from hate and not from love like hers was, I would make her feel as beautiful as she made me feel, even the first time she saw my scars.

I had always been careful, for years, about locking the door when I bathed or dressed. I even made it a point to wake up early and shower before Bella was even awake so there wouldn't be a chance of her walking in. I was damaged now; ugly beyond anything anyone could possibly find acceptable, including Bella. I loved her and I needed her so desperately and I didn't want her to see how unattractive I had become, because maybe then she would have less reason to love me. I was already mentally broken, if she saw my physical disfigurement, I was sure she would have less reason to stay with me. She had to put up with so much from me day after day, and I sometimes wondered when she would reach her breaking point and decide I wasn't worth it. And I wouldn't help her reach that decision if I could help it.

Then one day, my class let out early. It was a rarity, and I decided to take advantage of it by going for a run. I worked out with Jasper and Emmett regularly but rarely had time to run by myself with my school schedule, and I missed the time alone, my feet pounding on the pavement, sweat running down my back, the burn in my legs propelling me forward.

When I got back home it was still early and I had the house to myself, so I was lulled into a false sense of security. Out of habit, I grabbed a clean t-shirt and pair of boxers and hopped into the shower. I took my time showering, dried off and pulled my boxers on. Just as I picked up my t-shirt to put it on, the door to the bathroom flew open.

Bella was standing in the doorway staring at me and she looked as shocked as I felt. I had my t-shirt clutched almost painfully in my fist, held up to my chest. My heart was beating wildly and I was terrified into inaction. I just stood there and stared at her, wondering what she would do.

Her eyes softened and she very slowly walked over to me. I wanted to tell her to stop, to get out and leave me alone, but I was paralyzed.

She reached out and touched my hands, gently rubbing them, her eyes never leaving mine. After what seemed like hours, my hands finally relaxed under her touch and she took my shirt, dropping it to the floor.

When she finally took her eyes from mine and looked at my chest, I dropped my arms in defeat. My ugliness was on display for her to see now. Surely she would find me repulsive and even if she stayed with me, she would probably ask me to wear a shirt all the time so she wouldn't have to look at me.

And then Bella, who never does what I expect her to, very slowly and very softly kissed every one of the scars that riddled my body. I shuddered under her touch; not from repulsion, but from not having been touched in that area in so many years, and from how gentle she was. The last touch that part of my body had known was violent and hateful and she was effectively replacing that with her love.

And then when she was finished, she retrieved my shirt, put it over my head, kissed me softly on the lips, and walked out of the bathroom.

When I met her downstairs later, she didn't say anything about what had happened and treated me as she normally would. Except that night after we went to bed she didn't hesitate to take my shirt off before we made love. She didn't touch my chest right away; we worked up to that over the next few weeks. But she never pushed me and slowly got me used to the idea of being bare-chested around her. Once again, she knew exactly what I needed, better than I did.

Here we were years later, and I rarely thought about being shirtless in front of her anymore because never, not once, did she make me feel self-conscious about what had been done to me. And I never wanted her to feel less than the most beautiful, desirable woman in the world.

"You're beautiful," I repeated, wanting her so badly to hear the truth in what I was saying.

Her eyes softened just enough so I knew that she believed me and the look of love reflected back at me made me instantly want her, to hell with the picnic. It amazed me that after all these years, a simple look from her could cause my body to react the way it did.

"As a matter of fact," I said, kissing her neck, "I wouldn't mind being a little late."

Her quiet giggle was quickly stifled by a gasp as I pressed myself gently into her, letting her know just how much I wanted her.

She had a mischievous look in her eye as her hand reached back into my hair. "Last night wasn't enough to satisfy you?" she asked.

I looked into the mirror and straight into her deep brown eyes. "I will never have enough of you."

She sighed and leaned back into me as I continued to kiss her neck and shoulders, hoping to entice her into helping me make us late. When she turned in my arms and kissed me on the mouth, I knew I would be given the chance to show her just how beautiful I thought she was.

I pulled her dress over her head and laid her down on the bed, running my hands all over her body until she shivered and started to grab at my clothes, as desperate for me as I was for her.

We were late to the park but I couldn't find it in myself to care. I spread out our blanket and set up a chair under a tree so Bella could sit in the shade and have support for her back. She was so small and carrying the baby was taking a toll on her body.

Rose and Emmett were there with their four children and Rose handled all of them like the pro she was, directing the older children while holding the youngest in her arms. Maddie was only two months old but Rose and Emmett had never been the type to let anything slow them down from the things they wanted to do.

Emmett left the Navy a few years after the war was over. He thought he would be a career sailor but the birth of Jack, followed by Lizzie and then Teddy, changed his mind. He wanted to be an integral part of their lives and didn't enjoy the prospect of being sent away from them for any reason. So he retired a Commander and he and Rose bought the small café in town where we had met all those years ago. I never knew it, but Emmett had always enjoyed cooking and when he heard the place was for sale, the decision was easy. They ran it as a family; anyone who frequented the restaurant was as familiar with the McCarty clan as they were with their own family.

Despite the chair, Bella insisted on sitting on the blanket like everyone else. I helped her sit and then settled in behind her so she could rest on me. I placed my hands on her abdomen and immediately felt movement, making me smile. "Has the baby been bothering you a lot today?" I whispered in her ear.

"No more than usual, Doctor Cullen," she replied, resting her head against my shoulder. "Besides, I kind of like it."

I smiled into her hair and closed my eyes briefly as I said a silent prayer of thanks for my beautiful wife and the life she carried within her.

"Aunt Bella, when is your baby coming?" Lizzie asked, sitting next to us and taking a bite of her sandwich, a look of genuine curiosity on her face.

"In just a few weeks," Bella answered. "She or he will be a few months younger than Maddie."

Lizzie made a sour face and glanced over at Emmett, who was holding his youngest. "She cries a lot and wakes me up sometimes."

"You cried when you were a baby," Jack interjected, rolling his eyes. "So did Teddy. All babies cry." At eleven, he was apparently an authority.

"I know that! But Teddy never woke me up. I don't know why mommy and daddy have to keep having babies," she complained.

"Hey," I said. "What kind of talk is that?"

She dropped her sandwich and looked down, a forlorn look on her face perfected by six year old children the world over, but didn't say anything.

"Come here, Lizzie," I said, reaching out my right arm so I could put it around her once she was settled next to me. She put her head on my chest and I smiled; she could be a bit overwrought at times, but she really was a very sensitive child and we shared a close relationship.

"Would you really be happy if your brothers and sister went away?" I asked her.

"No," she mumbled. "But sometimes they're annoying to have around and I just want to be by myself."

"I'll tell you what," Bella said, turning a little toward Lizzie. "If you ever feel like you need to be alone, you call Uncle Edward and I and you can come to our house."

"Really?" she asked, a huge smile breaking out on her face.

"Really," I said.

"What about after your baby comes?" she asked, her smile faltering.

"We'll be busier, but we'll make time for you, I promise," I said, ruffling her hair.

"Come on, Lizzie," Emmett called to her. "We're going to toss the football around with your brothers. Let's show 'em who's boss."

"Okay, Daddy," she yelled, getting up and brushing herself off before running over to Emmett, who tossed her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, much to her delight.

Jasper and Alice showed up a few minutes later with Carlisle and Esme, who had recently moved to the area. They were initially resistant, even though they missed us; Hawaii was their home and that was where they wanted to stay. But when news of Bella's pregnancy reached them, they decided it was time. This would be their first, and possibly only grandchild and they wouldn't miss it for anything.

Jasper had made remarkable progress with his legs. He had some sensation and was able to get around very well on crutches; he only used his wheelchair when he was tired or had to travel long distances. But biological children simply weren't in their future. Despite this, they were as happily married as anyone I knew and I couldn't have been happier for my sister and my friend. For as much as life had handed them a set of circumstances that were horrendous, they had each other and didn't usually waste a minute worrying about what could have been.

"How are you feeling, dear?" my mother asked Bella as she reached down to give her a quick kiss on the cheek.

"Good. Tired," Bella responded.

"You're fairly glowing," my father said, smiling down at her.

I went to get up to greet my parents properly, but my mother held her hand up to me. "You stay right where you are," she said, a twinkle in her eye.

"Yes ma'am," I said, smiling at her and putting my arms back around my wife. I leaned over and kissed her shoulder, not caring who saw me. She reached her hand back and gripped the hair at the back of my neck, as I felt her lips say "I love you" on my neck.

I lifted my head and looked in her eyes, reveling in the truth in her words I found there.

"All right, you two," I heard Jasper say.

"They've always been like that," Alice interjected. "I doubt it's going to change any time soon."

I recently thought I detected a change in her relationship with Bella, but when I mentioned it to her, Bella just told me that she had spoken to Alice about it, but that she didn't think it was appropriate to tell me what their conversation was about. She assured me that their friendship was as solid as it had ever been and that whatever was bothering Alice was something they could work through.

I would have had to have been a fool not to know that their relationship changed right around the time Bella became pregnant. But I let it go; as long as Bella wasn't being hurt, I wouldn't interfere.

The funny thing about what Alice and Jasper said was that Jasper had his hand on Alice's back the whole time, and she had her hand on his legs, which were stretched out in front of him.

"You two are kidding, right?" Rose said.

"What do you mean?" Alice asked innocently.

"You can barely keep your hands off of each other. You're as bad as they are," she replied, pointing over at us.

Jasper and Alice looked at each other in question as all of us, my parents included, burst out laughing. "And you and Emmett are no better," I told Rose through my laughter.

"Yeah, but at least we admit it," she retorted.

When our laughter died down, Alice looked over at our parents apologetically. "Sorry Mom and Dad."

"You have nothing to be sorry for," Mom said. "Both of my children are very fortunate and your father and I couldn't be happier. You should know that by now."

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening enjoying out picnic and each other's company. The kids played and the younger ones took naps on the blanket. Alec and Victoria stopped by to chat, as did Shelley and Felix. They were getting on in years, and they never really recovered from the loss of Joseph, but they were thrilled when, a few years ago, we decided to buy the house we had lived in since we arrived in Maryland. They sort of adopted us as their own and were excited at the prospect of being surrogate grandparents to our child.

Bella was a trooper; I knew she was uncomfortable but she never complained. I rubbed her back, prepared her food for her and tried to make her as comfortable as possible. When evening set in I sat on the ground next to Bella's chair and slipped her sandals off. Even though she had been sitting most of the day, I knew her feet would be swollen and painful and this always eased her somewhat. I leaned my head on her leg as the fireworks started and she put her hand in my hair as I continued to rub her feet.

It was a good life.



"Hm?" I felt sleepy and my eyes refused to open.

"Edward, wake up."

"Don't wanna," I mumbled.

"It's time."

"Time for what?"

"Edward Anthony Cullen, your child is about to be born. WAKE UP!"

That got my attention. I shot up in bed; it was still dark out and it took me a moment to acclimate to my surroundings. I looked over at Bella, who was calmly sitting on the edge of the bed, fully clothed, waiting for me to get my lazy ass out of bed.

"Really?" I asked, smiling at her.

"I think so. I've been having pains and my water broke." Her voice was strong, but there was a slight tremor in it that I doubt anyone else would have noticed.

"Okay," I said, swinging my legs over the side of the bed. "Let's get you to the hospital." I was outwardly calm, but my insides were in knots. We had waited so long for this moment, but more than that, childbirth was painful and risky and the potential of losing Bella weighed on me.

Which was why when we arrived at the hospital, I refused to leave her side.

"Dr. Cullen, husbands aren't allowed in the birthing room. Besides, it could be hours. Why don't you go home and get some sleep?" the nurse suggested as I stood outside Bella's room. I didn't spend a great deal of time in the maternity wing of the hospital, so she wasn't a nurse I was familiar with.

"You don't understand," I replied calmly. "I'm a medical doctor besides being her husband and I'm not leaving her."

"I don't think –."

"Fine. I'll just go call Doctor Peterson at home." I glanced quickly at my watch, shaking my head. "It's only three o'clock in the morning, I'm sure he won't mind. And what is your name, exactly?"

"Nurse Helen Murphy," she said quietly. She looked around nervously and swallowed, no doubt wondering which scenario would be worse; letting me in the labor room or me calling hospital administrators at home in the middle of the night. I felt a little sorry for her, but not enough to stop trying to intimidate her. This was Bella we were talking about and I would use whatever means necessary.

"Helen," I said, deciding to switch tactics and turning on the charm. "That's my wife in there and I love her more than anything in the world. I just want to be with her and make sure she's comfortable. I promise that I won't get in the way and you won't get in any trouble for letting me in."

I smiled at her and she flushed pink, smiling back at me as a small giggle escaped her before she put her hand over her mouth. "Okay, I guess we can make an exception in this case, you are a doctor after all."

I let out a sigh of relief. I didn't really want to cause upheaval, but I wouldn't be kept from Bella.

When I entered Bella's room her eyes were closed but I knew she wasn't sleeping. I sat on a stool next to the bed and took her hand "Hey," I said softly.

Her eyes flew open and her head turned to me, the most brilliant smile on her face. "You're here."

"Yeah, well...I kind of didn't give them a choice." I leaned over and kissed her on the forehead, squeezing her hand tightly. "How do you feel?"

"The pain isn't so bad yet. I'm nervous though."

"About the pain?"

"It's not so much the pain as what comes afterward. I know we've had plenty of time to prepare and we've wanted it for so long...but what if I'm a bad mother?"

I couldn't help it, I laughed. But when I saw a tear roll down her cheek, my laughter died in my throat and I climbed on the bed and took her in my arms.

"I'm sorry I laughed, but Bella, you're the strongest, most giving, loving person I know. How could you not be a good parent?"

She didn't answer me as I continued to hold her, her body shaking from her sobbing. I repeated words of love and reassurance over and over, trying to ease her anxiety. Once her crying subsided, she fell into a light sleep and I continued to hold her, even after a nurse came in and admonished me for being in Bella's bed.

She moaned softly in her sleep with the slight contractions as I tried to mentally prepare myself for what was to come. We had been trying to have a baby for so many years that I almost couldn't fathom that the day was here.

"Dr. Cullen!" Nurse Murphy hissed at me after walking in the room. "I told you to get out of that bed."

"I'm not –."

Just then Bella woke up and gasped loudly, clutching my hand painfully.

"What is it?" I asked nervously.

"It hurts," she moaned, putting a hand over her abdomen.

"Okay," I said, holding her tightly and kissing her forehead. "It's going to be all right. I'll go get the doctor."

I moved to get up from the bed but she grabbed the front of my shirt, stopping me. "Please don't leave me," she pleaded, her eyes fearful and wet with unshed tears.

I nodded and looked at the nurse, silently asking her for help.

She sighed and nodded, mumbling something on her way out to get the doctor.

"Take deep breaths through the pain like we talked about," I said, breathing with her.

Bella and I worked through her breathing and she was able to manage the pain until the doctor came in.

"Are you sure you don't want any medication, Mrs. Cullen?" Dr. Keller asked, still appearing a bit skeptical of our chosen method.

"I'm sure," Bella said, her voice clear as her pain eased just a bit.

"Okay, but you let me know if the pain gets to be too much."

"I will," she said.

"Dr. Cullen, I hear you're insisting on staying?"

"I am," I said, my tone, I hoped, leaving no room for discussion.

"Very well, as long as you let us do our jobs."

"Promise," I replied

Bella's labor progressed slowly as night wore into morning; she slept fitfully next to me and despite disapproving looks from the nurses, I stayed exactly where I was. I moved to switch positions at one point and Bella, thinking I was leaving her, grabbed me tightly and quietly said, "Please don't leave. You make it bearable."

"I wasn't going anywhere," I replied, holding her closer.

Bella's active labor was difficult and long and I stayed with her the whole time, helping her regulate her breathing and talking her through the worst of it. But she handled it with a strength and grace I could only ever dream of possessing and once again, I was in awe of her.

Charles Edward Cullen was born the next afternoon at just after four o'clock. He weighed in at six pounds, twelve ounces and had Bella's big brown eyes and a sprinkling of reddish brown hair on his head. He had ten perfect fingers and ten tiny toes and the scream of unhappiness he let out exactly seven seconds after he was born was the most beautiful sound I would ever hear.


I lay there, looking at the ceiling, Bella breathing softly next to me. I envied her ability to sleep, but didn't begrudge her. She was up with Charlie day and night, giving him constant care and attention. He was our little miracle, a perfect representation of my profound love and unwavering commitment to my beautiful wife, and hers to me.

I heard faint noises coming from Charlie's room and got up quickly so I could attend to him before he woke Bella. She had this amazing mommy radar and would sometimes wake in anticipation of his needs, so I had to act quickly. He was still only three months old, so if he was hungry there wouldn't be much I could do, but I was more than capable of changing a diaper or providing comfort.

I walked in and Charlie was wide awake in his crib, staring up at the mobile that hung over him, kicking his legs and making unhappy noises.

"Hey, buddy," I said softly, picking him up and holding him tightly but gently to my chest.

He calmed down almost immediately, his sounds of displeasure turning into soft coos of contentment.

"Do you think we can let your mama sleep just a bit longer?" I kissed his head softly and rubbed his back; it was becoming somewhat of a nighttime ritual for us. If he wasn't actively crying, I would come in and rock him or sing to him until he fell back to sleep.

I held him close, his little head almost enveloped in my palm, and walked over to the shelf we had set up in his room. It had pictures of the whole family; Alice and Jasper, Mom and Dad, Charlie, Rose and Emmett and their brood. As I rocked him gently, I couldn't escape the melancholy I sometimes felt when I looked back on how our lives had changed. Charlie would never know his namesake, and he had deserved the chance to be a grandfather. He deserved to know the amazing woman he reared and this little miracle I held in my arms and it was so unfair that it was taken from him and from us. But we would tell our child all about his grandfather; about his war exploits, his life-long friendship with my father, his desire for better for his daughter than almost anyone, except him, expected.

I sighed and turned from the photos; Charlie was getting restless in my arms but still not crying in hunger, so I started singing softly to him and rocking him gently back and forth.

Right as he was starting to doze, I felt a soft hand on my bare back and I shuddered slightly. I closed my eyes briefly and then turned to Bella, who had a soft smile on her face. I thought I would have been used to it by now, but sometimes...sometimes when she touched or kissed my bare back or chest, I was back there, and the touch wasn't the gentle touch of my wife, it was the searing burn of a cigarette or the sharp cut of a knife blade. It scared me to death that I would someday flash to those times while holding Charlie and it made me angry that I couldn't simply hold my son like a normal man.

But as always, Bella brought me back to reality. She rested her head on my back and put her arm around me, grounding me in the here and now. For as much as my experiences haunted me, every day with her and Charlie was a miracle; a gift that I would never, ever take for granted.

"Is he hungry?" she whispered, her lips forming the words against my back.

"No," I answered softly. "He just needed a little attention. Why don't you go back to sleep?"

"Okay. Are you coming back to bed?"

"Right after I put him down."

When I crawled back into bed a few minutes later, putting a sleeping Charlie in his crib, Bella was still awake. I opened my arms to her and she laid her head on my chest, kissing me gently.

And this time all I felt was her sweet kiss.

"Is he sleeping?"

"He is," I replied, kissing the top of her head.

"Thank you for getting up. I actually woke up scared; I hadn't heard from him all night and when I saw what time it was, I panicked."

"You don't have to thank me. He's mine too and you do so much. I wanted you to sleep." I ran my hand soothingly up and down her arm, trying to relax her so she would drift back to sleep.

"I love you," she mumbled.

"I love you too, sweetheart. So much."

I lay there as Bella's breathing evened out, still unable to sleep, but content beyond anything I ever thought I would be lucky and blessed enough to feel.

It was a very good life.

One last thing. Finding Home has been nominated in the All Human Twilight Awards (http:/ twilightallhumanawards . webs . com/) in the drama category, and my oneshot, Unplanned (of which I'm inordinately proud) had been nominated in two categories in the Single Shot Awards (http:/ thesingleshotawards . Blogspot . com/). Voting in the single shot awards is now open, and both links are listed in my profile.

Thanks for reading. I'd love to know what you thought.