And... it's complete.
A/N at the bottom :)
BPOV takes place two years after chapter 45. EPOV takes place three years after BPOV, which means EPOV is five years after chapter 45. Just so there's no confusion.
Bella - Two Years Later
It felt so strange, standing in front of a crowd of screaming fans. We hadn't attended an event like this since before we got married. The feverish clicks and flashing lights of cameras were familiar, but unwanted. We'd worked so hard to keep our life private, to give Ellie some kind of normalcy, but sometimes fate had a way of stepping in and giving you what you needed, instead of what you wanted. It had a way of giving you what you never expected, both good and bad.
I felt Edward's strong arm wrap around my waist as he shifted our position on the red carpet, holding me closer to him. His green eyes fell to my face, making sure that I was still all right after being on my feet for so long, and then went back to the crowd. I could feel his fingers inching toward the swell of my stomach as he smiled and waved, causing the sounds of the crowd to reach deafening heights.
"Holy shit," I breathed, burying my face in his shoulder.
"I suppose we've been missed," he said, grinning down at me.
"Ha. I think it's more like you've been missed."
His smiled widened. "You've caused quite the stir lately, you know."
"Speaking of which, you should pull your hand back before you give our secret away."
He jerked his hand away so that it rested at the small of my back. "Blimey, this is hard."
"I know, baby. We won't be able to hide it much longer, though. Soon, it won't matter where you touch me."
His brow quirked in amusement.
"Oh, you know what I mean."
This was our unexpected, to stand here defying the odds, with a baby—conceived without any help from science—on the way. It was surreal. Shocking. Terrifying and undeniably hard, yet caused a joy that ran so deep, neither of us would ever be able to fully explain it. It gave me new meaning to the word "determination". I'd never been so determined to achieve something in all my life. From the moment Alice had forced me to take a pregnancy test, overcoming the pain, the aches—the fear of failure—had been my main focus. This baby's survival was infinitely more important than anything I'd ever done before. It was more important than my comfort or even my state of mind; my sanity had been questioned numerous times for even attempting this. One wrong move later down the road could cause a tear that was potentially disastrous. Neither of us was guaranteed to come out of it alive, and every doctor known to man had advised Edward and me to terminate.
But that was never an option. Our happiness, our family's happiness, relied on getting our baby here safely, risks and all.
Edward and I finished giving photo ops and went over to the line of press waiting for us outside the Kodak Theatre. I pulled away from him and hung back, letting the press focus on Edward, although, it was wishful thinking that the attention would stay there. The journalists would ask about Edward's movie and his Oscar nomination, but none of them would let the opportunity for some kind of exclusive with him pass them by. He was a recluse now, and getting the information he was once so willing to give always proved to be unsuccessful.
There was no announcement when we brought Ellie home, no interview or photo shoot to show off our little girl, no matter how hard Zafrina had pressed for one. Edward refused to subject her to this part of his life, wanting only to be known as "Daddy" for as long as humanly possible. This baby was no exception. The second a reporter asked about the speculation over a few recent photos taken of me, the interview was over.
I fidgeted with the top of my navy blue dress, trying to make sure that the enormous boobs I'd been blessed with recently were hidden as much as I could, which was completely useless; they hid themselves for no one.
"I should have never let Alice talk me into wearing a strapless dress," I mumbled to myself. A reporter next to where Edward stood took one look at me and ran over to shove a microphone in my face, hoping I'd be flustered enough to talk.
I pushed it away with a snarl. Not on her life.
I was considered high risk. Because of this, life kind of halted for us. I went to class, and then came home to Ellie and Edward. This trip to LA was the first time I'd let myself travel anywhere outside of Oxford and London in the few months that I'd been pregnant, and I was only here to support Edward. If he hadn't been nominated, and was merely presenting, I'd be on the couch with my feet propped up, dividing my attention between the toddler on the floor and the broadcast on the TV. To make this baby public, only to lose it and have our grief splashed all over the news, was unacceptable.
I jumped at the sound of my voice being yelled from behind me and slowly turned to see Jacob coming over to me. I beamed at him and walked a few steps to meet him, only to be abruptly swept off my feet and into one of the tightest hugs I'd ever known—Emmett aside.
"Jake, put me down. Please," I begged, suddenly panicked that he was hurting the baby.
He put me on my feet with a stunned expression.
"Don't look away from my face. If you so much as look down, they'll all know. This chiffon is doing a damn good job hiding it. Don't fuck it up."
He nodded once before a massive grin crossed his face. "Why didn't you say anything?"
"We're not announcing it," I sighed. "We've only told our parents and his sister. Not even Rosalie or Emmett knows yet." We were waiting until I'd gotten to the point that the baby would survive, no matter what. To get all their hopes up, and then to fail…
"You know why."
His demeanor changed entirely, going from excited to serious in just a split second. "Are you feeling all right? Everything's going well now, I guess…"
"Everything's fine," I answered reassuringly. "We just don't know how long 'fine' will last. It could change at any time." It was reality, but it wasn't something I let myself dwell on. If I thought about what could happen, I'd never get out of bed.
"You're taking it easy, right? Not being stupid?"
"I'm not being stupid," I assured him. "This is the first thing I've done, outside of school, since we found out. Edward does so much with Ellie so I can be careful."
"Good. Do you um," he leaned forward so that no one could see his face, "know what you're having?"
I nodded and let an ecstatic grin crease my lips. It was the same smile I'd smiled two days ago when we had our ultrasound and saw our baby actually resemble a baby for the first time, the day Edward and I both finally stopped worrying so much and let ourselves feel the happiness that came with this.
"Another girl," I said quietly, watching Jacob's face light up.
He laughed. "Poor Edward. Surrounded by estrogen."
"I rather like it that way," Edward said, coming up behind us. "So long as she looks like her mum, that is."
I shook my head and leaned back against him. "She'll look like you."
"Either way, you two are screwed. Ellie's going to be a knockout."
"Jacob Black, don't talk about my daughter that way," I laughed. "You're family."
He'd come to mean more to me than I ever thought he would. He was like a brother and called me out on my bullshit whenever I was being ridiculous. He had since that night I'd run into him when I was stupidly trying to leave Edward. Jacob could always phrase something so that it had this huge affect on me. It was inexplicable how he knew just what to say to make me see clearly again.
"Family that's not blind, Bella." He rolled his eyes. "Get inside and shut up. Bree's waiting for us."
We filed into the auditorium and talked with some of the other actors before taking our seats. I was seated on the end, thank God. No telling how many times I'd have to get up and head to the bathroom. It was all I did anymore, it seemed.
I toed off my shoes with a sigh. "Ah, Jesus, that feels good."
Edward glanced down to where I was rolling my ankles and chuckled. "It's been a while since you wore heels. I was afraid you might fall for a bit there."
I shook my head and fluffed my dress out so my stomach couldn't be seen. "And for good reason. You've seen me try to walk lately. It's not pretty."
The lights went down and Edward chanced a quick pat on my belly. "You're sure you're all right?" he whispered in my ear.
"I'm fine. I'm sitting down now, so you can stop worrying. Enjoy yourself."
He ran a hand through his hair, screwing up anything the stylist had managed before we left the house. "I'm so bloody nervous," he admitted. "There's no way I can enjoy myself."
"You've done this twice already. How can you be nervous?"
He shrugged. "I've no idea. I just am, love."
The ceremony seemed to take forever, and by the time Edward's category was up, I was nearly asleep. I couldn't help myself. Usually at this time, I've been asleep for hours already, surrounded by pillows and tucked up against Edward with Ellie's soft snores coming from the baby monitor.
God, I missed her already.
Edward hit my arm with a laugh. "Wake up, you."
I yawned. "Sorry. Jet lag."
"Among other things."
I started to say some sarcastic comment back, but stopped when I saw him blanch as Maggie Davison's voice rang out through the speakers, announcing the nominees for Best Actor.
I turned in my seat a little and ran my hands through his hair, unconcerned by the fact that a camera was trained on him right now. He needed to look good when he went up there. I knew he'd win. He'd worked too hard and spent too much time away from me not to.
"You've got this," I murmured.
He shot me a look that had me snorting with laughter which, in turn, broke through his anxiousness and caused him to grin crookedly back at me.
I fucking loved that smile.
The entire auditorium was silent as Maggie opened the envelope. Edward tensed beside me; neither of us could breathe as we waited to hear the results.
"…And the Oscar goes to," Maggie flashed a smile as she read the name, "Edward Masen."
Edward – Three years later
"No, no, no!" I shouted, rushing over to where Ellie was about to shake her bubble wand off on her sister. "Your mum will murder me if you get dirty."
"But, Daddy, Audrey wants bubbles," Ellie pouted in that mix of Bella's and my accent that melted my heart.
"Gently, love," I murmured, "or else the bubbles will spray everywhere. Then, it'll just be a mess and no bubbles for Audrey to play with."
I checked each of their lavender dresses for splatters and breathed out a sigh of relief when I found none. This day was incredibly important to Bella, and she was wound tight with nerves—anything was liable to cause her to burst into hysterics, the girls' appearances included. She'd finally completed all her schooling, gone through the masters and doctorate programs and was now getting ready to walk across a stage and accept the piece of parchment that declared she'd finally, after six years at Oxford, gotten her English D. Phil.
Six years of dissertations and fiction writing, of poetry and revisions. It'd been stressful for her, and there was a time when she wanted to take a break from all the work and simply enjoy her family—be nothing other than "Mummy" to the two little girls we'd been blessed with. This day, the reward, was worth every row we'd had, every day that I spent keeping the girls away from Bella so she could focus on whatever paper she was writing at that specific moment. I'd played mum for her more times than I could count, giving up my days to play dolls with Ellie and feed bottles to Audrey when she was still small…
I'd do it all over again, just to watch her finally fulfill her dream.
"All right, who wants to catch bubbles?" I asked, taking the container and wand from Ellie and backing away from them. "You can't run, though. You could slip and tear your dresses, and then Mummy would be quite upset." With me.
Ellie nodded solemnly. "Did you hear that, sissy? Daddy says you must be careful."
"Kay," Audrey said, twirling around and watching her dress spin out away from her legs. Her little, two-year-old body started to topple over as she lost her balance, but thankfully, she caught herself before she could fall on the hard stone.
"Audrey," I laughed, "what did I just say?"
"No' to," she said, grinning over at me impishly.
By all accounts, she shouldn't be here. She shouldn't have been conceived; her mother shouldn't have been able to go through a pregnancy in order to bring her into the world. But here she was, with her coppery colored hair, green eyes, and freckles. She had her mother's looks, and my coloring. She was the perfect mix of us; stubborn, kind, incredibly smart, and already had a flair for drama. She was, by definition, a miracle; one that we would forever be indebted to the higher power that gave her to us.
However fortunate we were to have her, it was the most difficult thing we'd ever gone through. From the very beginning, I'd been terrified that something would happen, and I'd lose one of them. I dreaded each day, knowing that every day, Bella's body was under tremendous strain. The bigger she got, the more likely she'd rupture with just a twist of her body, putting both of their lives in jeopardy from the potential lack of oxygen to Audrey and blood loss to Bella. I lived in fear for seven long months, watching Bella fight with innumerable pangs and aches. And instead of feeling relief from that fear when Audrey was born, it only managed to grow since she was born so early. Watching her sleep in an incubator with tubes and wires all over her tiny body was the hardest thing I'd ever done. Only when Audrey was finally released from the NICU and brought home with us did I feel as though I could breathe again.
I played with the girls as I waited for everyone to get here. The entire family had flown in for the occasion, and they were all to meet us here in Oxford before the ceremony so we could sit together. It'd been since last Christmas that we'd all been together, our schedules making it virtually impossible for all of us visit at once like we used to. I hated it, mostly because of how sad it made Bella, but it was life. Life moved on with or without you. There was nothing any of us could do about it.
I spun around at the sound of Riley's voice and blinked as he raced over to me. "You're not Riley. What'd you do with him?"
"Edward," Riley laughed, flashing one little dimple he'd gotten from his father. In all other respects, he looked like Bella, only with lighter hair and blue eyes. "It's me!"
"I don't think so… My Riley is much smaller and has short hair. Your hair is long, and you're enormous!"
He pushed at me, still grinning. "It's me! Mom said I could grow my hair out."
"Whatever for? It's so… bushy. You want it to look like mine?" I teased, picking him up. "Good God, mate, what have you been eating? Lead?"
"Your hair is awesome, Edward." He reached up and tugged at it a little.
"You're definitely your sister's brother," I muttered wryly. Only the two of them would say my hair was "awesome".
I set him down so he could play with Ellie and greeted everyone else as they trickled over from the parking lot. With the exception of Rosalie and Riley, none of them had changed a bit. They all looked exactly as they had five months ago.
Rosalie walked over to me and gave me a quick peck on the cheek. "Where's the bathroom? I have to pee," she said, dancing around.
"Just inside to the right. There's a WC sign," I told her with a smile.
She made a face. "Bella told me about the WC shit. Emmett? Help me find it?"
"Sure, baby." He rolled his eyes and said as soon as Rosalie was far enough away not to hear him, "I'd have never guessed that having a baby would make her so damn dependent."
"At least she's not hormonal," I replied. I'd been shocked that Rosalie had mellowed rather than become the "crazy bitch" Bella had predicted.
He laughed. "Isn't that the fucking truth?"
Once Carlisle and Esme arrived, we all headed inside and took a seat. I kept the girls occupied with a snack until the ceremony began, and then quieted them down and turned their attention to the front of the room, where the professors were taking their seats in front of a wide aisle.
It was incredibly formal, and the girls, surprisingly, managed to be quiet until they spotted Bella down on the floor. It was all I could do to keep Ellie from screaming "Mummy!" down at her. She grinned and waved up at them, which of course, caused Audrey to cry for her.
"Shit," I murmured, scooping her up so I could take her outside. My God, she was absurdly loud. People were going to start glaring at me if I didn't get her out of here soon.
"I can take her," Alice offered. "You stay here and watch Bella."
She nodded. "Give her here, Edward. You shouldn't miss this."
I handed her over to Alice and sat back down, letting Ellie crawl into my lap and watch the rest of the ceremony.
"Daddy?" Ellie asked curiously in the midst of what seemed like the thousandth time we'd clapped that afternoon. "Is Mummy going to be able to fix my boo-boos like Papa?"
My brows furrowed. "How do you mean?" I whispered back.
"Mummy said she was going to be a doctor. Like Papa. Does that mean she can fix people at the hospital like he can too?"
I chuckled and kissed her long, blonde hair. "No, baby. It just means she went to school for a very long time. Your mum learned about books, not medicine."
The ceremony was finally over, and I took Ellie and hurried outside to take Audrey off Alice's hands. She'd always been uncomfortable with the kids when they were little, and as much as I teased her about it, I didn't want to make her suffer any more than necessary.
"Hey," I said as we approached her, "she's finished. We're supposed to meet Bella on the north side of the building."
"All right." She handed me Audrey's pink, stuffed bear. "She's very good, Edward. No need to rush out here and save me."
"I'm not saving you," I objected as I picked Audrey up and took Ellie's hand so that we could start back over to where everyone else was. "I just thought we'd hurry and meet up with Bella, that's all."
She jabbed me in the ribs with her elbow. "Right. Of course you were."
I searched through the sea of black for Bella, finally spotting her on the opposite side of the crowd talking with Charlie. I tightened my hold on Ellie's hand and wound our way through all the other graduates until we broke free and got close enough to let Ellie run over to where her mum was standing.
"Mummy!" Ellie rushed over to Bella and put her hands on her hips. "You don't have your cap on!"
Bella gaped at Ellie playfully and reached up to feel the top of her head. "Where'd it go? I swear it was just there!"
"Mummy," Ellie giggled. "You have it in your hand. Daddy, tell Mummy she needs a pair of glasses."
"You need a pair of glasses," I said dutifully.
"Says the man who's going to need bifocals in a few years."
"I am not," I argued, handing our squirming toddler to her mum. "I see just fine, thank you."
"Except half of the day."
"Only when I read."
"And that's half of the day."
"Shut up," I murmured, pulling her to me and kissing her long enough that Ellie made a sound of disgust.
"So what will you do now that you've graduated," I asked when I broke away. "Find that perfect teaching job you've been talking about?"
Sometimes, I still couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that Bella wanted to teach; especially after all the times that she'd claimed she hated the idea. But school was all she knew. It only made sense that she'd go from student to teacher… or in her case, professor.
Professor Isabella Masen. Quite catchy, if you asked me.
"I had an idea, actually," she responded, shifting Audrey in her arms.
Her cheeks filled with color, causing me to grin. "Which is?"
"Here, take her for a sec."
She handed me Audrey and turned to dig through the black bag she'd brought with her.
"This is something I've been working on with one of the art students." She gave me a colorful book. "It's probably horrible, but…"
"A children's book?" I asked in complete shock. After all this time, she still managed to catch me off guard and surprise me completely. "You wrote a children's book?"
Her blush deepened. "Yeah, I mean, I still want to teach, but when I have an idea… I thought I could at least try to write it out."
I skimmed over the story, flipping through the pages feverishly. Even though she never said the words, it was all about how Ellie came into our lives. "Bella, this is incredible."
She bit down on her lip while simultaneously smiling. "You're not just saying that?"
"I'm not just saying that," I confirmed. "It's really good."
"Oh, well, okay then."
"Come here, you." I cupped her face and kissed her once, feeling more pride swell inside me than I'd thought I would. "Congratulations, baby. You did it."
She giggled against my lips, opening her gorgeous brown eyes to stare up at me. "I did it. And it's all because of you."
"You'd have done it without me."
"No, I wouldn't have. I'd have stopped when I graduated from USC. I didn't have the money… or the will. You gave me this, Edward. So thank you."
I waved her off. She already knew how important she was to me, no need to reiterate it further. "Shall we eat?" I asked, glancing down at Audrey.
"We eat!" she repeated, clapping her hands.
"You heard her, love. We eat," I said with a chuckle.
"The boss has spoken. Let's go." Bella reached out for Ellie and kissed the tip of her nose as she picked her up.
Our life was a precarious balance between chaos and bliss. It was full of squeals, laughter, and tears. We never stopped; we barely slept. It'd taken us years to finally get here, to be genuinely happy. To be a family.
And it was exactly as I'd always hoped it would be.
Thank you to everyone who've ever read (even those who flounced) and to my amazing beta, Stratan. This fic has huge meaning for me. It was the fic that brought the beta dude to me. It was the fic that gave me a bit of notoriety in the fic world - which is seriously fkn weird, lol. So I'm pretty sad to see it go.
FGB2 Team: I'm still working on the rest of the auction, I swear. SN's Edward stopped talking to me. Go figure. If you compare the TMWCBM epi to the futuretakes you guys got back in July, there's a discrepancy with the time jump. When I wrote the futuretakes, I hadn't considered extending the fic at all. So the timeframe for those are from chapter 43 and not the end, as originally planned. Does this make sense? Idk, shoot me a message if I've confused you.
If you want to read said futuretakes, let me know. A $5 to ALSF will get them to you.
Smut Mondays on Twilighted... My submission posts on Monday (12/20). It's a oneshot version of an upcoming fic I'm working on, Dear Maggie. So go check it out when it posts. Hopefully, it'll have you intrigued.
Also, check out WYWG if you haven't already or hunt me down on Twitter if you want. (at) JennyB0719
Don't forget to check out the outtake thread for the Fandom For Preemies outtake. It will post tomorrow (12/15)