Epilogue to that fic you read that one time….
I awake. First time in so long I open my eyes and it's because I'm sated. Fucking rested. It takes me a minute, but I feel this relief, off my chest. Nothing expected. Nowhere to go...or prepare the guns. I scratch my jaw, rub my face and look around. I have to shave. My first task of the day. Not a bad start.
I smell her scent but she's out of bed. I don't think she knows how good she smells. Pure drug to my lungs. I roll over her pillow and take a deep whiff. Cold. I can tell she's been out of bed for hours. I push to get up and my hand knocks against the tusk. I lift her pillow. Still there. She didn't put it away.
I groan. She drives me insane. I grab the gun that is now hers, the twin in the safe. I pull the damn sheets off my legs. "Bella," I call. I clear my throat and wait.
She always answers. Her loud voice drifting through the logs that make the walls. Sometimes too loud, when she's pissed and really gets going. I admit, I push, just to see her lips turn that shade, pale, raging female tiger. It looks good on her. It keeps things interesting. Never boring. Truce when I get to bite them, full, warm. She gives in.
I run a hand through my hair. Have to cut that, too. Maybe I'll let her this time. She likes to, even if she fucked it up in the back last time. But never the top since it always ends up long anyway, smacks my hand with the scissors away. I don't get what the big deal is.
I'm about to place the gun on her bureau and go out to look for her, but no answer. A spark. It's all it takes. Worry. I hold onto the hard Ivory grip, click off the safe and rush out of the bedroom. Expecting the worst, but alert and ready, even in underwear.
The leaves bring in a breeze through the kitchen window. White curtains billow with the chime she hung by it. The wooden chair at the table is skewed. Her mug in the sink. I lift it and touch to see if it's still warm. Cold.
Living room, clean. Guest room and office, neat. I won't bother with the top floor that's a nest of plants and pillows, her attic, her nook of windows and beams with vines growing around a canopy. I pull on the wide doors to the patio instead. The dirt in the plants are still soaking up the water she pours every Sunday.
2 hours, tops.
I groan for the second time and I'm already pissed. I hate when she does this. She knows I don't like when she goes off on her own. I want to just be—normal, she says. I get it...after everything, but not without me. She does it to kill me.
I drop the gun on the island in the walk-in closet and pull on a pair of jeans. I sniff a shirt off a chaise and I think it's clean.
Third groan and this is the last one. The wooded trees are closed in around a large driveway and yard. The Aston is gone. I head back in to get the other keys. Every time. She does this to me when she gets the chance. I swear, I've made her into a speed junkie.
I fold myself behind the wheel of the Mini. Her Mini. I kept it safe knowing she'd want it back someday. I knew she was fond of it when she'd drive around the whole city trying to find me. I didn't anticipate it would be this long to get it back to her. She was happy. That smile. Those arms around the hood of the car, then me. But not happy enough. I drive off. I know where she is.
She'll give me that look. Angry, I've followed but it's done. It won't change. Not with everyone watching. People knowing. Who she is, what she's become. I wasn't expecting it. None of us were.
This quiet road through the woods leads to our home. I've never had anything of my own. But we saw it and stopped and made an offer Mrs. Jenks couldn't refuse. Cash. Done living in hotels or Azar's condo. Ours. Permanent. No running.
The older woman patted Bella's cheek when she handed over the keys, whispered her good luck. She left everything behind but her dead husband's things. Nearly a hundred years of love inside these walls, she explained. And I'm determined to keep it that way. Bella cried. It was exactly what she wanted, I knew. She'd say the word, I'd give her anything.
I zip up my jacket. Breeze picking up. I've run into cold all morning. Always seems to be that way when she's not around. I see the car parked. She's here, like every Sunday since. I take my time walking up the hill.
Flowers in her hand from the garden she planted in our yard. Every color. Makes a bunch and ties a ribbon around it.
Today is different. I lean on the big oak tree and observe before she sees me. She's not alone. I tense when I notice her tears. They endlessly trail down her face as she kneels. The wheelchair stationed in front of her. She sobs his name and he's dejected. I take a step, ready to go over and take her away. Conscious of tusk pressed against my lower back. I don't like what I see.
She found Angela long ago, now she's found Mike. Just not how she expected. She crawls over the grass of Angela's grave and towards Mike's immobile knees. She lays her head there and cries.
He shows not an ounce of emotion. Cold. His hands stay pressed at the armrests. He's not the same anymore, the bits I remember.
She runs her trembling hands over his thighs to his hands, grips them, moves to his face to cradle it. Mike tilts his head to look away. Bella's hands ball up. Like acid. His gesture making her fingers curl with hesitance, wanting to touch him with awe and apology, but they settle at her lap. She leans away on her heels and looks at him.
I can faintly hear. But it's clear as day, he's angry and blames Bella. Her head shakes and she tells him how sorry she is. That she's been looking for him. That she thought he was dead, too. Might as well be, he snaps. I clench a fist. This is bullshit. I will myself to stay put.
Bella whispers, confused. I read her lips. She says his name and please, please forgive me.
I can't anymore. I take a step and quickly someone comes to Mike's aid, grabs the handles of his wheelchair. I do the same for Bella, her arms in my hands. I pull her up off her knees and she will not beg.
She's sobbing and folding into me, trusting I'd be here, just when she needs me. Mike only stares, but his eyes deceive. Wet and breaking through that cold glass of bitterness. They move to me. "I see," he says.
I know it's coming. I wait for it. I tuck Bella close. She's done here.
"Is this what you traded us for, Bella?" he asks, "Your knight in shining armor?"
Bella shakes her head. A sad rejection from her lips, "Mike, no."
I won't hurt a wounded man. So I pull Bella away and so does the woman handling Mike's wheelchair. Two magnets who've lost their strength, falling apart.
"I'm her husband," I say calmly. "And I'll sure as fuck keep her from crying, or worrying or losing sleep wondering about you again."
Mike looks is taken aback. He seems to pale, his face grows ashen as he watches her go. He seems to want to follow but he's stuck there, jostling softly in his chair moving over grass. The flowers he brought still in his hand. Bella stares back from over our shoulders.
She won't give up. She tells me. I press her to the side of the car door for a minute to right her tears, wet lashes against my lips. We've missed our morning kiss. A familiar taste that never settles into routine. Always feels new to me.
"I'll help him," she says when the last tear is kissed away. She breathes. Just like that, she's well again. I don't know where she keeps her stash of strength hidden. Just picks it out when she needs it.
I nod. "He just needs time."
It's inevitable. Loyalty runs through her veins. To be misunderstood is her utmost grief. Bella will find him again. An antidote to his disability or not, she'll fix it.
One more squeeze and a nuzzle before we get back in our cars. Her arms in my jacket, her nose on my collar just where I like her. We just breathe in the breeze until her sniffling eases altogether. She hums. It's involuntary it seems, I've heard it before right where she is.
"Babe," she says, muffled by my shirt. "You grabbed from the dirty pile again."
I groan. I let her drive the Aston back home.
"I'm humbled to have gained your trust again. We, at Res Enterprise, cherish your partnership. Accept our first donation to your health care branches with our gratitude. I look forward to working with you. Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you greatly." Bella smiles from the podium.
Pride swells in me where I stand, watching her move around gracefully through the room. Her deep red dress a trail behind her like blood. Miles of legs I can't wait to be wrapped in. She smiles and it's radiant. She could sell me anything, I'd buy a dozen.
Men in suits and women in gowns applaud. The hall is filled with attentive ears and willing hearts. Alice's experiments have been successful and abundant.
The Berry is ripe and rejuvenated. Cleansed of all stains. It took years. But Bella's insistence never failed to fight for what her mother and mine had made.
I stand on the sidelines, but it only takes a moment. Her eyes find mine. Hair off her shoulders tonight. Those collar bones I traced so gently before we left the house, forced to, rushed right out into a car waiting outside. Her finger on my lips to settle the beast from grabbing hold, caveman, and forget the planned night.
I make my way through the room to reach her. People buzzing all around. Questions fired her way. She speaks, lips moving, but those eyes are on me. That smile is for me.
I look up for just a second. Across the room Azar nods and all is clear as it should be. He has broads on each arm. Charming fucker. Busy hands, but not eyes. He's watching, keeping guards on the straight line.
Bella hates it, but danger won't fool. Not those suspicious gleams in some eyes. Residue of what it used to be with the dead man. The blood I still feel dripping off my hands. We're watchful and not a war could permeate this army that's grown behind us. Honest jobs with freedom, wives, families and healthcare benefits no other can compete with. Just as long as they're loyal, to me, to Azar, to Bella. To what's growing.
"Sue, Mr. Clearwater, this is my husband, Edward." She holds my hand. I nod to the couple in front of me.
"All mine," the older women says. Her smile kind. "Handsome like I've imagined you'd be." She gets close and tugs on my bow tie. Bella chuckles. I squeeze her hand and it just amuses her more. These women.
They settle on chitchat about me...while I stand here. I can see how much Bella loves Sue. She's said a few things about a woman who took her under her wing in the worst of times. I'm grateful she had someone, wise, a mother even. So, I stand here and take it. The praise too close for comfort.
The music swells. I give Bella a cheeky grin. "Mr. Clearwater." I turn to him. "Will you allow your wife to dance?" I say. Bella is speechless, tilts her head. The old man shrugs and chews on a cocktail shrimp, a mound on his plate.
"Fine by me. I have an eye on the short ribs on that table. Just set her down anywhere when you're done. I'll find her." He walks away. Sue grumbles and sends him a glare. Bella's in stitches.
"Oh, you laugh. Just you wait for this one to do you the same," Sue protests. I whisk her off to the dance floor leaving Bella's loud laugh behind. "But you wouldn't, would you?" She says.
I can't respond. She has no idea. Or she does. Bella's smile gives it away. She smiles enough for two.
"Don't worry, it stays between us," Sue says with a wink. I have to laugh.
It's been a few slow steps or ten in silence, then I man up and say it. "Thank You. For looking after her."
My shoulder is smoothed with a hand, no lint there. "She was fine. Rest assured." she says. "You just continue to be her hero, her strength...her friend. It's all she needs. You'll do great." She stops when the music fades.
"I will." And kiss her hand.
Just as quickly, Bella sweeps into my arms, taking Sue's place. I pull her close, smell her neck, kiss that collar I'm pining for.
"Ok?" She whispers. Always so in tune with my feelings, the ones no one sees.
"Perfect." I twirl her until those lips turn up again. That soft skin exposed down her back. I run a hand. Find Azar over her head.
"You stay put tonight. No running off," she says.
"Yes, ma'am." I tell her ear with all the softness I can muster. She shivers, right down that spine. I watch it go and smile.
She isn't naive. Wasn't born yesterday. Knows me like a heartbeat and a flicker of an eyelid. She's never said a word, but knows the extra jobs I pick up here and there. That rough blood still runs through me. It's been running cold, itching.
Always for Bella. Anything to keep her alive. If I could, I'd build a wall tall enough around her to keep her intact. But I settle with blades and bullets the size of dragon flies. She doesn't need to know. And for reasons unknown, she let's it go. "Just as long as you come back to me every night," she said to me once. That's never an issue. "I always come", I told her. She didn't take that answer well.
"What?" She skims the fresh grin with a fingertip. I bite down on it. "Look at you. Smiling. Dancing. What are you up to?" Her eyes narrow.
"Not a thing. Unless, of course…" I attempt to pull her off the dance floor.
She punches my arm, whisper yells. "Don't you dare. People are watching. We were almost caught last time." I dip her low to shut that trap. The gleam in her smile is infectious.
"Cutting in!" Alice. Bella's shoved away towards Jasper, slipping off my fingers.
"You again." I wrap an arm around Alice's beaded dress.
"Yes, me. Your loving sister. Couldn't pass up a suave hip moving Edward. What are you up to, anyway?" she asks, same face. I sigh. What's with these women?
"I don't always have an intent."
She smiles anyway. Lots of smiles tonight. She moves too wide and won't let me lead. This is uncomfortable. "Move faster!" she tells my ear. So I stand there and let her dance around me.
I don't mind her. Never have. My sister? A bonus. Like we knew all along. She's shaken off the awkward, that's for sure. A few ignored calls and she was after me. Settling the fact. Making it right. First time I met her after that last day of...life, it was early Sunday. Bella wanted coffee before her visit. She planned the rest without me.
Tucked away at a coffee shop Alice sat and cried on my shoulder for an hour. Hands linked. Same fingers I never noticed. Knowing her hurt was the same as mine.
"This is incredible, isn't it?" She says when she makes a round. I check my watch, my six, every exit. The event to promote the Berry is in full swing. Families with cured loved ones testify to it's greatness. It is surreal.
"Hurts to know mom won't ever see what she started. And dad missing everything..."
That blood in me? Boiling now.
I leave her mid sentence. She catches my arm, strength and swift hands like a skilled killer. She slows her steps and locks her arms over my shoulders.
"Don't." I snap.
She looks into my eyes. Hers blue, that blue. The taunting, undying blues that will torture me until I die.
And she calls him dad.
"I've never noticed how much you look like him. Especially tonight." Her face is crumbled with sadness, like I've put a bullet through her instead of him.
If I speak I'll hurt her. Sealed lips. Clenched fists stuffed in my pockets, or they'll do something.
"He asks about you. When will you let it go?"
I pull away from her and cross the room, Bella in tow, always in tune.
"You will not go."
"End of story. Period. Done. No more."
I pull my hair.
Azar is leaning on the wall watching this shit show but doesn't do a thing. I look at him. His eyes avert mine. Coward.
He's ready to go. A plane fueled somewhere. Guns packed. Bags sitting beside the door. I packed light. Just a few rifles, glocks and the vest, clothes on my back. All I need.
"Emmett is fucked. Jasper is all we have left. It's not enough. We need more men."
"Fine. I'll get my things."
"Absolutely not!" she starts. Wide eyes.
And fuck I hate that. I try to breathe. Her bag in those small hands. All she has left. It breaks me. She needs more than this. A safe place. Her things. Our things. Where they're supposed to be, not living off scrum.
Three weeks after D-day and we're living in a hotel. Night runs to the nearby store to buy her clothes, anything she needs. We had nowhere to go. But I tell you, the feeling. All of it over. Her sweet skin on me, rolling in sheets for weeks. All mine.
"I'll take you back to Alice, you'll stay with her."
I keep calm. "You'll stay with her until I'm back. I'll come get you."
And, Jesus, she's yelling. The 'How could you?' and the threat of burning my phone if she knew I was planning this.
I near the bed and she's on the other side still going. I offer a hand. She usually just reaches. Takes it. And I make it right. I know my stubbornness and everything that goes with it. But hers... Hers doesn't compare.
"It's done. Come. We have to leave."
"Oh, so you want to be a hero, is that it? You need it? You have to pull the trigger?" she asks and anger begins to burn in me.
"We planned this. Go to Japan. Get rid of evidence. Get out. Isn't that what you wanted?"
"Yes, of course how could I forget? I wanted this to get even more complicated! I wanted to risk your life, mine, everyone's all over again, because a fucking war wasn't enough! I told you, it isn't worth it!"
"What do you want from me? Tell me! What do you want?" I roar.
"Go! Get killed, get everyone killed while you're at it and let's be done with this shit!"
Crash. "I have to kill them all! Every fucking last one!" A bang on my chest. Fire in my lungs. Vision red.
The silence is sobering. Blood boiling turns cold. Because those eyes, God, those eyes. Swimming pairs, wide and scared, spilling over. She takes a step back, away from the wall I aimed for. Shards of glass beneath her. That cup she sipped from all night. Those lips. Trembling now.
The door clicks. Azar slips out as Bella slips to the floor.
A cry so broken from her. Tears streaming where she holds her ears shut. Fear of me.
I stare at my hands. Shaking. And these lungs can't take in air fast enough. I step out of myself and I'm watching—the monster inside taking charge.
My resolve. Knees caving on this hotel room carpet. I'm gulping for air. Bella cries and cries and I've done this. We're lost, aimless. Homeless. And this thing in me is not sated. So much anger. Fired up still...for weeks.
Hours go by. My Bella cries. And every sound tears me apart. Sinking and sinking in with every word that came out of this mouth.
"You..." She sighs, catches her breath in a cry. Her warmth thaws me, even when she's far. "You are not well. You haven't healed. There is no way…no way, not like this."
Nothing else I can say. So I stand. March right up and pick her off the shards of glass where she should never be. Pull her in, on this bed we made love on. She crawls over me for dear life. A palm wiping away at tears on my face I didn't feel coming.
I've got nothing else, but I have this. This I won't fuck with. I've learned my lesson.
Metal jingles. A thump on the bed. I look up and this guy. Azar stands at the door, pissed.
"Keys to the condo. All yours 'till you get back up. Cook something, rest up for once. I don't want to hear you two like this again." A glare. So final. Decision made. He leaves. Mission over.
Not even a protest from me. They'll go. They'll conquer. And I'll be here, fighting with this conscience that's relentless. These memories of me, a father, a mother, hair the color of fire I see through a mirror. Blood lines cut as long as I live, I swear it.
She said not well—she knows me.
Pull on strings, collars. Clothes slip off. Mouths collide to get there. We've arrived to this luxury. Not a hotel but a home. Eyes still blotchy red and dry. Everything we had to give. Making up for it now. A balm for the laments. This bed of comfort we'll break in. All surfaces—my goal. She moans. Those sounds. Right in me. I pin her here, not leaving me, not leaving her. We fight hard but we love harder. These lips, this figure, I love her until the regretful words melt away. I pull her legs apart to let me in. She widens, never holds back from me. Every move, every sound.
I look at her and I know. I know it. I'll put one in there one day. Her soft trim belly expanded, that glow, I want to see it. I want everything with her. All of it. I hold on to her there and watch those abs flex, taking me in. All in. Yeah. One day, or now. I move deeper, buried in, watching us make one. Fuck, we're good at making one. Sweat beading, between and under those soft mounds that'll nurture, perfect in my hands. For now, mine to lick off heat, bite until her eyes flutter.
That's how I want one—her eye color, her kindness, her fierceness reproduced like a mirror. Not so much of me I hope, but her. All her. One day.
We do, we rest. A stocked kitchen and full stomachs, sated. Maybe this anger in me, too. She soothes it away with her hands, her words, under the spray of a shower or pressed on the couch to one another. She tells me. Let it go. I don't think I can. I don't think I ever will. I try though. But when days pass, we're still in this place, she sees messages left unanswered on my phone and returns them, I know I need to work on it more—that anger in me.
She should've burned the phone.
She calls Alice, asks her questions. There are answers I don't want to know, but I read them on her face anyway. The sigh of relief she takes in. That hope. Her eyes a gleam finding me, trying hard not to say the words, scream them.
Carlisle is alive.
So many signatures. Bella's, mine, Alice's...and our father's. They've already got his hancock privately at the lab yesterday. Too weak to move around. I try not to think about it when my signature goes under his. Edward Anthony Masen, illegitimate son of Carlisle Anthony Cullen. I didn't know we share a middle name—it ends there. I observe the loops of ink he made. He tried hard. A simple loop of a 'C' wasn't easy. I push the papers towards Bella.
I watch the lawyer watching her silently. He's probably no more than my age. His combed back cow lick, must've taken him hours. Our eyes meet, he clears his throat, looks away quickly. Can't blame the stiff fucker. She is a sight to see. Decent guy, I'll give him a break.
I look around. This massive office in all windows. I'd like Bella's to be the same, but better, more room, more gadgets, her personal elevator.
All security plans on these blueprints in front of me are mine. I've designed an indestructible system. Everything the way I want it to be for Bella safely walking in and out of work every day.
Constructing a tower for the Res, the Berry, is a lot of work, time and money. Three things we have a lot of. The future is now. Who knew daddy's money' was more than we were aware of. Alice hates when I call it that. But the first signature on these papers is his anyway, not ours. This is his gig. We're partnering. Bella's name goes second as co-owner. She's set everything up.
This new woman at my side I'm still learning from. Confident and powerful in this business. She's learned things while we were apart. Bargaining like an expert. Asking questions we never thought of. Intimidating men in suits with contracts. I can barely recognize her sometimes. A boss. My boss.
She signs her name. Her thin digits on paper after paper...and that's when Alice notices.
"Isabella Marie Masen." She reads it out loud. One look. One flicker of light from the fluorescent bulbs that catch that ring and it confirms it. Practically yanks Bella's arm off her socket. She sees what she never quite noticed among the other metal on her fingers. My Bella, always looking like a biker in leather and heels. Today is a dress and naked hands but my ring. She can pull off any look, doesn't matter, I pull it off after.
The lawyer looks somber. Alice looks angry. Her mouth hangs staring at me. Something could fly in it but I'm not going to argue. I grab the blueprints and make more notes, ignoring her fit. Bella winces.
We didn't think of telling anyone. This marriage is Bella and I, not a crowd. It never occurred to us. So naturally ours. Just surprised anyone figured it out at all. It has been over two years.
My ring is a tattoo. Nothing to obstruct the ability to use these quick hands. Every moment counts along with every pulled trigger. Bella wants one now. But the thought of having that alabaster skin permanently inked doesn't sit well. I drew one once on an insomniac night just to see, licked it off before she'd wake up and get any ideas. Not yet.
Papers signed, we're the new owners of land in the metropolitan area. A lot of it. Too much for us to comprehend. Building starts tomorrow. Just like that. Azar helps plenty. Any help we need, he gives it abundantly. Construction permits, workers and paychecks, he deals with it all. The crook turned to a business man. Who knew?
We leave the lawyer with deal sealing handshakes, mine a bit rougher than our greeting so he'll remember me. A furious Alice in tow. She doesn't talk to me for a month. Most peaceful one I've had all year.
My leg is tackled. My knee buckles slightly with the soft blow.
I look down in time to see a jabbering little chubby person. Lands on his behind, legs over his head, he rolls around like a drunk person. He squeaks something I can't understand and manages to roll to his knees and onto his feet. Off he goes again.
I look up. No one is watching him. "Damnit." The little drunk is headed towards the woods. A large head at that. A deranged, rabid, overalls wearing chucky with golden hair.
Begrudgingly I chase after. "Hey!"
He starts. He looks back. But it's like I've challenged him. It only gets him excited, tag you're it and he's flying. The little fucker.
Right, left, it takes two tries. Behind a tree. Under a bush. I snatch him up by the shirt when he tries to get pudgy legs over a tree root. "Nice try." A deafening squeak in response. He laughs where he's suspended, superman style, as I carry his ass back over.
"Like that?" If the kid could answer he'd say faster. So I humor him a little. I pick up the speed, bounce him for good measure. He soars.
I swing him up and over. He's airborne for a second. Rosalie gasps but he laughs. Her arms reaching, ready to catch him. As if I'd drop him. "Relax." I scoff. I give him one good look before I hand him over.
"Next time execute your escape plan better or I'll hang you from a tree branch. You got that?" He just licks the oozing mucus off his top lip, shows me his teeth. I make a face and he pinches it with wet fingers. "Jesus. Here...just...take him."
Rose grins. She glows. If I'd known she was carrying when we went for Bella a couple of years ago, I wouldn't have let her go. The plane, the chase, the crash. I wince thinking of what could've been. Emmett was first choice all along.
"Emory, say, 'Thank you, Uncle Edward'."
Huh. We just met and I don't know how I feel about that title. Rose grins viciously at my narrowed eyes. She's still the same pain in my ass. Bella and I haven't been around for long, but Rose picks up right where she left off.
But this kid, splitting image of his old man, dimples, smile—unnerving. He claps his hands in delight. "Unc Ewar." He tries. And shit. Rose laughs when I walk away scratching my head. Because that...that right there felt like something.
Bella is watching and I slow mid stride wondering what her fidgeting is all about. Her wringing hands, foggy eyes and longing smile. I walk right up to that and go for the latter. Kisses I can't live without. "What?" I enquire about the look.
She sighs. "Nothing."
"One hour. Tops." I remind her. She rolls her eyes.
After almost two years we come back. The field empty of soldiers in black or jeeps or helicopters. The lab is sealed with new windows. A clear view of everything inside. But I'm not going near it.
We're here for business, not pleasantries. At least for me it isn't. Bella's all traitorous smiles and fruit salads, and flowers on her dress.
It's a picnic. Alice organized the lawn chairs I didn't know we even owned. Tables with checkered print runners. So predictable. When have we ever been festive at the lab? I look at Bella, she's setting forks and knives on napkins and laughs about something. And I know, it's because of her. She's changed everything in our household of killers and mentally ill. We've been humanized. Steak and burgers and ice in our drinks. It's what people do on a 4th of July, I guess. I wouldn't know, I've never experienced this. Family.
A slap on my back. "Hanging in there?" Jasper.
"No nets." I motion beneath me. He chuckles at the dryness.
He's come out of his shell. Fitting well in this mental club we have going on, but he seems to be living, breathing, moving on. I'm glad.
"Just...don't stand outside looking in for too long. It keeps you both away," he says. We watch how happy Bella is. She fills a plate full for Charlie. Even he's here for the visit, strong and walking and working again. Everyone is fine. I've done this to myself.
"How's he doing?" I change the subject, nodding towards Emmett. He makes his way back to the group after fetching the aimless drunk again. That limp in Emmett's gate is slight, but I can tell. He's not the same but still a fighting beast. Scars and all, he looks like a psychotic killer. It's always been a good look on him. Difference is in that one gentle hand for his son.
Jasper sighs. "Rod in his spine is the worst of his problems. But he never makes it an issue. Everything else, semantics." We watch him swinging Emory off his shoulders, Rose freaking out, Emmett brushing her off. "He's...a dad now." Jasper finishes.
We both have a long good chuckle at that. Never in a million years...
"How's the marriage?" Left field. I don't bother to look at him when he asks. Observant fucker as always.
"First year's always the hardest. When's yours?" I give it right back.
"Asking today as a matter of fact. I know she'd want everyone here," he says. I nod.
We stand and watch the scenery for a beat. He's not moving. I know why. He wants someone's blessing, a green light, a thumbs up—anything. No one around to approve but the long lost brother. So I rock on my heels, scratch my chin and take my time answering. I let him suffer a little.
"So, I owe you the speech." I finally say after awkward silence. He stiffens.
"Fuck you." He walks away red. I laugh.
I follow and walk right into Emmett's stiff embrace. He pounds my back, I hold back. "My brother," he mutters. He stands back and scrutinizes me for a beat. "So tell me. New ink. Thought you'd never get another." He nods to the tatt on my finger. "How long has it been?" He glances over at Bella.
I grin. "A while." He nods.
"Proud of you. Always thought you'd end up a lonely brooding bastard."
I shake my head enough. "Well, that last part's still intact." He gives me a smirk.
"You're never going to talk to him, are you?" he asks. I don't answer. He nods. "That's fine. As long as you keep coming. Certainly is a shame not seeing this pretty face." I flinch away from his hand on my cheek. "So pretty," he whispers close like a sick fuck.
"I see the blow didn't straighten that skull back in place." He laughs and chews on a chicken wing. No sooner do I see him grabbing Bella from behind, congratulating her with a peck on her cheek. She still stiffens in his presence. She never did tell me everything he did to her. Doesn't matter, I got in a good hit the day I found out he left her alone in the woods.
She looks for me and tries to smile as much as she can when Emmett's around. She motions for me to sit by her. We eat. That's the end of chatter.
The plans for the Berry are unclear. What do we do? Where do we go from here? But most crucially, where's the key I misplaced?
Alice and Jasper reveal a relief for everyone. They wait for Charlie to speak. He sheepishly tells the story of revoking the evidence as lost property. After trials and paperwork, the key made it's way into Alice's hands. Still, no one knew the significance, which only made it easy. A pill doesn't seem like much but the world to Bella. Just like that, it was taken from the mouth of the enemy.
Everyone is animated, talking, retelling memories, shooting ideas. The Res formulates. In honor of Renee and Esme, Bella says. No argument there. Charlie goes quiet at the mention of his wife's name. Alice wipes away a stray tear and offers more drinks. The Res fits. No Phoenix to stain the memory.
Everything is hashed out. The department has our back one hundred percent as Charlie says. A donation to get this going. He lays an envelop on the table with a check but we know its written in his name. And it feels real. Possible. We all look at that crisp white paper and agree it's what needs to happen. Never let it die along with our mothers. Bella would never allow it.
At the end of it all, I feel a new purpose in my life besides a gun in each hand. A new mission to uphold. For Bella, for me, for all of us. But for now, this one, currently on my lap. I look down and it's occupied. Emory is sound asleep and sweaty. Roamed under the table, between legs and chairs until he found me. The infatuation in his eyes, the memory of superman. I don't know how it happened, but I don't mind it much. He looks different when he's unconscious. Can't blame him for dozing with Bella's hand on his curly hair.
I ignore the silent stares as conversion settles. Emmett's wink, the women's odd looks. Maddening. But I see Charlie watching, too. Then I realize…maybe he knows about us getting hitched. I wasn't going to ask for his approval. He knows it. I catch his eye and his mustache twitches. He grins anyway. Guess people do change...or deeply regret.
I give Jasper a hard look to help me out here. The attention shifts. Alice screeches and tackles the poor man. Stupid grins on everyone's faces, watching the bright new ring on her finger.
"This is what happy feels like, doesn't it?" Bella whispers. I nod because I know what she means.
I lift the warm deadweight. Emory curls up. I follow Rosalie to her quarters. And my stomach and all the food with it knots. Because everything you tell yourself you'd never do seems to find a place in your agenda. The kid's bed is in the lab, not on grass where I'd like to leave him.
In that instant, I feel it before it happens. The windows so clear. The evening cloaking us enough to set shadows on a wheelchair. He watches. Has been watching. Will always watch until the day he ceases to blink. I'm glued to those eyes. Nothing like mine. Calm expression over his features like I've never seen him. He nods once. Just that notion and I feel it in every vein connected that were made from his.
I look away. Let the anger wrap around me like a familiar blanket. I hug the kid close to keep from breaking through the window, ruining this perfect day. The boy is the weakening kryptonite to the rage inside me.
It's the last time I lay eyes on Carlisle Cullen.
They love her. Not like I do but the smiles, the looks, the respect they have for her. Bella takes it in stride.
It is four months after Aro's death. Phoenix Inc is in shambles. Employees were left jobless. No army.
Scientists greeted Bella with gratefulness and relief. They said, "Ms. Phoenix," with awe and a handshake, a heroine to their worry. The building desolate but the lab Aro created intact. The supplies and experiments in glass cases with locks. And she said, "No, no...Swan. Bella Swan." And that smile so gentle. She watched Alice move around, taking inventory of what was left months after. Her hands slid over glass cabinets, they unlocked what she pointed. The clacks of her heels on cement floors were the only sounds to this room of nervous workers who've remained.
Hours passed and I'm still standing here, gun in hand watching, keeping the exits occupied just in case.
That one, looking right at me, he's short and looks harmless in a lab coat. Creepy stare but I try to ignore him. The grip of the gun shifting in my palm. Bella insisted we wouldn't need it but coming into the enemies territory metal naked isn't an option. I show him the barrel under my folded arms just to get him to back off. He does with wide eyes.
"All of it," Bella sweeps her hand over files with surnames and first names. "I want it reported. Send them to the station to get their families compensated with the accounts left." The older man of the group of scientists nods.
"They've already been discharged," he nervously says. Seems no one here agreed with Aro on human experiments.
"Good." Bella approaches Alice and they peer into a room with more expensive equipment.
Azar takes a step behind them. Jasper already in the room with Alice. They found the Berry.
"You...hosted the second key." I look for the voice. Wide eyes spoke. "Didn't you?" he asks. I shift uncomfortably when the others hear. They all turn to me.
"It was you..." Another scientist says adjusting his frames over his nose. I don't respond.
"I knew Carlisle would hide it well. He's brilliant," says another with a dorkish wonder in his eyes. They're all young. A silent one wears tattoos, his look contradictory to what scientists are labeled as. They're all smart and able to make a nuclear bomb if you asked. I wonder if they'd be of great use to us.
"So, you're the son," the inked one speaks up with a sly smirk.
"Right now, I'm the one with the gun," I respond. He shows his hands but isn't threatened, that grin still plastered.
"It was orange, wasn't it? The pill." The frame pusher asks. I sigh. "I knew it." He smiles. "Ms. Swan's was red. Carlisle sure has a sense of humor." I don't know what he means.
He notices my questioning glare. "Apples and oranges," he explains. "Opposites but still made from the same..." He stops talking, goes red. I follow his hand when he motions between Bella and I. I wonder if Carlisle would even bother with such a meaning—though it would be so like him. I just get angry.
"You're a neanderthal," Tattoo argues. "It's not what it means. It's nothing. He probably only wanted to tell them apart."
This other one shrugs and pushes on his glasses again. "I'd like to think so."
Azar walks out and I'm glad for the distraction. He lifts a finger and beckons Glasses. "You. Bring a capsule."
The scientists snicker as their co-worker nervously goes. The Berry is stored in a cooler like they're going on a picnic. Bella files out with Alice in tow, one key gained, in her hands.
I catch Bella's arm. She looks up. I shift my eyes to the scientists and look back at her. "Would be a waste. Don't you think?" They all watch, patiently waiting for something. The older man wringing his hands with anticipation.
"You, of all people, who never trusts…" She tilts her head. I know. I don't answer her—but what do we do? Just leave them here with all the knowledge they've grown to know about the stem?
I shake my head. "Advantage. They've given us a head start." She looks back. Done with all that's connected to Phoenix, she never thought beyond getting back what is hers.
She turns to me. "I give you one week. They are to be questioned with revised credentials. If there's even an ounce of loyalty still connected to Aro, show them the door with a signed exit contract. I want them perfect." Damn. I stare at her and Yes, ma'am. I give her arm back.
But I wouldn't have predicted that cut-to five years later Glasses and Tattoos would still be with us. Pete and Randall are the lab rats Alice needed. It's what she calls them. And they do what she orders with quickness...and a bit of fear.
Today I drive into the new Res building in the jag. A spot with my name on it. Alice's coupe to my right. They've been working through the night as a new spike in sales has developed. Now there's more work than time after the event last week, the night I met Mrs. Clearwater. Her words still working in my brain.
The spike has left me with less of Bella for a couple of nights this week. I don't like it. But I've been busy, too. A meeting with Azar's team in an hour. Distributing needs to expand. More labs to develop, more factories to buy and manage. All meaning, more security to uphold.
Bella has her challenges, I have mine. I don't tell her about them, but the jobs haven't ended. The greed is too strong. But I kill, I use these guns, loaded and ready. It ain't always good business transactions. Thieves try to outsmart. But not with Emmett in line. Not with me, Jasper or Azar's men.
Anything to keep Bella alive.
I punch the code in, scan my prints and the doors open. The elevator quickly climbs with her choice of music playing through it. Not a sound when it arrives. I walk through. The living room, the bedroom, through the foyer and conference room. Monitors lining the walls leading to her office. I give everything a once over—all neat and working fine.
I find her and she's beautiful. I stay at the threshold and watch her in a sharp shouldered, deep red dress. It's her favorite color. Says it's because of me.
She's grown to become this woman. Such power, such grace. How everything gravitates towards her. Gentle hands working things, building a strong business. Her firm behavior, creating such a world for all of us. Like she's been reprogrammed to do it all with such finesse. I'm awed everyday. And she's mine.
There are people around her. Assistants sweeping in and out. She talks to a group sitting along the conference table, watching her sell it. Kill it. Her questions flowing pleasantly.
Though, I catch that motion on a pause, brows knit, she swallows, looks back up and smiles again. She stands and dismisses them with handshakes. Lauren files them out the side door to the hall, more paperwork to file. New partners.
I walk up to her desk slowly, quietly. Guess she hasn't seen me yet. I like to watch her. When she thinks no one is, you can read her mind with expressions alone. It's fascinating.
She brings a hand to her lips, the other to her middle like she's thinking hard on something. "Baby..."
"What?" She shrieks with a start. She grabs her throat. I grab that face and kiss it. "I'm gonna have to sew some bells in your suits, Jesus," she says when my lips pop off. She stands and wraps those arms around my neck. I'm home.
"You're sleeping with me tonight, no questions asked." I tuck into her slender neck.
"Yes, sir." She bites my scar, smoothes a hand over my suit jacket, sneaks inside, warms me right up. "You cooking?" I catch those crazy talking lips.
"Take out then?" I ask. She laughs.
Lauren barges in and turns on her heels with a red cheeked apology. "She has a crush on you." Bella whispers.
"And you don't?" She twists her lips thinking, twirling that finger over my earlobe.
"Hm, meh." A shrug.
I grunt, running a palm over her, towards heat. She bites her lip and I feel those hips widening for me. "Guess no eating in bed tonight," I mutter. She pouts. I bite that lip for her.
Then she pushes me. Her face contorted, staring at me. Horrified, sort of. Brows knit again like I've bitten too hard. "What?" I check for blood.
Next thing I know I'm looking at her, ass up, face in trash bin, heaving her breakfast.
At the door, a knock. Her next meeting steps in. Lauren tilts her head to see my hand rubbing Bella's back. She hurries around the table to look. Bella pops up just as quick. Her heels I had so much plans with tonight, scrape over the wooden floors as she slips them off. She wipes her lips and smiles. Glistening forehead, a flick of her hair to straighten it, her lip-stain faded.
"Bella..." I begin to ask her what's wrong. She grabs my hand where she sits and smiles big.
"This is my husband Edward. Head of distributions. You'll be hearing a lot from him," she tells both gentlemen settled into seats. "Thanks, hun." She dismisses me.
Hun. Well she's never called me that before. Her hands are shaking where she grabs folders Lauren drops on her desk, who discreetly grabs the bin and takes it away.
Dejected, I walk away towards where I came from. Nod to men in suits I'll be hearing from. They watch every move. Their eyes curious, knuckles white on briefcases as they watch me straighten my suit and cuff links. Guess they caught a glimpse of loaded chrome.
Bella speaks and her voice, like something's up. I turn and look before I head out. Her eyes flicker like they do from under those lashes, so long. She's nervous with a fidget and a palm under her chin like she gives up. You caught me. She smiles small, that one she saves only for me. We stare, a silent talk.
Lauren freezes, pushing coffee in a cart for the guest, watching between us. She hides a smile. And I realize...
I feel my heart stop.
Bella straightens in her chair at my advance. "Umm..." She looks over at the awaiting guests and back at me, eyes wide. Her hand already coming up.
I grab it, swing her chair around. "Seriously?"
"Bella tell me."
She waves a hand. Rolls her eyes. "Surprise is ruined. Was going to tell you tonight." She nervously laughs. Her smile falls as she looks at me. Her hands rush to cup my face, to hold me together.
I grow light headed. Because my job keeping this woman safe has just doubled.
She tells me to breathe because I can't.
It's Sunday morning. Bella has stopped going to the cemetery. Not all together but slowly she's found a way to cope. Sent off a prayer in hopes Angela could hear her forgiveness from where she is. It's a slow and tedious process. To accept.
I would know this.
We both had to accept growing up without a mother. Figuring out how to fit in the norm of life. How to learn and do things on our own. How to find strength in someone else for advice. The tenderness that you can't get from anyone else but a mother. The guide. The unconditional love.
I definitely would know this. Bella's unconditional love for me. All my trials and fuck ups, she's been there, fixed them. We've fixed one another. Till death parts us.
One thing I couldn't have possibly fucked up has the moon and stars in those eyes looking up. The soft rolls of skin.
The phone rings. Bella moves like a breeze through the house I don't even bother getting up from the table, it's never for me anyway. Her hands deep in dough, trying, I guess, to make that pie she swore she'd get it right. Another year, another 4th of July to celebrate. More lawn chairs and plaid table covers. Still feels off if you ask me.
Bella talks at the kitchen island but the gurgling by my feet is louder. The constant sounds I can't get enough of. I reach down, listening to an over stuffed mouth chewing, not who's on the other line. I can't eavesdrop. I pull a cracker out with the smallest finger I have. Soft slush settling on my dinner plate where I clean my finger off. I don't mind the slush and mess. Not from her.
Dark thin strands of hair covering a perfectly round head. Eyes like mine. Stubbornness and quickness like her mothers, can't deny that. She sits in the car seat because god forbid she'd plant that ruffle clad tosh anywhere else. She works on the other half of the cracker because it's going down whether I like it or not. She hums and wiggles those legs and toes. Balls of fists working, brows puckering and eyes on me. Always on me.
What will I do when she grows the size of Bella? Those curves. That air that calls for attention. I sigh. I take a bite of food. A bite for her, four for me. We chew simultaneously. Her's is sloppy.
Bella says I worry too much. Fuck it, I say it's being thorough. The little gum drop has changed everything. She chews me up, she spits me out—I'm that kind of a sucker now.
The feeling is terrifying. So overwhelming. Takes over you like an avalanche and buries you in this love that suffocates. Hasn't been easy keeping them both safe. My life expectancy has been cut in half, I think. A few gray hairs at my temples kind of stress. But I've accepted the mission. Guards at each entrance where we are, at all times. Bella scoffs. I tell her nothing. She has enough in her hands...with this one, with me, the Res.
I look up at noise. Bella's crying. She's in half over that stone counter, buried face in hands. I haven't seen her cry in so long. Not when everything's been perfect. Jarring to watch her. I can't move, go to her. Not a muscle.
Her shoulders weep with motion, the deep aching cry I've only witnessed when she learned about her father's betrayal and hurt. Back then, when she cried in my old room in the Lab's basement while I stood in that dark pool listening. I remember it was that kind of cry. It breaks me.
Alice's name is wept through her lips so sadly, the beginnings of many condolences for a lost father—Alice's and mine, but Carlisle grew to be Bella's also.
It's always a phone call that tears your life apart. I know this now. I can feel it settling in—the rest of life wondering, remembering. Feeling like shit.
There's this heaviness that spreads through the room like smoke from a growing fire. It started with a spark. That phone. It slips off Bella's hand. And this frozen spine of mine keeps still.
I know...I know it. Not a word has to be uttered when her wet eyes find me. It's enough to confirm the premonition. When I woke this morning I knew something would happen. The smiles I wake up to, two sets of plump pink lips weren't enough to keep the fog from lifting. This silence throughout the day or through me. I had this feeling. Not even Bella's kisses could take it away.
I look down at my daughter, her smile intact and unruined. Her hands as small as my fingers, running through the Ivory ribbons and ruffles on her dress. My gaze lost in those rolls of soft skin in wonder. Because I'd die, too. If this kid left me, disowned me like I have my father, I'd die like he has. Just when I was considering it, finding the courage to go along on those regular visits with her grandfather, he's gone for good. I can't find an ounce of relief I get from vengeance. That satisfaction when I pull a trigger. All that's left is Bella's arms, my kid's scent where I bury my sorrow in her neck and this—regret.
What a fool I've been.
•—•—•—•—•—•— The Actual End—•—•—•—•—•—•
A/N ...And what an amazing group of readers and reviewers you've all become. Thank you! It's over! I will hit that 'complete' button now. I don't want to because I want to write about these characters forever but I can't have it all. I'll let them live and rest and heal.
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