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.
A/N: This is the last chapter of this story. I hope you have enjoyed reading it, because I have definitely enjoyed writing it.
Thank you to everyone who has reviewed or recommended this story - I appreciate your kind words and support.
Thank you to my readers for giving this pairing a chance.
Thank you to my wonderful betas, erikasbuddy and onepushyfox. Be sure to check out their FFn profiles and read their wonderful stories.
Last but not least, thank you to jadedandboring, who showed me that a multi-chapter story doesn't have to be 70 chapters or 500K words long to be good. If you haven't read her story, The Kübler Ross Model, add it your list. It is WONDERFUL:
http://www . fanfiction . net/s/5425315/1/The_Kubler_Ross_Model
P.S. Read the A/N at the end.
Follow the lady, go far.
Follow the lady, go far.
I'm far from letting go, letting go.
Lady, how's the ending go?
Follow the lady, go far.
~ "Follow the Lady" Carbon Leaf
http://www . imeem . com/people/EybzBYN/music/h1gz0Z-4/carbon-leaf-follow-the-lady/
Alice looked around the dark room. Several feet away from her, a man hovered over a woman in a hospital bed. The woman was holding a tiny baby wrapped in a pink blanket. They weren't her and Charlie; she didn't know who they were. When she walked toward them, she slammed into a clear wall, maybe Plexiglas. The couple didn't look up at the thud made by her collision.
"Baby," the woman said soothingly, "are you ready to see everyone?"
The man chuckled and brushed her curly, honey blond hair from her face. "I should be asking you that question. I'm not the one who just gave birth."
Just then, a man, his hair a mixture of gray and the same honey blond as the woman, poked his head through the door. His glasses were perched on his nose, and Alice smiled as she realized she knew him. It was Jasper.
"Hey, kids," Jasper whispered, "everyone's here and chomping at the bit to see our girl. When can they come in?"
"Can you give us just a couple of minutes, Dad?" the woman asked.
"Sure thing, sweetheart. Just let us know." Jasper waved to the man standing over his daughter and left the room.
"Oh, my God," Alice whispered to herself, "is that little Megan?"
Jasper's daughter scooted over, patting the bed next to her. The man, obviously her husband, climbed into the bed and wrapped his arm around her. She rested her head on his shoulder, and he tenderly stroked their baby's cheek.
"I love you, Meggie," he whispered.
"I love you, too, Joshua."
Alice gasped. Joshua...her son...the husband of Jasper's daughter Megan...the father of a newborn girl.
Tears running down her face and her hand clasped over her mouth, Alice examined her son closely. His hair was deep brown, like his father's, and wild, like his uncle's. His face was beautiful and friendly, just like his sister's. Alice wondered if he was anything like her at all until he opened his sparkling violet eyes.
"I'm so sorry," Joshua said mournfully. "I just didn't expect it to hit me so hard."
Megan tilted her head to look at him, and the love in her gaze made Alice sigh. "I know, baby, and I understand. I miss him, too. But it's bound to be hard for your mom and your brothers and sisters as well."
"If I'd just..."
She grabbed his chin and forced him to look her square in the eye. "No, Josh, don't do this. You couldn't have changed things. His heart was too damaged, probably starting in his mid-forties."
A quiet sob left his lips. "I just wanted Dad to be here, you know?"
"No!" Alice screamed, pounding her fists against the barrier. Sobbing, she continued to beat the Plexiglas until her blood smeared across it. No matter how loud her cries, Megan and Joshua continued to hold each other and stare at the bundle in their arms.
Suddenly, a pair of strong hands grabbed her shoulders and shook her hard.
"Ally, baby, wake up! You're having a bad dream!"
Gasping, Alice shook her head vigorously from side to side, her eyes clamped shut. Finally, her breathing calmed, and she opened her eyes. Looking around, she could see she was lying in a hospital bed, surrounded by flowers, balloons, and stuffed toys. A bassinet was at the foot of the bed, and Charlie was standing over her, his face marred with worry.
"Charlie, oh God, Charlie," Alice wailed, pulling him until he fell on top of her. When she winced and groaned in pain, he scrambled back to his feet.
"Damn, baby, I know I'm irresistible," he joked, "but I don't think the doctor would appreciate you taking advantage of me twelve hours after a C-section." His face lit up with his smile, and his bellowing laugh filled the room.
Wiping the sleep from her eyes, Alice suddenly felt embarrassed. "I'm sorry. I don't know what got into me." Sitting up straight, she noticed the bassinet was empty. "Where's Joshua?"
"He's in the nursery." Charlie patted her arm when she frowned. "Don't worry. He was a little restless, and we just wanted you to get some sleep. Edward's standing guard, ready to bring him back once you were awake."
"Call him please?" Alice made room in the bed for Charlie and motioned him to sit.
The hospital bed would be a tight fit for any other couple, but it seemed to be made for them. Once he talked to the nurse, Charlie climbed in beside her, wrapping his arm around her shoulder. Alice sighed as he brushed her hair from her face and, cupping her cheek with his hand and leaning forward, pressed his lips to hers. No matter what else happened, they always had this, their enduring love that made the entire world disappear, leaving only the two...now the three...of them. As the kiss deepened and they clung to each other tightly, Alice wondered how she'd survive when their time was only a memory.
A throat cleared across the room. "Why do I always end up wanting to bleach my brain around you two?"
Feeling like a caught little girl, Alice giggled and watched as Edward wheeled a small cart into the room. She could see the tiny blue bundle wriggling in the clear, plastic excuse for a bassinet. Squirming and holding her arms out expectantly, she could barely contain herself as Edward lifted the bundle and placed it in her waiting arms.
Lying in her husband's arms as they gazed at their son, Alice struggled to hold back her tears. Joshua was perfect. His slightly red cheeks and tiny little nose begged for caressing touches, and she and Charlie gave light, tentative brushes. Charlie pulled back the blanket to reveal soft, dark brown fuzz on the baby's head. When Charlie bent down to gently kiss Joshua's forehead, Alice lost her battle, and fat tears rolled down her face.
All those years she spent loving Charlie from afar, she never thought her dreams would come true. Yet, they had. Every single one...
A flash of light brought her back to the present. She looked up to see Edward, camera in hand, snapping away.
"Don't," she whined, covering her face with her outstretched hand. "I look like a cow."
Charlie kissed her temple sweetly. "Not a cow. Beautiful. Radiant. Glowing. Should I go on?"
"Not if I want to keep my lunch down," Edward laughed.
"Ha ha ha," she said flatly. "But really, I need to lose this baby fat. I think I'll start exercising. Maybe go on a diet. Would that be okay now, Edward?"
Slipping into doctor mode, Edward walked to the opposite side of the bed and ran his hand over his stubbled cheek. "Sure, you could. You need to walk; it will help with the soreness from the C-section. Just make sure not to push yourself, and increase the distance as your recovery allows. And, as for a diet, just make sure it's well balanced and suitable while you're breastfeeding."
Alice pouted at Charlie. 'It'll be hard to do alone, though. Would you do it with me, baby?"
"Ally..." Charlie groaned.
"She's right," Edward interjected. "It's very hard to stick to an exercise and diet plan if you're the only one in the household doing it. Plus," he added, clapping Charlie on the shoulder, "it would probably do you some good to eat something beside deep-fried cubes of fat."
Charlie rolled his eyes. "Yeah, Doc, way to have my back here."
"Please," she begged, furiously batting her eyelashes.
A loud gush of air left Charlie's lungs. "Fine, fine. I can't fight you both off."
"Hey, why didn't anyone tell me we were all ganging up on Dad today?" Everyone turned to see Bella, bearing a small white bag, enter the room. "I thought maybe the new mommy would like to have some of her favorite cookies." Walking to stand next to the bed, she looked across the room to Edward and blushed. "Hi, Edward."
"Hi, Bella," Edward muttered bashfully, looking down at his feet.
Brows furrowed, Alice looked between the two then over at Charlie, who just shrugged. Leaning to brush his lips against her ear, Charlie whispered, "It's none of our business, Ally."
"Okay, you two," Edward chided, "if you can't keep your lips to yourselves, I'm going to have to separate you." Before he could continue his lecture, his cell phone rang, and he took a quick look at the caller ID. "Guys, I need to take this. I'll be back in a few, okay?"
Everyone nodded, and Alice didn't miss that, as he walked out of the room, Bella's eyes followed. She also didn't miss Edward's backward glance for once last look at Bella before he shut the door.
"Can I hold him?" Bella asked.
Charlie jumped to his feet and lifted his little boy from Alice's arms. His proud grin was infectious, and Alice beamed at her two men. Once Bella placed the cookies on the table, she sat in the high-backed guest chair and formed a small cradle with her shaking arms. Charlie placed Joshua carefully in her arms, and, when she relaxed into the chair, he kissed the crown of her head.
"Hey, little brother," Bella cooed. "Did you miss me while I was at work? I missed you." She leaned down and inhaled him. "Ah, so much better than new car smell."
Laughing, Alice wiped her tears away as Charlie hugged her, and she was sure she heard him sniffle. When they composed themselves, they turned back to Bella, who had pulled Joshua's tiny hand free from his blanket and was kissing it as he held her index finger tightly.
"So, Bella, what was that look between you and Edward?" Alice asked, ignoring the "shut the hell up" glare she was getting from Charlie.
"I don't know what you're talking about." Bella continued to concentrate on her brother's tiny fingers. "I mean, we've gone to lunch a couple of times, that's all."
Alice's eyes bugged out of her head, and her jaw dropped. "You. Went. To. Lunch? How could you not tell me?"
Both Charlie and Bella stared at her incredulously, but Bella was the one who spoke. "You didn't just fucking say that to me," she said seriously, her wink letting Alice know she was kidding.
"Language!" Charlie cried, pointing at the baby.
Bella shook with laughter. "Yeah, Dad, Josh is twelve hours old. I'm sure I just scarred him for life."
The four Swans sat talking and laughing until there was a soft knock on the door. Opening the door slowly, Edward peeked into the room, and Alice noticed his first glance was toward Bella, who was still cradling the baby. "Hey," he said, finally looking to Alice, "is there room for one more visitor?"
Alice nodded, and Edward pushed the door open, holding it for the new guest. She walked into the room, quiet and searching, seemingly braced for an attack. As Charlie walked toward her, she flinched slightly.
Charlie held out his hand. "Esme, it's good to see you."
Esme took his hand and shook gently. "You, too, Charlie. Congratulations." She gazed happily at Joshua, sleeping in Bella's arms. "Alice, dear, he's just beautiful."
Torn between grabbing her mother into a forgiving embrace and screaming at her for missing her wedding and Joshua's birth, Alice quickly chose to be pleasant and polite. "Thank you, Mom."
"What is his name?"
"Joshua Edward," Alice answered, quickly glancing at Edward, to whom she hadn't yet told the baby's middle name. The tears welling in his eyes and his softly gasped "wow" let Alice know he was honored and pleased.
"That's a wonderful name." Esme lightly stroked the baby's cheek. "Your father wanted to come, but he..."
"You don't have to lie for him." Alice refused to cry over her father's disapproval again, and she grasped Charlie's hand for support.
Esme shuffled uncomfortably. "Yes, very well then."
Realizing how difficult it must have been for her mother to defy her father, Alice's anger softened, and she smiled wistfully. "It's okay, Mom. I'm just glad you're here."
With that, the atmosphere in the room shifted to happy and relaxed. The Swans and Cullens alternately cooed over the new baby and traded stories of their own childhoods. Always amazed at how much more she could love Charlie, Alice swooned as Charlie reminisced about Bella's birth and recounted Joshua's, his grin wide for both children. Edward continued to snap pictures, including several of Esme holding her grandson. The arrival of Sue and Billy, Jasper and Angela, and four month old Megan completed the gathering, and everyone celebrated the new life among them. Alice couldn't help but notice the longing, sideways glances and soft, fleeting touches Edward and Bella exchanged when they thought no one was watching.
Finally, when Alice could no longer hold back her yawns, Charlie told the partiers to disperse and give momma and baby time to rest. Giving each person a tight hug and kiss on the cheek, Alice was relieved when she and Charlie were finally alone with their son, who was sleeping soundly in his bassinet.
Scooting over in the bed, Alice sighed as Charlie climbed in beside her and gathered her in his arms.
"Tired out, baby?" Charlie kissed forehead her tenderly.
Nuzzling into his chest, she sighed. "Yes, exhausted actually. As much as I love everyone, it's so good to be just us again."
Chuckling, he pulled her closer. "I give Bella and Edward a month before they're back together again."
"Back together? I give it a month before they're married." Alice pecked Charlie's lips softly, ignoring the shocked look on his face.
Lying with him in silence, Alice marveled at how much her life had changed since graduation day, when she opened her door and just knew Charlie was hers. She might regret the hurt they'd caused the people they loved, she would never regret Charlie or Joshua, her family.
As Charlie's deep, even breathing lulled her to sleep, Alice barely heard Charlie whisper. "Would you mind if we had a few more of these?"
Alice found herself in the dark hospital room, hands splayed on the clear barrier. Megan and Joshua sat in the bed beaming proudly at their daughter. This time, the room was crowded. Surrounding the bed were five adults, all talking, laughing, and cooing at the baby. Clapping his hand on Joshua's shoulder was Edward, whose other hand was held tightly by Bella. Next to Bella stood a tall, strapping young man who looked just like Charlie, right down to his Forks Police Department uniform.
On the other side of the bed were a man and woman, both maybe nineteen years old, but they looked too much alike to be anything but siblings. Both had black hair, hers in soft waves down her back and his spiked all over this head, and deep violet eyes. They even appeared to be the same age, and Alice realized they must be twins. The woman asked Megan and Joshua how they were going to deal with a baby and medical school, while the man was looking around the room for someone. Finally, his eyes rested on a couple sharing a guest chair.
"Mom...Dad," he whined. "Don't you two ever let up?"
Alice snapped her head back to the couple. Charlie sat there, looking very well for a man who must have been in his mid-sixties, and she saw herself, albeit a much older version of herself, sitting in his lap, blushing. Charlie grabbed older Alice's chin and, turning her head back toward him, kissed her soundly.
Edward bellowed. "Are you kidding me? I had to threaten to separate those lovebirds the day Josh was born."
Alice wanted to watch her children and Edward and Bella, but she found herself staring again at Charlie and older Alice. After all their time together, they still only had eyes for each other. More importantly, in this dream, Charlie was there with her, alive and enjoying the birth of Joshua's daughter. However many more years the two had ahead of them, Alice had no doubt they'd still desperately love each other through them all.
Still watching, she held her breath as Joshua brought his child over to Charlie and placed her gently in his arms. Charlie was obviously an old pro at baby holding, and he immediately rocked the little girl, cooing to her. "Hello, little Charlotte. Grandpa and Grandma have been waiting a long time for you. We can't wait to spoil you rotten."
Older Alice looked at her husband and her grandchild, and the love in her gaze was the same Alice felt when she first saw Charlie hold a messy, screaming Joshua right after his birth. She then looked straight at Alice, her smile wide, her eyes full of thankfulness and contentment, before returning to her family.
~ the end ~
A/N: Wondering what the hell happened between Edward and Bella? I'm going to write a companion piece that will explain their story, and I've tentatively planned it for late Spring. Author alerts are your friend. I also announce story postings and plans on Twitter (fragilehuman).