AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to all of you that have reviewed or put it in favorites or alerts. I'm humbled
Rated M: angst, language, violence, lemons
*tears up* This is it. The final chapter/epilogue of this story. I...I can't do this yet. I'll see you at the bottom.
Alice's head popped up, her expression wild-eyed and full of mischief as if she had done something she wasn't supposed to. "I just saw your vagina again."
"Oh, for the love of God," I groaned.
"I can't look away," she breathed. "It's like it's saying, 'Helloooo, look at me. I'm a vagina, and I'm just hanging out.'"
"That's because it is just hanging out, bitch!" I growled, snapping my disgustingly sweaty head up from the pillow to glare at her. "Three times, Alice. Three times I've been in the delivery room with you and never once did I make fun of your vagina nor did I try to take its picture with my cell ph– oh, Jesus."
Two hands, one smaller and one larger than mine, tightened their squeeze of my fierce death grips, as an overwhelming, mind-numbing urge took over my body before I could complete my thought. I couldn't stop or delay the urge no matter how hard I tried. At this point, though, the last thing I wanted to do was delay it any longer. So, chin down against my chest, sock-clad feet pressed firmly into stirrups and vagina hanging out for everybody to see... I pushed.
"That's it, Bella," Rosalie spoke calmly, between my thighs. "Just like that. You're doing wonderfully, honey. I can feel the head."
Edward was next to give semi-encouragement as the blood rushed to my shaking face and a screaming pain ripped through my lower half. "You're doing so good, baby. Jesus Christ. How the fuck do women do this all the time?"
"Not... helping... asshole." It was a grunt through my clenched teeth and the last thing I said before I threw myself back into the pillow and gasped for the oxygen I desperately needed to fill my lungs again.
Next to my head, Alice bent over and placed her elbow on the pillow to stare into my eyes. "You get angry when you give birth." My hand moved to smack her upside the head, but Edward tightened his hold, keeping it at my side.
"Alice," Rosalie warned. "Back off of Bella or the next time you come in for an internal, I'll make sure I use the metal speculum, and I'll make sure it's extra cold."
"You wouldn't," she whispered, clamping her thighs together.
"Your behavior the rest of the delivery determines if all of the plastic ones disappear that day or not."
A small whimper escaped her lips just as another contraction hit me. My instinct, even without all of the classes and books and preparation, told me to bear down and put every amount of pressure I could toward my center in hopes that it would help. Help to push my baby out. Help to relieve the pain. Help to make this go faster. Anything for this to be over.
Because I was exhausted. I had gone into labor twenty four hours ago, and I hadn't slept once since my water broke in the middle of the night. And here I was, in the middle of the night again, still in pain... still waiting for that moment I had envisioned thirty three weeks ago when I handed three positive pregnancy tests to Edward as soon as he walked in the front door. I had been terrified up until that moment. He wasn't done with school, and it wasn't planned, but then I saw his face as what he held registered. His face. So beautiful. And so excited. He saw my vision, too.
Would it ever come?
A lazy tear dropped from my eye and a dragging, noisy rush of air sucked into my lungs as I broke my push and slammed back into the pillow again. Edward's strained face appeared next to mine almost immediately to brush away the moisture from my face.
"I love you," he whispered only for me. His voice cracked the slightest bit, and I knew his facade of strength and support was slipping away with every passing second because seconds were all I had in between contractions. They rode in waves. One after the other. Tearing me apart. Never stopping. Never letting up. Growing stronger and stronger.
"Come on, Bella," Rosalie said a little more forcefully as another wave hit. "Give me a big push."
More tears fell from the pain and the exhaustion, and I leaned forward with my husband's and my friend's hands still in mine. A gurgled scream ripped through my clenched teeth as I found a reserve of strength buried deep inside.
"Go! Go! Go!"
"Push, Bella! Push!"
The muffled yells were coming from all around, but I couldn't tell who was shouting what. I couldn't tell because my own mind was shouting louder. An unimaginable amount of strain and pressure was going on down there, more than before, and I knew this was it. I'd heard about this and read about it, but experiencing it was something different all together.
This was the dreaded, terrifying "ring of fire" when the widest part of the head was passing.
I was stretched to the hilt, and all I could think was to stop. Stop pushing. Stop stretching. Stop everything.
"Push it back in!" I screamed.
"Can't do that," Rosalie said a little louder than usual. "But one more push and your baby's head will be out and the hard part is over... for now."
"Promise?" I cried.
"Pinky," she winked. "I'd give you my pinky, but it's currently stuck in your vagina helping stretch you around this little one's head, so get pushing already!"
"Okay," I whimpered with a shake of my head. Inclining forward, I did as I'd done for over an hour. I pushed again.
Everything happened quickly then with my last gulp and hold of air. The burn, a burn that had been unbearable only seconds before, all but disappeared within seconds and Rosalie was on her feet gently but forcefully pulling something from my body.
And that's when time decided to stop. Just as I felt the last tiny foot leave and just as I heard the first cry of a newborn.
"It's a boy!"
My eyes opened, blurred from tears and sweat and bloodshot unlike ever before, and they fell upon the squirming little boy held up in front of me. He was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen in my entire life. Pink and splotchy. Full head of hair and covered in fluids. Screaming and toothless. Ten long fingers and ten long toes. Tiny and perfect.
Mine. All mine.
My hand reached out to touch him, and he was gone, whisked away from the bright lights of the operating table toward a huddle of nurses standing ready at a warming bed too far away from me.
Edward grabbed my face as more tears fell and held it between his shaking hands as his eyes darted back and forth between mine like he was searching for the right words to come out of his trembling lips. He was just as in shock as I was. "I have a son," he whispered. "Oh my God. I'm a daddy."
Holy shit. "I'm a– "
Without any warning, a cold liquid squirted onto my skin, and a sonogram wand pressed into my largely protruding belly on the underneath side of the external belt monitor. My wet eyes shot to Rosalie next to the bed as she referenced the screen the image was showing on as she moved the wand around and then they fell back over to my son on the other side of the room.
He was crying. Why was he crying? Were they hurting him? Was he cold? Was everything okay? And then my heart dropped when I realized what was wrong.
He was alone for the first time since he'd been conceived. I could hear it in his tiny voice. As his mother, I could already tell, and I'd just met him.
He was missing his other half.
"Alice?" I whimpered.
"I thought you'd never ask," she squealed, and just like that, she was sprinting across the room, toward my child crying for his twin.
"Her head is still down," Rosalie said gently, taking my weakened hand in hers. "You've had an amazing pregnancy, and you carried these babies to term with no complications. She's healthy enough for you to push her out. We don't need to surgically intervene. So let's do this, okay? I've been waiting to meet her."
Tears welled up in my eyes again as she took her place back at the foot of the hospital bed and shook her head for me to start pushing when I was ready.
My heart was in two places at once as my torso angled forward with Edward's arm around my back. It was here on the table with the baby still inside of me, waiting for me to help her come out, and it was across the room with the baby that my friend was fawning over.
My eyes stayed locked on his teeny body and long, thin arms flailing as the nurses tended to him. They stayed on him with every push. They stayed on him with every scream. They never broke once. I couldn't take my eyes off the prize or else I'd give up. I was so tired.
"Come on, Bella. Push harder."
"I can't!" I screamed through the downpour of tears, feeling my determination slipping away as the pressure and the fire built again.
Edward's lips fell to the side of my head as I gasped for air, and he spoke in a tone that I knew was full of love though it was stern. "Yes you can, Bella. You are the bravest, strongest person I've ever known. You can do anything. I've witnessed it... Do it for her. Our daughter needs you to push harder."
The ache in my chest grew, and I leaned forward again in preparation to be the woman I knew I could be – the strong woman I had always been – because of the strong woman that raised me. In my heart, I knew she was with me, standing right next to me, holding my hand. She never would have wanted to miss this.
I felt everything as my daughter moved toward leaving the body that had been her shelter and home for her very short but significant life. I heard the distant sounds of Rosalie and Edward and even Alice shouting to keep pushing, and I felt her head and her shoulders, but then it went completely silent in one instant – completely silent except for the sounds of her cries and his cries... and my cries.
My daughter and my son.
They were both here.
And they were both together again.
"They look like you."
"No, they look like you."
"You're delirious from the exhaustion of giving birth to two babies. They look like you."
"This could go on all day. How about we compromise and say he looks like you and she looks like me?"
"If you must," he sighed, looking down at our daughter swaddled snuggly on his chest in her pink blanket courtesy of Esme. It matched the blue blanket wrapped around our son, who slept soundly on mine. We all laid together in the same hospital bed, him next to me, both of us holding the most important things to us. It brought back many memories from our early time together.
How things had changed over the years. How life had changed.
Our adoration of these gifts were no louder than a whisper in the quiet private room, just down the hall from the nursery. Across from the nursery, a waiting room sat full of impatient people we called family. I knew this because I'd been in there in the past, waiting just as impatiently for the news about my friends. Now that I was on the other side of the door, I understood why it took so long to get to go in every time.
This was nice. Just our little family getting to know each other before the advice and help came from all sides. I knew we'd need the help eventually, but they were sleeping. I could handle sleeping.
A soft knock – soft enough to not wake the handsome little man under my protective hands – proceeded a slow opening of the door, and Rosalie walked in.
"How are you feeling?" she asked quietly, barely hiding her excitement.
"Better than I expected," I replied. "I'm tired, but I don't want to go to sleep, yet. I'm prepping my body for the lack of sleep I'm going to get in the coming months."
"You need to sleep, Bella. Your body has been through a lot. Don't deny it something it needs. We need you healthy so you can take care of these adorable babies."
"I know, Dr. Hale-Cullen," I smiled. "After the family visits them I'll sleep."
"I can send them in if you're ready. You up for that, yet?"
I turned to Edward and he kissed me on the tip of my nose, knowing exactly the thoughts that were running through my head even though they were thoughts I'd never had before. This was all so new. "We'll have more moments like these with them. I promise you. We'll make time for the moments."
"They probably want to meet them, don't they?" I whispered.
"I'm sure my mom is about to bust down the door. Your dad is probably helping her."
I snorted in laughter at the vision, forgetting for a split second about the snoozing boy on me, and I froze all movement and sound, though it didn't really matter. As soon as everybody came in, they would both be woken from their innocent little dreams.
I wasn't wrong.
First in the door was my dad who looked like he won a sprinting match down the hallway against Esme. She came through the door only a second later, with her hand over her mouth either to quiet her panting from running or to keep the squeal in. Carlisle, Emmett, Rosalie, Alice and Jasper were right behind her, followed by Angela and Ben bringing up the rear.
They all barely fit in the room, but I doubted any of them were willing to leave from the looks on their faces. Babies had been born in this group, but never twins. Alice and Jasper had their three, two boys and a girl. Angela and Ben had welcomed a daughter last year. And Rosalie and Emmett had five children now. Three boys and two girls. All of them looked different, all had different personalities, all had been born in different parts of the country, but they were all loved equally. Rosalie didn't need to give birth to be a mother. All she had to do was lay eyes on them, and they were hers. She was a wonderful mother, and Emmett was truly a papa bear.
"When did my boys grow up to be daddies?" Esme sniffled, giving Edward a kiss on the cheek.
Her hands hovered and shook, only inches above our daughter, and I knew she was doing everything in her power not to grab her from his arms, so I asked, "Do you want to hold her?" Without even an answer, she was lifting her off of him with a care only a skilled mother could know.
"Oh my," she whimpered, placing her against her chest up by her shoulder. She swayed smoothly from side to side, rubbing her back lightly as she studied her tiny face. "She looks like you, Edward."
"Told you," I whispered to nobody in particular.
A small throat clearing next to me made me turn my head to see my dad standing next to the bed. "Can I hold him?" He pointed at my son like I didn't know who he was talking about, but I only smiled. He was nervous and excited and scared all at the same time. This was just as new to him as it was to us. It had been a long time since he'd held a baby. It might have been me.
Leaning forward, I cradled the little bundle in my hands and passed him to my dad's waiting arms. He held his grandson less comfortably than Esme was holding her granddaughter, and it took no time for him to start whimpering and squeaking.
I went to take him back, the mothering instinct already kicking in, and dad spun away from me. "Give me a minute," he huffed. "I got you to stop crying more than your mother did when you were a baby. I just need to find out what this little man likes." My hands withdrew, and I watched as he sat down in the rocking chair against the wall.
For as many people there were in the room, it was as quiet as it could be as we listened to them breathing. It was peaceful. It was perfect. This life was so good. It was beautiful.
"What are their names?" Angela finally asked quietly.
I looked toward my father and my son, Alice, Carlisle, Esme and my daughter, and a tear streaked down my cheek. We had never told them the names before because of what they meant to all of us. The names were in memory and in honor of those we loved the most.
"Mary Renee," I said, pausing for Alice and Esme's gasps as they realized what we'd done, "and Anthony–"
"Charles," Edward interrupted, taking me by surprise. "Mary Renee and Anthony Charles."
My head snapped around. It was always going to be Anthony Carlisle. What was he doing?
He took my hand in his and squeezed. "Five years ago today, your father saved your life in the bookstore," he sniffled. "Without him, you wouldn't be here, and neither would they. I want to honor your father for giving me you and for giving me them."
An uncontrollable sob bubbled up from my throat, and a sniffle from across the room made us all turn our watery attention to my father in the rocking chair touching his grandchild's face with the tip of his finger. He swallowed hard and looked up at us and blinked away the tears as best as he could only to have them drop from his eyes anyways. "Five years ago today, I almost had nobody," he croaked. "But now I have four somebodies. I love my somebodies. I love you all very much. Thank you for giving me this."
Twelve weeks later...
Silence filled the darkened bedroom. Too much silence. Something wasn't right. I shot straight up in bed and grabbed the baby monitor without even having to think another second about what was wrong with this situation. Why couldn't I hear them breathing in their sleep?
My hand immediately went to Edward to shake him awake at the same rapid rhythm of my racing heart, but all my hand met was cold sheet, and a sense of calm washed over me. He was up. He was most likely with them. I could relax.
Okay, no I couldn't.
One thing I'd learned about parenting is the worry never stops. The minute you let your guard down, something happens, and though there had been very few happenings being that they were only twelve weeks old, I knew what was in store for my nerves in the coming years. Just the same as the sleep deprivation, I was preparing my nerves for what was to come. I was getting them good and worn, broken in, so to speak.
A dim light shone under the nursery room door down the hall from our bedroom as I made my way toward it along the well-traveled carpet. The door was shut, but with a quiet turn of the knob, I opened it just a hair to peek inside.
There Edward sat in the rocking chair, Anthony in his left arm and Mary in his right, singing them their lullaby. He looked tired. He always looked tired. Stress from his advanced counseling course load at school and taking care of the babies and finding time for us and himself was wearing on him, but he never complained. I don't think he could have complained even if he wanted to.
Every day he made sure that I knew that he had everything he ever wanted. A wife he loved unconditionally. Two children he would give his life for. A life that truly made him happy. He needed nothing more than us waiting for him when he got home, and because we loved him, we were always there.
His lullaby slowly came to an end, and I watched as he sweetly kissed them both on the head, careful not to wake them up. I expected him to stand so that they could go back in the crib, but he rested back into the chair and rocked some more, closing his eyes as he did. "You make me happy," he whispered dreamily. "I deal with sadness and grief every day at school. These patients I study are so beaten down. They feel they have nothing left but sadness. I'm reminded of a time when that was all there seemed to be. But then I see your faces when I walk in the door, and I forget all about it. You're so beautiful, and your laugh is so contagious. I'm happier than I ever thought I could be. You are my life and my loves. For you, I would do anything... absolutely anything. I love you, my sweet Mary. I love you, my precious Anthony."
Then his eyes opened and met mine in the doorway.
"I love you, my beautiful Bella."
Silent tears poured down my face from his words. The day he came back to me was the first day of our lives, lives full of laughter and happiness... lives simply full. We loved each other like every day was our last, but never afraid if it was. We'd spent too long afraid of one thing or another. It wasn't worth it. Not when you had a love like ours that could survive anything.
He wordlessly took my hand as he walked out of the nursery and led me back toward the bedroom where he stripped the nightgown off of my body. He was slow and timid as it was our first time since the babies had been born, but he was still familiar. His warm fingerprints were burned into my skin and into my heart, never to be forgotten, and the feel of him moving inside of me was electric. Always electric.
Our whispers of love and worship filtered out of the bedroom and floated down the hall into the room where our babies slept... and they swooped down the stairs into the living room and swirled around the frames on the bookshelves showing our happiest moments... and they entered an open door into a room once hidden, once private and sacred to me and only me, where they got caught up in the breeze blowing through the wildflowers of a set of paintings... and in the breeze through the wildflowers of a new family portrait... a family portrait that perfectly filled a space on the wall that used to be empty.
I wasn't so incomplete after all.
AUTHOR'S FINAL END NOTE:
Seriously crying right now.
Goodness, what a ride this has been. I posted this story almost a year ago from today, and this is truly a bittersweet moment for me. Thank you to everybody that has opened this story and read, and thank you to those that have tirelessly rec'd this story and made videos and banners. Also, thank you for sticking with me when this story got tough to read. I swear it was just as hard to write. My heart was breaking just like yours. I'm happy I could give you your HEA.
I've grown as a writer and have found that this is a passion of mine. It was never a passion before I read Twilight and discovered fanfic. But wow! Writing this story has led me to meet some of the most amazing people in this world. You all know who you are. Some of you I've actually driven seven hours to meet and others I plan on meeting for the first time in eleven months in Seattle as you fly in from other countries. Some of you I will never meet past texts and tweets and private messages, but that's okay. We have a bond. We're a family. And for that, I'm eternally grateful. Thank you all for reaching out through the computer. My life is forever changed.
For those of you thinking about writing a fanfic, do it. Sit down at your computer and challenge yourself to see what you can do. It could end up being one of the most rewarding things you ever do. I promise.
Thank you for reading. I hope to see you back for my other stories!
I wrote a one shot! It's called Department Store White Dress and can be found in my profile. Go check it out!
NEW O/S and STORY ALERT Be watching for a o/s coming soon, but I've also put up a link to the preview of my new story in my profile. It's called "I Love You More". Go check it out and leave a comment on the teaser to tell me what you think! I'll begin posting chapters after I get several of them written.