Emmett's let me and Edward into his plan, partly because he needs us to keep Bella away. Edward tried the approach of telling her that Emmett was just busy a lot, so she wouldn't be able to spend time with him. It was blindingly obvious that she wasn't going to buy that in the slightest. I just told her that he said he was up to something and didn't want her interfering. She accepted that and endeavoured to keep busy so she didn't worry herself too much. I knew that sometimes, she thought that he was ill and that we were hiding that from her at his request. I can tell that she's worrying herself silly over it, so on Wednesday night, when I'm lying awake, I'm not surprised to hear her crying. The flat is small, and Edward's room is off the kitchen, as opposed to mine, which is directly next door. I wait for a few minutes, wondering if I should go in or leave her. But she took the choice out of my hands. Her door opened, and she put her head round mine. I sat up immediately, and held out my arms. She rushed into them, and I was struck by how fragile she was in her soft pyjamas and hair in plaits. I could feel her bump as I cradled her and I could feel her tears making my t-shirt damp.
"Bella, he's OK. I swear to you, he's OK. He's just arranging something for you and he's not ill. I promise."
"I know, I know." I don't understand.
"Then why are you crying?"
"God, you're such a bloke."
"I'm crying because you don't, and I know you and Edward aren't OK." There isn't much we can say to each other.
"Do you want to sleep here tonight?" She nods, snuggling into my side immediately. I hear soft footsteps, and Edward appears in my doorway.
"Can I stay here too?" I nod, and he nudges in beside Bella. I remember that we used to do this when we were little kids. If one of us had a nightmare or a scary dream, we'd run into each other's room and sleep together. And now we've both changed so much and yet we're still each other's safest port. Bella curls up between us, and falls asleep almost immediately. I have some experience of how deeply she sleeps, so I whisper to Edward.
"How are you?"
"Not so good, Jasper," he murmurs. "You?"
"I'm not so sure. I think a little bit."
"She wants us to see a therapist." He tucks a stray bit of hair out her face, careful not to wake her.
"I agree with her," he says, tucking the duvet round his chin and blinking at me owlishly. "Can't be like this all our lives."
"I know." He reaches out in the dark, finds my hand, squeezes reassuringly. I'm fairly sure that that's how we fall asleep, gripping each other's hands, and they rest together on Bella's hip.
When I wake up in the morning, their hands are resting millimetres apart on my stomach, right over my bump. I think they fell asleep holding hands. My boys, who need each other now more than ever before. They're only five months away from their regimental parade. Four months until Emmett and I have a baby. I manage to slide out of the bed without waking either of them up. There's post on the mat, and I discover it's already 11.30. That's got to be the best I've slept in months. I look down to check I haven't missed anything, and see my bump. I'm almost positive I wasn't this huge when I went to bed. I drop the post on the table and drop my hands to the bump, rubbing over it. My baby. My baby's making herself known. I look pregnant. Goddamn, I look huge. You think I would have felt that happen. You can even see my bump moving. After I'm done staring in shock, I figure I'd be best off going through the mail. The boys will be shocked enough - if they ever get out of bed. I put the kettle on, flip through the little stack of post - there's a lot more than there normally is. One of the letters is on heavy, posh paper, addressed to Emmett. I open it without even thinking about it. We've been opening each other's post since before we got married. Hell, we've been opening each other's mail for years and years. Since before we were even engaged, before we even lived together.
Dear Sergeant McCarty
It is our pleasure to inform you that you are to receive the Distinguished Service Cross for serving the US Army and distinguishing yourself above and beyond the call of duty at grave risk to your own life. The medal will be awarded at the parade for your regiment which is to take place on October 24th of this year, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. You should have received the official invitation and pass to this in the post previously. You may bring no more than two guests. Please write using the enclosed self-addressed envelope to confirm your attendance and your guests (Children under 2 do not count as guests, as we will assume they do not require a seat).
US Army High Command.
I don't move for a long time. I just sit at the table, holding the letter, staring down at it. We had the invitation to the parade a month ago, there was no mention of medals. No mention of him being nominated for any awards or anything like that. The Distinguished Service Cross. I can barely breathe. Now he'll always be a hero to everyone. I have to wake the boys up.
"Jasper, Edward, both of you wake up!" They both set up groans of protest. "Oh God, wake up, both of you!"
She's relentless. We both pry our eyes opens, and I squint up at Bella - there seems to be a lot more of her this morning, but apparently that isn't what she's excited about. She's waving this sheet of paper around.
"What, Bella, what?" Edward growls, but she doesn't pay much attention to him. She knows how bitchy he is when he's woken up.
"Read!" she orders, thrusting the paper under my nose. I take it from her, sitting up, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes so I can focus. I read through, and then pass it to Edward wordlessly, beaming at Bella.
"Oh my God!" Edward shouts, bounding out of bed.
"I know!" Bella says, coming at me for cuddles. I fling my arms around her, but I really can't get that close.
"I've got something else - what the hell happened to you overnight. This," I say, patting her tummy, "was not here when we went to bed."
"Yeah, yeah, woke up with that this morning." She waves it off impatiently. "I can't wait to tell him!"
"You gotta wait until tomorrow," Edward says, wagging a finger at her sternly.
"Oh, come on," she says, pouting at us. Oh God, that face. I can never resist that face.
"Maybe she could just -"
"No, Jasper." Bella apparently senses that she has an ally, because her and the bump cuddle in beside me, and she looks up, making her eyes all big. "Jasper, I don't care what face she's pulling at you. Don't tell her she can go!"
"She's doing the eye thing, bro. It might not ruin anything if we call ahead."
"Yeah, Edward. I'll not try and see the surprise, I promise. And we can call ahead. Why won't you let me go and see my husband and tell him this wonderful news?"
"Don't make me the bad guy!"
"Please, Edward?" She goes all hurt looking. I know he can't hold out any more than I can.
"Oh… Fine! Fine! But when Emmett asks, I did my level best to stop you both doing this." She actually does a little victory dance and claps her hands. I wouldn't be even slightly surprised is she started saying "Oh, goody goody!" She dances off to change her pyjamas, and Edward goes off to shower. I decide to text Roxy the plan after I've dressed, but my phone vibrates while I'm half in my jeans.
Hi. How are you? R. x
Roxy, hi. I'm good, you? Bella's making us break the time limit, we're coming up to the hospital. J.
I'm fine, but why are you coming here?
Bella's had good news. She's also got suddenly fat.
LOL. Don't let her hear you say that! That's pregnancy! What's the news?
Can't tell you till after Emmett's heard. We'll be there in maybe half an hour. When's he due in physic?
Not until 3, you're safe! I'm on lunch.
I've only just got up. I feel shame.
As well you should. Shall I tell Emmett you're coming?
Yeah, tell him we have amazing news.
OK. But you better fill me in too - I've been really busy, so I probably won't see you. Dinner? I know a place.
Sure. That'd be nice : )
Great : ) I'll pick you up from your place at half seven.
Do I need to wear a tie?
No, but put on nice jeans and a shirt.
Message received. See you tonight.
She makes me smile, I realize, throwing my phone on the bed and finishing up my dressing. I didn't think I'd be able to smile this soon. I need to get a car soon. She can't keep picking me up from all over the place. I'll talk to Bella about getting me on the insurance for her little runabout. It'll do. I want to be able to drive her to places. I scramble into a sweater, and go into Bella's room. She's tucking herself into a cardigan, several discarded sweaters on her bed.
"I couldn't get into any jumpers," she says, smiling at me. "And this is my loosest top. I'll have to go shopping. I'll go after we've seen Emmett."
"Can I come?" I ask, pseudo-casual.
"I have another date with Roxy and she said I'd need to wear a shirt."
"That was - piercing. Thank you for that."
"Apologies. I'm just excited. Oh, today is just wonderful!" I shake my head at her and hustle her out into the car, calling Edward as we go. "OK, have we got the letter?"
"I have it here," Edward says, waving at her. "Have you got the bump?"
"Check," she says, patting her tummy.
She bounds down the corridor and into his room ahead of us, as we're trying to pretend to be dignified - even if we are as excited as her deep down.
"And what are you doing here? Which one of you caved?" he asks us, in a would-be stern voice. He'd be much more stern if he wasn't smiling like a fool and holding Bella tightly. He can pretend all he wants - this has been hard for him too.
"They both caved," Bella says. "Look at me!"
"Bloody hell, where did that come from?"
"It showed up this morning."
"In the best possible way. Your boobs look great too!" She tries to be annoyed, but it doesn't work. She laughs too much.
"We came for two reasons. To show you our bump and to tell you, you had a letter this morning."
"What did it say?"
"It said you're going to receive the Distinguished Service Cross."
"You are lying to me."
"I am not. Edward, show him the letter." He hands it over, and Emmett reads it in silence.
"Oh my God."
"Are you happy?"
"I'm stunned - I never imagined - I mean - it's an honour."
"It's a deserved honour," I say, looking at him. "And it'll be me cheering the loudest when they call your name." He stares at us. "And I'll be by your side when you go up for that medal."
"And me. I'll write to the Captain myself, and ask for permission for us to escort you up."
"My boys," Bella says, her eyes shining. "My beautiful, brave boys. You're all incredible. And you," she says, stroking Emmett's face, "you're my brave and handsome hero. And me and our baby are going to be so proud of you when you accept it." She kisses him,, and he tucks his hand through her hair and kisses her back. I'm so proud of him.