Terribly sorry about the delay in posts, loves. Been sick, and having fibromyalgia doesn't always agree with the writing. In any case, I'll do my best to make sure it's not as long next time. Thanks for being so patient with me.
I'd like to thank my readers for being so awesome. I don't get a chance to answer reviews as I'd like to, but I promise I read each one, and I love you all. Also, I have to thank my amazing beta, MariahajjilE. Without her unending support and hard work cleaning up my mess, Idk what I'd do without her. ILY, bb.
Wifey, I miss you and ILY. Que quowle.
This chapter isn't as long, but there is a reason for that. You may or may not need tissues. I suppose that depends on you. Lol. Anyway, hope you enjoy!
Twilight isn't mine, but Abandonward is.
Chapter 29: A Sound of Thunder
"Lonely Road of Faith"
Yeah, we gotta
Make some sense of the piece that we've found
And if you just hold on, I won't let ya fall
We can make it through the storms and the winds of change
Edward's hand clasped mine tightly while we moved as one down the darkened corridor. His staccato breaths could be heard beside me. I swear I could almost pick up the sound of his heartbeat, too. I probably would have if I'd moved a few inches closer. No doubt, a steady thumping rhythm displayed the frayed nerves he attempted to keep hidden away. He might have had a decent poker face, but the heart could never lie, could it?
I wanted to know his thoughts, what he must have been thinking in that moment as we walked, but I was too afraid to ask for fear he'd change his mind about seeing Marcus. So, I kept silent, holding his hand instead, letting him know through touch that he could draw strength from me. He wasn't alone and never would be again.
As we reached the door to the boiler room, he took a deep breath and stared down at me. I smiled up at him, encouraging him on silently. Words seemed unfitting. He understood by actions what I wanted to say, anyway.
I reached for the handle, used to doing so out of habit, but he stopped me mid-reach. Seeing him this assertive about something that had nothing to do with him or me was so foreign to me, but I should have expected he'd want to open the door himself. Maybe that one action was helping him with the transition his life was now taking, helping him brave what he'd never done before.
His hand remained on the knob, his grip firm. I never said a word, just waited for him to turn it in his own time. Finally, as the handle turned, I took in a deep breath, anxious and excited about what was to come. The feelings crept up my spine, sending a shiver of goosebumps to dance their way across my body. They were the good kind of shivers, though. The kind you'd wait your entire life for.
As the door opened, the boiler room became more visible. But Edward's eyes didn't dart around. No, they seemed to follow the direction the door was taking. When the bench was in our line of sight and Edward was able to see a body seated on the bench, hunched over, looking practically defeated, he gasped audibly. Marcus sat upright, turning abruptly toward us. That moment when their eyes met, when they were able to look at each other face-to-face? Time seemed to stop and disappear. There was no hospital, no boiler room, no city around us. Nothing else existed. There was only me and these two wonderful men.
I glanced between the two of them, awed by their expressions as tears streamed relentlessly down my cheeks. For the first time in seven years, Edward and Marcus were seeing one another.
I couldn't speak. I wasn't even going to try. It would end up a garbled slew of words that basically sounded like nothing more than noise, anyway. But I couldn't take my eyes off either of them. My God, the way they stared at one another. For Marcus, it was like a father seeing his son for the very first time. And that was really the truth of it. Marcus saw Edward as his own. And Edward? He was putting a face to the voice he spoke to everyday, the kind voice that belonged to the man who had taken care of him for so long and kept him from harm.
Words couldn't define the miracle I watched before me. It was almost ethereal.
Moving ever so slowly, Marcus stood from his stool, standing directly beside it. He never a made a step forward or back. Not sure that he could, given he looked as if he might fall over if he hadn't been using the stool to brace himself. His entire form shook, probably from inner sobs he'd yet to expel. Emotion unlike anything I'd ever seen from Marcus weaved its way over and around him until it was pulsing through every part of him, embedding itself inside his very soul. To see him this way, it was so profound, as if he'd found a secret treasure filled with jewels and gold. His eyes shifted briefly to me, watered over from tears yet unshed, questioning but undeniably surprised and thankful.
To him, this was like a dream, one he had waited so long to see come to fruition. And here Edward was right before him, the son he hadn't fathered but couldn't have loved more than if he had.
I knew I had to speak, regardless of the emotion heavy on my chest leaving me choked up. The words would fall broken from my lips, but how I dreamed of the moment when I could speak them. "Edward, this is Marcus. This is the face behind the voice on the walkie-talkie."
Edward continued to stare, the wonderment within his expression mirrored Marcus'. I wondered if he recollected Aro and the hatred he was accustomed to seeing but could not see on the face of Marcus.
Was it shocking to him that someone, especially a person who could be considered a fatherly figure, would look upon him with love just as I did?
Did he expect that sentiment to change once Marcus really observed him and saw the flaws he believed he openly wore like a set of clothes upon his body?
Watching him search Marcus' face, as if he were waiting for that kind, teary-eyed expression to morph into disgust, left my heart aching in my chest. He still carried the deep wounds Aro inflicted upon him, and he probably always would. My love, no matter how strong, couldn't erase all that had been done to him. I only hoped time and endless support, especially if he were a member of the Cullen family, would help him come to terms with his past.
He would never forget, but it was possible that he could heal enough to move forward and live a happy life, one I hoped he'd share with me.
The silence filled the space around us. I wasn't sure who would speak first or even how long it would take for either of them to feel comfortable enough to do so. Time ticked on as the silence held, but the emotion wrapped around us like a thick blanket.
A tear finally rolled down Marcus' cheek, and Edward exhaled a shaky breath, his trembling hand gripped mine harder. It was then the smooth voice I'd come to know so well, now impaired by how overwhelmed he was, hit the air. "It… It's nice t-to see you, Marcus."
"It's nice to… see you, Edward," Marcus choked out. Marcus wiped at his cheek, then motioned toward the stool. "Would you… uh… like to sit down?"
Edward shook his head. "No, but thank you."
"Sure, sure. Uh…" Marcus looked so baffled. "Is there anything you need?"
"No, I'm okay."
"I could get you a drink or something."
I released Edward's hand, moving toward Marcus. He seemed so lost as what to say, how to react. He was overwhelmed and yammering on, but I knew he needed me, too. I was just steps away from Edward, not wanting to be too far from him, though I knew he was safe with Marcus, when I reached out to Marcus. He lifted his hand to me, and I grabbed it within mine. "It's okay," I said softly. "You don't have to try so hard. Let him see you. Let him see the man I always have."
He gazed into my eyes and nodded, squeezing my hand before he released it, though still overwhelmed. He ran his fingers through his hair. "I'm sorry," he said to Edward. "I just… I never expected, and I'm rambling…" His words trailed off.
"It's okay," Edward responded. His eyes lowered to the floor before lifting to find me. "I didn't expect this, either. I never saw myself here, but I made it."
"I always knew you were strong," Marcus whispered, but Edward heard him.
"You did?" Edward was curious about his statement, but he remained near the door to his room.
I stood between my two men, watching them. My chest practically ached with joy and tears streamed down my cheeks, blending into the fabric of my shirt, as they interacted
"Yeah, from the very second I saw you. I knew it was bad, what you…" he paused, redirecting his words. "Well, you just had a fight in you that only someone with lots of strength would have. I could see it."
"I'm sorry," Edward murmured. "I don't remember much from-"
"No, don't apologize, lad. You don't need to." Marcus assured him with a wave of his hand. "You don't ever have to make apologies to me."
"I remember you took care of me, though. All this time. I remember that."
The slight composure that settled in Marcus' voice was lost, becoming a cluster of trembling words wracked by emotion. "I d-did. I… had to."
Edward's forehead creased in question. "Why did you have to?"
"Because." Marcus wasn't even trying to hide the tears that fell from his eyes or the way his voice broke. "I took you as my own… and I… I wasn't ever gonna let anyone hurt you again."
"You… You wanted me? Like a son?"
"As sure as I'm standing here," Marcus answered. "And that hasn't changed."
That reply was enough to break down Edward's defenses enough that he let emotion show in the form of tears. That look of relief as he stared into Marcus' eyes, knowing he'd been wanted and still was, gave me hope that something brighter was on the horizon for us all.
Maybe we all could love him enough to mend what Aro had done so that at least he wouldn't have to question he was loved and wanted. He'd always know despite what he'd been told. He'd been worth it all along.
I stood between them and reached out to both men, gripping their hands in mine, linking us. Edward may not have been ready to physically touch Marcus, but through me, we were all connected.
They spoke a while longer, and I remained in the background, allowing them to talk with each other and form the bond I knew without a doubt they'd have. But I listened attentively and held their hands still, never letting go.
And every second we stood there, I loved them both more… if that was even possible.
Once we left Marcus back in the boiler room, I watched over Edward as he lay on the mattress, resting on his left side, eyes closed, unmoving. He'd grown so much stronger over the last few months, emotionally as well as physically, but still, overrun emotions took a toll on one's body, making their muscles feel lax from mental exhaustion.
He'd merely wanted to rest for a short time before we called Alice to learn the results of the DNA test. And honestly, I think he needed it to regroup, so I told him I would get in contact with her, setting up the call. He'd been hit with so much lately, yet he managed to keep his sanity.
Marcus, again, was willing to leave us be while we spoke with Alice and her family, but I told him – and Edward agreed – that he had as much right to the conversation as we did. He asked several times if we were sure, mainly because he wanted Edward experiencing as little discomfort as possible, but we assured him Edward would be fine, and he was going nowhere. He agreed to stay, and all was settled.
As Edward rested, I ran my fingers through his hair, the soft texture tickling the tips of my fingers. It had grown some since I first cut it, but I liked it. My eyes traveled down his body, noticing the blanket was barely over his hip. I spotted Lancelot lying at the foot of the bed, so I gently moved far enough to reach him, placing him beside Edward. He leaned into the bear, subconsciously registering his little protector was near. I pulled the blanket up far enough to cover them both.
I marveled at how still he was, no trembling or movement of any kind. Hopefully, a part of him was at peace now, and those wraithlike bars that had completely caged him were holding him less a prisoner.
I bent forward, brushing my lips across his warm skin. "I love you," I whispered. "So much more than I realized it was possible to love another person. I'm so very proud of you." I kissed him softly again, this time along his jaw, which was now covered in stubble. "Rest, my love. I'll be right back."
I stood from the mattress, reluctant to leave, though I knew in my heart he'd be okay without me. I took one final glance, leveling my eyes on the bear resting beside him. "Watch over him while I'm gone, Lancie. Bring him good dreams."
As I moved down the corridor toward the boiler room, I drug my hands down my face, sighing out everything I'd been holding in. My skin felt a little raw, and my eyes were puffy from crying, but the tears shed were worth the physical remnants they left behind.
Marcus was seated at the bench, facing the door I had come out of, hands resting on his knees. They still shook, but the weathered look upon his face was gone. He looked rejuvenated, happy, like someone had given him a taste of the fountain of youth… or mended the last tear of a broken heart he'd lived with for such a long time. Even the slouch of a lifetime of weight to his shoulders wasn't as prominent.
In a way, we had all had tears mended that day.
"How is he?" Edward was always at the forefront of his mind. No question that would ever change.
"He's good but resting. How are you?"
He shook his head. "I don't even know where to begin. I'd always hoped, but I never expected."
I nodded. "I know you didn't, and still, you never let the fact that you may never really know him change how you felt about him or let it affect how you took care of him."
"I wasn't going to turn my back on him. I knew that the day I found him here." He appeared lost in memories. "Couldn't do it then and can't do it now. Don't matter what the DNA tests reveal."
"I think deep down we both know what the results are."
"Yeah," he affirmed, shrugging. "Still, if he might need something or… Well, I'm here."
"He knows that, and so do I."
"I'm here for you, too."
"I know you are."
"Marcus, you know that DNA test won't change what happened today, right?" I needed him to understand he was as entwined in our lives as we were his.
He nodded. "I know I'll never forget it. You made this happen, Bella. You gave me this, and I can't… I don't know how to repay-"
"You owe me nothing." How could he think he owed me anything? "And you made this happen. You loved him. You cared for him long before I did. You're part of why he's the man he is."
"I… Thank you, Bella."
He glanced down at the cell I had in my hand. "You going to make that call now?" Marcus asked. "To Alice, I mean?"
"Yeah. Might as well get it over with before Alice storms her way over here."
Marcus chuckled, but I knew it was mainly for my benefit. "That sounds like her. I can't really blame her, though. The boy does have that affect on people. And he could be family to her. Nope, can't blame her at all."
I stared at Marcus a beat, thankful and appreciative of him in so many ways. This man had become a part of me. He was family.
He spent the majority of his life shadowing his emotions, keeping himself private, but with Edward and me, he pushed through that guarded barrier and showed us a side of him that others never saw. Marcus had a gracious heart, and he was loyal, compassionate, and protective.
Fate brought us all together. Our lifelines had crossed, intertwining us forever. Nothing would ever change that.
Fate knew he was meant to be the father Edward never had. And fate knew he was irrevocably meant to be a part of me, too.
I gripped his hand in mine as I moved to pass him, giving it a little squeeze as a silent thank you. But as I reached the top of the stairs, gripping the door handle, I glanced over my shoulder, looking down at him seated in his chair. "You're loved, Marcus… unconditionally. And you're family. Never forget that."
A tear rolled down my left cheek as I heard the choked sob while I moved through the door into the closet that led out into the basement floor.
After stepping out into the fresh air, the wind gliding across my face, I felt as if secrets or warnings were whispered into my ear by the faint howl it made as it breezed by. A feeling of unease settled in my gut.
I shrugged it off as being nervous about what the DNA test would reveal. It was strange how I felt anxious and terrified at the same time. Oh, I wanted to know, and I was sure I already knew the answer, but I knew how much things would change for Edward.
More importantly, I was concerned with what would be expected of him. I had to make it clear that despite the results, I wasn't going to allow them to force themselves upon him. No matter what, everything was about him and what he needed.
I dialed the number, and it barely rang once before it was picked up and an impatient Alice was speaking on the other end. "What the hell, Bella? Marcus hung up the phone while I was talking to him, and I've been calling, because my dad-"
"They met, Alice," I interrupted. The hoarse sound of my voice from crying was still tangible.
"Who? Who met?"
"Edward and Marcus. They… They met, Ali." Everything on the other end of the phone stilled, so quiet that I could hear the thumping of my heart reverberate off my ear drums. "Ali?"
"How did… What happened?"
"I don't know any other way to describe it but to say it was magic."
"So, Edward's okay? He's doing fine after?"
"Well, yes, but-"
"That's great! So, he'll be okay meeting other people, then? Because-"
"Mom and dad will be thrilled to know that-"
"I just think that's great, especially now. I mean, that means that we can-"
"Would you slow down?"
"But I thought-"
"Yeah, it's amazing, but it doesn't change anything, Alice," I told her. "He didn't just suddenly heal after meeting Marcus. He's not completely okay now. It still doesn't change what's happened to him and how it's affected him. You're not going to barrel in here and force yourselves on him."
"I didn't mean we'd… It's just, he's-"
"Don't finish that sentence, Alice," I warned, interrupting. "Yes, I know what you're going to say. I guess I've always known, but I don't want to hear it without Edward and Marcus present. Still, whatever those DNA tests say, you can't just barge into his life and expect he's going to be okay with it, that he's going to handle it like you or I would. You can't demand anything from him. And I'm here to tell you, I won't let you do that to him."
"We just want to know him, Bella." Her voice trembled. "We want him to know us. We don't want to hurt him." I heard a muffled voice in the background, which I was sure was Esme's, and Alice's voice became muffled as she spoke to her mother.
"I know you don't, but you all have to take into consideration what he's been through," I explained. "Carlisle may be a doctor and heard of cases like Edward's, but he's never actually dealt with one. He'll be good for Edward, I know it, but you all have to be patient, and you have to be consistent. Show him the side of you I know, the one that will make him feel blessed to be part of your family."
"That's all we want."
"We all know that this means the end of him being in this hospital, and that's a great thing, but you need to be prepared with the fact that he may not choose to live with you."
"What do you mean?" she questioned. "Why wouldn't he want to-"
"There's Marcus. He's always been a choice, and that's Edward's to make."
"But we're his-"
Again I interrupted, stopping her from saying what I already knew. "It doesn't matter what you are or aren't to him. I love you, Ali, and I understand how each of you must be feeling, but this isn't about you, Carlisle, or Esme. This is about Edward and what will make him comfortable. If living with Marcus while he gets to know you and the help he needs is exactly what he wants, then you all are going to give him that. He's got to become acclimated to you, other people, the outside world, and he has to do it all at once. Don't push yourselves on him, or you'll lose him. We all could. I'm sorry, but I will step in before I allow that to happen."
"I'm sorry, Bella. We just want the best for him. You have no idea how much this has affected my mom."
"We all want what's best for him, which is why no one is going to take his choices away." I was not bending on my decision to stand behind Edward and whatever he wanted. "I agreed that getting him out of the hospital was best for him, that him knowing whether you were family or not was best for him, and Carlisle helping him was also best, but there were stipulations to all that. You knew that from the beginning. And I made sure it's what he wanted, too.
"In the end, the decision was his. I know he has to face what brought him here to begin with, I know he needs to be out of this place, but I won't see him locked up, and I won't see him forced into a life he hasn't chosen because it's what others want from him. Therapy is one thing, because I know he needs it, but outside of that, no one, including myself, is going to control him."
"I don't want that for him, either, Bella. Neither do my parents. The only thing we truly want is for him to be happy and safe."
"Good," I sighed. "I'm not trying to be harsh here, Ali. I hope you know that. Tell Esme I know she's beside you, and I want this to work for all of you so badly. You're my best friend, and I couldn't love you anymore than if you were my own sister, but I will protect him."
"I know you will," she replied. "We will, too."
"Alright, give me ten, and we'll call you back. It's time we get those results."
Edward and I were seated at Marcus's bench while Marcus sat on one of the lower steps in the boiler room. Being this close to Marcus was still so new to him, so Marcus gave him space. There wasn't a bone in each of our bodies that didn't fill with anxiety, though Edward's was far more concentrated, so I kept his hand within mine, never letting go as I picked up the receiver and dialed Alice.
Alice had thankfully answered, though I knew we'd be on speaker phone. I made sure to do the same.
"Hey, Ali," I began. "We're all here. You have Esme and Carlisle with you?"
"We're here, Bella," Carlisle answered.
I went to speak, but Esme spoke up. "Is he… Is he doing alright?"
I glanced at Edward and whispered, "Would you like to answer or…?"
He gazed down at the phone in my hand, then took in a deep breath, exhaling slowly before he spoke. "I'm doing okay."
A suppressed cry crackled through the receiver. I could only imagine what Esme must be feeling, hearing Edward's voice for the first time, but I also feared her emotions may overwhelm him.
"You doing alright?" I asked him in a low voice.
He nodded. "I'm alright, meu anjo. It's just… It's a lot."
"See this?" I asked him as I held up our hands. "That means you aren't alone. I'm here with you, and I always will be. If it becomes too much, you look down at our hands, you think of that, and you'll know that's how it will always be. Always you and me."
"Eu te amo," he whispered.
I'd heard it enough to know exactly what he meant. "I love you, too." I returned my attention to the phone within my hand. "We're ready, Carlisle."
Carlisle cleared his throat. "Children get fifty percent of their DNA from each parent, as I'm sure you know, and siblings tend to share fifty percent. While conducting the test, I used the sample from Edward and one from Esme."
"I thought you were going to use Alice?" I questioned.
"I was," he answered. "But Esme wanted to do it herself. And to be honest, we both felt it was a better choice. Once the results came back, it showed a match of twenty-five percent between Edward and Esme, which is a typical percentage between a child and their biological aunt/uncle. I ran the results myself, and I did so twice. They are conclusive, Bella. There is no question that Edward and Esme are related. That can only mean he is Elizabeth's son."
There was no question. I had known that in my gut before the words were spoken. And the sound behind me told me Marcus did, as well.
"Does anyone else know about the results or Edward?"
"No," Carlisle responded. "I was careful for obvious reasons."
I sighed in relief, but my voice broke as I spoke. The way Edward gripped my hand, forcing my knuckles to appear white from the force, told me I needed to give him time, which meant ending the call. "Esme, Carlisle, I know there's a lot left to say, and I know you have questions, concerns, etcetera, but I need you to wait until tomorrow. Edward needs you to wait. This changes everything, we know that, but give him tonight to process. Please."
"Of course." Esme was the one who answered. "We know this must be a lot to handle, because it is for us, but we want to make it as comfortable for him as possible. And we want to be there for him however he needs us. I don't want to… We'll just talk to you tomorrow."
I didn't take the time to thank them, though I was very thankful, before I hung up the phone. I looked into Edward's eyes, knowing he needed to see me, see the assurance I was forcing so hard to show him.
"What does this mean for me? What's going to happen to me now? Will they make me-"
"No one will make you do anything," Marcus piped in from the steps. "Nothing you don't want to do."
"Marcus is right." I squeezed his hand back. "Remember this? What I told you? You aren't alone. Whatever happens now, it's you and me. And we have Marcus, too. We knew things would change, didn't we? But it'll be a good thing. It'll be okay."
I didn't know if everything would be okay, what we'd face, but I knew that I would try to make it as okay for Edward as I could. I had to try for him no matter what it might cost me.
He had a family now and not just the one Marcus and I had given him. The outside world had called him, letting him know it was ready to show him all its wonders.
Our days in this place we'd found love were over.