A/N: This is it ladies, the epilogue. I know I have a lot of loose ends I never really tied up... but just assume it all went well for them. Haha. I just wanted to make sure these two had a good ending together, that's all that matters in the end! A HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who read, reviewed, and supported me throughout this little story. I hope I got the most important theme across here: That love can transform.
Thanks to emmettsmate for looking this over for me!
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters or make money off of any of this. You already knew that.
"Claire, if you don't get your tiny little butt down here right now, so help me-"
"I'm here Mom! I'm here! I'm ready!" Claire skidded in from the kitchen, already wearing her brand new red backpack.
"Good, I don't want you to miss your very first day of school!" I grinned. On the outside, I was firm, I was calm, I was the outward appearance of Cool Mom. On the inside, I was sobbing and shaking and begging them not to let my baby go.
Bella and I had officially adopted Claire less than three years ago, when she was two years old. The process wasn't easy, thanks to all the legal mumbo-jumbo they make you go through (gay, straight, whatever, it's never easy), but all of the hassle and stress was worth it. Claire was our gift, and we loved her from head to toe. And now she was off and ready to go to school for the very first time.
"What if they don't like me?" she asked as I buckled her in the backseat of the family van. Yes, I drove a mini-van now. Between Claire, the deliveries I had to make to the shop, and our giant St Bernard named Darth Vader, I didn't have much of a choice.
"Baby, there is no way they're not going to love you," I promised. "How could they not? You're a rockstar." She beamed at me, and when I got into the driver's seat, I flipped on Claire's favorite CD. The lamenting of Mick Jagger getting no satisfaction blasted through the speakers.
Bella and I spent three years in England after her internship ended, but when we decided to adopt, it made more sense to be closer to family, so we headed back to the States. Austin seemed perfect, so we didn't have to be suffocated by my mom and Alice's enthusiasm, but close enough that they could come babysit if we needed them to.
Like in just a few days when I was going to take Bella to a bed and breakfast for her birthday, just the two of us. I couldn't wait to get her alone. It had been... well, awhile for us. Between her new job as associate professor in the English department at the University of Texas at Austin, and the opening of my new car repair shop, we didn't have time to spend alone. Any and all free time was spent with Claire and passing out during episodes of cooking shows.
Life was exciting, ever-changing, and sexually frustrating.
"Mom, are we there yet?" Claire asked from the backseat.
"Almost Hunny Bunny," I promised. She sighed and played with her jet black ponytail which I'd fixed up with a cute little scrunchie. She looked nothing like me or Bella, with her dark olive skin and almost alarmingly green eyes- she was gorgeous already, even at age five. My Claire Bear was going to be a little heartbreaker, I could just tell. More than likely she'd come home with some new story about the boy who kept following her on the playground, or someone who left her love notes in her cubby. It had happened on playdates before. Like mother, like daughter...
The school wasn't too far from our house, so we got there in record time. I wished, with a pang deep in my chest, that Bella could be here to see this. Our little girl was growing up and going off to school. Sure, this was the first time in hundreds, if not thousands of mornings when she'd head off to school, but this was it. From now on she was going to be a little grown-up, becoming independent from Bella and I. Getting her own identity. Making it through all the crap childhood brings. And all I could do is wait, watch, love, and kick ass if necessary.
My God, I was finally a grown up. It only took me thirty some-odd years to get here, but I made it. The tears were falling down my cheeks before I even realized it. "Are you ready kiddo?" I dried my tears quickly before spinning in my seat to look at her. She looked petrified.
"No," she whispered.
"It'll be just like going to visit your cousins," I offered.
"Hailey and Jonah aren't here though," she pouted. "It won't be the same."
"No, but you'll make friends, I promise. Friends you'll get to see almost every day."
"Well..." That seemed to cheer her up a bit, and she was actually smiling a little when I helped her out of the van.
"Come on, let's go meet your teacher."
She gulped, but put on a brave face. "OK, let's go."
* MD *
"How was your first day Claire?" Bella exclaimed. She'd managed to get off work early and get home before I went to pick up Claire, and I was so glad she had.
"Mama, it was amazing!" Claire squealed, running into Bella's arms in a fashion not unlike how'd she'd greeted me when I picked her up. "I met Kenny Rogers."
"Umm..." Bella lifted up her eyebrows in question while I stifled a laugh.
"He's a turtle," Claire explained, and Bella made the "ahh" face. Claire went on to describe her day in full detail, from table assignments to recess to story time and the picture she'd colored for us, which she produced from her backpack with pride. "We were supposed to draw our families, so I drew Mom and Mama and me, and Uncle Jasper and Auntie Alice and Hailey and Jonah, and Grandma and Grandpa, and Grandpa Charlie in Heaven..." She pointed out each person as she listed them, and I had to admit her skills were pretty decent for a five year old. I wasn't much past stick figures at her age. Hell, I wasn't much better than that now.
"Claire, who is that?" Bella asked, pointing at the smallest figure on the page.
"That's my future brother or sister," Claire explained, as if we'd asked her if the sky was blue.
"Oh." Well that surprised me. She'd never shown interest in a sibling before, in fact it seemed that she loved being an only child. She always hated the noise that Hailey and Jonah could make. I was the loudest one in this family most days.
"Yeah, I hope I get one soon," she said, and continued on her chattering. It never ended, not even when we tucked her into bed.
"Claire, you gotta sleep now, or you'll be too tired to go to school in the morning," I told her, and that got her to shut up pretty quickly. "I love you baby girl."
"I love you too Mom," she said, and curled up into her covers. "Night."
I shut the door quietly behind me, and walked into the bedroom to change into my PJs. I was exhausted, emotionally and physically, and all I wanted was to curl into bed with my wife and sleep a million years.
"Is she asleep yet?" Bella asked when I joined her in the living room. She was surrounded by books, as usual, but she was also in her PJs and looking as worn as I felt. I sat on the couch beside her and collapsed into the throw pillows.
"I have no idea, she was so wired today," I said. "I can't believe she's in school already."
"I know," Bella sighed, setting her paperwork and books aside. She leaned over and curled herself up against me. After all these years, she still felt so damn good. Even better than in the beginning. Now I knew every curve, every freckle, every place that would make her sigh, and I cherished that about her. She knew me just as well.
We were quiet, each reflecting on the fact that our baby was growing up, and then she spoke. "I didn't know she wanted a sibling."
"Me either, she's never talked about it before," I said. "Neither have we."
"I guess I just figured we were so lucky to get Claire, and I never really allowed myself to wonder if we could have another," she said. "But maybe we should... at least talk about it."
"Is that what you want?" I asked. "Another baby?"
"I hated being an only child," Bella admitted. "And even though you guys still torture each other," she rolled her eyes at me, "I envy what you have with Jasper."
"Are you saying you want to look into another adoption?"
"If you do..."
"I do." Bella sat up and grinned widely at me. "I know life is crazy right now, but when won't it be? And Claire deserves someone to grow up with. And somewhere there is a baby who deserves to be loved, and I know we can give him or her that."
"We can," I echoed, and leaned in to give Bella a lingering kiss. "I'm ready if you are."
"For anything," she grinned.
I took Bella upstairs to our room where we made love quietly before falling asleep in each others arms. The love of my life. The angel sent to me to save me, change me, heal me. Make me the better person that I am today. My wife, Bella.
A/N II: Thank you all so much! Leave the girls love one more time? Please and thank you. :-)