Title: You Found Me
Full Summary: Edward Masen has lived the life of a nomadic vampire, travelling with James and Victoria since he awoke as an immortal. His ability to read minds has had the unusual side effect of making him a vampire with a conscience. Despite the ridicule from his coven mates, he's confident he's making the best of his existence and doing what's morally right... until he stumbles upon a brown-eyed girl reading in a meadow in Forks. As he attempts to befriend her and learns more about the sleepy town of Forks, Edward finds there's a lot more to being a vampire than he ever thought possible.
Rating: M, for language and sexing.
AN: And this is it. I can't believe it's actually over. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read, I appreciate all of you. I hope to see all of you out there in the fandom :) And I couldn't end this fic without a special thanks to Jana who has been my main hand-holder.
Students dressed in dark robes accented with Columbia's blue and white streamed across the stage at a rapid rate, each accepting a firm handshake and a rolled diploma. The R's had finished several minutes ago, and the S's were well into their march.
The little boy squirming in my lap tilted his face back to meet mine. "Is it almost Mommy's turn?"
"Soon sweetie," Renee promised, leaning to kiss his little cheek from the seat next to mine. She was as impatient as he was, her excitement making her jittery. "Just a little longer."
I smiled into bright jade eyes – eyes that had once belonged to me – when he looked back at me for confirmation.
"It's alphabetical," I reminded him. "You know how Mommy's last name is spelled. S –"
He shrugged me off impatiently, his exasperated expression a perfect reflection of his mother's. "I already know."
Renee beamed at him, her pride evident. "That's right. You're our little genius, aren't you?"
"Yep!" He gave her the hammy grin that had won him the hearts of everyone sitting in this aisle. Even Charlie adored his grandson in his quiet way. Noah was one of few people willing to sit by and endure his sports commentaries. As a result my son had an encyclopedic knowledge of sports history.
I kissed his head, directing his attention away from his excitable grandmother and back to the stage. "Since you know how to spell Mommy's name, you know it's almost her turn. You might miss her if you don't pay attention."
He nodded obediently and focused his eyes on the procession once again. Though his eyes were on the stage, his mind wasn't. His thoughts wandered, giving away his exasperation with watching hundreds of students who weren't his mother get their diplomas.
That was the trouble with having a half-vampire child. Though he was intelligent enough to understand, he had the human impatience with sitting still and enduring something that didn't interest him.
I bounced him on my lap to get his attention when Bella finally strode onto the stage.
She accepted her diploma from the chancellor, her brow furrowed as she scanned the crowd for us. Her desperation to spot us might have been unnoticeable to others but I knew her every expression better than I knew myself.
Noah sat up in my arms, his grin huge as he recognized his mother. His little arms waved at her, begging her to see him. In the seat over, his grandmother did the same. Charlie, Rose and Emmett settled for cheers and more restrained waves. I would have joined in with my own enthusiasm if not for my son sitting on my lap.
With limited seating, Bella had been limited to five guests. Noah had snuck by because he could share a seat with me. The others were all gathered at our apartment, making the final preparations for Bella's graduation party.
Bella's eyes lit with affection as she caught sight of Noah's frantic waves. The amount they adored one another made me love them both more. A flash of her brilliant smile and she was gone as the next person made their way to centre stage.
"That was it?" Noah asked, dumfounded, as she disappeared from view. "We had to wait an hour for that?"
Emmett chuckled from the seat on my other side. "Welcome to the real world, kid."
Rosalie elbowed him from two seats over. "Shut up, Emmett." She peered at Noah over her husband's lap. "Don't listen to him, baby. Uncle Emmett is just being rude."
"Do you see why Mommy and I thought you might find school tedious?" I said quietly, taking the opportunity to remind him why Bella and I thought he might not have the patience to deal with other children. "If you found this boring, think about how you'll feel after an entire year of kindergarten. You won't be reading Flaubert with Mommy or solving equations with Auntie Rosalie. You'll be listening to nursery rhymes and creating finger paintings."
"I know. I want to meet other kids. Adults are boring, too. You said I could go as long as I promised to keep the secret," he reminded me with wide eyes, worried that I might rescind the offer.
I kissed his dark hair, just as I'd done to his mother's so many times, thankful that Renee was engaged in conversation with Charlie and not paying attention to us. She wouldn't understand what promise was being referred to and wouldn't hesitate to ask.
Of course, the secret to which Noah was referring was that the majority of his family members were vampires. At the tender age of four, he was well aware of the differences between humans and vampires and knew that he fell somewhere in between.
He also knew that humans didn't think vampires existed and why it was crucial that it stay that way. We had engrained in him that he was not to mention vampires to his mother's parents because they were human. In the three years he'd been speaking, he'd never once slipped up.
Bella and I hated asking him to keep such a monumental secret but it was necessary for him to have the relatively normal childhood we both wanted for him. We refused to hide him away. He was our proudest accomplishment and we wanted the world to know he existed.
There were some things that were out of our control; for instance, there was little we could do to hide that his intelligence far exceeded an average four-year-old's. But the benefit of that was that he was intelligent enough to understand the limitations of what he could say and do in public and the serious ramifications if he broke his promises. To most – his grandparents included – he was merely an extremely gifted child, not a half-vampire that defied nature.
"Mommy and I made a promise and we're going to keep it," I assured him. "You don't need to worry that we will change our minds. If you want to go to school, you can."
He regarded me with suspicious eyes. "Okay. But this better not be like the time you guys tricked me into eating vegetables."
I chuckled, amused by his suspicion. Like most children, Noah loathed vegetables.
"No way. We know you're on to us."
Thinking we were being clever, Bella and I had tried to sneak vegetables into a fruit puree we'd fed to him when he'd been months old and he refused to let us forget our deception. Not only had he refused to eat a bite of it, the entire contents of his bowl had ended up on the ceiling.
It was fortunate he had no nutritional requirements that needed to be met. His half-immortal body could withstand any source of nutrition he threw at it. Despite a few valiant attempts by both Bella and myself, Noah preferred foods with a high sugar content. He was even more stubborn than Bella when it came to attempts to sway his diet to healthier choices. Thankfully, he deemed fruits acceptable, so Bella and I didn't come across as completely unfit parents.
Both Carlisle and Rosalie had examined him many times over, yet neither could ever find a medical reason why we should dissuade Noah from his preferred diet. He was perfectly healthy, if a little small for his age. That was strictly attributed to his vampire blood, which tempered regular human growth.
Once his teeth had grown in (an experience I never wished to repeat; having a teething vampire was nothing short of a nightmare), they were sharp enough to make drinking blood an option, but he disliked the taste, preferring human food. I didn't blame him. If I had another option, I'd take it, too.
It didn't take long for the ceremony to wrap up after we spotted Bella. The lights in the theatre rose and the audience was ushered outside (where plenty of cloud cover waited) to commence the frenetic search for graduates as they made their way back to their families.
I tapped Emmett on the shoulder. "Stay here and entertain the in-laws, will you?" I asked, nodding to Renee and Charlie. Renee was talking animatedly, not seeming to notice that Charlie looked like he'd rather be anywhere else. "Noah and I are going to find Bella. We'll be back."
He thumped me on the back. "Sure, no problem. You want me to take the kid?"
I shook my head. Bella would want to see him.
Noah spotted her before I did, his vantage point on my hip giving him a good view of the area. "Daddy, Mommy's over there." His arm stretched in her direction.
Both Noah and I grinned at the sight of her. Even after half a decade together, she still filled me with indescribable feelings every time I saw her.
Wearing her dark robes, with her dark hair curled gently by Alice's expert hands, she was a vision. She teetered on heels as she stood on her toes, searching for us. Years of Alice thrusting them on her and she'd still never quite mastered them.
"Let's go say congratulations, shall we?"
Noah nodded enthusiastically.
Weaving through the crowd toward her, I wrapped the arm that wasn't holding Noah around my wife's waist, burying my face in her hair. "Hello, love."
She whirled to face us, her smile so wide I couldn't help but mirror it. Noah outshined us both with his even more brilliant smile.
"You were amazing," I told her, kissing her softly. "Congratulations, baby."
"Thanks." She flushed with pride, tucking a curl behind her ear. "I've never been so nervous in my life."
"You didn't look nervous," Noah supplied helpfully. "Just happy."
He held out his arms to her, the universal signal for "please hold me." Bella obliged, taking him from me. He wrapped his arms around her, offering a hug that was part congratulations, part happiness to see his mother.
"What did you think?" she asked him.
He shrugged. "It was boring. I think once I graduate kindergarten I'll retire from school. I don't need to go to college."
Bella and I both chuckled, our eyes meeting over our son's head as he regaled us with his interpretation of the day, which was a lot more complex than one might have expected. Away from his grandparent's ears, he unleashed his thoughts freely.
He analyzed the president's commencement speech for us, told us the exact number of graduates that had walked across the stage and even tallied the percentage of graduates who shared his mother's major down to a hundredth of a percent. I hadn't thought he had been paying that much attention.
As always, he surprised me, just like his mother did. Never had I thought I'd find myself here. Some days the word "son" still seemed foreign. Five years after the fact and I still couldn't believe he had happened to me.
"I think I'm pregnant," Bella repeated, a trembling hand settling on her stomach.
I found myself completely speechless. My mind was free of any thoughts that I could even begin to form into words. It was as though an invisible plug had been pulled and they'd all been flushed away.
"Edward?" she questioned, her hand skimming my cheek, forcing my panicked eyes to meet hers. "Baby, are you okay?"
A stab of guilt surged. She was the one worried she might be pregnant and she was comforting me? I forced the haze that had settled over me to clear.
"Pregnant," I choked out, repeating the word that had tossed my world upside down.
"Yes." Worried eyes searched mine. "You know it's yours, don't you? I know it sounds impossible, but I've never been with anyone else, and–"
I kissed her forehead, unable to let her think I would believe she had betrayed me. "I know. I love you. I trust you." Now that my mind was functioning, it was working in overdrive. I had no idea where to begin. "Are you absolutely positive?"
It was a wasted question. I could already see changes in her. Her scent had shifted and her midsection pulsed with the slightest whisper of sound, both miniscule changes I'd never dwelled on. I'd even missed the slight curve of her stomach. It wouldn't be noticeable to anyone else, but I knew her body better than anybody. I should have being paying closer attention to the changes in my mate.
"Pretty certain." She gestured to the white sticks lining the counter. "I bought brands that use different hormones, in case I got a false positive. I haven't had my period in months. It's not very regular but six months is a long time even for me. Since we moved, I'd been feeling tired and emotional. I assumed it was the stress of moving across the country. When it didn't go away, I started to suspect… I'm sorry."
She sniffed, tears flooding down her cheeks. I pulled her close, unable to stand the sight of her crying. I mumbled soothing words, repeating over and over that it wasn't her fault and we'd figure it out.
She inhaled shakily and clung to me. "What are we going to do? I mean, I can't exactly walk into the hospital and pretend this is normal."
"Carlisle?" I suggested. "He's studied humans and vampires for centuries. If anyone can help us understand what's happening, it'll be him."
Throwing together travel plans that would get us to Forks as soon as possible, we collected ourselves enough to explain to Rosalie and Emmett what we suspected and where we were going. They insisted on coming with us, claiming we needed all the support we could get. While that was true in a sense, we also wanted to be left alone to deal with the situation in private.
If Bella was indeed carrying my child, it would be my responsibility to shield and protect her. Including from our sometimes overbearing friends. As much as we loved them, the development was so new, we needed time to process it ourselves before they got involved. Thankfully, they seemed to understand. Throughout the flight, they kept to themselves, allowing Bella and I to huddle together in thoughtful silence.
Carlisle greeted us at the gate in Seattle with a cautious smile, assuring us that he would figure out what was happening and determine what was safest for Bella.
One of his initial musings was that if the pregnancy was unwanted, it seemed likely we could abort it. I was surprised by the fierce contempt I felt at the suggestion. If by some miracle Bella and I had managed to create a child, the thought of killing it was abhorrent. Destroying a piece of Bella made me feel ill.
Rosalie seemed to feel the same way. She'd shot Carlisle a fierce stare, snapping that killing an innocent baby would be no better than murder.
She'd been quick to form an attachment to the unborn child, though I suspected that had more to do with her desire to have a baby than any deep-seated need to protect our baby.
The drive to Forks seemed to take an eternity. With five of us crammed into Carlisle's Mercedes, it was a tight fit. I pulled Bella onto my lap, not caring if it violated road safety. I needed her close and she needed comfort.
Bella had been impassive while Carlisle voiced his thoughts on the possibility of ending her pregnancy. I couldn't imagine Bella being the kind of person who would abort a baby and it unsettled me that I wasn't sure. I settled a hand over her stomach, wanting to let her know without words how I felt. If there was a baby in there, it was ours. That was enough reason to want to protect it.
Esme welcomed us into the Cullen home with uncharacteristic somberness. We were all greeted with hugs. She kissed Bella on each cheek and insisted on making her something to eat. The smile that accompanied the offer didn't quite reach her eyes.
I offered a weak smile of my own, wishing I could assure her that everything would be fine. Bella needed us to be optimistic or she would fall victim to her own nerves.
"Can we just get this over with?" Bella asked as everyone settled around the kitchen table. She nibbled at the plate Esme set before her but mostly shoved the food around with a fork, too nervous to enjoy it. I hovered at her side, unwilling to leave her alone for even a moment.
"Of course, darling," Esme soothed. "Carlisle's setting up in his office. It's been a long time since he's had to pull out his obstetric equipment. He's getting it from the attic now. He'll be down in a moment."
Rosalie grabbed Bella's hand in a supportive gesture. "Everything's going to be fine. You're having a baby. That's the greatest gift anyone could possibly ask for."
Her eyes shone and her thoughts drifted to her longing for a baby. Envy that she would never have one was quick to follow. She quashed it.
Bella's eyes grew wet. "Even if I can have the baby… what do I know about being a mother? I've lived on my own for three months!"
"You'll have Edward," Rosalie offered. "The two of you love one another. You'll love your baby, too. I know it. And Em and I will help any way we can. You don't think we'd let our niece or nephew suffer, do you?"
"Maybe if he or she is left alone with Emmett," I said wryly, hoping to see Bella smile.
She didn't. Her hand dropped to her stomach. "I might not even be strong enough. What if the baby is as strong as Edward?"
Emmett scoffed. "B, you're the strongest human I know. If there's anyone capable of rearing Edward's demon spawn, it's you." He grinned when Bella cracked a tiny smile.
Carlisle stepped into the room. "Edward? Bella? I'm all set up."
Bella stood, clutching my hand so tightly that her knuckles turned white. I gave her a reassuring smile though I was just as terrified.
"It's going to be fine," Rosalie repeated. "We'll be here if you need us."
It seemed to take an eternity for Carlisle to take Bella's measurements and complete a thorough examination with what appeared to be an ancient ultrasound machine. He asked questions about everything from how she was feeling to her medical history to details about our lives in New York as he worked.
He confirmed that Bella was pregnant almost immediately after he began. I'd already accepted that was going to be the case. There were too many signs to ignore.
He continued to examine her, hoping to determine more. I climbed onto the makeshift bed next to her, circling my arms around her. Her terror was plain but I forced myself to remain calm, meticulously following Carlisle's thoughts as he worked. Reminding myself that he had yet to find anything alarming was all that kept me composed.
"The baby appears remarkably human," he commented eventually. He seemed surprised by this fact.
"Is it fully human?" Bella questioned. "Is that possible? With Edward…"
"Prior to today I wouldn't have said it was possible for the two of you to conceive a child at all, so I won't rule anything out. However, it is my guess that at this stage of the pregnancy human traits are more dominant. That may change as the baby develops."
Bella's voice trembled. "If vampire traits do become more pronounced over time and the baby becomes stronger… will I be able to…?"
He shrugged helplessly. "It's impossible to say. Based on your current hormone levels, it appears you are nearing the fifth month of gestation. However, the fetus seems extremely underdeveloped for such an advanced stage of pregnancy. Which is why I'm assuming vampire traits may be slow to develop. The baby may need additional time to grow… to be strong enough to handle the effect of having what is essentially venom present in his or her DNA."
Bella's brow furrowed in shock and her hand smoothed against her flat stomach. "Five months?"
Carlisle nodded. "It appears you will have a longer than average pregnancy. Given the unique circumstances, the only way to know for sure is to chart the baby's growth over time. As it stands, I'm anticipating somewhere in the neighbourhood of 12 to 15 months."
"So you're saying she will almost certainly carry the baby for more than a year?" I repeated, stroking Bella's back gently, hoping to soothe her. She clung to my other hand. "What do you estimate the likelihood of her successfully giving birth?"
"As it stands now, her chances are excellent. The baby is growing as a human baby would, merely slower. It poses no threat to Bella. It's unique situation, though. I can't say for certain that nothing will change by the time she delivers."
Carlisle paused, clearing his throat before continuing. His tone softened. "Abortion remains a possibility, should you choose that route. I'd recommend deciding whether you want to see the pregnancy through as soon as possible. The further along in the pregnancy, the more traumatic the event would be."
He gestured to the door. "I'll leave you to discuss the matter in private."
The veneer of privacy was flimsy as all the occupants of the house could hear us through the door no matter how low our voices. I appreciated the courtesy nonetheless.
Bella's fingers tightened around mine as Carlisle slipped out of the room. "I'm scared," she admitted.
"I am, too. I'm terrified of losing you. I don't know who I am without you anymore."
I kissed her gently, unable to imagine a world where I wouldn't be able to.
"Even though I'm scared, I want this so badly. To have your baby…" Her eyes shone and her hand, still knotted with mine, drifted to cover her stomach. "It's something I never dreamed was possible. To squander the opportunity out of fear seems stupid… especially since there's nothing to fear yet. It's just the unknown. It's worth the risk."
I kissed her gently. "I want that too. This baby is a piece of you. How could I not?"
"I guess that means we're having a baby, then," she said, a tear trickling off the end of her chin. "That decision was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I mean it's our baby. She deserves a chance at life. We made her and she's ours, whether we're prepared for her or not. We'll figure the rest out."
I frowned. "Her?"
The choice of pronoun was slightly terrifying. It hadn't yet sunk in that by this time next year, more likely than not, we would have an actual baby… a tiny person who would have a gender and a name and a personality.
Bella gave me a watery grin. "Yes, her. You're going to be a great daddy. I can see it now… our daughter will have you in the palm of her little hand. You'll let her put your hair in bows and sing lullabies to her and protect her from all the horrible boys trying to get her attention on the playground… because you're going to love her that much."
I laughed. "I wish I had your faith. Vampires weren't meant to be parents. You're the one who was meant to be a mother. The way you take care of the people you love… I have no doubts it was a role made for you. It made me sad to think that I would be taking that opportunity away from you."
"And now you won't."
I smiled, my own eyes stinging with tears I couldn't shed. "It seems not." I kissed her, unable to express the swelling emotion any other way. "Thank god it's with you. I can't imagine doing this with anyone else."
I laid a sleeping Noah down in his bed. As much as I loved him, I was glad he slept. He was a handful when he was awake, so it was nice to get a little downtime. He didn't need nearly as much sleep as a human child would but he was out for a few hours each night.
Bella tiptoed into the room, like she did every time I put Noah to bed. I didn't know why she bothered trying to keep quiet. When he was asleep, he slept like a very adorable rock.
She pecked him on his forehead, smoothing his hair from his sleeping face. It sprung back under her hand, just as defiant as mine. Bella sighed, as had become a part of our nightly routine.
"He's so much like you," she commented casually.
I smiled and placed a kiss of my own on his soft cheek, pulling the blankets higher around him. "I'll take that as a compliment because he's amazing."
She nodded and sat next to me on the bed, watching our slumbering son. "I couldn't have asked for a better little boy. Do you remember when I was convinced that he was a girl?"
I chuckled. "Of course. You wouldn't be swayed. You were certain that I was going to give her everything she ever wanted and spoil her to death."
"I was right on everything but the gender," she insisted.
I had no defense because it was absolutely true.
"What are you doing in here, anyway?" I teased. "You're supposed to be enjoying your graduation party. Alice will be devastated if you're bored already."
She shrugged, wrapping her arms around me and laying her head on my chest. "I just wanted a little quiet time with my boys. I couldn't let Noah go to sleep without a goodnight kiss. Besides, the only person I want to dance with is in here. I got lonely watching everyone else pair off."
I pulled away to extend a hand to her. "Come on then, let's dance. I'm not going to let you use me as an excuse to hide away. Alice will not hesitate to kill me."
She tried to hide her smile but failed. "Okay. Since I'm married to you and all, I suppose I could spare one dance."
"Alice set up an open bar," I reminded her with a kiss. "I'm sure once I get a few glasses of wine in you, you'll change your mind."
Alice accosted us when we exited the room hand in hand. "There you guys are." She gave Bella a look. "I know you hate being the centre of attention but you only graduate once," she said with a secret smile. "We're going to cut the cake soon."
She pointed at the pristine white buttercream that only half of those in attendance would eat. "I can see that you're going to dance with Edward, though, so ten minutes?"
Bella nodded, taking my hand and leading me to the makeshift dance floor littered with a handful of our friends and family. Our furniture had been artfully rearranged by Alice to maximize the flow in the limited space.
We'd moved to a larger apartment in our building shortly after Noah had been born. It still wasn't as spacious as I would have liked, but Bella loved the building and wanted to stay. It was large enough to give Noah space to roam around or to host a small gathering of friends and family and I supposed that was all we really needed.
Alice had done of a lovely job of decorating it with tasteful white and pale blue ribbons commemorating Bella's graduation. The celebration was hers alone as I'd opted to finish my masters in a joint program with Julliard before I graduated.
I was so proud she'd made it this far. Raising a precocious toddler and balancing school wasn't an easy task and she'd done it without compromising her studies or Noah's childhood. It had taken a little longer than she expected, but I'd never been more proud of her. I couldn't wait to see what she accomplished next.
Bella's cheek settled against my shoulder as we swayed to the soft music Alice had set in the background. Everyone milling about faded to a background hum, except a single pair of eyes.
Charlie sat in one of the recliners, watching us like a hawk.
Though Bella and I had been married for three years now, I had never quite managed to get back into his good books after we'd announced she was pregnant.
He was at constant attention, making sure Bella was as happy as she appeared to be. Now that I had a little boy, I understood how he felt. I would do whatever it took to maintain his happiness, whether it seemed irrational or not.
Bella pulled my face to hers, well aware her father was watching our every move. "We're married. We have a child. What's he going to do?" she whispered against my lips before I could pull back more than an inch.
I let her kiss me, unable to resist the temptation. After six years together, I'd made peace with my inability to tell her no. I was content to let the world know how much I adored my wife.
By the end of her eighth month of pregnancy, Bella's stomach had curved with our baby to the point that loose clothes could no longer hide the burgeoning bump. Just as Carlisle had predicted, it had been a slow development. She appeared to be a little more than halfway through her pregnancy at the point most women would be close to giving birth.
Bella had insisted that we return to New York so she could continue to work toward her degree through the duration of her pregnancy. She had argued that if the baby posed no danger to her there was no harm in getting the first year out of the way while she was pregnant. I vowed to make sure she got the rest and relaxation she needed in between hitting the books.
At first, Carlisle had been wary letting her out of his sight. He had recently signed a contract with Forks General tying him to Forks for another year. He had been hoping Bella would stay near so he could monitor the baby's growth but understood her desire to return to Manhattan. Rosalie had promised to oversee Bella's health and to keep him in the loop as the pregnancy progressed.
Rosalie held several medical degrees, so he could hardly object. Though she didn't share his ability to withstand blood to the same degree, her utter devotion to our unborn child made her more than careful. She treated Bella like a fragile and precious treasure and spoke of the baby with soft reverence.
Over the next months emailing and skyping with Carlisle and Esme became a regular part of our routine. Though they shared no blood relation to the baby, they acted the part of proud grandparents to a tee, gushing over Bella's growing tummy and the ultrasound pictures that Rosalie took with great care on a weekly basis. Our baby would have the most complete baby scrapbook on record thanks to her meticulous note taking of every development, no matter how minor.
By the end February and the ninth month of Bella's pregnancy, Rosalie quietly suggested it might be time for us to alert Renee and Charlie of the baby's existence, if we planned on doing so. Bella had only a few months left before she was due to give birth.
The baby's development was moving more quickly now and it seemed our baby would be due sometime in the summer. The baby had yet to manifest any real vampire traits. To an outsider, it would appear the baby's growth was progressing normally if we claimed she was approaching the end of her fifth month.
Bella and I had debated about whether or not we wanted to tell them.
"I think they deserve to know," she claimed, laying a hand on the roundness of her stomach. "This is their only chance to have a grandchild. I don't want to take that away from them."
I kissed her gently, twining my fingers with hers. "I think they deserve to know, too. But there are other considerations." I paused, unsure how to bring up the delicate subject. "We don't know for sure that the baby won't seem different to them."
"Rosalie says she still seems mostly human and she expects me to be due in less than five months. I've made it through nine so far. How much could she possibly change in the next few months?"
"You're still set on a girl?" I questioned, a smile growing at the thought of having a little girl with Bella's delicate features and dark colouring, though I had been doing my best to remain neutral when the subject came up.
She nodded, her smile matching mine. "Yeah. Rosalie says she should be able to tell by now but the baby's in an awkward position. Carlisle's old ultrasound machine isn't helping. She thinks it's a girl too."
I rolled my eyes. "She only thinks that because girls have a much larger selection of clothing. Between her and Alice, our daughter is going to own a Babies R' Us worth of clothing before she's even born. I'm not moving to another apartment to accommodate a baby closet."
"They're just excited," Bella protested. "It's sweet. I love that they're so happy for us. They've been so great throughout all of this." She kissed me. "Almost as great as you."
I returned her kiss with more intensity, very aware of the bump separating us. At times it was still surreal that she was carrying my child… that I was going to be a father in a few months' time. Somehow, the amazing girl in my arms had made dreams I didn't know I had into reality.
She pulled away with a gasp and we both glanced down, having felt the flutter of our child moving. I pulled her into my lap, placing both my hands on her stomach, hoping to feel a repeat. When it happened again a few minutes later, I wasn't quite prepared for the welling of emotion.
I pressed a kiss to Bella's temple, caressing her stomach. She had never been more beautiful or sexier to me than she was in this moment. "Amazing."
Her eyes met mine, shining brightly. "That's our baby. Ours. Yours and mine. She's really in there."
"Yeah," I managed to say around the lump in my throat. "She is. She's going to be beautiful. Just like her mother."
"This is why we have to tell my parents," Bella said quietly, her hand settling on top of mine. "Maybe they'll be upset at first but in the end, they'll be happy. They deserve a chance to get to know her."
Telling Renee went more smoothly than we could have hoped. There were no harsh words or disapproving looks. I suppose we should have known. Renee's lax, easygoing approach to parenting was well documented.
Bella and I had sat in front of her laptop's webcam, our hands joined as Renee's smiling face appeared onscreen. Bella's palm was damp against mine, a sure sign of her nerves. Renee didn't seem to notice her daughter's wavering smile.
"Hey, baby," she greeted Bella, who looked a little sick at her choice of endearment. "How's everything going? Are you and Edward enjoying Columbia?"
I nodded when Bella bit her lip, unsure how to begin. "School has been going great," I informed, leaning to kiss Bella's cheek. "Bella was on the dean's list for the fall semester."
Renee smiled, clasping her hands. "That's lovely, sweetheart. Is that what you wanted to tell me?"
Bella shook her head, taking a deep, shaky breath. "Not exactly. Um, I'm not quite sure how to tell you. Maybe I should just show you."
Bella turned to me, her eyes begging for my support. I gave her my most reassuring smile. Her hand gripped mine tighter and I helped her stand so Renee could see her swollen belly. I pressed a soft kiss to her abdomen as she stood, hoping it would provide some comfort.
"You're pregnant?" Renee gasped after several long seconds. She kept her smile at bay. "Are we happy about this?"
Bella settled back into her seat so she could see her mother. "You're not mad?"
Renee shook her head. "Of course not. You're an adult. You chose to have sex with full understanding of the repercussions. If you're choosing to have this baby, I know you've considered it carefully. I had you at eighteen. It would be awfully unfair of me to reprimand you for being irresponsible."
Tears trailed down Bella's cheeks. She had been a lot more emotional than usual lately. "I have considered it, I promise. We want this baby. Edward and I, we're going to love her so much. Though it's unexpected, we couldn't be happier."
Renee wiped her own glassy eyes. "Then I'm happy for you. I can't say I expected to be a grandmother before I turned forty, but my baby is having a baby. I can't be upset about that. You're fortunate to have a good man to share it with. Just like I did. Charlie and I have had our differences but he's always been a good daddy. It doesn't hurt that you've secured excellent genes for your baby, either." She winked.
Bella flushed. "Mom!"
"I'm just saying you're going to have a beautiful baby, sweetheart. I want to see lots of pictures, okay? If I'm going to be a grandma, I'm going to need pictures to put on my fridge."
"We'll keep your fridge covered," I promised. "With Rosalie and Alice standing at the ready, we're going to have more photographs of this baby than we know what to do with."
"Alice is in New York now, too?" Renee questioned.
Bella nodded. "After Greece, Alice and Jasper got a little homesick… they wanted to be near family. Alice enrolled at Parsons for the winter semester. Jasper's still figuring out what he wants to do."
"You'll have plenty of support then," Renee commented with a tender smile. "But if you need me, you know where I am. I'll be happy to answer any questions. Now, stand up again, will you? I need to see that baby. How many months are you?"
I helped Bella stand again, so Renee could see the curve of our child growing inside of her. Bella was wearing a tee shirt that clung to her frame, proudly displaying her pregnancy.
She rested a hand on her stomach and responded with as much honesty as possible, answering everything from questions about her pregnancy and the baby to what we were planning for the future. Renee's smile grew with each answer. Bella seemed more relaxed, too. Knowing that she had her mother's support had lightened her mood considerably.
"Does your father know, yet?" Renee asked.
Bella flushed deeply and cuddled into my lap so Renee could see us both onscreen.
"No. We're not sure how to tell him. Edward hasn't been in his good books since he found out we were living together. We have a feeling that telling him we're having a baby would be confirming his worst fears."
I stroked Bella's hair. She always got agitated when we discussed telling Charlie. She desperately wanted him to be happy but was certain that he would be ambivalent at best. She feared fury would come before acceptance.
Renee took a deep breath, looking very serious. "I'm going to tell you something. I don't want you to use this information lightly but I think it's important that you know."
Bella turned wide eyes to the screen, wondering what secret her mother could possibly have to share.
Renee continued quietly. "We never planned to have you. Your father and I got a little drunk at a party one night and next thing we knew, we were having you. We got married a month later. Charlie always wondered what would have happened if we had done things differently. He thinks he derailed my life and he's never quite forgiven himself for it. But the truth is, he just set me down a different path. A better one. I wouldn't trade you or the years I had with him for the world. If he gets upset, you remind him how everything worked out just fine with you."
Bella smiled. "Mom, I hate to break it to you, but it was kind of obvious I was an accident. Knowing you, I would have been shocked if I wasn't. Thank you for telling me, though."
Renee chuckled. "I thought you might be able to use the added leverage. Your father is as stubborn as a mule. I suppose that's where you got it from."
Telling Charlie was stressful to say the least. Though he didn't react quite like we'd expected, his reaction left a lot to be desired.
Shortly after Bella and I had left Washington, Charlie had found companionship with a widow from La Push. Neither Bella nor I knew her very well, but Sue Clearwater seemed like a perfect match for Charlie.
They both had past relationships they had never managed to bury completely. They understood one another and were exactly what the other needed. They were slow to label it love but it was clear they cared deeply about one another and were progressing at a pace that suited them.
Sue had brought several changes into Charlie's life, a shiny new laptop among them. She used it to communicate with her two grown kids that lived out of state. Charlie, always somewhat adverse to new technology, had been slow to adapt but couldn't deny the merits of being able to connect with Bella without the expense of plane tickets.
Bella chatted with him via video occasionally, usually with Sue hovering in the background, humming a tune as she stirred a pot, preparing her latest dinner feast.
She bent over the laptop, amused by Charlie's ineptitude when it came to using it. Charlie was in the background asking if it was on. She reminded him that the red light meant it was. It was a dialogue we'd heard several times.
"Hey, Bella, Edward," she greeted warmly. "I'm just going to go get dinner started. I'll leave you to talk with Charlie." She turned to him. "If you have any problems, babe, come and get me."
Bella shooed me away, tilting the laptop so I was out of view of the camera as her father's face appeared on the screen. We had decided it would be best if she told him about the baby on her own, before I got involved in the conversation.
Charlie rolled his eyes. "I can figure it out myself," he mumbled gruffly, turning pink and giving the screen a side-eye when Sue planted a kiss on his nose.
"Hey Dad," Bella greeted him with a grin.
It pleased her to see him in a new relationship. At one time she had doubted he would ever have that and the thought of him living a lonely life had weighed on her.
"Hey, Bells," he greeted, his tone soft in a way it only was for his daughter. "How's big city life treating you?"
"It's been fine." Bella shrugged, her hand slipping down to caress her belly nervously. Despite being prepared with Renee's insight, she was still terrified he would disapprove. I placed my hand over hers, ceasing her nervous movements, and raised her palm to my lips to so I could press a kiss against it.
Charlie frowned, his eyes mirroring his daughter's anxious ones. "Something wrong? You're acting a little strange over there."
"Nothing's wrong," Bella assured, though her fidgeting said otherwise. "Everything is great, actually. There's just something I need to tell you."
He waited expectantly.
He remained mute, his eyes glued to the screen. Bella peered at it and tapped the touchpad, wondering if the screen had frozen. I bit back a smile, amused that his first reaction was almost identical to mine.
"Did - Did you say you were pregnant?" he sputtered, bursting back to life. "Pregnant! Tell me that's not what you said."
Bella bit her lip. "Edward and I are going to have a baby." His lips moved as if to comment but Bella cut him off. "We're happy about this. We'd really appreciate it if you could try to be, too."
He scoffed, scrubbing a hand on his chin. "You're nineteen, Isabella! And you're pregnant!" He shook his head. "Did you at least use protection? Don't tell me you were planning this! You're nineteen! Your whole life… changed. Did you stop to think about Columbia? What are you going to do when you have a baby?"
Bella's expression set stubbornly. "I'll still be able to finish my degree. And so what if I did plan it? It's my life and my body."
Charlie matched her stormy gaze. "Did Edward put you up to this? I never trusted that boy. If he forced you–"
Bella's glare could have melted the plastic of the screen. "He didn't put me up to anything. If it's anyone's fault, it's mine. I – I seduced him."
She exhaled loudly, making a physical effort to calm herself. "Look, I told you because I thought you'd like to know you're going to be a grandfather, not so you could insult Edward and throw around accusations."
Charlie ground his teeth together, holding back anger. "I just don't understand how this happened. You were always so responsible."
"I'm not sorry it happened. Edward and I can handle this. We're responsible adults capable of dealing with this in a mature manner."
"The fact it happened at all says otherwise," Charlie countered coldly. "Where is Edward? Is he hiding, too afraid to man up to what he's done?"
"Dad, please," Bella growled lowly. "Stop blaming Edward. It's not his fault. I wanted to tell you on my own at first. He's right here." She turned the camera so Charlie could see me sitting next to her.
"Are you planning to marry my daughter?" He asked me bluntly.
I shook my head tentatively. "I asked her, sir, and she refused. She says she doesn't want us to get married because of the baby. I can assure you–"
"I don't want assurances from you!" he snapped. "I want to know that my daughter is going to be taken care of! Are you planning to be a responsible father?"
Bella stood furiously, popping up between Charlie and I. He gasped as he took in the sight of her swollen stomach. It was clear he'd been expecting to find her in a less advanced stage of pregnancy.
She grabbed the laptop and turned it so it was facing her. "That's enough," she said firmly. "Mom told me I was an accident, so if you're going to be all high and mighty about this, you're the biggest hypocrite that ever lived. I turned out fine and my daughter will, too."
All the wind seemed to deflate from Charlie's sails. His voice lowered to a grumble. "Ah fuck. She told you about that?"
"She thought I would need all the help I could get, telling you," Bella explained dryly.
Charlie sighed, fighting to keep his attitude in check. He cleared his throat and ground his teeth. "So, uh, you're having a girl, huh?"
Bella shrugged. "We're not sure yet but I think so. It feels like a girl. Alice did that dangling string thing and it said the baby was a girl."
The line fell silent then, both father and daughter unsure what to say to drive the conversation forward.
Sue appeared next to Charlie with a slight smile. "I couldn't help but overhear. I just wanted to say congratulations. Don't worry about Charlie. He'll come around."
"You put Noah to sleep already?" Renee pouted, noticing that our son wasn't with us.
"It's past eleven, Mom," Bella pointed out. "Kind of late for a four-year-old to still be up."
"But I get to see him so rarely. I was hoping to spend some more time with him." She clutched Phil's hand. "I'm over the hill now. Phil and I are never going to have children. Noah is all I have."
Bella chuckled at her mother's melodramatic attitude. "He'll still be here tomorrow. And he won't be falling asleep when you try to play with him."
Renee brightened. "Oh, we have to go to the zoo! That's what grandparents do with their grandchildren, isn't it? When Charlie or I visit, we're supposed to take him off your hands so the two of you can get in some much needed alone time. It'll be so much fun. For everyone." She winked.
"Sure, fun," Charlie muttered from the couch, trying to push away thoughts of what "fun alone time" consisted of for Bella and I. Sue, who he had married two summers ago, patted his knee consolingly.
"That sounds lovely, Renee," she assured, "Charlie and I would love to accompany you and Phil and Noah to the zoo. We don't see him enough either." She nudged Charlie. "And when we do, this one here gets him all immersed in silly sports things."
I pulled Bella away, to go mingle with 'my' side of the family. The Cullens had come to feel like extended family. Noah referred to Carlisle and Esme as his grandpop and grandma and all the others as his aunts and uncles, so in a way they actually were like our family now. Noah adored them and there was no one else I trusted with him as much as them. Even Emmett.
Rosalie had formed an especially close bond with Noah. While Bella and I worked through our degrees, there were times when neither of us could be with him. During those times, Rosalie was always the first to volunteer to babysit. She adored having a child to take care of, though she was careful not to overstep her bounds, respecting that Bella was his mother.
The role she took on was more like that of an adored teacher. She was always the first to encourage him to learn new things. Her latest project was teaching him to speak in fluent Spanish.
"He's conjugating verbs correctly, now," she gushed, her eyes shining as she reported his progress. Esme and Carlisle had been asking about his latest adventures.
Though they had moved closer a few years ago, they had only come as far as the suburbs. They had decided mellow, suburbanite life was more up their alley than the bustling city life the rest of us lived. As a result, we tended to see them a little less than the others, though they were still very much a part of Noah's life.
Jasper chuckled. "You're turning the little guy into quite the prodigy. He can speak what, three languages now?"
"Extraordinary for a four-year-old," Carlisle commented. "He's in a league of his own."
Rosalie beamed at the compliment. "We're still working on the Spanish, but he should be completely fluent in a month or two. After that, I'm thinking we should learn Portuguese."
Emmett rolled his eyes at his mate's enthusiasm. "Rose, we know you think the sun shines out of Noah's ass, and I love the kid to death, but can't we talk about something else for one night?"
Rosalie gave him a look. "He's four, Emmett. We have to enjoy him while we have him. Before we know it, he's going to be all grown up and leaving to go out in the world."
"But hopefully not anywhere in South America because, god forbid, he doesn't know how to speak Portuguese yet," Emmett said flatly.
Bella chuckled but shushed them both. "No talking about Noah leaving. Rosalie's right, he's growing up too fast."
"Technically he's growing up slower than other kids," Emmett couldn't help but add, earning him looks from the females. He was quick to change the subject. "So B, now that you're an old university graduate, what's next?"
Bella smiled and shrugged. "I haven't decided yet. I'm keeping my options open."
"You've already married Ed. I think you gave up 'options' a while ago."
Rosalie smacked Emmett's chest. "Is that how you feel, too?"
Emmett sobered. "Of course not. We're totally different. You're the most beautiful woman to ever grace the earth. I scored out of my league. Whereas Bella got stuck with Edward who is hideously flawed in a multitude of ways, obviously."
Rosalie kissed him. "You're sweet. Even if you do need to put down other men to establish your masculinity."
Emmett scoffed but wisely decided not to dig the hole any deeper.
"I've never been more jealous that you can still drink," I whispered to Bella, eyeing the bar Alice had set up. "I think I understand why large family gatherings tend to go hand in hand with alcohol."
Bella stood to kiss me. She tasted sweet, like buttercream. "It's getting late, they're all going to be heading home soon. There's something I want to talk to you about when they do."
As we dressed for bed that evening she brought up the subject again. "You know that thing I wanted to talk to you about?"
I nodded, cuddling up next to her in our bed. I still curled up with her while she slept each night. It had become a habit early on in our relationship and I refused to give it up, though I was usually up with Noah before the sun rose so that Bella could continue to rest in peace.
She twisted her hands together nervously. "Well, what I wanted to talk about was the possibility of you changing me. I'm 23 now… I've finished my degree. I'm ready. And Noah's old enough to understand…"
I stroked her hair, unable to contain my jubilance. Though I would never force the choice on her, I had started to wonder if she had decided against becoming a vampire.
"Are you sure? It's forever, you know."
I needed to be absolutely positive she would have no regrets.
She held my gaze, her tone sincere. "You know why I was holding off. I was hoping…"
"That Noah would have a sibling," I finished.
Though we had never spoken about it, it had been implicit. By the time Noah's second birthday rolled around, the contraception we'd been using after his birth was abandoned. Though we weren't actively trying for a baby, we weren't trying not to have one, either.
She bit her lip and nodded. "I don't know what it was that brought him to us. Maybe it was a miracle. Though I'm sad that I won't be able to give him a brother or a sister, he's more than I could have ever asked for."
I ran a hand through her dark tresses. "I'm sorry."
She shook her head. "I'm not. I've had a blessed life. It just wasn't meant to be."
I pulled her close, unable to stand letting her settle for second best. "How about this? We give it until your birthday. We'll do all we can to try and have another baby. If it doesn't work out, then I'll change you."
Bella giggled, rolling us over so she straddled my hips. "How altruistic of you. Always thinking of me first."
I shrugged. "What can I say? It's a sacrifice, but I'm willing to have sex with you every day, multiple times a day, for the next four months. For your sake, of course."
Bella ducked her head to trail her lips along my jaw, her teeth scraping gently like she knew I liked. "What are you waiting for, then? Let's get started."
"Are you sure, you're feeling up to going to class?" I asked Bella, placing a hand on her round stomach.
According to Rosalie's estimates, Bella was mere weeks away from giving birth yet she insisted upon going about her schedule as usual. As long as Rosalie held off prescribing bed rest, going about her life as normal was fair game according to Bella. I was half tempted to bribe Rosalie into doing it for my peace of mind.
Bella stood on her toes to kiss me, a task made somewhat daunting by the baby bulging between us. "You'll be right there. We both know you can't stay away."
She was right, of course. Though she'd finished classes in April like I had, she'd opted to take summer courses, hoping to get ahead so she could take time off when the baby was born. I'd opted not to sign up for classes of my own. My mate and my unborn child were the two most important things in my life. I wasn't planning on letting her out of my sight until she delivered.
Bella sat in the third row, close to the front but not close enough to draw added attention to herself. Being heavily pregnant brought enough attention as far as she was concerned.
Though we'd made a few scattered friends throughout our classes, to most people we were a cautionary tale of what could go wrong if you weren't careful enough. What seemed to surprise everyone most was how supportive I was of her and how happy we seemed. Since I was usually by Bella's side, no one ever voiced their derisive opinions though their disbelief was loud and clear in their thoughts.
As a rule, females were a lot kinder than males, happy to gush over how cute our baby would be and how jealous they were. Most of them were anything but, though there were a few who considered what it might be like to trade places with Bella and have my child. When I told Bella, she scoffed and claimed I was too pretty for my own good.
I offered to take notes on her behalf as she squirmed in her seat, trying to get comfortable. The half-desks attached to the seats made it a precarious task. I wondered how she had expected to get back up if I hadn't come with her.
She took the notebook from me with a defiant look. "I can do it. I'm pregnant, not mentally ill."
I kissed her forehead, amused. "Still as stubborn as ever."
She smirked. "You'd think you'd be used to it by now. I appreciate that you're trying to make this easier on me but taking notes is something I know I can handle."
Bored out of my mind, I settled for listening to the baby's thoughts while Bella listened to the lecture. In the last few months, the baby had grown to the point I could make sense of his emotions and most basic thoughts. (The girls were all still convinced the baby was female, though I thought the recent ultrasounds looked more like a boy. I hadn't voiced my opinion for fear of castration.)
The baby was most responsive when Bella's stomach was being touched, so I placed my palm on her bump. The baby's thoughts rumbled happily, abstract concepts like 'warm' and 'safe' distinct in the jumble.
Bella shook her head at me, a smirk pulling at her lips. "You're very distracting, you know."
I pulled my hand away. "Sorry. I like listening to him."
Her brow furrowed. "I thought we agreed it was a girl? We're going to name her after your mother. Rosalie said the ultrasound confirmed it was a girl."
I gave her a sheepish look. "I thought it looked like a boy. I've been reading all those books Rosalie has on obstetrics and I think she got it wrong."
"But we haven't even picked out a boy name," Bella insisted. "It has to be a girl. Rosalie's been to medical school twice. She specialized in pediatrics. I think she knows what she's talking about."
I shrugged, not willing to push the issue. Anything that riled her up wasn't good for her or the baby. I clutched her free hand in mine while she continued taking notes.
Less than ten minutes to the end of the class, her fingers tightened around mine. I gave her a questioning look. She shot me a reassuring smile, though her fingers remained clamped around mine in a vice grip.
It was only when we were walking out the door that she whispered to me that she was pretty sure she had felt a contraction.
In a moment of sheer panic, I swept her off her feet, past the crowd of students leaving the hall and deposited her in the Vanquish. I was moving too fast, but I didn't care. My mate was about to have a baby. If there was ever a time when "adrenaline rush" was a valid excuse, this was it.
"How could you not tell me?" I grumbled as I threw the car into drive.
"It didn't hurt too much," she countered. "And it was just a few minutes until class was over. I didn't want to cause a commotion."
"Only you would think not causing a disruption is more important than going into labour." I refrained from rolling my eyes, wanting to remain calm for Bella's sake.
She had to be panicking inside. I pulled her hand to my lips kissing it and placing it on my lap. She gave me a shaky smile and squeezed my thigh.
As it turned out, there was no rush. By the time we got to our apartment ten minutes later, Bella had yet to suffer another contraction. I was certain her labour was underway, regardless. When I placed my hand on her stomach, I could feel the subtle tightening of her muscles as they prepared for our baby's entrance into the world.
Rosalie was at our side in an instant, quick to confirm that Bella and I were going to be parents today. Carlisle was called up on Skype, offering Rosalie advice on how to deal with the birth.
They decided a natural birth would be the safest option as it exposed the least blood. Though the baby still appeared predominantly human, they didn't want to take the risk.
Eighteen hours of screaming and frustrated grunting, hand squeezing and copious amounts of tears later, Rosalie handed Bella a yellow wrapped bundle.
No period of time had ever seemed so long in my life. Seeing Bella in so much pain was heartbreaking and there was absolutely nothing I could do but sit by her side and hold her hand as she endured it. I kissed her hair and whispered every soothing word I knew, praising how strong and brave she was.
As far as pregnancies went, hers had been a fairly easy one – aside from lasting an exorbitant length of time – but she had handled it with such grace. She dealt with her labour the same way. She never yelled that she hated me or couldn't stand to look at my face, even as painful contractions ripped through her. I cringed more than she did. She managed to smile and laugh through the pain and her fatigue. I was so proud of her.
When Rosalie deposited our son into Bella's arms, she sniffed back tears, overwhelmed with love. She allowed me to kiss her, sweat and tears tangling on her cheeks.
"It's a boy," Rosalie said wryly. "He's going to be wearing yellow for a while. We don't have much in the way of blue."
Bella ran a thumb down his soft cheek when he whimpered. "You and Alice will have rectified that by tomorrow, I'm sure."
Rosalie smiled. "I'll let you get to know the little guy. I'm going to go let Carlisle know everything went off without a hitch. All the others say congratulations, by the way," she informed, referring to Alice, Jasper and Emmett, all of whom were waiting in our living room.
I kissed the baby's forehead, unable to tear my eyes away. He gurgled and wiggled in his mother's arms, peering up at us with the wide grey-blue eyes most infants shared.
For the most part he appeared human, though there were a few telltale signs of his vampire heritage. Though his skin was as soft as satin, it was durable, too, much more so than a human baby's should have been. His thoughts were sharper than most infants' also; he was more aware of the world around him and had clearer sight and keener hearing than most newborns. His senses were a mere shadow of those vampires had, but it seemed as he grew stronger, so would his vampire traits.
"He's so beautiful, love."
Bella clutched him tighter to her chest. "I know. I can't believe he's ours. We get to keep him forever."
"A boy," I smiled. I brushed his tiny fist with my finger. His whole hand was barely larger than my thumb. "What are we going to call him? We can't name him Elizabeth."
"I still can't believe you were right." She grinned so I knew she wasn't upset he wasn't a girl. I couldn't imagine anyone being upset to see him. "All the signs pointed to him being a girl."
"It was a really old ultrasound machine," I shrugged. "And dangling a string is hardly scientific."
"We could name him after you," Bella suggested. "He looks like you." She lifted the little cap that covered a smattering of dark hair that matched her own. It stood on end. "His hair is just as crazy. And it looks like when his irises darken he's going to have your eyes."
"My human eyes," I corrected with a smile. "You've never seen them in colour before. I hope you're not disappointed."
She kissed me. "He's gorgeous already. It doesn't matter if his eyes turn purple. Where are we on naming him Edward?"
"We're not naming him after me. It's bad enough I got a recycled name. I'm not doing it to him. He deserves his own name."
Bella gazed at him. He gazed back steadily, reaching a little arm up to grab at her face. She cooed and smiled at him.
"What are we supposed to name the most unique baby in the world? He's one of a kind. On Noah's ark, he'd be all alone representing his species."
"What about Noah?"
Bella giggled. "I like it. It'll be our little inside joke. What do you think?" she asked the baby, wiggling his little fist. "Do you think your name should be Noah?"
The baby tilted his head, his little face seeming to bear a look of puzzlement. Already he thought his parents were crazy and he wasn't even an hour old.
"He likes it," I confirmed. "He's very happy to meet us. He loves the way your voice sounds. Even that 'Noah' word. He likes it when you laugh best, though."
"You can tell all of that from his thoughts?" She asked as she passed him to me, letting me hold my son for the first time.
I nodded, stroking his fuzzy head. He squirmed in pleasure at all the attention he was getting. "He's very aware of his surroundings. He's going to be brilliant, I can tell."
"Beautiful and brilliant, just like his daddy," Bella teased.
"Hey Daddy!" Noah greeted when I plucked him from his bed as was our usual morning routine. I used the word "morning" loosely as he was usually awake long before dawn.
Bella slept in until seven each morning, so it was always just the two of us beginning the day together. I was always waiting at Noah's bedside when his eyes opened so his mother could continue to rest without him bursting into our bedroom.
"Good morning. Are you hungry?" I settled my pajama-clad son on my hip.
He yawned, his head bobbing against my shoulder. "Can I have cereal?"
"You want a nice big bowl of raisin bran?" I suggested Bella's favourite cereal, teasing him.
He made a face. "Raisins are icky. I want to have lucky charms."
I smiled, amused by his childish innocence. Though his intelligence was far beyond his years, he was still an average four-year-old in a lot of ways that mattered. Emotionally, he was like any other child, innocent to the horrors of the world. Things still had the potential to be "icky."
I put him in his seat at the kitchen table, placing a bowl full of his cereal of choice in front of him with a healthy dose of milk. Between him and Bella I'd become quite competent at preparing human food over the years. Today's selection was among the easiest in my repertoire.
He crunched away at his breakfast, his little mind moving at a mile a minute considering all the things he wanted to do today.
"Your grandparents on Mommy's side are going to come over later to take you to the zoo," I informed him. Renee had been so excited about spending the day with her grandson. "They miss you."
A bright smile lit his face. "I love the zoo! Are they going to take me to see the monkeys? Mommy's scared of them. She doesn't like to see them."
I chuckled at the reminder of Bella's irrational fear. When we had gone to the zoo for Noah's second birthday, we had discovered that she was terrified of the primates, though she could never quantify what it was about them that horrified her so much. She suffered through their exhibit for Noah's sake, with her face buried in my shoulder. Noah was quick to move on, fully aware of his mother's distress.
"I'm sure they will, as long as you're on your best behaviour. And you remember that–"
"I can't talk to them about vampire stuff," he interrupted, his frustrated inflection identical to Bella's. "You remind me every time, Daddy. I'm four now. I already know."
"I just don't want you to get in trouble. The Volturi aren't very nice to people who don't listen to the rules and I want you to be safe."
He nodded, his jade eyes turning serious. "I'll be good."
I kissed his dark hair. "I know. But I'm your daddy. I worry no matter what."
He shrugged, spooning up the last of his cereal. "You and Mommy worry way too much. You guys need to be like Uncle Emmett. He doesn't worry about anything."
I chuckled, cleaning up his bowl and handing him a glass of juice. "Why do you think Uncle Emmett is in trouble with Auntie Rosalie so much?"
Noah considered that. "I think it's because he never listens when she talks to him," he surmised. "She's always really loud when she wants something. If he listened he would know that."
I ruffled his hair. "Only four and already you've managed to learn something that Uncle Emmett never has. Now come on, today's chess day."
Each day of the week, we had a different quiet activity for while we waited for Bella to wake up. Sometimes some of the others would join us but usually it was just the two of us.
I set up the beautiful marble chessboard that Bella had given Noah for his last birthday. The polished stone pieces gleamed in the low light. I gestured to the board, letting him select his pieces, though there was no need.
Noah always chose white. He liked going first.
He considered his first move carefully before selecting a pawn. I always did my best to stay out of his head, not wanting to take an unfair advantage. It wasn't uncommon for him to beat me when I did.
A few minutes into our third game and tie-breaker, Bella stumbled out of our bedroom, her hair a mess from the night before. She'd brushed it out but until she showered, there wasn't much she could do about it.
She plopped onto my lap, pausing to kiss Noah as she passed him.
"Morning," she greeted us both.
I gave her a soft good morning kiss while Noah ignored us, still deeply embroiled in deciding whether to move his rook or his knight.
He was accustomed to the two of us being affectionate in front of him and accepted it as a fact of life. We wanted him to know his parents were in love and that there was nothing embarrassing about it.
"Move the knight," Bella stage-whispered to him after taking a quick inventory of the board. "Daddy'll be stuck in four moves."
He glanced up at her suspiciously and eventually settled on moving the rook. Bella had been right. If he'd moved the knight, it would have been checkmate in four moves. Noah had figured out a way to reduce it to two.
"Well, I can see why you don't want to play with me any more," Bella teased him. "You're getting too good for me to keep up."
Noah shrugged and gave her a beautiful smile. "I don't mind. I like winning."
Bella and I both laughed.
"Why don't you go get dressed, baby?" she suggested. "Nana Renee and Grandpapa Charlie are going to be here soon. You wouldn't want to miss the zoo."
Noah shot up off his chair, heading for his bedroom.
Bella hooked an arm around my neck, kissing me more deeply than she would have with Noah in the room.
"Last night was perfect," she hummed, her eyes bright. "I hope you're ready, because as soon as he's out the door, I have plans for you."
"I'm ready for anything," I promised.
And I was.