Stephenie Meyer owns the original, I'm just borrowing some.


5 years and 5 months later

"Happy birthday..."

I sighed deeply, waking up slowly, enveloped in her cozy and familiar warmth. I should be used to this by now but it still leaves me a surprised feeling of elation whenever I would wake up to her soft voice.

My pre-wakening smile widened when I felt her skin next to mine. Happy birthday to me indeed, I thought contentedly, my hand gliding over her smooth arm, down the indent of her waist, over the curve of a hip and finally, gripping her thigh and coaxing it to open.

I'm one lucky, fucking bastard.

"Yes. You. Are."

I snorted, opening one eye. "Sleep-talking is your department, lady."

"And you have no filter when you wake up in the mornings." She lifted her eyes to mine, and she was breathless by the persistence of my inquisitive fingers between her legs.

"It's too much," she gasped in a whisper, but I heard her.

"Do you want this very quick, baby?"

Slowly, she shook her head.

With one hand, I shucked off my boxers and began to thoroughly enjoy my birthday gift.

"Don't get up yet."

"Why?" I asked lazily. My arm was covering my face and I couldn't have made myself move an inch even if Mrs. Smithson, who lived in the big house next door, yelled Fire or Bomb.

"Because, birthday boy, I'm going to make you my special 'Edward is 26' sausage steak bun."

"You mean a hamburger?"

"No, I mean it's a minced steak sandwich with lettuce, onions, pickles and a very thinly sliced tomato."

"So it's a gourmet hamburger." I grinned when I heard her sigh, muttering "wise cracking redneck" as she picked up my discarded shirt on the floor and flounced out of the room.

Emitting a deep sigh myself, I settled back on our bed, my hands under my head, whistling tunelessly like a guy who had just been extremely satisfied. I arched my back and groaned when my stretch reminded me of scratch marks down my back. Minx, I mused.

The bedroom door was open. I could hear Bella in the kitchen of our small three-bedroom house, which Alice called The Cottage. It wasn't that small, but it was quaint and Bella loved it at first sight.

She had turned on the iPod speakers and a familiar melody could be heard. The song, when I first wrote it, was originally called "Bella 39". It was how I tag all my compositions to make recall easier.

J.E. Jones, one of the four music and record producers I work with on a regular basis, renames all my music anyway once these were included in my contracts and signatures.

This particular song, a top billboard hit, was called "Great Expectations". It wasn't a play on the classic Dickens book, but actually a series of paraphrases of these two words as expressed through lyrical lines and of course, the melody.

The song was about hope and about continuance, of defeating overwhelming odds. It was also about giving the best gift a woman could ever give the man that she loved. At this thought, I frowned.

"Impatient for your hamburger?"

I quickly wiped the frown off my brow and winked at her. Truth was, I was more interested in her than food, especially since I was reacting to the fact – which was totally visible to her - that she was completely naked under my shirt.

She raised her eyebrow at my rising, proud cock and she pursed her lips. "Well, what's it going to be?"

"You. Burger later."

A year after Bella started living with us, I decided to move out of my parents' house. I didn't go very far, that was impossible with Bella in the house. We agreed that a 15-minute drive was far and independent enough for the both of us.

It was hard, at first. Most afternoons after school I would find her waiting on the steps of my building, patiently typing on her notebook. By this time, Bella was enrolled in an informal writing course at UofC. The schedules and academic load were light enough and without too much stress that it would not interfere with her sessions with Dr. Weisberger.

The sight of her, sitting in one corner and waiting for me almost daily, bring forth that unnamed emotion inside me, a feeling or sentiment that was more than love or affection.

When she would look up and smile at me as if I was the reason she was breathing, I could almost identify the emotion.


As I was devoted to her, I was lucky enough to have the same devotion from her.

My family too, in their own way, was equally supportive and has remained committed to Bella. To both of us, I guess.

None of us have left Chicago. I didn't think anyone would. No one could tear themselves away from the homebase that was my parents' house in Oak Street.

My brother lived near us, although in another building with his fiancée, thank god. It would defeat the purpose of living away from home if Emmett was just two doors away.

Alice was still living with Mom and Dad, much to her grumbling. But my sister was just pretending that she was being held at home under duress. She loved being the youngest child, thus the last sibling to be roosting with the parents. Besides, I didn't think she was staying longer than three days at home most weeks, and practically lives with Jasper. It didn't matter. In three weeks she would be married and out of the roost for good.

She would argue though, that of the three of us, she was the truly adventurous one since soon, she and Jasper would live an hour away from Chicago. I gave a mental shrug. It was not possible for me to live an hour away from Bella.

Stuck in school during the day, I missed Bella every hour and it was ridiculous to feel the temporary loss since we saw each other every damn day.

I had been living on my own for six months when I started toying with the idea of asking Bella to live with me. She wouldn't be very far from everyone and by everyone I really meant my mother.

Esme had become as fiercely protective of Bella as she was with Alice, sometimes even more so. There was a bond between them that I didn't think even they themselves understood.

When I graduated from Bienen and had to spend six months in New York, Bella came with me. There was no question about it, I wasn't going to leave her in Chicago. It was then that I broached the idea of moving in together. Her first reaction was panic. What if she couldn't take care of me? she said. To which, I countered - "What if I couldn't look after you?"

It was a draw and that was that. We agreed to disagree that we were likely to screw up and be the happiest people because of it.

By the time the New York thing came up, Bella's psycho-therapist could let go of her for a couple of months and if there was a real need for it, there were plenty of recommended doctors near Columbia U.

On the third month that we were on our own in a flat near the campus, my Mom booked a flight to New York and then later was joined by my father.

We never discussed it, but I knew. Bella wasn't just my girlfriend, my partner. She was a daughter to Esme and Carlisle, too. She was family and we took care of our own.

It was in New York where I sold my first compositions. I didn't see the money, not really, until a year later. We were back in Chicago when the regular calls started coming.

On Bella's 22nd birthday, I released my first CD. It was an album of 16 original compositions. It wasn't long after that successful launch and market reception that I received my first commission to score for a notable, big budget movie. I almost became deaf and might not have ever composed again when I told my sister. Her squeals were supersonic-loud enough to create tremors at the center of the Earth.

Bella just wept, silently, and with all the love in her glowing eyes that I would ever fucking need in several lifetimes.

"Are you nervous about your interview?"

Bella took a long time preparing for her appointment this morning.

"Yes, actually, and it's …Oh, I don't know why I'm obsessing about this." She brushed her hair off her face in an impatient gesture and abruptly sat down on the bed to put on her shoes.

"Baby, you know Jack likes your work. He wouldn't have made the invitation if you weren't a sure thing," I soothed. Jack was the editor of the foodie magazine that Bella was contributor for some months now. This was her first freelance writing job.

"Maybe I should postpone this? It's your birthday and we should be doing something together instead of me working," she said, giving me an appealing look.

"Bella, come on. It will be okay. You will be okay, more than okay, okay?"

She giggled and kissed my cheek. "Very eloquent for a hot shot composer," she teased. "Really, I'm just okay?"

"I said more than okay. You are perfect."

"That's better, Mr. Future Grammy Winner."

I waited for Bella for an hour and a half. The interview must be going really well. I patiently waited for her at a Starbucks across the street from the imposing office towers.

Jack was an acquaintance of Emmett and he was the one who convinced Bella to apply for a more permanent work as one of the food writers of the syndicated magazine. The work load wasn't too demanding and she would work from home.

Bella had one more semester before finishing her creative writing major but that was not a real issue with the editor-in-chief. She was so good at writing - so expressive and lyrical - and with her passion for pastries she was just poised to succeed in this career.

Half an hour later, I saw her walking briskly towards the café. She burst through the door and went straight to my table, and onto my lap.

She didn't need to say anything, at all.

"Good job, sweetheart."

"How's your birthday so far?" she asked me later that afternoon. We were walking leisurely at the Green Wood Park and I was carrying her shoes and handbag. She had carelessly slung it on my shoulder but I wasn't having that.

"I'm with you so it's good," I replied, giving her a good imitation of a gallant bow.

She laughed and removed her jacket. Absentmindedly, she handed the garment to me too.

There was a mild breeze, unusual for a Chicago afternoon especially in June. The breeze was coming from the lake, which I belatedly realized, was where Bella was heading. Barefoot with the thick grass protecting the soles of her small feet, she was almost skipping to the edge of the natural lake.

A small wind whipped her hair gently against her face and shoulders.

I couldn't seem to help my reaction. I stared at her, minutely watching for any change in her expression or body language.

It had been more than four years since Bella was last confined in a hospital. I still have chills whenever I would recall that episode – an episode that her doctors considered mild but still a remission of sorts – that necessitated an overnight stay back at Mercy Hospital, about 16 months after she was released by Dr. Santiago.

It was an unexpected reaction to a chemical, an ingredient in a beverage that she had, but her doctors couldn't be sure. She was placed under observation for 24 hours and then was declared fine and "clean" at the end of those two days. It wasn't strictly a breakdown, but she did display a reaction similar to an epileptic attack. Needless to say, it put me back on my guard again and at times, it seemed I have a difficult time shaking off my anxiety.

Bella suddenly turned to me. She sensed what I was thinking, she knew me too well. She could feel the stiffening of my body, my stillness.

And then she smiled, a reassuring beautiful smile. She reached a hand inside her skirts pocket and paused.

"Ducks," she murmured, giving me another sideways grin.

My heart skipped a beat. I fucking loved that smile. That smile could obliterate any doubts I have about this, about her and the reality of our life together.

"I thought you can't stand ducks, Swan?" I teased, relaxing my shoulders. Nothing would ever happen again, I would make sure of it. Since that episode four years ago, we were very careful of what we eat, what we drink. It was just something that we did, a lifestyle.

Bella shook her free hand and waved it dismissively.

"I love them! I came prepared, see?" She removed her hand from her pocket and opened her palm. She brought bread crumbs and some pieces of the muffin she had earlier.

She threw the shredded bread in the general direction of the birds and laughed when several ducklings were bold enough to venture almost to the edge of the lake to get more of the crumbs.

Still giggling, Bella whirled around and then her arms were around me. My eyes focused on her pink, smiling lips and suddenly those lips were all I could see, and I couldn't stop thinking about kissing her.

I must have been wearing a fierce, hungry look, because she herself was giving me an odd look. I swallowed and discreetly adjusted myself. There was only one thing to do.

"Let's go home, baby."

"Edward! Please!"

I bit off a grunt and a groan when Bella's nails raked down my back and lower still. Her hands firmly grabbing my ass like talons, urging me on and on, to undulate harder and faster inside her tight core.

I reared back and slammed back down, rocking the bed with the force of my movement.

"Yes! Oh god, please!"

"Fuck, Bella," I grunted. I sat up suddenly, slipping out. I pulled her body towards me, guided her legs to wrap around my torso and re-entered in a deep thrust. I leaned over her, grabbed her hands and placed them on the bed frame, with my hands on top of hers. The anchor allowed me to speed up and build more friction with the new angle.

I watched her breasts move up and down as I rode her until she was keening. Fuck, I loved the noises she makes during sex. I closed my eyes and increased my momentum.

"Now, Bella," I said, rather mildly. My heart was about to fucking burst.

And always, on cue, she clenched around my throbbing cock, letting go of the wrought iron to cling to my shoulders as she lifted herself off the bed to hug me tighter and shuddered and cried her release.

I gripped her waist, pulled her even more closer and pushed my tongue inside her mouth.

"I love you," I moaned against her open mouth, still gasping from the tremors of her orgasm. I poured everything that I have in me, my essence and my soul, into her warmth.

"I love you," she said groggily, awhile later. She was lying on her side, her back to my chest.

"Welcome back," I teased lazily. My eyelids drifted shut. So far, it was the best birthday I have ever had.

I hugged Bella tighter to me. We were lying so close together that I felt her heartbeats. It was not slowing down in preparation for slumber. In fact, it seemed to have started to pound a little bit faster.

I raised my head to look at her. "What is it, baby?" She'd been almost dead-tired but now something must have woken her.

She shifted her body until we were facing each other. There was enough light by the window to see her frown.

"Bella, tell me," I said, quietly.

"Edward, tomorrow …" She stopped, biting her lower lip. Gently, I caressed her face, trying to calm her enough to continue. "Tomorrow, I have another appointment."

"Where? Do you want me to go with you?"

"It's with Dr. Halperin."

I sat up and leaned over her, to better see her eyes. "Is this a regular appointment?" Dr. Halperin was her gynecologist and I knew Bella sees her every six months.

"No. I …" she stopped, worrying her lip again.

"Bella, it's alright. Tell me." I leaned down and kissed her nose.

"I'm late, Edward. Three weeks."

She sat up suddenly and was about to hop out of bed when I gently stopped her.

"Bella, we've talked about this. We are ready to have a baby."

We have discussed about having children a long time ago, when we decided to first move in together. I remembered several arguments and some very emotional discussions that ensued. We weren't a typical couple and bringing in a new member, a little person, was something the whole family would have to get involved with. Throw in her doctors' opinions and the baby topic took on a life of its own.

She breathed out an unsteady breath. "I know, Edward. I am ready. Ready as you are. But I can't help but feel scared. What if our baby becomes sick, too? Sick ... like me?" she stammered.

I felt something squeeze in my chest whenever I would hear Bella talking about her doubts and insecurities. There was a possibility that our child would inherit her medical condition. This was something that we would have to deal with when that probability becomes a reality but until then, we had decided that it wasn't going to stop us or prevent us from conceiving.

"Bella, you know that you and I will be the most dedicated parents to our baby, or babies even. Isn't that what I promised you, and I distinctly recall you making the same promise to me in the shortest wedding vows I had ever heard," I said, trying to lighten the mood.

It was true though.

Two years ago, about 45 minutes before the ceremony, my brilliant and always prepared sister decided that we should write our own vows. Bella, the aspiring writer, balked at the task and managed to say only 10 words to me, the shortest wedding promise in the history of matrimonial oaths.

"I still remember my vows," she said, shyly. I peered closer and yes, as I suspected, she was blushing.

"It's the least you can do considering they are just 8 or 10 words," I scoffed teasingly.

Bella, turning serious suddenly, cupped my face between her small hands. She gazed deeply into my eyes and I saw tears. Tenderly, she kissed my mouth. "Edward Anthony Cullen, I love you with all my life, my soul, you are my forever. I promise to love you more everyday. You and me. Nothing is impossible to a willing heart."

It was unmanly, the least macho thing really, to admit that my heart was wildly fluttering at her words. There were no words appropriate enough for this, no single phrase to express how much I fucking loved this amazing woman.

I leaned down and brushed the barest, lightest, most gentle of kisses on my wife's lips.

It was the sort of moment I wanted to remember for the rest of my life, and what a life it would be, with my Bella.

"We're ready for anything and everything, wife," I said gruffly.

"You will always love me," she whispered, her words said in utter confidence.

"You have no idea," I murmured. I held her hand to my chest, near my heart. I couldn't bear to be separated from her, not at this moment. Not even by a mere inch.


This is it. Thank you for reading, and goodnight.

Epilogue posted: August 21, 2011