I don't own these characters. They are the sole property of Stephenie Meyer. I only borrow them. No humans are permanently harmed through my actions, though I do confess to harassing, annoying, torturing, and exasperating them – just because it's fun. I make no money from my little stories, sad day. I only play in the sandbox, I didn't build it.
Author's Note: Well, I can't believe this is it. Even though I'm not done with these characters, I'm a little sad. The epilogue contains spoilers for the Rose/Emmett story, so you may want to skip it if you intend to follow "The Art of Persistence". If this is the end of the journey for you too, then thank you...so much. You have made this story a very special experience for me. To those of you who let me know you had checked out Soldiers' Angels as a result of this story, words cannot convey my appreciation. Even now, there are thousands of American troops still in danger, still far away from their families. Sadly, some of them won't come home. As you can tell, this is a cause close to my heart.
Also, for those who might be interested, the story of Seth's injury is in outtake #44 of the "Harder" thread. Don't feel as if you need to leave a review, but if you want further explanation, then it is there. I'm going to finish up a few of my stories in the next few weeks hopefully, or at least get close to it. I start classes again next week and I'm told that Pathology is going to kick my butt. So I probably won't update the Em/Rose story quite as often, maybe once a week. I did manage all As in my classes last semester, so maybe writing fan fiction helps me stay focused and relaxed? We shall see.
Again, my sincere thanks. You can't know how much it means.
After Rose got her degree, she returned to Fayetteville. The first time she ran into Emmett it was awkward. Emmett told her that he would eventually annoy her so much that she'd go out with him. She told him that day would come when pigs flew.
Emmett finally talked Rosalie Hale into going on a date again. He called Pops and told him it was cloudy with a chance of pork. Just over a year later, he was still smiling when Rose walked down the aisle toward him and he was able to tack James onto her name.
Emmett found that being a cop suited him. Rose got a job with the county as a social worker and she was very good at her job. They both knew that they wanted a family and wanted a family right away. So they got to work on that.
They had two daughters, Mackenzie and Bailey. Mackenzie (or Mac as she was sometimes called) arrived early on a Thanksgiving morning in the arms of her new mother. Their flight from China was delayed and everyone was anxiously waiting to see her. Josh Galloway had used his contacts to speed up the adoption process. He had even accompanied Rose to China. Without his help, it would have been another few months before Mackenzie came home.
Emmett finally met his daughter and cried, right there in the airport. He didn't care who saw him either. No one teased him about it, mostly because it would have been like kicking a puppy. Thanksgiving dinner was delayed as well, but nobody seemed to mind. Mackenzie was home and that was all that mattered.
Bailey joined the family three and a half years later when she was six months old. Mackenzie was not impressed when the judge signed the papers making Bailey her sister. She cried and had to be escorted from the judge's chambers by her ever-patient grandfather. He bought her some pretzels and tried to convince her that being the oldest was a good thing. Mackenzie was still not convinced.
Little Bailey had been born deaf and it didn't take long for everyone in the James/Cullen clan to become fluent with sign language, though Edward did struggle with it the most. The boys teased him mercilessly. Dani patted his cheek and told him it was okay he wasn't as smart as the rest of them.
Edward endured it all with patience and resigned good humor.
Several years after he donned the badge, he stopped a distinguished looking gentleman going fifteen miles over the speed limit. "License and registration?" Emmett asked with a grin.
Edward Cullen looked at Emmett and grimaced, handing over the requested documents.
"Excuse me sir, but do you know how fast you were going?" Emmett asked, smirking.
"Yeah, I know, Emmett," Edward grumbled.
Emmett stared at Edward for a long moment, his laughter just waiting to burst forth. "You know, Mom's gonna kill you for getting another ticket."
Edward made a face. "You could just give me a warning this time. You know, in the interest of marital harmony and all." He sounded hopeful.
"Or I could give you the ticket you deserve," Emmett countered.
"Yes, you could," Edward said. "But then marital disharmony is going to be all over the place." He grinned up at Emmett. "Rose likes me. A lot."
Emmett groaned and shook his head. "I'll never understand it."
"It's the eyes," Edward told him with a smirk, batting his lashes outrageously. "The green eyes get them every time."
Emmett sighed and handed back the license and registration. "Watch it, or the next time I'm giving you the ticket."
"You won't catch me next time," Edward said with a laugh. "Oh, by the way, your mom and I will be there early for the girls' birthday party." The girls had been born three years and two days apart on different continents to different women. Now they were sisters.
"Good," Emmett said. "And just so you know, both of them want pony rides from their Pops."
Edward groaned. "My back isn't what it used to be."
"Then give them the big green eyes and see if you can sucker them into something else," Emmett suggested.
"I just might do that." Emmett gave him the sign for 'asshole' which was a particular favorite of them both. He wiped at the back of his neck. "Rose and I are going to announce it at the party tonight, but a friend of Rose's at work... Well, she gave us a call."
"Yeah?" Edward was excited. That could only mean one thing. "You two planning on adding to your family?"
Emmett sort of grinned. "Hadn't really planned on it, but... Well, see, there's this little boy and he kind of...well, he kind of sounds perfect for us."
"No shit," Emmett said. And then he gave a snort of laughter. "You'll never guess what his name is." He paused. "His name is Jimmy."
Edward's eyes went wide and he burst into laughter. "So let me get this straight...he'll be Jimmy James?"
Emmett nodded. "Fate, huh?"
"I'm glad for you son," Edward said, patting Emmett's arm.
Then Emmett pounded on the roof of Edward's car. "Go on; get out of here before I change my mind." He paused. "And tell Mom I said hi."
Edward shook his head. "No way that I'm telling her I let you stop me for speeding."
And with that, he drove off. Going the speed limit. At least for a while.
When Seth was seventeen, he was hit by a drunk driver. For two days, he struggled to live while everyone who loved him surrounded him and gave him their faith and courage. Finally, 47 hours and three minutes after Bella and Edward had opened the door to see two officers standing there, Seth had opened his eyes. He could not speak because of the ventilator, but let them know he recognized them. On that night, Edward Cullen cried. He knew beyond all doubt that even though Mac James was Seth's father, so was he. Never again could he doubt that simple fact of his existence.
Seth graduated from high school (three months late due to the accident) with decent grades and from college with honors. Until the start of his junior year of university, he still wasn't sure what he wanted to do with his life. In the end, he majored in business. Eventually, he joined Edward with an eye toward expanding "Mac's Place" beyond the Fayetteville area. He was the one who negotiated the deal to open a "Mac's Place" in the city of Charleston, South Carolina. He moved there to manage it, and to scout out a location for yet another Mac's. The real estate agent who helped him purchase his Charleston home was a lovely redhead named Abigail Harrison.
When Abby saw the big, handsome man who walked into her office, she called her mother and told her that she'd met the man she was going to marry. Her predictions were proven right just over a year later. She thought the scar on the left side of his face gave him a romantic air and that his slight limp was rather endearing. She told him that she had the irresistible urge to pamper him the first time she saw him. He was somewhat shy, but Abby was not. Seth James never stood a chance, a fact that Edward reminded him of in his wedding toast.
Seth laughed, even as he acknowledged the truth of it.
Seth and Abby had two sons, both of them named after her father. Abby, it turned out, was also an Army brat. Her mother's home had a triangular-shaped flag case too, and a picture of a young man who had died long before his time. Her father, Sergeant Michael Harrison, had died in Afghanistan just a few months after Mac James. She didn't really remember him; she had only been four when he died. Like Seth, she sort of adopted Edward as a surrogate father. And like him, she called him Pops.
Edward got used to it.
When his second son was born, Seth called Edward to tell him the news. "It's a boy," he said. "Again." They hadn't wanted to know the baby's gender, so it was a surprise for everyone.
"Already?" Edward asked, surprised. "We were going to drive down next weekend, closer to her due date."
Seth laughed. "You know Abby, impatient as always," Seth said.
"Mom and baby doing fine?" Edward asked. Seth heard his mother in the background, asking for details.
"Yes, both great," Seth replied. "Tell Mom he was seven pounds, two ounces, twenty two inches long. Born at 5:23 this morning."
"Got it," Edward said. "Tell Abby we love her and we'll see you all next weekend if she's up to it."
"She'll kill me if I said no, so we'll see you next weekend," Seth answered. "Tell Mom I'll call her later. I want to go to Abby's mom's house and pick up Michael so he can meet Harrison."
"Good luck with that," Edward said.
"Yeah, tell me about it." Seth laughed. "Oh, and Pops? We've got another redhead."
"God help you." Edward was snorting, thinking of all the trouble that his grandson Michael got into with his fiery temper and stubborn nature. He had ended up with two redheads for grandsons by some odd quirk of fate and the help of Abby James.
"I know, right?" Seth already sounded tired and elated at the same time.
"Don't let him near Harrison's feet," Edward reminded him. Emmett had never been able to live down taking a bite out of Seth's foot when he was first born.
"Good idea." He wiggled his toes. "Very good idea."
Sam graduated with honors from Cornell and became a veterinarian. He didn't marry until he was thirty-five years old. Edward told him that sometimes the good ones take a while to find. Emmett insisted he was just having too much fun "banging hot chicks." That earned him an elbow in the ribs from his wife. And another from his sister. Then his mother reached up and pulled on his ear for good measure. Emmett grumbled, but still stood by his assessment of the situation.
Eventually, everyone had become convinced that Sam would never marry. Sam was pretty sure that was the case too. He dated, but only casually. He was kind but distant with his lovers. He never made promises; he never asked for any in return. He did some traveling, his practice was flexible enough and his partner, a vet school buddy, didn't mind Sam traveling and getting the name of their practice out there. Sam had a natural charisma that made him an excellent public speaker, and he had published several important papers which led to conferences around the country. No matter what city Sam found himself in, it was a rare night when he spent it alone in his hotel room. His mother despaired, his brothers secretly high-fived, and his sister called him a pig.
Then one day Sam was called out to treat one of the dogs in a search and rescue team that was in the area for training. The woman who led that search and rescue team was named Mary Lang. She was not Victoria's Secret material. She was tall and curvy, and her features were more strong than delicate. She wore glasses that habitually slid to the end of her nose and her hair was as black as Sam's. It was usually pulled into a messy bun and she wasn't wearing any make-up the first time Sam saw her. But there was something about her...
When Sam saw the dog he had been called out to treat, a young black lab named Tippy, he fell in love – with the dog, not the woman. The woman held the dog while he stitched up Tippy's leg and she smiled when he whispered sweet nothings into the furry black ear. A few weeks later, Sam was whispering sweet nothings into a very pretty human ear. Both females were receptive to what he had to say.
Though they lived an hour apart, somehow they found themselves "in the area" with surprising regularity even after the training session was over.
Mary snuck up on him. He hadn't expected her, certainly not at that point in his life. But as Pops always said, life never went according to plan, and thank God for it. But he could pinpoint the moment he fell absolutely and irrevocably in love with her. He had been perusing her bookshelves while she put together some snacks in the kitchen. It was their first "official" date and they had both just finally admitted to having an interest in each other beyond matters of the canine variety or mere fleeting attraction.
He stopped as he came to a rather intimidating tome on forensic pathology. He looked at the title because the topic interested him. Then he looked at the author's name. Huh. He was just about to open up the book and begin browsing through it when he heard a sound.
When Mary entered the room, carrying a small tray with a little tea pot, he held up the book. "Any relation to you?" he asked.
Mary gave him a shy smile and nodded.
"Really?" He had not expected that answer. If Dr. M. L. Lang was related, that might make for some very interesting discussions. "An uncle? A brother?"
Mary rolled her eyes. "You're so sexist," she muttered, clearly amused at his faux pas.
"A sister? An aunt?" he prodded. He knew that she had both a sister and a brother, as well as numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins. Her parents were alive and well and living in Encino, California.
Mary plucked the book from his hands and opened the cover. There on the back fly leaf was a small picture. Of her. "Self," she answered and then pushed the book back into his hands.
"You're Dr. Lang?" Sam asked.
She tilted her head and stared at him. "Dr. James, Why are you so surprised?" She made a face. "I think I should be insulted."
Sam knew he had some back peddling to do. "Honestly, it's not because I don't think you're brilliant, Mary. It's just..." He stopped and rubbed at the back of his neck. In time she would recognize that sign of tension. "It's just that most people can't wait to throw the title around left and right." He smiled slowly. "I've been listening very carefully to everything you say for a month and you've never once even hinted at it."
Mai returned his smile. "As answers go, that's a good one." She shrugged. "Actually, I started out as a forensic pathologist. I got called in as part of a research team to help with some remains found in a mudslide and there was a rescue/cadaver team there, trying to find bodies and survivors. I got to know the team and..." She shrugged. "I figured out that I wanted to help save people before my services as a pathologist were needed and I found a woman in Georgia to train me and help me start my own rescue team."
And it was in that moment that Sam James fell in love. He didn't love Mary because she was beautiful in a quiet way or because her I.Q. was seven points higher than his. No, what Sam adored about Mary was her sweet, gentle nature when she wasn't on a rescue. He admired her absolutely steely determination when she was on a job, and her modesty about something that had been achieved only through extremely hard work and dedication.
They were married six months later. As Sam told Pops, there was no need to delay when he already knew that what they had was a forever kind of thing.
Sam and Mary decided not to have children. They enjoyed their lives just as they were, traveling and pursuing their many interests. Mary's job with the search and rescue team took her all over the world. Sometimes Sam volunteered his time. Eventually, a grant enabled him to be appointed the full-time, dedicated veterinarian to the whole rescue team, which grew in both size and reputation. So he and Mary traveled everywhere together, their beloved and life-saving dogs going with them.
While they did not become parents, they did however, become the most beloved aunt and uncle in history. They were completely content to share their lives with each other and enjoy their nieces and nephews.
As Emmett once said, Sam had found the only other human being in the world that was smarter than he was and had the good sense to snatch her up immediately. Sam and Mary continued to rescue dogs in the name of the long dead Emily. Both of them volunteered their time and considerable financial resources to the causes of abandoned animals.
Jake surprised everyone and became a physician. He worked in the ER and was on duty one night when a young woman and her three year old daughter were brought in from the scene of a car accident. He was struck by the young woman's beauty and obvious love for her daughter. He found himself dawn to her, checking in on her long after she was no longer his responsibility.
It proved to be a mutual attraction.
Gabriella was a single mother. The father of her daughter, Rebecca, had left her before Rebecca was even born, so the little girl had never even seen him. Jake and Gabriella married two years after that visit to the ER. Once, someone looked at Rebecca, who had her mother's rich coffee colored skin and riotously curly black hair and who was obviously not Caucasian or Native American, and asked Jake if he was Rebecca's "real" father. Jake turned to the person and smiled and then simply said, "As real as it gets."
Then Jake and Gabriella decided to add to their little family. There wasn't a Cullen or a James who wasn't thrilled. They had a son and named his Edward McCarty James. As Jake said, "He's named after both of my dads."
When Bella and Edward visited them in the hospital, Edward looked at his family assembled in the little room. There was Jake, tall and solid, much like his father. He had his father's high cheekbones and black hair, but he had Bella's big brown eyes and skin that was closer to peach than to russet. Then there was Bella, still lovely with an alluring streak of silver in her hair now. His own hair had gone silver years ago, but at least he still had it, he thought with smug satisfaction.
Gabriella looked tired, but satisfied. Young Edward reflected the rich genetics that had created him. His hair was curly against his scalp, his skin almost golden brown. He would, much to Edward's chagrin, be known as Eddie.
Rebecca was staring at her baby brother, her big dark eyes wide with wonder. She was seven now, just the age Jake had been when he had met him. He called Rebecca to him and she settled on his lap, resting her dark head against his shoulder. Something was troubling her and Edward had a feeling he knew what I was.
"What do you think of your new brother, Rebecca?" She shrugged.
"He's okay," she said. "Kinda small."
"Yes," Edward agreed. "It'll be a long time before we can do stuff with him. Won't it?"
Rebecca nodded solemnly. "Papa?" she finally asked.
She bit her lower lip, a habit she'd picked up from her new grandmother. "Do you think...do you think Dad will love him more?"
"Why would he love him more?"
Rebecca shrugged again. Then she sighed and began toying with one of the buttons on Edward's shirt. "Well, one of the kids at school said that Dad'll love the baby best because the baby's his."
Edward smiled and kissed her soft cheek. "Well, that kid isn't very smart," he said. Then he tilted his head and studied her. "You know, when I met your grandmother, your Dad was just your age."
"Really?" While nothing had ever been hidden from Rebecca, Edward wondered if she had really grasped the similarities between her life and Jake's. Kids saw things differently.
"Really," Edward said. "So I guess some people would say your father isn't mine." He smiled and tugged at a bit of her hair. "But I don't think that. And neither does your Dad. So..." He hugged her. "No, your Dad won't love your brother more than he loves you. Ever."
Rebecca gave him a wide grin and settled against his chest, content and comforted.
Edward smiled at her slight weight, liking the symmetry of it. He smiled at Gabriella. They shared a special bond. Having been the "new" one in an already established family, he helped her understand some of what Jake might be feeling when they had difficulties. Gabriella had just finished up her degree is social work last month, timing everything perfectly as she always did. Rose had been her mentor and example and the two of them were close friends, a fact which terrified both Emmett and Jake alike.
She had been wary when Jake had first introduced her to the family. Bella had explained it to him later, and once again he had been struck by her wisdom.
They were snuggled in their bed, warm and satisfied from making love. "It's difficult for a woman with a child to date." She laughed softly. God, it still affected him after all these years. "You never know how the man's family is going to react. And in Gabriella's case, she was probably worried that the race issue would bother us."
"Nonsense," he muttered, though admittedly he was still a tad distracted by the fact he was trying to get his breath back.
"Yes, but she couldn't be sure, could she?" Bella asked.
"Well then," he said as he tightened his arms around Bella. "We'll just have to make sure that she and Rebecca feel very, very welcome, won't we?"
"No one can do that better than you, Cullen."
Now, seeing them assembled together, he was overcome with a sense of gratitude that they had let him in all those years ago, made him a part of this exasperating, wonderful, infuriating, inspiring mix of people he called his family.
Dani proved to be a handful growing up, and having four older brothers did nothing more than hone her skills as a troublemaker. She inherited a need for speed from her father, but she took it one step further. Upon graduating from college, she surprised the whole family by joining the Navy as a pilot. Apparently, speeding on land wasn't enough for her. Her mother struggled between blinding pride and absolute terror the first time she watched her daughter climb into the cockpit of a jet.
Edward pretended not to be worried, but he felt as if he was going to have a heart attack. Luckily, he didn't and Dani continued to fly "balls the wall" as Emmett liked to say. When Dani informed her big brother that she did not, in fact, possess balls, he snorted and shook his head. "I wouldn't be so sure about that," he told her.
He earned himself a smack on the back of the head from Rose for that. And then got an additional one from Dani for his trouble. No more was said about the possibility of possession of testicles after that.
Dani told her mother, when her mother asked, that she didn't have the time for dating. There were a few casual relationships in her life, but nothing that stuck. She was able to walk away without regret because no one could ever touch her heart. She was her father's daughter in many ways. But like him, even she couldn't avoid destiny forever.
One day she was walking her puppy, an adorable young mixed breed that she had just adopted from one of the shelters that Sam supported. The poor thing had been mauled by another dog and had had surgery, so he was wearing a ridiculous collar around his neck. Dani had written in big black letters, "Hello! My name is Trouble" just because it amused her.
Trouble was well named.
On this particular day, Dani released Trouble from his leash to run around an enclosed area of the dog park. Trouble immediately took advantage of his new found freedom and rushed over to a man standing by a tree (watching his own dog) lifted a leg and peed on the man's shoe.
During her stammered apologies, Dani looked up into the bluest pair of eyes she had ever seen. She stuck out her hand. "Hi, I'm Dani Cullen," she said.
"I'm Eli Alexander," he answered.
"You have two first names," Dani observed.
"My dad is to blame for the last one; my mom is to blame for the first."
"It could be worse," Dani noted.
"I'm sure it could," Eli agreed in a soft drawl.
"You're from the South," Dani guessed.
"The accent gives me away every time," Eli replied with a shrug.
"I was born and raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina," Dani explained. "So to me, you sound just right."
"I'm a proud son of South Carolina," Eli said with a grin.
"Well, South Carolina, It's very nice to meet you, even if it did have to involve urine," Dani quipped.
"Maybe I should let you take me out to dinner to make it up to me," he returned. "You know, without the furry little fiends." He pointed toward the two dogs that were chasing each other with looks of sheer canine joy on their faces.
"And then maybe you could buy me some drinks?" Dani suggested.
"Sounds like a plan," Eli replied. "Do you live around here?"
"I live on the base," Dani answered.
He arched a brow at her. "What do you do?"
"I'm a pilot," she said. "Does that intimidate you?"
Eli paused and then he laughed. "Actually, Dani Cullen, I find it incredibly sexy."
"Good answer, Mr. Alexander…good answer."
"My mama always said I needed a strong woman to keep me in line." The man was a flirt, she decided. She also decided that she liked it.
"Your mother sounds like a very smart woman," Dani murmured. Then she sighed. "I should probably warn you that I have four older brothers who are convinced that there's not a man in the universe who is worthy of me."
Eli laughed. "Then, in the interest of full disclosure, I should probably tell you that I have three little sisters who are equally sure that there's not a woman who exists who is good enough for their big brother."
"We could always have a secret, torrid love affair and keep them out of it," Dani suggested.
"And then run off to Vegas and do the deed before they ever find out?" Eli added.
Dani nodded. "Sounds like a plan, Eli." Then she tilted her head. "What do you do?" Her smile was quick. "I figure I ought to know what my future husband does for a living."
"I own a nursery," he replied.
"As in little kids?"
"As in plants," he answered with a smirk. He held up his hands. "Apparently, I not only have a green thumb, but green hands as well." He wiggled his fingers. "I'm very good at what I do." He shrugged. "I also do a little landscape design."
"I'm pretty good at what I do, too," Dani told him.
He smiled slowly. "Oh, I have no doubt about that."
Later that evening, Dani called her father and told him that she'd finally met him.
Edward Cullen felt a little sad – but just a little. Then he got himself together and asked, "Does he ride a Harley?"