A/N: Here it is, the end of another fic, and this one really tears at my heart a little. I always get a little emotional when I come to the end of one of my stories, but there are some that affect me a little deeper than others, and this is one of them. I started posting this a little over two years ago for my good friend StarlightSuccubus' birthday, since it was all at her urging that I actually write and post this story in the first place. And now, I am a little sad to see this Edward and Bella go. I have to admit, I was kinda aimless yesterday when I typed up that last line and thought, wow, PtP is over, and now all I have is Don't Ever Forget and the last installment of the EPOV of New Moon…and then I have NO idea what I'm gonna do next, but I'm sure I'll think of something. :)
Thank you all for being so amazing and patient with me as I wrote this. I know I've been very slow and inconsistent in writing and updating due to my health, and you have been so incredible through it all, I feel very lucky. I will also be compiling a pdf of this story as well, as soon as I edit and clean it up some, and it will be posted on my profile with my other completed works.
And thank you to ericastwilight, once again, for being my rock through this, and kicking my butt into gear to actually finish it, even if she was in serious denial last night about PtP actually coming to an end. I love ya girl, and can't wait to hug the crap out of you very soon.
Thank you and take care!
Playing the Part Epilogue
"You got a minute, Edward?"
I froze with that singular statement. It was the one moment that every man dreads; the first actual discussion with the father of the woman he's dating. And when her dad is a cop, it's even worse, I thought to myself.
However, given the circumstances leading up to my relationship with Bella, the prospect of that particular "face-to-face with Dad" made me even more nervous. Would he understand how much I loved and cherished his daughter, and be able to look past the fact that we'd just had a child out of wedlock? That I sincerely wanted my son with her, and they weren't just an obligation to me? His expression gave away nothing, so I simply nodded and followed him out into the hallway.
Chief Swan's hands drove deep into his pockets and he drew in a slow breath. "I wanted to say congratulations. He's a good looking kid."
"Thank you, sir," I replied in a quiet tone, and then suddenly, his body language told an entirely different story. He seemed just as nervous as I was. "Chief Swan, I know I'm really not one of your favorite people right now…"
"Stop," he said abruptly, bringing one of his hands out of his pocket and held it up to stop me. "Why do you want to marry my daughter? Is it just because of the baby?"
I shifted uncomfortably and folded my arms over my chest. Bella had been right. Especially with the way my previous marriage ended, it would automatically be assumed that my only reason for wanting to marry again so soon was that she had given birth to my son. Shit. "Sir, I am a very family oriented man, and I love my children more than anything in this world. Nothing is more important to me than they are, all three of them. But Bella is a very close second to them. Even if there was no Charlie, I would still want to spend the rest of my life with her."
"Then why wait? If you're so sure that you want to be with her, why didn't you marry her before she had your child?" he asked, his forehead taut and serious. "Are you that nervous about getting married again?"
I shook my head and fought against the urge to lean back against the wall. I needed to stand up like a man and appear stronger than that, and not shrink back at all from the father of the woman I loved. "It was a decision on both our parts. She wanted to be sure that I was marrying her for the right reasons, and not just because of Charlie. And I also had Aimee and Zachary to consider. They adore Bella, but they also still have a mother they love very much, and the divorce wasn't easy for them. We both needed to be sure that they were comfortable with another woman at my side, and their new brother."
Chief Swan nodded slowly, his gaze meeting the floor, and he appeared deep in thought. I began running my words over in my mind, trying to determine if I'd said something that could be construed as anything other than how I'd meant them. Then his eyes rose to meet mine again. "I love my daughter, Madeline. She's my baby, and I couldn't possibly love her more. But Bella is my firstborn. And I don't know exactly what she has told you about her mother and I, but that little girl was my only reason for getting out of bed in the morning for a very long time. I know a father's love is one of the most powerful feelings that any man can experience, and Bella holds a very special place in my heart. I married her mother for the wrong reasons, and unfortunately, Bella paid the ultimate price for that. And I was very careful about making the decision to marry again, and took my daughter into a lot of consideration in that choice. So I can understand both your stance and hers. I just want my little girl to be happy. As well as my grandson."
"Nothing is more important to me than the happiness of her and my children," I replied sincerely.
"I've seen that. From the first moment I met you," Chief Swan mumbled quietly, his arms tightening over his chest. "I could see how much my daughter cared about you that first night, and vice versa. And despite what your wife had done, you showed a level of care and concern for her and your children that I can't deny, did surprise me. More so with her, obviously. You were a better man than me, and I respected the hell out of you. And then, Bella called to tell me that she was not only pregnant, but you were the father."
I drew in a nervous breath, swallowing hard, and despite my efforts to the contrary, my eyes lowered. "I don't regret having Charlie. I wish the situation could have been different at the time she became pregnant. Not just for me, but for Bella, Aimee and Zach, and of course, for him as well. He wasn't planned, but he and Bella are the best things to happen to me since the birth of my first two. I love her and our son, and I promise, I will take good care of them."
"I have no doubt about that," he replied and I brought my gaze back to him. "I watched you today with her and the baby, and those kids of yours. Little Aimee is a good kid, very polite and so smart. And that little boy." He paused to chuckle, shaking his head. "He's a little spitfire. But you can tell a lot about a man through his children. And they both love and respect their father more than I've seen in a long time. It takes a good man to raise two amazing kids like that."
"Thank you, sir."
"I also wanted to apologize to you, as well," he continued and a pained tone and expression came over him. "I should have been there for her. I was so afraid that she was repeating my mistakes. I couldn't bear to see her hurt like that. And I showed it in the wrong way. But seeing her today, I hardly recognized her. She was so happy, and she loves you and those kids so much. And those feelings are mutual on all counts."
"Very much so," I replied, nodding in affirmation.
"That's all a father can want for his little girl, right?" he said in more of a statement that a question, relating to me father-to-father, and I gave him an agreeable smile. "I want to be there to see my daughter get married and give her away. Soon?"
"Yes. As soon as I can give her the wedding she deserves. And that is the best one that I can provide," I answered confidently and I watched as a smile twitched at his lips. "And it wouldn't be the same without you there, and it would mean the world to Bella."
"You really are a good man, Edward," he said, holding his hand out for me to shake, and I took it firmly in mine. "My Bella did good."
I had almost forgotten what those first few weeks of having a new baby in the house was like, and Charlie had proven to be more of a handful than my first two combined.
Or maybe I was just that much older.
Our little boy was beautiful, with his mother's amazing and expressive brown eyes, and he was very animated, even at only three weeks old. In that respect, he reminded me a lot of Zach. However, his fiery temperament was reminiscent of his sister, and Bella. I saw very little of myself in Charlie, except for my knobby knees and long toes.
Aside from her exhaustion, Bella was holding up far better than I was, despite her worries throughout her pregnancy about her abilities as a mother. She was so patient with him, even after hours' worth of crying from our son, and she'd spend many nights on the living room couch, trying not to disturb my sleep or Zach's. She was amazing.
Aimee had been a godsend. She would insist on watching Charlie for a little while after school each day, making sure that Bella ate and had a break while she held the baby. And she was frantic when she'd come home from the visits with her mother that had recently resumed under the supervision of Jane's sister, worried that Bella hadn't gotten enough rest and about her baby brother. She was a regular mother hen, and I couldn't have been more proud of her.
Zach, on the other hand, was with me—totally clueless.
"Daddy? Why's baby Charlie so sad?" he'd asked me once about a week after we'd brought him home. "Don't he like it here?"
I lifted him from his spot beside me on the couch and onto my lap, and he rested back on my chest, while keeping his eyes on Bella pacing the kitchen with the baby. "I'm sure he likes it here, buddy. Sometimes babies cry for a reason, like they are hungry or tired…"
"Or tinky diapies," Zach added, scrunching his nose.
"Or stinky diapers," I agreed, trying very hard not to laugh and kissing the top of his head. "But other times, no one really knows why."
"Did me and Mimi do that?" he asked, tilting his head up to look back at me curiously.
"Yeah, a little bit," I replied with a nod. "And do you like it here?"
Zach nodded as well, nuzzling into the front of my shirt. "I love my daddy. And my Bewwa."
I smiled, hugging my arms more securely around him. He'd begun calling her that shortly after we'd brought Charlie home, and we'd started calling her "Mommy" or "Charlie's Mommy' whenever we were around the baby. He became territorial and climbed into Bella's lap as I took my turn walking the floor with our fussing infant, wrapping his arms around her and mumbling "My Bewwa."
To her credit, Bella only winced slightly as he pressed up against her incision, and shook her head as I was about to say something. She shifted him slightly, but never removed her arms from around him, and gently stroked his hair. And I stood in absolute awe of her; she was a natural mother.
"We love you, too, Zach. And Charlie will be fine, just like you."
The first crack I saw in Bella came about a week later after Charlie's one month check-up. He wasn't gaining the weight that the doctor would have like to see, and was concerned that he wasn't getting the sustenance he needed from Bella's breast milk alone, and could have been an explanation as to why he was so fussy. He suggested a formula supplement in between his regular feedings at her breast, and to see him back in another week or so to check his progress.
I could see the slight glistening of her eyes as we made our way back out to the car, and she didn't utter a word all the way home. She only nodded when I returned home from picking up Zach and the trip to the store, and asked if it was the right one. Bella gently rocked Charlie in the glider beside the crib while I made his first bottle since he'd been home and brought it up to her. We were amazed by the way he took to the nipple and drank the entire thing down in what seemed like seconds, falling straight to sleep in her arms as she gently patted his back.
After setting Charlie in his crib, Bella made her way downstairs to the kitchen to busy herself with making lunch for Zach. I watched her eyes as they constantly flickered over to the monitor on the counter, obviously waiting for the baby to start crying, but he never did.
Three hours later, Bella had cleaned the entire kitchen, including the refrigerator, made Aimee's snack for after school and my dinner for work that night, and then sat at the table, holding her head between her hands. She shot up at the first whimper from Charlie and raced up the stairs, and I was right behind her. I stood in the doorway and watched her shoulders fall slightly when she found that he only needed to be changed and showed little interest in feeding yet. He was more content to fall asleep in her arms again and didn't stir when she returned him to his crib.
I reached for her arm as she passed me but she pulled it away with a shake of her head and mumbled, "I'm fine." However, I heard her hurried steps down the stairs and the close of our bedroom door, and I ran my hand through my hair and sighed. I followed her path, asking Aimee to keep an eye on Zach and an ear out for Charlie for a few minutes while I talked to Bella, and she nodded with a look of worry at the closed door.
When I entered the bedroom, I found Bella sitting on the edge of our bed with a pillow hugged to her chest, her shoulders trembling. I crawled across the bed to kneel behind her, my hand resting on her arm as I kissed her cheek. "Baby, what's the matter?"
"He doesn't even need me, Edward. I'm supposed to be his mother and I can't do something as simple as feeding my baby. What kind of mother am I?" Bella sobbed, trying to pull away and lowering her face into the pillow, but I kept hold of her arm and then wrapped mine around her.
"Bella, you are an amazing mother," I murmured, pressing my lips to her hair and she began shaking her head. "You are. Come here."
Bella choked on another cry and I slowly guided her to lie down beside me, and held her. Her face buried into my chest and her arms curled between us, and her entire body trembled in my hold. "I've failed him. I should have known something was wrong. He was starving and I did nothing. I should have known. It's my job to know."
"Baby, he's fine," I replied in a gentle tone, running my hand along her back. "He's healthy, and he's not losing weight. Needing a little extra is not any kind of failure on your part. You have done everything humanly possible for our son, even when I, a father of two already, had no idea what to do. You are a natural mom and I am so proud to call you the mother of my son."
Bella's arm circled around my waist and hugged her body against mine, finally lifting her tear-stained face to look at me. "I love him so much, Edward. I just want him to be okay."
I brought my hand to her face and brushed her tears away with my thumb, leaning forward to kiss her gently. "I know you do. And he's perfect, because of you."
Bella's lips met mine again and her arm tightened around me, pulling me closer. "And I love you. So much. Thank you."
"I love you, too, Bella," I replied, kissing her hair as her face lowered to my chest again. I glanced at the clock and saw that I had to leave in a little over an hour, feeling Bella's hold secure on me as well. "Baby, do you need me to call in tonight and stay home with you and the kids?"
Bella pulled away, wiping her face with the back of her hand and shaking her head. "No, I'll be fine. I shouldn't be so emotional over something like this. Thank you, but you go stir-crazy when you don't work."
"It's one night, Bella. You and the kids are more important than any job," I replied insistently, running my fingers through her hair when her head returned to my chest. "If you need me, I'll be here. My understudy has been chomping at the bit anyway since I took that week off after Charlie was born. It'll be okay, Bella. Bella?"
I looked down at her when she didn't respond after a moment, finding her completely still with her eyes closed. I kissed her forehead and slowly pulled away, covering her over with the blanket once I stood from the bed, and she didn't move. I quietly left the room to allow her to really sleep for the first time since Charlie's birth. She was beyond exhausted and my mind was made up. Work could definitely do without me for a night; my family needed me more.
With Charlie doing much better and even starting to sleep through most of the night, our next challenge was underway—wedding plans. Both of our fathers insisted on helping financially, but all three of us men were once again clueless as to everything else.
I'd had very little to do with my first wedding other than to just show up for fittings and be on time for the ceremony. Jane and the wedding planner had handled every other detail, and it was ridiculously lavish. Neither Bella nor I wanted anything quite like that. We only wished to get married and have a day that we'd remember for the rest of our lives.
Her stepmother was a huge help, as were Madeline and Aimee. The two girls had established a fast friendship after meeting that day in the hospital room, and they were soon inseparable and excited to go along with Bella and Sue to the florist and bridal shop. They even had the women take pictures of them in their dresses to show their dads.
Even at eleven, my little girl looked so grown up and it caused my heart to twinge. Before I knew it, my baby would be a teenager, starting high school, going off to college, getting married herself, making me a grandfather…
Oh God, I thought with my head between my hands. Even Zach starting kindergarten hadn't hit me that hard, and I'd been a mess.
Bella was visibly trying not to laugh as she sat down beside me on the couch, running her fingers along the back of my neck and kissing the back of my hand. "She's only eleven, baby. You don't need to worry about any of that yet."
I turned my head to look at her with a raised eyebrow. "Just wait until Charlie comes home with his first girlfriend."
Bella lifted her chin and shook her head. "Nope. Never going to happen. I've already made it clear to him that he is not growing up, he's staying a baby forever, or else I'm locking him in a tower."
She succeeded in making me laugh and I felt my body relax, sliding my arm around her waist and kissing her. "Good luck with that, sweetheart."
The big day finally arrived and snow had begun to fall in the early hours of the morning. There was a good three inches on the ground when I woke at six and checked my phone to find a text from Bella.
Oh my God, why today?! I'm never going to get through this mess!
I chuckled and rose from bed, making my way out to my father's kitchen, where he had a cup of coffee already waiting for me. My phone chimed in my hand again as I took my first sip, and I looked down to it.
Damn it. Get your ass out of bed, Edward Cullen. We're getting married in five hours, in case you've forgotten.
My father's chuckle joined mine and I glanced over to him, finding him smirking. "Wedding day nerves?"
"Yep," I replied and dialed her phone, waiting for her to pick up, but it was my daughter's voice that came through.
"Daddy, Bella is freaking out," Aimee whispered, her breaths a little heavy. "I don't know what to do! She's not going to change her mind, is she?"
"No, I really don't think so, honey. Let me talk to her," I answered calmly.
"That's against the rules, Dad," Aimee admonished and I chuckled.
"Only if I see her. Just give her the phone, princess," I replied and she sighed.
"Bella, Dad wants to talk to you," I heard her say and the clicking of her shoes was audible on the floor as she made her way to Bella.
"Edward? Please tell me that you were in the shower or something," Bella spoke hurriedly.
"Baby, relax. We still have five hours and I don't require even half the preparation time that you do," I said softly in an attempt to soothe her.
"So you were still sleeping?" Bella shrieked and I held the phone away from my ear, watching my father leave the room, shaking his head with a chuckle. "Have you looked out the window yet? You need to get ready and get to the church. I want you there safely."
Bringing the phone back to rest against my cheek, I took another sip of coffee before setting it down on the counter. "I will be. I'm going to shower and then head over, and change there. Don't worry about me. In a few hours we'll be married and everything will be perfect. You'll see."
Bella's breaths gradually began to ease, and I heard Madeline instructing her not to cry. "Okay. Now I just have to worry about me getting there safely. Snow plus heels equals slippery disaster waiting to happen."
"You'll be fine, baby. Your dad won't let you fall on the way in, and neither will I on the way out," I said reassuringly and she mumbled a "better not", but I could hear the smile breaking through in her voice. "I love you, Isabella Swan."
"Don't call me Isabella. I'm not in trouble for anything," she scolded me and followed it with a laugh, joined by her stepmother's in the background. Her voice softened as she whispered "I love you, too," and then reminded me to go shower before we said goodbye.
Standing at the altar with my father beside me as my best man, I was anxious to see Bella. I hadn't spent a full night without her by my side in months, and sleeping and waking alone felt strange, and I didn't like it at all. I wanted to be married to her, to feel her in my arms again, and the guy in me really wanted out of the tie constricting my throat.
The church was soon filled with our guests and little Charlie was voicing his displeasure at the echoing noise of the voices surrounding him as he sat on Sue's lap. He'd just turned six months old, and he was a very active little boy who did not enjoy being stationary for any length of time, though he wasn't even crawling yet. Thankfully, a pacifier seemed to placate him for the time being and he settled back against her chest with heavy lids.
The doors opened at the end of the aisle, and Madeline and Aimee appeared in their mauve dresses, walking slowly toward us, and my daughter gave me a wink before taking her place on the other side. I returned it, causing both girls to giggle into their bouquets, and then turned my gaze to the doors again to have my breath snatched from my body.
Bella stood there with her arm linked through her father's, holding tightly onto the sleeve of his jacket, and she looked absolutely enchanting. She was as beautiful as I'd imagined she would be, and more. The dress hugged the curves of her waist and hips, and if I hadn't been present in that hospital room myself, no one would have been able to convince me that she'd given birth to a nearly ten pound baby only six months before. Her body was a little fuller, but to my eyes, it didn't take away from her beauty, it enhanced it.
Bella was the love of my life and the mother of my son, and I'd never loved her more than I did at that moment, as her father placed her hand in mine. She was all I could hear, see, smell, and feel while we vowed our lives to each other forever, and sealed our promise with two rings and one kiss.
I couldn't take my eyes off the band encircling her finger as we made our way back down the aisle with her left hand on my arm. She was my wife, and I was her husband, and I got to spend the rest of my life with the beauty beside me.
We stepped outside together and glanced up. The snow had slowed significantly and sparse flakes were drifting down around us. I turned my eyes to her and watched them cling to her veil, lashes, cheeks and hair, and she looked like and angel sent to me from heaven. I lifted my fingers to her chin and brought her gaze to mine, and sealed my lips over hers lovingly until we heard the click of a camera.
To this day, that picture still sits on its own shelf on the bookcase beside our television. I gaze at it every single day, as I have for the last five years, just as much in love with my bride as I was the moment it was taken. A brand new baby girl joined our family two years later, and we decided that we were done. Our hands were full with four children under our roof, but we cherished every moment of it.
I know that when they've all grown and moved away, I'll miss them and it will break my heart a little, but I won't ever be alone. I am no longer playing the part of a happily married man to a woman I no longer cared for. I am a husband and friend to a wife that loves me as unconditionally as I do her. I will have my beautiful Bella at my side and it won't be the end of my life. Only a new beginning. With her.