His Absence

Chapter 11/Epilogue

The Big Day

"Isabella Marie Swan Masen Cullen."

I signed the Will where indicated and looked at Edward. He looked hesitant. We had no idea where today would lead, the pregnancy had gone just as well as Masen's but twins? I knew we were merely getting prepared to fake my death during the delivery if it proved necessary but the grim line Edward's mouth slid into now and then, and the frown on his face when he forgot to look cheerful and optimistic, I knew he feared I may die today for real.

Alice was no help, everytime she tried to see today's outcome, her head throbbed and her vision clouded and she saw only startling bright lights and stars.

Masen staggered towards us and Edward flashed in front of me so he could grab him and lift him onto his knee, and I wasn't tempted to try and lift our son.

This entire pregnancy had been one long period of worry for Edward. I was glad to find out we were having twins, as I had the distinct impression he would never allow a third pregnancy and I always wanted three children.

Edward, however, had been thrown. He had thought this pregnancy would mirror the first and the day I conceived was the day those worry lines appeared on his brow.

He had gasped and moved closer to me, dropping to his knees and putting his ear against my belly.

"Two heartbeats, I hope to God that's just an echo, or your heartbeat as well as the baby's." he had said, calling for Carlisle.

The confirmation of twins had scared him completely and I knew he regretted ever allowing me to have another pregnancy. He had pleaded one child was enough and he no longer cared about having a daughter, and I had to beg and plead for a year until he gave in, during a moment of weakness. I had told him it was the only birthday present I would ever want.

Masen had developed faster than your average baby but not noticeably so, seeing he cleverly he managed to resist talking in the presence of humans and he had mastered the typical baby stagger, amusing himself, knowing he could run like the wind in the cover of the forest.

He was like some little wood nymph, almost flying as he ran faster than my eyes could follow. He was completely unaffected by humans and could mix freely with even the injured.

Blood held no lure, and he ate mostly human food, but Edward had caught him covered in animal blood too often after his run, he was obviously able to eat from either menu.

"So, if things go bad, you tell Charlie I died, and then you and Masen move to Alaska to escape your grief, and Carlisle will have already taken me and the babies on ahead. What if Charlie wants to see my body, or the twins?"

"I guess we say you died before giving birth." he choked out. He hated even putting the words out there, like saying them made the possibility more real and likely.

He took my hand and led me out to the creek at the back of Carlisle's property.

Alice stood and walked over to take charge of Masen, for appearances sake in case any hikers were in the area and would expect to see a small toddler supervised near water.

Emmett took our son and swam with him to the far end of the large pooled area and they both disappeared underwater. It still kind of freaked me out, seeing my toddler disappear underwater and not even come up to take a breath of air.

The water swirled alarmingly as Emmett and Masen raced each other underwater, forcing waves to appear on the surface of the usually still water.

"Yes, I win!" Emmett yelled as he air punched to celebrate a rare victory.

Masen was like Edward, fast and sleek and usually he won easily.

I looked at his grinning face and he winked at me and told me he had let his Uncle win for once.

Why? I asked silently.

"It's his birthday." he replied.

I frowned, it wasn't his birthday then Masen flashed me a scene of what he meant. It was the anniversary of Emmett's human death.

I enjoyed this taste of what my life may soon be like, communicating with thoughts and not words. I could only do it with Masen, to Edward's disappointment and annoyance but something told me I would be able to do it with all my family once I was changed.

The babies kicked and moved and I sighed, glad human pain and weariness would soon be a thing of the past.

Edward sat behind me and pulled me in close, between his open legs and his hands rested where they inevitably were, day and night for the past three months.

He shut his eyes and I watched Alice's face, I could read what Edward was thinking my watching her reaction.

"Right." he said, standing and pulling me towards the house.

"What's up?" I asked as I staggered along, trying to keep pace. He barely paused and I was cradled in his arms.

"I want them out, now. They are mature and I just have this feeling we have to do this now."

Carlisle appeared instantly as Edward laid me on the table where our son had been delivered fifteen months earlier.

Edward was holding my hand and fighting to remain calm and he muttered quickly under his breath, too fast for me to understand what he was saying.

Carlisle was calm and professional and he made the incision and I felt his hands inside, then pressure, then blood went everywhere and everything switched to fast forward.

I was vaguely aware of both Esme and Rose holding babies wrapped in towels but the looks on the two women's faces were not the usual happy smiles one associates with newly delivered life and they both vanished out of my sight.

I felt bursts of pain as both my husband and father-in-law quickly bit me, along my neck, arms, feet, everywhere seemingly at once.

The fire started in seconds and I could hear Edward's anguished voice begging Carlisle to say they had done it in time.

"She lost masses of blood, I just hope there was enough to get our venom to her heart."

They both listened and I felt their hands on my chest, feeling for my heartbeat.

"Very slow, and weak. I am going to help it, Edward."

His hands pushed against my ribcage carefully and he kept the organ functioning manualy all night, never tiring.

Edward held my hand tightly and kissed my face and alternately promised I would be fine and begged me not to die and leave him.

I was hazily aware of pain but nothing like he had described it had been like for him. I felt like I was underwater and everything was dim and distant and my body generally ached, like I have over exercised without warming up first, and like I was sitting too close to a fire.

I wondered if it meant they were too late, Edward had described his changing as being all consuming and intensely painful so he had to retreat inside his brain to stay sane. I was aware of my surroundings and could feel the coldness of Edward's hand on my own. My body felt numb and my extremities lost feeling. I felt heavy and drugged and like a ragdoll, unable to even flinch or wrinkle my nose. I concentrated on that, surely I could do that one small thing.

The intense effort suddenly changed to blackness and I was floating in a black sky.

I could hear an angel sobbing and calling my name and I could feel a pounding on my chest and I tried to speak and tell him it was okay to let me go, I liked it here, it was calm and a sense of serenity was taking over where my soul had been.

"Fight, Bella, don't leave me." the velvet voice begged.

I wondered if I should. I liked it here so much, and I saw a distant bright light, and suddenly I was moving quickly towards it. It was like a tunnel but the sides were like swirls of gold and yellow and colors I had never seen, and the end of the tunnel promised peace and rest.

I stretched my hands out to stop myself slipping through so quickly and suddenly I was floating back the way I had come and was back in the dark night again. I looked at the bright light as it receded, and felt a little sorry to not have allowed myself to continue down that path but something was pulling me back.

As I drifted faster and faster, I saw a star and I knew I had to reach it so I concentrated hard. The closer I got, the more pain returned to my body.

Fire started lapping at my feet and hands and I gasped and thought maybe the tunnel was the better choice but as soon as I started back towards it, I heard the angel cry again and backpedalled and welcomed the pain.

I knew then I had a choice.

Be free of pain and hurt and know only comfort and serenity but be without the angel, or fight and stay with him, and burn and suffer.

I couldn't leave him, he needed me too much.

I could hear again but the sounds were foreign and made my ears hurt. Whispers, roars, words spoken too loudly to understand their meaning.

I was frightened but I stayed.

His hand was my anchor and my only tie to reality and I concentrated on that connection and stayed close.

I heard him cry many times, when I forgot to keep fighting, or when I let go a little to ease the pain, but always he drew me back as I felt his heart cracking.

I had to keep his heart in one piece, so that was my focus and time sped by and I managed to put both my hands around his heart and keep it whole, press it together so the crack melted away and sealed the gap again.

I felt victorious, I was winning, his heart was whole.

Then the beating started in my chest, I was sure somehow a helicopter had invaded my body and was trying to explode out but now his heart was soothing me and I relaxed and ignored the beating wings and smiled, because I could feel him closer all the time.

The fire was dying down, the flames had left my fingers and toes and I felt the change as they receded and left my body, my heart was last, it burned bright then stilled.

I lay for a moment and wondered what this meant?

No pain, no cold hand on mine, now a warm hand had taken it's place and I opened my eyes and stared into the green eyes in front of me.

Edward's eyes were green again!

Did this mean I had died and he had followed me?

I looked around and my brain registered all manner of sights and sounds that hurt to see and hear.

"Sssh, I am here, you will be okay now." the velvety voice promised.

I smiled and he smiled at me and lifted my body into his embrace.

"Am I dead?" I asked.

"No, my darling, though we came very close to losing you a dozen times. But you kept fighting your way back to me."

His lips felt warm, like they had when we first kissed, before he was killed and taken from me.

He carried me to the creek and lay me in the water and held me up as I floated.

They were all there, watching.

Masen swam to my side and took my hand.

"Mama."

"Hey Masen." said a voice that sounded much different to my own but I knew it came from my lips.

Esme smiled and held up a baby and Rose wept and held up another.

They seemed fine, both looked at me with some expectations in their eyes.

"Our new son and daughter." said Edward, his voice breaking over the words.

"You almost died, Bella. I almost lost you, over and over again. Carlisle kept your heart beating, but you still drifted away and tried to leave me."

"No, I didn't try and leave you. I was going into the light and you called me back so I mended your heart, it was breaking. You said once you left your heart with me and I was to take care of it, so I did."

"Thank you, Bella." he said, and rested his forehead on mine.

My limbs felt lighter and I moved them experimentally, and the water splashed as my body responded.

I stood beside my Edward and held my arms out to him and he pulled me into his embrace.

Emmett and Jasper appeared, just blurs at first, then they stopped and lay a deer at their feet.

I walked away from Edward and looked at the deer. It was dead.

I bent to touch it and suddenly my mouth was on it's neck and I swallowed deeply as the nectar poured down my throat and extinguished the fire that had started to burn inside.

I looked up and saw every eye on me, and every mouth was smiling.

"See, now that's what I call a real vamp, no refusing to drink, and acting like a girl." said Emmett.

My head suddenly whipped around and I found myself running, and I stopped when I was standing in front of some sort of cave with a barred gate at the front.

Two humans were looking at me. I sniffed and wanted to gag, they smelt terrible.

I backed away and breathed in fresh air quickly.

"Edward, why do they stink so badly?" I asked and he frowned and then laughed.

"You don't want to feed off them?"

The very idea turned my stomach.

"No, thank you. I would like another deer, where do I get them from?"

Edward took my hand and ran with me towards the forest and I saw a large stag in front of me and he smelled delicious.

I was on his throat without thought and I drained him and felt his body weaken and collapse.

"You should kill them first, it's kinder." Edward explained.

"I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself. I didn't decide to do that, it just happened." I said apologetically.

"Looks like Bella will be safe to take near humans but we better give the zoo a big miss for now." said Jasper.

The men took my hands and ran with me, so fast everything was just a blur. I laughed delightedly.

This was cool.

We stopped at the house and I looked at what was left of my dress, I was hardly decently covered. Alice appeared beside me and stripped me naked and redressed me in a long, soft blue robe-like dress, and tried to put shoes on my feet.

I kicked them off and walked towards the women with my babies.

Edward was watching me carefully.

"Can I hold them?" I asked.

He was at my side instantly and he held my hand and looked into my eyes.

"Do they smell good or bad to you?"

I sniffed in the air surrounding them.

"Neither. They just smell like babies."

He took one and handed it to me but he was tensed to grab it back anytime.

I looked at the pair of green eyes looking at me and felt the baby speak in my head.

"Mama, we missed you."

"I didn't go anywhere, not really." I said, remembering the golden tunnel of light.

I kissed his head and Rose took him back and Esme handed me the other baby.

I saw pink flowers and bluebirds and soft clouds and I looked at her carefully.

She smiled and touched my face and I saw her remembering me as I writhed and burned and Edward stood over me, holding my hand a crying tears of blood.

"Daddy thought you were going to leave us." she admonished me.

"I would never do that." I promised and kissed her cheek.

"Come with me." Edward asked and I walked with him down to the cottage that was in the very bottom of the garden.

"This wasn't here before." I said.

"Masen wanted to give us a gift, a place of our own to escape to sometimes. Jasper and Emmett helped him build it and Alice decorated it."

The cottage was like those that used to be painted on chocolate boxes when my Grandma visited at Christmas and pulled out her treasures she kept inside them.

The roses and jasmine growing over the walls added a fragrance that almost over whelmed my senses.

"Stop breathing." Edward suggested and I cut off the air supply and the smell diminished.

He led me inside and I looked in each room quickly, they were all gorgeous and beautifuly decorated but hadn't got what I wanted most. Finally in the last room, there it was.

A large, white metal bed.

I ripped the blue gown away and pushed my husband onto the bed, ripping his jeans and shirt in my effort to get closer to him.

"Bella, are you sure you are ready for this?" he asked but I had straddled him and had him deep inside my body by the end of the question and he sighed and allowed me to ride him enthusiastically. It felt amazing, and he smiled and reached for my hips to guide me at the pace he wanted.

I allowed it but I was aware I could slap his hands away, my strength was building up, and I felt stronger by the minute.

Edward flipped us and pounded into me far harder than he had ever done before and I laughed and touched his face.

"More. Harder. Faster." I demanded and he laughed and rose to the challenge.

The bed collapsed and we both giggled at the sight as we threw ourselves around on the mattress, seeking new sensations and basking in the thrill of complete abandonment.

Finally we stopped and lay together and I kissed my husband gently and he grasped me tightly.

"I would have died if you had. I saw you each time you drifted towards the light, but I saw you fight and come back and I felt your hands holding my heart together. That was easily the scariest thing i have ever experienced. I know it was worth it now, but Bella, I thought I was going to lose you."

His voice hitched and I soothed his back and drew circles on his skin.

"I would never leave you." I sighed.

"Where would I go? Even Heaven was lacking without you in it, I knew I had to come back."

"You were tempted." he said.

"I know, it was an escape, a way to avoid the pain but the angel crying made me see I would never be happy there without you."

"You saw an angel?" he asked.

"No, I heard an angel and felt him holding my hand." I answered. "You do have a soul, Edward, and it's beautiful."

He hugged me closer and kissed my lips and I kissed him back.

This was Heaven, here in his arms, my sort of Heaven anyway.

"I love you so much." he said, and I smiled at him.

He looked better again now. His face was happy again, the fear gone.

"Why are your eyes green again?" I asked.

"Now you are like me, I guess I look like you preferred."

"But I can see all their eyes. Carlisle's are such an icy blue, Esme's are hazel, Alice's are warm brown, Jasper's blue like Emmett and Roses. And the babies have green eyes."

"I guess it's something only you see then. We all have yellow eyes to us."

"I like the colors." I confessed.

"Yours are still brown, I wonder why? Maybe because you didn't have enough blood left."

He looked scared again as he recalled the very close call, and how it happened over and over again.

"I am sorry i scared you." I said.

"I am glad I have you for eternity, i could never go through that again. I died inside so many times. I have never felt weaker and more vulnerable." he confessed.

My poor Edward.

I will treat him like the precious jewel he is. Now I have seen and touched his heart, it as so much more important to keep it safe like he asked me to.

We walked back to the main house and I held my new children.

"What are their names?" I asked.

"I wanted you to name them, so you had a reason to come back."

"You were my reason, Edward, that was all I ever needed to keep me here."

"I would like to name our daughter Lucy. After your gran."

"You never knew her." I said, surprised.

"I know her now. She sat beside me while I waited for you to come back to me, she told me you chose me and didn't want to go to her."

I smiled, and knew it was true. Much as I loved Gran, she was not Edward.

"I want to name this boy Edward. It's my favorite name." I grinned.

xXx

The twins feigned sleep when Charlie came to visit. He and Jake looked at the babies and congratulated us and played with Masen, who did an amazing imitation of a human toddler. He staggered and fell, he chewed toys and drooled, he laughed and let Charlie blow raspberries on his belly.

Jake looked happy, and I knew if we had to leave in the future, if the children started developing too fast or grew too quickly to be human, I would miss him.

He told me he had met a girl and he thought she was the one.

I was so glad for him, he deserved a woman by his side.

She had just moved to the Res from another similar Native American reservation and she was apparently beautiful, kind, amazing and sexy all rolled into one person.

Charlie confessed he couldn't stay, seeing me happy again with another man after Edward Masen had given him the courage to move on himself, and he was dating Sue Clearwater, Harry's widow.

"I always assumed I would only ever love Renee, but seeing you move on after Edward died, well, it made me see there can be two soulmates for each of us. I am so glad you met him, Bells, he returned you to life. You look amazing, even prettier than ever. He has completely filled your heart, hasn't he? I know Edward sent him to you and I see the same intense love between you two as there was between you and your first Edward. Who would ever have seen that happening? You loved him for so long, I just never thought for one minute there was another man out there for you. I am glad, just amazed."

I was glad he was glad, and happy Edward Cullen was accepted as my second husband by everyone who knew Edward Masen.

People still talked, many said had my new Edward not been such a ringer for my first husband, it would never have happened.

Others said it was clearly written in the stars. Some even thought he was Edward, reincarnated.

I guess they were the ones closest to the truth.

Eternity was my reward for my pain and suffering when I thought I had lost my love forever, and I was glad how it all worked out in the end. This was way better than fifty years together, growing old and infirm, maybe being left a widow, I knew that pain too well already. I would never have survived it if I had lost another Edward.

I laughed at the absurdity, he was my Edward, my own and only love, sometimes the fiction took over in my head from the truth.

Finally we walked back to the cottage and left the children in the care of our family.

I knew Rose and Esme had a new purpose now there were three children to share.

I needed more time with Edward anyway, we had anew bed to break, I mean, break in.

The End.

(Thanks to anyone who hung around to the end. Now I just need to finish the other two open stories! One story at a time in future! Cheers,Lynz.)