Hello dear ones! This is a missing moment/future take done for the Foxy Fics Parkinson fundraiser.
I've been told that it's a bit of a tear jerker. If you've read the full length story then you might have been expecting that. ^_~!
Disclaimer: I don't own it, you all know that. I'm just playing with these beautiful characters.
Honoring a fallen hero….
I groaned loudly as I settled back in my chair, the leather protesting softly. Screwing my eyes closed, I rubbed the spot between my creased brows. It had been a really long day. Hell, between opening the practice, all the drama that accompanied Tony's entrance into the world, and the holidays that quickly followed, it had been a long six months.
Bella had a difficult time getting back on her feet after Tony's birth but thankfully Rosalie had been more than willing to help out all she could. It was hard on everyone concerned, though Bella most of all. She didn't like having to depend on others and she struggled with not being able to bounce right back to perfect health. The one silver lining in those months, other than the gift of my son, was that Olivia stayed out of the hospital. The winters were always her worst time of year, but we skated by without even one admission. There weren't words for how relieved that had made both Bella and I.
The practice was doing well, thriving actually, which was good and a bad in turns. The growth of our practice was hard earned by Emmett and I, as well as our families. I was proud of how things had finally come together and the work we both put into making our shared dream become a reality. Satisfaction and pride in what we had built didn't mean I liked the hours it required to get there, though; that time was time away from my family and that wasn't something I enjoyed - in the slightest.
Between the hours I was putting in the practice and the increase in the number of surgeries I was doing meant that Bella was home with an infant and a pre-teen daughter alone - a lot. Thankfully, we had invested in an electronic medical records system, so the charting I would have normally had to spend even more time at the office completing could be done from home. Unfortunately, that also meant that although I was technically at home, I wasn't with my family. Bella understood. I knew she did, but it didn't mean she liked it any more than I did, which was why I found myself sitting in the study with a raging headache and a guilty conscience. The look in her eyes when I had walked through the family room where she and Olivia were watching a movie while Bella fed Tony could only be described as sad acceptance and that broke my heart.
I had to find a way to make some changes in my schedule. I sighed heavily, running a hand over my face, hard. I was just so damned tired and I knew that Bella was even more so and that made me feel like an ass because I didn't know how to fix any of it. It was incredibly frustrating.
A soft knock and Bella's sweet face peeking around the door brought my attention back to the moment.
"You got a minute?" she asked shyly. The taste of regret was a bitter pill and I grimaced at the feeling in the center of my chest knowing Bella felt she even had to ask.
"Yeah, baby," I said, my voice rough as I swallowed and waved her over, opening my arms in invitation. "Come here."
Bella pushed off the door where she had been waiting. I couldn't help but smile as I watched my beautiful wife cross the room. She complained that she hadn't dropped all the 'baby fat', as she called it, from carrying Tony, but I loved the way her body looked. I sure as shit wasn't complaining about the fact that her breasts were a little larger or that her hips were slightly fuller. I'm a man, what can I say? Truth is truth and I wasn't going to deny the way my body responded to hers, regardless of the changes.
"I love you," I murmured as Bella slid into my lap and her arm slipped around my shoulders. I wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her closer to me as my free hand rested on her thigh, my thumb rubbing slow circles along the inside of her leg.
Bella smiled, leaning in to press her lips to mine in a slow sensual kiss. "I love you, too," she whispered against my lips. When she pulled back slightly and rested her forehead against mine, her eyes stayed closed.
"I'm sorry, Bella," I said on a strangled whisper. "I know it's been really hard on you lately. I'm going to make some changes-"
"Edward, stop," she cut me off, covering my lips with her finger and pulling back to look at me fully. "It's okay. Stop beating yourself up over something that can't be helped right now. We knew it would be difficult for the first year or so especially. So just stop. That's not what I wanted to talk to you about anyway."
I felt my brow drop even deeper into a scowl as I looked up into her eyes, trying to get a clue as to what it was she wanted to talk about if it wasn't my lack of attendance with the family recently.
Bella curved her hand under my jaw, her thumb slowly caressing my cheek and bottom lip. She looked nervous for some reason and that just made my concern for whatever she needed to talk about crank up by about a thousand. She took a deep breath, blowing it out slowly as she looked into my eyes. I was surprised to see the sheen of tears.
"Baby, what's wrong?" I asked, the concern clear in my tone. I reached up to cover her hand with mine and turned, pressing a kiss to the center of her palm.
Bella shook her head slowly, a tiny hesitant smile on her full lips. She cleared her throat softly before she began to speak.
"Do you remember a couple of months ago," she started, the fingers of her free hand playing absently with the hair at the nape of my neck, "when I told you about the flag dedication that the city does for veterans?"
I nodded, remembering that conversation vividly. Bella had approached me one morning just before I left for the office with a hesitant look, much like the one she wore at the moment. Bella had told me how the town we lived in honored a number of fallen veterans from all of the wars at each of the national holidays like Memorial Day and Veteran's Day.
It seemed that there was a committee who chose five veterans to honor with a flag dedication ceremony and the placement of a plaque displaying their name. The flags along with the plaque were displayed in the park in the center of the town square.
Bella had wanted to submit Mike's name in hopes of it being chosen. She said she had wanted to do it for a long time but had waited until Olivia was a little older in hopes that it would have more significance to her when she could understand the meaning behind the ceremony. I had encouraged her to fill out the form and send it in. Even if Mike's name wasn't chosen, the fact that Bella had tried would mean a lot to her and Olivia in years to come.
"I got the notification in the mail today," she whispered, her voice thick with the emotion she was trying to keep in check. "They uh… they chose Mike as one of the veteran's to be honored during the Memorial Day ceremony."
A single tear slipped from the corner of her eye as she struggled with her last words.
"Oh, baby, come here," I said, wrapping my arms around her and pulling her into a tight embrace. "It's okay. Let it go, Bella." I buried my hand in her thick hair, holding her head securely to my chest as she finally let go and the sobs racked her body. Pressing a kiss to her forehead, I blinked furiously and turned my face into her hair, fighting the burning in my own eyes as I held her while she cried.
Although Bella wanted the honor for Olivia as much as for Mike, the actuality of his name being chosen in many ways made losing him a fresh wound to her heart. That part of her which would always belong to Mike was ripped wide open and at that moment she was grieving for the loss of a much different life which had once been hers.
Her sobs had quieted to hiccupping gasps until finally she sat limply in my lap, her cheek resting against my chest. Her hands were still twisted in the fabric of my shirt; it was soaked through from her tears and probably ruined from her makeup. I really didn't care. I had others.
"I'm sorry," she croaked on a broken whisper.
"Oh sweetheart," I said, pressing my lips to the top of her head and stroking her hair lightly. "You never have to apologize for still loving him. I've told you, Bella. Mike is a part of you. He will always be a part of you and Olivia. There is nothing for you to ever feel badly about because of that."
Bella was silent for a long time as I continued to hold her, stroking over her hair and back gently.
"You're a good man, Edward Cullen," she whispered, turning her head and pressing a kiss directly over my heart before looking up to meet my eyes.
"Only because you love me, baby," I said and smiled when I gained a small giggle from Bella.
"You're so corny sometimes," she said, dropping her forehead to rest on my chest as she giggled again.
"But you love me all the same," I said, the chuckle rumbling in my chest.
"That I do," she said, raising her head and framing my face between her palms, leaning in to press her lips against mine. "That I do."
Memorial Day arrived and to say that Bella was a wreck would be a massive understatement. She had been running around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off for the last half hour or so and I could see the meltdown barreling towards us like an out of control freight train, and I was just as helpless to stop it.
There are times when I really hate when I'm right. Like about ten minutes later when the derailment came just as I entered Tony's bedroom with a sandwich in hand. I cringed as I heard Bella's high pitched squeal of disgust and knew before I saw the evidence what had happened.
Bella had been changing Tony's clothes so we could leave for the ceremony. Unfortunately, he had just finished eating a short time before and since the poor little guy had been suffering from some pretty nasty reflux recently, as soon as Bella picked him up from the changing table, he threw up; not only on himself, but all over the front of her dress as well.
"Here!" Bella said, holding Tony's chubby little body out from her with stiff arms as she scowled in my direction. "Take your son. I have to go change. Again!"
To my credit, I didn't say a word, instead choosing wisely to silently lay my sandwich down quickly on top of the dresser and take the squirming, giggling mass which was my son from Bella's hands, and then got the hell out of her way.
"Well, little man, let's see about getting you cleaned up, huh," I said, looking into Tony's big round eyes as he gurgled and kicked his chubby little legs. "That was not nice to throw up all over Mommy like that."
I couldn't help but chuckle as Tony stuck a chubby fist in his mouth and gnawed on it as if he hadn't eaten in a week. I crossed to the bathroom which connected Tony and Olivia's rooms.
"Mommy's just a little stressed this morning," I said as I laid a towel out on the counter and started peeling off Tony's soiled clothes before using a warm wet cloth to clean him up. "She's not upset with you, really. Today's going to be really hard for her. So we've got to make sure to help her out and not do stuff like throwing up on her, deal?"
Tony stared at me with the wide eyed wonder of an infant and let out a wet burp in response.
"I'll take that as a 'yes'," I said, chuckling and picking him up in my arms, holding him to my chest and kissing his smooth forehead.
Fifteen minutes later, I ushered Olivia out the door and was straightening from buckling Tony in his car seat. Just as I closed the back door of Bella's SUV, I felt her arms wrap around my waist from behind and her forehead rest between my shoulder blades.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. I could tell from the way her breath hitched that she was barely holding on and I turned to wrap her in a tight embrace.
"It's okay, baby," I said, kissing the top of her head before tucking her under my chin.
Bella shook her head. "It's not. You've been so good about this and I'm just…" she trailed off and I heard the catch in her voice. I pulled back, placing both my hands on her face, forcing her to look at me. I bent to kiss the tip of her nose, causing her to giggle.
"Today's hard," I murmured, looking deeply into her eyes. "I know and it's okay that you're struggling to keep it together. I love you and I understand. End of story."
Bella stared at me for a long moment before shaking her head slowly. "God, I love you."
I smiled and just before I pressed my lips to hers, I whispered, "I can assure you, the feeling is completely mutual."
The men and women that served on the committee who chose the names of those who would be honored represented each of the wars from our countries history as well as every branch of the military. Seeing their faces standing proudly in their uniforms was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Considering that only five names were chosen and most often those were veterans from earlier wars who were honored, it made the significance of Mike's name being chosen all the more poignant.
I glanced around at the rows of chairs lining the green grass of the small park. The fact that the majority of the audience was comprised mostly of the adult children and grandchildren of the other honorees of the day was not lost on me. The other guests were obviously veterans themselves, some in uniform, while with others it was in their eyes as they listened to the speaker talk about the sacrifices of their fallen comrades. The expressions on their faces spoke volumes about their experiences and enduring the ceremony brought those to the forefront of their minds.
Then there were the faces which surrounded me on both sides. Rosalie and Emmett sat to my right just on the other side of the small aisle which ran between the rows of chairs. Rosalie held Tony as he slept peacefully in her arms. Mike's parents sat just beyond Bella to her left. The stoic pride on Mike, Sr.'s face was almost as heartbreaking as the quiet devastation on Carole's. Olivia sat silently between Bella and me, and it was truly the hardest thing I had ever done, watching her blink back tears as they finally began to call the names of those being honored.
The families made their way one by one to the flag poles located at the front of the area where we were all seated. The soldiers saluted the flag as it was run up the pole by yet another uniformed comrade. The surviving family members cleared throats and silently wiped tears as they watched their loved one's flag as it was set free to fly, serving as a reminder of the sacrifice of the fallen and their family. The one thing that was evident in each of their faces was the immense pride that showed through all of tears.
And then it was our turn. I stood and took a step back to allow Olivia and Bella access to the aisle, following behind as we made our way to the front.
Bella wrapped an arm around Olivia's thin shoulders and pulled her closer to her side. I felt my heart clench at the sight of Olivia's tiny body shaking with a sob. At the same time, a pride I didn't have words to describe filled my entire being as she kept her head high and wrapped her arm around her mother's waist.
I had to clear my throat as the tightness began to choke me when Mike's flag was set loose and I could hear Carole's quiet sobs as Mike, Sr. held her close. Bella looked over her shoulder at me, a tiny smile on her face as her eyes shined with unshed tears. It was in that moment I knew that this woman was the strongest person I had ever known. My love for her grew exponentially as she slipped her hand into mine, squeezing it tightly. It was yet another way in which she reminded me that although this day was for a man who had been another part of her life, she was in the moment with me. It was a reminder that while Mike still owned a piece of her heart, the remainder resided in my care. Mike would always be a part of our lives because of the past he shared with Bella. The fact that because of him Bella and I shared a beautiful daughter was not a responsibility or an honor that I took lightly.
Honoring the sacrifice Mike made in the line of duty while serving our country was the very least that I could do for him, as well as Bella. Beyond that day and bestowing that honor, my job would be the same one I had promised to fulfill when I slipped that small platinum band on Bella's hand and recited my vows. I would do everything in my power to ensure the wellbeing of the amazing woman who had been entrusted into my care. Bella and our children were the most important things in my life, and it was in that moment that I knew I would be making some changes to slow down, to take a bit more time to be the father, the husband, which they needed.
I looked up at the red, white, and blue waving gently in the breeze and said a silent prayer of thanks for all the joys which had been provided in my life. And one to the man who had paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the world was a safer place to live for the family he had left behind.
Hope you all enjoyed the little look into the continuing lives of our couple.
Until next time...