A/n: Song for the chapter is Underneath It All is No Doubt.
Many love, thanks, and hugs for my betas jointgifts, Dinx, and Mizzdee for all their work on this chapter.
I'll save the long, rambly author's note for the end. Enjoy!
Underneath It All
June 17, 2004
The sun kissed my skin as I lay on the blanket with my eyes closed. The day had turned out to be perfect and was vastly different than the events that had unfolded exactly one year before; the events that had changed my life for better and worse; the events that almost took away the person who was the most important to me.
I had so much to be thankful for, though, and I tried to remember that when things were hard. Living with Edward, and caring for him, had not been easy. There had been many times where it probably would have saved my sanity and overall emotional health if I'd have taken his advice and left him. But even in those times, I still couldn't picture my life without Edward. He was everything to me.
"Don't go to sleep, or I'll have to do dirty things to you to wake you up," Edward whispered in my ear.
I tried to hide my smile but was unsuccessful. "I'm not going to sleep. The sun just feels good on my skin."
"I love the warm weather," Edward admitted with a chuckle.
"Knock it off, or I'm going to get the hose. We're in public," Emmett chastised loudly.
I opened my eyes and turned my head to watch as Angela smacked Emmett's arm.
"Leave them alone. You could learn a thing or two about romance from your brother," Angela admonished as she gave him a pointed look.
"You weren't complaining last night," Emmett said, wrapping his arm around her. "Besides, blue bell's like a sister to me. I don't need to see that shit."
"And I need to see you maul Angela, who's like a sister to me?" Edward countered with a raised eyebrow. "Double standards, brother, are not cool."
Emmett shook his head and threw a roll at Edward. It bounced off of his chest, landing on the blanket a few inches away from his feet. Edward glared playfully at his brother.
"And people say that I'm childish," Edward muttered in amusement.
The bond between Emmett, Angela, Edward, and I had gotten stronger as the months passed. A couple of weeks after the pet shop had opened, Emmett finally found his balls and asked Angela out. They ended up being the passionate, loving, and fun couple I'd predicted them to be. I was happy for them, but I did end up losing the bet. It was worth it to see Emmett finally find someone worthy of him.
Edward's family had been skeptical about Angela the first time they met her, but she'd handled that visit and every one after with grace. Angela didn't let Esme's or Carlisle's attitude get to her. Instead, she was overly polite to them whenever we went for family gatherings. I was beginning to think that they only liked worthless people, because they had been nicer to Rose than they'd ever been to Angela or me.
Angela seemed to live by the phrase "kill them with kindness." It drove Esme crazy, because she didn't know how to deal with Angela. It was extremely amusing for Edward and me to watch.
We did see Alice and Jasper a few times after the blowout between him and Edward, but they tried to pretend we didn't exist. The first time it happened, I wondered how Edward would take it—would it make him sad for his former best friend and estranged sister to act like he was invisible? Edward, though, dealt with it in a way only he could pull off. He talked to them the entire time they were there, and when they wouldn't answer, he'd answer for them. He basically had a conversation with himself, and Esme acted like he'd finally lost his mind, but I knew he was just trying to be an ass and get on their nerves. The two of them ended up leaving when they realized that Edward wasn't going to leave them alone. After that, Alice and Jasper only came to family gatherings when Edward and I getting ready to leave. I was sure Esme and Carlisle had arranged for us to come at different times.
"Whatever," Emmett said. "Anyway, why in the fuck are we having a picnic in your front yard? Aren't you supposed to do this shit in the backyard or a park?"
I laughed as Angela glared at Emmett. He just gave her a "what" look and shrugged his shoulders.
"Because I wanted one here, Emmett," I admitted, smiling as I sat up next to Edward. "Everyone goes to those places. No one I know has a picnic in their front yard. I wanted to be different."
He shook his head at me. "Your woman is weird, Edward."
"Don't project your own shortcomings on my wife," Edward said, pulling me into his side. "Just because you suck doesn't mean everyone else does."
I would never, ever get used to being called that. Once things had settled down after the grand opening of the store, Edward proposed to me one night. It wasn't a grand event with candles, flowers, and fancy food. Instead, he'd blurted it out in between commercials as we were watching some show on the Food Network.
He'd said he loved me and didn't deserve me, but he'd take a chance anyway, because he couldn't picture his life without me. He didn't even have a ring—like that mattered, though. I'd thrown my arms around him and said yes. The smile on his face when I pulled away could have lit up the sky.
We'd decided that we didn't want a long, drawn out engagement. Edward and I knew better than anyone that life was short and you had to live it to the fullest, so we planned to get married at the courthouse a week after the proposal.
When we shared the news with my dad and Sue, they were both happy for us. They were even more ecstatic when we asked them to be present during our nuptials. Even though I wasn't going to have the traditional wedding where my father would be able to walk me down the aisle, I still wanted him to be there. They both agreed quickly.
My mom wasn't able to make it, though. I'd called her and told her the news, but since she had a previous engagement she couldn't get out of, she sent us her love and promised to visit soon. She still drove me nuts, but she was my mother. She had been there when I needed her the most, and I would forever be grateful for it.
Edward's parents were an entirely different story—no surprise there. At first, they tried to talk us out of it. But after Edward told them that he was doing it with or without them, they changed their tune.
Esme decided in the time between the announcement and the ceremony that she needed to have a few heart-to- heart talks with me. They consisted mostly of her telling me that she was passing on the responsibility of Edward to me. It pissed me off, because I'd been taking care of Edward since he'd left their house—not that he needed it most of the time. In the end, I let it go and just nodded my head. I was the last person that wanted anything bad to happen to him, and if it made Esme feel better to think she was giving me her permission, then I didn't care. The people who mattered knew that we were marrying out of love and not obligation.
The light caught the gold ring on my left ring finger, causing me to look at it. The sight made me smile.
That day had truly been one of the best days of my life, because it felt like all the heartache and trauma we'd went through had been worth it to be where we were in that moment. When I said "I do," Edward had never looked happier. I had known that, one day, Edward wanted to marry me. Back then, I didn't think it was something I wanted, because my own parents had screwed their marriage up completely. However, after everything we'd been through, I knew we'd find a way to make it work. We'd been through too much to let anything come between us. The love we had for each other, and the bond we shared, was stronger than it'd ever been.
I felt Edward's fingers running through my hair as he placed his lips against my ear and spoke softly. "What are you thinking about?"
"The day we were married," I said quietly.
My answer must not have been quiet enough, because Emmett responded, "I still say I should have been able to throw rice at you."
I gave Emmett an exasperated look. "You're not allowed to throw rice at a couple anymore. If a bird eats it, they'll blow up."
Emmett laughed. "They do not."
"Yes, they do, idiot," I argued, leaning forward. "I saw it on TV somewhere."
"You probably believe in Santa Claus and bigfoot, too," Emmett taunted with playful eyes.
"Don't make me put you two in time out," Angela warned with a mock chastising look.
Edward placed his head in his hands and giggled. I nudged him with my shoulder, and he looked up at me as he tried to compose himself.
"I'm sorry," he said through his laughter. "You should hear yourselves."
"Laugh it up," I said, shaking my head.
"So, are we going to Mom's?" Emmett asked, changing the subject.
The mention of his mother made Edward sober up quickly. He cleared his throat and faced his brother.
"I hadn't planned on it. I don't want any drama today," Edward answered as he picked up his drink, taking a big gulp.
"Fine with me. I just wanted to make sure. She called me last night and made a big deal about wanting us to come over. She kept going on and on about how we needed to spend today as a family," Emmett stated with a grimace.
"Yeah, she called us, too," Edward said with a sigh. "I told her no, but she just kept rambling about it until I hung up on her."
Edward had told me about Esme's plan after he ended the call. She'd said she wanted a large family dinner so we could all celebrate the fact that Edward was still alive on the one year anniversary of his accident. The idea, in and of itself, was good. The fact that it was Edward's mother that wanted to host it…not so much. I was pretty sure that, along with Carlisle, Alice and Jasper would have been there. It would make for an awkward and tense gathering, which was something that Edward didn't need.
The picnic idea had been a last minute thing that Angela and I had thrown together. She and Emmett had planned on stopping by anyway, so we decided to eat outside and enjoy the fresh air. She'd brought some homemade potato salad that was to die for, rolls, baked beans, and an apple pie. I'd fried up some chicken, whipped up some mashed potatoes, and prepared some green beans. It turned out to be an excellent meal that we were trying to let digest as we talked.
As afternoon turned into evening, Emmett and Angela decided to call it a night with promises of hanging out later in the week. Edward helped me clean up the mess from our picnic, and then we carried it inside. After we'd put up the leftovers and washed the dishes, we settled in for the night.
"Have I told you today that I love you?" Edward asked as he turned off the lights.
"You did," I said with a smile, following him to the bedroom. "And I love you, as well."
We climbed into bed once we'd finished our nightly routine, and Edward pulled me into his side. I relished in the feel of his body next to mine, letting his heat comfort me. There was nothing better than cuddling with Edward before falling asleep. I looked up at him and smiled.
"What?" he whispered, grinning.
"Just wanted to look at your pretty face. You have a problem with that?" I muttered quietly.
"You're the pretty one," he said, running his finger down the side of my cheek.
"Smooth talker," I murmured, laying my head against his shoulder.
"Why are we whispering?" Edward asked with a chuckle.
"I don't know," I said, furrowing my brow and looking into his eyes. "It just seemed like the thing to do since it's dark."
"I love how random you are sometimes," he said, kissing me.
I melted as he pressed his lips harder against mine and ran the tip of his tongue against the crease of my mouth. He took advantage of the moan that escaped me to deepen our kiss, changing the mood from tranquil to lustful. The passion that was always simmering below the surface rose, and I grabbed the back of his neck, pulling him closer still.
He took my cue, and I felt his knee push between my thighs as he moved over me. The whisper of his body weight against my torso caused me to shiver. Edward pulled away from my mouth and grabbed the hem of my shirt, yanking it up.
"Take this off," he panted, leaning up on his hands.
His words and hooded eyes made me comply, and not long after, we were naked and writhing against each other. I could feel that he wanted me against my leg, and the knowledge turned me on. He devoured my breasts with his mouth as I fisted the sheets beside my hips.
"No more foreplay," I rasped as I squirmed underneath him. "Fuck me, Edward."
A groan escaped his lips. "I want you on top. I need to see your tits bounce as you ride my cock."
His dirty reply made me tingle, and I nodded my head in agreement. Edward flipped us, and I rose up on my knees, straddling his hips. His eyes were pleading as I teased his cock with my opening.
"Fuck, baby," he moaned.
"Do you want me?" I asked, taunting him.
"Yes," he said, gasping for air.
I grasped him tightly and slammed down on his cock. His back arched in pleasure, pushing himself all the way to the hilt.
"Goddamn!" he yelled with a needy groan.
I set a hurried pace, moving up and down. Edward grabbed my hips tightly, pinching the skin, and the pain from his rough touch made my pleasure spike. I threw my head back and moaned, clutching his forearms. My thoughts were incoherent as the bliss spread throughout my body. I could feel the familiar tightening, signaling my release. Reaching down with one hand, I ran my finger over my clit, trying to push myself over the edge.
Edward's eyes were fixed on my hand as I quickened the pace of my fingers, letting out a quiet fuck. My eyes closed, and I screamed as my orgasm gripped me with surprising force. With my vision blurred, I felt the almost painful ecstasy come to a crescendo, and then wane, leaving me panting and breathless.
Locking my gaze on Edward, I watched as he thrust up furiously with his head thrown back. His face was pinched, and his mouth was open. I picked up the speed, grinding my hips into his.
"Fuck…your pussy…I can't," Edward gritted through his teeth.
He began to shake underneath me, and a high-pitched wail erupted from him. Edward's face contorted, and his eyes fluttered shut as he found his own pleasure. Watching Edward come was the most beautiful sight I'd ever seen, losing himself in the sensations and not caring about anything else.
I leaned forward, keeping my eye on him. "You still with me?"
"Yeah," he said, breathing heavy and rubbing his hands over my thighs.
Kissing him lightly, I moved off of his hips and fell onto the mattress beside him. I reached over the bed and grabbed a shirt off of the floor. The one thing I hated about sex without a condom was the mess it created, but since we were married, and I was on birth control, it had become a necessary evil. Edward refused to use condoms after we'd tied the knot, saying that, as my husband, it was his right to come inside of me.
The man was a cheeky bastard, but it was one of the reasons why I loved him.
Once I'd cleaned up, I handed him the piece of clothing so he could do the same. Cuddling into his side, I saw him fling the used shirt onto the floor. He wrapped his arms around my torso and squeezed me.
"I'm fucking hungry," he said out of nowhere.
"Really?" I asked, resting my chin on his chest.
"Yes, really," he said with a snort. "I used up a lot of energy, and I need to replenish. You wear me out, baby."
I got up and went over to the dresser, taking out one of Edward's shirts. Since we'd still be in the house, I didn't see the need to be fully dressed. As I slipped it on, he stood and pulled his boxers up. With a sly grin, he walked toward me. I laced my fingers through his, and we walked toward the kitchen.
Taking a few moments to look around, I decided to make some simple nachos. Cheese sounded good right about then, and Edward didn't care. He just wanted something warm.
I put some nacho cheese into a sauce pan, and as it was heating up, I placed some tortilla chips onto a plate. Edward busied himself with getting some drinks. The scene was oddly domestic and nice, and it never ceased to amaze me how far we'd come.
Once it was finished, we sat on stools at the breakfast bar and hovered over our not-quite-midnight snack—since it was 11:30 at night. In that moment, everything seemed to fall into place. Edward and I had been through hell and back to get where we were—where something as simple as sharing a plate of food after sex meant more than any grand gesture ever could.
I had also grown from the experiences I'd lived through. Who I had been then and who I had become were two completely different people. I'd been a scared girl who had second guessed her decision to leave a toxic relationship, terrified that her actions had been the catalyst for the series of events that followed.
Knocking on death's door.
No matter how much time passed, it was hard for me to remember the day he almost died.
But it hadn't been all bad, because that traumatic experience had been what led us to the place we were at right then. Through all of the pain, tears, and trying not to hope, we'd survived and come out better than we'd ever been—even with all the problems Edward still faced.
It was hard to not be optimistic for our future, because for the first time, I actually felt like we had one. Gone was the uncertainty, mistrust, pain, and deceit of the past, and it was replaced with a hope that I'd never imagined. The possibility of a real family—including children—was something I was starting to entertain. We'd talked about it, and while we weren't quite ready, we both knew it was something that could happen. Our relationship was stronger, and Edward was clean…two things that made that idea more plausible.
Edward and I still had a long way to go, especially with his limitations. He was getting stronger and better every day, though, so I knew he'd be able to overcome them in his own way in time.
The one thing I was sure of was that Edward was my forever, and I was his. I'd promised him forever once upon a time when we were still kids. Back then, I didn't know what a promise like that meant. Through the trials and tribulations of the past few years, I finally got it.
Promising forever to the one you love meant that through good times and bad, heartache and laughter, and joy and sorrow, you stood by them. I'd made the decision on the day that my life changed that I wasn't going to walk away, that I was going to be there for Edward no matter what.
So, yes, I'd promised him forever. And forever was a promise I intended to keep.
I have to say, when I first decided to put this story up, I had no idea people would respond so strongly to it. It was my own personal tragedy that begged to be written down, and I thought it'd be no more than my own personal therapy. I continue to be amazed at the stories I've received through reviews and PMs from individual reader experiences, how much you guys are invested in these characters, and the love you have for Carsurfingward. He'll always have a special place in my heart, too.
I appreciate every person that has read, reviewed, or recommended this story more than you'll ever know. Without you, I probably would have given up when the story became too overwhelming for me to recall and write. So, thank you.
On a side note, the husband is doing pretty well. Thanks to all of you who ask and care. Your kindness and concern humbles me.
I'll still be around on Twitter, as well as continuing to work on When the Dust Settles with DivineInspiration. I have a couple of stories in the works, so I'm sure I'll be posting again soon enough.