One last go around with these two! Please, enjoy.
All Disclaimers and Warnings are in full effect. Thank you Katmom & Linguist for beta'ing.
"Timing is Everything"- Epilogue 2:
Edward rang the bell to his childhood home and adjusted his hold on the pies Bella insisted she make. Despite everyone's insistence that it was unnecessary, she wanted to do something to participate in the holiday she had refused to celebrate for so many years.
"Baby, let me take one of those."
"I've got it, love. Just please concentrate on not slipping on the ice."
"Me? You should see yourself right now," she said smiling, but doing as he asked. Bella knew herself well enough to realize that Edward had a very valid point.
Just as he was about to ask her yet again if she was feeling alright, the door swung open to reveal Bella's mother on the other side.
"Hey, you two lovebirds! We were wondering when you'd show up."
"Mom? What are you doing here already?" Bella asked surprised.
Renee grinned and took a pie from Edward as the couple made their way inside. "What do you mean, 'already'? It's five minutes past when we were supposed to eat. You're late."
Bella looked up at Edward, blushing slightly. "Did it really take us that long to get out the door?" she whispered.
Edward nodded with a smug look that said, "I told you so." Though, to give him credit he was wise enough not to say it out loud. He just smiled and kissed his mother-in-law on the cheek instead.
"Hi, Renee. Happy Thanksgiving. How was your flight?"
"Happy Thanksgiving, Edward. Our flight was fine, but your mother was getting worried about you guys and so was Charlie. You'd better come up with a better excuse than my daughter's blushing cheeks for why you two are late."
Edward sputtered a little when he caught on to what Renee was insinuating.
"Mom!" Bella scolded, taking the pie out of her mother's hands and handing it back to Edward. She gave her mother the evil-eye once more before giving him instructions.
"Baby, take these to your mom and tell her we forgot them and I insisted we went back. And tell my dad that I cried, okay? He'll believe you and he hates dealing with tears."
Edward chuckled and leaned down to kiss his brilliant wife before going to do as he was told. "Yes, Mrs. Cullen. Will you be alright?"
"I'm fine, baby. Now stop looking so nervous, you're going to get us busted."
Edward shook his head. "I'll try, but I still think you're insane. They're going to know when you don't want to eat anything."
Bella shushed him. "They're not going to know until we tell them, but you have got to relax," she whispered. "I'm fine. I promise."
"Okay," he relented, plastering on a fake smile and making Bella laugh in the process. The sound helped him relax a bit more as he made his way towards the kitchen of the large house.
"So..." Renee whispered as soon as he was gone. "How are you really feeling?"
Bella sucked in a slow breath and let it out before answering. Her mother discreetly began rubbing circles into the small of her back. "I'm okay, having a little more pain now. It started on the car ride over. I didn't tell Edward though. Can you imagine?"
Renee giggled. "We'd have to sedate him to get him through dinner."
"Exactly," Bella agreed.
"How far apart are they?"
Bella checked the time. "About 10 minutes now."
"You're membrane could rupture soon, sweetie."
"Well," Bella sighed. "We'll deal with that if it happens. Esme's floors are sealed right?"
Renee laughed lightly and kissed her daughter on the forehead. Placing a loving hand on Bella's swollen belly, she sighed. "You're amazing. I can't believe how calm you're being about this."
Bella hummed. "I'm ready." Her words made Renee tear up a little, but she quickly straightened her face. "Honestly, Mom, you seem pretty calm yourself. I thought for sure you'd freak out by now. In fact, I think that was why Edward went along with my plan to tell everyone after dinner. He thought you'd never be able to keep it a secret."
Renee feigned being offended. "I'm not that bad, am I?"
Bella laughed and spotted Alice coming down the stairs with a fifteen month old Avery in her arms. "No, of course not. Otherwise I wouldn't have told you," she whispered. "Come on, it's show time."
Renee whispered one more thing in her daughter's ear as they headed towards the family-room where everyone was waiting for dinner to be served. "You know I would have figured it out anyway. You're not the only OB nurse in the family."
"That's why I told you," Bella said, smiling at her mother as Alice caught up to them.
"Hi, Bella! Happy Thanksgiving," Alice said happily, setting Avery down to toddle away and then giving Bella the best hug she could manage being that her friend was nine months pregnant.
"Happy Thanksgiving, Alice. How are you?"
Alice smiled like a Cheshire cat. "I'm great. Avery's great. Jasper's great. But what about you? Today's the day, huh?"
Bella's eyes got wide. "What? No. I'm fine."
Alice smiled knowingly and dropped her voice. "Don't worry, your secret is safe with me."
"What secret?" Bella tried to cover.
Alice rolled her eyes. "I saw Edward helping you out of the car from the upstairs window. I'd know that nervous-as-all-hell, my wife's-just-gone-into-labor look anywhere. Jasper made the same face if you'll remember. If Edward can't relax, the jig will be up the second you walk in the room."
Bella relaxed and giggled a little. "I know. I told him that."
"Why are you keeping it on the down low anyway?"
"Because I didn't want to make a fuss and have everyone missing dinner. And I'm not ready to go to the hospital yet. They'll want to put me on an IV and a monitor and stick me in a bed."
Alice laughed. "Still planning on natural child-birth, are you?" Bella scowled playfully and Alice put her hands up in surrender. "Hey, to each their own. I'm just saying I wanted drugs as soon as I could get them."
"Alice, you were in labor for like three hours, just shut up," Bella quipped.
"I know. I'm sorry. How long have you been having contractions anyway?"
Bella sighed. "On and off since a little after midnight. They started to become pretty regular around eight this morning."
Alice gasped. "Since midnight! You poor thing... Can I get you anything?"
"No, I'm okay. But you've got to wipe that look off your face. Just wait until after dinner to feel sorry for me."
"Okay, I can do that," Alice nodded, plastering a smile on. "Don't worry. I've got your back," she whispered as the three women walked into the family room. They were immediately greeted by the entire Cullen clan along with Charlie Swan.
Bella smiled at her father, who seemed to handle the sight of his only daughter nine months pregnant fairly well. Just the idea of her having a baby had taken some adjusting to and he'd basically threatened to fly to Chicago and shoot Edward for putting her in that condition when he first heard the news. Never mind that they'd been married for just over six months at the time. Bella wondered if there had been any tension when Edward had first walked in the room a few minutes ago, but if there was, it seemed to be gone now. Charlie and Edward looked to be happily talking about baseball, a conversation that she figured her father must have started in order to avoid the subject of his pregnant daughter crying.
Edward winked at Bella from across the room and shot her a thumb's up when her father wasn't looking. Not more than a minute or two later, he glanced up at his wife again to see her standing near the kitchen, drawing in a painfully slow breath. Even though he'd just knelt down to say hello to his now two-year-old nephew, Edward sent Ethan back to Emmett quickly and made his way across the room.
"Are you okay?" he whispered in Bella's ear, grateful for the fact that Esme and Alice had just called everyone into the dining room at that moment. Bella nodded and took his hand, squeezing it hard and trying to breathe. The contraction had hit her hard and fast.
"Bella?" Edward asked, trying not to look worried.
"I'm okay," she said, her voice strained.
"Just breathe, babydoll," Renee whispered, appearing from the kitchen just then with some crushed ice for Bella. "You too, Edward."
"How long was that?" Edward asked his mother-in-law.
"About eight minutes," she answered, checking her watch to be sure.
"Okay, that's it. We're going to the hospital now, Bella. I'm putting my foot down."
Renee and Bella both smiled the same tolerant smile at him, but it was Renee who spoke to him in that soothing nurse's voice that Edward both loved and hated.
"She'll be okay, honey, but it may be a few more hours yet. There's no need to race off to the hospital with me here. Not to mention your dad, and-"
"Renee, I love you, but you can't be serious," Edward stopped her.
"This is what Bella wants, Edward. She doesn't want to go to the hospital until active labor has begun and she's not there yet. You guys have a birth plan, remember? Let's follow it."
Edward nodded and tried to remain calm. Esme came out of the dining room to see what was keeping them.
"What's wrong, Edward? Bella?"
Bella tried really hard to fake it, but the contraction she was having was still squeezing the ever-loving tar out her abdomen.
"Oh, my..." Esme sighed, seeing the strain in Bella's smile. "I had a feeling this might be the reason you were late."
"You did?" Edward asked, dumbfounded. He wondered how it was that everyone seemed so completely unsurprised and calm about this.
Esme smiled at her son and nodded. "Edward, Bella has just a few days left until her due date. We've been expecting this for a few weeks now."
"I know, but..."
"Honey, are you alright?" Esme asked. "Maybe I should make you a drink. You look like you're about to fall over."
Edward rolled his eyes. "I'm fine, Mom."
Esme just patted his cheek and walked into the kitchen to get her youngest son a glass of wine at the very least.
"Mom," he called. "I have to be able to drive."
"I can drive you guys, Edward," Renee offered. "You should try to relax a little."
Edward stared at his mother-in-law. "Are you really suggesting I get drunk while my wife is in labor with our first child?"
Renee laughed, as did Bella—now that her contraction had passed anyway.
"Nobody said you had to get drunk," Renee smiled.
"Should I put dinner on hold, you guys?" Esme asked, returning from the kitchen with Edward's wine.
"No thank you, Mom. Bella apparently wants to stay for dinner."
"I don't want anyone to miss it," Bella explained. "I'm not in active labor yet. Which means it's okay if you want to have a drink, Edward."
"No, Bella. We're having natural childbirth. No drugs. For you or me. Alcohol's a drug."
The women in the room found Edward very entertaining, but tried not to laugh at him.
"Alright, McGruff," Bella teased. "Let's at least go get you some dinner."
"Bella, baby. McGruff is the 'Take a Bite Out of Crime' dog. You're thinking about Nancy Reagan," Edward corrected.
"Oh, that's right," Bella said.
"Wait, that's not right. Nancy Reagan was the 'Just Say No' campaign," Renee chimed in.
"Then who said alcohol is a drug?"
"I don't know? The American Medical Association?"
"Maybe it was Alcoholics Anonymous?"
"Who's in Alcoholics Anonymous?" Emmett asked overhearing only the last part of the conversation as the group entered the dining room.
"None of your business, Emmett. That's why it's anonymous," Rosalie commented from her seat. She waved at Bella and Edward and went back to cutting food into small pieces for Ethan.
Edward chuckled. "Nobody's in Alcoholics Anonymous. We were just discussing anti-drug and alcohol slogans from the 80's," he said as he pulled a chair out for Bella and helped her to get comfortable.
"Why?" Emmett asked.
"I have no idea," Edward answered honestly.
Once everyone was seated and Carlisle had offered the Thanksgiving blessing, Edward was starting to think maybe his wife had a point about not telling the family that she'd gone into labor just yet. Everyone was having a wonderful time, (with the exception of Bella every eight to twelve minutes) the food was amazing, and the young mother-to-be seemed happy to have the distraction of all the various family members' news and announcements.
For instance, Alice had re-structured her business the year before to become a stay-at-home mom, but in her time since promoting one of her protégés to manage the day to day operations of her event planning business in town, she'd done anything but sit still. Edward's magnanimous cousin had managed to get a book deal, as well as a gig consulting on a new Lifetime Channel wedding show that was to air sometime the following spring. Her husband too had been busy, but Jasper had some sort of government contract job that he couldn't really talk about. Still, he seemed to like it a lot.
Rosalie had been promoted at the engineering firm where she worked just as soon as she returned from maternity leave the year before. She was now in charge of an entire division and Emmett had been working part-time so he could be home with Ethan more while Rose put in longer hours. They had come up with a five year plan that included adopting another child by the end of the next year and then getting Rosalie into a position at work to be home more than she was presently. She loved her job, but like most mothers, she loved her family more and she and Emmett both wanted more children.
Renee and Charlie filled everyone in on life in Forks, which was sleepy but splendid according to them. Shortly after that, Renee got into a very technical conversation with Carlisle about the Olympic Peninsula's need for a better funded and larger Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Carlisle expressed an interest in helping in whatever way he could, which was no surprise to anyone at the table. He was one of the best neonatologists in the country and had been a long-time champion for tiny babies.
Shortly after the conclusion of that discussion, Esme announced that she and Carlisle were planning to renew their marriage vows privately in Fiji on their next anniversary; so long as their children and nieces would take a short break from having babies, she added.
At the mention of tropical paradises and babies, Edward spaced out a little. He was off in la-la land until Bella reached over and squeezed his leg in the exact right spot to make his knee bang into the table loudly.
"Jeez... Edward. Are you okay?" Rosalie asked, seeing both the table shudder and Edward flinch from the impact.
"I'm fine," he groaned, wincing slightly.
"Are you sure, 'cause..."
"Edward," Bella gasped, tightening her hold on her husband's leg.
"Oh, crap," Rosalie exclaimed rather loudly, the whole table turning to look at her. "Not me! Bella!" she yelled.
"Edward..." Bella called again.
"I'm here, love," wincing again at the pain in his knee as well as Bella's nails digging into him. "Can you let go of my leg, sweetheart?"
She just shook her head.
"Okay, I'm just going to pull your hand off. Ah... there we go," he said, rubbing her hand and his leg simultaneously. She adjusted her grip to his fingers and caused him to wince again almost at the same time she did as the contraction continued. "Easy, love..." he soothed her. "Just breathe."
Renee had stood and started to slide Bella's chair out from the table when her foot slipped a little.
"Well, now..." she said. "It looks like it's time to go, kiddos."
"What? Now?" Edward asked, meeting his mother-in-law's eyes. "What's wrong?"
"Go where?" Emmett asked, too busy helping to feed Ethan to notice what was happening.
"Nothing's wrong. Her water just broke. It's time," Renee answered Edward.
A charged silence overtook the table as those gathered there took in the news. Quite suddenly, they all moved in what seemed like a coordinated effort.
Alice stood swiftly to go get some towels both for the floor and for Bella. Jasper turned to a nervous looking Charlie and patted him on the back while congratulating him and then distracting him with a question about the engine on the Swan's fishing boat. Esme made sure her family had all had enough to eat before she and Rosalie calmly began clearing the table of food. Emmett stayed seated between Avery and Ethan and made sure they stayed out of the way while Carlisle stood and moved around the table to his daughter-in-law's side.
"How far apart are your contractions, sweetheart?" he asked, kneeling next to her and placing a hand on her stomach.
"They were eight minutes," Bella answered, panting. "But now..."
Renee looked at her watch. "I think this one came on about five minutes after the last. It's lasting longer than the others too."
"Do you have your bags here?" Carlisle asked his son.
"We're ready," Edward answered. "Bella knew this morning. She was just didn't want to ruin Thanksgiving."
Carlisle started chuckling. "I don't think you have to worry about that, Bella. Now we just have one more thing to be thankful for."
Bella smiled and tears pricked her eyes. Edward leaned over and kissed the top of her head, wishing more than anything he could just have her all to himself for a moment. They were about to have a baby.
Bella was having his baby.
The thought alone made him want to kiss her silly, or do some kind of dorky happy dance. Both of which would require a little privacy.
Unfortunately, by the time they were finally alone again, they were in Bella's hospital suite and Edward didn't feel like doing any kind of celebrating at all. The pain had really started wearing on his wife and with each new contraction she'd whimper or moan in a way that affected him beyond what words could express.
Bella had long ago found it necessary to kick everyone out of the room except for Edward so she could concentrate on resting when she wasn't in pain, which was not often. Edward tried to comfort her by rubbing her back, massaging the cramps out of her legs, and feeding her ice chips when she asked, but he felt as though nothing was working. He didn't know that Bella thought he was doing a better job of supporting her than just about every other father-to-be she'd seen in her five years as a nurse.
"Here comes another one, love. What do you want me to do?" Edward asked when the monitor told him she was about to start contracting yet again. They were coming every two to three minutes now, sometimes with no break in between. Bella's nurse came and went frequently, aware that Bella was getting close.
"Slow dance," Bella answered with effort. "I need to get up."
She moved her legs to the side of the bed and Edward jumped up from his chair at her side to help her. He was glad for the change-up. Watching her just lie there was agony for him too. At least when she stood and he supported her while they rocked side to side, it felt like he was doing something to help her.
"I got you, love. Lean on me. I've got you," he reassured her as she moved into position with her arms around his shoulders. He wrapped his arms around her as well and let her put all of her weight on him. They began swaying side to side, breathing deeply together.
"Edward... back," she moaned after a few minutes. He immediately began providing counter pressure to the muscles in her lumbar area.
She shuddered a bit and he adjusted his touch. Her breathing became more staccato so he whispered in her ear a breathing rhythm that they'd practiced in childbirth preparation classes. Bella responded well and the pain became more manageable with Edward holding her in this position.
"I love you," she whispered.
"I love you too, baby. So much. Now breathe in, Bella. Keep breathing."
She did as she was instructed and the contraction eventually subsided. They continued to move side to side with their heads close together.
"What are you thinking about?" Edward asked in a lull between contractions. Bella seemed almost serene at that moment.
"Feathers," she replied quietly.
Edward's eyebrows almost hit the ceiling. "Really? Now?"
Bella couldn't help but laugh a little. "Yes," she said with her eyes still closed. "It's a very good memory."
"Yeah...it is." Edward said, drawing the words out. "I'm just surprised you're thinking about that right now."
Bella inhaled deeply, almost laughing. "I wasn't thinking about how the feathers ended up all over the place. I was thinking about the next morning. The way the sunlight filtered through the gossamer curtains. How the ocean sounded from just outside our door. The way the feathers took flight when you reached for me, and the look on your face... it was so... serene," Bella exhaled the word slowly as the pain of her labor returned.
"Second best night of my life," Edward commented, going back to massaging Bella's back as they danced.
"Second... best...?" Bella asked when she was able.
Edward smiled. "It's a close second. Number one would be the night you told me you were having this baby."
Despite the pain, Bella hummed an agreement. It wasn't as exotic as their honeymoon in Fiji, but they'd still made love all night long. She remembered that she'd never felt so revered, or more precious. At the moment though, she couldn't be bothered to feel either of those things, she was simply in too much pain.
Bella's legs began to wobble as her back and abdomen became rigid. She wanted to scream and cry, but found herself holding her breath. Edward noticed immediately and got her to exhale slowly. In the small space between contractions, he lowered her to the floor and placed her knees gently on a pillow so that she could kneel over the birthing ball they'd been provided with. He sat at her side and tried to keep her breathing as another contraction started almost right away. Bella tried, but ended up almost sobbing before the pain let up. When she felt like she could finally relax again, Edward rubbed her shoulders and got her some ice.
"Why the night I told you about the baby and not our honeymoon?" Bella asked, suddenly resuming their earlier conversation in between ice chips. Truth be told, she needed a distraction. Labor was hard. Knowing that it was, Edward looked on Bella in wonder and answered her question.
"Well..." he began. "That second night in Fiji was definitely the most intense sex we've ever had, and probably the most acrobatic, but..." He shook his head, still amazed they'd managed to tear a hole of that size in the down comforter by rolling off the bed in their fervor.
"But?" Bella asked, once again breathing in soft, frequent exhales.
Edward snapped out of his memories. "But..." he began again. "The night you told me you were pregnant trumped it all, love. That was a spiritual experience; like I could have died happy right then knowing I'd been blessed with everything I'd ever wanted."
Bella looked up at him, panting. "What the hell, Edward? You are not seriously talking about dying at a time like this, are you?" She took a ragged breath. "Shit!"
Edward shouldn't have been shocked by her outburst, but he was, completely shocked in fact. That was until he looked at the monitor attached to his wife's stomach and saw how fast that one had hit her. He'd been too busy thinking about the past to stay in the present with her and prepare her.
"Oh, jeez, Bella. I'm sorry. I should have warned you."
"Damn right you should have," she hissed. "Oww..."
"Bella, baby... Breathe."
"I am! Ow... Ow... Ow... Owww!" she cried.
Edward's heart raced and his heart clenched.
"I'm sorry, Bella. What can I do?"
Bella didn't answer as her face contorted in pain. Edward watched the monitor instead of her, willing Bella's uterus to give her a break. He hated seeing his beloved in pain. Whose idea was natural childbirth anyway?
The door opened and Bella's nurse, Maggie, walked in at that moment. She saw Edward's desperate face and came to kneel beside them, placing a hand on his shoulder in encouragement.
"How are we doing?"
Edward looked lost and Bella just grunted.
"It won't be long now. I've paged the doctor already," Maggie said quietly. "I've been watching her monitor from the nurses' station," she explained when Edward looked confused. Glancing back up at the device in question, she turned back to Bella. "It's letting up now, Bella. You're almost through it."
Bella whimpered and reached out for Edward. He grabbed her hand and she clasped onto him as if he were the only thing keeping her from falling off of a cliff to her doom.
"Almost there, baby. Hang in there. You can do this," Edward kept talking, hoping it would help her.
Fortunately, it did and before long Bella was able to rest for a moment. The pain had nearly stopped and she really wanted to move again, but wasn't sure she could. Edward seemed to sense her distress.
"What do you need?" he asked quietly.
"Up," she whispered. She sounded exhausted.
With Maggie's help they stood and this time, Bella turned her back to Edward and leaned against his chest while he held her and supported himself against a wall. He held her beneath her swollen belly and whispered words of support in her ear. She did well, breathing through several back to back contractions while Edward held her up. It was in this position that she first started feeling the need to push.
"Baby," she panted.
"Yeah, love? What do you want me to do?" Edward asked soothingly.
Bella shook her head. "No. Baby... Our baby... Now... Get mom... Doctor..."
Her limited speech was effective enough and Edward looked to Maggie who sprang into action. Fifteen minutes later, doctors, nurses, and one Renee Swan, were rounded up and Bella was back in Edward's arms. They were both in the LDR bed (because that was where Bella wanted her husband- to hell with hospital policy!), and Edward sat behind her holding her legs while she pushed. She held on to Edward for dear life and he simply held his breath until finally... finally... they heard the cry they'd been waiting for.
"It's a girl," the doctor announced.
Bella sagged back in relief and joy, tears falling freely down her sweaty face. Edward was emotional too, watching in awe as Dr. Denali, an old colleague of his father's, placed the squirming baby on her mother's tummy.
"It's a girl," Edward whispered, as if he didn't already know.
Bella laughed or cried, or something in between. "Juliet..." she said, completely spent, but somehow suddenly wide awake.
"Juliet..." Edward echoed, adjusting his arms around Bella so that he could help her hold their daughter. It didn't escape him that he was holding the whole world, his every reason for being, at this very moment.
"Would you like to cut the cord, Edward?" Renee asked, wiping a tear or two off her face from her place at their bedside.
Edward simply nodded as a nurse handed him a pair of shears. When the job was done, the adoring parents were given another moment to dote on their new arrival before she was taken to be cleaned, warmed and fitted with a security band around her tiny ankle.
"Alright, Mom and Dad, let's see those wrists. You get matching bands so the staff will know she's yours," one of the nurses explained. Edward wrinkled his brow a little at the thought that they needed any such security measures, but a tiny cry from across the room made him very glad that they took them.
"And does Baby Girl Cullen have a name yet?" the nurse asked as she finished her task by attaching a special coded band to Bella's wrist.
She and Edward looked at each other a moment and smiled. Edward answered for a newly exhausted Bella.
"Juliet Hope Cullen."
The nurse smiled and wrote the name down on a card that would adorn the baby's plastic bassinet. "Juliet Hope Cullen," she repeated. "6 pounds, 15 ounces. Twenty and one-half inches long.
Edward kissed Bella's tears away as they slipped down her cheeks. Not even seven pounds and their daughter had impacted their whole world. Not even twenty-one inches long and she'd brought them closer together than they'd ever been. Bella knew there was no one who had ever loved a man as much as she loved Edward in that moment. Edward looked into her eyes and knew the same was true for him.
Juliet's tiny cry interrupted their moment and they both laughed.
"Go to her," Bella whispered.
"Yeah?" Edward asked, excited to hold his daughter again, but reluctant to leave his wife.
"Yeah. Go on. And then go get your family."
"As you wish," Edward answered, kissing her temple.
Bella giggled slightly despite some of the discomfort and fatigue she was now feeling. Edward slid out of the bed, but not before kissing her soundly once more. "I love you, Bella. So much."
"I love you too," she answered, closing her eyes for just a minute.
Bella's eyes flew open to a pitch black room and she instantly knew something was wrong. She'd slept too long and too hard, and the baby monitor was too quiet. She started to sit up as her heart began hammering in her chest. Instead, a strong pair of arms reached out to soothe her.
"Hey... Shh... It's okay, Bella. She's fine. I just checked on her and she's fine."
"It's three o'clock in the morning, Edward. She's not fine, something's wrong." Bella sat up and started to kick the covers off of their too large king sized bed. She squinted at the video monitor on Edward's side of the bed and saw Juliet lying in her crib, but that wasn't good enough.
"Baby," Edward sighed, sitting up with her. "I was just in there and she's fine. She's sleeping."
"Are you sure?" Bella snapped, looking for her slippers and thinking idly about how ridiculously cold the hardwood floors in their new house were during the dead of night.
Edward chuckled at her. "Yes, I'm sure. I woke up about five minutes ago having the same exact panic attack you're having now. I raced to the nursery too, just to make sure she was still breathing."
Bella took a deep breath and looked back at her husband. "Really?"
He laughed and nodded. "Really."
"She's fine?" Bella asked, struggling to calm her heart.
"She's sleeping, love. And it's about time she did, don't you think?" Edward asked, rising up on his knees and crawling over to Bella. He encircled her in his arms and rested his chin on her shoulder. Bella relaxed a little.
"I guess so. She is six months old tomorrow."
"Today," Edward corrected. "And you haven't had a solid night's sleep in all that time. Why don't you lie down and try to do that?"
Bella sighed. "I think I'm too keyed up now."
Edward kissed her shoulder. "Would it help if you went to check on her yourself?"
"Maybe... I don't know... It might."
Edward rubbed her shoulders a bit and then hopped off the bed and handed his wife her slippers.
"Thank you," she whispered. She smiled down at Edward and felt a rush of emotion and want. He'd literally waited on her hand and foot for most of the last six months. She was pretty sure she didn't deserve him. A fact that was confirmed for her when he just kissed her nose and helped her off the bed, ignoring the desire she knew he'd seen in her eyes. Of course he knew that she wouldn't be able to relax until she'd seen to Juliet.
Together, they crept down the hall towards Juliet's room. They'd started a bedtime routine with her early in her third month and since then had always put her to bed each night in her crib. She was good about going to sleep in there, but without fail little Juliet woke up before one o'clock every morning to be nursed. She then spent the rest of the night in bed with Bella and Edward. It was a habit both her parents hoped to break just as soon as she was old enough to skip the midnight-ish feeding. Apparently, that day had finally come.
"Satisfied?" Edward whispered as Bella looked down on their daughter's angelic form. Bella nodded and wiped a tear from her eyes as they backed out of the room slowly. Once they were far enough away, Edward stopped her and wiped under her eyes tenderly with his thumbs. "What is this? What's wrong?"
Bella shrugged. "It's like she doesn't need me anymore," she cried irrationally.
Edward couldn't help but laugh; hard. "What? Why? Because she's sleeping through the night? Bella, don't be absurd." Frustrated by his complete dismissal of her feelings, Bella smacked his chest and tried to stomp off. He was too quick for her though and had her back in his arms before she could get far. "Hey, Miss Hormonal... Our baby may not need your milk at one o'clock in the morning anymore, but she still needs you. She will always need you."
Bella frowned, but nodded even as she continued to sniffle quietly. Edward wiped her eyes and kissed her once. "Come with me," he said, taking her hand and leading her down the stairs of their Cape Cod-slash-New England style home. They'd likened it to their own little "Ode to Dartmouth" when they found it just after Juliet was born; it reminded them both so much of Hanover and the architecture of the region where they'd first met and fell in love.
And because their past (albeit interrupted and marked by a bit of heartache) was important to both of them, Edward knew immediately how to cheer up his beloved and overly emotional wife. He led her to the kitchen and sat her down on one of the tall chairs that lined one side of the island countertop.
"What are you doing, Edward?" Bella asked as he opened the freezer. She had a pretty good idea, but thought he couldn't be serious considering the time.
Except that Edward was serious, so he simply continued his task until he had two perfect scoops of Bella's favorite flavor in one bowl, right next to three scoops of his favorite flavor in another. He rinsed the ice-cream scoop and threw it in the dishwasher before returning the containers to the freezer. Moving around the counter with ice cream in hand, he sat next to her and kissed her cheek before digging in.
"I'm starting to think that you believe ice cream fixes everything," Bella said, smiling after her first bite.
"Tell me I'm wrong," he answered, wiggling his eyebrows.
She giggled and dug into her bowl. "You're not wrong, just incorrigible. I'm trying to lose the baby weight, not add to it."
Edward laughed. "Sweetheart, I've never seen you sexier than you were just weeks after you gave birth to Juliet. Or when you were nine months pregnant for that matter. My God, woman... I could have lived with you just like that for the rest of forever."
Bella almost choked on her ice cream, causing Edward to smirk.
"You're insane," she mumbled with her mouth still full. She was too horrified at the thought of being hugely pregnant for eternity.
Edward chuckled. "You were insanely beautiful. You still are. But the sex was amazing and you were insatiable when you were pregnant."
Bella inhaled a little at the memories his words conjured up. Her heart beat faster just thinking about the way he used to look at her, even when she had looked more like a whale than a woman. Not that he still didn't look at her like she was the sexiest thing walking the earth, but it had still been a huge turn on. And the way her pregnant body had responded to him...? It almost made the swollen ankles, itchy skin, aching back and frequent heartburn worth it. Almost. She was nowhere near ready to have another baby anytime soon, but if and when they did decide to get pregnant again, Bella was very much looking forward to the upside of all those hormones.
"Bella? Should I not have said that?" Edward asked when he noticed that she'd gone completely still. Bella shook her head and put her spoon down only to turn and face him. He eyed her curiously as she hopped off of her seat, and then incredulously as she moved to stand between his legs. "Oh," he said, at once picking up on her sudden change in mood as Bella smiled up at him from under her eyelashes as she wet her lips. "Yeah?" he asked, hopefully.
"Yeah," Bella answered, running her hands up his thighs and over his hips until she rested them around his waist.
"Are you sure?" he asked, still hopeful but always cautious not to push. He was completely understanding about the recent changes to their sex life, but it had been a little while since they'd been together, or since she'd looked up at him with such raw and unmasked desire.
"I'm sure," Bella assured him. "Besides, we can both get what we want this way. I can work off some of the baby weight and you can enjoy it while I still have it."
Edward groaned and practically shoved his ice cream out of the way in order to pull his wife to him in a heated kiss. She wrapped her arms around his neck and held on as Edward stood and started towards the stairs.
"God, I love you," he whispered in between kisses. "I love every single inch of you."
"I know you do," Bella giggled as his lips headed south. She wrapped her legs around his waist while he slid his hands beneath her bottom to support her. He continued to adore her neck and collarbone with his mouth and when he felt she was secure, he moved one hand up from her backside to her full breasts. He knew better than to squeeze or kneed them, but he was after all a man and, heaven help him, they were glorious.
"I really love these too," Edward mumbled against the skin just above her bosom. His thumb brushed along the side of one breast until Bella groaned.
Unfortunately, it wasn't a good groan. "Oh no..." Bella sighed.
Edward stopped immediately and looked down at her face to see what the trouble was. He felt more than saw the problem and realized his ministrations were likely to blame. "Oh, love. I'm sorry."
"It's not your fault," she whined as she wiggled down out of his arms and pressed her arms tightly over her breasts. Of course they had inconveniently decided to start leaking just as soon as her husband touched them.
Edward smiled at Bella's irritated expression and reached up to stroke her face. "You want to pump real quick?"
"Yeah, if we're going to do this," she gestured between them. "Then, yeah. I also don't want to wake up in a puddle later."
Edward chuckled and kissed his wife. She closed her eyes and swore under her breath.
"Talk about killing the mood."
"You didn't kill the mood," he replied, stopping her before she could get too upset. "You just postponed it."
"Same difference," Bella sighed. She knew expressing breast milk would make her sleepy rather than amorous.
"Well," Edward said, seeing her frustrated expression. "We could skip the pump and just take a nice warm shower together instead."
Bella considered it for a moment but just as she decided to acquiesce, her words were interrupted by a familiar cry from upstairs. Bella dropped her head into her hands just as Edward started laughing.
"Well," he said. "It looks like we would have been interrupted anyway."
"Story of our lives," Bella commented, smiling a little now despite herself.
Edward took her hand and led her towards the stairs. "Only for a season. It won't always be this way, love."
"I know," Bella smiled, relieved that he was being so supportive. A pouting husband would have been too much for her to handle at that moment. In her more sleep-deprived moments, she sometimes missed the carefree and passionate days she and Edward had only briefly shared before diving headlong into parenthood. Still, she thought, there was a time for everything and everything had its time.
Barely five minutes later, after a fresh diaper and a bit of daddy-daughter cuddling, Edward helped his girls settle comfortably into bed. His wife maneuvered into a side-lying position to nurse Juliet while he lay on his own side facing them. With fingers laced together and resting close to their tiny daughter, it wasn't long before the new parents drifted back into a peaceful slumber. Together they dreamed of Dartmouth and ice cream, of feathers and babies, and a lifetime full of nights just as perfect as this.
Thank you for reading!