My entry for the Fic A Pic Contest. Info & link to pic on my profile.

Story Title: The Secret of Happiness
Summary:
Sometimes three months is all it takes to fall in love and find the true meaning of happiness. AH
Disclaimer:
I don't own Twilight. Not even a little.
Rating:
M for intimacy and some language.
Word Count:
9,950 on Microsoft Word, without the contest info, the a/n & wacky FFn
Authors Note down below


Present Day, July 2

I walk down the familiar street with my hands stuffed in my front pockets, my right hand gripping the physically small yet grand gesture. It cuts into my hand. The slight sting keeps me grounded, the only sign that this is really happening. Happened. I find myself wanting it. Smiling. My decision is sure. I don't falter once I've come to a conclusion. That doesn't mean I'm anything but anxious. I'm just relieved I haven't punched anything.

My slump through the front door is less than enthusiastic. I'm utterly exhausted. I had no plans to be here tonight. I should be at Bella's, celebrating. It's quite apparent that Jasper also had no plans of me being here tonight. The music is just loud enough and he's oblivious that I've entered the apartment. Not that he could see me anyway with his face buried in Alice's chest. Really. On the couch? My couch. Normally I would flip my lid but not tonight. Waste of time.

I sneak into the kitchen to grab a couple of Jasper's Heinekens from the fridge while he's distracted.

No desire to change clothes, I just need to sit and drink my nerves away. Chill myself out before see her.

Just as I'm about to open the door Jasper's face comes up for air and he notices me.

"Hey man, what are you doing here? I didn't think you'd be around tonight." He says, sitting up quickly. It's funny how they scramble away from each other, like I'm Mr. Whitlock and they're 16 years old or something.

"No kidding." I reply with a raise of my eyebrows.

Alice looks mortified. No reason. At least they're fully dressed this time. Small favors. Thanks universe.

"We can go to Alice's tonight. Just that Rosie is there and you know..."

"Don't sweat it. I'm headed up to the roof for a bit. No need for you guys to leave."

"You okay?" They both look at me with true concern. I turn my gaze to the door and open it.

"Yeah. I will be. See ya later." I say over my shoulder as I step through the door.

It's late evening. Gloomy and breezy but warm. I hoist myself up on my favorite corner. I flick my lighter, blocking the wind with my hand and take a long deep pull. An instant surge of relaxation rolls through me.

My head hangs with a sigh. I see my shoes. They've been all over. Everywhere I've been. Almost every stage I've played on. But they weren't in the place they should've been, and neither was I. I should have run back here, but I couldn't. Bella knows it, I hope. She knows I'm not perfect but I'm definitely not him. The only thing we have in common is that we're both musicians. I'm not stupid. I know the stereotypes about musicians. No parent wants their only daughter to be tied to such things. But their daughter is tied to me whether they like it or not.

I pull my tattered notebook from my front coat pocket. I only started this one four months ago. Thoughts. Lyrics. Sketches...mostly of her. I flip back to the entry reflecting on the night I first saw her and how my (and her) life changed so quickly.

I had arrived a little early but I planned to sit alone and write down a song that had been playing through my head.

A loud laugh breaks my concentration and I look up to see her. She's sitting in a booth across from me. I can only see her profile and her long dark hair. She's with three other girls. Something must be hilarious because she can hardly catch her breath she's laughing so hard.

I smile just because. I don't know why. Reminds me of when I was a kid and I'd laugh at Uncle Carlisle's dirty jokes even though I had no idea what he was talking about. I knew they were dirty though. My mom said so. And often scolded my dad and his brother.

I'm still smiling as my pencil starts to move and I've framed her face, bright smiley profile, her hair gathered and draped over her shoulder.

I never dance. But I dance with her once she agrees. Well, I sway with her from side to side. We're like magnets. I can tell she feels it too. She's the one brave enough to say so. I just nod my agreement and hold her tighter. Bewildered by the affect she already has on me.

The night ended with our friends pulling us in different directions, but I caught her watching me as she lowered herself into her friend's car. She held up her phone with one hand and gave me a thumbs-up with the other. For once a girl's eagerness hadn't repelled me. Quite the opposite.

I stare down at the sketch, dated March 13, 2010, with Bella Swan written on the bottom of the page. Has it really only been three and a half months?

Jasper had been there to hang with Alice, his girlfriend of a few months who happened to be a close friend of Bella's. I realize now I should've taken them up on their invites to hang out more often. How many opportunities had I missed to meet Bella? I guess it doesn't matter now. Her phone number is resting nicely in my phone.

The day after I met Bella I was headed on a small three-week tour through Europe. People were more receptive to my music over there. I was excited to take our newly rounded complete band along. Tyler had recently joined playing lead guitar, so I could take my spot at the piano. It's fun and it adds to the live experience.

I called Bella once before I left, to say hello and collect her address. She sounded confused since I didn't ask her out. Not yet. I'm not the best at talking on the phone. I just want to sit next to the girl. And I need to make sure she'll let me.

I sent her a postcard from every city we stopped in, filled with random thoughts and experiences. She started texting me when she received them. Which explains why I have a permanent phantom buzz in my pocket, anxious to hear from her. She was full of useless advice. When I was in Ireland, it was "Thanks for the postcard. Watch out for Leprechauns." In Germany it was, "Hello travelin' man. Be careful, I hear they like sausages a lot."

The fact that she referred to my sausage in such a way, so early in our 'friendship' still makes me laugh and I'll never let her live that one down.

I flip a few more pages, take a swig of my beer, and I remember coming home...

I'd asked her if she'd like to go on a date in the last postcard I sent her, from London. She texted me.

"You betcha. Meet me at Magnolia's on Bleecker. Sunday at 6:00."

I replied quickly and agreed to Sunday. My eagerness must have been apparent as Emmett tossed an empty beer can at my head, successfully snapping me out of my goofy-faced trance.

I stroll up to Magnolia at precisely 6:00 to find her standing out front with a bag in her hand. She's gorgeous in a simple tank dress and flip flops.

"Hey, Bella. You look...amazing," I say stumbling a bit on the curb.

"Thanks. Welcome home, travelin' man." she greets me with a smile.

We walk across the street to a small park and sit on a bench under the trees. Concrete all around. Kids playing in the closed off playground.

"Ready for dinner?"

"You got dinner from a bakery?"

"Sure. If you hate bananas you're going to have to pretend to like them. I love this banana pudding. I won't understand if you don't like it."

Laughing I say, "I like bananas. No pretending needed."

"Good, here's yours. I can't share." She hands me my own bowl of pudding with vanilla wafers and fresh bananas.

She takes her first bite and moans with her eyes closed, "Mmmmmm."

An inner voice speaks up. 'Look away. Look down at your own pudding.'

Then I moan as I take a bite, nodding in agreement. "Damn, that is good."

"I'm glad you think so. We just might have some potential here, Edward."

I smile and continue eating, "thanks for meeting me. I was disappointed I had to leave so soon after that night. I really wanted to see you again."

"Yeah you definitely confused me at first. But thanks for all the postcards. I've never been so excited to open my mail box." She looks down with a bit of a shy smile.

Yeah she likes me.

"Well, I've come to appreciate the vibration of my cell phone more than ever before." She looks at me, puzzled. "That came out wrong, you know...when you texted me, my phone would vibrate with the alert."

A laugh and a look of understanding comes across her face.

"So tell me what you've been up to besides texting me such useful advice." I ask.

"Nothing very exciting. Just school. I'm almost done so it's been busy."

I learn that she's graduating in May from NYU, with her English degree. She's a writer. Her first manuscript is already finished. She's lucky enough to have the guidance of one of her professors. Apparently there's a lot more to publishing a book than just writing it. I like the way she talks. Smart but open and real. She asks about my music and I tell her a little.

How I started playing in a small garage band in high school. She's surprised to hear that my parents have always been supportive. They made sure I had a real degree to fall back on. Business, which I was reluctant about at first, but I found that I did enjoy it. I just couldn't turn my back on writing songs and performing. They're especially supportive now, as I've gained an audience and a deal from a small record label. Over time the band has formed. Emmett on drums/vocals, Tyler on guitar and Mike on bass. I sing lead, play the piano and guitar. They're all good guys. We're fairly successful. I can pay my bills and still do what I love.

"I'd love to hear you play sometime."

"Anytime."

"My parents are a little too supportive. My mother expects me to be on the New York Times Best Sellers list any minute now," her laugh is nervous. "She is totally clueless."

"I'm sure she's just excited about your graduation. And the fact that you already have your first manuscript done. That couldn't have been easy."

"It took years with my schoolwork load, not to mention my job at the cafe. I don't know, sometimes I feel like the joy is gone. Too much pressure," she looks down and twirls her spoon.

I watch as she takes the last bite of her pudding, licking the spoon clean, and then continues to scrape for more at the bottom of the bowl. "Looks like your pudding is gone. If you're nice maybe I'll give you some of mine."

The wind sweeps her hair in her face and a small strand sticks to her lips. I pull it away and let my hand rest at the base of her neck, "I know it's not the end of the date yet but I regret not doing this three weeks ago." I glance at her lips.

"What's that?"

I see her eyes watching me.

"This," My lips touch hers, kissing her softly. The first time of many. She tastes sweet from the pudding. I scoot closer as we both discard our bowls on the bench. Our mouths move together, already familiar. I hold her close to me. She pulls back slightly, "I'd say that qualifies as more than nice, you owe me pudding."

I smile and say against her lips, "it's yours," I kiss her again, "I've thought about this, just sitting next to you…for I don't know, my entire trip." I say, slightly embarrassed for revealing too much.

"Want to walk to my place? We can watch a movie or something?"

"Sure. I'd love that."

I don't notice the sounds around us, the cars, kids playing...none of it. Only her. This new sense of home she had built in me. I realize I've found something I never knew I'd been looking for.

As much as I love watching Will Ferrell make an ass out of himself, I'm much more interested in Bella's hot ass...and the fact that it's pressed against my dick as we lay like spoons on her couch. She laughs every couple minutes causing her body to jostle around, only helping to increase the stirring in my pants. I think she knows it; hell maybe she's really not laughing at Will Ferrell at all and she just enjoys torturing me.

I wrap my hand around her hip and slowly run my hand down the side of her thigh. I notice her laughing has stopped and she's holding very still as I explore.

"You're kind of driving me crazy," I whisper and trail small kisses from her shoulder to her neck as my hand wraps around, grazing across her stomach.

"Am I?" she asks a little breathlessly.

All I can do is nod.

She shifts onto her back and I find my space above her, resting my knees between hers. Her hands pull me down by the neck and she kisses me, tasting my tongue with hers. Careful not to poke her with my attention-seeking boner, I use my arms and knees to hover a bit, while still kissing her across her mouth and down her jaw line to suck on her ear.

She lets out a noise that speaks directly to my dick and I'm breathing harder against her neck. My arms are starting to strain from holding myself in this position. I feel like I've done a hundred push-ups.

"Why are you up there?" She asks as she runs her hands up my arms and squeezes my biceps. "Come down here."

And I do, I press my weight into her and our bodies are perfectly aligned. I can't hold in the moan of relief that escapes me as I rest against her and run one hand down the side of her body, grazing her breast.

She brings her hands down my back to my ass and holds me there. Her lips are trailing kisses down my adam's apple and I have no control over the motion of my hips. They press into her as she presses up towards me. Oh god. I feel like I'm going to explode and I will if we keep this up. She'll have to be the one to pull away; I'm passed the point of no return.

Our chests are heaving as our lips meet again. Hot breaths escaping us. I slip my hand up her shirt and palm her breast, pulling the cup of her bra down so I can feel her. I softly roll her nipple between my thumb and pointer finger, earning another moan of approval.

Our hips are moving in rhythm now, Bella arches and says, "oh my gosh, you're going to make me...uhhhhh."

She shudders beneath me as I feel my own tingles start to build from within. A second later my body is rocked with pleasure as my orgasm hits me. "Shit," I say softly. I'm struggling to catch my breath. I feel like I just ran a freaking marathon.

"I just jizzed in my pants. For real." I blurt out in disbelief and neither of us can control our laughter.

After doing my best to clean up my situation, and showing Bella my driver's license to prove to her that I was not 16, we fell asleep to silliness on the TV.

We've been inseparable since the banana pudding date. Aka, "the best date ever" as she calls it. I have to agree. It really was, up until that point.

Breakfasts, lunches, dinners and late night talks filled our first week together. Not to mention there may have been some making out and groping like teenagers. I couldn't have kept myself away if I'd tried.

I had a small gig in Los Angeles the following weekend and used some of my miles to book her a ticket. I had collected so many and I never knew what to do with them. Honestly, I was slightly worried she'd refuse my invitation. We may have only known each other for a month but it just felt natural. Why be apart when we could be together? She agreed when I put it that way, as long as we were home by Sunday night.

Flipping more pages in my notebook. Lyrics. And more lyrics. A sketch of her form snuggled in the crisp white bed. Dated, April 10, 2010. Bella Swan, Loews Hotel, Santa Monica.

"Are you kidding me? We're staying here?" Had been her first response when we pulled into the circle driveway outside the hotel.

"I stay here every time I'm in L.A."

"Well why wouldn't you? Is this your snobby side coming out?"

"What? No. I just spend a lot of time in the city already. I like it here. There's the city but you wouldn't know it standing on the balcony" I grabbed our bags and lead her into the lobby.

"It's beautiful," her eyes scan the room as I set our things down.

I follow her to the sliding glass door leading to the balcony and wrap my arms around her from behind, "Thanks for coming with me."

"A girl would have to be smart but crazy to turn down a weekend with you. And I'm not crazy. Luckily for you, I left my smarty pants at home."

I can't help but smile, "I have no idea what you just said. I'm pretty sure I'd notice if you weren't wearing any pants," I hook my fingers through her belt loops to hold her in place.

"I just mean that a smart girl wouldn't move so fast with a boy like you but I can't seem to help myself. I don't do this. I've known you a week and I take a trip with you across the country? You make me toss logic out the window."

She turns around, resting her hands on my chest, leaning up to kiss me with affection. We've been in the hotel room five minutes, one kiss and I already have a hard on. I break away slowly. I know she can feel the bulge but she doesn't move away.

"Well neither do I. To me it was perfectly logical to bring you on this trip. I can't explain why," I brush my thumb along her cheek.

"Magnets."

I grin, "yep," and I kiss her once more before she moves to grab her bag.

"I'm going to check out the bathroom and the bedroom."

"Alright. Do you mind staying in and ordering room service? I'm not really up for going out," I say as I flip through the menu.

"Sounds perfect to me. Order whatever."

I make a quick call for dinner, two burgers and a salad we can share. Along with a slice of banana cream pie.

"I think I want the last meal of my life to be on this balcony." She sighs as she looks out at the darkening sky.

"I would have to agree," tipping my beer back.

"So where are you playing tomorrow night?"

"At a place called The Hotel Cafe. Great place."

"Well I'm excited to see you in action."

"If I'm being honest it makes me a little nervous."

"Why?"

"I don't know. I just am."

"I'm sure I'll have to fight off the groupies," she says with a teasing smile.

I put on my best serious face, "Nah, most of my groupies are in Europe. I'm not very well known out here."

"Well I don't think I could compete with a bunch of strong, accented European girls," she stands to look over the railing but I stop her and bring her to my lap.

"Believe me there's no competition, Bella."

She looks at me and I can see the questions in her eyes. The only way I know how to answer her is to kiss her. My lips part quickly and I taste her bottom lip and then the top. The heat she stirs in me is familiar but stronger. She turns so she's straddling me in my chair and runs her hands through my hair, settling her arms around my neck, our chests pressing tight. We're both breathing through our noses, not wanting to break the kiss. She pulls away to take a breath and starts trailing kisses along my jaw and to my neck. She rolls her hips against mine. A silent message rushes from my brain to my dick.

"Babe, I want this...stop me now or..."

She interrupts me with her mouth. My hands are everywhere, kneading her ass and pressing her down on me. She's moving, driving me mad. She kisses me again, sweet and hard. I can feel the confidence in the way she moves. I pull back and stand with her legs wrapped around my waist. I find my way inside to the bed and lay her down on her back. The brightness of the moon lighting the room, I stand up and smile at the sight before me. Her cheeks are flushed and her chest is slightly heaving.

"Where are you going?"

"Nowhere. There's nowhere I'd rather be," I run my hands down her thighs and squeeze her denim covered knees, kneeling before her, "I'm taking these off."

She nods her head in consent.

My hands find their way to the button of her jeans. I peel them slowly down her legs and revel in the softness. Her white underwear has blue polka dots and they cling to her perfectly. Best date ever.

She lifts my shirt up with intent and I toss it across the room as she removes her black t-shirt. Matching bra, cute, but needs to go. And there it goes, on the floor with our shirts.

I crawl and settle with my knees on either side of her of her hips. My hands skim up her rib cage to her breasts, I press them together, leaning down to run my nose between her cleavage, kissing along the way. My jeans are still on, that's unfortunate. I feel her hand press against my dick. She undoes my button fly and starts pushing them off my hips, along with my underwear. I lift myself up as she completes her efforts. How did she get me naked first?

"How did you do that so fast?" I ask.

"I'm sneaky."

We both grin.

"Yes you are."

She reaches for my dick as I hover over her, she whispers, "you like it," my answer is yes to both the sneakiness and the dick touching. She strokes up and down and I'm impossibly hard.

"Ughhh. Wait a sec...I don't want to lose it," I take a deep breath of much needed air.

My hand roams, while the other holds me up from crushing her. I lay more kisses across her chest as she runs her hands up my back and into my hair, gripping. Holding me in place. My hand grazes the top of her underwear and it slips inside to feel her.

She sighs and arches her back, "I love your hands on me."

I continue to feel her and she starts pushing her underwear down her thighs. I roll to the side to watch her every move. She stands and kicks them off. Crawling towards me on the bed, she straddles my thighs and moves her hands down my chest and stomach. She stops there, leans down slowly and places one kiss on the tip of me. I hold my breath.

"I think your sausage likes me."

Laughter erupts from both of us, "That would be an understatement. However, you did just kiss it, so I'd say it's clear you like it right back."

"True. He needs a name, how about Frank?" she asks as she glides her hand upward.

"You can call him anything you'd like if you keep doing that." A groan slips out of me.

She smiles and scoots herself forward, just where I need her. Her hands flattened on my chest and I lightly hold her waist as she brings herself down on me. I close my eyes at the sensation rushing through me. I try to savor it. She rocks slowly and I use one hand to help steady her, the other roaming her chest. It takes all my restraint not to push up towards her.

"Is this okay?"

"You're full of understatements, Bella."

She arches and leans back, bracing her hands on my thighs as she rocks faster. Her body on display for my eyes only. I trail my hand down her stomach to where we're joined so I can feel her and watch myself as I disappear inside her. Over and over.

"Way more than okay. Way more. That's so hot." My eyes are glued to where my hand is working her.

She's moaning softly, "yes, keep doing that."

"I'm getting...close," my voice sounds foreign and desperate.

I lean up and wrap my arms around her back, the feel of her breasts crushed against me spurs me on and I need her on her back. I roll with her until I'm above her, still inside and she wraps her legs around. I begin to move and try to hold back. Pressing her into the sheets, my hands gripping hers beside her head. I keep moving.

"Don't stop, more...I'm...ohh..."

I watch her as she falls apart, her eyes closed, mouth open and I'm right there, chasing her over the edge. "Mppphh," My whole body tenses and stills as the pleasure surges through me. My legs are tingling and useless. I smile into the crook of her neck and kiss as I catch my breath.

"You okay, babe?"

"I thought we decided 'okay' was an understatement?" She says as she drags her fingernails lightly up my back.

Laughing, "Yeah we did. Sorry I'm crushing you. Moving isn't an option right now."

"I like you where you are."

"Careful what you say, you just might be stuck with me."

"Oh no I can't have that, I'm a busy girl," She says sarcastically and pushes me from her.

I watch her walk in the bathroom and close the door.

When she returns I'm nearly asleep. I feel her fit herself into my side, one leg thrown over mine.

"I'm glad you're here." I mumble.

"I'm glad you brought me."

"You know I didn't bring you here expecting this, right?"

"I know, Edward."

"Not that the thought didn't cross my mind. A few hundred times." I say honestly.

"Stop. You're such a dork," she says while slapping my chest.

"What? You're the one who was all concerned about Frank. I know you thought about it. You might as well admit it," I pinch her side.

"Ouch!" she says laughing, "Of course I thought about it. I knew I'd be with you one way or another."

"You were much braver than me. You scared the crap out of me. In a good way."

"Still?"

"Well, no but yes. It's a bit disorienting. I think my three-week tour was a good thing. Gave me time to sort my thoughts."

"And?"

"And, I don't want to be where you aren't."

"I feel the same way."

"But, I'll have no choice some of the time. Of course I'd love to bring you on every trip or tour, but it's not realistic with your schedule."

"We'll figure it out."

I kiss the top of her head, "Get some sleep, babe. Big day tomorrow."

"Goodnight."

I awoke early the next morning. The time change messing with my internal clock. Bella had rolled to the very edge of the bed. I slipped out of the sheets and grabbed a bottle of water. My notebook flipped to a fresh page, I sat at the chair that overlooked the sandy beach and watched Bella sleep. Tracing her position with my pencil in the early morning light. She'd looked so content. As content as I felt.

Little did I know, our lives would forever be changed by this weekend.

I looked down at the sketch and smoothed my hand over the page. Turning my sight to the Manhattan skyline I welcome the coming changes in my life, in our life. Her neurotic mother can't scare me away.

Our weekend in L.A. had ended too quickly and then we were back to New York. The show in L.A. was more successful than I'd realized. Maybe it was having Bella there, the only person I even noticed in the room. My record label introduced me to a potential new manager, who'd seen me that night, Kate Evans. They thought she was a good fit for my goals, as well as theirs. She was the reason I was able to secure my name on many line-ups for the Spring/Summer music festivals all over. I was ecstatic. The first festival being Coachella, back in California. Given only a week to prepare, I felt myself being pulled in all directions.

Bella was wrapped up in school and writing query letters to send to publishers. She was exhausted but we spent every night we could together, either at her place or mine. We slipped into normal life smoothly, including each other but still moving forward with our individual plans.

Jasper and Alice came to Coachella with the band and me. Alice shot photos while we played, and Jasper videoed. They were worse than my parents. But I was stoked to see the footage they caught, and I was happy to show it to Bella when we got home.

She was happy and supported me all the way. We had plans for the Summer after her graduation that included her on as many of my trips as possible. We'd take it day by day.

Her graduation came and went in May. I cringed at the memory of meeting her mother for the first time. Naked in her kitchen. Me. Not her mother.

"Excuse me. Is my daughter home?"

The voice startled me as I drank guava juice from the carton. Nearly spilling it, I swiped a kitchen towel from the counter to cover my manhood. She was dangling a key in her hand as she waited for my response. Not bothering to look away. She stood with one hand on her hip.

"Ahem. Yes she is...she's just...um...in the bathroom." I say while looking for an escape.

She continued to look at me. No response for a good minute.

"Hmmm. Why don't you get some clothes on before we introduce ourselves?"

"Right. Good idea."

I walked, awkwardly trying to stretch the damn tea towel, not working.

"Bella, Bella," knocking, knocking on the door.

"What?" She answered from the shower. I walked in and closed the door, grabbing my jeans and t-shirt from the bathroom floor.

"There's a lady in your living room who just saw me naked, drinking your guava juice."

"WHAT? Stop joking."

"I'm not joking. She's out there waiting for me to put clothes on so we can introduce ourselves."

"Shit. My mother. She was supposed to call me when she landed," she jumped out of the shower, some soap still on her shoulders.

"Go. Go out there and be polite. I'll be right behind you."

She must have seen the horrified look on my face.

"Go you big baby, be a man. We're both adults. Don't let her intimidate you."

"Right. I got this." Pssh no problem. Just pretend like she didn't just see you naked three minutes ago.

I breathe deep and walk back out with a cautious smile on my face. Holding out my hand in introduction, "Hi Mrs. Swan, I'm Edward Cullen. Nice to meet you. Bella's excited to see you. She'll be right out."

"Well I'm excited to see her too. You can call me Renee."

"Can I get you something to drink, Renee?"

"Do you live here? I find it hard to believe my daughter would have a roommate all of a sudden. Especially since this is a one bedroom apartment."

"Ah no, not a roommate. I am the boyfriend."

"Huh."

"Yep," I walk towards the kitchen, "there's no more juice but she has some ginger ale or water..."

"No, thanks. So. What do you do, Edward?" she asks as makes herself comfortable.

"I graduated a couple years ago from NYU Stern, but my true passion is music. I play professionally."

She laughs condescendingly, "of course you do. Bella can't seem to keep her hands to herself when it comes to musicians. Do you sing, Edward?"

That was curious.

"Yes. I play guitar and piano as well. I have a band that plays with me, I'm not solo."

Renee's attention focuses behind me, "Ahhh there she is, my baby girl."

I turn to see Bella walk in with a guarded look on her face.

"Hi, Mom. You didn't call when you landed," she says as she sits and takes my hand.

"Oh yeah, my phone died. I thought I'd surprise you, but it seems I'm the most surprised one here. Well actually, Edward here looked pretty surprised when I first got here. Just be glad your father had to change our flight arrangements. Some big case is holding him up. He promised to be here for tomorrow afternoon. Just in case you decide to wander around naked again."

"Mom, stop," Bella says laughing.

I look down, trying not to laugh at the situation I've found myself in.

"So. Edward says he's a musician. Does he know Jake?" Renee asks almost excitedly.

I frown. Jake who?

"No, he doesn't. Can we please not talk about this?"

"Oh sure. What should we talk about? Your book? When can I buy it at Barnes & Noble? All the girls in my book club are so excited to read, Bella. You have no idea." Renee say excitedly, clearly unaware of her Bella rolling her eyes.

"Mom, I've told you this. If or when anything is final, you'll be one of the first to know. It's not as easy as writing it and emailing it to a publisher. But Professor Doctorow has been very helpful guiding me through the many steps."

"Oh honey! Don't sound so stuffy."

"I'm just being honest, Mom. It takes time and patience, which you are seriously lacking."

"I'm sorry dear. It's just so thrilling," Renee flips her hair and looks to me, "well, let's go to lunch so I can get to know this boyfriend that seems to have appeared out of thin air."

Bella looks apologetic, "Edward, will you help me reach my boots from the top of my closet? Be right back, Mom, and we'll go."

"Don't get lost in there," she shouts as we walk away.

As soon as we enter her closet she throws her arms around me.

"I'm so sorry. I wasn't expecting to introduce you to her before lunch. I planned on telling her about you and then having you meet us at the restaurant. Damn, she's so annoying. I'm so sorry."

"Hey, stop. Don't sweat it. What's done is done. Let's just go to lunch and hope I make a good impression and that she forgets about my naked ass."

She giggles into my chest, "that'll be tough. Your ass is pretty unforgettable."

I turn to reach for her boots and say, "Perhaps you'll tell me who Jake is sometime?"

"Sure. She's so dramatic about him. It's ridiculous. I dated him right after High School. My parents adored him until he moved here with his band. I left Seattle and the University of Washington and moved in with him here in New York. Pissed my parents off real good. I was only 19. Anyway, long story short. He was an ass. A couple months after we got here, I caught him sleeping with one of the waitresses at the club he played at. Being young and dumb, I forgave him when he came to me in tears, apologizing and making promises. My Mom was furious and made me get my own apartment and start working full time. Told me it was time to grow up. Hence the reason I got a little behind in school. Looking back I'm glad though."

"So what happened to him?"

"Oh, I couldn't trust him. I caught him with another girl at his place. Final straw. By then I was over it anyway. End of story."

"Wow. I knew you were from Seattle but that's a lot of story right there."

"Well we haven't really talked about past relationships. I didn't think it mattered."

"I agree. I'm just glad to know who your mother is comparing me to. Sounds like this douchebag either made things really hard or really easy for me. Only time will tell."

"Listen, no matter what my parents say, I choose you. I make my own choices. Remember that."

"I will."

"Okay, let's go eat..."

Time told that it didn't matter what I said. I still wasn't ideal for their daughter. Charlie was a little easier on me, which was a nice surprise. But he didn't say much as it was. Renee did all the talking. I was just happy to survive that weekend.

June came with more shows and two big festivals. Bella came to one festival, while remotely working with her new agent. Things had started shaping up for her. Having an agent took some of the pressure off her, having someone who really knew the publishing world was quite a relief.

Flipping more pages, I come across a sketch of a bunch of bananas with her Bella Banana song. The girl loved bananas. Any dessert with banana, she had to have it. But she'd only eat a regular banana while it's still a little green.

Bella Bella bo-bella
Banana fana fo-fella
Fee-fi-mo-mella
Bella

Dated, June 22, 2010. Happy in my kitchen. My girl drives me bananas.

I was at the breakfast bar with my notebook and pencil when Bella interrupted me.

"Bring me the box of vanilla wafers, please?"

"Oh, I'm allowed to help now?"

"Look I just got the Magnolia cookbook from Alice, I didn't want to screw up the pudding."

"Do you trust me to open this box of vanilla wafers?" I ask jokingly.

"Give it to me, you dork."

"Again? I just gave it to you this morning. You're randy today."

I press my chest up against her back as she works at the kitchen counter. Slicing the bananas just so. I kiss her neck and wrap my hands around her rib cage.

Laughing, she elbows me lightly, "stop, you're going to make me cut myself."

"Put the knife down, you've been ignoring me all night. Plus I thought the pudding was still chilling in the refrigerator?"

"It is. I'm just excited to assemble it." She sighs and leans into me as I kiss her neck and shoulders, pulling on the neck of her t-shirt.

"I need you. I'm leaving early in the morning. You're wearing this white t-shirt with no bra, I can't concentrate on anything, your tits are staring at me," I move my hands higher, her nipples greeting me as they always do.

"You sure know how to sweet talk a girl."

I laugh, "are you going to make me beg? I will," she shakes her head no and slides her sleep shorts down to her knees, bending forward to give me access. I pull my dick from my pajama pants, rubbing and teasing us both to make sure she's ready. I've been ready for two hours. Taking my time I find my way inside. Losing myself in the satisfaction of her.

I kiss her as she sleeps soundly the next morning, I turn to leave but I feel like I forgot something. I wake her up, much to her annoyance. This is a longer trip than the others, I need to tell her something that's been threatening to squeak out of my mouth.

"Why are you waking me up? There's lotion in the bathroom," she mumbles, reaching and patting my lap thoughtfully.

I smile and laugh quietly at her half-asleep attention. Always thinking about Frank.

"Listen. I just have something to say. I mean, you've probably figured it out, but I wanted to say it before I leave..."

I'm cut off by the sound of her gentle snore.

I shake her shoulder and tickle her side.

"Huh? What?"

I lean down close to her and say, "Bella Swan, I love you."

Her eyes open a little more as she squints at me, "I know."

She sits up, reaching for my hand. "Edward Cullen, I love you too," and she kisses the palm of my hand.

I make my flight just in time. I lost my cell phone somewhere along the way. Maybe at security, or on the plane? The driver that is supposed to pick me up and take me to the hotel is nowhere to be seen. After waiting and trying to use the payphone to reach Kate, I hop in a cab to the hotel. Exhausted, I fall into bed, needing be up early to meet the guys tomorrow morning for the three hour drive to the festival location, the Isle of Wight. My sleep is restless.

I wake up and the morning is filled with more mishaps. Tyler is still passed out in his hotel room, we have to get the hotel manager to open his door so we can get his ass up.

Kate and Garrett arrive to pick us up for the long drive, but one of their cars won't start. Kate ends up renting a big van for Garrett to drive with all our gear, while the rest of us ride with Kate. I haven't talked to Bella is what feels like forever. Even when I travel, we keep in touch multiple times a day, no matter what time it was. Without my phone, I feel naked. I borrow Emmett's phone to call her, but only reach her voicemail. Leaving Emmett's number, I tell her about my phone and to call me when she has a chance. Long car ride.

When we arrive at the venue, I still haven't heard from her. Emmett has taken to just letting me keep his phone in my pocket, he's sick of me asking if he has any missed calls.

We head over to our assigned stage to meet with the event coordinator where we receive our schedule. This is an exciting festival. We definitely feel honored to be here and everyone is extremely welcoming. I eye the small group of "tramp stamp" aficionados and steer clear. Mike should keep them busy.

After our sound check, I wander into one of the performers tents to try Bella again. No luck. Emmett finds me and we decide to walk around the small town until we have to be back to perform. We pass an antique shop and something in the window catches my eye. A ring. It reminds me of Bella. I want her to have it. I never did give her a real graduation present. I find myself talking to the lady inside and before I know it I'm walking out of the store with a ring box in my pocket.

The set goes really well. The crowd is amazing and reminds me of why I love this. You can play for yourself all day, every day, but nothing is quite the same as playing for a crowd, hearing them sing along with you. Backstage I quickly check Emmett's phone to see a missed call from an unfamiliar New York City number. I call back immediately and am met with a frantic Alice on the other end.

"Edward? Finally, oh my god. Bella's in the hospital…your phone is going straight to voicemail. Where are you, anyway? Egypt?"

"Alice, is Bella okay? What the hell? Why is she in the hospital?"

"She's okay...now. She woke up yesterday morning bleeding. She thought it was her monthly visitor, but quickly realized that it wasn't normal. She was hemorrhaging, badly. She called me and I drove her to the ER. It was so scary Edward, they admitted her right away."

"What did they say? Can I talk to her?"

"Yeah, she's tired, but wants to talk to you. Here she is."

My heart races as I wait to hear her voice.

"Edward?" her voice is drained, quiet.

"Babe, are you okay? What is going on? Alice is not helping."

"I'm okay. Alice has been great. My mom is here too."

"Do they know why this happened?"

She paused and I think I've dropped the call.

"Yes...I'm...we're having a baby, Edward."

Excuse me? I nearly drop the phone as I slowly sit down and rest my forehead in the palm of my free hand.

"They say it's called a subchorionic bleed, I'm sure I said that wrong. Anyway, it's a clot. I'll be on bed rest until it dissolves on its own."

"Did you just say you're pregnant?"

"Yeah."

"Okay. Just checking." I pause, my mind reeling.

"Are you still there?"

"...Yeah, I'm just letting that sink in. How? I mean, I thought you were on the pill?"

"I am on the pill, but they say I'm about twelve weeks along. I think it happened on our Los Angeles trip, Edward. I don't know how it happened. I'm sorry to freak you out in the middle of your trip."

"No, no. Hey, yeah okay. I'm freaked out. I just wish I were with you. It's going to be next to impossible to get home any time soon-"

I'm cut off by her persuasion, "No. Don't rush home. I'm fine. The baby is fine."

"Good. Are you sure? Maybe Kate and Garrett can help me out."

"I'm sure. There's nothing you can do but sit and watch me lay around. Finish your shows, you can't bail on the guys. I'll be here when you get back."

I feel torn. Of course I want to be home, but I still have another week of traveling. The guys, not to mention the label would be let down. Just then, Emmett walks in and notices my posture. I hold out my hand, a sign for him to give me a minute.

"Alright. I'll stay in touch. Call Emmett's phone if you need me." I say softly.

"I will." she whispers. I can hear the tiredness in her voice. I pull the ring out of my pocket and thumb the curve of the band.

"Get some rest. Love you."

"Love you too. Bye."

The remainder of our trip went as planned. Driving and playing our sets. I talked to Bella every day. Her condition improved and she was hopeful to be off bed rest. What a relief. I find my thoughts wandering to being a father. My choices will forever revolve around this new little person. Maybe the shock masked the fear, or maybe the thought of Bella being the mother to my child trumped any selfish emotions threatening to break free. My feet swing against the wall as I think of how this evening started on a positive note…and how it went downhill.

My trip home was long and tedious and I hardly slept.

Still in my suit, not a great match for this July heat. I grab a cab straight to Bella's building, using my key to let myself in. She said she'd be home from her doctors appointment by now and we could have a quiet dinner in.

All is still except for some commotion in the kitchen. I stand in the doorway expecting to see Bella, only to be met with Charlie Swan stirring a cup of coffee.

His surprise to see me is evident. As was mine to see him. I thought he would be at their hotel.

"Hi, Sir. Good to see you. Bella's not back from her appointment yet?"

"Hello, Edward. No. Renee took her. They should be back soon."

"Okay. I'll just wait here. Bella and I planned to eat dinner here. I came straight from the airport." I sit down, prop my feet on the coffee table and rest my head back.

"If I give you some advice, will you listen?" he says seriously, sitting down as well.

"I'll try."

"You impregnated my daughter." That was blunt. I look down but I know I should look him the eyes so I do. "She's only 23. She just graduated from college and she has her whole life ahead of her. A career. Things she has been working towards."

"I know, Sir. We were careless. It was an accident, not a mistake. I will never call our child a mistake. I'll take care of her, both of them. I won't hold her back. I...you have my word." I'm starting to ramble, but he stops me.

"I'm glad to hear you say that. But if you ever hurt her, Edward, I will end you. I won't stand by and let another 'Jake' twist my daughter's life into knots. Or my grandchild's."

"I hear you loud and clear."

"Good. I don't really think it's a good idea for you to be here when they get home. Renee isn't seeing things very clearly. She's preparing to bring Bella back to Seattle," my eyes widen as I register what he's saying. "The bottom line is, you should have been here. I know Bella put on a brave face, but last week was scary and emotional for her. Maybe it is better to have her close to home in Seattle. I just want her happy."

"Bella won't go...she can't leave," I say, convincing myself.

"That's something you better make sure of."

"I will. And honestly, whether Renee wants me here or not, I'm not going anywhere. I love Bella."

He nods, looking me straight in the eyes, "make her happy."

"That's what I intent to do. Her happiness is my happiness."

We spent the next thirty minutes channel surfing and waiting for the girls to arrive. My nerves are shot, but the night wasn't over yet.

I look up in the sky and try to imagine what Bella's doing. I need to see her, but I'm not sure right now is good timing. I hardly had a chance to talk to her tonight. I need to tell her I'm sorry for how I acted and I'll do everything I can to keep her safe and happy. I believe things happen for a reason. There's this quote, my mom had plaque of it hanging in our living room when I was a kid. It said, "The secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life, and in elevating them to art."

My meeting Bella was no accident. I can see that clearly. She's filled the details of my daily life, wrapped around my art.

It may take Renee time to accept me. Hell, it'll probably take me even longer to accept her. But Bella is what matters here, and our kid. Looking back on what transpired tonight, I regret letting Renee get to me. I did just what she expected me to do.

The front door had opened and in walked Renee with Bella at her side. Renee looked like someone pissed in her Cheerios when she saw me. It didn't stop the smile that formed on my face when Bella rushed to my arms.

"You're here. I missed you so much," she says as she squeezes me tight.

I kiss the top of her head, "I missed you too, how are you feeling?" I notice Renee and Charlie carrying what looks like bags of take-out into the kitchen.

"Much better. The clot is still there, but significantly smaller. The baby looks healthy and teeny. I heard the heartbeat."

"Really? Already?" I ask in surprise.

"Yeah, you can hear it next time. It's pretty cool. Definitely makes it more real." She smiles. Her calmness settling my nerves.

"I missed you so much. I'm sorry I wasn't here when you needed me last week."

"Stop it. We've been over this. It was out of your control. I was well taken care of. You're here now," she tilts her head up to meet my kiss.

She grabs my hand and pulls me to the small dining area off the kitchen, "come on, my Mom and I brought Chinese."

"Awesome, I'm starved." I say as I follow behind her.

Renee has everything set out and we begin to fill our plates. Bella sits to my left and I rest my hand on her knee. Relief flooding through me over the fact that she and the baby are okay.

There's an uncomfortable tension in the room as Renee slams the drinking glasses down on the table. I look to Bella and she is just staring at her Mom with a pleading look in her eyes.

I try to break the ice, "Well this looks delicious. Thanks, Renee."

"I'd say you're welcome, but you're really not," she says while filling our glasses with water.

Shit, I'm gonna need something stronger than water to get through this meal.

"Mom. Stop." Bella says with a frown.

"Renee, this isn't the time." Charlie says, trying to diffuse the brewing situation.

"When will the right time be, Charlie? When Bella goes into labor and he's off pretending to be the next big thing? Or when Bella's busy being a mother and he decides his needs aren't being fulfilled so he screws a groupie...or five? When? I'm not going to sit here and let Bella get stuck in a shitty situation."

She turns her attention to Bella and continues, "I've tried to be patient considering your condition but you need to listen to me. Didn't you learn anything with, Jake? How many times did he cheat on you before you realized that he'd never change? This is serious, Bella. You have another person to think about now. This isn't a game of playing house. The best thing you can do is move back to Seattle with us. You can still work from there and you'll have a huge support system."

Bella starts to say something but I hold my hand up, "Wait, Renee. I'm going to try to ignore all the heinous assumptions you have about me. It's glaringly clear how you feel. But I don't give a fuck what you think. You don't know me. You sure as hell don't know your daughter very well. What happens between us is our concern and ours alone. I love her and I'm not going anywhere."

"How dare you talk to me that way! My daughter will always be my concern. If you love her so much, where were you last week, huh? You certainly weren't here to see Bella fall apart at the seams. She was terrified to tell you about the baby. Why would that be? Because deep down she knows you'll walk out on her eventually."

I look to Bella and she squeezes my hand that's resting on her thigh, but I can't read her expression.

My jaw tenses and I say, "I don't know what I can possibly say to convince you otherwise. Why even bother, huh? And you know what? I'm not gonna waste my energy talking in circles. I'm out of here," I say as I stand abruptly, knocking my chair backwards, leaving my plate of dinner untouched.

I lean down to kiss Bella's forehead and whisper, "I'll be at my place," she nods.

I walked out the door without looking back. Barely containing my desire to punch a hole in the wall.

The hour is late, but the air is still warm. I decide to head back down to my place to call Bella. I can't believe the way I handled myself tonight, but seriously. Trying to get through to Renee is like trying to chop down a tree with a butter knife. I realize that the only thing I can do is prove her wrong. Actions speak louder than words and all that.

Before I stand, the rooftop door flings open and Bella is there. There's a look of worry on her face as she steps towards me, I pull her between my legs and wrap my arms around her waist. She drags her fingers through my hair and says, "Jasper said you've been up here a while."

"Yeah. Just trying to clear my head. I'm so sorry for the way I spoke to your Mom. Believe it or not I had a really great conversation with your Dad before you got home. I guess I underestimated Renee's fury."

"Well, you certainly made an impression. My Dad was sticking up for you like I've never seen him do."

"Really?" I ask with appreciation.

"Yeah, and I don't care what my mom thinks. I know we'll prove her wrong. They leave tomorrow and they'll be out of our hair."

"I know I owe her an apology, but it might take me a while to muster one up."

"I have a feeling that once the baby is born, she'll be so distracted by being a Grandma, she'll hardly remember all this nonsense. She may even like you after she sees how cute your baby is."

We both laugh and I'm grateful for how easy it is to talk to her and have her understand.

"Our baby," I say, needing to hear it out loud.

"I have something for you," I grip the ring in the palm of my hand as I pull it from my pocket.

I open her hand and place it there, watching her face as she studies it, "What...it's stunning, but..." she starts to question.

"Will you make a family with me?" I ask, sliding my hand across her abdomen. "Will you marry me…someday?"

She brightens and wraps her arms around me, nodding her head, "but I don't want to be a pregnant bride. We can wait."

My lips are on hers and we hold onto each other with the same relief. I trail kisses to the crook of her neck and breathe her in.

"When's the due date?" I mumble against her skin.

"January 1st."

"New Years baby, huh?"

"Or a Christmas baby if it comes early."

"Don't you feel bad calling her or him an 'it'?"

"Well what would you rather call it?" she asks with a laugh.

"I was thinking Elliott. If it's a girl we can call her Elle or Ellie. If it's a boy, Elliott."

"I love that. I think you just named our kid," she says, smiling at me with her eyes.

I can't help but think over the last few months and how we fell into each others lives. We have a lot of details to figure out and decisions to make. I know our life together won't be a walk in the park. But if I have to charge through a jungle or stumble across an endless desert or climb the face of an icy mountain to make my family happy, I will. Happiness is in the details. I'll spend my life trying not to miss one.


A/N: Thanks for reading! This is my first attempt at writing and I had so much fun. Endless thanks to Bittenev for not only her beta work but also for holding my hand through this process. Thanks to barbarito for pre-reading. I'm lucky to call you both friends. All mistakes are mine as I continued to nit pick until posting.

If you're interested, music inspiration and photos will be linked on my profile shortly.