A/N: I know I just ended things in a really peaceful way for the Masen-Swans fifteen years from now, but this out-take was written months ago for Fandom Fights the Floods, so it goes back in time a bit, to September 2011. But it deals with Tanya and some of Edward's past, so I'm posting in hopes you don't mind the time warp. M
It's the kind of sunny and warm day that always pleasantly surprises me in late September. It shouldn't, though. These sultry days with changing leaves are more and more common as the years go by.
Will is wrapped in a lightweight blanket, sleeping soundly in my arms. It's the only place he wants to sleep when I'm around. I don't mind. I'll take what precious time I can. Rosalie wonders if this kind of thing will spoil him. I don't believe hugs and holding spoil an infant, but I would happily coddle my Peanut - the little boy I never thought I'd have. He's a piece of Edward and a piece of me… one of the three most precious things in my world.
Ness runs screaming from one play structure to the next. She has a battalion of little kids chasing her as they re-enact some fantasy roll play or cartoon or something. She's one of the smallest, but she's the ringleader, of course. Her brown curls bounce wildly as she runs and shouts instructions to her followers.
Ness darts by the swing set and I notice two women with their backs turned to me struggling to seat an infant in a one of the baby swings. The baby is too young, though; he's probably Will's age, if that. It's absurd, but they are determined, with rolled-up baby blankets and a cushion from their stroller. They manage to prop the child just long enough to snap pictures. The baby wails and his mom scoops him up into her arms.
The other woman continues to snap away, unfazed.
When the mom and child turn towards me I notice that her face is unsettlingly familiar. I hope it's not a patient I've forgotten. That always makes for awkward conversation, and I'm not in the mood to fake it at the moment. The mom is cuddling and cooing over her small baby, completely engrossed. I understand the rapture on her face, and I forgive her the embarrassing swing set spectacle.
She catches me looking and I smile, one mom to another. Instead of returning the gesture, though, the color drains from the mom's face. It's only when her companion turns towards me that I instantly understand.
I've only seen the mom's companion in person once, but her picture has disappeared from more than one family member's living room or library or countertop. She's dressed more conservatively than the one and only time we've met, wearing a sleeveless white linen shirt, black lightweight slacks, and black peep-toe heels revealing red toenail polish. Her toenails were red the last time, too.
It only takes two seconds for a lifetime's worth of emotions to pass between us.
I don't look away. I won't. Nor does she.
Her name hasn't come up since my first date with Edward. From time to time I've had the feeling that it was on the tip of Esme's tongue, but she wouldn't dare. I know that she speaks to Sasha every now and then, and I can't blame her. They're old friends. While I know their relationship will never be the same as it once was, it still remains. I'm glad of it. Really.
I've never seen any of Sasha's daughters at Esme's home, though. This is something I'm also glad about.
Irina tugs on Tanya's arm, but Tanya shakes her off, not taking her eyes off me for a second. Her face is cool and impassive as she walks calmly in my direction. With Will asleep on my lap, the decision is made. I don't stand. Before long I'm in her shadow. Tanya is ridiculously tall and she towers over me - bleached-blonde, well-coiffed, with long black lashes and cherry-red lipstick. I am fresh-faced and sporting mommy hair. We could be from different planets.
Tanya blinks and neither smiles nor grimaces. Her face is an indecipherable mask.
I pull my arms around my son and quickly crane my neck to check on Ness. She's sitting and talking animatedly to a little girl with curly red hair. When I glance back at Tanya I see that her eyes have settled on Will.
"This is Will," I offer.
Tanya carefully wipes at the corner of her eye. "You don't know him like I do."
She's not speaking about Will, of course. She's speaking about the man who Will is a dead ringer for. I'm inclined to agree; I don't know Edward the way Tanya does. He's the same man he always was, but before, the man I know was trapped inside a tough outer shell. I know the goodness of his heart in a way that Tanya never did.
"You don't know what you're talking about," I reply, because I don't feel obliged to explain my on-the-spot analysis to Tanya.
"I don't, doctor?" Tanya sneers like she's just slung a bitter insult at me. If she has, it's one I can't discern.
"Please, let's keep this civil. I'm here with my children."
My children… Edward's children… Our children. Tanya's eyes are on Will again. She looks pained, and I get the feeling that she wants to flee, but her feet won't work. This woman was with Edward for how many years? It occurs to me that I don't know exactly. They'd known each other forever, since they were children, just like Jacob and I… but I understand that their relationship was much different.
I know that she sat with Edward in the hospital after Alice found him.
I know that Edward harbors guilt over how he treated her.
I know that she can't tear her eyes from Will.
And I know that she tried to ruin Edward's benefit a year ago, and that she had him fired from his job. It would have taken much more than that to ruin my husband's career, though. These days Edward's actually happy with his non-profit work, and he's more successful than ever. People in high places are pushing him to run for city council, although I know he has no plans to do that whatsoever. He's made a name for himself, and he's making better lives for children, daily.
Tanya wipes at her nose. She can no longer hide the longing in her eyes. Any other woman with such seep maternal yearnings would ask to hold Will. Of course, Tanya doesn't.
"What do you want from me?" I ask, because Tanya hasn't moved, but I've somehow been moved to pity this blonde bombshell of a woman. It's hard to believe that Edward spent so many years with her. Perhaps, armed with this knowledge, I should be somewhat jealous of her never-ending legs, her ample chest, and her striking lavender eyes. I'm not, though. She never had him, no matter how much time they spent together.
Tanya shakes her head and blinks back tears. No matter the stunts she pulled, I can see that she loved Edward dearly. And while Edward never wanted children before Nessie and Will, the feeling was very obviously not mutual. I fight the urge to tell Tanya that it's not too late, that she still has some good childbearing years left. But I bite my tongue, because I know firsthand that it's not just the child, but who you have the child with. She will never have Edward's baby, and I can tell she's fighting the urge to grab Will and run.
"Mama!" Ness shouts as she runs over. "Ruby says there's only one kind of daddy. Tell her it's not true!"
The little redheaded girl runs after Ness.
"Tell Ruby about all the kinds of daddies, mama," Ness begs as she comes to an abrupt halt between Tanya and me.
Tanya audibly catches her breath and takes a seat on a bench across the path from us. I'm loathe to give Ruby daddy details. I don't know her or her mother well at all. And despite the resentment I'm supposed to feel towards Tanya, I am unwilling to explain within her earshot that Edward is the best daddy in the world, even though he didn't father Vanessa in the traditional sense of the word.
My mind dredges up thoughts of Jake and brings back memories I haven't dwelt on in months. He made no secret that he wanted us to have children. He loved Ness like his own. I'm momentarily stalled, wondering what would have happened if Jake had lived. Would Jake's eyes have looked as sad as Tanya's? What would he have done if he heard Nessie referring to Edward as her daddy? How would he have reacted to Will's existence? How long would it take for him to move on?
"Nessie has a daddy, Ruby. He's a good daddy," I say in a soft voice that I hope doesn't carry across the pathway. I'm trying to protect Tanya, and I realize that I'm doing it for Jake. I hope that if there's an afterlife, Jake's pleased with my selfless actions today.
"Oh. Okay." Ruby accepts my statement with a shrug and the two girls run away. Tanya watches them intently, sniffling.
Irina takes a seat next to her sister and casts a withering glance in my direction. She wraps a free arm around Tanya, who leans her head on Irina's shoulder. I know that there are many women in my life that would say Tanya deserves to feel this pain today, but I can see as plain as the red lipstick on Tanya's face that she lives it constantly. There's only one person I wish that much pain on, and it's not her. Honestly, she hardly ever crosses my mind.
I know Edward hasn't spoken a word to Tanya since we've been together. I don't need to ask; I just know. I also know that I would have spoken to Jake by now. But I can't say Edward is wrong for his silence. We've never really spoken about this woman, even though she took up so much of his life. That does strike me as odd.
Irina consoles Tanya; they hug and I realize that although I've done nothing wrong, I need to go. I don't want Ness catching wind of any of this. Someday, if Edward wants to, he can tell Ness about his relationships before the two of us were together. But certainly not now, not when our lives have only just settled down.
"Ness, it's time to say bye to Ruby!" I call. "We'll be back next weekend."
Thankfully, Ness doesn't put up a fight. I figure that it's because you're either with Edward or against him in Nessie's book. Ruby was walking a thin line with her daddy questioning.
I collect our gear and my daughter, and we begin to make our way out of the park, past Tanya, Irina and the child that I can only guess is Irina and Laurent's newborn. Yeah, that's right, Edward's ex-boss' son.
The fact that these two women sitting here in the park today had once conspired to get my husband fired from his job hits me anew, and only at this moment is my anger stoked.
"Ahem," Tanya clears her throat, but her voice cracks and she doesn't sound as threatening as I know that she would like.
I swing around and face her and I know there's no hiding the anger that's surfacing.
"You don't know, do you?" she demands as I near the park's exit. "You don't know who that baby's father really is. You don't know anything about him, do you, doctor?
"I loved him. I knew him through and through; I watched it all firsthand. I loved him better, because I stayed and I knew. You, someone like you, doctor, you don't know a thing about him. I bet he hasn't even opened his mouth to tell you. He can play act all he wants, but it doesn't change his past. One day you'll find out. You won't be so happy then. He won't be so happy then."
Irina places a reassuring hand on Tanya's shoulder and whispers something in her ear. I turn around, grab Nessie's hand securely in my own, and try to remain calm as we walk back home.
There's no use trying to hide my consternation from Edward. He doesn't push, though, which I'm grateful for. It's his turn to put Ness to bed. I take my time sponge-bathing Will, then settle into the rocker and let the oxytocin that courses through my body with breastfeeding do it's work on my nerves. It's better than a glass of wine, second only to those moments right after Edward and I have made love.
I know I have to talk to Edward. I'm not going to try to keep the meeting with Tanya a secret from him, and of course, he'll want to know what she said. That's what gets me. I'm quite sure I know what Tanya was cryptically trying to tell me. I know enough from Edward's work with kids that live on the street. But he's never mentioned anything like that about his past. He may have tried once or twice before we were engaged, but he'd close his mouth, unwilling to continue.
It doesn't matter to me. I want to make sure I get the chance to say that.
Edward walks quietly into the nursery just as I'm placing a milk-drunk Will into his crib. We both stare silently at our son. He's continued to gain weight by leaps and bounds. At this rate I'm sure I'll be nursing someone the size of Ness in just a couple more months. 'That will be awkward,' I think to myself, and can't help giggling, despite my churning thoughts and emotions.
Edward places his hand over mine, and even in the dimly lit room I can see concern brimming in his eyes. He leads me upstairs to our room.
In the past year, we haven't done much to decorate, but I like the Spartan feel of the place, where our enormous bed is the focal point. Little white lights are still twined around the wrought iron bed frame and back and forth between the four posters. We don't usually turn them on, but Edward does tonight.
I take a seat at the foot of the bed and lean back against the footboard, stretching my legs out. Edward settles in front of me and places my feet in his lap. He begins to massage a foot and I let out a grateful sigh.
"Tough afternoon at the park?" he asks, lifting my foot and placing a kiss on my big toe.
"What did Ness do?" he asks, and usually he'd be right on the money.
"Nothing," I sigh.
I watch his long fingers kneading, pressing, rubbing, and I know I can easily skirt this conversation. I only have to slide backward onto the bed. Edward shifts where he's sitting. My other foot practically begs me for the opportunity to further investigate his lap. He places a lingering kiss on my toe, and I know that I only have to press gently against his mouth for him to take the toe between his lips.
"Tanya was there." I force the words out quickly before I can turn to sex in order to escape. Edward abruptly lets go of my foot and it drops right into his lap, on top of his growing erection.
"Fuck!" Edward groans and I quickly pull my (apparently) very heavy foot away.
"Are you okay?"
His face is contorted in pain. "Tanya?" he gasps, and I don't know which is worse, the pain, or her name.
"Can I get you something? Ice?" I jump to my feet, but Edward grabs my ankle. He peers at me.
I settle in front of him on the floor, legs crossed, our knees nearly touching. My hand drifts between his thighs. "Sorry," I murmur as I feel for his cock, as I go to caress.
He takes my fingers in his. "Bella, talk to me. Please."
"Tanya saw Will," I say very quietly, my eyes still lowered. "She cried a little. It made me think of Jake."
"Shit," he mumbles leaning his forehead against mine.
"Maybe, well, maybe… I never considered her feelings," I admit.
Edward's body stiffens and I sense that he's suddenly holding his breath.
"I mean, she was a mega bitch this time last year. But, but -"
"She wanted more than I could give," Edward interrupts. "Will…"
"I was a different person, B."
"That's what she said, but I don't believe it."
"Bella…" Edward tips his head so that I'm staring into his golden-green eyes. "B, baby…" He cups my face with his palm. He tries to smile, but it falters on his face.
"I want you to know that it's okay, Edward," I murmur.
"It's not. It never was. I took advantage. I… I cheated on her, Bella. But, really, that's nearly the least of it."
"Cheating?" I can't help it. I'm surprised he mentioned it, even though I already knew about Angela.
"I cheated more than you probably know about," he admits, then bites his lip.
I sigh. "That's what she meant, then."
Edward snaps to attention. His eyes blaze. This change takes me by surprise. "What did she fucking say?"
"No, B. Whatever it was, I can see that she fucking hurt you," he interrupts, and his hand leaves my face and closes into a tight fist. "She doesn't get to do that."
"No," I repeat, unsure what to say.
"Christ, B. I have half a fucking mind to finally let her have it, right fucking now!"
In my heart I know that would make Tanya extremely happy. "Please, don't."
"Then tell me, Bella. Just tell me what she said."
"She said I didn't know you like she did. She said she loved you more… because she knew, I don't know, things you won't tell me. That if I knew -" but my voice breaks, and I can't continue, because it's such a blatant lie that it scares me. There's nothing that could make me walk away from Edward. Nothing he could ever say.
"It's not true," I croak, wiping away the tears. "It's not true. There's nothing…" my voice cracks again. "Nothing that could make any difference, Edward."
Edward's stopped listening, though. He breaks away from me, stands to his feet and walks across the room. He looks out the window with his jaw set in a hard line. His fists clench the drapes and he looks as though he's stopping himself from tearing them right off the rod. I stand to my feet.
"Don't," he warns.
"Don't, Bella," he nearly snarls.
"She's right. She's fucking right."
The curtain tears. I don't care what he says and I race across the room.
"That's ridiculous. You know how much I love you!"
Edward shrugs me off, pulls his body away, turns his back to me, and hangs his head.
"I love you, Edward. She's just angry, and sad, and -"
"But she's right, B." His voice is softer now. I chance it and touch his shoulder. Edward flinches and gasps. "Pretending doesn't make it go away, Bella."
The words are so close to what Tanya said in the playground that I'm momentarily startled. They serve as a reminder that Edward and Tanya, no matter his silence, were close for many years. Chances are, they understand one another in a way I hadn't considered up until this moment.
But it doesn't mean they're right.
"For the first time in my life, Edward, I'm not pretending. I know you're not, either. From the things you've said. What we have…"
Edward turns to face me so quickly that it interrupts my train of thought, and I'm silenced. "I don't want to fucking lose it, B. I don't want to lose you. Don't you get that?"
"Never. I promise."
"You can't understand."
"Then explain it, Edward!" The words come out like a demand, harsher than I'd intended, and my hand flies over my mouth. This isn't how I wanted this to go. At all.
"I can't, Bella." Edward looks sincerely frightened.
"She knew this would happen," I say out loud. I certainly didn't. Score one for Tanya. I feel less and less sorry for her by the minute.
"Come to bed?" I ask as I reach for my husband.
The fear in his eyes intensifies until it's projected like green light cutting through the darkness. Edward just shakes his head, his eyes on the floor.
"That's not what I mean," I offer.
"B?" he asks, like a prayer, like he's pleading.
"I'm not going anywhere, Edward."
"B?" he cries.
And somehow, we're eventually in bed. I'm holding Edward. He lets me. My small body cradling his long limbs, almost like I imagined I'd soon be doing with Will. But now I don't giggle. Now I just try my best.
It takes time. Edward finds a therapist and he goes religiously, yet he doesn't breathe a word about any of it to me for many weeks. During this time, I'm tempted to ask questions, but I don't and life goes on. Sometimes little thoughts squirm their way up from my subconscious, trying to get me to doubt my relationship because of this. I refuse to give in, though. I try to understand that I can't understand; that thank god, I have never been a homeless child in a big city.
Until one night when it's just become cold enough to light a fire in the fireplace, after the kids are in bed, Edward and I curl up on the sofa. He's kissing me, and for the first time in weeks, it seems like it may go somewhere. I'm desperate, but I hold back. So does Edward.
"I wish I were normal for you, B," he murmurs, running his fingers through my hair.
"Edward, no -"
"I wish I didn't have to say these words. And I'm sorry, because I should have done this sooner." His fingers find my wedding ring, and he twirls the golden band.
"Yes, I should have. There's no question, Bella. This is the kind of thing… It was unfair of me to marry you first."
"Shh." He places a finger over my lips and I kiss it lightly. "Please, let me talk, Bella, or I might never say any of it. This conversation, B… I avoided it a year ago – the first night we spent together. Then on our first date… then every day after that until you said you'd be my wife. And Tanya was right… she accepted me, but you, I didn't even let you know."
"There's nothing you could say -"
"B, please. When I was a kid, when I was hungry, when I needed to get high… You've slept with two people, Bella. Three, now, if you include me. For me, it wouldn't matter if you'd been with five or ten or twenty, really. But you can give me a number. They were people who, for better or worse, you knew and trusted." Edward pauses and takes a deep breath. His eyes focus on something just above my head. "B, I used sex for money, when I had to, when it felt like I had to."
His eyes meet mine, frightened, wet, green like the green from back home. He was my home. "Of course you did, Edward. You did what you had to."
"Men," he mutters, eyes glistening with unshed tears.
"I was a kid… They…"
"I'm so sorry, Edward."
"Bella, please don't leave." He looks at his hands in his lap, tears trickle down his face. It feels like my chest splits open and I throw my arms around him and hold him as tight as I can.
"Oh my god, never. Never. Do you hear me?"
He doesn't respond. He doesn't melt with my touch like I hope he would. He's stiff and broken.
"I love you, Edward Masen. There's nothing that could change that."
He's gasping, his body falls against mine, and finally his hands clutch my arms, and he holds on tight. "I'm sorry," he rasps.
"I love you. I love you, so much." I know he needs to hear it. I know I can't take away his past. I don't know the half of it, and I can't dwell on that now… I can't think about what he must have gone through at this moment. It's enough to know that he's come out the other end of that hell and now he's mine. For that I'm grateful, and for that I must hold him and care for him so that I can keep him.