Nine months later, I made the now-familiar trek out to Edward's parents' cabin for another long weekend. So much had changed in the past year, for all of us.
After I fessed up to Bella and Alice, Emmett and I settled comfortably into our relationship. We spent Thanksgiving with his family, and Christmas with mine. For New Year's, I surprised him with a week in Key West; Emmett's first winter in "the frozen tundra" was particularly brutal, and I couldn't resist the opportunity to treat him to some sunshine.
When the lease was up on his apartment in February, we talked about moving in together. I didn't want to make a decision based on a deadline, so we tabled the issue. He renewed his lease for another year, and when my lease was up at the end of April, we were both more than ready to take that step. I was worried at first that moving in together would put a strain on our relationship. Aside from Emmett's completely neurotic need to "integrate all of our books in a cohesive manner," we were fine.
I spent the last night in my apartment with Bella and Alice; it seemed fitting to have them with me when I closed the door on that chapter of my life. Besides, they were both ready for a night without diaper changes or midnight feedings.
Julianne Marie Cullen was born on March 3rd, healthy and perfect; Brandon Matthew Hale screamed his way into the world two weeks later. I fell in love with both of them immediately.
I had suggested that maybe this year, we should skip the Memorial Day gathering at the cabin, thinking that my friends would probably much rather catch up on sleep. I was immediately out-voted. Bella and Alice insisted that they were more than ready to "get our drink on and kick the men's asses at lawn darts."
"What are you thinking about over there, dollface?" Emmett's voice pulled me out of my reverie.
"Just trying to decide which baby to put on our bags team," I answered with a laugh.
"I vote Jules-Edward would rather gnaw his own arm off than hand her a loss." Emmett laughed, and reached for my hand. As the landscape blurred past, I marvelled at how perfectly things seem to work themselves out.
Later that night, I woke up and realized that I was alone in bed. I listened for sounds that would clue me in on where Emmett had gone but heard nothing. Curious, I tiptoed down the hall to find him.
Faint light was spilling into the kitchen from the back porch, and I silently pushed open the screen door and stepped out. My breath caught in my throat at the sight before me.
Emmett was on the swing, the same spot where we had our first big discussion nearly a year ago, rocking a sniffling Jules. His voice, so soft, drifted across the porch at me.
"...really fun. Don't look at me like that, kiddo. Sure, I'm a little biased. If it wasn't for your mom, I never would have met your Aunt Rosie. She's the best, Jules. You're so lucky; your whole life is going to be surrounded by these awesome people."
Jules must have been unimpressed by Emmett's tale, because she let out a piercing wail. I started across the porch to try to help him calm her back down before she woke the whole house up, but stopped short.
Without missing a beat, Emmett laid her on his shoulder and started rocking while rubbing circles on her back. And then, he started to sing. The same guy who sang off-key and off-tempo in the shower every morning managed a very passable rendition of "Hush, Little Baby", even managing to keep the beat while replacing "Mama" with "Uncle Emmett."
It didn't take long for Jules to settle down, and soon enough, she was sound asleep.
"Hey you." I whispered, stepping into the light. "What's going on out here?" I sat on the swing next to Emmett and took the baby.
"I got up to get a drink and heard her fussing. Figured Edward and Bella could use a night of sleep." Emmett wrapped an arm around my shoulder and dropped a kiss on my temple. "She's not much for conversation, but she's got quite the set of lungs."
There's something inherently peaceful about a sleeping baby and a beautiful night, and I let out a happy sigh as we rocked. I snuggled in closer to Emmett and we gazed at the stars. Before long, his breathing evened out and I realized he was asleep. Content to stay here just a little longer, I let him.
I heard the back door open and looked up, surprised to see Carlisle there, holding Brandon.
"You too?" I asked, as Carlisle made his way to the rocker next to the swing.
"I missed out on this with Edward." Carlisle's reply was a little wistful. "Residency and a new baby aren't the best mix, as it turns out."
I laughed, careful not to jostle the baby too much. "I can imagine."
"It was worth it, because by the time he was old enough to remember, I had more regular hours. But it's nice to have a second chance."
I glanced over at Emmett and smiled. "Second chances are pretty awesome," I agreed.
The next day, bolstered by the first full night of sleep they'd had in months, Alice and Bella were both ready for a little competition. With plenty of extra hands for feedings and diapers at the ready, we set up a game of bags.
As it turns out, nine months of sobriety makes Drunken Bags even more drunken. Alice had always been a bit of a lightweight, but she was comically tipsy after just one beer. Bella wasn't much better off, which was funnier, since she had been the reigning tequila shot champion back in college. Oh the times, how they change.
Jasper and I, however, had no such problems, and the final game of our mini-tournament was going down to the wire. Bella and Alice sat in the shade, happily cuddling babies, while Esme fussed about sunblock, and Carlisle started up the grill.
"C'mon Rosie, head in the game!" Emmett cajoled from his side of the field. I looked up just in time to see Jasper making a rude face in my direction.
"Yeah, Rose," Edward added from his spot next to me. "I'd hate to see you lose to your brother. It's okay, though. We'll just tell everyone that you were too clouded by my handsome good-looks and manly presence to concentrate."
"I always knew you had a thing for Edward," Bella said. She was obviously still delusional from lack of sleep.
"Shut it, all of you," I laughed, getting ready to take my shot. "Jasper, I'd warn you that your face will stick like that, but it's kind of an improvement over your normal, repulsive mug, so keep it up. And you, pretty boy," I said, turning to Edward, "I've always said that Bella needed to get her vision checked."
"Oooooh, burn!" Emmett taunted.
"Oh yeah, good one, sis. What's next, 'I know you are, but what am I?' Just throw the damn bag, already! By the time you're done, Brandon will be able to drive us home." Jasper took a swig from his beer, and I was half-tempted to throw the bag at him. With a head that big, there's no way I'd miss.
"Language!" Alice scolded from her seat. "I thought we agreed that I would be the one to teach the kids how to swear!"
Laughing, I tossed my bag, and did a completely undignified dance when it landed square in the hole.
"Take that, bitches!" I crowed. "Sorry, Alice."
"Eh, it's fine. Totally perfect usage; if he's not going to learn from me, at least I can rest content in the knowledge that he's learning from a pro."
Emmett and I trounced Team New Daddy soundly, and all of us headed back towards the porch, ready to get to our second favorite part of these weekends, the food. Halfway to the house, I realized that Emmett was hanging back.
"McCarty, it's not like you to take your time getting to a meal." I started to head back towards him when I realized he had stopped moving completely. "What's up?"
Emmett had his head down, looking intently at the grass.
"I think I dropped something."
"What do you mean you 'think?' You either did or you didn't. This is not..."
I stopped just before I got to him, my heart pounding in my chest. Emmett was down on one knee, squinting up at me. The sun glinted off of the ring in his hand.
"Rosalie Hale, I want to spend the rest of my life winning games with you, and rocking babies, and gazing at the stars, and seeing you smile. I want to hear you laugh at me while I rearrange books, and growl at me when I wake you up too early in the morning. Will you marry me?"
Stunned, all I could do was stare at him. Fifteen seconds ago I was teasing him, and now he's asking me to marry him?
"You want to marry me?" I felt stupid, like this beautiful man, with his smiles and his kisses and his giant heart, had stolen my ability to reason.
"Duh, Hale." In true Emmett fashion, he was smiling, patiently waiting, because he already knew. He always knew.
Everything else faded away, and all I could see was Emmett, on one knee, waiting for me to catch up.
"Yes." My answer was a whisper, and my voice was shaky, overwhelmed by the tears that I knew were coming any minute. So I did the only thing that I could.
I tackled him, and kissed his face, and repeated myself, over and over. "Yes. Yes. Yes."
"I think she said yes." Jasper's voice was sarcastic, but there was no hiding how happy he sounded.
Behind us on the porch, Bella and Alice were doing their usual squealing girl routine, frantically trying to hand babies off to daddies or grandparents so they could join us. Bella finally gave up and flew across the lawn, Jules in her arms.
It was a riot of hugs and laughter and tears. Eventually, all of us made our way back to the porch, where Emmett was greeted with claps on the back from Jasper and Edward, and a proud handshake from Carlisle.
We headed back into the house, and Esme pulled me to the side. Her arms wrapped around me, and she whispered in my ear.
"I'm so happy for you, Rosalie. He's a lucky man."
"I'm the lucky one," I replied, tears brimming in my eyes.
The babies were finally in bed, and we were all sitting outside around a fire, trading laughs and stories. It was hard to imagine, looking at the happy faces lit by the glow of the fire, that this was the same group that gathered last spring to help me pick up the pieces of my broken heart.
They didn't just help me pick up the pieces; they helped me build something infinitely better. Bella and Alice, with their Tuesday night take-out and Glee watch-alongs; Edward with his patience and kindness while I monopolized his wife; Jasper, with his silent, unwavering support.
And Emmett. Emmett with his smiles and laughter and his freakish ability to know exactly what I needed, before I could even put it into words.
These people had my heart-my whole heart-and I knew that I would love all of them forever.
Bella caught my eye across the fire and blew me a kiss, mouthing "I love you" to me.
Eventually everyone else went to bed, called away by baby monitors and exhaustion, leaving me and Emmett to coax the last of the flames out of the fire. After he doused the embers with sand, Emmett pulled me out of my chair.
"Ready?" he asked, turning towards the house.
I knew that he was asking more than if I was ready for bed. He was asking if I was ready to say good-bye to the perfect day we had just had, ready to face whatever life had in store for us.
"So ready," I confirmed with a smile as I took his hand.
A/N: This is the end of the road for these two, at least for now. Thank you so much to everyone who has read, reviewed, and/or alerted. Every email that I got letting me know that someone had reviewed the story, or put me on alert made me smile like a fool. I hope you've all enjoy this as much as I have.
Ultimately, this story is a love letter of sorts to AccioBourbon, Minerva_May_I, and TheHeartofLife. They begged me to write it, and Accio and Minerva held my hand the whole way through. They beta'd, and pre-read, and stayed up late to let me bounce ideas off of them. There will never be enough ways to thank them. TheHeartofLife begged me to write Rosalie, and she's encouraged me the whole way with tweets and emails, and reviews that make me flail and squeal. Without the three of them, there would be no story, and I would spend my nights watching Criminal Minds and talking to my cat. They are the Emmett to my Rosalie, and they are all welcome to get a little handsy with me anytime they want.