Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and associated characters. Music lyrics from "Fall Again," written, composed, and produced by Walter Afanasieff and Robin Thicke; performed by Glenn Lewis.

A/N: Welps, after a bit of poking and prodding and TONS of support from this fandom, I present to you my first go at fic-writing. Enjoy & please see below for the much-needed acknowledgements section :)


Fall With You

I remember the first time I laid eyes on her. I was standing in the window of my first-grade classroom, nervous as hell because not only was it the first day of school, but also my first day teaching at Forks Elementary School. Yes, I, Edward Anthony Cullen, was a first-grade teacher. Go ahead, snicker. Make the jokes. Trust me, I'd heard it all before in college. I was the only male in the majority of my elementary education courses at University of Chicago. My classmates thought I was gay, while my fraternity brothers applauded my major as a ruse to get it on with the ladies. However, I'd always wanted to teach, to help someone gain a better understanding of a subject, to help them grow. Teenagers, and all their drama, exhausted me. I hated high school the first time and would never willingly go back. So, elementary school, specifically first-grade, was my ultimate calling - coloring was still cool, it was more than okay to randomly burst into song, and first-graders still looked up to me like I was a hero.

I'd been teaching first-grade for four years in the Naperville School District in the Chicago suburbs. I started right after graduation.

Chicago was where I grew up. My mom was still there, so I never saw any reason to move too far away. But that was until my Uncle Carlisle died. He and I were close, though I'd never been to Washington to visit him - he always came to us. I guess even unmarried, small-town, do-good doctors wanted to escape to the big city. After he unexpectedly passed away, I received a letter from Uncle Carlisle's lawyer telling me I inherited his house. Everything fell into place after that. It turned out Forks Elementary School had a first-grade teaching position open since Mrs. Warcup was retiring after 40 years. Without much ado, I moved from my hometown to small-town Forks to see somewhere new.

That's how I found myself, leaning out of my classroom window for a bit of fresh air to calm my first day of school jitters, and then laying eyes on a sensationally beautiful woman. She was helping a little girl out of a red beast of a truck. Her long, dark hair poured down the navy blue, long-sleeved top she wore, and her legs looked shapely in her blue jeans.

Was she a teacher? No, if she were a teacher, I would have met her already at last week's faculty meeting and mixer. Was she a mom? That would help explain why a little girl, a spitting image of that lovely woman, clung to her hand as if it were a lifeline. Of course, she was a mom, therefore married, and off the market. This realization oddly upset me.

I mentally slapped myself in the face. It's the first day of school! My students would be entering the room soon, and I had to put my game face on to welcome them. After rearranging my face into what I hoped looked like an excited smile and not a deranged grimace, I hustled to the door to start greeting my first-graders. And just my luck, the very first little person to come strolling down the hallway was that same little girl from the window. She walked right past me and into the next room: the other first grade class taught by Mrs. Crandall. Later that week, during a joint library session for the two first-grade classes, I came to know her as Courtney…Courtney Swan.

And so I spent the school year, teaching, learning, singing, coloring, kick-balling, strangely happy and sad. Day after day, I would stand at my classroom door and watch Courtney walk past me a constant reminder of the woman I wouldn't have a chance to know.

Now, don't get me wrong, I dated a bit. Never anything long-term or serious, but I could find a lady to spend time with whenever I chose. I was attractive. Jessica Newton told me as much, as she waxed lyrical about my "dreamy, emerald eyes," and the "gorgeous shade" of my "bronze" hair, and how someone could "crack a walnut" on my "chiseled jaw." Did I mention this was during a parent-teacher conference, with Mr. Newton and little Mike Jr. sitting next to her? That was the last time I called Mrs. Newton in for a conference. I spent a large chunk of time avoiding her when she insisted on walking Mike Jr. into class every day.

Man, was I glad today was the last day of school. I looked forward to going back to Chicago for the summer break. I could see my Mom, and the dating pool was a hell of a lot larger there.

Lest one of my students catch me daydreaming about vacation, I decided to take a turn around the classroom.

Mrs. Crandall had won an all-expense paid Caribbean cruise last month, and unfortunately (well, maybe fortunately for her), the departure date coincided with the last day of school. Rather than hire a sub, I was asked to cover Mrs. Crandall's class. About thirty kids now sat in my classroom, drawing and coloring pictures to pass the time.

I strolled past the desk where Courtney now sat, intent on continuing my perusal of other students' work. However, glancing down at Courtney's picture, I had to stop and inquire. Was she drawing a picture of her family?

Pointing at the figure standing in the middle of the drawing between a man and woman, I asked, "Courtney, is that you?"

"Yes, Mr. Cullen, that's me, and that's my Ma," she explained pointing at the taller female figure in the picture. Apparently, she and Courtney not only shared the same long, dark hair, but also the same chocolate eyes.

"Is that your dad?" I forced myself to ask, not really interested in hearing about the man in their lives.

Courtney looked down and whispered into the page, "That's my Grandpa Charlie. I don't have a dad."

Remorse overcame me. "I'm sorry Courtney. Don't feel bad, I don't have a dad either."

My heart lurched. Why had I just disclosed that bit of information, especially to my seven-year-old student? The fact that I was raised by a single mother never bothered me, per se, but it was still something I never talked about. Feeling my face heat in embarrassment, I exchanged an awkward smile with Courtney and walked on.

Later that afternoon, while doing some last minute tidying of the classroom before heading home, I noticed Courtney's same drawing under her desk. Did she leave it behind on purpose? What if this picture was meant for Grandpa Charlie's refrigerator? It wouldn't take too much effort for me return it to Courtney. I didn't know where she lived, but a quick trip to the main office and slightly immoral look into Courtney Swan's file got me the information I needed.

I pulled up to a small white house, with a dark blue door. The lawn was neatly trimmed, and a large tree dominating the left side of the lawn almost dwarfed the house.

As I began to ascend the porch stairs, my heart was palpitating, my palms sweating. What was I doing here? What if Courtney really didn't want her drawing? Will Mrs. Swan think I'm a stalker? Though I'd seen her many mornings at school, I'd never had the chance to meet her. But this would be an odd first meeting. As I was convincing myself to run away, and fast, the front door swung open and little Courtney Swan, looked up at me with a quizzical brow.

"Mr. Cullen?"

Oh hell, she thinks I'm crazy.

"Hi there, Courtney. How'd you know I was at the door?" Hopefully she didn't notice the nervous quiver in my voice.

"I was upstairs playing. I looked out the window and saw you talking to yourself. What are you doing here?"

Just as I was about to present Courtney with her forgotten drawing, her mother appeared, gripping Courtney's shoulder, fire in her eyes.

Looking down at her daughter, "Court, you shouldn't have opened the door." She then leveled me with an icy gaze, "And who exactly are you?"

I was struck dumb, gaping at this fiercely protective mama bear. The fact that she seemed ready to rip out my jugular with her bare teeth was slightly arousing. Before I could answer, Courtney came to my rescue, "Ma, it's ok. It's Mr. Cullen, the other first-grade teacher."

"So you're Mr. Cullen with the great voice and ability to cut a perfectly proportioned paper heart with safety scissors? It's nice to finally put a face to a name."

I did a mental fist-pump into the air. I knew my hard work at the joint library sessions would pay off.

"I see my acclaim precedes me," I laughed. "I'm sorry to just drop by, but Courtney forgot her drawing at school today. Since it was the last day, I wanted to make sure she got it." I presented the picture as an explanation.

Courtney squealed, "I thought I lost it! I made it for Grandpa Charlie."

"It seems you're our hero, Mr. Cullen," Mrs. Swan said, smiling up at me.

Oh my, she had a nice smile. And how did she know that being a hero was my secret ambition?

"It's no big deal, Mrs. Swan. I just remember Courtney spending a lot of time on the picture. I didn't want her hard work to go down the drain."

"Miss. Miss Swan. Call me Bella."

My heart stuttered. Bella...beautiful. This woman in front of me deserved the name.

As I stood there staring into Bella's bottomless, brown eyes, Courtney's tummy rumbled, bringing me out of my reverie. It seemed to do the same for Bella.

"Dinner time! Come on, Court, the cheeseburgers should be done."

I was trying to find a way to excuse my intrusion when Courtney came to my rescue again, "Can Mr. Cullen stay? Do you like cheeseburgers, Mr. Cullen? They're my favorite!"

Before I could respond, Bella spoke up, "I'm sure Mrs. Cullen is waiting for Mr. Cullen to get home so they can have their own dinner."

"Call me Edward, and there is no Mrs. Cullen. Lucky for me, I happen to love cheeseburgers," I explained, excited about the chance to spend more time with Bella.

"Then by all means, Edward, please join us," Bella said, stepping aside to let me into her home. I might have enjoyed the way she said my name a little too much.

Courtney took off in the direction of what I assumed to be the kitchen as I walked through the front door. Immediately I was overwhelmed by the delicious scent of strawberries and lavender. Was that Bella?

I trailed after her as she followed Courtney. When we entered the kitchen Courtney was hovering over a large stack of cheeseburgers.

"She wasn't kidding when she said cheeseburgers were her favorite, huh?" I chuckled.

After dinner and one too many homemade rice-crispy treats, I was stuffed full and trying to figure out a way to prolong my stay. So when Courtney invited me to watch her favorite movie with her, I jumped at the chance.

"Are you sure you don't have anything else to do?" Bella asked with a warning tone. "This could be a long night, especially since there's no school tomorrow."

"It's okay. I don't mind musicals," I answered, glancing down at the DVD case she held in her hand.

"Annie? That's the one with singing orphans and Daddy Warbucks, right?" I said with a laugh.

Courtney fell asleep during Annie's first trip to the movie theater.

Every once in awhile, probably more often than I wanted to admit, I glanced at Bella across her sleeping child. I was much more interested in her than the little orphan girl.

"So..." Bella began, breaking the slightly awkward silence, "do you enjoy teaching? Why first-grade?"

Talking with Bella was effortless. I began recounting my college experiences, telling her how much I enjoyed students and learning. I realized I wanted her to know me: my likes and dislikes, my goals. As I detailed my move to Forks and my Uncle Carlisle's death, Bella interrupted.

"Dr. Cullen was your uncle? I loved that man, such a sweet and caring doctor. He doted on Court as if she were his own. I was real sorry to hear about his passing."

"Me, too. We were close, though I never came to Forks to see Uncle Carlisle. He always came to Chicago to visit my Mom and me. It was nice having him around to take me to museums and movies, especially since my dad was never around." For the second time today, I was taken aback with my mention of my non-father. What was it with these Swan women that made me want to spill my deepest secrets?

"I'm sorry to hear about your dad. Did he pass away?" Bella asked tentatively. I could tell she didn't want to make me upset.

"No, he didn't die. I mean he may have, but I wouldn't know. He was never in our lives."

Bella remained silent, prompting me to continue.

"I've never really asked my Mom about his whereabouts. For as long as I can remember it was just the two of us, Elizabeth and Edward. When I was about ten, I overheard a conversation between my Mom and Uncle Carlisle. It was the only time he ever mentioned my father. Carlisle was angry and said something like 'what kind of man abandons his pregnant girlfriend to go globetrotting on an adventure.' From then on, I decided that if my father didn't want to know me, I didn't want to know him."

Bella looked down as she wrung her fingers. "It seems your mom and I have something in common."

"Yah, Courtney mentioned today that her father wasn't in her life either. You don't have to talk about it if it's too personal."

She took a deep breath and quietly spoke, "My dad and mom divorced when I was really young, even younger than Court. Mom claimed that she didn't want to be trapped in Forks, and she left with me for Phoenix. That's where I grew up, though I'd come back to Forks to visit my dad for two weeks every summer. I was always pretty quiet, a bookworm, but I was fairly happy. I ended up going to Arizona State and majoring in literature."

If it were possible, Bella became even more quiet, resigned. "I was taking an African literature class my sophomore year, when I met him...Laurent. He was very friendly. He always smiled at me and sought me out in class. I'd never been pursued before and it was nice. We went out a couple times, and one night... things...went too far."

Rage consumed me. "He didn't...force you, did he Bella?"

"No, god, no! It was uncomfortable, but consensual." I felt a modicum of relief, but it quickly faded as I realized this story wouldn't have a happy ending.

"It was my first time being with someone like that, and I just felt Laurent and I were moving too fast. I decided to stop seeing him. But six weeks later, I found out I was pregnant. That was the scariest day of my life. I called to tell him, but he wanted nothing to do with me. He had plans," Bella spat.

"He was heading to Africa to be a correspondent with the BBC. I turned to my mom, but Renee was livid. She kept accusing me of trapping myself, of making the same mistakes she made. That was the last time I spoke with my mother. She called me a mistake, and I didn't want her to have the chance to make my child feel unwanted." Bella began stroking Courtney's hair.

"I moved back to Forks to be with Charlie. He was so supportive. I transferred to Peninsula Community College, and eventually completed my associate's degree in literature. I write book and movie reviews for the Port Angeles Daily News. It keeps me pretty busy, and I spend a lot of time out of town. Dad helps a lot with Courtney, but we're happy," Bella beamed.

"Where's Laurent now?"

A blank looked crossed her face, "I don't know. I assume he's still in Africa. I never sought him out, and Laurent certainly hasn't looked for us."

Wanting to be closer to her, I covered Bella's hand, the same hand she used to stroke Courtney's hair, with my own. "I'm so sorry. It's Laurent's loss."

Bella looked up at me, smiling. This was my chance, "May I see you again, Bella? All year, I'd see you drop Courtney off at school in the mornings and think about how I'd like to talk to you. I want the chance to know you and Courtney better."

Bella curled her fingers around my own; electricity coursed through me. I wondered if she felt it too.

"I'd like that a lot, Edward."

Two Months Later

We spent the summer doing exactly that: getting to know one another. Hanging out with Bella and Court was a joy, and I quickly forgot any plans of an extended visit to Chicago.

On my twenty-eighth birthday, about a week after that first dinner, Bella and Courtney baked me a German chocolate cake, Court's favorite, but I enjoyed it, just the same.

Two weeks later, for Court's birthday in July, I surprised her and Bella with tickets to see Annie on stage at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. That night Court declared me her "very best friend in the world." Later on, after I carried a sleeping little girl into her room, Bella and I shared our first kiss, brief and sweet, yet enough to flood my body with desire.

From then on, we became truly inseparable.

We went swimming at the local pool weekly. We even visited Wild Waves & Enchanted Village. I was glad I could be there for Court's first trip to the amusement park. Since Bella was deathly afraid of the rides, Court and I became riding buddies.

The three of us even made dinner and movie nights into a tradition, alternating between Bella's place and mine. The first time she and Court came to my house, their reactions reminded me of my first sighting of Carlisle's old home: shock and awe. It was more of an estate if I was being honest in my description. The white, two-story mansion was way more than I could ever need. Nevertheless, the three of us enjoyed the spaciousness.

Bella and Courtney filled this space with such life. I bet Carlisle, wherever he was, would be happy that his home wasn't so empty anymore.

It was the end of August, and the new school year was quickly approaching. Usually I enjoyed the start of a new year, but I knew my faculty and teaching duties would keep me busy and afford less time with Bella. Most of the time we spent together included Court, and while I absolutely adored it, I wanted to do something just for Bella and me. I wanted to show her how special she was to me, to tell her I was falling in love her.

I eventually decided to invite Bella over for dinner overlooking the lake not too far from the house. If I were to say my intentions were completely pure, I'd be lying. I wouldn't be a man if I didn't admit that every other thought streaming through my mind featured images of Bella: how she would look under me, hovering above me, perched on the kitchen counter in front of me, pinned to my shower wall, writhing, panting.

The few times we'd been alone while Court visited Charlie, Bella and I managed to have some fun with our clothes on, but I wouldn't push her. No, our first time together would be natural. I did wonder if Bella ever thought about taking our physical relationship further.

When Bella asked, I told her it was a casual dinner. I wore black jeans with a light green button-down shirt. Bella liked it when I wore green because apparently, it "accentuated my eyes," and I'd do anything she liked.

On the menu for tonight were Bella's favorites: lobster with garlic mashed potatoes and strawberry sherbet for dessert. I was in the middle of removing the mashed potatoes from the oven, mentally thanking my Mmom for the cooking lessons, when the doorbell chimed announcing Bella's arrival.

I quickly made my way to the door, eager to see her and wasn't disappointed. Just as Bella loved me in green, I loved seeing her in blue. She wore a cobalt blue mini-dress, with short sleeves. The dress was covered with little black flowers and the skirt flared when she moved. Her legs looked silky smooth, and I ached to feel them.

"B-Bella," I stuttered. "You look amazing."

She looked down, her cheeks heating up in a telltale blush. "Thanks, Edward. I'm glad you invited me."

I reached for her hand, and led her outside. . I heard Bella gasp while she took in the scene. I set the table with a white linen cloth, matching the white wooden table and chairs. I lined the porch steps with white tea candles, which were now lit. After pulling out Bella's seat, I lit the three candlesticks in the candelabra sitting in the middle of the table before going back inside to grab our plates.

As I came outside, Bella was gazing at the lake, the candlelight reflected in her eyes. She looked so pretty in that moment,moment and I wished I had a camera to capture it.

"Your dinner is served, Madame," I whispered, setting her plate down in front of her.

After we finished eating our dessert, I stood up from the table, turning on my iPod and speakers on the windowsill. I turned around, reaching across the table to take Bella's hand. As the music played, we silently swayed to beat.

I wanna spend time till it ends
I wanna fall in you again
Like we did when we first met
I wanna fall with you again

"Edward..." Bella whispered, breaking the sweet silence.

"Yes, Bella," I prompted.

"This is all so beautiful. You shouldn't have gone to the trouble."

"It's no trouble at all. I wanted to do this to thank you for letting me be in your life and in Courtney's life. I don't want to be without you, Bella." I took her hand, bracing myself for the reaction to what I would say next.

"Bella, I'm in love with you."

She stopped moving in my arms. I closed my eyes, fearing her rebuff.

"Edward, look at me."

I slowly opened my eyes, gazing down at her, and sharply inhaled. I was taken aback by the fierce determination on her face.

"Edward, you've changed my life. Courtney smiles more now. You've shown us the most kindness. Of course I love you, Edward."

With her declaration, Bella crushed her mouth to my own. Her lips were soft, but confident, as if she wanted to back up her words with this kiss.

I was more than willing to receive it.

I gripped Bella's hips, pressing her against me, as she wrapped her arms around my neck, both of us struggling to get closer. I caressed her bottom lip with my tongue, seeking her taste. Once Bella's tongue met my own, desire like I'd never felt before enveloped me. This wouldn't be enough.

We eventually broke away to catch our breath, but Bella's lips never left my skin. She peppered me with kisses, working from my face, to my neck, and eventually reaching my chest, which was revealed when she popped the top buttons of my shirt. Her insistent fingers continued in a downward path. With a firm hand, Bella stroked my now rock-hard erection I almost fainted from the pleasure that surged through me. She looked up at me with mischief in her eyes, "We should take this inside." Bella took my hand, and I followed after her in a daze.

Once we arrived at the top of the stairs, she turned around and looked at me expectantly.

I gulped. "Left. Last door at the end of the hall." I hoped she meant to ask about my bedroom, because that's where we were headed.

When we reached the door, I stopped Bella before she could open it.

"You don't have to do this, Bella. We don't have to do anything you don't want to do. I'd be happy to just hold you."

"Are you saying you don't want to make love to me, Edward?"

Oh, was that what we were about to do?

"Bella, I want nothing more, but are you sure? I don't want to rush hurt you."

"You won't," she spoke with assured sincerity. "I want to be with you. Please, Edward."

That was all the confirmation I needed. I shoved the door open, eager to have Bella in my bed. I lifted her in my arms, wrapping her legs around my waist.

I instantly felt the heat radiating from her center.

I began kissing her again, trying to stay upright as I made my way inside.

We fell onto my bed, me softly landing on top of her. Bella opened her legs, and I settled myself in between them. This was clearly where I wanted to be.

I tentatively stroked the buttons of her dress. My hesitation must have been obvious because Bella moved my hands and started unfastening them.

"I trust you. I want you to see all of me." She sat up, reaching down for the hem, and removed the dress, discarding it behind us. Bella wore a basic black, cotton bra and matching panties. It may have been simple, but I'd never seen anything sexier. As I was ogling her breasts, Bella took my hands from my side, and encouraged me to touch her. She was so soft. I felt her nipples harden under the fabric as I stroked them with my thumbs.

I was so focused that I didn't notice Bella attempting to remove my shirt. I sat back, gripped my shirt in both hands, and pulled. Buttons scattered around us.

"Damn, I liked that shirt on you," Bella chucked. "I'll have to buy you another one."

She unclasped her bra, and lay back down.

Bella looked magnificent, her hair spilling across the pillows, a sparkle in her eye.

I covered her body with mine, enjoying the spark I felt where our skin touched. I kept kissing her, tasting her mouth with my tongue.

Bella gripped my shoulders, and started gyrating her hips against me. My breath caught.

Moving away from Bella's lips, I kissed my way down her neck and chest: I had a goal in mind. I nuzzled her right breast with my nose and then took her nipple in my mouth. She tasted good everywhere!.!

Once again, she wrapped her legs around my waist, running her hands through my hair, and started grinding against me in earnest.

"Oh, god!" she panted. "Don't stop!" Lucky for Bella, I didn't plan to.

I switched to her left breast, laving her nipple with my tongue, one hand palming her ass, as I thrust against her.

Removing her hands from my hair, Bella turned her attention to my jeans, trying to pull them off. "Edward, please, I want to feel you inside."

I released her breast from my mouth and sat up so I could unbutton my jeans.

"Are you sure?" I whispered.

"I'm sure," Bella replied; her words rang without doubt.

I pulled down my jeans and boxers, while Bella removed her panties. We were completely bare in front of each other for the first time.

She was so lovely.

Before I could move, Bella wrapped her hand around me, slowly stroking.

Up.

And down.

"Bella," I groaned. "If you don't stop, we won't make it to the main event."

She giggled and released me. "We wouldn't want that."

Bella relaxed into the bed while I reached for a condom in the side table.

As I settled against Bella, my hardness met her slick heat. I held her gaze, caressing her face, as I slowly entered her. Bella arched against me, wrapping her hands around my back as I worked my way inside, until finally our hips met.

It was perfect.

I withdrew and thrust into Bella with little more force.

She closed her eyes, moaning. "Again, Edward," Bella pleaded.

I plunged into her and this time didn't stop. Bella raised her hips to meet mine, as we both worked our way towards release.

"Bella, you feel so good."

I bent down to take her breast into my mouth again. Bella made a loud, keening noise as she gripped me from the inside. "AhhhhhhYes," she breathed.

As I rocked against her, my movements became more erratic. I felt Bella tighten around me, her head thrown back, as a look of complete ecstasy crossed her face. Her orgasm triggered my own. Pleasure lanced through me as the world came to a halt.

I collapsed on top of Bella, speechless and exhausted, but completely blissed out. I withdrew from her and tried to move to the side, certain I was crushing her. But Bella held on to me, refusing to let me move. "Just a little while longer."

I couldn't deny her anything.

We held each other for a few moments more. Bella spoke up, breaking the silence. "I guess this makes you my very best friend in the world, too."

I chuckled, "I'm sure Court will be willing to share me."

Bella looked up at me, "I love you."

"I love you, too. Now, let's get you a phone so you can say goodnight to your baby girl." I reached for my jeans on the floor, and fished my cell phone out of the pocket, handing it to Bella.

She dialed and then turned the speakerphone on. After a quick greeting to Charlie, Court's sweet voice came on.

"Hi Ma! Did you and Edward have fun on your play date?"

I tried to stifle my laughter as Bella rolled her eyes.

"We had a good time. What did you do tonight, baby girl?"

"I watched Annie and Grandpa Charlie let me watch while he cleaned his gun. Oh, and I made a new friend."

I couldn't imagine the fun in watching Charlie clean his gun, but these Swan women were odd birds.

"That's wonderful baby girl! What's her name?"

"It's not a her, Ma. It's a him. Laurent. He's a grownup like Edward. He says he wants to be my friend, too. Can he?"

I watched the blood drain from Bella's face, the phone dropped and forgotten. She reached out, disbelief and desperation in her voice.

"No...no, it can't be..."

It didn't take Bella long to come back to herself, and when she did…"livid" wasn't a strong enough word to describe the anger gripping her. I can't say I blamed her. Could it be the same man from her past? How could Charlie just let some stranger, much less Laurent, near Courtney?

Bella was on her feet, moving around the room in a hurried pace. Before I could sit up and put my jeans back on, she was headed to the door.

"Bella, wait! Where are you going?"

"I have to get Courtney. I have no idea what Laurent is doing, but I can't let him near my daughter. I'm going to kill Charlie! I can't believe he'd let a random man have access to Court like that? I shouldn't have come here tonight…"

My heart stuttered. Did Bella regret being with me? My pain must have been evident because Bella immediately stopped her ranting and rushed to my side. Kneeling in front of me, as I sat on the bed, she reached up to cup my face in her hands.

"I'm sorry, Edward. I didn't mean it like that. This has been one of the best nights of my life. I'm just scared. What could Laurent want?"

Wiping the tears that started to trickle, I lifted Bella into my lap as she started to weep.

"I know Bella. This has been one of my best nights, too. I understand you're scared, but aren't we jumping to conclusions? We don't even know if it's the same guy. Why don't we call Charlie and find out what's going on?

Bella relaxed against me and her breathing evened out. "Fine, I'll call Charlie, but I don't have a good feeling about this."

Two Weeks Later

It was Laurent.

Apparently, he approached Courtney while she was outside of Charlie's house playing on the tree swing. Perhaps Laurent had been following Courtney or even Bella for some time now.

Charlie didn't even know Laurent had talked to Court, which was probably best for Laurent. I have a feeling Charlie wanted to use his face for target practice.

Laurent's sudden appearance and subsequent disappearance wreaked havoc on Bella's sanity. As if she was waiting for the other shoe to drop, Bella refused to let Courtney out of her sight. Her nerves were frayed and as the first day of school approached, Bella became even more insistent on having Court by her side.

And while Bella suffered, I felt totally incompetent. I didn't know how to comfort the woman I loved and it drove me insane. When I suggested we call the police, Bella reminded me that we didn't exactly have a complaint. Laurent hadn't directly threatened Courtney, and besides, we had no idea where he was.

In an act of desperation, I begged Bella to let me buy an alarm system for their house. She fought me at first, saying the cost was too much, but when I countered with how priceless Courtney's safety was, she relented.

Bella had taken Courtney school shopping when I took the opportunity to install the alarm system. I was just about to test it out when there was a knock at the door. Thinking it was Bella and Courtney needing help with their bags, I rushed to open without looking through the peephole. I was immediately brought up short.

A man about my height stood in front of me. His dark eyes, slightly covered under a mop of shiny black hair, was in contrast to his olive skin, which was obviously darkened from prolonged exposure to the sun. I instantly knew who he was, and I lunged, pinning him to the side of the house.

"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE?" My forearm pressed against Laurent's throat made it difficult for him to answer, but I didn't care.

"Easy man! I'm here to talk to you." In my surprise I eased my stance, but only minimally.

"And why should I listen to anything you have to say? Why shouldn't I just call the police and have you arrested for harassment?" I threatened.

"I'm not here to harass anyone," Laurent exclaimed. "I had to see her, just one time." By now I had taken a step back, while Laurent slumped against the wall.

"I only wanted to see what she looked like. I wasn't even going to get out of the car. But I saw her humming to herself, and I wanted to know what she was singing. Something about a hard-knock life…"

I smiled internally. Of course Court would be singing Annie.

Laurent continued staring off into space. "But then I was so close, and I had to talk to her…Courtney." He grew silent.

"What are you even doing here? I thought you were in Africa."

Laurent startled, as if he forgot he wasn't alone. "Yah, I've been in Africa for the last 7 years. Between Sudan, Uganda, Congo. I lived for the thrill of being in an unstable place. And I'm a newsman: I'd go anywhere, do anything to get the story."

I cut him off, "Listen, that's a wonderful story, but you still haven't told me why you're here and why I shouldn't call the cops." I was getting impatient. It wouldn't be good for Bella and Courtney to show up with Laurent here.

"I was in Sudan about a year ago doing a story on the Darfur genocide. I was talking to a woman and her daughter about their struggle to escape to the refugee camps in Chad. That's when the Jajaweed arrived…" Laurent's breathing became erratic, and I feared he would pass out. I'd heard stories about the Darfur and couldn't imagine what he'd witnessed.

"The woman and her daughter never made it to Chad. As I was writing her story I started wondering if the woman had a husband? If the daughter had a dad? Was he waiting for them at the refugee camp? What would he think when they didn't arrive? Would he mourn them? And then it hit me. I had a daughter. Did she know I existed? Did she ever think about me? I had to find Courtney, even if I only got to see her from afar."

"How'd you know they were in Forks?"

"When working for the BBC, one makes a lot of connections. I knew Bella was from Washington so I just made a couple phone calls to my buddy at the Seattle Tribune. Their private investigator helped me find out that Bella works at the Port Angeles Daily. From there it was pretty simple to find her…and Courtney."

"What do you want?" I felt sorry for the tragedy Laurent had witnessed, but if he thought he could come into our lives and upset Bella, confuse Court, or possible take her away from us, this guy had another thing coming.

"I just wanted to see Courtney…to know she was happy and taken care of. I should have known she would be, though." Laurent smiled. "I knew Bella would be a great mother. I, on the other hand, would have been a shitty father."

I was confused. "You said you came here to see me. What do you want from me?"

"I won't be back. I'm leaving on assignment again—Nigeria this time. I just wanted to ask you to make sure and take good care of Bella and Courtney for me. I saw the way Bella looks at you, and she never looked at me that way. Love them. Protect them. Make them happy."

"I already do," I answered. "And I'll continue to for as long as Bella will have me."

He audibly exhaled, "Good. If I can ask one more favor: don't tell Bella I was here. Try to convince her that my coming was a fluke, and that I'll never bother her or Courtney again."

I gave Laurent a firm nod. He turned around, proceeded down the porch stairs, and headed to his car. Before he could open the car door I called out to him, "Hey!"

Laurent turned around, hesitantly.

"Uh…be careful over there, all right?"

He smiled briefly before getting into his car and speeding off.

I stood there, still in shock. I don't know how long I stayed on the porch, but by the time I looked up, Bella and Court had pulled into the driveway. I must have really been out of it…I should have heard Bella's truck groaning from a mile away.

What was I going to tell her?

Later that night as Courtney was in her room putting away her new school clothes, Bella and I finished up the dishes. After a lot of internal debate, I finally decided to tell her the truth.

"Bella," I started.

"Yah, babe?"

"Something…weird happened today." I could see the panic rising in her eyes. "Calm down, Bella. You and Courtney are safe, but there's something you need to hear about."

I proceeded to tell Bella about Laurent's unexpected visit: how tragedy in Sudan triggered his desire to find Courtney, how he wished them happiness, and how he'd never bother them again.

Bella's panic and the resulting scowl faded by the time I finished. "He didn't want you to know he'd been here, but I had to tell you the truth. Now you know that you're safe and no one will take Courtney away from you."

Bella stood by the counter, deep in thought. "Well," she eventually said, "I hope Laurent finds whatever he's looking for. I hope he finds happiness, too."

I nodded in agreement as I crossed the kitchen to take her in my arms. "I promised him I'd take care of you and Court for as long as you'd have me."

Bella melted against me, tightening our embrace. "Lucky for me that's going to be a long time."

I sighed. Lucky for me, too


E/N:

First, I must begin by thanking my darling Sis buhbeesgirl and darling hookah Kourt17 for encouraging me to write in the first place. One night I was overwhelmed by the idea of an elementary school Teacherward and went to twitter with the prompt. Immediately, those two insisted that I write the story: I began outlining the next day.

I thank SydneyAlice and Ms. Bev (aka belli486) for reading a first draft of the story and recommending I get a beta, begin editing, and seriously consider putting this out into the world.

I wholeheartedly and completely thank Lalina, writer and beta extraordinaire, who elevated this story beyond what I thought possible. Through time-zone differences, illness, work, etc. she worked through several versions of FWY, developing the story beyond the climax and into a complete tale, in and of itself. I love you Ms. L!

I thank Marvar for her initial encouragement to pursue writing and editing this story, as well as providing suggestions about the reality of teacher/parent relations and the art of lemon writing (which she undoubtedly knows much about).

I thank Kourt17 (again) and LuvsMeSumEdward for pre-reading.

Last (but absolutely not least) I thank YOU. As you can see from the list above, I've received so much support from this fandom. You all are not only epically talented, but also nurturing, helping to develop talents in others. I'm ever grateful. Cheers! x