This was originally written for the Fandom Gives Back compilation back in December. This takes place a few months after the last outtake. I hope you enjoy this little snapshot into their lives.
Thanks to arfalcon for her time and encouragement.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Ever since the addition on the Museum of Fine Art in Boston was completed, Edward's professional life has been busier than ever. The business is growing so quickly it's sometimes difficult to keep up. We've had to hire more staff, and I even got myself an assistant. Maybe it wasn't fair, but part of the reason was so I could be home with the children while he was at work. With both of our workloads increased, we didn't want the children to suffer.
I feel fortunate I get to see Edward at work every day, but sometimes the Seth and Maeve aren't as lucky. So when it comes time for Seth to leave for a weekend with his mother, he's resistant.
"I've barely seen Dad all week," he tells me over dinner on Thursday night. "Can't we just skip this week?"
"I don't know. I'll have to speak with your father. But you know your mother doesn't like to switch her days."
"I can go next weekend," he grumbles.
"We have plans with your grandparents next weekend," I remind him.
He drops his fork on his plate with a loud clatter and runs up the stairs. Seth is an incredibly well-mannered, even-tempered child, so this surprises me. I look over at Mae, but she just shrugs her shoulders. I briefly consider calling Edward but then decide to just talk to Seth myself after Mae and I finish dinner.
I knock softly on his bedroom door and he tells me to come in. He's sitting on his bed with his legs out in front of him and looks up from the book he's reading when I come in.
"What happened?" I ask as I sit on the edge of the bed.
"I appreciate your apology, but that doesn't answer my question. What happened?"
He puts his book aside and looks down. "Do you think I could just... stay here?"
I blink as I try to work out what he's saying. "For the weekend?" I ask.
He shakes his head and I think I understand. "When would you see your mom?"
He shrugs one shoulder and looks up at me. "I'm sick of this back and forth."
"I'm sorry. I know it can't be easy for you."
"It's not fair." He runs a hand through his hair, a trait he no doubt picked up from his father, and looks down again. "Can't I decide when I want to go there or be here?"
I pull him into a hug and rub his back. "I'm not sure how your mom and dad would feel about that. Have you spoken to either of them about it?"
"No," he says, pulling away from me. "Mom always talks about how much she misses me and wishes we could spend more time together. And Dad hasn't been home much."
"I'm sorry, sweetie. I don't think I have a good answer for you."
"It's okay," he mumbles. He's still upset, but there's not much I can do. When it comes down to it, I'm not his mother and I have no right to tell him where he can be on a given weekend. It hurts, because I think of him as my own. I do all the things a parent does, and I want to feel like a real parent. But I'm not.
I kiss Seth on top of his head and tell him he can come down for dessert if he wants to.
I hear him and Maeve talking about what happened over bowls of ice cream a few minutes later, but I don't eavesdrop. He's told me what he wants me to know.
Later, when Edward and I are lying in bed, I tell him what happened. "Do you think something happens when he's there?" he asks me. I know what he's thinking. Maggie has been dating someone for a while and it's starting to get serious. Seth mentioned meeting Tim a few weeks back but didn't seem to have much of an opinion about him.
"I don't know for sure. But he told me he just doesn't like the back and forth between here and there."
Edward nods, a thoughtful look on his face. "There has to be an age where we allow him to make his own decisions about where he is. I just don't know when that is."
"Is that something you and Maggie ever discussed?"
"No," he says, his brow furrowed. "I... do you think Maggie and I have discussions about Seth you're not privy to?"
"Well... I don't know. It's not my place, really, to be involved with decisions like that."
"How can you say that? You're with him more than she is."
"But that's just it, she's his mother. I'm not." This hurts to say. More than I thought it would. But it's the truth and I can't change it.
Edward raises himself on his elbow so he's hovering over me. He searches my face for a moment before he speaks. "Is that how you feel?"
"I... No, it's not." I let out a low groan and close my eyes. When I open them, Edward's still there with the same look on his face. "I feel like his mother, but I'm not. I can't make major decisions about his life."
"I don't leave you out of anything." He's so earnest and sweet and I know what he's doing. But facts are facts.
I take a deep breath and swallow my growing frustration. "It's not like it is with you and Mae. You've already legally adopted her. Her father isn't here. You areher father, day in and day out. I'm with Seth more than Maggie yet I have zero rights where he's concerned."
"Technically, that's true. But you know he loves you–"
"I know that," I interrupt. "That's not the point. Edward, if something were to happen to you, he'd be taken from me and I would have no right to keep him."
He nods his head and I see from his expression that realization is dawning. He leans against the headboard and gathers me into his arms. "I'm sorry," he says, kissing the top of my head. "I never thought about it that way."
"I do. All the time."
"Edward's working," I tell Maggie when she comes to pick up Seth on Friday night. "Seth is upstairs getting his school books together."
"Actually, can I talk to you for a minute?" she asks.
I nod and usher her into the kitchen. "What can I do for you?" This isn't normal for us. While her animosity seems to be gone, she generally deals with Edward, and then only when it's about Seth. I can count the number of times she's been in this house on one hand. We sort of exist on the periphery of each others lives, though we share someone important to us both. It's an odd situation, but it's been successful so far.
"Um..." She sits at the kitchen table and looks at me uncomfortably. "I met someone."
I nod. "Seth told me."
"Of course he did," she says with a small smile. She takes a deep breath and continues. "I really care about Tim. I haven't felt this way in a long time and we're talking about getting married."
"That's great," I say. "I'm happy for you."
"Thanks." Her cheeks pink up – it's nice to see her happy after all these years. "The thing is, he's being transferred to St. Louis."
"I know Edward will never let me take Seth," she says quickly. "And I don't want to go to court or anything."
"Okay," I say. I don't know what she's driving at and it's making me anxious.
"I'd like to go with Tim and, maybe, hopefully, have Seth come for the summer. I was thinking Christmas break too, and maybe some long holiday weekends, but I somehow doubt Edward would allow that."
She's starting to sound a little bitter, which is understandable. Yes, she made her own bed, but Edward has complete control over when she sees her son and that can't be easy. He's generous, but we all know he doesn't have to be.
"Why are you telling me this and not Edward?"
"I've known Edward since we were teenagers, but you know him better than I do." She smiles tightly and shakes her head. "I was just wondering if you thought he'd be amenable to the idea of Seth spending the summer."
I let out a long breath, taking a moment to ponder what she's asking. "He's not going to be happy," I tell her honestly. "But you know as well as I do he'll do what's right for Seth."
She nods and looks at me nervously. "Can I ask you not to tell him until I'm ready?"
I immediately shake my head. "No way. He's my husband. I can't keep this from him, and I won't."
"Okay." She glances at her watch. "Will he be home soon?"
"He's been working late, so I'm not sure. But it's Friday and he usually tries to be home before Seth leaves."
"Seth told me about Edward's long hours. But the Boston Museum, that's exciting."
"It is," I say with a nod and a smile.
"I can take Seth for some extra nights if the kids are too much while Edward's working so much."
"No, that's all right."
"I really don't mind."
"She said no." I jump at the sound of Edward's voice. I'm shocked I didn't hear him come in, and it's early for him to be home.
He walks over and kisses me hello, then regards Maggie. "You're still here."
"Yeah," she says nervously, her eyes darting from me to Edward. "I had something I wanted to talk to you about."
Edward takes my hand as we sit next to each other across from Maggie. She tells him her proposal regarding her marriage and move to St. Louis, and wanting Seth to spend summers with her.
"Absolutely not," he says immediately.
"Why not?" she asks.
"Because I'm not going to go three months without my son. Forget it."
"It's not really that long," she insists. "It's just July and August."
"Edward, please. I've been paying for my mistakes for so long. You've moved on. You're happy. Please let me do the same."
"I'm not stopping you. You're just not taking my son with you."
"I can't marry Tim unless you compromise on Seth. Please, Edward." She looks and sounds desperate, and while I have sympathy for her, I want what's best for my family. I'm just not sure Edward being unbending on this is the right thing. At least not for Seth.
I squeeze Edward's hand under the table and he looks at me, his expression softening. "Remember the other night?" I remind him.
"Yes, and this would be worse. Two months? That's too long." He looks at me with wide eyes, almost willing me to understand. And I do.
"I know, sweetheart. I'll miss him too. But don't dismiss the idea quite yet." I touch his cheek with my hand and smile. "The one person whose opinion matters isn't part of this conversation."
He nods and leans over and kisses me softly. "You're right. I'll go talk to him."
Edward gets up and goes to Seth, leaving Maggie and me alone at the table.
"I want that," Maggie says.
"A relationship like you and Edward have. He's different. He was never like that with me."
"He loved you," I say, though I'm not sure why.
She smiles and shakes her head. "Not like he loves you." She laughs, and there's a hint of bitterness in it. "God, I used to hate you. You had everything I wanted and I blamed you for my complete failure as a wife and mother. How pathetic is that?"
"I'm not sure it's pathetic, but it is understandable," I say with a shrug. "You're happy with Tim, aren't you?"
"Very much so," she says with a smile.
I think she wants to say more but Edward walks into the kitchen with Seth, who hugs and kisses his mother and sits next to me at the table with Edward on his other side. It's almost like us against her and it makes me feel a little bad.
"Seth has some questions," Edward says, placing a reassuring hand on Seth's shoulder.
Seth asks his questions, mostly about what he'd do and what would happen if he wanted to come home. He seems upset that his mother is moving out of state, but not overly so and I wonder if he realizes how little he'll really see her. Maggie and Edward answer his questions the best they can and when he seems satisfied, they ask him what he thinks.
He leans into Edward a little, his expression anxious. He's still only a child and this is a big decision for him to make. So I speak up for the first time since Seth joined us. "Why don't you take some time to think about it? We need to decide right now, do we?" I look over at Edward and he nods.
"When is this all happening?" Edward asks Maggie.
"Sometime in the next four months or so." She looks nervous but I don't think pressuring Seth is the right move.
"Go get your things, buddy," Edward tells Seth.
Once he's gone, Edward looks pointedly at Maggie. "I think it's fair to let him have a say in this decision, but please don't spend the weekend trying to influence him. Let him be."
She nods and we all get up from the table. Maggie thanks us and starts to walk out of the kitchen but Edward calls her back. "Mags?"
She stops and turns around. "Yeah?"
He walks up to her and puts his hands on her shoulders. "I'm happy you found someone. Really."
She smiles up at him. "Thanks."
"But I'm always going to do what I think is right for my family. That includes not only Seth, but my wife and my daughter also."
She nods and her eyes flick to me before settling back on Edward. "I don't doubt it. That's always been one of the most amazing things about you." She smiles and walks away.
I wrap my arms around Edward from behind. "You okay?" I ask.
"Yeah." He turns and hugs me tightly.
We talk quite a lot over the next few days, but come to no decisions. About a week after Maggie's visit, our bedroom door opens in the middle of the night and Maeve comes padding in. Light is streaming in from the hallway and she bypasses me and goes right for Edward.
"Yeah, baby?" He sounds sleepy but manages to also sound kind and unsurprised by her presence.
"Is Seth going away?"
"What? No, baby," he says, sounding more awake. "Come here." She crawls into bed and Edward holds her close between us.
I suddenly feel awful. We should have either made it a point to keep our conversations private or explained to her what was going on. With only partial information she's assumed the worst and it's been keeping her up at night. I kiss her head and look over at Edward, whose expression tells me he's feeling exactly what I am.
"Seth's mom is moving away," Edward tells her. His voice is so gentle and sweet when he talks to her, even more so here in the dark. "He may go and spend a little time with her, but it won't be forever."
"It will be just like when he spends a week with his mom, just a little bit longer," I say. "He'll always come back."
She nods and I watch as her eyes get heavy. She burrows in closer to Edward and I know we're going to have a guest for the duration. I get up, turn off the hall light, and close the door. I think Edward and Maeve are already asleep but I stay up for a while, pondering our little family and the ties that bind us all together.
Ever since Maggie walked out on us, Seth has been mine and mine alone. I let her see him after she came breezing back into our lives, but I've never felt like she was a partner in raising him.
But Bella is, and as much as I feel like we're his parents and want to raise my son with her, I face reality on a weekly basis when we have to juggle our schedules to accommodate the time he needs to spend with his mother.
As I ponder our changing situation, part of me wants to tell Maggie no, she can't have my son for the summer. It's a time for vacation and quality time he could be spending with his family.
But I probably won't tell her no because despite everything, Seth loves her and I know she loves him.
Maeve seems to better understand what's going on and hasn't made any more late night visits. Also, she and Seth are spending more time together at home and they're fighting less. When I asked them about it, they both shrugged it off. Bella and I let it go and allow them their privacy.
Still, I'm struggling with the decision, which is why I invited Maggie and Tim to Seth's birthday party. If I'm going to allow him to go to St. Louis for an extended period of time, I want to know who he's going to be with.
There are ten kids, with their parents, in our backyard enjoying the sunshine and the pool. I watch Maeve and Seth through the sliding glass door that leads from the kitchen to the backyard. They're jumping in the pool, happy and laughing with their friends and I'm not sure I can ask for more for my children. I want it to last.
"That woman still makes my blood boil," my mother says from next to me. She's looking at Maggie and shaking her head.
"I know," I say with a sigh.
"Is it wrong that I just want her to go away?"
I laugh and put my arm across her shoulders. "Not at all. I wish that sometimes too, believe me. I even considered letting her move to St. Louis and then not letting Seth visit. But my wife took exception."
She smiles up at me. "I'm sure she did. You need someone to keep you in line."
"That she does."
"I love seeing you so happy. You seem... I don't know. It's more than happy. You're content. At ease."
"I never knew it could be like this," I say. "I thought relationships were difficult and contentious. We're not perfect, but God, I couldn't imagine my life without Bella and Mae. It's so much better than I ever dreamed it could be."
"Maybe Maggie did you a favor." She looks up at me with a wry smile.
"I know she did. I actually had a nightmare the other night that I was still married to her and Bella lived next door, but she didn't know me. You know how funny dreams can be. It was frightening. I had to wake Bella to make sure she was real."
My mom sighs and touches the side of my face. "I don't think I tell you often enough how proud I am of you."
I blush and lean down to kiss her on the cheek. "I love you, Mom."
She pulls me into a quick hug, tells me she loves me, and then we head outside.
I watch Bella talking with a few of the parents and marvel at how far she's come from the woman who didn't like crowds and had difficulty making friends. She's smiling and playing the perfect host. She looks over at me and smiles, then goes back to her conversation.
"Look at you," Maggie says.
I turn to her. "What's that?"
She smiles and shakes her head. "You're different. Your whole face lights up when you look at her."
I nod, not sure what to say. We don't normally engage in even the most casual conversation unless it concerns Seth.
She touches my arm and I instinctively flinch away. "Sorry," she says, her smile fading.
"It's all right. I didn't mean..." I trail off and run a hand through my hair. "I'm not trying to be cruel, Maggie."
"I know. I know it's not comfortable for you to have me here, but I appreciate you wanting to get to know Tim a little."
I nod. I want to tell her it's not for her, that I'm not sending my son away with a stranger. But I take the more diplomatic route. "We had a long conversation. He seems like a good guy."
"He is," she says. "He's good to me and doesn't judge me for my past."
"Everything," she says. "It wasn't easy to vocalize my failures, but he doesn't make me feel bad about it."
I nod and decide to address the elephant in the room. "Here's what I propose. One month in the summer, preferably July. We split Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then he can come to you again for spring break. But I have a deal breaker. Two, actually."
"What's that?" She looks visibly nervous, but I'm undaunted. This needs to be settled.
"One, he needs to give it a chance, but if after a reasonable amount of time he wants to come back, he comes back."
"Okay," she says with a nod. She's twisting her fingers with nerves, but I press on.
"Two," I continue, "I want you to agree to let Bella have time with Seth should anything happen to me."
She stills her fingers and cocks her head to the side. "What do you mean?"
"I mean I'm going to have my lawyer draw up papers that I want you to sign. If I die or am incapacitated for any reason, I want Bella to have some rights where he's concerned. I'm not going to ask you to give up custody, but she shouldn't be forced to stop being a mother to him if something happens to me. That wouldn't be fair to either one of them."
She nods slowly but doesn't say anything as she ponders my offer. I continue, wanting to get it all out there. "I also want him to be able to decide his own fate by a certain age. I think sixteen is fair."
"What does that mean, exactly?"
"It means when he turns sixteen, if he wants to permanently live with one or both of us, or Bella if anything happens to me, he should be allowed to make that decision. Within reason, of course."
"And if he chooses me?" she asks, folding her arms across her chest.
"So be it," I say with a shrug. "I'll have to live with that. But I think it's fair, don't you?"
"So if he chooses to stay here, which you know he probably will, I'm stuck then? I don't see him at all?"
"You're welcome to come here and see him anytime. And we can insist on a holiday or two. We'll work that out when the time comes. I suspect he'll choose to keep things the way they are. He loves you."
She nods and looks down. "I don't have a choice, do I?"
"You always have a choice."
"You know what I mean. I won't give him up. I can't make that same mistake again."
"I don't expect you to."
"You've been really generous with visitation. Thank you for that." She seems so genuine and I think maybe she's finally grown up and understands what it means to be a parent. Maybe we were married too young, but without her I wouldn't have Seth, and I wouldn't know just how special Bella really is.
"I accept your offer," she continues. "I'll just have to make sure he has so much fun he wants to stay with me."
I chuckle. "Do your worst."
"What do you–"
"Daddy!" Maeve calls, running up to me, her brown curls bouncing even though her hair is wet from the pool.
I crouch to receive her and she hugs me briefly before pulling back. "Mama says can you please get the cake and the candles."
"Tell Mama yes, baby."
She kisses me on the cheek and runs away. I stand and remember Maggie was in the middle of saying something. "What were you saying?"
"Never mind," she says with a shake of her head. "You have more important things to do right now."
I walk away and go get my son's birthday cake.
Later that night I tell Bella the deal I worked out with Maggie. She knew everything already, of course, except for the part about her being given rights to Seth.
"So let me get this straight," she says from the circle of my arms as we lie in bed. "You made giving me parental rights to Seth a condition of this? Without telling me first?"
"Yes," I say softly. Bella and I don't argue much, but I can almost feel one coming on from the tone of her voice. "I didn't tell you because I didn't know how she would react and I wanted to avoid disappointing you."
Her fingers skim across my bare chest, back and forth, back and forth. I'd give just about anything to know what she's thinking and how much trouble I'm in.
She lifts her head and looks at me, her eyes wet. "You did that for me?"
"I... Of course." My brow furrows as she lays on top of me, her face level with mine. A tear slips down her cheek and I wipe under her eye with my thumb. "I did it for you and for Seth. For all of us, really."
She kisses me softly and smiles. "Thank you for making me his mother."
"I didn't so that," I say. "That was all you."
She lays her head on my chest and I hold her close and whisper in the darkness of our bedroom. "We don't share blood, but we're a family and we always will be."
We may have found each other late and suffered unimaginable heartbreak to get here, but everything I love in the world is under my roof right now. Even as we grow and change, what I told Bella is the absolute truth. We're a family. And nothing will ever change that.
Thanks for reading.