This is was the most popular request when it came to outtakes, so I wrote it first. Hopefully, these two will stay in my head long enough to get to the other requests.
Review replies: I'm still working on them. If I haven't gotten to yours yet, it's just because I'm really, really fricken busy right now.
Thanks to Stratan for the beta work; stephk0525, twilover76, and claireoth for the prereading.
I pulled in the garage and shut the engine to the Volvo off. It was dark in our house. Quiet.
Too fucking quiet for a Thursday morning.
But maybe Bella was just running behind.
WIth a heavy sigh, I opened the door and moved to get out. God damn, my body ached. On call for forty-eight hours, busting my balls for nearly half of them. I thought I maybe got four hours of decent sleep the entire time, and was to the point that coffee didn't do shit anymore.
I loved every fucking second of it.
I lived for every fucking second of it.
Well, that and for the girl likely in her bra and underwear trying to get ready for another typical day at the office.
An office that specialized in adoptions.
Christ, even exhausted, my body demanded something from her. A reconnection of sorts, a quickie on the fucking sink.
I wondered if she had the time.
I shuffled my way to the door and entered the house. Not in the mood to eat, I grabbed a small bottle of juice from the fridge and blindly walked back toward our bedroom. We hadn't had this house for long. Just since we'd finally gotten married a few months back. But between Bella and Esme, it had been completely redone. There were guys everywhere replacing doors and taking out fucking walls... I'd practically shoved them out the day it was deemed ready for us to move in.
But it had been what Bella wanted. She wanted a place we would both be happy with, much like we were in our apartment for so long. Something that was ours; that held no trace of the family who lived here before us. I thought maybe Alice was rubbing off on her or something, but I kept my mouth shut. Not like I cared. If she was happy, I was happy.
End of the goddamned story.
I stepped inside the bedroom and immediately stopped short. The curtains were still closed, like Bella hadn't gotten out of bed yet. But she had. The covers were thrown back, and the bathroom light was on. A retching sound came from behind the door, and panic surged through me.
When was the last time she was sick? One, two, three months ago...? I couldn't fucking think, too tired... too...
"Hi," she moaned, and I was through the door before I could think. "I'm sick."
"I can fucking see that," I snapped. She was draped over the toilet, hands on the seat, hair pulled back in a knot at the nape of her neck. Her legs curled up under her, she made a heaving sound again.
I shut my eyes and took a deep breath. I hated it when she was sick. It was like my worst nightmare coming to life. The risks, the pain of losing her, were all I could think of, no matter how fucking hard I tried not to.
Which pissed me off. It wasn't her fault. She didn't need me yelling at her or acting like some dick husband just because I was terrified of what was happening inside her body. I was acceptant of her mortality; realistically, I could only guarantee a short amount of time with her before some kind of complication or failure arose. But when she got sick, all that rationality flew right through the window. Having it staring back at me, taunting me, made me crazy. Like I had to do everything in my power to keep her here, save her, if that was what it took.
It was one of the things I still worked with Banner on. Because Bella was always fine. After five years of being with her, seeing her get the flu and strep and common colds every year, I should be used to it.
But I wasn't.
Not. Even. Close.
She waved me off.
"Since about six?"
I crouched down next to her and checked my watch. Two hours was all.
"Throwing up the whole time?"
"Not really. I showered."
I finally noticed her hair was wet. Fuck, I really was tired.
"I called in sick," she continued.
"Then come lie down with me, yeah?"
She lifted her head. Her eyes were bloodshot, bags beneath them.
"It's probably the stomach flu," I said, more for myself than her. "If you're not feeling better when we wake up, we'll run you into the hospital."
She glowered up at me, making me laugh.
Like getting pissed off would stop me from taking her. I'd toss her over my shoulder if I had to.
I helped her to her feet, waited for her to brush her teeth, wash her hands, and dunk her toothbrush in a cup of Listerine when she was through, fighting off a smile the entire time.
The habits I'd brought home from the hospital were rubbing off on her.
We crawled into bed together and drew up the covers. Bella snuggled against me, her knee coming up between my legs as she worked to get comfortable.
I closed my eyes, happier than I'd been the entire time I was racing around that ER.
"I've really fucking missed you."
"God, Rosalie, I'm so tired. Do we have to go out tonight?" Bella whined.
Rosalie's red lips pursed unhappily. "Bella, I'm childless for the night. Help me out a little."
"What's up with you, anyway?"
"Flu," I interjected. "Twenty-four hour bug, but she's still kind of tired from it. Mind if we just go home after dinner?"
She huffed but wisely didn't argue. She knew all too well how I was when it came to Bella's health to try.
"Next weekend?" she bargained.
"Who's watching Gavin?"
"You guys are going out alone?"
"You don't want to spend the time with your nephew?" she retorted, arching her brow.
"No. Fuck, no. I want him. Bring him over around six. We'll make dinner."
"No dessert. The last time you sent him home I was peeling him off the wall. Cupcakes for breakfast, Edward? Really?"
I laughed. That'd been a fun weekend.
And then noticed Rosalie's stance, her facial expression and sobered up immediately.
"I promise. No dessert."
I'd just think of something else.
We were led to a table in one of the back rooms. Alice sat on the other side of Bella; Jasper was next to her. Emmett and Rosalie were on the other side. None of us spoke for a while, too busy perusing the menus in front of us.
Bella nudged me with her elbow, and I glanced over at her curiously.
"If I order the chicken nachos, will you share them with me?"
I blinked a few times. "What? You never want to eat stuff like that."
"I know. I'm getting the grilled shrimp, but the nachos just sound really good." She looked at me beseechingly. "Please, baby? I just want like... five chips or something."
I let my gaze drift over to Emmett. "Em?"
"Problem solved," I said to Bella with a grin.
She put her menu down happily. "Thank you."
Dinner was how it always was when we got together: loud, full of energy. We all lived within a one hundred and fifty mile radius of each other, yet it still felt like we missed out on practically everything that happened in one another's lives. But I supposed that was normal. At least, I fucking hoped it was.
Because it was our normal.
Appetizers were served. I grabbed Bella's plate up against her protest and dished out some of the nachos at the end of the platter, passing it back to her with an impish smile.
"I could have done that, you know."
"Maybe I just want to dote on my wife a little," I replied, reaching out and fiddling with her wedding ring. I fucking loved that bit of platinum around her finger. It symbolized everything I'd worked for, how far I'd come since the day I met her. It was a reminder that no matter how hard some therapy sessions were - how hard some would still be - it would always be worth it in the end.
She would always be worth it.
"I have to go back in tomorrow. I won't see you much for the next week. Just fucking give me this, Bella."
She laughed. "That wasn't what I was going to say."
"Then what were you going to say?"
"That I love hearing you say that."
I stared at her in confusion for a moment, and then it hit me.
I grinned widely.
Our focus was drawn away from each other by the argument Jasper and Alice were having beside us. I caught the gist - something about a puppy, for fuck's sake - and glanced at Bella.
She was trying not to laugh, instead deciding to pick up a chip from her plate and take a bite.
She made a face and dropped the rest to her plate, reaching out for her water and frantically trying to rinse away whatever it was that was bothering her.
"Do they taste off to you?" she finally asked.
I frowned, noting the way she'd literally gone green. I grabbed a chip from her plate and tested it out, chewing, and seeing absolutely nothing wrong with it at all.
It tasted like a fucking nacho. Like all nachos tasted.
"Huh." She stared down at the plate, her face scrunching up again, and then pushed it away. "Maybe I'm still sick?"
I didn't answer.
Bella picked at the rest of her food. I tried to keep my panic in check, tried to pretend like I didn't notice the way she pushed a piece of shrimp around her plate or scooped up rice, only to let it fall back down before even attempting to eat it. She got the leftovers boxed up, and I paid the bill, lying to my brothers about still being exhausted from all those hours I'd recently put in at work.
"We're not stupid, you know."
I moved my eyes from where Bella was talking to Rose to my brother.
"She doesn't feel well, and you're freaking out."
I glared at him. "Jasper, fuck. Don't start with me. It's been a long week."
"You do this every time. You're going to have high blood pressure before you're thirty-five with as stressed out as you are."
I dropped my eyes to the ground.
"Then stop being a douche."
I huffed. And then I chuckled because - as fucking always - he was right. "Okay, I'll stop."
"How's that puppy hunt going?"
He cocked his brow. "Oh, now you're going to start shit with me?"
I threw him a lopsided smile. "Yep."
He rolled his eyes like he was annoyed with me, but he ranted like a man who needed to. Like he'd kept it to himself for too long and needed an outsider's opinion.
Looked like I was the chosen outsider.
"I keep telling her we don't have time for a dog. Especially a puppy. I mean, Jesus, I'm never home. And she's not much better. How are we supposed to keep it from shitting in the house?"
"I don't know; crate it or leave it outside like everyone else?"
"Being on her side."
I laughed. "It could be worse, Jazz. It could be a pot-bellied pig or something equally fucking nasty."
"Just give her what she wants. Who cares if it's got a tail and barks." I glanced over at Bella again. "I've got to get her home. Let me know what kind of dog you pick out, okay?"
He flipped me off.
But I knew he'd given in.
After what seemed like far too long to tell everyone goodbye, I finally got Bella out of there and into the Volvo. She rested her head against the window and closed her eyes as soon as we got on the freeway.
"I feel kind of woozy again, is all."
"Which would be why you didn't eat."
"You saw that, huh?"
"I'm fine, babe. I promise."
"Well, if I need to stop-"
"No," she shook her head, "I just want to go home. Crawl into bed. Maybe give you some of my germs."
She opened her eyes and looked over at me. Dark and heavy, needy, I reacted to them. That one, loaded look had me gripping onto the steering wheel just a little tighter, made me press down on the accelerator just a little more.
I'd gladly expose myself to some germs just to get inside her.
With a soft laugh, she closed her eyes again. "You're so easy."
"Damn straight," I muttered.
She didn't say anything else for a while, and I thought she'd fallen asleep until she suddenly jerked in her seat and shot forward.
"What the fuck?"
But she didn't acknowledge me. She just dug around in her purse, mumbling something that sounded far too close to "no fucking way" for my liking. She sat back just as suddenly as she'd shot forward, phone in hand, her index finger rapidly tapping at the screen.
Then she slumped in her seat, let out a gust of air, and stared out the windshield.
She cut her eyes to me. They were wide. Terrified of something. A smile curved her lips, but it was dead. There wasn't any feeling behind it.
"Sorry. I just forgot to pick something up from the pharmacy. I can get it in the morning, though."
I didn't believe it for a second.
I found Bella sitting on one of the barstools in our kitchen. Her lip was between her teeth, and her eyes were shining, almost like she'd been crying. Dinner was laid out before her.
"There's a steak..."
"What is that, tilapia?"
"I could have eaten that."
I clenched my jaw in an effort to keep this strange sense of foreboding from consuming me.
She suddenly sniffled.
And I lost it.
"Bella, I swear to fuck if you don't tell me what's going on-"
"I think I'm pregnant."
Her words were a whisper, but God, they were so loud. So fucking loud. Reverberating through my head, vibrating my soul.
"Take my meds religiously," she finished for me. "I know."
I glanced around, wondering what the hell it was I felt. I felt frozen, like if I nurtured this tiny seed of joy inside me things would blow up in my face. That I'd lose her and our...
My knees gave out, and I leaned up against the wall.
"Fuck." My hands went to my hair. "Fuck, fuck, fuck."
"I don't know if that's a good fuck or not."
"I don't either," I answered honestly.
"Then we're in the same boat. Awesome," she snarked.
"Baby... This isn't how we wanted it. It's... Jesus, I feel like hitting something." But everything was new and pristine.
So I did the next best thing.
I grabbed a bottle of whiskey out of the cabinet and unscrewed the lid. I didn't bother with a glass. I just needed to calm my nerves.
Looser now, I sat beside her. "Okay, so you said you think, right? You don't know?"
She shook her head. Reached out for a white plastic bag sitting to her right and gave it to me.
I wanted to kick myself for being too busy to notice. For not seeing signs and realizing something was very glaringly missing these days.
"How late are you?"
I pulled out what was inside. Two boxes. Pregnancy tests. Digital and the standard two pink line method.
I tried not to throw up as I said, "These work best in the morning. When your hCG levels are highest."
"But I'm already so late..."
I knew what she was getting at. Neither of us would sleep unless we had some sort of idea of what was going on.
"Take one tonight and double check in the morning before we call Carlisle?" I offered weakly.
She nodded and moved off the stool.
Her eyes shifted to what was supposed to have been our dinner.
"I shouldn't have cooked. I just needed to do... something until you got home."
I jerked a shoulder up uncaringly. Wasted food was the least of our worries right now.
We went into the bedroom with whichever box it was I'd picked up off the counter. Bella disappeared behind the bathroom door, and I paced around listlessly, listening to the sound of the box being torn open, plastic crinkling. The door that separated the toilet from the rest of the bathroom was closed, and then I heard the toilet flush.
Bella opened the door but stayed inside. I found her sitting on the edge of the tub chewing on her lip again.
She wouldn't look at me. And for that, I fucking hated myself. I loved being involved in our nephew's life. Loved that kid so goddamned much that sometimes it literally made my chest ache. But he wasn't ours. There weren't all these bad things surrounding him like there were for a child of our own. It was exactly why we'd spent the last two years planning a family.
A family that was still supposed to be a few years away.
But we didn't need five minutes. I chanced a look at the test strip and saw the faintest second pink line start to form on the paper.
I opened my mouth to say something, but nothing came out.
"It's positive, isn't it?"
I managed a nod.
She choked out a sob and wrapped her arms around herself. I stood there like the fucking idiot I was until she lifted her head and broke me with, "I'm sorry."
"Sorry? Fuck- Baby, don't be sorry." I kneeled in front of her and pulled her arms away from her body. "I'm sorry. I should have-"
I brought her down to my lap and kissed her then, hoping that she'd know the way I felt with it since I couldn't seem to formulate the right words. I wanted it. God, I wanted it. But this wasn't exactly a typical surprise pregnancy. There were so many complications. Complications that I could easily list off from memory.
A ten percent chance of the baby inheriting Bella's heart defect.
That Bella's medication could cause any number of defects on its own; that the baby would have a low birth weight or come too early.
Hypertension. Preeclampsia. Increased blood volume. Increased heart rate and cardiac output, abnormal liver function...
On and on it went, and I had to force myself to start thinking of something good. Of how Bella had never once shown signs of rejection. How her kidneys and liver all functioned perfectly, and her immunosuppressants were the least likely to cause the baby harm.
But the fear wouldn't go away.
"I can't lose you yet," I whispered. My hands traveled to her hips, then inward so that they framed her lower abdomen.
It didn't escape my notice that she never promised I wouldn't.
There's no heartbeat, not that any of us expected one so early. It's nothing but a gestational sac, but it's there. It's mine. It's hers.
It's something I helped create. Something I never thought I'd have. It's... lame as it fucking sounds, a miracle. Something that shouldn't be but is. Like its mother. Like me.
It's healthy. Strong. And looking at it on the screen, watching Bella squirm uncomfortably as her OB performs the ultrasound, I know that we're supposed to be here. As scary as it fucking is - as challenging as it seems - there's a reason why we were given this. Right now, at this moment, and not three years from now like we'd planned. There's a reason why Bella is the one carrying our baby and not some stranger. Why she was given this experience.
It's just a blob. A small, black dot in a sea of gray.
But I love it already.