Disclaimer: You and your disclaimers. I shall now go back in time and impersonate Stephenie Meyers, and then this shall be mine. It shall, I tell you!
A/N Well, this is the end, everyone! I know it's been a long time coming, and I apologize for the long-ass wait. After writing several alternate endings, I finally landed on this one. I hope you enjoy!
Chapter 38 – Dawn
Bella knew madness for the first time in her life. She thought she had known it before, but she only now realized how in control she had been of her own emotions as an imprisoned teenager. Mental health was easy to take for granted.
The last week had gone by in a haze of violence and blood and kisses. The kisses were what brought her back to life. She found herself sitting in the shower, numb and dirty. She couldn't remember how she got there. Was she dying? Maybe she had lost too much blood, and that was why her brain was malfunctioning. But then Edward was there, and he had his arms around her. He had come out of nowhere and reminded her that she was still alive. Jasper and Emmett were there too, like a strike of lightning on a dark night, and all of a sudden she was encompassed in love and affection.
"We thought you were dead," Emmett cried into her hair. That was funny, because in the back of her head, she had feared they were all dead, too. That James had somehow managed to get to them, that his thugs had gotten away and done it for him as a last act of revenge.
There was a good ten minutes of crying and tight squeezes before the questions began flooding in. What happened? Where's James? How did you get here? Bella didn't know why, but she found it hard to form words, or even process her own thoughts. It was as if her brain had been spun around on the wheel of fortune and landed on zero.
She muttered something about a window, and they realized she wasn't up for this discussion just yet. They should have been alarmed by the fact that she had blood spattered all over her, but her mere presence had distracted them from really looking at her. Something bad had happened, but she was alive, and that was what mattered.
Carlisle knocked on the door, worried about why his sons were all hiding out in the bathroom. "Boys, what's going on?"
"Can we come in?" Esme sounded almost frantic.
She freaked out when she saw Bella, but Carlisle simply stood there in shock until his instincts kicked in. "Right, I need to examine her. Bella, are you injured?"
Bella didn't know. She felt weak, and various parts of her body hurt, but she didn't know that she had actually sustained any wounds.
"Shouldn't we call the police or take her to the hospital?" Esme said, unsure of what to do or say. She was horrified by Bella's state, and she wanted to clean her up before anyone else saw her.
Jasper was adamant about keeping her with them. She didn't need police and doctors; she needed to be home.
"We have to make sure she's okay," Carlisle reminded them, gently placing his hand on his son's shoulder. "I promise nothing will happen to her. We're never going to let anything bad happen to her again."
They kept her in the hospital for two days. She knew what they were going to say: she had miscarried. It was gone as quickly as it had been created. Her stomach was empty, and that was it.
"Your baby is fine," is what she heard instead. And she didn't realize how relieved she was going to be to hear that a future life that she hadn't wanted, hadn't planned for, that was an inconvenience, was actually going to become a human being. Her baby. Their child. There were complications, of course, and she needed to be kept under close watch. She had been put through a monumental amount of stress, and the baby had felt it, but it had a strong will, just like its mother.
She cried when she heard the news. The boys cried with her, and they might just have been happier than she was.
"You're both alive," Edward sobbed, kissing her hand. "The longest moment of our lives was when we thought you were both gone."
She was put on bed rest as soon as she got home, which Bella protested. "I'm not sick," she said.
"They're just worried that you're in shock," Jasper explained.
"Maybe I am." She wasn't sure what she was going through; she just knew she felt a sort of numbness that she had never experienced before.
"We'll get through this," he promised.
Bella knew better than to believe that entirely. She didn't know how things had gone so wrong for them. They had gotten off track, and she had lost herself in some sense. She had left them, and she never thought that would happen, that she was capable of it. She couldn't go to that dark place again. Things had to be better this time around. No more irrational jealousy or being controlled. They could be normal. Or as normal as people like them could possibly be.
"Jasper…" She didn't want to cause another argument, but she had to say it. She had to stand firm. "I want to visit Peter."
For days, Bella had thought Peter was dead; she saw her father shoot him right in front of her. Three siblings dead in a matter of minutes, and she couldn't do anything to save them. So when she found out that Peter was alive, she had cried with relief.
He had been in intensive care for days after, but now he was in stable condition, and Bella had to see him. Even if he had simply been Peter Wesley, the teacher who had been in love with her to the point of nearly destroying her psyche; even if he had been nothing more than a fellow captive, she would have wanted to see him. But he was blood. Bella didn't take much stock in her relations; it meant very little to her, and for good reason. Peter wasn't a bad person, though, and he had tried his best to save her. He had crossed a line, to be sure, but he loved her to the point of taking a bullet for her. She had to see if he was okay, and she hoped they understood.
"I know," Jasper said.
"You should," Edward replied, appearing solemn, but knowing it was the right thing to do.
"Whatever you need to do," said Emmett. "I know he tried to protect you, and I'll never say another bad word against him because of that."
"Hey stranger." Peter opened his eyes at the sound of her voice. He smiled.
"And here I thought you had forgotten about me," he joked. "I've dreamed about you every day that I've been in here," he said.
Bella pushed away her discomfort at the remark. "I wish I could have gotten here sooner. It's been a difficult few days."
Peter couldn't argue with that. "It's okay. Honestly, I didn't expect you to visit at all. I know you have a lot on your plate. But I'm happy you're here." He reached out his hand to touch her, and Bella hesitantly accepted the gesture, lightly holding his hand.
"So…how's the gaping hole in your chest?"
He cracked a smile at that. "Which one?"
"Sorry. It's painful, but they've got me all drugged up, so I can't complain too much. I can't say I recommend it, though."
Bella nodded. "Yeah, I've been there. Recovery isn't fast or easy, but you'll get there."
Peter looked away for a second. "I guess you heard about Jack and Stephanie…"
Bella took a shaky breath, the sound of Stephanie's screams still burned into her brain. "I'm so sorry, Peter."
"The worst part is that I can't stop hating Jack for it. He wasn't a bad guy, but all I can think about is how I wish he were alive so I could punch him in his fucking face. It's his fault she died. She shouldn't have died, Bella. She thought her big brother was going to save her…I should have stopped him."
"I think about it every day," Bella admitted. "How I wish I had done something different that might have saved them, but it was always going to happen, Peter. I've realized that over the years. As much as we torture ourselves over the past and what we could have done better, there's always going to be that fact. Things happen the way they do, and we just have to accept it. Otherwise we'll go down with that ship, and then no one wins."
"You're right," said Peter. "But it'll haunt me for the rest of my life, I know it will." His eyes softened when they met hers. "You're going to haunt the fuck out of me, too."
"I mean I'm alive, but I know what you mean."
"True. In that case, you're more like an STD. You'll stay with me for the rest of my life, but I enjoyed getting you."
Bella frowned, but was amused. "That was beautiful. No one's ever compared me to an STD before, especially not an incurable STD."
"What can I say? You're special." Peter smiled. "I'm going to miss you, Bella. You'll never know how much you mean to me."
She bowed her head. "You going somewhere?"
"I have to. I can't do this anymore."
Bella felt inexplicably sad. Was this goodbye already? "That doesn't mean we can't keep in touch, right? I know it doesn't feel like it, but we're family, and you mean a lot to me. More than I thought you ever would, to be honest."
"I can't imagine never seeing you again," he said, his voice cracking. "But I can't stay here. I think Forks is cursed, or maybe we're cursed. Either way, I can't be here anymore; I think it'll kill me if I do."
Bella squeezed his hand. "We're survivors, Peter. We've made it this far, and our fathers are out of the picture now. We can have normal lives for the first time. I want that for you."
"I want it, too, Bella, but it's going to be near impossible here, and don't take this the wrong way, but it's impossible with you in my life. I love you too much. There's no cure for that. You have lovers, a baby on the way, and fuck it, we're cousins. None of that has been enough to make me feel any differently about you. So I have to cut the chord."
"Shit, I really am an STD," Bella said, tears welling up in her eyes. "Is this the last time I'm going to see you?"
Peter was trying to hold back the avalanche of emotions that were threatening to rain down on him. "It has to be."
"I don't know how to do this."
"Neither do I. There isn't a right way to say goodbye to the woman you want to spend the rest of your life with, unless there's a manual I don't know about." He urged her closer, only intending to kiss the top of her head; an appropriate way to bid farewell to a relative. Bella squeezed his hand one more time before kissing him on the cheek and dashing out of the room before he had time to react. She took a moment to watch him through the glass, knowing this was it. She didn't want it this way, but he was right; they had to stay out of each other's lives.
A month later he packed up his belongings, put his house on the market, and moved to California, dog in tow. Bella was glad that he was living somewhere sunny, at least. Maybe the sun would bring more changes, and his would finally be happy.
"I know you're going to say that I'm not fat, but I feel fat, and my jeans no longer fit. So I think that does make me fat."
"To be fair, your boobs are getting bigger, but I'm not complaining." Emmett placed a hand over her belly. She was finally starting to show. It made them happy every time they saw her little bump, but Bella didn't share their enthusiasm.
"Ugh, I'm going to have to start exercising. You know how much I hate moving." She pulled her shirt by the hem, trying to cover her stomach.
"We'll just have to have tons of sex. That counts as cardio, you know," Emmett said, rubbing his hand over her belly.
"I can do that," said Bella, pleased with the idea. Her hormones had been running rampant over the past few weeks, and the boys had been benefiting nicely. The sex was frequent, and for once, Bella was wearing them out and not the other way around.
There was only one hitch to their current situation, but it wasn't an unexpected one. Bella knew it would become an issue sooner or later, and three months into the pregnancy, it finally emerged.
Who was the father?
It was Jasper who broached the subject first. They had been watching TV when Bella felt him tense up.
"Do you need a DNA test to prove who the father of your baby is?" Fucking Maury. Why were they watching it, anyway? Bella squirmed, feeling extremely self-conscious all of a sudden.
"Damn, maybe we should call him," Emmett teased. Nobody responded, preferring to avoid eye contact instead.
Jasper finally worked up the nerve to voice his feelings. "I want to know."
Bella looked at him, apprehensive. "What?"
"I want to know which one of us is the father. I need to know. Honestly, I thought I could live with it and just pretend that it's all of ours, but I know myself too well. It's going to eat away at me." Jasper knew she was scared. He cupped her face, making sure her eyes were on his. "I won't love it any less, Bella. But there's a difference between being a father and an uncle. I just need to know which one it's going to be."
Bella sighed. She couldn't disagree with anything he said. She turned to Edward and Emmett."Do you both feel the same way?"
They looked unnecessarily guilty. Bella laughed. "It's okay. It's the right thing to do…I just don't want you guys to be too upset. I know you can be a bit competitive, but there'll be chances for more babies in the future. The very distant future. Like a decade from now." She touched her swollen belly and wondered if she'd ever want to go through this again, but knew it wasn't worth stressing about just then.
"Let's see how this one goes first," said Edward. "Speaking of, when is your ultrasound?"
The boys perked up.
Bella smiled. She loved how excited they were. She was just dreading it. Going to the doctor never got better. "Monday at noon. I figure we can all go on our lunch breaks."
"Well, there's your little fighter," Dr. Lang said, pointing out the baby's heartbeat on the screen.
"It does persevere, I'll give it that," said Bella. It was a true mix of Mercury and Cullen, and no doubt it would blaze a trail as it grew up. Oh god, she thought. If it was a boy, he was going to be a heartbreaker like his father and uncles. She already felt sorry for all the girls of tomorrow.
Dr. Lang frowned, squinting at the screen. "Hold on a minute, sweetie." She moved the paddle around Bella's belly, her eyebrows raising. "I have to say, it's been awhile since this happened."
Emmett gasped. "What? Is something wrong?"
"Oh god, it's not dead, is it?" Jasper was about to wrestle the paddle from Dr. Lang's hands
"But we just saw the heartbeat…" Edward said, suddenly unsure if he was going to faint.
Dr. Lang chuckled, amused. "It depends on your definition of 'wrong'. And no, they're both doing fine. Two strong heartbeats. I don't know how I missed the second one."
She was met with silence.
"No, I object." Now Bella was in danger of passing out. "I can't do two. I can barely do half a baby."
"I know it's scary, Miss Mercury, but there are two of them in there."
The boys lit up. Emmett was elated, while Jasper and Edward were gobsmacked.
"That's a lot of babies," Edward muttered.
"There are four of us," Emmett said, unconcerned. "We're going to have so much fun!"
Jasper had to smile at that. He couldn't be upset at the idea of two children at once, but, like Bella, he was terrified. Two times the feedings, two times the diapers, two times the screaming. Two times the cuteness…
"It's going to be okay, Bella," he whispered, kissing her on the cheek. "I know it's hard to imagine it, but Emmett's right; we're going to have so much fun with these kids. We're going to be a true family."
"There's going to be six of us," Bella said. "That's a lot of people. And what if they hate me? I don't know if I can breastfeed people who hate me."
She was adorable, Jasper thought. He knew she was going to be a wonderful mother, despite all of her insecurities. She was going to make sure they had the childhood she never had.
"You're right," Bella said, taking a deep breath. "Just promise me all the goddamn drugs when it's time."
Bella let out a blood-curdling shriek, clutching the handles on Edward's car until her knuckles were white. "Jesus fucking Christ! Get me to the hospital NOW!"
She had been in the middle of watching a scary movie when her water broke, which also happened to be the moment when one of the characters was being violently murdered.
Jasper had been in the kitchen making dinner, while Edward and Emmett were in the laundry room (because Emmett couldn't be trusted on his own).
"Hey, guys? I think we need a new couch," Bella called out.
Jasper came in, looking at her with a perplexed frown.
"My water broke," explained Bella, her face a mixture of guilt and fear. She wasn't ready for this.
Jasper's eyes widened in understanding. "I'll get the car."
He yelled for his brothers. "It's time," he said, perhaps more dramatically than he meant to.
They had shuffled Bella into Edward's car. Emmett, being the most brazen when it came to speeding, took the wheel, while Jasper and Edward coached her in the backseat, which she did not appreciate.
"Stop talking," she croaked. She was in the middle of a rather powerful contraction, and now that she had two men on either side of her, she couldn't take her pain out on the door handles. "No more babies after this," she swore. "We'll get puppies instead."
"That's okay, we don't need more babies. Puppies are wonderful, love." Edward stroked her hair, which was now wet. She was covered in sweat and tears.
"How far are we from the hospital?" Jasper asked Emmett.
"Ten minutes." Emmett replied, weaving his way into the far left lane.
"I don't know if they're going to wait that long," said Bella. "They're pretty serious about this whole coming-out-of-mommy thing."
She gave birth five minutes after they arrived at the hospital. They had chosen not to know the sexes of their babies until they popped out, which had been harder for the boys than for Bella. She wanted to be surprised, but now, with all the pain and gore, she really didn't a give a flying ant.
"It's a boy!"
Demetri Cullen was the first to come into the world. He was already touting a thick head of dark hair, and his eyes, while firmly shut, would later be revealed to be an electric blue. He was gorgeous.
Aurora Cullen introduced herself seven minutes after her brother. They were as fraternal as twins could get, for she contrasted her brother in the most beautiful way. Instead of dark hair, she was blonde, and instead of blue eyes, hers were green. They were a healthy mixture of all the Cullen crew.
"Damn, we make some seriously pretty babies", Bella said, cradling them in her arms. The boys had been vying to hold them since the moment they were cleaned up and handed over by the nurses. They took turns, but Bella found herself not wanting to let them go.
"You know, I might actually keep them," Bella said, a small smirk playing on her lips.
Emmett ran his fingers along Aurora's tiny head. Her hair was soft, and even though it was blonde, he could tell that she was going to have Bella's wavy hair.
"I'm pretty sure we're never going to let them go," he said.
Jasper gingerly removed Demetri from Bella's arms, melting at how small he was. "Hey there." He couldn't stop smiling. He turned to Bella, his smile growing even bigger. "I think he looks just like his mama."
Bella giggled. "With a dash of your blue eyes." Her smiled faded quickly, but she tried covering it up.
"What's wrong?" Edward asked.
Bella gave him an incredulous look. "You know, giving birth can really wear a girl out. But…I don't want to sleep. I just want to keep staring at them."
"I know what you mean." Edward grazed a finger over Aurora's cheek. "I don't think anyone's ever had more perfect children."
"Spoken like a true parent," said Bella, her smile returning. "I didn't think it would be like this, that they would kidnap my heart in a matter of minutes."
"I know. You were worried, I could tell. But that's normal."
"I just…I thought I might be too much of a Mercury. Cold and crazy."
Jasper shook his head. "You're your mom's daughter, Bella. You don't ever need to worry about being like him."
"I know I'm like him in some ways. I've discovered that over the years, but…you're right. In the end, I had nothing to worry about. Who wouldn't love these little titans? They're going to take over the world someday."
Eventually she was forced to lay back and rest. They all needed sleep, the nurses said. Despite the long, painful, exhilarating day, Bella couldn't sleep. She was thinking. Instead of basking in the joy she had been feeling, she was fretting.
They didn't know.
The four of them had agreed months ago to take a DNA test. They all wanted to know for sure. But the initiative was never taken, because the truth was that they were all equally terrified. Now that they were finally here, Bella was even more worried. The boys loved them more than life itself, she could tell. Wouldn't that make it all the more devastating for the two who didn't father them? She had hoped she would know when they were born, but dammit. Aurora had Jasper's hair and Edward's eye color; Demetri had dark hair (which could belong to her, Edward, or Emmett), and Jasper's eyes. She was terrified of the results, of the reactions. Would things be different? Of course they would. She knew they would love them no matter what, but it wouldn't be the same. They all wanted to be the father.
"I'm scared, even though I know there's nothing to be scared of." Edward had been pacing for a good ten minutes. They had been waiting for the results for the last week, and everyone was on edge.
"I bet they're Jasper's," said Emmett. He wasn't bitter about it; he had accepted this since the moment he saw that gorgeous little girl. "Aurora definitely looks like his kid."
"She also looks like dad," Edward pointed out. "They both take after all of us in some way. We could all end up having blonde-haired children."
"Yeah, but…I still think they're Jasper's. He gets everything before we do."
"Even so, they're our children. Nothing will change that."
"I know, and I could never love them less. It's like they're stars that fell out of the sky."
Edward raised his eyebrows. "Damn, Emmett, I don't think I've ever heard you say something so…poetic."
"I'm a deep guy, bro."
Edward chuckled. "Anyway, Demetri has your hair. I can already see some of the infamous Emmett curls forming."
Emmett wished that were true. "I guess we'll find out soon. Have you heard from mom and dad today?"
Carlisle and Esme had come to the same realization as their children. Esme in particular was wringing her hands, ready to console whichever two of her sons were left disappointed.
Jasper had picked up the phone when she called that morning. "Any news?" She asked.
"Not yet," said Jasper. "Mom, don't worry about it. We're not going to break over this. We love them, and each other, no matter what. And there'll be opportunities for more children in the future."
"That's easy to say for someone who doesn't have to give birth to them," Esme huffed. "Just…let me know when the results are in. I'll come over as soon as possible. Or sooner! I want to see my grandbabies again."
"You just saw them yesterday," Jasper pointed out, grinning. There wasn't a Cullen in the world who hadn't fallen in love with them the moment they saw them. "You can come over tonight if you want. Bella's still resting, but she was up all night with them. She refused to go to sleep, actually."
Esme sighed, nostalgic. "I remember those first-time-parent jitters. I was so paranoid with you that I wouldn't let anyone else watch you until you were a year old. I have a feeling Bella is going to be the same."
The test results came just in time to ruin dinner.
"So…who wants to have the honors?" Edward asked. No one volunteered.
"I'll do it," Bella said. "It's only fair." She took the three envelopes from Edward, gently prying open the seals one by one. She hesitated. "You promise you won't throw a fit, right?"
"I pinky swear," said Emmett.
"You don't have anything to worry about," Edward chimed in.
"It's going to be difficult for everyone, even the father. We're all in this together, darling." Jasper embraced her, placing a quick kiss on her lips.
Bella took a deep breath. "Fuck it, here we go." She slipped the little piece of paper out. How could one damn piece of paper hold so much power?
She frowned. The first one was negative. He's going to be so disappointed, she thought, making sure to avoid any and all eye contact with them.
Another deep exhale.
She opened the last two simultaneously, her eyes widening as she read both.
"Um…I don't know how to say this…"
They froze, panicked.
"What is it?" Jasper could barely stop himself from grabbing them from her hands.
"Well…according to these…none of you are the father…" Bella's shoulders shrunk.
"That doesn't even make sense!" Emmett exclaimed.
"But you would never cheat," Jasper said.
Edward squinted. "Bella…"
Bella rolled her eyes. "Fine, fine. I thought that would make you realize that there are worse alternatives."
"I almost had a heart attack, Bella." Emmett glared at her, crossing his arms.
"So who is it?" The suspense was killing Edward. Once they got this out of the way, they could finally get on with things and just be happy.
Bella's mouth had gone dry. "They're Emmett's."
Jasper and Edward turned to him. They couldn't deny a small prick of jealousy, but…they were happy for him, despite wanting it for themselves so badly. He deserved it, and he looks so elated and stunned that they could never hold it against him.
"Congrats, man," Jasper pulled him in for a hug. "I call dibs on the next one, though."
"Hey, not fair." Edward punched Jasper in the shoulder before stealing his own hug from Emmett. "See? I told you they were yours."
Emmett couldn't get over the shock. Did he really make those? He would never ask for anything else in his entire life.
Except pizza and sex.
"Like you said…they're all of ours." He reminded them.
Bella stood there, wondering what exactly it was she was feeling. Oh, contentment, she realized. Not numbness, not fear, not even the all-too familiar uncertainty. For the first time, she wasn't worried about anything. Her life had morphed into something she never could have fathomed. Three lovers who adored her and two gorgeous children who were going to keep her up all day and night. If she didn't know better, she would have thought this was all one horrible, wonderful, sexy, terrifying dream.
Life was good.
"I don't know where you'd rather be. If you hate it here so much, I can take you away. It doesn't matter as long as we're together."
"I'd rather be at the bottom of a well with only rats for company. You should just let me go. What are you so afraid of?"
James gripped her chin. "Afraid? I've never been afraid of anything, especially not of you leaving me. Because you never will. You could die tomorrow, and I would still keep you here."
"But at least I'd be dead."
A/N Until next time! 3