Always a Bridesmaid
Epilogue: Forever Young
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. Did you think I did? That worries me.
Props to S. Meyers for thinking these kids up.
Thanks so much for reading! And to some of you - thanks for trying out a new fandom with me. I kind of love that I stole a couple of you away from the viking, even if just for this story.
Big thanks to E_Hunter, Seastarr08, and SydneyGen. I love that they make cleaning up my messy first drafts of things fun. Even if they do make fun of me. (Is that an Americanism?... I don't think a man would say that... Delete that comma—And that comma.) I can't believe it's been almost four months that SydneyGen and I have been having our Wednesday night/Thursday morning cross-continent finishing touches chats! Guess I'll have to come up with something else to write so we can keep in touch!
So...here's the epilogue...I hope you enjoy it.
It seemed like I could never get caught up on case notes. A soon as I did, some crisis came up that put me behind again. I learned to find time throughout the day, hiding out to buckle down undisturbed and get some work done. I'd found that the small office behind the nurse's desk on the third floor was a surprisingly good place to work; it was like hiding in plain sight. I was tucked in there transcribing some notes when I heard my name in the conversation between the nurses at the desk.
"Masen-Cullen is so hot."
I rolled my eyes. I hated the first few weeks after a new round of nursing students started at the hospital. I always felt a little dirty; they looked at me like a hunk of meat. Ugh. Stupid Grey's Anatomy and ER for making people think hospitals were a giant orgy.
"Yeah, but he's married," another voice said. "I heard his wife is cute."
"Cute? How could someone so hot be with someone who's just cute?" the first voice said.
What the fuck did that mean? Bella was certainly more than just cute. She was beautiful. Perfect. Everything to me.
"I don't know. I heard he's like really serious about her, not like some of the other married doctors who'll fuck anything in the hospital. It's kind of awesome."
There was a snort and the first nurse spoke again, "Whatever. I'd hit that—that's all I'm saying."
"So would I, but it's not going to happen." She paused and I recognized the sound of papers shuffling. "Anyway, I heard his wife is best friends with Nurse Hale, too."
"No shit? Hale is scary."
I had to agree with that. You didn't want to be on Rose's bad side.
"You know," nurse two continued, "I actually think I heard they're sister-in laws."
"Huh. So, Hale is married to her brother?"
"No, you nitwits, I'm married to Edward's brother," Rose's voice boomed, startling me. "Don't you have patients to check on? Get moving."
"Yes, of course, sorry," they mumbled before I heard the scraping of charts being taken out of the rack and retreating footsteps.
I ran my fingers through my hair and sighed. Thinking I was alone, I was about to get back to work when Rose scared the crap out of me.
"Edward, you can come out now. The scary nursing students are gone."
I peeked through the doorway and she was staring back at me, her hand on her hip and laughter in her eyes. I gave her a crooked smile.
"What's up, Doc?"
I turned my chair and opened up the door wider. "Not much. Paperwork."
"And hiding from flirty nursing students?"
"Something like that." I scrubbed my hands over my face. "What are you doing?"
"Instilling fear the hearts of new students so they'll do what I ask them to."
I chuckled, that was so like her to do something like that. "How much did you hear? It sounds like you've been successful, at least with those two."
"I heard enough. They'll do my grunt work for a few weeks before they catch on." She leaned back to sit on the edge of desk, her mood turning more serious. "You okay?"
I sighed. "I'm good, just tired—nothing new."
She nodded and gave me a look that I knew meant she had more to say. I steadied myself, waiting for whatever probing question she was going to ask, or freaky words of wisdom she was going to impart.
"You know stressing out about it is only making it worse. Fertility is a fickle bitch."
I pinched the bridge of my nose and didn't say anything, hoping that she would just drop it.
"You're a doctor, Edward. You've got a God damn vag badge for delivering babies. You need to be the one telling her not to worry. You can't be the one freaking out."
"Rose, please, and I'm not freaking out."
I didn't want to talk about it; I was exhausted from thinking about it. Bella and I had been trying to get pregnant for almost eight months. She was getting discouraged and it was gutting me to see her so heartbroken.
"I'm going to remind you of the stats, okay? Eighty percent of couples get pregnant after a year of having unprotected sex. It's only been six months or so."
"Okay eight, but it hasn't been a year. You need to relax for a little bit longer and just keep trying—I'm sure that won't be a problem for you two. In another four months if you're still not pregnant...then your first step is for both of you to get checked out—before you become fucked up messes."
"I know all of that. It's just..." I ran a hand through my hair. I looked up at her and finally told someone how I'd been feeling. "She's so sad, Rose. She gets her hopes up every month. It kills me when she gets her period. I feel like my schedule is ruining our chances; we never see each other and when we do the first thing we do is fuck—it's not even intimate. It wasn't supposed to be this hard."
"Edward, I can't imagine what the two of you are going through, but you have got to talk about this." She looked down at the floor and sighed, then raised her eyes to mine. "She thinks you're disappointed in her."
"Each time she gets her period she thinks she's failed you somehow. She won't listen to me or Alice. Shit—she can hardly look at Alice."
My sister was just starting to show with her first child. It was a little crazy to see since she'd always been so tiny. Her pregnancy was obvious, and I could understand how it would upset Bella to see it.
"She has to hear it from you, Edward. She has to know that you're not upset and that she doesn't need to worry."
I knew she was right. I nodded and Rose gave me a sympathetic smile. I needed to talk to Bella. I didn't know how she could ever think I'd be disappointed in her. I leaned back in my chair. Letting my head drop back, I stared at the ceiling for a second while I tried to think about what I needed to do.
"You look like hell, by the way. Why don't you put your head down and take a nap? I won't tell anyone you're back here."
I ran my hand through my hair again and sat up. "Thanks. And thanks for telling me about Bella."
She shrugged. "I try not to get in the middle of shit, but you needed to know. It will happen, Edward, just give it a little more time."
"Yeah." It had hurt to hear what Bella was thinking, but I was glad Rose had told me. I just had to figure out when our schedules would align so I could have a little heart to heart with my wife.
I pushed the door mostly closed and moved my laptop off to the side so I could put my head on the desk. I managed a short nap before I was paged for a patient who'd spiked a fever. I spent the rest of the shift thinking about Bella and how much I needed her to know I loved her—no matter what our future held.
She was getting ready for work when I got home. I hesitated for a second before jumping in the shower to join her; I was struggling with the thought that lately all we did was have sex. It wasn't the time or place to have the conversation we needed to, but I needed Bella to know how much I loved her. Stepping under the water, I took her in my arms for a kiss, whispering 'I love you's' before I dropped to my knees to worship her. She was panting when I stood up, smiling dreamily as she tried to catch her breath. Her arms wound around my neck and I lifted her so she could wrap her legs around me. I pushed into her, moaning at how fucking amazing she felt. I moved in and out of her hard and fast, quickly bringing us both over the edge so she wouldn't be late. I felt a million times better about us, but I knew we still needed to talk.
When she got home that night I was walking out the door. I held her for a minute; having her in my arms always made me feel better, steadier. She snuggled her head against my chest and sighed.
"I've missed you this week."
"I know, Belly. Tomorrow. I have plans for us." It was date day and I had it all planned out. We'd spend time together, relax and recharge. More importantly, we would talk. I just had to get through one more shift at the hospital.
The first couple of hours of my ER shift dragged. It was a weeknight. The weather was fine and it was eerily calm. No one dared say that it was slow; that would be cursing us to some sort of catastrophic accident on the highway, or an apartment fire that would fill the place.
I'd gone up to the lab to retrieve some test results and was stepping out of the elevator into the emergency room when I heard the announcement that there was an MVA coming in. The nursing staff moved quickly getting supplies ready and clearing room for gurneys. Multiple vehicle accidents could mean three or four patients or it could mean twenty. Everyone started to prepare, waiting to hear how many people we should expect. I glanced at the labs to make sure there was nothing that I needed to worry about immediately, then stuck them in the chart and slipped on a gown to cover my lab coat.
Doctor Papadopoulos, the attending doctor on duty, was on the phone at the nurse's station. He knew his last name was a nightmare for most people to pronounce, so he encouraged most people to call him by his first name, Demitri, or simply Doctor P.
He rubbed a hand over his face and listened to someone on the other end of the phone, not speaking much. When he hung up he looked around the emergency room as if taking stock. I could only imagine he was assessing both staff and supplies; it wasn't a good sign.
He headed outside to wait for the ambulances and I followed him, my body starting to hum with the anticipation of a good trauma case.
"Edward." He nodded.
"Demetri, do you know how many we expect?"
"A semi jack-knifed on the highway and a few cars piled up behind it. They've got four buses on scene, not sure if we're getting them all or if they'll need to send more out."
I nodded as we heard the sirens in the distance getting closer. The doors behind us whooshed open and more of the ER staff came outside to wait with us.
"All right folks, keep cool and do what you're trained to do. Take patients as they come. If you fight over the worst traumas I'll kick you out of my ER. Ready?"
It was a rhetorical question, but I heard a few first years answer, "Yes, sir."
The first ambulance pulled in shortly after that. The medics jumped out to open the back and pull the gurney out.
"Masen-Cullen and Murray this one's yours," Demetri called out as another ambulance rounded the corner. "Parker and Peters, the next is yours."
I didn't hear anymore as Doctor Maggie Murray and I ran to the back of the ambulance to get our patient. The legs on the gurney dropped down and we wheeled a very large and bloody man towards the doorway. The medic moved along with us carrying an IV bag, spouting vitals and talking about blunt force trauma.
He was unconscious, his blood pressure was low and his abdomen was hard. They were all signs of internal bleeding and we quickly called to get him into an operating room.
Thirty minutes later, following a series of chaotic events that could only be expected in a busy ER in the midst of a rush of traumas, I found myself elbow deep in my patient's spleen, scrubbing in with the Chief of Surgery.
Working in an ER was like riding a roller coaster. It had its dips and rolls, but for the most part it was an adrenaline rush. Surgery was different. It was a rush to get in there and make that first incision, but then everything else went away. Some people called it 'being in the zone.' Whatever it was, it was intense and exhilarating in a completely different way than the rush of trauma.
The patient had a ruptured spleen and a torn liver, thanks to the force of the steering wheel into his gut during the crash. I hadn't been on a surgery rotation in a while, so it was nice to get back into it for a change—though I briefly wondered about the other victims coming into the ER.
The Chief was tying off the short gastric vessels while asking me questions about the potential complications of splenectomies when the intercom beeped and a nurse's voice interrupted him.
"I'm sorry, sir. Doctor Masen-Cullen is needed in the ER."
He raised his eyebrows at me across the patient. "Really, Claire? He seems kind of busy to me."
"Ah, yes, Doctor. Sorry, but he really needs to get down to the ER."
"Cullen is good, but no one else can handle whatever it is you have going on down there? I'm trying to get him to reconsider and go in to surgery instead of emergency medicine, and I think it's working."
I couldn't see the smile under his mask, but I was sure it was there. He was irritated at the interruption but handling it well, all while continuing to work on the patient.
"Oh, well, I'm sure you're convincing, sir, but Doctor Masen-Cullen isn't needed in a medical capacity, per se."
I couldn't keep my mouth shut any longer. My heart pounded and my knees felt weak "Claire, what's going on?"
"Sorry, Doctor. You need to step out. Bella's down stairs."
I held the spleen carefully and closed my eyes for a second to take a calming breath. There was only one reason she would come and get me if Bella was in the emergency room and I was trying not to let my imagination run wild. "Is she a patient, Claire?"
"Yes, she was in the last ambulance. She doesn't look bad—dislocated shoulder and maybe a concussion—but Demetri told me to come get you and not take no for an answer."
I looked at the Chief and he nodded, asking a nurse to take over for me. "Go, Edward, I'll find you later."
I didn't know why he was going to find me later but I wasn't about to stick around and ask. As soon as I felt the nurse step in behind me and her hands were on the organ I was gone. My hands were shaking as I stripped out of my gown and gloves in the scrub room where Claire was waiting.
"What else can you tell me?" I asked as I hopped around, struggling to pull the surgical booties off of my tennis shoes.
"Not much," she said, holding a hand out to steady me so I could finally get the damn booties off. "Demetri's treating her, so that's good. They're in exam room five. As soon as he realized who she was he sent me to find you."
"All right, thanks."
I didn't wait for Claire, instead I ran to the stairwell opting to run down the stairs rather than wait for the elevator. It was faster and would help me work off a little of my fear before I got to Bella. I skidded into the ER, frantically searching for Demetri.
"She's still in five, Edward," a nurse called and I kept moving.
There were horrible thoughts going through my head despite what Claire had said. I couldn't be sure Bella was all right until I saw her. I pushed into her room and saw Demetri reading her chart. She looked pale in the fluorescent lights, lying on the bed with her eyes closed. Her left arm was in a sling and she had a few small cuts on her face and arms. I was drawn to her side, taking her hand in mine. I felt sick and I just wanted to pull her into my arms and hold her.
Demetri raised his head, acknowledging me. He stepped over by the door and spoke quietly, "She just fell asleep. Step outside with me, and then she's all yours."
It was excruciatingly painful to walk away from her, but I knew he was right and she needed her rest. I leaned down and kissed her forehead before following him into the hallway.
"First of all, she's going to be fine."
"What happened?" I interrupted him. She'd just been getting home when I came to work. What was she doing on the highway? He probably had no idea, but I just had to ask.
"She was one of the last cars in the pile up. She rear-ended someone and another car swung into her driver's side. That's all I know."
"Okay. Sorry—I'm just trying to figure out what she was even doing on the highway." I ran a hand through my hair and let out a deep breath. "So, you reduced her shoulder?"
"Yes. She was in a lot of pain but kept telling me not to get you unless it was serious. I just nodded and told Claire to find you."
"Sounds like her," I laughed. "Thanks for sending Claire."
"No problem. Anyway, the shoulder's good. She'll be in a sling for a few days; you know the drill. She's got a concussion with loss of consciousness, so I'm waiting for an opening to get her into CT. There are a couple of cracked ribs, but she fared pretty well. Could have been a hell of a lot worse."
I scrubbed my hands over my face and nodded.
"Her labs aren't back yet though, so I'm going to go light a fire under someone's ass." He clapped a hand on my shoulder before walking away. He stopped just a few steps down the hall and turned back to me. "Edward, sit on her right side, okay? I don't want you jostling her arm or her ribs on the left."
What the hell did he think I was going to do, crawl up in the bed with her? Shit. I kind of wanted to. I went back into her room and found chair, pulling it over so I could sit beside her. I took her hand and stroked her hair, swallowing hard.
I should have been grateful that she was all right because things could have been so much worse, but when I looked at her all I could think was what would I do if I lost her? It would destroy me. She had wound herself so tightly around my heart that I couldn't function without her. The feelings I had for Bella had been years in the making, and it was terrifying to imagine that she could be gone in the blink of an eye. I sighed, putting my head down on the bed to watch the rise and fall of her chest, thinking about how much I loved her.
So many memories came rushing back.
Coming home from college and seeing her try to carefully make her way down my parent's stairs in that hot pink prom dress. I'd always known she had a thing for me, but she was like a sister so it was so easy to ignore. In that moment I realized she was growing up. And she was hot. And I was a fucking perv for getting a boner just looking at her. I'd had to disappear into the laundry room to calm the fuck down.
Bella in a tight v-neck sweater pumping a keg at Em's house off-campus. Her voice when she called expecting to reach Emmet because she needed a ride home from her date with that jackass James. My heart had practically stopped when I heard that she jumped out of the car to get away from him.
Bella showing up at Angela's wedding with Riley, who turned out to be a guy, not just a girlfriend like I'd assumed. Dancing with her that night, feeling like I never wanted to let her go even though we were both there with other people. New Year's Eve when she kissed me, and I'd let her walk away because it scared the hell out of me. Texting with her and really getting to know her as an adult. Finding out she was dating someone and knowing it was the right thing for her to do. Surprising her at graduation and waking in bed with her the next morning for the first time.
Seeing her get out of Charlie's car after Jake's rehearsal dinner. She looked so sad and tired, and it had been all my fault. I still felt awful about that. Every day after that I tried to make sure she meant more to me than any procedure at the hospital.
That was a shitty time though, trying to please the attending doctors and get ahead of the other residents while still finding time for Bella. She'd saved me when my life started to fall apart. I don't know how we made it through that, but I was so fucking thankful we did.
I reached up and brushed my fingertips down her face before taking her hand again. I just needed to feel her skin on mine. Closing my eyes, more memories flooded my head. Watching her walk down the stairs with Charlie on our wedding day—I'd never seen her look more beautiful. The two of us, posing for pictures with our hands on top of celebrity hand prints at Mann's Chinese Theater during our honeymoon in Los Angeles. The sound of her laughter while we held each other and talked, tangled up in the sheets on cold winter mornings. The sun glinting off her hair as she stood on the beach in a horrible pink dress for Renee's wedding in Florida. Kissing the tomato sauce off her nose while she tried to teach me to make her famous lasagna.
There were so many little moments that meant the world to me. She meant the world to me. I couldn't believe that she put up with my shit, but she did. And she wanted to have a family with me. Fuck. I wanted that more than anything—I just didn't want us to go crazy in the process.
She started to wake up, shifting a little before turning her head and licking her lips. She opened her eyes and her brows scrunched in confusion.
I sat up, scooting closer to her head. "Hey, baby. How do you feel?"
She looked around the room and gave me a small smile. "Like I got hit by a car."
"Nice, smart ass." I leaned forward to kiss her, then held her face in my hands. "You scared the hell out of me. Where were you going?"
She closed her eyes and sighed. "I decided to surprise you with doughnuts for date day."
I shook my head. "Doughnuts weren't on the agenda. It's my month to plan."
"Yeah, but you wouldn't turn down a doughnut." She laughed and winced. Her hand went to her ribs, jostling her arm in the sling and I could tell she was in pain. She had closed her eyes for a second, taking a deep breath. When she reopened her eyes and looked back at me I could tell she was scared.
"You're okay. You cracked a couple of ribs; that's the pain in your chest. They had to pop your shoulder back into the joint. You lost consciousness for a bit, so you're going to need a cat scan, but considering how things could have turned out..." I trailed off.
She nodded and her eyes filled with tears. "I didn't even see the car coming from the side. I was trying so hard to avoid hitting the guy in front of me."
"It's okay. There was nothing you could have done." I stroked her cheek and kissed her lightly before I wiped away her tears.
"I'm so sorry, Edward."
She closed her eyes and started to cry in earnest, and all I could do was lean over her and hold her gently. I wasn't really sure what she was sorry for, but I hated to see her cry, regardless. Whatever was bothering her, she was sobbing and sniffling. I wanted to pull her into my lap or tuck her under my chin but because of her injuries I couldn't. Instead I stroked her hair until she caught her breath, whispering 'I love you' and telling her there was nothing to be sorry for.
She sat back, wiping her eyes with her good hand. "I don't mean the accident. I mean I've been a wreck lately. This whole trying to get pregnant thing is making me crazy. Rose already has a baby and Alice is pregnant, but it's not working for me."
"But this puts it all in perspective. I mean, what would I do if something happened to you?" Her voice broke and she shook her head as if she had more to say but couldn't continue.
"It's okay. God, I keep saying that. I love you so much, Bells. It doesn't matter. None of it matters. You're okay, and we're fine."
She nodded and put her hand on my cheek. "I love you, too."
The door opened and I glanced back to see Demetri coming in. He smiled and walked over to check the monitors. He asked Bella how she was feeling and told her they'd get her something for her headache. He held the chart against his chest and folded his arms, raising his eyebrows and giving us a strange look.
"So, this is the good news/bad news part."
Bella looked at him a little confused and I figured he was going to tell us CT was backed way up, or Bella was going to have to stay overnight.
"Good news first," Bella finally said when he seemed to be waiting for us to respond.
He grinned. It covered his entire face and I had no idea what was going on. "The good news is you're pregnant.
"No, I'm not. I just had my period." She shook her head in confusion.
"What?" I said stupidly, not sure I'd heard him right.
He laughed at us. "Yeah, I was surprised too. I figured if you knew, one of you would have mentioned it. I'm sure you did have what you thought was a period; it's not unheard of. But you're pregnant. I ran the test twice to confirm it."
I knew what he was saying was possible. Women could experience decidual bleeding where they shed part of the uterine lining because of quick hormonal shifts. I was too shocked and excited to even speak, but apparently I was squeezing the hell out of Bella's hand because she pulled it out of my grasp, with a sharp, "Ow."
"Sorry," I said quickly, rubbing her hand. I looked up at Demetri, my heart pounding. "You're serious?"
He nodded. "Congratulations."
"Oh my God," I whispered before leaning down to slip my hands into Bella's hair. She was crying again, and I kissed away the tears. "We're having a baby! I love you so much."
"I love you, too. This is crazy!" She let me kiss her again then pulled back, suddenly looking worried. She glanced over at Demetri. "What's the bad news?"
"Ah. Well, the bad news is no CT scan for you."
Right. Definitely. No CT's for pregnant women. My pregnant woman. That made me smile.
"Oh. But—the baby's okay, right?" She bit her lip, waiting for his answer.
Oh, Christ. That should have been my first question. She had cracked ribs so obviously something had hit her in the abdomen. I was failing at fatherhood already.
"We'll do a quick ultra-sound to be sure, but I think you should be okay. Your HCG levels are over 1,000, so you're likely four to six weeks along. You'll need to do some math later and talk with your OB to be sure."
"Okay," she nodded, then laughed. "So, what's the bad news? I got distracted."
I laughed and kissed her temple, answering for Demitri. "The bad news is that you're spending the night here."
"What? No!" She looked at Demetri and he shrugged in agreement with me.
"Sorry, Bells," I apologized. "If they can't check you in the cat scan they'll want to watch you over night and seeing as you're pregnant...I'm not going to argue with them."
"They've got a room up on four for you. I'm sure the nurses won't say anything if Edward stays over. You can have a little slumber party."
Bella rolled her eyes. 'Thanks, but you're not selling it."
"Well, I'm not changing my mind, and neither is your husband. Congratulations, you two. I'll see if Claire has the paperwork done so we can move you upstairs, sound good?"
"Yeah, thanks." I stood and shook his hand and headed back into the emergency room.
Close to an hour later we were lying together in her tiny hospital bed, talking quietly. We'd already checked the calendar and figured Demetri was probably right when he estimated her to be six weeks along.
"God, we're a mess," she laughed. "We were all freaked out and I had a complete meltdown for nothing. I'm an idiot."
My hand was under her hospital gown rubbing her belly. "You're not an idiot. I should have known, or at least even considered it. We didn't even take a test; we just assumed your period meant you weren't pregnant."
"Well, apparently I wasn't for six months so we weren't that far off." She giggled. "Ow, my ribs."
"Bella, I know you were having a hard time. Shit. I feel awful that I didn't really see how you were feeling. You have to know—baby or no baby—you're all I need."
"I know, Edward."
I kissed her gently, then shifted us around so she was snuggled against me without hurting her ribs. "Now, get some sleep Mrs. Masen-Cullen, you're carrying my child."
She laughed again. "Like that's going to help me sleep! Now I'm all excited thinking about baby names...like Renesmee and Charlisle, you know with an H?"
She waved her hand. "We'll come back that. We'll need to decorate the nursery. Your mom will help with that, I'm sure. Oh, and maternity clothes. I'm going to need a whole new wardrobe! Ugh...I'm gonna get fat."
"You're going to be beautiful."
"Crazy in love with you."
She sighed. "Goodnight, Edward."
She elbowed me in the stomach but I could see her sleepy smile in the dim light. I gave her one last gentle squeeze and closed my eyes.
Tomorrow was the beginning of everything we'd dreamed of.
*Surprise* I hope you enjoyed the little taste of EPOV. I'm going to miss these kids, they were run to write!
I know I've said it a bajillion times (and I know that's not a word) but thank you for reading. It was kind of crazy to jump into this new-ish fandom and you all gave me a wonderful welcome. I truly appreciate it. I have some other fics in the fire that I'm thinking about and I'm going to enjoy not feeling like I have to write over the holidays - except for that Secret Santa fic I need to write. LOL I'm not sure if what story I'll work on next, I have both an SVM and a Twi fic started, but I'm sure I'll be writing more Twi in the future.
BIG BIG thanks to SydneyGen, Seastarr08 and E_Hunter. You girls... I owe you all blinky cock necklaces and water bottles, that's for sure! Thanks so much for your help.
Forever Young - Bob Dylan
Video (Audra Mae version) http:/youtu(dot)be/lQksqVL8zSw