Back to You
I wake with a start, disoriented. The room is pitch black and completely silent. It's the silence that's different, because for the past four months there has been a very specific kind of noise waking me up suddenly. My hand instinctively slides across the sheets, but instead of a warm body, I find more empty space that's cool to the touch.
I roll over and reach for the lamp, nearly falling off the bed in the process. Swearing under my breath, my fingers finally close around the elusive little knob, bathing the room in soft light. I blink a few times, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
The clock on my nightstand reads 1:36 in bright red numbers. I groan again and half slither, half fall out of bed, stumbling toward the door.
I've never been a morning person. I'm even less of a middle-of-the-night person. Or at the very least, I'm not an awake person. And now that my body is used to waking up in two-hour intervals, I'm apparently never going to be an asleep person.
My first stop is the nursery. It's instinctive now, ingrained. The door is halfway open, the room dark except for the pink star nightlight plugged into the wall next to the changing table. When I peek into the crib, I find it empty. So is the pale green rocker, a gift from my parents (and Emmett's latest favorite toy).
"All right, where are you hiding, family?" I murmur, padding down the hallway toward the living room. My feet slap lightly against the hardwood and I trace my finger underneath the pictures hanging on the wall. There are ones I've taken - of landscapes, of Emmett, of our daughter, of Emmett and our daughter - mixed in with others that have been taken for us - our wedding pictures, group shots from parties and our friends' weddings. I pause when I get to the end of the hallway where one picture sits in its rose gold frame. It's the high school versions of me and Emmett, our cheeks pressed together, smiling widely. We were just babies then. It's weird to think now how far we've come. Weird and wonderful.
I smile to myself, then keep going. I see the light from the television before I even turn the corner and hear the soft sounds of gunfire shortly thereafter. Rolling my eyes, I step into the living room, my mouth already open to tease Emmett about the violent slacker habits his video games are going to teach our daughter, but the scene I walk into stops me short.
Emmett's sitting on the couch, his feet propped up on the coffee table in front of him. He's sans shirt and our daughter is curled on his chest, butt in the air, while he murmurs something under his breath about a pussy bitch and his fingers pound the controller. Bear, our greyhound rescue, is snuggled into his side.
There's something extraordinarily hot about seeing a man cradle a baby. I don't know if it's the juxtaposition of the softness, the delicateness, of a sweet newborn against the bicep muscle that does it for me. Or maybe it's the emotion behind it, the thought that a man can feel his heart swell in his chest and see stars in his eyes when he looks at a baby, just as a woman can. But whatever it is, I've always been drawn to seeing a man with his child. The circle of life and all that.
And as hot as all of that is, even hotter still is when that man is my husband and he's allowed me to sleep while he's been tending to our newborn baby. Because when you're running on fits and starts of sleep and your husband swoops in like a knight in shining armor to take care of your four-month-old and allows you to sleep? Well, yeah. That guy that you've pledged your love and life to just gets that much hotter.
I try to displace Bear from his spot but he just raises an eyebrow at me before sighing and closing his eyes again.
"Spoiled brat," I mutter, but I don't mean it. He's our first baby, and besides, he deserves spoiling after the first part of his life. I leave him where he is and circle the coffee table, flopping down on the couch next to Emmett. "Who's winning?" I ask, as I reach to move Imogen from Em's chest. He makes a noise and raises his bicep to block me, his eyes still trained on the television.
Imogen (named after Emmett's gram) was born four months and four... no, make that five days ago. We knew that we'd get some brow raises when we told people of our name choice (and we have) but Emmett's gram was such a large part of our lives and had a hand in who we both turned out to be. We not only needed, but wanted to honor her memory. Plus, it just fit her. It made sense.
As soon as she arrived, Emmett was a goner. I thought I'd always be the number one girl in his life until this little pipsqueak made her way into ours.
I guess I'm a bit of a goner, too.
"Leave her, she's my good luck charm," he says, his voice gruff from being awake so late. "We're kicking Uncle Jasper's as- butt, together."
"Oh, so you're censoring yourself on ass but not pussy bitch?" I raise my eyebrows.
"You know it's my pet name for Jasper." Yeah, that bizarre term of endearment dates back to high school. "Plus, it's late and I was puked on. Nothing makes sense."
I let the fact that the bromance is still as strong as ever (even in the wee hours) slide and focus on the shirt comment. My brain can only handle so much at nearly two in the morning. "Ah, so that's where your shirt went. I was wondering. Is she okay?" I lean into him and rest my head on his bare shoulder.
"Thanks for your concern about my shirt," he says wryly as he shifts slightly, nuzzling his face into her hair before planting a kiss on my head. Im and I both sigh contently. "I fed her the milk you pumped earlier and I must have shifted her the wrong way right after, because she got me good." My eyes and his meet and he smiles impishly. "Takes after her mom, in that respect."
I know he's referring to one very specific night, the night that changed everything for us the summer after our last year of college. Em stayed in Seattle after school and I (not so) coincidentally wound up there as well. A contact I'd made at Stanford put in a good word for me with an editor at The Seattle Times. It didn't have anything to do with the fact that he was there. Not at all. Regardless, Emmett wanted to meet to celebrate and catch up, have dinner and a drink.
Well, drinks. I may have gotten slightly drunk. And by slightly drunk, I mean wasted. In my defense, I was nervous because it had been nearly two years since we'd last seen each other, and my heart still did crazy things in my chest when I saw him. It still belonged to him in every way that mattered.
"Um, hi," I reply indignantly. "That was one time; it's not like I go around throwing up on a daily basis." He snorts and I know he's remembering my early days of pregnancy when I did, in fact, throw up on a daily basis. For the record, it never landed on his shirt. "And you were the one who kept buying me drinks that night."
"It was as much for me as it was for you."
We both roll our eyes. He drank just as much as I did, due in large part to nerves. Of course, he's about a hundred pounds heavier and has a much higher tolerance, but we were still using the alcohol to compensate for the awkwardness at the beginning of the night. After those first couple of drinks, we fell back into old habits and easy conversation... but didn't stop drinking.
Don't ask me why. It was completely stupid on my part. So it really came as no surprise when he had to help me back to his house, letting me crash there for the evening.
Crash I did - and burn, too. I puked in the gutter and then again in the bathroom. During the puke-a-thon, I managed to splash his shirt, which he said nothing about, just silently removed it. If I hadn't been miserable, I would have totally been appreciating the view.
In my drunken state, I was pretty sure that I had blown my second chance with him, given that I was a hot mess and he had to take care of me. He put me in his bed and slept on the couch, claiming it was safer there. At the time, in my drunken haze, I thought he'd meant that he just wanted to stay out of the splash zone. I lay there, blinking back tears and chiding myself for screwing things up with the one man who had been able to capture my heart.
And I'd reserved it for him for so long, even though it hadn't been his in the technical sense for tried to make our relationship work our freshman year, with me at Stanford and him still in Forks, caring for his gram and going to Peninsula College. But we were young and far away from each other, and I learned the hard way that first year that you could want something really badly and still have it slip right through your fingers.
I was distracted by schoolwork and living on my own and just how different everything was back then. Nothing could have prepared me for college and having all of that sudden independence. I'd learned a lot about myself my senior year, but when I went away to school, I found that I could really do anything, be anyone. There was no one there to stop me, to tell me that I had to act or be a certain way. The slate was wiped clean. My parents didn't care as long as I continued to excel academically, which I did, and stayed out of trouble, which I also did (although a little less stringently).
I would call Emmett every night, tell him about everything that was going on in my life - the new friends, my intense school workload, the weirdness of living in a dorm and not seeing any of our classmates in the hallways at school. The ache I felt not having him by my side to experience all of this. I missed him every day, and missed him even more every night after we got off the phone.
He was insanely busy, too, taking care of Gram (whose health continued to decline), busting his ass through school, and working a full-time job on top of that. Half the time he'd fall asleep on the phone with me, and eventually those nightly phone calls turned into four times a week. And then three. We both tried so hard. Maybe too hard. And then, after a while, we just didn't know how to be a part of one another's lives. We were in such different places, mentally and physically and emotionally. I threw myself into my life in California so it wouldn't hurt as much, the way we were growing apart, which in retrospect just made it worse.
We tried to reconnect with one another when I'd come home for the weekend or the holidays. But even when we were together, the distance hung over us. I still remember how sick to my stomach I felt going to his house that last day of spring break our freshman year, how I knew even before we discussed it - calmly but through tears - that this would be the end of us. At least for the time being.
I was devastated when we broke up, even though it was mutual. We were both miserable like that, having each other but not. I secretly hoped, though, that we would find a way back to each other.
I kept tabs on him after that, but we rarely talked. I stalked him a little bit via Facebook. Okay, more than a little bit. My roommate Lucy had to wrestle my phone away from a drunk me on multiple occasions so I wouldn't call him, wasted and crying. I apparently didn't learn how humiliating an experience that was the first time it happened.
It wasn't until Gram passed away at the end of our sophomore year that I saw him again. I flew home for the funeral, held his hand and cried with him through the service and after. I didn't even think about the fact that we hadn't talked in months or seen each other in even longer. I needed to be there for him in a way that transcended our relationship woes.
That trip opened the doors of communication for us again. He transferred to UW his junior year, so we were able to commiserate over evil professors and exchange stories of drunken shenanigans. We did a good job of playing the part of friends, even though we both knew we could never just be that. We never talked about other people we dated. I knew he must have, but I didn't want to know. I dated, but it never got that serious. I compared every guy to the only one who could measure up.
I hoped that when I moved back to Seattle and we were finally in the same city, things might happen for us, that we'd get our second chance.
Leave it to me to ruin it - or so I thought. The morning after that debacle of a date, I woke up early to find him sleeping on the floor next to the bed. In my hungover state, I tried to figure out why he was there instead of the couch. I felt terrible that he was sleeping on the floor while I bogarted his bed. I'd hoped to just sneak out, leave a note apologizing, and be done. I was embarrassed and ashamed and god, I still loved him so much. I'd made a total fool of myself.
I'd carefully, silently, removed myself from his bed, my head pounding just as loudly as my heart. I was attempting to tiptoe past him, when his hand shot out, grabbing my ankle.
"Where d'you think you're going?" Emmett asked, his voice grainy, his fingers gently rubbing circles on my anklebone. He didn't give me a chance to answer before directing me to the bathroom, telling me I could find a towel and toiletries in there.
After he'd loaned me an old Forks Football t-shirt and sweats so I didn't have to do a continuous walk of shame around his place in my night-before clothes, he fed me his special "hangover cure" of eggs with hot sauce, bacon and toast. He informed me that he wound up on the floor because he wanted to check on me throughout the night. Apparently I - and I quote - "wasn't allowed to die on his watch."
Things progressed nicely from there.
Later, when my embarrassment and discomfort had been soothed away by his sweetness and more than a few knee-weakening kisses, we cuddled on the couch together. We whispered our kept secrets to each other, because that was what we'd done when we were younger, and somewhere along the way, we'd lost that part of us. We needed it back. And finally, he confessed that he'd wanted to lay in his bed with me when he put me there, but didn't want me to think that he was only trying to sleep with me, especially since I was so drunk.
"But did you?" I asked, because I lost my filter entirely somewhere around my sophomore year of college and lord knows, I wouldn't have protested if he did. We were different people than we'd been just five years prior, but when I looked up at him, I still saw that high school boy whom I had fallen in love with, mixed with this larger than life man he'd become. His shoulders were even broader, his muscles more pronounced, more defined, than his 18-year-old self.
A few years added a self-assured attitude, too. Not that it wasn't present in high school, but it was even more visible now.
He smiled lazily. It did crazy things to every part of me, just like it always had. "Did I want you? Are you crazy? I did then and I do now."
His voice was low and suggestive; it could have easily been played off as a joke but the way we were wrapped around each other was no joke.
My tone and expression matched his when I replied with, "Well... I'm not drunk now."
Things progressed very nicely from there. We were inseparable after that night. One wedding and a baby later, and here we are, solid and so much stronger for the winding path we took to get back to where we belonged.
Of course, we'll just tell Im and any other kids we may have in the future that Mommy and Daddy met in high school. They definitely don't need to hear the full story of excessive drinking and puking (and, after all that, the incredible sex) that brought us back together.
Emmett's quiet muttering brings me back to the present and I press closer, enjoying the heat of his skin against my cheek. "Son of a bi...scuit," he whisper-shouts. "Effing Whitlock, you just ambushed my guy. Dick move."
"Why is Jasper awake anyway?" I ask, running my hand over Im's downy hair. "He doesn't have a baby for random wake-up calls at 1:30."
"No, not a baby, just an Alice."
"She's in Italy for work right now," I remind him.
"Yeah, and he's waiting around for her to call his whipped as- butt."
He looks sideways at me, and I mirror his expression, eyebrows raised, lips quirked.
Jasper and Alice have been on and off since high school, although it's pretty obvious to everyone that they'll eventually just be permanently on. Alice left for New York after graduation to go to Parsons while Jasper stayed in Seattle to attend UW. Their situation wasn't unlike mine and Emmett's; the distance was too much for their relationship to handle, so after fights and long talks and several last-minute transcontinental flights, they broke it off. And then got back together. And broke up again. And got back together.
Emmett, who was living with Jasper when all of this happened, kept me in the loop with all of the drama. Really, out of all our friends, Bella and Edward and Jess and Mike are the only couples that made it through college without some kind of turmoil. They were the ones who paved the road for the rest of us. They were the first of our friends to get married (right out of college), the first ones to have children. Emmett and I trailed behind them, but Alice and Jasper are still in the process of sorting things out.
Alice moved back to Seattle six months ago to work for Nordstrom as an associate designer, but has been gun shy about making it official with Jasper once and for all. She insists it's because she doesn't have time for a relationship. She works almost constantly, meaning we get to see her once every three weeks. Secretly, I think she's just scared. She and Jasper were on such unsteady ground for so long. I don't think she knows how to just be with him now.
But that man would do anything for her, as evidenced by the fact that he's waiting up on a Tuesday night for her to call him from halfway around the world. I think she'll fold within a month's time.
She'd better. I owe Bella $30 if she doesn't.
"Well, since you're getting beaten within an inch of your fake life anyway, why don't you turn that off so we can get back to bed?"
Emmett opens his mouth, his eyes glued to the TV, and lets out a surprised grunt. "Huh," he says after a moment of staring at the screen. "Guess Alice called him. He just ditched me."
I raise an eyebrow, pulling back to level him with a pointed look. "And that's a bad thing because?"
Emmett's eyes drift over my face and then lower. I'm wearing one of his undershirts, a thin v-neck. It smells like him - spice mixed with fresh laundry and a little bit like Imogen's baby lotion. He loves when I wear his shirts to bed and I smile when a slow grin spreads across his face. His hand finds my thigh and he runs his fingers up and down it lightly, drawing goosebumps up along my skin.
"Are we going to bed or to sleep?" he asks.
There's an obvious distinction between the two. I mean the former, not the latter, but I shrug and stand up, rubbing my knee against his leg. "I guess that depends on whether you're done with your game."
"So done," he replies quickly, tossing the controller on the couch and fishing the remote from underneath Bear, who snuffles and shifts, but otherwise stays stationary. For a greyhound, he's a damn lazy dog.
I reach for Imogen, but Emmett blocks me again, settling one hand under her butt and the other against her back and head as he stands. The size of his hand makes her look so tiny, so fragile, and I lean into his side so I can get to her.
When I place a kiss on her forehead, I see a brief flash of the tiniest indentation on her cheek. She inherited her dad's dimples, along with his gorgeous smile, which she's just recently started to share more and more frequently. Her eyes are both of ours, her hair blonde and just starting to curl. She's so much like both me and him, this perfect conglomeration of our best parts, but already her own person. Every day we discover something new about her. And watching the way Emmett loves her, the look of awe on his face when she smiles or coos or laughs at the ridiculous faces he pulls, makes me love him even more. I didn't think it was possible, but my love for this family - my family - grows exponentially every day.
I follow Emmett down the hallway to the nursery, enjoying the view of his broad, naked shoulders and back, how his sweats hang low on his hips. After giving Im one last kiss and whispering that I'm sure I'll see her in a few hours, I stand in the doorway and watch Emmett lower her into the crib. He leans over her, smoothing down her hair, whispering things that I can't hear, just between father and daughter. From across the small room, I can see and hear her tiny yawn. The room is silent except for that sound.
"My tired girl," he murmurs with the softest smile. His eyes are glued on hers and mine are on him. I'll never get tired of this. "Sleep for a while so your daddy can give your mom some loving, okay?"
I let out a low laugh, shaking my head, and his smile turns impish as he makes his way over to me, his dimples carved out on either side of his mouth.
"What's that look?" he asks, stopping right in front of me, close enough that I can feel the heat from his body, but not skin. I really want to feel skin. His finger traces the curve of my cheek, down to my lips, and I kiss it softly.
"I just love watching you with her. She's such a daddy's girl."
He shrugs. "My feelings would be hurt if she wasn't."
"At least she needs me for something," I tease with a sigh, lifting his shirt away from my body and peeking in. When I look up, his face is inches above mine and he's not even hiding the fact that he's peeking, too.
"She needs you for everything, babe," he replies, nuzzling his nose against my temple. He breathes in deeply, gently trapping me between his chest and the doorjamb. "Just like me."
I close my eyes with a hum, let him rain soft kisses on my forehead, my cheeks, until he reaches my lips. This kiss is sweet and lingering. I can feel him smiling and it's so quintessential Emmett that I can't help smiling, too. And then, with our daughter sleeping safely (at least for another two hours), I take Emmett's hand and lead him to our room.
We originally wrote this back in June for the Fandom for Sexual Assault Awareness compilation. It was a great way to know exactly where our characters would end up further down the line while we were finishing up RPT. Our kids, a bit more grown up and more mature (although there's still pussy bitch calling... so not that much more).
Thanks to Accio, Jugsterbunny and ThatisRiddik, as always, for looking this over and making sure that it was fit to share during F4SAA and for our readers.
Today is our 2 year best friendaversary and we thought it fitting that we wrap our ff writing with the posting of this. We've enjoyed getting to know all of you over the past two years and are very grateful for the love and support that you've given us throughout. Hearing from you is so appreciated and we can definitely say that it's something that has kept us going, pushed us forward and up.
Thank you from both of us - Mer and Jess