A/N: For any of you who are reading Tomorrow is Another Day or Notes on the Fridge... I pretty much think I'm gonna have to give in and power through the last three chapters of this. Love you all!
I'm partial to Topher.
Edward made a face at his computer screen, typing back furiously.
You couldn't have forgotten That 70's Show?
Oh, no. Clueless was well before your time, Bella.
He waited a moment before typing back.
What about Android Smartphone?
Why do you hate our son?
What? We could call him Andy for short.
How about Bond?
He brought us together.
It was so difficult to hide his ecstatic grin, so he didn't try.
Hmmm, Bond will get him beat up on the playground. Elmer is better.
"God, you're turning into the biggest pussy."
Edward swung around in his seat, grinning lazily at his friend. "Don't be jealous. Just because I have time to complete my obscenely boring background checks and talk with my girl on the Interwebs..."
Jasper shook his head, chuckling. "It is good to see you so... serene for once."
"Well, I've got nothing not to be serene about," Edward said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "Things are looking in the general direction of up."
"Well, they're about to look even upper," his friend said with a grin. "Come on partner. Let's give this a shot for old time's sake."
"A shot at what?" Edward asked, tilting his head.
"Go take a look at what's waiting for us," his friend said, pointing toward the interrogation room.
Curious, Edward stood and glanced over,
Rachel Black was sitting alone at the large table looking very, very annoyed.
Edward's eyebrows shot up. "Really?"
"She wants to talk to us," Jasper confirmed. "Us, you included, not Banner."
Hope and excitement kindled in the pit of Edward's stomach, working their way through his blood stream until he was nearly bouncing.
He sensed that Rachel had the information that could wrap this case up with a pretty bow.
"Edward, you gotta keep your head," Jasper instructed as they walked forward. "God only knows the kind of thing she's going to say. You and I both know she was never your biggest fan to begin with."
"I got this," Edward assured.
Rachel gave a little start as they walked in the door. It was a good sign. She was nervous, though she was trying to hide it behind a scowl.
"Miss Black," Jasper greeted, offering his hand to shake.
She looked at him warily before taking his hand and shaking it grudgingly, but pulled back when Edward started to offer his.
"Have a seat," Jasper offered amiably. "What is it that you wanted to talk to us about?"
Blowing out a sharp breath, Rachel hunkered down in her seat, wrapping her arms around her body. "Look, you've done a lot to my family," she began, glaring specifically at Edward. "My brother's dead because of what you had him do, and you lied to my father, you had no business letting him hope like that."
Biting the inside of his lip, Edward nodded carefully, accepting her accusations.
Again, she sighed, staring up at the ceiling. "I don't think my dad could take it. Jacob was the one who didn't abandon him when Rebecca and I did. It's been so hard for him, and I don't think he could handle if... if..." She closed her eyes, rushing through the next sentence. "If one of his daughters went to jail."
"Hypothetically, Miss Black, if you have information that pertains to the investigation into the Paul and Jerad Wolfe, I'm certain you will be granted immunity," Edward said quietly. He paused. "Unless you were a direct party to the crimes committed..."
"No," Rachel shook her head. "It all happened before I even came back home."
"That's what I believed," Edward said with a nod.
"Do you have an attorney, Miss Black?" Jasper asked quietly.
Rachel's head snapped in his direction, her eyes narrowing. "I thought you said there wouldn't be any trouble for me."
Holding his hands out in a placating gesture, Jasper explained. "And we'll keep to our word. However, it's best for you to have someone looking out for your specific interests in these cases. It makes things... cleaner."
"Well, I can't afford an attorney."
Edward cleared his throat. "Under the circumstances, it seems like the least I can do to put you in touch with someone. My family has an attorney we trust... or, if you'd prefer to find someone on your own, I would be happy to take care of your fees."
Rachel seemed taken aback. "Wouldn't that be a conflict of interest if it came down to a trial?"
"You wouldn't be on trial," he said gently. "Additionally, an attorney in this case is just a formality. Any deal we strike is a private matter. An attorney merely ensures that the fine print works out in your favor."
For a long, tense handful of seconds, Rachel said nothing. Finally, she nodded brusquely. "Okay. Like you said, it's the least you can do," she finally grumbled.
Some hours later, Rachel looked, for once, completely drained of life, her features painted with sadness.
She looked like she was trying not to cry.
It had to have been difficult. She'd given direct evidence against Paul. It seemed that while Sam and Jerad had the sense - or the at least, the sense of guilt - to keep their transgressions from their wives, Paul, in his anger against Jacob, had dragged Rachel into the thick of things.
She informed them that when he heard about exactly how Jacob died, he'd gone on something of a rampage.
It made him furious that Jacob, whom they'd drawn into their circle and treated like a brother, like another partner, would go against them.
"You owe me because of what your brother did," he'd told her.
"He made it sound so... logical," Rachel said bitterly. "It's really hard, even now. The tribe... everyone was so divided. We're still divided. It's never been like that - not ever." Her voice shook as she spoke. "He said it wasn't fair to everyone. It was bad enough that Sam was being charged with manslaughter. Let that be the end of it."
She went on to detail how he'd used her to channel the funds he'd portioned off illegally.
"He promised, when this all blew over, that we would make sure my Dad was taken care of - get him a big house and all that."
She gave them exactly what they needed - transaction dates and receipts, a clear timeline that traced where the money came from, where it went, and where it was then.
It was back in Paul's greedy hands.
They had him.
When it was all over, Rachel took the pen they offered, signing her name to the information she'd given. Edward noticed that her hand shook horribly, and his heart gave a sympathetic pang.
Better or worse, it was clear she was in love with Paul.
It wasn't the same, of course, but Edward had lied for Bella. He'd risked much out of deference to their relationship and what was best for her. As Rachel pointed out, he'd wounded Billy Black terribly by not being upfront.
Edward knew something of how love could make good people make choices they otherwise wouldn't have considered.
Just then, Rachel looked so bowed and defeated - very near tears - that he wished he could comfort her.
Since he sincerely doubted she'd want to hear from him, Edward tapped Jasper on the shoulder, nodding at the woman. Jasper nodded back that he understood before he stepped to Rachel's side.
"Miss Black?" he began gently. "I can't imagine this has been easy for you to do, and I don't know how this sounds coming from me, but this is the right thing."
She glared for a second, looking like she was going to snap, but then her shoulder's slumped. "Yeah, I know that. Paul... he wasn't sorry, you know? I kept waiting for him to be sorry, and he just wasn't."
She blew out a breath. "And I kept trying not to think about my baby brother. He was..." her voice wavered as her tears overflowed. "He was such a good kid. At first I didn't understand. How could he do something that would hurt everyone - his tribe - so much. But then, that was how important it was to him." She sniffled, wiping at her eyes.
"You have our gratitude, and I'm sure, the gratitude of the people most effected by all this," Jasper said softly. "I can honestly say, Miss Black, I admired your brother very much for what he did. It takes a lot of courage to speak up against men you admire, or love."
Covering her eyes with her hands, Rachel bowed her head and wept.
Since she'd had such a strong reaction the first time she was there, Bella had been wary of spending time at Edward's apartment.
She thought she understood her reactions now. Some part of her, her automatic memory perhaps, still recalled the time she'd spent here with Edward. This was where their relationship was born. This was where they'd fallen in love, and where they conceived their son.
The physical memories, the way he'd made love to her when she asked after the trial, and the tenderness she felt toward him currently made the heady atmosphere quite a bit more welcome when she stepped into his apartment again.
He greeted her with a kiss, his lips turning upward when she held him fast, lingering longer than a polite hello. As he'd gotten in the habit of doing, the hand he didn't have splayed at the small of her back drifted down her body, brushing long her side before coming to rest on the bulge of her ever expanding belly.
"How did it go today?" she asked when they finally had to breath. She was learning to be attentive to his needs. Though her world was slowing from its maddening spin, it was still easy to lose herself in her own problems. It wasn't that she didn't care about Edward - quite the contrary, she worried for him frequently - she simply found it easy to forget that no one else had everything figured out either.
She wasn't as behind as she originally worried.
"It's not perfect," he murmured, tucking her under his arm and leading her to the couch. "Try as we might, we can't find the link that would convict Jerad Wolfe. It's possible we can get Paul to turn on his brother, but I doubt it." He sighed, turning his head and pressing a kiss against her hair. "All things considered, though, I'll take it."
"Does this change anything for you? I mean, won't the director consider putting you back in the field?" She laid her head on his chest as she spoke, listening to the steady beat of his heart and worrying the edge of his suite coat between her fingers.
"It's not as simple as that," he said quietly. "But it does put me back on the right list."
Raising her head, she smirked at him. "The non shit list?"
He snickered and tsk'ed at her. "Such a dirty mouth. You're going to be someone's mother, you know."
She chuckled, knowing he was teasing. A few nights before, she'd asked about some of the differences between the person she was and the woman she'd forgotten. He'd told her she cursed a lot less and reminded her that adults didn't live under the threat of soapy mouths.
"Do you think you'll ever get Jasper back as a partner?" she asked a moment later. Every time they had occasion to see Jasper, he was complaining about something or another that Agent Stanley had done. Most of it, that Bella could see, boiled down to the fact that Jessica wasn't Edward.
Edward sighed, the skin around his eyes tightening. "It's not impossible," he allowed. "But it's improbable. I won't have another partner until I'm back in the field. As long as Jasper and Jessica work well together - which if he can stop being a prick, they'll be fine - there'd be no reason to split up that partnership."
"I'm sorry," she said softly.
Placing two fingers underneath her chin, he raised her head so she could see him clearly. When he smiled at her, his expression was calm - not the slightest bit perturbed. "It's not a big deal," he said easily, though she knew it was. Losing his partnership was reason enough for him to get drunk, so it wasn't nothing.
But there was no point in dwelling.
Especially when he was brushing his lips along her skin this way, stopping to kiss her cheeks, just above her mouth, the tip of her nose.
Bella's breathing became unsteady as her heart began to race.
His fingers were lazy as they drifted haphazardly about her body, making her shiver at his feathery touch.
Her body responded to him readily, and Bella found herself leaning into him, pressed up against his chest, without realizing she was moving. She raised her hands to cup his face, bold enough now to show him exactly what she wanted. Her lips moved with his, both of them eager.
When his fingers closed around her sensitive, piqued nipples, Bella gasped.
"I'm sorry," Edward murmured, moving his hands away.
"No, it's … tender. Not bad," she assured, reaching for him again. "In fact," her voice was shy, and she kissed his lips with a brush of hers as she spoke, "it was good."
This was another thing she was learning slowly - that there was no shame, no real taboo, in the way her body ached for his touch.
"Just... gently," she mumbled against his lips, tilting her head up.
"Always," he promised, his palm finding the curve of her breast again.
There was the sound of their kisses, the rustle of clothes, and the spring of the couch as they shifted.
Adults could still make out like teenagers - this she was starting to realize.
Bella would have been content to make kissing Edward a career. It was far less daunting than the coursework she would have ahead of her in her chosen field of law. It was probably a lot more satisfying, too.
Making a disgruntled noise, Bella pushed on Edward's chest.
"Are you okay? I didn't hurt you, did I?" he asked, breathless from their exertions.
She laughed at him - he was always so concerned - and stroked his cheek. "You didn't do anything. Your son is laying on my bladder," she said, scrunching up her nose in mock annoyance.
"I hear bladders make good pillows," he said, straightening them both up before reluctantly letting go.
Bella ambled off, a happy daze warming her skin.
In the bathroom, Bella was struck by imagery that was mostly emotion with the occasional blast of sensory overload.
She thought she knew how it felt to have the edge of the marble counter pressing into her back as someone - Edward - pinned her against it. She felt happiness approaching delirium and need that ran through her bloodstream, making the air static around her. She heard his rich laughter in her ear - the sound of his happiness, the look in his eyes that he was right where she was: so very much in love and...
The images, the motions, that flashed through her mind were not the easy, gentle, tenderness that Edward touched her with now.
She thought she knew how it would feel to squeeze his flesh in her hands, not because she wanted to hurt him but because she needed him to be a part of her.
Breathless kisses, sloppy, hard, and crushing.
His hands at her top- rough, impatient fingers. The sound the buttons made as they scattered to the ground when he accidentally ripped her shirt.
Bella's head spun, trying to make sense of each individual image: auditory, visual... even the salty taste of his skin when she bit down on his shoulder.
She knew and she didn't know.
Maybe they were memories, but they were maddeningly insubstantial - not quite concrete.
Washing her hands, she splashed water on her face, closing her eyes and trying to breathe through the inundation of emotion.
More time than she thought must have passed because there was a soft rap at the door. "Bella? Is everything okay?"
Abruptly, Bella remembered the first time she came to his apartment, the way she'd immediately been struck by a half formed fantasy.
Quickly, Bella spun, opening the shower door. She ran her hands over the dark blue tiles - the exact tiles she'd seen in her vision, remembering how cold they were in contrast to the the warmth of her body and the water running down her back.
"Bella?" Edward called again, his voice a little more urgent.
Dashing the few steps to the bathroom door, Bella flung it open, grabbing Edward's arm and hauling him inside.
"What -" he began, but was quickly interrupted when she threw her arms around his neck, kissing him hard.
Bella's thoughts were erratic, and she was acting mostly on instinct. Her body's need for him, to have him as close as possible, took precedence, but the question that rang through her head seemed pressing, too.
Edward's fingers wrapped around her waist, and he pressed hard, pushing her away slightly even while his lips responded to hers. With a little groan, he managed to separate them. "I don't... What?" he asked between pants.
"Have we m-made love in your shower?" she stuttered, the words feeling awkward and foolish as they tumbled out of her mouth.
She didn't miss the way his eyes went wide for a split second before he tempered his reaction. He swallowed hard, cupping her face carefully, as if he was afraid she would shatter if he pressed too hard. "Do you remember something?" he asked, his voice shaking with a slight tremor.
"Yes... no... I don't know," she muttered, closing her eyes as the overwhelming feeling swept over her. She tightened her hold around his neck. "It's not... tangible. It's not... real." She shook her head. "Did we?"
"Yes," he whispered, stroking her cheeks comfortingly.
Opening her eyes, she pulled herself closer to him, standing on tip toe to kiss the edges of his mouth. "Show me," she said, her voice so light it was almost air.
Edward's breath stuttered. "Bella..."
"It's not just... I want to make it real, but I want... you. I want you." It wasn't smooth by a long shot, but it was what she felt. It was what she wanted for so many reasons. "Unless, this isn't what you want?"
"Oh, Bella," he breathed. He kissed her lips gently and reverently. "It's only ever been you." His breath was sweet and warm on her face as he pulled back again, looking at her. "But... the shower? Is that what you really want?"
She blushed. Honestly, if he'd pressed the matter, he could have had her any damn way he pleased. "I read in one of those books. It's a good position for big pregnant women like me."
He laughed lightly. "You're not even approaching big, silly girl."
"Well, it's not like we're limited, right?" She kissed his chin, trembling a bit in nervousness. "I mean, this isn't going to be a one time thing."
He sucked in a breath, his eyebrows shooting up. With a groan, he tilted his head, kissing her voraciously. "You... will be... the death... of me," he murmured between kisses.
As he spoke, he backed her up until the edge of the counter was digging into her back. It was not the most comfortable position, but Bella wasn't complaining. She couldn't think straight enough to complain. Her every thought was wrapped around deciding where to put his hand and where she most wanted his.
Totally inexperienced and lost in the sensation, it was easy to let Edward lead.
He'd only gotten as far as unbuttoning her jeans before he stopped, holding her at arms length. "I love you, Bella. I can't not tell you anymore."
"Oh," she breathed. "Edward... I love you, too."
His grin was wide, exultant. "Really?"
He sounded so adorably giddy and surprised, Bella laughed. "Yeah. I'm sorry I couldn't tell you. I'm sorry I've been so confused."
Rather than answer, he ducked his head, his kisses slow and serious, building. By the time their clothes had puddled on the bathroom floor, she couldn't be self conscious. There was no room left. The consuming feeling, the emotion that had overwhelmed her time and again when she was with him, made the space around them static. Every inch of her skin was aware, every drop of her blood was fire.
Edward held her away from him, his eyes wandering over her nude body.
The way he looked at her, she didn't feel uncomfortable or misshapen.
She felt beautiful.
She felt like a woman.
Edward was still kissing her as he fumbled blindly for the shower door, turning on the water.
The quasi-memories had been nice, titillating, exciting.
The actual experience was all together otherworldly.
The heat of the water, the steam around them, made their physical world match the sweltering atmosphere between them. The sensation of hot water trickling and coursing down her bare skin as his fingers danced over her sides, around to her back, his hands cupping her ass, only added to the fervor in the air. It was like Edward had more fingers, more ways he could caress her, making her body tense with anticipation.
She wanted him so much she was dizzy with it.
When he put his hands at her waist, turning her around to face the cool blue tiles from her visions, Bella stopped thinking at all about remembering to touch him, taste him. Her lips parted, she gave in to the emotion consuming her, feeling everything.
His warm lips at her shoulder, kissing his way up the arch of her neck until he could murmurer sweet, "I love yous" in her ear.
She felt it - in her heart, on her skin, to the depths of who she was.
His love for her, her love for him, was part of who she was.
"I love you," she mumbled back, her voice trembling with nerves as he gently spread her legs with his knees.
She kept her hands splayed on the tile to hold herself upright, letting him support her.
Like the first time, when he slid into her, part of the frenzy in her bloodstream calmed, sated by the rightness of their union. She loved the way it felt - their slick bodies pressed together, the way he snaked his hands, one upward to cup her breasts and brush her tender nipples, the other reaching down, stroking her where they were joined.
Beyond words, she tilted her head to the side, glad when he obligingly moved his lips there, dragging his teeth across her skin as he moved in her.
It was quick, but it was good - better than anything she could have imagined feeling.
He still kissed her tenderly as he turned the shower off, pausing only long enough to wrap her in his robe - though it was huge on her - and to tie a towel around his waist.
She wasn't quite sure why he'd bothered. She was already hungry for him again. They only got as far as his bed before she tugged his towel off - suddenly brazen because she felt, for once, completely like a woman and nothing like a little girl.
Their second coupling was unhurried.
They laid together, still damp from their shower, and Bella explored his skin with her hands and lips, beginning to mentally catalogue all the spots that made him gasp or moan, or made his hands tighten in her hair. She satisfied curiosities, discovering his nipples were sensitive to her stimulation and that when she danced her fingers over his stomach, his muscles would contract and he would laugh.
When he'd had quite enough of her teasing, Edward had rolled them onto their sides, hitching her leg up on his waist so he could enter her easily. It was a shallow position - not filling her nearly as well as when he'd taken her from behind - but it was intimate, and that in and of itself was a great pleasure.
When they were both sated, Bella felt content to never move from his arms again. She was warm to the very center of her bones, nestled against his skin beneath the comforter of his bed. Whoever she had been, whatever she would become - in that moment, she was whole.
Just as she was about to give in, letting sleep take her away from this moment of bliss, a fluttering in her belly brought her a little awake again. She shifted, giving a somewhat disgruntled grumble as she brought her hand to her side. "Shhhh," she muttered sleepily, as if the baby could be soothed in the womb.
"What is it?" Edward mumbled, the words coming out garbled and run together. She'd thought he'd been asleep.
"Baby's awake," she said with a yawn.
Automatically, his hand went to her belly, pressing. Bella laid her head back on his chest, ready to fall asleep despite the persistent wiggling, when Edward sucked in a breath.
"What?" Her eyes opened wide, sleepy but alert.
"I can feel him," Edward whispered, his voice awed. His palm spread wider, pressing against the spot where the baby was moving. "That's... wow."
Watching the way his face lit up, so alive and entirely in love, Bella smiled so widely, her cheeks hurt. She put her hand over his, just watching and marveling at everything she had.
A/N: So that was longer than I expected.
Thanks to jadedandboring, ginnyw, and barburella
One more chapter and an epilogue.