A/N: Hello! Thank you for your reviews of the last chapter. I truly appreciate them and I appreciate the comments regarding how sad some of you are that this story is over. It warms my little ol' heart.

SMeyer owns all Twilight characters. No copyright infringement intended.

Let's get to it!


23. You've Got a Friend

The next afternoon, a cleaning company showed up at our house. I had no idea who they were or who'd sent them. "May I help you?" I asked. The young woman smiled and presented a card. I opened it and saw it was from Charlie and Renee.

"We're here to help with the preparations for the baby," the young woman told me. Just then, Bella waddled down the stairs and looked at me with blood in her eyes.

"This is your mom and dad. I had nothing to do with it, so stop with the death stare," I responded as I walked away, secretly high-fiving her dad in my head for thinking about it. She had a lot of things she wanted done, and if someone else was there for her to order around, maybe she'd be more receptive to me taking off for the weekend.

I still hadn't figured out how to break the news, but I was working on it. There were covert e-mails and phone calls between the five of us men, and I knew I needed one specific person on my side, so I called and made a lunch date for the next day, which was Tuesday.

As I sat in my office that Tuesday morning, I was thinking about the day before. Charlie Swan was one of the most intelligent men I'd met in my entire life. Bella had five women cleaning our house from top to bottom, and I was allowed to put up the chair rail in peace. When she came into the nursery and saw it, she started to cry.

"This looks incredible," she remarked, much to my relief. She walked…waddled…over to where I stood and took my hand, leading me to our bedroom after all of the women had left, and she kissed me deeply. It had been a long time; so long, in fact, that I couldn't remember the last time. I wasted no time pulling her into my arms and holding her close. I loved her so much, and I knew that carrying our daughter was taking a toll on her body, but I was very excited about it.

"Baby, I love you," I whispered against her neck. She reached down and stroked my hard cock through my shorts, and I was actually surprised. It had been way too fucking long.

Hoping I wouldn't get cracked in the head or the nuts, I took the chance and touched her tits. They were big, and I loved looking at them, even though it had been a while since I'd seen them naked. I pulled her top up over her head, and unclasped her bra, holding her breasts in my hands and snaking my tongue along the top of them and dipping into her cleavage. "God, that feels good. Are you opposed having sex?" she gasped as I swirled my tongue over her left nipple.

Opposed? Fuck no. "My God no. I'm dying to make love to you," I answered as I pulled off my t-shirt and stripped off my shorts and boxers before she changed her mind. I helped her out of her maternity shorts and granny panties, and I pulled the covers off of the bed, lying down and helping her onto the bed with me. She straddled my hips and leaned down to kiss me, not quite making it because of the baby.

I sat up and kissed her instead and decided that maybe we needed to take a new tact with regard to sex. I moved us so that she was on my lap…on my cock…and I kissed her gently with my hands on either side of her beautiful face. She was still the most beautiful woman I'd ever met.

"I love you so much," I whispered against her mouth as we sat together. I gently moved her against me, and she was so wet and still so tight. I didn't mind the baby being between us, I was just glad that we were finally making love again. I assumed it would be the last time before the baby came, so I was going to enjoy it.

After she came once, she moved off of me and got on her hands and knees, allowing me to stroke into her from behind. I was really fucking happy about it because I could sink all the way into her like I couldn't in the other position, but she got off, and I was fine. Fucking her from behind was incredible, and when she came again, I was actually kind of surprised. I quickly followed her, much to my dislike, and rested my head on her back as I caught my breath for a moment. I slipped from her body, and then I pulled her into my body. I put my hand on her belly, and felt the baby move, and we both laughed.

"I guess we disturbed her," I remarked. Bella kissed my shoulder, and fell asleep. It was a great day at our house.

"Mr. Cullen, your mother is here," the hostess announced over the intercom as I was pulled from my thoughts. I rose from my chair and adjusted my hard cock, hoping it would calm down when I wasn't thinking about my wife any longer, and I walked out to the restaurant.

Mom was standing at the hostess stand, and she looked absolutely stunning. She was a beautiful woman, and the smile on her face was incredible. I walked up to her and kissed her cheek, leading her to a table in the back. She loved me, unconditionally, and I was going to use that to my every advantage.

"So, what's wrong? Is Bella okay?" Mom asked.

"She's fine. You know, I love that woman with all my heart, but this pregnant Bella that I live with, she's absolutely certifiable," I responded. It was the God's honest truth, and I knew I could be honest with my mom.

She laughed a little and smiled at the waitress who took our order and left. "Honey, she's scared. She's so afraid that something is going to be wrong with the baby, plus, she's eight month's pregnant. Women get crazy at that stage...especially a first-time mom. What can I do to help?" Mom asked. I was up to the plate, and I hoped she'd be sympathetic.

"Look, unlike what I'm told by my wife nearly every day, I'm not an unfeeling prick. I'm just as scared as she is, but it's really hard to be sympathetic to her when she's yelling at me all the time. I need a night away from her. I know it sounds awful, but I just need one night and one day to myself before the baby comes.

"I've arranged for a team from a spa to come to the house and pamper her and Renee, Rosalie, Alice, and Esme. I want to go fishing with Charlie and the guys, and I don't know how to square it with her. I'm pretty sure she's going to hit me with something if I bring it up. I need advice," I announced.

Mom laughed again. "I've kind of been waiting for this. You two work together, live together, and are in a very significant point in your life, considering what happened the last time. I'll handle it. She loves me, and she'll listen to me. You leave this to me," Mom responded as she patted my hand.

God, I hoped she was right. She was one of the smartest women I knew, and if anyone could make it work, my mom could.

We had lunch, and I gratefully kissed her cheek before she left. She was going to our house to talk to Bella, and I hoped the locks wouldn't be changed when I got home that night. I had faith in my mom, and I prayed it would be okay.


I walked into the house that night, seeing that only the kitchen light was on. It was after 11:00 PM, and I'd stayed late to take care of payroll. Well, that and I was afraid to go home.

I walked into the kitchen and found a note that there was dinner for me in the fridge if I wanted it. I opened the door and found baked chicken and roasted potatoes. I heated it up, and wondered why she'd cooked me dinner. I hadn't eaten at the restaurant and I was actually quite hungry, but it had been a while since Bella had made me dinner.

I ate and cleaned up the mess, enjoying my wife's cooking once again. She was an incredible cook, and I was hoping that once things calmed down with the baby, she'd start cooking for me again. I loved her cooking more than anyone's in the world.

I tip-toed upstairs and went into the hall bathroom to shower so as not to wake her. I started to go to the spare room to sleep, but I decided that maybe if she was asleep, I could hold her. Yeah, I was a pussy starved for affection, and I knew it was only going to get worse when the baby came, so I needed as much time as I could get. I was almost second guessing my trip for the weekend, but I knew it was what we both needed.

I slipped into bed alongside her trying not to move the bed, and I gently spooned behind her. She was lying on her right side because she couldn't breathe on her back, and I took full advantage of it. She was in one of my t-shirts, and I couldn't help but smile. My wife…the one who wasn't psychotic…was an incredible woman, and I loved her without question. I looked forward to getting her back.

I fell asleep without hesitation once I buried my nose in her hair and rested my hand on our baby. It was quite possibly one of the most peaceful moments of my life. I hoped we'd have a lot more of them in the future.

I woke the next morning with Bella showering kisses all over my chest. I opened my eyes and saw my beautiful wife hovering over me with her hands on either side of my chest as she kissed me. I wasn't sure if it was going to be my last day on the planet, because with the mood swings, every fucking day was a crap shoot, but I'd play along until I had reason to panic.

"Good morning, beautiful," I rasped out. I cleared my throat and waited.

"You're the best husband in the whole world, do you know that?" she asked as she kissed me solidly on the lips. Okay, not sure who this Bella is.

"Why's that?" I asked apprehensively.

"Your mom and Liam came over last night, and I made us dinner. Your mom told me that you planned this whole surprise pampering weekend for me and the girls, and since Liam's going to that retreat thing, she asked if she could come as well. I had no idea. Apparently, you were going to surprise me, and she felt bad about giving it away. That's the sweetest thing in the world. I called Dad, and he's going fishing, and he invited you to go with him instead of just going to stay at your mom's by yourself," she announced. My mom…Elizabeth Cullen McAndrews…evil fucking genius.

"Um, well, I wanted it to be a surprise, but if you don't mind if I go with your dad, maybe I'll tag along. We get along pretty well, and I don't fish very often," I lied. I felt a little guilty, but I'd live with the guilt. What I was doing was positively necessary to both of our sanities.

"I think it's a great idea. I've already talked to the girls, and everyone's excited about it. Apparently, you and Dad are leaving on Friday night and coming back on Sunday morning. You'll have to camp, so I hope you don't hate that. I can't believe you hired a personal chef," she squealed. Wow, I was getting two nights of peace? I wasn't sure I wanted that much time away from her, but if it would keep us from killing each other, then I'd take it.

"Oh, so we're leaving on Friday?" I asked.

"Yeah. Dad likes to be there to fish at the crack of dawn, so he said you should go over to their house and spend the night on Friday, and you guys will leave at 3:00 AM on Saturday morning. Thank you again for this, honey. I know it's not something I usually like, but a little pampering before the baby comes sounds fucking perfect," she answered. Just then, the timer on the stove went off.

"Hurry up and come down. I made French toast casserole just like you like it. I've got your coffee on, and I'll keep it warm while you shower," she responded as she kissed me again. She climbed off the bed and left me alone, and the fucking guilt consumed me.

I loved Bella so much, and to fabricate such a lie to get away from her was fucking awful. I went to the shower and quickly cleaned up, pulling on jeans and a t-shirt after I was finished in the bathroom. I'd do whatever she wanted for the rest of the week, and I'd live with the guilt. I guessed my weekend would be ruined because of my deception, but she seemed happy about the turn of events, so I'd make the best of it.

Friday afternoon, I was packing my shit to go to her dad's place for the night before we left at the ungodly hour of 3:00 AM for the drive to Steeleville. Everyone was meeting at Charlie's because the women were taking over our place, and I was a mess.

I hated lying to Bella, and the fact that I'd set the whole trip in motion to get away from her made me feel like shit. We'd made love the night before, and I couldn't even enjoy it, knowing how I'd deceived her. I was a pathetic excuse for a husband.

Bella walked into the room with clean clothes for me, and I smiled at her. She looked at me curiously, and then she burst into hysterical laughter. I had no idea with which Bella I was dealing, so I waited with my hand covertly over my crotch.

"Jesus, you feel guilty, don't you? Look, let me set your mind at ease. I know this whole fucking thing was a set up. Your mom came clean with me about it yesterday. She felt guilty about it too. You people fold under pressure like a cheap suit. It's a good thing the FBI never got you into a room and really grilled you.

"I know you need to get away from my crazy ass, and truth be told, I need a little time away from you as well, so stop worrying. I'm still happy you set this up, and I'm happy you're going away with the guys. Yes, I know you're all going away together, but I think it's a good thing. We probably should have done more shit like this over time. So you, my friend, my lover, my husband, pack your shit and get out. I've got girls and chefs and masseuses coming. I'm actually excited about it, and I'm not mad. I love you," Bella assured.

I simply shrugged my shoulders and kissed her gently on her mouth. She grabbed my hand and put it on her belly, allowing me to feel our daughter kicking. It was incredible.

"I'm going to miss you two, you know," I responded. She smiled at me and palmed my cock. That wasn't fair at all.

"I'm going to miss you two as well," she replied. I couldn't help but laugh at her. She was my gorgeous, loving, ferously protective whackadoodle, and I loved her with all my heart.


I drove our new Expedition to Charlie's house, and passed Renee on the outer road on the way. Bella, my mom, and her mom were spending the night at our house on Friday, and then Rosalie, Alice, and Esme were going over on Saturday morning. Mrs. Cope was keeping the twins for the weekend, and Jasper, Emmett, and Carlisle were going to show up at 3:00 AM for our trek to Steeleville.

Charlie and I ordered pizza and packed the SUV before deciding to turn in after we figured out the Cardinals were going to lose to the Cubs. It was only 10:00 PM when I walked into Bella's old bedroom, and I wasn't tired in the least.

As I lie on Bella's little twin bed and looked at the few things from her childhood that were still in her room, I felt compelled to text her. Maybe going away wasn't a good idea.

Who's the guy in the picture with you from high school? What are you doing? –E

His name was Shane, and he was my boyfriend. I'm watching a movie. You? – B

He looks stupid. I miss feeling you next to me. – E

He was definitely stupid. My old diary is probably still under the nightstand if you're bored. –B

I scrambled from the bed and reached under the nightstand, finding a book taped under the little table. I pulled it out and opened the clasp which wasn't locked. It had a cat on the front of it, and I smiled.

I looked inside the cover. "Property of Isabella Marie Swan. KEEP OUT!" I laughed. I flipped to the first entry.

January 3

I hate my mom and dad. I didn't want to change schools, especially not in the middle of the year, but here I am having to start at a new school tomorrow because we moved. I'll never do that to my kid. Well, if I have kids. I can't see me being married and having a kid. Maybe I'll just adopt a kid. That's it, I'll adopt a kid who needs to be loved, and I'll have a kid.

I hope school goes well. I'm nervous.

January 6

School sucks. Junior year sucks. I can't wait to get the hell out of here and go to college. I'm going far away from here. Maybe I'll go back East? Why do they call it "back" East? I've never been there, and it seems like West would be back. I don't know. I hate my life.

June 1

Sorry I've been out of touch, but I've been busy. School's out and I'm back to work. Dad's building a house out on Sappington Road, and I'm going to be working there over the summer. I'm excited about it. I love building shit. I went out with my friend, Janice, last night and got hammered, and I've suffered all day with a hangover, but I don't think Mom and Dad know. I'd really like to meet someone to date, but all of the guys at school are dicks. That's not very promising. More later.

I couldn't help but laugh. She must have been the most adorable girl in the world. I decided to take the diary with me because I had to read more of it and quiz her about it. It was insight into the woman I loved that I never thought I'd get. I fell asleep after I put it in my overnight bag, and I dreamed about being the guy Bella met in high school who'd capture her heart. I wished I'd have been her first, but I knew I'd be her last. We were meant to be, and that was the story our future would write.


I found myself sitting in an old fashioned lawn chair on the bank of the Huzzah River, fishing pole in one hand, beer in the other. It was all of 7:00 AM. We'd left at 3:30 AM because Carlisle was late, and Charlie wasn't thrilled that his timeline was off, but he adapted.

He'd shown Carlisle and me how to cast because we were fishing virgins. Emmett and Jasper laughed at us. Apparently, they'd fished a lot, and they didn't understand how anyone had never gone fishing. I flipped them off.

"So, were you strict with Bella when she was younger," I asked Charlie as we sat next to each other. I knew it was supposedly taboo to talk, but the water was loud, and I couldn't imagine that the fish could hear us above it.

He chuckled. "I was a bastard to her once she turned sixteen. I followed her everywhere. She'd get so pissed off that she wouldn't speak to me for days. Renee told me I was driving her away, but I told Renee I was instilling the fear of God in her. Of course, I was wrong.

"That girl could climb out of her window and down the side of the house like a rock climber. We used to have a trellis that was under her bedroom window where Renee had some rose bushes. I figured out Bells used it as a ladder, and I took the damn thing down. That didn't stop her, though. She had this friend, Janice…Janine…whatever. Her dad was a plumber. Anyway, Bells told her where the ladder was in the garage, and that girl would get the ladder, and Bells would climb down the damn thing and sneak out. She was probably grounded more than she was allowed out of the house.

"She always threatened that she was going to go to college in Maine to get as far away from me as possible. When she chose her school, she went to UMSL and lived at home. She worked for me summers and weekends, and until she met Seth, she didn't really date.

"When she moved in with that asshole, I was pissed at her, but Renee was fighting breast cancer, so I had other things to worry about. I was never so happy when she told me that they weren't dating any longer and they were just friends. Of course, you came along, and she fell for your ass. She had a hard time after you left and went to Chicago," he responded.

I was surprised. It had been a long time ago, and I had no idea. "A hard time? I didn't know. We kept in touch, sporadically, but she never mentioned having feelings for me," I volunteered.

He laughed again. "Yeah, well you know her. That's not her way. I still think Seth was just someone to keep you off her mind," he answered.

I couldn't lie and say that I was unhappy to hear it. We'd been married a few years, and we were expecting a baby, but hearing that Bella missed me over the years made my heart soar, just like the pansy I was. I missed her very much, and I wanted to pack up the car and go home. Just as I was about to suggest it, I got a bite.

I wrestled with the fish, listening to Charlie's instructions, and when I reeled it in, I was surprised to see it was a trout. We put it in the basket we had anchored in the river, and we continued to enjoy the day.

We fished and we drank, and after we ate dinner, we played poker. It was a great day, and I was happy that my wife had given her blessing for it. I felt closer to my father-in-law than ever, and when we packed up on Sunday morning after one more round of fishing, I was eager to get home.

We were at the St. Clair exit and had stopped to get gas when my cell buzzed in my pocket. Carlisle and Emmett were playing scratch-off lottery tickets on the hood of Emmett's truck and Jasper was in the john. I was pumping gas, so I didn't open my cell because there were stories of fires and shit when you pumped gas and used a cell phone, and I didn't want to blow up or anything.

I saw Charlie pull his phone out and look at it. The look on his face wasn't one I knew. He jumped out of the SUV and walked around. "Um, we need to get on the road. They've taken Bells to the hospital. She's in labor," he announced. I looked at him like he was crazy, and he took the nozzle from my hand as he shoved me around to the passenger side of the Expedition.

I climbed in without a word, and when we had enough gas to get us to South County, he shut off the pump and he drove. We got there incredibly fast, and I was happy that he ignored the speed laws.

I ran into the hospital and found my mom, Renee, Alice, Rosalie, and Esme pacing the waiting room. "Where is she?" I demanded.

"Oh. My. God. You stink. She's in a birthing room, but they were just getting her set up and they haven't come for us yet. Maybe you can work your magic," Mom announced. I walked to the desk as I smelled myself, and I realized that I really did stink, but that was the last thing on my mind. My wife was in labor, which wasn't supposed to happen, and I had to know what the fuck was going on.

"Hi. I'm Edward Cullen, and I believe my wife is up here somewhere," I explained to the nurse. She smiled at me, and then her face twisted up in a horrible grimace. I guessed I really did smell pretty bad.

"Um, she's down the hall in five. You might want to go wash up. I'll get you some scrubs. Where in the world have you been?" she asked. I laughed.

"I was camping. Thanks," I called as she scurried off. She came back a minute later with a set of scrubs and pointed me toward the men's room. I went inside and stripped down to my boxers and washed up as best I could, pulling the scrubs on and walking back to the desk. I'd put my clothes in a plastic bag that she'd given me, and I was ready to see my wife.

She pointed to the room, and I walked in. Bella was eating ice chips, and she was hooked up to machines. I didn't like the look of it at all. "Where's the doctor? Why are you in labor?" I snapped. I didn't mean to sound like a jackass, but seriously, that wasn't supposed to happen. That was why we'd scheduled a C-Section. It was scheduled, which, in my mind, meant we'd know when it was going to happen.

"It's good to see you too. I've missed you as well. Look, all I know is that my water broke and here I am. I've got an epidural, and we were waiting for you to get here before we decided anything. He thinks I can have her vaginally, but I'm fucking scared to death, so I need you to decide," she answered as she shoved the spoon into the cup and looked at me.

Me to decide? I'd never had a baby. I had no fucking idea what to say. "I thought he said it was best to have a C-Section because she's big. I don't want you getting halfway through a regular delivery for him to change his fucking mind. I want you safe, first and foremost," I responded. Just then, the little doctor came into the room. He walked over to a machine and looked at the monitor, pulling up a paper tape and looking at it.

He looked at the two of us. "So?" he asked. He was the fucking doctor, for Christ's sake.

"So? Fucking so? You're the goddamn doctor. You recommended that she have a cesarean, and now you're changing shit up? I don't like this," I complained. He should have the answers, not the questions.

"Edward," Bella began her scolding. Just because she wasn't in pain didn't mean she wasn't in danger. She was the love of my life, and as much as I wanted our baby to be healthy and fine, I wasn't willing to sacrifice my wife in the process.

"Don't Edward me. He fucking told us that you would be better off having a cesarean. I say we go with the original plan. Is the baby in any danger?" I asked.

"Not at all. If you want to have a cesarean, we need to do it now," he announced. I walked over to Bella and leaned over, kissing her forehead.

"Baby, I can't lose you. It's your decision, but I vote for the C-Section. I know it's your body, but I'm worried," I whispered. She nodded at me and pulled me down to kiss my lips.

"Dr. Kim, let's stick with the original plan," Bella told him. I let go an uneasy breath. Ten minutes later, we were in an operating room, and I was holding her hand having been outfitted like a surgeon. I dared not look over the drape they had up. I looked into my Bella's eyes and stroked her head while I held her hand, praying the whole fucking time that everything would be okay.

When we heard the cry, we both started crying ourselves. They whisked her away and cleaned her up, and they brought her to me. The nurse handed her to me and remarked, "Mr. Cullen, here's your daughter." I looked into the tiny face of the newest Cullen, and I couldn't help but cry. She was beautiful, just like her mother.

I held her down where Bella could see her, and I saw my wife cry. "Hi baby girl. I'm your mommy. I'm so happy you're here. We've waited a while for you," my beautiful wife whispered as she sobbed.

The baby was taken from me, and I was led from the room so they could finish up with Bella. I kissed her cheeks and her forehead, and I dried her tears. I was so happy I didn't think my feet touched the ground as I walked to the waiting room where our family was waiting.

"Well, she's here and she's fine. She's just as beautiful as her mother, and I'm going to have my hands full. Bella's fine. They're just finishing up," I announced. I was engulfed in hugs and kisses by everyone, and it was so fucking overwhelming that I had to sit down. I had a daughter. I had two people on the planet who were truly mine, and I couldn't believe it. They belonged to me, and I belonged to them. It was incredible.

Charlie sat down next to me and handed me a handkerchief. I didn't realize I was crying, and I was grateful for the offering. "Just wait. Someday, a guy is going to start showing up at your house, and he's going to take your little girl out, and she's going to come home and tell you that she's in love with the most wonderful man in the world, and it's not going to be you anymore.

"She's going to think you hung the moon, and then one day, some other guy is going to come along and take her away. For your sake, Edward, I hope he's half the man that you are," Charlie told me. Fuck, I'd rather he shot me. I couldn't help but sob, and he wrapped his arm around my shoulders and I could hear he was crying as well. It was the best compliment I'd ever received in my life.

An hour later, I stood at the nursery window with my family…Charlie and Renee Swan, Mom and Liam, Lauren and Eric, Carlisle and Esme, Emmett and Rosalie, Alice and Jasper…and I reveled in the fact that I had a great family. I was lucky. Most people were barely able to take care of themselves. We had an entire group of people who loved us and helped take care of us.

As I sat in Bella's hospital room that night and held her hand while I held our daughter, I hoped and prayed that the day wouldn't come too soon when my daughter, Hope Marie Cullen, would meet her Mr. Right. I wanted to be the only man in her life for a long time, though I knew it wouldn't be forever.

Someday, a man would show up and sweep my little girl off her feet, or at least fall head over heels in love with her as I'd done with her mother. I prayed he'd be kind and loving and strong. She'd be hell on wheels because she was part of us, and I knew that any man who could live up to the challenge of taking on my daughter would have to be a good man. I wished him luck.

I'd carved out a life with the woman of my dreams, with a lot of bumps along the way, and I couldn't imagine my life going any other way. I wouldn't change a thing.

I found the camera that we traded with Felix and Tanya in Bella's overnight bag, and I took pictures of my girls. Mom took a picture of the three of us, and before I sent the camera to New Jersey, I was planning to print them off. They were perfect, and I wasn't going to miss out on framing them and putting them up at the restaurant in our office.

I fell asleep in Bella's room, holding her hand with our daughter asleep in the little bassinette thing next to me. When I woke the next morning, I saw a huge bouquet of flowers and a basket of stuffed animals on the window ledge. There was a card sticking out of the basket of flowers, and I pulled it out. The signature on it was simple, and it reminded me of our absent friends who, even with all the ups and downs and bullshit, had become like family as well.

All our love,

A Friend of the Family


E/N: So, there it is. No, there's no epilogue because I haven't exactly ruled out the possibility of a sequel. I haven't come up with a plan yet, so stay tuned to my other stories and I'll keep you posted.

Thank you all for your support and your reviews. I truly have enjoyed having the opportunity to take up some of your free time. I hope you'll check out future stories because I promise you, there will be more.

For the last time…xoxo