A/N: This was written as part of the Fandom for Suicide Prevention compilation. It's a past/take - Future/take depicting the birth of Edward and Bella's baby and Edward finding out about Elsie. Enjoy, my darlings.
"I don't care what you name her," Elsie said decisively. "But her initials have to be J.C."
"Why is that?" Edward asked, amused at how sure his daughter sounded.
"Because we can call her Jacie," Elsie said in her best 'duh' voice. "I like Jacie. And since I'm Elsie and we're going to be sisters, it fits." She wrinkled her nose. "Just don't name her after cheese."
Edward struggled not to laugh, instead tilting his head as he considered seriously. "I don't know that there are any types of cheese that start with J, anyway."
The house was fairly quiet when Edward got home from dropping Elsie off at her mother's. He frowned. Bella's car was in the driveway so he knew she was home.
In case she was napping, Edward made his way through the house silently. He found his wife in their bedroom, though. She rolled over to look at him as he came into the room.
She looked rather miserable.
Clucking his tongue, Edward went to sit on the bed, running his fingers through her hair. "What's wrong, Bella?"
She gave him a withering stare that told him everything he needed to know. She was well past the point in pregnancy where her baby belly was adorable. Now she just looked ponderously uncomfortable. Her stomach seemed far too big for such a slight person.
"Your back hurt?" he guessed.
Bella nodded, lifting her hands up to him. Obliging, he helped her into a sitting position, then sat with his back against the headboard. She leaned back against him, letting him rub her back as he related the conversation he'd had with Elsie at dinner.
"It's not a bad idea," Bella murmured with a sigh, resting her head on his shoulder. "I like the idea of your daughters sharing a connection through their names." She craned her neck, looking at him with mischief in her eyes. "I was going to suggest Lenore."
Edward wrinkled his nose. "That's so Edgar Allan Poe."
Bella chuckled. "Jacie," she mused aloud. "I like it, too, because I was toying with Carlie - it sounds like both our fathers. But that can be a middle name."
"I like Carlie." Edward let his fingers drift to her front, cupping their daughter in both his hands. "Juliet, Jill, Jayden, Julie, Jacklyn."
"Something simple. Maybe... Jean?"
"That is very simple." Edward turned the name over in his head. It rather matched his family. Their names were slightly old fashioned. "Jean Carlie?"
"Jean Carlie Cullen," Bella said decisively.
Edward ran his hands over and over her belly. Jean Carlie Cullen. A product of his beautiful relationship with the love of his life, planned for, cherished, and adored since before her conception.
"Now if she'd only come out," Bella grumbled.
"Two more weeks."
Bella scoffed but put her hands over his. "If I'm lucky."
Tenderly, Edward kissed the side of her head, loving her only more because she was doing this - growing their baby.
What a difference ten years made.
"Come on, shorty. What's it take?" Edward knocked on the door to Emmett's room.
The door opened and his seven-year-old brother peered out of him. "I can't find my trunks."
"Cool. I'm going to the pool without you, then," Edward said with feigned nonchalance. He turned.
"No, no, wait! Edward, you can't leave without me." Emmett started tugging on his arm, trying to draw him back.
Edward chuckled. "Why don't you ask Mom? She knows where everything is-"
"Edward?" Esme called from downstairs.
"Guess I'll ask her for you."
He was in a good mood. Things were finally calming down after the whole James debacle. It was easier now that there wasn't any school to contend with.
"Edward? Can you come down here. Now?" His father called this time.
Edward paused on the stairs.
There was something in the tone of his father's voice that sent a chill down his spine. His stomach twisted, and his mind automatically started going over the last few days.
He'd been the picture of good behavior. How could he not be? After the hell he'd put his parents through - lawyers and reporters knocking on their door. He'd been the epitome of a dutiful son and brother since then.
His steps slower now, he continued down the stairs.
When he saw his parents in the kitchen, he paused. His heart was in his throat and down in the pit of his stomach all at the same time.
Esme was sitting, her elbows on the table and her hand over her mouth. She was very obviously trying not to cry. Carlisle was standing behind her, his hands on her shoulders, a look of hard apprehension on his face.
Edward swallowed. "Mom?" His voice shook. "Dad?"
"Hey, Mom. Dad." Edward smiled as he opened the door to find his parents. He looked up over his parents' shoulders to his little brother. "Hey, squirt."
Emmett rolled his eyes. "Bitch, please."
As they went inside, Esme hurried past the rest of them. Edward was confused until he saw Bella trying to balance a huge bowl of chips in one hand and a tray of veggies in the other. "Oh. Dear, let me get that."
"I'm fine, Esme," Bella protested with a smile. Before her mother-in-law could get to her though, Bella's balance - severely compromised by her pregnancy - gave out. She pitched forward, snacks flying everywhere, and caught herself on the back of the couch.
Edward jolted to her side. "Are you okay?" he asked, his arm around her waist.
She laughed unsteadily. "I'm fine."
Coming around to her other side, Esme put a hand to her arm, tugging lightly. "Come on. You come sit down. Everyone else..." She snapped her fingers and pointed at the mess. "Clean this up. Now."
Carlisle tilted his head. "What's wrong with you? You're not pregnant."
Esme arched an eyebrow and calmly turned to her sons. "Leave the dressing for your father."
Edward shook his head as he stooped to begin gathering up the now useless vegetables and chips.
It was nice, he reflected, that his parents loved the mother of his child so much. That would never happen for Elsie's mother.
Esme and Carlisle were civil around Victoria, but they would never feel anything but anger toward her. Of course, as a parent, Edward understood that.
Esme wasn't looking at him at all. Edward had seen that much before he started staring down at his lap. Carlisle, on the other hand, was boring holes into Edward's skull with his eyes.
"Edward, did you hear what I said?"
"Yes, sir." Edward's voice was less than a whisper. He wrung his hands fitfully.
"Is what they're saying possible?" Carlisle's tone was still maddeningly calm.
With everything in him, Edward wanted to say no. To him it felt entirely impossible. How could he possibly be a father to a one-month-old baby girl?
But Edward wasn't an idiot. He wasn't naive. He knew what the consequences of sex were, and he'd had sex - with Victoria.
"Edward, answer me."
"Yes, sir." His words weren't even audible, but his parents heard them anyway. He was sure guilt radiated from his posture.
Esme gave a little gasp that let Edward know she was crying. Carlisle exhaled in a long, loud gust.
"You know better than this. We raised you better than this." His father's tone was rougher than Edward had ever known it to be and thick with disappointment.
Edward's shoulders slumped so much, it was something of a miracle he hadn't devolved into a puddle of shame on the floor.
"How could you be so irresponsible?"
"Don't yell at him," Esme snapped.
Edward was so shocked, he raised his head. He and Carlisle both stared at his mother with wide eyes.
"That woman is twenty-eight-years-old." Esme's tone was harsh, angry. "Twenty-eight, Carlisle, and Edward is an underage boy. It's not him you should be angry at."
"Regardless, we taught him better than this."
"Would you feel differently if Edward was a girl? If an almost thirty-year-old man seduced her?" When Carlisle said nothing, she went on. "I thought so. This woman, this drug dealertook advantage of your son."
Seeing as they were talking about him like he wasn't there, Edward probably should have protested. His father was right: he knew better. He'd been raised better, smarter.
But his head was spinning. His parents, who hadn't even yelled through the whole James debacle, were very angry. Worse, they were angry at each other and disappointed in him.
And it was beginning to sink in, really sink in what they'd told him.
Victoria, who was currently in prison, was the mother of a one-month-old girl she claimed was his. Social services had tracked him down because they wanted to place the little girl with her father.
He was a father.
Edward found it very difficult to breathe. Seconds later, overwhelmed, confused, and more desperately afraid than he could ever find words to explain, he burst into tears.
It was effective as a means to get his parents to stop arguing anyway.
They both rushed to him, wrapping him in their loving embrace.
"We're going to be here for you, no matter what," Esme said quietly.
"Your mother's right." Carlisle's voice was gentle again. "We can't undo what's been done. We'll deal with it as a family."
Edward's first order of business was to go to his room, crawl under every blanket he had, and curl up with his knees drawn up to his chest.
How could he possibly be a father? Men were fathers. After his little outburst, he felt more like a little boy than he had... well... possibly ever.
He stayed under the covers the rest of the evening, ignoring his parents calling him for dinner. His thoughts spun and dwindled off into nothing and came back with a vengeance.
It just didn't seem real.
He tried to fall asleep so he could wake up out of this nightmare.
No such luck.
When he didn't answer their knocks, his parents came in. His father peeled the blankets down away from his face. His mother lay down behind him, running her fingers through his hair. "I wish I could fix this for you, Edward. But you're going to have to make some really big decisions now."
Edward's throat hurt. His heart hurt.
"What's her name?" he whispered.
He breathed in and out slowly. "The baby's name. You never told me her name."
That seemed wrong. He'd known he had a daughter for hours and yet didn't know her name. He was sure to win father of the year.
Carlisle actually chuckled. "Her name is Leona Catelyn."
Edward raised his head a little, making a face. "That's... weird."
Carlisle smiled indulgently. "You need to make some choices, son," he said quietly. "And I'm sorry, but you need to make them now."
The vice-grip around Edward's chest tightened. "You mean I need to decide if I want her."
"I know you don't have the usual time to adjust to the idea-"
Edward interrupted. "I want her."
He sat up so he could face both his parents - a difficult thing as he was still so ashamed he hardly knew how to deal with himself.
"This isn't a decision you can make on a whim," Carlisle said, his voice gentle but a touch reproachful. "This child... if you choose to raise her, you will raise her. You know your mother and I will be here for you, but Leona is your daughter. Forever."
"She's my daughter forever anyway," Edward said irritably. The words felt foreign on his tongue. Wrong. He ran his hands through his hair, restless and still out of sorts. "There's no choice here. She's all alone." He shook his head. "I can't do that. I can't leave her all alone."
Esme's lower lip began to tremble. Edward had to look down.
He'd thought he might be able to make up for the trouble he caused when he was running around with James. Now...
"I'm really sorry," he said to his blankets.
"I'm sorry for yelling at you earlier," Carlisle said quickly. "This is... Well, that woman had no business going near you. None at all."
"But I shouldn't have... I knew..."
Carlisle put a hand on his shoulder. "Edward."
"I just... I think you should yell at me. Or do... something. Stop being so damn... nice about this."
Carlisle sighed. "You're a father now. Your life from here on out isn't ever going to be easy." He squeezed his shoulder comfortingly. "I could ground you but it would just be overkill."
Despite himself, Edward smiled. A little. Then he took a deep, steadying breath. "I can do it, I think. I could be a good father." He looked up at Carlisle, his expression tentative. "At least... I have a good example."
Carlisle didn't answer. Instead, he gathered Edward into his arms for a long, very tight hug.
Elsie looked comically perplexed. "Babies are very small, aren't they? Why do they need so much stuff?"
"All of us need stuff," Bella said patiently. "Babies just need stuff that's their size."
"Alice and Jasper sent us the entirety of the baby line at ThinkGeek." He showed his girls a rather hilarious pacifier that made it look like the baby had vampire fangs. Giggling, Elsie plopped it in her mouth. It looked ridiculous and she told her father so.
Edward took the pacifier out of her mouth. "Well, luckily, these aren't for you, and I doubt your sister will be so picky."
Elsie looked at him dubiously. "You're going to make her look like a dork when she can't stop you. That's mean, Daddy."
"That's half the fun of being a daddy - making your kids look like dorks."
Bella snorted. "This from the same man who wouldn't let his daughter be a pumpkin for Halloween because it was too lame."
"Eh, what did I know?" Edward waved his hands. "I'm an old man now. It takes little to amuse me."
"Old man," Bella repeated, rolling her eyes.
Grinning at her mischievously, Edward wrapped an arm around her, drawing her nearer to him for a kiss.
"Uh, hello! Child in the room!" Elsie protested. Shaking her head, she got out of dodge as quick as she could.
Bella sighed contentedly, leaning against Edward and looking around at the last touches they'd just finished putting on the nursery. "Do we have everything we need?"
"Looks like it," Edward answered, moving his hands to stroke her belly. "We're just missing the uh..." He snapped his fingers as if trying to remember the word. "The um... It's very small." He gestured with his hands. "And noisy. And usually slimy with the drool and all."
"A baby," Bella supplied.
"Yes! That's the one. Any idea where we can get ourselves one of those?"
"I might have the hook-up," she murmured, her voice sounding not as light as it should have. She was clenching and unclenching her hands at her sides.
The idea of bringing a brand new human life into the world was always overwhelming, Edward reflected. Yes, he was infinitely more prepared than he had been the first time, not as scared, but that fear was there under the surface.
Jacie would bring with her a different set of challenges than Elsie had. Her life was a mystery.
Edward hugged Bella tighter.
He wasn't alone this time, though. Yes, his parents had been a big help, of course, with Elsie, but it wasn't the same. Not at all.
"Don't worry, Bella," he said, kissing her cheek. "We got this."
While Edward tried to wrap his head around everything that was changing at a rapid pace, his parents did what they did best: they helped.
His mother sat down and wrote out a list of things they would need to bring the baby home.
"The social worker said they have a carseat, so there's that," Esme murmured, tapping her lips. She sighed. "This is why you have a baby shower - to get all the little things."
There were a lot of little things.
Feeling out of place and self-conscious, Edward followed his mother through the baby section at Target. He worried about stupid things. Was choosing the green blankets over the pink a wrong decision? Would it effect Leona in some way?
It still didn't seem real. It still seemed like he was watching his mother put baby things in a cart for someone else. Like maybe she was gathering supplies for the foster agency she used to work with, or maybe going overboard for someone's baby shower.
All this stuff could not be for him, for his daughter.
Edward wondered if those words would ever not sound so surreal in his head. He was a father. He had a daughter.
"It will be nice having a little girl around, though," Esme said softly, mostly murmuring to herself. "Girl clothes are just so much more fun. Look at this." She took a dress off the rack in front of her - a tiny peach dress - and matched it with an equally tiny, off white cardigan. "Isn't this adorable?"
Edward smiled wanly. "It's pretty cute," he muttered.
"Hmmm." Esme flipped over the tag and pursed her lips. "Fifteen dollars... and the sweater is nine."
"Mom, it's fine. You're already spending way too much."
"Well, she does need one very pretty dress at least. Every girl does," Esme said decisively, throwing the admittedly very pretty dress into the cart. "And this is what Grandmas are supposed to do, right? Spoil their grandkids."
Edward didn't answer. He couldn't. The word Grandma had shocked him into silence. His parents were not old enough to be grandparents. It was just... wrong.
"Oh! We need to pick up one of those kits," Esme said suddenly, turning the cart back in the direction of the aisles they'd already been down. "I saw a pretty complete one that has all the things you need for when she gets sick."
When, Edward noticed. Not if. When.
His nervousness grew exponentially. How in the hell was he supposed to do this? His biggest responsibility to that point had been to get his homework done and take out the garbage every Thursday. This was...
Too much, too much, too much.
Edward closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Wordlessly, his mother rubbed his back, as if she knew what he was thinking.
"I'm never going to be able to pay you back for all of this," Edward said pensively as Esme put the first aid kit in the cart along with a grooming kit.
Esme ruffled his hair affectionately. "Why don't you stop worrying about things you don't need to worry about," she suggested softly. "The baby needs things. That's the way it is. Right now, you have bigger fish to fry, kid." She stopped and put her hands on his shoulders, waiting until he looked up. "You're a natural worrier, Edward, and this is... a lot. Please don't think about the money for now. There's nothing you can do about it. You have enough to deal with."
Just the fact Leona existed was enough to deal with, Edward thought as they went on. But of course, it wasn't that simple.
When they found out how young he was, the district attorneys prosecuting Victoria were starting to make noise about levying statutory rape charges. His parents had to call the lawyer they'd hired because of everything going on with James. They had already ordered Edward to submit to a paternity test - which he'd done that morning. The lawyer said he might have to testify against Victoria, a fact that made Edward resentful.
They were acting like she forced him. She hadn't.
Everything was just such a mess.
Something pulled Edward awake, but at first, he wasn't sure what it was. Instinctively, he reached out for Bella. Finding her side of the bed empty pushed him further into consciousness.
Blinking, Edward sat up.
He found his wife in the bathroom. More specifically, he found her in the bath, her hair piled on top of her head, her cheeks pinked from the heat. "What are you doing?" he asked around a yawn, sitting on the lip of the tub.
Bella opened one eye, staring at him with an expression he couldn't decipher at first. "I think..." she said slowly, "I'm in labor."
Edward's eyes bulged and his body jerked, ready to spring into action. He stood, but he quickly realized he didn't know what to do. His initial reaction was to scoop her out of the tub and run in the direction of the nearest hospital, but something told him that wouldn't go over well.
"Calm down," Bella commanded him sternly. "The contractions are pretty far apart." She made a face. "This could take a while, remember?"
Of course he knew this. He was a nurse, and had dealt with laboring mothers during his training. Everything was different when it was his own family though.
"Okay," Edward said softly, swallowing hard and forcing himself to push his panic to the side. "Tell me what you need."
She was about to answer, but then her face pinched and she gasped, sitting up a little in the bath. Her hand shot out, searching for his. When he put his hand in hers, she gripped tight. "Just be here," she said through gritted teeth. "Just don't leave me."
"I won't." He massaged her hand, relieved when she blew out a breath and the tense way she held her shoulders slackened. "I'm right here."
His heart was beating rapidly, excitement and nervousness twisting his stomach in knots.
They were going to have a baby. Today.
It was almost noon before Bella's contractions were close enough she let him take her to the hospital.
What a different experience this was, Edward thought as his coworkers sought him out one by one to congratulate him. His parents were hanging around with Charlie in the waiting room. Renee was on a plane and delirious with excitement. Everyone was all big smiles and eager with anticipation.
Edward smiled when yet another visitor peered around the door. "Can I come in?" Elsie asked. She'd been staying with Victoria the last few days since Edward and Bella didn't know when the baby would be born. She'd wanted to be around to meet Jacie. Obviously, she'd gotten her wish.
"Of course." It was Bella who answered for them. She looked exhausted already, but she was smiling as Elsie came cautiously into the room. Edward pulled the girl into a quick, tight hug, glad to see her, before he let her go.
Elsie chatted happily with Bella about how excited she was and how she hoped the baby was born before she had to go home since the next day was a school day. She hinted that she wanted to stay home from school, "to help with the baby!", pouting when Edward shook his head no.
"I really hope Jacie is born before you have to leave, too," Bella muttered, though Edward suspected this was because she was already tired, and the thought of still being in labor when Elsie had to leave was daunting.
Edward fervently hoped it wouldn't be much longer. He hated seeing Bella in pain.
When another contraction hit, Elsie seemed curious. She stood on Bella's other side, patting her hair and her arm, as Edward watched the monitor, murmuring encouraging words. The contraction eased, and Elsie had a number of questions about the monitor, the process, and why Bella could only have ice chips.
"How long did it take me to be born?" she asked curiously.
Edward grimaced, feeling unreasonably guilty. It wasn't as though it was his fault he hadn't been present for her birth. He cleared his throat. "You'll have to ask your mother."
Bella squeezed his hand, comforting him.
Elsie gave Bella a kiss on the cheek and scampered off to do just that.
Sighing, Edward put his arm around Bella, drawing her close and pressing a long, lingering kiss to her temple. "I don't have enough words to thank you for doing this. You're amazing, Bella."
Giving a little snort, she leaned into him. "You're lucky I love you."
"I am," Edward agreed in all seriousness.
It was just after three in the afternoon when Jean Carlie Cullen made her way into the world. Edward had seen babies born before, but the experience of watching the birth of his own child was one that took his breath away.
"Hi, little girl," Bella whispered as they laid Jacie in her arms for the first time. She was crying. The baby squalled, settling down now that she had let her indignation be known. Bella sniffled and laughed.
Edward was in love.
He was instantly in love with the tiny creature in his wife's arms. From the thick strands of hair - matted and black with birth - to her squirming little feet, he was in love with and entirely enraptured by his new little daughter.
Bella turned her head, grinning at him with a smile so beatific, Edward felt like his heart might burst. He was so in love with this woman. Sharing this moment with her was among the most profound moments of his life.
So much love. So much beauty.
He kissed Bella soundly, lingering for a long moment before he had to see his daughter again.
There was another flurry of activity and the baby was transferred into Edward's arms. As he held his baby for the first time, his fingers brushing her soft skin, Edward felt a deep joy spread through him. He pressed a soft kiss to the little girl's forehead. "I love you," he whispered. The words were a promise of his unconditional love, that he would care for her and be there for her always.
For what had to be the hundredth time that day, Edward had to wipe his hands on his jeans to brush away the clamminess.
He was so nervous, he was shaking.
"Are you ready?" Carlisle asked coming up behind him, putting a hand on his shoulder.
Edward scoffed and didn't answer. Of course he wasn't ready.
They were standing in front of the house of the foster family that had been taking care of Leona since Victoria was taken into custody. Edward wiped his hands on his jeans again, chewing the inside of his cheek.
Esme gave him a gentle push, and Edward started moving forward. Sound warped. His parents were talking but he couldn't hear what they were saying. They sounded far away. He couldn't hear anything past the thud, thud, thud of his heart.
The door opened. A gruff looking guy stood there. He said something. Edward's parents answered. Carlisle's hands on his shoulders guided him forward.
A woman joined them. Her expression was pitying as she looked at Edward. She spoke with a gentle tone, as if Edward were the child, beckoning him down the hallway.
The instant they stepped into the room, Edward's eyes were frozen on the crib and the baby that lay there. He stopped in the doorway, his breath caught in his throat as he watched her kick her feet in the air, heard the unmistakable sound of her cooing.
"Come on, sweetheart. Why don't you sit down here?" the woman said, taking him by the arm and tugging him over to the rocking chair in the corner.
Edward did as he was told, somewhat relieved to hear the instructions. He could follow instructions. He sat down heavily, not taking his eyes off the baby.
The foster mother went to the crib, talking softly to Leona as she lifted her. "Guess who's here, Leona. It's your daddy. Do you want to meet your daddy? Hmmm?"
Edward's heart leapt up into his throat making a painful lump. He was vaguely aware his mother was standing beside him, squeezing his arm comfortingly.
The foster mother came over and settled the baby into Edward's arms. "Just like that. You're fine, honey. Just keep her head supported, and you're just fine."
Never had Edward wanted to do something right so desperately in his life. He suddenly felt a little frantic, checking the baby over to see if she was uncomfortable, in pain. He looked up at his mother with huge eyes, checking to see if he was doing this right.
Esme's eyes were teary. "You have her, Edward," she assured.
The panic in him eased and he looked down, really looking at his daughter for the first time.
It struck him then.
After days of phone calls and preparations, it hadn't seemed real to him. Half of his room had been converted into a nursery with a crib, a changing table, and everything the baby would need. It still didn't seem real. Leona had been a concept, a vague idea until she was a solid, squirming weight in his arms.
She was real.
It was a profound feeling that struck him then, floored him. He'd never felt such terror, but at the same time, he'd never felt such love. It was a strange love - not like what he felt for his mother and father, his family. This was an intense, heady emotion. He wanted everything for this little girl. He wanted to open his heart and tuck her there where she would feel safe, protected... loved.
He was so scared he couldn't be enough, that he would suck at this - being a father. But he couldn't deny the odd sense of pride that rose in him then.
She was his, this little creature. It was a knowledge he felt in his bones. Scared as he was, he wasn't going to run from this. Even then, in those first few moments together, he knew he would never want to be away from her. The center of his life shifted.
This little girl was everything.
Oblivious to his parents, to the people watching them, Edward settled back, rocking them as he murmured soft, nonsensical words to her. He promised he would take care of her, that he would do his best.
Leona yawned, and Edward felt his heart expand as he laughed at the expression. The baby seemed at peace in his arms. That made him very happy.
He cuddled her close. "You and me, little girl. We're going to be okay," he whispered to her.
He meant it.
Edward stepped back to admire his handiwork.
In this day and age, getting pictures actually printed was a rare thing. These three pictures represented his three most important days.
There was the first picture. His mother had snapped his picture as he rocked his stranger daughter in a stranger's house. He looked awed and terrified.
The middle picture was his wedding day. His blushing bride was a vision. The couple in the picture was wrapped up in each other, oblivious to the cameraman as they stared at one another. Her smile was wide, lighting up her breathtakingly stunning face. They were a couple very much in love and oh, so happy.
The last picture was the newest. It was taken two weeks before on the day Jacie was born. Edward had one arm around Bella - who held the baby - the other around Elsie. They were all staring at Jacie - a family of wide grins. This was his favorite picture if only because it was him surrounded by the three loves of his life. His beautiful girls.
Jacie's cry rang through the house.
Speaking of his beautiful girls...
Edward jogged up the stairs. He wasn't surprised to find Elsie already in the nursery. She was leaning over the crib, patting Jacie's stomach, speaking to her quietly.
"What's the verdict?" Edward asked.
"Well, I think she's hungry," Elsie decided.
"Ah, I see." He reached into the crib, pulling his unhappy daughter up into his arms. "I got you, Jace."
As he went downstairs, Elsie followed, singing in Jacie's general direction, trying to distract her from crying.
"Can I hold her?" Elsie asked before Edward could put her in the bouncer.
Edward raised an eyebrow, a little uncertain. "Okay, but you have to sit down."
She leveled a withering stare at him. Carlisle said he'd better get used to that. Elsie was straddling the line between being a child and a teenager. The gap was closing every day. "I'm not new at being a big sister," she grumbled.
"Just be careful, Else."
Elsie was careful.
Out of the corner of his eye, as he prepared a bottle for Jacie, he watched them: his daughters. A peace settled over him.
There was his little lion, the baby girl that had been dropped in his lap. Edward wasn't completely unaware of the whispers that had followed him when people learned he was a single father at seventeen. The odds had been stacked against him, but he'd done it.
Then his baby. A living, breathing, gorgeous l representation of the love he shared with Bella. He would never regret the journey he made with Elsie, but raising Jacie with the woman he loved was a gift he never expected he could have.
Edward lingered longer than he needed to watching his almost eleven-year-old chatter at his newborn. His daughters.
Even the most unexpected, difficult things in life could bring something so beautiful.
A/N: Thank you to all who contributed to a cause that was very near and dear to my heart. I have, in my life, been suicidal. Been there, done that, obviously lived to tell about it.
So if I can take a moment of your time to encourage you to be kind, be compassionate. You have no idea how far a single word of kindness can go. There have been days in my life where your kind words - as readers - have made the difference between crying and smiling. So thank you for that. Spread that around. Kindness toward people is worth so much more and does so much more good than derision and judgement.
Okay. Off my soapbox. I hope you enjoyed this peek into Edward's mind.