Author's Notes:

Disclaimer: All the Twilight stuff belongs to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended. I'm just poking her fishes.

I have no decent excuse for being late - I was just..well...out late!

Sorry if I offended any nurses - there are, or course, fabulous representations of the career out there. Unfortunately, none were aroun for the birth of my daughter. I really did smack one of them, but it wasn't intentional...more reflexive...

Thanks DK for beta reading!

I didn't need to fight.


Chapter 33 – Realize the Family

The whole sleep deprived thing wasn't all that different from being strung out.

I was doing my best to keep it to myself, but it wasn't easy. The first four weeks with Baby Alice at home were fine – Bella and I could both sleep when she slept. Once I went back to work, the morning, afternoon, and evening naps evaporated, and I was exhausted most of the time.

Of course, Bella shoved Baby Alice in my arms as soon as I walked in the door.

Baby Alice.

No one ever called her just Alice – she was always Baby Alice.

She was awesome.

She cried all the time – all night, all day – unless someone was holding her. Every time I thought about that nurse in the hospital telling me I was going to spoil her, a big smile crossed my face and I held her even closer to me. She'd coo sometimes, but more often she'd just burp or fart. On a good day, she'd stick her tongue out at me.

I'd fucking spoil her forever, if that's what the word meant.

She slept with us in our bed, and I didn't give a shit what some people said about how that was wrong or dangerous or whatever – I did the research, and outside western society most of the world had family beds. I didn't think we'd do it for long, but right now, as Bella had to nurse her about every thirty seconds, this was the way to go as far as we were concerned.

Bella's boobs were sore, and if I touched them she'd threaten to smack me. It was okay though, because we were allowed to have sex again, and I was making good use of that edict.

Yeah – the whole your cock will never enter my cooch again shit didn't last long.

If Baby Alice had already eaten but still wouldn't sleep, Bella would take her out so I could get more rest for work. During the day on the weekends, I would take her so Bella could do the same.

She always felt so warm and snuggly I really didn't mind. Bella needed the break when I got home from work – usually just to have enough time to take a shit or a shower – and I liked just hanging out with my daughter on the couch. Sometimes she'd cry, and sometimes she'd sleep, but usually she'd just look at me as I babbled total bullshit at her.

Though I hadn't actually attended a Sunday dinner at Aro's yet, the entire family had been over to the house at one point or another. Esme and Chelsea practically took turns living there the first week, and even Rosalie had come around to a degree.

After the first time my cousin's wife spent the afternoon with Bella and Baby Alice, I finally gave up waiting for Bella to tell me and flat out asked her what they deal was between the two of them. Bella just shrugged.

"She didn't like me," she told me with a harsh laugh.

"Why not?"

Bella laughed again.

"Every Thursday a truck came in with stuff for all the residents. Mostly it was donated clothing and a few toys. Right before Christmas, a delivery of brand new Christmas bears came in. They were big enough to use as a pillow, and when you squeezed their hands, they played Christmas songs. There were seven kids in the group home at the time, and only six bears. I got the last one."

"The lady who worked with kids there brought in another bear," Bella continued. "I think she actually went out and bought it herself to make sure Rosalie had something, but it wasn't the same. It didn't play music."

"So, she…what? Hated you over a stuffed animal?"

"She took it out on me, yeah," Bella said. "It got so bad I even tried to trade bears with her, but she didn't want it by then. She just wanted to make me suffer for it."

"That's fucked up," I said.

"It definitely seems like it now," Bella agreed. "At the time it was obviously important to her. I don't think she had much of anything before she came to the shelter. She really latched on to everything they gave her – even an extra cookie. She would hide that sort of stuff in her dresser drawer."

"She hid cookies?"

"Other things, too."

"Like what?"

"Small toys, bits of craft projects – anything she could sneak away. I don't know where she came from, but no one there came from a happy home, you know?"

"I guess that's true." I put an arm around her and pulled her close to me. I didn't like Bella thinking about where she came from. I wasn't even sure what was worse – living with her mom, losing her dad, or ending up on that fucked up reservation. "You seem to be getting along okay now."

"Not bad," Bella said. "I think she's coming to terms with it all."

"It all?" I repeated.

"I usurped her," Bella said. "Even when she invited you to the wedding and everything else, she never expected you to come back into the family. You had been estranged for so long, she thought her position was secure. Even with Carlisle constantly telling everyone the businesses were going to you whether you liked it or not, she thought he would eventually realize Twilight Silver would collapse if he did that and let Emmett take over. That would have made her queen again."

"So when we showed up married and pregnant…well, I took her place. She wasn't expecting that, but I think she's dealing with it."

"I kind of figured she took it that way," I said with a nod. "Even when we were kids and she and Emmett were dating she didn't like girls I took out."

"Probably for the same reason."

"Most likely."

Honestly, knowing where she was coming from didn't make me like Rosalie any more than I ever had, but at least I had some understanding. It was obvious that she loved Baby Alice, and that was more important than anything else. I was finding that increasingly true when it came to my tolerance of others – as long as they loved my daughter, they couldn't be too bad.

That's probably why I was never, never going to tolerate Renee Swan.

Brady and Leah had come to visit when Baby Alice was just a few weeks old. He was totally freaked out by the baby at first, but warmed to her once Leah made him sit down and hold her. Within a few minutes he was laughing at her and trying to get her to smile at him just like everyone else.

It was actually Leah's idea for Bella to call her mother.

"Well, I just thought you might like to know…no, I don't need money, that's not why…no…"

Bella sighed, dropped her head in one hand, and closed her eyes. Leah stood off to one side with Baby Alice in her arms and a pained look on her face.

"No, that's not why I called." Bella was starting to sound like she was dealing with an Alzheimer's patient. "I figured you might want to know you had a granddaughter…no, I don't…"

Brady shrugged when I glanced at him and motioned with his thumb towards the porch.

"I don't know why she thought that shit was a good idea," Brady said as soon as the door closed.

I pulled out a little case of electronic cigarettes and cartridges – a gift from Aro when Baby Alice was born – and handed one to Brady. He laughed his ass off at them the first time I offered him one, but he decided he liked them, and Leah went ballistic on both of us when she found out I had given him real cigarettes before, and he didn't want to chance it again.

I still liked just hanging out on the porch for no real reason, and the e-cig gave me a pseudo-reason.

"She was trying to help," I replied with a shrug. "I reconciled with my parents, so maybe Bella and her mom can work things out, too. It doesn't seem to be happening."

"I met her once," Brady said. "The woman is a nutcase."

"Yeah? Bella doesn't really talk about her." I inhaled water vapor and blew it out in rings.

"She came to the reservation once," he said. "It wasn't long after Bella's dad died – less than a year. Billy thought she was hoping to get the pension from Charlie's death, but the adoption was already final so there wasn't anything she could do. She gave up her rights to Bella when Charlie was still alive."

Brady took a puff off the e-cig and turned it around to look at the little red light at the tip.

"She messed up the place," he continued. "She threw a coffee table and wrecked the kitchen, and then pretty much left. I saw her for about three minutes as she was coming out of the house and I was walking by. She threw rocks at me just for being there before she got in a rundown Rabbit and left, and I was just a kid, too – younger than Bella."

"That's fucked up."

"Yeah," Brady agreed.

We stood there and puffed for a while. The weird thing about the electronic cigarettes is they don't really have an end until the battery actually needs to be recharged. You don't realize you've been "smoking" for a half hour because it doesn't burn out in five minutes like a normal one would. Of course, I didn't smell like an ashtray all the time anymore, and Baby Alice wasn't getting exposed to that shit, so it was all good.

Leaning forward a little, I looked into the front window and saw Leah rocking the baby in her arms while Bella was still on the phone.

"She's a natural with a kid," I said and then immediately regretted it. "I mean, she does really well with the baby."

That wasn't any better.

"It's all right," Brady said with a half smile. "You don't have to avoid the topic. We're used to it."

"Sorry, man."

"Don't be," he said. "We'll figure it out."

They had been seeing a fertility doctor and wanted to try in-vitro fertilization to see if Leah could get pregnant that way. However, the price tag was kind of insane. Brady was trying to talk the insurance company into covering it but wasn't having much luck.

I couldn't help but think about the kind of money my family had and if we might be able to do something about it. I wasn't sure if they would accept, though. Even bringing it up might piss them off – they were proud people.

I turned when I heard the door open, and Bella rolled her eyes at our pretend smokes.

"Remind me not to do that again," she said. "She went from asking if I needed money for the baby to asking me for money. She never even said anything about wanting to meet Baby Alice; she just kept changing the subject to money."

Bella leaned up against me, and I wrapped an arm around her.

"Is Baby Alice sleeping?"

"Yeah, she likes Leah's arms."

I glanced at Brady and saw a sad half smile cross his lips. I had to stop myself from saying something else about how great Leah was with Baby Alice. I didn't think it would sound right.

"Still want to go out for dinner?" I asked, and Bella nodded.

"You better," Leah said from the doorway. "I came all this way to babysit just so you two could have a night on the town."

While I cuddled Baby Alice and told her we wouldn't be gone too long, Bella went in to grab her purse. I couldn't even come up with names for it any more – it had been totally dwarfed by Beelzebub's Diaper Bag. In fact, you could fit three or four of Bella's purses in that thing. I refused to carry it. I'd shove a little diaper in my jacket pocket and just leave the damn thing at home.

Like Baby Alice really needed an entire set of plastic blocks, books, a tiny manicure set, four changing pads, three blankets, an extra hat, and a nose-siphon everywhere she went. You could fit a pack-and-play in there, too, but she wasn't big enough to use it yet. Besides, she was only ever put down in her pumpkin seat when we went in a car. The rest of the time someone was holding her.

The thought made me smile again.

Marcus pulled up to the front of the house, and I took Bella's hand to lead her to the back seat of the Rolls. For better or worse, we had gotten used to having someone to drive us around if we didn't want to take the bus all over the place. Marcus didn't mind, and Aro didn't need him on the weekends much, anyway.

I tried to justify it saying he was on the clock anyway, but mostly I was just getting a little spoiled again. It hadn't taken much of a leap for me to go from refusing any kind of help at all to accepting some, at least, when Baby Alice was born. The car had been the first and easiest to get use to; I never did like riding the bus.

"Hey, do you mind if we make a little pit stop?" I asked.

"Okay with me," Bella replied with a shrug.

I told Marcus where I wanted to go, and he eyed me in the mirror for a minute before Bella told him to just drive. It didn't take long to reach my destination, and I told Bella she could just wait in the car.

"Are you telling me I have to stay," she asked, "or are you giving me an option?"

I thought about it for a second before I pulled the little photograph of Crazy Alice's mom out of my jacket pocket. I had flattened it out and put it in a little wooden frame, and it had ended up looking pretty nice.

"I was going to put it…you know…on her grave." The whole idea suddenly sounded stupid when I said it. "I mean, I don't know what good it will do at our place, you know?"

"I know," Bella said quietly. She wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand. "You go. I'll wait here."

The ground was muddy with the melted snow from last weekend, and it was getting caked on my shoes. I hoped I'd be able to get them cleaned off on a curb or something before getting back in the car, or Aro was going to kill me.

"Hey," I said as I stared down at the simple stone that read Alice Brandon on it. "I…um…"

I cleared my throat.

"I guess I'm talking to myself here," I said. "I just wanted you to know we had the baby, and we named her Alice. She's Baby Alice, though – not Crazy Alice. I don't think she's crazy anyway."

Chuckling a little, I crouched down in front of the stone.

"I'm crazy about her," I admitted. "She's just…fucking amazing. I don't know how else to describe her. Bella is awesome with her, too, though she had a tough time getting her out. She ended up having to have a c-section. It's not what she wanted, but…well…it's what we had to do, ya know?"

I sniffed a couple times. The cold wind was making my nose run. I glanced over my shoulder at the car and saw Bella staring out the window at me.

"Well, I have to get Bella to dinner," I said. "It's the first time we've been out since Baby Alice was born. I just wanted to stop by and give you something."

I placed the framed picture at the top of the gravestone.

"I found it when I was cleaning out your place and thought you might like it. Thanks for grabbing the bookshelf and my boots. It kinda sucked when I thought those were gone."

I stood back up and looked down at the picture of Crazy Alice's mother.

"Anyway, I'll see you later, I guess." I felt like a total fool and looked around to make sure there weren't any other fools out there looking at me. I didn't see anyone else out there in the cold, so I backed away a couple of steps before turning to go back to the car.

"Well?" Bella said when I had my shoes cleaned off and climbed back into the warmth of the Rolls.

"Well what?" I asked.

"I don't know," Bella said. "How did it go?"

"Okay, I guess. I put the picture there, so mission accomplished."

Marcus started off down the street, and I felt Bella's fingers wrap around mine. When I looked down, she gave them a little squeeze with her warm fingers.

"You're a good guy, Edward," she said softly. "Did you know that?"

Shrugging, I gave her a half smile.

"You made me that way," I told her.

"No," she contradicted, "you were already like that."

"Nah."

"Yes, you were," she said.

She leaned over close and placed her palm against the side of my face. I turned and quickly kissed the edge of her hand.

"From the very first time we met," she said, "you were my hero."

Sunday dinner.

Baby Alice was almost two months old, but we finally made it to one of Aro's family dinners. It had gone well – much better than I might have expected. Though I wouldn't say we were all on the friendliest of terms, I was reconnecting with Mom and at least being civil with Dad.

Still, sitting down with everyone around the table at lunch was a little…weird. Not that anything horrible happened, but it was awkward and uncomfortable. Rosalie said almost nothing, though she and Bella were getting along for the most part. Rose seemed to have accepted that I was back in the family and Bella was around to stay.

She loved Baby Alice, of course. Everyone did. She even tried to get up and tend to her when she started crying right about the time dessert was being served.

"I got her," I said quickly. I needed the excuse and the break from the group.

I gathered her up, grabbed her purple blanket off the back of the pumpkin seat in the hallway, and went to the den to see if I could get her to nap. There were thick, dark red curtains in there, and they did a nice job of blocking out the afternoon light. Once I pulled them closed, I settled down in an overstuffed chair with Baby Alice on top of me.

She settled down almost immediately.

My nose nuzzled against the top of her head, and I sniffed the soft, downy hair around her crown as I pulled the blanket up around her shoulders. My fingers graced over the top of her head, careful over the soft spot there, and down across her cheek as I sniffed again. She smelled fantastic.

I didn't know what it was about her, but she always smelled great. Well, except when her diaper needed to be changed, but even that wasn't near as bad as I had always been led to believe. Supposedly it was going to get worse when she started eating other foods, but changing diapers wasn't the big deal everyone made it out to be.

I said that to my mom, and she just smiled and shook her head.

As much as Baby Alice liked the boob, I didn't see the real food happening for a while. Bella went through so much cracked and achy nipple pain in the beginning, but now it was completely effortless for both of them. Baby Alice would latch on and go to town, and Bella would hardly notice except that she had to flip her shirt up to do it.

Baby Alice yawned and big, toothless yawn, and then rested her head against the center of my chest. Next to Bella's tits, it was her favorite place to be. Her big, brown eyes blinked a few times before closing completely.

With one arm wrapped underneath her butt, and the other one around her back, I settled against the back of the chair and closed my eyes as well. It was good to get some rest, even though I knew it wasn't going to last very long. Baby Alice was comfortable, warm, and content on my chest, and I was thrilled to have her there.

She was going to grow out of being a baby long before I was going to grow tired of her being one.

I dozed for a while, waking only when Baby Alice began to squirm a little. I sat up, wrapped the blanket around her a little tighter, and rocked her a little in my arms until she settled back down. It never took very long.

During my previous session with Irina, she said I had come a long way from the first time I walked into her office. I had only shrugged at her, but I knew she was right. No one was going to refer to me as perfect, but I was making some progress in certain areas.

I hadn't hit the mullet-dude at work who keeps commenting on my heritage – not even once.

I wanted to, no doubt, but I hadn't done it. That was the main thing. Irina said it was okay for me to think about it as long as I never take those kinds of thoughts and turn them into actions. I was okay with that.

She was actually starting to hint that maybe I didn't need to see her every week anymore, which made me wonder how long it was going to be until I didn't need to see her at all. I didn't mind going – I had even gotten to the point where I sometimes liked talking to her, but as soon as Bella went back to school, someone else was going to have to watch Baby Alice. Mom and Chelsea had volunteered, of course, but they had their own jobs and lives and shit. They wouldn't always be able to drop everything.

I was thinking more and more about what I needed to do with my life…my career.

Was I going to just keep making rings? Did I want to be in a piss-ant shop with mullet-boy on second shift, or did I want to be more than that?

I wasn't sure.

There was no doubt that I was doing a lot of thinking about what Baby Alice needed and what she might want in the future. I knew I didn't want her to have to struggle to go to school, like Bella had. I knew I didn't want her living in a piece of shit apartment with a shit landlord and guns going off in the night. I remembered how scared Bella had been in the apartment alone, and the thought pissed me off.

There was no way – no way would I ever allow my daughter to be in that position.

My grip on Baby Alice tightened at the thought, and I sniffed her head again. I tried not to think about how Charlie Swan had died long before his daughter was thinking about school and wondered what he might have done differently if he had known.

"All of the sudden, everything that you thought was important takes a back seat, huh?"

My father walked into the den and tilted his head to get a better look at Baby Alice.

"She does look like you," he said.

"She looks like Bella," I corrected, then felt like an ass for being snippy. "At least, I think so."

"I can see you both in there."

I shrugged but looked closely at her face, trying to see how much her cheekbones looked like mine. Her chin was definitely Bella's, as was her nose. I held her up a bit more as I leaned over to kiss the top of her head.

It was almost reflexive.

"They really do change everything," Dad said. He settled down in the chair across from me and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. "I mean, you know they are going to change your life, but it's really so much more than that. All your perspectives change, too."

"She's everything," I said simply. "She's Bella, but she's me, too. I can't explain it."

"You don't have to," Dad murmured. "I know exactly what you mean."

A small smile came across his face.

"You used to sleep on me like that, you know."

"I did?"

"All the time. It was the only way you would go to sleep unless your mother was singing to you."

I didn't think of myself as much of a singer, but I wondered if Baby Alice would like to hear someone sing songs for her. Then I thought my voice might be bad enough that she'd end up in therapy for it later, and I started wondering about what other ways I might screw her up.

I swallowed past a lump in my throat and furrowed my brow as I looked at her.

"It's a gamble," Dad said softly. "Doing what you think is best but not knowing how it's going to turn out in the future. You always want to do the right thing, but you're human – you screw it up."

My eyes moved to his, and he looked back down to the floor.

"Sometimes you want what you think is best for them so badly, you don't realize that what you are doing isn't what they need," he continued. "You want to do the right thing, but you don't. Not because you don't want to, but because you try too hard."

Baby Alice's lower lip started jumping around like she was nursing in her sleep. I wondered if there was anything I wouldn't do for her and decided there was not.

"I didn't trust you," he said. "I didn't trust you to know what you were saying or what you were doing. I could only think about how much harder it was going to be on you if you had to try to be a father when you weren't even out of high school yet. I would have said or done anything just to protect you from that, but instead…instead I just fucked it all up."

"Don't swear in front of the baby," I said quietly.

Carlisle smiled.

"Sorry," he said. "I had a really foul mouth before you were born. Esme would scold me constantly when you were a baby. I told her you couldn't understand what I was saying, but she was right – it took so long to get me out of the habit of swearing, you were practically talking then. I guess I'll have to learn that lesson again."

"You and me, both," I muttered.

"Maybe…" He hesitated and then took a long breath in before speaking again. "Maybe we can practice together?"

Tensing a little, I managed to hold Baby Alice a little tighter against my chest at the same time. There was definitely a part of me – a small, still angry teenaged part of me – that wanted to tell him to fuck off. I wanted to tell him that there was no way in hell he got to share in this new life – not after what he had done…

…but what if I made mistakes, too?

What if, in trying to do everything that was right for Baby Alice, I fucked us as well? What if I said something that made her mad, and she didn't want to speak to me anymore, of if she ran to her room and locked the door? What if she refused to have anything to do with me?

Again, my grip tightened.

"Do you think we can, Edward?" Dad asked again. "Do you think we can do this – be a father and a grandfather for Baby Alice – do you think we can do that together?"

I glanced at my father again. Instead of the man who set tragic events in motion, I tried to see the man who made sure we always had dinner together as a family. I tried to see the man who helped me with my math homework, kite flying, and taught me how to kayak.

My eyes searched for the man who had been my father…

…and he was there.

"Yeah," I said quietly. "Maybe we can do that."

...

"Waaaaah!"

"Ogh," Bella moaned as she shoved her head underneath her pillow.

"I got her," I whispered. I rolled out of bed, picked up my fussy daughter, and tossed her up onto my shoulder. "Go back to sleep."

With Baby Alice in my arms, I snuck quietly out of the bedroom and shut the door behind me. It wasn't really my turn – I had to get up and go to work in a couple of hours – but Bella had been so tired last night I thought I should take the extra shift.

Besides, I really didn't mind at all. Maybe it would get me a few brownie points with the wife. Brownie points meant on Friday night, when Baby Alice was asleep, Daddy Edward could put Mommy Bella's ankles up over his shoulders and fuck her until she screamed.

Okay, so that was a little vulgar, but at least I didn't say it out loud.

I knew I was far, far from perfect. I also knew that in the long run, it didn't matter. Bella wasn't looking for perfection in me. She just wanted me to be the best husband and father I was capable of being, and that's exactly what I intended to do. I was going to be there for her and for Baby Alice no matter what happened. I would support them both – physically and mentally. I would do whatever I had to do in order to give them the best life I could offer.

I didn't need to fight.

I didn't need to be rich, and I didn't have to be poor.

I only had to be me, without the shackles and the bars I had created for myself with memories of the past. I didn't have to hide behind the bars of a cage any longer.

My finger traced along the edge of my baby daughter's face.

"I love you," I whispered to her. "You and your mama, both."

Baby Alice's eyes opened, and she seemed to be trying to focus on me. I leaned forward so she could get a better look and took her tiny hand in mine so I could touch it to my face.

"Hey there, little girl," I said. "You need to go to sleep for a little while, okay?"

My finger touched her chin, then right at the side of her mouth. Her tiny little lips started moving reflexively, and she turned towards the touch. Before I knew it, her mouth had latched on to the end of my finger and she sucked quickly. After just a few seconds, she realized she wasn't getting what she wanted.

For the briefest of moments, her face scrunched up and she looked ready to scream, but then her face evened out. She seemed to sigh, sucked twice more at the tip of my finger, and then closed her eyes.

I wasn't one to go soft, but surely this little girl could melt any cage I placed around myself.


Chapter End Notes:

Sorry for being late! I have no decent excuses!

Next stoop...the epilogue!