A/N: And so comes the end of another story. As always, I'm a little sad to say goodbye to another pair of characters, especially a Daddyward like this, but I still have much more to write. Thank you once again for reading and your lovely responses. It's been an amazing distraction from RL for the last few weeks. Thank you to ericastwilight for all the help and encouragement she's given me for this story, even when she wanted to reach through the phone and strangle me, and the chapter titles. She really is my better half in writing. :)
Hope to see you all again soon. Off to do more writing now.
One year later
"Come on, baby. Just one little step. You can do it," I said encouragingly as I stood behind Carlie, her tiny hands wrapped around my index fingers. She bounced on her unsteady legs, thrusting her body forward three times before tumbling back on her butt.
At fourteen months and a half months, Carlie was still not walking at all, and Edward was really getting concerned. No matter how many books he read or what the pediatrician told us, he was really worried that something could be wrong. I, on the other hand, believed that she had simply inherited her Grandpa Swan's stubborn streak. In almost every way, she was a relatively easy baby, very laid back most of the time and had only wrapped her daddy around her littlest finger more every single day from the second she was born.
However, if she didn't want to do something, be it eating her vegetables at dinner, going down for her nap, or taking her first step, by heaven, she was determined to have her own way. Edward was far more relenting that I was; one tiny lip quiver from his little girl, and he was putty in her hands. He was moving slowly toward becoming more firm with her, but it was definitely not going to be an overnight process.
Oh yes, our daughter knew exactly how to work over her daddy. And in a strange way, his weakness when it came to her only made me fall in love with him more every single day.
It hadn't been entirely smooth sailing between me and Edward, as relationships rarely are. We'd had our share of arguments, but we never stayed angry for more than a few hours before one or both of us would end up apologizing and making up.
Our living arrangements didn't make things much easier, however necessarily they were for the time being. Edward was only in his fourth semester in college, with two more years to go before he got his BA in computer science, and I was working part time as a waitress at the diner, so that one of us was always home with Carlie. The idea of putting her in daycare that young, if it was avoidable, didn't sit well with us or her grandparents, nor could we afford it or to support ourselves on only one income. And we definitely didn't want to burden our parents with watching her all the time, even though they insisted that they wouldn't mind. She was our daughter, and our responsibility. We felt bad enough then they insisted on taking her for an evening now and then when Edward was home and I didn't have to work, so that we could go out to dinner or something together for a date night.
We were both grateful to Carlisle for being as supportive as he still was, even despite the friction that remained between Edward and his mother, which intensified slightly when she moved back in with us. He was well aware of his son's feelings on the matter, and understood them. Just because he had chosen to forgive Esme didn't mean that Edward would be so quick to, when it tore their family apart. He allowed us to remain under their roof, with only minimal expectations; help in financially supporting our daughter, that Edward keep his grades up and finish his degree, and we also maintain separate bedrooms, despite our engagement the summer before. Carlisle Cullen was an amazing man, but he really didn't want to think about, hear, or accidently be witness to his son's sexual activity. But it was actually Edward that was having the most issue with sneaking around behind his father's back, in the next room no less, to have sex. Moreover, he didn't want our first time together to be some hurried, 'get it while you can' moment.
So we kept our intimate contact at a tame level in the presence of Edward's parents, particularly his father, out of respect. Holding hands, chaste kisses, and the occasional cuddling on my bed while we watched a movie with Carlie at night—still with the door open.
But God, was it difficult. We were young and in love, and that didn't go without the physical desire for each other. Neither of us could imagine having to hold out until we were on our own and/or married before the need to satisfy that desire became too great. We'd gotten carried away on several occasions, but never beyond some intense kissing and grinding, and never losing even a single item of clothing before we were interrupted by something—whether it was Carlie needing us or parents coming home.
The first opportunity we really had, came in September the previous year. Carlisle and Esme had decided to remarry, much to the lingering discontent and wariness of their son, and had gone on a week-long cruise in the Caribbean for their second honeymoon.
Edward and I had been together for eight months and engaged for six weeks by then, and we'd fought so hard not to give in to our impulses in that time. Yet, I was still sure that I would go crazy if I didn't feel him touch me soon in any way that involved real skin-to-skin contact. And even Edward was starting to really get antsy. I knew his respect for his father ran deep, and he would never feel entirely comfortable doing something like that with him right upstairs, or worse, right across the hall, despite the desire for me I felt from him whenever his body pressed against mine, and the difficulty it caused for both of us to ignore.
However, it seemed rendered impossible to resist any longer the moment we returned to the empty house after dropping them off at the airport that evening and got Carlie settled down for the night after her exhausting day.
Edward took my hand in the hallway outside the nursery, halting my progress toward the stairs and pulling me back to him. I felt his palm against my cheek and his lips met mine in a slow, passionate kiss, and I wrapped my arms around him, returning it with the same gentle fervor. "I don't want to wait anymore, Bella. I need you."
His breathless words against my lips sent a shiver down my entire body. I loved Edward so much and I knew he felt just as much for me, and this was an expression of that love. But we were also nineteen and twenty, respectively, and we had needs that any young couple would, and were desperate to meet. I wanted him, and the evidence of how much he wanted me was becoming more prominent, pressing against my stomach. "I need you, too."
With one more kiss to my lips, he reclaimed my hand in his and led me across the hall, leaving his door open only a crack to hear Carlie if she woke. We stood facing each other beside his bed, his eyes holding mine as his fingers rose to begin unbuttoning his shirt. Taking his cue, I crossed my arms in front of me to lift my tank top up my torso and over my head, and we both dropped the garments to the floor simultaneously.
We were revealing ourselves completely to the other for the first time, willingly surrendering our bodies to one another at last. And we were in no rush.
Our shoes and jeans followed and we stared at each other as he stood there in his undershirt and boxers, and me in my bra and panties. It was the moment of truth, and I began to feel nervous as his chest was bared to my view.
And then it was my turn.
Edward must have noticed my hesitance, and his hand rose again to my cheek, tracing my skin lightly with his fingertips. "Bella, if you're not sure…"
I took a deep breath and shook my head, reaching back to unclasp my bra and allowing it to fall slowly from my shoulders to the floor. "I've never been more sure of anything since the day I said I'd marry you."
Edward closed his eyes and rested his forehead against mine, sliding his arms around my waist. "You know how much I love you, no matter what, right?"
"Yes, and I love you, too," I whispered, ghosting my lips over his before reaching down and shedding my final article of clothing. "And I want you."
Edward followed suit, and once his boxers fell to the floor, our eyes remained closed as he slowly pulled me flush against him and kissed me with a soft, sweet moan. He lifted my feet from the ground and turned us to lay me down on the bed, but didn't join me right away. His eyes ran over the length of my body and I took a moment to do the same with him. When our gazes met, however, I shifted uncomfortably under his perusal. Until he took off his glasses and set them on the nightstand, climbing onto the bed beside me and covering our bodies with his blanket. "You are so beautiful, baby. I'll never figure out how I got so damn lucky."
I smiled and slid my arm around him, running my fingers along his back and up to his shoulder. The feeling of his body pressed to my side, his bare skin touching mine, was indescribable, but it wasn't enough; I needed him closer. I brought my other hand to curl around the back of his neck, guiding his lips to mine and brushing them with a soft kiss. "I'm the lucky one, Edward. So damn lucky."
Edward's mouth claimed mine again and his soft touch ghosted down my arm and settling on my hip, tugging me gently onto my side toward him and his erection once again pressed against me. I draped my leg over his, causing us both to groan as his length glided along my warm, sensitive skin. "Bella, I've never done this without…"
I opened my eyes to gaze at him and watched his nostrils flaring with each of his heavy breaths. I knew he wasn't a virgin; hell, the whole school knew that the day after Homecoming two years before, with the way Heidi touted about how awful he was in bed. It made me shudder to think of her touching him in any way, when she never appreciated him at all, or even liked him, for that matter. I'd assumed he would have been more responsible than to go without protection, especially with someone like her, but it still gave me a feeling of satisfaction that I would still be his first in some way. It was a selfish thought, as he obviously wouldn't be mine, but it was the first time I'd wanted it that way. I wanted to feel him.
I slid my arms more securely around him and took his bottom lip between mine as I guided his body on top of me, rolling my hips against him when he settled between my legs. "It's okay."
"But what if I … you know … before you do," Edward asked nervously and finally opened his eyes to look at me.
I grazed my fingertips over his cheek, shaking my head with another smile. "It doesn't matter. I just want to feel you inside me. Please."
Edward kept hold of my hip as I felt him glide along me one more time before he began pressing into me slowly. The muscles of his back tightened and flexed beneath my hand and he held his breath, releasing it in a gust once he filled me and muttered, "Oh shit, Bella."
His entire body was trembling, as was mine, and my arms wrapped around him to hold him close to me. I brushed my lips on his collarbone as we both took a moment to adjust to the feel of our bodies joining for the first time. He fit inside me perfectly, and even after so long without, there was no discomfort. Only the pleasure of me and Edward, together with no barriers. "I love you so much, Edward."
I exhaled shakily as I spoke and he lifted his head to look at me. "Bella, what's wrong?"
"Nothing," I replied with a breathy chuckle, gazing up to meet his worried one. "Nothing at all. I'm glad we waited. I can't imagine anything better than this."
"Yeah?" he asked uncertainly, his eyes shifting between mine.
"Yeah, I really am," I answered softly, bringing my hands to either side of his face and lowering his lips to mine. "I don't want to rush this. But please move and let me feel you."
Edward swallowed hard as his hips pulled back and our gazes remained locked when he pressed forward again. My back curved off the bed and my fingers trailed down his neck to his shoulders, holding them tightly as he picked up a slow rhythm. His chest heaved against mine with each movement and he whispered his love for me along my jaw with soft kisses on my skin.
I was sure there would never be a moment that I could love him more than I did right then. He was so perfect for me in every way, and I couldn't imagine the feeling growing any stronger than that without my heart bursting. I already loved him so much, it hurt at times.
A strained groan from him brought all my focus back to his eyes, watching them close as he pressed his forehead to mine again. "Baby, I'm close."
I nodded, weaving one hand into his hair and tilting my head to kiss him, while my other arm wrapped around his shoulders to pull his chest more firmly to mine. I wasn't, but I meant it when I told him it didn't matter. Being with him in that way was better and more important than any orgasm I'd ever had. I tightened around him and watched his eyes pinch closed more and he began to pant heavily.
"Bella, don't. I can't … shit," he moaned, lowering his face to my neck and pressing his lips to my skin as I felt him pulse within me. His hips froze with a final thrust and his body settled over mine. I kissed along his jaw, up to his sweaty temple. "God, I'm sorry, baby."
"I'm not. And you shouldn't be, either," I whispered against his skin, my fingers twirling his damp hair. "This wasn't us just having sex and getting off."
Edward slowly lifted his head and raised an eyebrow in disbelief. "Well, one of us did."
His sarcastic expression made me laugh, and rather than ruin the moment as it could have, I wanted nothing more than to pull him closer. "Edward, I have never felt better in my life than I do right this minute. And it's not like this was our only chance at this. There's always next time. And the next … and the next."
My smile only grew as I peppered kisses on his lips after each statement, and his slowly joined it and he began responding to them. "So, you still want to marry me, then? You'll be stuck with me forever."
"More than ever. I can't wait," I replied and we melted together again and I felt him begin to harden inside me.
However, before the thought could cross our minds to indulge again, Carlie began to cough in the next room. And even though she remained asleep, we decided not to press our luck and laid there, holding each other with my head finally resting on his chest when we rolled over.
Spending that night in Edward's arms—and each night that Carlisle and Esme were away, despite my parents frequent "checking in"—was amazing, although it did make the nights alone in my own bed afterward seem more cold and lonely than before. And so help me, I missed him so much.
Occasionally, when he'd brought Carlie back to my room after a middle of the night waking, he would slip into my bed behind me and slide his arms around me, kissing my neck, my cheek, and finally, my lips. I ached for him so badly, but where most couples with a child only had to worry about the "sleeping baby radar", we had parents who would stir the moment a single kiss got just a little deeper than intended. And once the creak of the floor sounded about us, it tended to dampen the mood and we knew it was fruitless, so we kissed goodnight and he headed back upstairs. But we managed and made the most of every opportunity we could find.
The back seat of his car was certainly the most … interesting, so to speak. We were still trying to find a comfortable, least awkward way of accomplishing that without twisted bodies or knocking my head into the roof.
"Honey, I'm home," Edward's teasing voice echoed from the entryway, abruptly pulling me from my thoughts and I looked to him with a smile. It was Tuesday, one of his days that he still had to drive to Seattle for class, and didn't get home until just about Carlie's bedtime. I always kept her up long enough to see him, but I was just as happy to as well. "Hey, you. Still giving Mommy trouble, little girl?"
"Yeah, but I got her to stand on her own for a few seconds today," I replied, helping her up to her feet again and she wobbled unsteadily. "Come on, sweetie. One little step before we get you ready for bed?"
Edward entered the room a little further and set his school bag on the floor, kneeling down a short distance away and holding his hands out. "Can I get a kiss goodnight, baby?"
Carlie's head lifted to gaze directly at him, a soft gasp escaping her. After one more bounce, she lifted her right leg and took one small step forward, and both Edward and I held our breaths. Slowly, her fingers uncurled from around mine as she made another, wobbling a little before trying again.
Edward watched her with an awed smile stretching across his lips, reaching his arms out and readying himself to catch her if she fell, until she reached him.
The whole world could have completely stopped turning in that moment, and neither of us would have noticed. Edward looked to me as he lifted her into his arms, making no other movement for several seconds. "I'm not dreaming. Did she just…she did, right?"
I could only nod as tears clouded my vision. Carlie had been babbling in her adorable baby gibberish from pretty much the moment she learned she could. Simple 'mama', 'baba', and even 'dada'. Yet, although we'd sat and worked with her on many nights, she'd never before correlated any person or object with what she was saying. But she'd been looking right at him…taking her first steps and walking to him… "She said Daddy."
Edward hugged her to him, pressing his lips to her hair as he stood and made his way over to me, kissing me gently. "She walked and called me 'Daddy'."
As he wrapped his arm around me as well, he held us both and a soft chuckle escaped him. I looked up to find a damp ring around his eyes, his lashes beginning to cling to each other with the forming tears he was attempting to hold back.
"God, that was the most amazing feeling I've had since the day she was born," Edward whispered, resting his chin on top of my head while I gazed at our little girl with her face pressed to her daddy's chest. "She doesn't have to go to bed just yet, does she?"
I lifted my eyes to look up at him and he stared back at me imploringly. "Edward…"
"Please? Just five or ten minutes?" he asked in a gentle, pleading tone, tightening his arms around me and Carlie.
I couldn't deny him something as simple as a few more minutes with her after being separated all day, and especially at a moment such as that. So I nodded, kissing him gently. "Okay. I'll go heat up your dinner first, but then she needs to go to bed."
Edward smiled, pressing his lips to my forehead and murmuring a soft "thank you", and then pulled away to carry her over to the couch.
I made my way to the kitchen, taking one more glance back at them and listening to Edward speak so lovingly to her as she stood on his lap. It melted my heart all over again.
I had everything I could ever need or want in my life. A man who loved me so unconditionally, and although it still seemed forever away, he would be my husband, best friend, and lover for the rest of my life. We had a beautiful daughter and the fact that he wasn't her biological father was never discussed anymore; Edward was her daddy in every single way that mattered, and she was his world. And I had no fear that if we had another child together somewhere down the road, that it would ever change anything.
Carlisle was right; love isn't biological. We were, and always would be, a family.
A/N 2: One of my reviewers pointed out that there might be some confusion as to Edward's degree in college, and that I may have made a typo. He is actually going for his Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science, rather than a Bachelor of Science. I apologize if there was any confusion concerning that.