The Legacy of the Purple Banana Hammock
Summary: "As much as you loved my Speedo, I'm fairly certain the elasticity will have eroded by now. Still, I thought you might enjoy these."
Rating: M (Like you even have to ask, with these two. Also, there are nutsack jokes.)
Disclaimer: In the words of Phoebe Buffay, "Not-NOT mine, not-NOT mine."
Acknowledgement: There are not sufficient words to describe how amazing my beta, HollettLA, is. One of these days I'm going to come up with some, though. Thank you, lovely lady, for leaving me notes that make me snort my beverages and promptly answering stupid DMs like, "is nutsack one or two words or hyphenated?" xo
"Well, Bella, there are other, more permanent options you can consider." Dr. Rauter washes her hands in the metal sink before switching off the faucet and shaking the excess water from her fingers. "Have you discussed the possibility of a more long-term method with your husband?" She bunches a paper towel between her hands and turns to face me, leaning against the ledge of the small counter behind her.
I shift on the exam table, rearranging the paper-thin gown purposefully over my knees as I attempt to surreptitiously peel the bare skin of the backs of my thighs from the paper beneath me. Why I am so concerned with modesty when this side of five minutes ago I was spread-eagled with my feet in stirrups is beyond me. "No," I say, tucking my hands beneath my thighs. "I mean, not really."
She nods, dumping the paper towel in the wastebasket and grabbing my chart from the counter. "Well, something to consider. It's very routine, minimally invasive, and very effective. Obviously, not something you want to consider until you and Edward are certain you don't want any more children, but once you are…" She smiles. "A lot of couples opt to take that route."
I rub my bare feet together. "Thanks. We'll definitely think about it."
She smiles again and says goodbye before slipping out of the exam room to let me get dressed, and as I slide off the table to retrieve my clothes from the chair in the corner, my eyes fall on the poster detailing the stages of fetal development. Dr. Rauter's words are rolling around in my mind as I step into my jeans.
"Lila, sweetheart, try to keep the crayons on the paper, okay? Mommy likes the kitchen table the way it is."
"Sorry, Daddy," our oldest child murmurs, making a concerted effort to do as her father asks, the point of her tongue peeking out from the corner of her mouth as she resumes shading the mane of a unicorn purple.
"Sorry, babe." Edward's clear gray-green eyes refocus on me as he resumes chopping a green pepper. "You were saying?"
"Hm? Oh. Just wanted to make sure you can make it to Lila's parent-teacher night on Thursday."
"You got it," he replies, though a small frown creases his brow. "Isn't she a little young for a parent-teacher conference?"
I shrug. "She's in kindergarten. I guess we've got to start sometime." Edward grunts his agreement as I scrape the tomatoes I have just finished dicing into a small bowl. "Also, Henry's twelve-month pediatrician appointment is next week. First thing Tuesday morning. Do you want to go in late, or do you want me to take a half-day?"
My husband pauses in his chopping and glances past me to the calendar hanging on the wall beside the phone before shaking his head. "I think I can do Tuesday," he says, the small paring knife making another straight cut through the vegetable on the chopping board before him. "Just let me double-check my schedule in the morning, okay?"
"Speaking of which, how did your appointment go this morning?"
"Oh, you know, nothing quite like the always-pleasant experience of a pelvic exam to start the day off right," I quip, retrieving an onion from the refrigerator, and Edward chuckles.
"I've said it before, and I'll say it again: you girls are tough." He's right; he has uttered that phrase on countless occasions, most frequently during my three pregnancies and the subsequent deliveries of our three children.
"I'm still optimistic that you'll find a way to make it up to me," I reply. It is an exchange we've been having since my first pregnancy, and yet this is the first time that an actual, concrete way he could repay that supposed debt comes to mind. The thought has no sooner appeared than it is banished from my mind by the sound of a high-pitched squeal from the baby monitor sitting on the counter at my elbow.
"I'll get him," I say, wiping my hands on a red-checkered dishcloth.
"Yeah, yeah," Edward mutters good-naturedly from the table. "Leave me to chop the onion."
I raise an eyebrow as I pause in the doorway. "Onion or diaper, Cullen?"
"Onion," he says without hesitation, and I smirk at him as I leave the kitchen and make my way up the stairs to the far end of the hall. As I push open the door to the nursery, my son's drooly smile greets me from his crib, where he stands clutching the rails. "Hey there, little man," I coo, and he blows me a raspberry in response.
Henry, the youngest in our brood, is by far our easiest baby. He rarely cries unless something is actually wrong, and once the problem is remedied, he goes right back to smiling. He more or less started sleeping through the night by the time he was six months old, and unlike our two daughters, he opted to wean himself to a bottle when he was nine months old. "Are you going to be ONE soon?" I ask, holding up a finger as he gurgles up at me from the changing table. "One?" He graces me with another wide smile and I grin back down at him. "Such a sweet boy." While both Lila and Emily got Edward's russet curls and gray-green eyes, Henry has my darker coloring. The length of his dark lashes, though, is all Edward, and while every mother says it, I have a feeling my son is going to be a heartbreaker. Once his wet diaper has been replaced by a dry one, I swing him to my hip and make my way back down the stairs, peeking into the living room where Emily is playing tea party with the hand-me-down Cabbage Patch doll of mine that Charlie brought with him on his last visit from Forks.
"Hey there, little man," Edward greets our son as I re-enter the kitchen, and when the baby reaches for him, Edward beams. I settle him into his father's lap and return to the counter to finish preparing dinner.
When I slide into bed beside my husband a few hours later, long fingers drag black-framed reading glasses from his nose and he closes his book, placing both on the bedside table and turning off his lamp before curling his body around me. The warmth of his solid chest meets the skin of my upper back, pushing a contented sigh from my lips and my fingers thread between the ones curled around my ribs as I let my eyes drift closed.
"Hear that?" he breathes into my hair, and my eyes pop open as I strain to listen in the darkness.
"What?" I whisper after a minute, unable to hear the telltale rustling of a child not quite settled.
"Nothing," he murmurs, and there is a smile in his voice as soft lips press a kiss to the curve of my shoulder. I roll to face him, taking in the all-too-familiar smirk that pulls at his mouth.
"Nothing, huh?" I breathe, and he guides our still-joined hands down to rest in his lap.
"Well, not nothing," he amends, and I can feel the familiar solid length of him beneath worn flannel pajama pants. Heat licks at my body as my top leg slides between his and his hand smooths down over the back of my tank top to rest on the thin cotton boy briefs covering my cheeks. Edward drops chaste kisses on my chin and each of my cheekbones and skims his hand over the back of my thigh before I roll fluidly on top of him, settling my hips against his; his hands cup the swells of my ass, pressing me into his hardness as my mouth covers his. His muffled whimper echoes in my mouth as I grind myself down against him, and as I rock lazily, I feel one of his hands slip beneath the waistband of my briefs and down over the curve of my rear end to find my center. His whimper turns to a pleased hum against my lips when he finds me wet already and swirls a single finger through the growing dampness between my legs before sliding the digit into me from behind. My breath hitches and I press myself even more urgently against his erection as my legs spread, knees resting on either side of his hips as his hand slowly works me.
I moan loudly, and his other hand immediately covers my mouth. "Shhh," he murmurs, his eyes flicking toward the baby monitor on my nightstand that stays blessedly silent. "I'm going to take care of you, baby, but you have to be quiet." I offer no response other than to keep rocking my hips between his hand and his arousal, and he lets go of my mouth to wrap his free hand around my hip. I bite my lip against the still-present desire to vocalize my pleasure, and the action doesn't go unnoticed. "Good girl," he breathes, adding another finger, and I am helpless to rein in the whimper that escapes me. After a few more thrusts, his long fingers slide out of me and he pulls his hand from my panties to grab the hem of my tank top, sliding it up and off without hesitation. "Gorgeous," he whispers as he sits up, his mouth finding my hardened nipple as his arms band around my waist. I continue to rock against him as his mouth works at my pebbled flesh, his hands once again kneading the cheeks of my ass in time with my movements.
There was a time, shortly after our first daughter was born, that I wouldn't let Edward touch me like this. It was well past the six-week post-partum benchmark at which we were medically cleared to resume sexual activity, but I couldn't quite make the transition back from new mom to wife. Between breastfeeding, my still-shrinking body, and the admittedly faint but very present silvery stretch marks beneath my breasts and around my hips, I couldn't imagine a universe in which I would ever feel sexy again. When he hesitantly broached the topic of sex three months after Lila was born, I told him I wasn't ready and, endlessly patient man that he is, he accepted it with a nod. I didn't feel nearly as guilty as I probably should have until a week or so later when I wandered into the bathroom while he was in the shower and he didn't even notice, caught up as he was in jerking off.
When I slid down the length of his body later that night and took him into my mouth, I thought he would cry from gratitude; it wasn't until after he came, gasping and clutching at my shoulders, that I acknowledged my own surge of arousal and subsequently realized how much I missed being with him like that, even if the realities of doing so were still somewhat daunting. After years of being with him, I should have known he'd take care of me.
It's been twelve years and three kids, and I know his body as well as I know my own. I arch away from him and he releases my nipple from his mouth with a ridiculous slurp, smirking up at me. I scoot backward and slide his pajama pants down his legs and off his feet; he sits up and whips off his Northwestern Swimming t-shirt as I shimmy out of my own underwear before returning to straddle his lap. Pressing my dripping flesh to his heat, I slide against him as he gasps and tightens his grip on my hips; I take the opportunity for payback, pressing the pads of my fingers to his soft lips. "Shhh," I mimic him teasingly, still rocking against his flesh. "Quiet." Angling my hips slightly, his tip bumps against my clit; I suck in a breath as my free hand wraps around him, sliding the head of his erection down toward my entrance and back up to my clit, a continuous circuit. When I slide him back to the heart of me, I press down slightly, taking just the tip of him inside my body before rising back up and setting him free, running his head back up along my flesh. Jaw clenched, he allows me a few more passes before his grip tightens ferociously against my hipbones and he sits up, pressing his desperate mouth to mine.
"Stop fucking teasing me," he growls against my lips, and the resulting surge of power only adds to my arousal. I drag his tip along me once, twice more for good measure, before sliding him back to my entrance and taking his entire length into my body, my bare ass settling against his thighs.
He moans low and long, sinking back against the pillows and running his open palms up and down my naked thighs as he gazes up at me, his eyes hooded and drunk with pleasure. The sparse hairs of his chest are coarse beneath my palms as I rest my hands against him and return to my slow rocking motion. "Better?" I breathe as I gaze down at him, and his mouth hangs slightly open as his eyes flick from my face down to where we are joined, watching as my hips undulate against his.
"God, yes." He begins to mirror my movements, rocking his own hips slowly for a few thrusts before I feel his thumbs press deeply into the dents of my hips and he halts his thrusts. "Wait," he says, a thin thread of desperation in his voice, and I still my movements. We're playing with fire here, and not for the first time. I sit atop him, unmoving but still joined, as I wait for him to regain control. "Okay," he says after a moment, and I lift myself on my knees until just the tip of him is still inside me before sliding back down the length of him. "Jesus," he gasps, his back arching slightly as his head sinks back into the pillow and his eyes drift closed. "I love feeling you like this. So good."
"You are," I murmur, leaning forward to press my bare chest to his as I lick at his lips. "You're so good." I continue to rock my hips, adding the slight swivel that I know he loves, and after a few passes, I once again feel his warm hands bracketing my body. "Fuck, Bella." He allows me a few more undulations before his grip tightens and he forcefully pulls me up and off him. "Wait, wait, baby, I have to get one." I whimper and he presses a kiss to my mouth. "I know, I know. Don't move." He shifts out from under me and rolls toward his nightstand, retrieving a condom and tearing the wrapper open before rolling it down his length. I watch the familiar movements as I lay on my side, my own hand finding its way to the swollen flesh between my legs, fingers sliding against slick folds. When his eyes focus on me once again, they flash, settling on my swirling fingers.
"God, I love watching you touch yourself."
I spread my legs a little further to give him a better view and make a few more lazy circles before I reach for him, clutching at his hips as he moves over me, one hand braced against the mattress beside my head as the other reaches down to line himself up. "You're so goddamn sexy," he breathes, and I feel the broad tip of him nudging between my legs. He makes a few passes up and down my slit, sending shocks of pleasure spiking up and down my spine before his hips push forward and he slides back into me with a relieved groan. "I could fuck you all night," he mutters into the skin of my neck, and a familiar thrill runs through me. Horny, dirty-talking Edward is still one of my favorites.
"Yeah?" I'm not nearly as articulate as he is, and I blame the considerable length of hot flesh sliding in and out of me.
"God, yes. I wake up so hard for you." He rears back and props himself up, glancing down between us to where he is gliding in and out of me. "So fucking sexy," he breathes, watching my hips rise to meet each of his thrusts. "I think about you like this all the time."
"Yes," I gasp, feeling the telling buzz start to trip through the hot blood surging in my veins.
One of my favorite things about sex with Edward is the way we each play our parts; he lets me act like the one in control until we both get to the point where we need to come, and then he takes over to push us both over the edge. Something about that dominant, possessive part of him makes me feel taken care of in the most primal of ways. I continue to lift my hips against his thrusts, wordlessly pleading with him to push me over the edge.
As if he can hear the words I don't speak, he peers down into my face. "What do you need, baby?" he breathes, slowing his pace, face soft but gaze still heated.
"Flip me over," I gasp, and without missing a beat, he slides out of me and wraps long fingers around my right ankle, crossing it over my left leg and pressing gently at my hip to roll me onto my stomach. Immediately I feel the warm planes of his bare chest against my back, his body covering mine like a quilt as his knees gently slide my legs apart.
"Like this?" he murmurs into my neck, biting gently at the skin over my shoulder blade as the tip of his erection unerringly finds my center.
"Yes," I breathe, tilting my hips slightly to take him back inside my body. He sheathes himself again and I spread my legs even wider to hook the tops of my feet around his calves; my cheek presses down into the warm bed sheet as gentle hands slide beneath my body to cup my shoulders. The twin sensations of his erection hitting the perfect spot inside of me and my clit rubbing against the mattress are combining to push me quickly toward my peak, and the steady rolling motion of his hips drags him torturously along every inch of my inner walls.
The steadily increasing hum in my body is cresting, pleasure spiraling outward from the very center of me, pulling my body taut as I surrender to the bliss of loving him. I am lost to everything but the waves that roll through me, making me feel too small for my own skin, too small to contain the flames licking up and down my body as my husband owns it.
"Fuck, Bella," he moans as I shudder and clench around him, and as my wave ebbs, he rears back, releasing my shoulders to plant one palm against the mattress and the other to the small of my back, flattening me to the bed as he begins fucking me in earnest. I cry out as his pistoning hips pound against my pleasure-sensitive core and he is too far gone to shush me, so I bury my face against the mattress, taking the thin cotton of the sheet between my teeth. "Yes," he hisses, the hand against my tailbone sliding down slightly to squeeze the fleshy curve of my ass cheek as his pace increases slightly, his balls slapping against my skin. Knowing how close he is, I reach down between my own legs and back to where we are joined, palming his balls and rolling them gently in time with his thrusts. "God, baby," he groans, his grip on my flesh tight and his pace punishing as he gives in to his frantic need to fuck. "Need it."
"Take it," I urge, as his words and his movements combine to reawaken the spark inside me. "Take me. Fuck me." I push up on my elbows slightly and glance over my shoulder at him before tipping my head to one side to expose the column of my neck. "Mark me."
As he moans, I know I've hit on one of his favorite weaknesses; Edward, though embarrassed to admit it, loves to mark me. Needing no further encouragement, lost as he is in the moment, his jaw finds the hollow of my neck and I feel the combination of teeth and tongue as he sucks and pulls at my skin, branding me as his body trembles and goes taut before shuddering and spilling into mine. I clench and release around him, milking the last of his orgasm from him as he hisses and rocks against me a few more times before going boneless, once again pressing my body into the mattress beneath the weight of him.
I feel him softening while puffs of warm breath hit the sweat-dampened skin of my neck, and Edward shifts his hips slightly to pull out but stays pressed against me for a few breaths before rising from the bed and padding into our bathroom. I turn over and pull the sheet to my armpits as he pushes the door nearly closed and a thin strip of yellow light appears around its edges. I hear the telltale sounds of condom disposal as I gaze unseeingly through the darkness at the ceiling for a beat before letting my eyes drift closed. My muscles are mush and endorphins still trip through my blood, leaving me jellied and spent, and the cotton of the bed sheet is nearly too much for my hypersensitive skin, which pebbles into goose flesh beneath it. I crack my eyes open as the bathroom door swings open and Edward flicks the light off, crossing back to the bed. I spare a quick glance at the baby monitor, which hums with blissfully uninterrupted static.
"I hate that part of it," Edward grouses as he slides back into bed beside me, and I frown slightly as I roll to my side to face him.
"What part of what?"
"The condom," he says, lifting his arm in invitation, and I scoot over to press myself to his side, propping my chin on his chest to look into his eyes. "I hate having to leave the bed to get rid of it. It's such a…buzzkill."
I chuckle. "Well, know what else is a buzzkill? A baby crying mid-act. And we're only just barely moving past that particular part of the program."
My chin bounces against his chest as he laughs and tosses a quick glance at the still-silent baby monitor. "True."
"Speaking of which." I trail off, circling his nipple absently with a fingertip as I attempt to collect my scattered thoughts, and he stills my finger with a gentle hand around my wrist.
"I'm going to need at least a few more minutes," he murmurs. "I'm not exactly twenty-two anymore."
I laugh and press my palm flat over his chest, feeling the steady thrum of his gradually slowing heartbeat beneath his warm skin. "So not where I was going with that. Sorry."
"Too bad," he says, but his recent orgasm has left him unable to muster up much genuine disappointment.
"I talked to Dr. Rauter about… other methods this morning."
"Yeah. I just…" I trail off, and I feel Edward's warm palm make an encouraging sweep up my spine. "I'm still not sure."
"Bella, we talked about this. I was only kidding. I'll wear condoms. Honest to God, I'm fine with it."
"No, but I hate them too. I hate the interruption of putting one on, and I hate the fact that you have to pull out almost right away, and I hate that you have to get up to get rid of it immediately after. I'm with you. I hate them, too."
"But I also hate the idea of putting hormones or chemicals in my body."
"I know." And he does. Perhaps because he's a doctor, or perhaps just because he's him, Edward has always been amazingly sensitive to everything to do with the female anatomy in general and mine in particular. He has never once pressured me to consider going back on the pill or the shot since I went off it ten years ago, after one of my fellow reporters almost died of a blood clot that was linked to her birth control and I asked him to start wearing condoms. "And that's okay," he assures me as I trace indistinct designs on the skin of his chest with my forefinger.
"But there are still…other options we haven't really considered."
"Okay." He gently stills my hand again and begins dragging his nails lightly up and down my forearm.
"But those would be more…yours to consider."
He is silent for a beat before his hand stops, and I feel his chest shift beneath my cheek as he angles his head to try and see my face. When I meet his gaze, his eyebrows are hitched.
"Bella Swan, are you trying to muster up the courage to ask me to get the snip?" He's going for indignation, but as always the gleam in his eye is his tell.
"My name's not Swan anymore, jackass," I spit, mock-hitting him in the chest. "I just…you haven't pushed me on the birth control thing, and I don't want to push you either. Dr. Rauter just mentioned it as…an option. And we'd never talked about it, so I thought I'd just…mention it."
I frown as I break eye contact and press my cheek back to his sternum. "Like, okay, check it off that I mentioned it, or okay, it's something we want to consider?"
"The second one," he says easily, and this time his nails are dragging up the bare skin of my back, raising goose bumps in their wake. I allow his declaration to hang heavy in the relative dark of our bedroom before I roll away slightly and resituate myself on my own pillow, gazing at his profile.
"Edward, if we're going to have this conversation, we have to really have it."
"Okay," he says slowly, turning to meet my eyes, but the small crease between his eyebrows gives away his confusion. "Isn't that what we're doing?"
"What if you want to have more kids someday?" He frowns, so I clarify. "With someone else?"
At that, his eyebrows are nearly at his hairline. "What?"
"What if, God forbid, something happened to me? Or what if something happened…with us? And if you met someone new – younger – who wanted to have a family with you?" I roll to my back and stare unseeingly at the ceiling. "I don't mean to be the downer here, but these are things you need to really think about if you're going to consider this, Edward. It's a serious decision. And you're only thirty-four."
"Bella. Baby. Look at me." I hesitate for only a moment before complying, and he cups my jaw in his warm hand. "When you're done having babies, I'm done having babies. Our babies are going to be my only babies, regardless of what happens. If for no other reason than I would never do that to our kids; if something happened to you or to us, I would never go off and start another family. When we're done, I'm done, no matter what. Okay?"
"You don't have to decide this now," I argue. "You really should think about it."
He sighs softly and props himself up on an elbow, gazing down at me. "Are we done having babies?" he asks, his face expectant.
I am silent for a moment, thinking of our three beautiful children. Then I think of three pregnancies, three newborns, three experiences of epidural-free childbirth, and I bite my lip. "I think so. I mean, do you think we are?"
"Bella, I love the hell out of our kids. You know that. And I'd love any more that came along, but I feel lucky to the point of greedy for what we have. I also think we have a nice manageable level of chaos at the moment, and I think if we kept adding to it, the manageable part of it would go down as the chaos part went up. And I kind of like that we'll only be in our early fifties when all three of our kids are out of the house."
"So that's a yes, then."
He angles himself so that his torso is pressed against mine, his hand smoothing my hair back from my face. "If you want another baby, I'll knock you up right now," he says, mischief thick in his eyes. "But if you're happy with what we have, I'm happy."
"I'm happy," I say after a moment, and he nods.
"So we're done, then? Cullen, party of five?"
"Cullen, party of five," I agree.
"The procedure typically takes about thirty minutes to complete, after which you'll have about an hour-long recovery period at the office and then be sent home to recuperate." The consulting urologist hands Edward a pamphlet and he takes it with a nod, his expression mildly surprised. "Thirty minutes? That's it?"
"That's it," the doctor says. "It's a very routine outpatient procedure."
"And what exactly is the procedure?" I ask, my hand on Edward's forearm. He might be a doctor and completely capable of translating medical jargon, but I'm not, and I'm very attached to my husband and all of his parts. The one we're talking about happens to be a personal favorite, and Journalism 101 hammered home the importance of getting all of the facts in as much detail as possible. This seems like a particularly ideal time to make use of that very valuable lesson.
"Well, the specifics are detailed in the literature I just gave to your husband, but the nuts and bolts – if you'll excuse the expression – are that we numb the scrotum with a local anesthetic and make two tiny incisions on either side to access the vas deferens, which is then cut and cauterized."
"And the, uh, effects are immediate?" I ask.
The doctor shakes his head. "Actually no; that's a common misconception. A woman can still get pregnant immediately after her partner undergoes the procedure, so we recommend that a sperm count be performed within two months after the procedure, or following twenty ejaculations."
Edward shifts slightly in his chair and I tamp down on a smile. He's seen doctors with their hands inside my body up to their forearms, for crying out loud; this perceived blow to his modesty is a drop in the bucket. "Good to know," he murmurs, and I squeeze his hand.
"Would you like to take that home and look over it, or would you like to go ahead and schedule the procedure?" Dr. Salzman asks, a bright smile on his face.
I look to Edward, who is flipping through the glossy pamphlet. "I, uh, guess we can go ahead and schedule it," he says before glancing in my direction. "Right, babe?"
"Whatever you think," I reply, squeezing his arm again. "Ball's in your court." I wince. "So to speak."
"Well, we have availability next week," Dr. Salzman says helpfully, and the widening of Edward's eyes is barely noticeable.
"Next week?" he repeats, and the doctor nods.
"This is our slow time of year."
"There's a slow time for… uh… vasectomies?" I ask, trying to tone down the incredulousness in my voice.
"Oh yes," he says with a bright smile. "We book up for March Madness nearly a year in advance." Off my frown, he clarifies. "The recuperation period generally involves a lot of sitting on the couch without being expected to get up."
I roll my eyes. Only men would use recuperation from testicular surgery as a justification for watching sports. "I'm, uh, not really a basketball fan," Edward admits and I laugh, relieved when a small chuckle comes from beside me. "Okay then," he says. "Next week."
"Friday?" I suggest, glancing at Edward and then at the doctor. "I can take Friday off and then I'll be home with you all weekend."
After the logistics are hammered out and Edward has been presented with more literature, as well as the standard tome of medical release forms, we are on our way home, an appointment card in his wallet for the following Friday. "As if I could forget," he had mumbled good-naturedly when the receptionist handed him the card.
"Fantastic," he mutters now from the passenger seat as he flips through the papers.
"What?" I ask, checking my blind spot before switching lanes.
He holds up a page to read aloud. "'The local anesthetic is generally the most painful part of the procedure, with some patients likening the sensation to a bee sting, followed by a 'just-been-kicked' feeling in the lower abdomen,'" he recites, then shakes his head. "I've always wondered what it would feel like for a bee to sting me in the balls." I bite my lip against the giggle that threatens to surface as he continues reading. "'Once the scrotum is numbed, the patient may feel a slight pulling sensation in the area during the procedure.'"
One glance at his mildly distressed face and I can't help toying with him. "I'll pull on the area tonight as a thank you," I offer, and he sighs.
"Hot as that is, the sense of impending doom at the idea of a bee sting followed by a kick in the nuts is sort of a libido-killer."
"Too bad," I reply as I merge onto the main road.
"I might change my mind, though," he offers as a disclaimer, and I nod at the windshield.
"Noted." He continues flipping through the paperwork, and when I glance at his face, I see his brow furrowed; I can't tell if it's in consternation or merely concentration. "Edward?"
"Hm?" He doesn't look up.
"It's okay if you want to change your mind. I would totally understand."
In my periphery I see his head turn to look at my profile. "Bella, no. It's okay. I'm partially kidding. I mean, I knew this wasn't going to be a weeklong vacation at Sandals Jamaica. It's just…I think you've got to psych yourself up for something like this. I'm just thinking out loud."
"And hey." His hand slides across the center console to rest on my thigh. "I saw every second of everything you went through to bring our kids into the world, and without pain medication. What kind of man would I be if I couldn't handle a thirty-minute 'routine outpatient procedure' in the face of that?"
"It's not a competition, babe," I remind him, even as part of me basks in the familiar feelings of validation that come with his ever-obvious awe of the so-called miracle of childbirth.
"Still," he says, returning his focus to the paperwork in his lap even as his hand stays on my denim-covered thigh. "I'm doing this for us. It'll be fine."
I leave him to read in peace for the remainder of the drive, and when we pull into our driveway, Lila comes racing down the front porch steps and makes a beeline for her father. "Daddy! I did it!" she shrieks as she barrels full-tilt into his legs, arms overhead in expectation of being hoisted into the air.
"Oof," Edward grunts, doubling over as her elbow comes into contact with his fly. He takes a deep breath, clearly assessing any possible damage before straightening and lifting Lila to his hip.
"Might want to get used to that sensation, from what I hear," comes Emmett's voice from behind the screen door atop the porch, and Edward frowns.
"I thought Rosalie was our sitter tonight," he says in lieu of a more traditional greeting.
"She is," he shrugs as he pushes the screen open and steps through it. "Diaper change. I brought pizza for dinner."
"Daddy, I said I did it," Lila interjects, placing a hand on each of Edward's cheeks and forcibly turning his head to face her.
"Sorry, bug. Did what?"
"The magic trick. I did the magic trick for show an' tell, and I did it right."
"Great job, baby," he says, pressing a kiss to her cheek before slipping his mouth to the curve of her neck and blowing a raspberry into her skin. She squeals and wriggles and demands to be put down; once her father has complied, we make our way up the front steps. "Thanks for the pep talk, Em," he says to his hulking former roommate, who claps him on the back.
"I don't think all the pep talks in the world would be enough," Emmett offers helpfully, and I shoot him a glare that he either misses entirely or chooses to ignore.
"Just you wait," Edward says smoothly. "Your day will come."
Emmett snorts as he holds the screen door open for Lila before waving a hand for us to step inside. "'Hi, I'd like you to cut through my sac and short-circuit my nuts?' Uh, no thank you."
"Zip it, McCarty." Rosalie's voice floats to us from the bottom of the stairs, where she appears with Henry on her barely-there hip and Emily holding her free hand. "Or you might find yourself cut off."
"You can cut me off all you want," Emmett replies, flicking a glance to her rounded belly before grinning at her. "I'm not cutting it off."
"Oh, for crying out loud, Emmett, it's not castration, it's sterilization," I huff, shrugging out of my coat. "Grow up."
"I'm just saying. He's a brave man." Once again, Emmett claps Edward on the shoulder and my husband visibly flinches.
"Okay, can we stop talking about this now, please? I heard the word pizza."
"Pizza!" Emily cheers as she makes her way from Rosalie's side to mine, dragging a one-eared stuffed rabbit behind her.
"You can expect some bruising and some swelling," the pre-op nurse says to Edward, and even though I know she's talking about his scrotum and not his penis, it takes everything in me not to make a comment about the idea of swelling in his already substantial man-parts. As if he's reading my thoughts, Edward tosses me a sly sideways smirk.
"Okay." This is the first time I've seen him in a hospital gown, and I can't lie: I sort of want to think up a reason for him to stand up so I can get the rear view. "Stop," he whispers as the nurse leaves the room, and I shift in my chair.
He flicks his gaze to the closed door and then back to me, his voice a familiar low rumble. "With that look."
"What look?" I try to school my features into something resembling innocence, but I'm still distracted by the knowledge that he's naked under a paper-thin garment.
"You have sex in your eyes," he murmurs, his own eyes blazing. "And I'm going to be suitably embarrassed if I have a hard-on when the nurse comes in to jab a needle into my junk."
The mental image of another woman seeing Edward's erection – let alone touching or theoretically puncturing any part of his junk – is enough to extinguish the fire. "Sorry."
A gentle smile touches his lips as he allows his head to fall back against the pillow. "Now I know why you bitched about these things," he says, pinching a part of his gown between his thumb and forefinger. "They're awfully… drafty."
I laugh. "Just wait until you're spread-eagled. Considerably more drafty then."
A muscle at the hinge of his jaw clenches, and it's the first hint of anxiety I've seen on his beautiful face all morning. Sometimes I forget the adage that doctors make the worst patients; the only time I've seen Edward as anything remotely close to the patient side of the equation was when I was in the hospital having our kids. I run a hand through his hair and drop a kiss to his forehead. "No second thoughts?"
"None," he says, his voice resolute. "Unless you're having second thoughts about more babies." I shake my head and he nods, his face determined. It's a familiar expression, and my mind flashes to the first time I saw it, when he was standing behind a starting block wearing a small scrap of purple spandex. It's his game face. "Okay then."
I press another kiss to his face and lean in to his ear, dropping my voice. "Can you steal one of these from your office?" I murmur, plucking at the fabric covering his muscled shoulder.
"A gown?" he asks, eyebrow arched.
His mouth falls open and then snaps shut as the door to the exam room swings open and Dr. Salzman enters. "Good morning, Dr. Cullen, Mrs. Cullen. All ready?"
After a quick glance at me, Edward faces the urologist and nods. "As I'll ever be." I bend to press a soft kiss to his mouth, and as I make a move to straighten, I feel his long fingers wrap around my wrist. "I have a surprise for you later," he murmurs before releasing me, and the mischief in his eyes throws me for a loop. I can't imagine Edward being horny after having his junk snipped, and even if he were, he's not medically cleared to do anything about it for almost a week anyway. My confusion must show on my face, because he smirks. "Love you."
"Love you too," I say, watching as they wheel him into the operating room.
Following Lila's effervescent greeting of her father the week prior, we made the prudent choice to leave the kids with Edward's parents for a sleepover so that he can have at least one day to recuperate in peace. It took me three days to convince him that telling his mother he was having a vasectomy was something he could handle; still, the flush on his cheeks when we dropped them off early this morning before heading to the doctor's office was adorable. Now, though, I think he'd endure the mortification of singing it from the rooftops if it guaranteed that no tiny elbows would come in contact with the space between his legs.
He groans as he settles himself on the couch, and I make my way to the kitchen, returning with a glass of water and two Tylenol, along with a cloth-covered cold compress. "I never thought I'd willingly put something frozen against my nuts," Edward says, the cold pack disappearing beneath the elastic waistband of his gray sweats. He hisses slightly as he situates it between his legs and shifts as he tries to find a comfortable position.
"Thirty minutes max, the paper said," I remind him, and one corner of his mouth turns up as he gazes up at me.
"As if I could forget."
"We wouldn't want it to fall off, after all."
"That would be senselessly tragic," he agrees, running a hand through his hair and letting his head drop against the back of the couch with a sigh. "Not to mention it would render today's undertaking entirely moot." I allow myself a moment to appreciate the taut tendons in his neck before grabbing the television remotes from the coffee table and situating them on the armrest beside him.
"Do you want anything?" I ask, dropping a kiss to his soft hair.
"Nah," he replies, flicking the TV on. "But I'll keep in mind that you offered to be at my beck and call."
I grin. "Too bad you can't do anything really fun with it."
He glares at me. "Evil woman."
I hope he can hear my laugh as I disappear up the staircase.
Once I have dumped a load of the kids' laundry into the wash and folded a stack of clean, dry sheets and towels and returned them to their respective homes, I check on Edward. He has resituated himself to a reclined position, and while he nearly always has a noticeable bulge at the front of his pants, I can see from the exaggerated one that the ice pack is still in place. I drop to my knees beside the couch and press a kiss to his forehead. "Hey," I murmur, and green eyes slide open.
"You might want to take that thing off," I say, tilting my head in the direction of his lap.
"Oh. Yeah." His hand disappears down the front of his pants, and I can't fight the smirk that graces my lips. He spares me a sideways glance. "You'd make a pretty shady nurse," he says, passing me the now barely-cold compress and shifting slightly against the cushions. "Ogling your patients like that."
I shrug. "Which is why I'm so thrilled to be working in a different career field entirely."
"One that allows you to write speculative pieces about genitals," he fires back, and I smile. It's been a while since he's brought that up, but whenever he does, it makes me feel like I'm twenty-two again, staring at him from a bleacher seat and breathing in the smell of chlorine.
"Exactly." I rise. "Want some lunch?" I offer, and he nods. "Requests?" He grins and I roll my eyes. "Seriously?"
"Hey, you asked."
"You know, you're a grown man, and there's going to come a time when your body's not going to metabolize that crap nearly as quickly as it does now, regardless of how many mornings a week you hit the pool."
"Too true. But, as Emmett so tactfully put it, I just had my nuts short-circuited, so until that day comes…" He trails off before bringing a hand to rest on his flat stomach. "Besides, I don't remember hearing any complaints about my physique lately. From you or any other nurse." I roll my eyes again at the not-so-subtle reference to the new young RN at Edward's practice who doesn't appear to be at all deterred by the wedding ring on his finger or the framed photos of his three kids and wife on the desk in his office. I feel sorry for the wives of other doctors in the office who aren't nearly as certain of their husband's fidelity as I am of mine. That said, the majority of the other physicians at Windy City Oncology Associates are at least ten years older than Edward.
"Watch yourself, Cullen. You're in an awfully vulnerable position to be provoking my jealousy."
His hand finds mine and he tugs me downward. "Believe me," he breathes against my lips. "You have no reason to be jealous."
I let him press a kiss to my mouth before straightening. "Fine. Macaroni and cheese and hot dogs it is."
His grin returns. "See? Even out of commission, I'm irresistible."
It isn't until later that night, once the house is cleaned and the laundry is done and I've met the deadline for the story assignment I've been working on for the past three days that I remember Edward's words from before his procedure.
"Hey," I say, bending to turn on the bedside lamp on my nightstand and watching as Edward does the same on his side of the bed before palming two Tylenol into his mouth and taking a swig of water.
"Hey what?" he replies, licking his lips.
"What was my surprise?"
"Oh. Right." He places the glass on his nightstand and runs a hand through his hair before placing his hands on his still-narrow hips and cocking his head to one side. "I'm actually not sure I should show you."
"Excuse me?" He shrugs, and I feel my eyes narrow. "I think I was an exceptionally good nurse today," I argue, even though I don't know what I'm arguing for.
"You were," he agrees.
"Then why wouldn't you show me?"
He considers me for a moment. "I'm not sure you'll be able to control yourself."
"I beg your pardon."
Infuriatingly, he shrugs again. "It's been my past experience that what I'm about to show you might whip you into a lustful frenzy."
And cue the involuntary eye-roll. "Edward. Sweetheart. As much as I love you and, I admit, want you, I have absolutely no desire to break one of my favorite parts of you. So, if for no other reason than I don't wish to prolong this little window of necessary celibacy, I can promise I won't lay a finger on you."
He pretends to debate for a brief moment before he pulls his t-shirt over his head and drops his hands to the drawstring of his sweats. "Okay. You promised. Don't go attempting to steal my virtue."
"Like you have any left to steal," I snort, even as curiosity burns me from the inside out. It isn't until he drops his sweats that I begin to burn from something else entirely. Because there, standing in front of me in all of his physical perfection, is my husband. In a pair of tight black briefs. "What…?" I trail off, eyeballing the closest thing I've seen to a Speedo in twelve years.
He shrugs. "They recommended wearing a Speedo or a jockstrap or briefs for support," he says, and I can hear delight at my reaction in his voice. If I could tear my eyes from his crotch, I have no doubt I'd see a similar satisfaction dancing in his eyes. "As much as you loved my Speedo, I'm fairly certain the elasticity will have eroded by now. Still, I thought you might enjoy these."
"You're going to have to wear those again, you know," I inform him, eyeballing the familiar prominence beneath the dark cotton.
"You've made an awful lot of wardrobe requests today," he says, and my mind flashes back to seeing him in the hospital gown this morning and knowing there was nothing beneath it.
"I have," I agree, and I finally manage to tear my eyes away from his underwear.
He tilts his head slightly as he considers me, a small frown pulling at his eyebrows. "Do you really find these sexier than what I usually wear?"
I shake my head. "Not at all." It's not even a tiny bit untrue, but I find that explaining the reasoning behind it is harder. "It just… reminds me of the beginning. When I first saw you." I can feel the slight warmth spreading across the back of my neck, and I know a flush is probably staining my cheeks. That he can still make me blush frustrates me almost as much as it thrills me. "It's like…role-play."
His eyes widen slightly as he stares at me over the expanse of our bed, and I take a moment to enjoy the way the warm yellow light of our twin lamps highlights the definition of his chest. "Role-play?" His voice is a slightly higher pitch than normal, and I feel suddenly guilty that I'm likely about to turn him on when he can't do anything about it.
"Yeah. Like…you know how you always tell me that you love my simple lacy bra-and-panty sets even more than the sexy lingerie I wear on special occasions?" He nods mutely, and I can tell as I watch him that at least half of his brain has checked out of the conversation and is mentally cataloguing some of the sluttier pieces I've donned for him over the years. "Okay," I say loudly, before he can get himself worked up. "Well, it's like that. I like what you always wear because it's so YOU, and I find you sexier than anything else. But when I think about the Speedo – and you wearing those right now – it takes me back to college, and to our early twenties, when we didn't have kids and jobs and piles of laundry and a mortgage."
I can see the wheels turning in his mind. "Looks like I'm going to have to start my own 'special drawer' then," he says with a smirk, flicking his eyes to the small top drawer in my dresser where I keep my aforementioned slutty undergarments and various other "accessories."
"Looks that way," I agree, pulling back the covers and sliding into bed. He gingerly does the same, and once he finds a comfortable position on his back, I curl into his side and wrap my arm around his torso. "More-than-like you," I murmur, tipping my chin for a kiss.
"I love you, too," he returns, pressing his lips to mine.
In the weeks that follow his vasectomy, I try valiantly not to let Edward see my amusement at what he repeatedly refers to as the "small indignities" of post-procedure healing. I remind him that a snip to the nuts has nothing on the not-so-small indignities of a post-partum body, but it does little to make him less anxious for the point at which he's one hundred percent back to normal. Beyond the manscaped and bruised – and yes, slightly swollen – testicular area that is, admittedly, more funny-looking than his normal scrotum, Edward's new hobby appears to be jerking off. While the swelling and bruising only lasted for a few days post-op, my husband appears to have interpreted the urologist's clarification that his spunk would be sperm-free only after twenty or so ejaculations as, "the more you beat off, the sooner you'll be able to ride your wife bareback." As a result, I've made it a point to find reasons to slip into the bathroom while he's in the shower just in an attempt to catch him red-handed. So to speak.
"How many is that?" I ask as he steps out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist, a curl of steam following him through the open door.
"What?" he asks, then flushes at my raised eyebrow before crossing to his dresser. "Were you this mean when I married you?"
"I'm just asking," I tell him, not even attempting to hide the amusement in my voice. "I doubt you've whacked off this much since you were a virgin teenager."
Boxer-briefs in hand, he closes his top drawer and turns to face me. "Or since I was living in California," he says lightly.
I grin. "That's right. Spending your nights with your anatomy textbook diagrams."
He shrugs. "While it wasn't my motivation at the time, I would think you of all people would find it preferable to the alternative for a single young doctor in his prime."
"Why yes, Edward, I'm thrilled that you spent your nights self-actualizing instead of trolling for California girls," I tell him, injecting as much eye-roll as possible into my voice.
"Really, you should be flattered," he says, stepping into his boxer-briefs and pulling them up beneath the towel before unwinding it from his waist and dumping it on the foot of the bed.
"That you spent our time apart loving yourself?"
"That I want to be inside you so badly that I'm borderline chafing." He weaves around the bed with the grace of a predatory jungle cat, all lean sinew and laser-sharp focus. When he speaks again, his voice is an octave lower, a familiar sultry rasp. "That I want to feel you around me so much that I've made myself late for work twice." His green eyes bore into me as he comes to halt inside my personal space, and when my breath catches in my throat, a lazy smile spreads across his face, which only serves to make him look even more like a hunter. "That I'm desperate to feel you come with nothing between us. To fill you with me."
Arousal is instant, and I know from experience that the heat licking its way up my body is evident in the color of my face. As I moisten my lips and open my mouth to reply, Lila appears in the doorway to our bedroom in her pink fairy pajamas. "Mama?" Edward graces me with a sly smile before sliding away from me and stepping into our closet to retrieve the rest of his clothes. Willing my body to cool, I turn to face our daughter and set about starting the day. By the time Lila and Emily are eating Cheerios at the kitchen table and Henry is wearing nearly as much baby oatmeal as he's eaten, I have managed to pack my own work bag, fill Edward's travel coffee mug, and pack snacks for Lila to take to kindergarten and Emily to take to day care. Henry's diaper bag is restocked and waiting by the back door, and I have miraculously managed not to get in the line of fire of my son's oatmeal-smeared fingers, a Herculean feat considering I'm wearing one of my more expensive suits. My mind flashes back to Edward's assessment of our "manageable" level of chaos, and in this moment I couldn't agree more. As I'm zipping Lila's Little Orphan Annie lunch bag closed, I feel Edward's body against my back before his large hand slides around my hip and across my stomach. His lips press against the back of my neck before I feel the point of his chin come to rest on my shoulder.
"You're amazing," he murmurs, and I turn in the small circle of his arms to face him.
He nods, gesturing toward our brood of ostensibly eating children and the packed lunch and diaper bags near the door. "You're SuperMom."
"Twenty-four, by the way."
I frown, attempting to place the apparent non sequitur. "What?"
"You asked how many that was." He drops a quick peck on my lips. "Twenty-four."
I flick a glance to where our daughters are sitting, entirely oblivious to our conversation given Henry's discovery of the projectile potential of baby cereal. "Twenty-four?!" I can't keep the surprise out of my voice; I know for a fact that Edward hasn't taken twenty-four showers in the past sixteen days.
The lascivious smirk I've loved for years tugs the corners of his pink lips upward. "I'm very goal-oriented."
"No wonder you're chafing."
"You could help matters along, you know," he murmurs, glancing at our still-distracted kids before pressing his body into mine ever so slightly. "Speed up the process."
While Edward was cleared to resume "normal sexual activity" a week after his procedure, as luck would have it, I was on my cycle that week and was getting far too much enjoyment out of my newfound hobby of attempting to catch my husband stroking himself in the shower. I tap my fingers against my lower lip as if I'm considering the proposition. "Would that make me SuperWife?"
"It'll just make you super all around," he grins. If I didn't know better, some days I would swear my husband was a frat boy.
"Only if you wear the briefs," I stipulate.
"I'll wear whatever you want me to, Amanpour." The reference carries me back to a darkened porch and a cluster of co-ed boys traipsing their way down a hill in the winter before depositing me at the memory of the first time I saw my husband sans pants.
"Amanpour, huh?" He smirks and I'm opening my mouth to suggest I might recreate our first night together when a marble-sized glob of oatmeal flies across the few feet between me and the kitchen table and nails me directly in the lapel. "Perfect," I groan, even as my daughters erupt into giggles and Henry, elated at their reaction, claps his chubby, oatmeal-covered hands in glee, flinging residual flecks of his breakfast over everything in the immediate vicinity. Edward chuckles and turns away from me, crossing to the table and pressing a kiss to our son's fuzzy head.
"Good shot, little man," I hear him murmur, and while I should feel indignant, I'm too busy checking out the way his black slacks hug his waist and his dark green shirt pulls taut over his shoulders. Edward's daily swimming regimen does wonders for his physique and, if I'm being honest, does even more for my libido. It's practically Pavlovian, what the smell of chlorine on this man's skin does to me.
"Okay, wish me luck."
"Good luck," I say automatically without looking up, then frown at my checkbook. "Wait, what am I wishing you good luck for?"
Edward sighs dramatically when I lift my gaze. "I'm just not feeling like you're as invested as you could be."
"Babe, what the hell are you talking about?"
"The second sterility test. It's today."
"Oh!" I snap my checkbook shut. "Right! Sorry. Okay, good luck." When Edward returned from his first sterility test two months after his procedure looking like someone had just kicked his cat, I was powerless to stop the chuckle that erupted from my lips. While seventy percent of men test sterile two months following a vasectomy, apparently Edward was in the thirty percent whose swimmers refuse to go down without a fight. Granted, when we decided to make babies, it always happened relatively quickly. At the time, he pretended to grouse about our super-fertility robbing him of the opportunity to enjoy a lot of baby-making sex, even as the elated twinkle in his eye belied his true joy. Now that the numbers are in, it's pretty clear that while I may be fertile, Edward's swimmers are, unsurprisingly, as fast and as motivated as their creator. I rise from the table and kiss his freshly shaved cheek. "Is 'knock 'em dead' an appropriate sentiment?"
"Works for me."
"Is your mother still good for tonight?"
He nods, shrugging into his coat. "Are you kidding? She'd take our kids and raise them herself if we'd let her." A grimace touches his features. "And can we not jump so quickly from talking about my sperm to talking about my mother?"
I laugh. When we moved back to Chicago after Edward finished his residency at Johns Hopkins, one of the undeniable benefits was being surrounded by people we loved. Thanks to the proximity of Edward's parents and Emmett and Rosalie, we rarely want for a babysitter, and working with Angela on the political blog she spent years trying to get off the ground has afforded me the flexibility required to parent three small kids and still have a career. "Apologies."
"Emmett and Rose are picking us up at six," he reminds me, looping the strap of his backpack over one shoulder. I grin; very few grown men can pull off carrying around a backpack in their professional lives, and even fewer doctors. Edward, as usual, is the exception to the rule. "Can you dig my pin out of your jewelry box?" My grin widens, and Edward flushes slightly. "Don't start."
"No problem, Hall of Famer." I pause and cock my head to one side in thought. "You know, evidently that designation applies to all of you."
"Seriously. Stop." When Edward was inducted into the Northwestern University Athletic Hall of Fame last year, the key theme of the weekend – for him, anyway – was embarrassment. While his parents and I, and even his old roommates, were over-the-moon proud of him, Edward's humility made him feel completely uncomfortable in the spotlight. That members are invited back every year to welcome the new class of inductees just gives me an annual opportunity to pick on him.
"See you later, stud."
He rolls his eyes but grins as he pecks me on the lips. "Fingers crossed that at least one part of me can no longer swim."
"Got your pin?" I'm not the only one who loves teasing Edward about his Hall of Fame status; Emmett might get even more joy out of ribbing him than I do.
"Blow me," Edward grumbles as he clicks his seat belt into place in the passenger seat. Rose grins at me from where she's sitting beside me in the back, her own seat belt stretched to its limit around her swollen belly. "Sorry about the change in plans."
"No problem," Emmett replies. "Your office is on the way anyway."
"Hey babe," my husband tosses over his shoulder, and I rub his shoulder.
Edward and Emmett fall into their familiar back-and-forth, and I return to getting all of the details from Rosalie's latest sonogram appointment as Emmett navigates the short drive to Northwestern. Once there, we park and cross the familiar campus; Edward's hand in mine as we approach the Allen Center brings back memories of the four months we spent here as undergrads, stealing kisses on sidewalks and inside buildings and once even on the baseball diamond after one of Jasper's games. "Surprise, surprise: I have to pee. Again," Rose grumbles as Emmett holds the door open for the rest of us to step inside.
"I'll walk you," Emmett says, tossing us a backward glance. "See you guys in there."
"I don't know how you did this three times," she says in parting, her palm smoothing over the curve of her body.
"It wasn't without its challenges," I agree, remembering all too clearly the less fun aspects of pregnancy as I watch her waddle away.
"Speaking of which." Edward's voice is a low rumble against my ear as he presses his lips to my temple. I pull back to look into his face, and I know the verdict before he speaks from the triumphant gleam in his eyes. "All clear."
I grin as I turn to face him completely, smoothing my hands over the lapels of his charcoal suit, my index finger finding the small gold pin on the left one. "I feel like Hallmark should make 'Congratulations, you're sterile' cards for moments like this."
He interlaces his hands on the small of my back and pulls me into him slightly. "I think you'll agree that what I went through deserves more than just a greeting card."
The confused frown on my face is entirely for show. "I'm not sure I follow you."
"Follow me?" he snorts. "Please. You know I always make sure you come first." His grin at the barely-disguised double-entendre is positively wolfish.
"I'm counting on it."
"Get a room, you guys. Seriously. I can't believe you're still like this after three kids." Rosalie's interruption creates only enough space between us to make our posture socially acceptable, and Emmett laughs. "How the hell do you think they got those three kids, babe?"
"Shut up, both of you," I say. "The Hall of Famer needs to find his seat."
Ninety minutes later, once the new class of alumni athletes has been inducted, guests have made their way to the makeshift bar, and Edward has posed for pictures with the new members, he finds me gazing up at his photo on the wall where it is embedded in a plaque lauding the numerous accomplishments he achieved during his days as a Wildcat. The photo is so Edward: eyes bright, hair wild, grin open. The differences now are subtle: shorter hair with just a few strands of barely-noticeable gray, fine crinkles at the corners of his eyes that echo his father's, less hulking musculature. But the eyes are the same and the grin hasn't changed, and while I was head-over-heels in love with him when I was twenty-two, it pales in comparison to the love I have for him now. "Look at you," I say when I feel his arms band around my waist and his chin rest on my shoulder. "So young."
"Yeah. Doesn't seem possible that that was twelve years ago."
"Not at all." I remember the night he broke the record, the night I met his family, the night he took me home.
"Looking at you in this dress makes me feel like I'm twenty-two again, though," he murmurs just loud enough for me to hear him, and I smile at the wall.
"I know the feeling." His chin leaves my shoulder and his lips press against the curve of my neck.
"Come on," he murmurs, and I break my staring contest with twenty-two-year-old Edward to focus on my thirty-four-year-old husband.
"Are we leaving?"
"No. Emmett's catching up with Jasper at the bar. Take a walk with me." I follow him through the lobby and out into the cool spring evening; by now he knows that I'll follow him anywhere. He drapes his suit coat over my shoulders and tucks me into his side as we walk.
"So… the all-clear, huh?"
"The all-clear," he confirms, and his long fingers tighten infinitesimally around my upper shoulder. The sidewalk we're on is familiar, and I realize as we amble along that he's guiding us toward the aquatic center.
"You realize the pool is probably locked, right?"
He shrugs. "Probably." He seems unconcerned, so I relax and lean into him. His pace is deliberately slow as he matches his strides to mine. "Cullen, party of five," he says after a moment, and I tilt my head up to look at him. As is often the case, I'm struck by the incongruity, the way his sharp jaw line, sharp slope of his nose, and sharp wit can exist so harmoniously with his soft eyes, soft mouth, soft heart.
"Party of five," I agree, giggling as my mind flashes to an angst-ridden 90s television show.
"What's funny?" he asks, and I gaze up at the stars.
"Absolutely nothing." As I move to resettle beneath the crook of his arm, he draws to a sudden halt and spins us so that he's facing me, his hands on my hips. I look up to see him playfully glaring down at me.
"I swear to God, if you're thinking about asking me to reverse the procedure…"
"God, no," I assure him. "I've missed feeling you." I rise to my toes to press a soft kiss to his mouth. "All of you."
His fingers flex against my hips and he shifts his weight. I smile up at him, watching the effect my words have on his face, which goes from teasing to aroused in a blink. He breaks my gaze to glance quickly behind me before he spins and takes my hand, pulling me gently along behind him in the opposite direction from the aquatic center. I follow wordlessly as he weaves his way through a parking lot until we are walking alongside the soccer field toward Lake Michigan; across the water I can see the illuminated Chicago skyline shining through the darkness as Edward brings us to a halt beneath a tree.
"Remember when I jumped into the lake in my underwear?" he asks, pulling my back to his front as he leans against the trunk of the tree and wraps his arms around my waist.
"As if I could forget," I say. "That was the first time I saw your bare ass."
There is a pause before he asks, "What?"
I laugh. "I never told you this? I was looking at the pictures on your bookshelf, and I could see your ass in the reflection when you were changing."
"All this time," he says in mock affront, "all this time I thought it was the front compartment of my boxers that drew you in."
I shrug against his chest. "I'd have a hard time choosing between the two, but if pressed, I'm probably partial to the front," I admit.
"Speaking of hard," he breathes, and I feel his lips and teeth at my neck as he flexes his hips against me.
"Cullen, if you give me a hickey tonight, I swear to God…" I trail off as his lips and teeth find my earlobe.
"I'll behave," he promises, even as he continues to rock his hips into me, his erection growing more pronounced with each movement.
"All evidence to the contrary," I mutter, even as I reach back to palm him.
"Do you want to know one of the main things I always hated about using rubbers?" Edward breathes against my temple, his warm breath puffing against the hair tucked behind my ear.
"Besides the buzzkill of having to take them off?" I ask.
"Besides that," he confirms.
"That they make spontaneous sex such a hassle."
"Condoms require choreography," he says, pressing an open-mouthed kiss to my collarbone before he continues speaking. "And unless you're the type of guy who carries one around in his wallet, they involve premeditation."
"I can see that," I say, struggling to maintain some degree of neutrality in my voice even as my breathing pattern changes. I allow him to grind himself against me for a few more breaths, even tilting my hips back ever so slightly to give him a little more friction before I bring my hands to where his still cup my hips, interlocking our fingers. "I suppose you'd better take me home, then, so we can celebrate our newfound spontaneity."
Before I can step away, his grip tightens, and he pulls my entire body flush with his. "I'm not taking you home," he mutters into my neck. "I'm taking you here."
And I'm done. When Edward uses that voice, low and rough right in my ear, I'm not a reporter or a wife or a mother of three small children; I'm a horny college co-ed with a crush on the fuckhot swimmer with the well-packed swimsuit, and I'll do whatever he wants me to. And the worst part – or best, depending on one's point of view – is that Edward knows this and has no qualms about using it to his advantage. In this case, he's doing so by sliding my hair off my neck with one hand to kiss my collarbone while the other ghosts a touch over the front of my dress, pausing only briefly to cup and squeeze my breast before continuing its descent. I glance around us, but this side of campus is deserted and dark. Edward takes my whimper as encouragement, allowing his hand to slide down to the hem of my short dress. He pauses for a moment before sliding it back up along the skin of my thigh. His free hand is back on my hip and is pulling me back against his still-rocking hips.
"Are you okay with this?" he murmurs as his hand slides inside the elastic of my underwear and the pad of his middle finger finds the bundle of flesh at the very heart of me. He hums when his fingertips come away wet.
"Are you kidding me?" I breathe.
I feel his low chuckle as much as I hear it, his broad chest rumbling against my upper back as he pulls us down together, settling me on his lap facing away from him. I lean back, using his torso as a backrest as I gaze at the glowing Chicago nightline. "It's so pretty," I murmur as I watch the lights twinkle across the water, tossing glitter over the rippling surface of the lake.
"Huh?" Edward's response makes it clear that he's entirely unconcerned with the picturesque panorama of our secluded little spot; instead, he's intently focused on adjusting the skirt of my dress so that it billows around his hips. I rearrange my legs so that my knees are pressing into the cool earth on either side of him, allowing me to take some of my weight off his lap even as I press my hips down into his. He hums in approval, and I hear the sound of his belt being unbuckled; shortly on the heels of that, I hear his zipper and a small hiss that tells me that at least part of him is bare beneath me. As I press my hips down again, I feel his shaft sliding along the now-slick satin of my panties and he groans, his forehead resting between my shoulder blades.
I raise up to my knees just enough to break contact with him before sliding back down and rocking atop him lazily. If I didn't already know I was torturing him, his small gasp would clue me in. "As I was saying," I murmur, struggling to make my voice sound unaffected, even if he can feel the lie in my soaked underwear. "It's so pretty."
"God, you have no idea," he gasps into my fabric-covered back, his large hands tightening on my hips and pulling me down into him.
"Why do I feel like you're not even looking?" I tease, but I lose the thread of conversation entirely as his fingers pull the crotch of my panties to one side and I feel him right there.
"Okay?" he whispers, the pads of his fingers teasing my entrance.
"Better than," I breathe, and it's all the encouragement he needs. My eyes fall closed at the familiar invasion, and the vista fades as I'm completely entranced by the now-familiar sensation of Edward's body claiming mine. In our practiced choreography, he gives me a moment to adjust before starting to move; his ability to do so is limited by my weight atop him, so he's relegated to small thrusts as he pushes and pulls at my hips to guide my movements. I tip forward slightly and brace myself with my palms against his shin bones, using the leverage to rock back against him, take him inside me and let him slip out over and over. His breaths grow labored as I rock back and forth, feeling the warm skin of him sliding along my walls, and when his head hits the perfect spot inside me, his name falls from my lips on a gasp.
"There?" he breathes, but doesn't wait for confirmation to begin pulling my hips back against him in earnest, pounding against the place that will send me spinning.
"God, Edward." I'm starting to tremble, my body beginning to grip his in an echo of what my hands are doing on his legs, and my hips are all but slamming down into his as I chase my own peak.
"Wait," he gasps suddenly, his hands tightening on my waist as he halts his movements and I bite my lip to stifle the wail of complaint.
"Don't stop," I pant, trying in vain to resume our pace, but I'm locked in his grip. "We don't have to stop. Don't stop." I'm begging, and if I could see his face, I'm sure he's smirking through his own arousal.
"I'm not," he promises, but in a contradiction to his words, his body slips out of mine.
"What the—" I'm cut off by his hands guiding me to turn, and I shuffle myself around so that I'm facing him with my legs still spread, my body still pressed to his where I'm humming and weeping and desperate for him.
"I want to see your face," he whispers as he thrusts back into me without warning, and despite my desperation, I gasp. "That's it," he says, eyes flicking down briefly before coming to settle on my face. "I want to watch your eyes when you feel me fill you."
Despite his request, my eyes flutter closed and I resume my rhythm; the peak I thought had slipped away is suddenly within my sights again, and I work myself against him as his words of encouragement do little to break my single-minded focus.
"God, Bella. Yes."
Heat surges and my body buzzes and my muscles clench and my jaw falls slack as I shatter atop him, gasping his name and God's and cursing as I lose all control.
"Look at me," he pleads, his voice at once desperate and dominant and I obey, opening my eyes to see his green ones blazing into mine as he lets go, and I feel his release as he pulses, warm spurts coating the inside of me as he shudders and trembles and gasps through his climax. "I love you," he breathes, still thrusting shallowly in the warm mess we've created, and I groan as the last of my own pleasure fades to a dull hum.
"I'm so in love with you," I murmur back, and while there is a gorgeous cityscape behind me, I am powerless to tear my eyes from his. As he softens and I shiver and we sit wrapped around each other beneath a tree on our college campus, I feel like I'm twenty-two again.
And as he grins up at me, his eyes shining in the darkness and illuminating the glittering light I can't see, I know I'll feel like this forever.
A/N: Well, folks, that's it for these two. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your feedback on this, my first "Twilight" story. I've enjoyed my induction into the fandom immensely thanks to all of you and your lovely encouragement. See you in the other stories. xo
Come find me on Twitter: TheFicChick for squee, snark, and random ramblings generally apropos of nothing.