Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. I am in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise, I just use their creations to have my wicked way with them. No copyright infringement is intended.
*hugs Jadsmama and Ladyshakrey1 close* Thanks so much my darlings for going on this ride with me. This story wouldn't have been the same without all of your advice and suggestions.
And a huge thank you to all of you for giving this story a try. Your support means the world to me.
"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."
Five years later.
"Mommy! Daddy! Look!" The excited voice of her son brought her attention back into the real world after being captivated by her book she was reading.
Edward grinned at her from his corner of the living room where he'd been hard at work brushing up on some of the techniques he planned to use during a procedure. After six years together, Bella had learned better than to ask what he'd be doing since there was no way she would be able to make heads nor tails of his explanation.
Neurosurgery was a tricky profession; that much she'd learned over the years.
"Do you think he finally fixed it?" Edward's voice held the irony of a parent who knew he'd sent his son on an impossible task just so that he could have a few moments of peace and quiet to cram in some much needed studying.
Because Charlie – their adorable, little five year old son – was quite a handful.
There had been nothing like holding him in her arms the first time; his tiny, squirming body still covered in goo as his shaky cries shot straight to her heart. There had been so many tears that night, happy tears, but also tears of loss as Edward was once again confronted with his past, and those of fear as he held his newborn son in his arms, promising him over and over again that he would protect him from everything, even himself.
But, most of all, there had been love; an explosion of love she never imagined she could feel and a love shared by all members of her family as they welcomed little Charles Edward Masen into their fold.
It had been a good night…the best night of her life.
The smile that appeared on her face as Charlie came thundering into the living room – his little legs going almost faster than the rest of him could keep up with – was slightly sad as suddenly she realized that he was older now than Claire had ever been allowed to live. Over the years, Edward had started to open up more and more about his memories and the loss he still felt. Together, with Tanya, he had come a long way in giving his grief a place in his heart where it would always reside but also enable them both to move on and live their lives without the overwhelming guilt that had almost consumed them those first years after Claire's death.
Looking at her son, Bella could feel the tears pricking behind her eyes as she fought to hold them back. She loved him so much, her little man. If anything happened to him…
They sometimes took him to visit her, with Charlie leaving drawings and other little offerings as his father told him about the big sister he would never know, his little hands firmly clasped in his daddy's tight, safe grip as he looked at the headstone in wonder, his mind not quite understanding why Claire had to live in the ground.
Those were the moments that truly broke her heart.
"Look! Look!" Charlie was quick to grab her attention again, the triumph in his eyes making her heart soar as he dumped the mechanical Lego robot he'd been working on for hours on the floor in front of them, lights flashing as the thing started to walk. "It's working! It's working!"
"Well, I'll be damned," Edward muttered, his eyes filled with fatherly pride as he sank down on his knees next to his son. "Good job, Charlie!"
There had been no arguments about his name; both of them knowing the second they found out they were having a boy that there was only one name they were going to call him: Charles Edward Masen. And that was even before little Charlie's eyes had turned that same soulful shade of brown that marked his mother's eyes. And his grandfather's.
Ed had been less enthused at the two of them not continuing the fine tradition of 'Edward Masen' but, one look at her grandfather's, who finally felt well enough to come over to Chicago for a short visit along with her grandmother and one of her aunts, had made it all worth it.
"I want another!" Charlie cried out, his eyes fascinated as he watched the robot move around the room, emitting all sorts of weird sounds and signs."
"I told you," Bella chuckled at Edward's exasperated look. "You've created a monster."
From the moment he'd been able to hold things in his chubby little hands, Charlie had been absolutely obsessed with building stuff; whether from the simple playing blocks he'd started out with to the ever-smaller pieces of Lego's he'd assembled, the constructions he was able to make with them getting more and more complex as he tried to replicate some of the things he saw in the streets with his own building stones.
Whenever his parents needed to concentrate on something or just felt like taking a breather after running after the little squirt all day, all they had to do was set up the Lego's in his playroom and leave him with a picture of a building or a complete village to rebuild with his own hands.
He would be completely entranced for hours, all but growling at his parents whenever they came in to see if he was still alright, his soft little boy voice babbling excitedly through the baby monitor and little spy cam that would always keep his parents updated on what he was doing.
Edward's latest scheme to allow the both of them some time for their studies had been the introduction of a new form of Lego's to Charlie's hands, his age and wisdom now so far matured that he was able to tackle his first technical project.
Or so his proud father had deemed.
It had been a blast; the look on Charlie's face when his new robot started to walk towards them making her heart jump as she watched his face as his eyes stayed glued to the object slowly moving through their living room, his mouth hanging open as he listened intently to Edward's instructions.
He'd all but shooed them away as he set about his task a couple of minutes, trying to replicate his dad's handiwork from the pieces laying scattered on the floor in front of him, so excited to build his own robot.
And he'd done it…her little genius.
Meanwhile, the noise had woken up Toto, the four month old black Labrador puppy that had been the latest addition to their household; his yapping immediately put Charlie on high alert, his arms flailing as the dog set out on a collision course with the unsuspecting robot.
Edward's panicked eyes found hers as they both shot up from their seats; books and magazines tumbling to the floor as they tried to help him, all the while knowing they'd be too late.
"Nooooo!" he whined as the unstoppable force of Toto send the robot crashing to the ground, its feet moving into thin air as it lay on his back.
For a moment it looked like Charlie was going to cry but, as always, Edward was there to save the day. "Looks like Toto wants to go out and play," he spoke, winking at Bella over the head of their still angry and disappointed looking son. "How about I take you out to the backyard so you can show him how far you can throw his ball? I bet he'd be so excited to play with you!"
Charlie sniffed as he nodded, his watery eyes breaking his mother's heart as Edward persevered. "Then, when Toto's tired again, we can rebuild the robot together while Mom cooks dinner, okay?"
"Awesome!" And just like that the robot was forgotten, the lights in Charlie's eyes shining again as he gave his version of the fist-pump before running out towards the backdoor, his father hot on his heels.
Bella chuckled, trying to return her attention to her book as their footsteps faded, even though she knew both her heart and her head were no longer in it. "Well, I guess there goes my deadline," she sighed to herself, good-naturedly shaking her head as she put her book down.
As with everything in life, the last mile of her college education was definitely the longest and the hardest to cross. She was only months away from graduating with a bachelor's degree in English Literature, having taken a slow route that allowed her to be a good mother to Charlie first and foremost and arranging her studies around his schedule.
Between all of that, she had also found the time to put her past onto paper, the experience being every bit as therapeutic as both Edward and her therapist had suspected it would be. The book it turned into – her story – was in the hands of her editor with a tentative publishing date sometime next summer, about the same time she would graduate.
That brought to mind the fact that she still had an e-mail from her editor – one with no ties to the Harrison family whatsoever – to reply to.
It could wait, though.
She had somewhere far more important to be.
Her grin was back in full force as she pushed away from the chair, her eyes falling on the many photographs of her family during various milestones that filled one of the side tables.
They were all doing do well; building their lives and enjoying each other's company (though Charlotte maybe less so than the rest now that Elizabeth's ousting from the family home had isolated her and her cold, spiteful behavior). Nowadays her family included Leah and Seth, even though they weren't related by blood or marriage.
They'd kept in touch after graduation, both of them struggling to adjust to college life and the strain it put on their family time. If it hadn't been for Carmen, coming to both their rescues and volunteering to care for both Charlie and Embry two days a week as their moms attended classes, Bella didn't know what either of them would have done.
Their boys were inseparable, even though Embry was well over a year older than Charlie, which, of course, gave their moms a good excuse to go visit each other.
Not that they needed one.
Leah and Jared had married five days after he had finally earned his diploma and, as promised by his uncle, a fifty percent share in the garage for which Leah, after earning an associate's degree in accounting, kept the books.
Seth, meanwhile, had moved on, striking up a friendship with Emmett and Jasper and moving into a small three bedroom apartment with them when he started his college experience. As much as they loved to go out and have fun, they never turned into the typical college man-whores, with Emmett and Jasper both already in steady relationships, and Seth finding the love of his life soon after he'd moved out of Felix's basement.
"Mommy!" Bella was pulled out of her thoughts again by the chipper voice of her five year old, the dog running in circles around him as Charlie held the ball as high as he could to stop the puppy from grabbing it without permission. "Look how far I can throw!"
The dog zoomed ahead as soon as Charlie's little hands had released the ball, both father and son chasing after it as their laughter rung out across the open space.
"Wow, baby!" she gushed, laughing as Charlie toddled after the dog, trying to reclaim the ball that was now firmly fixed between Toto's jaws as the dog made his way back to his little playmate triumphantly.
Standing there in the doorway, watching as Edward and Charlie ran around the backyard, battling Toto for dominion over the little red ball, it suddenly hit Bella that maybe she'd had it wrong all along; the clarity of her epiphany so forceful that it smacked her right across the face and almost made her wobble on her feet.
Happiness wasn't about chasing freedom to its full extent, it was about finding the person, or, as in her case, people, you wanted to be with the most and binding yourself to them in a way that no force on earth could ever sever.
"What are you looking at?" Edward chuckled, coming up to her as Charlie and Toto kept running around the yard, their excited cries and barks filling the late evening with joy. "See something you like?"
"Nope," she giggled, pretending to be disgusted when he landed a sweaty kiss on her cheek. She rubbed her cheek, her eyes finding his; so alive, so vibrant. "I see something I love."
"Good," he stated, his arm wrapping around her shoulders as he pulled her in, his cheek against her temple as their eyes drifted to their son. "Because I love you like crazy, angel."
This was it. Still high on the clarity of her sudden insight she leaned against him, knowing in her heart that this was right, though she could feel her heartbeat hammering in her throat as she finally worked up the courage to open her mouth. "Ask me again, Edward…" Tears were misting her eyes as she lifted them towards him, her clammy hand finding his and squeezing. "I think – I know – I'm ready."
"What?" Edward's eyes tore away from Charlie, the whirlwind of boy and dog running around the yard forgotten as she watched understanding dawn on his face. "You mean…? Here?"
"Yes," a simple word answering both unfinished questions. "Right here. Right now." Knowing Edward, he would have probably wanted to make a big spectacle out of it, like he had done – or tried, at least – the previous times, but Bella knew that, right here, where her heart was at its fullest and their son just out of earshot, was the perfect space and the perfect time for them.
Edward nodded; his eyes doubling in their intensity as his hand lightly caressed hers, his green eyes never losing sight of hers as he slowly went down on one knee, his voice thick with emotion as he finally spoke. "Will you be my wife, Bella Swan?"
Simple. Perfect. Tears fell from the corners of her eyes and trickled down her cheeks, her voice sounding almost foreign from the thickness of her emotions as she whispered her heartfelt answer into the wind that softly blew around them.
At that moment, she was no longer in pursuit of happiness.
She was there.
And that's all she wrote. Well, for this story it is. I already started posting my new full-length story with the prologue for Past Imperfect having gone up yesterday. You can find it on my profile if you want to give it a go. And, of course, there's also my other little story Up.
Thank you all again for reading and supporting me.