A/N: Thanks and love to M, R, L and L.
Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. Chalky and the Dozer are mine.
Ascent - A completed climb.
Edward set the baby carrier down on the dining table and takes two steps back to stand beside me. Reaching up, he rubs his neck with an open palm. From the corner of my eye, I can his shoulders rise and fall with his breath. He peeks across at me. "Now what?"
I shake my head slowly, my eyes never leaving the face of the tiny person who's fast asleep and bundled up on our dining room table. I whisper back, "I have no idea."
"He's sleeping," he says, ever observant. "We could—"
A thought occurs to me, and I panic a little. "Do you think we should just leave him here? I mean "—I wave my hand a little frantically— "he's on our dining table."
Edward answers confidently, as if he's proud to be able to know something. "He's not going to go anywhere."
In my chest, my heart skips. "But what if he falls off? Maybe he'll wriggle. The carrier could move." I wring my hands together. "He could fly right off the table!"
Edward considers my outburst for a moment before responding. "We could put him on the floor."
"What?" I whisper-shout, my eyes flick to him. "You can't put the baby on the floor!"
"Why not?" he asks. "When they're bigger, that's where they spend most of their time anyway. Look at Lily. She's always on the floor."
"Yeah…" My tone is a little argumentative. "But she's always on a rug or something."
"So we put the carrier on the rug."
I consider it. It sounds logical. "Okay."
Edward picks up the carrier and sets it on the floor by the couch—on the rug. He looks at me, his green eyes questioning. "Better?"
Nodding, I take a seat, gingerly, on the couch by the carrier. "Yes." I tip my head back and receive the kiss he places on my lips. "Much. Thank you."
Edward carefully steps around the sleeping baby and sits by me, the couch sinking a little with his weight. I take advantage of the dip and snuggle in next to him. He traces a finger along the inside of my arm. "How are you feeling?"
"Not too bad. Tired. I haven't been sleeping well."
He presses a kiss to my temple. "That's understandable," he replies, his voice soft.
"But I wasn't expecting it to be quite like this."
Edward uses his patient doctor voice. "You're recovering from surgery."
"I know." I smile sadly. "It is better than before, but it still hurts."
"It'll heal," he tells me confidently. "You'll be as strong as ever before you know it."
Rolling my eyes, I can't help but smile. "Yes, Doctor."
I let myself sink farther into his side and close my eyes, inhaling the concentrated scent of him that permeates his clothes and now delicately looms in our shared home. Taking a deep breath and letting it out with a sigh, I find a smile spreading across my cheeks in contentment.
"You okay?" he asks tenderly.
"Yeah," I murmur back, still smiling. I let my thumb absently run along my left ring finger, and I'm hit with that same initial panic I have every time I do this and find it absent.
Edward notices my muscles tense and lightly grips my shoulder. "Miss them?" he asks, his hand trailing down my arm. He ever-so-gently picks up my left arm at the elbow and runs his long fingers along my hand. He chuckles a little. "I'd been so worried about getting you to wear one in the first place."
My body warms at the memory of the day he asked me to marry him and the love-wrapped week we'd spent together afterward. "I love it. I love both of them. I never wanted to take them off."
He lets his fingers wander to the chain around my neck, where my engagement and wedding rings gently clink against each other. "You're still wearing them. Just not as they were intended."
"It's not my fault. The swelling…"
He chuckles against my ear. "I know," he says. "God, the fight you put up when they tried to take those off you."
"They wanted to cut them off!" I reply in a hushed shriek, conscious of the sleeping baby at our feet. He stirs but doesn't wake.
I feel the rumble in Edward's chest that tells me he's stifling his laughter. "The funniest part was when you threatened to offer the same courtesy to the treating doctor. Except in reference to his balls."
My cheeks flush at the memory, although it's clouded by pain and morphine. "Yeah, not the best thing to say to your father-in-law."
"Ah," he says, a little dismissively. "He could see the humor."
"So I keep being reminded," I reply, my tone just a little grumpy. "Every other weekend."
"Oh, love," Edward says quietly. "What's one more scar, eh?" Soft lips linger on my temple, then my cheekbone. I turn my body just as his lips find mine. Our lips begin their familiar dance, and I moan. The sound spurs him on; he gently tries to twist me farther, leaning into me so I'm being pressed against the cushions. He hits an awkward spot, and I wince.
Remorse covers his face. "Ugh, Bella. I'm sorry."
"It's okay," I reassure him. "I'm fine."
"I hate seeing you in pain." His eyes blaze into mine. His look causes me pain all of my own.
I cup his cheek, willing the tortured look to slip from his face. "Edward," I tell him with every ounce of love I have for this beautiful man. "I'm okay. Honestly."
His eyes close, and I see his eyelids flicker. When he opens them again, I can tell he's calmed down. I smile at him. "I love you."
Edward gives me one more kiss for good measure. "I love you, too."
Before he can deepen the kiss, a soft cry interrupts us. My love's head drops to my shoulder, and I hear him groan. When he lifts his head up, he looks as though he wants to run. "Why did we say we'd do this again?"
Giving him a gentle push, I sit up straight. "Because this is a big night for Jasper, and we promised them an evening off. They'll be back soon." I reach down to pick up Baby Austin, but Edward rests his hand over mine, stopping me.
"No lifting, remember?" he says, gently squeezing my non-injured arm. I roll my eyes but let him scoop up Austin instead. Then, I pretty much melt, because the sight of Edward holding a twelve-week-old baby? Instant ovary explosion.
Rising from my seat, I gesture toward the kitchen. "I'll get his bottle." Edward nods, his eyes never leaving his godson's face. I step around the couple of boxes that have been stacked by the expansive new island bench, and I manage to fill the electric kettle one-handed—something I've gotten down to a fine art since I broke my arm. With my damaged wing and how busy Edward has been at the hospital lately, we just haven't gotten around to unpacking these.
Once the kettle has boiled, I warm Austin's bottle as Alice showed me. Carrying it into the living room, I grab a burp cloth from the diaper bag we left on the dining table—yeah, I learned that lesson the hard way—and settle back on the couch. Edward places the baby boy in my arms, and I hold the bottle in my weakened hand. It's ridiculous—I can easily climb 5.10s, but I was brought down to earth by an over-enthusiastic eight-year-old, her dad, and a pile of wet leaves. Now for the time being, climbing is out, but holding a bottle, I can do.
"They're amazing, aren't they? So tiny," I remark, my attention on Austin's tiny lips sucking hungrily.
"Yeah," murmurs Edward. He sits on the coffee table. "I remember Bree being little, but I didn't have too much to do with her until she got older. I guess I wasn't in that headspace."
"And what headspace is that?" I ask, and I can feel a pulling at the edge of my lips.
"The stage where I could imagine wanting one myself," he says matter-of-factly. The ease at which the words tumble does something to me. He regards me carefully, a soft smile on his lips. "Soon, though?"
I nod. "I know it can take a while. I mean, look at Rose and Emmett. And it took Alice and Jasper a year." I glance up at him and quirk an eyebrow. "Just means lots of practice, right?"
Edward's eyes darken, and this so isn't the time. I tear my gaze away from him and look back down at the baby, his little hands wrapped around the bottle, and I sigh. Between Lily, who's at that super-cute, getting-into-everything stage, and this little one, it's safe to say I've caught baby fever.
By the time Austin is fed, diapered, and sleeping, cradled against a dozing Edward's chest, I'm standing in front of the large picture window and looking out at our darkened backyard. I remember nights spent living out of a bag between my place and Edward's, before the bag got left behind and most of my stuff started being more permanently stored at his. Then after that, when my lease came up and it seemed logical for me to move into his place. What we hadn't expected was to drive past the most perfect house on our way back from a trip one weekend, that just happened to have a For Sale sign out front. We went back the next day after work to look through it and signed the papers that evening.
Esme oversaw the redecorating as a wedding present, and it was ready for us to move in right after our honeymoon. I smile at the reflection of the staircase in the glass.
"And as you can see, the polished boards extend through the living areas. I know they're a little roughed-up, but with a little TLC…" The agent's shoes echo hollowly off the walls of the empty rooms leading off the entry hall.
Edward snorts and mutters under his breath. "Or a bulldozer." I erupt into giggles, and the agent gives me a strange look before he continues his spiel.
"The kitchen was remodelled, but unfortunately that's about as far as the owners got. The Pacific Northwest didn't really suit their lifestyle. They wanted somewhere sunnier, which is why this place is such a steal."
I internally roll my eyes, knowing he'll say anything to get us to buy this place. I'm not going to be pushed—it has to be right for us. I really just want this guy to fuck off and let us look around.
Wandering into the living room, I stand beneath the ornate, wrought-iron light fixture that hangs from the center of the room before I slowly turn around. The room is quite lovely. It's been painted a dark, muddy brown, but I'm sure with lighter colors, it could feel so much bigger. Opposite the entry to this room is a window that looks toward the side of the house. Because the drive didn't come past here, it could be teeny—it's impossible to tell with the heavy, red, velvet drapes covering it. Feeling bold, I walk over and wrench back the curtains, and light creeps across the floor, illuminating the room. It makes the space look completely different.
The sound of footsteps walking toward the downstairs office tells me the agent has accosted Edward, so while I leave him to deal with this guy, I decide to check out the upstairs.
The staircase, which begins near the front door, has a welcoming railing stretching beside it. Placing my foot on the first step and my hand on the railing, I look up. A large window sits at the landing, sending warm light down to hit my face. Being able to see the cloud-mottled sky above hits me right in the chest, and I know.
A staircase just sold me this house.
A soft knock at the door catches my attention. Padding past Edward and Austin, I creep to the door. Through the stained glass window inlayed into the door, I see Jasper and the top of Alice's head.
"Hey," I greet them in hushed tones. "Come in. How was it?"
"Really great," Alice replies, her voice equally quiet. As she steps through the doorway, she smiles proudly up at her husband. "Jasper was so good. His speech was excellent."
Jasper comes in, ducking his head. He stands awkwardly in the foyer, tucking his hands into the pockets of his tuxedo pants and rocking on his heels. He's got the bashful thing down pat. "I just spoke on behalf of everybody."
"Don't be modest!" Alice slips out of her coat and hangs it on a hook by the door. She quickly inspects her dress, making sure no drops of water have fallen from her coat to the fabric. "It was your project…your idea. The mayor said so himself—it's been a great thing."
Jasper blushes, which is pretty funny to be honest. For all his southern bravado and comfort with working with some of the toughest kids in Seattle, he's a pussycat. He knows the value of the program he and Jake started years ago, but as is his style, he's reluctant to take all the credit.
Leading them into the living room and assuring them that, really, Austin was no problem, Alice pauses at the sight of my husband on the couch, one foot on the coffee table, head back and mouth open, with the baby boy sleeping on his chest. She lets out a high-pitched squeak, which causes Edward to jerk his head up with a snort.
"What?" he says. He looks blearily up at Alice and Jasper. "Oh hi, guys."
After gathering up Austin's things and agreeing to meet tomorrow afternoon at Emmett's gym, we wave from the porch as Alice and Jasper head home. Edward wraps his arm around my waist, hoisting me briefly as we walk through the doorway, and he slams the heavy wood behind us. I elbow him in the side. "Put me down."
"Okay," he says, setting my feet back on the floor but shifting me so he can wrap both arms around me. "We survived," he says, sounding a little surprised.
"Of course we did," I tell him. "You were so good with Austin."
Edward shrugs. "I didn't do much. I just held him, and he went to sleep."
I smile up at him. "You made him feel safe." I inch up on my toes to kiss him. "Like you do for me." I give him another kiss. "I'm going to put the house to bed."
"I'll do it," he tells me, letting his hands trail on my waist as he lets me go. "You go get ready for bed." I watch him as he heads in the direction of the kitchen, and I smile to myself. It's just like they say about hating to say goodbye, but liking to watch them leave.
As cute as Austin is, I don't know if it's the stress of looking after somebody else's child, how busy I've been at work, or the fact that I'm injured that causes me to be so exhausted, but I'm fast asleep before Edward comes to bed.
"Mmm," I hum appreciatively as I wander into the kitchen. Edward looks over his shoulder as I wrap my arms around him, careful not to aggravate my injury. I kiss him between his shoulder blades. "Something smells good."
"Morning, sleepy head," he greets me, and I'm so glad that I'm the lucky girl who gets to wake up to that smile for the rest of her life. "I thought I'd make you breakfast." He lifts his arm; I duck under, and he holds me close. He presses a kiss to my forehead, and I mentally try to decide what smells better—breakfast or him. "Coffee's ready," he murmurs.
I inhale once more before freeing myself of his embrace and wander over to the coffee pot. As the aroma hits me, I immediately screw up my nose. "Actually, I think I'm going to have herbal tea."
Edward raises an eyebrow. "Tea?"
Digging through the cupboard, I find the canister of tea. "Yeah."
"Okay." I all but hear him shrug. "Breakfast's just about done."
Busying myself one-handed with the teapot, I set myself up at the island and reach for the newspaper. Although I write for the online section, there's just something about sitting down to breakfast with the Sunday paper. I pull out the Outdoors section to read Alec's column, and Edward places a plate in front of me before dragging a stool closer to me and sifting through until he finds the Sports section.
We enjoy our breakfast in peace, although I find myself eating around my eggs—they're as appealing as coffee at the moment—and when we're done, he swivels my stool around so my legs are settled between his. Edward leans forward to rub my nose against his.
"What time did we say we'd meet the others?"
"Not until after lunch," I tell him. "Rose and Em are having lunch at his parents' house then heading into the gym later. Laurent's opening."
"We could go early, if you like," Edward asks, rising from his seat and taking my plate. I rest my chin on my hand as he slots the dishes into the dishwasher. "I wouldn't mind getting in a climb first."
Shrugging, I stand up. I'll be relegated to watching, but I know he's been itching to climb all week. Those extra shifts at the hospital made sure that didn't happen though. I can't help but smile at his enthusiasm. "Sure. Let me get myself organized."
I head upstairs to freshen up. After brushing my hair and letting it fall around my shoulders, I grab my sneakers from our closet and throw a wistful look in the direction of my climbing shoes. As pinchingly uncomfortable they are, I really miss them.
"Alice, I love you, but my Five Tens are more comfortable than these."
"You are not wearing your climbing shoes to your wedding." Alice holds my hand as I stand on my feet. I bite back the scowl that comes with the expectation that I need to wear heels *this* high to my own wedding.
"I should have just gotten married on the beach." I sigh dramatically. "Tanya had the right idea." I hitch my dress up a little so I don't trip over it and tentatively walk toward the mirror. I've done as I was told and practiced walking around in these enough that I hopefully shouldn't face-plant as I walk down the aisle, but it doesn't hurt to be cautious.
The girl in the mirror is familiar, but it's like she's been smoothed out. The rough edges have been polished, and hair that's usually pulled back into a neat ponytail has been artfully sculptured and pinned, held in place with a simple waist-length veil. Nestled amongst the curls above her right ear is her grandmother's diamond clip.
I notice in my reflection that my mouth is slightly agape. The dress my mom helped my pick out a few months ago skims my body, sliding over my hips and flaring at the bottom. There's nothing over the top about it—it's simple and makes me feel elegant.
"Wow, Bells." I catch my dad in the reflection, standing just behind me. He looks a little uncomfortable, yet very dapper, in his tuxedo. I smile at him, and my breath catches a little at his expression. When I turn to face him, his mustache twitches, and brown eyes that match mine quickly avert my gaze.
"Dad?" I ask tentatively.
"It's all these damn flowers," he answers gruffly. He pulls a handkerchief out of his pocket and quickly dabs his face. "You know. Allergies."
I feel a prickle behind my own eyes. "Yeah." I sniff. "Damn allergies."
"C'mere." Charlie pulls me into him, hugging me close, and I let myself be enveloped by his warm embrace. The familiar scent of peppermint and the same spicy cologne that he's worn all my life surrounds me, and I breathe it in. My dad murmurs into my hair. "You'll always be my little girl."
I will the tears not to fall. "I know, Dad."
"He's a good man, Bells." He pulls back to hold me at arm's length. It's clear his "allergies" are really giving him hell. So are mine. The mustache hides his smile, but his eyes give him away. "I'm proud of you, and he's a good man. He'll look after you."
If I try to speak, I'll dissolve. I can only nod.]
Edward places a protective arm around me as we hurry to the door of the gym, trying in vain to avoid the steady rain that pelts around us. He gives it a shove, and the warm air, pungent with the smell of rubber and sweat, hits us full force.
It makes my stomach lurch.
I feel prickles on the back of my neck, and I begin to sway.
"Hey, are you okay?" asks Edward, steadying me. "Is it your arm?"
"No." I dab my forehead with the back of my hand. "Just felt woozy for a minute."
"Come on." Edward nods at the familiar face behind the desk. "Buzz us through?"
"Sure." Garrett hits the button, and the gate swings open. "You okay, Bella?"
"Yeah," I tell him. "Just tired. I've been busy lately."
Garrett raises an eyebrow and gives me a grin. "Right."
Flopping onto one of the couches in the lounge area, I grab the Outdoors magazine from the table and settle in to flip through it. After reassuring Edward that I'm fine and will head up to the cave later, I lose myself in an article about ice climbing in Canada.
A little while later, the chatter of a distinctive little girl's voice drifts over to me. A smile teases my lips. "Bella! Hi! How are you? Is your arm sore? I can't believe you had to have an operation. Did you get a cast? Can I draw on it? Does your arm work, or is it like Daddy's now?"
As Bree continues to fire questions at me, I can't help but laugh. I know she doesn't expect me to answer all of them, but I try to pick a couple.
"I'm okay," I assure her. "My arm is okay, I just needed some plates put in. I'll be good as new in no time and be back climbing real soon."
She sighs dramatically. "Phew! I'm gonna go climb now, okay?"
"Edward's upstairs in the cave," I tell her. "I'll be up in a bit."
From my comfy position, I wave to Kate as she follows Bree up the stairs to the mezzanine floor. Before I can pick up my magazine again, Emmett's booming voice sounds through the gym. I swear he practices, just to hear the sound of his own voice echoing in the vast space. "Good afternoon, everybody!"
"Emmett, must you announce your arrival every time?" Rose comes in a few steps behind him with Lily settled on her hip, the little girl balanced around Rose's growing belly. He plants a kiss on both his girls' foreheads before dropping one to his unborn son then sliding in behind the counter to chat with Garrett. Emmett and Rose have a great thing going—they share the responsibilities of raising Lily, and Garrett came on to help manage the gym. Garrett is doing a business course, and the gym is really taking off now that he's on board.
Emmett swears to never let the gym grow into a pretentious multiplex though. Garrett agrees, and I'm happy that as long as these guys are in charge, RockFace will be the second home I've come to know and love.
After settling Lily into the dedicated, fenced-in play area near the couches, Rose plops down next to me. We chat until, soon enough, Jasper and Alice arrive, with Austin tucked up in his carrier. When Edward comes down, Bree latched onto his back, they head over to climb some of the longer routes near where we're sitting. The guys start climbing some of the new routes that have been set in the last few weeks. Over the course of the next half hour, they collect a couple of randoms to the group, which is pretty typical for here—word has traveled in the climbing community that RockFace is a great place to hang out, find some new climbing partners, and make friends.
As Edward tackles the new route, "Payback's a Bitch," I watch his frustration grow. I giggle every time I see them attempt it—the new kid Emmett brought on fixed it a month ago, and Edward still hasn't ticked it.
The new kid is also twenty bucks richer than he was before he set the route, too.
"Are you coming in for a massage this week?" Rose asks, passing a cracker over to Lily. The little girl happily grabs it then wanders off to color with Bree.
"Yeah, I'm booked for Tuesday," I reply. "Something about stopping the scar tissue?"
We continue to catch up, and Alice is still buzzing from the excitement of having Austin and Rose's baby so close in age. I can't help but feel a little left out as the girls all toss around pregnancy stories, but I know Edward and I have only been trying for a little while—since just before I broke my arm. Our time will come.
I excuse myself to use the bathroom—for about the fifteenth time today. As I'm on my way back out to the chill-out area, I nearly get knocked over by a guy. Keeping my head down, I mutter my apologies as I take a few steps away.
The familiar voice causes me to whip my head around. The face looking back at me is rounder than I remember, hard angles replaced by soft, slightly pudgy edges. The hair is thinner, but that same cliche, climbing gym fashion sense remains.
"What are you doing here, Tyler?"
He puffs out his chest, hitching the waistband on his harness higher in a move I'm sure he thinks accentuates his physique. It makes him look like a douche. "I heard this was a cool place to climb. I'm here for a conference this week."
The years haven't been kind to my ex-boyfriend. Looking at him now, I wonder what the hell I ever saw in him. "Okay then." I roll my eyes and walk away. "Seeya."
"Wait." Not getting the hint, he grabs my good arm. I turn and glare at him until he lets go. "How've you been?" He hitches his harness again. He's going to cut something off if he's not careful. "You're looking good."
Stifling the snort that I really want to let out, because he really doesn't, I wave in the vague area of the couches. "I better get back."
"You're not married." He states this as if it's fact and completely understandable. I want to hit him, but I keep my expression neutral. I don't want him to know anything about me—and I have no desire to spell out the depth of my love for Edward to this guy. He doesn't get to know me, and he couldn't possibly fathom what Edward is to me.
"I'm nervous." I fidget, twisting my bouquet in my fingers. It's more a long stem of a couple of flowers than a bouquet—yeah, I learned that lesson from Alice's wedding.
"You'll be fine, sweetie." Rose rests a gentle hand on my arm. She glances at my dad. "Isn't that right, Chief?"
Charlie nods gruffly. "I got ya, kiddo."
Alice pops back through the door. "It's time," she announces cheerily. She gives me a quick hug, and she and Rose straighten each other's dresses. I give them a smile as the sounds of the string quartet drift through the open windows.
"Okay," I tell my dad. "Let's do this."
I grip his arm as we walk down the stairs, through the entry hall, and out onto the porch. The ever-constant threat of rain on the Olympic Peninsula meant that we've brought the ceremony onto the wide porch. It's okay—there aren't too many of us.
My eyes scan across the top of the heads of the people seated. Every person I love is here, and the thought makes my heart swell. When I round the corner, the one I love most of all is waiting for me. The man who was the strongest I knew in my childhood passes my hand to the man who will be my rock forever.
While my heart flies as though it could break its confines and leave my chest, I've never felt more grounded in my life.
I suppose he thinks I didn't hear him, because he looks as though he's going to ask me again. I decide to save him the trouble. "What makes you think I'm not married?"
Tyler looks smug when he glances pointedly at my left hand. "No ring."
A violent burst of giggles simmers in my chest. Seriously, what did I see in this guy?
For starters, I'm in a climbing gym. Wearing rings when climbing pretty much screams degloving injury. And add that to the fact that my left arm is obviously bandaged…
Yep. The guy is completely clueless.
"What happened to Lauren?" I ask bluntly.
He visibly flinches, and his gaze drops to the floor. "She left."
I can't help but be a little ruthless. This guy's a nobody, and the sting has long faded, but I ask anyway. "Where'd she go?"
Tyler shifts his feet—he's no longer trying to puff out his chest. "She…um…left me for our snorkelling instructor."
I'm surprised. No, I'm not. I'm completely unsurprised. "Oh."
"We were on our honeymoon."
This time, I cough to cover the incredulous laugh that I almost bark. I need to get out of here.
"Well," I say, hooking my thumb over my shoulder. "I better go. My friends are…"
"Oh. Oh, cool." He's back to peacocking as he follows me.
Ignoring him, I wander back to the couches and resume my seat beside Rose. She adjusts her position to rub her lower back. "Who's this?"
Stupidly oblivious to Rose's obviously pregnant state, he turns on the charm. He shifts forward, extending his hand for her to shake. "I'm Tyler."
"Tyler?" Rose, already reaching for his outstretched hand, glances at me. I quickly nod, and she suddenly sneezes into her palm. I swear I hear "asshole" slip out. She smiles sweetly, reclining back on the couch and holding up her hand in mock apology. "Sorry."
He hitches his harness. "No problem."
Alice is standing by the couch, cradling Austin as she rocks slowly. "Tyler from Arizona?"
"Yeah, Bella and I went to college in Arizona." Harness hitch. "But I live in California now. I moved there with my wi—I mean…for my job."
Kate tilts her head toward mine, tucking her head into her shoulder. She almost looks like a bird taking a nap. "Who's Tyler?"
"Ex," I reply simply. Her eyes widen, and I know she knows who he is because she crosses her arms across her chest and glares at him.
Normally chatty Alice is quiet, but Rose opens her mouth to speak. She's interrupted by Emmett's arrival.
"Hey, girls." He walks over to the playpen, leaning over to lift Lily onto his shoulders. She squeals in delight. "What's happening?" His attention shifts to Tyler, who's still standing with his hands on hips. Next to Emmett, Tyler looks weedy—well, as weedy as one can look with a potbelly. "I'm Emmett." He extends his hand, his dimples in place.
"Tyler." His grip is dwarfed in Emmett's, but he puts all his strength into the handshake in what seems like a crazy, pointless pissing contest. Again, what was I thinking? "I'm a friend of Bella's."
At this, my jaw drops and I see Rose grip the arm of the couch tighter. Kate snorts, and Alice maintains her steely gaze. She's normally very chatty, but she still hasn't said a word.
Emmett, however, is oblivious, and he continues talking. "So, you're here to climb?"
"Yeah," he says, shifting his weight. "I heard I could climb here if I didn't have a partner."
Nobody says anything. I'm kinda hoping he'll get the message and leave. He doesn't. I'm not expecting to hear what comes next.
"I'll belay for you."
I turn wide-eyed, where Rose is trying to push herself up from the low couch. Tyler looks equally as stunned.
"Rosie?" Emmett's voice shows his concern. "Ah, you shouldn—"
"I'll do it!" Alice, finally having found her voice, is holding Austin out to Kate. "Here, hold the baby!"
"No, I'll belay for you." Kate holds her hand out. "Let me get my har—"
"It's fine!" Rose's voice is now rising in pitch—a trait I've come to know accompanies fury. She successfully gets herself up from the couch, waddling a little to steady her feet. "I said I'll happily do it!" The words practically drip in oozy, sarcastic strings from her mouth. Yep, she's pissed all right.
"Whoa, ladies. Not all at once!" Tyler is completely oblivious to the fact that these women would probably rather see him plummet to earth rather than catch him if he fell. "You can take turns."
I can't help it—this cracks me the hell up. Rose is obviously very pregnant, Alice is holding a very young baby, and Kate has been alternating between talking to her daughter and making eyes at the guy behind the counter—her husband.
And still, Tyler is completely clueless. He seriously thinks they want him.
I laugh harder.
"Baby?" My husband's familiar voice comes from behind me, and two strong hands are placed on my shoulder. His breath is warm on my cheek. "Everything all right?" He easily leaps the couch and sits beside me, taking up the space that Rose vacated.
My arms are wrapped around my stomach, and tears are beginning to stream down my cheeks. When I open my eyes to see Rose trying to wrench a harness over her legs, the more hysterical my giggles become.
"Rose…belay…him!" I fight to get the words out between gasps. I'm making no sense at all, and I find it even funnier. I need to stop laughing—I'm beginning to feel ill. When I look at Alice, she's shrieking for Jasper, holding Austin in his direction. Kate, having clearly declined Alice's request, is over by the counter, begging Garrett to loan her a harness.
"What's going on?" Edward asks, taking in the mania unfolding in front of him. I begin wheezing, desperately trying to get my laughter under control. The sight of a smug-looking Tyler, cockily standing feet apart, his belly bulging unattractively over his harness and the light bouncing off the sweat sheen through his receding hairline, is almost my undoing.
"He…" I point at him "…wants someone to belay him. And they…" I wave in the general direction of my friends "…are all dying to do it." I take a deep breath and wipe my eyes. "But I'm pretty sure if they do, they'll let him crater anyway!" The visual, as inappropriate as it is, makes me start to giggle again. With the size that Tyler is now—particularly around the middle—he'd surely leave a hell of a crater if he fell.
Edward places an arm around my shoulders and loops his fingers under my shirt, finding the chain that holds my rings. As he absently plays with the chain, he looks up at Tyler. "Who are you?"
Tyler, eyeing the way Edward is cuddled against me, doesn't extend his hand. "I'm Tyler."
"Fuck that," I hear my husband mutter. Then his voice grows louder, "I'm Edward—Bella's husband. And I'll belay for you."
My ex's eyes become as round as saucers for a moment, and when he looks at me, I know he's figured out that all of my friends know what happened between us. When Edward stands up to face him, he takes in the sight of my tall, strong, fit husband, and he blanches. He glances at his wrist, checking the time on a watch that isn't there, and I know that look—I've climbed with him enough times. He knows he's beaten, and he's going to bail.
"Actually, I have to get back to the hotel. You know…things…um…nice seeing you, Bella."
My husband sits back down next to me, and my eyes are only for him. I lift my non-injured hand in a wave that is more of a dismissal than a farewell, and I gaze into the deep green eyes of my love. He looks at me just the same, and everything slots into place—it all makes sense. I feel it right through my body that this is the beginning of something big. As our friends laugh and boisterously debrief the madness that just occurred, I take his hand in mine and rest it across my middle.
"Wait!" I hear our suitcases drop and Edward's feet crunch on the gravel of the drive as he runs to wraps his arms around me, right as I'm about to set my foot on the first stair. "Let me do this right!"
I can't help but squeal as my feet are swept from under me as he scoops me up. It's accurate, because this time three weeks ago, that's what I was. I giggle as the movement brings back a memory. "You've done this before," I tell him. "The night I sprained my ankle at the gym."
"And a few times since then," he reminds me, cradling me close and stepping up the four steps to the porch.
"Hmm…" From where I am, I'm in the perfect position to press a kiss under his jaw. "By memory, the position is usually different."
"Mrs. Cullen," he says, his tone low. "Are you teasing me?"
"Teasing would imply I don't intend on following though."
He chuckles and regrips, easily shifting me so he can reach out to turn the key in the lock. Cracking the door, he kicks it open the rest of the way. His face is lit by the porch light. "Are you ready?" Edward stares at me intently. "Are you ready for rest of our life together?"
I smile at him. "I can't wait to start."
Taking a confident step forward, my husband carries me over the threshold.
"What is it?" Edward asks. I watch his lips and then watch them curve when I tell him what I just figured out. The tiredness, the late-night bathroom trips, the sensitivity to smell, the nausea—it all makes sense.
"I think I'm pregnant."
The sound of a babbling through the monitor wakes me. At least, I'm pretty sure I'm awake.
"He's asking for you." I poke my husband in the side then roll back over. I feel like I only just fell asleep.
"He's not." Edward's voice is muffled as his face is pressed into the pillow. "He just says da-da-da because it's the only thing he knows how to say."
I sigh deeply. "That's not what you were telling me last week." I smile at the memory—Edward offered to buy Anthony his own climbing rack if he said daddy first. Our son is ten months old. "At least he's happy when he wakes." I give Edward another nudge. "Not like somebody else I know."
Edward rolls over me, brushing my hair back from my face and kissing my neck. "I was up late last night." I moan a little as his mouth moves down my throat. "You kept me awake."
I let my eyes fall closed at the memory. Edward's mouth on me. His fingers inside me. His hands, cradling me, as his hips hit mine over and over and over…
"You weren't complaining," I tell him, as his hands slide under my shirt. His kisses move to my belly, and I feel myself start to heat. As much as he turns me on, the sound of my son's cheerful chatter is too much to ignore. The next sound kills my buzz completely.
"Mommy? Is Daddy playing hide and seek?"
I feel my cheeks heat as Edward chuckles. I pull at him to bring him up to a more G-rated level.
At least, a different G-rating to the one he found last night.
"No, darling," I tell my daughter. "He's just being silly." I straighten my shirt as Edward adjusts himself under the covers. I smirk at him. At least the evidence of my own excitement is hidden from our almost three year old's curious eyes. I pull the covers back on my side so she can climb in.
"Good morning, my green-eyed Gabby." Edward's voice holds the warmth it always does when he speaks to our daughter. It was there the moment he first held her in his arms, and it's been there ever since. Gabrielle has him completely wrapped around her little finger.
She crawls over me to hug him tightly. I leave them cuddled up, with her reminding him that it's her birthday in a week and that she'd like pink balloons and a cake.
When I step into the room that has Anthony emblazoned on the door in cheerful-colored letters, I find my son in his crib, lying on his back, kicking happily, and inspecting his own fingers. When his big brown eyes lock on mine, he breaks into one of his delicious, whole-face-encompassing smile. I pick him up, cooing and smelling his sweet scent. When I arrive back at our bedroom, my boy cradled close to me, I catch my daughter asking Edward to again tell her favorite story.
"Once upon a time, there was a sad, grumpy man." Gabby giggles. "The grumpy man was very lonely and spent his time doing things that filled in his life. One day, he went to visit his friends—they used to tolerate him because they knew him before he was grumpy."
I smile as I watch Edward's fingers interlaced with our daughter's. They share the same eyes and the same hands—a feature I love on them both.
"Why was he so grumpy, Daddy?" asks Gabby, her expression curious, although she's heard this story so many times.
"Ah," Edward replies, his tone conspiratorial. "Because he hadn't yet met her."
"Ooh," Gabby says in a hushed voice. "Was she a princess?"
Edward chuckles. "No," he tells her. He gazes at me, and I smile as I hold Anthony close. "But she didn't need to be. She was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen."
"Daddy?" Gabby tilts her head to look at her father. My heart beats purely for the people on this bed. "Did they live happily ever after?"
Edward's eyes never leave mine. "Baby," he tells her. "He was happy for every day after he met her. And the best part?" He presses a kiss to the top of her head. "She made him live."
A/N: And they all lived happily ever after :) Thank you for reading. Come find me on twitter and Facebook. There's a link to my group, MagTwi78's Words, on my profile.
2 April 2013: Yosemite Decimal has been nominated for the Top 10 Completed Fics for March. Hit me up with a vote? Kill the spaces:
twifanfictionrecs com/ 2013/ 04/ 01/ vote-for-your-top-ten-completed-fics-march-2013/
Gabby: A young female climber who shows great potential in climbing