A/N: Hello everybody! Here we go.
Emma's whimpering stirred Edward out of an otherwise deep sleep. Groggy, he blinked, trying to come back to his senses.
Something was different. His body was more lethargic, more... sticky.
Edward shifted, suddenly remembering the night before.
Sure enough, Bella was there beside him. It wasn't such a rare occurrence, of course, but this was the first time he had woken up naked.
And she was naked.
Impatient, Emma began to cry a little louder, snapping her father out of that line of thought. Quickly, Edward scrambled out of bed, pulling on his boxers as he did. He stumbled over to the crib, lifting his red-faced little girl up.
He went about the business of getting her changed and settled. Mostly, she seemed to just want company, so he brought her back to bed. Cupping her baby butt in his hand, he leaned against the headboard.
If the baby's squawking had bothered Bella at all, she didn't show it. She was still fast asleep on her belly, her arms gripping her pillow to her.
Patting their daughter's back gently, Edward looked down at Bella. It felt wrong to be so wildly turned on while he was holding the baby, but how could he help it? There was something so intensely erotic about the way Bella looked just then. Her bare shoulders peeked above the blankets. The hectic, mused way her hair fell reminded him of the night before - how he'd threaded his fingers into her tresses as he moved inside her.
The night before he left, Edward's father had pulled him aside.
"I'm not assuming," he'd prefaced the discussion. "I'm not even asking. I just want to make sure you understand something.
"You're a father. You'll be a father the rest of your life; there's nothing and no one that could take that away - not even me, obviously. But you've still got your whole life ahead of you." His expression had been open, sincere as he spoke. "Just because you have a baby with Bella doesn't mean you have to be with her forever."
Edward had looked right in his father's eyes and only said, "I'm in love with her."
Ed had studied his son for a long moment before he nodded. "I'm taking your mother away for our anniversary. We'll be back Monday." He pointed at his son. "I expect you to be responsible."
And to that end, Edward had awaken to find a pack of condoms on his nightstand - no doubt a parting lecture from his parents. Even though Bella was on birth control, they'd both preferred to be safer than sorry, so the gift had been put to good use.
He nuzzled Emma's soft skin, breathing in her baby scent. In the two months since her birth, this was the happiest he'd been. Actually, he was pretty blissed out.
When Emma fell asleep again, Edward yawned, sleepily ambling back over to her crib. There was still time yet to sleep before they had to get up for school.
But when he climbed back into bed, he was surprised to find Bella's eyes open and intent on him.
"Hey," he whispered.
"Hi." The word was soft, shy.
His hand curled around to the back of her neck, his thumb stroking her cheek. Slowly, she shifted, and he gathered her to him, relishing the feel of her body, her silky skin. He kissed her softly, but when she scooted forward again, he broke the kiss, edging away from her.
For a moment, she looked confused, uncertain, but he saw realization dawn on her face as she figured out his problem had nothing and everything to do with her.
There was a beautiful, naked girl in his arms, and he was a teenage boy. He'd had every intention of ignoring his problem, but apparently, Bella had other ideas. He heard the way her breath stuttered, but her hand was steady as she drew her fingers down his chest.
"Bella..." he breathed her name, groaning when her fingers explored the tangle of curls above his hard length.
"Do you know what I think?" she asked quietly, kissing his chin, his cheeks as she continued to move her hands.
"Um." Edward was having trouble concentrating. "I... What?"
"I think we should take Emma to Mrs. Weber." She kissed his lips. "And then I think we should call in sick to school."
With her fingers wrapped around his cock, he was likely to agree to anything. "That's... Hell. That's very irresponsible."
She laughed, running her foot along his leg. "You know, almost everyone in this town - your parents, mine - have accused us of being irresponsible. And we haven't been. Not really. Not even once. We get to do one stupid thing, don't we?" She kissed the underside of his chin. "When do you think we're going to be alone again?"
With a groan, he put his mouth to hers, kissing her hungrily as he moved his hands along the lines of her back.
Their hands were still unstudied, clumsy. Bella seemed curious when she touched him, exploring the ways his body was different from hers. He wanted to memorize the curves of her body, the places where she was soft and hot. It was as wonderful as he'd ever imagined; better yet because it was Bella with him. That he was able to elicit the most beguiling little noises from her with his caress would never cease to amaze him.
She stroked him and kissed him and only looked pleased when he came in her hand. He found his shirt and wiped her clean before he gathered her close again, stealing another hour of sleep before they had to be up.
After they'd dropped Emma off, Edward and Bella did indeed return home. Their first order of business, knowing they would not be interrupted by their daughter's needs, was to sleep the rest of the morning away tangled in a warm embrace.
They woke shortly after noon, but neither of them were in any hurry to leave her bed.
Bella yawned, readjusting her head on his chest, smiling at the feel of his fingers gently untangling the snarls in her hair. "It feels weird to be here without Emma," she observed.
He huffed. "Yeah." He drew her hair back over her ear. "It feels weird to be here alone."
"It's nice." She remembered when Elizabeth had brought over that man - Aro - and how she seemed to think they were just playing house. Today, that sentiment might carry a little more weight, she mused inwardly.
Today, alone and cuddling with the father of her child, whom she'd had sex with the night before, Bella didn't feel like a seventeen-year-old girl. Or rather, she felt like this wasn't a moment from her real life, but a stolen moment from some future date.
Then again, when she stopped to consider she was someone's mother, she frequently felt displaced in time. She was all grown up and yet she was still a child. That was why there was a clandestine feel to moments like these.
She'd had sex with her boyfriend under his parents' roof. They were parents themselves, and yet that fact still felt taboo.
"What are you thinking about?" Edward asked, tracing the line of her skull behind her ear. It tickled, but it felt good, and Bella revelled in the touch.
"The future," she said cryptically, not knowing if she could articulate her mood any further than that. If her future could look like this, feel like this, it might be easier to breathe through the really difficult moments.
Edward didn't reply immediately, but his fingers didn't still. When he finally spoke again, there was something distinctly fragile about his tone. "Do you think we're going to make it?"
Now it was Bella's turn to be silent. Her heart gave a painful seize, and she moved her hand to splay over his chest. For a three count, she held her breath and then pushed up onto her arm so she could look at him.
"I asked my mother the other day... You know, now that James is being so ugly with her, trying to stop her from breaking them up, did she regret being with him. She told me she regretted letting him hurt me, but as for her own personal life, she could never regret their relationship anymore than she regretted being with my father.
"She told me time will change me as surely as it changes everyone. She believes people can be together forever, but it takes equal amounts of hard work and luck, and she doesn't think it's a shame when things end because that's the nature of life. Holding on to things that should rightfully end is a lot uglier than conceding the beautiful thing you had isn't working anymore."
Bella stopped, knowing she was babbling. Life was a conundrum, and she was beginning to truly understand no one had all the answers. She wanted to be completely, absolutely sure she and Edward would be together for the rest of their lives - and that they would be the better for it - but no one could make that guarantee.
Sighing, she laid her head back down on his shoulder and kissed his neck. "I think, right now my life is beautiful. It's hard, but it's beautiful, and you're my favorite part."
He cupped her face, tilting her head up so he could kiss her. It was a slow, serious kiss. A promise. As she kissed him back, Bella had a desperate thought. She wished she could freeze them just as they were in that moment: when she was so in love with him and at peace with being a mother. She didn't want this feeling inside her to change.
But it would. It would evolve and grow as she grew up, as life shaped and molded her. And knowing it was inevitable, Bella relaxed and let that worry go. They'd already proved they could take challenges as they came. Every time, they'd emerged stronger as people and closer as a couple.
She would just have to promise to do her hardest to ensure that trend would continue. As aware as she was that raising Emma wasn't a game, she was equally aware that this relationship needed and deserved her attention too.
As exhausted as she sometimes was trying to keep up with everything - with Emma, work, school, and life in general - every sweet moment made the work well worth it. She thought of her friends, her classmates with blissfully uncomplicated lives and found she wasn't envious. Yes, she knew a greater hardship, but she tended to think her appreciation for what she had was more profound. She wasn't the only seventeen-year-old girl in town with a boyfriend, but she doubted any of the others could share such a deep connection when the worst of what they'd been through as a couple was maybe a fight over one of them flirting with someone else.
Edward pulled back a little and began to pepper little kisses about her face until Bella was giggling with the flutter of his lips against her neck. He rolled them so he was towering above her, looking down. His expression was so adoring, his smile so wide it warmed her from head to toe.
"I'm going to take a shower," he declared, rolling over and into a sitting position. There was an impish look on his face, though his eyes betrayed a hint of nerves as he offered his hand to her. "And I think you should join me."
Despite all they had already done, Bella blushed scarlet. Lust closed her throat, but she put her hand in his and let him pull her into the bathroom.
Back at school on Monday, Edward had a permanent smile on his face. A shit eating grin, his father would have called it.
It had been a good weekend.
He imagined if they weren't parents who had to take care of a two-month-old infant - besides being a built in distraction, Emma seeped their energy - they likely wouldn't have left the bed. Edward wasn't complaining. The intimate moments they'd managed were enough to have him smiling the rest of the week.
Every moment of self doubt was quieted at least for the time being. It was nice to glimpse the future, to relax with Bella in his arms, to play with their daughter together. Being with Bella physically felt like an act of love rather than an act of lust. It felt right, and it felt like something he wanted for the rest of his life.
Edward was drawn from his reverie when a small body barrelled into him. He whirled to find Lauren, her face furious and tear-streaked, glaring at him.
"You're a complete piece of shit, you know that?" She shoved him. "Fuck you!" She shoved him hard enough he winced when his back hit the lockers behind him. "Fuck. You."
Before she could shove him again, Edward grabbed her arms. She struggled, twisting in his hold, He was careful with her, not letting her go but not wanting to hurt her as he dragged her around the corner, into an empty classroom.
"What the fuck is your problem?" he demanded, pushing her away from him.
Lauren dragged in a long breath, her features pinched. It took Edward a few stunned moments to realize she was sobbing. "You told him. How could you tell him?"
"Told who what? You're not making any sense."
"You told Tyler." She smacked his chest. "No one else knew. Only you. So how did he find out."
Despite his anger at the girl, Edward's heart ached as he understood what she was talking about. "What did he do?" he asked softly.
Lauren suddenly sagged, and Edward put his arms around her instinctually. She sobbed into his chest. At first, he couldn't understand what she was saying, her voice was overrun with tears.
Finally, though, he was able to understand what she was babbling. "He yelled at me in front of my family. They all know. All of them. My life is ruined." Backing up, she shoved him again. "How could you do this to me?"
Sighing, he sat at an empty desk. "After all this time, why would you think I would tell him anything?"
"You're the only one who knew," she spat again. "And I..."
She trailed off, her expression grudgingly guilty.
"And you hurt Bella. For no reason," he filled in.
"You humiliated me," she growled. "You-"
He banged his hand on the desk. "All we did was have a baby. It didn't destroy your life; it destroyed ours."
Instantly, his daughter's face in his mind, he felt guilty. But it was true. His life was unrecognizable, hewas unrecognizable, from where he'd been only two short months ago.
He took a deep breath, steadying himself. "I didn't tell Tyler," he repeated. "I love my daughter. I wouldn't give her up for anything, but I know how you feel. And it sucks. It really sucks."
"This isn't the same. I didn't do anything wrong. I wasn't an idiot like you and her."
"You don't think it was a prick thing to do to let Tyler believe you could love him when you knew damn well you never could?" he challenged. "You think it wasn't idiotic to believe that could end well?" He shook his head. "At least with me, you were honest."
"And look where that got me." She sounded so defeated. "This sucks. Everything is just so fucked up."
Edward felt bad for her, but her histrionics were making him tired. He took a moment to appreciate his luck. Some part of him was aware it only would have taken a twist of fate for him to be in this boat with someone else. Yes, his life had been blown to pieces by his daughter's birth, but being irrevocably tied to Bella was far preferable than if he'd made this mistake with someone else. They were working together to reassemble their future, fitting the shambles of their broken lives into something not only workable but good. He was fairly certain the possibility of true happiness would have looked impossible if this had happened to him and a girl like Lauren.
"Your life isn't over," he said to his former friend. "It's just different than you wanted it to be. That doesn't have to be a bad thing."
"Oh, shut up," she hissed. "You don't get to pretend you know everything just because you have a kid."
"And you don't get to blame me for everything that goes wrong for you."
"This is all your fault! Yours and your whore."
Edward felt his anger flare, and he had to breathe deep. "Do you feel better? Has tossing around that word changed your life in any way?" He got up, shouldering his backpack as he headed for the door. "Good luck with everything, Lauren."
"That's it? That's all you have to say."
He looked her right in the eye. "Yeah. Pretty much," he said and walked out the door without a second glance.
When Edward got home from work, his parents were already back from their mini-vacation. He took a few minutes to talk to them. They'd had a good time and were glad the house hadn't been left in shambles.
"It looks like you've been responsible, Junior," his father said, leaning on the world responsible.
Edward laughed, hoping the sound wasn't as nervous as he felt. An irrational, paranoid fantasy played out in his head, and he momentarily wondered if his parents had put a camera in Bella's room. For a handful of tense seconds, he thought they knew exactly what he and Bella had been up to all weekend.
"Well, you know..." he stumbled, inwardly chastising himself for being so ridiculous. "I was going to have a kicking kegger, but then the baby woke up."
His father smirked and his mother ruffled his hair.
Before he could let his nerves get the better of him, Edward headed upstairs.
Outside Bella's room, he leaned against the door jamb, content to watch. So often he'd walked in to find Bella looking frustrated, frightened, or just plain tired. Right then, she was smiling, her face awash in devotion, amusement, and adoration as she grinned at her baby. She had Emma on her back on the bed and was pulling her up by her increasingly chubbier little hands in an approximation of baby sit-ups. Emma was working her lips around her miniature tongue, her eyes wide and bright.
When he shifted, the floorboards creaked, drawing Bella's attention. "Hey," she said.
"Hey, beautiful," he said softly.
Kneeling on her bed, he kissed her softly. Emma gave a loud cry, her little hands flailing in the air.
"She's happy you're home," Bella said with a smile.
"Yeah." Edward picked the baby up, cuddling her close and pressing a dainty kiss on her tiny nose. "Me too."
A/N: Sooooo being on my team is sometimes a very thankless task. Really. Huge thanks to jessypt, barburella, jfka06, and ginnyw for managing my freak out.
And thanks to all of you for your continuous support. Mwah. Kisses and hugs all around.