A/N: So this was originally supposed to be a oneshot, and then kept going and going. And then, as I was sitting here trying to figure out how I was going to wrap things up for these two, I turned to my music for inspiration again. And it did not fail me, so I hope, even though it does bring forth my inner dork a little bit (of which I am not ashamed lol). Another one of my favorite songs from when I was much, much younger came up on my neverending playlist, and I got all misty eyed as it instantly clicked in my mind with this Edward and Bella. It's called "She Believes in Me" by Kenny Rogers. Hope you all enjoy the conclusion to their story.
And she believes in me
I'll never know just what she sees in me
I told her someday, if she was my girl
I could change the world
With my little songs
I was wrong
It took me longer to find work than I'd hoped and we ended up requiring all of Bella's savings from her job to get a small, two-bedroom apartment for the three of us. I felt horrible; I'd promised her better than that, and once again, I'd let her down, though she insisted that I hadn't.
"We'll be fine. Don't worry so much," she told me repeatedly each night we settled into bed together after another day of fruitless interviews. "Something will come along."
Bella's faith in me and us was limitless, and she also proved to be right, though not in the way I'd thought.
I ran into a few buddies of mine that I used to jam with back in high school while out job hunting one day. They congratulated me on my son's birth and said they were also looking for a singer for the band they'd formed. I told them I'd have to talk to Bella, as I had a family to consider and still needed to find reliable employment as well.
I lay beside Bella that night, my mind racing while she slept soundly. I rose and quietly made my way out of the room, closing the door and heading for the kitchen. When I sat down with a bowl of cereal, my guitar in the corner stared back at me as it always did with my frequent restless nights lately.
The entire apartment was silent, and yet my mind was anything but quiet. Lyrics and melodies filled my thoughts no matter how much I attempted to tame them down, until I finally set the empty bowl in the sink and extracted the instrument from its case, as well as the notebook I had stashed away in there. I sat down and rested my old familiar friend in my lap, flipping through the pages on the table until I came to the one I'd left off on the night before.
Gliding my hand reverently along the neck, I brushed my thumb lightly over the strings and smiled at the sound. My eyes moved to notebook beneath me, getting a feel for the tune again as I started to play and softly hummed along where I had yet to place words.
I missed music, but I loved Bella and my son more than anything in the world, so I had taken to doing this; sitting up late at night and writing my songs. Sometimes the sun would be rising before I even made it back to bed, but I didn't want to do it during the day. I feared that the happiness I found in my music would come across wrong to Bella, and she'd feel guilty when she had no reason to. I didn't regret coming back to her and Edward. They meant everything to me and both made me so damn happy, and I would gladly make the same decision to give up my music all over again. And I'd all but done just that when I felt soft hands resting on the bare skin of my shoulders, startling me into looking up to find Bella standing right behind me.
"Do it," she said softly and I set my guitar on the floor, turning in my seat and resting my hands on her hips. "You know you have to do it."
"Do what, baby?" I asked, pulling her closer to stand between my legs.
"This is a small town, Edward. There are no such things as secrets. I know the guys asked you to join the band," she replied, running her fingers through my hair. "I was waiting all night for you to tell me."
I rested my forehead against her stomach and closed my eyes. "I wasn't hiding it from you, Bella. I'm just really not sure I even want to. It will mean a lot of late nights. Less time with you and the baby. Between rehearsals and nights at the club, I don't know how much I would be able to be here to help you. What kind of father would I be if, once again, I'm never here? And it would be even longer before we can get married. I just don't see what good could come of it," I said, running my hands along her sides.
"It'll make you happy to be involved with music again. Otherwise, you would have simply told them no and we wouldn't be having this conversation," she answered and I lifted my head, giving her the opportunity to sit down on my leg. "And you wouldn't be in here night after night with your guitar when you think I'm asleep."
I sighed and settled my head on her shoulder, wrapping my arms around her waist. "I'm sorry. I didn't intend to wake you. And it doesn't mean anything, just can't sleep."
"Don't be sorry. This is what's inside you and it's beautiful. Even more so when you're playing it for our son, and we shouldn't be the only ones to hear it. It means a lot to you," she whispered, pressing her lips to my hair and hugging me. "And I know we mean just as much to you. You'll regret it if you don't say yes, and it's not like you're going anywhere this time. Both of us will still have time with you. We can make this work. What is there to think about?"
"Money. Getting married. Being there for my family in every way. What is there not to think about?" I asked, bringing my gaze to hers. "I want the life I promised you, Bella."
"Edward, there is nothing wrong with the life we have. I love my life with you. Nothing could change that. I don't need a ring and a piece of paper to make me your wife. As far as I'm concerned, I am your wife, in every way that really matters, with or without your last name. If you want to make it legal, if it's really that important to you, we can go to City Hall for that," Bella said emphatically, lowering to the floor and kneeling between my legs with her hands grasping mine. "But this is a chance to do something you love and stay here with me and Edward. And I have to admit, I'm kinda looking forward to dropping our son off at his grandparents one night to go catch one of my man's gigs and see him perform again. Because you're going to do this."
"Wow, bossy much?" I teased, lifting one of her hands to brush my lips against her knuckles. "Why do you still believe in me so much?"
"You give me a lot to believe in. And because I love you," Bella replied, rising up to kiss me gently and then standing. "Don't be afraid to wake me up when you come back to bed."
"I love you, Bella," I replied as she began walking away and she smiled back at me before continuing down the hall to our bedroom.
Damn, that is one amazing woman.
The next day, I made the call and it really turned out to be the best decision, for all of us. Bella was my rock through the whole damn thing, and I figured out why nothing had gone my way before. I was doing it all to prove myself; to my parents, my friends, and even to myself. I had lost my passion and my drive, forgetting that I was in it because I simply loved music that much. She had opened my eyes again to that, and seeing her face staring back at me when she did exactly what she said she would do and came out to see me perform, I knew I'd found it again.
It was a bumpy road, with a lot of ups and our fair share of downs, but none of us were expecting huge recording contracts or a ton of money. We all had girlfriends or wives, and all but one of us had kids as well. So when a local studio picked us up for a three album deal, we were actually relieved. We'd still be able to record and play our music locally, a few of my own songs included in there, and also stay home with our families.
It really was the best of both worlds.
By the time my son was four, he began showing an interest in my guitar. I'd play for Edward in our living room and he would dance for a bit, and then he would come over to me and attempt to imitate my hand's movements as I strummed along the strings. His little face lit up when I came home one evening with a miniature one that looked almost identical to mine.
"Daddy, I wanna play!" he exclaimed excitedly and ran with it into the kitchen, taking a seat beside my guitar still set there.
"Great, another musician in the making," Bella said from the sink, glancing over her shoulder at me with a smile and a teasing wink.
I chuckled as she tried to sound annoyed, but her eyes told an entirely different story as she gazed at us sitting on the floor together with our instruments. Edward tried to mimic my hands with a look of intense concentration on his face, but in the end, he simply strummed the strings along with me.
It was in moments like that, that I took stock of my life and how good I actually had it. A simple smile from my son was enough to brighten my worst day, and I cherished him more than life itself. I had a woman who loved me unconditionally through both success and failure. Between the two of us, we made a decent living and we were comfortable; only one thing was still missing.
I wanted to marry Bella, and not in some civil service at City Hall. The cake, the flowers, the long white gown, the whole nine yards—after I'd given her the ring she deserved. She insisted that it wasn't necessary, but I respectfully disagreed. Bella had stood by my side and supported me every step of the way over the past four years, never giving up on me and always in my corner. Raising my son with and without me present, while also holding a full time job. She deserved more than I could ever give her; the least I could do was give her a wedding where it was all about her for once, and she could be walked down the aisle on her father's arm.
"Edward, you know she'll hate that, but would never have the heart to tell you," Chief Swan told me as I showed him a picture of the ring I'd wanted to buy for Bella, after I'd done exactly what I'd promised him years earlier—I'd come to his door and asked for his blessing to marry Bella.
"Bella would be happy with a simple wedding ring and a justice of the peace, too," I groaned, leaning back in my chair and dragging my hands through my hair.
"It'll fall out, Daddy. Then you'll be bald," my son said informatively from his seat on the kitchen floor, and both his grandfather and I looked over at him. "What? Mommy said so!"
Chief Swan visibly fought against laughter and masked it with a cough, excusing himself from the room and telling us he'd be right back.
"Well, Mommy is very, very wrong, but don't tell her I said that. It'll be our secret," I told Edward as he climbed up into my lap.
"Okay. Daddy? Why aren't you married to Mommy now?" he asked inquisitively, gazing at me in curiosity. "You're not my real daddy?"
My brow shot up and my eyes met Chief Swan's as he was just entering the room again, and then brought them back to my little boy. I shifted him up to kneel on my lap, to bring him face to face with me and locked my arms around his body to support him there. "Of course, I'm your real daddy. Buddy, what would make you think that I wasn't?"
Edward shrugged and looked down, but I felt his little fingers toying with the collar of my shirt behind me. "Stuff."
"What stuff?" I asked gently, but his chin lowered more to his chest.
"Stuff I heard."
"Heard from who?"
He rested his head on my shoulder and his hold around my neck tightened. "People."
I sighed and hugged him close to me, gazing at Bella's father, who looked just as helpless as I felt. It was the worst agony I had ever experienced in my entire life, watching my son cry due to the cruelty of the world we lived in. Even children weren't safe from the malice of some, but I refused to allow them to hurt my child that way and do nothing about it. I lifted him with me as I stood, gesturing my head toward the stairs in silent communication with Chief Swan, and carrying Edward to the bathroom at the top. "I want you to look at something, kiddo."
Edward sniffled and lifted his head, his teary gaze meeting mine. "What?"
"Look in the mirror. What color are your eyes?"
"Dad. I know, they're green," Edward groaned, his body slumping against me as I shifted him onto my hip.
"Mommy doesn't have green eyes, right?" I asked and he shook his head, and murmuring that I did. "And does Mommy have this color hair? Or these lips?"
My son looked between me and the mirror repeatedly, chewing the inside of his cheek as his eyebrows pulled together as he inspected me thoroughly, while I pointed out some of our similarities. I'd always seen quite a bit of Bella in him in very subtle ways, but my traits were still very dominant within our son, and at that moment, I was extremely thankful. "No. But I got Mommy's nose."
"Thank goodness," I replied, tickling his side and he finally cracked a small smile. "And if all that isn't enough, look at this."
Edward tilted his head when I lowered us to the floor, still watching me intently as I settled him on his feet and began tugging up my pant leg. He mimicked the action upon my request and then his eyes shot back and forth between our legs. "You got knees just like me!"
When our son was still a baby, I had lamented to Bella that the poor kid had been cursed with my long skinny legs, completely with the knobby knees. I had avoided wearing shorts whenever possible throughout my childhood and much of my adult life because of them, but they were a very distinctive mark my son had inherited from me. And they only became more defined over the nearly five years of his life.
"Yes, just like yours. But even without all that, I am still your daddy, Edward," I said, lowering my pant leg and kneeling in front of him with my hands rested on either side of his waist. "Because I love you more than anything in this whole world, and that's what really matters. Not my eyes, or lips, or knees. Or even ears."
Edward giggled as I tugged gently on his earlobe and stepped closer, wrapping his arms around my neck. "Or your name?"
I kissed his hair as I hugged him back, his face settled on my shoulder. "Not even my name. There's nothing that could make me any more your daddy than I already am. Someday, you'll understand that."
"It's okay. I understand now," he replied, lifting his head and placing his hands on either side of my face. "I love you, Daddy."
I smiled as he pursed his lips and gave me a kiss, reveling in that moment for a second as he raced from the room and down the stairs, loudly announcing to his grandfather that he 'had his daddy's knees!'
I was all too aware that those moments would be few and far between very shortly. As much as I knew my son loved me, he would be starting kindergarten in just over three months, and his mother and I wouldn't quite be the center of his universe as we had been. Even preschool hadn't been the same as the journey he was about to embark upon, and in the solitude of that bathroom, my chest began to physically ache at that thought.
"Welcome to fatherhood. Officially," Chief Swan's voice caught me by surprise from the doorway, and I looked back to catch the knowing look in his eye. Then he held his hand out to me, with a small blue velvet box between his fingers. "Give her this. It was her Grandma Swan's."
With one last smile, he turned to head back downstairs and I looked down to the object I'd taken from him. The hinge creaked loudly with age, but inside was a petite, extremely delicate diamond ring that still glimmered in the soft light of the room. Part of me still wanted to give her something extravagant for all the patience and understanding she'd given me, especially over the last five years. Yet, more of me knew that Charlie was right; regardless of what I felt she deserved or the fact that she'd never admit it, she would have hated it. And something she would wear for the rest of her life should at least be something she wanted, and that ring was very important. I knew damn well that she would prefer a family heirloom with meaning over some expensive catalog ring, and I was proven right.
I'd never really been one for grand gestures, but I had wanted to make the proposal to Bella special. Our son, on the other hand, had his own plan.
"Hey, how was your visit with Grampa?" Bella asked him when we walked in the door that evening and he bounded for her, wrapping his arms tightly around her waist.
"Good! Look, Grampa got me a new Transformer! It's Bumblebee! I love Bumblebee! And Mommy, guess what! I got Daddy's knees!" Edward began rambling excitedly and I watched as Bella attempted not to laugh at the speed of his voice, composing herself just as he looked up to her. "And Grampa gave Daddy a ring!"
I hurried up behind him and gently clamped my hand over his mouth, but I wasn't quite fast enough. My eyes closed with a sigh before I glanced down at him, and he tilted his head back into my hip with remorseful eyes and mumbled "Sorry, Daddy" against the palm of my hand.
"A ring, huh?" Bella replied and we both looked to her to find a smirk in place on her lips. "You know, I always wondered about you two."
"Why don't you go get into your pajamas, squealer," I teased my son, patting him lightly on the backside as he scooted from the room, and then turned back to Bella. Her expression had changed and there were tears rimming her eyes as I slid my arms around her waist to greet her with a hug. "Sorry about that. I'd hoped for it to be a surprise."
"Well, it definitely was that," Bella chuckled against my shoulder and then lifted her head to kiss me gently. "Edward, you know I don't need the whole fancy dinner thing, or getting down on one knee, or anything like that. The answer will always be 'yes', no matter what."
"I do, Bella. I'm going to do one thing absolutely right by you. It's important to me," I whispered, resting my forehead on hers and running my hands along her sides. "Baby—"
"Daddy! I'm in my jammies! I need my story!" Edward yelled out from his doorway and I glanced over my shoulder to see him grinning at me.
Bella and I both laughed and she turned my face back to her, gazing at me for a moment before brushing her lips on mine. "Later. Go ahead, he wants his daddy."
"Okay," I replied, kissing her once more before turning to head down the hall. "I don't remember hearing any water running, so you couldn't have brushed your teeth yet."
I entered our bedroom less than thirty minutes later, after Edward had fallen asleep, finding Bella sitting at the end of the bed nervously.
"You're not going to do the whole dramatic thing, are you? I mean, it's been a given that we would get married at some point, it was just a matter of time," Bella stammered, her fingers clenched tightly on the comforter. "I love you, and I want to marry you. And if my dad gave you a ring, we obviously have his blessing. That's all I really need."
"Bella," I began, walking over to her and crouching at her knees, gliding my hands along her thighs to her hips. "I appreciate and respect that, I really do. But I also appreciate and respect you. Most women would have demanded a ring and a wedding years ago, or at least made me get a 'real job' but you have been more understanding than I ever could have hoped for. You amaze me. I really am the luckiest man on the planet, and I would like to propose to my girlfriend properly."
Bella drew in a deep breath and nodded, folding her hands in her lap. "All right, but the answer is still yes."
I chuckled and shushed her, watching her lips press together to hold back a laugh of her own. I reached into my pants pocket for the small box residing there, setting it in her palm and covering it with my hand. "Isabella Swan, I love you more than any words could ever convey. And no matter how many days I have left on this earth, I would like each of them to be spent with you at my side, as your husband, if you would do me the honor of becoming my wife. Will you marry me?"
Bella's smile stretched across her lips and a tear slipped down her cheek before her eyes lowered to the box I'd just opened in our hands. She released a small, choked sob and covered her mouth as she gazed upon it. "Grandma Swan's ring. I thought for sure Dad would have given this to Jasper for Alice."
"He said he's been saving it for you. He knew it would mean a lot to you," I replied, repeating her father's words to me from earlier that evening.
Bella nodded, her hold on the box tightening. "I only got to meet her once right after I came here, before she passed away. And I've always wished my mother would have contacted my dad before she got sick. I missed so much with him and my brother, and getting to know my grandmother. So yeah, this means a lot to me, to at least have a part of her."
I pulled the ring from the slit and took her left hand from over her mouth, holding it in mine and pinching the thin band between my fingertips. "So, you still want to marry me?"
Bella's eyes rose to meet mine and she let out a breathy laugh. "Of course, I want to marry you. Yes."
We both watched the path of the ring as I slid it onto her finger and I pressed a kiss to it once it was settled in its place. Bella took my face in her hands and met my lips with hers, standing with me, and I wrapped my arms around her waist to hold her to me. She parted from me, but lifted onto her toes to hug around my shoulders, brushing a kiss on my neck and whispering that she loved me, which I softly returned. We stood there for an immeasurable time, holding each other in silence until I heard her speak again.
"So what was the deal with the knees?" Bella asked, tracing the back of my neck with her fingers.
I shook my head and hummed against her shoulder. "It was nothing, don't worry about it right now."
"Edward? Tell me," Bella said firmly, pulling back to look at me with inquisitive eyes. I didn't want anything to disrupt that moment, but I knew she would never let it go. So I relayed to her what Edward had told me and watched as her eyes turned almost black with anger. "That bitch. I'm going to kill her. It's one thing to say that shit to me, but for it to get to our son and upset him like that? There is no call for it."
I watched as she released me and began pacing the floor, tugging at her hair and muttering more profanities in the space of a few seconds than I believed I'd heard in the entire time I'd known her. I stopped her on one of her passes by gently gripping her waist, pulling her back against me and sliding my arms around her from behind. "Bella, relax. He's fine. What's this all about?"
"Lauren Mallory," Bella answered with a tense sigh, leaning her head against my shoulder and running her hand along my arm. "She said some things to me last week in the parking lot when I was dropping Edward off at preschool. Like how could I live with myself, trapping you with a child that isn't even yours, because you weren't here while I was pregnant or right after he was born, so there was no way. As if he isn't almost the spitting image of you. I didn't let it bother me because I know that's just how she is, and I'm surprised it's taken her this long to spew this crap. But now it's affecting my child, and that, I can't ignore. How dare she!"
"Okay, Mamabear, breathe," I said, brushing my lips on her jaw, but hugged her waist tighter. "I'm sorry, baby."
"Don't do that. We know the truth and why things were that way back then, and we're past that. She just knows that she can't get me on her own, but it's really low to use the kids that way," she replied tightly, but I could feel her body begin to relax in my hold. She took a few slow breaths and nuzzled into me more, and I kissed her forehead. "He's really okay?"
"He was chattering your ear off when he got home tonight, right?" I answered and she nodded, a smile tugging at her lips. "See, he's fine. We had a little chat and I showed him our matching knees, and he was good. He just needed to know that he was loved, Bella. That's all."
"You're a really good dad," Bella murmured, reaching one hand back to run her fingers through my hair. "He loves you so much."
I gently brushed my lips against her temple and then turned her to face me. "He loves you, too. We've got ourselves one amazing little boy."
Bella nodded, linking her arms around my neck. "That we do. I can't believe he's starting school already. Any chance you'd want to do it again?"
"Really?" I asked, my eyebrows rising in surprise and she bit the corner of her lip nervously with a one-shoulder shrug. The thought had actually run through my mind earlier that evening as I sat alone in that bathroom. I loved my son and being a father, and I'd looked forward to having more children someday for quite some time. Yet with the realization that our little boy was starting school and growing up so fast, the idea of having another baby with Bella became more than just a passing notion.
"If you don't to, it's okay. We can wait or stop at one child. I just thought I'd see where you stood on it," Bella said quietly when I didn't elaborate anymore after a few moments, picking lightly at the fabric of my t-shirt and lowering her eyes.
"Bella, I would love to have another baby with you," I replied, lifting her chin with my fingertips and giving her a gentle kiss. "I just want to be married to you first."
Bella's features relaxed and she hugged her body closer to me, brushing her nose against mine. "City Hall is still out?"
I laughed at her only half-teasing voice and shook my head. "We are going to have a real wedding, baby. I want to see you walking down that aisle to me. We have plenty of time to have more babies."
"Babies? As in plural?" she inquired with an arched eyebrow, but her smirk was breathtaking.
"One step at a time," I answered with a laugh and hugged her body against mine. "Let's focus on getting married first."
The instant our engagement was officially announced to our friends and family, planning was set into full gear. We both wanted something small and intimate, much to the dismay of my mother and Jasper's girlfriend, Alice.
However, when all was said and done, we got exactly what we wished for; a simple, yet very elegant ceremony in my parent's back yard two months later. Bella was officially my wife, and our second son, Jack, was born just over a year later. We agreed to try one more time for a girl once he started preschool, and once again, we had another baby boy, Caleb, who was a carbon copy of his beautiful mother.
Bella and I decided to stop at three, but I wasn't complaining. I loved my boys and couldn't imagine my life any other way once they were born. I had everything a man could want; three beautiful, healthy children, a career I enjoyed, and all with the woman I loved more with each passing day.
A/N 2: Just a small little note. For anyone who is still reading Don't Ever Forget, I know it's been a while, and I have not given up on it. I have just decided to finish the story completely before posting any more chapters because of the inconsistency of my ability to write it (obviously, since it's been years in the works). But I believe I am working on what should be the epilogue, so hopefully, if the writing bug keeps up with its biting on it, I will have that ready soon. Sorry for the delay.