"Da, da, da, da…"
Bella scanned the area for her son's aforementioned father, only to come up empty. There were too many parents in the stands already; too many spectators waiting for the competition to begin.
Precariously, she juggled the baby and his diaper bag and went to grab her cell phone out of her pocket.
There was no reception with all of the interference from the other phones in the building.
"Where is he, bub?" she cooed, almost laughing at the ridiculousness of asking her ten month old where her husband was.
But she was running out of options.
The announcer's voice boomed through the speakers, and for a moment, she panicked. She couldn't see the arena from the spot she stood, would miss-
Suddenly, the baby flailed in her arms, squealing excitedly as he reached over her shoulder. She turned, found herself grinning along with him at the sight of Edward strolling over to where she stood.
At first, Bella almost didn't recognize him; years of the same, long haired skater she'd married had ingrained a certain image in her brain. Except, her Edward had cut his hair recently, claiming that he was too old and had too many grays for it to be so long. They'd fought for days over it. Bella had been certain she'd miss its length, miss running her hands through it at night in their bed. But instead of hating it like she thought she would, she found that she loved it even more this way. It made him look sharper, smarter.
Maybe even a little dangerous, with all the tattoos.
The second Edward was close enough, he made a goofy face at their son, clapping his hands together just before he scooped him out of her arms and tossed him in the air.
Reed squealed, and Bella was spiraling, falling even harder for Edward, just like she did each and every time she watched him with their children.
Nothing, it seemed to Bella, was sexier than a man so inherently good with kids. His own, especially.
Moment gone, Edward held Reed to his chest and bent to kiss her asking, "What took you so long?" in greeting.
"One of the girls fell and hurt her ankle. I stayed to make sure she and her mom were both okay."
"Just a sprain," Bella answered. Reed reached up to claw at Edward's face for attention, causing Bella to hurry and pull his little hand down before he could do any harm. She ran her hand over the blond fuzz atop his head and earned a gummy smile in return.
Oh, she was in trouble with this one.
"Pretty sure her mom's making a liquor store run tonight at some point, though," she joked.
Which made Bella realize how much she could use a drink now. She didn't think she'd ever been so nervous before in her life. Not even at her first Olympics.
Not even at her last.
But this was different. It wasn't her feelings at risk of being bruised or her talent in question.
It was her daughter's.
She had a whole other level of respect for her own mother, for all the time Renee had put her fears aside and let her follow her dreams.
"Your mom's got a seat saved for you in one-oh-one. They're… I don't know. Ten rows up?"
"Okay. Where are you going?"
"I'm taking this little guy to the concession stand. Seems his big brother will shrivel up and die if he doesn't get a drink soon."
Edward shot Bella an indignant look. "Do I look like a masochist to you? No telling when we'd get that kid to bed tonight."
Bella laughed, because it was the truth, and simply because - despite her nerves - she was happy. Happier than she'd been when she first met Edward. Happier than when Lawson barreled his way into their lives.
There wasn't a day that went by that Bella didn't appreciate, didn't feel eternally grateful to Edward for what he'd given her.
"Sorry. I'm…" She shook her head, not sure how to explain. "It's just been a long week."
"She's going to do great, Mom. Stop worrying so much," Edward replied, a knowing smirk on his face.
She huffed in annoyance, but found herself staring up into his pale eyes for confirmation. "You think?"
"I know," he murmured. "She's bred from good stock."
Bella snorted out a laugh, shook her head again, and went to leave. "I'll see you down there."
"Mommy didn't like my joke," she heard him pout, and laughed a little more as she headed down the stadium corridor.
Two sections down, she found her family sitting just where Edward had said they would be. Her father was at the end, mother next to him. Jessica and her husband were in the row below them, as was the legion that had become the Cullen family.
She stood there for a moment and watched her nieces and nephews bounce around the aisle, awed at how much could change in ten years - amazed that they'd all flown into Salt Lake for this - until Edward's sister, Alice, spotted her and stood up. She waved Bella down wildly, and then lost her balance, stumbling just enough that her husband, Jasper, shot up out of his seat to steady her.
Bella could hear her laughing as she was guided back down, hand moving over the already enormous swell of her stomach.
Bella grinned, feeling quite lucky that twins ran in Jasper's family and not Edward's.
Bella scanned the crowd for her son.
His raspy voice sounded again, louder this time, "MOM!"
Her eyes moved to the left, and she found him sitting with a little girl from his class, arms up above him to gain her attention.
She wanted to groan, because he was only nine and had already taken an interest in girls.
And they had taken one in him.
Fighting it back, Bella waved at Lawson, watching him push his light brown hair off his forehead. The older he got, the darker it got, it, until it would likely be as dark as hers - maybe even as dark as his sister's and aunt's.
Bella had the strangest urge to cry seeing just how much he had grown up in the last couple of years.
Which, she knew, was absurd. He was the same kid he had been that very morning at the kitchen table. The perfect blend of Edward and her, right down to the color of his eyes (Edward's) and the shape of his lips (Bella's).
"MAMA," he whined, and Bella instantly felt relief.
Maybe he wasn't so grown up after all.
She hurried down the steps and met him at the end of the aisle, her hands immediately finding their way into his hair.
She wanted to suggest a haircut, but the last time she'd done so, she'd gotten a tantrum in return over how he wanted it to be longer like Edward's had been.
Never mind, Bella thought to herself, this one's going to be the one who's all the trouble.
He jerked away from her touch, cheeks mottling with embarrassment. "Mom, stop," he complained.
"Then keep it out of those pretty blue eyes of yours," she shot back.
Lawson rolled said eyes.
"Attitude," she warned.
"But, Mom, Dad made me wear these pants and they just-" He struggled to push them down his hips so that they bunched up at his ankles a little more, "don't fit right."
"What, exactly, do you want me to do about it?" she sighed.
"Get me another pair!"
Bella barked out a laugh. "I don't think so. Do you know how hard it was for me to get here on time in the first place?"
Lawson blinked at her, tugged on his charcoal gray pants again.
"You can make it."
"I can't, Mom!"
"You can, and you will."
Before Lawson could argue any more with her, Bella bent down so that her mouth was at his ear.
"Who's your friend?" she inquired.
He leaned back and glanced over at her warily.
"Come on, Law. Who's the girl?" she coaxed.
"Layla," he mumbled.
"You like Layla?"
He jerked his shoulder up, but Bella knew her son well enough to see that he did, as much as any nine year old could.
"I'll let you in on a little secret," Bella whispered conspiratorially.
Eyes flashing, he took Bella's bait.
"What?" he breathed back.
"Girls don't like boys who whine."
He gazed at her doubtfully.
"We don't. We like strong, kind, polite boys. Boys who do nice things for us, like open doors, and boys who tell us how pretty we look. Not boys who are rude to their mommies and complain about their pants for hours."
"You think I'm kidding…" Bella stood up and ruffled his hair.
Lawson shot her a look.
"Behave or you'll sit with me."
"Fine," he grumbled and stalked back down the aisle where the little blonde girl was waiting for him.
"Dad'll be back with your drink in a minute," she called after him.
Not bothering to look back at his mother, Lawson merely raised his hand up to let her know that she'd been heard.
A puff of exasperated air escaped Bella as she turned around and went to where her father sat, squeezing his shoulder as she collapsed on the stair beside him.
She could hear his chuckle from above but didn't look up at him. She was too busy searching the floor for Paige, only spotting her by the long, black, fishtail braid that peeked out of her purple helmet and fell over her shoulder.
Bella's nerves kicked up.
"I'd ask if there was any way to skip past the angsty, whiny dramatics, but I have a feeling I'm going to need the practice for Paige and Reed," she snarked.
Charlie's remark was equally sarcastic. "If they're anything like their father, you will."
Ignoring it, she stood back up. "Where am I sitting?"
Charlie pointed to the other end of the row, and Bella had to bite back a laugh.
Ten years had gone by, three grandchildren had been given to her father because of him, and Charlie still hadn't ever warmed up to Edward much.
Exchanging a look with her mother as she carefully stepped over their feet, she decided it was probably best that she'd long since given up hope he ever would.
Edward stood and waited for a moment, and then got distracted by his son trying to crawl away.
Quickly, he picked Reed up and tried again. "Paige."
She spun around at the sound of his voice, her braid whipping around her shoulder. She searched for him, and Edward warmed inside when he saw just how much she looked like her mother right then, even with the inheritance of his sister's almost-black hair and his blue-green eyes.
Paige was something he and Bella had decided to create on a whim, on the high of new parenthood, when they couldn't get enough of each other, or Lawson. She was something neither of them had once regretted, despite the stress the fifteen month age difference between she and Lawson had caused at times. She was also the reason he wore a wedding band now. He proposed the day they brought her home from the hospital. The second he looked at Bella, saw her on their couch with Lawson and Paige both in her arms, something in him changed.
He was no longer content to simply be with Bella.
So he'd gotten down on one knee, watched Bella's face light up with shock, excitement, and emotion.
And asked the question that bound them together in every way he knew how.
No ring. No plan.
He knew how lucky he was that she had said "yes."
Although, he was pretty sure he'd made up for it with the elaborate way he'd proposed again a few weeks later up on that mountain - this time with the ring, and their entire family waiting for them at the bottom.
"Daddy!" Paige squealed the second she spotted him, and she raced over to him as fast as she could, skateboard hugged against her chest.
He settled Reed over at his side and crouched down so that he could greet his girl properly, pulling her to him the second she moved the board away. He breathed her in, loved the way she smelled. Like Bella, but still unique in her own way.
All too soon, she broke away from him, shoving her helmet back into place, grinning at him with his favorite gap-toothed smile.
"Why are you down here?" she gasped. "Where's Mommy?"
"Up with everyone else. I have a surprise for you."
Her smile faded. "Does Mommy know?" she asked cautiously.
Edward laughed and shook his head. Even at eight, Paige knew just how much her mother hated surprises.
He was really going to lay on the guilt for this later.
"She'll be okay with this one. I promise."
Edward shifted Reed again and pulled the tiny mp3 player out of his pocket, handing it to his daughter and watching her eyes go wide with excitement.
"Oh, my gosh, Daddy!"
"You like it?" Edward asked as she started fiddling with the buttons.
Paige glanced up at him. "Yes! Does it have songs on it?"
"It does. All the ones you like."
"With some of yours, too, though?"
Edward nodded, his heart bursting with how much she took after him.
The skateboard fell to the wayside, and Paige stilled, waiting.
Edward grabbed it before it could roll away.
Then that first note played, and her face broke out into a smile again.
"There's a story behind this," he said casually.
Inside, though, he tensed. Hoped.
"What is it?"
"When I used to compete-"
"I've seen all the videos, Dad," she said with a roll of her eyes.
"But you don't know what I did before."
"Make out with Mommy?"
A startled laugh escaped Edward, and he could feel his cheeks redden with Paige's knowing look.
Yeah, he thought to himself. She really was exactly like him.
"Uh, no," he said, laughing some more. "Why would you think that?"
"We see you and Mommy all the time. You're not very good at hiding it."
Speechless, Edward stared down at Reed, caught him gnawing on his fist.
Gently, he extracted his hand from his mouth, wishing he'd brought the diaper bag with him to give Reed something else to chew on.
"Well, I love your mom."
"I know," she said, so simply, with such acceptance, that Edward couldn't think of anything else to add.
Except, "And I hope you find someone who loves you like that one day."
The weight of the moment hit him, and for just a few seconds, he let himself bask in it, of the knowledge that he was something of a decent parent.
"So," he cleared his throat, "as I was saying before you so rudely distracted me with your talk about me kissing your mom-"
"Before each competition, I had a list of songs I listened to, to sort of… calm my nerves."
"You got nervous?"
"Oh, baby, you have no idea," he lamented. "There were a couple of times I was so nervous I puked in the trashcans by the arena."
"Ew," she exclaimed, scrunching up her nose with distaste. "That's so nasty."
"But this helped. It was like a ritual, of sorts. I did the same thing before each competition so that I could focus on something else besides being nervous."
A wary look crossed over Paige's features. "Really?"
"Ask your mom if you don't believe me."
An announcement came through the loudspeaker, prompting Edward to stand back up - stifling a groan at the way his knees creaked and ached - and ready himself to let his girl fly out there.
"Remember what I told you?"
"Keep sight of something during tricks, like Mommy does when she spins so I don't lose my balance."
"You got it. And Paige?"
"Try not to break anything while you're out there. Your mother will kill me."
Paige laughed as she picked up her board. "Why?"
"Because I'm the one who convinced her to let you do this."
Her mouth went round with surprise, and her head bobbed silently.
"I'll see you in a little while."
He ran his fingers along her cheek, and then forced himself to leave.
If he didn't go right then, he never would. For it wasn't so much Bella's wrath that had made him warn their daughter to be careful out there. It was more of the fact that Edward knew how many bones she'd likely break if she fell in love with this sport as he did, all the trips they'd take to the ER before it was over.
Worry ate away at him.
He'd never known that parenting would be like this.
Back in the stands now, he kept his feelings in check. Bella was anxious enough already and he didn't want to add to it.
Although, insightful as ever, he felt like she could see right through him the moment he came into her line of sight.
Just before he could make it to his seat, a little boy spotted him and asked for an autograph, causing a crowd of people to hover and block his way down the aisle. He smiled graciously, accepted their praise and signed everything thrust out at him, but inside, he grew even more unsettled. He didn't so much mind his notoriety when he was alone. But when he was with his children, when he felt Reed's hands gripping at the collar of his shirt in confusion, he found he hated this part of his life.
None of them had asked for this, for famous parents, and all he and Bella wanted to do is give them - Paige's lofty aspirations aside - what they didn't have when they were younger:
Finally, the crowd dispersed, and Edward took the opportunity to dart past the lingerers so that he could finally be with his family. Reed was given to Esme for proper making-over, and then he ran Lawson's soda over to him. Pushed a little distance between his son and the girl he sat beside with his foot.
Lawson glared up at him.
Edward didn't acknowledge it, simply went back to the other row and sat beside Bella, throwing his arm around her and ignoring his siblings below them.
He needed just a few moments to decompress.
They watched the first few girls rack up points, until one in particular fell with a shout, sliding down the half-pipe until she was crumpled up into a ball and had people hovering around her.
Edward's hand involuntarily tightened around Bella's shoulder, and she glanced over at him, rubbed his thigh soothingly.
"She's going to be perfect," she said lowly, her eyes now trained on the stretcher being rolled away, little blonde girl sitting atop it cradling her arm against her chest.
Broken, he ventured to guess, and his stomach twisted into knots again.
"Yeah," he murmured, because their Paige would be.
It was exactly the thing that bothered Edward so much.
Home now, Bella curled up in her favorite spot in the house: the window seat Edward had installed for her birthday a few years ago. Bella, with so much free time on her hands those few months before Lawson was born, quickly found out that she was a lover of books, and had become an avid reader in the years that followed. So she and Edward had made this one, last, empty bedroom in their house into a study.
And it would continue to stay a study. For as much as she loved her babies, she was done with the process it took getting them here.
Though, Edward still had a little convincing to do.
Books lined the mahogany shelves along the walls, and so did all of their trophies they had won over the years. Their medals were in frames on the walls so that the kids couldn't grab them and play with them, the last one earned by Edward at the Summer X-Games almost ten years ago.
Now, they had a new trophy to display.
Their daughter's first win.
Bella could hear the lingering sounds of bedtime down the hall, and, having already made the rounds herself, picked up her book and her glass of pinot grigio and waited for Edward to come find her.
Bliss came in so many different forms.
Edward eventually came to her, slipping quietly behind her and holding her against him.
He pulled her glass from her hand and took a sip.
"That's mine," she murmured, suddenly sleepy.
"That's what makes it good."
Bella smiled and closed her book, snuggling up against the man who had changed her entire life.
"She won," Bella said almost sadly.
His voice mirrored hers. "I know."
"Shouldn't we be happy for her?"
"We are," he insisted, and shifted so that they leaned further back. "But we know what's in store for her if she keeps it up, the way her life will be-"
"It's not really life, though, is it?"
"It's hers," Edward said firmly.
Bella turned in his arms and buried her face against his chest. She still loved the way his scent clung to his clothes, to her in the hours after they were together like this.
"I sound like the worst parent in the world, don't I?"
"No. Just… well informed."
She smiled again and held on tight.
"That mp3 player you gave her was pretty perfect."
"And here Paige was worrying you'd freak out."
Bella's jaw dropped, instantly ashamed by the implication.
Edward merely laughed and took her face in his hands, kissing her before she had the opportunity to speak.
"She knows her mom well, that's all," he said when he pulled away.
"It's not all," Bella argued.
Her lip quivered, so she bit down on it, hoping not to cry.
Edward's eyes softened as he said, "I was just kidding. I didn't mean to make you upset."
Bella couldn't really explain the way she felt. She only knew that she didn't want to do anything to ever make their children feel like they couldn't get something special from their father.
And yet, somehow she had.
"Am I really that bad?"
"Ah…" Edward trailed off with a grimace, reaching up to rub at the back of his neck. "I feel like nothing I say here will be right."
The joke lifted Bella's mood enough that she laughed aloud.
"It's not a trick question."
"So you say."
More laughter, interrupted by the sound of their son crying out on the baby monitor.
"I've got him," Edward said, and carefully climbed away from her.
"If he lets me."
Bella read chapter after chapter as she sipped on her wine, listening to the sound of her husband rocking her son in the room beside theirs, heart melting with every gurgle, every babble, Reed made.
When it became clear that she wasn't going to see Edward again anytime soon, she went into the kitchen to put her goblet in the sink and work on a late night snack for the two of them.
His arms wrapped around her waist, startling her.
"Not the smartest idea with the knife in my hand."
The way he kissed her neck made her tremble. She sat the knife down and moved her hands up into his hair.
There was still some length there to grab onto.
"You're not tired?"
"I am," she said quietly, sucking in a breath with the nip at her ear, the quick spurt of heat that raced through her body. "But we're never alone unless we're exhausted and I just wanted to spend some time with you. We get to sleep in tomorrow."
"If Reed lets us."
"Even if he doesn't, we can gate off the living room and take catnaps. Lawson and Paige can entertain themselves for a couple of hours."
"You've thought this out," he said, obviously amused.
His chest rumbled with his laugh, and before she could react, he had her spun around so that she faced him. His hand came up over hers, pulling it down between them.
He placed a kiss at the tip of her fingers.
His pale eyes flashed wickedly, and his lips lifted into that sexy smirk of his she loved.
"You'll want to save it for later," her responded lowly. And when his tongue came out to wet his lips, she surrendered. "Trust me."
Edward awoke to the sound of the TV in the living room, the laughter of his daughter in her bedroom. He made his way through the house to the kitchen to make coffee. When the pot had brewed just enough for a cup, he sought out Bella, finding her standing in front of the couch, Reed on her hip, with an expression of longing on her face. One he hadn't seen in such time now.
He stayed at the arched threshold, leaned against the white molding, to see what it was that had made Bella react so.
Skating qualifiers for the upcoming Winter Olympics were being announced.
"You know this is the first year we won't have been," she said absently, bouncing Reed slightly.
"Do you want to go?"
The look Bella shot Edward was all the answer he needed.
He laughed and stepped toward her, swapping the baby out for her coffee.
"Then what's the problem?"
She hesitated; it was so unlike her that Edward wrapped an arm around her shoulders and brought her closer.
"What?" he repeated in her ear.
She took a sip of coffee, whirling on him in shock at the taste of it.
"It's Saturday. Why not?" he shot back playfully.
"Why not indeed," she murmured with a laugh.
"So. Back to-" Edward cut himself off the second Jacob Black's face came up on the screen.
It'd been a few years since they'd seen him, but he looked exactly the same. Too young for his age, with just the hint of wrinkles around his eyes when he smiled, and not a gray hair on his head.
Edward hated him a little more for it.
Jacob's arm was thrown around the skater being interviewed - his wife, Vanessa. It had been a scandal when they'd first gotten together. The coach marrying his star figure skater in a quick ceremony in Hawaii. A girl who was only twenty at the time.
The age difference alone was enough to turn heads.
But, three years later, they were still married, still teamed up together professionally. The way they smiled at one another, the adoring way she gazed up at him…
Even Edward couldn't deny that there was truth behind it all.
They actually loved one another.
"Is that what's bothering you?"
Bella's mouth turned down, her eyes intent as they gazed at the TV screen.
"Not in the way you're thinking."
"Okay, then what is it?"
"That girl I was telling you about… The one that hurt her ankle?"
"She's got it, Edward." She motioned to the TV. "She could be there in a few years."
She took a sip of her coffee, quietly gathering her thoughts.
Reed smacked at Edward's shoulder, grinning and cooing happily at him.
"I see you, bub," he said with a smile.
"And I don't know if I'll be able to release her to someone else," Bella finally told him.
She gave him a sideways look. "Come on. I can't do it all. I can't be here for the kids if I'm spending all my time training Claire. And Paige… Paige is so good. Where she goes with her skating is more important than some other kid's time on the ice. So I've been thinking."
Edward didn't like where this was going.
"After the Olympics, I may call Jake to see if he can convince her parents to move to Denver and take over her training for me."
"You don't think he'd ignore her for his wife? Because I can see where it could happen in a situation like that easily. Intentionally or not."
"She's got one more Olympics in her, if she's lucky," Bella countered. "If he doesn't plan to retire after this, he's going to want someone to take her place."
"I know you don't like him-"
"I don't trust him."
"He's the best," she said plainly, "and Claire deserves the best."
She left Edward with nothing left to argue.
Bella took a step closer to him, bringing her hands up to his chest and staring up at him, wide eyed and beseeching.
He sighed and shook his head, ignoring the baby's tug on his shirt.
So wrapped around her finger, he was.
"It's your job. Not mine. Who am I to tell you what to do?"
"You're my husband. That's who," she responded, and then paused suddenly. "Do you remember all those years ago when we were trying to figure out how to make this work?"
He didn't answer, instead waiting to hear what she was gearing up to say.
Because he just knew she was going to say something that made him fall for her all over again, right here in the middle of their living room, their son in his arms.
"I meant every word of what I said. Skating was my life until I met you. You showed me what it was that I needed to truly be happy. And as much as I love skating, I don't ever want to go back. Not like that. Because the four of you are what I need - what I want. I want to be the mom cheering in the stands for Paige. I want to be on your arm when you have those big parties for your company. I want to see Lawson grow up and find his place in this world. Reed, too."
He didn't let her finish. Didn't have the words for the way she'd made him feel, how sure she was of him, their relationship, their life together.
So he kissed her. He kissed her until the sound of their other son firing up the amp in the bonus room and tuning his guitar pulled his attention elsewhere.
Until he felt like his heart would hammer right out of his chest.
She laughed then, the bell-like sound Edward had grown so fond of over the years. "Although, I may kill you for buying Lawson that thing."
He grinned down at her, eyebrows popping up once in challenge.
"He's good. Don't act like he isn't."
"He is," she admitted. "I wonder where he gets it."
"Not from you, that's for sure," Edward teased back.
Reed squirmed in his arms, preventing his mother from smacking his father for the remark, so Edward put him down on the floor and watched him crawl away to where one of his toys sat.
Satisfied that he'd play with it for a while, Edward focused on Bella again.
"So what do you want to do today?"
Bella's shoulders jerked up in reply, and she took a sip of coffee. "Chores are done. Laundry's caught up. We can do whatever we want."
And that was the beauty of Bella's decision to stay amateur, Edward realized. Of their life now.
Gone were the struggles of two people just starting out, making names for themselves. Money to build a family on.
Now, they got to reap the reward of all the hard work they'd put into their careers.
The best part about it, though, was something infinitely more meaningful.
They got to enjoy every part of it together.
Shout out to Strat for making this pretty for me.
Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed this little one-shot turned mini-fic, and again, thank you to everyone who voted for it in the first place. I'm still in awe that this little, random snowboarder idea won.
And with that said, this is officially a wrap!