***A/N: So, I had been mentally debating how to write this and I have a couple different versions, but this one seemed the most interesting. When I was done writing it however, it was much-much longer than I anticipated and I couldn't really cut any of it out, so I suppose it's not a traditional epilogue. But this is definitely the last and final part of this story, there will be no outtakes. Sorry, but I really feel this story is complete and anything else would just be forced.
Thanks for your patience; I hope it was worth the wait.
Life After Death
It had been a rough few years, and since I was supposed to die before my twenty first birthday, I considered every day beyond that as my life after death….
It had taken my mom sitting me down and crying hysterically for three hours straight for me to finally agree to the transplant. My mother was a lot of things, but for her to say that she'd never survive outliving me, just made me realize how stupid and selfish I was truly being. I wasn't punishing Edward by refusing to live, if anything I needed to survive and be well enough to take care of my sister and her baby when Edward screwed them over.
And he would screw them over…it was only a matter of time.
The process of the transplant was difficult, to say the least, but I got through it and was able to finally make it into remission. I spent some time at the Seattle recovery center, and with the encouragement of Carlisle, I decided to go to college.
"You could do anything you want, you have your entire life ahead of you," Carlisle had told me, and for the first time in years, I felt optimistic.
I started out just taking a few units at Washington State, but the stronger I got the more motivated I became to build some kind of life for myself. So I took on a full schedule and continued with my physical recovery, and five years after my transplant, I graduated with honors and was back to my high school weight.
I felt great, strong, and ready to take on the rest of my life, but I suppose there was always something missing; something that wasn't a mystery as much as an impossibly enigma.
I missed my family, I just didn't know what to do about it.
I hadn't spoken to my sister since before she had her baby, and I only talked to my dad briefly a few times since then as well. I had been so angry at Charlie for allowing Bella to move in with that creep that I just couldn't stand speaking to him. By allowing Bella to be with Edward like everything was ok and forgiven, it was as if Charlie had sacrificed Bella to save me, and that was unforgivable. I still would have rather died than to have Bella give up her own life the way that she did.
But despite everything, I wished I had a relationship with my little sister. I couldn't even count how many times I picked up the phone to call her, but something always made me hang up before anyone could answer. Perhaps I was just scared…I really didn't know how I would look in her eye and not hate myself for bringing that douche into her life, and even worse, I had allowed myself to actually benefit from her sacrifice, which was something I'd never really get past.
After I graduated, I got an advertising job in Seattle, and when I lost interest in dating my usual type of women that's only good for one thing, I decided to let my friend Peter hook me up on a blind date. And out of the thousands of eligible women in the city, my buddy thought it was a good idea to hook me up with a chick that was three years younger than me, and not a stranger at all.
"Well, this is a trip," I said as I sat across from my little sister's childhood best friend.
"Wait, you're the guy Peter set me up with?" Rose asked with a laugh.
"I guess so," I grumbled.
She laughed again. "How funny. I can't believe this, it really is a small world. How are you, Em? You look really good."
"Um…It is a small world…too small. Uh, I'm doing pretty good though, thanks for asking."
"And your cancer?" she asked.
"Cancer free," I said while looking around the restaurant and trying to think of an excuse to leave. Rose was a nice girl and all, but I really did have a bunch of things I could have been doing other than dining with my estranged sister's friend. In fact, I made it a point to avoid everyone from Forks altogether, because all they every wanted to talk about was the tragedy of me getting sick and my family falling apart, and I was just trying to move on from all of that.
"So….how about them Seahawks?" Rose asked unexpectedly. Maybe she sensed my discomfort, or maybe she didn't want to talk about all that crap either, but whatever it was, I was grateful and I found myself relaxing.
We ended up staying at that restaurant together for three hours….and then we saw each other two nights later….and two nights after that. I kept telling myself that we were both adults now and there was nothing wrong with being friends, but really, she quickly became the first person I'd call in the mornings, and the last person I'd talk to before bed. We just got along so perfectly and it all seemed to click. I didn't even realize how hard I had fallen for her until she told me one day over dinner…
"Emmett, I love you," she said, seemingly out of nowhere. I was so shocked that I just stared at her like a moron. Most girls probably would have been heartbroken by the lack of response they got from an admission like that, but not Rose; she wasn't even fazed in the slightest. "Don't worry, I know you're surprised. But I also know you do love me back, even if you don't know it yourself yet, so I can wait until you're ready to acknowledge it."
And only a few hours later I was confessing my own feeling for her. We moved in together the following month. We got a little condo half way between my office, and her job at the Seattle Times News Paper where she worked as a facts checker. We were really happy together, but every once in a while I'd catch myself wanting to ask her….and one day, that desire became too much.
"So…when was the last time you talked to my sister?" We had never spoken about her, and I was beginning to think we never would, but the more serious we got, the more my family came to the forefront of my mind again.
She looked at me surprised. "Um…A few months ago. Well, technically I got an email from her last week, but face to face it's been a few months."
"So…you've kept in touch?"
"She's my best friend, Emmett," she said defensively. "I am her kid's godmother."
"Oh." I had no idea why I was so shocked about that, but I was, and it just gave me more questions. "So, does she know that we're…together?"
"Yeah, I told her."
"Really? What'd she say?"
Rose shrugged and seemed to try to dismiss the question. "Not much. Hey, what do you want for dinner tonight?"
But since allowing myself to really think about her, I needed an answer. "Why don't you want to talk about Bella?" I asked slowly, really hoping something wasn't wrong that she was trying to hide.
"I don't mind talking about Bella, I'll talk about her all day if you want…but that's not what you really want, is it? Look, everything that happened between you guys, that's your business...not mine. I love both of you, and I don't want to get in the middle of it. So, if you want to know anything about Bella, why don't you ask me for her number, and you can call and ask her yourself."
"I can't do that," I mumbled.
"Why?" she said frustrated.
"Because I just can't."
"Because you're stubborn. Why are you so pissed at her anyway?"
"I'm not pissed at her. I love my sister."
Rose rolled her eyes and threw her hands up exasperated. "This is why we don't talk about Bella," she said as she walked off to the bedroom.
"Can you just tell me if she's still with that prick, or did he ditch her already?" I called after her.
"Yes, they're still together," she yelled back at me irritated.
The truth was, it had been so long since I had any contact with my family other than the annual ten minute phone call to my parents on Christmas, that I often couldn't remember why the rift happened in the first place. I was annoyed by my mom for always being a flake, I was pissed at my dad for what I viewed as him selling my little sister to buy me a cure, and I was upset at Bella for being so stupid as to actually being happy about it. They were all beyond ridiculous reasons, but I suppose families had broken up over less – my friend Liam stopped speaking to his family because they cut him off financially after he got shit grades in college – at least my reasons were better than his, right? But I did miss my sister…and my dad…and even my mom. And if I was really being honest with myself, I'd even say that I missed Edward; I never had as close of a friend since, and I knew I probably never would again.
It wasn't long until Rose and I were talking about marriage. She wanted some big elaborate dream wedding, but we both knew that posed a huge problem, and like the coward I was, I suggested we just marry at the courthouse rather than be forced to reunite with people I was too scared to contact.
"Well guess what, even if we got married at the courthouse, I'd still want my best friend there, so maybe you need to just get over it already, and stop trying to ruin my big day…or our big day…whatever, just stop trying to ruin it. We are having a wedding, or we're not getting married at all!" she said angrily. I ended up being forced to sleep on the couch that night.
And I really felt like shit. Not only because I was definitely ruining Rose's dream wedding, but because I really did want my family back, but I just didn't know how to do it. Besides my own anger, which I'd happily put to the side for Rose's sake, I feared my family's anger towards me even more. I had acted like a horrible immature moron, and every year that passed since then, just made that wall between us grow higher and higher. I was in too deep, how the hell would I ever dig myself back out?
So I decided to take Rose out with a group of our local friends as an apology for my most recent cowardly behavior. She was still pissed at me, but we loved each other so much that she could never stay mad long, even if the issue was still unresolved. But since I was horrible at making plans, she decided to call all our friends and make the plans for me.
When we got to the nightclub, we joined the group at a table, and Rose immediately dragged me out onto the dance floor. I hated to dance, but I'd do just about anything for that woman, and she knew it. But that was when I saw him. Edward freaken Masen was several feet away on the very same dance floor, and all my worst fears about him came true. He was messing around behind my sister's back…just as I always knew he would.
"What's wrong?" Rose asked me when she noticed my sudden anger. I didn't respond right away, I was just so locked in my own rage that I knew if I moved a single muscle I'd end up exploding and ripping Edward's fucking head off. He wasn't even being discreet as he grinded against the blond and kept repeatedly making out with her. It was disgusting, and I couldn't stand there for a moment longer and let it happen. "Where are you going?" Rose asked while grabbing my arm and refusing to let me move.
"I'm going to go kill the motherfucker."
"What? Who?" Rose glanced behind her and immediately saw who I was looking at…and then she got pissed to. "What a fucking jerk!" she shouted over the music.
"Exactly, now I'm going to go make him wish he was never born."
"Not him, you!" Rose yelled at me.
"What?" I asked confused.
"Seriously Emmett, grow the fuck up."
"How are you going to get pissed at me because Edward is over there cheating on my sister?"
She crossed her arms in front of her and then sighed. "Look again."
I glanced back at them, and was shocked to see that the blond chick Edward was with….was Bella. What the fuck?
"I knew they were going to be here, and that's why I picked this place to come," Rose admitted.
"Wait, you set this up?" I asked evenly.
"They come to Seattle for their anniversary every year, and I thought it would be a good way to break the ice. And since you obviously didn't even recognize your own sister, I'll let the whole kicking Edward's ass thing slide this time. Go over there and talk to them."
I turned and watched my former best friend and my little sister as they acted like they were some young couple in love, and even though I wanted to talk to her more than anything, I just couldn't do it. Not right then, not like that. I hadn't seen her in six years, and there was no way I could apologize for that in a loud nightclub. Thankfully, Rose had never told Bella that we were going to be there, so they weren't expecting us and we were able to leave.
"I'm going to drive to Forks next weekend and talk to her and my dad, I promise," I assured Rose as we left.
She wasn't happy about it, but I think she understood.
I had never been more nervous in my entire life, than I was on the drive to Forks. Rose wanted to come with me, but it was something I thought I should do on my own, and she agreed. I wanted to see Bella face to face, so I didn't call her to tell her I was coming; instead Rose just gave me directions to her house and I planned on just knocking on her door. It was sure to be awkward at first, but I didn't know how else to do it.
When I got into the general neighborhood however, I started to get lost. It was a new housing development and the streets were all confusing, so when I drove past a little park, I decided to stop and ask someone for directions. For such a small town, and an even smaller neighborhood, it was a fairly busy place with a ton of kids running amuck, which was actually kind of amusing to see. I didn't know any kids personally, so it was always fun to be at a place like that because it reminded me of my own childhood.
And as if by fate, I happened to look towards a group of apparent moms, and she was there. My little sister.
Just like at the club, I froze and watched her for a few minutes. She was giggling and laughing with some of the other women there, and despite my insistence that she must have had a horrible life, she looked happy.
I took a deep breath and decided that I had wasted too much time already, and then walked over to her.
"Bella," I said awkwardly. I didn't even realize that she was mid conversation and that my interruption was probably pretty rude, but I couldn't really take it back at that point.
She looked at me completely flabbergasted. "Emmett?" And then she smiled and reached out and hugged me. "Oh my god, I can't believe you're here."
It was a surreal moment. I had honestly thought she was going to yell at me and me and tell me to go fuck myself, but she didn't, and I was grateful.
When she pulled out of our hug, she just kind of looked at me for a moment. "How have you been? You look amazing."
"Uh…thanks," I said with an awkward half laugh. "And you're blond."
She grabbed a lock of her hair and looked at it. "Oh, yeah. I have a friend who's going through Beauty College and begged me to be her guinea pig. You should have seen it last month, it was purple."
"And you let her try again? That was mighty brave of you."
"No kidding," she said with a laugh. "Well, do you have time to catch up for a bit, or are you just passing through?"
"I actually came to see you. I was looking for your house and got lost, so I thought I'd ask someone for directions and by coincidence found you here."
We went to a nearby bench, and uncomfortably sat there for a few minutes in silence. "So…heard you were getting married," she started, obviously trying to find a way to break the ice.
I nodded, and then stupidly continued to look off into the distance, still not knowing what exactly to say to her just yet. I had a three hour car ride and thought of a million things to tell her, but at that moment I was coming up blank.
"I bet you would never have thought to even tell me about it if you weren't marrying my best friend, right?" she asked unexpectedly.
I huffed to myself, and then searched the deep cave of my ass for my pathetic head. "Bella, I'm sorry," I told her in a strange rush that both felt moronic and liberating at the same time.
"Okay," she said with a humorless laugh.
"No…really. I should have…I think I did things wrong…I just…Fuck, how the hell do you apologize to someone for all the shit that doesn't even seem to really make sense anymore?" I asked, mostly to myself. "I mean, I know you did what you did for me…and I shouldn't have reacted the way that I did. Does that even make sense? I was never mad at you, but I feel like I took it out on you and…left you alone to deal with all that crap that came after. I was a selfish prick…I should have…I don't know, taken you away with me, or something."
Her confused expression seemed to get a little angry. "Taken me away, where?"
"I don't know…somewhere I could protect you from all the crap. From dad, who was too fucking focused on me to worry about your wellbeing. From a mom who cared more about herself than her own daughter. From a fucking disgusting jerk who…"
"Ok, Stop!" she shouted at me. "God, Emmett, you haven't changed at all, have you?"
"What?" I tried to think about what I said wrong, and then I decided I needed to backtrack. "No, that's not what I meant, well, it is, but…Shit." I took another deep breath. "Okay, honestly…I don't get it. I don't understand you and him and what the hell happened between you. And if I hadn't gotten sick, then you would have never been together, and you deserved so much more than to just settle for someone like Edward because you got pregnant for my benefit. But…I suppose that's not important anymore because what's done is done, and that's not what I came here to say…not really, anyway - I've been so mad at the world for fucking you over, and in turn I fucked you over by abandoning you. I really am sorry."
She was quiet as she considered how to respond to me, and then she sighed. "Maybe you're right…maybe Edward and I would have never grown so close back then if you didn't get sick…Maybe we would have gone our separate ways only to meet back up again years later on a blind date and fallen in love and eventually gotten married anyway," she said evenly while crossing her arms at me. "Why is your relationship with my best friend okay, and my relationship with yours is so wrong?"
"Rose wasn't fourteen when we got together," I told her evenly.
"I was sixteen, not fourteen, and what difference does it make anyway? Would you have rather me out screwing around with the idiots at school who didn't give a shit about me? Because that was what most girls my age were doing. You still have so much hate for him, and I don't even think you know why."
"I just do," I said, practically admitting that she was right. "I've tried to look past it, I just can't. I hate him, and no matter how much I wish I could just turn it off, I can't. He completely betrayed my trust. He took away your childhood, and any chance you had at growing up and going out in the world to find some…all-consuming romance that you dreamed about from those books you always used to read."
"And what makes you think that I don't have that? I love Edward so much, and by you discrediting that, you're discrediting the most important part of me."
I sighed. "Look, the last thing I wanted to do was come here and get you upset."
"I'm not upset, but since you brought it up, why don't you tell me why you did come here?"
"Because…I missed you…and I wanted to make sure you were ok."
"Well, you can see that I'm fine," she said coldly. "So I guess you can leave for another half a dozen years until your guilt overtakes you or Rose twists your arm into visiting."
"Bella, that's not what I want."
"What do you want then?"
"I want…you in my life again. I want to get to know your son; I've never seen a picture…hell, I don't even know his name or if you had any more kids."
"That's no one's fault but yours."
"I know…but I want to fix that."
She nodded absently while looking at the playground. "Edward and I decided to wait a while to see if we want any more kids; we kind of just love doting on the one we have right now."
"That makes sense…Do you have a picture of him?"
"You don't need one," she said while gesturing out towards the throngs of children running amuck in front of us. "Guess which one he is."
I looked out at the children for a few minutes, when my eye was suddenly caught by a little kid climbing over top of the monkey bars pole. His hair was unmistakable, and well, so was his face. He was a mini Edward with just enough Bella to make him cute, and I found myself smiling at him.
"I don't think you could have hidden his paternity for very long," I told her.
"No, definitely not," she said with a giggle.
"Ah, he's beautiful, Bella," I told her as I watched the kid scoot across the top beam of the play structure. "Uh…is he going to get hurt up there?" I asked worriedly.
She smiled. "Nah, he's a monkey…He's kind of like his uncle in that way," she said suggestively.
I nodded in agreement. I was always physically hyperactive like that as a kid, and I would have said that Edward was too, but really he had always just followed my lead.
"Can I meet him?" I was still watching the kid as I asked, but when Bella didn't answer me, I turned to look at her.
She bit her bottom lip, and then shook her head no. "Sorry Emmett, but….he's at that age where he gets attached to people rather easily. I just don't see the point in you meeting him when you're not going to be in his life."
"Look, I know Rose adores him and probably wants him in our wedding, but more importantly, I'm his uncle and…he saved my life."
She shook her head no again. "He didn't save your life, he was just born. I saved you…me and Edward; we made a choice together which gave both of you life. But the three of us are a package deal, so if you want to be in our lives, I suggest you contact Edward."
"Bella, I - "
"I don't expect you to be the best of friends again," she interrupted me. "But the last time you saw him…the lies you told, the hurtful things you said…At the very least you owe him an apology."
"You want me to apologize to the guy that got my sixteen year old sister pregnant?" I asked slowly.
She smiled heavily before getting up off the bench. "I guess not."
"Bella, I really doubt he'll just allow me to see you guys after everything that happened anyway."
"I guess you'll never know if you don't try."
"Wait, where are you going?" I asked as she started to walk off.
"There's no point to any of this if all you're going to do is continue to blame him for your distance." She started to walk again, but then she stopped and turned back to me. "His name is Ben," she said, taking me aback and making me freeze in place. "Edward's choice, not mine," she added. Without another word, Bella turned and finished her walk back to the woman and refused to look at me again.
I was left standing there completely flabbergasted. They named their son Ben?
I couldn't stop thinking about the name for the entire three hours home, and when I arrived back at the condo, Rose's surprise for me just added to it.
"The invitations just came in!" she nearly shouted the moment I walked into the door. But when she saw my face, her excitement dropped. "What happened? I'm sorry, I was just so excited, but I should have asked how your visit went first." She looked at her watch. "But since you were only gone about six and a half hours, I'd say it didn't go very well at all."
"It went fine," I said while just happening to look down at the invitation in her hand –
You are cordially invited to the wedding of
Mister Emmett Benjamin Swan
Miss Rosalie Ann Hale…
"I saw Bella briefly….You didn't tell me she named her son after me," I said somberly.
"Uh…from what she told me, she didn't pick the name. Besides, we've hardly ever talked about them, and I told you that I didn't want to get in the middle of it. Why didn't you stay long?"
"Bella told me I have to apologize to Edward before she'd let me spend any time with them."
"So…did you go by his garage?"
"Emmett, even if you still hate him, go at least try. Hell, fake it for all I care. Life's too short to not have your family around, and whether you like it or not, Edward is part of your family."
I thought about it for a few days, and eventually I decided Rose was on to something. I didn't have to not hate Edward, but if I could just tolerate him occasionally, then it would definitely be worth it. I wanted Bella back in my life, and I really wanted to get to know little Ben. So for Rose, and for them, I decided to try. If I could get through one conversation without killing the motherfucker, than it would have been a success.
I was actually pleasantly shocked by how good the garage looked. Charlie had told me during one of our strained conversations that Edward owned it outright, and it looked as though he was doing pretty well.
I actually figured he'd be too busy to talk, but I had gotten a late start leaving that day, so by the time I got there it was close to closing and I didn't have to wait long. When the last costumer was gone, I took a deep breath and walked into the office.
He was alone at the desk doing what looked like a shitload of paperwork, and didn't even notice that I had walked in.
"Need some help?" I asked, figuring it was a good way to get his attention. "I have some experience in this kind of work," I said with forced friendliness.
He looked up at me and was surprised, but not entirely shocked.
"Emmett, hey, how are you?" he asked evenly.
"Bella told you I went to see her last week?" I assumed.
He nodded while closing up whatever he was doing. "Yep," he said as he finally looked back up at me. "You look good. Got your weight back up, and everything," he said dryly.
"Yeah…as soon as I went into remission I wanted to get back into shape," I told him uncomfortably. If I had thought my little reunion with Bella was strange, I was definitely wrong, because standing in a room alone with Edward was excruciatingly awkward. I found myself wanting to choke him, but also irritatingly wanting to ask him about his business and if he had been working on anything cool. I hated him more than I ever hated anyone, but there were brief moments when I'd forget and suddenly be back to that time before everything happened, when we were just hanging out and wrenching on cars like nothing else mattered.
Edward nodded. "So, besides your health, how have you been?"
"Can't complain," I told him while I tried to think of what else to say. I cleared my throat. "I saw Ben at the park…he looks just like you."
"Yeah, poor kid," he joked before looking at the clock on the wall as if he was in some kind of rush to leave.
"Do you have somewhere to be?" I asked him.
"Home," he said. "It's been a long day, so why don't you just tell me what you came here to say."
I nodded. He was right; there was no point in stalling or forcing fake small talk. "I want my family back….and Bella said the only way for me to have them in my life again, is if I smooth things over with you…so here I am."
"Fine, consider things smoothed," Edward said coldly before getting up and heading to the door.
"Just like that?" I asked surprised.
"What were you expecting me to say, Emmett? This entire thing was your issue. I understand why you were pissed at first, but I tried to talk to you about it. I apologized for betraying your trust, but I'm done apologizing or even worrying about you. This is my family now, and I'm not going to disappear or move aside to give you time with them. But Bella and Ben are your family too, and I'm not going to keep them from you."
"Even though I tried to keep them from you?"
"I guess that's the difference between you and me, I would never let anyone keep me from my family, just as I'd never try to keep anyone else from theirs. I didn't grow up like you Emmett, I didn't always have a family, not really anyway, and I know better than to take a gift like that for granted."
As much as I wanted to hate him, as much as I tried to hold on to that anger that had defined me for so long, I couldn't deny the truth any more. A picture really was worth a thousand words, and his office and desk area were full of pictures which only further proved his words. Most were of Bella and their son, but there were even a couple with Charlie and Renee in them, and it was painfully obvious how much they all meant to him.
Edward wasn't the loser deadbeat his father was, and I really began to have my doubts that he'd ever do anything to hurt them like I had always feared. But the more I looked at the pictures, the more I realized the truth - I had missed it. I missed my nephew grow from a baby to a kid. I missed countless Christmases and birthdays; first steps, and learning to ride a bike. I missed it all because I was selfish and couldn't get past my own shit to see what was really important, and what it all equated to was the fact that I was the loser I always feared he'd be. I was the one who abandoned my family. He didn't suffer by my absence, no one did but me.
"This…everything, it was all my fault," I admitted to him emotionally. "I just kept thinking that if I didn't get sick….This wasn't what was supposed to happen, you know? I was so mad at you when I found out that you were the one who got her pregnant, but…when she told me that you did it to save me, it just…I couldn't handle it, you know? I really thought you were the one person who knew that I would have rather died than for Bella to lose her childhood like that. I counted on you to make the choices that I would have made, to watch out for her and put her needs first. You and I were so close back then, and I honestly thought you saw things the way I did. I thought….I thought you saw Bella the way I did. I just didn't expect - "
"I never saw Bella the way you did," he interrupted me. "Emmett, I wanted to be in your family from the first time you brought me home, and I wished your parents were mine, hell I wished I was you…but I never saw Bella as a little sister. I made fun of her, and picked on her the way an older brother would, but…it was just to hide the way I really felt."
"And how did you feel?"
"I didn't even understand it until this all started, but deep down I knew…I always loved her. All of the girls I dated, every time I screwed around at a party, something would always make me think of her even back then, and I'd just get this…wave of guilt, like I knew what I was doing was wrong, even if it really wasn't at the time. I was always so confused, because I knew I shouldn't feel that way about her, so I buried it the best I could for as long as possible until it just wasn't possible anymore. But if you didn't get sick…if Bella didn't have some sixth sense and knew how to save you…we would have still ended up together…and Benny would have been born at some point because that kid is a force, and nothing could have stopped him from taking this world by storm," he said with a laugh.
I couldn't help but smile by his comment. "I believe it," I agreed quietly. Just the couple of minutes that I saw him playing that day was enough to prove that. "But…I still...I just don't get it," I told him honestly. I was finally past being angry; I was just trying to understand. "I mean, we always liked the same girls, I just can't imagine you…and her…it's just…." I let my sentence trail off as the willies ran up my spine.
"I would hope you didn't see her the way I do," Edward joked.
"You know what I mean."
"Well, honestly, I don't see the appeal in Rose," he told me. I shrugged in understanding, so he continued. "I can name off thousands of Bella's attributes that I love, but the truth is that tons of women have those things in common…but there's only one Bella, and I'll never be able to properly put into words why I love her. It's just who I am."
I nodded absently. "Edward….I'm sorry," I said sincerely. And I was sorry. I would always hate how young Bella was, but I was grateful that none of my biggest fears were realized. Edward wasn't going to hurt her, and I really believed they were happy. "For everything really," I added. "But mostly for lying the way that I did, and trying to keep you guys apart. I was an idiot, and I don't want to waste any more time continuing to be an idiot."
"Then don't. Benny's sixth birthday party is next weekend, why don't you and Rose come. It's a circus theme," he said the last part mockingly. We both hated circuses growing up, so I completely understood his disdain for the theme.
I smiled. "Thanks…can't wait."
"Look, I gotta get home for dinner, Bella's going to be pissed that I'm so late…You hungry?"
"I should probably get on the road…Rose hates staying alone at night."
"Pfft! Women," Edward joked.
"Exactly. But please tell Bella that I can't wait to see her next week."
We didn't shake hands or even fist bump before parting ways, but that was ok, and even though I doubted we'd ever be as close as we once were, it felt good to not hate him anymore…I even managed to stop hating myself as well. There was no point in wasting any more time with negativity. I was on my way to having my family back, and then I'd marry the most amazing woman I could imaging; saying life was good would be an understatement.
I was actually super excited. In fact I was sure that I had never been so excited about a kid's party in my life. Apparently the circus was happening in their backyard, so it was a good thing Rose knew where the house was because I sure as hell would have still never been able to find it.
The house was shockingly big - it wasn't huge, but it was definitely one of the bigger ones in the development. Rose had finally allowed herself to tell me some information on Bella during the car ride there –After she got her GED, she went to nursing school and currently worked in a doctor's office – which was actually really surprising to me since Bella always hated anything to do with needles. But I knew nurses didn't make much money, so from the looks of their home, Edward must have been doing amazingly with the garage.
"Shouldn't we knock?" I asked, getting nervous for the first time in a week as Rose just went for the door handle.
"You might want to, but I'm family," she teased before sticking her tongue out at me.
"Better be careful or I may just bite that thing off," I warned her playfully.
"You'd miss it too much."
"You're right about that."
"Auntie Wose!" a little voice shouted as we walked inside.
"Hey, there's my gremlin!" she squealed back at him as he ran right for her and jumped into her waiting arms.
"I missed you," he told her.
"I missed you too," she replied with a kiss. "Happy birthday."
"I'm six now!"
"I know, you're getting so big."
"Do you have a pwesent for me?" he asked excitedly.
"Of course I do, but you can't open it until later."
I could do nothing but stand there like a moron and stare at the little boy who was conceived to save me. He was a wonder to see, and even without actually speaking to him myself, I could feel an intense bond with him that I was sure would continue for the rest of my life.
"Hey, Aunt Wose, aw you weally getting mawied?" Ben asked as he eyed me for the first time.
"Yep. This is your uncle Emmett," she told him.
The kid shot me a deathly glare that made me chuckle to myself because of how much it reminded me of Bella when she was little. "Why you wanna mawy him, he looks like Shwek?"
Rose and I both laughed at that one. "Well, maybe I'm Fiona," she told him.
"I weally hope you don't tuwn into an ogaw too."
"But green is my favorite color…just like your eyes."
"Oh, Auntie Wose," Ben said with a huff to mask his blush.
"Hey, can you at least say hi to Emmett?" Rose asked him. "He really wanted to meet you."
"Hi," he said with attitude. It quickly became obvious that he had a little bit of a crush on Rose and wasn't happy that I was marrying her, which was hilarious but kind of upsetting at the same time. I wanted him to like me, but it seemed I had to win my way into his affections and prove to him that I belonged with his godmother.
"Hey, where's your mommy?" Rose asked.
"In da back. I wuz just getting a dwink and saw you come in."
"Ok, well let's go out and say hi."
Rose put him down, so he grabbed her hand and pulled her through the house. I trailed closely behind, but couldn't help but look at all the nice things they had decorating the place. It looked very adult-like, which really wasn't what I was expecting, though I guess I had no idea what I was expecting.
Their backyard was even nicer. It was all decked out with clowns and circus tents for the party, but underneath it was lush green grass surrounded by trees with a play structure off to the side. It was actually kind of beautiful.
I was so busy looking around that I didn't even notice that Rose was hugging Bella hello at first.
When they were done, they pulled apart and Bella walked right over, and hugged me too. "Hey there stranger. I'm glad you're here."
I squeezed her back, and it felt amazing. "Me too. Thanks for having me….Um, are we early?" I asked when I saw that we were the only ones there."
"Yeah…but that's perfect, you can help set up," she said, and just like that, it was like the past six years apart never happened. Bella put us right to work hanging decorations and setting up games.
And when she sent me into the house to find some tape that was needed, Edward walked in with a big cake box.
"Hey, you made it," Edward said casually. "And Bella already has you working," he said with a laugh.
I smiled. "Yeah, well I'm thrilled to do it," I said sincerely as I pulled off a streamer that was stuck to my shirt. "You just got back from the bakery?"
"Well I thought about baking the cake myself, but then Bella pointed out that I can't bake, so I opted for having someone else do it."
He lifted the lid so I could see the circus tent shaped cake.
"What's with all the clowns and such, anyway?" I asked disturbed.
Edward shrugged. "Bella refused to let me show Benny 'It', so he still likes all this shit."
I laughed. "Did you really want your son to piss himself the way you did after watching that movie?"
"At least he wouldn't like this crap anymore."
"True," I agreed. "Maybe when he's like eight."
I didn't go there that day expecting things to be strained between us the entire time, but I definitely didn't think it was going to be downright easy either. As odd as it sounded, the fact that it wasn't strange was the strangest part. I immediately felt comfortable around them, and even when I saw Edward and Bella being affectionate towards one another, I didn't have a negative feeling whatsoever; actually it almost looked right…like I could finally see their love and it was completely natural. They fit together, and I hated that I ever tried to keep them apart.
Pretty soon the guests started to arrive, including my dad and his fiancée Sue, who was more than a little shocked and elated to see me there; he may have even been crying as he hugged me. Charlie and I practically spent the entire party catching up, and he told me how Edward had basically saved our old family house. He and Sue currently lived there together, but were still working on paying Edward back, even though he refused to take the money.
"So I decided to just keep putting my payments into savings bonds for Benny," Charlie explained.
"That's a good idea," I told him.
We laughed and reminisced and he asked me about my life, but mostly he bragged about the joys of grandparenthood. It was actually an incredible couple of hours.
When things finally slowed down, and the last kid went home, Edward decided that since it was an unusually warm day for October, it was a good idea to bring out the water guns…
"Oh, Edward, no!" Rose complained, already seeing where it was going.
"Fine, don't arm yourself, but you're going to get wet either way."
Bella skipped out of the house, and looked just as excited about the upcoming war as Edward and Benny seemed to be.
"Ok, Masens versus Swans," Bella announced.
"Wait, we're all playing?" I asked surprised.
"Of course," Bella said enthusiastically.
"No, I wanna be on Aunt Wose's team!" Ben complained when we all got up and picked our weapons. And since it was his birthday, we humored the kid. So the teams ended up being Ben, Rose, and me verses Edward, Bella, and Charlie….and it was war. It only took a couple minutes for all of us to get completely soaked, and I couldn't remember a time when I laughed that hard. But beyond anything else, the best part of the battle was the fact that Ben seemed to get over his resentment towards me marrying Rose, which was a definitely relief
Rose and Bella eventually had enough and went inside to change, and Sue followed them in to help start the cleanup, but us men stayed out back and just sat in the sun to dry with a few beers….well, root beer for Ben. There were only three of the reclining chairs, so Ben crawled in Edward's lap and I watched as they just laid back together completely content.
"Hey daddy?" Ben asked him.
"Do you miss me being five?"
Edward laughed. "Yeah, but I love that you're six now."
"And when I'm seven you'll miss me being six?"
"Of course, but I'm still excited to see you turn seven…and eight, and all the years you'll become."
"But when I'm seven I get to dwive the fishing boat, wight gwampa?" Ben asked Charlie.
"Well, that's what we agreed on," Charlie replied.
"You go fishing?" I asked him enthusiastically. "Do you think I can come sometime?"
"You wike to fish too?" Ben asked surprised.
"Yeah, of course. Grandpa used to take me all the time when I was your age."
"You knew gwandpa when you wuz my age?"
"Yeah, he's my dad," I told him with a smile.
He looked confused as he tried to figure out what that meant.
"So…you's my mommy's bwother?"
"But you's mawying my mommy's sister?"
We all laughed. "No buddy, Aunt Rose is just mom's friend," Edward explained.
"Oh…well, I guess you can come fishing wif us. But only if you bait your own hook," he said while trying to wink at Charlie.
I smiled. "Well, I'm not sure if I can remember how…Will you help me?"
He looked to Edward for his opinion; when Edward nodded encouragingly, he turned back to me and said – "Ok, I can help you."
And just like that, I knew we were going to be great friends.
Over the next few months, Rose dove in head first into wedding planning, and I did my best to make up with lost time with my family. Bella and Edward brought Ben up to Seattle for the weekend a few times, and I must have driven out to Forks practically every other weekend.
Benny was definitely a riot, and he quickly became my favorite little buddy who loved to play jokes on me and demonstrate his latest magic tricks. And I was grateful for the amazing gift of being around Bella and Charlie again, but the biggest surprise I had was just how quickly Edward and I settled into an old familiar camaraderie. It was like the moment I got my head out of my ass, we were able to go right back to what we were before. It wasn't as if we were fixed, but more like there was never a riff between us in the first place…and after only four months of renewed friendship, I was asking him to be my best man in my wedding.
And it was the best wedding I could ever hope for. With my new/old best friend by my side, my little life savior nephew stumbling his way down the aisle as the ring bearer, my parents in the front row, Bella as the matron of honor, and the most beautiful bride I could ask for, life didn't get much better, and I was incredibly grateful to be given a second chance to live it.
***A/N: Once again, thank you so much for all your time and support. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it