Challenge Number/Title: #5 – The Limerick

Date Posted: February 22, 013

Fandom: Twilight

Rating: M

Genre: AH, AU

Content Descriptors: Angst,Drama, Mystery, Romance

Character Pairing: Edward/Bella

Prompt: Your entry still needs to be 1000 words or more. It only needs to include at least one limerick. It does not need to be entirely in limerick format.

-x-

"You can't blame someone for walking away if you didn't do anything to make them stay."

― Unknown

-x-

FIVE.

It was yet another late night; her fingers hovered over the keys and she bit her lip in sheer frustration. She was never going to figure out Alice Cullen's laptop password. Short of resetting the password, which was not something Bella wanted to do, she had the option of extracting the hard drive. She flipped the laptop over to check the exact model of the machine and paused.

Taped to the battery on a purple post-it were five lines written in Alice's small and curly handwriting; five lines as simple as a children's poem but as complicated as a riddle.

There once was a girl and her mate
Who would share a peculiar fate
But a sinister hand
Ruined their plan
And a baby was born on this date

A sharp gasp cut through her quiet office as soon as she read the clue left behind. Had Alice known this whole time about Kate? Why hadn't she said anything before? Why would she use this date as her password? So many questions filled her head as she turned the laptop back over and keyed in Kate's birthday. It took a few tries to get it done correctly, but ultimately, it was "December31" that granted her access into Alice's private thoughts.

-x-

"Has he tried to contact you?" Rose asked after a significant amount of silence was shared at the dinner table.

Bella scraped the last of her mashed potatoes around her plate before answering with a shake of her head. "No, and I don't expect he will. If anything, it will be his lawyer."

Laughter from the living room pulled the smallest of smiles from Bella's otherwise sullen face. Emmett's boisterous voice was barely heard over Kate's excited screams. It pained Rosalie to see her best friend so stressed.

"He can't take her from you, Bella." Rose reached over and took her hand. "You tried to contact him three times. Once when you found out you were pregnant and twice after she was born. You got shot down each time. He's crazy if he thinks he can just come into your life after all this time and—"

"Hey!" Emmett bellowed, stumbling into the room with Kate on his shoulders.

Bella fought the urge to remind him how tall he was and how low the ceiling was. Rosalie saw the wrinkle between her eyes and stood up from the table to take the squealing child into her arms. Relief instantly washed over Bella, and with a small nod, she thanked her.

"All right," Emmett replied, after looking between the two seemingly telepathic women in front of him. "What's got Little B looking like someone ran over her dog?"

"What dog, Emmy?" Kate cried, with a slight tremor to her tone. "Mama, whose puppy died?"

"There's no puppy, sweetie!" Rosalie quickly reassured her. "Emmett doesn't know what he's talking about." Her eyes threw pointed daggers his way. "How about a popsicle for my favorite girl?"

Kate's innocent apple eyes sought out her mother. "Mama?"

"Yes, baby." Bella nodded, gathering the dishes from the table. "But only one!" she called over her shoulder. "And eat it slow, Katie. Last time, you got a brain freeze, remember?"

"Ah, man!" Emmett cringed dramatically in Kate's direction. "Dude! You survived a brain freeze? You're the bravest kid in the world!"

"I know!" Kate shouted and threw her fist in the air.

Bella watched Rose and Emmett fawn over her daughter, like they always did, and felt a stab of longing. Sometimes when she saw Kate with her two best friends, she wondered if it would have been better for her to grow up with two parents instead of one. Bella had grown up with just Charlie, but she'd always wondered if things would have been different had Renee stuck around.

"Bella…"

Plus, with Edward back in her life—or whatever the hell he was—she'd been thinking nonstop about her decisions in regard to her daughter. Her profession was definitely not ideal. She'd noticed in the past year that she'd sometimes get so engrossed in a case that she'd unintentionally neglect Kate. Did this give Edward a legit case against her? Could the fact that Bella had friends in not only high but also low—very low—places be a factor in Edward's defense?

"Bella."

For the past week, since her argument with Edward, she'd been unable to sleep or eat. Her dreams were filled with nightmares of the worst kind, and her appetite was nonexistent. Rose had to practically shove food down her throat to keep her going.

"Bella!" Rose bellowed out through cupped hands, causing Bella to swing around and raise a brow. "I said your name like ten times." She stared at Bella in concern. "Are you all right, sweetie? You look tired."

"I am tired," Bella grunted, "but I have to check on a few things for our other cases before I go to bed."

"No, you don't." Rose stepped forward and set Kate down so she could follow Emmett upstairs. "I thought we agreed that you would focus on the Cullens, and I would take care of everything else. You're doing it again, Bella."

"Doing what?" she sighed.

"You're throwing yourself into work to avoid things you don't want to think about. You can't keep doing that, Bella. Think about Kate," she frowned.

"I know! I know! God, I know, okay? I just…" she trailed off, leaning against the counter. "I can't even concentrate right now. I've been unable to do anything right since seeing Edward, and the closest I've gotten in Alice's case is finding out the damned password on her laptop."

She purposely did not mention the riddle.

"You need a break." Rose smacked the counter beside Bella. "Like a mini-vacation of some sort."

"No, I don't…" Bella actually felt her lips purse into a bratty pout.

Everyone in the house was used to emotions getting carried away with two Swans in the house. Bella got it from her mother—or so Charlie liked to say—and passed it down to her own daughter. Rosalie dreaded the day Kate began to PMS.

"Why don't you take Kate and visit Charlie this weekend? He misses you guys like crazy and you haven't been down to see him in weeks, which is so unlike you, Bella. Plus, I think it would be really good for you and Kate to spend more time together."

"You're right. God, I'm a horrible daughter, and now I'm turning into a horrible mother!" She threw her hands out at her sides and shouted at the ceiling dramatically.

"And the Oscar for the most theatrical performance goes to…" Rosalie tossed her blonde hair over her shoulder and lightly clapped her hands in fake applause.

Bella stuck out her tongue. "Alright, alright. I'll take the small fry and go visit my old man this weekend."

"There's my girl." Rose winked.

-x-

"Bella!"

She flew up in bed at the sound of her name and the relentless pounding on the front door downstairs.

"I know you're home! You open this goddamned door right now!" Fists started beating against the door once again.

Bella froze in bed.

That voice.

That fucking voice.

That fucking asshole was at her door.

How dare he!

She jumped out of bed, yanking her robe from a hanger before rushing to check on a still fast-asleep Kate. In that moment, Bella had never been so glad for how deep a sleeper her daughter was. The girl could sleep through a hurricane. Grabbing her phone, Bella's fingers typed out a quick text as she hurried downstairs before her unwanted visitor made any more noise. Just as she hit 'send' and slipped the phone into the pocket of her robe, the loud pounding resumed.

"Open the fu—"

"Keep your fucking voice down! You almost woke up my daughter!" she hissed, yanking the door open angrily. "What do you want?" she whisper-shouted.

His clouded vision took her in from top to bottom as he laughed darkly in response, swaying on his feet. "Your daughter?" he snorted. "Don't you mean our daughter?" His lips lifted at the corner into one of his famous smirks.

Hate surged through her veins, and she shoved him forward as she charged outside and shut the door behind her. "You listen here and listen good, you disgusting piece of shit. Kate is not and will never be your daughter. Do you hear me?"

His baleful gaze narrowed. "You ruin everything you touch. Do you know that?"

She gulped and did not acknowledge his words; instead, replying with, "Go home, Royce."

"And if I don't?" He stepped in closer, and she smelled the whiskey on his breath. "Don't act like this isn't what you've wanted this whole time." He smiled down at her and brushed a lock of hair from her face. "Did you miss me, Isabella? Six years is a long time to forget what we had. Trust me, I know."

Vomit bubbled in her gut. "You're delusional," she responded incredulously. "No amount of time will ever change that. Now get the hell off my property, or I'll call the cops!" she warned him.

Another haughty laugh escaped his lips. "Oh, but your daddy's not here to save you now, Ms. Swan. Try again." He leaned in closer so that he hovered over her like a predator trapping its prey.

Bella felt the hairs on her body rise. "If you touch me, I will knock your fucking teeth out! I'm not that scared little girl from high school anymore!"

Royce threw his head back, howling in laughter before he sobered quickly, and brought his face to hers. "Oh, but she was so fun." With a wolfish grin, he lifted a hand as if to touch her face. "Come on now, baby. We used to have so much fun in high school, remember? You would wear those tight jeans and tiny t-shirts, and I would—"

"Shut up!" she screamed, her entire body repulsed and trembling with a fear she'd sworn never to feel again. "I hate you!" she said through gritted teeth and blurry eyes. "You always took what you wanted, and you always wanted what you could never have."

"Oh, Bella." He took her chin in his hand firmly. "We both know you were never something I couldn't have." He chuckled at the fire in her eyes. "You should be thankful for the pity scraps I fed you, darling. Because it's all you're worth. No one's ever really wanted you, you know. Edward didn't want you. I didn't want you. Hell, even your mother didn't want you."

Her hand suddenly flew out and slapped against the side of his face so fast his head flew to his right. He touched his cheek in shock, looking down at Bella with wide eyes. His lip held a drop of blood from her hit, and she watched him lick it away slowly. Her heart was pounding, her palms were damp, her knees were shaky. She wished she hadn't told Rose to stay with Emmett.

"You don't know anything," she whispered, painfully aware of the advantage he now had on her that he'd exposed one of her weakest spots.

He rolled his bloodshot eyes. "And I don't care to, either. You know what else I don't care about? That fucking child of yours. I don't want to hear another word about her. She's not mine. She's not Edward's. She's the result of some one-night stand you'd had shortly after your break-up. Do you understand me, Bella? I will not have your poison in my family again." He sneered in her face.

Instinct finally pushed through and sent Bella's knee upward the same way it had that night in her office with Edward. Only this time, she didn't hold anything back and used all of her strength. When Royce hit the ground cradling his balls, Bella stood over him and shook her head.

"Look at you," she taunted, "drunk and pathetic and withering at my feet. I told you I wasn't that girl from high school anymore. Now get the fuck off my property, or I'll show you what else has changed since then!"

He sputtered on the ground, unable to speak intelligently.

She knelt down beside him and whispered in his ear, "Don't worry, Roy… She's not yours."

Headlights flashed across the front of her house as a sleek, black Mercedes flew up the driveway and almost onto her front lawn. Before she could react, the driver's side door was flung open and Edward was shouting her name. His face was murderous as he glared at the pile on her front porch. Her logical instinct was to back away, but for some odd reason, she felt compelled to push forward and stop him at the steps.

"Wait." She pressed her hands to his chest and sucked in a quick gasp of air upon the intimate contact. "Kate's asleep. Please don't. Just get him out of here."

Edward frowned down at her and swallowed hard, unable to speak. Her mouth fell open slightly right then, a small pant fleeing from her lips and causing her chest to rise and fall against his. He was even harder than before, chest taut and body built like a pro athlete. No longer was he the tall and angular teenage boy with the sharp jaw and soulful eyes.

"How long has he been here?" His voice was eerily calm as he gently removed her hands from him and stepped away, his eyes trained on Royce.

She felt his warmth leave her instantly, and she shivered in the cold. "I can't remember." She shrugged and curled her arms around herself impulsively, as if to protect herself against the two men on her doorstep. The uneasy feeling in her stomach made her swallow the urge to be sick. The situation was too familiar—far too familiar.

"Are you okay?" Edward's unexpected question caused Bella to jump in surprise and Edward's hands to grab onto her waist for balance. "Did he hurt you?" he asked, as his hands slid down her sides to her hips and back upward to see for himself.

An atrocious betrayal from her body to her heart happened just then. Against her better judgment, she sighed in content and leaned into his touch instead of away. "I'm okay," she whispered huskily.

His fingers dug into her waist. "What did he say to you?" His breath was at her ear, hot and gliding down her neck.

What was happening to her?!

"What do you care?" she scowled in confusion. "Just the other day, you treated me like a piece of dirt on your shoe. Don't try to be a gentleman now. It's far too late. Besides, I know it was you who sent him here. You always sent him to do your dirty work." Her arms shakily pushed him away from her. "I guess some things don't change."

"No," he replied spitefully. "I suppose they don't. You still jump to every conclusion that casts me as the bad guy. You may not be that same girl I'd once thought I'd known, Isabella, but you sure as hell hold onto her closely."

The two stared at each other, wordlessly, silently as rain began pelting against the roof, sprinkling the steps behind him. In his eyes, she could see that he still held a power over her like no other. Warmth covered her, like a towel straight from the dryer. He had been her sun once, and now, standing there before him, she hated to admit that being in such close proximity was the most comfort she'd felt in years.

But it was a false comfort, and she wouldn't allow herself to fall victim to it. "Gee, I wonder why," she mumbled under her breath. Just seeing him again after so long was like going back in time. How could old habits not resurface?

"What was that?" he tested her.

"Nothing." She forced her eyes away from his face. "It's nice to see you clean up one of your own messes for once."

He growled suddenly and then grabbed hold of her upper arm.

"Let go of me." She wrenched away from his hold.

"I'm trying to be civil, but you are testing my resolve to its limit. Why do you insist on challenging me at every turn, Isabella?"

"You can't take her from me." Bella's words were out before the thought processed, and she scowled at the confusion that flashed across his face.

"Excuse me?" He shook his head in irritation, running a hand through his wild hair.

Her solid front of bravery began to waver. "You had your chance, Edward. You had three of them, and you shot me down each time." She paused to breathe deeply, lest she begin to give into the urge to cry. "So, why now?" Her voice caught on the last word.

He shook his head, as if clearing his thoughts. Nothing she was saying made any sense to him, and it was irritating. Edward prided himself on always being just one step ahead of everyone else—but, as always, Bella threw him off kilter. "Can we please not do this right now?" he sighed after a long period of silence. "Look, I spoke out of anger the other day, alright? I didn't mean what I said when I threatened you like that."

She hated the lump that had formed in her throat and the moisture that gathered behind her lashes. "You know what, Edward? I wish for once you would say at least one thing that you actually do mean."

Her words hit him hard, forcing him to look away. "I'll take him home. It's my fault he got drunk tonight. I taunted him and…" He broke off, shaking his head, and moved to wake Royce as if he hadn't spoken.

Bella watched him help Royce into the backseat and told her he'd pick up the silver Lexus that was in her driveway the next day. He avoided all eye contact as he spoke, using a tone that made her feel as if he was speaking to an employee, not the mother of his child; the girl he used to hold tightly from behind at pep rallies, randomly kissing her cheek, chin, neck, and then whispering in her ear about how much he loved her. He had completely disconnected himself from the situation, from her.

She hated how much it hurt, even after all this time.

It made something inside of her snap and she raced down from her porch and into the rain. "Edward!" she called out, rushing over to his side of the car. Completely soaked through to her bones, she shivered and reached out to grasp his door before it shut.

Her unexpected appearance at his side caught him off guard long enough to rinse the scowl from his face. His mouth uncurled and his eyes softened, as his previously careless façade melted away. For just a second, she had thought he might get out and pull her into his arms, as he would have done so many years ago. His first instincts would have been to comfort her. Now they were to shove her away.

"I know you hate me," she said, trembling in the cold. "But respect me enough not to send anyone else to harass me at the home where my child lives."

Sheer astonishment crossed his features as her statement brought him out of the car and into the rain, as well. His tall figure loomed over her, intimidating her to take a step back despite her usual fearless character. No one could ever bring out the weak side of Bella like Edward could.

"Jesus, Isabella." He frowned at her in disappointment. "Do you honestly think I would do something like that to you?"

"I don't know what to expect from you anymore." Her arms crossed over her chest defensively as her shoulders hunched in an attempt to keep warm. "You're the one who liked to hurt me every chance you got."

His hand shot out to cradle the back of her head, bringing her forward so that they were nearly nose-to-nose. "Let's get one thing straight here," he growled in her face. "You broke my heart, Isabella. I didn't break yours." He released her and swiftly locked himself inside the car.

She stood frozen in disbelief, anger boiling beneath her skin, heart straining to remain inside her chest, lungs on the brink of exploding.

"Get inside the house. You're going to catch pneumonia for Christ's sake," he snapped at her through a crack in his window. "Go!" he shouted heatedly, a complete contrast to his previous expressive confession.

She flinched from his firm tone and bit her tongue to keep from barking back at him. He was right. She was fucking freezing outside in the pouring rain. Her clothes were plastered to her body, chafing her skin mercilessly. She felt his eyes on her the entire way back to her house. Only when she had finally shut the door behind her did she see her front room lose its brightness from the receding headlights of Edward's car.

-x-

A/N: Thank you to my Penny for being the bestest bestie ever and always giving me amazing advice. BIG thank you to mariahajile and mauigirl60 for being amazing beta's—they catch all my mistakes!

Everyone go read Londonstew's entry to the PTB challenge, she writes under the name: heatherarielle.

-x-