A/N… So…yeah, this is the last regular chapter of Fire & Ice. Again, I'm still behind, so the epi will be along soon. I just don't know when. I need to thank you guys for your patience, support, and constant love for this series. I wasn't going to add a fourth, but I'm glad I did. Thank you so much for showing me just how much love Mercward and Sweetness have.
I'll let you get on with it. See me at the bottom…
There was a benefit of flying my dad's plane. He personally knew the pilot, so there were no real security procedures, which meant all our equipment could be loaded on without an issue. The hangar at the small Svalbard airport was busy, filled with chatter from the crew and the flight staff checking in with my dad.
Leaning against the hangar door, I gave the crew a quick head count. Mickey and Bella were helping Irina with her bags, Kurt was still nursing his leg as he hobbled around, and Alec, Jasper, and Emmett were giving each other shit about who knew what. I found my dad with the pilot, but I was missing someone: Eleazar.
A glance outside showed me he was on the phone, but he hung up, walking to me.
"Everything okay?" I asked him.
"Yeah, yeah," he sighed wearily with a nod. "I've arranged a medical transport for Boris as soon as he's able to travel. I'm surprised he's letting your dad help him."
Grimacing, I looked over at him. "He's got no one else. I had Alice do a quick check on him. His wife died years ago, and he never remarried. No kids, no siblings, nothin'."
"Damn," he groaned, but nodded again. "Well, okay, then maybe it's good he'll be in Seattle. Anyway, the hospital just confirmed all the orders. They'll contact your dad when Boris is stable enough to be moved, which, according to his doctors, won't be too long. I guess they like to get heart patients up and about."
"And the uranium?" I asked him.
"Felix is with Finn's crew now. He's personally overseeing the crate all the way to Canada. Maybe that fucking shit will cure someone of cancer by this time next year," El muttered wryly. "Oh, and Felix said for you to tell Bella that he broke Paul's nose again."
I cracked the fuck up. "What? Why?"
"I don't know," he said with a chuckle. "I guess he heard all about Paul's attitude, but when he heard Bella just about broke his arm, he hit the asshole again, telling him that Bells didn't like to be touched."
Grinning, I shook my head and gripped his shoulder. "Can't say I'm sorry about that."
"Yeah, I figured," he replied. "Over-protective asses, all of you." He smacked my chest with the back of his hand. "And it's not like she can't handle it…"
Smiling, I glanced up when dad called us to load up. "Finally goin' home," I sighed in relief.
Eleazar chuckled, but followed me to the line that was forming at the stairs they'd rolled to the plane. The pilot smiled at Bella, pulling her into a hug.
"Ah, Miss Bella Swan… It's been too long," he crooned to her. He was an older guy, with gray at his temples, but he looked at her like most of us did – like she hung the damn moon.
"Mr. Robbie," she squealed, kissing his cheek, but she turned to look for me, holding out her hand. "It's Cullen now. Edward, meet Rob. He was my dad's pilot for years. This is my husband, Edward."
"And my son," my dad added with a grin.
I shook the man's hand. "Nice to meet you, sir."
"Oh ho, so wait… Charlie's kid and Carlisle's kid… That's priceless," Rob sang, tapping Bella's nose. "I bet your parents are smiling down on you, Miss Bella."
We all laughed with him. He seemed to be a pretty fucking cool old man.
He gestured to the door. "Get on in. We'll be taking off soon. If you need anything, Gretchen will help you."
We filed onto the plane one by one. I shook my head at the decadence of the inside. It was pretty damn big, with leather seats, flatscreens, and what looked like mahogany tables. Fuck, I couldn't imagine that Air Force One was as decked out as this motherfucker was.
"No wonder you take this fucker everywhere," I muttered to Dad, and he grinned.
"Or is it the hot stewardess?" Emmett snorted, grunting when Bella and Mickey smacked his head. "What the hell?"
"Flight attendant," they corrected him, with Bella raising a deadly-ass eyebrow at him.
"Whatever," he huffed, finding a seat and plopping himself down in it with a giant grin.
"Stunad," Alec grumbled with a shake to his head. "Never insult the woman who'll be makin' your drinks for the next few hours, asshat."
Laughing, I gave Alec a fist bump as I walked by. I was simply following Bella. I didn't much give a fuck where we sat. I was ready to go home. Our time in the hotel on Svalbard had given me a chance to come down from the last part of this mission, to let go some of the tenseness that tended to linger, and I was able to merely be with Bella. Now I was ready to see my kids, and camping was starting to sound like a hell of a lot of fun. Fuck, I couldn't remember the last time I'd been camping with my own dad, so I was actually looking forward to every bit of it – campfires, tents, fishing, ghost stories. All of it.
I fell down in a seat across from Bella, yanked off my baseball cap, and raked a hand through my hair. I tugged the hat back on, gazing out the window.
"Edward?" Bella called me, leaning on the table in front of me. "You okay, baby?"
I nodded, smiling at her and picking up her hands. "I'm just…I'm ready to just…"
"Play with your kids?" she offered with a grin.
"Yeah," I said slowly, chuckling to myself that I sounded so much like my son, but my gaze snapped up to meet hers. "You're going, right? Camping?"
Her laugh was beautiful. "I think we all are, but I wouldn't miss it. There are a lot of us, so it should be a blast."
"No shit!" I agreed with a grin, and we both looked up when Kurt took a seat next to us.
He looked to me nervously. "Um…got time to talk."
"We're trapped on a plane, Kurt. You have our undivided attention," Bella teased him, but I could see her assessing him, bracing herself for whatever it was that he had to say.
He smiled and nodded, but stayed quiet as the plane prepared to take off. Gretchen disappeared after giving a small speech about exits, buckling up, and shit, and the hangar outside my window gave way to a rather cloudy day and the runway.
Kurt was buying time, I could tell, but he looked to Bella with a pleading look before he spoke. "Bells, I just… I need to thank you for giving me a job at Gravity. I mean, you two didn't have to do that, especially considering the whole thing with Lilith and Bethy, and…"
I sighed, looking to Bella, only to turn back to Kurt. "Man, this life isn't for everyone. Just spit it out, buddy."
Kurt groaned, but shot me an appreciative glance. He nodded once, squaring his shoulders. "I need to quit, Bellsy. I need to…"
She smirked, shooting me a wink. "You need to see where this thing with Irina goes?"
"Yeah," he sighed, collapsing into his chair. "I just never want you to think I'm not grateful. I am. No one gave me a chance, but you guys did. And I'll never fucking forget that."
Bella eyed him shrewdly for a moment, and he fidgeted under her gaze, but what she said next made him go pale. "I'm not letting you quit, Kurt." She pointed to the top of the table with a single finger. "I'm gonna tell you the same thing Carlisle told us. You want to try something different? You want to take some time off? I'll wholly support you. I'll write you a glowing recommendation to whomever you need me to, but I won't let you quit. You'll always have a place at Gravity."
"What if… What if I don't come back?" he whispered, looking at her with an awed expression.
Bella looked to me and then back to Kurt. "Edward's right. This life isn't for everyone. And you've seen some tough stuff working for us. I can't promise that this was the last big one, that it'll be missing kids or cheating spouses forever. We all have complicated and detailed pasts, Kurt, so there's always going to be a possibility that something or someone nasty could come back." She shrugged with a nonchalance that simply meant that it was a fact of our lives and she accepted it come hell or high water. However, her expression warmed. "But I also know what it's like to want to…I don't know…run away and be in love and revel in what you've found, to want to take a chance on something without the stress of what we do surrounding you."
My brow furrowed at that statement coming from her, but I gave her hand a squeeze before looking to Kurt. "What's your plan, Kurt?" I asked him.
He smiled, shooting a quick glance toward the front of the plane, where Irina was sitting with Eleazar. "Aunt Kate's for a few days…then home to pack and see my mother and sister. Irina wants to see New York again. From there? I don't know." He tore his eyes away from his girl and looked to us. "She doesn't want me to quit—she's familiar with this type of work—but I think maybe…it's me that needs a break. I've got money set aside. My sister is driving now, so she can take care of Mom. My dad's still in jail, but he's fine. I just…if I don't try, then I'll never know."
"Does she know…about your history?" Bella asked him.
"Yeah, and I swear, I won't change a thing about my meds, Bells," he vowed, smiling her way, because of all the people surrounding him, she'd been the most supportive when it came to his mental history.
"It doesn't matter," I stated, shaking my head. "You make sure that no matter what, you call us if you need us. I don't give a fuck what it is – meds, money, a plane ticket home. Got me?"
"Yeah, Ed, I swear."
We all glanced up when Mickey, Alec, Emmett, and Jasper exploded into laughter about something up front in the plane. They'd all opted to sit together around the flatscreen.
"What are you gonna tell them?" he asked, glancing between us.
Chuckling, I shrugged. "Don't sweat it. I'll handle them."
Bella giggled, stood up, and kissed his forehead. "Go. Go sit with her, make plans, but she'd better take care of you, or she'll be in a heap of trouble."
He grinned, his cheeks turning pink. "Yes, ma'am."
He got up and made his way toward the front of the plane, but I waved Bella to me. "Come here, sweetness," I said, guiding her to my lap. Cupping her face, I pressed a kiss to her lips. "You still want to run away?"
Her giggle was sweet and light, but she shook her head. "No, Edward," she chortled. "We were different."
I let my head drop back to the headrest behind me, but I kept my eyes on her beautiful face. "How so?"
"We stayed hidden so long in our beginning that simply going home to your house was all we could think about," she replied.
"Mm, true," I sighed contentedly. "We just wanted normal."
She grinned. "Whatever that meant for us."
"Exactly." I nodded, toying with her ponytail. "And the job… Y-You e-ever th-think o-of g-giving i-it u-up?" I asked her, knowing that in the grand scheme of things, neither of us had to work. Our parents had left us very comfortable, not to mention we'd been paid very well for what we did through Gravity. We'd always worked because we'd wanted to.
"Sometimes," she admitted softly, "but I'm not sure we're made to just sit around and do nothing, Edward. And then there are times we take that one case…where we find that missing person. They aren't dead; they simply got lost in life, or ran into hard times, and we're able to reunite them with their family. Or we prove that the spouse isn't cheating, that he was just working another job to save for a vacation surprise. You know? Those good things we encounter make the bad shit kinda fade into the background."
And there was why I worked with her. That, right there. It was why I'd agreed way back in the beginning to go to work at Gravity, to build it in my own backyard, and to suffer through the flirting, cheating wives, because she was completely right. It was the good cases that made the difference.
"Would you ever tell me if that changed?" I asked her, dragging my fingers lightly down her face, only to tuck a loose strand of hair back behind her ear.
"Yes." She leaned in and kissed me. "You'd be the first to know, handsome."
The flight from Svalbard to Anchorage wasn't that long. Some of us slept; others simply stared unseeingly at the TV or out the windows. We were tired, but ready to be home at Aunt Kate's.
When we landed, Rob guided us to the private hangar that Carlisle used frequently. It was the same hangar that Edward would land his helicopter occasionally. There was still a three-hour drive back to the farm, which made it seem like we'd never get there.
As we made our way down the stairs to the ground, I took deep breath and let it out to prepare myself for the next leg of this trip. Edward wrapped an arm around my shoulders, kissing the side of my head, but we both spun around when we heard the squeals.
Bethy and Sammy darted around Caleb and Abby to race across the hangar. A quick glance behind them showed Aunt Kate, Esme, and Tom standing off to the side, wearing smiles on their faces.
"Oh, thank fuck," Edward muttered in relief at the sight of his kids, which made me laugh, but nod in agreement.
Bethy got to me first, and I scooped her up, hugging her tightly. She was a vision in light purple – purple hoodie, hair thingys, and Chucks.
"Pretty girl, you're a sight for sore eyes," I growled into her neck, inhaling the scent of little girl. "We missed you!"
"Missed you, too, Mommy," she sang, reaching for Edward. "Hi, Daddy."
"Hey, little sweetness," he crooned her way, kissing Sammy's forehead.
We traded kids, and I soaked in the sweet, chubby, happy face of my son.
"Hi, handsome," I said with a happy grin. "Were you a good boy?"
"Yeah," he said in his usual slow, sweet way. "Gamma says I got bigger."
I laughed, lifting up his shirt. "Oh yeah? Let's see, then…" Tipping him upside down, I dropped a bunch of loud smooches to his tummy, just to hear him scream. "Yup, I see it. Right here…" I blew a loud raspberry to his belly, lifting him back up. "Much bigger."
He grinned crookedly, running a hand through his unruly hair, all of which made him look like Edward made over. "Gamma also says you're done wif work. That we're all goin' campin'."
"Oh, my sweet boy. You've been most patient," I praised him with a chuckle, kissing his soft cheek. "Gamma is so very right. It's time for some fun. Don'tcha think?"
Sammy glanced between me and his father, nodding slowly. "Yeah."
"Yeah," Edward and Bethy said in unison.
We walked to the doorway, and I locked gazes with Esme, who was smiling knowingly. "Thank you," I mouthed to her over Sammy's head.
She laughed softly, kissing Edward and then me on the cheek. "I figured they'd be a welcomed sight."
I gazed around, nodding a little, because bringing the kids seemed to be a big hit. Caleb was riding on Emmett's shoulders, Abby was wrapped around Alec like a limpet, and Kaitlyn was clinging to Mickey and babbling rapidly at her.
"Sweetness?" Edward whispered against my temple. "Let's go, love. I'll drive."
Smiling, I nodded distractedly, only to gaze back at Sammy. "Yup. Let's go home."
"I think if we take this path, use the four-wheelers, and set up near the water, we'd have more room and a better chance at fishing," Carlisle noted, pointing to a map on the dining room table, which was surrounded by Alec, Emmett, Edward, and Jasper, who were all nodding with sober expressions on their faces.
I shook my head as I walked through carrying another cooler. All the supplies, tents, and duffels were stacked out on Aunt Kate's front porch. And truly, we were all going camping, including Aunt Kate and Tom.
"I've never seen something fun be taken so fucking seriously," Rose whispered with a grin when I made it back into the kitchen. "You'd think this was another mission."
"Shh," I said with a snicker. "Let them. It's hilarious."
"Laugh all you want," Emmett warned from the table, pointing a finger our way. "You'll thank us later when you don't have rashes on your butts."
"Yeah, Em," I said, rummaging around in the cabinets for more supplies. "That was totally on my mind just now."
"You know it," he huffed proudly, obviously not hearing my sarcasm.
Again, I was grateful that my girls and I weren't frilly and squeamish. We enjoyed the outdoors with our guys. It helped that we trusted them, that technically, we wouldn't be far from Aunt Kate's should anything go wrong. The whole house was in on this little expedition. Even Alice, who preferred a place with a decent WiFi connection could handle a day or two in a tent.
We'd been back from Svalbard for two days, caught up on some sleep, and spent most of the day before getting everything packed and ready. The kids were already outside with Tom, the horses, and Lock and Load. There were a handful of ATVs parked and being loaded. What had once started as a night out on Aunt Kate's property had now become a full-fledged weekend roughing it in the Denali forest.
Obie poked his head in through the front door. "We're all loaded up!" he called. "Edward, Bells…Goliath and Samson are saddled, too."
"Okay," I called back, leaning against the counter. "Guys, pick a place and let's go!"
Edward grinned from across the table, shooting a sexy wink and his trademark crooked smile my way. "We have, we have! Damn…come on, sweetness. Give us a break, yeah?"
I waved the comment away, rolling my eyes. He was too cute sometimes, and I simply couldn't give in at the moment, despite how badly I wanted to kiss him stupid for just being so damn adorable.
"Whatever, Edward. Your girls are ready for s'mores, so let's go!" I called over my shoulder.
"Heaven forbid that I keep chocolate from you and Bethy," he muttered, nudging me on his way by. He scooped Sammy up, setting him on Goliath. "You're with me, buddy."
Our son's face was the picture of nerves, but he seemed to calm down once Edward had settled himself behind him in the saddle, even more when a strong arm wrapped around him while the other took Goliath's reins. Edward and I had talked about it, and like Edward's mother had proved to him, we wanted to make sure Sammy became comfortable riding. The only way to do that was with practice, though riding with his daddy didn't hurt.
The trek out to our spot took a little over an hour with the ATVs and the horses. The area Carlisle had found was stunning, especially with the setting sun as the backdrop. There was an open field, a small, clear lake, and trees and mountains on either side of us. There were so many tents, we looked like a Boy Scout troop. Bethy and Abby insisted on a tent of their own, as did Caleb and Sammy. Kaitlyn was going to sleep with Mickey and Obie in theirs, while the rest of the couples had tents of their own.
By the time night fell, all tents were set up, the fire was roaring, and the boys had found several logs to serve as places to sit. The conversations were loud, but it was the bouncing little girl on my lap that was just about to come out of her own skin waiting for Edward. She'd roasted our marshmallows and was watching him smoosh them between graham crackers and a hunk of chocolate. He made one for me and one for her. Sammy was already covered in sticky goodness, thanks to his Poppy, who would probably be covered in chocolate before all was said and done.
The look of pure love on Edward's face as Bethy took a bite of her s'more was almost too much. She'd done nothing but talk about her daddy's s'mores since the very mention of camping, so it was the absolute first thing on his checklist. He stepped behind me, sitting down on the log so that his legs were on either side of mine. Leaning back against him, I took a bite of my own gooey snack, moaning at just how yummy it was. Edward's deep chuckle vibrated against my back, but he wrapped his arms around me.
"It's good, then?" he asked needlessly in my ear.
"Mmhm," I hummed and nodded, offering him a bite, which he greedily took.
"See, Daddy? You make the best!" Bethy chirped his way, licking her fingers before taking another bite.
He snorted. "I'm glad you think so, little sweetness. I'm not sure it takes much talent. It's all in the roasting of the marshmallows."
She rolled her eyes at him, which made me giggle, because yeah, she totally looked like me when she did it. Her attention was pulled away from us by Carlisle and Esme, and I turned to Edward, offering him another bite.
He smiled and took it, licking his lips.
"You know it's not the actual s'more that she's infatuated with, Edward," I told him. "It's just simply because you made it. I'm not sure she'd care what you made her."
Edward's smile was shy and sweet, but he kissed my lips. We were both sticky, both tasting sweet.
"She's like her mother," he whispered in my ear. "I'd hand you guys anything you asked for, but you only want the little shit."
Giggling, I nodded, popping the last bite of s'more into my mouth. "Yup. It's the simple shit that makes the difference, baby. It's the simple shit that our kids will remember the rest of their lives."
"God, I hope so," he sighed, giving them a long gaze as they chatted aimlessly with his dad.
As I watched Carlisle with all the kids, a small moment of sadness swept over me. My dad would've loved this camping trip. I didn't think about him as often anymore, but there were moments in my life that I was sorry he'd missed – my wedding, the births of Bethy and Sammy, seeing Carlisle happy with Esme. And it was those moments that I remembered the simple things he'd done for me. Like Edward, he'd have handed me the world, but it was the times he read me to sleep, or laughed as I sat in his office chair at Twi Tech pretending to run the world, or school projects he'd help me with. Those were the times I remembered more than anything he'd bought for me.
"Hey, Poppy," Bethy piped up, wiping her hands on her jeans. "Did you ever go campin' with Daddy?"
Carlisle grinned and looked our way. "Oh yeah," he sang, which made Edward groan, his head falling to my shoulder.
"This won't be pretty. He's totally gonna rat my ass out," he muttered in my ear.
"Aw, it can't be that bad," I whispered, but his glare at me only made me laugh that much harder and turn to Carlisle. "Oh, now you have to spill."
Carlisle laughed. "Okay," he said with a chuckle, rubbing his hands together. He shot Edward a smirk, but turned back to the kids. "Your dad was probably…if I had to guess…six or seven the first time we went camping. I was home on leave, and we were living in California at the time. His mother said he was too young, but I disagreed, and Edward was gung-ho about going, so I took him and a friend of his… What was that kid's name?"
"Ah, hell," Edward sighed, sitting back a little, but he kept me wrapped in his arms, as if I could protect him from whatever embarrassing tidbit Carlisle was about to unveil. "Scott," he finally answered.
"Right, right. Scott." Carlisle grinned wickedly. "Well, he and Scott wanted their own tents, which was fine, so I set us all up, started the fire, and we roasted hotdogs."
"Dad burned them," Edward murmured, making me fight my giggle, because it was no secret that Edward learned to cook because Carlisle couldn't.
"You said you wanted it crispy," his dad argued, making the whole lot of us laugh.
"Crispy…like a touch of burn to the outside, not set on fire!" Edward snapped, shaking his head. "It's a wonder I didn't starve to death in your care, old man."
"Whatever, you picky thing," Carlisle snarked back, rolling his eyes. He turned back to his grandkids, who were watching this like a tennis match. "Anyway, so when it came time for lights out, the boys went into their tents just fine. And I followed them. We were gonna go fishing the next morning, so I told them I'd wake them up early." He huffed a laugh, shaking his head slowly. "I don't know how long I'd been asleep when a blood-curdling scream woke me up out of the blue. God, you'd have thought Big Foot had snatched Edward up in the middle of the night, but no…"
Bethy's eyes were wide, and she turned to Edward. "What?! What was it?"
Edward shook his head, waving a hand at her. "I'm sure he's about to tell you."
"I stepped out of my tent at the same time that Edward came barreling into me out of nowhere. He was fighting with some invisible thing…running his hands all over his hair and face."
Every woman at the camp fire groaned. There was no need for explanation.
"Oh no…spider web," Mickey groaned, wearing a sympathetic look on her face.
"Oh you have no idea," Edward said back with a laugh. "I'd gotten up to pee and never saw the thing. I could feel the web from my head to my ankles."
"Oh heck no," I whispered, shaking my head and shuddering at the mere thought. Turning to Edward, I asked, "Oh, baby…where was the spider?"
He simply pointed toward his dad, his expression resigned at how this was now out there.
"His hair," Carlisle guffawed. "I practically had to sit on him to wrangle it out of his hair."
Sammy's eyes widened, but he pointed a finger at Edward. "Is that why I needed a hat?"
"That's why Edward always wears a hat," Carlisle said with a cheesy grin.
"Oh! You little liar!" I laughed, turning to face him. "You told me you wore a hat only on missions, that it hid your hair and it kept stuff out of it when you were in the woods."
Grinning, he hid his face, but he was laughing. "It wasn't a lie, sweetness. I just didn't tell you how long I'd been wearing the hat."
"You know, I can't blame you," Sarah stated, shaking her head. She squeezed in closer to Alec, who was laughing his ass off, along with everyone else. "How big was the spider?"
"Tiny," Carlisle stated.
"Enormous!" Edward countered, glaring his way.
"How would you know? You wouldn't look at it when I finally got it off you!"
"No, I wasn't gonna look at it!" Edward looked at his dad like he'd lost his ever-loving mind. He turned to me. "I made Mom shave my head when I got home. I kept it high and tight for two years after that." He took his backwards cap off and ran a hand over his head, visibly shivering at the mere thought, only to tug the cap back on.
"Yuck!" Bethy said with a scowl that matched her father's. "I don't blame you, Daddy. Spiders are gross."
Sammy came up to me, his eyes still wide. "Cut my hair!"
"No, baby," I told him, cupping his worried face. I took his hat off, running my fingers through his hair. It would break my heart to cut his hair off; I couldn't imagine how Elizabeth had cut Edward's. "You'll be just fine. Just…stay close to the fire when you go pee."
"Or take a flashlight with you," Edward told him, ruffling his hair. "That was my mistake back then."
Sammy looked to his dad. "Go with me?"
Edward chuckled and asked, "Now?"
Sammy looked shy, but he nodded, gazing off into the trees, only to look back to his dad.
"Yeah, okay." Edward chuckled, standing up. "Caleb? You, too?"
"Heck, yeah. I don't want nuffin' crawlin' on me!" Caleb drawled, getting up and following my husband just far enough away that no one could see them.
"That's better than any ghost story," Emmett said with a chuckle, shaking his head.
"Was that the only time you went camping? Did you scare the crap out of him enough to ruin it?" Jasper asked.
"Nah, we went a few more times. His mother even went once or twice," Carlisle said with a soft smile, but then he suddenly looked my way. "We were gonna go with you and Charlie once," he added, glancing up when the boys returned.
Edward took his place behind me again, but he gasped a little. "Really? What happened?"
"Everyone was too busy. Charlie had to travel out of town. Edward, you were playing Little League baseball at that point, probably ten or eleven." A slight touch of sadness crossed Carlisle's features before he said, "Renee was already gone. Elizabeth still wanted you kids to know each other, but…"
I frowned, but nodded, sinking into Edward's embrace, but Sammy walked up and crawled into my lap. Edward hugged us both.
"Mommy, did you ever go campin' wif Grandpa Charlie?" he asked.
I smiled, grateful that my kids knew about their grandfather. They loved Carlisle, and they adored the fact that Edward and I had known each other for so long.
"I did. Not very often, but we did go," I told him, tracing his face with a finger. His deep brown eyes that matched mine glanced between me and his dad behind me. "I was probably fourteen the last time we went. Aunt Rose was with us," I said, pointing to a nodding Rosalie on the other side of the fire. "Along with some idiot boys we thought would be a good idea to bring with us."
Rose laughed, her head falling back. "God, I thought Charlie would kill them both."
Grinning, I nodded and turned back to my son. "Yeah, not so fun. They were scared of every noise. But we ignored them, and my dad taught us how to fish, baiting our own hooks and everything."
"Will you teach me?" Sammy asked. "Tomorrow, when we go?"
Nodding, I kissed his forehead. "Absolutely."
That seemed to satisfy him, and he snuggled into my neck. Everyone started to reminisce about their own past camping trips. We talked until the kids' eyes started to droop, until the fire started to die out, so we wrestled sleepy kids into their tents before calling an end to the night.
When I finally crawled into our tent, curling up into Edward's arms, I sighed, looking up at him.
"Could you imagine us camping at eleven?" I asked him, and he chuckled lightly.
"You would've made me nervous, sweetness," he admitted softly, dropping kisses to my forehead, nose, and finally my lips. "I would've stuttered myself stupid. I would've been too shy to even speak."
Giggling, I held him closer. "Aw, Edward. I wouldn't have let you."
He laughed again. "No, probably not."
I fell asleep in his arms. I was content there no matter where we were. I dreamed of a beautiful, shy boy with sad green eyes. In my dream, he was quiet, but he held my hand. It felt like I'd only just fallen asleep when I heard Edward's voice again.
"Sweetness," he whispered, shaking me a little. "Baby, wake up for me."
Blearily, I opened my eyes. It was still dark out, but Edward's fingers on my face made me look up at him.
"What is it?" I yawned widely, smiling when he kissed my cheek.
"Get dressed. I want to take you somewhere before everyone's up," he breathed in my ear. "Please, Bella?"
My breath caught when I could feel his need for me pressed against my side. His touches, his soft kisses were restrained and tentative.
"Where are we going?" I asked him, pulling on my jeans and boots.
"Not far," he replied, doing the same. "Trust me?"
Nodding, I grinned at him and crawled quietly out of the tent. I stretched, surveying the campsite. The fire had died out, everyone was still sleeping, and the sun wasn't even up yet.
"C'mon, love. We'll be back in time to start breakfast. That'll get them up for fishing," he whispered to me, snatching up a flashlight and a blanket.
We left the camp silently, giving Samson and Goliath a pat on their flanks on our way past them. Edward wasn't lying. We didn't go far, just around to the other side of the lake. In fact, as he spread the blanket out, the sun was just peeking up in a pink and orange-painted sky, and I could just barely see the camp from where we were standing.
He sat down in the middle of the blanket, after having kicked his boots off. I followed his lead, but he held his arms out for me so that I'd straddle his lap.
"And this is probably why we shouldn't have gone camping when we were teens," I teased him, settling on his lap.
He grinned, chuckling lightly. "I suppose. Though, I've told you before, sweetness, I have no complaints about how and when we met."
"Me, either, but it's fun to think about," I admitted with a shrug to my shoulder. I reached up to take his baseball cap off, setting it down beside us. "I dreamed last night about when we met."
His smile was sweet and shy as his fingers raked through my hair and down my back. "Me, too. What was yours about?"
"Just you in my treehouse." I sighed contentedly, leaning in to kiss his lips. "Now, Mr. Cullen… Why are we out here?"
"I-I w-was f-feeling a-a b-bit s-selfish," he sputtered, shrugging. "And a little jealous of whatever idiot boys you and Rose took camping. How far did he get, sweetness?"
"Pfft," I scoffed, rolling my eyes. "Not too far with Charlie around."
"Honestly?" he asked.
Grinning, I wanted to tease him, but I didn't. "No, baby. Just some stolen kisses. Maybe a grope or two."
I gasped when his large, strong hand cupped my breast. My mouth fell open, and I couldn't help but arch into him. His other hand slipped into my hair at the base of my skull, gripping just enough to make me moan aloud before his lips were on mine.
Suddenly, given where we were, I felt like a teenager who was sneaking around. We lost control of our hands, and our kiss spiraled out of control. It went from sweet and slow to something deep, needy, and completely on fire. Edward gripped and pulled, making my center grind over his, and we both grunted at the friction.
My shirt was swiftly removed and tossed aside, along with my sports bra. Edward reached back, grasping his own shirt, his muscles rolling erotically when he dropped it on top of mine. God, he was gorgeous, but his face was simply stunning as he drank in the sight of my bare upper body.
Leaning down, I glided my hands over the ink on his chest and then on his arm, dropping kisses along the way. I gasped when thumbs brushed over my nipples, which were pebbled and hard from more than just the cool morning breeze.
"Did he see you like this, sweetness?" Edward asked in a whisper, leaning down to capture a nipple in his mouth.
"God, no," I gasped, threading my fingers into his hair as my eyes rolled back into my head.
"Good," he growled, his fingers fumbling with the button of my jeans before knowing hands slipped under the denim – cupping, kneading, and testing to see how wet I was. "I want to fucking erase every man that came before me."
Grinning, I cupped his face locking with his sincere green eyes. "Too late."
He smiled wickedly up at me. "I love you."
"I love you, too, Edward."
He kissed me again, but then rolled us over so that he was looming over me. "I want you. Right here in the middle of fucking nowhere."
"'Kay," I said with a giggle, because he looked so young and naughty at the moment. "We have to be quick. We've got plans, handsome."
"I know," he whispered, brushing a kiss across my lips that set me aflame before scooting down to yank my jeans and underwear down my legs. "I just… Sometimes, I can't resist you."
I fumbled with his belt and jeans, shoving them down just enough to release him hard and heavy in my hand. "I never want you to resist me. Ever," I told him, giving his cock a few pumps of my hand. "I always want you to want me just like this."
His moan was sexy and desperate-sounding, but he dropped to his forearms, settling between my legs. His forehead fell to mine, his eyes gazing down at me as he slowly entered me.
"Always, sweetness," he grunted, kissing me roughly. "That'll never change."
He drove into me, and his words at my ear were begging me, pleading with me to come and come fast. He told me how beautiful I was, how sexy I was when I came, but when he lifted my leg between us and kissed the scar on my thigh, I shattered around him.
He came hard, his voice a hissing string of sexy-as-hell curses in my ear. "Fuck, fuck, fuck," he growled into my neck, his arms shaking on either side of me. He coaxed my leg back down, rubbing it softly before looking down at my face. "We need to go camping more often," he teased. "I like fucking you out in the open like this."
I laughed, my head falling back. His lips brushed across my throat, but his chuckle shook us both.
"C'mon, handsome. Let's go play with our kids. We're teaching them to fish today," I urged him, but he didn't move off me just yet. "What?" I asked him.
"When we get home to Forks…" His voice trailed off, and his eyes gazed around us before locking back on my face. "I-I w-want t-to ch-change s-some th-things."
My brow furrowed, but I raked my fingers through his hair. "Like what?"
"More time…less work. I-I…w-we a-almost l-lost m-my d-dad, s-sweetness. I don't want that shit to happen with Bethy and Sammy. I want a week or so before school starts. You said it's the little shit that they'll remember. Well, I want to give them everything, even if it means less work. I want all the time they'll give us until they're too old to hang out with us."
Giggling, I nodded. "Done, Edward. Anything else?"
"No," he sighed, smiling a little and shaking his head as he finally sat up. "That's it. Just that."
"Okay," I agreed, pulling my clothes back on. Once I was standing, I wrapped my arms around his waist, because I could tell Edward was just now letting the events that had happened to Carlisle sink in. "Maybe…" I pulled back and looked up at his handsome face. "Maybe Poppy would like to hang out with us, too?"
He smiled, pulling his cap on backwards. "Yeah, maybe. I'll ask him."
"Good," I told him, snatching up the blanket we'd brought with us. "Now…let's go wake up our kids with your cookin'. And then let's see if we can't beat everyone fishing today."
Grinning, he wrapped an arm around my shoulders. "Sounds good, sweetness."
We started back toward camp, but I stopped him. "You never did tell me what your dream was about."
He laughed softly, but his cheeks pinked in embarrassment. He stopped and kissed my lips. "I dreamed I kissed you in your treehouse. I wonder if you'd have let me."
Biting my bottom lip, I stood up on my toes and brushed my lips across his. "Oh yeah, Edward. I would have."
A/N… I'm gonna save all my gushing love for the end of the epi. There are amazing people I need to thank, but I'll do it all at the end.
Before you ask… Or actually, in answer to those that have already asked… No, there won't be a fifth Mercward…at least, I don't have a plot for another one, and to add one more seems like it's overkill. So this is most likely the last one of the series. Now…to answer the other question… I don't know what's next. I have an idea for something completely new, but RL is pretty harsh at the moment, so I may just take my dear sweet time figuring things out. If I write something, I'll most likely complete it before posting. The plot bunny that's been bugging me is complicated, so I need time and the right head-space to start it.
All that being said… I'm still around. I'm not going anywhere. And I can still be found on FB and Twitter. All the links are on my profile. I'm always on FB, and usually playing around in Sarge's Girls private group with fic recs, pic, and discussions. Ask, and we'll add you.
Again, the epi is coming, but I'm not sure when. Soon, I promise. Until next time… Mooches, Deb ;)