Mask'Charade chapter 35 pt3, What the End Justifies?

Disclaimer: All Twilight related material is the sole property of the original author.

A/N: Part 3. of the final chapter.

EPOV

First hour into Bella's labor…

"Edward, stop pacing. You're making me nervous." She laughs lightly, as she flips through a baby magazine.

"I don't understand how you can be so calm." I ignore her request, continuing to wear a hole in the floor.

Getting Bella to the hospital was a feat for me, even with months of preparation. The bags were packed, Doctor Schwartz's number on speed dial, along with Charlie's and Renee's, and I was still running around the house like a complete madman. Bella is the portrait of cool, calm and collected. I don't get it. She's the one having the baby, and I'm over here freaking out. I need to get a grip and be supportive of her. I glance at her as she checks the monitor, preparing for another contraction. She rubs her stomach and starts her rhythmic breathing that we learned in Lamaze class. I inhale, hold it and then release, before I climb onto the bed behind her, take her hand and join in with her.

.

.

.

Twenty-two hours into Bella's labor….

"Arrghh! Oh God, get this damned baby out of me now!" Bella yells. Her once neatly brushed hair is now all over the place, and her face has taken on a different tinge entirely.

I look on in horror as the portrait of cool, calm and collected morphs into the girl from The Exorcist.

.

.

.

Twenty-four hours into Bella's labor….

"One more push, baby. You're doing so good."

"I can't…." The exertion is resonating through her labored breathing. Her hair is plastered to her face with sweat as her chest heaves. "…Edward, I can't do this…"

"Yes you can. You're almost there, Bella." I urge.

"One more push, Bella. You can do it." Doctor Schwartz encourages.

She nods, and with every ounce of strength she has left, gives one final push.

.

.

.

I bond with our son while Bella rests. She held him for as long as she could, before succumbing to sleep. I'm grateful for this time I get to spend with him, just father and son.

"You couldn't be any more perfect, and I couldn't love you more. My son."

He yawns and grips my finger tightly, while he sleeps.

.

.

.

One month later…

We stand over our son's crib, watching him mesmerized by his zoo animal mobile.

"I knew he would love it." Bella looks up at me, smiling. I've never seen her look so happy. My heart is overwhelmed, because I feel so blessed to have them both in my life. I could have never imagined this as my destiny.

"As soon as he's older we have to take him to the zoo," she adds. I smile at her, and stroke her cheek.

"Marry me."

Her mouth opens in shock.

"I-I'm sorry this isn't the way I envisioned asking you. I didn't plan this. Even though….I…I've known for a while that I've wanted…"

Tears pool in her eyes.

"You had to know, Bella. Didn't you?"

"I-I hoped." She says quietly. "I never knew if it was really what you wanted."

The way she says the word 'you', explains everything, but I don't question her about it. This is not about anyone else; it's about her and me.

"It's what I really want. I should've asked you the minute your divorce was final. Question is, do you want to marry me?"

"I've wanted nothing more," she replies with her voice breaking. Tears now spill over. "Yes, I'll marry you."

She throws her arms around my neck, sobbing softly. I sigh, relieved.

"I didn't buy you a ring."

"You'll make up for it." She sniffles, and I laugh, knowing that she's absolutely right.

.

.

.

Three days later…

"Oh my God, Bella, this ring is gorgeous!" Rose gasps, while admiring the 2.4 carat diamond ring I presented Bella with this morning.

"I know. I nearly broke down in tears when Edward gave it to me. Rose, I'm so happy, and now you, Emmett and the kids are going to practically be neighbors. Things couldn't be more perfect."

I watch from the kitchen, feeding Edan his bottle of milk as they share a jubilant embrace.

"Wow, everything seems to just be falling into place. You and Bella are getting married. You've even convinced Emmett that he could start his own vineyard here in Bridgehampton, conveniently making you guy's neighbors. What's next 'oh genie of the lamp'?"

"Is it so wrong to want to ensure the woman I love security, and happiness." I say wearily, handing her Edan. She happily takes him, resting him on her shoulder to burp.

"You're deceiving her, Edward."

"I'm doing what's best for my family, Liz," I snap quietly, not wanting to alarm Rose and Bella that something is going on. "And I'm not deceiving her. I plan to tell her about California sometime this week."

"Uh huh, and when exactly are you planning on leaving?"

I pinch the bridge of my nose and exhale.

"The following week."

"What?" She whispers irately, then rubs Edan's back, hoping she hasn't startled him.

"The sooner I leave, the sooner I can come back to them."

"But your son is only two months old, Edward. It's-"

"And then he's three months, then four, then five, a year old. No age is going to make this easy for me, Liz. You think I want to leave him; leave her? I agonize over this all day and night. When I wake up, it's on my mind, and it's the last thing I think about before falling asleep."

"There has to be another way."

"There is no other way!" We glare at each other for moments, before I break eye contact. "Do you know that every morning after Edan wakes up, I bathe him and warm his bottle, and then sit out on the patio with him? I've done that every morning since he was born. Something about the birds chirping, and sunshine, calms him, and it calms me. I love spending that time alone with him. I talk to him, I kiss him, and dear God, I even attempt singing to him. I know I'm horrible at it, but it makes him smile. That smile is what tells me that everything is going to be alright. But this morning, I wasn't able to sing to him, so I couldn't get that smile, and do you know why? Because of what's going on inside my head." I gesture with my index finger.

"Ned's voice has been breaking through, and it happens almost every time I'm holding my son. I'll let you take a guess at what he's saying."

"He wants to be with Bella and Edan." She says lowly.

"Oh, nothing as simple as that. It's more of, 'He's MY SON, not yours. Bella and I created him. YOU weren't anywhere in the picture!'

"Edward…." She sighs sadly, "I know how difficult this may be for you, but leaving is not the solution."

"It's the only solution. I will go to California to continue sessions with Doctor Aro, and I will discuss it with Bella soon."

"Try now."

Her low, despondent tone causes both Liz and me to spin around in shock.

The expression on her face is one of hurt and anger.

"Hi, sweetheart, I think Edan might be ready for his nap. Did you want to take him?" Liz tries to divert.

"What I want is for you to explain what it is I just overheard," she addresses me with saddened eyes.

"I'll just put the baby down for his nap." Liz announces and leaves us alone.

"Bella….I?"

"The truth, Edward."

I run my hands through my hair, frustrated, because I didn't want to have this conversation this way. I wasn't expecting her not to be angry, but I just wanted to do it with us alone.

"I'm waiting, Edward."

I take her by the hand and head out to the patio.

.

.

.

She sits, staring off into the distance, quiet, motionless. She can't seem to face me.

"Say something." I implore, softly.

"How long?"

"I don't know."

"That's not good enough." She shakes her head, still not looking at me.

"I wish I could give you a more definitive answer, but there's really no timetable I can put on something like this."

"So, you're telling me that you want to leave me and our son, and you don't even know when the hell you're coming back?" She jerks around, eyes furious.

"Bella….?

"No!" She jumps to her feet. I'm suddenly reminded of how beautiful and serene our home is out here, overlooking the beautiful acres of land. I then think, why in hell would I bring her out here to ruin all of that? She'll probably never want sit out here again.

"You proposed to me no less than seventy-two hours ago and placed this ring on my finger this morning, fooling me into thinking that we were going to have a life together. But it was all a lie."

"It's not a lie, Bella. We do have a life, a wonderful life." I stand in front of her, as she buries her face in her palms. I try to comfort her, but she pulls away.

"Are you kidding me? This is not a life. It's a ruse! This house, this ring, all of it!" She gestures to each element she ticks off.

"Please don't say that. It's not."

"Doctor Aro encouraged you to do this; to leave your family?"

"Not exactly." I look down, focusing on the cherry wood slats.

"Well, what the hell did he say exactly, Edward?"

I continue staring at the deck floor, knowing that I have to come clean about everything. "He urged me to continue therapy with another doctor in the city."

"In New York?" She says.

"Yes."

"And you decided that California would be better?"

I can hear anger escalating in her tone.

"You don't understand-l"

"And you made this decision without discussing it with me?"

"Bella…"

"What about Edan, huh? You can just walk away from him, simple and free?"

"No! Nothing about this is simple. Baby, I know you're upset-b"

"Upset isn't the word for what I am, Edward Cullen. I'm deeply hurt, disappointed, and a host of other emotions I can't even explain."

"Bella, please…"

"No." She storms back into the house, rattling the glass sliding doors in her wake.

.

.

.

She doesn't say a word to me for the next eighteen hours. Dinner? Silence. No kiss goodnight or good morning for eighteen hours. I knew she'd be hurt, but I didn't imagine this.

It's early evening, and the moon has just started to rise. I watch from the hallway, as she sings to our son, rocking him to sleep in the nursery rocker.

"Twinkle, Twinkle little star. How I wonder what you are…" She hums the lyrics softly as she rubs his back.

The sound of her sweet voice, and the sight of our son sleeping peacefully on her shoulder stirs something in me. A tear starts to trickle down my face.

She knows I'm watching, I can tell, but she doesn't acknowledge me until I enter the room.

"How bad are the headaches?"

I kneel in front of her and caress Edan's head.

"Scale of one to ten?"

"About a seven." I answer quietly.

"Even with the medication?"

I look at her and smile faintly, nodding. She looks crushed.

"Oh my god…." She exhales. "….you never….you didn't say a word. All this time you've just been suffering…."

"I just wanted to make sure the two of you were happy and comfortable. I didn't want to burden, or frighten you with this."

She rises from the chair and kisses Edan, placing him in his crib. I remain in the same position. She comes back to stand in front of me. I wrap my arms around her waist, burying my head into her stomach. Her fingers comb through my hair gently.

"I would never be happy with you not here with us. It's just not possible."

She sighs heavily.

"I….I'm selfish, but I can't bear the thought of you suffering…."

I look up at her, tears now streaming down her face.

"What are you saying?"

"How long do we have together until you leave?"

.

.

.

A week later….

We're in the bedroom, packing my suitcase. There hasn't been a word uttered between us the entire morning. I steal a glance at her. She's really going overboard, packing as if I'm never coming back; first underwear and socks, then suits, leisure-wear, and pajamas. She folds everything neatly and places framed photographs of Edan and us inside. She's crying, but trying hard to avoid me seeing her face. She walks back and forth, piling things in. Essentials. Non-essentials. Then just the absolute ridiculous.

I cross the room and gently grab her by her shoulders.

"Bella, baby, stop. Just…stop."

"Your flight leaves at seven in the morning. This should've been done already." She sniffles and quickly wipes her tears with the back of her hand, as she continues the task. The sparkle of her engagement ring captures my eye. I take her hand in mine.

"I think we can take a little break. Come and sit with me." I lead her over to the bed. "Talk to me. Tell me what you're feeling."

She sighs heavily, as she stares down at her hands, wringing nervously. "I'm feeling devastated that this is going to be our last day together until who knows how long. I'm feeling scared for night to come, because I'm not going to able to shut my eyes, knowing that when I wake…."

Her lips tremble and tears start to fall from her eyes once more.

I pull her into my arms, no longer being able to bear seeing her like this.

.

.

.

I decide to get her out of the house for the rest of the day. I suggest taking Edan to the zoo. I know it's something she wants him to experience early in life, but I also realize he's still a bit too young to really appreciate it. The truth is, Bella and I need this day more than he does right now. Things were getting a little too difficult in the house, and we needed a distraction. I'm aware there's no escaping what tomorrow will bring, but I have to live in the moment and make things as easy for her as I possibly can.

"The lions are my favorite too," I say walking up behind her to present her with a chocolate ice-cream cone. She smiles and happily takes it, licking it instantly.

"They're so fascinating. I wish our son thought so." She laughs lightly and nods at Edan, sound asleep in his stroller.

"He does get his beauty rest, doesn't he?"

"All fifteen hours of it," she admits and offers me a lick of her ice-cream.

We sit on a bench, enjoying the warm weather and quietly watch the lions sunning themselves. Edan's awake and resting on Bella's shoulder. I can't take my eyes off him. He's seems to have changed so much already. He looks like Bella, I feel. Dark hair and eyes, same mouth and olive complexion. Even with all those comparable features, she would argue that he looks like me. I guess he does have some of my facial expressions, and maybe our smiles resemble each other's. I reach out and stroke his silky hair. I don't think about leaving tomorrow, but about how soon I'm going to return to my family. It's the only way I can get through this.

"Oh look. There are babies!" Bella gasps excitedly as she points out two lion cubs, appearing from behind their mother. She pulls out her phone, and securing Edan with her freehand, snaps a picture. It's the first time I've seen her smile like that since I proposed. "They're so beautiful."

"Yes. They absolutely are." I agree, smiling at both of them.

.

.

.

Later that night, we make love over and over, before wrapping ourselves in each other's arms. We're too spent to dwell or argue. We say 'I love you', and promise to make it through this difficult time the best way we can. She promises that she'll be here in our home, waiting for me with our son. I promise to marry her as soon as I'm able to return. It's a night of making promises and plans for the future. I intend to uphold every one I make to her, and I know she will as well.

I wait until she falls asleep to slip into the nursery. Edan's sleeping, but I need to hold him. I lift him out of his crib carefully. He stirs a bit, but remains asleep. I sit on the windowsill, staring out at the moonlight. I tell my son he's the man of the house now, and that he has to take care of his mommy. It's crazy, I know. He's only two months old, but I know he'll be the strength she needs while I'm gone. Just as I know he's the strength I'll need to bring me home.

"I know you're too young to understand what's going on. I can't even believe I'm talking to you about this. I guess you're wondering what happened to Twinkle, Twinkle little star?" I exhale heavily. "I'm sorry, kiddo. I'm so sorry for all of this. You're so young, and the only things you probably think about is being fed and sleep. You're mom explained that you think about more than that. She swears you think about being held, kissed and played with. I'm sure she's right. Mommy's the smart one when it comes to you. She's sure you're going to notice when I'm gone. To some degree, I'm hoping that's not true. She's says you're in tune to my voice and aware that I come to you every morning when you awake. Knowing that, warms my heart in ways I can't even explain. I guess what I'm hoping for is that things won't change when mommy is the one who takes you out onto the patio to feed you. And when she's the one who gives you your morning bath. I know that's our bonding time, but go easy on her. I'm sure she has ways of making that time just as special for the two of you. You think you can do that for me?" I stare lovingly at his tiny face and smile as he yawns and opens his eyes. "I know you can. You're so special. I love you so much."

.

.

.

Six a.m. the next morning….

With every ounce of energy, I fight back my emotions and tear myself from her embrace. I didn't want her to come to the airport, but I couldn't very well ask her not to when she insisted she was coming. I knew it would be like this; her in tears, and me on the brink of uncertainty.

"I love you," she whispers and places one last kiss on my lips. "Come back to us soon."

"I will. I promise." I try hard and swallow the lump that has formed in my throat, hoping it will hide the fact that I'm about to break. "I will call you as soon as my flight lands."

"Okay."

"And I will facetime you the minute I get settled into the house in Napa."

"We'll be waiting," she adds softly. I blink at her, before pressing our foreheads together, nuzzling her, breathing her scent for the last time.

"Kiss Edan for me. Please tell him that I love him."

"Edward…"

"I have to go." I pull back abruptly, unable to look her in the eye again. "I love you."

I turn and make my way quickly toward the gate without looking back.

.

.

.

Two weeks later…

They say love is one of the most powerful things in life, that it conquers all. I never knew how true that statement was until this day.

I ease back in my chair, letting my eyes flutter closed. I think about everything in my life that has gotten me to this point. Loss, heartache, love and happiness. I realize that I had to endure them all to be able to say I'm blessed with all I have now. As I sit here contemplating, I see the faces of my parents and brother. I see Bella and Edan and everyone who's important to me. My aunt Liz who raised me. Emmett, Rose and the twins who came to me at a point in my life when I thought I had no one. My now extended family Renee and Charlie, Alice and Jasper. I have a life now that is full. Honestly, I can say, that growing up, I thought I would never have that.

"Edward, are you comfortable."

I nod.

"Okay, I'm going to ask you to clear your mind and focus carefully on my voice. This will be our first session dealing with hypnosis. We've gone over this process a few times, and I need to know if at any time, you don't feel comfortable with anything, you will let me know immediately. Do you understand?"

"Yes."

"And at any time I feel that you're becoming distressed, I will bring you out of hypnosis with one word. That word will be 'home.' Do you understand?"

"Yes."

"Alright, are you ready to proceed?"

"I'm ready, Doctor Evans."

"Alright then. Close your eyes, and I'm going to ask you to start counting back from one thousand."

I glance over to my right. Bella's smile and gentle squeeze of my hand convinces me that I am ready. It took me nearly hyperventilating at airport customs to finally realize that I couldn't leave her, our son and our entire life behind. For them I would sacrifice. For them, I would try the alternative. Doctor Evans understands that I am skeptical, but is confident that we can make progress. It's all I can ask.

I close my eyes, and take a deep breath as I count and begin the next phase of my life.


Thank you ll for taking this journey with me. I've enjoyed writing this story so much. There will be an Epilogue in the next few weeks.