This is it. The last chapter. Epilogue tomorrow.
Edward set his jaw and glared at Victoria, wanting to shut up that cheery tone in her voice.
"Let's get this over with."
"Now that is such a defeatist attitude to have." She admonished.
He didn't bother replying and got out, shutting the door behind him. He followed her up the stairs leading to Seattle's Department of Family Services. They entered and went down the hallway to a closed door. Victoria knocked.
The door opened immediately to reveal Whit.
"Victoria. Dr. Cullen. Please, come in." She stepped back and let them enter.
Edward's eyes focused immediately on a car seat and a tiny hand, Lily's hand, poking out from it as she flailed around. He steeled himself against the crippling emotions that threatened to bring him to his knees.
"Where are they?" He choked out.
"Why don't you have a seat, Dr. Cullen." Whit suggested.
"I'll remain standing, thanks." He said.
"Sit down!" Victoria hissed.
With another glare at her, he did as she demanded, trying to keep his eyes away from Lily. It hurt too much to look at her.
They all sat there, the only sound was Lily's grunts and coos.
"What are we waiting on? People can't even be on time to pick up their new baby?" He asked.
"Will you be patient?" Victoria asked, exchanging amused glances with Whit.
Finally a man and a woman entered the room. Edward looked at them carefully, looking for any outward flaws.
"Are we ready to get started with this thing?" The man asked.
"This thing?" Edward asked.
The man looked taken aback by Edward's open hostility.
"What would you rather me call it?" The man asked.
"For starters, you could start referring to 'it' as 'her' and she is a baby, a living breathing human being." Edward informed him.
The man looked at Whit, Victoria and the other woman with open confusion.
"I know that, Sir. I was talking about this meeting. I have dinner plans that I can not break, so if we could do this quickly."
Edward jumped up and got into the man's face.
"What is your name?" He growled.
"Okay, Kevin, this is very important. She is one of the two important people in my life and you're in a hurry? She is not an inconvenience. She is worth losing reservations for." He then turned to Whit. "This is what you consider to be acceptable? This man, who clearly has much more important things to do? This whole fucking system is corrupt!" He yelled.
Kevin looked at Whit and Victoria.
"What the hell are you two trying to pull? You want to give this baby to this man?" He asked them.
"That is what I am saying… wait, what? I thought you and your wife were getting her?"
"No. This is not my wife, this is my assistant Jamie. We are here for the temporary custody meeting."
"Temporary Custody?" Edward repeated.
"Yes, that is all we could arrange for on such short notice. But I don't think there will be a problem getting you and Dr. Swan permanent custody. We just have to do a few routine checks. We should already have done a home inspection, but considering you two are physicians I am sure it is fine. However, expect one very soon."
"Home inspection. Sure, okay." Edward said, numb.
"So we just need you to sign these papers and have Dr. Swan come by soon to do the same. Shame she couldn't be here today."
Kevin held out the pen.
Edward stared at it, then at Kevin, then back at the pen.
"Can we maybe do this today? Seriously, it is my anniversary and my wife will skin me alive if I'm late." Kevin told him.
Edward felt a nudge and he came back into himself.
"So she is mine? Mine and Bella's?" He clarified.
"Barring any complications. Once you sign these papers, the mother has sixty days to come forward and claim her, but even then, she would be held accountable for her actions and a complete investigation would be started. So we are not in the clear yet. There is a chance that you take her home and get completely attached and we have to take her. I am sorry and that sucks, but that is the risk you have to take if you want her." She explained.
"I understand. But know if that happens, we will fight." He said.
"We sure will." Victoria agreed.
Edward took the pen and signed where indicated. Kevin shook his hand.
"Um… sorry about my little outburst there." Edward told him.
"Little? I was afraid my wife would be a widow if I said much more." Kevin joked. "Congratulations." He and his assistant left.
Edward looked at Whit and Victoria.
"You two…" He swallowed the lump in his throat. "…I should be so pissed."
"But you're not." Victoria gloated.
"I will be by later this week to do the home inspection." Whit said before shaking his hand and leaving.
"Well, come on, Daddy. Grab your daughter and I will take you to your car."
"Daddy." He breathed.
He went over to Lily and stroked her cheek. She was sleeping peacefully. He picked up the handle of the car seat and followed Victoria once again.
He put her carefully in the back seat and got in beside her.
"Do I look like a chauffer?" Victoria complained teasingly.
"Just hurry up. I want to get Lily to her mother." Edward grinned.
"As you wish."
"Why couldn't you be this accommodating the whole time?" Edward asked.
"Hey, I got the job done, didn't I?" She asked.
"Yes, yes you did. Thank you." He said sincerely.
"It was my pleasure, Edward."
Bella focused on making dinner. She had to concentrate on Edward or she feared she would go crazy. So she had come to her empty home and cleaned within an inch of her life and now she was making steak and potatoes and a salad… the first meal she had ever had with him.
She would not cry. She would not break down. She would continue on with her life. She would try to forget…
Bella now abandoned cutting up the cucumber and focused instead on not having a panic attack.
This hurt too much. This is what people felt like when family members died, when children died, when biological parents decided to keep their children instead of giving it to the nice hopeful family that the baby was promised to. She had gotten her hopes up, she had gotten too attached.
She wouldn't do this again. She couldn't. She and Edward could be happy, just the two of them. She would be the best Aunt Bella that his nieces and nephews could ever dream of, but she would not try adopting. She would not replace Lily. She only hoped Edward understood.
She heard the door open and she wiped her tears away, concentrating on her breathing and on slicing.
"Bella?" Edward called out.
"In here." She called, wincing. Her voice was all wrong. He would know and he would let her grieve and he would support her.
"Hey." He said softly.
"Hey." She said, not looking up.
"I got something for you." He said.
"Oh, okay… you didn't have to do that." She said weakly.
"Aren't you going to ask what it is?"
"I will… I just need to finish this."
"You are really going to love it." He said. "I am excited about it myself. It will be perfect. Our lives are going to be perfect."
She slammed down the knife.
"Perfect? There is no such thing as perfect." She hissed. "I just had to let go of the most beautiful, precious thing besides you that I have ever wanted in my life and you think that the flowers or jewelry you bought me will change that and make it all better? You are fucking delusional!"
"Hey now. There are sensitive and innocent ears in here. Don't use that language. We don't want Lily repeating any of that, do we?" He asked.
Bella froze and she slowly turned around to face him. What she saw took her breath away.
Edward was standing in their kitchen holding the most beautiful and precious thing besides Edward that she had ever wanted.
Tears sidled down her face.
"What? How?" She whispered.
"I saw how much you wanted her and I have been trying for days to make it happen. It cost us a fortune and all we have right now is temporary custody but I believe everything will work out. I wasn't sure if I could pull it off and I almost didn't… but here she is… and would you say something?" He asked.
"I love you." She breathed.
"As I love you."
Bella walked slowly up to them, the love of her life and their little girl, and hugged them both.
"Wait. We don't have a crib or clothes, or good God, diapers or formula. Shi …Crap! What are we going to do?" She asked panicked.
"We have a diaper bag full of diapers and wipes and formula and bottles to get us through until tomorrow. She can sleep- if she sleeps- with us tonight. I have three outfits and we can bathe her in the sink. Tomorrow we will go to the baby store and go broke." He told her.
Bella calmed down.
"I also want to get married." He told her.
She raised her eyebrow.
"You want? That is what you consider to be a good proposal? Oh no. You need a ring and you need to kneel at my feet." She demanded.
"I have a baby in my arms." He informed her.
She took Lily from him and smiled at her. Then she looked at Edward expectantly.
He rolled his eyes but got down on one knee.
"I don't have the ring. It is at my mother's house in her safe. However, it would make me the happiest man on earth if you would become my wife. I love you. Will you marry me?"
She screwed her face up and pretended to think about it. Finally she sighed.
"I can't let Lily be illegitimate. So I guess."
"Oh that is just… yeah… thank you for that." Edward complained.
"I'm kidding. Of course I will marry you."
He got up and dragged her into his arms, holding her tightly and kissing her over and over again.
They broke apart when Lily whimpered in protest.
"Our sex life is going to be taking a back seat, huh?" Bella said.
"So worth it. Let's put her to bed, so we can eat."
"I don't know anything about taking care of babies." She informed him.
Edward rolled his eyes and looked at her.
"Now you tell me."
Her answering giggle warmed his heart. He took her hand in hers.
"We will learn… together." He promised.
"Together." She agreed.
Their life would be full of challenges, everyone's always was, but it would also be full of joy, commitment, loyalty and love.
And the greatest of these was love.
Probably not correct on all the legal aspects but for the sake of fiction we will just let it go...