A/N: Who writes 9K words of epilogue? (Raises hand in shame.) Yeah. Don't know what happened there. But thank you for nominating Maybe a Dance for the top ten completed fics of October 2022 at TwiFanfictionRecs! You are the sweetest.
Here's some extra fluff of A Giant Warm Hug (what my husband calls this story). I am one of those annoying authors who considers epilogues to be 'extra' (not all of my stories get them and I still consider them to be equally complete), so here's some extra snuggly toothache.
I hope you enjoy!
Maybe a Dance
by Anton M.
Chapter 36: Meet the Little Love Potato
Monday, December 23
Chilliwack, three years later
Exhausted but happy, Edward and Bella dropped their mist-covered luggage against the hallway wall after stepping into Edward's parents' home. Warmth flushed their cheeks. Esme's favourite Michael Bublé echoed in the hallway, and even though it was the third year without snow on Christmas, arriving to their family waiting for them in a blissfully warm house created a holiday atmosphere even without snow.
They removed their coats and leaned against each other to put quirky woollen socks on. When they straightened, Edward pulled his wife into his arms, squeezing her tight as he pressed his lips against her hair. They'd talked and laughed for the entire three-hour car drive from Seattle, but both were tired, and Bella couldn't help but sink against him. She felt afloat in his comforting scent of fresh laundry and coffee.
"You ready for this?"
Edward's breath tickled her ear, and Bella lifted herself on her tiptoes to kiss him. Squeezing his sides and relishing his warmth, she smiled, opening her mouth when a patter of feet interrupted them.
Bella stole another kiss from Edward before she lifted the blonde girl into her arms and swung her around.
"Ellie! Did you miss auntie Bee-Bee and uncle Eddie?"
"Sweetheart," Edward warned Bella. "Don't do that." He squeezed Ellie's hand and smiled at the two-year-old. "Uncle Edward."
"Uncle Eddie is grumpy today," Bella whispered, conspiratorially. "We could not wash off all that hair gel from yesterday, so he is my grumpy love potato today."
Ellie hid her face in Bella's neck, and Edward held out his hands to lift the girl into his arms but Ellie shook her head.
"You're not Eddie," she huffed. "Strange man."
Bella kissed Edward's cheek. "It's the hair."
On a September evening a few months ago, the two were sitting in bed. Bella's legs were thrown over Edward's under the blanket as she hate-watched the latest season of Witcher while Edward peer reviewed an article. It was a blissfully domestic, casual evening. Occasionally, they'd bother each other with comments and questions until Edward motioned for Bella to take off her headphones and asked, "Baby, do you think you could help me grow out my hair?"
She did, and the result was gorgeous. About half of his hair was a silvery white now and he had an entirely white strand above the left side of his forehead. His natural hair colour gave his colleagues and students pause at first, but everyone got used to it, and Bella loved his hair so much she sometimes forgot herself staring at him.
But little Ellie did not recognize her uncle, and she wriggled out of Bella's arms when Jasper appeared in the hallway.
"You sneaky sons of... hi." Jasper took his daughter into his arms. "What are you guys, cats?" Grinning, he half-hugged both of them. "Congratulations! Both of you. Carlisle has been itching to pop champagne since yesterday evening. Come, come." Noticing how Ellie hid her face from Edward, Jasper laughed. "She hid from me for a day after my buzzcut. She'll be back to clinging to your legs by Christmas dinner."
They moved to the kitchen. Cold December Night nearly drowned the conversation, and Bella could've melted at how Edward wrapped her in his arms at the doorway, both facing the kitchen as their family gradually noticed their presence and walked over to hug and congratulate them.
"We are so proud of you both," Esme gushed, hugging them. "Our own Gold Stars."
"Are you quitting your day jobs now?" Alice asked, grinning as she hugged Bella. She passed champagne glasses from Carlisle to the couple. Behind everyone, Carlisle motioned for Bella to switch them. Bella quietly did so as the family excitedly talked over each other, and Edward looked at his wife with a question in his eyes.
"This one has a stain," Bella explained, scrubbing a non-existent blemish on Edward's glass.
"Ah, so the husband gets the stained glass?" he teased against her ear. Bella shivered at his proximity, bursting to tell him her news, but instead, she tiptoed and kissed him.
"It's payback for having to put up with your grumpy potato today, my love."
"Fair enough." Edward grinned, raising his glass with everyone as Alice gave them a sweet, heartfelt toast. They clinked glasses. Taking a sip and lowering his glass, Edward turned to Esme.
"Mom, what is it that you used to give me to get the gunk out of my hair?"
Edward nearly cursed before his eyes fell on Ellie. "Of course," he whispered instead, pressing a kiss against the top of Bella's head before he let go of her and found baking soda from the cupboard. "Baby, do you mind if I—?"
"Please," Bella replied. "It's for the greater good that you stop whining about it."
Edward grinned and kissed her.
Bella was very careful not to mix up their glasses when he left to wash his hair.
The rest of them sat around the new, bigger kitchen table. In the summer, Esme and Bella had finally gotten around to spray-painting the lower cabinets, which were now a navy blue with golden handles. They left the upper cabinets white and only replaced the handles. The change was a bit more work than either had expected, but the modern-looking result was worth it, and Christmas garlands made the look even cozier as they looped underneath the doorways and upper cabinets, wrapped in fairy lights.
Esme's regained weight gave her face a rounder, healthy look, and her yearly checkups had declared her cancer-free for the third year in a row. Carlisle, sitting next to his wife, had lost a bit of weight in his middle as Esme grew worried about his heart, and the two held hands under the table. Ellie swayed back and forth on the floor, giggling and holding her mom's hands, and the two admired Bella's long and impeccable (competition) manicure before they teased Jasper about painting his toenails. Jasper, who had neither gained nor lost weight in the past three years, argued to keep his toenails free of polish, but he was smiling and clearly loved arguing with the two.
Bella's biggest worry when Alice had Ellie was that she'd start to comment on the kid's weight and restrict the girl's eating to an unhealthy degree, so Bella had kept a careful, keen eye on her friend. When she was pregnant, Alice had attempted to work on herself but did not seem to get why her behaviour was wrong, and for a while, Edward and Bella deemed any possibility of an actual relationship between Alice and Jasper a lost cause.
Alice stopped commenting on people's weight but did not, at first, manage to change the way she thought about the issue—even if sometimes, when the stars aligned, Bella's tough questions seemed to make Alice reflect on her thinking. But, unexpected to both Edward and Bella, Ellie's two-day hospital stay with a fever when the girl was only ten days old seemed to have kicked Alice's gears into full motion, inspiring a change that was probably more surreal for Jasper to experience than for Bella and Edward to witness from the sidelines. The event shook Alice so thoroughly she did not quite know what to do with herself or how to apologize to Jasper, but the new parents talked and talked and talked.
Bella heard about it. Edward heard about it. Esme and Carlisle heard about it. They analyzed the issue from all sides when they inevitably got dragged into the (very private) discussion, but it was Jabiru's dilemma that tore at Bella's heartstrings the most. He wanted nothing more in the world than to be with (and believe) Alice, but there was no way for him to be sure of her change without giving her another shot, and he was wary of allowing himself to experience the kind of heartbreak that Alice had the power to inflict on him.
Alice had a lot to atone for. She needed to prove to Jasper that her desire to be with him was genuine. Their discussion was a long time coming, and while Alice was far from perfect, her epiphany allowed her to gain insight where it mattered—especially where it mattered to Jasper and their daughter, and Jasper, being the kind-hearted man he was, decided to give the mother of his daughter another chance. But, nevertheless, Jasper told her that if she was still ashamed to be with him, there would be no third shot. If it didn't work out, they would coparent as best they could and stay on friendly terms but that would be it.
Alice and Jasper got (back) together when Ellie was six weeks old, and the two moved to Jasper's condo in Abbotsford almost quicker than Esme and Carlisle realized what was happening. But as quickly as the change materialized, Esme and Carlisle were thrilled for the two, and baby-proofing the Cullens' house made visiting the new grandparents a breeze.
Even the name Ellie was a bit of an ode to Bella's role in Alice's change. When the two were little, they wanted to make Allie and Bellie a thing. Annoyingly, Bellie never caught on with anyone while Bella loved calling Alice Allie. Bella was not only the reason Alice initially contacted Jasper but also the reason she grew open to the possibility of a relationship with a man like him, and so Ellie was not only their favourite name but a little heartwarming nod to Ellie's auntie.
Carlisle caught Bella watching the girl. His eyes were soft when he lifted his glass at Bella, wearing an expression of quiet joy that she received with a smile but no explanation. In an ideal world, she would've found a way to tell Edward she was pregnant before getting anyone else involved, but if she had outright refused alcohol Edward would've been suspicious. Therefore, letting Carlisle in on her secret allowed her to tell Edward her news exactly when and how she wanted to.
"So, is achieving the Gold Star worth getting kicked out of all the Rising Stars competitions?" Carlisle asked.
Achieving the Gold Star in Pro-Am dancing did, indeed, result in being denied entry to Rising Stars competitions because of how unfair to actual amateurs their presence would be. And while the award money wasn't more than a few hundred dollars, the prestige and joy of having become some of the better-known Pro-Am dancing couples—the Cullen-Swans—meant a lot to both of them.
"Yeah, what do you do when you're the best in North America?" Alice asked.
"I wish that was true," she replied. "Those were not even championships, just the Seattle Dance Festival, and we only won Pro-Am Multi-dance Gold Star, Open Gold in International Latin and American Rhythm, all in Age Division B. The points don't even count for championships or Edward and I would've been denied entry by the NDCA."
"I understood exactly none of what you just said," Jasper said, grinning. "Blah blah blah, I'm the best in America, blah blah blah."
Edward, now looking casual in grey sweatpants and a hoodie, laughed at the doorway. His whitish hair was messy and deliciously damp, and Bella stood up to allow him to sit under her before he took his glass and wrapped his arm around Bella's waist. She couldn't help the goosebumps on her neck when he pressed his lips against her shoulder and squeezed her tight.
"Did you tell them this is just Pro-Am in Division B?" Edward asked.
"I did," Bella replied. "They wouldn't listen."
In the twinkling glow of the Christmas lights and the (now quieter) Michael Bublé in the background, the family began eating. Jasper lifted Ellie in his lap while Alice cut chicken into little pieces for her. Edward and Bella shared stories from their busy three-day competition: the Russian couple who bravely finished their routine after the woman's heel broke and the teacher who nearly caused a scene over his student not wearing long acrylic nails.
Bella was relieved to finally take a breath at their wholesome family dinner and put the busy month behind them.
"But what is next?" Esme asked. "Are you going to take Canadian championships more seriously, now?"
"We can't participate in the Rising Star events anymore, so... maybe," Edward answered. "And competing at Blackpool would be pretty incredible... at least once."
Bella and Carlisle made eye contact for a brief moment but both looked away. Blackpool Dance Festival in the UK was scheduled to take place at the end of May, at least for Pro-Am competitors, and if everything went well, Bella would be approaching her third trimester at the time. It wasn't that pregnant women couldn't compete (that Bella knew of), but even if she was up for it, she'd certainly be a spectacle.
Edward had been patient and kind through her stage fright—probably the main reason they hadn't competed properly on a national championship level yet. He'd taught her breathing exercises and refused to enter bigger competitions and dance festivals before Bella was ready. It was bittersweet that when Bella finally felt as ready as she'd ever be (to compete in championships), she had to get pregnant, but... c'est la vie.
Technically, they could re-enter the scene in a few years. It was not the end, just a happy hiatus, but even if it was and their dancing career peaked at the Seattle Dance Festival after earning the Pro-Am Multi-dance Gold Star of the event... Bella would be okay with that.
"I might shit my pants if we ever compete at Blackpool," Bella said.
Edward grinned against her ear, and she turned her head to kiss him.
When Ellie giggled, Bella peeked at Jasper and Alice through her fingers, ready to apologize, but Alice waved her off.
"We've said worse," Alice said. "It's when you make a big deal out of it that she gets it in her head and repeats it endlessly."
Joking and teasing and laughing, the family ate dinner. When it was time for dessert, Jasper put his arm behind Alice's backrest. The two smiled at each other, having a quiet argument that ended with Alice whispering, "Some other day. We can't steal their thunder."
It was a sweet if a bit uncharacteristic statement—certainly evidence of Alice's growth—and Bella reached over the table to clink her glass against hers. "Our cloud can fit you, Allie. What's up?"
Alice put her hand on Jasper's on her shoulder before the two shared a quiet smile.
"We're... expecting another one. I'm almost three months along, now."
"Allie," Bella whispered, having been so busy hiding the fact that her own glass contained soda she hadn't realized Alice was doing the same.
Esme nearly spilled her champagne, and her eyes couldn't have been softer. "Oh honey."
Esme hugged her daughter just before Ellie flipped her entire plate into her lap and covered herself in chicken and vegetables.
"Oopsie," she said, her wide eyes tearing up. "Ellie is in trouble."
Alice lifted Ellie into her lap to hug her. "No trouble," she said, smiling. "Daddy will clean it up and we have plenty more. Right, gramps?"
"So much more," Carlisle said, motioning at Jasper to sit back down. "Stay right there. I'll take care of it."
Watching Alice, Bella realized she'd seen her friend grow patience she didn't know Alice was capable of, and Bella was thrilled and touched by the news. Having seen how Jasper brought out the best in Alice and how motherhood suited her friend, Bella felt lucky to have their kids so close in age. A few years ago, she would've been worried for the implication of having kids so close in age, but... Alice had, against some odds, proven to be a wonderful mother.
They took turns congratulating and hugging the couple. Carlisle washed Ellie's favourite plastic Bluey plate and put new food on it before the family lifted their glasses in celebration and congratulated Ellie on her important future role as a bigger sister.
Dessert was a happy affair with Esme discussing her plans to upgrade the older half of the living room, Jasper and Alice sharing many of their expectations and plans they'd kept to themselves for so long, and Edward attentively listening behind Bella. He'd been uncommonly quiet, and when he agreed with something Jasper said, the strain in his voice caught Bella's attention.
"You okay, love?" Bella whispered.
Edward's gaze felt distant, and she knew that he knew Bella wouldn't buy it if he said he was okay. Surrounded by chatter, Bella pressed her lips against Edward's jaw. "I love you."
Edward squished her against his firm chest. His lips grazed her ear, and he definitely had a smile in his voice. "Love you more, baby."
His warm breath sent tingles down her spine.
After two more hours of catching up and quite a bit later than Ellie's regular bed-time, Jasper and Alice left for Abbotsford with a grumpy, half-asleep daughter. Bella and Edward, too, started wrapping themselves in their layers while Carlisle rubbed Esme's upper arms.
"Honey, why do you have to go to the cabin today?" Esme asked, worried. "You just arrived! You can spend the night here and go in the morning when it's brighter."
"It's only ten PM, mom. The rainclouds are gone and there's no frost. We'll be back on the 25th."
Esme made a face but didn't argue.
Bella and Edward hugged his parents, and Bella could see in Carlisle eyes that he wanted to express his joy but he knew better. They'd have plenty of time to talk later, much later—even with Jasper's family and Bella's mom arriving for Christmas dinner, Bella had no intention to spread their news before the critical first few months were over.
The stars shone brighter than the last quarter of the old moon as they exited the subdivision and began driving north through prairies. Bella drove. Edward covered her hand on the gearshift, brushing his thumb over her knuckles, deep in thought. Expecting a potential bigger conversation, she did not push him for an answer to his mood change, and their drive to the Graham-Lins' cabin was full of soft music and gentle teasing.
Motion-sensored lights lit up the staircase leading up the mountainside, and the couple quickly settled in the cozy warmth of the cabin. They brushed their teeth. Edward's skincare routine only involved a tub of CeraVe, so by the time Bella joined him in the bedroom, he was leaning against a wooden pillar by the window, shoulders tense as he cracked his knuckles and watched the barely discernible silhouettes of the mountains. He turned, and his eyes were full of affection but also something akin to sadness as he watched Bella shimmy out of her tights.
Once done, she stepped in front of him and ran her fingers through his messy hair.
"Tell me," Bella said, softly, knowing that although he no longer expected an argument from a discussion with her, he still sometimes needed a nudge to share. Years of unhealthy arguments had given him a default apprehension that they were still sometimes working through.
Edward surrounded Bella with his arms and pulled her closer. She twirled her finger around the silver strand of hair above his forehead. Her belief that he looked like any other man felt like a distant, foggy memory, almost belonging to someone else, because the fine lines in the corners of his beautiful eyes, the five o'clock shadow and the silver strands in his hair, they filled her with butterflies, and nobody had ever felt more attractive to her than her husband, smart and kind and deliciously dirty in the sheets.
"Do you think we'll be one of those couples?" Edward asked, unaware of her daydreaming.
"One of what couples?"
"The ones who endlessly postpone having kids because it's never the right time," he finished, and Bella realized exactly why Edward's mood had dropped at dinner. It took everything in her not to dismiss his worry, and she wrapped him in a tight hug to hide her face-splitting grin. Her sweet, poor husband was concerned they'd never take that step while Bella had been puzzling over how not to reveal her predicament before his birthday.
"No, love," Bella said against his chest. "We will not be one of those couples."
He hummed against her hair.
"I promise," she whispered.
Edward kissed her hair and breathed her in, squeezing her. "I'm not saying it's the right time now," he replied quietly. "We're still living in the Roys' basement, we're not debt-free yet, and you just got promoted not even two months ago, but... as much money as living in the basement has saved us, I think it's time we find our own place."
Bella grinned before she pressed her lips against his chest, adoring his tight arms around her.
"I'd like that," she replied.
She'd been a little nervous about the timing of her pregnancy, but she expected his reaction in nervous anticipation rather than nervous dread. She clearly remembered a warm summer evening not even half a year ago after they walked home from visiting Ming's family when Edward, with no context at all, looked at Bella with his soft, kind eyes and said, almost shyly, "I wouldn't mind if it happened."
He did not have to explain what he meant, and the two had a spontaneous, hour-long discussion on the topic. At the time, Bella was in the middle of discussing a promotion with her manager, and she knew that her new contract would provide an extra ten weeks of partially paid maternity leave (on top of the baseline they offered to all employed women) if, at the time she gave birth, she'd been at FABL Health for three years. It wouldn't change their timing or her decision to stay at (or leave) the company, but it was certainly a perk to think about.
But even with this (potential future) benefit, they had points of hesitation.
Neither wanted to stay in the Roys' basement if they were to start trying, and since they began to compete on a Pro-Am level, both wanted to compete at the New York Dance Festival in February as well as Blackpool in May—if at all possible. Moreover, in November, right on schedule, Edward had to send his dossier for tenure review for his reappointment, and he had received news from Ming that he'd passed the review with flying colours, which now made Edward an Associate Professor until his next review in another three years—which would then, hopefully and finally, result in tenure.
All in all, they both had a lot going on, and Bella was not only insanely happy with her new responsibilities at work but also insanely busy, and at the time, the two agreed to, maybe, start trying in a year, after Blackpool.
But life, as it so often happened, had other plans.
Mountaintops were hidden behind white clouds when Bella woke up, deliciously warm and naked in Edward's arms. Her cheek was smushed against his chest, his thigh thrown over her hips, and she could feel his morning wood poking the side of her ass. It happened rarely, but Bella always adored watching (and hearing) her husband sleep, and she grinned at the way his snoring blew her hair around. Nothing in the world offered her comfort quite like waking up in his arms did, and she felt infinitely lucky that their paths had crossed again three years ago.
She trailed little lines on his tattoos, admiring the details she now almost knew by heart.
For the past three years, Bella had, not even by design, woken him up with a blowjob on his birthday. Edward was hot and gorgeous and so giving in the bedroom that she loved to reciprocate often, but today, Bella knew she couldn't continue the tradition. The trouble was, as lucky as she was with most of her pregnancy symptoms, brushing her teeth now nearly made her gag. She hadn't gotten morning sickness (yet?), but two things certainly made her queazy now. The first one was brushing teeth (to the point where Bella bought herself the softest toothbrush she could find and brushed her teeth with unbelievable slowness), and the other was twirling. She'd had to start taking ginger tablets prior to their milonga and dancing competitions to withstand twirling without throwing up.
Edward stirred when she pressed a soft kiss on top of the tattoo on his heart.
"Morning, baby," he whispered, his low voice hoarse from sleep. He turned half on top of her and grinned against her collar bone before kissing it. Eyes blazing with love, he brushed his thumbs over her temples and observed her under his beautiful eyelashes.
"What?" he asked, his lips twitching with a hint of a smile. "What is that secret twinkle in my wife's eyes today?"
Bella couldn't wait. She was overwhelmed with joy. She was bursting to tell him.
"Happy birthday, my love," Bella answered, grinning. He looked adorably sleepy when she kissed him. "What's the time?"
Edward squinted at her, unsure of what she was planning, but nevertheless checked his phone.
It was quarter past twelve.
"I'm sorry I kept you up so long," Edward whispered before he began to trail hot kisses from her shoulder to her boobs and slid his palm under her ass, squeezing it.
Bella arched against him. "Are you really?"
She laughed. Feeling a delicious warmth spread through her, she slid her fingers in his hair and tugged. Edward's low groan vibrated straight through her before he scooted lower, turning her on with his soft lips and his palms kneading her muscles.
It took Bella a few seconds to snap out of her dazed arousal, but when she did, she pulled Edward up next to her with such force that he nearly landed on top of her. Embarrassed, Bella covered her face with her elbow, and Edward laughed.
"It's okay if you're not in the mood, baby." He kissed her bicep. "You don't have to throw me off the bed for it."
Bella uncovered her face, turning on her side and snuggling close to his warmth. "No, I'm so in the mood. God. It should be illegal to have a husband like you." She paused, grinning, delightfully aware of his hard cock against her stomach. "Actually, it should not. I'd be a criminal."
Edward laughed. "You are in a strange mood today."
"I just—I adore this. But first, I need you to do something for me."
Bella pulled on her dad's enormous polo shirt while Edward, just a little bit grumpy, found his grey sweatpants. She pulled him in the living room and switched on the warm, glowing lights near the walls. Bella put his birthday card on the table, set up his phone with bluetooth speakers, and paused Stand By Me by Ben E. King.
Edward, recognizing the first few seconds of the tune, assessed his wife with new eyes, her bare toes in the carpet, her thighs peeking out from under her blanket of a polo shirt, and the messy pony tail she wrapped her red hair into. She was admiring his bare chest, biting her lower lip, her eyes playful and light, and it hit Edward square in the chest how impossible it felt to have landed her, his wife.
She stepped against him, and his muscles flexed when she ran her open palms over his toned chest. Edward let out a sharp breath and pressed a kiss against her ear, his voice low and rough, "Baby, do you want me to bury my cock inside you or do you want to dance? Because I'm getting mixed signals, here."
Breathless in his arms, Bella laughed and forced herself not to jump him. Instead, she pressed a soft kiss against his jaw.
Edward squinted, taken aback by the secretive look in her eyes.
"I'm... missing something."
She almost laughed at his wording, remembering how he'd reacted when he hadn't realized that they'd been each other's first kiss.
"You might be missing something."
Ignoring his question, Bella started the song and stepped flush against him, parting her thighs. Without thinking, Edward took his position and squeezed her closer, breathing against her temple. "You're up to something," he said, smiling. The next moment, he whisked her away with the music of their first dance, an Argentine tango, and Bella bathed in his soft gaze. As many competitions and dance festivals as they participated in (in their fancy dress code), there was always something special about dancing in private, at home or in a cabin, naked or half-naked or surrounded by a blanket, lost in each other as they moved like a single leaf in the wind.
Alice had recorded their first dance but sharing it on Edward's professional Instagram account (with permission) drew so much attention to the couple that Bella and Edward decided to create a separate joint account dedicated to their dancing. It was the best solution to divide their audience and allow them to follow exactly what they wanted to, and unsurprisingly, being a more accessible hobby, the popularity of their dancing account had passed Edward's professional account years ago. It was a fun little side-account that they mostly updated after festivals or competitions.
The song ended with Edward twirling Bella against him, and she hadn't realized how much spinning their choreography contained until she found herself dangerously close to vomiting. Steadying herself, Bella realized she forgot to take ginger pills in her excitement.
Edward put on a Christmas playlist when he noticed the slow, deep breaths Bella was taking against his chest.
"You okay, baby?"
He squeezed her against him, kissing the top of her head and holding her for a few minutes. When Bella felt somewhat better, she hopped on the table behind them and pulled him to stand between her knees. Edward cupped her face.
"Sweetheart," he half-warned, worry etched on the lines of his face. "You look pale. Are you sure you're okay?"
Bella would've laughed had she not been busy focusing on not throwing up on her husband.
"Happy birthday, love," she whispered, ignoring his question as she gave him her card. "I didn't have time to get you anything else this year but I hope this is enough."
"It's always enough, baby," he replied softly, taking the card from her. "It's my favourite."
Feeling like holding her breath, Bella watched his eyelashes move as he took in her drawing of three love potatoes: Edward, Bella, and a tiny little ball with arms, legs and a smiley face between them. Edward's mouth twitched when he locked eyes with her, but he opened the card and read its contents, and although he smiled and kissed and thanked her after setting the card back on the table, Bella just knew he hadn't realized what she'd drawn. He didn't notice.
With her lack of skill, maybe the little ball between them looked too much like the award they'd won.
More than a little impatient, Bella bit her lip as she decided to help him along.
"So how often do you think they award the Gold Star to three people?"
"I don't think that's ever happened," Edward replied, frowning and completely serious in his answer.
Bella couldn't help the laugh that escaped her. "I cannot believe you have a PhD, Professor."
"What?" Edward defended, sliding his palms up and down her bare thighs. "You know it'd be absurd for the judges to give an award to three people. The only possible way of that happening would be if you were—" he promptly shut up, his grip tightening and eyes desperately searching hers.
Bella's grin widened. "If I were—?"
Edward's mouth fell open. He cleared his throat.
"You are not—?"
His low voice was hoarse.
Bella's face could've split from her grin. "Not—?"
Edward's eyes were brimming with disbelief as he drunk in her sparkling eyes and every inch of her skin, desperately searching for an answer. Scooting her to the edge of the table and squishing her against his naked chest, he felt his heartbeat in his ears as he whispered, voice trembling, "Baby, are you pregnant?"
Bella grinned against his ear, bursting with love. She was overjoyed by his response. "And if I am?"
"Oh my God." Edward lifted her into his arms. Bella wrapped her legs around him before he spun her around, once, twice—
"Love. Love. I will throw up on you."
Edward stopped spinning but Bella's world took another few minutes to calm down even after he sat on the couch with Bella straddling him. He held her tight, encasing her in his warmth, snuggling her against his chest and pressing his lips against her neck, holding her as close as he possibly could. After Bella had taken a few breaths, he pulled back and brushed hair from her face, his soft, vulnerable eyes smouldering in such a way that Bella could've ignited in his gaze.
"Are you really?" he whispered, quietly, as if her answer would change if he spoke any louder.
Bella took his hand and slid it under her shirt, brushing his knuckles against her lower stomach. "Yes," she replied softly.
It felt real, suddenly, and she felt shivers run down her spine when he spread out his fingers flat against her stomach, giving her the gentlest squeeze. There was nothing for him to feel, and yet, Edward touched his nose against hers, his eyes full of wonder.
Bella grinned, biting back a retort about the birds and the bees, and Edward, too, mirrored her joy.
"I mean, I know how," he continued, sounding breathless. "What I mean is... we've been careful."
Bella twirled her finger around his silver strand.
"You remember that night in November when I arrived home from New York at around one AM and... you were still up, editing an article? You had to leave for Yale the next evening, and..." Bella laughed when his erection poked her ass. "You do remember."
Edward's voice was low and rough. "I'd have to be dead to forget, Doctor Swan. That was..."
"A hot night," she finished softly, blushing in spite of herself.
Bella had her copper IUD inserted in the spring of her last year of PhD, and she knew all about its common side effects, so she expected the heavier, crampy periods. Unfortunately, what she didn't expect was for them to get worse over time, and in the past year, Edward had made her call in sick on three separate occasions when the maximum allowed dose of ibuprofen and paracetamol did not do a thing against the queen of all cramps. On those days, she curled up on the couch, (pretending not to be) crying, and if Edward didn't have lectures or found a substitute for himself, he worked from home to take care of her. Bella would've powered through it—after all, IUDs were so very effective—but when Edward found her passed out from pain in September, he put his foot down and convinced her to have her IUD removed.
Fuck it, they'd use condoms if needed. Nothing was worth watching the love of his life in that much pain.
Bella's OB/GYN suggested mini-pills that had gone through enough advancements that they could block ovulation and, with perfect use, nearly match the 99% effectiveness of copper IUDs, with the (hopeful) side effect that her periods would stop entirely. Bella was up for trying it, but since she'd been on different contraceptives for thirteen years in a row, she just wanted to skip a month and see what her body was up to without them. She knew it was an old wives' tale to feel like you had to 'reset' your body, but it felt right to take a month off. Edward, too, agreed to use condoms for a month. It was annoying to be sure, but it was worth their peace of mind that everything was in working order.
Removing the copper IUD was, at least, not nearly as excruciatingly painful as its insertion, and a few days later, Bella got the easiest, smoothest period she could remember having. It coincided with her work trip to New York, which usually terrified her (having a period on her work trip, not the trip itself), but her period was so light and barely painful that the night she made it back to Vancouver, she forgot she didn't have a copper IUD. Edward, as horrible as he was with dates, definitely forgot, and so they had a sleepless night of dirty, toe-curling, unprotected sex.
It spoke volumes about their marriage, their trust and communication, that after thirteen years of being terrified of getting pregnant, after thirteen years of being the perfect-use example, Bella forgot. She didn't skip a few pills. She wasn't the statistically unlikely case of getting pregnant on an IUD. Oh, no. She forgot. She was so comfortable and in love with her husband that she forgot.
"Everything you said last night is still true," Bella said. "We're still at the Roys' basement, and... it's not what we'd planned."
"No," Edward whispered. "It's better."
She let out a light laugh, knowing the answer but wanting to hear it all the same. "So... this is good news?"
Gently, he kept brushing his thumbs over her stomach, eyes full of wonder as he touched his nose against hers. The calm, simmering intensity in his eyes could've lifted her up. "Baby, if you'd told me you'd carry my child one day I'd have screwed everything and asked you out when you were my student."
"I would not have been happy if you screwed everything. I like to be the only one you screw."
Edward laughed. He peppered tiny little kisses all over Bella's face, and she felt so giggly and full of love she didn't know what to do with herself.
"But... are you okay with this?" A sudden, scary thought occurred to Edward. He paled. "You do want to—"
Bella ran her palms over his hair and kissed his nose. "I'm not seventeen, love, and you're a dream. It's... not perfect timing but we wanted to start trying next year anyway, so... it took me aback but I'm excited, and, a little bit scared. Does that make sense?"
Edward deflated like a stressed balloon, and the sparkle-eyed grin returned to his face. "Me, too, baby." He let out an embarrassed laugh. "I think I'm in shock, still. Did you freak out when you first realized we didn't use anything that night?"
"Less than you'd expect. My period had just ended, so I knew it wasn't likely but... apparently, I'm some kind of fertility wizard. I've had sex without contraception twice in my life, and both times, boom. Pregnant."
Edward smiled in spite of himself.
"But... I'm sorry about New York and Blackpool," Bella said, quietly.
"Don't be. I'm not. This is not forever, and we'll compete when we're ready again." He cupped her face, brushing his thumbs over her soft, slightly-too-pale cheeks. "When did you find out?"
"Two weeks ago," Bella said. "But... I suspected in the beginning of December. I got a craving for ketchup at work. Ketchup of all things. And literally the first thing that went through my head was, there's just no way I'm not pregnant."
His grin widened. "Those packets at home... they were not there from when Jasper and Alice visited with Ellie?"
"Nope. All me."
Edward groaned and cupped her neck, brushing his thumbs over her skin. "I'm so sorry, baby. I didn't... I didn't even notice. I'm the worst husband ever."
"You are not," Bella argued. She pressed a sweet kiss against his lips. "You're the best. I wanted to tell you on your birthday, so I was trying to hide it as much as I could even if there were moments when I thought you'd figure it out."
"When you questioned me about the kids' toothbrush I bought."
He raised his eyebrows. "You did that on purpose?"
"Yeah. It's the strangest thing but brushing my teeth is almost intolerable. It makes me gag, so I got the softest toothbrush ever. I was very careful not to brush around you or you would've known something was up."
"Any other symptoms?"
"Just the two for now. I mean, there's the tender breasts and bloating and all that but it feels the same as PMS so I don't really count that. But I bet there'll be more."
Edward's eyes were soft and loving, as if what she said had real value instead of just listing her symptoms of being pregnant.
"And have you seen the doctor yet?"
"No. I booked the first appointment for next Monday." She paused, giving him a careful smile. "I was kind of hoping... you'd join me?"
Edward squeezed her against his warm chest, kissing the front of her ear before he whispered, "I wouldn't miss it for the world, baby. Any of the appointments. You're doing the heavy lifting but I will always be right here next to you every step of the way."
Bella felt his care in her bones. "The thing is—" She hesitated and searched his eyes, knowing he'd have every right to be annoyed. "With the way I struggle to wake up, you might have to step up at night to make sure our baby is fed. I'm sorry."
"Sweetheart," Edward warned, almost sarcastically. "Why are you sorry? Did you think I've been sleepwalking through our marriage? I know. I've known since we started dating. We'll make good use of how light my sleep is and I'll deliver the baby to you or get the baby changed or both. I can do everything but breastfeeding. It's not a problem. I might get grumpy sometimes but maybe it'll be good if at least one of us is well-rested."
Bella crushed him into a hug. "You won't resent me?"
"We'll talk it through if it becomes too much but I adore you, baby. I'd rather have you with this problem than any other woman in the world without it."
Bella pressed her lips against his shoulder and hid her smile. "Marry me."
Edward grinned as he 'tsk'ed her. "A pregnant, married woman proposing to her professor? 179th time, too. The scandal."
"I've no clue, baby. I just made that number up."
Edward shifted her on his lap so that he could stretch his legs on the coffee table and Bella could sit sideways on his lap, curled up with her knees resting against his chest. He looked every bit her grinning, dazed, sparkly-eyed professor as he snuggled his chin close to her neck, prickling her skin as he squeezed her. She felt like bursting from giddiness with the way he was eyeing her.
"I can't believe it," he whispered, looking a bit drunk with his face-splitting grin. "We're having a baby."
"We're having a baby," Bella repeated, feeling just as happy and dazed as he looked.
Together, they watched a few stray snowflakes escape the white clouds, and Edward kept his chin snuggled against her neck. His stubble tickled her skin and his scent filled her with love.
"We really have to move," Edward said, absent-mindedly. "Whatever one-bedroom shoebox we can afford. And you have to get an assistant. I will not have you stressed when you're carrying our baby."
"I'm working on it," Bella replied, intertwining their fingers. "You'd put me in a padded room with a bunch of happy pills if you could, wouldn't you?"
Edward stifled his smile before admitting, "Only with your permission."
Bella grinned. He already worried about her making it safely to her hotel on her work trips, so she knew he'd probably dote on her until she was miffed by his attention... but she wouldn't have traded him for anyone else in the world.
She watched her husband in silence. He had the most beautiful hair with speckles of white, kind, intense eyes with eyelashes she envied, and the loveliest stubble on his cheeks. His tattooed muscles flexed under her palms. She licked her lips as she caught glimpse of the raw longing in his eyes just before he slid his hands under her shirt and kissed her. He tasted like a breathtaking future, a future full of love, and his hum vibrated through her when she tugged at his hair. He gripped her hips and ground himself closer, sliding his fingers between her legs, and she couldn't help her breathy laugh as she twitched in his arms.
He tore his soft, warm lips from her neck to whisper in her ear in his deliciously low, almost hoarse voice. "Baby, I—"
Confused and needy, Bella pulled back to see his eyes. Her husband looked at her like he wanted to bury himself inside her for the rest of time, and yet he held his nose against her cheek and shut his eyes. "Should I stop talking dirty? It feels wrong, now."
"No, no, no, no. Don't you dare. I bet they've written all the meta-analyses about how important it is to make your pregnant wife come with your dirty words. To release endorphins and oxytocin and all the other important chemicals."
Edward got a twinkle in his eye. "Have they now?"
"I'll write them myself if they haven't."
Edward laughed. He carried her to the bedroom and pulled off her shirt before he lifted her to the centre of the bed and straddled her thighs. His hair fell on his forehead as he hovered over her, brushing his open palm over her lower stomach, eyes full of emotion. Bella could've melted when he brushed his lips against her stomach.
"It's just a clump of cells at this point," she whispered, feeling strangely emotional over his attention.
Edward's eyes were on fire. "Do you remember when we conceived?"
"At around 12th of November."
"There's a heartbeat, then." He grinned, pressing a firmer kiss on her stomach. "Hi, clump of cells with a heartbeat. I can't wait to meet you, but don't give your mom too much trouble or you'll have to deal with me." He kissed her stomach once more before he scooted upwards and straddled her hips. His eyes were ablaze, brimming with love and desire and the cutest protectiveness, and he looked ridiculously fit and handsome above her, covered in tattoos. Bella grazed her knuckles over the tattoo on his heart before they locked eyes. She felt like she could've conquered the world with the way he looked at her.
"Will you put them here?" she asked, quietly. "Our kids?"
"Not a chance, baby."
"I chose you," he answered, lowering himself to rest his elbows on either side of her neck. "I'll love our kids to death but they're just along for the ride. They'll get their spot. But this, here?" Edward put her palm against the centre of his chest. "This is yours, baby. It will always be yours."
Heart beating wildly in her chest, Bella wrapped herself around him and hid her nose in his neck. She tugged at his hair, humming, overwhelmed by her love for her husband.
"I'm sorry I'm not into getting tattoos," she whispered. "It would be the most incredible thing to surprise you with a tattoo over my heart meant for you."
Edward pulled back just enough to see her eyes and touch her nose with his. "You don't need a tattoo to prove your love for me, baby. You wear it on your face."
Bella blew a raspberry against his cheek. Laughing, Edward pinned her hands on either side of her head and began to trail hot kisses down her neck and collarbone. Feeling deliciously needy, Bella tugged at his hair and arched against his lips.
Beautiful fat snowflakes were falling from the white clouds outside.
"What a shame it would be if we were stuck here all Christmas," Edward said, eyes full of mirth as he sucked on her skin and blew air against it, enjoying the laughter in her eyes. He slid his hand lower and sucked on her neck. "Such a shame," he repeated before he gave her goosebumps with his possessive hands and dirty whispers, and if they did get stuck in the cabin for Christmas that year, neither had the heart to tell their family that they would've done everything exactly the same all over again.
Geeky explanations (feel free to skip): The deal with being a "professional" dancer is that the term "professional" could mean either (1) getting paid to dance or to teach dancing, or (2) being registered as a "professional" dancer at the NDCA (USA) / NDCC (Canada) / equivalent governing body in a relevant country. You do not have to be a dance teacher to sign up as a professional dancer, and some teachers compete at the amateur level. A "professional" dancer is not always a more skilled dancer than an "amateur" dancer ("professional" is not necessarily a statement of skill!), and there are, in fact, many cases in which a skilled amateur in the Gold Open Am-Am level is better than a "professional" who scores low in Pro levels.
When a couple has risen up in the ranks of Am-Am competing (both participants are amateurs), there comes a point in which you are not allowed to "dance down" (your presence in the amateur competition scene would be unfair to amateurs who are competing in the syllabus Bronze / Silver / Gold levels of Am-Am). Moreover, Bronze / Silver / Gold levels of dancing are not a statement of podium but a level of dance, i.e. you can get #1 in Bronze level or a silver in a Gold level.
This all means that Bella and Edward were "forced" into a decision regarding how to compete after Am-Am (amateur) levels. They could've technically both registered as professionals. However, entering the Pro level too early can come with its own can of worms.
Pro-Am (a "professional" and an "amateur" dancing together) has gathered humongous amounts of participants and interest within the dancing community, so the natural step for our couple was to sign up Edward as a "professional" (he already had a WDC licence number from his early twenties) and leave Bella as an "amateur" even if their skill level is the same. That means that they can now enter competitions in the Pro-Am level, which is when a "professional" (usually a teacher) dances with an "amateur" (usually a student) on a competitive level. Although rare, a "Pro" dancer does not have to be a teacher, and an amateur does not have to be a student. In fact, in Blackpool, "Pro-Am" dancing is separate from "teacher-student" dancing, although that is more of a technicality to allow some Am-level teachers to compete as a teacher without losing their amateur status (which they would definitely lose if they competed as a Pro in the Pro-Am category). The deal is, once you register as a "Pro", you cannot go back unless you have a huge gap in your dancing (like Edward having an eight-year gap). It is technically possible to appeal to the NDCA/NDCC to get back your amateur status, but they can also deny you.
The world of dancing can be very confusing to understand, so please feel free to reach out if you're interested in learning more or if you have specific questions.
A/N: Phew. What a journey.
It's always incredibly tempting to bore you with all the little details and dive into why this story is the way it is, but I'll spare you. If you enjoy my writing, feel free to put me on alert or friend me on Facebook (there's a link on my profile).
It's been such a joy. Thank you all. Hope to see you around!