Thank you all for reading and reviewing. If you didn't hear, FFN has not been nice and wouldn't let me post this sooner.

Too soon? A proposal or a promise? How will she react?

Thank you to Orangeappeal for pre-reading and Sunshine for betaing. Like always, I own any mistakes below. I was tweaking until the last minute.

When we last left off, Edward was leaving to pick up Bella to take her to dinner.

Enjoy…


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Chapter Thirty-eight
The Choice

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As we drive back from dinner, I conclude it is probably the most uncomfortable evening we've had. With the conversation stilted and Charlie texting every half hour 'just to check in,' Bella and I probably should have just ordered a pizza and crashed on the couch.

I open the door to our condo and let Bella lead the way.

Following at a distance, I watch her walk into the living room, taking in the new décor. The old sofa I threw out when we broke up is replaced with a new leather sectional Esme picked out for me. Hmm, I wonder if its cordovan.

"The place looks really nice."

"Thanks." I keep my eyes on her, hoping she is as happy here as she once was.

"You painted, didn't you? The walls were white, but now look… " She walks closer to one wall for inspection and I reach for the dimmer switch, increasing the lighting, "But now it's taupe. You painted the place taupe?"

"Yeah. I um, I had a little painting experiment while you were gone and had the place painted over. Do you like it?"

"Yes, very much." She smiles back at me and digs her hands into her coat pockets. We're both so nervous, stumbling through awkwardness—I haven't even taken her coat.

"Can I take your coat?"

"Sure… well… maybe in a minute. I'm a little cold."

"I'll turn up the heat."

"No, it's okay. I like my coat."

"It's a nice coat."

"Thanks."

Oh, Lord. What's happening? Why does it feel like a first date? A BAD first date.

Bella reaches into her coat and pulls out her phone. "It's Charlie again. I think I should call, something might be wrong."

"Yeah, sure."

She presses a button, and slowly paces around the room while I watch from the kitchen. "Hi Dad, everything okay?"

Come on Charlie, hold it together.

"Yep, dinner." Bella looks at me with a quizzical smirk. I pretend I'm clueless.

"I ordered steak. Edward…? Yes, he had steak, too… Medium for me, medium rare for Edward." Bella covers the phone with her hand and whispers to me, "I think he's lonely."

I nod and hold up a bottle wine, but she shakes her head no. I had enough booze while she was gone to last me a long time, so I put it away.

"Dad, are sure everything is okay…? We're at the condo… Sure, hold on…"

"Charlie says good night."

"Night Charlie," I call out.

"Okay, Dad, I'll talk to you tomorrow." Bella ends the call and places the phone back in her pocket. "That was weird."

"What did he say?"

"Nothing really. He wanted to see how our night was going. I should go for a visit soon."

"I'm sure he'd like that."

The atmosphere becomes heavy again, and Bella wanders to the floor-to-ceiling windows. "I've missed this view."

I approach, staring at the uncomfortable couple reflected in glass. "It's… it's a good view."

"Sure is."

I place my hands on her shoulders. She startles.

"Sorry," I say looking at her eyes in our reflection.

"It's okay."

"Bella, do you feel—are you nervous?"

"Yes. You?"

"Yeah. Really nervous."

She turns to me, my fear bringing on her calm.

"Edward, maybe we've built up this whole reunion sex thing little too much."

"Yes. Maybe that's it." Or maybe I'm about to propose and I'm suddenly terrified of saying the words aloud that I've recited a million times in my head.

Of one thing I'm certain, if I don't pull it together, I won't exactly be the picture of sex appeal. I step back and straighten my shoulders, offering my hand and pitching my voice low. "Shall we go upstairs?"

Her brown eyes deepen and she says, "yes," placing her hand in mine.

We walk upstairs to our bedroom together, and Bella goes to the far corner. Before removing her coat, she takes off her shoes. I notice that I'm doing the same, shoes before sport coat.

I brush my hand over the ring in my coat pocket once more, wondering if I've worn a noticeable hole.

We stand in opposite corners of the room, looking down at one another's bare feet.

"Um… take your coat now?"

"Ahh, sure."

As I walk towards her, Bella removes her coat and hands it to me.

Turning away, I lay it on the bedroom chair, rake my fingers through my hair, and feel again for the ring, the folded sheet of paper, and plastic cap all stored in various pockets.

I take a deep breath and say a silent prayer, keeping my eyes on the chair. "Bella, I think we should talk about something before we do this."

"O-Okay," she says suspiciously.

"It's… I have a few things to say."

"Actually, I have a few things, too."

"Really?" I turn to her.

"Yes, and maybe I should go first."

"Okay, you first." But what if she says something to negate my proposal? "You know what, I'd like to go first." Fear paralyzes me. "No, you first. No, me. You."

There is a titter from both of us.

"How about you go, Edward?"

As I strive to gather myself, I realize I've forgotten something—my script. "Oh, shit," I whisper.

"What is it?"

"I forgot…" The book of poetry I planned to use is downstairs, but I don't think my legs are strong enough to carry me.

Is this a bad sign? Should I not do this…? No, there is a mighty voice calling throughout my being—this must happen now.

I look over to her standing in the corner, arms wrapped around her waist, as she watches me with sympathetic eyes. My fear evaporates. This woman protects me, reconnects me to beauty, and fights my demons like a warrior princess. It is she who is the white knight. I'm so grateful for her love. All I need to do is say a few words. It's only a promise.

I clear my throat and lick my dry lips. "I forgot something, but it doesn't matter." I walk to her and pray for eloquence. "Bella, I didn't even know what kind of man I wanted to be—could be—until I met you. And we have some great friends, don't we?"

"Yes." Her eyes widen with curiosity.

"And family. A great family."

She nods.

"And God. God is with both of us."

"Yes, God is with us."

"I know we sort of do things backwards… And I know everything is happening really fast. I know…" Fuck, what am I saying? "I… I just want to make a promise to you that I'm going to try to be the best man I can. I'm going to try to do the right things, be a grown up." She blanches. Is it fear? I don't know. "Whenever you're ready, I'll wait as long as you want…"

I drop to one knee in front of her and Bella leans against the wall, clutching her chest.

"I'd like to bring our friends and family to the house of God and make you my wife." I fumble for the black velvet box tucked inside my jacket pocket, and open it like I've seen in the movies. "Isabella Marie Swan, I want to spend eternity with you. Will you marry me?"

She stills and wears an expression I've never seen before.

"Oh, Mother Mary."

Bella turns and presses her palms and forehead to the wall, leaving me bereft.

There is a panicked, whispered prayer streaming from her lips. Her voice so low, I can barely hear her.

"It's… it's okay, Bella. It's just a promise. You don't have to say…"

I drop the ring on the floor and reach up to her hips, feeling her tremble and, for once, instead of talking I listen.

"So noble… you're so noble. I knew you would do this… You d-d-don't have to do this… He told you. How could he tell you…?"

"Bella, who told me? Who told me what?"

"Eleazar… He told you."

Her fragile heart on the edge of shattering, she teeters on the precipice. I have not seen her like this in months, and my proposal is no longer my concern. Gently, I try to turn her hips.

"Turn around, love. Look at me… You have to tell me what's happening."

I hold her hips as she turns and drops her eyes to mine. They shift from distressed, to curious, to enlightened.

"Oh, God," she says holding my face in both of her hands.

"Who told me what, Bella?" I hear my own panic rising.

"You really don't know, do you?"

"Know what…? Please, please Bella… It will be alright."

Her eyes rest on the place between my hands. My gaze follows hers, and I finally see. Slowly moving my hand across the fabric of her dress, I feel the small, solid swell of her abdomen in front of me.

Her hand covers mine.

My mouth is arid.

"I'm pregnant."

"Preg…"

And now it is my turn. I sink into quicksand, sucking me through the Earth.

Pregnant.

The meaningless word echoes as the sand reaches my waist, my chest...

Pregnant.

Boneless, my knee drops and I fall back on my heels.

"Baby," I manage to say. It's another meaningless word.

"Yes. A baby," she repeats back.

"Our baby."

"Our baby."

She places her hand under my chin and lifts my face to look at her. Her warm brown eyes pull me up.

God gave us a baby.

"There's a b-b-baby in here?"

"Yes, right in here," she murmurs.

"Our baby's in here…"

The words absorb meaning and I begin to blink rapidly, fighting the black that is creeping into my vision.

I sway.

"Whoa. Edward, stay right here. I'm going to get you some water."

God gave us a baby. Bella is pregnant and I'm acting like a pussy. God, why am I such a pussy?

She returns and offers me a glass. My hand shakes so badly, water splashes on my jacket. Kneeling in front of me, she steadies the glass, bringing to my lips.

"Just small sips, love."

The cool water fights away the darkness, and then I realize... "Oh, shit, Bella. You're the pregnant one, I should be getting you water. Here, drink this." Clumsily, I hand her the glass.

Her voice is calm. "Edward, let's make a deal. How about I get you water when you need it, and you get me water when I need it? And right now, you need it."

"Right." I finish the glass and she takes it for me, placing it on the bedside table. "We should put that in our wedding vows… Oh, the wedding. Do you want to marry me, Bella?"

She smiles and tilts her head. "Yes, Edward Anthony Masen, my Edward, I want to marry you. I've never wanted anything more in my life, and I can 't image I ever will."

We sit, knee to knee, breathing heavily, and gazing at each other.

"You're pregnant?"

She nods quickly. "Yes. I'm pregnant."

"And our baby's in there?"

"Right here." Bella holds her belly in a way that confirms there is a something precious inside.

"Can I see?"

"Mmm-hmm."

From my kneeling position, I hold her hand as she stands. Together we lift the hem of her dress over her thighs and hips. Gathering the fabric in her arms, she reveals her stomach to me.

Oh, wow. Black cotton underwear stretches across a little bump between her hipbones, like a small potbelly. A million questions come to me, each fighting to be first. "When are you… When did you… How long… How big is the baby?"

"About…" Bella looks at me through a two-inch opening of her thumb and forefinger. "That big."

"How old is our baby?"

"Eleven weeks."

Oh, wow. "You mean—you're almost done your first semester?"

"Trimester."

"Right, I knew that." I dig my hands in my hair. Fuck, I have so much reading to catch up on.

"Love," Bella gently pulls at my arm. "Why don't we get you into bed."

"Right, bed is good. You, you should get into bed. You're pregnant. You're pregnant?"

"Yes, I'm pregnant," she says with a smile, while steadying my stagger.

I sit on the edge of the bed, and reach out my arms, encouraging her to stand between my legs."Did I… Did I do something wrong to make you pregnant?"

Condoms. CONDOMS. CONDOMS!

For a nano-second, I think about apologizing, but instinct tells me not to.

"Wrong? No. You did nothing wrong. I was on the pill, but since my eating and sleeping were off, it made my birth control less effective." She looks apologetic, and watches for my reaction. "That's what my OB-GYN said."

"You have an OG-BYN?" Did I say that right?

"Mmm-hmm."

"Can I go with you, the next time you go?"

"Yes. I'd like that."

"Do you… Are we… Is it a boy or a girl?"

"Don't know."

"What's the baby's name?"

I hold onto her hips as she laughs and twists a lock of my hair between her fingers.

"Those are things we should decide together, don't you think?"

"Yes, I do." So much responsibility.

I take a deep breath and Bella cradles my head, resting it on her chest.

We stay in this silence for a long time, and my jumbled mind begins to calm in the comfort of her love.

"I know you're scared," she whispers and kisses the top of my head.

It's not about me.

"Come, lie down with me." I take off my jacket and lay it over her coat. Together we crawl into bed, and her head takes its spot in the crook of my neck.

"Are you terrified?" I ask.

"Not anymore. I've had more time to get used to the idea."

I place a kiss on the top of her head, and stroke her smooth hair. "How long have you known?"

"More than a month, unofficially. I took a pregnancy test on Christmas Eve that confirmed it."

Pulling her in, I'm barely able to imagine what she went through.

"See, I told you. You already gave me a Christmas present." She peers up at me, trying for a smile.

"Who have you told? Does everyone know? Charlie?"

"No. No one."

"Not even Alice?"

"I thought the daddy should be the first to know."

I close my eyes at the sound of the word. Daddy. Father. Pop. Poppa. Dad. Is this really happening?

Bella rests her head back down and plays with the few chest hairs springing out from my white oxford. "Well, that's not completely true. I told my therapist, and your therapist."

"Oh, right. You told Dr Eleazar?"

"Yes. That's the only reason I wanted to talk to him alone. I wasn't sure if I had waited long enough—you're already going through so much, Edward. I don't want this to crush you."

"It's not. It's not crushing me." God protected her. While I was healing, while she stoically concealed this news, God protected her. Thank you. "What did Dr Eleazar say?"

"Congratulations."

"Sounds like him."

"And you can reach him on his cell if you need to talk." She looks up again through thick lashes, her brown eyes inspecting me. "Do you want to talk to him?"

"No." I shift down on the pillow so we are face to face. "I want to talk to you." Carefully, I pull a lock of hair from her face and tuck it behind her ear. "Tell me everything."

And she does. With the detail of a novelist, Bella gets to tell her story to me for the first time. The unique bouts of nausea, weight gain, and 'sensing the baby' made her suspicious. She indulges me with answers to my every question.

"You sensed our baby? It moves? Does it kick?"

"Not really kick yet, too small." I knew that. "But I sensed it, almost like the baby's spirit touched mine. I felt it in my heart, not my womb. That's when I knew. That's when I bought the test."

Bella continues to talk as I caress her stomach and our baby with my fingertips. I learn that Charlie was knocking on the bathroom door as Bella stared at two blue lines on a home pregnancy test. I find out that she drove straight to my condo when she returned from Forks after Christmas.

I've been such an ass.

"Bella, what were you going to do if I didn't come to my senses?"

She shrugs, looking nonchalant. "I had faith. We don't need to worry about it now."

"Faith? That's it?"

"I'm a woman of faith, but I'm no fool. I had a backup plan."

"Yes…?"

"You really want to know?"

"Definitely."

"I um… thought about moving to Forks, at least at first. But then I figured I could stay in Seattle, it would be easier for shared custody, you know, if you wanted that… Anyway, I'd get my job back at Newton's. Get a little apartment, day care… I wouldn't need much."

It is the saddest thing I've ever envisioned. I squeeze my eyes shut and cover my face with my hand.

"Hey, Edward, it's okay. I'd still take great care of our baby. There are lots of wonderful single parents. I have Charlie as a role model for that, and even if you didn't want to be with me, I knew you'd never let your child go hungry, he or she'd be provided for…"

"Okay, you're right. I don't want to know." I try to obliterate the image: an exhausted Bella, picking up our child after ten hours at work, managing to put together some sort of dinner—sacrificing herself for the baby—falling asleep while reading a bedtime story, just to start it all over again the next day.

"Hey…" Rising to her elbows, she pulls my hand away from my face, and looks down at me. "It was just a back up plan… Faith, remember? I knew none of that would ever happen."

I try to swallow the question in my throat, but it burns like acid to be released. "Bella, be honest with me… did you ever… did you ever consider not being pregnant anymore?"

Her brows shoot up. "Hi, I'm Bella Swan, clearly we haven't met." Her sarcastic tone is the alkaline to my acid. "Never. Never, ever, ever." She presses my hand back to her stomach. "This is you, a part of you, and me. That wouldn't be my choice."

"You told me you and Jacob disagreed on something important."

"Yes." Bella strokes her finger down my cheek. "Didn't take you long to figure it out."

"What did he say?"

"The baby would destroy me."

I splay my hand over the swell, wanting to protect them both. "What did you say?"

"Nothing. I got my purse, walked out and never spoke to him again."

I can do nothing but blink at her.

"He wasn't going to let it go, I saw it in his eyes. I had no interest in having that argument with him or anyone else."

Her stomach rumbles, making a quiet gurgle.

"Holy shit. Was that our baby?"

"No, that was just my stomach growling. I'm sort of hungry again."

"Really?"

"Yes. I am hungry all the time."

"What else are you?"

"Well, hungry, but I get filled up quickly. I was nauseous a lot, but that's passing. Let's see…. I get tired easily…"

I cannot believe I've missed this.

"No more nightmares?"

"Well, different. A lot of strange dreams." She rubs my arms, her eyes darkening. "And I think about hanky-panky with you all the time."

"Yeah?"

"Yes."

Bella moves her hand to my jaw and pulls me in for a kiss. I yield to her soft lips for only a moment before pulling away. "You should eat first."

"We could eat later." Stretching her neck, she reaches my lips again. We are interrupted with a thunderous stomach growl that morphs our kiss into smiles.

"Food," I command, rolling out of the bed.

Bella falls back, splaying her arms open, shaking her head and laughing.

"I just went shopping." I rise to the balls of my feet and rub my hands together. "I want to make you something."

"Okay." She scoots up in bed and beams with a youthful grin. "I'll put on pjs."

I head for the steps, but she stops me. "Oh, no eggs, please."

So much for the omelet.

Scrunching her nose, she says, "Lately they just make me a little… the smell of them…"

"No problem. I have something else in mind."

I rush downstairs and start preparing the first, but not the last, snack I make for my wife and baby.

Holy Fuck.

I thread my fingers in my hair and pull, hard. Wife and baby. Walking in circles, I fight against the all-consuming fear. Wife and baby, wife and baby… husband, wife, baby... family.

Please, please, please, God, help me hold it together.

Please.

Huh.

For a moment, it feels like I float out of my body and watch from a distance this man in the kitchen. It is as if I am my own father. Please? Your prayers have been answered, Edward. On a silver platter, everything you have ever wanted has been placed in front of you. A family. A bubble of love—with all of the challenges and rewards that institution implies. Be a man. A husband. A father.

It's occurring to me that life is a series of choices, some external, like which career path to take. Some are internal, like the choice between fear and happiness. I choose happiness.

For the second time tonight, I kneel. This time it is to thank my heavenly fathers for the wisdom to choose happiness, the leaf that sprouts from the tree of love. I thank my parents for planting that tree, and all those in my life who have helped it to grow.

I go into my office and pick up the book of poetry. Instead of bringing it upstairs, I decide to put it on the shelf for another day. Our love is beyond what mere poets can describe.

Moments later, I walk up the steps, trying not to splash milk.

When I reach the top, I see Bella wearing one of my v-neck t-shirts and a pair of my boxers, nestled up in bed.

"You brought me cereal?" she asks with the same astonishment in her voice she had the first time I brought her a bowl in the hotel. It was three months ago. It was a lifetime ago.

"I brought you cereal."

Bella's smile reminds me that the smallest gestures bring about her greatest happiness. Then she tosses her head back, and pumps her arms in the air with each word, "Best husband ever!"

I place the bowls on the bedside table and try to allow myself to bathe in her praise.

"Oh, there's my favorite smile," she says. "My, how I've missed that smile."

Under her watchful stare, I begin to change into a t-shirt and flannel pajama pants.

I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. "I'm sort of… I'm still really skinny."

"You're pretty. Always." She pats a place on the bed in front of her. "Come."

"Oh, wait. The ring." I go to search for the place I dropped it on the floor.

"Too late." Bella waves her fingers, showing me the ring.

Quickly, I climb into bed and together we sit cross-legged. "Let me see." I hold her delicate hand in mine, then pull the ring off of her and slide it back on. And I do it again.

"The setting, the ring… it's beautiful, Edward."

"It's a replica of my mom's. I was a stupid kid and I insisted she be buried with her ring. I guess I wasn't thinking. Who knew I'd ever find you." Bella strokes my face with the back of her hand. "So, anyway, I had this designed from a picture."

"I'm honored to wear it."

"She'd like that you're wearing it. So would my father."

I hand Bella a bowl of Captain Crunch, and we both dig in.

"Captain Crunch should be part of our wedding vows," she says.

"Agreed."

"Have you figured out when we conceived?"

"Happy Halloween?" she sings, looking young and pretty.

"You mean, when we went to the roof and there was spanking and rulers… and…" I'm starting to feel sick. "You mean we have a bondage baby?"

"No, no. Remember, we didn't have sex on the roof. We have a car sex baby."

"When you were on top and made me say the F- word?"

"Uh-huh."

"Wow. I shouldn't be surprised we made a baby that night. A car sex baby, huh."

I dig back into my cereal, and as we sit eating in silence, I am compelled to share something I have yet to tell anyone. She is my wife, after all—or will be. "Bella, when I was in the alley, I think, it felt like my parents were with me."

"I'm sure they were."

"Yeah?"

"Mmm-hmm. I asked them to keep you safe for us." She takes another bite of cereal, seeming unfazed, but I'm stunned.

"You talk to my parents?"

"Sure, all the time. I introduced myself the night you told me they had passed away."

When Bella notices my expression, she places down her bowl.

"When I didn't see you in the alley, I asked them to be with you, protect you until I found you."

"They did. They kept me alive, Bella. And I think this is why. I cheated death twice. And you could have died in that car accident, but you didn't. And now this."

"And now this."

I put down my bowl of cereal. "My parents really like you."

"They do?"

"Yes. My father said that you're strong like my mother."

Smiling, she nods and looks away. "That's great."

"And you are. I'm learning everyday how strong you are." I reach her chin and turn her head towards me.

"Eh, you met me during a rough time. I'm a little better now."

Her face betrays her words. Her lip begins to tremble and she pulls away, pretending to smooth the sheets.

"What is it, Bella?"

"Nothing. I just wanted to thank you. You took the news really well."

"I did?" I thought I lost my shit.

"Yes, you did. It could have been pretty bad."

"Bella?" I turn her face to me. Her expression contorts, battling imminent tears. "Bella? Love?"

"It's nothing. Hormones."

"Have I mentioned how happy I am about our baby?"

"Yeah?"

"So happy. This is the best night of my life."

A single sob escapes her lips. I wrap my arms around her shoulders and pull her into my chest.

She lets go, really lets go, and sobs, "Happy, happy tears. I swear." I lay Bella back into bed with me, and rock her tenderly. "I'm relieved, that's all."

"You must have felt so alone."

"I shouldn't have. I have God," she stutters between tears.

"I know, but sometimes we forget. We still feel alone."

"It's all good now."

She clutches my t-shirt and we press our bodies together, our baby tucked in the warmth between us. "Cry it out, Bella. I'm here now. Completely here."

"I love you, Edward."

"I love you." I lift her chin and wipe her tears with my thumb. "You take care of me. I'll take care of you."

She nods and tucks her head back into my chest.

I stroke her back and, after a few minutes, her tears begins to cease.

"I wish I had a handkerchief for you, I'm all out." I kiss her temple.

"I've always preferred your t-shirts."

With the hem of my t-shirt, I wipe the last of her tears. I take her chin between my thumb and fingers and kiss her soft lips.

"I have something for you. I meant to read it when I proposed." I get out of bed and grab my props from my jacket.

"It was a beautiful proposal. Sorry I freaked in the middle of it."

"You liked it?"

"Loved it."

I crawl back into bed and stretch out on my stomach, bringing my face to our baby. "Well, it's something I wrote the night we met. Do you want to hear it?"

"Please." Bella runs her hand through my hair.

I hand her the small plastic cap.

"What's this?" She's amused.

"Your first bottle of Pedialyte at the hospital. I kept it as a souvenir. I didn't think I'd see you again, but I really wanted to, so I made a plan." I unfold the paper and read:"One -When she leaves, give phone number for counsel and friendship. Two-If call, go to funeral. Three-If no call, give two weeks before calling (coffee date?)."

Bella giggles or sighs softly with each item on the list. I keep my head down, and continue, "Four-Build friendship for one year. Five-After one year, graduate seminary, start to woo, marry her. Six-Don't compete with Mike. Seven-NEVER EVER call when drunk. Eight-If she dates others-don't blow up-normal people need sex. She'll be yours in the end."

"Ah, the best laid plans."

I laugh and drop my head to her stomach. She hums and continues to play with my hair. Bella will be a great mother. I press my lips to her stomach—my wife, my baby.

Mine in the end.

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Oh, how I have waited to write that scene.

I promise a lemon next time. Congrats to those of you who guessed this back when Edward and Alice went Christmas shopping and Alice suspected Bella was sick again. No, you weren't at all crazy for the guess.

Should they pull the trigger and get married right away, or wait it out?

Warm regards,

Liz x