A/N: Hello, duckies. Let's check in on our kids.
Some Months Later
"Are you sure?" Edward asked, watching Bella button his shirt for him. "I can call the whole thing off."
"Hah. Benjamin would shit a brick." Bella smoothed his shirt down and ruffled his hair. She liked his hair mussed. "Plus, they've been advertising this interview like crazy. The numbers are going to be through the roof."
He caught her hands and brought them to his lips. "I don't care about anyone else. I know it's not what you want, and if you tell me—"
She pressed her hand over his mouth. Then, lowering it, she kissed him. "We've been over and over this. Having thousands of people prying into my love life sucks. Having people decide they know who I am based on a few pictures and some seriously wackadoo 'insider' information sucks. It sucks that all these people think they know you."
She moved her hands to cup his face. "They don't know you." Her eyes flashed with mischief. "They think you're charming and smooth. I know you're a gigantic nerd."
He tickled her sides and she danced away. He caught her by the hand and brought her back to him. She smiled, tracing his features with the tips of her fingers. "They'd never get it, you know?" She said, her eyes on him. "What you did for me?"
"What did I do for you?"
"You gave up your next project just to carry me around for weeks."
He had done that. She'd needed long term care as she recouped both because head injuries could be tricky and her broken leg made getting around difficult. So, he'd gone to her house every day to help her with what she needed. He brought picnics, movies, and generally tried to make her confinement more bearable.
Edward grimaced. "It was my fault you were busted up in the first place. Plus, at the time, you called me a nitwit for backing out of that project."
She gave him a light smack on the chest. "You are a nitwit. I know what it costs to break a contract, Edward Cullen. Don't think I don't understand what you gave up for me. If the studio let you out of that contract, it's only because you agreed to owe them a movie. Which means they can make you do whatever stupid ass movie you wouldn't sign on to willingly. This is why bad movies happen to good actors."
He kissed her nose and then her lips. "Worth it," he said, meaning it. He wouldn't have traded that time for anything. They'd gotten so close; fallen deeper in love.
"See?" She kissed him again, this one lingering. He wrapped his arms around her, and she pulled out of the kiss reluctantly. "I asked you once to tell me you'd be worth the risk. And it is a pain in the ass, stud. It is. I'm not denying that." She sighed, looking him in the eyes. "But you are worth it. None of them will ever know you, but I do. And I'm so, so lucky."
"I do love you, Bella Swan."
She smiled at him. "I know. Just promise me you won't go jumping up and down on any couches in my name."
He pulled her tighter against him, tilting his head to catch her kiss. It was another minute before he could convince himself to let her go.
His hair was well and truly mussed after that.
The interview was a tell-all of sorts—the kind of interview he never granted. It had been a long time coming, though. For months, the speculation about what had happened and why raged out of control. There were too many factors. The public still thought he'd been with Gianna, but then it was Bella who was hurt, Bella he was rumored to be spending all his time with, Bella who he was rumored to have had an affair with while on set. Arguments raged on over the internet, and though fans condemned Alice for going too far, some were beginning to agree Bella deserved some kind of punishment. Whether she was a whore who'd taken Edward from Gianna or she was an attention seeker, her name was usually mud as far as the tabs and the fans went.
It didn't end with Bella, either. There were all sorts of rumors and conjecture flying. No one was safe—Gianna, Bella, Edward, even Emmett and his crew. The situation had all been too titillating, and the public wasn't letting it go. Now, as they began promotion for the movie that had brought them all together, the studio had been up Edward's ass to give just one interview. They kept saying it was the responsible thing to do to make sure blame was laid squarely at Alice's and no one else's feet. Edward knew better. The more media coverage they received—good or bad—the better the movie would do.
Edward agreed to the interview for Bella's sake, to redirect reporters who were digging up the dirt of her old relationships. He wanted peace for Emmett and Jasper, too. He knew better than to think he was going to get anything he wanted, but he could try nonetheless.
So he sat down with his Bella-mussed hair across from an interviewer, famous in her own right, and he talked.
"You've spoken to Alice Brandon since the incident," the interviewer prompted after a few general niceties.
Edward gritted his teeth. Alice was remanded into the custody of a psychiatric ward for observation. She had already pled guilty to a number of lesser charges to escape being brought in for attempted murder. It was, Edward's lawyers assured him, the best he could hope for. Bella's injury was self-sustained, after all.
"Did she give you a reason for what she did? For coming after Gigi and then Isabella?" the interviewer asked.
"She did." Edward sat forward in his chair. "Ms. Brandon thought she could see the future. Specifically, she thought she knew my future. Gianna and Bella's involvement in my life didn't fit with her vision. She felt that they were messing with my future deliberately."
He couldn't say much more than that. Benjamin and his lawyers had coached him repeatedly on that fact.
The interviewer moved on to more important subjects. "So, let's talk about your love life."
In spite of himself, Edward smiled.
The interviewer knew she had him then. "Ah, so there is something to talk about. Is it safe to assume the rumors are true, then? You won't be appearing on any most eligible bachelor lists this year."
Edward smirked. "I suppose that depends. I don't know. I could do something between now and then that will make her come to her senses and leave me."
"And the her in question is indeed Miss Isabella Swan, former stunt person?"
He winced. "Knowing Bella, she's going to be back at work before you know it," Edward said, his tone dry. The idea of her going back to work as she so desperately wanted to terrified him. "But yes, I am in a relationship with Miss Swan."
"You had a very public relationship with Gigi—"
"Actually, I didn't. I think you'll find if you look closely at those pictures you're talking about, you'll see that it was always Bella I was with." It gave him a vindictive kind of pleasure to see the shock register on the interviewer's face. It was rare he could throw them off their game. "She was Gianna's stunt double at the time, after all. Gianna and I met shortly before filming began. We're friends. We remain friends, but there's never been anything more between us than that. I'm sure she'd confirm that for you herself."
Edward tip-toed his way around the too-personal questions she shot at him. He had practice at being pragmatic with his answers, no matter how much the questions chafed.
There was one question, though, he couldn't leave unanswered.
"What do you say to your fans who think you can do so much better than Isabella?"
Edward clenched his hands in fists on his lap. He was hard pressed to keep anger off his face. It took a few moments for him to stop gritting his teeth. Then, he remembered what Bella said, and he had his answer. "They don't know her. What's more, they don't know me.
"If I have anything to say, not just to my fans but to anyone who consumes the lives of people in the public eye, it's that none of this is real." He leaned forward, his hands stretched out as he spoke to the woman. "Even my most, er, dedicated fan, the one who's seen every single interview I've ever given, has perhaps three or four hours of my personal thoughts. Mind you, those are highly specific, often heavily groomed thoughts. Between me and my fans are usually a team of publicists, representatives of the studio, and things I'm contractually forbidden to say. Then, there's the way the media outlet chooses to edit the interview. This isn't a live interview. Every camera angle, every minute of screentime will be specifically chosen by a team of your people whose interest is not to make sure they preserve my thoughts, but whatever is going to get them higher ratings." He offered the woman a smile. "No offense meant. That's the simple truth."
Before the woman—who was looking slightly disgruntled—could object, he continued on. "And all of that isn't taking into consideration that I, like every other human being on the planet, don't always have the right words when I'm put on the spot. So, in short, I don't think it's possible that any of my fans know me. You've seen me at work; this is part of my job. That's all. I might be the biggest prick in the world behind closed doors. You have no way of knowing that. So why believe I could do so much better than Bella? If you want my opinion on my own life, I'm the lucky one. Simple as that."
A couple of weeks later, Edward and Bella made their first public appearance at the premiere of their movie. Bella was spectacular. Her gorgeous dress outshone Gianna's easily, in Edward's opinion. Her smile was tight as the bulbs flashed, and people shouted questions at her. It was only a minute or so before they had to part. Edward gave her a chaste kiss on the cheek and watched a long moment as she was ushered inside the theater. He, of course, had to face the media.
It was a whirlwind night. The movie was better than he expected, but he was in a good mood. Having Bella at his side, whispering things in his ear did wonders to enhance his viewing pleasure.
They put in an appearance at the after party, but didn't stay long. A couple of glasses of wine later, and they were hard pressed to keep their hands off each other.
"Do you want to get out of here?" Edward asked, ducking his head to whisper in Bella's ear.
"Oh, hell yes."
Hand in hand, they exited the venue, ducking into the waiting car. "My place?"
Her hand was on his inner thigh, rubbing. "My place is closer."
"Bella's place," he called to Jasper, who was driving them.
"You got it, boss," Jasper said, and pointedly put the window between them up.
Tipsy Bella was a force to be reckoned with. She was handsy and giddy and more than willing to manhandle him. She pulled him out of the car, waved at Jasper, and all but dragged him inside, laughing the entire time as she related some of the more obnoxious questions that had been hurled at her.
"I bet I know how I landed a catch like you, Edward." She shoved him up against the wall, her mouth on his between sentences. "It's because I'm flexible, isn't it?"
"The flexibility helped," Edward said. He cupped her ass in both his palms, returning her fervent kisses. "Then there's this sweet ass of yours, and the bitchin' bod."
She grunted, displeased. It was a sore topic. Her body wasn't yet back to where she had been before the accident. She'd lost most of her musculature as she recouped and was only starting to build it again. She didn't let it bring the mood down. "Plus there's always the fact I'm young and nubile enough that the whole world knows you've still got it, even though you're advancing in years."
Now it was his turn to grunt. He ran his hands up her back as he kissed her and found the zipper of her dress. "Well, I'm not Harrison Ford, but—" He cut off as her dress puddled on the floor. "Fuck me. What the hell is this?"
Her eyes were light and dark at once—satisfaction mixed with desire. She stepped back, out of her dress and her shoes so he could admire her in full. She was coordinated— black stockings and a garter belt with matching bra and panties. He ran his finger over the tiny satin bow where the garter was connected with the stockings.
"Oh, I like that look." Bella's hands were in his hair as he bent to kiss along her exposed cleavage. "That look was well worth the hours I spent in this crap tonight."
He pressed his tongue against her nipple through the fabric, delighting in her gasp and the way she tugged at his hair. He kissed a line up her neck and finally claimed her lips again. "It's meant to be worn only long enough to take it off, genius."
"Ah. See, with age comes wisdom."
He snorted, grabbing her ass again, this time feeling flesh and silk beneath his palm. "Come, my delicate flower. Let's see what you look like without your petals."
With that, he swept her up into his arms. She kissed his neck as he all but ran up stairs. "Ah, you're so distracting, Bella. You should be careful. You and I don't have the best history with stairs."
"That's true." She pulled back, her arms tightening around his neck. "Now that I think about it, I'm not sure I trust you not to drop me. How much can you press at the gym? Do you even go to the gym?" She widened her eyes in mock fear.
Edward sighed. "First she brings up my age, then she questions my strength. What next, Swan?"
By then, he had set her on the edge of her bed so she was looking up at him. "Oh, I think you'll like what comes next," she said. She cupped her hands around the backs of his knees, tickling him there.
Edward pressed his tongue to the roof of his mouth to keep from groaning. He knew exactly what he wanted to happen, especially with her big brown eyes looking up at him like that. She knew what he was thinking too, because she darted her tongue out to lick her lips.
"Do you know how sexy you are in a suit?" she asked, running her finger along the seam of his pant leg. "It's unfair."
She started to slide off the bed onto her knees, but he caught her. He brought her back up and, putting his hands to her waist, moved her further back on the bed. "Oh, no you don't." He climbed over her, trailing kisses from her belly up the center of her until he reached her lips. "What did I say about this, hmm?" He let his finger run along the edge of her bra. "It's meant to be taken off. Quickly." He leaned back a bit, letting his eyes rake over her form. "Well, maybe after a taste." He lowered his mouth to take her nipple, still covered in cloth, between his teeth. "There's something to savoring." He licked down the same path he'd kissed before. "Just a little."
His hands behind her knees, he pushed her legs back, spreading them wider in the process. He looked at her and grinned. "The flexibility is a plus," he admitted but didn't give her a chance to answer before he'd put his mouth over the silky cloth that covered her sex.
"Jesus Christ." Her legs jerked straight up before she rested them on the bed, splayed wide. "This is, ah! This is not what's meant by making a girl's panties moist. Oh, fuck."
He teased her through the fabric, one hand to her belly, keeping her pinned.
"Edward, please." Her fingers scratched along his shoulders.
Since she'd asked so nicely, he pulled aside the wet fabric and plunged his tongue inside her, thumbing her clit in circles.
"The Academy has it wrong, ace," she said, writhing under his ministrations. "Fuck acting. This is where your real talent shines."
Edward sat back on his haunches and pulled her panties down her legs, leaving her stockings on. He crawled back over her, leaning down to peck her lips. "You're saying I should have gone into porn?"
She grinned at him as she reached between his legs. She gave him a squeeze before she pulled his pants and underwear down. "Too late now, stud." She wrapped her hand around his cock. "This is all mine now."
He moaned and kissed her. "All yours," he murmured into her mouth.
He backed up off the bed and stood. Grabbing her ankle, he pulled her so her ass rested on the edge of the bed, hitching her legs up around his waist. "I want to see you," he said, running his hands up her body. He pushed her bra out of the way and palmed her breasts. "Do you know how fucking beautiful you are?"
She put her stockinged feet against his chest, staring up at him with love shining in her eyes. She bit her lip as he lined his cock up at her entrance and gasped when he pushed inside her. He groaned and leaned all the way over her, his forehead to hers. They shared a trio of quick kisses before he straightened and thrust into her.
He cupped her face and ran a thumb over her lips. She took his thumb into her mouth, flicking her tongue against him, her eyes on his. He loved the way she looked at him. He loved the bounce of her breasts as his pace quickened. He loved her soft moans and the feel of disappearing deep into slick, tight heat.
"I love you," he said, picking her up long enough to move her back on the bed. He needed her wrapped around him now. His body crushed hers in the next heartbeat, his lips claiming her.
"I love you," she panted back, pulling and tugging at the shirt he still had on. "Harder. More, Edward, please." She threw her head back.
He rolled them so she was on top. She rocked her hips against his, the slap of skin against skin mingling with the sounds of their mutual pleasure.
She straightened up, one hand spread wide over his chest for balance as she rode him. She was glorious—her breasts taut and high, her head thrown back, her hair wild and her face flushed.
Minutes later, he lay on his belly, spent and content not to move. His arm was draped across Bella's midsection, rising and falling with each of her deep breaths.
As usual, Bella recovered first. She started to manhandle him again. He groaned in protest as she got him to his knees. "Oh, hush, you big baby," she said, beginning to unbutton his shirt. "I'm trying to get you all the way naked."
He gave her a few sleepy kisses as she worked, but let her get his shirt off. Then, he tackled her so she was on her back on the bed. "We have to work on your reflexes, Swan. I don't know how you expect to get back to work if you're so slow on the uptake." As he spoke, he rolled her stockings down her legs and tossed them over his shoulder.
She reached up, caressing his chin. "See, the thing is, I know how you actors are. I go easy on you so your fragile, superstar ego doesn't bust."
"Uh huh. I see." He lowered himself down, his body on hers, supporting himself on his arms. "So let me tell you a Hollywood story."
"Am I going to like it?"
"You tell me." He kissed her forehead and between her eyes. "So some big shot actor walks into a young girl's life and throws her down a set of stairs."
"What an asshole."
He kissed down the bridge of her nose. "I know, right? But it's okay. She got to throw him down a set of stairs later, and his clumsy ass got injured."
"Yikes." She tilted her head up to catch his lips. "That's too bad. It's a nice ass."
"How do you know? This is my story."
"Sorry. Do continue."
Edward nuzzled her neck. "Well, I won't bore you with the details. But basically, this guy kind of destroyed this girl's nice, private life."
"Hmm." Bella scratched her fingers through his hair. "Sounds like the guy has an overinflated sense of importance. The girl doesn't sound like the type of woman who would let a man destroy her life for nothing."
Edward raised his head, looking into her eyes. "No regrets."
She kissed him. "No, superstar. Call me a romantic, but I don't think I'm going to regret you." She cocked her head, uncharacteristic uncertainty flashing briefly through her eyes. "But what about you, hmm? What happens when Hollywood royalty shacks up with a commoner?"
He fixed her with a solemn, serious look. "Magic."
She burst out laughing. "Oh, Edward. I do love you."
A/N: And so we wrap up another tale. I'm sorry if that surprises you. This fic had a tendency to not go the way I planned.
Many thanks to Songster, Femme Malheureuse, Packy 2.0, MyOnlyHeroin, Barburella, and JessyPT for all their help. Thank you Mina for my gorgeous banner and, of course, thanks to all of you who took this journey with me. I'm not sure it worked the way I wanted it to, but I'm fairly satisfied. I hope you are too. :)