FAGE 8:Soul Mates

Title: Challenges and Castles

Written for: Rhonda Erickson

Written By: Rebadams7

Rating:M

Summary/Prompt used: When he signed on to a cable TV pilot from a popular novel series, he never thought it would last, or at least he'd be killed off in the first season. The series took off and the fame caught him off guard. The life he thought he'd be living seemed a lost dream. She, well she was always the one to help her friends and family. When she promised to help her best friend with her service dog so she could enjoy a fan cruise, she never expected to find something she'd enjoy just as much or maybe more than she'd ever imagined.

Prompts: a couple meet during a store trip in a grocery store, then on a boat and again during a hike.

Please see the author's notes at the end!

The rain was pouring down as Edward slid into the black Suburban. The driver put his two bags into the rear and climbed in behind the wheel. "Mr. Cullen, your ship is now at the pier and will be departing at 5 PM tonight. I can bring you right to the VIP entrance."

"Thanks! What's your name?" The rain had prevented much of his usual conversation outside the car and Edward could hear his mother's voice reminding him to be pleasant. He smiled as he asked.

"I'm Joe, Joe Abernathy" His driver spoke to the windshield, but in a clear, strong voice, easily heard in the back.

"Been doing this long?" Edward asked as he bucked his belt.

"Oh, yeah, I find it fun, for the past few years. It keeps me out of trouble with the missus now that I'm retired. 30 years between the Marines and the Police force."

"Do I need that kind of protection?" It startled him. He was supposed to have been only a minor character, someone killed off in the books before the first one was finished, but in the television version, his character proved so popular, that the author and the writers signed off on a major plot twist. Marcusi would die one day, but season four would start shooting in six weeks and he was still under contract through season seven. He was broken out of his revelry by Joe's voice.

"Well, my wife's a fan and I enjoy the show too. It was hard to keep my assignment from her today. There have been fans arriving into town for a few days, having parties, lunches, all kinds of shenanigans. Seem pretty tame, but you and I both know how things can get. I saw the footage from ComiCon and that thing in New York."

"Yeah, I had no idea my photograph out of costume had come out." Just before the first broadcast of the series, Edward had been thrilled to be asked to the panel at San Diego, and decided to do a little shopping on the Comic-Con floor. He'd been out for half an hour when he was recognized and mobbed for a terrifying five minutes before he'd been surrounded by security and hustled off to a rear area. There is embarrassed and then there is embarrassed and frightened. He'd signed on for this cruise back during the first season, and now the day had come at last. The cast and crew of the the show, the Norwegian Epic, 3 ports of call in the Caribbean, almost 1700 staff and four thousand fans would spend the next six nights and seven days reveling in all things Challenging and Castle... grand.

"You need anything before you board?"

"Ah, how about some Laphroaig Triple Wood"

Joe chuckled. "Good taste in scotch for a young'n. I know you are VIP, but trust me when I say the security will find it and lock it up for the duration. They use Gurkhas for a reason."

Gurkhas. Well at least I'll be safe..."Well then, what about junk food?"

"Now, that. That might be just the ticket. I know where we can stop on the way, and it won't be too busy."

"Joe, you are a genius. Lead on!" He leaned back into the seat. At home, in his neighborhood, back in Los Feliz, he would hit the grocery late at night; usually without comment. Some comfort food was just what he'd need on this trip. Four thousand fans...

C&C C&C ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~C&C~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

HEY BELLA! we've landed and Winston did great! Jasper and I will meet you at the dock!

Hey Alice! I'm changing planes right now. I'll see you at the ship.!

Bella smiled as she closed her phone down for the short flight. It was too bad she didn't get a direct flight, but she wanted to finish her testing before she flew out and this was the only itinerary that worked. It had been a long few years, but she had graduated and now passed her RN boards. Next, she just needed a job, but for a few days, she was set to aid her best friend Alice to enjoy this graduation present. A scant hour later she was at the baggage carrousel, noticing her one bag looked odd. The large roll-on was almost at the end of it's days, but Bella hadn't had time to shop for a new one. That bag had been on many trips and moves with her, in truth she was a little sentimental about her good luck bag. The zipper was gaping on one side and a quick inspection had her realizing that everything clothes wise was there, but her toiletries and make up bag were no where to be found. Bella groaned at the thought of trying to replace those items while onboard ship. She grabbed the handle of her bag and headed for the elevator. Deciding to forgo the shuttle to the port; she would try her luck on the departure level to catch a cab and find the closest Target. A few moments later, she and her favorite bag were tucked into a cab headed for her personal happy place.

Russ, her driver said he knew of a brand new location that had not gotten super popular yet and would just be opening. He offered to wait while she grabbed her necessities. There was almost no one inside. Crossing her fingers, she made her way over to where she hoped to find the travel size items. That should cover the basics and then she'd look at picking up a few other essentials. She wasn't big on makeup but she did like to have a little on for nicer events, and there were sure to be a few of those on this trip.

She turned down the aisle and began to search out her favorite toothbrush. She stepped back to take a wider look at the selections and found herself bumping up against a firm back.

"OOps!"

"Oh, sorry." She tottered back on the ball of her foot and turned around to see a pair of sea-glass green eyes looking warily down at her beet red smile. A quick scan showed him to be more than decently attractive and somewhat familiar. Maybe he'd been on my flight? It was really no matter, but she knew it might nag at her for a while.

"Were you on my flight?" she managed to get out.

"Oh, did you come in from New York?" His voice was as interesting as his eyes, smooth on top but a rough edge at the close.

"No, I came in via Atlanta." She softly admitted.

Some time later it might strike her, but for now she'd try to put that puzzle to the back of her mind. Not wanting to prolong an awkward pause, especially with a meter running, she turned back to the toothbrushes, grabbed her choice and moved over to the travel items, noting briefly that he'd put some Swedish fish and Twizzlers in his basket. She noted his height as he bent near her when she grabbed a few necessary bits. He was taller than this section of the shelves, she saw him move past her now on the opposite side of her aisle. A few more steps brought her to the beauty section and she quickly sought out a few items to get her through the week. As she approached the check lane, she noted the green eyed guy even moved with a certain grace as she watched him exit the store. She tried to keep him out of mind as much as he was out of sight. Scooping up a rolling case that was on sale, she placed her other purchases inside. Back in the cab at last, it was only a half an hour more to the pier.

The majority of the guests would be arriving later in the day, but there were special arrangements for parties with special needs. Bella approached the reception desk and was asked to hand over her bags. They were tagged and she was told they would be delivered within a few hours to her stateroom.

Freed of her burdens, she wandered up the indicated gangplank, and presented her documents to the uniformed gentleman at the top. He waived her toward a large oval shaped area, with a series of counters with more of the ship's staff speaking with a few of the guests. This was seemingly the special needs parties that were able to board the ship so early today. There was a gentleman with a white cane, and a few groups with someone on crutches or in a wheelchair. No other service dog caught her eye, but there by one counter was all 155 pounds of energy, Allie with Winston, her golden retriever, aka the Rockstar Retriever. His harness with the bright red leather handle was poised at Allie's side. Bella welcomed the embrace of her best friend. It may have only been a few weeks, but she had missed the little "twinkernator"

"Where's Jasper?"

"Indisposed? He'll be back in a few I'm sure" As she spoke, the attendant looked up from her computer with a slight frown on her brow.

"Miss, I have your party down as three, but there seems to be some confusion on the staterooms. Excuse me for just a moment."

Bella looked a bit bewildered "Alice, is there a problem with the rooms?"

Alice just shrugged her shoulder as Jasper came in behind her, slipping his arm around her waist. Bella watched the two of them as they moved in sync. Alice and Jasper had met a few months back, at a favorite bookstore-cafe in Chicago, where Alice had an internship and an aunt to be a back-up. Since the accident, Alice had been fierce about getting back to her "before", and all her friends and family had been just as protective, not wanting anything to set her back or prevent her progress. The Yellow Bug, her vintage Volkswagen Beetle, and Alice had been in a serious car crash a little over a year ago. It was the same afternoon she'd finished her third year exams. Alice, or Allie as she was usually called, managed to get herself together enough to start her senior year on time. Thinking and planning were never a problem. However, it became apparent after the first month post accident her mobility and balance had become erratic at best. At the end of June, while trying some informal "horse therapy" with a friend, she'd fallen for the Golden's being trained on the property. Alice had applied for a service dog even before her therapy riding class started that very afternoon. Luckily she'd been chosen in November and spent her winter break acclimating to Winston, her mobility support. The Yellow Bug was now the Grey Lady, a Volvo SUV that could tote them both. Winston was at her side like a shadow. The only time and place that Winston would let his guard down was at the bookstore. Otherwise he was always on duty, not letting anyone unknown into his protective bubble around Allie. The break at the bookstore is how Jasper Gordon Whitlock had been able to approach Alice for the first time.

The quiet professor turned out to be a former Army officer with a penchant for military history novels. He too knew his way around a rehab center, having had a severe leg fracture and lacerations from a bike and motorcycle collision on base while deployed. Bella had every hope that these two would be the real thing in each other's lives, well, as long as the lives they were granted. It was a catchphrase from the books made more famous by the show. Alice had been re-reading the first book of the series back when they'd met. Jasper said the sight of the familiar title was an instant attraction. Both fans, this cruise was a natural choice and Jasper was thrilled to grab one of the last places available. That thought startled Bella. She'd paid for her portion of the trip over a year ago. Maybe she was the fly in the ointment? Of all the guests, Bella would be happy to place a bet that she was at the bottom of the fan rankings. She had seen exactly one half of the first two episodes and that was all. She could have been standing next to a popular character and never know it. In truth, that thought might not be completely fair. Many of the actors in the series wore elaborate makeup and costumes. That was a fact supplied by Allie, when she would point out the stars in a magazine, where they would find a photograph of the cast from the set, and then images of those same folk just out and about. Personally, Bella thought that would be extra annoying to have to be worried about getting your picture snapped while in the shaving cream, or worse, the family planning aisle in your local grocery store.

Bella let out a cross of a sigh and a snort. That guy in Target, now she realized that she'd probably seen him in a magazine of some sort. She had just

turned her attention back to the counter when she noted that now two of the pleasant, smiling crew members were coming toward her with creases in their brows.

"Miss Brandon, Miss Swan, there has been a bit of confusion on the accommodations. Miss Swan, we were unable to find you a new roommate, and the only single cabin in the main is on the other side of the ship".

Bella did not want anything to spoil this cruise, either for Allie or for her relaxation either, but she wasn't afraid of a little walk - just how big could this ship be? "How bad can it be - how long would it take me to walk...?".

A twenty minute hike later and she saw the tiny, interior cabin - it was too little, much too little. Bella had splurged and had paid the higher fees for a share in a balconied stateroom after it was apparent that Allie and Jasper would be a pair. This… cabin was little more than a glorified closet and ...well she was stalking her way back to the reception desk. There just had to be another option. How could she be close to help and care for Winston at this distance?

This time when Bella approached the desk, it was a mature gentleman, the First Officer of the ship who introduced himself and motioned her toward the back area behind the counters. He brought her to a simple office to wait while he fetched the Chief Bursar. Surely those two can come up with a few more options?

A few moments later,a lady in uniform and two gentlemen stepped into the small office. One of the gentlemen looked like he was ready to enter a board room and the other, as if he was ready to hit the links, even though they were both in similar polos and jeans, The Chief Bursar was a very precise dresser, her navy uniform bow contrasted nicely with her pale skin. The bursar apologized again for this snafu. By now the apologies had reached the level of annoying to Bella's ears. All she wanted was to unpack, and maybe curl up with a book for a few moments of peace. Plus, she'd have to walk Winston pretty soon.

The purser then explained that due to a last minute situation, there was a single room, only a few flights up and one door down from Alice and Jasper's cabin. However, it was in the Tower section.

The Tower, Bella had learned, is like a mini castle built right on to the ship. It is mostly cut off from the crowds of regular people, giving those with the staterooms on those secure decks, a bit of an vacation via separation. With sudden insight, Bella realized that they were able to grant her a private cabin, up a way, wee trail, to coin another phrase from the books.

A wee cabin, just like in the first book, where the one "cursed" and yet blessed character went off to regroup and plan what to do next. Brilliant.

It took only a few moments on the elevator to reach the Tower section. The crew pointed out the private amenities: opulent suites, private dining room, gym and spa facilities, even a private pool and whirlpool. Where the elite, or those needing privacy or security could cruise. For enough cash, your seclusion could be secured. Apparently, there were some small single cabins up there, for the occasional Nanny or PA that could not be more than a shout away. She nodded before speaking her acceptance. "That will be fine. However, I am concerned about the additional cost?"

"There will not be any. Since we are inconveniencing you by placing you at a distance from Miss Brandon, we will compensate your onboard account. I hope the accommodations will be to your liking." With, that pronouncement, the two larger gentlemen stepped forward and one began to speak.

"Miss Swan, I'm Jason Jenks with the studio's legal department, and this is my head of security, Emmett McCarty. Since you will be staying in a restricted area of the ship, I need you to permit me to run a basic check and have you sign a NDA agreement. I must also ask that you do not bring any other guests from the rest of the ship to your room."

That request threw her for a momentary loop. So I can only hook up with the stars and crew...hahahah!

The romantic fool inside her head was laughing...you on a hook up...hahahahah. She noticed the puzzled look on their faces and reached for the paper and began to read, to clarify one point.

"I'm fine with that, as long as Winston is allowed in my cabin."

"Winston?"

"That is the Golden Retriever that is, he is the service dog for my dear friend, Alice Brandon. That's why I need to be fairly close to her cabin. I'm often keeping him with me when she needs a break or he needs care. At home, he goes outside for a while, here that's not at option." There is no way I am going to explain she has a boyfriend now, and sometimes they want privacy...And I don't?...her inner romantic, as she referred to that little voice of intuition in her head and heart, was in a very snarky, dark place. It kept putting those sea glass eyes in her thoughts. Fat chance I would ever see them again.

She signed the documents and thanked them for their help. Finally the door closed and she had a moment of peace.

C&C~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~C&C~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Edward looked at the staff member who brought him to his cabin. Jack, his usual PA had just lost his grandfather and would not be onboard. He'd sent flowers and paid for Jack's flight home. Edward couldn't help but listen to a little bit of commotion in the corridor from some of the doors left ajar. It had been a few months since some of the crew had seen each other, and with the way story lines were written, they didn't all get together on set or location very often. It was going to be fun to catch up with Ben and Angela, his closest friends in the cast. He heard a soft giggle and saw a flash of caramel hair. Edward felt a tap on his shoulder and turned as he heard the familiar tones of Carl, the show runner.

"Edward, so glad you came on this. I can't believe we sold out the whole damn boat. What a great moment it will be when we can announce some surprises - and oh, I just heard we surpassed our charity goal...did you ever choose one?"

Carl was always able to go a mile a minute and keep ten details and birthdays in his head at the same time. His wife Esme Platt was a brilliant set designer, bringing the worlds of Chances and Castles into a believable and better yet, budget-able reality. It really was their team effort. While Carl was a professional, Edward knew he sort of tolerated some of the cast...Vic and James...cough cough...and he also knew how much he appreciated and adored the fact the show had some of the most intelligent and dedicated fans. The books had been out for years, and now their fan ranks had swelled since filming began. The author, Doug Gordon, was a consultant and would also be on the cruise. This was billed as a fan event and a charity fund raiser. Everyone?…Everyone had a favorite charity...except me. He'd done events for several, but hadn't found the ability to narrow his list down. It was sometimes a sore point with some of the fans. Melissa was his PR/Promotions?Social media person who handled most of it...Except for one twitter handle back from my undergrad days. Only I knew of the account and the password. ChiCoffeGuy was my private soapbox.. He was mulling things over and walked right past his door and right into a much smaller cabin than he'd expected. Also a surprise, the brown eyes staring back at him from the balcony.

"Ah, I think I'm in the wrong room..."

"Are you with the show?"

Did she seriously just ask me that? Maybe she is blind?...or maybe she isn't one of the stalkier types that search out every old photo of me out of costume...He realized he hadn't answered her and he piped up a startled response. "Uh, yeah. I guess I look different in regular clothes."

"Well, no worries, this is the only spot they could find for me, and I've signed an NDA, so I promise to be a good neighbor. I'm Bella. I'm here to help a friend with her service dog." Great job girl, see Mr. Sea Glass again and on comes the word vomit. Can I hide now?

"I'm Edward. I ah..." She wasn't fawning all over me, she seemed normal, more interested in unpacking than bothering anyone. "Ah, I guess I will find you later." Later...that's lame...what? Was I curious...Hell Yes you are...this is the first non crew girl in ages who isn't all over you for what you are or what you can do for them... Edward was shaking his head as he entered the cabin next door . He was greeted by a few bottles of his favorite Goose Island in a bucket of ice, along with a box of fruit. A little good ~ a little bad. It must be from Em and Rose....The cabin had a living area with a sofa and chair and a wall unit with a decent sized flat screen. There was a rather larger than expected bath to one side of the passage and then the bedroom with a huge bed and another large flatscreen. Beyond that was the private balcony that now held a nice ocean view. Edward stepped out and noted that there was a solid wall on one side of the balcony and on the other was frosted glass. He could make out a vague form on the other side. He tapped on the glass before poking his head around.

There sat, or should I daresay lounged Bella, with her feet up on the chaise that took up most of her tiny balcony, with a Kindle in her hand, and a gauzy top covering her shoulders. Her eyes were closed and the wind was ruffling her hair. She looked very peaceful. I envied her that quiet.

Edward decided that a short nap, in the shade of the umbrella on his own, more spacious balcony was just what he needed before stepping out in to the chaos that was sure to follow. That naughty voice in my head mumbled something about sleeping. with..at least at the same time and almost the same place if not together...and chocolate waves rolled in my dreams.

C&C C&C ~~~~~~~~~~~~C&C~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

At 5PM the ship's horns sounded as the great ship cast off. The horns were followed by a clarion trumpet and bagpipe fanfare, from the opening music for the show.

There were some soft groans from family and crew that had remained in the Tower. For the editing staff, that song was easily transformed from a friendly tune to an exasperating foe. Edward had joined the remaining cast on a high deck to waive at the fans who filled the lower area, called the promenade, as the ship cast off and headed out toward the first point of call.

Meanwhile Bella flipped through the calendar provided by the crew of the Epic . It was a special, souvenir edition with photographs - perfect for autographing! This cruise, about 80% of the activities were all about Castles and Chances. There were games and trivia contests; there would also be a masked ball. There would be not only seminars on weapons development but as well as period cuisines. A few would be taught on learning how to fight safely.

And of course there were these signing, meet and greet and photo opportunities she'd dutifully printed out for marking up and marking out the day's activities. She'd been doing this for so long it was second nature. Now, Bella was finding it hard to give up the reins even with knowing Jasper would be there at so many of the events. She slid open the glass door and plopped onto the lounger that took up about 90% of the minuscule balcony. While looking over toward the latticework she noticed a pair of hands sticking out over the railing. She suddenly just so badly wanted to scream - it was finally getting to her. Ally Allie was no longer paired with her at the hip for these things. Even if and when she didn't really enjoy them, she'd always gone. She'd always been there. No matter. And now Allie had a Jasper. One question remained.

Why had God sent her here? What was she supposed to do now?

Edward was enjoying a few moments of quiet. He had wandered around the secluded area of the ship feeling as unsettled as he ever had in all of his 26 years .Edward realized he was lucky and yet the fame and the absolute devotion of the fans were causing a reaction - a little bit like claustrophobia. He felt tightly encased in this ivory castle. If you... well he wanted to make some real connections. He loved his friends on the crew; they were all great, however it still felt too small. A few months now stretched in front of him. Edward toyed with the idea of taking on a new project or finding a mountaintop to climb. Hide out in Scotland or Ireland and just be. Anything to keep his mind off his present conundrum. If he couldn't figure out how to have a real connection with someone away from the show he was literally going to lose his mind. He watched as that assistant next-door gripped the railing and stuck her head far out looking left and right in a perfect imitation of someone screaming. Wait? Had he seen her before? Not a sound came out of her mouth. What a pretty mouth, on such a cute face… He thought maybe she should just scream out loud as he watched her quietly pound her fists in frustration.

Throwing caution to the wind, he decided to do something completely uncharacteristic. He stuck his head around the balcony and asked the dreaded question?

"So you really hated how they ended the season that much?"

C&C~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~C&C~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Allie and Jasper were quickly immersed in all of the activities that the cruise had to offer, they had their photo's with the cast, who were quickly enamored with Winston. He really was a mini rock star in his own right, and was featured in a few of the cast's blogs and tweets. When they weren't out and about, they were more and more wrapped up in themselves. Sure, they were polite with their other table mates, and conversed with Bella, making sure to ask about how she was spending her days. In truth, Bella was a little bit glad to get caught up on some of her "pleasure reading" finishing the last written book in the series, and watching a few more episodes. They were on a constant loop in one of the smaller ballrooms. You could also sign onto a pay per episode onboard channel and for a small fee, see any episode at any time.

Bella had been watching Edward's performance closely. His character was supposed to be dead by now, after saving the life of one character, his reward was to have been seeing his lost love and following her to Everhalla. On television, his character survived saving the evil Sulpecia, only to cheer as she dies in a greedy move in the next episode. Marcusi was still grieving his Didianne. Bella wondered if he would ever find her, or would his sad eyes continue as long as the lives they were granted. They being the retinue of various ladies of the court and town lassies that seemed to want to bring the lonely knight comfort. Comfort he never took.

Allie and Jasper were relieved that Bella seemed to be more interested in the activities and had caught up in the series, so they could all converse. They were oblivious to the fact that Bella felt like the appendage. She didn't even have to walk Winston that much. Bella found herself missing Winston more than not.

After accompanying them down to the port, for the first stop on the cruise, Bella did not take much delight in shopping. She wandered in and out of the shops, quickly finding a few items for her parents, and one for her roommate, Angela. String bag in tow, she decided to forgo lunch and instead found a taxi to take her to the Magens Bay trail. It was listed as a mile and a half of beautiful, natural gravel and dirt, with a medium level of challenge. It wasn't long before the cool green canopy of the trees took the temperature down at least a half dozen degrees. Bella couldn't help but think of all the green…especially sea glass green eyes. The other night he had asked her about the end of the last season. She had watched hours and hours straight to understand what he was really asking. Now she would have a real answer, not just that she hadn't made up her mind yet. Gah that was lame….and then I just smiled and went back inside!

She rounded a corner, and smack dab into the back of Edward Cullen, the knight who would not be moved.

"I felt bad for Lady Jeanne at the end of last season, but you, I mean your character Marcusi, he never lied to her. She was demanding what he didn't have in him to give any longer. It was easy to see if you looked." Great Swan, another word vomit…..

"Exactly!" Edward put his iPhone in his pocket, and turned to see his next door shipmate blushing madly at the side of the trail. It was undoubtedly the cutest thing he had seen in a while. Something about those brown eyes had caught him. "I don't know why anyone really wanted those two together. Irina is fine in real life, but…"

"I have to confess. I hadn't seen hardly any of the show until the day before yesterday. I've been too busy with school." Her voice trailed off, embarrassed to be caught in her obvious misplacement on this cruise.

"Don't be that way. Truthfully, I haven't seen all the episodes either. Sometimes I watch a scene to see how it came out in the final edit, but I hate to watch myself. I truly am my own worst critic. At least when I'm acting."

"Do you like to do anything else?"

"I was cast, well, I was actually performing - singing some really old ballads when I was approached. I was first tested for the role of Gamous, the bard in the great hall, but then they realized how tall I was, and I thought Marcusi would only be for a year or two…."

"You miss your music." She stated the truth in a firm, clear voice.

"I do. I've been thinking about it more and more." He kicked at the dust at the side of the trail. "Shall we walk together, Bella?"

They spent the rest of the afternoon together, on the trail, and then they shared a cab back to the port, grabbing a light lunch at a cafe on the water. Somehow, with Edward wearing only a baseball cap and cheap aviation sunglasses as a disguise, they avoided detection. They had traded family backstories - each were only children, Edward having lost his parents, one to cancer and the other to a heart attach just a year apart as he was moving to the west coast from the midwest. Bella's father was the chief of police in a small logging community in Washington, her mother lived on the coast in a small town in Florida, where her husband #3 was a coach of a farm team to the Philadelphia Phillies, the Clearwater Threshers. His name really was Phil, on top of it. There was commonality in how they chose their careers - their grandmothers had nudged each of them while children. Edward wasn't the class clown, but he did shine on the simple productions in grade school. His grandmother had paid for his membership in a local theater club in junior high school, as well as his piano lessons. Bella's dad's mother was a parish nurse, visiting in the homes of her congregation who had any health issues or needs. Bella had tagged along on everything from new mom and baby visits to caring for the hard to heal wounds of some of the elderly who no longer left their homes. Bella was fascinated and wanted to become a healer and comforter, following in the shoes of her grandmother. It was cemented in her mind even before she learned that her grandmother had left her funds to cover the cost of her education.

As they headed back up the gangplank, Edward brushed his hand against Bella's and they wound their fingers together. Coming in at the end of the crowds, they passed quietly through the re-entry portal and continued up into the tower levels. Each quietly marveled in the quiet warmth and the undeniable energy that the simple contact created between them.

At their doors, Edward raised her hand to his lips and pressed a kiss to the back of her hand.

"Will I see you at the masquerade tonight?"

"Funny thing, that. I was not originally part of the event, it's not on my contract for this cruise. My character was just a supporting character when this was set up." He placed his hands on her shoulders, pulling her slightly closer. "Now, If I was to learn a certain beautiful brunette…" He smiled

"Beautiful? Well, of course Winston and Allie…"

"Bella, you are beautiful. I want to know if I …"

Bella blushed from head to toe. This was more than just two people sharing an afternoon. This was a honest to goodness Star…She gulped

"Alice had something planned for me."

"Then I will attend, en masque, of course."

"I… I look forward to ..seeing you tonight." She quickly slipped into her stateroom and leaned back against her door. She might just get a kiss to remember on this trip after all .

Edward chuckled as he entered his cabin. He was not on the list of the celebrities for the Masquerade, so he was free to wear whatever he chose. His goal of finding a connection no longer seemed so elusive. He began to hum as he undressed and headed for the shower. He found he was going to need a long one. Better if she would join him….A guy can dream after all.

Bella showered quickly and then headed down to Allie and Jasper's cabin. She hadn't seen the outfit, but had complete faith in Allie's design skills.

C&C~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~C&C~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The grand ballroom had been transformed by the addition of set design pieces and some of the actual furniture from the set. A Royal Dias was set at one end, a tapestry covering the platform and the set thrones were under spotlights. Those lucky few who either won entrance to the event via submission of their costume designs or had paid the steep additional charge had begun to fill the hall. There would only be three hundred at tonight's soiree. Photographers were set up in the entry hall, and a few more strolled the floor, along with the video crew. A lavish, themed buffet of many of the dishes mentioned in the books was set up in several scattered locations set up in the midst of the tables that ringed the dance floor and aisles. A rich purple carpet led from the main entry stairs, leading right to the space in front of the thrones, and a live orchestra played to the side of the thrones. It was truly set as a ball fit for a king. A balcony allowed for easy observation. Allie and Jasper had decided to simply attend the ball in costume, and not make a grand masquerade entrance. As the hall filled, the trumpets and bagpipes sounded to mark the entrance of the "court"

The cast that portrayed the supporting characters walked the purple carpet to smiles, applause and the sound and light of multiple cameras and phones. Edward made small talk with some of the cast, happy to spend a few moments with Carl and Esme. They wore formal attire, a little bit show themed, but not direct costumes. Ben and Angela had already gone out, to warm up the crowd a bit before introducing the author and his wife. They were a popular couple and well known to the fans. The King and Queen, aka James and Vickie would come in to a fanfare, and then the procession of the entrance to the costume competition would begin.

"I'm surprised to see you here. You're half in and had out." Esme waved her hand over Edward's back.

"I'm here for my own pursuits Esme."

"Oh you are here for someone …" Carl handed his wife a glass of champagne and gave Edward a pat on the shoulder. "Go get her."

"I'll attack the task with my whole heart." He winked. He noticed the surprised looks as he took up a familiar spot near Vickie. Happily she was too busy with fans to take any notice of his attire.

Bella tried to keep her nerves in check as she waited her turn. The satin felt cool against her skin, brushing her calves as she turned to pass through the entry portal. The spotlight as she walked the purple carpet was blinding, but she heard the soft music and the applause. Edward was stunned when he saw her, even with the mask, it was impossible to miss her chestnut hair in soft curls or her figure coming through in the navy satin sheath that covered every curve to perfection. The overdress and sleeves floated around her like a soft blue cloud. He automatically stepped onto the purple carpet, holding a courtly hand out to bring her up the final steps.

"My Didianne."

"Edward.."

"Tonight, I'm Marcusi for you."

Throwing caution to the wind, he slid his arm around her waist and pulled her in for a kiss.

Bella was stunned. She hadn't thought there would be the connection to the character in the books who was a mere footnote. In the series, the character she was portraying was mentioned, but hadn't yet been seen. Having Edward embrace her was thrilling in it's own power, but having him so close and now kissing her…

The feel of great lips, soft and inviting, or dusted with a brush of stubble, to the mixing of mint and a breath of eighteen year young scotch was a heady brew. They created a brilliant bubble, that the cheering crowd took several beats to crack. Edward twirled her around and made a courtly bow to formally introduce her to King Aurodual and Queen Atineadorae aka Vic and James. After a few more photographs, he led her to the side, to introduce her to his friends on the cast.

They didn't kiss again, but never stopped touching one another. He spun her on to the dance floor as they awaited the announcement of the competition awards. She brought him over to meet Allie and Jasper. That was the first time they separated, Allie and Bella excusing themselves. Ensconced in the powder room, the Twinkernator was anxious for some answers.

"Bella! He kissed you. In front of everyone."

"Yeah…"

"Oh girl, you have it at least as bad as he has it for you."

"For me? He's really great. I hiked with him for a bit this afternoon…"

"Ah, now I see what was going on in that head of yours. Something was up as we got ready tonight, but I didn't really see. Jasper was all over the place and that was what my mind was on."

Eager to deflect the inquisition, Bella responded with a question. "Oh he was a bit scattered. Do you think he's ok."

"Ah, hem, why ask me? You're the RN."

"You..you kiss him."

"Very scientific." Allie responded as she shut her clutch and put her hand on Winston's harness. When they reached the ballroom, they noticed a spotlit path opened down to the Dias again. At the front, stood Jasper, beckoning her forward. The strings played softly as Bella was joined again by Edward to follow them up the carpet. As Allie reached the top of the aisle, Jasper dropped to one knee….

After that excitement. the announcement for the awards was a bit anti-climatic. Allie and Bella did take an award for best costume from a character not yet seen on the show.

As the night drew to a close, Bella got an invitation she could not refuse.

"Come and share some Swedish Fish with me.."

C&C~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~C&C~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They slipped past the party goers and managed to elude the rest of the fans still out and about on the ship. It was a little bit of a walk to the elevators from the vestibule of the ballroom, and after a night of high emotion and close dancing, the moment the tower elevator doors closed, Edward did not waste a moment.

He pressed her softly to the wall of the elevator, clasping their hands on either side of them to the wall. Nibbling at the shell of her ear, he whispered.

"Bella, I want to do so much more than kiss you. Please." He then commenced to place kisses on her neck and chin.

"I..yes. I do too, but I.."

"Bella, I want to see where we go..I can't just .."

Bella pressed a kiss to the hollow of Edward'd neck, and laid her head on his chest as she spoke. "More..now Edward." She kissed him and he kissed right back, until the doors opened.

Slipping into his cabin, she reached for the buttons on the leather tunic he wore, and slid her hands inside it, helping to divest him of his clothing. He in turn loosened the ties of her overdress, and then slid his hands along the satin sheath, slipping the zipper and watching the deep blue slide down her…and she was bare beneath his fingers.

"It was the only way it looked right." She blushed from head to toe.

"It would have killed me had I known." He kissed her temple, and she noticed he was nearly as bare. The breeches were quick to come off after the boots.

They tumbled to his bed, a tangle of touches and limbs, whispered requests and awkward moments punctuated by giggles. He slid his hands into her softest, secret places and she in turn nipped and nibbled and tasted, prompting gasps and mumbled entreaties to God. When he came to his senses, she had rolled onto her back, her satiny curls spread out over the coverlet, her long arms flung up over her head, making her breasts too tempting to resist. He pressed them with kisses, while gaining the permission he ardently desired. Somehow, there were condoms in the bedside table and he made short work of placement. When they were joined at last, it wasn't just great. It was souls that met. The warmth and perfection as he cried her name out as she clenched hard from her belly out everywhere, convinced him that they could not ignore it.

As they rolled under the covers, he vowed to do whatever it takes and more. He had no intention of letting her go far…

Morning found them docked in Nassau, and Edward woke first, thrilled to just take a few moments to admire her soft form. He was already plotting to corner Carl and a few of the writers. It was time for Marcusi to see his dream at last.

When at last she too had joined the land of the living, they separated to their own cabins to fetch clothing to meet the day. There was a couple to congratulate and a new island to explore.

Bella was back in her cabin after breakfast, when a knock to her door startled her, stopping her preparations. "Edward? Allie?" She called out as she opened the door.

It was the chief Purser and the Chaplain.

Edward was waiting in his cabin when his phone rang. It was Jasper.

"Bella's dad was shot."

Bella had left the ship, and took a flight from Nassau to the mainland, hurrying to get to her critically injured father. Allie and Jasper encouraged him to follow Allie programmed Bella into Edward's phone and kissed his cheek. He was bound to the boat for three more days, but the moment he could, he was headed to that little town in Washington….

C&C~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~C&C~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One year and maybe a few weeks later….

The strains of "Cannon in D" by Johan Pacabel flowed softly from his fingertips. The country chapel was made ornate by the extravagant floral decor. It seemed a fitting place for the solemnization of this happy couple. He watched the doors at the rear slowly open and smiled at the tiny couple, the chubby cheeked little girl tossing the rose petals every which way. His eyes lit up as the stunning figure in blue brocade passed his piano with a wink. Finally, a dapper gentleman in a classic tux escorted the white satin cloud up the aisle….

"Dearly Beloved and their families, we gather here today….."

Later, after the rice was thrown and the cake cut, the vision in the blue brocade dropped her head against the shoulder of the now still pianist. He'd happily relinquished the music duties to the DJ spinning tunes to fill the dance marquee. It was set up under the large tent behind the church. Inside it was quiet now, the pews were empty as everyone else left was out back in the tent.

"Do you think anyone noticed?"

He placed his hand over hers resting on her abdomen, just beneath the point of her gown, just below the waist. "Sweetheart, we just confirmed it last night. Unless they see your glow or the sparkle in your eyes, you will get to surprise Charlie before he leaves on his honeymoon"

Bella and Edward had kept in touch. Literally touching. He'd flown out and spent the better part of his hiatus from the show re connecting with his music, forming a new band and delighting fans with local, pop up concerts. Bella had stayed close to her father during his care and recuperation. Via her contacts at the hospital, she had secured herself a post in Seattle and they used that as a base of operation. They dated in styles simple to grand. (How often can one be flown to a remote location to have a birthday dinner inside a castle tower.) He took Charlie fishing, and he flew out from set to be Bella's +1 for Alice and Jasper's New York harbor wedding cruise.

Charlie had taken his injury as a wake-up call of the first order. He'd thrown himself into his recovery and rehabilitation with a singular focus - to be able to drop to a bended knee for his girlfriend, Sue. Right after a rehab session Charlie popped the question.

Edward's classic Dunhill tuxedo had gotten quite a workout in the past year. He'd gotten it for the Golden Globes, and he'd liked it so much he kept it as his personal go to item. The show had three Emmy nominations, and a win for the writers for the past season, and nominations for several members of the cast. The big surprise had been the Globes, and for that, Edward had Bella join him for the ceremony. At the cast table, with his cast-mates and friends support, he'd suddenly popped the question. He announced her answer to an audience of millions as he accepted his award for best supporting actor. It brought a second standing ovation and beaming and deeply blushing Bella to everyone's attention. A couple of months later, they'd brought Jasper and Allie, Charlie, Sue and a few other friends on a cruise sailing out of Florida, where they had surprised everyone with a Sunset wedding at sea. It was a simple, beautiful ceremony, with the promise of love as long as the lives they were granted.

Now, with new life before them, that love might outlive them after all.

~Fin~

Author's Notes

First, a big thanks to my home grown beta's with a special shout to Peanut - thanks!

Thanks to Rhonda for her prompts - such fun to work with!

And a huge thanks to the folks that make FAGE possible.

Until the next time

Reb