AN: Shortfic set right after Bella and Edward announce their decision of getting married to Charlie and Renée, which I assume were on the same day.

POV: Bella


"So how did it go with Renée?"

After a slightly awkward dinner, Edward had officially left for the night, as far as Charlie was concerned, to drop off his car but also to give me a little privacy when I'd dropped the bomb on Renée about our engagement. He'd wanted to stay behind and support me while I told her the news, given how we were all anticipating her to fly off the handle. I had no doubt that Edward would have been able to put her mind at ease, but I also thought it'd be a while before she'd even calm down enough to allow Edward to speak. I didn't want to put him through that, and after much persuasion on my part, he'd finally agreed to let me speak with her alone.

I'd been quick to take advantage of his absence to catch her before she went to sleep, struggling with trying to put Charlie's smug face out of my mind and preparing myself for a lengthy lecture. I'd been right about the length of the call but for the wrong reasons.

"I'm surprised Alice didn't tell you already." I was stalling, but he didn't call me out on it.

"I was in a hurry to come back. I didn't get a chance to speak with her," he admitted. "Not that it would've been much of a conversation even if I did. She's thrown herself into wedding preparations already so enthusiastically, I wouldn't be surprised if we don't see her till the day of the wedding. So - Renée?"

It was a good thing Edward hadn't been around at the time, because I definitely needed to compose myself after the curveball she'd thrown at me. But I didn't seem to have done a very good job because my tone sounded incredulous even to my ears when I reported to Edward now, "She, um, seemed to think that we'd… made it official all this time and have been hiding it from her."

He was sitting cross-legged across from me on my bed. Having climbed through my window just moments earlier, raindrops were still glistening in his hair from his run and a few dripped onto my bed covers when he tilted his head to the side. "Hiding it?" he echoed. "How long did she think we've been engaged?"

Unlike me, Edward had no qualms saying words like "engaged" or "fiancée". Quite the opposite, really. His face glowed.

"Since our trip to Jacksonville. She thought you'd asked me much earlier or that we'd at least discussed it, and that we were just waiting till after graduation to officially announce it. She's not mad or upset." That was putting it lightly.

I pinched my arm. It hurt, so I guessed I wasn't dreaming. Edward gave me a disapproving look and caught my hand securely in his, before bending down to press cool lips against the slightly red spot on my arm where I'd been pinching myself multiple times since hanging up with Renée.

Edward straightened up and processed my earlier statement for a moment, his gaze roving across my face and his thumb rubbing circles on my hand. He started to smile. How did I know this would be incredibly humorous to him? "You mean, all this time, you've been petrified about your mother's reaction to marriage before thirty and she's been fine with you doing it all along? What a complete one-eighty."

He chuckled while I sighed and got up to collect my copy of Wuthering Heights that Edward had tossed to the floor this morning. "She's ecstatic. She's gone to bed now, but she'll be calling tomorrow again to talk wedding details." A shudder went through me. "I'll let Alice deal with her."

He leaned against my headboard and grinned at me, while watching me mindlessly tidy up my room. The chore gave me something to redirect my nervous energy to while ignoring his amusement, as I continued to relay our conversation to him.

"I guess whatever anti-early-marriage propaganda—" Edward grinned at my word choice "—she spewed was more about her life choices and regrets, and wasn't in any way meant to influence my decisions or my life. She realizes this is my choice and that I'm only choosing what's right for me. Both of us are different, and our circumstances are different, though of course she doesn't know just how much."

"Bella, love, that's wonderful. It must be a relief, knowing that you have her support, and it's one less thing for you to worry about now." His tone started out encouraging, and now it turned sly. "Although I'm sure you would've appreciated knowing that earlier. You might've even agreed to marry me much sooner, ring or no ring."

I doubted that, though I held my tongue to avoid hurting his feelings, any more than I already had these past many days anyway, just in case he wasn't completely teasing. It's true that Charlie and Renée had been the most important hurdles, but the other fears, less Renée-centric and more superficial, still existed, like what other people were going to think. I shook myself out of it by reminding myself it didn't matter - I'd be leaving everyone behind anyway and what I'd be gaining was worth any rumors or stares…

At his mention of his mother's ring, a familiar look came into his eyes, eyes which now followed my left hand. I was surprised to find that I didn't mind the jewel itself so much anymore, not when I'd caught him admiring it multiple times today. It felt more like an adornment than a burden now. A burst of affection swelled up in me.

"Well, let's not forget you were counting on my reluctance to marry to slow things down the whole time." I pointed out wryly, briefly remembering when I'd bluffed about marrying him in Vegas, after our return from Italy. I tried to imagine a different future, with us getting married in Vegas. That picture somehow seemed wrong, now that Alice was full steam ahead with a traditional wedding. My mind was filled with white gowns, tuxedos, flowers, wedding cakes, and music.

He pulled me out of my abstraction and shot me a warm smile. "True. I suppose things worked out as well as they could've. Now are you ready for bed? Or were you planning to clean the whole house before morning?"

I rolled my eyes, my hands stilling on the stack of textbooks I'd been straightening out. With the horrors of the newborns yesterday and the general doom since graduation, I hadn't had a chance to get rid of my school supplies I no longer needed. "I'll save the cleaning for later. I need a human moment before bed."

"I'll be waiting."

As I was going through my usual nighttime routine, it was slowly starting to become very evident how extremely tired I was. My shoulders were starting to droop, my temples were sore, and I was ninety-nine percent certain I could feel the telltale signs of a sore throat.

I was mildly surprised how I hadn't felt it before. I thought last night had been bad, when I'd cried all the salt water out of my system and onto Edward's shirt. But I had been overcome with grief just for the heartbreak I'd caused both Jacob and Edward with my stupidity. The stress, horrors, and excitement of everything else that had accumulated over the last many weeks had no doubt left room for little else in my brain. And just as Edward had said, the tangled mess that was our lives was slowly but surely starting to straighten out, and now all of it was catching up with me.

My eyes were no longer red and dry from the waterworks - that much I'd made sure of before even stepping out of the house today. But they suddenly felt extremely heavy. It was quite the battle to keep them open - and myself upright - while I showered quickly. The last thing I needed was to pass out in the bathtub, which would've sent Edward into a panic since he technically wasn't even supposed to be in the house and there would be no way for him to intervene without Charlie knowing.

The hot water from the shower had soothed my muscles slightly, but the exhaustion came back full force as I changed, now half-blind, into my pajamas.

Edward was watching the door for my arrival by the time I stumbled into my room a minute later. His eyes were filled with concern as he watched me blindly reach to turn off the lights and close the door. "Bella, are you alright?" I heard him whisper in the darkness.

"F-Fine," I yawned, climbing into bed beside him but under the covers. The blankets were an unwelcome barrier, but his body was so cold that I'd start shivering in the middle of the night. My voice sounded a little raspy. I winced and tried to clear my throat before continuing drowsily, "It's been a long… day."

His answering chuckle sounded low and anxious. I felt his hand brushing the hair, still damp from my shower, out of my face gently. "That's understating things. You look exhausted. I realize just how much has happened… a lot for you… suppose it's a good… with school over… opportunity to rest and…"

I made an effort to keep up with what he was saying, but it was a lost battle. The gentle melody of his murmuring, the comfort of his closeness, and his cool fingers combing through my hair lulled me quickly into dreams of wedding bells and casinos in Las Vegas.

AN: This idea stemmed from another WIP collection I have called Human Experiences, set between Twilight and New Moon. I wanted to explore a time when Bella got sick and to give Edward some caretaking experience. I aimed for this to be more lighthearted (in contrast to the seriousness of Bella's sickness in Breaking Dawn when she was pregnant), but the more I wrote, the more it became a mind of its own and got serious considering the timeline I placed it in, so here we are, lol. Thanks for reading. More to come.