[well folks, this here is the last chapter. There's no epilogue, since I tied everything up all nice and neatly in this little (12 pg/6007 words) package.
Thanks to everyone who left a review.
Disclaimer: Twilight and the affiliated characters do not belong to me, and I make no profit from this work.]
Edward had been cleared to return to the Cullen house two days after surgery to put his tibia back together. He'd come out of the fight with a broken left tibia and hairline fractures in the small bones in both of his wrists from hitting James with the baseball bat and two cracked ribs from being trampled.
Emmett and Carlisle had been his chauffeurs back to the house, and Edward was unceremoniously carried up to the bedroom he shared with Bella, his casted leg sticking out at odd angles. Emmett carried him like he weighed nothing, turning to various angles to get him through doorways.
Even though Carlisle and Emmett had explained Bella's condition, the sight of her was enough to make Edward's breath catch. She was curled up in a nest of blankets, eyes closed, twitching and shifting restlessly, though it didn't appear that she was awake. Alice had been reading to her and lightly stroking through her hair when Edward was carried into the room, and she beamed at him, though she didn't stop reading.
"It's good to see you, Edward," Esme greeted him quietly, kissing his forehead. "I think she'll be better, knowing you're here."
"How is she?" Edward asked. Emmett had stopped by to see him in the hospital, but he understood that the rest of the family was putting their focus toward Bella, and he hadn't minded.
Alice scooted off the bed after apologizing to Bella for the break in the reading so that Emmett could settle Edward down next to Bella, on the edge of the bed so he could slip out to take care of his needs.
"She's in pain," Jasper spoke up from across the room. He'd been quiet and still and Edward was ashamed to say he'd not noticed his presence, though Jasper waved him off when he was about to apologize. The blonde looked stressed and in pain himself, and Edward realized that Bella must not be able to shield herself as well if Jasper was feeling as much of her pain as it appeared.
"How long will she be like this?" He reached out with one hand, the brace on his wrist restricting his mobility, but he was still able to stroke through her tangled and matted hair. She seemed to have become less restless in the last few moments, but Edward couldn't have been sure.
"Days," Carlisle put in, propping a pair of crutches against the wall near the bed. Edward could look forward to using the crutches until he could get into a walking cast when his leg healed a bit more. "It's different every time, and depends on how much blood she ingested. Hopefully just another day, two at most."
"We're taking turns reading to her, and watching movies," Rosalie added, setting a few things on the table at Edward's elbow.
"She said it'd give her something to anchor to," Alice added, lithely jumping onto the bed on Bella's other side, reaching around Bella to give Edward an awkward one-armed hug.
"Do you need anything, Edward?" Esme asked.
He glanced at the table and found his pain medication, a glass of water and a pitcher next to it, his iPod (Bella's was playing quietly in the room) and a stack of books. "No, Esme, I'm alright, I think, other than a nap."
"You don't mind if we keep reading, do you?" Alice looked at him hopefully, and Edward knew she just wanted to do whatever she could to help her sister.
"Not at all, so long as you don't think I'm rude for sleeping through it."
The family laughed softly. Jasper and Emmett excused themselves and Carlisle to take a quick hunt, and Rosalie settled down on the chaise while Esme disappeared downstairs to take care of blankets or something. Edward quickly slipped into a light slumber with Alice's voice and the soft music lulling him further than the tug of the painkillers.
Edward slept a lot over the course of the next day and a half as his body continued to heal. He was grateful to be back home if for no other reason that Esme's cooking, despite her being a vampire that didn't actually eat what she cooked, was far superior to what he was fed at the hospital. In his periods of wakefulness he took his turns reading to Bella or just singing to her softly with the iPod. Her movements slowly ceased, and Edward was hopeful that her torture was almost over.
Late in the afternoon on Edward's second day home, Jasper sighed and the tension seemed to flow out of him. Edward glanced up from Bella (he'd been attempting to brush her hair, but his wrists weren't cooperating) at the sound.
"She's getting back in control," Jasper explained from his seat on the floor where he was reading aloud. "She's shielding herself again. Bella's known that we were here the whole time, and we've been grounding her enough that the pain hasn't taken her away, but wasn't aware enough of us on a conscious level." Jasper rose gracefully, leaving the book on the table with the others. "It shouldn't be long, now," he advised Edward. He gave Edward's shoulder a squeeze and dropped a kiss on the back of Bella's head (she was still curled up in a ball) and left them in privacy.
Edward turned his attention fully to Bella, continuing to brush his fingers through her hair. He was smiling softly when her eyes opened, red rimmed topaz, but clear of pain.
"Hi," he said softly, tucking her hair behind her ear and returning his hands to his lap.
"Hello," she answered just as quietly.
"How are you feeling?" He studied her face and she returned his small smile, though he thought there was a tinge of sadness to it.
"Alright, I think." She stretched a bit and made a low sound in her throat. "Sore, but nothing a hot soak or a massage won't cure."
Edward's own smile turned a bit sad as he displayed his hands. "I'm sorry I can't return the massage favor anytime soon," he whispered.
"Oh, Edward," Bella breathed, uncurling her body and sitting up. She had been changed into a tank top and yoga pants at some point, and she let the blankets fall away from her body as she gently took his hands into her own. "How did you manage that?"
Edward flushed a bit, embarrassed, looking down at their conjoined hands. "I hit James with a baseball bat." He looked up at Bella's quiet chuckle.
She kissed him gently. "You silly, brave, gorgeous boy," she breathed. "How are you? Really?"
"Better now you're back with us," he said quietly. "Still in some pain, but nothing unmanageable," he explained. "I don't know that I can ever thank you enough for saving my life," he said honestly, reclaiming one of his hands and drawing a finger over her facial features. But can I ask…" he trailed off, chewing the inside of his cheek gently. "Why didn't you just let the change happen?" Edward asked her gently.
Bella sighed and smiled sadly. "A couple of reasons. I wanted to be the one that changed you. I want it to be my venom that runs through your body," she said. "You know how close we are as a family, and a large part of that is because Carlisle's venom binds him to Esme, Rose, and Emmett, to a degree. I want that for us. I want to know that something of me will always be with you, and I think that shared experience will only bring us closer." She smiled at him, ducking her head. "And because I promised you that I would, after high school. You've got another year, and I want you to finish before we have to go into isolation to let you adjust. I want you to at least have the human experience of graduation and prom, and losing your virginity," she said with a wink "and maybe travel a bit and enjoy some things as a human."
She paused and looked at him, meeting his eyes. "I promise you, love, that when the time comes, I will not hesitate. I want you, forever. But forever doesn't have to start traumatically by my psychopathic sire. I want to do it right."
Edward nodded. He could understand that reasoning. "In light of the conversation we had the other day, I can understand that," he assured her. He kissed her gently. "I'm glad you're back with us," he repeated.
Bella shifted again and he could tell she was being careful not to jostle him too much. She embraced him, her arms encircling his waist, chin on his shoulder. "So am I, Edward." She kissed his temple and they remained like that until Edward needed a few moments to be human and Bella took the opportunity to shower. Edward pouted at that – he was restricted to sponge baths for awhile, but Bella reminded him of how enjoyable that experience could be and promised a demonstration later that evening.
Once she'd showered, Bella helped Edward down the stairs and they joined the rest of the family, who were overjoyed that Bella was back with them. They spent the day together playing cheesy board games and reconnecting as a family. Emmett proved to be just as competitive at Monopoly and Scrabble as he was with his video games, though Esme, much to Edward's astonishment, proved to be the most shrewd with her money and ended up owning most of the board when they'd finished Monopoly. Bella and Jasper, unsurprisingly, swept Scrabble and Boggle.
It didn't take long for Edward to start feeling tired again and Bella made their excuses before helping him back upstairs.
"Strip," she ordered gently after she got Edward settled on the chaise. "I'll be back in a moment."
"What?" Edward looked at her, confused.
She giggled. "Edward. I promised you a sponge bath."
"Oh." Edward felt his cheeks warm slightly and Bella dropped a kiss on his forehead before walking off with a laugh. Edward did as he was told and slowly and carefully stripped down to his boxers, finishing just as Bella walked in with two steaming bowls, a towel and two wash rags draped over her arms.
Edward watched as Bella gracefully settled everything on the floor at Edward's feet before she turned the iPod dock on and selected a soft classical playlist that floated through the room. She drifted into the bathroom and came back with Edward's soap, shave cream and razor. When she came back, she knelt at Edward's feet, and took his hands into hers.
"Can I take these off?" She asked quietly, running her fingers over his wrist braces.
Edward didn't know, but he supposed she heard an answer from Carlisle as she began to gently undo the straps on the stiff braces keeping his wrists immobile. She hummed quietly along with the music, setting the braces aside and Edward sighed quietly, feeling air move over the skin of his forearms, drying the dampness that the confines had inflicted on his skin.
"Don't move." She whispered the order, reaching for a cloth and dunking it in one of the steaming bowls before squeezing out some of his body wash and building up a lather.
Edward moaned softly as the warm rag ran over his chest and neck. Bella's touch was gentle and sensuous, and felt better than any shower he could remember, and he knew it was because she put all of her love into the touch of taking care of him. Bella took her time cleaning him up, following the soapy swipes with the clean one. She washed his wrists before moving to his lower body, removing the soap and drying them, and restrapping them carefully.
She rose up on her knees and kissed Edward softly when she was done with his hands before sinking back down and reaching for his good leg. She repeated the process, beginning with his foot, and he giggled and twitched away at the too light touches on the bottom of his foot, and her laugher echoed his.
"Lay back," Bella said gently, helping him swing his legs around and lean back against the arm of the chaise, tucking a pillow under his casted leg.
Edward did as ordered, tipping his head back slightly and let his eyes drift closed as he stared at the ceiling. He felt the chaise shift and knew Bella had joined him. Something warm and damp was placed over his face, and Edward breathed in the steam.
"The stubble's nice, but I think I prefer you clean shaven," she said lightly.
Edward laughed softly and opened his eyes to white fuzz instead of Bella's smile.
"Relax, Edward," Bella urged, and he could hear the smile in her voice. "Let me take care of you."
He settled back after one of his hands found Bella's thigh, and his fingertips rested there until she shifted to take the warm towel from his face. When she leaned over him, he moved to kiss her, his left hand cupping her cheek and sliding back into her hair awkwardly, but his message was clearly received as the kiss was pressed just a bit deeper, and Bella pulled away before the need to breathe became overwhelming. Edward pressed his lips against hers once more before settling back and letting her shave him.
If Edward thought being washed by the woman he loved was a sensual experience, it was nothing compared to letting her shave him. He was in a vulnerable position with a razor at his throat, but every touch was so tender, from lathering him up, to each stroke of the razor against his skin. He fought a smile as Bella sang quietly while she worked, watching her through half-open eyes as she smiled.
The warm towel was put back on when Bella was finished and she gently used it to swipe away any remaining bits of foam before placing both of her cool hands against his cheeks, running her thumbs down along his jaw line and under his chin. "Much better," she whispered, smiling, before she kissed him again and slid off the chaise (and his lap) and returned the used items to the bathroom.
Edward felt well and truly pampered and close to dozing off again, except for the dull throb that was creeping up his leg and back into his wrists. He couldn't reach his pills from his place on the chaise, and he knew that he'd soon be asleep after taking them, and he nearly levered himself from the chaise to cross the room for pajamas and to crawl into bed, but Bella was there with his pills, a glass of water, and a pair of sweatpants that were not Alice approved, he was sure.
"Tell me you were going to move," Bella said sternly, a smile playing at her lips.
"Nope." Edward met her gaze steadily, despite the fact she knew he was lying.
"What am I going to do with you?" Her tone was exasperated, but he could see the fondness in her eyes. He knew he was a miserable patient, and she'd only been conscious for a day to deal with him so far.
"Take it easy on me?" He offered.
Bella laughed as she handed over the pills and the glass, and held up the sweats for inspection. "How would you like these altered?" There was no way they'd fit over his cast.
Edward shrugged as he managed to get the glass to his mouth to swallow his pain medication. "Cut the leg all but off," he decided. He'd try not to sacrifice too much of his wardrobe and settle on doing wash more often. Well, he reminded himself, Esme would be doing his wash more often.
Just then there was a soft knock on the door, and Alice danced through with three different pairs of pants in her arms. "I've already altered these for you!" she chirped, and Edward fought to be un-self conscious lounging there in only his boxers, on display for her to see.
"Thanks, Alice," he said, and Bella took the clothes from her. Bella spoke to Alice so quietly and quickly that Edward couldn't catch the words before returning to his side as Alice slipped back out the door.
Edward was getting used to being helped with certain tasks, and since it was Bella helping him to the bathroom and then helping him put his pants on, he felt less uncomfortable than when it had been Esme or Emmett.
The painkillers were fast acting and Edward was beginning to feel them as Bella helped him back into bed. "Will you stay?" he asked her sleepily. He noticed somewhere in the back of his mind that the sheets had been changed, probably by Esme at some point earlier in the day.
"Yes," Bella answered simply, kissing him gently. "Just let me get changed and shut off the lights."
Edward got himself as comfortable as he could and was already dozing off when he felt Bella settle herself behind him, and her cool fingers in his hair. "Tomorrow we'll wash your hair," he heard her say quietly, and he murmured an agreement as sleep took him over.
The rest of the week passed in the same routine. Edward slept as late as his body needed, and Bella helped him wash, dress, and move around the house. Everything that had happened in the last several weeks had kept Edward pretty off kilter as to the actual passage of time, and he hadn't realized it was Spring Break until he'd asked Carlisle about homework that he'd missed. So he enjoyed the rest of his time off with Bella, learning to use his crutches and letting the family mark up his cast. He was the only one that required more time to heal (and he'd grumbled quite considerably when Bella was able to bounce right back the day after 'waking up' when he was still mostly confined to bed), but he wasn't left alone to wallow too often, and Alice had a bit too much fun shopping for things to keep him occupied. He and Bella did crossword puzzles together, Emmett engaged him in video games, Rose let him watch while she tuned up the Volvo, and Jasper brought out his guitar and jammed with him, after his piano was moved over from his parents' house.
Edward still hadn't decided what to do with the house, so he settled on hiring someone to clean it up and pack up most of his parents' stuff for storage until he felt like he could go through it, and left the furniture for the time being. If he decided to sell it, the furniture would help with the viewing, Esme had said. He didn't have to worry about making mortgage payments; everything had been covered by his parents. The house was his, and the attorneys were managing the finances. Fortunately, those finances also included his health insurance, so he didn't have to worry about that, either. Carlisle and Emmett assured him everything was under control and he just needed to worry about healing and getting ready to go back to school.
By the time they returned to school ten days after the game, they had a firm cover story in place that Edward had been attempting to ride a motorcycle and had crashed, the bike crushing his legs, and the damage to his wrists caused while he was trying to brace the fall. Of course, Emmett and Bella had completely healed by the time they returned, so the story put Edward once again briefly into the spotlight, as he hobbled around campus on his crutches.
Mr. Hall was not thrilled that Edward had done something so 'reckless and dangerous' but had calmed when Edward showed him he could still play (mostly), and that he'd be out of the braces in a few weeks. Edward knew things were getting back to normal when Newton began taunting him again, though they'd seemed to come to a sort of truce after his parents had died, and the barbs were mostly teasing.
Edward returned to the hospital after three weeks in the bulky cast and Carlisle had him fitted for a lighter walking cast to make his life a bit easier. He'd still have to wear the jeans that Alice had stylishly sacrificed for the fit of the cast, but the walking cast gave him more mobility which he was thrilled about, especially with prom around the corner.
He just had to figure out how he was going to convince Bella to go with him. It hadn't taken much for her to agree to the semi-formal, but prom was a whole different ball game with his lover. Not that that part of their relationship had developed much farther. Between his grief over his parents and recovering from his injuries and the awkwardness that had been enforced on him by the various splints and casts, it had been one of the last things on his mind, and Bella hadn't seemed inspired to press the issue, either. So while his body had physiological reactions, they'd done nothing more than snuggle and have some light make out sessions.
Which had been fun, but hadn't solved the problem of asking Bella to prom, which he'd been wrestling with for over a week before he called in the big guns: Alice. Of course, he hadn't really gotten a chance to ask Alice, since she bounced into their bedroom after Bella and Jasper had gone off to hunt one evening and started pouring forth her plan to secure Bella's attendance at the dance.
Friday evening, two weeks before prom, Edward set the plan in motion. He and Alice had set up an elaborate scavenger hunt for Bella to follow, leaving her clues about what awaited her at the end. It was fun, and Edward thought, romantic. That's how he came be sat in the meadow at dusk, waiting. Emmett had run him out so he hadn't had to find his own way.
Edward had laid out a blanket and surrounded it with pillar candles, flames dancing in the gentle breeze, and he settled down to wait. It hadn't taken long, as Alice had said, and the sun was still low in the sky when Bella emerged into the clearing, smiling softly, the tokens of her hunt in her hands.
"What are you up to, Edward?" She asked with a smile as she settled down beside him, spreading the objects on the blanket. There was a rose bud, a keychain of a high-heeled shoe, an untied bow-tie, an empty 5"x7" picture frame, a hockey puck, a plastic toy bicycle, and a brightly colored tail from a 'pin the tail on the donkey' kit.
"You tell me," Edward suggested with a smile, snaking his arm around Bella's waist and watched as she puzzled it out.
"Hm." She sorted the items into two piles. "Puck, bike, tail…" she mused, then brightened. "Midsummer Night's Dream?" She asked. "The bicycle was tricky," she said with a pout. "That's the movie."
Edward laughed and kissed her lightly. "I couldn't make it easy, now, could I? How about the rest?" He gestured to the other pile.
Bella ran her finger over them lightly. "Prom?" She looked up at him with a spark in her golden eyes.
Edward nodded. "Will you go with me?" He took some hope from the look in her eyes that maybe she was interested in going. He wasn't surprised she'd put the pieces together so fast, since the posters were plastered all over school, advertising the theme as Midsummer Night's Dream.
"Of course, Edward," Bella said with a bright smile. "I'd love to. No one's ever asked me to prom before."
Edward let out a soft breath, half-expecting her to have turned him down. "Really?"
"Yes, Edward," Bella said patiently, though he could see the smile playing around her mouth. She was teasing him.
"Thank you," he said softly before kissing her deeply. When he broke the kiss to breathe, he tugged her close, and she tucked her head under his chin. "I love you."
"I love you too, Edward." Bella snuggled fractionally closer. They sat together talking quietly until it grew late, and Bella ran them back to the house.
Alice dragged them all shopping in Seattle the next day for dresses for the girls and new accessories for the boys and a tuxedo for Edward (Jasper and Emmett already owned several, he'd come to understand). While the girls had ducked into Victoria's Secret, Edward dragged Emmett and Jasper off to a jewelry store around the corner.
"Whatcha looking for, Edward?" Emmett asked as they perused the cases.
Jasper was drifting towards necklaces while Edward was looking over the rings.
"Promise ring," he muttered.
"Dude!" Emmett practically bounced like Alice. "Seriously?"
Jasper chuckled and shook his head and Edward rolled his eyes. "Seriously," he said, mocking Emmett's tone.
"Why not just propose?" Emmett moved closer to Edward and peered over his shoulder.
"Because I'm seventeen, Emmett," Edward said, feeling like he was explaining something to a small child. "I do want to marry her someday, and I do already have the ring for that," he said, thinking of his mother's engagement ring with a tinge of sadness, though he knew she would love that he'd be giving it to Bella in due time. "And I just want to promise that I'm hers for as long as she wants me. If that means in a year or two…" he trailed off.
"I don't think you have to worry about that," Jasper advised softly, approaching from the other direction. "She loves you, Edward, wholly and completely." He clapped Edward on the shoulder. "I don't think she's going anywhere."
Edward nodded. He believed that, most of the time. But sometimes a bubble of doubt would arise in his thoughts, and he did his best to push it aside. He had a feeling that the insecurity would remain as long as the inequality stood between them. He was willing to work on it, however, and just be Bella's mate as best he could.
Emmett grabbed him in a headlock. "She's happy. You're happy. You make her unhappy, I break you." He ruffled Edward's hair and let him up at Jasper's quiet admonishment. "Seriously, Edward," he said after shifting to lean against the glass counter that creaked under him. "I'm happy for you, man."
"Thanks, Emmett." The male bonding moment was interrupted by a young male sales associate looking to score his commission. Which he did, three times over.
Edward picked out a simple band of white gold with diamond chips set into two arches off the main band. Jasper picked up the necklace that Alice had asked him to (Edward rolled his eyes – getting that girl a Christmas present was going to be a nightmare), and Emmett bought Rose a deceptively simple looking gold bracelet. With their purchases in hand, they returned to the bench outside Victoria's Secret to wait for the girls to emerge.
Alice kept giving Edward little knowing looks throughout the rest of the expedition, and he just returned them with a serene smile, causing Jasper to laugh as Edward refused to cave to whatever it was Alice was trying to get him to do.
He found that he liked being out with all of the younger Cullens at once, and he was still surprised at how easily he had settled into the family. The rest of the day passed quickly with Alice playing cruise director and they all ended up with the appropriate gear for the dance two weeks away.
The two weeks flew by. Edward had his cast downgraded once again, and though he still had to wear a boot, the new cast was lighter as he finished healing, and Carlisle said that with the walking cast, the physical therapy would be less. The lighter cast was also smaller, and he could wear the boot over his pants, so he was having to press his trousers, rather than alter them all. The wrist braces also came off and the PT started. He had been assured by his therapist that his piano playing would be helpful in his recovery, and Edward was just relieved to hear he had free reign to play as much as he liked again.
Friday before prom it seemed that no one at school could focus on anything, and the teachers pretty much gave up on trying to control the chaos and gave everyone busy work rather than trying to teach. Since Forks High was so small, prom was open to all classes, and lacking a proper venue, it would be held in the cafeteria (though the student body president was quick to call it the multi-purpose room). It amazed Edward how everyone seemed to be so focused on the one event, but he supposed it was the biggest social event Forks had to offer.
Edward was excited, just not quite for the same reasons everyone else was, he supposed. He wasn't expecting to 'get laid' as Newton had so crudely suggested about his date with Jessica, and he wasn't looking forward to the drunken after party. He was, however, thoroughly enjoying the prospect of Bella, on his arm, in a formal gown, for the entire school to see, and the look on her face when he gave her his ring. He wasn't planning on making it a big public event, but he wanted to do it at the dance.
Saturday evening arrived and once again, Edward found himself on the porch of the Cullen home with Jasper and Emmett, waiting for Carlisle to open the door and the girls to come down so Esme could take photos (and Edward had been informed that he would pose for photos with the official photographer at the dance, as many times as Alice wanted him to, or so help him). Edward clutched the corsage he'd picked out for Bella in his hand, feeling the heavy weight of the ring in the inside pocket of his jacket, thankful he'd taken it out of the box so his jacket fit correctly (Alice, once again).
"Good evening, boys," Carlisle greeted them, letting them pass through, and they gathered in the living room, standing around with their flowers. "Esme is finishing up with the girls, and they'll be down shortly." Amusement was clearly written on Carlisle's face.
It was only a couple of minutes before Esme came down stairs, snapping candids as soon as she could see them from the stairs.
The girls appeared together, Bella in the middle of the linked arms of her sisters. Edward wouldn't have been able to report on what Alice and Rose were wearing; his eyes were on Bella only. She looked like a goddess in her blue dress, the sweetheart neckline somehow revealing just the right amount of cleavage to still leave her looking modest. The high waist with the studded pink jewels helped emphasize her bust, and the rest of the bodice hugged her curves before the skirt spilled to the floor, the dark blue fading to purple and then pink around the hem. He understood why he was wearing a pink tie and vest with his tuxedo.
Part of her hair had been swept up into a complicated pattern, and the rest had been left to spill loose down her back, and she wore just enough makeup to highlight the colors she wore, and she wore simple silver jewelry and all of it combined made her the most beautiful woman Edward could recall seeing.
"You look gorgeous," he whispered as Alice and Rose handed her off to him. He was grateful he'd opted for a wrist corsage. He took her hand and kissed her softly on the lips.
"You clean up pretty good, too," she teased. "I like the footwear."
Edward was wearing his boot and his nice black shoe on his other foot. "Hey, at least they're black," he teased back, pulling up his pant leg, showing off his black socks (well, sock), too. He had shaved and attempted to comb his hair into submission but gave it up as a lost cause.
Bella laughed and kissed him, and then they posed for Esme to take pictures. Edward slipped the corsage onto Bella's left wrist since she generally leaned toward right hand dominance (they were all pretty much ambidextrous, Edward had discovered during video game marathons) and she pinned his boutonniere to his lapel, managing not to stab him and cause a feeding frenzy.
Esme finally got enough photos and they left for the dance in separate cars. Carlisle had lent Edward and Bella his Mercedes for the night and Edward let Bella drive, much to her delight. The drive to the school was short with Bella behind the wheel, and she parked between Jasper and Rose's cars. Edward slipped out and opened the door for Bella, despite her having driven, and they joined the others to make the walk through the quad into the 'multi-purpose' room.
They had their picture taken as they made their way through the arch to the quad. The open area between buildings had been transformed into a fairy land with potted plants having been brought in to create the illusion of isolation, and everything had been strung with twinkle lights. Gazebos and tables had been set up around the edges of the quad and candles lit the spaces. Edward had to admit that the prom committee had done a good job.
The cafeteria had been transformed as well, though Edward thought that was mostly because the lights had been kept off. The DJ was set up on the small stage area that was normally closed off, and more plants had been brought in and lights strung around the room.
Emmett and Rose took to the dance floor right away, Jasper and Alice not far behind them while Bella and Edward claimed one of the tables lining the walls for them to leave their purses, phones, etc.
"Dance with me?" Edward asked Bella, offering her his hand once they'd settled everyone's things and Edward had waved hellos to the people he knew.
Bella smiled and took his hand, letting him lead her to the edge of the dance floor where they'd be out of the way. They danced close and talked or simply held each other, and Edward had to commend the DJ for understanding the venue and keeping the playlist slow dance-able.
They were in the middle of a dance and Bella's hand slid up his chest to rest over his heart, and she frowned after her hand bumped his jacket.
"What's wrong, love?" he asked, nuzzling her temple gently. He knew what she'd found.
She shook her head and nestled against him, her head fitting perfectly under his chin, even with the moderate heels she was wearing. "Nothing."
Edward smiled against the top of her head as he pressed a kiss there lightly, not wanting to mess up Alice's handiwork. His left hand lingered at the small of Bella's back while his right dipped into his jacket pocket around Bella's shoulders. He looked down and her eyes were open as she watched his movements, her eyes a bright topaz. Edward smiled as he slipped the ring onto her right hand ring finger.
"Bella," he said softly, holding her hand lightly against his chest, and he knew they could both feel it as his heart sped up a bit. "I love you. I want to be with you forever," he said, moving almost unconsciously with the music. "I know that I'm not ready to have a fiancée, but I'm ready to make a promise. I'm yours for as long as you want me. I do want to marry you, some day, but we have time. Until then, I promise to love you as much as you'll let me and for as long as you like."
Bella looked up at him, love and adoration shining in her eyes. "Forever, Edward."
He held her gaze, puzzled.
"As long as I'd like is forever," she clarified, and her hand moved from over his heart to the back of his neck to pull him down into a searing kiss that lingered for several moments. "I love you, too, Edward," she whispered against his lips when they broke the kiss.
Edward smiled, and kissed her again.
[end note: Thank you all for sticking with me through this ride. I never expected this fic to be the monster it turned out to be when I started it. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.
I have vague ideas for a sequel, however, it's pretty far off. Right now I'm neck deep in an AH JasperxEdwardxBella that I hope to start posting soon, once I get a nice cushion of chapters completed. Hopefully, that will be in the next couple of weeks. I'm finishing up my quarter and then have three weeks off, so there should be plenty of writing time coming up.]