A/N: Well, here we are...the end. This has been a fabulous experience and I have enjoyed each and every moment I have spent in this story, whether it was actually writing it or it was reading the wonderful reviews and comments you guys left.
Oh, and Bella's joke in this chapter is courtesy of Marti1013. She is a reader here at and she left me the funniest review for the last chapter with reference to this and I asked her that if I could work it into the chapter, if it would be okay to use it. She said she would be delighted.
Also, the sequel to this story has been officially started and is titled Into the Hands of My Fathers. You can find it here under my profile or on Twilighted . net under the same title. I'd love for you guys to check it out!
So, without further adieu...
Three months later
"Edward, where are we going?" Bella asked, surveying all of the items he had laid out on the counter. Sandwiches, crackers, sodas, water bottles, and assorted fruit littered the granite countertops in the Cullens' kitchen, and the floor was piled with blankets, a cooler, and a large picnic basket.
He threw Bella her favorite crooked smile. "It's a surprise."
"Please?" she pleaded, trying to turn on a puppy dog look, but faintly concerned that she only managed to appear as if she had been a recent stroke victim.
Edward laughed. "Don't even bother, Bella. It won't work."
"Yeah, right," Esme piped in. "She has you wrapped around her little finger."
"I know she does, but I'm still not spilling anything about where we're going."
"Hey, Edward!" Ben shouted, running into the kitchen at full speed, a baseball bat in his hand. "Can you show me to play baseball?" he spluttered from excitement.
Edward picked Ben up and sat him on the counter next to a bowl of grapes. "Sure I can. Did you find a ball?"
Ben looked around his sitting area, his face scrunched in concentration. "Yeah, but I lost it. Can I take my soccer ball, too, an' my teddy bear, an' my crayons?"
Bella laughed at his excitement. "Ben, you can't take your entire toy box. Just pick two things that you want to take."
"Just two?" Ben whined.
"Don't whine, Ben," Bella said firmly. "That is not the way we get things accomplished around here."
Edward looked at her with one eyebrow raised.
"Oh, shut up, Edward," she grumbled.
Ben gasped. "Oh, mmooomm," he whispered in shock. "You said a bad word."
Edward and Esme broke out in laughter and Bella quickly followed. As much as she did not like to be reprimanded in front of her future family by her own son, she was just ecstatic to see Edward so…light. He was so free and happy these days that she never wanted anything to ever cause him to feel distraught or depressed again. So, if it required her to receive a scolding by Ben for saying shut up, then she would take it. "You're right, baby, I did. I'm sorry. I won't say it again because we don't say those words."
"Uncle Emmett says 'em. He says really bad words."
Bella sighed. "Yes, I know, but Uncle Emmett was raised in a cave, so he doesn't count."
"Hey!" Emmett shouted from upstairs. "I count for everything!"
Ben giggled. "An' you gotta tell Edward that you're sorry, too. Just don' kiss 'im," he added, nose wrinkled in revulsion.
Bella laughed again. "All right. Edward, I'm sorry I told you to shut up. And, Ben, I won't kiss him. And, Edward, I would appreciate it if you would speak to your brother about inappropriate words."
"I heard that!"
"Good!" Bella shouted. "You're corrupting my son!"
"Aw, Bella, come on. I wasn't taught what a bad word was and look at me. I turned out just great!" Emmett turned the corner, a huge grin on his face, his arms spread wide.
Bella rolled her eyes. "The jury's still out on that one," she muttered. "Okay, Edward, can we go now?" She was now in a hurry to escape the house and Emmett's verbal sparring.
"I think we have everything," Edward murmured to himself, scrutinizing all of the supplies he had strung throughout the kitchen.
Emmett shook his head. "You look like you're preparing for the apocalypse."
Edward ignored his brother and took the bowl his mother handed him. "What's in here?"
Esme grinned. "Brownies. For Bella and Ben."
No one missed the small shudder that rippled through Bella at the idea. She had not forgotten Esme's and Rosalie's first few baking attempts.
Esme put her hands on her hips. "Now, look. I've gotten to be a really good baker, especially for someone who can't taste it. Carlisle has told me that the nurses in the ER have actually been requesting my brownies. I'm still working on the cookies, though," she muttered.
"Thanks, Esme," Edward said, and added the bowl to the bag of food. "All right, you two. Let's hit the road!"
Bella stared into the dense, green forest, trepidation written on her face. Is he serious? Is he trying to kill me? There are much easier ways…
Edward picked up the bundle of items he had brought and took a step into the thicket of ferns and branches before looking back. "Are you ready?"
Ben was bouncing on the balls of his feet, his baseball bat making a thwack each time it hit the pavement. "C'mon, mommy! Let's go, let's go!"
"Seriously?" She stared at Edward, who, for all intents and purposes, looked as if he could give Survivorman a run for his money.
Edward sighed. "Of course I'm serious. It's not going to be as bad as you think. It's only about five miles or so."
Bella's eyes widened. "Five miles?" she screeched. "Edward, I can't walk five steps without practically breaking my neck. And that's on solid flooring! What makes you think that I can manage to go five miles through the woods and live to tell the tale?" Has he lost his mind?
"Let's go," Ben begged, his enthusiasm evident from his twitching posture.
Edward was instantly at her side. "Bella, I'll be right there to help you. I promise, you'll be fine. I'll carry you if I need to."
His butterscotch eyes told her that her well-being was his primary concern and she suddenly felt contrite. Just this morning, she had promised herself that she would do whatever she could to keep him from worrying – to keep him lighthearted and content. She shook her head. "No, I-I'll be okay. I just panicked for a second. Let's go! Ben's ready to take flight if we don't get moving." She plastered on what she hoped was a convincing smile.
Edward stared into her eyes for a few seconds longer before walking back to the pavement's edge. "All right, Benjamin! Here we go." He took Ben's hand and the three of them headed into the dense forest. "Bella, don't suffer in silence. If you need help, let me know. I can't read your mind," he added ruefully.
"'Kay," she hollered, paying close attention to where she placed her feet. "What exactly are we doing out here anyway?"
Edward held a Spruce branch out of her way. "Well, it's a nice day and we all need to enjoy it before Old Man Winter makes his appearance, which Alice says will happen in two weeks. Plus, I made you a promise a while back that I'm going to make good on today."
Ben was tugging his hand out of Edward's. "I wanna walk by m'self. Please, Edward?" he begged.
Edward unclasped Ben's small hand and then enclosed Bella's. At her beginning protest, he interrupted her. "He'll be fine. I can head him off before he gets into any trouble. Plus, I think you need the help more than he does." He nodded at Ben, who was walking slowly and softly singing to himself. From what Bella could hear, it was a totally original song.
"He's enjoying himself," she said softly.
She looked at him sardonically. "I'll enjoy myself more when we get to where we're going. I've never said I was a hiker."
Edward laughed out loud and the musical sound bouncing off of the trees sent a thrill through Bella.
"You're in a good mood today," she noted.
He smiled at her while keeping his eyes on Ben. "Yeah. It feels strange, actually, but…good. But for once, everything is working out like it should. I found you…and we have Ben. We're engaged. I finally have the family I've always dreamed of. Eric is gone. That monster in your life has been handled and will never return. You and Ben are safe and I just feel…relaxed. Content."
She smiled back at him and then groaned when he caught her as she tripped over a tree branch. "Stupid limb," she muttered. "I'm so happy that you're happy. You deserve to be happy, Edward. God, that sounded like a bad chorus of a song," she laughed.
He squeezed her hand. "As long as I'm with you, that's all I need."
Bella was overcome with emotion and did not trust herself to speak, so they continued on in a comfortable silence with Ben walking a few steps ahead. Finally, when Bella did not think she could hike much farther, she noticed the dimness of the woods was getting a bit lighter. "Are we almost there?"
Edward nodded. "Yes, just through those trees there."
Ben ran ahead and Bella did not stop him. She did not know if there was any danger nearby, but she trusted Edward; she knew that if he had heard or smelled anything that would be dangerous to Ben, he would have stopped his sudden sprint – moreover, she knew that Edward was the most dangerous thing in the forest anyway. She heard a faint whoopee and could not stop the grin that spread across her face.
Edward laughed softly.
Suddenly, Bella stepped through the final undergrowth of ferns and into the most beautiful meadow she had ever seen. It was perfectly round – almost as if it had been unnaturally made – and filled with soft, swaying grasses and wildflowers in a rainbow of colors. Above her, the sky was the perfect blue one rarely found on the Olympic Peninsula, with only a few large, puffy clouds in the sky. She gasped in surprise and pleasure. "Oh, Edward! It's beautiful." She turned around, reaching for his hand, but came up empty. He was nowhere to be found. "Edward?" she called.
"Right here," he replied, still hidden in the shadows of the forest.
"Why are you still standing there?" she asked, confused.
"Do you remember when you first figured out what I was? And you asked why my kind couldn't go out in the direct sunlight?"
She nodded, understanding dawning on her face. She glanced over her shoulder to check on Ben, who was swinging his bat at the butterflies. "Ben! Stop that! You're going to hurt the butterflies."
"Aw, mom! I tryin' to catch one!" He swung the bat again.
Bella was in a quandary. She wanted nothing more than to get to the heart of the matter on Edward and the sun, but she could not sit idly by and let her son decimate the butterfly population. "Hold that thought," she muttered to Edward, and then walked purposefully over to Ben, dodging out of the way of another swing. "Benjamin Andrew Swan! Put that bat down right now before you hit me!"
He dropped the bat, his eyes filling up with tears. "I sorry, mommy."
She dropped to her knees and pulled him into her arms. "I know, sweetheart. But I want you to listen to me very carefully. The only thing you can hit with your bat is a baseball, okay? You don't ever hit an animal, even a butterfly. Butterflies are too pretty to hurt."
"Whadda 'bout spiders? Can I squish spiders?" he asked, eyes wide.
She squeezed him tightly. "Yes, spiders and bugs are okay for you to squish. But not butterflies, all right? And you can chase them here, but you just cannot touch them. You'll hurt them. Understand?"
Ben nodded solemnly. "I sorry. I didn' mean it."
Bella kissed the top of his head. "I know. Now, you go chase the butterflies or pick some flowers while I go talk to Edward, okay? And you can't leave the meadow, which means you do not go into the trees for any reason."
He nodded his understanding and took off, his pudgy legs running as fast as he could. Bella laughed quietly to herself and then turned back to the other man in her life, who was still standing, unmoving, in the tree line.
"So, sunlight. What about it?" she asked, her eyes burning with curiosity.
Edward hesitated. "Bella, I don't want you to be shocked, but there is a very good reason why we do not allow humans to see us in sunlight."
"Does it hurt? Edward, if it hurts, then don't do it."
He shook his head. "No, it doesn't hurt. I told you that was just a myth. But, it may shock you. Well, here goes…" And with that, he stepped out of the trees and ferns and into the meadow where the bright sunlight hit his white, marble skin from every direction.
Bella gasped. Edward in shadow was enchanting, breathtaking, but Edward in the sunlight was…magnificent, stunning – almost too dazzling for words. "Oh, Edward," Bella whispered. "You're…you're beautiful."
Edward was simply beautiful; he was almost too beautiful to look at. His skin, while hard as stone to the touch, was currently glittering as if it was made not of granite, but of diamonds – billions of tiny diamond facets that now caught the light and glittered and bounced the colors of the light like a prism. Bella remembered when she once found a geode while on vacation with her mother during her nature phase and, at the time, had thought it the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. She recalled how she would sit in her room and just turn the stone, watching the sunlight bounce off of the embedded crystals. The geode now paled in comparison to the living one in front of her.
"Are you all right?" he asked her softly.
Bella pulled herself out of her reverie to look into his face that was sparkling just as the rest of him. "Of course. Why wouldn't I be?"
He smiled slightly. "Just wanted to check." Edward walked swiftly to where he wanted to make camp and set their picnic items down.
Bella followed silently and began spreading blankets out; however, she could not keep her eyes from this new discovery about Edward. "Why didn't you show me this before?"
Edward shrugged and then plopped down on the ground and stretched out, sighing in pleasure. "After we talked about it, all hell broke loose, and it was the farthest thing from my mind. Plus, this is the first sunny day we've had in the past 67 days."
"Oh." Bella was still somewhat speechless and so, silently sat down beside Edward. She reached for his hand, then drew her hand back before reaching for it again. "May I?" she finally asked. Normally, it was so easy for her to forget that her fiancé was a vampire and had a longing for her blood. Today, however, it was no trouble at all for her to remember exactly what he was.
"Of course." He laid his palm in her lap. "Ben, don't try to catch a bee. It'll sting you."
"'Kay," Ben replied, guilt evident in his voice.
Bella chuckled quietly. "Poor kid. He won't be able to get away with anything." She gently began stroking from his palm to the inside of his elbow, marveling at the kaleidoscope of lights that bounced off of his arm.
Edward sighed in pleasure. "You have no idea how wonderful that feels."
Bella stopped her massage and held his hand up to her face, attempting to see exactly what was causing the sparkling in his skin. She turned his hand over, but to her human eyes, all she could see was the whiteness of his skin. She could not see the individual facets, although his hand continued to ricochet the rays from the sun. "What makes it sparkle?" she murmured.
"Carlisle thinks it's because when we're changed, our skin turns into a material very similar to diamonds – since diamonds are the hardest substance on Earth – which would explain our skin substructure," Edward replied quietly, his eyes still closed. "That's why basically nothing can penetrate our skin."
Suddenly, Bella let out a giggle that she quickly stifled with her hand.
Edward opened his eyes, thinking Ben had done something to warrant a laugh, but Bella was looking at him. "What?"
She shook her head, another laugh shaking her frame. "Nothing," she choked out.
Edward smiled. "Bella, what is so funny?"
Bella bit her lip, not wanting to disclose to him why she was laughing as he would possibly think she was insane for her inappropriate thought. "Just never mind."
"Are you laughing at me?"
She finally pulled her legs up and rested her forehead on her knees, hiding her face from Edward. She choked as another giggle threatened to erupt.
"Bella, you're going to give me a complex. Now what is so funny?" Edward asked, partly amused and partly serious. He was not accustomed to being the brunt of jokes.
Bella looked up at Edward, tears running down her face. "Okay, but you promise you won't get mad at me?"
"Of course not." His tone, however, said otherwise.
She giggled again before speaking. "Okay, I just had the thought that…at our reception…if it was sunny…you-you could tie a rope…in a tree…and hang onto it." She bit her lip again, her face burning hot.
"Over the dance floor, Edward! Get it?"
He looked at her blankly.
Bella rolled her eyes. "Y-you could be…the d-disco ball!" she shouted in laughter, lying down on the ground and holding her stomach.
Edward shook his head as Bella continued to giggle, tears pouring down her face. "Now I did not expect this kind of reaction from you today. He could not help but laugh at the amusement she was having at his expense.
"I-I'm sorry, Edward," Bella replied breathlessly, wiping at her eyes. "I couldn't help it. It was just one of those random thoughts. Are you mad?"
He laughed softly. "Of course not. Anything that you can find that amusing, makes me happy."
"Whadd'ya laughin' at?" Ben asked, skipping over to them. He looked at Edward, sparkling in the sun, and tipped his head to the side. "Why're you all shiny, Edward?"
Edward smiled and pulled Ben into his lap. "It's part of my superhero powers," he whispered conspiratorially to Ben. "I use it to blind the bad guys."
"Ohhh," Ben whispered in awe. "Cool."
Bella snuggled up to Edward and was relieved when he put his arm around her. "I really am sorry, Edward." She nuzzled his neck and placed a soft kiss below his ear.
He kissed the top of her head and let Ben up, who was wriggling to go run. "It's okay, love. I understand that it's kind of shocking…even after all you've been through. But I'm not going to be the dance lighting at our wedding reception, so you can forget that."
"Come on, Edward!" Ben begged, baseball bat in hand. "You promised."
"Okay, kid. I'm coming. "Edward kissed Bella softly. "I'm going to go pitch to Ben for a while. You can lay here and relax if you want."
She nodded and rolled over to her side to watch them play baseball. She was so blissful, so…free. Edward really loved her and he had proven that by agreeing to give her the most significant wedding present of all – immortality. By doing so, he had confirmed that he wanted her by his side forever and was willing to go past human lengths to do so.
Bella was curious, however, about the actual process. Edward had never been forthcoming about the mechanics of vampire creation and events had been so chaotic that she had never thought to ask one of the Cullens. She would need to do some research before the wedding. She believed in being prepared.
The wedding. Bella groaned at the thought. Alice had been ecstatic when Bella and Edward had given her permission to plan their nuptials and Bella could only pray that Alice would not take it too far. She only needed a simple ceremony to make it official. She would have been happy eloping to Vegas, but she also knew that would have broken Alice's and Esme's hearts. Not to mention Charlie's, even though he would never have admitted to it.
She watched Ben swinging the bat as hard as he could, and the few times he actually made contact with the ball, Edward instantly grabbed it in the air. Ben was so trusting with Edward – with all of the Cullens. And Charlie. He had finally received an extended family that was spoiling him rotten. Bella suddenly felt a lump in her throat at the thought of having to leave him after the wedding. Can I do it? Can I leave him for that long? Am I doing the right thing?
She groaned and flopped back onto the blanket, covering her eyes with her hands. She knew she had made all of the right decisions since arriving in Forks. It was just that human decisions were not meant to intersect with the supernatural world; but if she wanted to join Edward for eternity, then she would have to leave temporarily as she would not risk Ben's life.
Maybe it won't be that bad. Maybe you'll get a grip pretty quickly and can come back in a couple of months. She was not sure if her little pep talk would do her any good, but she tried. Because there were two things she was sure of.
She could not live without either one.
She would not survive without them both.
Regardless of her decision, she would continue to be Ben's mother, vampire or human. And she refused to relinquish either Ben or Edward. She would have both.
But there was only one way she would be able to remain with Edward for eternity.
She would have to become her own monster.
End Notes: Well? I'd love to hear what you thought. I know that many of you are probably staring at your screen, your mouths hanging open, like "what the hell?" and "why did she stop there? Bella is still human!" Well, I'm going to answer that right now.
When I started this story, I had a specific plot that I wanted to write, which was the 'Bella running from Eric and finding Edward, Edward and Bella fall in love, Eric finds Bella, and Edward saves the day.' That is the story I wrote in Deliver Me From Evil. Of course, when you keep the Cullens as vampires, you still have to address the plot line of changing Bella vs. keeping her human. Once my plot was resolved, I chose to complete the story, instead of changing my mind and writing another 25 chapters of DMFE. I don't like reading stories like that and I did not think I could write a story like that.