This one-shot is a birthday gift for my bestest-ever real-life cousin, radioactive77....and I am rolling out the Way-Back Time Machine and everyone is going to pretend it is late April and not mid June and that Minerva is NOT late with her fabulous gift of Edward/Bella warm and fuzzies. *turns on the Way-Back Time Machine* Hey look! It's APRIL! See how that selective reality works? It's an awesome thing. *wink*
So this one is for you, radioactive77...I hope that your birthday will be fantastic and kick-ass...and I will totally be buying several rounds of drinks the next time we are in the same state...and now...let the FLUFF commence! XD
Oh yeah... standard disclaimers...I do not own these characters and this story is not making a profit of any kind.
Ever After Eternal
A multitude of dark umbrellas filled the sidewalks as a heavy drizzle of rain fell upon the city streets. Light thunder rumbled in the distance, and Edward put his arm around Bella's shoulder and pulled her tight against him; each hunching under the bright red cover of the umbrella Alice had packed for them.
The fact that Alice even packed umbrellas should have been his first clue that she wasn't being entirely forthright about their plans.
The skies were overcast, blending into the gray stone of the buildings surrounding them. Waiters scurried to move small tables and chairs out of the rain as the heavy drizzle began to grow into a nice, fat thunderstorm.
Edward sighed as lightning arced across the sky. Alice's glee was a blaring in his mind - she was full of visions of her and Bella trying on clothes in an endless number of boutiques, purchasing shoes in every color and variety, and handbags from every designer.
He closed his eyes and cursed to himself for thinking this would be a wonderfully romantic weekend for him and Bella, and for thinking he could trust Alice when it came to shopping in Paris.
* * *
He blinked a few times as a pair of plane tickets fell across the book he was reading. "What's this?" he asked.
"Tickets for the trip that you and Bella are going to agree to accompany me and Jasper on this weekend," Alice stated and smiled in that smug 'don't-argue-against-a-psychic' way.
Edward looked down. "Paris?" he asked. Alice never went to Paris unless it was time for a major shopping trip. His eyes narrowed and he tried to sift through her plans, but got only hazy bits and pieces of weather forecasts. "You know that Bella hates clothes shopping. She hasn't even worn a quarter of the pieces you have already bought for her."
Alice's lower lip jutted out in a pout and she huffed. "Yes, and now all of that stuff is out of season! Come on, Edward, don't be a spoil sport," she said. "I'll make a deal with you - you talk Bella into this and we'll only go shopping when the weather is bad. The rest of the time is yours to spend being romantic."
Edward filtered through her thoughts again, only seeing images of picture perfect nights a few drizzles of rain.
"I wouldn't have bought the tickets if I knew you weren't going to say yes."
He sighed. "Alright. I'll talk Bella into it. But remember our deal - no shopping if the weather is nice."
She smiled wide and gave him a hug. "Deal."
* * *
Bella's right arm wrapped around his waist and she leaned her head against his shoulder as they walked, her left still holding the umbrella. "I never thought a vampire could drop dead from too much shopping," she said, "But I may become the first."
Edward nuzzled his nose into her damp hair, shifting the numerous bags in his left hand. "Alice's shopping trips are tests of endurance," he muttered. He paused for a moment, and then whispered, "I had more planned that just shopping, you know."
Bella sighed and looked up at him as they followed Alice to the next store. "I haven't had the chance to spend any time alone with you yet," she said with a pout.
Edward squeezed his fingers around her shoulder. "That's because someone fibbed about the weather reports," he stated.
The glaring pink umbrella in front of them stopped suddenly and Alice turned around with a peculiar look upon her face. Her eyes darted from Edward to Bella and back again. "A deal is a deal, Edward," she said, looking between the two of them once again. "The next store is girls only...you boys can entertain yourselves for a while, can't you?"
Edward couldn't help but laugh at the images of lacy unmentionables flashing through Alice's thoughts but Bella began to protest. "Alice, I'm shopped out. Do you mind if we take a break?"
A look of pure horror and hurt crossed Alice's face. "But...but this next store is the most important one!" She leaned in close to Bella's ear and whispered, "This store got you through your honeymoon," she said with a pointed look at Bella. "Don't argue. Come on, let's go!" And with one quick motion she grabbed Bella's arm and began to haul her across the street under that silly pink umbrella that stood out like a sore thumb amongst the black and gray of wet Parisian streets.
Bella turned to look back at Edward, her face a mixture of bewilderment and irritation. Edward shrugged his shoulders and mouthed 'have fun' to her as Alice swung open the door and pushed her inside. He probably should have stopped Alice, but she was right.
It was the most important store.
He would have Bella model her new purchases later on...after it stopped raining. Yet, as if on cue, lightning flashed again and thunder boomed across the sky. The rain fell harder and Edward had the sinking feeling there would only be about fifteen minutes of nice weather - which would occur 30 minutes before their plane left.
One day he would learn not to make deals with Alice.
* * *
Finding themselves alone on the street corner in the pouring rain, Edward and Jasper looked at each other. "Bookstore?" Jasper thought.
"Definitely," Edward replied. They located one a few streets down - a small, quiet shop filled to the brim with antique volumes of all sorts. It was dark and unorganized and every available inch of space was piled with stacks of books, each varying in color and size. The scent of old paper and ink permeated the walls. A small fire was lit in a tiny but ornate fireplace, filling the room with warmth.
Jasper and Edward ducked in and shook the rain from their umbrellas and hair, setting their bounty of bags on the floor near the entrance. There were only two people in the store - an elderly man behind the desk who looked as old as his collection...small thin wisps of silver hair stuck out at all angles and a pair of thin wire glasses perched upon his nose; his face was weathered and deeply wrinkled. He didn't even bother to glance up at them, and Edward assumed he was drifting in and out of sleep based on his random thoughts.
The other was a middle-aged man encased in a thick red woolen sweater with his attention focused solely on the military history book in his hands. He didn't pay much attention to them either - his mind too engrossed in tank upgrades during World War I.
Without a word, Jasper headed towards the back row of shelves to peruse the philosophy section. He had been talking and thinking about studying it the next time he went to college, wondering secretly if it may give him some perspective on his struggle with their diet. Edward couldn't blame him for wanting answers. He had gone on his own dark struggle long ago, coming back worn and tired and hating himself. Some things like blood lust would always be a struggle.
But he wouldn't tell Jasper that. Not yet - not in this decade, at least.
Edward's gaze swept across the endless rows of books looking for something to capture his interest. He wasn't in the mood for things like history or biographies or stuffy literature this time...but he couldn't quite say what he was looking for.
Something different, something to call out his name...
His shoes squeaked as he wandered down aisle after aisle, wandering aimlessly amongst the thousands of subjects. Edward looked up, and there it was. Tucked away one the end of a shelf was a small book bound in a muted yellow binding. He pulled it gently from its place and ran his long fingers across the canvas covering, the title imprinted deep in gold leaf as art nouveau lines and adornments filled the space around it. Une Collection de Contes de Fées - A Collection of Fairy Tales.
It was not his typical reading material, but he turned and headed up to the front to find a place to sit down and unwind. Shrugging off his damp pea-coat and hanging it on the coat rack, Edward seated himself in one of the overstuffed armchairs between the fireplace and the front window of the store. The rain came steadily now, cascading down the panes in rivulets while the fire crackled and popped, sending tiny sparks of embers up to the chimney. He ran his fingers through his wet hair, settled in, and opened the book.
It had been decades since he could stand to read a fairy tale.
In fact, he had loathed them - there were too many happy endings, there were too many handsome knights in white rescuing beautiful princesses...and there were too many monsters like him among the pages.
* * *
"You don't like fairy tales?" Bella questioned, her eyebrow raising as she shut down her computer, the English essay finished for tomorrow's homework. "What's not to like about them?"
He fought to come up with some sort of intelligent answer in response, but failed miserably. "It's just that...life is not a fairy tale," he said. "And the monsters like me never wound up with the princess in the end," he said, looking at her with a rueful smirk playing across his face.
She frowned and stared down at him laying across her bed; her hands going to her hips. "You are not a monster, Edward."
"Aren't I? The knight in shining armor never wanted to drain the princess dry or had to worry about breaking her bones with a simple kiss."
Bella sighed and rolled her eyes at him before pulling the covers back and crawling into bed. The mattress sunk slightly below her weight, and he raised his arm and waited on her to settle in, curled up against his side before he lowered his arm gently around her shoulder. Her soft heartbeat echoed through his silent bones, and she moved her hand up to trace delicate touches along his jaw. "I'm not a princess," she muttered against his neck, her hair tickling his cheek.
Edward couldn't help but let out a chuckle. "You don't see yourself very clearly, do you?" he whispered, running the tips of his fingers along her back, reveling in the warmth of her through his clothes.
"Neither do you," she replied, pressing her lips against his cold skin for a moment. "Maybe we both need glasses."
He laughed louder this time, careful not to wake her father. With a quick turn, he rolled Bella onto her back. Edward hovered over her and brushed wayward bangs out of her face. "Now there's a fairy tale that sounds believable - The Tale of the Myopic Vampire," he chuckled. Bella laughed and smiled and as she stared at him, her brows began to furrow.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"Nothing. I was just trying to picture you in glasses, that's all," she said with a wide smile. "It wasn't working."
Edward grinned and leaned down, running his lips against her brow, and her fingers came up to thread through his hair. "I can see you clearly enough, that's all that matters," he murmured into her skin.
Bella sighed and wrapped her arms tight around his neck, pulling herself closer to him. "And I can see you...you're no monster, Edward Cullen," she said. "But don't all princesses get a kiss at least? Isn't that some sort of fairy tale requirement?" she asked with a smile, her eyes mischievous and hopeful.
He couldn't stop the smirk. "You know, I believe it is," he replied thoughtfully and bent down, taking her lips against his own.
* * *
Edward stared down at the pages of the book, lost in thought and memories over monsters and knights and princesses...and fairy tale endings.
He had never expected a happily-ever-after for his life - monsters didn't get those, after all. They lived in the shadows, indifferent and scared of the world until they were unlucky enough to capture a glimpse of beauty - beauty that could never be theirs - princesses didn't want monsters, after all. They wanted the knights in shining armor who would slay the monster for daring to reach for his own dreams...
Edward had spent years distracting himself from the emptiness inside; years spent ignoring the love between his family members; years spent convincing himself that he really didn't mind being alone; years spent hiding in the darkness; years spent loathing what he had become.
He looked up as the rain picked up and pelted sharp against the panes, a chill breeze found it's way under the door and across his damp feet. Edward had never had the courage to reach for the fairy tale before - not until an accident-prone princess had tripped and crashed straight into his path, breaking through the blur of endless faces that raced by through the decades.
The one who gave him a glimpse of love, of beauty...
The one he was willing to sacrifice himself for one delicate kiss...
The one who didn't seem to care he was a monster...
That one glimpse of love was enough to ruin his life forever - to make him throw all of those hard and fast rules out the window with barely a glance.
There was no way to live without her now. Even now, now that she was a vampire and they had eternity, it would never be enough time to sate his desire for Bella...little, clumsy, breakable Bella...who was now strong, confident, and stunning Bella. The princess had given up everything to be with him - and he had selfishly taken it all.
She had stripped Edward bare of all defenses - and now he could never face the world without her.
Jasper walked close by, headed towards another stack of books, and his eyes flitted over to Edward. 'You alright?' he thought, breaking through Edward's epiphany.
Edward blinked, looking up at him and seeing concern and a haunting familiar darkness on his face.
It didn't take being an empath to recognize the ghosts of long dead times. Edward forced a small smile on his face. "Just...memories," he whispered low, too low for the human occupants of the shop to overhear.
His brother nodded minutely. 'I know.' Jasper paused for a moment, his thoughts flitting through pieces of his dark and bloody past before settling on his favorite memories of Alice.
Edward knew them just as well as Jasper since he thought of them constantly - especially his favorite - the one where Alice had bound into his life, throwing her arms around him and announced that he had kept her waiting for far too long.
"Look, Edward," Jasper whispered, "When life hands you something good, you gotta keep hold of it...you gotta do whatever it takes to make them happy." He smiled and nodded toward the large pile of shopping bags. "Even if it means following them for days around Paris and going into every single store and telling them how pretty they look in every outfit...even if it means giving up human blood, and lettin' her drag you across the country to live with complete strangers," he said, pausing. "And even if it means letting her pick out your underwear..." Jasper winked and smirked. "So what I'm getting at is...do what it takes to make Bella happy, Edward. And don't worry 'bout Alice...I can distract her," he said.
Jasper stood and headed towards an unexplored shelf, putting his hand on Edward's shoulder and squeezing once. Edward breathed deep and glanced back down at the open book in his lap. A delicate watercolor depicting a magical forest covered both pages, filled with bright, fresh wildflowers and a few magical creatures peeking over the top of the grass. Sunlight filtered down, mottled through layers of green leaves to fall soft against the forest floor and highlighted a clearing through the trees.
It looked like exactly like their meadow.
Their special meadow...where all of his lies and masks had dropped away to leave him free and light...where her inhibition had faded, giving her the strength to go after what she wanted...where they each let the other into the reality - against all rationale, against all notions of safety, against all sense.
It was where the monster peeked from the shadows...and had dared to reach out for his beauty.
And beauty dared to reach back for her monster.
Edward closed his eyes, teeth biting into his lower lip as he relived it all - Bella's hesitant touches along his hand...so innocent, so curious...those little touches that made all else seem insignificant...made the thought of her cold body under his hands repulsive...made the world unbearable without her.
* * *
Alice's stream of thoughts tickled against his consciousness, and he looked up to the window and out to the darkened street.
Out of the corner of his eye Edward caught a fleeting glimpse of the most beautiful woman he had ever remembered seeing, huddled tight under a familiar pink umbrella. Long dark hair trailed down over her shoulders, soft pale skin peeked out from the tresses...she was gorgeous.
He looked again, and his breath caught as he realized it was Bella.
His throat tightened, and knew he would do whatever it took to keep her happy - and the first thing to make her happy would be to rescue her from this shopping trip.
Bella looked up and around, as if sensing someone watching her. Eventually she spotted him through the window, a smile brightening across her face - just for him. She gave a small wave, and Edward smiled back and waved. "Be there in a second," he said, knowing she would hear him, even though the window and all of the rain.
Quickly paying for the book, Edward gathered his coat while Jasper reached out for the bags. "Don't worry about these, I'll take care of them," Jasper said with a knowing smirk. "Just go make your girl happy."
Edward gave Jasper a grateful hug. "Thank you," he said, dashing outside and through deep puddles of water up to his ankles. But he didn't care. There were more important things to be thinking about.
He ducked under the umbrella and wrapped his arms around Bella's waist, pulling her close and laying a passionate kiss on her lips, sucking her bottom lip between his own. She kissed him back, one tiny hand clinging to the heavy material on the lapel of his coat.
Edward broke away finally, but didn't dare look away from her eyes. "Alice," he said. "I think you know the deal is off and you're on your own." Bella looked at him in confusion, but he just winked at her. Realization dawning, her expression brightened and she looked ecstatic - just the thing he had been missing on this entire trip.
"Edward...you wouldn't dare! We had a deal!" Alice muttered. "And we haven't even gotten to Dior yet!"
Jasper wrapped his arms around Alice's waist, leaning in to whisper in her ear. "I don't think you spent nearly enough time in that lingerie store, babe...what say you and me go back and pick out something together, hmmm?"
Taking advantage of the distraction, Edward reached down to interlace his fingers with his wife's and the two of them raced off down the street, their hands clasped tight and umbrella forgotten.
* * *
Edward and Bella laughed as cold rain pelted against their skin...as they darted in and around people on the sidewalk...as they got lost in the narrow alleyways of Paris...as the sun finally set behind thick gray clouds. The wet cobblestones glinted from the soft yellow street lamps, and they found themselves alone on a dark and deserted street.
Edward pulled them into a dry doorway, pressing Bella against the wall of the building with his weight. His hands rested against the bricks on either side of her head...and when he looked at her, his breath left him.
She was beautiful, there in the dim light...with wet hair splayed across her face, with drops of rain glistening on her skin, her subtle scent blossoming...he stopped and stared in amazement for one brief moment. He had wanted to stop and tell her how much he loved her, how much he had wanted to do this...but the words died in his throat. All he could do was stare.
Bella grew impatient with his admiration and her hands reached up for his face and drew him closer, claiming her kiss. He wrapped his large hands around her waist and pressed up against her; Bella's fingers threaded through his hair as her other hand dropped to his side, sliding under his coat. Her fingers hooking around his belt loops, dragging him closer against her.
The rain fell harder and more lightning flashed, but it didn't matter.
Nothing mattered but this moment and this kiss.
This girl - this woman - had turned the fairy tale on its head - instead of running from the monster, she sought him out, daring to rescue him...and for some reason he could still never fathom, she loved him.
Thunder rumbled around them through the blackness. Edward pulled back from their kiss, his lips finding a soft trail around the shell of her ear. "I want to show you my favorite spot in Paris. Will you come with me?" he whispered, his eyes closing at the wisps of her breath against his cheek.
He felt her smile and giggle softly. "I'll go anywhere as long as you're with me," she replied. Bella looked up and caught his gaze, rocking up on her toes to kiss him again.
* * *
They wound through narrowed streets and past lighted windows and colorful flower boxes..over old stone bridges and smooth aged cobblestone...up and up, higher and higher through the steep alleys of Paris.
And then suddenly the pair rounded the corner, and emerged on the terrace of a massive white church, brilliantly lit against the black night, shining like a beacon in the darkness. The crowds had left long ago with the setting of the sun and the downpour - it was only the pair of them, soaked to the bone in wet clothes - but finally alone.
Bella stopped and looked up in wonder. "Wow, it's beautiful," she murmured.
"Sacre Coeur," Edward replied. "The best spot to see Paris, and you don't have to deal with the crowds like at the Eiffel Tower," he informed her. "Come this way," he said, leading her over to a sidewalk hidden under small growth of trees on the side of the building; the path headed deep into the dark shadows.
"Where are we going?" she asked.
"Back entrance," he replied with a smile. When he reached the right spot, he stopped and pulled her onto his back. "Hang on," he whispered, pulling her hands around his neck, waiting for her to wrap her legs around his hips. When she was settled, Edward launched himself up onto the building, jumping from point to point, headed for the large center dome.
After a few leaps he reached the passageway that ringed the largest of the three domes, and let Bella slide between the pillars. They hopped down into the quiet darkness. Bella shook the rain out of her hair, and Edward reached up to smooth wet strands away from her face. "Okay. Turn around now," he whispered.
She let out a soft gasp. "So many lights," she whispered. "It's beautiful, Edward." The entire panorama of Paris lay lit up before them. The rain had decided to let up briefly, giving a yellow halo to the outline of lights that seemed to stretch out forever. Muffled sounds of the city carried through the night, but all else was quiet and still. They stood there for a long while, simply enjoying the scenery and each other.
Edward pulled her back to his chest and rested his chin on her shoulder. "I'm sorry Alice dragged you to so many stores," he said. "I know you hate that."
Bella laughed. "It's all right. It made her happy," she replied.
He nuzzled against her neck. "You know...we could just...run away and hide out for the rest of the trip," he murmured. "Just you," he said as he kissed her neck, "and me," kiss, "and Paris," kiss, "and that bag of lingerie you just bought."
Their laughter mingled and echoed off of the stone walls, and Edward pulled her around and kissed her lips.
* * *
Eventually they managed to disentangle themselves long enough to get down from Sacre Coeur and head out to find a suitable hotel of their own, away from the cold wind and rain.
The thunder rumbled sharp and the rain gave up the brief respite. Edward lead them back towards the heart of the city. He remembered a wonderful little hotel he had always wanted to stay at - quiet and modern yet classic...it had certainly looked promising. Perhaps they would be lucky enough to catch a room with a bathtub large enough for two.
The desk clerk eyed the dripping puddles they were leaving on the polished marble lobby floor and swore under his breath at their impudence. But Edward was too focused on Bella's fingers lightly grazing along the top edge of his jeans, catching a small sliver of skin here and there, every so often those fingers would dip down oh so slightly between the fabric and his skin...he couldn't even muster up the ability to cast a glare at the clerk.
Keys in hand, the elevator dinged right on cue and they stepped in, followed by several other patrons. It was too crowded, and now their clothes were icy cold and uncomfortable. Edward leaned up along the far corner and pulled Bella back against his chest, instinctively running his hands up and down her arms to warm her up. Sometimes it was easy to forget she wasn't as breakable as she used to be. Bella laid her head against his chest and he dropped a kiss to the top of her hair.
Their room was simple yet spacious and clean and - most importantly - quiet and dark. Soft green duvets covered the bed topped with numerous pillows. A gas fireplace with a small mahogany mantle took up one corner, already lit and filling the room with a soft golden warmth; a wardrobe and dressers took up the rest of the space.
But Edward didn't notice any of that.
He only noticed Bella as she shook off the rain, her face still excited. "Let's get out of these wet clothes, shall we?" he asked innocent enough.
Bella arched a brow at him, and began to help him shrug off his grey pea coat. The book of fairy tales, still wrapped tight in its plastic bag, fell out of his coat pocket to the floor. She bent down to pick it up. "What's this?" she asked, doing away with the plastic and opening the book to flip through the pages.
He guided her gently to the edge of the bed and sat her down, kneeling at her feet to strip off her wet shoes and socks. "Mm, a book on fairy tales I picked up at that bookstore," he said absently, concentrating on undoing the double knot she still tied in her tennis shoes.
She flipped through a few more pages. "I thought you didn't like fairy tales."
Edward looked up, catching her smirk. Leaning forward, he slid his hands around her waist, his chest laying against her thighs...wet socks entirely forgotten. "Maybe I found one I like," he said, brushing wet hair out of her face.
She tossed the book off to the side and slid her arms across his shoulders and down his back, leaning in close. "And which one is that?" she murmured, her lips ghosting against his forehead.
"The Tale of the Myopic Vampire and the Klutzy Princess," he replied, letting his fingers slide under the edge of her sweater, seeking out soft skin.
Bella pressed her lips to his face. "Mm, never heard of that one. What's it about?"
It was hard to think as her fingers bunched up the fabric of his shirt, intent on pulling it over his head. "It...was a tale about a horrible monster who had lived for years in this dark cave, until one day a...great beauty came by and tripped...right into his arms," he finally managed to stutter out. Pulling away slightly, he let her tug on the arms of his shirt. "Only the princess... was too bull-headed to fear him or run away from him," he said, his voice muffled as the shirt caught on his chin.
"Ouch!" he whined as she yanked on the shirt harder than she needed, scowling at him when he was finally free of it. Edward smirked and pursed his lips. "But the monster fell in love with her...and she fell in love with the monster," he whispered as he traced the outline of her lips with his finger.
Her eyes fluttered closed. "Hmm, sounds intriguing," she murmured. "What happened at the end?"
Edward grinned and grabbed the edges of her sweater, pulling it up and off. "The monster married her before she could realize what a mistake she was making and run away screaming into the night," he said as his hands slid down the naked skin of her arms. "And then...they lived happily ever after, and the monster took her to Paris for a second honeymoon."
Bella paused and looked at him with soft eyes. Her arms worked down underneath his and pulled him up from the floor. Edward hovered over her as she lay back against the thick covers. "It sounds like a good story," she said.
"It happens to be my favorite," he whispered, settling in along side of her, his fingers trailing along her stomach.
"I think you've got it wrong though."
He pulled back and looked into her amber eyes...not brown, not any more. "And what exactly do I have wrong?" he asked.
She rolled both of them over so that Edward lay on his back; she pushed thick bronze hair away from his face. "You're wrong about the monster. Perhaps the Klutzy Princess never saw him that way at all," she said, her fingers tracing the contours of his face...across his brow, down his nose, over his eyelids. "Maybe she saw him as a Prince in shining armor - one who waited alone through the years - waiting just for his destiny to trip into his arms."
Edward opened his eyes, looking up at her...the Klutzy Princess of his destiny. And she was so very beautiful...and she was his. He raised up and kissed her hard. "I still think you don't see the Princess very clearly," he said when they broke away.
Bella laughed and nuzzled his neck. "And I still think you need glasses," she retorted.
In the quiet warmth with the fire crackling and rain pouring while lost in Paris - the Myopic Vampire wrapped himself around his Klutzy Princess...and thought that perhaps fairy tales weren't so bad after all, and that maybe his sister should make his wife shop for lingerie more often, and that maybe he should get lost with Bella more often, and that maybe...maybe the wait had been worth it.
And maybe they would live happily ever after.