Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer owns the plot and characters of Twilight, not to mention all the money it makes. I make nothing but fanfiction.
I have two confessions.
The first is that this chapter is short because it was supposed to just be a continuation of the last one but I ended up posting it in two unequal parts and so while the last chapter was probably my longest this one is my shortest.
The second confession I have is that I've been stalling. I'm still doing it, which is why you're still reading this. I hate goodbyes, and it almost feels like I'm putting them to sleep. You know, they're going to live on a farm, with bunnies and sheep. Yeah.
I know I keep saying it, but I don't say it enough: Twilightzoner is awesome. I made some seriously dumb ass mistakes (misspelled Emmett's name over and over for instance) and yet not once has she called me a dumb ass. In fact, I'm hoping I can take her up on that offer to keep her as my beta for all future endeavors. Because I'm greedy like that.
So without further stalling, I give you the finale.
Chapter 15 - Epilogue: An Occasion aka "The Part That Comes After"
"It feels weird being here without you."
"I know, but it's temporary. You need to finish what you've started, for yourself and for Charlie."
"I know," she huffed, but I knew I'd already won the argument. "I just miss you."
I smiled, tossing myself onto my bed and scrubbing my fingers through my hair. "I miss you, too. I'll see you soon. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and Christmas comes right after, and then it'll be spring semester and you'll be here."
Alice and Jasper were going to New York. Emmett and Rosalie were headed for LA. I was going to Dartmouth, and Bella was staying in Forks. Because no matter how many breakthroughs she made in therapy, how well she learned to cope with stress and anxiety and confrontation, or how big of a difference just a little bit of medication made, she wasn't ready. There had been slips. We had had fights.
"You promise your roommate is some fat guy and not a slinky blonde coed?"
I chuckled, shaking my head. "I promise."
She sighed, and I heard rustling over the line, like she was snuggling into her pillow. "I'm being unreasonable. My insecurity is irrational. I was just having a really good time all summer."
I smiled fondly. "I had fun, too, Bella."
Charlie had invited me over to dinner often enough, sometimes to watch a game, other times just for one of Bella's incredible fish dinners. I wouldn't say we bonded, but Bella would sit at the dinner table and try to narrate the life story of every piece of fish, or make up a running commentary during the games, turning each one into a soap opera and distracting us until I was smothering laughter and Charlie was huffing in annoyance. But I saw the small imperceptible twitches of his moustache and the twinkle in his eye, and I knew he enjoyed it. Time with Bella. Fun with Bella. I enjoyed it, too.
The summer had come whirling with bonfires and parties that Bella was only allowed to go to with me. I was subjected to a breath examination by Carlisle every time I went back home after one. The man killed my fun.
But Bella was just as restricted as I was, and most of the time that meant we sat together apart from the rest, sometimes talking about her therapy, sometimes talking about music, sometimes arguing about politics, sometimes comparing favorite Seinfeld episodes and sometimes not talking at all. Sometimes we held hands. Sometimes her face looked drawn and tired, and I knew she was fighting. But then she'd smile at me, dazzling and brilliant and so honest and sincere, and I knew she was winning.
"I don't want the fun to be over, Edward." She sounded small and scared, and I groaned.
"That's not fair, Bella. You know I'm not leaving you. I'll be back."
"I know. I'm projecting. Tanya says I can't help it."
I could hear the smugness in her voice, and I chuckled again. "Tanya doesn't know what hit her."
"Shut up." She sighed again, sounding more at ease. "Is it cold in New Hampshire?"
I shrugged, not wanting to sound as emotional as I felt. "Cold. Kinda weird. All uptight and boring."
"You'll be okay."
"I'll be okay."
"We'll be okay?"
I smiled, wanting so much to just be able to touch her in that moment. "We'll be okay."
Because she was fighting, and because I wasn't going to leave. Because she was winning, and I got to watch her come alive. Because at Alice and Jasper's magnificent fanfare of a wedding just the week before, I had kissed her under the oak behind the church, and it had never felt so right.
Because by spring, she was in Dartmouth, too.
Five years later.
"Where's my fucking cap?"
"How should I know where your fucking cap is?"
"Because you're the one who bought the fucking cap! What do you mean you don't know where it is?"
"What the fuck are you talking about? I didn't buy a fucking cap."
She turned to look at me, her eyes wide in horror. "You didn't buy me a fucking cap?"
She pressed her palms to the sides of her head as someone knocked on the door. I practically ran in my haste to open it. Someone had come to save me.
"I got you a cap." Rosalie shoved a plastic bag into my chest, and I let out a strangled sound of glee, throwing my arms around her.
"You're so good to me, step-sister."
She grunted. "Sure thing, step-brother."
"Get off of her already, Cullen," Bella hissed.
"Christ, Bella. You not giving him any, or what?" Rosalie joked.
"Why the fuck should I give him any when he keeps forgetting to buy my shit?" Bella snatched the bag out of my hand, and I rolled my eyes, following her to the bedroom. She was standing in front of the mirror which hung on the closet door, carefully placing the cap on her perfectly styled hair. She was wearing makeup today, something I hadn't seen her do often in all the time we'd been together. But of course, today was special. I slipped my hand into my pocket and fingered the small item I had there. Very special.
"You look beautiful," I said softly, and she turned her head to look at me, clearly surprised at the tenderness in my voice.
She blushed a scarlet that warmed my heart and smiled. "Thank you." And she did look so breathtaking, even in the goofy billowy gown and the silly cap. She went to the bed and picked up my suit jacket, helping me into it and pinning a carnation to the lapel. "You look very handsome." She kissed me softly when she was done, and we giggled as her cap bumped my forehead and all her hard work was wasted.
I took her hand in mine, linking our fingers together and leading her back to the entryway where Rose was giggling into Emmett's mouth. "Dude, stop sucking my sister's face in my house."
He chuckled and released her, wagging his eyebrows at me. "Fine, I'll just suck her face in the back seat of your car."
Rosalie rolled her eyes, but smiled at me and led Emmett out by the arm. "Hey Rose," I stopped her, and she turned around with questioning eyes. "You look perfect."
She smiled warmly. "Thanks, step-brother."
Bella squeezed my hand in approval. When Carlisle and Esme had first gotten hitched, Rosalie and I had faced serious turbulence. Bella and Emmett had indulged in scheme after scheme to try to force us into friendship, finally resorting to locking us into the rec room with canned food and stacks of Jet Li DVDs. Rosalie had drilled me about Bella, if I was treating her right, if I was going to fuck this up, that she'd kill me in my fucking sleep. I snapped at her that she didn't need to tell me this shit, I was all in and I wasn't backing out. Somehow, six hours into it, she started to listen. She seemed convinced. She gave me her approval. And then we watched a movie. Three hours later, Bella and Emmett came in to check on us and watched with wide-eyes the beginnings of siblinghood between the two of us. An unlikely outcome if I ever saw one, but there it was. She was a raving bitch, and it seemed I loved her for it.
Of course, that was over four years ago now. Rose and I had only gotten closer since then, which only made Bella happier. Which in turn made me happier.
As we got into the car, Rosalie squealed. "Turn it up, turn it up!"
Emmett groaned and kicked my seat. "Since when did you start listening to Hall & Oates?"
I shrugged, smiling. "You gotta know your roots, Emmett."
Bella snorted. "Damn right. You don't know jack shit about music if you can't appreciate the oldies. Isn't that right, Rose?"
Rosalie laughed, leaning forward to pick up one of my CDs from the arm rest. "Well, I guess all your musical education is finally paying off, Bella. This is a pretty good CD. I never took you for a Smiths fan, step-brother."
I shrugged and Bella laughed. "Call it sentimental."
"Jasper and Alice are meeting us there," Emmett announced, reading a text. "Alice says she's got a reservation someplace at eight, so we'll all leave together after the ceremony."
I nodded. They'd flown in from New York for this. When the five of us had graduated simultaneously last year, none of us got to see one another until the summer. But for Bella's graduation now, everyone was getting together. It was going to be strangely nostalgic, and strangely bittersweet, and if I knew Jasper, and I was certain I did, it would be a little bit awkward. But that was how we were, the six of us together. So modern and fucked and inappropriate. I smiled remembering the four hour phone call Alice and I had the night before, discussing all the details of tonight. She was the only one that knew of my plans.
As we got out of the car at the university, I put my hand in my pocket once again to touch the item I kept there.
"You okay?" Bella asked softly.
I looked down at Bella, smiling up at me, her brown eyes full of love, and I smiled back without having to think about it. "More than okay." I wrapped one arm around her waist and kissed her, restraining myself from devouring her mouth the way I wanted to. Because she was amazing -- bitter and angry and dysfunctional and sensitive and frightened and insecure and loving and loyal and protective and beautifully imperfect -- and she was mine.
I released her reluctantly when Emmett made gagging noises. She rolled her eyes and called him a monkey cock. Beautiful.
"Hey Bella, look who's here." Rosalie's voice indicated barely-contained amusement, and I followed her gaze to the leggy busty strawberry blonde in graduation gear trying to hide her black-hennaed hands under white silk gloves.
I chuckled as Bella smiled mischievously, cupping her hands around her mouth to call out. "Hey Kate!" The blonde stiffened. "Nice gloves!"
Everyone between the parking lot and the quad turned to stare, and Kate looked like she was on the verge of tears. I chuckled again, putting my arm around Bella's shoulder. "You ready to go, love?"
She nodded, beaming up at me. "I'm ready."
And she was. I was ready, too. We were both ready, because nothing ever felt as right as this and nothing ever would. We were wonky and foolish, and we were brave and stupid. I felt it so acutely as we walked towards her graduation ceremony, willing to face the world, Bella by my side and a small velvet box in my pocket, housing the ring I would put on her finger tonight.
We were ready.
So fucking ready.
A new story will be going up once I get some incubating done. I have a general idea of what I want the characters to be like (very different from this ditty) but no idea for an actual plot yet, and I'm told plot is actually important. Those of you who liked what you've read, please keep an eye on my profile for new shit.
Thank you and goodnight!