Hi everyone! Sorry that it took me so long to finally post this, but updating late is sort of my thing, and I could hardly do anything different with the final chapter of "Eternity." To everyone who's been reading this fic since 2009, thank you so much for staying with me all this time! (When I started, I never could have imagined that I'd be writing the last chapter in 2014.) For those of you who started later, also thank you! You too are much appreciated. :)
I've had a lot of fun writing this story, and I'm sad to see it end (which further explains the delay in posting this—yes, I have been stalling), but I'm very happy that so many people have enjoyed "Eternity" over the years. So, one last time, thank you for reading! (And please know that I will still be updating my other stories, hopefully more frequently even, though I will probably be late in doing so because...because.)
In this chapter, Carlisle and Esme celebrate their one hundredth anniversary by renewing their vows, an event I've alluded to a few times in the past, and which Alice, of course, would plan. (On a personal note, two years after this chapter takes place, my student loans will finally be paid off! Future huzzah! :)) Maybe someday, Stephenie Meyer will write more about what the Cullens' lives were like after Breaking Dawn, but until then, we'll just have to imagine it. Thanks for all your reviews, which have kept me writing all this time, and thanks again for reading! :)
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer is the author of Twilight, and I finally read the New Moon graphic novel! Now I only have a few months to wait until volume two comes out; see, all my procrastination is paying off! :)
Carlisle and Esme's POV
"It's almost time," Alice said, poking her head into the room where Esme was finishing her hair. She was wearing it down today—simply, like she had at their wedding, but with a few flowers braided in, similar to those Edward had given her a hundred years before. Rosalie, Alice, Bella, and Nessie had all done some of the braiding, mostly just as an excuse to talk with Esme and take a break from mingling with the guests, some of whom were human.
Charlie and Sue, as well as Renée and Phil were there, their hair grey but all of them still glad to have Bella, Nessie, and even the other Cullens in their lives. Of course, their visits were, for safety's sake, rare, and they never said much about the agelessness of the Cullens. Esme, for her part, enjoyed watching Bella's parents age with their respective spouses. For her too, a second marriage had proven to be far longer and far happier than her first.
Many of the wolves had come too, and those who had imprinted were older too, some of them with children in tow. It was wonderful and sad in equal measure for Esme: though she too would have loved to change, to grow old and have children with Carlisle, she'd had a long and happy life with him so far, and though her happiness was a different sort than what she'd once wished for, she didn't begrudge anyone their mortality. Because really, the thought of spending another century with Carlisle was so wonderful that it was easy to forget the things they would never have. Today was a day for being grateful for the past, but also for celebrating the future.
"Okay," Esme said, finally setting down her hairbrush and standing to face Alice. She was stalling a little, she knew, but days like this were rare, and she wished that every moment could last a little longer. "I think I'm ready—how do I look?"
"Perfect," Alice said, beaming. "And the cloud cover is holding nicely, though there's a little blue sky. Edward says that it looks like it did on your wedding day."
Esme looked out the window and smiled. "Yes, it did look like this. We had to hurry to the car, after we left the church, so we wouldn't be seen in the sun when it came out from behind a cloud."
Alice laughed. "Yeah, that was me and Jasper too. It was raining when we went to get married, but by the time we got outside, it had cleared up. We ended up lurking under an awning for a while, waiting for the sun to set."
"Well, thanks to you, none of us have to worry about hiding today," Esme said, giving Alice a firm hug and a kiss on the cheek. Alice had scheduled everything months ago—the ceremony was taking place at a botanical center, outside under a pavilion surrounded by flowers on what was proving to be a mercifully mostly-cloudy day. (Over the years, Alice had gotten better at predicting the weather.)
The renewal of vows itself would be very short—neither Carlisle nor Esme saw any reason to make lengthy public declarations of things they both preferred to express in private. Then the reception would take place in the garden just beyond the pavilion, and every time she looked outside, Esme felt relieved that the weather was holding. It was clear to the east, so the sky was blue, but as the sun moved slowly to the west, clouds covered it, casting everything in a sort of muted, cozy light that Esme had always loved to paint.
"So, ready to renew your vows?"
"I'm ready for any excuse to have another honeymoon with Carlisle," Esme said, and Alice laughed again. "But really, thank you Alice. Our wedding was just the three of us, and that was wonderful at the time—but now, to have a ceremony with all our friends and family here is just perfect. This is a lovely way to celebrate a century together."
Alice grinned. "I'm already marking my mental calendar for 2121, so make sure to keep that date free."
"I'll do that," Esme said, smiling as Rosalie and Bella joined them.
"Everything's just about ready," Rosalie announced. "They're just finishing getting people seated—I caught Emmett trying to plant woopie cushions under the padding of some of the seats."
"Alice knew he was going to try something today, of course," Bella said, rolling her eyes. "So we kept an eye on him."
"And then I dragged him off to an empty supply closet to keep him occupied until it was too late to pull off his little prank," Rosalie said, straightening her dress.
Esme laughed, then grabbed Rose and Bella for a quick hug and kiss too. "Thank you—all of you—just for being here today. That's what really makes this perfect."
Alice grinned. "I know. That part was easy to plan."
"And all of you will of course be there for our hundredth anniversary in a few years," Rosalie said, grinning at the thought. "Alice tells me it will be very...lavish."
"I can imagine," Esme said. "What about yours, Alice?"
"Hmm," Alice said thoughtfully, her eyes narrowing as she tried to see that far ahead. "So far, it's a mystery. I'm looking forward to seeing that one myself."
"Rose and I are going to try and help plan it...assuming the bride will let us," Bella said, smiling fondly at Alice.
"I promise to at least try not to do everything myself," Alice insisted, though her mischievous grin suggested that that was probably impossible.
"Well, we can at least follow your orders, I suppose," Rosalie said, taking Esme's hand as they headed out the door. "You ready?"
"Absolutely," Esme said, following the girls to the exit, where they'd head into the pavilion one by one, preceded by the flower girl, Sam and Emily's youngest daughter, Anna. Nessie would come next with the rings, then Alice, Rosalie, and Bella, would sit down at the front with their husbands, and Esme, coming last, would meet Carlisle at the front, where they'd renew their marriage vows under a canopy of leaves and flowers. One hundred years had passed in what sometimes seemed like the blink of an eye, and now, at the end of this first century with Carlisle, Esme was more than ready to begin another.
Carlisle smiled as he watched Edward and Nessie greeting guests. Dear Renesmee, who was almost as tall as he was now, and had been for years, was standing by the entrance to the pavilion, guiding people to their seats and waving to friends and family in the crowd. Everyone there, vampire, werewolf, and human, was some form of friend or family to Nessie, who still seemed just as amazing as she had the day she was born.
In spite of having grown up having so much attention, or maybe because she'd also been blessed with the intelligence and humility of her parents, Nessie was more self-aware than any young person Carlisle had ever met. She seemed to understand that she was able to enjoy the best of both mortality and immortality, and though her difference made her feel isolated at times, Carlisle suspected that it was that which had made her more empathetic than the average young adult. She was, in short, the blessing her mother had always known she was, and with every passing year, Carlisle was more and more grateful for the feeling of wholeness that she'd brought to their family.
Nessie and Jacob occasionally smiled at each other—though the years had changed the bond between them, it was as strong as ever. (Everyone, Jacob especially, had been very glad when they finally started looking like they were the same age.) They weren't married, which was something of a relief; after all, there was no hurry. If they had forever together, then there was no point in rushing things. Nessie was physically grown up, but seemingly as much as possible, she enjoyed being the youngest member of a very old family. And Carlisle, as the oldest member, was glad that for now at least, Nessie and the rest of the Cullens were all safe, happy, and together.
"Esme's almost ready," Edward announced, coming to stand beside him on the platform where the renewal of vows would take place. Nessie waved to them both, then disappeared to join Esme and the others inside—they'd all be walking outside and down the carpeted aisle when they reentered the pavilion.
"Do I get any hints about what she looks like?" Carlisle asked.
Edward smiled. "Of course not. That would spoil the surprise. Besides, you already know what you'll be thinking when you see her."
"True," Carlisle said, smiling at the thought: he had no doubt that Esme, as always, would be as bright and beautiful as she'd been the day they were married. Still, he was curious about what exactly she'd be wearing, if it would look like the dress she'd worn on their wedding day...
"So, ready to get remarried?" Emmett asked cheerfully.
"Again, it's not technically a 'remarriage,' Emmett," Jasper said, rolling his eyes. Carlisle suspected that Emmett kept calling it that in hopes of annoying someone, but the only people it seemed to work on were Jasper and Edward, who corrected him every time he said it.
"I don't mind," Carlisle said, chuckling. "Being married seems like the sort of thing that might need to be repeated every century or so. Our original marriage license hasn't been strictly legal in a long time."
"Unless Esme can pass for 126 and you can pass for 377, it's inaccurate at best," Edward agreed.
"I guess Rose and I will be celebrating like this in a few years too," Emmett said. "So what's it like, being married for a century?"
"Well, I don't feel any different today than I did yesterday," Carlisle said. "In fact, I don't feel much different than I did the day we were married—though today, I'm just happy. In 1921, I felt a rather memorable mixture of joy and terror at the thought of marriage."
"I can see how a few centuries of being a bachelor might do that to you," Jasper said with a smile.
"Hey, at least this time you know what the wedding night entails," Emmett said with a leer.
Carlisle chuckled as Jasper snickered and Edward rolled his eyes. "And better still, I have children to remind me of that fact."
"I'm impressed that you managed to say that without a trace of sarcasm," Edward said, and Carlisle smiled at him.
"It's true. I can't think of a better way to celebrate today than to have all of you here. A hundred years ago, I never could have imagined what my family would look like today—but I've never been happier."
"Probably none of us could have guessed that the guest list today would include so many werewolves," Jasper said drily.
"Or humans," Emmett said, waving to Phil, who'd gotten to watch a few Cullen baseball games over the years. (Needless to say, he'd been very impressed.)
"The flower girl's coming, so we'd better sit down," Edward said, eying his seat thoughtfully. "You've gotten better at guarding your thoughts over the years, Emmett, so why don't you sit down first?"
"There's nothing wrong with your chair," Emmett said, trying to look innocent. "Rose caught me, remember?"
"So I take it you're planning a prank for the reception now," Jasper muttered, offering Carlisle a quick hug. "Good luck—not that you'll need it."
"Thank you, Jasper," Carlisle said, laughing when Emmett grabbed him in a bear hug.
"Trust me," Emmett said quietly. "It'll be hilarious."
"I'm sure it will be," Carlisle said—though Edward was sometimes surprised that he'd never outgrown such things, Carlisle enjoyed Emmett's pranks, no matter how sophomoric.
"See you afterward," Edward said, giving Carlisle a hug too.
"Thank you, Edward," Carlisle said quietly. "For more than a hundred years, you've been my son. And I can't imagine a better one."
Edward smiled, his expression far more at ease than it had been on a similar day a century ago—marriage and fatherhood had finally brought Edward the happiness Carlisle knew he deserved. "Thank you, Carlisle. You're the reason I'm here today—the reason all of us are here. You and Esme have been better friends and parents than I ever could have imagined, and I hope your next hundred years are even happier than your first."
Carlisle grinned. "Well, they're off to a good start, so far."
Just then, the music started, so Edward took his seat in the front row with Emmett and Jasper. Tanya, who'd been sitting with the rest of the Denalis, slipped onto the platform beside him and gave him a quick hug.
"Congratulations," she whispered. "And thank you for asking me to do this for you."
"Thank you for doing it," Carlisle whispered back. "You're the only immortal justice of the peace we know."
Tanya chuckled. "I'm out of practice, you know—I haven't married anyone since Kate and Garrett. Oh, here they come."
Then Anna the flower girl appeared, and Carlisle and everyone else in attendance watched and laughed as the little girl thoroughly enjoyed throwing flowers in every direction. Sam and Emily grinned proudly, and Seth, who had developed quite a knack for photography, started taking pictures. Nessie followed a few seconds after Anna, holding the rings.
When she got to the front, she stood beside Carlisle and smiled, clearly biting her lip to keep from laughing, and Carlisle stifled his own chuckle. Ever since she'd been small, Nessie's curiosity and enthusiasm had never failed to delight him, and now, at any happy family gathering like this, he had a hard time even looking at his granddaughter without wanting to laugh with joy. That, in turn, often made her laugh, and now the two were famous at family gatherings for unintentionally cracking each other up. (Things got even worse when Emmett was around, so Carlisle decided not to look at the front row for a little while.)
Then came Bella, beautiful but still not a fan of attention, though her easy smile belied any discomfort she might have felt. She smiled at Carlisle, waved to Nessie, then sat down beside Edward. She offered him the small bunch of flowers she'd been carrying, and he inhaled, though even without the bouquet of her blood, he still preferred Bella's scent to any other. Nessie made a very quiet gagging noise beside him as her parents kissed, and Carlisle looked down at his shoes, struggling not to laugh.
Then came Alice, who moved down the aisle with her usual grace and effervescence. She seemed at times to almost levitate with the force of her happiness. Grinning at Carlisle, she took her seat beside Jasper, slipping an arm around his waist just as he put his arm around her shoulder.
Then came Rosalie, looking as radiant as always, and when she smiled at Carlisle, he smiled too. It had taken a long time, but he would be forever grateful that she'd finally forgiven him, that she even loved him now. As she sat down beside Emmett, he imagined that she was already making plans for her own anniversary in a few years. It would be a great deal more involved that this, he was certain, but that would be part of the fun; Rosalie's tastes had always been different than Esme's,
Then Esme came down the aisle, and everyone else disappeared. Her dress was a beautiful white gown, longer and more flowing than the one she'd worn at their wedding, but Carlisle guessed that this was the sort of dress she might have chosen to be married in, had she had more advance warning of his proposal back in 1921. (As it was, she'd worn the only white dress she'd owned, and he'd worn his only suit. Since Alice had entered their lives, they'd both acquired much more clothing.)
Esme didn't take her eyes off him as she approached, and when she stopped beside him, they both grinned as they joined hands. They looked at Tanya as the music ended, and she winked at both of them before adjusting her expression to one of formality and dignity. (A human would have been fooled, but any vampire could see the faint smile pulling at the corners of her lips.)
"Good afternoon, everyone. I'll be brief, because we all know why we're here," Tanya said, giving in to the smile she'd barely managed to conceal. "Carlisle and Esme have been dear friends to all of us for many years—and when I say 'many years,' of course you'll have to supply the exact number for yourselves."
The guests laughed a little at that, since those assembled had known the couple for as little as a few years and as much as over a century, and almost everyone there knew it. Still, that was the kind of innocuous comment you could safely make in public—there were humans on the grounds today that weren't part of the wedding party, after all. And though the Cullens and Quileutes alike had enjoyed over a decade of safety, they'd never forgotten that snowy day that had almost ended everything.
Once, there would have been some concern as to what the Volturi would think of an event like this, but for ten years, little had been heard of them. At times, Alice saw them pursuing Johan and his immortal children, and on other occasions, they holed up in Italy for years at a time, secure in what power and authority they had left. But they were no longer the hands-on rulers they'd once been, and though one still didn't break the law, it was clear to the Cullens that they could have human and werewolf friends, so long as the former didn't ask too many questions.
"In the time that they've been married, Carlisle and Esme Cullen have faced virtually every challenge a couple can face," Tanya continued. "But through it all, they've been true to each other, and together, they've built the extraordinary family we all know today. For that reason, it may come as a surprise to you that when they were first married, only one guest was in attendance. That is why all of us have gathered here today: to celebrate their marriage, and to wish them many more years of happiness together."
"When Carlisle and Esme were first married, they lived in a very small house, and when my family and I visited them, there wasn't really room for newlyweds to have any kind of privacy…" Tanya said, earning another laugh from the crowd. She continued to speak about the early days of their marriage—tactfully not mentioning the fact that in those days, Esme's thirst had been a constant danger, Edward had begun to question their way of life, and Carlisle was still only beginning to understand what it meant to have a family after so many years of solitude. Carlisle and Esme were each only half-listening though.
Esme had known in advance that both of them would have a hard time trying not to laugh during this part of the ceremony. Though they were ostensibly supposed to be solemn, Esme assumed, it was all she could do not to burst out in giddy laughter whenever she met Carlisle's eyes. It had been a bit like this at their first wedding too (though of course then, she'd been terribly thirsty). Though Esme couldn't have imagined this day all those years ago, she didn't think it would have surprised the Esme of 1921 too much to learn that she would still be in love with Carlisle a century later, or that the prospect of being married to him was still a source of such unmitigated joy.
Carlisle too was biting his lip a little. When he was happy, he laughed, and it had always been the case that Esme had to do little more than meet his eyes before he was seized with the urge to take her in his arms and kiss her—passionately, but playfully too, until they were both giggling helplessly and gazing into each other's eyes. Each of them continually marveled at their happiness, at how amazing it was just to be together every day, and every night, for years and decades and now, a century.
"Nessie, the rings, please," Tanya said at last, and Nessie offered her grandparents their wedding rings.
"With this ring, I thee wed," Carlisle said, slipping the familiar ring onto Esme's equally familiar finger.
"With this ring, I thee wed," Esme said, slipping Carlisle's wedding band onto his ring finger.
"Now, please join hands for the exchange of vows," Tanya said.
"I promise to support you when you struggle, and to celebrate your successes," Carlisle said.
"I promise to comfort you in hard times, and to rejoice with you in good times," Esme said.
"I promise to be beside you, today and every day that's possible, for the rest of our lives," Carlisle said, smiling at the thought of how long their lives had been already.
"I promise to love you, and cherish you, for as long as we both shall live," Esme said, smiling at the thought of just how long they might both live beyond this day, this year, this century.
"Then, once again, you may kiss the bride," Tanya said, smiling, and Carlisle was happy to oblige. He and Esme kissed for just a few seconds—they knew that any longer, and Emmett would start whistling. Besides, a ceremony like this was about as much in the way of a public display of affection as either of them really enjoyed, and anyway, they would have plenty of time for kissing later.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in congratulating Carlisle and Esme Cullen," Tanya said, and everyone clapped for a long time. There was whistling and cheering too, which was what happened when you had Emmett and several wolves competing to see who could make the most celebratory noise. Carlisle and Esme, finally allowing themselves to laugh, embraced and smiled out at all their friends and family.
Yes, this was a very different day than their wedding of a hundred years ago, but there was Edward, still clapping right in front. With Bella and Nessie, he had a family of his own now, and though he and all of his siblings sometimes lived apart from their parents, gatherings like this were something that Alice managed to plan as often as possible. Together, the Cullen family was bigger and happier than ever.
"It's been a very good century," Carlisle whispered. "Thank you for that, Mrs. Cullen."
"Thank you, Dr. Cullen," Esme said, kissing him on the cheek. It was amazing, to look into the eyes of her husband of a hundred years, and still feel a hint of the breathless excitement she'd felt when she'd first met him at sixteen. "I don't know if it's even possible, but let's see if we can make the next hundred years even better."
"If anyone can do it, we can," Carlisle said. Before knowing Esme, he would have never dared hoped for such a thing. Now, after knowing her for over a hundred years, he knew that with her love and support, they really could do anything.
After that, the rest of the celebration passed in a blur. Carlisle and Esme spent the reception walking hand and hand through the garden, thanking their guests for coming, dancing when the band played an especially good song, and kissing when someone, either one of the human children or Emmett, started banging silverware against their glasses. (The latter happened frequently.)
Charlie and Sue both complimented the food—Charlie in particular always seemed a bit touched that a family that didn't need to eat went to the trouble of serving good food—and Renée and Phil, both gray haired but as lively as ever, helped Seth and Alice arrange the various family pictures. Carlisle decided that the next time he went to work at a new hospital, he would put the picture of the entire party on his desk and claim that it had been taken at his and Esme's wedding, which was technically true, given Tanya's officiating. Esme meanwhile made plans for paintings and drawings, both of flowers and of guests and family, which she knew would keep her busy wherever they lived that winter.
As the sun finally set, turning the clouds that concealed it into a beautiful display of reds, pinks, and purples, Carlisle and Esme changed clothes and prepared to set off on their honeymoon. It wouldn't be their second, or even their tenth, but they were both looking forward to it just the same. After saying their goodbyes, and after a great many hugs and handshakes, they drove off—once they reached the airport, they'd be in Brazil just a few hours later, and then on the island a few hours after that.
"Now that we're finally alone," Esme said, leaning back in her seat and taking his free hand, "I have a request."
"Anything," Carlisle said immediately. He'd learned long ago that Esme's requests were almost always things that he'd enjoy too.
Esme grinned. "Let's agree, right now, to be this happy for at least another hundred years."
Carlisle chuckled and kissed her hand. "Agreed. We're already off to an encouraging start."