This outtake/epilogue (epi-take?) from "Love Is Always an Option" was written for the extraordinarily patient bonnysammy. She won it in the Fandom Gives Back auction of last year. My deepest apologies for taking so long to complete this.
To recap: Bella and Edward met after she took a job as a pharmacist in Forks Hospital. Edward is also a pharmacist. My fic was essentially canon, except that Bella and Edward are in their mid-20s. There were also a few original characters in the story, including Rick, a pharmacy technician who works the day shift with Bella and became her first real friend since moving to Washington State. Rick appears in this outtake.
The beaches in Washington State were an adjustment for someone like me who grew up with easy access to the Atlantic Ocean.
They're nothing like any place I've been to along the Jersey Shore. I'm used to hot sand and cool, swimmable water. In Washington, there's cold sand and freezing, completely unswimmable water - unless you're in a wet suit, and I'm not a wet-suit kind of girl.
It took some time, but I came to appreciate the wild beauty on the shores of the Pacific. I'd gone to La Push with Jacob and was fascinated by the enormous haystack rocks that looked like small islands off the coast. I loved the evergreens that grew impertinently to the edge of the shoreline. It was different than any beach I'd seen, and different was okay up to a point. While the fresh, briny smell was the same, I missed the sun, the heat, and even the crowds.
To make it worse, Edward couldn't accompany me to La Push because of the agreement that the Cullens would stay off Quileute land. There really weren't any other beaches in our area suitable for a romantic walk or a bonfire. Either they were federally protected coastal areas or they were tribal lands. And even if the tribe wasn't Quileute , the Cullens knew it was smart to stay away. Edward and I settled for enjoying nature, and each other, in places like Olympic National Park, Goodman State Forest, or Bogachiel State Park.
Ironically, it was the television show I hated the most that gave Edward a great idea for a resolution. We were surfing through program listings when "Jersey Shore" came up.
I snorted. "Keep going."
"Are you saying you want to miss one of the greatest sociological experiments of the new millennium?"
"I'll say that and a whole lot more. That stupid show has done more to single-handedly ruin New Jersey's image than any Mob boss or contaminated landfill. And the worst thing? The cast is from New York."
As I turned to face him, my voice growing louder, I caught the faintest smirk. Without thinking, I smacked him – which was stupid, because when I did that I always hurt myself and not him.
"You said that on purpose," I grumbled.
"It happens to be true! Lots of studies have been done on the group dynamics of 'Jersey Shore.' "
"You are so full of it. Could you just give me the remote?"
Like a lot of other couples, we fought over normal things.
Later that night, I admitted to Edward that I longed for my beaches. It was my first July in Forks, and I was also adjusting to the weather. It never got very hot here. There was more sun in the summer, but by and large the skies opened on a near-daily basis. The forecast could be pre-recorded.
"I miss being able to swim in the ocean," I confessed. "And I miss the heat."
Edward looked away right as I realized the double meaning of what I said. Complaining about the cold and damp could be taken as judgment of his own abnormally chilled body.
"No, no – don't!" I said swiftly. "I'm just used to it being so much hotter in the summer!"
"You're used to warmth. That's normal," he said stiffly.
"You're pretty hot." I tried to tease him out of the funk he slipped into so easily. Any time he dwelled on the differences between us, he often became moody – almost depressed.
At the moment, we were in my bed, with me wrapped up in a blanket. We'd been talking about the East and West coasts as I was drifting off to sleep.
I saw the thoughtful look on his face and knew what was coming. "Don't worry about this again, please, " I pleaded, pulling my arm out from the tangled blanket. I touched his face to guide it to me. "What we have is so much better than anything I left behind. Do you really think I'd prefer swimming in the ocean to you?"
He smiled wryly. "The ocean here is warmer than I am."
I huffed in frustration. "Just stop it. I thought we'd gotten past all this. We're getting married, for crying out loud!"
Edward's face softened. "Yes, we are. How could I forget? That's what's most important." He leaned over and gave me a lingering kiss, and it warmed me perfectly.
A few days later, I arrived at work to find an interoffice envelope on my desk. My name was neatly printed across the front, but there was no return name or location.
I inserted my thumb to open it, then paused. Should I be worried about this? What could be in here? Explosives? Anthrax?
There was still a lone female vampire out there whose mate had been killed by my fiancé. I worried about her every so often.
But the envelope in my hands seemed to contain only paper. I shook it and heard no soft rattling that could indicate anything dangerous.
"What are you doing?" Rick asked from his desk behind me.
"I got this envelope and it doesn't say who it's from. I'm not sure whether I should open it."
"Give it here."
Without thinking, I passed it over to where he sat, and he used a letter opener to slice through the top in seconds. He pulled out two folded pieces of paper and read them silently.
After a couple of minutes, he held the papers against his chest with the contents facing him. "Do you want me to tell you what it is?"
I was gnawing my lip with worry. Rick doesn't know my fiancé is a vampire, or that the injuries that kept me out of work about a month ago were not from an auto accident. He'd torn into the envelope before I could come up with a way to get it back from him.
"Is it bad?"
He held the papers at an exaggerated arm's length. "I'd say not."
"Looks like you're going to California."
"These are tickets to a location near Carmel." Rick's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "That's a small airport. Gotta cost some bucks to fly there."
I considered calling him immediately, but I was a little too upset for that. I knew he was being thoughtful; I was just annoyed that he didn't consult with me first. I was still new at the hospital and my vacation days were limited. I needed all I had for our wedding.
Though all your days may be numbered after the honeymoon…
We were still working out the details of how I would disappear off the face of the earth once I was changed. It was the subject of some heated discussion, and most of it remained unresolved. Edward wanted a "normal" honeymoon, which I generally agreed with. Everything after that was undefined.
And Alice was no help; she refuse to tell me anything for the short term, and Edward wouldn't ask her. He maintained we had to work it out on our own.
Sometimes I hated it when he was right.
Suddenly, I wondered if he organized this California trip to change me, but that didn't make sense. We had a wedding planned which both our families knew about. Everyone was looking forward to it. Alice had no problem whatsoever telling me what she thought about our decisions, or even injecting her own ideas into nearly every part of the planning.
Edward would never take that away from his family, or from us.
I looked for a date on the tickets, but none were specified. It would be just like Edward to give me enough information without completing the picture. He didn't work a shift in the pharmacy last night; otherwise I would have seen him when I came in. He'd probably dropped by right before I arrived this morning.
I knew he'd want me to acknowledge that I had what he'd left me, so I texted him.
When are we going?
I was doing my best not to convey a reaction either way. I still wasn't sure how I felt about this.
Alice thinks the Friday of the Fourth of July weekend will be cloudy in that area of California. She also believes Larry will give you the day off if I explain that I want to take you somewhere for a restful weekend.
Larry Twogood was the director of the Forks Hospital pharmacy. He'd been very sympathetic to my injuries since my "accident" (where I was actually dragged off by a nomad vampire), and it was difficult not to take advantage of that. Sometimes, I just wanted to stay with Edward and lock the rest of the world away, especially when I knew how violent that world can be.
And when I knew I might be just as violent once my life ended and I joined Edward and his family as a vampire.
For now, I wanted to enjoy my time as a human. I think Edward knew this, and he struggled with it as well. In the little we'd talked about it, I saw his mixed emotions. He was opposed to changing me even as he saw the practicality of it. He insisted he would gladly live out my human years with me though he knew they would be limited compared to an eternity together. Sometimes I thought he'd rather stay with me every minute and protect me, rather than make me an immortal that could skillfully fight off any other supernatural beings.
Maybe taking me to California was his way of trying to make up for this. I knew he was trying to give me as much as he could – as much as I'd let him – right now. All I wanted was him. But the number of trips I'd be able to take before my life ends was limited, and we could see this part of California together.
I texted him to let him know I'd talk to Larry about the days off. The Fourth of July fell on a Monday, and the pharmacy would be working with limited staff because of it. I'd already been told I could have the day and work another holiday instead.
Edward preferred picking me up after work, but I loved driving too much to let him do it all the time. And I sometimes chafed against his protectiveness, even after what happened. I walked a fine line between appreciating his thoughtfulness and asserting my independence. It was a constant balancing act.
So I decided not to argue with him about the trip by the time I arrived home to see his Volvo parked in my driveway. I'd given him a key a while ago, and deep inside I was thrilled that he used it so frequently. He was often there when I began my day, and he'd usually be there at the end of it. We had a loving, compatible relationship, except for that whole vampire-human disparity.
The door upstairs to my apartment was open, and Edward was waiting for me right there, with that amazing smile on his face. I have no idea whether I'm right or wrong about this, but I'd swear that particular grin was only for me.
After a deep kiss, I scrunched up my nose and inhaled. "You made dinner for me again."
"Yes, I know how you love Italian." He followed me to my bedroom. "You're the only woman I know who can make a vampire cook with garlic."
I grabbed a pair of yoga pants and a tee shirt so I could change out of my work clothes. "So, about this trip we're taking…"
He stepped behind me to unzip my dress. "You said you wanted to see a decent beach again. The closest one would be California, so I thought we could fly there for the long holiday weekend."
"Aren't you concerned about the sun? I know Alice said the weather would be cloudy when we fly in, but what if it changes?"
Edward gently smoothed his hands down my back through the opening in the dress, then expertly danced his fingertips back up to ease the garment off my shoulders. "There's supposed to be plenty of cloud cover where we're staying. And the airport is small, which makes it easier to get in and out of quickly if the sun comes out."
He kissed my shoulders gently, his smooth cold lips giving me shivers. I stepped out of my dress and turned, wrapping my arms around his neck for a proper kiss.
The room disappeared as it always did when Edward and I kissed. Wherever we were slipped away and became inconsequential. Every problem and difference receded into shadows. They weren't important. They couldn't separate us. It was only he and I, and I wanted so much to keep it that way.
That would take a miracle, though, and I'm not a miracle worker. I'm just a normal human girl who fell in love with a very not-normal vampire guy and his "relatives." They'd become more than a surrogate family to me. They were family to me, as much flesh and blood as my relations in New Jersey.
So of course, Alice and Jasper drove us to Sea Tac Airport. She assured us repeatedly that the weather would cooperate, with a few hours of sunshine here and there. It would be enough to sate my appetite for Vitamin D, but not enough to throw a damper on the whole weekend.
"I hope you enjoy this," Edward said, drawing my arm through his as the plane taxied for takeoff. He knew the ascent isn't my favorite part of the ride, so he was trying to distract me. "You still won't be able to swim, but it will be warmer than the water around the Olympic Peninsula."
"And we'll be there together," I said, resting my head on his shoulder. "That's really what I want." And I want it now. Who knows what I'll care about later, when I'm a struggling newborn? It might be years before anything like this is possible.
Shaking off those thoughts, I asked Edward about the place where we were staying. He'd found an inn that was an hour's drive from the airport. Technically, it's called Big Sur Inn, but everyone knows it as Deetjen's, after the couple who opened the place in the 1930s.
"So there's no television and no cell phone reception?"
"None. But there's a ton of natural beauty, and a really rustic quality to the place." He knew, of course, I'd take all that in a heartbeat, even if the heart was just my own. We'd have a whole weekend together, with walks, reading, and anything else spontaneous. And there'd be no other vampires within hearing range to ruin the privacy of our intimacy. That phase of our relationship was still somewhat new for us.
He took my hand and kissed my knuckles. "I reserved the entire Lower Creek House so we'll have it all to ourselves. This is a very romantic place, and I wanted to make sure we were undisturbed." His eyes held my own with a deep, meaningful gaze, and my heartbeat quickened. The thought of Edward and I together for uninterrupted hours, stretched across a bed or outside in a private wooded area with no one else around, was thrilling.
With Edward driving, we headed south down Route 1, which gave me the closest view of the ocean on the passenger side. Alice was right: apparently the weather hadn't changed its mind at the last moment, and the skies remained overcast. I watched as wisps of fog drifted over the ocean, amazed at how beautiful it was even though the skies were overcast and it was chilly. I'd almost grown accustomed to the evergreens that were ever-present in Washington State. This oceanfront was more of a hybrid between that and the East Coast. There weren't trees, and there was plenty of sand and miles of grayish-blue water, but there were also enormous cliffs that towered over the tides.
Few people were near the water. Perhaps the cool weather kept them away. I'd have a hard time staying away from the ocean, even on a day like today. This beach was unique, with a craggy beauty that defied comparison.
Edward wasn't kidding about the rustic quality of the rooms and cabins. Originally built in the 1930s, the wooden buildings scattered throughout the site were uniformly weather-beaten – a fact of life when salt and ocean spray are so near. But they had a definite charm, and the interior of the cabin Edward booked was painted in a warm, creamy yellow. Exposed beams ran through the ceiling and down to the walls, where wide windows let in the light. There was a very comfortable bed with a thick quilt, and a fireplace ready for cold nights.
I imagined us on the rug in front of the fire at night, and I was pleased by what developed in my imagination. I stood there blushing as Edward effortlessly carried in the luggage.
"Are you daydreaming?" he teased.
I threw my arms around his neck. "Just imagining the next few days of nothing but whatever we want to do. Edward, this is perfect!" I pulled him closer for a passionate kiss.
He smiled. There was that glorious grin, the one I'd never tire of, the one I wanted to see from this night to the next, and far beyond. "I knew you'd like it. This just seemed like the kind of place you'd take to right away," he said.
Small books covered much of the available shelf space. Stacked on the table, lining the shelves created by the waist-high vertical beams, decorating the mantle above the fireplace – there were dozens of them, with no titles or authors on the spines. Curious, I picked one up and saw it filled with handwriting of all different kinds. They were journals.
I plopped down on the couch and thumbed through one I'd held in my hand. A deep ruby cover guarded the contents, with frayed edges and jagged cracks in the leather. I noticed the dates were all from 1975.
"Edward, look at this," I said, amazed. I walked over to another stack lying haphazardly on the table. Each book was mostly dedicated to a year: 1964, 1989, 1973, 1981, and more. "These are journals. It looks like people who stayed here wrote in them."
He walked over from the dresser where he'd been neatly storing his clothes. "Oh, yes – Deetjen's is famous for it." He took the notebook out of my hand and thumbed through it. "Guests started writing in them years ago. It took off, apparently, and almost all the guests do it." A smile crept over his face as he began reading. " 'I want to go on to Los Angeles, but Frank isn't willing. He wants to drive to Las Vegas. He thinks it will be safer if we leave the state.' " Edward raised his eyebrows as he read in silence, then shut the book. "Wow. They deserted their spouses and ran away together. I wonder what happened to them?"
"I wonder why they left."
He shrugged. "Unhappy marriages, I guess." He squeezed my hand. "Not everyone is lucky enough to find their soul mate the first time around."
We'd ordered dinner sent to the room – two meals, like a normal couple; except that one of them would be eaten by me and the other would be folded up neatly in napkins for later use by Edward, to lure animals while hunting.
"I hate to leave you." His lips brushed my hair and his voice was genuinely apologetic, but I could tell by the nervous energy coming off of him that he really wanted to go. Not that he desperately needed to feed, but there were mountain lions in the area and he was very excited about stalking his favorite prey.
"Don't go crazy," I warned him. "You won't fit in your wedding tux if you gorge yourself too much."
He gave me a smirk. "One of the few advantages of immortality is never gaining weight."
I couldn't resist teasing him some more. "What if I balloon up to about 250 pounds before I change?"
Edward still had difficulty hearing me talk about it so casually. His grin faltered for a second, but he tried to keep the humor. "Then you'll live that way throughout eternity. On the one hand, you won't have to worry about heart attacks, diabetes, or any other health hazards. On the other, you're stuck at that weight forever."
"So noted." I pushed aside the cheesecake dessert that came with the meal.
"Will you be okay here for a few hours?" he asked, all seriousness now. He still became so nervous about leaving me completely alone, even if it was just for a short time. His honey-gold gaze held mine, concern and love shining so strongly there that it took my breath away.
I place my palm to his cheek and felt the cool smoothness there. "I'll be fine. Take your time."
"There's no cell phone reception here," he reminded me grimly.
"I'll be okay. You'd hear another vampire if one was around. And Alice knew you'd go hunting, right? She would have said something," I reminded him.
"I don't like relying on her visions like this."
"Go," I said firmly. "Enjoy yourself. I'm sorry I can't accompany you to your meal like you did for me. Don't eat anything I wouldn't eat. I'll be here when you get back."
With a lingering kiss and a whispered "I love you," he was gone.
I poured a glass of wine and curled up in the chair on the small hearth. The fire was still burning, and its heat, along with a blanket, was enough to warm me for awhile. I held the same journal I'd picked up before, very curious to read more of it.
Many of the entries talked about the natural beauty of Big Sur. Some talked about visiting Deetjen's with the love of their lives – or, sadly, wishing they were there with their great love, but instead realizing the person they were with was not who they wanted. I thought again about the couple who'd escaped from their marriages and wondered about their desperation. If they found each other and recognized the person who could give them whatever was lacking in their marriage, I can't say I blamed them for taking off. I could understand the desire, however impulsive the decision, to be with your destiny. It was an against-the-odds story that appealed to how I felt whenever I thought of separating from Edward, which was unfathomable.
I skimmed through more entries. One man talked about coming here for solitude after the death of his son. A woman complained about having to live with her mother-in-law, who was "insufferable." Someone – I couldn't tell whether it was male or female from the writing – had just been diagnosed with cancer and was trying to cope by taking in the quiet natural beauty of Big Sur. It was heartbreaking.
I turned the page and a small, feminine scrawl caught my eye.
This shouldn't be, it started. None of it should. But the impossibility of it seems like the least of my worries. All I know is him. He is here though he shouldn't be – he defies everything with his presence – and that is all that matters. He is all that matters.
Intrigued, I read on.
It isn't so much where we met, or how, or even why. It is mainly that we are together. I feel safer with him than I ever have with anyone else. Even though he says the danger is too great and he loves me too much to stay. But I can't let him go. I feel like he's all I've ever searched for. And he worries, about hurting me, about being discovered. I can't make him see I don't care about all that. I'm here. I'm with him, and I'll stay until my own death.
It all sounded fairly common if dramatic, until this:
He says it's been centuries and he never believed he would find anyone to love. This is new to both of us, in so many ways. He is so cold, but the fire inside him burns brighter than anyone I know. I die every time I think of being without him. Yet it is death that would keep us together. There is no other way. And I am ready.
The entry ended there.
I scrambled out of my chair and pulled at all the other journals, looking for the same handwriting. It was crazy to think I'd find more entries, but I hoped anyway. I wanted desperately to know more, to find a stronger bond with this person who I was sure had been in the same situation as me. I looked through as many journals as I could find, skimming them frantically, but I never saw anything more. I set the books aside, despondent that this quick, unexpected connection was broken.
But at least I'd found these words, brief as they were. Even if it wasn't written by another woman who was in love with an immortal, I chose to believe it was. It made me feel less alone on this journey. Most important, it gave me hope that someone else had made the same decision as I, and survived the change to enjoy another life.
For the time being, I decided not to show Edward what I'd found. He might doubt my interpretation, and I wanted to hold on to how it made me feel. I buried the journal in my suitcase so I could bring it home. I would nurture this irrational bit of optimism for as long as I could.
The next day, I really wanted to explore more of the area, so we decided to go for a walk. It was still cloudy, but even if the sun came out, Big Sur was heavily wooded enough to offer good protection for Edward.
We strayed from the creek and walked deeper in to the woods. I loved how the sound of the water seemed to follow us, sometimes growing fainter, but always there.
There were evergreens all around, and pine needles covered the ground. Just where we stood, there had to be hundreds of thousands of them – decades of accumulation – and it made me wonder again about the people who'd been here before. Years of journals were testament to the draw of Big Sur's peace and beauty.
I thought again about the desperate entry I'd read last night from a woman who was as willing as me to lose her life for the man she loved. I said a quick prayer that it worked out for her.
The sun had been struggling to break through the clouds as we wandered further from the foggy shoreline. Once we reached a deep part of the woods, the sun broke through freely and the air warmed around us. Spaces through the trees allowed the rays to filter down with a slanted brightness. I could feel the difference in temperature immediately whenever I stepped into a spot awash in sunlight.
One particularly broad ray drifted through the trees and illuminated the air and the ground. I picked up some pine cones and tucked them into my jacket pocket, then moved toward the brightness. Edward was ahead of me, and in seconds he'd stripped off his hoodie and long-sleeved shirt to stand, naked from the waist up, in the middle of the sunlight.
There was no one else around; Edward had determined that anyone out for a hike had wandered off in a different direction. We had this part of the forest to ourselves, which gave him the freedom to enjoy the brightness.
I watched as he slowly extended his arms out from his body and turned his face to the sun. As many times as I'd seen his skin exposed like this, I knew I'd never grow used to it. The magnificence, the colors, the crystallization – it was all completely at odds with what my human eyesight had experienced before I met him. It was part of Edward's unique beauty. But what rooted me where I stood now was the expression on his face.
He was as relaxed as I'd ever seen him, almost slack-jawed in his delight from the warmth. His head was tipped back and his eyes were closed, and I could see him inhale, as if every sense – even the ones he didn't always need – wanted to experience each part of this moment. Slowly, a smile spread across his face, his lips curling gently upward. I'd never seen him at peace like this, and I stayed put, letting him relish this brief moment; letting him experience this part of nature that he was only rarely able to enjoy.
He straightened his head and opened his eyes, then extended his hand to me. "Come here. I want to feel this with you."
In a second I was in his arms. His chest was much warmer than usual – almost a normal mortal temperature – and I ran my hands over his face, enjoying the sensation of his temperate skin. In spite of the chilly air, I decided I could do without my own shirt and jacket. This was a rarity for us, and I wasn't going to let it pass.
"What are you doing?" Edward said, chuckling.
"I want to touch you, skin to skin. There's no one around, right?" I shrugged out of my sleeves and pulled the shirt off my head. When I reached around to remove my bra, Edward stopped me.
Slowly, he unhooked the bra and drew it down past my shoulders. He inhaled sharply as he held me at arm's length for a moment. And then he echoed the exact thoughts I'd had from moments before as I watched him in the sun.
"You're so beautiful. I'll never grow tired of looking at you," he said softly. He pulled me closer and tentatively – still so uncertain – touched his index finger to my breast, tracing circles that grew smaller until he was circling my nipple. I moaned and closed my eyes in response while Edward hummed in appreciation.
He drew me closer, our chests pressing against each other in delightful warmth. Slowly, he leaned down and inhaled again, softly this time, a small smile playing across his mouth. "Your scent will always stay with me. It's a part of my memory now, one of the best things I'll never lose." His smile vanished as his golden eyes grew somber. "I"ll miss it when it's gone, but I'll still have all of you."
Tears formed in my eyes as his words sank in. It was the closest expression of acceptance about my immortality that I'd heard from Edward since we started dancing around the subject. I knew how hard he struggled with the whole idea. He felt as if he was taking a life, something he'd fought in his nature for nearly a century. This acknowledgement was momentous.
I framed his face with my hands, our gaze still locked together. "I love you. And I know you love me. We'll do this together. We won't fail." We leaned in until our lips met, strong and relentless as the sun around us.
It was the kiss I'd wanted forever, the kiss that would keep me tethered to the only person I needed in this world, and the next.
My deepest thanks to bonnysammy and all others who donated to benefit Alex's Lemonade Stand and research for children's cancers. The generosity of this fandom is part of what makes it so great.
Deetjen's is real, and it's spectacular. I was inspired to include it after reading about it in The New York Times. I think the Inn and those journals are perfect for a Twilight fanfic.
Deetjen's Web site is http:/www (dot) deetjens (dot) com/ .
There is a sequel to "Love" in the works! It's almost all outlined, and I've resolved a lot of the plot points that needed work. I wish I had an ETA for posting, but I promise you, it'll get here.