Chapter 50: The End is the Beginning

So, 17 months have passed... This is my baby. I think perhaps it's a baby elephant. I wonder if Rob would like to cuddle up with it. We're finally there, friends. I posted Chapter I on January 3rd, 2010. It is now May 24th, 2011, and this fic is complete, although Bella and Edward's story is not. Look for the sequel, "Make Haste, My Beloved", soon. Since I've been working on something else as a surprise for you, maybe you should put me on your Author Alert now, hmm? I've been a busy girl, even though it's been seemingly quiet for the past month. Naughty me.

Believe me when I say that writing this has given me nothing but joy, and that is because of you, the reader.

Certain people stick out, because not only have they become dear friends, they have contributed so much to my story. This is for you:

2old2care, Beta Extraordinaire

Room340C, Research Assistant and Pre-reader

Eternally Cullen, Pre-reader, Site Maker, Banner Maker

Janiriki, Battle Consultant and Strategist

Mimozka, Banner Maker

lillianas, Banner Maker

Camilla10, Translator (Italian)

Sarahhalliwell, Translator (Portuguese)

and my muses:


my daughter K

my loyal reviewers


everyone on my Facebook

Don't forget I'm counting on you for the next fic! Lol.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is merely coincidental.

Go to my Profile, and click the playlist called 'I Hunger 4' to hear great music that I guarantee will enhance your reading. This chappie's vids start at #125:

'I Believe', by Yolanda Adams, from the movie 'Honey'

'Catching the Light', by Antoine Dufour

'I Could Not Ask for More', by Edwin McCain

'I'll Eat You Up', by Boa

'He Loves Me', by Jill Scott

'Sixteen', by Iggy Pop

'Possession', by Jace Everett

'It's You', by Michelle Branch

'(Renesmee's Lullaby) I Had Nothing but a Dream', by Hagood Hardy

'Theme from Cocoon', by James Horner

'Wonderwall', by Adam Ryans

Oh, and you can check out Ren's ultrasound on my Facebook Fanpage. You don't need to sign in to see it. Link's on my Profile.

If you have a cool $3mil USD sitting around, you too can own Bella's birthday present. It's one of a kind. Snickers.



The Quinault Tribe Website

'The Old Man of the Forest', television documentary


They said you wouldn't make it so far, uh-uh.
And ever since they said it, it's been hard,

But never mind the nights you had to cry.

'Cause you have never let it go inside.

You work real hard, and you know exactly what you want and
Need, so believe and you can never give up,

You can reach your goals, just talk to your soul and say:

I believe I can I believe I will, I believe I'll go
My dreams are real, I believe I'll stand, I believe
I'll dance; I believe I'll go real soon and that is
Why I do believe.

Your goals are just dancing in your soul uh-huh, and you know that
Your moves will let them show you keep creating pictures in your mind.
So just believe they will come true in time. And you'll be fine.
Leave all of your cares and stress behind,

just let it go, let the music flow inside
Forget all your pain.
Just start to believe.


Never mind what people say, hold your head high and turn away,

With all my hopes and dreams. I will believe, even though it seems it's not for me,
I won't give up I'll keep it up, and look into the sky I will achieve
On my knees I will always believe.

And I, I believe I can I believe I will, I believe I'll go
My dreams are real, I believe I'll stand, I believe
I'm going to dance; Watch me! I believe I'll go real soon and that is
What I do believe.

(repeat chorus)

I do believe in me!

September 13th, 2005:

Bella's pov:

I promised Edward not to freak, and he promised me that gift wrap would be banned from the celebration. "Happy birthday to yoooooou!" they all sang as I melted into a puddle of humiliated goo and did my best not to sink under the tabletop. Maybe that's why Edward had seated me in the chair closest to the wall. It made it harder to escape, especially since he was sitting on one side of me, and Charlie was sitting on the other. I wondered if the little kitchen had ever been so crowded. Maybe in my grandparents' day. I couldn't see Charlie having in this many guests unless there were a birth or a funeral.

My vampires were there, of course, except for Em and Rose, who looked out of the laptop at us. The laptop was sitting on the table, so they wouldn't miss any details. Then, there were the Clearwaters, Jacob and Billy, Cynthia, Mary Alice, Pippa and Apple, Sam and Emily and Claire. They were all squished up cheek to jowl. I had ordered Alice to take plenty of pictures. The vampires and Kwoli were getting so chummy, I wanted to make sure it was documented for posterity.

Jasper was sitting in the fourth chair with Apple and Claire on his knees. Who ever knew, once he had gotten proper control over himself, that he would make such an entertaining uncle? I could hardly wait to see him with Renesmee. Cynthia was squashed in beside them, on Charlie's old desk chair. Good thing Jazz hadn't brought Lucky, because there certainly wasn't room to swing a cat.

I blew out the ridiculous number of little white candles -nineteen of them- atop the large, round cake, and they flickered and came back to life. I blew again, and they didn't go out. Trick candles. Seriously?

"Okay, who's the wise guy?" I growled as the vampires and Kwoli slayed themselves laughing. The children were awestruck. Eighteen fingers pointed at my Dad, who was seemingly enjoying a second adolescence. "Dad," I said, doing my best not to roll my eyes, "you do realize that I'm now very likely flammable."

"Aw, Bells. Just wait until you're seventy. We'll be able to roast weenies over that cake," he teased.

"Dat wiww be yummy!" Apple enthused, her violet eyes huge.

"Fo sure," Claire echoed.

Ew. Hot dogs dripping grease onto cake? Just ew. "Not gonna happen," I told my Dad smugly. "I'm gonna stop counting when I turn 29."

"Good luck with that," he growled, eyes sparkling.

"Don't worry, Minx. I'll count for you," Edward cooed, stroking my hair.

My eyes narrowed. "You'd better watch out, Pops, or I'll start counting for you."

"Ooh, scary," he said, eyes rolling, as everyone chuckled.

"Tsk tsk, the honeymoon is over," Jacob said, shaking his head mournfully.

"Shut up," I advised him.

"Yes, Ma'am," he said, giving me the boy scout's salute.

"Be a good girl, or I'll turn you over my knee," Charlie growled.

"I'm much too heavy," I said smugly. "I'd break your legs."

"Edward?" Charlie said, raising one eyebrow.

"Don't tempt me," my husband said playfully. Only I knew he wasn't teasing. Yum. Happy Birthday to me! I did my best not to drool all over him in front of my Dad.

"It is her birthday. You owe her nineteen smacks," Seth chipped in.

"I'll remember that," Edward said smoothly, slipping me a wink when nobody was looking. Me-ow. Something told me the party would not run late. At least not this party. Heh heh.

Sue somehow managed to extinguish all the candles without setting any of us on fire. She shoved the stack of plates closer to me, and passed me the knife.

"There's like, no icing left on this cake for these brats to scarf down," I told her. "The candles pulled it all off." The salivating Kwoli groaned. I waggled the knife in the air. "Sit up straight, kiddies, so I can decide who gets the first piece."

"Minx! Watch where you're pointing that thing!" Edward said, eyes twinkling.

I held it up and examined it thoughtfully. "I wonder if something like this would be useful for cutting ropes." I raised one eyebrow in a cheeky challenge.

"Bad girl," he growled, flushing silver. He did not look displeased, however.

"TMI!" Emmett declared from the monitor. He and Rose had been in Hanover for a couple of days, and he was looking very... relaxed.

"You ain't seen nothing yet," I told him. He cackled. Em had no clue what we were going to put him through.

"No whining, boys and girls," Sue warned. "There's lots more icing." She fetched a big bowl of it from the fridge. "We're used to feeding an army of boys, aren't we Emily?"

"Yep," she smiled.

"I don't know how you cope with looking after them on a daily basis, Wolf Girl," I sighed.

"I don't know how you manage to put up with these ticks either, Vampire Girl," Emily teased.

Children first, I decided. I cut small pieces for the little girls, and added a candy-rose to each, then passed their dishes so Esme could dole out ice cream. Apple and Claire took the dishes eagerly. Billy's dog walked over hopefully, and Emily told him to go and lie down. He sighed sadly, so Esme gave him a little ice cream in his chow dish. He inhaled it in one lick.

I cut a wedge out of the cake and passed it to my Dad, who looked like the cat who ate the cream when Esme dropped a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top. Only thirteen people would be eating cake, but she and Sue had made enough to feed 24. When feeding Kwoli, it was always best to assume they were dying of starvation.

"You have to taste it, Bella," Emmett informed me solemnly from the screen. "For luck."

Rose looked warily at him from her position on his lap, then looked at me with concern. She knew I was having problems tolerating the smell of human food, never mind tasting it.

"You have to do nothing of the sort," Edward growled, clearly annoyed with his -as I had been informed- younger brother.

"Spoilsport," Em pouted.

"Alright, no arguments on my birthday," I ordered, swiping my finger over the cake top. I grimaced at it, while the Kwoli snickered. Edward looked on with concern as I stuck it in my mouth.

My eyes widened in surprise and I squinted quickly to hide it. It was good. Seeing as being in the same room with human food generally turned me thoroughly green, I couldn't understand it. But it gave me a great idea.

"Hey, Em? What'll you bet me, if I am able to eat a whole spoonful of this icing and keep it down?"

"Are you looney?" my mate squeaked with his jaw on the floor. All the vampires looked revolted.

"Well, I just thought it was time I started trying to fit in," I said coolly, wrinkling my nose and giving an artificial shudder.

"What do you want to bet, Baby Bee?" Emmett asked, rubbing his hands together.

I thought about it hard. "You have to do all our laundry for the next three months," I decided.

"Uh, Bella, I don't think that's such a good-" Edward began.

"-and if you ruin anything you wash, you have to replace it," I said confidently.

"Bella, I really don't think you should-" my mate suggested tentatively.

"Trust me," I murmured, leaning in to kiss him. Amazingly, he backed up. He didn't want to taste the icing. That's how bad he expected it to be.

"You might want to think twice, Bella," Alice sang, winking. She nodded almost imperceptibly, and I smirked. This was going to be so great!

Edward looked at his sister, a small crease between his eyes. Was she keeping him out? He weighed my attitude, and sat back a bit, one brow raised.

"She'll never do it," Jasper declared, seeming confused by my smugness. "It takes us years to acclimate to swallowing human food."

"Lemme consult with Rose a minute," Em said warily, and muted the volume on the web cam. Rose looked worried. She was arguing with him, and trying to see Alice, who was standing just slightly out of range of the lens. Rose shook her head a couple of times, but it appeared Emmett was not listening to his wife. Bad idea.

"Bella?" Edward asked quizzically.

"Shh!" I told him.

Emmett turned the sound back up. "It's a deal!"

"You're going down!" Alice said smugly.

"Impossible," Em declared arrogantly. "I'm watching, Bee."

"Okay," I grinned, hoping I wouldn't regret this.

"Hold it!" Billy yelled, and dollars were slapped down on the table. Jasper tallied the bets and gave the odds. It seemed the dark horse was favoured to win.

"Can I play, too?" Seth begged, giving his Mom the puppy dog eyes.

"How much are you betting?" Sue asked warily.

"I'll only put in a dollar," he promised.

"Okay," Sue sighed.

Seth put his hand in his pocket, and came up empty. "Can I borrow a dollar, somebody?"

Leah rolled her eyes, and handed him a scrunched up dollar bill. "I want it back." She pulled a few wadded-up bills out of her shorts, and added them to the pile. "Bella to win."

Seth beamed, adding his borrowed dollar. "Bella to win."

I looked at him confidently.

My husband watched with mounting anxiety. "Bella, you're nuts. Do you realize how bad that stuff tastes? It's gonna taste mouldy."

I looked at the web cam. "What will you give me if Edward eats it too?" I demanded, poker-faced. Alice clapped with glee.

"Hey! Be careful what you sign me up for, Minx!" my mate protested in alarm.

"Trust me," I muttered again. He ran his hand through his hair, gulping heavily.

Cynthia was onto me. She watched eagerly, her blue eyes sparkling.

"I'll, uh... clean the bathrooms, too," Em offered.

I looked at Edward, who crinkled up his nose and shook his head. I looked back at Emmett. None of us used the bathroom, and that meant the worst part of the job would be scrubbing the shower. Not a difficult chore, or that unpleasant.

"Not good enough," I declared.

Em bit his lip. "How 'bout... I teach you to square dance?"

"You would have done that anyway," I scoffed.

"Okay, okay. Hmm... Watching Eddie-boy eat icing is totally worth it. I'll change diapers for the first week."

"Sold!" I yelled before anyone else could change his mind.

The eyes of my family and friends locked onto me as I drove a tablespoon through the icing in the bowl, and handed it to my mate, who was looking extremely squicked out. I took another spoon and scooped up a larger amount for myself.

"Remember, you both have to keep it down to get the prize!" Emmett yelled.

"Sure, sure. Are you watching?" I checked.

"You bet," Em declared.

"On 'three'," I instructed my mate, who held up his spoon reluctantly. Our companions hooted and jeered at each other, gawping at us eagerly. Charlie and Seth started thumping on the table. I wasn't sure it would survive the experience.

"Stop banging!" Sue demanded.

"Down the hatch! One... two... three!" I put the spoon in my mouth and savoured it, licking it clean. I watched Edward's eyes widen as he tasted it, and then his eyes rolled back in his head a little.

"Oh, in the name of all that's holy! What's in this, Sue? It's fantastic!" my mate enthused, licking off every last bit, and diving into the bowl for another spoonful. I cackled evilly.

"Bella Marie Cullen! You tricked me!" Emmett howled as everyone laughed uproariously, clapping and sharing high-fives.

"No rules against it, Em. I expect you to pay up," I crowed smugly as Jasper divided up the winnings.

"I got ten bucks," Seth crowed. "Here's your dollar, Leah."

"Keep it, kid. I got twenty-five," she said, fanning herself with money.

"Thanks!" he beamed.

"What's this made out of?" Edward asked eagerly, gesturing at the bowl.

Sue looked perplexed, and a little sheepish. "It's just sugar, whipped topping, a bit of water, and artificial flavouring. Actually, I was feeling badly, using all that artificial stuff. I didn't get time to go to the store, to buy fresh. This is all I had on hand."

"It's all artificial?" Edward checked, delighted. "Soy-cream from a can, perhaps?"

"Well, Charlie is sensitive to milk, so I thought I'd try the soy topping."

"Soy, water, sugar, and artificially-flavoured food colouring?" Edward guessed.

"Yeah," Sue shrugged.

"Happy birthday, Bella! We can eat this, at least temporarily. All of us. Sue, may I see the food colouring, please?"

Sue brought the glass bottle of yellow liquid to the table. Jasper whisked it out of her hands and read the label, then passed it to Edward. He started typing madly into Alice's Crackberry.

"It must be palatable because it's artificial," Edward mused. "The ingredients must have been prepared, and preserved immediately." He looked up, awestruck. "Preservatives. The flavour doesn't have time to degrade."

Jasper looked up in excitement. "They make 154 flavours!"

"A hundred and- Buy them! High quantity!" Edward ordered.

"Invest in the company, but insist they don't change the recipe," Alice added, eyes black. She must have had a vision of the stock market. "We'll market it to our kind. This is revolutionary."

"Just like our lube," Carlisle said super-fast at vampire pitch, knowing the Kwoli wouldn't catch it. The vampires all snickered, to the human and wolf peoples' consternation.

"Must be the same preservative," Edward said, amused. Brat. "You never thought to check it out? Shame. You should check later."

"Be lucky if we don't go check it now," Carlisle said, looking gobsmacked.

Soon, the Cullens and Hales were dipping spoons into the bowl, and all agreed that the flavour was fabulous. The ravenous Kwoli looked on anxiously as the supply dwindled. I decided it would be prudent to serve them some cake and ice cream before a war broke out.

"What does it taste like?" Emmett pleaded, looking on anxiously with Rosalie.

"Pineapple," I told him.

"Aw!" he whined. "What does pineapple taste like?"

"Sweet and fruity," I supplied. He frowned. Obviously that didn't ring a bell for him.

"Already sent you the information, Emmett," Jasper informed him.

Em cheered up. "Thanks, Jazz."

"Any time."

When the treat was all gone -Jacob and Seth having licked the remnants of icing from the serving dishes in a shocking display of trust (considering vampire cooties might have touched it) we adjourned to the living room and I opened my gifts. Carlisle and Esme presented me with a hand-painted New Testament, with our family tree copied meticulously into the front. Beautiful. In addition, Esme gave us a large wedding scrapbook with gorgeous pictures that I knew Edward and I would pour over with enthusiasm.

Jasper and Alice gave me a large box of heavy, black-lacquered frames of varying size. Some had pictures in them. Five of the larger ones were blank, with pre-cut mattes. I knew exactly what pictures I was meant to put in them. I exchanged a fiendish smile with my impish sister.

From Charlie and Sue came what seemed like every existing guide book to New Hampshire, including ones meant for hunters. I was sure they would prove useful. I realized that vampires saw such books as humans might see Restaurant Guides: Where shall we go tonight for dinner, Dear? What a great idea!

Seth had made us some more vids, these ones detailing my childhood, and Edward's life before I came along. I was so eager to see that! We had given Seth various components for his computer for his birthday, including a Blu Ray drive, a turntable, film splicers and reels, and video transfer equipment. He could now make DVDs for people out of old home movies. It would be a great part-time job.

Jacob and Billy had gotten us a copy of a prayer by Laurel Singing Water Cat, meticulously inked onto buckskin:

Great Spirit, God, Creator of All

I welcome You into my heart, mind, body and soul

There is always room for You here.

Grant me the wisdom to heed my inner voice

And the strength to stay grounded while I sing my sacred song.

Guide me down my chosen path and give me the courage to pursue

what is available to me.

I am thankful for the lessons and grateful for my struggles;

I have not forgotten what has brought me to where I am today.

Open my heart to the healing wholeness of nature;

We are all related, and through this I will find serenity.

Great Spirit, God, Creator of All

Cleanse my spirit and wash my soul.

There is always room for You here.

Edward looked a little overwhelmed by it. I realized he still hadn't discussed his return to faith with Carlisle. Obviously, my husband was not ready to do so. I said a quick prayer that the two men would soon clear the air between them. I also thanked God that Edward and Carlisle had made so much progress. They were much closer now than they had been before the wedding. Edward was also much more demonstrative with his Dad, who was thriving on it.

Rose had made me a lovely granny-square afghan, and there was a suspicious, big, tissue paper-wrapped basket from Em. "Thought your love life could use a little spice," he winked.

"Em-mett! Not in front of the kinder!" Edward huffed with a furtive look at Claire and Apple, removing the package from my arms. He was a little silver around the ears. I wondered what he Heard.

"Thank you, Emmett," I sang. "I'll just open that later."

There were a few (mostly small) gifts from others -notably an original edition of 'Alice in Wonderland' from Cynthia and Mary Alice. Edward said his mother had owned one, as well. They had a fascinating little conversation about books from their childhood. And then I was down to Edward's gift. And I knew what it would be: ostentatious. Sure enough, Jasper slipped out, and a few minutes later, I heard the purr of a highly-tuned engine.

I looked at my mate, and found that he was attempting to look casual. Total fail! He looked like he wanted to duck and cover in case I decided to put him in the chipper-shredder down the street. Well, he needn't have worried. I had found out how gratifying it was to watch him watch me enthuse about gifts. Here we go! Time to show some enthusiasm, Bella! Knock his socks off!

"Is ... that my present arriving?" I asked timidly, afraid to be wrong.

Edward bit his lip and looked at me a bit like a puppy that's scared it's gonna get yelled at. People were already filing outside, cameras and cell phones at the ready. Carlisle even grabbed the laptop so Em and Rose could see. No pressure, right?

"You gonna show me?" I asked gently, standing up. A couple of bits of ribbon and tissue paper fluttered to the floor. People had, indeed, been very creative at wrapping my gifts without paper.

Edward nodded, peeping at me, and crooked his elbow. I took it, dying of curiosity. He opened the door, and I stepped out.

I'm sure my eyes looked like a couple of red stoplights. Just as big, just as bright, just as round.

"Holy crow sweet mother of all mothers is that -it is isn't it- ohmygod. Oh. My. God!" I paced back and forth, oblivious to everything and everybody but my new toy. I started screaming, jumping up and down like a crazy person. My mother used to watch 'Price is Right'. Bob Barker? Eat your heart out!

I ran up and down in front of the house screaming and flapping, and jumped up and down a few more times for good measure. Then, I ran over and spread my arms on the warm hood, and hugged it.

My birthday guests were killing themselves laughing.

"You got me Magnum's caaaaaarr!" I wailed, effectively snogging with it. I love my car I love my car I love my car... Who needs to pretend?

Jasper scoffed. "It's way better than Magnum's car, Baby. That there's a 2006, P4/5 Ferrari. There's only one other like it in existence, and it won't be dwelling with its owner until next July."

"It's bee-yooooooo-tiful!" I yelled.

Candy. Apple. Red.

I ran around the car three times to look at it, then took a flying leap into Edward's arms. Hopefully, Mrs Bellows Noseypants from around the corner was not spying. Edward caught me before I could slide to the ground. I locked my arms and legs around him. "Hi."

"Hi," he said, looking like he didn't know which spaceship I'd come in on.

"That is the prettiest car I've ever seen," I shared quietly.

"I know, right?" he murmured back.

"Mwah!" I exclaimed, kissing him loudly. "Mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah! I love it!"

He got all giggly, which was The Best. Reaction. Ever. I pulled back to mock glare at him.

"How did you know I liked Ferraris?" I asked, running a finger down that jaw, and his throat, and slipping it inside his shirt collar. "All it needs are a couple of Dobie doggies on the front seat, with Higgins."

"Maybe when the baby's a little older," he suggested. "Old, English operatives are pretty scary for a baby."


"Yes, Love?"

"I LOVE MY FREAKIN' CAR! Can we go for a car ride? Now? Huh? Pretty please with chocolate food colouring on top?"

"Sure," he said, pursing his kissable lips. What the hell. I leaned down and planted one on him. Then, I scrambled out of my mate's arms, and held out my hand expectantly to Jasper, who dropped the key in it.

"Drives like a dream. You have to set up the thumbprint and voice activation, Bee."

"Thanks, Jazz! Edward? You're driving!" I yelled, heading for the passenger seat.

"It's your car, Bella. You ought to drive it, at least for the first time," he argued, also approaching the passenger door.

"Edward," I said, cocking my head at him.

"Yes, Dearest?"

"How fast does this go?" I cooed.

"Top speed is 362 km per hour."

"American, please."

"255 mph."


"Yes, Minx?"

"Which of us is the best driver?" He looked at me like it was a trick question, so I answered myself. "You are. Now, I want you to floor it."

"I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that," Charlie growled.

"Jeez, Louise!" Edward moaned. "You sure you haven't been body-snatched?" He raised his voice, looking at everybody. "Okay, people. Bella will give you rides tomorrow. See ya when we see ya!"

"Thanks for my presents! Love you all! Best. Birthday. Ever!" I yelled.

They all clapped, and I flapped my hand insanely, and squirmed with delight as Edward opened the butterfly-style passenger door for me. I peeped in, not knowing what to expect.

It looked so simple, that I was sure I could drive it without a pilot's license, and yet it was more luxurious than anything I could have imagined. Oxblood brown leather seats, with red leather cushion-contrast and a black dashboard with red accents. A center console with a whole bunch of buttons and gauges. A normal-ish round steering wheel. Cute little round stereo speakers in the same shape as the wheel covers. And an iPod dock, a stereo, a cell-phone dock, and a video touch screen.

"Well?" my mate drawled, beginning to come out of shock. He leaned on the side of the car as I inspected it.

"It's da bomb. You sure I can ride in it? What if I get it dirty?" I winked.

"Depends what you're spilling on it," my mate declared. "Can you get in?"

I looked at him teasingly. "Are you calling me fat?"

"Who, me? I'm referring to the fact that you're getting pear-shaped and that seat's a long way down."

"I'll make it," I declared, crawling in. "Heavenly," I sighed. "Smells good, Mocha-chino. Hey, there's no back seat for the baby."

"You do not need to drive the baby around in a car that goes 255 miles an hour. Besides, if she ever spit up or something, we'd never get the smell out. You can drive her in the Guardian."

"Okay," I grinned. Squee!

"Thank you for being excited about your present," Edward murmured.

I cackled. "You weren't expecting it to go over this well, were you?"

"I must admit that I was seriously worried about the chipper shredder."

I snorted. "That might damage part of you that I couldn't do without."

"Hah. Minx!" he barked, poised with his hand on top of my door. "Hey, Billy?" he called.


"Are the Hoh gonna try to kill us if we pass the Rez?"

"Hmm. The Hoh are pretty much part of the Quileute Nation. Probably fine, but lemme give you a letter, just in case. Steer clear of Queets."

"Okay. Thanks, Chief."

Billy waited for Jacob to bring him a pen and paper. Edward looked at him a little shyly. "How did the appointments go in Seattle?"

Billy smiled ruefully. "You were right. Boy's dyslexic."

Edward sighed, sounding rather relieved. "Good. They'll help him at that center. I'm glad. He's a bright kid. Hopefully his grades will start reflecting that. And the dog?"

"Yeah, the institute is going to help me learn how to make proper use of the dog. The trainer said they'll find out what commands Raptor's trained to fulfil, and then they'll teach me how to use them. Just imagine if Jasper and Jake had left him behind! They'd have never known he was a Helper Animal. Says on the news that a lot of pets have been left behind. I hope somebody rescues them because I've gotta say, this dog is doing me a world of good."

"Yeah, I hope so, too. I'm glad you're finding Raptor a big help. That's excellent," Edward said, pleased as punch.

Billy's face turned sober. "I don't know how to thank you properly. Your family has done so much for us, considering what we've put you through. Our interference over your relationship with Bella, before we even knew you, well, it's not something I'm proud of. I hope you both know that I'm sorry." Wow, I never expected to get an apology from Billy, and it meant a lot to me. Edward smiled at me gently. He knew I was pleased, and I knew he was happy, too.

"We know, Billy. Don't concern yourself over it any longer. And we're glad to have the opportunity to help you. In fact, I'd like you to bring that up at the next Council meeting. I'd like to do something for your young people. Maybe we can start up a fund that will help them with college so they can get better jobs. I'd like to help the tribe with housing, too. Some of those houses look about ready to fall down."

Billy looked blown away. "Why would you do that for us, when we have been so cruel at times?"

"You trust us now, right?" Edward checked.

"Well, yeah," Billy said, perplexed.

"Maybe... it's because it feels like an honour to be trusted. Or maybe it's because of Seth and Sue, I dunno. Pretty soon, we're going to be family. Families take care of each other," Edward said softly, as he watched Seth and Leah laugh with Jasper. I thought Leah was beautiful when she smiled.

Jacob bounced down the steps and handed writing materials to his Dad, who started writing meticulously.

"I hear your appointment went well," Edward told him.

"Yeah. It was... astounding, really. They explained a lot of stuff to me," Jake said, nodding.

"I know you're only starting your Senior Year, but have you given any thought as to what you'd like to do after high school? Are you going to technical school? Yeah, for auto mechanics?"

Jacob grimaced.

"Don't worry about the cost," Edward said dismissively.

Jacob looked stunned. His eyes moved over to search mine.

"I'll be glad if we can help you, Jacob. You were there for me, when I needed you," I told him.

"You kept her alive for me," Edward murmured.

Jacob's eyes flew from Edward's back to mine. "So... does this mean we're friends again, Bella?"

I sighed. "Yes, we can be friends."

He looked at me with longing. "Can I shake hands with you? I won't make you get out to hug me. Looks like you had a horrible time getting in." I held out my hand and he took it, and held it for a minute between his. His skin felt so hot to me, but it was ... nice. "The car is boss, though," he admitted. "Even if we are going to need a crane to get you in and out, soon."

"Shut up," I giggled.

"Here, Sam, sign this, will you?" Billy directed.

Sam took the paper and read it. "You sure?"


Sam signed the paper, and handed it to Jacob. "You'd better sign it, too."

"Okay," Jacob said, and took it. He read it over very slowly, and added his signature to the bottom. While Billy looked on with shining eyes, Jacob passed the paper to Edward. Gee, it seemed awfully momentous considering we were only asking to drive along the coast. I wasn't about to question it, though. The more Kwoli that lent us their support, the better.

Edward grasped the paper firmly as Jacob held it. "You're sure?" he asked solemnly.

"Yes," Jacob said simply.

Edward tucked the letter of endorsement into his pocket. He shook hands with all three men. "Never can be too safe with giant wolves on the loose." He winked at Jacob. "Ready, Minx?" he asked.

"Oh, yeah," I grinned. "Let's go, Mocha-chino!"

"Seat belt."

"Yes, sir!" I strapped myself into the harness and gripped the arm rests, willing him to get in the car and hurry the heck up.

Edward chuckled. "I can't floor it here, Minx. We'll go down the coast."

"I did not hear that," Charlie growled.

"You just watch what you do with my Vanquish," Edward mock-frowned.

"You got a fuzz buster, kid?" Charlie mock-frowned back.

"I can't help it. It's built in," Edward said, tapping his temple. "Ready to burn up some asphalt, Bella?"

"Okay," I told my mate happily.

I thought I heard him say 'jeez Louise' again, under his breath. He shut my door, walked around the vehicle, and got in. He reclined in the driver's seat as comfortably as though he had been born there.

Everybody stood clapping and waving as we glided away from the house. Within minutes, we were on the 101 heading south, and the farther we got from Forks, the faster we moved. "We're coming up to a nice, straight stretch soon," Edward informed me, lounging as comfortably as though he was taking a leisurely Sunday drive. "It's between Hoh and Queets. That be enough for you?"

"I dunno," I said, ogling him. His right hand rested, tension-free, in his lap. The left rested lightly on the steering wheel. The car engine was so good, I could barely hear it. Edward looked ahead, concentrating on his driving for once. I thought about breaking that concentration.

"You touch my cock while we're going 200 miles an hour, I'm gonna wreck this baby. Then I'll have to kill ya."

"Busted," I grimaced, peeking at him.

His lip quirked up as he peeked at me. "You are such a naughty girl. I have to listen for humans. I don't want to turn anybody into jam. Behave yourself."

"What if there's a cop?" I worried.

"Minx. They drive Crown Vics here. If we were in Cali, okay, I'd maybe think about worrying. Just wait 'til we go to Germany some day. Now that's fun. Or Portugal. They have the worst-ruled highways I've ever seen. Trads love it there."

I remembered watching a training film in Driver's Ed, that showed how many fatal accidents occurred on that country's highways. Trads probably had a blast cleaning up the carnage. "I don't think I want to know," I told my mate.

"Probably not," he said, bumping the wheel rhythmically, a couple of times, with the heel of his hand. "Party time."

I looked ahead eagerly. The road was straight as an arrow. My mate's foot pressed smoothly down, and he shifted effortlessly into high gear. In mere seconds, the speed dial climbed to Max. Our bodies were pressed firmly against the seats. Edward's face wore that familiar expression he reserved for insane speed. I watched his bicep flex as he added his right hand to the wheel, ready to make miniscule alterations to the steering. Then, everything outside his window blurred, and the engine purred under us. I grinned madly, watching the world fly by, and found myself purring, too.

"Decelerating," he said quietly, scant moments later, letting us coast before gradually caressing the brakes. It took a long time to slow down, considering the high quality of this gorgeous machine. Then again, I had never travelled on anything that actually passed 250 mph, that wasn't airborne. What did I know about slowing down? Soon, we had reached the 'Welcome to Queets' sign. Edward executed a smart three point turn, and headed back the way we came. He drove with his left wrist, elbow on his thigh, eyes glittering with excitement. "That good enough for you, Minx?"

"Yeah," I groaned. "But getting something else would make it even better."

He bit back a grin. "And what might that be?"

"I want to thank you for my present," I said, fluttering my eyelashes at him.

"Grr-wow. I have a hang-up about orgasming while the car is in motion. Don't forget what happened with the boat."

"Let me thank you, Mocha-chino," I pleaded, fondling his crotch. Without answering, he looked around, and sped up, then suddenly spun the wheel, purposefully executing a perfect 540º turn. When my mind caught up with my body, I realized we were perfectly parked in front of a retaining fence, at one of the lookout spots on the west side of the highway. Edward's arm was resting conveniently around my shoulders, and my seat belt was undone. He could still move much faster than me when he wanted to.

"Hi," he said, his eyes on fire.

"Hi," I smirked.

"Have I ever told you that it turns me on when you are gladdened by my presents?" he asked silkily.

"I may have realized something to that effect," I said nonchalantly. "I am always gladdened by your presence, Mr Cullen."

"Really," he said, eyes fixed on my mouth. I ran my tongue across my upper teeth and the silver lights kindled in his eyes. He stroked the back of my neck.

"I would really like to thank you for my car," I said flirtatiously.

"And how exactly would you like to thank me?" he wondered, massaging the base of my skull.

In response, I moved onto my hands and knees, and leaned in to kiss him. To say he responded with enthusiasm would be putting it mildly. His tongue met mine and pushed into my mouth, and he crushed me close with his left hand, keeping his right on my neck. My hand travelled down his shirt front, lifting the hem to work its way into his pants. I pushed it lower, and forced my fingers into his briefs, and found him wet and slippery.

"And you call me naughty," I teased, whispering against his mouth while sliding my fingers up and down his length. "So when did you cum?"

"Which time?" he groaned.

"Never mind," I told him. He took his hand off my back and popped his fly open, then tugged his chinos down a bit to give me better access. Mr Ed said 'hello'. I cupped my mate's slippery balls.

"Hello, Mr Ed," I cooed, moving my left hand onto his base and pulling him off Edward's abdomen. "Something tells me that someone's hand is on the back of my neck for a reason." I peeked up at my mate, who was looking at me shyly. I looked back down at his raging hard-on, and wondered if it was painful. "Just look how silver you are tonight. I hope you aren't hurting my mate. I'm going to have to take care of you for him."

"Mmm-hmm," my mate whimpered. I stroked his cock, which oozed more wetness out of the tip.

"I wonder what he wants," I mused, still addressing Edward's dick like it was an independent entity. "It would be okay for him to push my head down, you know."

My mate pulled a hissing breath in through his teeth, and his hand exerted careful pressure, pushing me down to his pewter glans. I took his head into my mouth, and masticated it with my lips, and he strangled a cry. I released him, and his fingers massaged my neck some more. I pursed my lips, not looking at him.

"I'm not sure why you're feeling shy this evening," I murmured, "but I don't want you to be. Don't hold back your sounds from me, Love. Ever."

He cried out, and his hips pushed up to meet me. Holding his cock still, I opened my mouth, exhaling, and took him deep, swallowing against his shaft to massage him. He pushed down gently on my head, and I gulped again, and sucked him hard, humming loudly.

"Oh, God, Bella!" he gasped, taking his other hand and running it over the back of my head. "You have no idea how good that feels." He held my head between his gentle hands, stilling me, and pushed his cock deeper inside my mouth. I hummed in encouragement, and he rolled his hips in a steady rhythm, watching me with so much care. I marvelled at his self-control. After several minutes, he stilled, and then his hands slid away from me. He balled them into fists and rested them on the seat, and I took up the rhythm for him while his thigh muscles quivered in restraint.

"I'm going to cum!" he choked out, clenching his teeth. "Do you want me to cum, Bella?"

"Mmm-hmm!" I replied enthusiastically, wrapping both hands around his cock. I sucked him frantically. Instantaneously, his hand clapped down on the back of my neck as a domineering growl ripped out of his chest. I felt my own growl escape me in response. Warm ejaculate pulsed down my throat as he arched, his teeth closing with a snap, and I imagined his eyes squeezing shut. He yelled my name, loud in the confines of the car, and melted into the seat, panting. I rested my forehead on his abdomen, tracing my fingers over his privates. He stroked my hair lovingly.

"I'm going to have to buy you Ferraris more often," he rasped.

"One at a time is enough," I told him.

"You want to drive her?"

"Oh, this car is not female, Ginchy."

"I beg your pardon, Mrs Cullen. Does this vehicle have a name?" he enquired with a teasing lilt.

"Magnum," I decided.

"Magnum it is. I may be getting a little jealous of Tom Selleck," he winked.

"Don't bother. You are much, much hotter," I told him.

"Grr-wow. Feel like sticking your toes in the ocean?"

"Yeah," I answered enthusiastically. I put my left hand on his seat and my right on his far thigh, and levered myself up past the center console, realizing I was pretty stiff. My mate huffed a laugh, and put his hands on my shoulders to help me get upright.

"Guess we won't be christening Magnum properly for a while, Preggy Pear," he teased me, his eyes like pools of molten gold, flecked with red.

"Hey, we're getting there," I reminded him. "Only a couple of months left."

"I can't wait," he smiled, caressing the side of my face.

"Me neither," I murmured. We were quiet for a bit, then he looked at me sidelong, almost apologetically. I was perplexed.

"Something wrong?" I asked as calmly as I could. He shifted a little, and met my eyes.

"Not really," he shrugged. "It's just that... I really wanted to bite you. It's getting harder every day not to claim you."

"Thank you," I beamed.

He shook his head, looking confounded. "You are so weird."

"But you love me," I sang, putting my head on his shoulder. "And you want to keep me forever."

"Yes I do," he told me.

After looking out at the ocean for a few minutes, we headed back the way we had come. It would soon be twilight. Edward pulled into a little town called Ruby Beach, and bee-lined for a small parking area. He got out, came around and extended his hand to help me out of the car. I actually did wonder how I was going to manage getting out when heavily pregnant, Hybrid or not. He locked Magnum, and took my hand. We wandered past the fence posts onto the beach.

The sun was just starting to set, and to my surprise, the ground turned a glistening pink. "What's this?" I gawped. "It's all shiny."

Edward smiled crookedly. "It's called Ruby Beach because of all the crushed rose-garnets in the sand."

I blinked. "We're standing on crushed gemstones?"

"Yeah. Pretty, right?" He knelt to help me take off my Chucks. Then, he took off his shoes and socks, and rolled up his chinos. He tucked our stuff in our trusty black tote, and we started down the beach, along the edge of the surf. The water was freezing. "Seems we came on the perfect evening. Not foggy. It's s'posed to be foggy here often."

"Why haven't you brought us here before?" I asked, pushing the hair back off my face.

My mate looked at me shyly. "Too close to LaPush. I haven't been here myself, since we wrote the Treaty in 1936."

"In Hoquiam?" I asked, surprised. He nodded, his hair blowing over his eyes. I though how different he looked now, twenty-one months after we met. He used to be so meticulously groomed and attired, with eyes that were always tight and darkly circled, his demeanour tense. In the light of the setting sun, he was an entirely different person: relaxed, and healthy-looking. Much less alien, despite the lingering tinge of burgundy in his eyes. He took my hand in his large one, and we started to walk.

"Penny for your thoughts," he asked softly, his fingers twined up with mine.

"Hm. I'm thinking about you," I admitted.

"Hah. What else is new?" he teased.

"I was thinking how peaceful you look now, compared to when I met you," I told him, pulling on his arm so that he turned around to face me. "You have changed... so much."

"Do you remember how much trouble the Kwoli gave us when we met?" he said without bitterness, wrapping his arms around me.

"You kept us apart, because they were harassing you over our mate bond," I said. He looked out at the sun, smiling faintly. "Billy said you were dangerous, and you tended to agree. You were so frightened that they would do something rash: Hurt me to get to you, or hurt one of the family. You tried to walk away from me."

"I ... was scared for all of us. You, our families, and even myself. I finally had something worth living for, and they were threatening to destroy us. I was worried they would actually do it. They can be so impulsive. Like Newborns."

"How?" I wondered.

"I'll feel safer with them when they're all older, you know? Sam's the oldest. He's twenty-seven now, Bella. And Paul is twenty-four. You know how temperamental he is. Jacob's still only seventeen, and now there is the new crop, of young boys, we met this week. I know how it feels to be stuck at seventeen. I've been seventeen for almost eighty-eight years. When I met you ... I was a jaded old man in so many ways, and an inexperienced kid in so many others. You woke me up from a long sleep. You brought me back to life. I had years and years of information in my pocket to try to apply, once I got the chance. Do you get that?"

"Yes, you've always been a planner. Rarely, if ever, impulsive."

"And that's why they scare me. I've been around the world, Bella. I've Heard all kinds of thoughts, and picked up some wisdom that I've hoped I could apply to my own life, and use to help others. And yet, for all that knowledge, when I met you, I made some of the most incredibly stupid choices imaginable. The Kwoli Ute act in accordance with their legends. And they're a stubborn people. They revere their past, and they like to adhere to the beliefs their ancestors touted. And the Kwoli are young. They aren't well-travelled. Their schools are good, but the Wolves are ... provincial. Does it offend you, if I call them that?"

"You don't mean it as an insult. You're not saying they're hicks," I checked.

"Certainly not. Billy is well-read and intelligent. His daughters both went to college, and hopefully Jacob will, too, once he gets some help for his dyslexia. Sam went to college, and so did Paul. And Sue has a degree in Art."

"I didn't know that," I said, fascinated.

"Yeah. So, what I'm trying to say is that they're educated with good resources, but their first-hand knowledge of the world is not that extensive. They aren't... cosmopolitan. They think things should be the way their forefathers said they were, and it makes it a bit hard for them to open their minds to a broader perspective."

"And you were scared they would hurt us, because you thought they'd behave like aggressive teenagers when they found us breaking their edict."

"I broke a taboo," my mate stated emphatically, his voice dark. "A Cold One fell for a human, saving her life not once, but several times. It absolutely rocked their world."

"Will things be better now, do you think?" I mused.

Edward laughed, his eyes shining. "Minx, where are we standing?"

"Um, on Ruby Beach?" I said, uncertain where he was going. He reached into his pocket, and pulled out the piece of paper that Billy had given him.

"Don't let this blow away," he warned me, gripping the edges firmly as he held it out for us to read together.

I frowned at the paper, perplexed, and was struck dumb by what I read:

'I, Chief Billy Dan Black, grant permission ever hereafter for Edward Masen Cullen, Carlisle Cullen, and their families, to walk freely on Quileute Land, between Grays Harbour and Makah, so long as they remain Vegetarians. Signed this day, September 13, 2005, in honour of Isabella Marie Swan Cullen and Charlie Swan'.

"And he, Sam, and Jacob all signed it," I said, feeling tears form in my eyes."That's ..."

"Another beautiful moment in a perfect day. Just wait until I tell Carlisle we're having Thanksgiving in LaPush." Edward smiled hugely, and his eyes lit up like stars. "We'll have a formal treaty," he told me joyfully. "But it's basically a done deal."

"He told you to stay away from Queets," I frowned. "Isn't it above Grays Harbour?"

"Yes, further inland. Leah has family there. It's where Emily came from."

"Ah. So they might not be so easy to convince," I said, feeling some of the wind go out of my sails.

"I think it will be fine. Leah's not as much of a beeyotch as she lets on. She's likely talk to her family about us, in a nicer light, now."

"This is... seriously the best birthday ever," I said as he folded up the paper again and put it away.

"Yeah. Another date is coming up, that's significant," he said smugly, pushing back his windblown hair.

"That so? The first day of college?"

"No, but by coincidence, it is the same date," he said, looking like the cat that ate the canary. "The fam's always tried to celebrate it with me, but I used to get really ticked off with them."

"Is it...?" I wondered.

"The day I woke up to this life. Yes. On September 21st, 1918, I woke up a vampire."

"But... that's major! Don't you want to be home, to celebrate the birthday with them?"

He pulled on my hips, rocking us a little. "No. The best thing about being a vampire, is that I lived long enough to meet you," he crooned in my ear, then licked up my jugular to nuzzle it. "I want a private celebration. After classes are done for the day, of course."

"You're really looking forward to college, aren't you?" I asked fondly.

"Yeah. Yeah, I am. You want to go check out those cliffs?" he said, jerking his head toward the sea stacks and their bigger rocky companions.

"Sounds wonderful. We can climb them, right?"

"Sure," he smiled, his eyes turning smoky.

"Race ya!" I hollered, taking off on him.

"Don't fall in the tide pools!" he cautioned, dropping our tote on the sand. "I'll give you a five second head start," he yelled after me.

I ran up the beach, feet flying through the rough sand, jumped a tide pool brimming with life. Giggling, I passed two jutting sea stacks, heading for a big rocky outcropping. I ran through the shallows, stuck out my hands and scrambled up, as my mate had taught me. I nearly jumped out of my skin as he passed me on the right, chuckling. In no time at all, we were at the top, wending our way rapidly through the dense, mossy vegetation and occasional trees. Suddenly, there was nothing in front of me, and my mate caught me by the back of my bra. My feet dangled over nothing as he killed himself laughing.

"You can take my safety more seriously than that," I informed him. He snorted, cradling me to his chest from behind. His hands slid down, caressing Ren.

"World's only clumsy vampire," he teased, pressing a kiss to the top of my shoulder.

"Shut up, Brat. If I'd fallen, I'd have just gotten wet. No big."

"Bella, have a gander over there," he said, pointing down at the dark, choppy water footing the cliff. I peered over the sloped edge, and he held onto me by my bra again, just in case I overbalanced. Beneath the water was a huge shadow. It was moving.

"What is that?" I frowned.

"Great White."

"Holy Hannah! Thanks for paying attention." I felt a little green.

"You're welcome." His arms enfolded me again from behind, and he hummed my lullaby as he rested his scruffy chin on my shoulder. I wrapped my arms over his strong forearms, playing with the fine hair there.

"Beautiful here," I murmured, sniffing the ocean mist. The waves lapped musically at the pink sand, soothing me.

He pressed a kiss to my cheek, speaking softly against it, so that his voice resonated against my skin. "You can almost see Canada from here. I'll have to take you up to Makah sometime, and you'll be able to see it easily. And we could also go to British Columbia."

"Hm. Gonna expand my horizons, are you?" I teased, resting my cheek against his.

"Well yeah, as much as possible before you turn into a ravenous Newborn," he said, squeezing me hard as he blew a raspberry on my neck. "And before we have a little ankle-biter keeping us busy day and night."

"Hah hah. Very nicely put, Mr Cullen. Stop tickling me or I'm gonna have to kick you."

"Promises, promises," he growled.

"Oh, yeah?" I chuckled, reaching behind myself to threaten his ticklish inner thigh.

"Higher, my violent femme."

Instead, I poked his ticklish spot, and he wrestled me to the ground and held my wrists well away from him.

"You are such a minx," he purred, half-lying on me. Warmth radiated from him. I would have to remember to get Carlisle to give me a check-up, and see what kind of changes were occurring in my newly-improved bod.

"Wow, Dom Edward, I like it when you hold me down," I announced, to my mate's surprise. "And wasn't Violent Femmes a band in the 80's?"

"Hey, they only stopped writing new stuff in 2000." He started to sing, imitating some nameless singer I'd never recognize. It was not like Edward's usual fare, rather it was kinda... whiny-snarly and ballad-y at the same time:

"You take me by my hand and say,
That what I owe I can not repay,
But you still love me anyway.
And I said "Yes, oh yes."
I said "This is what I've been dying...Yes, oh yes!
This is what I've been crying for. Yes, oh yes.
This is what I've been waiting for."

"Pretty eclectic taste, Mr Cullen," I drawled as he released my wrists. Sometimes, he astounded me. I grabbed him by the hair and shook him playfully.

"Mmm. Folk-punk. Great stuff when you feel like whining," he crooned, kneading my nipple as he wrestled my t-shirt and bra off. He wadded the shirt up, under my neck, then applied his mouth to my boob.

"Ohhh," I groaned, and my eyes rolled back in my head a little. "Yes! Oh, yes!"

"Grr. What would I have done without the punks?" he tutted, sucking the other boob. Oh, more, more, more! My hips bucked up, seeking attention.

"Watch out, or I'm gonna buy you black eyeliner," I warned.

Edward paused, releasing my nipple with a 'pop'. He looked so cheeky. "Now that would really freak Em and Rose out."

I drew his head back down. "Something tells me we're going shopping in interesting places when we get to Hanover."

"College should be fun," he avowed. "Time to experiment, and all that."

"Ooh. We'd better get a video camera," I declared. He eyed me, looking oh-so-naughty.

"What exactly is it that you plan to film?" he drawled, "Because we are not posting anything to Porn Tube."

I gasped. "You brat!"

He put his face in the crook of my neck, and cackled, making our bodies tremble in a delightful way. "I'm only joshing."

"I'm not. You are definitely turning into a brat. How do you know about Porn Tube?"

He snickered. "Emmett."

"Oh, holy crow. TMI !" Some unacknowledged... tense thing inside me released, and I wasn't sure why. Maybe it was because he was so playful now, so... obviously happy. He never used to be open with me. I stroked his head, and he looked at me so trustingly. In awe, it occurred to me that he had opened like a flower. He had bloomed. I felt my spirit open in response, linking more indivisibly with his than ever. His trust was so... touching.

"But you love me," he said simply, and I knew it was no longer something he would ever question.

"Yes, I do," I told him.

He rested his chin carefully on my chest. "How do you feel about making a Bucket List?"

"Ooh. That could be a long list," I winced. "Was there something you wanted to put on it, specifically?"

"Ye-ah," he smouldered. "Before I leave this earthly realm, I want to take you to the four corners of the world, and perch on the edge of every land mass, and feel the touch of every ocean while I make you cum."

I could live with that. "I like it."

"Wonderful. How do you feel about licking? Hmm? Right here?" he blinked, hiking my short skirt and thumbing my clit. All my lady parts went crazy, and wetness trickled out of me onto the mossy rocks. He looked down at my crotch, and then back into my eyes, the smug devil. "Shazaam. That's a 'yes'."

"Just don't melt me into such a puddle of goo that I slide right off this rock into the waiting mouth of that shark," I ordered, as he licked his way down me.

"Dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun! Dun da-da daaaa!" he sang, and plunged his tongue right into me. I cried out, expelling a flood of jism. He didn't miss a drop. He looked at me languidly. "I love that," he reminded me. "You're so hot. I want more." He ran his flat tongue up my pussy, and sucked against the velvety bare skin of my outer folds, moaning. I echoed him, my eyes rolling back in my head completely. Fluid was gushing out of me nonstop. I didn't think it would ever end. He looked up, black-eyed, and reapplied his thumb to my clit, watching me. "I want everything you've got. Everything." Slowly, he pushed three fingers into me and massaged my gee.

"Uuuungh!" I wailed, my body clenching around him. I twitched and writhed. "I want you everywhere! I want that perfect cock thrusting inside me! I want your mouth on mine, and your hands on my tits. I want more Edward! Now!"

"But I'm still thirsty, so you are going to have to be patient, greedy," he said, and pulled my clit into his mouth. My hands slapped against the rocks.

"Ah! Ah! Aaaah!" I yelled, face contorting as he encouraged me, with grunts and whimpers and sounds of affirmation, to give him everything I had. He gathered my juices into himself, and I came torrents, in waves. He pinched my nipples on the eighth go-round, creating an unbroken circle of vibrant electricity, and I lifted my pelvis off the rocks, while he licked me and sucked me and slurped it all down, his hands clasping my buttocks in a fruitless effort to get closer, to not miss out on any of my jizz.

Finally, it seemed, there was nothing more for me to give up, and I collapsed, sweaty, while he crawled up and panted into my face, his eyes black and silver in the moonlight. "You like feeding me," he rumbled, our heat sizzling between us.

"Yeah, and I like eating you," I rasped out, reaching between his legs to rub the bulge in his pants. I traced the line of his dick, and realized he was so excited that the head was sticking right out of his waistband. "Let me," I moaned, and he pushed himself up onto his knees, straddling me. I pulled him by his belt, and he shuffled closer, so that he was kneeling over my chest.

I kissed his velvety glans, and massaged it with my tongue, while my sure fingers undid his belt and chinos. Releasing him, I pushed down his sodden briefs. "Ah, Minx!" he rasped, as wetness drizzled out of him. His cock slapped against my cheek and I captured it. He was free, in more ways than one. I took him deep, swallowing hard, and he groaned, muscles quivering, and knotted his fist in my hair. I sucked him while he drew back from me, and then I lunged forward and rammed him into my mouth.


I did it again.

"Ungh! I can't last!" he gasped. I swirled my tongue over his tip, and deep-throated him again, pressing up on his prostate with my finger, and sucked him off.

"Aaaah! Fuck!" he cried, and I felt the cum pulse up from his base, then hot and sweet, it spurted into my eager mouth. He held my head while I looked up at him in adoration, his eyes heavy with want, while he shuddered and shook. Before he was even really finished, I felt him harden again. He moved off my chest and knelt beside me, pulling me up and taking my hands, to balance me over his thighs, so I could mount him.

He looked at me aggressively. "The first moment I saw you, I wanted this," he growled, pushing into me. "I wanted to feel myself sheathed in your body. My cock begged for it. Do you know you make cocks beg, Isabella Marie?"

"Yes!" I gasped, circling my hips.

"You make them weep, and ache in secret. You bend them to your will, as your heedless eyes travel like innocent birds, ignorant of their want. You unknowingly transport them to Shangri-la!" He rocked into me again.


"But none of them can have you except me, because you are mine and you were always mine and you will always be mine. Is that clear?" he demanded, punctuating his words with thrusts.

"Yes! Yes! Oh God, yes!"

He addressed me roughly, pushing deeply in and out of my core. "I took your first kiss. Your tears. Your fantasies. Your first orgasm. I took the first taste of your skin. Your blood. Your arousal. I took your mouth. Your tongue. Your innocence. Your anal virginity. I made you a woman. A mother. And I will have your humanity. I will have every reaction of your body to mine, and I will have your heart, and your companionship, and your opinions. And I won't ever be finished with you. You will be mine in every conceivable way, just as I am yours in every conceivable way. I will give you everything I've got. And when God claims us back someday, because we are His, we will still belong to each other. Because love does not die. It spins into infinity."

"Yes! Yes! Yes!" I sobbed, clinging to him, my palms slick with perspiration.

"Cum with me," he pleaded, and then he shuddered and gasped, his mouth falling open, and I thought how pretty his teeth were, even though they were crooked. Love coiled in me. Then, he came with a strangled cry that he freed and loosed to the stars. I soared, and shouted his name while he clutched me, and poured out my love, my muscles firing spasmodically like a roman candle.

Time seemed to stop as our eyes locked, and we were suspended weightless, bodiless, in the light of the stars. Our heat flared out of us, and ignited, and we were encased in an aura of bright flame, but were not burned. It flared brightly, permitting no shadow, and then suddenly, we rejoined corporeal reality, and the flames dimmed, but did not go out. They fluttered around our edges. He held out his hand, the ocean as his backdrop, and golden light gathered in it. He brought it between our joined bodies, and I helped him to cup it tenderly. We watched it for some time, while I straddled his lap, cradled in our four hands like it was a living thing to be protected.

"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine," he sang quietly, and I answered him: "Don't let Satan blow it out, I'm gonna make it shine." We sang the child's song through, and the flame, indeed, stayed with us. Then the wind blew, cold, off the Pacific, and we let our hands fall, watching as the tiny light ball divided and sank back into our skins, like a couple of tiny fireflies. It was getting late.

"Time to go home?" my mate wondered.

"Yeah. Time to go home," I murmured. He helped me up, and we found and donned our clothes. He took my hand, and we walked languidly back along the ridge, and through the trees, the way we had come, and jumped without effort down to the sandy beach below.

"Sea stacks are cool, aren't they?" he remarked as we walked, the rising wind whipping at our hair.

"Very phallic," I said slyly. "But they aren't as impressive as the real thing."

"Talk like that will get you everywhere," he smiled, all cocky again. Then, he peered at one of the rocky outcroppings. "What's that?"

"Hm?" I asked, frowning after him.

"Hey, it's a little cave," he said, his interest piqued. There were lots of caves at the base of the cliff, in the water, actually, but this one was on dry land. "Can we take a peek?"

"Sure," I said, and we trotted over.

"I smell something weird," my mate informed me, wincing.

"Yeah. That's not bear," I said warily.

"No. It does smell like bear fat, but there's something ... human about it," he said, perplexed.

"Silla Apotampkin!" someone spat, and a flurry of syllables followed so fast it was impossible to distinguish them.

"Duck!" Edward yelped, and we hit the dirt as a flaming arrow came hurtling out of the cave and cast a bright light far out into the ocean. "Quinault," Edward muttered, then shouted into the cave. "We come in peace! We don't harm people!"

There was a shuffling in the cave. "Liar," the man growled.

"I'm not lying. And I don't speak Quinault. How many of you speak it now, anyway? I was under the impression it was a dead language."

"Who the hell are you?" the voice spat.

"Edward Cullen, and my wife, Bella Swan Cullen. We prey on animals, not people, so kindly don't shoot us."

"Cullen?" the voice said, perplexed. "When did you come back to these parts? You're not supposed to be here. You're on Treaty Land. And you say that's a Swan? Chief Swan's little girl?"

"She's my mate. Charlie knows all about us. And the Treaty's being rewritten. I have Chief Black's sanction here, you can look at it." Edward held out the paper, and slowly, a man crept out of the darkness. His hair was long, grey, and unkempt, and he wore a bearskin tunic and a pair of buckskin trousers. He also had quite the interesting hat woven of grasses, and was greased up all over with what must be bear fat. He also had a bow and flaming arrow trained on us. He set the bow aside, and shoved the arrow into the sand, to snatch the paper.

"Dunno why I'm bothering to defend myself, you'd have killed me by now if you were planning on it," he said, holding the paper two inches from his nose.

"You have nothing to fear from us," my mate said, watching him read the endorsement.

"Huh. Well, I'll be," the old man said, handing back the paper. "Don't suppose you've seen the Sasquatch."

"Um, no?" Edward said, plainly confused. This guy smelled like a Sasquatch, that was for certain.

"Damn," the man said, scratching himself. "I'm really wanting to go home. But I'm not gonna qualify as a Shaman unless I've learned a lesson from the Old Man of the Forest."

"Seriously? You're out here waiting for Sasquatch?" Edward asked, his face evincing disbelief. "I've lived in the rainforest a long time, and I've never seen hide nor hair of one. You need to go up to Squamish."


"Don't want to go to Canada," he grunted.

"So you're waiting for a mythical creature to show up, that has managed to keep its existence secret since the dawn of time?" Edward asked skeptically.

"Yup. Been out here nine years, living without any company or modern comforts," he said, flicking his head so his neck cracked.

"Don't do that," Edward ordered.

"Oh," the man said, eyes flaring wide.

"I'm not gonna eat you, you sappy date. It's just bad for your spine. How old are you?"

"Fifty-nine," he said, scratching his nuts again.

"Geez Louise. You need to go home. You're gonna end up with rheumatism. You need a mythical creature to interview. Will I do?"

The man looked Edward up and down. "You got a life lesson to teach me?"

"You got a name?" my mate asked.

"Oh. Yeah, yeah. Solomon."

"Solomon," my mate repeated. "Very apropos. I had no idea the Quinault still trained shamans."

"It's not something we talk about. Uh, shouldn't have told you. Probably. Um, but you're going to tell me something important, right?"

"Sssure," my mate said slowly. "Shall we have a Talking Circle?"

"Great! Nugguam!"

"English, please?"

"Let's talk!" Solomon leaped up, then spun back toward us. "Are we gonna smoke?"

"Do we have to? It's highly unpleasant for us, and my mate is pregnant."

Solomon the almost-shaman gawped at me. "Naw. We don't need to smoke." he ran into the little cave, and came out with a talking stick. The only thing I knew about using a talking stick is that you must never, ever interrupt the person who is speaking. Words were sacred, and to interrupt a person's speech showed profound disrespect.

"Super." Edward sank to the sand, cross-legged, so I copied him. Solomon fell over on his butt, and bent his legs under him. "I suggest you get yourself some glucosamine when you go home, buddy," Edward suggested.

"What's that?" Solomon asked eagerly.

"A pill for arthritis. So what do you want to know?" Edward wondered. Solomon thrust the talking stick at him.

"The meaning of life," the man said simply.

Edward peeked at me. "Well, the Creator put us here to serve Him. We're supposed to take care of his world and his animals, and each other."

"And what do you want to tell me about that?" he blinked.

"Um, nobody is out of His reach. We shouldn't make assumptions about a man based on his species. I know Cold Ones who are good, and I know Apotampkin who are evil. I also know selfish Kwoli, and noble Kwoli. I've met men who murder, and Cold Ones who save lives. So it's never good to prejudge people."

Solomon nodded. "I could-a told you that without spending nine years out here. Anything else?"

Edward considered it for a few minutes. "Yes. Love transcends everything, and it is eternal."

"Whoa. Now that's something I can use, coming out of your mouth. Now... they'll kinda expect you to show me a parlour trick," he said hesitantly.

"You're joshing, right?" Edward asked blankly.

"Uh, no." Solomon said, waiting expectantly.

"Bella, how about we give our young shaman here a little demonstration?" he asked me.

"Okay," I grinned. Edward set down the talking stick. We got up on our knees, leaned back on our feet, and brought our hands between us, kindling our little ball of flame.

"Whoaaa!" our shaman said, gaping at it. The ball roiled brightly, casting orange light on our faces. He poked out a finger.

"Don't touch! It's not for you," Edward ordered. "Shall we throw it, Bella?"

"Let's," I beamed.

"Back up, Solomon. We're throwing a fireball out to sea."

"Hot diggedy!" he enthused, backing up, and putting his hands on his thighs.

The ball of light roiled between us, we counted softly to three, pulled back our arms, and turned to throw it in a most elegant arc out into the Pacific, where it exploded like a cherry bomb, sending a large wave to shore.

Solomon was impressed. He grasped the talking stick, and handed it to me. The three of us sat back down. He stared at me expectantly.

I cleared my throat a little nervously. "I only have two things to tell you. First, never give up on the people you love. Second? When two very different people fall in love, what they build together is often ... unique, and special. Something to be encouraged, and ... treasured." I handed the stick back to Solomon, who looked at me in awe. Then he looked at Edward, who smiled rather beatifically at him.

"Yeah, she's smarter than me, right?" my mate grinned. "Whatever would I do without her! Time to go home, Solomon. Get thee hence!"

"Okay. Thanks a million. Maybe I'll see you around sometime?"

"Sure, sure. Just ask after us in LaPush. We have family there," Edward said, smiling crookedly.

"Family," Solomon intoned.

"We are all family, Solomon," my mate said gently.

"We're all family," the shaman intoned, disappearing into his cave.


Tuesday, September 14th, 2005:

Forks Community Hospital:

I doubted there had ever been so many people, of so many species, stuffed into one tiny room. Carlisle squirted freezing cold goo on my abdomen with a disgusting splat! I stared at the monitor tensely. Would we be able to see anything? Carlisle ran the probe around. It kinda tickled.

"I'll have to press a bit harder, Bella, since you no longer have a working bladder to help us out here," he told me.

"Hah. You are so lucky, Bella. When I had Seth I had to drink a whole gallon of water," Sue laughed.

"Mm," I said, eyes fastened on the monitor. An odd wow-wow-wow noise emanated from the machine: my baby's heartbeat.

"Sounds funny coming through that thing," Jasper declared, Alice tucked happily under his arm.

"The membrane's not opaque. We're going to get to see," Edward said, finally daring to get excited. He clutched my hand in both of his, close to his waist.

"And there she is," Carlisle announced. There were various exclamations and claps, followed by some delighted whispers.

"Definitely a girl?" Emmett called from the laptop screen.

"Yep, she showed us that right away," Edward relayed, blinking rather mistily at the monitor.

"She looks like a baby!" I exclaimed. "Like a little baby doll!" No more visuals of aliens. Hah. I turned to my husband. "She has your nose!"

"She has your mouth," he declared. We stared at our daughter, who decided, to our surprise, to turn her back firmly on us.

"Oh! Little brat! Well, at least we can see her spine, now. Everything looks perfect so far,"Carlisle declared. "Edward? Why don't you talk to her? We'll see if she responds."

My husband leaned in, wrinkling his nose at the smell of the gel, which was very sharp and sour. "Tigger? It's Daddy. Hiya, Baby."

Ren's head came up, and she did a somersault. Her little foot hit right on the probe, and we all squealed with glee. It withdrew again. Her head angled curiously toward the probe, then she stilled, listening.

"Tigger?" Edward repeated. Ren's tiny hand came out in front of her face. She looked for all the world like she was waving. Edward and I laughed tearfully. The tiny hand came forward, and the fingers waggled and turned into a fist, which she shoved forward until the picture faded black. The fist poked up a bump on my abdomen. We could see it touching the probe. A couple of moments later, it retreated, and Ren rubbed it against her face and put her thumb in her mouth.

We watched her silently while Carlisle took the measurements he needed. "Well, my dears, she's absolutely beautiful. Perfect health, and slightly over double the normal rate of development. We know she's been percolating along for fifty-eight days. We've been doubling that, which would give us a hundred and sixteen days. That would be 22 and a half weeks of human gestation. According to the measurements, baby Ren has developed to the equivalent of twenty-three weeks, which is in line both with Bella's bump, which is a perfect twenty-three inches, and the height of the fundus, which is about an inch and a half above her belly button. So, my dears, you're halfway there, which of course, you knew already."

"Tell us about her," Edward asked softly, glued to the screen. Ren's thumb slipped out of her mouth. She yawned, and searched frantically for the thumb again.

"Well, she'll be able to feel movement very well now, so she'll like it if you dance, Bella," Carlisle said.

Or do other activities, Edward broadcast silently at me with a sultry look, which made Jazz roll his eyes.

Carlisle continued. "She's more than eleven inches long, and weighs just over a pound. The blood vessels in her lungs are developing, to prepare her for breathing. Her skin is gaining pigment, and turning opaque, although it is still very red. She can touch her body, and grab the umbilical cord, and she will drink the amniotic fluid surrounding her for extra nutrition. She can urinate, too. The only thing that might fuss you right now, Bella, is if she gets the hiccoughs from swallowing the fluid. Erm, they just do that. It has... nothing to do with... the urine." My father-in-law looked at me sheepishly.

"I wondered why the hiccups happened," I told him, eyes rolling.

"Your ankles might start swelling now, if you follow a normal pattern, I don't know for certain."

"Chirica and Chepaã didn't have swollen ankles," Edward supplied.

"You'll probably get off lucky, Bella. I wish I would," Sue sighed.

"Hey, no negativity," Charlie warned her, hugging her from behind.

"What he said," Carlisle echoed, waggling the probe at Sue. He set it back on my tummy, and gave us a parting look at Ren's face. "Say Godspeed to the baby, everyone."

"Godspeed," everyone said, even Rose. Alice and Jasper skipped out, all excited, taking the laptop with them. Esme stopped to pat me and my mate on the cheek. She looked so very happy. After kissing Carlisle, she followed Alice and Jazz.

Edward bent down to kiss me, and whisper his thanks. I wiped under his eyes. "Don't get me started," I growled.

"Oh," he sniffed. "I think our daughter is totally worth crying over. You'd have to be a troglodyte not to cry over getting a kid that adorable."

"I know, right?" I said, voice wobbling.

"Don't you two start. There's been enough of that today," my Dad sniffed.

"Cut it out!" I giggled mushily, tacking a sob on the end.

Carlisle wiped my stomach down with a hot wash cloth, and then handed me a little towel to clean myself up. I took the gooey towel out of the top of my tights, which had been pulled down under Ren's bump, and pulled my clothes together. I took Edward's arm, and swung my legs off the cot. Sliding to the floor, I took my ballet flats from my mate.

Edward held out my car coat, and I put it on. It flared out dramatically, hiding the fact that I was pregnant. I slipped the annoying, but necessary, brown contacts back in my eyes. Carlisle passed Edward a DVD and a printed picture of the baby, which Edward tucked into the inside pocket of his jacket.

"All set?" my mate asked me, patting at his chest to make sure the DVD and picture were safely stowed away.

"Yep. Let's go home."

"I'll escort you out," Carlisle smiled.

We marched out into the hospital corridor, with Sue and Charlie, and Seth and Leah following along behind. Carlisle's head nurse, Jean, called to us as we walked into the small lobby. "How did the ultrasound go?"

"Wonderful," Carlisle said, smiling.

"So how do you feel about the new baby, Bella?" she asked.

"I couldn't be happier. Why don't you ask Seth and Leah how they feel? They're the ones who will be giving up sleep and house room."

"It's gonna be great," Leah grinned.

"It's da bomb," Seth crowed. "I am gonna be such a sick big brother!"

"Sure, sure, kid," Charlie smirked, ruffling his hair.

"Charlie, don't you forget to take those vitamins I gave you, and make sure Sue gets hers every day," Carlisle ordered.

"Yes, sir."

"So, Sue, when are you due?" Jean called loudly from behind the desk. Every head in the waiting room swivelled eagerly toward her.

"Well, I'm not quite six weeks," she said, smiling. So it's going to be sometime around next spring. May, probably."

"Congratulations," Jean beamed. "We're so happy for you, and Charlie. Gonna be a big adjustment for you, though."

"A baby is a happy change," he avowed.

"Hey! Boy or girl?" Jean called as our group stepped through the door.

"Boy!" we all crowed.

Thursday, September 15th, 2005, 5am:

I stretched, and found Edward's side of the bed cold. Sliding free of the sheets, I padded out to the kitchen without bothering to dress. My mate was seated at the counter, under the overhead lamp, with neat stacks of stamped letters, stationery, and envelopes in front of him. He scratched away happily at a piece of cream-coloured paper with his favourite fountain pen, his chin cupped in his hand, and his long legs sprawling beneath the stool.

"Grr-wow, Minx," he growled, without looking up. "If you're trying to get me back to bed, it's working."

"Ginchy, stud. Do you always write letters in the nude?"

"Depends who might be watching me," he said naughtily, giving me the once-over. I walked around the breakfast bar, and he stuck out his arm so I could slide under it.

"Whatcha doin'?" I lilted.

"Oh, just writing to my distant relations," he told me. "Robert's starting college at MIT, and Melly, here, just had a new baby. Oh, by the way, I found a Higginbotham, if you're at all interested. Seems Renée's father had a brother."

"No," I said. "Not now."

"You don't want me to look into the circumstances of this person?" he checked.

"Sure you can, but I don't want any Higginbothams contacting me at present. Renée is enough of a handful."

"Fair enough. She reported to me last Friday that she spent ten hours at the animal shelter, and two at the Senior's Center."

"Good," I nodded. "Do you have much more to do?"

"Two more. Need something?"

"I'd like to go for a quick hunt before we leave," I said, curling his hair around my finger and giving it a tug.

"Give me twenty minutes," he said, picking up his pen again.

"Perfect," I told him.

Thursday, September 15th, 9am:

My Dad was trying not to cry, which meant he was currently a little bit of an alarming colour.

"Dad. It's cool. We'll be back every couple of weeks," I said, while Edward put a couple more bags in the Guardian.

"Yeah, I know," he sniffed, "but I'm going to miss you kids so much."

"I'll miss you too, Dad. Just think though, you've got Sue and the kids to keep you occupied, and a new house to plan out. I'm sure you'll barely notice we've left. Edward could even watch the Mariners with you on the web cam."

"Yeah. 'Kay," he sniffed, wiping his nose. "I can't believe my baby girl is going off to college."

"I can't believe my baby boy is going off to college," Carlisle echoed, looking stunned. Edward made a silly face, sticking his tongue out, and put the last box in the car.

"Got everything?" Carlisle checked for the fiftieth time.

"You ask me again, I will assume vampires can get senile dementia," my mate sighed.

"You two look so good," Esme said, snapping pictures of the whole group with us. It was strange not to have Alice doing it, but she and Jazz had left for Cornell the night before. "Hang onto those t-shirts. They're good ones."

My shirt said, "Don't mess with me: I own a tree chipper." Edward's said, "I do not have an opinion on teen pregnancy. Ask my wife." Then, in little tiny letters, it said, "if you want to die today". Yeah, yeah, very funny.

"Time to get rolling," my mate declared.

"Bye Be-edward," Seth said. "You'll call me, right?"

" 'Course," Edward said, hugging him. "Don't give Charlie too much grief, kid."

" 'Course I won't. I can't have him running off screaming, I've got a baby brother to consider."

"Yeah," Edward grinned.

Seth hugged me and I kissed him on the cheek.

"Bye, guys," Jacob said, offering Edward his hand.

"You work hard at school, now, Jake. No excuses," Edward cautioned, shaking it.

"The computer's really helping," Jake told us.

"Good. Anything you need, you let us know," Edward said.

"Bella? Have fun at college," Jake said.

"Thanks, Jake. I hope you have a great senior year."

"Don't party too hard, Bella," Leah winked.

"I'm gonna be drunk every night," I said, eyes rolling. To my surprise, she hugged me. Then, she held out her hand to high-five my mate.

"See ya, Leech."

"See ya, Fluffy." He closed his fingers around her hand for a second after they smacked together, and she genuinely smiled for a moment. I wondered what she would have been like, were there no such thing as imprinting.

Leah took her hand back, and ran off down the lane. I suspected that she would like helping the Brandons get resettled. Jacob was hoping to go down to Mississippi regularly to help clean up after Hurricane Katrina, and she would be going with him.

"Bella, I hope you enjoy every minute of college," Sue said, hugging me. In a month or two, that was going to be difficult. Our bellies would get in the way. "If you have any questions about the pregnancy, or you just want to call and whine..."

"I'll know who to call. Thanks, Sue. You take care now. And take care of my Dad."

"I will." She drew back, and my father stepped forward.

"Bye, Bells. Love ya."

"Bye, Dad. Love you, too."

My Dad scowled at my mate, whose eyes lit up happily. "You take care of my daughter and grandbaby, or I'm gonna have to hunt you down and set you on fire."

Edward shook his head admiringly. "Why is it that I can read your mind perfectly, when you have a direct message for me, and the rest of the time the signal's squiffy?"

"Because you'll read it when I want you to read it," Dad growled.

"Like father, like daughter," Edward sighed, walking into Charlie's hug.

"Love ya, kid. Be safe out there in the wide world. It's an awfully big place," he told my mate.

"Love you, too, Charlie. I'll probably be calling you regularly to commiserate about hormonal females," Edward winked, smacking my father on the arm.

"Hey!" Sue and I protested, to their delight.

Esme kissed me and held me tight. "Thank you for everything you've done for this family."

"Thank you for everything you do for me," I told her as she stroked my hair.

"He looks..." she said, her eyes travelling to her son.

"I know," I murmured. Edward turned from hugging Sue to take leave of his mother, and I stepped up to take my turn with the man who had made my new life possible.

"You will call me," Carlisle checked, "if anything concerns you in the slightest. You won't hesitate, right?"

"I will absolutely not hesitate," I promised him, swallowing the lump in my throat. "Thank you. For giving me your son. And letting me be part of this family. And just for... being you."

"It is I who must thank you, Bella, for bringing him to life. And for loving us all. You're a very special girl. I hope you know that."

"I do love this family, Carlisle. And I love you."

"Thanks, Dovey. I love you, too.

My mate was standing at my shoulder, looking a little watery. His father held out his hand, and Edward took it, swallowing hard. "Thank you. For my life."

"Thank you, for sharing it with me. I'm going to miss you terribly," Carlisle winced, putting his other hand around Edward's wrist, and fingering the family crest on his leather cuff.

"Likewise," my mate said, looking pained.

"Don't forget me, Boy."

"No, Sir. I'll call you every day. I promise."

"I'll hold you to that," he said, every inch the Dom of the coven.

"Yes, Sir."

"I'll hunt you down if you don't," Carlisle promised.

Edward nodded, trying to keep himself together. Carlisle tugged on Edward's hand, drawing him into a hug. Slowly, Edward put his head on Carlisle's shoulder, his fingers taking tentative purchase in his Dad's ratty old blue sweater. Carlisle's eyes were swirling black. He looked momentarily devastated. Then, he shut them, and a smile warmed his features until he practically glowed.

"I've been blessed a lot in life," he mused. "But I'll tell you what, Boy. The most important day in my life was the day that God stuck you in my path, and the most important thing I've ever done is choose to keep you. I wouldn't have any of this, had it not been for that little act of Providence. I was so pleased with you, I wanted to gather more. You are my true son. My chosen companion. You will never understand how very much I love you, until you have your child in your arms. I want you to know how very, very proud I am of you. You are everything I ever wanted in a son."

Edward's fingers plucked at his Dad's old sweater. "You're everything I ever wanted in a Dad."

Carlisle smiled quietly, and his eyes shut again, keeping his joy private. "Love you, Edward."

Edward pulled in a breath, and sighed. "Love you, Dad." They kissed on both cheeks, and then Edward backed up a little, steeling himself to let go.

"Off you go, Boy. Give 'em what-for," Carlisle said gruffly.

Edward reached for me, releasing his Dad. I could see the deep happiness and security radiate out of him. "I will, Sir. I am a Cullen."

Carlisle hopped down and opened the passenger door to the Guardian, and I gave Esme a final kiss 'good-bye'. Then, I walked over, exchanged a knowing smile with my father-in-law, and got in.

I realized that Edward had not been parted from Carlisle's household since 1924. Living on his own could be ... daunting for him. Carlisle had always made all the decisions. I would have to help my mate adjust.

Edward climbed into the driver's seat, and shut his door. "Seat belt," he ordered me.

"Yes, sir, Dom Cullen." I clicked it shut.

"We'll see you soon. You won't even have time to miss us," he promised his father again.

"We're counting on it. You be good. You be Cullens," Carlisle ordered.

"Yes, Sir," we chorused.

Carlisle shut us in, and patted the tinted window. Edward started the car and put it in drive. He pulled away from the house, and took us slowly down the verdant lane. Before turning onto the main road, he stopped for a moment, and I watched as he stared into the rear view mirror. He smiled, and it was the smile of a man who knew his value in the world.

"Ready Minx?" he asked me.

"Ready, Love," I confirmed. He reached over and took my hand, and we smiled into each others' eyes. Fingers twined, he revved the engine, and beeped the horn twice. Then, he hit the gas, still smiling, as was I.

We left a very hopeful picture behind us. All these beings: special and unique, united to make the world just a little bit better. We turned our focus to another hopeful picture in front of us: Life.