"Baby, I'm yours
And I'll be yours, till the sun no longer shines
Yours, until the poets run out of rhyme
In other words, until the end of time"
Baby I'm Yours; I like the Arctic Monkeys version
"Bella, put that book down! We only have six hours to get you ready," Alice announces sternly.
"Alice." Bella's voice can only be described as whiny. "What can possibly take that long?"
"The very fact that you ask that question shows how necessary it is that I assist you. Starting now." Bella is tempted to stick out her tongue, but she settles for scowling. "I know you want to look perfect for Edward," Alice wheedles. "I've been patient. This is going to be your one and only ceremony, and we're going to make it good."
Bella sighs. Alice speaks the truth. Trying to give in with good grace, Bella follows her friend down the hall, but she stops short when she sees what Alice's room contains: not a dress but an entire rack of dresses.
"Alice!" she yelps. "What is this?"
"You refused to accompany me, so I needed a few options. But mostly, it's camouflage," Alice trills brightly. Seeing Bella's blank look, she explains. "Did you ever read 'The Purloined Letter'? No? Well, you should. The point is, the police searched a man's rooms for an incriminating letter. They tore the place apart. But he had guessed they'd be looking for something hidden, and he simply left it with his other mail."
"So you're hiding my dress?" Bella tries to connect the plot summary to the billowing ivory, pearl, ecru and white garments before her.
"Among a lot of other dresses," Alice announces with a smug smile. "Edward's probably caught a glimpse here and there, but he doesn't know which one is the one."
"Isn't that kind of wasteful?"
"Don't worry. I'm supporting the careers of emerging designers, and I'm going to donate all the extras to be auctioned off for charity. Now, let's start with this one." Bella lifts one skeptical eyebrow. "Come on," Alice coaxes. "Let me do my thing. You just go to your happy place."
That would be in Edward's embrace, of course, but thinking about that isn't going to help her submit patiently to Alice's ministrations. So she doesn't dwell on the thousand and one days and nights of passion she's spent with the man she's about to marry. Instead she contents herself with reviewing some of the key incidents leading up to this moment. They have waited a long time for this day to arrive, and they had not been sure until recently that it would ever happen.
While she steps in and out of the dresses Alice proffers and submits to being zipped and buttoned and evaluated, Bella remembers the negotiations that had determined where and how they'd spent the past several years. She had been so consumed with grief and so determined to transform without delay that she had not given much thought to developing a story for Charlie that would satisfy him for more than a few weeks.
"I already said I had to get out of town for a while. I'll tell him that I went to visit Alice," she suggested to Edward. "You and I ran into each other and got back together. He knows that you're at Dartmouth, and I can say I'm going to stay with you in New Hampshire. That all sounds fine. But how can I explain that I'm not even going to visit and he can't visit me?"
"Tell him you're further away than New England," he said. "Too far and too expensive for either of you to make the trip."
She pondered the idea. "Do we have to lie already?"
"Not if you don't feel comfortable with it." He smiled. "I think that's a good policy. We'll give him an outright lie only if there is no other choice."
"But what is our other choice?"
"We'll go somewhere too far and too expensive for either of you to make the trip," he said serenely. "And I know just the place."
"Siberia!" she repeated incredulously.
"I'm serious," he insisted over her laughter. "It's perfect. The population density is low, the wildlife is plentiful, Charlie won't be able to visit and he'll understand why you don't come home."
"Okay, that would explain why I don't visit. But then he'll just wonder why we chose to live in Siberia!"
"I'm majoring in Russian Language and Literature," he said with an air of triumph. "What could be more natural? Dartmouth practically requires students to study abroad. I'll enroll in a program there, and I have the feeling I'm going to find it so enriching that I'll want to stay for a couple of years, maybe more."
"I see you've got it all figured out. It does make sense," she admitted. "But still! A few weeks ago I had no intention of leaving Forks for at least another year, and now I'm moving to Siberia!"
"Stick with me, kid," he teased. "I'll show you the world. It might take a little while to find a suitable aircraft for sale, though. I think a Learjet 30-series would do."
"What are you talking about?"
"How else are we going to get there? You can't fly commercial," he pointed out. "It would be a bloodbath. Either that or we'd get arrested," he added with a smirk.
"What about the pilot, then?" she demanded. Her mouth dropped open as he grinned at her. "Edward Cullen! Did you come up with this whole scheme so you could buy your own plane?"
"You're the one who didn't want to lie to Charlie," he reminded her virtuously.
It had been a good plan. An extended honeymoon, away from the whole world, though they had occasionally flown back to the States or received visitors. It was the first time they had been alone together indefinitely, not accountable to parents or teachers, not disturbed by siblings or friends. In Siberia they had world enough and time to play, to enjoy each other, to study, to talk about anything and everything.
When they felt confident that Bella could safely and comfortably spend time with humans, it was time to discover whether Edward would ever have his dream wedding. He wanted his family to witness the ceremony, but Bella had agreed to participate only if Charlie could be present to give her away. She hated leaving Renee in the dark about the wedding, but she wasn't sure she could ever chance a face-to-face meeting with Renee. She didn't think she could cope with her mother's curiosity and keen intuition. Renee knew that she was with Edward and they were happy, and that would have to be enough for the time being. Charlie, on the other hand, had been remarkably oblivious when Edward had spent night after night under his roof. Bella was ready to find out whether Charlie could still shut his eyes to what he didn't want to see.
Alice had assured them that their first encounter would not end in complete disaster, but that was all she could say. She could not tell whether Charlie welcomed them or whether he was too uneasy for them to ever meet in person again. Bella warned her father that her appearance might come as a shock and that there was much she would not be able to explain. Hoping for the best, she and Edward arrived at the house after dark. Charlie's first reaction was cautious.
"Bella? Is that really you?"
"Hello, Dad," she said softly, keeping a careful distance.
Edward monitored Charlie's thoughts closely as he surveyed his daughter. Charlie was very disturbed. Had they joined a cult? Made a pact with the devil? How could she look like that? "Bella, what did he do to you?" Charlie choked out, taking a step back.
"Nothing, Dad. Edward had nothing to do with this." Charlie glared suspiciously at Edward, performing another double take as he took in Edward's appearance. Charlie's wide eyes returned to Bella, and he shook his head in total rejection of what he was seeing. "Okay," she conceded quickly. "It was related to him in a way, but he was not responsible. This happened before I even saw him again. I'm fine. We're both great. Please, let's go inside."
Taking a series of deep, shaky breaths, Charlie wordlessly ushered them into the familiar living room and sank into his chair. "I don't understand," he said.
"I know, Dad, and I wish I could tell you everything, but I really can't. Remember, if you can be okay with this and not ask questions, we can see you again. If not we'll have to disappear, and I don't want to do that. You know it's still me. We've been in touch this whole time, and you know I haven't changed on the inside."
"What if I were horribly disfigured in a fire and had to have skin grafts? You'd accept that and still love me, right?"
"Of course." Listening to Bella's voice, which he had grown accustomed to while she'd been out of the country, Charlie grew calmer.
"Well, it's the same thing in reverse. Only the surface has changed. I'm the same person, just beautiful now."
"You were always beautiful, Bella," Charlie said gruffly.
"I heartily concur," Edward declared, causing Charlie to roll his eyes. Sensing that the mood had lightened, Bella glanced at Edward and he gave her a slight nod. Charlie had made up his mind to let sleeping dogs lie. A glorious smile broke over her face, warming the hearts of both men.
"Dad, we have some wonderful news," Bella said happily. "We're getting married."
"I can't say I'm surprised," he said. "You two have seemed pretty tight ever since you got back together. But you've been out on your own for a while. You don't need my permission."
Reaching for Bella's hand, Edward spoke up. "We would like your blessing."
Charlie could barely disguise his pleasure at Bella's request that he be part of the ceremony, and Alice had immediately thrown herself into planning.
In due course, those closest to them had assembled for the occasion. Of course, they had all seen one another over the past few years, but they had not all been together until now. Even without Jasper's assistance, spirits were high.
"I am so thrilled for our whole family," Esme said, hugging Bella.
"Yes, Mom," Edward said patiently. "We remember that you mentioned that ten minutes ago." Esme simply gave her son a pointed look.
"Remind me again," Emmett said. "We are not supposed to tell Charlie that you've actually been married for more than three years now?"
Edward rolled his eyes, but Alice answered. "No, we're not, because that would hurt his feelings."
"Don't you think he'd be relieved to know you haven't been living in sin all this time?" Emmett suggested in an innocent tone.
"Emmett," Edward snarled at his brother.
"He's just teasing you!" Bella reproached him, before glancing uneasily at Emmett. "You are just teasing, aren't you?"
"Don't worry," Rosalie reassured them. "He won't mess up your wedding." She fixed her husband with a piercing look, and he chuckled.
"It's going to be beautiful," Alice said confidently.
"Thank you, Alice," Edward said. "We are so happy to mark this occasion with all of you. Especially you," he added, turning to Tanya.
Carlisle nodded. "You were always a great friend, but now we consider you truly part of our family."
"Absolutely," Bella chimed in. "And I want everyone here to know that one of these days I will return the favor and be the maid of honor at your wedding."
"Matron of honor," Edward immediately corrected her.
"Thanks, Bella," Tanya said, smiling. "But you might be waiting a long time for that."
"You'll find him," Esme declared emphatically.
Tanya shrugged, flipping her hair behind her shoulders in a complacent manner. "Maybe. You know what they say—"
Edward interrupted. "Net ne nado, ne govori," he begged her, a pained expression on his face. But Tanya ignored his urgent pleas to keep the rest of her thought to herself.
"You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince," she concluded.
"Thanks, Tanya," Edward said wryly. "I'm in for at least a century of frog jokes now."
"Hey, if the shoe fits!" Emmett cackled. "How about this? I'll let Charlie hang onto his precious illusions, but it's open season on Edward."
Edward heaved a theatrical sigh. "What else is family for?"
Bella's heart swells with contentment at the memory. She had delighted in the months of being utterly wrapped up in Edward, and in the back of her mind, she's counting the minutes until she can be alone with him again, but she has to admit it's lovely to be surrounded by the people who mean so much to them. In addition to Charlie, the Cullens and Tanya, there are others who have a special place in her life. Bella reflects on the visit she had paid just that morning. When she was dating Jacob, she had spent so much time at Emily's. The two of them had filled days with cooking, studying, running errands and just hanging out while their men were on the prowl. Edward had offered to accompany her, of course, but she wanted to be with Emily on her own.
"Bella, I am so happy to see you!" Emily's voice was filled with excitement as she led Bella to a seat in the small living room.
"Me too! Is Sam around? And the baby?"
"They'll be back soon. I wanted to talk to you alone first. You've come at just the right time." Emily reached for Bella with one hand and rested her other hand on her stomach. Looking at Emily's radiant face, Bella saw only the lively beauty and the glowing joy, not the scars. "I'm pregnant again. Levi is going to have a baby brother… and a baby sister!"
"Twins!" Bella exclaimed. "That's wonderful! Congratulations!"
"Bella." Emily gripped her friend's hand even tighter. "If you approve, we want to name our daughter after you. We want to call the babies Bella… and Jacob."
These words triggered an unexpected storm of emotion in Bella. A familiar wave of grief for the friend who should be here, who should be anticipating descendants of his own rather than being memorialized in the children of his comrades. Deep affection and gratitude to his friends, their friends, who are determined not to forget either of them. But surprisingly, she also felt frightened.
It was a risk. She'd accepted the idea of immortality. She knew she would outlive her parents, but that was only natural. She had not expected to form any new close ties to the human world. In accordance with the Cullens' way of life, she had intended to avoid precisely such entanglements. Now there will be another precious soul to love and worry about and eventually to lose and to mourn. Two hostages to fortune, in fact.
It was a surprise. She wasn't supposed to have this, a connection to life and growth. Victoria had destroyed the path she'd been on and taken away what might have been, and Bella had chosen to leave those possibities behind forever.
It was a blessing. A little Bella and Jacob would be growing up together on the reservation. Another miraculous gift had tumbled into her lap. All this rushed through her mind as Emily smiled confidently.
"I... I don't know what to say," Bella stammered. "It's an honor. Thank you!"
"We hoped you would approve. Billy likes the idea too," Emily said happily. "We'll remember you, Bella, always. Not just us, but our whole tribe. And you'll remember us."
Bella nodded. Tears she couldn't shed prickled in her eyes, and she couldn't speak, but Emily's dark, shining eyes seemed to understand.
"Bella, it's time." Alice's voice interrupts her reverie. Bella's mind can process so many things at once, but she floats through the next interval in a blur. When she looks back, her perfect memory fails her. She remembers only a handful of impressions: Charlie's warm arm and steady heartbeat guiding her, Jasper's voice reciting the words of the ritual that bound together what his own lapse had once sundered and most of all, Edward's golden eyes, sparkling with love.
Author's Note: Thanks to Juliejuliejulie, edward-bella-harry-ginny and Yuliya for their valuable assistance. Most of all, thank you so much for following my story to its conclusion. It was a great pleasure and marvelous learning experience to write it, and I hope that you enjoyed reading it. Of course, I'd love to hear what you think.