And Yet They Shine
The waters of the Styx made soft lapping noises against the shore. Bella sat, nestled against Jake's side, and listened to the rhythm. It was funny, she thought, that the rhythm of the water moving – the ocean, and now this shore, had been the background music to the biggest changes of her life, and yet nothing about that sound was unsettling. It was that sound that told her she was exactly where she belonged.
Her fingers dug into Jake's fur. He heaved a sigh and Bella stroked the velvet just above his nose. He was large enough that Bella could have used him for a bed, if she desired, but now she was content to lie against him, taking comfort from his large frame and soft fur.
Tucking her legs up under her, she smiles a little at herself. Here she is, wed to a man (god) who could literally buy and sell the world a dozen times over, and she's wearing a pair of jeans she's had since high-school. Still, she thinks, fingering the ring on her finger, being married to Edward was not entirely what she thought it would be.
The binding ceremony was elaborate, and seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. One moment she was asking Edward to take her as his own, and the next there were trumpets blaring and people to meet, and gifts – my gods, the gifts. Bella's head spun with it.
And every day, as often as she wished, Edward brought her to the surface and watched as she ate. Sometimes he joined her, taking sustenance he didn't need simply to please her. Other times he watched, and once in a while, he left her as he tended to some business or other. She'd once asked what he did when he was away, and he'd looked uncomfortable and wouldn't meet her eyes.
"Oh!" she'd said when she figured it out. "I didn't realize you do that personally."
"I don't always," he answered. "But some need it, and it is my responsibility."
Isabella tried to imagine what that must be like, and her heart pained for what Edward must go through. "Is it difficult?" she asked.
"Not in the way you might think."
When she tried to find out more, he turned his head away. Edward guarded himself, his privacy, fiercely. She guessed that after an eternity of being alone, the change to becoming open and more caring was bound to be a slow one. She found she didn't mind.
The day of their binding feast broke to find Bella sitting on the shores of the beach where she'd first med Edward and Jasper, first found out that fantasies and stories could be more than make believe. Alice found her there and sat beside her as they watched Jasper pull the sun high into the sky.
"Do you wonder what might have been?" Alice asked. "Or what might yet be?" Her eyes stayed fastened on the too-bright glow in the sky.
Bella shook her head. "No. I know that I made the right choice."
Alice smiled and threaded her fingers through Bella's hand. "He is young still, and impatient. He tires easily of his new toys. That," she said, gesturing to the sun, "is the only thing he has ever stuck with. Still, he would have loved you. It would have been different, but it might have been enough."
"And now?" Bella asked, wondering what Alice saw in the future where Edward was her betrothed.
Alice squeezed Bella's hand and laid her head on Bella's shoulder. "I think I will know you for a very long time."
Later that evening, as the doors to the banquet hall in Edward's palace opened, Bella tried to keep those words in mind. Her stomach fluttered at the sight of all of the people before her. Most were gods and demi-gods, but some, the most precious, were the souls of her loved ones: her father, her grandmother. They smiled and her grandmother blinked away tears, as Bella paused during her march down the aisle to blow a kiss their way.
Carlisle stood and said some words, and then, one by one, each god and each goddess came and took Bella's hands in theirs, kissed her cheeks and whispered words of welcome. Edward stiffened when Jasper came, and there was something in Jasper's eyes, a longing, she thought, but he did nothing different from the others, and she saw Edward release a breath when Jasper turned away.
Eventually, the blessings were done, and Alice brought forward a small domed tray. Lifting the lid, she revealed a pomegranate that had been broken open, it's seeds spilling onto the golden cloth beneath it.
Bella smiled remembering those seeds from the last time, and caught Edward's little joke. She arched an eyebrow at him, and he had the good grace to look sheepish.
And then he'd offered her seeds with his own hand, and she'd opened her mouth for him and allowed him to press them home. The red fruit burst against her tongue and she closed her eyes, savoring their bright, bittersweet flavor. It was apt, she thought, that that would be her first taste of the underworld – bitter and sweet, because taking this path had been both, so far.
After the celebration – which lasted, it seemed, for days – Bella Edward finally retired to their chambers.
"Are you happy, my queen?" Edward's eyes held much warmth, but there was a trickle of doubt there as well.
"Very much so, Edward. Very much so." And then she rose to her tip-toes and kissed him, opening her mouth and her mind so that he could see just how happy, how content, she was.
In the months and years that had passed, Bella began taking the tonic that would keep her immortal, keep her by Edward's side. She found that, like him, she needed less sleep and less food, although she never seemed to need less of him. That was something that she hoped would never change.
Most days, she sat at his side in the throne room, hearing the pleas of the dead, trying to offer them comfort when she could, interceding on their behalf when she felt it was right. Edward was unused to being challenged, and at times that led to fiery confrontations on both of their parts. There were days when Bella fled to the surface, to stand near the ocean or watch the sun sink down, ending another day. Often, Poseidon would watch her from afar, surrounded by lovely sea-nymphs, keeping guard. Sometimes she would splash out to join him and the nymphs would shells into her hair as they talked. Sometimes she'd yell and call him "Posey," and he'd swim off in a huff, showing her his flipper as he went.
On occasion Emmett would seek her out, and they would play jocular games that he always won, but that always brought an end to her foul moods. Though, that friendship had ended soon after he'd taken up with Rosalie. She was a fierce and jealous mistress.
Most often, when Bella found herself wandering the human world, she did so with either Esme or Alice by her side. Both offered her counsel when she asked for it, but most often, they were content to be at her side, offering her their quiet support until she felt she could face Edward once again.
Always, when the fire of their tempers died down, a new fire arose and on those nights all knew to leave their bedchamber undisturbed.
Bella pressed her ear to Jacob's side and listened to the tide of his breath. She had not chosen an easy life. She had given up friends and family, and all ties to the world as she'd known it. Still, when Edward cocked his head and looked at her just so, or (less often, she had to admit) deferred to her on some matter, Isabella felt that she had made the only choice for happiness possible.
"You are so lovely in this light." Edward's voice started Bella out of her dreams, and she smiled and rose. Jake rose as well, his tail wagging and trotted to his master.
"Kingdom for your thoughts?"
Isabella smiled and shrugged. "Just thinking about how I got here."
Edward's green eyes shone soft in the dim light, and Bella wondered if he still had bouts of insecurity. It was something that he'd once talked with Esme and Carlisle about often, she knew.
"And I am happy, Edward. So happy."
Edward reached for her wrist and pulled her close to him. There, in the dim light of the underworld, Bella breathed in his scent – earthy and green and comforting and enticing – and laid her head against his chest.
Edward placed a gentle kiss to the top of her head and smiled.
And there they stood, a god and his queen, as the world turned around, and the people lived and died and fought and loved, and the oceans ebbed and flowed, and the sun rose and set, and the stars, they shone down upon it all.
So, I can't believe how many of you are still reading this. And dang, finally putting that check mark and calling this complete? Feels amazing. Thank you so much to all of you who read and recommend. Your reviews yesterday…they left me speechless and smiling. I thank you for that.
As far as a sequel goes, well, I won't say never, but probably not. I feel like I told the whole story here, but if something else pops up, I'll write it.
I've been working on some original fiction, and I also have a few unfinished twific stories that may or may not get completed. I won't post anything until I have a solid outline because, damn, three years to finish this story? Embarrassing.
And humbling, that so many of you still read it.
Personal note, for those who want to read it:
For the last few years, I've been struggling with depression and medication for it. I have a chemical imbalance that sometimes makes it hard for me to feel happy, or even content, and on top of that, I've had some real life things happening for the last few years that have been fairly devastating. I can tell you that the medication saved my life – that is not hyperbole. Medication also made it really hard for me to write or to feel creative. Since I've come off the medication (with my doctor's help), I've found that I'm able to write more, and be happy with the things I've written. It feels So. Good.
So why am I telling you this? One, because 3 years is a long-ass time to be writing a story as short as this one. I thank all of you for your patience. And two, because I believe that it's important for those of us who do experience deep depression , and who do use medication, to talk about it, if we're comfortable doing so. I refuse to feel stigmatized for this disease any more than I would feel bad for having cancer or any other life threatening disease. It sucks. I've found a way to deal with it. And if this helps even one person – even in the tiniest way – then I'm glad I did it.