Disclaimer: The Twilight Saga and its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. The rest is mine.
How completely could a creature's core wipe itself? I'd never in my many years witnessed destruction on the level that had just occurred. Battlefields peppered Europe's landscape; desperate last words lingered even now. Scavenging vampires would cull the wounded and I weeded through the gasps of the dying for bits of useful intelligence, whispers of immortals interfering for Aro. In all of those forays into the most desperate corners of existence, I'd only known this to happen occasionally. Vampires don't go into shock. They reboot. The software is wiped and the usually immutable personality experiences a moment of plasticity. Marcus was now a man without a country. While that wouldn't normally put someone in the frame of mind to listen to an old friend spin a yarn, that's what seemed to be happening.
"This day, Carlisle. It feels like the end of the world. I think for many of our kind, it is as close as they will ever come to it. How could I not see it in the offing? I have failed so many, your cov—, your family included."
"When you knew, you acted, as did we all. This deception began before you even decided to help maintain order among the immortals."
Their voices faded as they walked towards the woods and I wondered if Marcus could be convinced to forgive himself. Now or almost never.
The clean-up activity happened too quickly for Bella's human eyes to keep up. She tried to watch as Benjamin fixed the canyon, bringing the two halves of Allesworth's garden back together. Gen reappeared, another occurrence visible to her only after the fact. The whole estate would be knitted back together before she could figure out the pieces. Other pieces though, they were aligning and nestling together at an alarming rate…alarming to Master the Younger. It was a look not dissimilar to one worn by Carlisle all those years ago.
That face haunted me, a disembodied reminder of my humanity. It was almost half a century before I put it together, dug a hole in the soft French earth, and flung a box of rubies to the bottom. That life, while sexy, didn't compare to the one with Alistair.
"Edward, you know I have to be like you for this to work, right?"
"In every way that counts, I think you are. While maybe not what you meant, I want it said."
"Now's not the time to talk about it. Does it sound terribly human to say that I want a shower? I can't keep up down here anyway."
Marcus and Carlisle were deeply conversing in the dining room when she walked down after her shower.
"Sorry. I don't mean to interrupt." She turned back towards safety, her room and Edward.
"Bella, we were actually waiting for you."
Carlisle smiled, though he hadn't been joking.
Marcus didn't approach the poor girl at human speed and I was thankful she'd had her moment. She blinked and opened her eyes to him on the stair immediately below. "You were told rather bluntly today that you are expected to be an immortal in the near future."
"I intend to be soon."
"A credit to us, I'm sure, precious one. Whatever events come to pass I want you to know that you can make the decision to change or not at your leisure. Your attachment to Edward—and the rest of the Cullens, for that matter—is such that I cannot imagine you capable of endangering them, oor by extension, the rest of our world. An exception like this was unheard of before today. To keep order in the vampire world, I would appreciate it if you would keep the decision to yourself.
"Aro's treachery has created a power vacuum. Maintaining order will be difficult if word of such changes spreads too quickly, you understand, I'm sure."
"Of course. I'll keep my private life just that."
"I hope it is a long and beautiful life. Thousands of years filled with whatever you want…that wasn't subtle, I'm afraid."
"And yours, Marcus. We'll try the wedding one more time. I'd be honored if you would stay for it."
Carlise smiled. "You should be part of our celebration, Marcus. Consider it."
Charlie and Renee would be flown in this time. Alice would explain the elopement in Gretna Green and I could reprise my role as wedding planner.
It was a gorgeous ceremony. Alice redecorated the foyer with photos of their time in England, most of them taken by Gen. There were a few photos of them from high school. In one, Edward watched Bella turning the page of a book on the lawn at school. He sat in the shadow of the building and she had her eyes closed, face turned up into a rare shaft of delicate Washington sunlight. In another, they sat in tandem at the biology lab table, not making eye contact. It had been taken through the window. In a black-and-white, he caught her as she slipped on a patch of ice outside the Forks High School cafeteria.
There were photos of their Scottish castle ceremony, of dinners at Allesworth, of them bent over yellowed letters at the Cullens' London house.
"The only thing we need to round out this set of family pictures are a few with some babies in them!" An elderly woman in lavender chiffon leaned an ashen cheek to Bella, puckered up and kissed her neck.
I glanced in conspiracy at Mister and Missus Cullen, expecting the merest ghost of a smirk from a man who was, until recently, the Northern Hemisphere's most confirmed bachelor. I confined my proclamation to the top half of the globe only because I lacked familiarity with the bachelors of the southern half.
Without irony, sans sarcasm, he smiled. It was genius acting, really, and I had no idea how he kept the internal eye-rolling at bay.
Bella blushed, probably from the attention directed at her ladyparts, and exited stage left hand-in-hand with her groom. They weren't laughing at the same thing I did.
Once they were back on the parquets, dancing with the other guests, I walked over to their former spots to see what the punchline really was.
The joke was on me.
In a heartbeat.
If only I could give her that and keep her heart beating.
Bella and I needed to have a chat about the birds and the bees.
Author's Note: This is it, loves. You know who you are and you know what I'd like to do to you. In your collective absence, I languish unmolested.
SM~ You won't read this but thanks for not telling the story I wanted to hear.
Z~ Thank you for reminding me what a keyboard does and for making me the cutest little audience in the whole wide world.
Dani~ Thanks for not laughing. I know it was an option. I love you dearly.
Clem~ Your talent for looking at an enormous block of text and sizing it up at a glance is nothing short of genius. I cannot thank you enough for reading a fic and seeing my heart.
SR~ Oh Captain, my Captain! It has been my pleasure, over and again.
Cosmo~ You are the hottest captain of the cheer squad evah! I dedicate every firefly pose to you.
Becca~ I can't even tell you how much you inspire me.
My co-conspirators from the thread and Twitter-I have more affection for all of you than an author's note will hold.
Professor Ann and all the Theory of Pop Culture peeps~ I seriously doubt you're still doing required reading. What a thing to be part of! Best to you all!
It's nice to hit the COMPLETED button. Thanks for riding along. See you next time!