Happy Sunday morning! So, here it is, the final chapter...I'm pretty sad to be saying goodbye to these kids, but I think they get a good ending. I hope you like it, too! Thanks to all of my loyal readers, I appreciate each and every one of you. I got behind with replying to reviews this past week, but I read all of them and smiled, I promise.
Disclaimer: I still don't own Twilight or these characters. Sigh.
Huge thanks to my betas, anythingzombie and imahappymess, they've been with me for a while, and they've done a great job pulling this together!
Songs: "The Only Living Boy in New York" by Simon & Garfunkel, and "Green Eyes" by Coldplay
Seven Years Later
"Does this look all right? Maybe I should wear the red one-"
"Bella, honey, you look great. Calm down! Aren't I the one that's supposed to be freaking out?"
"Of course. You're right, you're right. I can't believe I'm making this all about me when you're the one getting married tomorrow!"
Bella let out an uncharacteristic squeal and hugged Rose tightly. The girls held each other tightly until a tiny voice interrupted them.
"Hug! Hug!" A little girl with blonde curls stretched up towards her mother.
"Geez, Annabel, you're getting so big! I can hardly lift you anymore," Rose told her three-year old as she nuzzled her cheek. Annabel giggled loudly and reached for Bella.
"Bell!" Bella laughed as she swung her almost-niece around in her arms.
"Okay, ladies, time to go!" Emmett's voice filtered into the room through the door, and with a few last glances in the mirror, Bella and Rose headed out into the hallway, with a giggling Annabel and a silent Alice in tow.
"There's my baby!" Emmett grabbed Annabel from Bella's arms and tossed her up in the air before blowing a raspberry on her cheek. Bella turned and tried to get Alice's attention.
"Hey!" Alice's head snapped up from her phone. "Jasper's still coming, right?"
"Of course, he's meeting us there," she said nonchalantly, looking back at the screen on her phone.
"Well, aren't you texting him?"
"But you're about to see him."
"So? Love has no time limits, Bella."
Bella scoffed as she headed towards her car. She still couldn't believe that Alice had managed to stay with her middle school sweetheart past her high school graduation. She hoped for their sake that they lasted; Alice was still severely hung up on him. And Jasper had grown on her as well. His creepiness factor lessened a bit over the years, and his dry (and sometimes silent) humor could bring her to tears.
"So, are you excited about seeing my brother?" Alice and Bella were halfway to the church for the rehearsal when Alice finally asked the million-dollar question.
"Oh God, I can't even think about it. I may pass out before I even get to talk to him."
"But you guys talk a lot."
"Yes, but I haven't seen him, in person, in…three years? A little over three years, I think. I'm afraid…I don't know. It's just mind-boggling that somehow that much time passed without seeing him."
"Well, if it's any consolation, he looks just as nervous as you," Alice said as they pulled into the church parking lot. Bella looked through the passenger window to see Edward standing outside, running his hands through his hair agitatedly. He definitely looked nervous. And really, really good.
Bella parked the car and tried to walk slowly, so as not to betray her anxiety, but Edward didn't care. He bounded towards her as soon as he saw her brown hair emerge from her Volvo. Before he could talk himself out of it, he wrapped her up in his arms and lifted her ten inches off the ground. She gasped but quickly snaked her arms around his neck. He pulled back and placed a single chaste kiss on her lips, then set her back onto her feet.
"You have a date for this thing?"
"Of course not!"
"Be my date, then?" Bella nodded in agreement and looped her arm through his, smiling bigger than she had in three years.
The rehearsal went smoothly. Bella was the maid of honor, and Edward was Emmett's best man. They couldn't keep their eyes off of one another as the reverend quickly went over how everything would go down the next day. Bella thought Edward looked even better than he had the last time she'd seen him.
After Bella and Edward went to Europe, they moved to Seattle for school. The first two years were full of heavy course loads and honeymooning – they were so wrapped up in each other. Bella immediately knew that she wanted to major in English, and after the first two years of college, it looked like she was going to graduate early.
Edward struggled to figure out what he wanted to do. He switched majors a frustrating four times. He thought about med school, architecture, engineering and business, but didn't feel even remotely passionate about any of them. After taking an errant photography class, he was in love. He declared his major, but discovered it would take him three more years to finish. He was tired, disappointed, and aggravated. He was beginning to feel wanderlust again, and begged Bella to travel with him some more.
"You can finish school when we come back," he told her.
"But I only have two semesters to go! I don't…it's not that I never want to travel again, it's just…I like actually being settled, you know? I feel…safe, I guess. I want to get my degree and work, and maybe down the road-"
"I don't want to wait! I have three more years of school, Bella. Three! I'm burnt out. I need a break, please. We can hit Eastern Europe, or go further north. Or…Asia, or Africa, Australia. I don't care. Let's just go," he begged.
"Edward, I'm sorry. I can't do it. Not right now."
The weeks passed, and Edward grew more and more dissatisfied. He continually dropped hints, but Bella couldn't relent. She'd worked too hard to get this far and take a break. She needed to keep going while she had momentum. Edward refused to go without her, but he was miserable staying in Seattle. He wanted to see the world, photograph it, and experience things outside of their lives. Bella wanted to get to work right out of school, and she didn't want to give that up. She finally told him he had to go.
"Edward, just go. Do it. I can finish school and you can see anything and everything and it'll be fine."
"No, I don't want to go without you."
"You're going to resent me if you stay. I know you will. I can't let you miss out on this – you have to go."
"Why can't you…why can't you just come with me, Bella? Please."
"I'll…I'll resent you if I go. You'll resent me if you stay. We're just going to have to go this next part alone, okay? It's not…it's not the end of the world," she tried to explain.
"So that's it? We're just…are you breaking up with me?"
"If that's what it takes to make you go, then yes. I'm breaking up with you."
"How can you do this? How can you – why? We can't – we're meant to be together, don't do this!"
"I'm not doing anything. I'm just trying to give you a chance to live the life you want to live. I can't go, you can't stay, it's simple. I love you, and I don't want you to be unhappy," she said genuinely, pleading with him silently to not make it any harder to part than it already was.
"But…what about us?"
"You're going to hate me for saying this, but it's the biggest cliché ever for a reason. If this is meant to be, it will be. No matter what. I believe that you and I are supposed to be together. Do you?"
"Of course," he answered with no hesitation.
"Then we'll be, one way or another. But you've got to go now. I'm sorry."
Edward left that night, and didn't contact her for a month. Each day that he was gone ached a bit more, and each moment that she didn't know where he was tormented her. She constantly wondered if she'd done the right thing by making him go, worrying herself sick. Edward finally called and told her he had made it to Bulgaria. He didn't explain much, but he promised to keep in touch better. He told her he loved her.
When Bella graduated six months later, he showed up. He was fresh from a fourteen-hour flight, scruffy and eyes bloodshot, but he was there. He hugged her and kissed her, and wished her luck. She told him she loved him and he cried as he told her goodbye again. Bella was afraid things would never be the same between them. Edward stayed out of the country until that Christmas, when he came home to see his family. They managed to snag a few days together alone. They never failed to hug and kiss, and say their 'I love you's.'
Over the next three years, their communication was steady, but not overly personal. They tried to email every week, but it was easy to get caught up in their respective lives. Bella moved to Chicago to try out the city. She got a job as a junior editor at a publishing house, and worked herself to the bone. She barely had time to eat, let alone make calls and send emails. She was exhausted, overworked and underappreciated; and she hated her job. She contacted Rose, who was living in Portland with Emmett, and was five months pregnant, and asked if she could stay with them for a week or so.
Bella quit her job, flew to Portland, secured a job as a high school English teacher, and began plans to get her Master's degree. Bella was happy being much closer to her family, and her job was much more to her liking.
Edward traveled all over Europe and Asia, though most of his time was spent in war-ravaged Eastern Europe. The photos he took were gaining attention, and he had been published several times over. He was happy doing what he was doing, but he began to want to settle down. He missed Bella fiercely, and missed the future he'd planned for them.
The pair was stuck somewhere between an amicable split and a long distance relationship. Each email ended with "I love you," but they weren't necessarily exclusive. Edward got in touch with his mother, and told her planned to come home. Esme was over the moon, but she promised to keep it a secret. Somehow three years had passed since he's seen his love, and he couldn't wait to get back. Emmett and Rosalie's wedding provided the perfect time to go back and tell Bella he was staying for good.
Edward held Bella's hand through the rehearsal dinner. At every available moment he leaned over and kissed her cheek. He complimented the navy dress she wore, the length of her hair, and the ways her eyes had laugh lines. She couldn't stop staring at the freckles littering his nose, or the new chest hair poking out from beneath his shirt. He looked so much older, yet so much the same. His forest eyes still gleamed with passion. Bella invited him to stay at her place. Edward agreed.
The couple (who were not quite a couple anymore) stood on opposite sides of the bed as they changed. Bella blushed when she peeled her dress off, and Edward watched her in fascination.
"I'm not…as skinny as I used to be," she said, adjusting the top of her underwear. Edward had never been so turned on before. The sight of her was enough to make him want to fall to his knees and perhaps pray to her. Her hips were wider, her thighs fuller, her lower tummy beginning to curve outward. Her body looked prepared to carry children, and as he was heading into his late twenties, he was beginning to imagine them: little wild-haired girls with green eyes, perhaps a mischievous red-haired boy with chocolate eyes.
"God, you're so beautiful," he breathed as he rounded the bed to get to her. He ran his fingers over the tiny bulge of skin over the tops of her panties. It was so womanly, so enticing to see her grown older and bare before him. He traced his fingers up to her breasts, which sat slightly lower than they used to. He'd never seen such a wondrous sight.
"No, I'm getting kinda chubby," she said in self-deprecation.
"Bella, no. You're gorgeous. But I know what you mean, my metabolism's not what it used to be," he told her as he pulled his t-shirt over his head. He grabbed at the small pudgy spot on his stomach and shook it. "See? One day I looked down and was like, 'where'd that come from?'"
Bella could see the pocket of fat, but it didn't detract from his beauty. His chest had filled out, his stomach less defined, but masculine. Bronze/brown hair coated his pecks, and his pants sat higher than they used to. Edward had crow's feet and lines on his forehead, and he was stunning. She couldn't resist running her fingers through his chest hair and pulling him closer. Their lips met and danced before their tongues hesitantly stroked each other's. They kissed languidly, lovingly, until they fell back onto Bella's bed, and Edward could hold his secret no longer.
"I'm moving back, Bella. For good."
"Wh-what?" She blinked rapidly at him.
"Well, I'm going to try to finish school, but I'm moving. Here. To Portland. Preferably into this room, actually, but you don't have to decide right now."
"You're coming back?"
"Yes. If you'll have me."
"Of course I'll have you, oh my God! Edward! I'm so—so fucking happy! Goddamn!" Bella jumped to her feet and bounced on her bed. Edward enjoyed the view from below her and the two laughed together until she fell back down to him. Their limbs tangled and reintroduced themselves.
"Have you – has there been anyone else?"
"No. I waited for you," Edward said seriously.
"Edward Cullen, Lady Killer, was abstinent for over three years?" Bella was only half-joking.
"Of course. You were worth waiting for. Have you…?"
"I went on two dates, but no. I haven't been with anyone. Or even kissed anyone. I wanted to wait for you, too."
"Good. You were right, you know."
"To make me go. It was a good experience. I learned a lot. And like you said, if we were meant to be together, we would be. And now we are."
"I missed you so much, though. That was the hardest thing I've ever had to do…convince you to go. It hurt every day."
"I know, babe."
Their bodies curved to one another's and the couple fused together again like they hadn't in years. Each touch felt familiar but more electric than before. They could barely sleep over the excitement of their reunion, so Edward shared tales from his days of travel.
"…but I mainly stayed in Montenegro. It was amazing. And the stories I have from all the hostels I stayed in—"
"So you didn't stay in a single, actual hotel?" Edward shook his head. "That's amazing. You could afford it, you know."
"I know. But it wouldn't have been right. Photographing poverty every day can really affect you."
"Wow. When did you get so grown up?"
"Well…I like to think I grew up that night I professed my love for you in my room and you denied me and called me a man-slut," he said as Bella laughed. "Or…maybe I grew up that day you came to my house burnt and broken."
Their faces grew serious as they saw the pain reflected in the other's eyes.
"But I think I really grew up the day you told me to leave."
"No, love, it was right. Thank you. I felt like part of me was missing the entire time, but you were right. I needed to go, you needed to stay. And now, we're both grown up, and ready to be together. Right?"
"Right. I love you. So much."
"I love you, too."
The next day was a rush of activity. Bella and Rose had hair appointments in the morning, makeup appointments after that, and then Rose had to be back to the church by 2:00 to get ready. Bella helped Rose squeeze into her gown, and Rose fretted over it, as usual.
"Isn't it just my luck to get pregnant again right before the wedding?"
Bella laughed. "Rose, you're not even showing. You look perfect."
"I'm a lot rounder than I once was."
"But Emmett loves you round! And you look beautiful, like a mother, like you're in love."
Rose's voluptuous breasts tried to spill out of her sweetheart neckline, but after some wrestling and coaxing, they seemed to stay in. Bella smoothed the sides and back of the dress down before bringing one hand around to rest on Rose's tiny baby bump. Rose caught Bella's reflection in the mirror, and saw her tears.
"Why are you so sad?" Bella wiped at her eyes.
"I'm not sad, I don't think. I'm…wistful, maybe? A little hopeful? Edward's staying here in Portland, and I'm just…so happy. I guess I think maybe our future's really starting. I hope we're as happy as you and Emmett."
"You will be. Probably even happier." The two almost-sisters shared a smile.
The ceremony went off without a hitch, and Bella's eyes were glued to Edward in his tux. She couldn't wait to dance with him at the reception, and go home with him that night. And wake up with him tomorrow. And every morning after that.
Edward kept his eyes trained on Bella across the altar during the ceremony. His future bride was right there, so close, yet a little out of reach. He couldn't wait for her to be his, as he was already hers.
Pictures were taken, guests cried, and dinner was served. Before Bella knew it, it was time for her and Edward to give their toasts, and she was shaking with nerves. She obviously spoke in front of her students constantly, but she was afraid of accidentally embarrassing Rose, or herself, and she knew Edward would most likely be way more eloquent than she.
"I've known Rose even longer than Emmett has, and how I didn't realize they were perfect for each other immediately, I'll never know. I'd never seen Emmett look at anyone the way he did when he first saw her; and I can safely say, and everyone can vouch for this, that Rose never blushed like she did when she met my brother," Edward said, and fellow guests laughed and agreed. "Em and I have talked about love and how to make it last, and he has told me time and again that you have to grab a hold of it, protect it, and never let it go. The love I see between these two is astounding at times, without even factoring in the love they have for their little girl."
Bella turned and watched Rose tear up, holding little Annabel close to her side.
"So I want to toast this lovely couple, and I'm sure that we'll see the strength of their love and devotion for the next eighty years."
Everyone raised their glasses and toasted the happy couple. Bella stood and started to reach for the microphone, but Edward waited for the cheers to die down before he spoke again.
"And because Em told me that the first step is recognizing what you have and making sure it's yours forever, and because this woman right here is the love of my life, I have one more thing. Isabella Swan," Edward said as he turned to her. His eyes were sparkling and as soon as Bella looked into his eyes, she knew what he was asking. Unshed tears pooled in her eyes as she held her breath. Edward slowly pulled out a ring and held it up to her. "You wanna?"
There were giggles over the way Edward proposed, and some gasps. Bella didn't look around to gauge the reactions in the room. In that moment nothing else existed but them, and she knew, finally, it was time. She drew in a deep breath and answered, right into the microphone Edward was still holding between them.
Edward's face split with the widest smile she'd ever seen and he kissed her, hard, and wrapped her up in his arms. Bella could barely kiss him back because of her matching smile, and as Edward held her tightly, she felt herself bounce. She was so giddy, she felt like she was channeling Alice as she let out a girlish squeal. Edward threw his head back and laughed. Bella grabbed the microphone since she hadn't given her speech yet.
"Well, I don't really know what to say now. I can't really top that. Rose, Emmett, I love you guys, and I hope we didn't steal your thunder!"
Rose laughed and shouted back at her, "You're gonna pay for that one!" But Bella saw the joy on Rose's face, and Emmett was already up and around the table, slapping Edward on the back. Bella was so overwhelmed, she didn't even realize she hadn't put the ring on yet until Edward grabbed her hand and started to slip in on her ring finger.
The ring was an heirloom, worn by Edward's mother, and perfect. She watched Edward kiss it on her finger before she looked into his eyes again, afraid that she was going to wake up and find out it was all a dream. As though he could read her mind, he said,
"We've got everything – our past, right now, and our future. Waiting for us." Edward's eyes roamed the planes of Bella's face, taking in the subtle changes of the woman standing before him – the same little girl that stole his heart those years ago. "I love you."
"And I love you," Bella breathed.
So...that's all, folks! Thank you so much for sticking with me through this, and for giving my little fic a chance!
I also encourage all of you to donate to Fics for Nashville to help with relief over the floods that hit them last week. Tennessee is my home state (and my soon-to-be current state of residence in two weeks) and could use some love! http:// community (dot) livejournal (dot) com/ ficsfornash/ 474. html I'm not planning on writing anything for it, unless someone appeals to me for an outtake of BE or anything like that. I could be bribed. :)
In honor of completing my fic, I have put together a nice little list of completed fic recs for you all.
High school fics: Boy in the Red Sweater by Starrynytex; Cascade and Cyanide by americnxidiot; Scotch, Gin and the New Girl by jandco; Son of a Preacher Man by LaViePastiche; Tropic of Virgo by In..bathrobe
AH fics: A Murmur of Fire in the Vein by ElleCC; Breakfast at Tiffany's by profmom72 & Hmonster4; Holding Out for You by ObsessingOverEdward; Intersection by Lillybellis; Out of her Head by 1Blue25; Stay by crimsonmarie
AU fics: Abbracciare il Cantante by Bratty-Vamp; And with Thee Fade Away by Derdrui oFaolain; Creature of Habit by EZRocksAngel; Marble and Mahogany by letmesign
Click over to my profile and check out the first chapter of my new story, Lost in Between. .net/s/5974563/1 I love you all!