Chapter Thirty-four

The Epilogue

Beta'd by mynxi. How lucky I am to have her. Many thanks to pixiewriter for pre-reading and monitoring the cheesiness level!

Twilight is the property of Stephanie Meyer.


I stood on the large patio of the house on Isle Esme, admiring the way the sunlight reflected off Bella's skin as the sun began to set. She was leaning against the wall, looking down over the pristine beach. Even after just over a decade together, the sight of her still caused my dead heart to twitch in my chest, unable to fully believe that she was mine.

The simple, black, bandeau bikini she wore amplified the perfection of her pale skin and perfectly framed her "tattoo." The curved criss-crosses my upper teeth had created overlapped each other, starting between her shoulder blades, arching up to her shoulders, and continuing down the outside of each arm to the end of each middle finger. Bella had told me that she wanted to wear my marks on her skin in recognition of the strength it took for me to walk away from my past. Personally, I just loved the fact that it was another sign that she was mine.

As the breeze brought Bella's sweet scent toward me, I thought about the contrast between the peaceful ocean in front of us and the memory of the disorder of our first year together. Even compared to my years with Maria, the violence and emotional turmoil of our early relationship was mind boggling. I thought that Victoria's death would be the end of the chaos, but even after she was destroyed, things remained rather chaotic for awhile.

I remembered clearly the drama at the Cullen house the morning after Bella took Victoria down. She and I drove over early to see if they needed any assistance with the clean up. Of course, they had things well in hand by that time. Everyone was uninjured with the exception of Edward. Although he was intact for the most part, he was sporting quite a few new bite marks on his arms and neck.

I could feel his anger and resentment, and I made sure to keep my expression neutral when I looked at him, unwilling to make him feel self conscious about the marks he would wear forever. We greeted the others and verified that no one else was injured. Carlisle and Esme assured us they were all fine and thanked us again for our assistance. After politely inquiring to make sure we were also uninjured, they happily congratulated us on our marriage.

Edward's rage immediately flared to life. "Oh, yes," he sneered. "Congratulations to the perfectly matched pair of scarred freaks! You're crazy if you think you'll last more than a year together!"

Bella and I just stared in shock at his petty anger, but Carlisle immediately stood up and walked over to stand in front of him. "Edward, as we discussed earlier, there are conditions to your presence here. You will either be polite to everyone in this house, or you will leave." Everyone froze, shocked that Carlisle would threaten his first "son" with banishment. Edward's face was a mask of anger and disbelief. Without a word, he stood and walked out of the house, his sense of self righteous betrayal pouring off him in waves.

It turned out that he really left, drifting out of touch with even Carlisle and Esme for several years. Carlisle mentioned he wasn't even using the Cullen funds; his location and condition were a complete mystery to everyone in the family.

His disappearance was quite painful for Carlisle and Esme, but they were able to take some comfort from their improving relationship with Bella. She had been very touched by the way Carlisle didn't sell her out to Victoria, even at the risk of Esme's life. It went a long way to restoring her trust in the Cullen family and she started to accept them back in her life wholeheartedly. We stayed in New York for several weeks after the attack, allowing everyone to really get to know one another again before we returned to our home.

They had recently relocated to the Chicago area, where Carlisle was taking a break from hands-on medicine in order to work on cancer research. He admitted that he missed the patient interaction, but that he was enjoying the challenge of the laboratory. Esme was teaching an interior design course at a community college and enjoying every minute of it. We were all frequent visitors back and forth, and we unashamedly begged Esme for use of her island on a regular basis.

For the most part, Bella was happy and relaxed around them, but I realized that she might never be totally free of the flashes of pain, distrust, and anxiety that still flared every once in awhile. Despite those occasional setbacks, she had certainly made amazing progress from the defensive, shuttered young woman I had bumped into all those years ago. Of course, Charlotte and Peter were a large part of the reason Bella had come so far.

They remained our closest friends and we continued to spend most of our time living together. We tended to travel separately, but the Montana house was "home" to all of us, and Peter and Char were truly our family. I still enjoyed watching Bella interact with Peter just as true siblings would, their affection for each other frequently morphing into aggravation and then back again. Charlotte was a real sister to Bella, accepting her unconditionally for who she was. Although they were two very different women, they were very good friends. They enjoyed keeping each other entertained during happy times and relied on each other for support during difficult periods.

I wasn't surprised at Bella and Char's closeness, but I was downright shocked at the relationship that had developed between Bella and Rosalie. The two had progressed from cautious respect for each other to outright affection. They talked on the phone daily and visited each other no less than every other month. Rose was teaching Bella engines and had recently gotten her into motorcycles, which I was really enjoying myself. We had taken several long motorcycle trips with Rose and Emmett and had another one planned as soon as we returned from Isle Esme, assuming they could tear themselves away from their successful custom motorcycle business.

I was drawn back to the present by the sound of Bella's voice. "You two are indecent," she called down to the beach in a teasing tone. "Get a room!"

Seconds later, Edward stepped from the beach onto the patio, his tousled hair as striking as ever. His face, however, was completely altered from the Edward I had lived with for all those year. His expression was relaxed and open, in a way that it had never been before. He walked over to the beach shower and quickly sprayed the sand off his feet, smiling over his shoulder as the reason for his happiness jogged up from the beach and scooped Bella off her feet to twirl her around.

"Stop it, Andy," she giggled. "Edward's the one who wants swept off his feet! I'm low maintenance!"

"Hey," Edward protested with a laugh. "I am not high maintenance!"

Andy set Bella down and met Edward halfway to the shower. "Yes you are," he corrected gently before pulling Edward close for a deep kiss. "You're worth the effort though."

Watching the two of them together, I remembered the shock I'd felt when Edward showed up at our Montana home with a vampire Andy in tow. I literally though Bella was going to light his ass on fire first and ask questions later. Fortunately, Andy stepped in to calm her down and gave us the abridged version of the story.

After separating from the rest of the Cullens, Edward had returned to feeding off humans as he struggled with the loss of his mind reading ability and the changes within his vampire family. One cold night on a deserted beach on Long Island, he came across Andy who had just returned to New York after the death of his grandmother.

Edward went in for the kill, but stopped at the last second, struck by the sad peace on Andy's face. Andy, feeling compassion for the agony in Edward's red eyes, inexplicably whispered, "It's okay," despite the fact that he could tell Edward meant him harm. Edward was so shocked at his words that he just froze. Andy calmly mentioned the fact that he had seen someone like Edward before, piquing Edward's interest.

They sat together on the cold, wet beach and began talking. Their conversation continued for days, and it didn't take much longer than that for them to realize they were made for each other. Edward didn't hesitate at all to change Andy and teach him the "vegetarian" lifestyle, and they had been together ever since.

Surprisingly, Edward didn't fall apart at the fact that he had fallen in love with a man. After all of the pain he put Bella through with his outdated morals, I was amazed how easily he accepted himself and the love he shared with Andy. Andy was a great influence on Edward. He had conquered his battle with addiction and became a peaceful and sensible man. He didn't overreact when Edward got emo and he taught Edward not to take himself so seriously.

Bella actually accepted this turn of events better than I expected, thanks to Andy. His easy going attitude did a lot to smooth the way for Bella and Edward to become friends. He never judged Bella for her resentment toward Edward and he also helped Edward to actually listen to Bella instead of criticizing her. Things gradually improved between the two of them, until we eventually reached the point of being able to be in the same space for days and then weeks at a time.

Interestingly, since his return into our lives, Edward had never mentioned attempting to remove the block on his mind reading. I was glad to know that Bella's theory was correct, and that taking away Edward's ability was truly a gift rather than a punishment.

Malcolm claimed he wasn't surprised at the staying power of the block, insisting that when he felt like something would work, it worked. He and Alice were doing well. Alice had given up high school and was currently taking the fashion world by storm, although she played the artistic recluse since her stature and hair made her so recognizable.

Malcolm still preferred wandering to being settled in one location, but they made their lives work with a combination of technology and compromise. It was amazing and refreshing to see Alice allowing someone else to participate in making decisions. We were gradually starting to spend more time with them as Bella began to warm up to Alice again, and truly forgive her for the way she had treated us. When I was around them, I could feel their complete happiness, and I was certain that Alice didn't miss her foresight at all.

I laughed as Bella rolled her eyes at Edward and Andy's embrace. Without a word, they stumbled toward the house, their lips still locked tightly together. Bella giggled and I relished the sight of her relaxed and happy expression. She made her way over to the pool and dove in gracefully, the warm evening sun sparkling off both her body and the water.

Shaking myself out of my thoughts, I took a few quick steps and dove in to join her, swimming up behind her under the water. She turned slightly and reached back with one hand so that our fingertips met, generating the peace I felt only with her touch. I smiled as she tugged me gently forward so that we were face to face. I gazed down into her beautiful amber eyes, unspeakably grateful that she was with me.

As usual, her emotions were closed to me, a welcome pocket of peace from the volatile feelings I was usually subjected to. I had found her resistance to my ability frustrating early in our relationship, but over the years, I had grown adept at reading her expressions and movements, to the point that I usually knew what she was feeling even without experiencing her emotions myself. She often relaxed her shield so that I could experience her love, but I knew she made a conscious effort to keep her more negative emotions hidden from me.

"You've been awfully quiet," she said with a questioning smile. "Anything wrong?"

"Not a thing," I reassured her. "Just taking a minute to think about how we got here."

"Mmmmm, deep thoughts for such a pretty head," she said huskily, putting her hands on my shoulders to pull herself up high enough to kiss me.

I wrapped my arms around her, pulling her body close to mine as I enjoyed the sensation of her mouth on mine. Our kisses were soft, slow and deep, and by the time we separated my dick was hard and throbbing. I held her a small distance away so that I could tug her bikini top down, exposing her perfect breasts.

She lay back into the water, bringing her left nipple within easy reach of my mouth. I quickly leaned forward and took it between my teeth, grazing it gently without breaking the skin before sucking in earnest. She moaned in pleasure and I began to dribble water from my fingertip onto the other nipple.

She whispered my name and I quickly slipped my hand inside her bikini bottom, finding her slick folds. I pinched her hard little clit and continued sucking on her nipple, enjoying the mewling sounds she was making.

Grateful for the fact that her bikini bottom tied on, I quickly yanked it off and worked my board shorts down. Leaning back against the side of the pool, I pulled her closer to me and slowly lowered her onto my dick. We locked eyes as I slid home inside her.

I began to thrust slowly and put my hands on her tiny waist, lifting her up and down to meet my movements. I kept the pace as slow as our kiss had been, enjoying the expression on Bella's face as our passion built slowly. The movement of the water around us and the extra buoyancy it provided added new dimensions to the experience.

I watched her face as she fell over the edge, my own climax following seconds later. Being connected to her this way was no less powerful now than it was the first time we had consummated our relationship. Less than a minute later, we giggled quietly as the sounds of Edward and Andy climaxing together drifted out of their open window.

"Do you think they heard us?" Bella asked with a blush as we separated so she could replace her bikini while I slipped my trunks back on.

"Baby, they may have been watching," I teased, only half joking. Andy's emotions were pretty neutral around Bella, but I frequently felt Edward projecting lust when she was around. I was shocked when I felt a flash of desire from her at my words.

"You like the idea of them watching, don't you," I growled playfully, tugging her back into my arms and filing this knowledge away for later use. "My little exhibitionist," I sighed, leaning in to kiss her softly again. Bella relaxed herself, allowing me to feel the completion and happiness she was experiencing as we embraced.

Eventually, we separated and she turned around, leaning back against my chest. My thoughts returned to the past and our journey to this time and place. My existence had been full of difficult experiences, some of them downright horrifying, but I was struck by the fact that sometimes the best things in life come from surviving the worst things in life. I knew without asking that Bella felt the same way. Despite the hardships we had each suffered, we wouldn't change anything that led us to this moment.

AN- I feel that weird mixture of joy and sadness as this story comes to an end. Writing it and completing it gives me such a feeling of accomplishment, but I'll miss these two so much! I would like to thank every single person who has joined me on this journey, whether it was through reading, reviewing, chatting, or all of the above!

When I logged onto fanfiction the first time, I had no idea that it would lead me to the friendships I have found here. Mynxi-my beta, my friend, my advisor- you are an amazing woman that I am grateful to count among my friends. Thank you for everything you do for me, in fic life and in real life. Nics- I look forward to your e-mails every day! You make the short bus the place to be! My Team Malcolm girls- thanks for all of your help! Ready for the Alice and Malcolm outtake?

Special thanks to roon0 for sending me recommended reading lists, complete with links! You can't imagine the temptation! I'm supposed to be working on a chapter, and then here she comes with a dozen stories I just have to check out, right at the tip of my fingers, lol! Check out her profile if you're in need of good fics. Her favorites list is as good as a library, and she has really good taste!

Don't forget, if want to read what my dirty alter ego comes up with, go put heavilysalacious on alert here on fanfic. TWCS won't show the account until I post something on it, so I will put an AN under the Outtakes from AMCE when I post the first story under the new name.

Love you all!