A/N: This will probably be the last outtake/future-take for this story. Thank you so much for reading, favoriting, following, loving it. It means a lot to me. Thanks again to RachelFish for her keen eye and advice. I *heart* her dearly. This future-take is from BPOV only. I hope you enjoy it!
A good song for this chapter: "I Love How You Love Me" by The Paris Sister.
Sneak Peek: "You're giving me the best thing ever."
Even though we've been together for a year, Edward never uses pet names for me. No babe or baby or sweetie or hun… Never calls me Bells like other people do. It's always Bella. I love it.
His hopeless romantic side has rubbed off on me. I love that I'm his Bella. That he whispers my name in bed or sometimes growls it out when he's lost inside me. I don't even mind that he calls me the same thing when he's frustrated with me as when he's busy worshipping my body. It sort of grounds me. Lets me know I'm the same to him no matter what. Pet names might be cute. They might be fun. Maybe even endearing. But I don't want cute or fun or endearing. I want Edward. And I'm his Bella. I've never felt closer to anyone in all my life.
One year, a mere twelve months, is a blip on the radar in the grand scheme of things, but it feels like we were never strangers. It feels like we've known each other forever, as they say. He's the love of my life. And he's still my best friend.
Edward works hard during Maymester after I graduate. He's a trooper through extra-full course loads during the following summer and fall semesters, and he's signed up for another overly full schedule for the spring semester, all so he can meet his goal of graduating just a year after me. I have no idea why he felt like he had to do it, but if things go the way he wants them to, he'll graduate in May. The level of pride I have for him is immense, and now I understand the ferocity of the feelings he shared with me after my own graduation. I get it. Because I feel like he belongs to me, and I want to belong to him forever.
Edward takes my hand across the table we occupy at High Cotton, one of my most favorite restaurants in Charleston, and brushes his thumb over my knuckles. But then he purses his lips and seems to change his mind about something. His expression shifts from pensive to…something akin to relief, I think. He lets go of my hand and scoots his chair around the round table until he's beside me.
I giggle at his antsy mood.
"What?" he asks with a crooked smirk.
"I love you."
That smirk turns into a soft gaze. He stares at me for the longest time. Something in his demeanor shifts again, and he kisses my temple. Dessert arrives, and as we share crème brûlée and bread pudding and sip coffee, he's antsy again, his leg bobbing up and down next to mine.
"Maybe coffee wasn't a great idea for you tonight," I say on a laugh as he signs a credit card slip and gulps down the rest of his ice water.
"Let's get out of here," he says with his winningest lopsided grin.
We stroll down East Bay Street and end up at the Battery for the millionth time. Warm lights glow in the windows of antebellum mansions. Stars twinkle in the clear, velvet night. The water laps gently at the concrete seawall below the promenade. This place is beautiful at any given time, but at night, it's peaceful. Tranquil. Romantic, even.
"This is where we met," Edward murmurs, gesturing to the ground. "This exact spot."
As if I didn't know. As if I wouldn't remember such an important detail. He pulls me close, trapping me against the black metal railing, and kisses me softly. Gently.
"I wanted to do that the very first time I saw you. Really saw you. Even though you were crying and hurt, right here, right then, you were beautiful." He kisses me again. I feel swoony. "You are beautiful." His thumbs brush against my waist, where his hands linger as he stares.
"Edward," I say with a tremble in my voice. He's making me blush, making me feel embarrassed, indulgent.
He knows it. His eyes crinkle with his widest, most genuine smile, and he kisses my forehead before he backs off just a bit.
"You know what?" he asks.
I shake my head, sort of dazed by the way he's looking at me, like I'm perched high on a pedestal. "Hmm?"
"I adore you, Bella Swan."
I know my answering smile is brilliant. "The feeling's mutual."
He finds whatever he's searching for in my expression, and then his eyes leave mine as he ducks his head. I don't realize what's happening until he's down on one knee in front of me, holding my hands gently yet somehow also grasping for dear life.
My breath catches in my throat. Something swells inside my chest, in my stomach, overwhelming me completely when his gaze finds mine again.
I nod my head once. My fingertips hide my smile.
"Will you marry me?"
It's simple, direct, and so quintessentially us. It's the best thing I've ever heard. I beam down at him, at his asymmetrical grin, at his raised eyebrows and what looks like a slight flush high on his cheeks.
"Yes," I say, mirroring his simple words.
His smile might split his face as he slides a beautiful diamond ring on my finger, kisses my hand, and then rises to his feet, hands returning to my waist.
"Yeah?" he asks. I can see it there in his face, how much he wants this. And I marvel at it, wondering if he's my mirror, if some of it is my own desire reflecting back at me.
"Yeah," I say, confident, so in love.
His kiss electrifies me. It's followed by smaller, excited kisses to my cheeks, my forehead, my nose, my jaw, until he reaches the spot just below my ear. "Thank you," he whispers.
I frame his face with my hands on his cheeks. "You're thanking me?"
He nods. "You're giving me the best thing ever."
"No. Thank you." My eyes dart to the sparkly foreign object that I know will stay right where it is forever.
He moves my hand from his cheek so we can both see the brilliant diamond solitaire twinkling under the streetlamp. "You like it?"
"I love it," I answer without thought or question. "I love you."
"I worship you," he whispers.
"Always trying to upstage me, Cullen," I say, laughing.
"Always trying to have the last word, soon-to-be Cullen."
All my blood rushes to my head, and any trace of a teasing smile drops from my face as I tug him to me and crush my lips against his. Soon-to-be Cullen. It sounds so good. It makes this feel real. And it makes tears prick behind my eyelids. An elated sob escapes me, and I pull away, covering my mouth.
"Hey," he says, momentary concern in his eyes. But when he sees the pure joy on my face, his expression matches mine again. He wipes tears from my face and kisses me once more.
"Sorry I cried in your mouth."
He throws his head back and laughs, then winds his arms around my waist, hugging me so tightly that my feet leave the ground. "Let's go home," he says when he puts me down again. I take his hand, and as we start down the sidewalk, he thumbs the diamond that's taken up permanent residence on my left hand.
"Hey, Cullen?" I say softly.
"Can you call me that again?"
He looks puzzled for a minute, but he gets me. Taking my hands and bringing me around to stand in front of him again, he lays my palms against his chest. I feel his heart pounding as he levels me with his gaze.
"Hey, soon-to-be Cullen?"
A shiver makes its way through my body. "Yeah?"
"Take me home?"
Part of me wants to call everyone I know and tell them Edward wants me forever. But a bigger part of me wants to keep it like a secret. Wants the magic to stay between us for tonight.
As we make love, with his hands holding mine against the mattress, Edward kisses my ring and kisses my hand, and then devours my mouth. I wrap myself around him in an effort to be as close to him as possible.
Later, we lie naked, still tangled up in each other, and talk about how amazing it is that one little question and one tiny answer make everything feel so big. How it changes our lives for the better, even if neither of us thought it could possibly be any better than it has been.
"You're not my boyfriend anymore," I tell him quietly and test how a word feels. "You're my fiancé."
A lascivious look crosses his face, and he rolls me over again and pins me to the bed. "You're my everything," he breathes.
Though I wanted to keep it between us last night, this morning I can't bear to keep the news quiet. I dissolve into delirious giggles when Edward teases me through his gorgeous smirk, saying that he wants to rent out a spot-lit billboard proclaiming our new status.
My parents—and Benji, of course—are the first people we tell. We spill our secret at a family dinner. Mom's elated scream makes us all wince. Dad's mustache twitches a few times before he eventually smiles and admits that he knew because Edward asked his permission last week.
I fall a little bit more in love with my fiancé right then and there.
"Does that mean Edward'll be my brother?" Benji asks. He's been quiet, chewing his food thoughtfully. He's done so much growing up over the last year. He'll be eight soon, and the more he hangs out with Edward, the more he tries to emulate him, looks up to him. He parrots his every move.
I glance over at Edward, leaving it to him. He's just as fond of Benji as Benji is of him.
"Yeah, I guess I will," he answers with a smile, ruffling my little brother's hair.
"Cool! I've always wanted a brother."
"Benjamin," Mom says sharply. "You love your sister."
"Yeah," he answers with a wrinkled nose. "But she doesn't like video games. And she doesn't watch baseball with me and dad."
"I've got news for you, kid," I tell him. "Edward's not into video games, either."
He ignores me and turns back to Edward. "Can I be the best man?"
I snort, and Edward narrows his eyes at me before turning back to Benji with a smirk. "I'll see what I can do," he says, ever the people pleaser.
We don't linger after we finish dinner. Carlisle and Esme are expecting us for dessert.
"Congratulations, Bells," my dad says gruffly, giving me a one-armed hug and shaking Edward's hand. "Edward."
Mom's about to burst at the seams. "Set a date soon, okay? And tell Esme to call me as soon as you tell her. I want to get started with the planning!"
"Yeah. Okay," I tell her idly. My face is hot, my heart thumping as it registers once again that this is for real. Edward wants to marry me. I want to be his bride. There's going to be a wedding.
We're getting married.
I squeeze Edward's hand behind my back, really just wanting to get him alone.
"Let me see! Let me see!" Esme exclaims, grabbing for my left hand before we can even get through the front door of the Cullens' house.
I pin Edward with my gaze, momentarily perturbed. "You told them already?"
He spreads his hands out in front of him, palms up. "I didn't—"
"No! No," Esme says, shaking her head quickly, and stands aside so we can enter the house.
Edward ushers me in with his hand on the small of my back and kisses the top of my head, calming my fleeting dismay.
"I was suspicious when Edward called this morning." She turns to him. "When have you ever called before coming over?"
Carlisle chuckles and kisses his wife on the cheek.
Edward shrugs. "I wanted to make sure you'd be here. It was pretty important."
"My sweet boy." She stands on her toes and wraps him in a ferocious hug. I've heard her call him that countless times over the past twelve months, and it's adorable every time.
Carlisle issues his congratulatory hugs, too. "He's a smart kid, this one," he says with a wink. "The first time he brought you here, I told him to snatch you up quick."
"Carlisle," Esme chastises him before turning back to me. "Bella, I'm so proud to have you as my daughter-in-law." She puts her arms around me, too, and for the thousandth time in twenty-four hours, my face is on fire. It doesn't escape me that she uses the present tense, evidently already regarding me as a Cullen. I love it. "Already a blushing bride," she teases and kisses my burning cheek.
The next evening, we meet up at Rose and Emmett's house to share our news. It's a miracle our parents managed to keep it to themselves just for today. We wanted everyone to hear it firsthand. Normally, we might go out to celebrate, but Rose and Em just recently welcomed their new little bundle of absolute joy. Baby Garrett is only a few weeks old, and none of us can get enough of him. Jasper and Alice are already there when we arrive, and as usual, she's hogging the baby.
I hide my hands behind my back as we enter the house and stand side by side in the middle of the living room. Edward's basically attached to my hip, and again, I wonder what it is about me wearing his ring that makes everything feel so big, so new all over again.
"So," Edward begins, and the smirks and hidden giggles in the room abound. There's really only one reason we'd be standing here together in front of all of them with matching, starry-eyed looks on our faces. "I asked Bella to marry me." He pauses for effect, pressing his lips together.
"And?" Emmett says, moving his hand in a circular motion.
Edward doesn't make a move to answer, so I go for it. "I said yes."
Rose and Alice both squeal and rocket off the couch. Alice hands the baby off to Edward and grabs for my hand as Rose wraps me in a hug. I glance over at him as they fawn over me. I love seeing him with his nephew, who also happens to be my godson. It's even cuter than watching him interact with Benji. He rocks the baby from side to side, standing a few feet away from me, and oh, my heart.
"When?" Rose asks, taking her turn to examine my ring.
Edward looks up at me and raises an eyebrow, and I know he's extremely interested to hear my answer. I just shrug. "We haven't talked about it yet."
My future sisters-in-law make their suggestions known, but I only half-listen. The whole wedding thing is already overwhelming. Edward rescues me, though, pulling my hand and tugging me down to sit next to him.
He plants a kiss on my temple and nods once at baby Garrett. "Auntie Bella?" he asks, offering me the sleeping bundle.
I beam at him and take Garrett into my arms, careful not to wake him, holding him close and smelling his precious little baby scent. As much as I love Garrett, and as much as my heart swells every time Edward coos over him and rocks him gently, I can't imagine having one of these to take care of all the time. Rose and Em look exhausted. And I like sleep. And quiet. And being able to do whatever I want whenever I want. After a few minutes, Alice takes Garrett back, baby-hog that she is.
We stay long enough to have one beer, knowing that the new parents need their sleep. And needing to get back home because Edward's been rubbing his hand higher and higher up my thigh all night. It's driving me crazy.
In bed that night, after a prolonged, burning buildup that leaves me feeling utterly spent and incredibly sexy, Edward's words do things to me that I can't explain.
"When do I get to make you my wife?" he asks, making my recently slowed heart rate pick up again.
"I don't know," I say quietly. We're dancing around this, unwilling to disappoint or make the other panic with our answers. "Do you…do you have any thoughts?"
"I have many thoughts, Swan."
I pinch his naked butt, making him jump and yelp and laugh. "Be serious."
He sighs and turns on his side to face me fully, touching my face lightly with his fingers, ghosting them over my skin until it kind of tickles. "You want my honest answer?"
"Obviously," I say, slightly nervous about what he's about to say.
"In that case, I want to marry you as soon as possible."
My heart soars…
...and then drops back to Earth again.
"The practical thing to do is wait until I graduate." He sighs.
"I agree," I tell him honestly. "I don't want you distracted from school."
He hums into my neck.
"Or wedding planning," I continue, "because there's no way I'm letting you off the hook from dealing with our moms and Alice and Rose." The planning of Rose and Emmett's wedding—from the outside, even—was a terrifying preview of things to come.
"Do you think they'd kill us if we just eloped?" he asks.
"Uh, does that question even merit an answer?"
We sigh in unison and then laugh. "Bella, I'll put up with anything if it means I get to marry you."
He's too dreamy for words. I'll never get used to it, and I don't even want to. I want to always feel this close to him, this enamored with him. My thoughts are incredibly sappy, I know. I've never been one for such sentimentality, but Edward's changed that. Edward's changed everything, and I couldn't love him more for it.
We're getting married.
We're getting married.
"Hey, Cullen?" I bite my lip to hide a giddy grin and wait for the answer I love.
"Yes, soon-to-be Cullen?" he says, his voice muffled by a pillow.
I goad him into saying that as often as possible. It makes my insides melt. "I love you."
"Love you, too," he murmurs, close to sleep. "For keeps."