Disclaimer: Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit. I'm just playing around a little. Please respect that.


A new beginning

Looking back at the past year on this New Year's Eve, I was astounded at where I found myself. Not physically – hanging out at my soon-to-be stepsister's had been second nature even since she moved in with my best friend. No, I mean mentally, emotionally… whatever. Previous years I would have been at some kind of party, working my way into another random girl's pants.

Last year had been particularly bad; I had been drunk out of my mind and could only recall bits and pieces the next day. One of those bits had been fucking the host's cousin against the bathroom counter. Another had been sticking my tongue down that girl's friend's throat at the stroke of midnight. And the last thing I remembered was being dragged out of there by Jasper and Emmett at one in the morning and forcefully being taken home.

Not one of my finest moments.

The upside to all that shit was that it could only get better after that.

And it did.

I can honestly say the best nights – and days – of my existence had all happened since Bella had come into my life.

It had started the night I had met her. Even if I would never have seen her again after that, I would always remember that night. The look in her eyes, the way she had smiled at me, her scent, her kiss…

Then more nights followed, one more amazing than the other. Of course, I had messed up at times, and people had tried to come between us, but in the end we had come out of it together and in love.

And this was only the beginning.

Yes, I had already started to make some changes in my behavior and lifestyle before I had met her, but she had made me even more committed to stick to them. I didn't want to ruin this good thing and risk losing her. She was too important. So I had made it my priority to work hard so I might be worthy of her. I didn't even want to fathom my life without her anymore.

This last week in itself had probably been one of the best out of the year. I still couldn't quite comprehend that Bella loved me. It was more than I could have hoped for at this time. Yet she did, and ever since she had first uttered those three glorious words that faithful Christmas Eve, I couldn't stop saying it, and showing her how much I worshipped her.

Sometimes I was a little overzealous in doing so, and I had already left some marks on her body. They would upset me more than her, though, as she claimed to love my sex bruises and love bites, while I kept berating myself for hurting her. I guess I still had to learn to trust her judgment in this and believe her to tell me if I ever went too far. I just couldn't stand the thought of hurting her, both physically and emotionally. I had done so once, unintentionally, and just thinking back to the look in her eyes at the time made me wince still.

Looking out over the Seattle skyline from the balcony of Emmett and Rosalie's apartment, I quickly shook those thoughts from my mind and took another drag of the cigarette I had come out here to smoke. Suddenly, I felt two arms snake around my waist from behind.

'What are you doing?' Bella softly asked as she rested her cheek against my back.

I covered her hands with one of my own, tracing patterns over the smooth skin of her wrist.

'Just… thinking.'

'Would you like some company?'

'From you? Always,' I responded, and moved to stand behind her, encasing her within my arms between my body and the railing.

She leaned into me, resting her head against my shoulder and caressing my arms. She didn't speak; just stood there with me as I thought back to earlier that week.

After the party at Volturi Inc., I had gone home with my family and had straightened out my room, since I hadn't had the time to do so in the morning. Clothes, underwear and condom wrappers were still strewn across the floor.

The night before had been better than I could have imagined. Who would have thought the shy girl I had met a little over two months ago would wake me up for a round of mind-blowing sex in the middle of the night? She had, though, and had proven to be quite the little vixen, as well. She liked it rough, apparently, and I had been happy to oblige.

I had gathered Bella's clothes and was hunting down a bag to put them in, when she had texted me to let me know she was on her way over to her brother's. I had changed into jeans, a t-shirt and my favorite hoodie and had made to leave. Alice and Jasper had retreated to his room, so I just knocked on his door and yelled that I was leaving, before heading downstairs to bid my father and Esme goodnight.

'Will you be spending the night at Rosalie's?' Esme asked, to which I nodded. 'Be nice to Bella,' she said knowingly. 'Today's been a little stressful for her.'

I could have been embarrassed at their knowledge of why I was going over there, but to be honest, I was glad. They supported our relationship and were realistic about its progression.

'Always am,' I had grinned, and quickly headed to my car.

We had enjoyed a relaxed evening in, just watching movies and cuddling on the couch. Bella had then led me into her room and stripped down to her panties, before tossing my hoodie across the room and lifting my t-shirt over my head so she could put it on.

'This is fast becoming the best part of the day,' she had breathed while unbuttoning my jeans and tugging them down.

'Taking my clothes off?' I had asked cheekily.

She had pondered that for a moment, then replied, 'Well, that too, obviously. But I actually meant just going to bed with you. I'd gladly spend every night in your arms.'

I couldn't agree more.

We had settled in, Bella securely tucked into my side. I had made love to her twice that night, very gentle and very quiet. Even though he had been pretty accepting of us and hadn't given us a hard time about the sexual component that had been gradually added, Emmett was still somewhat uncomfortable with our public displays of affection, and we didn't want him to get freaked out by being too vocal. Literally keeping quiet had also proven to have an added benefit: it made our connection that much more intense, communicating through tender touches and vivid stares. I had reveled in her quiet moans and gasps, though, and had felt ridiculously proud when I had to kiss her deeply throughout her orgasm to keep her from crying out.

The next day, I had driven her home, glad I had thought to bring a change of underwear and a clean shirt, and we had spent the day hanging out with Renee and working on a History paper she had coming up. Sometime before dinner, Charlie had arrived after having been stuck in meetings all day. He had been in a surprisingly good mood, considering he had to work through the holidays and was about to spend the evening with one of his less favorite people.

Dinner had gone pretty well. Bella had offered to make lasagna, with Renee providing a delicious garlic bread and me helping by putting together a salad. Yes, I wanted to make a good impression. I hadn't groped Bella even once, instead sneaking in little kisses from time to time before dinner, and holding her hand under the table during. It had taken some effort remembering to call her Isabella, as Charlie seemed to prefer, but I had managed.

Halfway through dinner, he had put down his fork and looked at both of us sternly.

'So, you've been sneaking around behind my back,' he had stated.

I had started to squirm a little in my seat under his glare, but Bella had stood her ground.

'Neither of us liked it, Daddy, but you didn't leave us a choice at the time. We talked about this yesterday,' she had said, a little exasperatedly. 'I thought you were alright with it now.'

'Doesn't mean I can't make the kid sweat a little,' he had winked.

Winked! Had the guy thought it was funny? Dude was fucking intimidating!

'I just want to know he treats you right and know the consequences of doing you wrong,' he had continued.

'Believe me, sir,' I had answered. 'I'm very well aware of both. I'd rather die than let any harm come to Isabella.'

'Very well. For now, I don't see any harm in the two of you dating. Answer me this, though: are you sleeping with my daughter?'

I had been glad I hadn't just take a bit, but Bella had been sipping her water and had started choking on it, her face turning bright red, both in embarrassment as out of lack of oxygen. I had rubbed her back soothingly as she spluttered, then had swallowed nervously before looking Charlie straight in the eye.

'Mr. Swan, I'm not going to lie to you. I am.'

His jaw had clenched and his hands had balled into fists beside his plate, but other than that he hadn't shown any reaction. Bella's jaw had dropped and she had been squeezing my hand furiously, while Renee had simply looked on in amazement.

'I love her. More than anything in the world. More than life itself. So of course I also want to express that physically. But I haven't pressured her. We've taken things slow and when she was ready, we took that step. Of course, we're taking precautions. I don't want anything to happen to her. I can't stress it enough: I love Isabella.'

He had processed my words for a few minutes, then had nodded ever so slightly.

'I guess that's the best I can expect, under the circumstances,' he had admitted. 'So, you're really serious about this one?' he had asked Bella, who had nodded her ascent, still blushing, only not as brightly anymore.

'Sir,' I answered. 'If I may be so bold; I take this… us…' I motioned between Bella and me. 'I take it extremely seriously. I fully intend on asking Isabella to marry me.'

Instantly, Bella had frozen up beside me while Renee had gasped and Charlie's eyes had widened in surprise.

'If she'll want me. And only when she's ready.'

I had kissed Bella's hand and had whispered to her, 'I told you, you're it for me.'

Charlie had cleared his throat then, 'Right. Let's discuss that when the time comes.'

At that, he had picked up his fork again and had continued eating. Conversation had been limited to light and easy topics for the remainder of the evening. I think Charlie had finally started to see me as more than just some punk chasing his little girl that night.

I was pulled from my thoughts by Bella standing up on her tiptoes to feather soft kisses along my jaw.

'Let's go back inside, baby. It's almost midnight.'

We had opted for a calmer approach to New Year's than previous years; it was just the six of us and Esme – my father was on call and had been called in for an emergency earlier that evening – at Rosalie and Emmett's apartment. Bella and I were spending the night, while Jasper and Alice would be driving home with Esme. We had gotten some snacks and drinks and were simply enjoying each other's company, celebrating the start of the new year.

I already had some things lined up. The day after Christmas, I had gone into the tattoo shop where I had gotten my previous one, to set up an appointment and discuss the design. A few days later Diego, the tattoo artist, had e-mailed me several options, one of which was perfect. The first session would be the next Saturday and Bella was going with me. I had shown the design to my father and we had shared an emotional moment over it.

I had also talked to Diego about possible designs for something to reference Bella without actually getting a tattoo of her name. That one was still in the early stages, but still, something I was working on.

Then, of course, Valentine's Day was approaching. I would have loved to treat Bella to a romantic getaway, but since my father and Esme would be getting married then, I couldn't do that. I might combine it with our three-month anniversary two weeks earlier, though. Maybe I would take her to New York for the weekend. I knew she had never been there before, so that would be something special to share with her. But I would have to discuss it with her parents first.

So, all of that would give me plenty to do outside of school, my friends and Bella. For now, I was content with counting down the last remaining seconds of the year that had marked a turnabout for me and had brought me the girl of my dreams. As the clock ticked them away, I leaned down and whispered quietly to her how much I loved her, then kissed her.

The last kiss of the old year, and the best way to start the new year. A new year, a fresh start, with the girl I loved in my arms.

A/N So there you have it. I hope this epilogue gave y'all a little bit of closure. Of course, their story isn't completely finished, but this felt like a good place to wrap up this particular episode of their lives. Also, I wanted to finish it before leaving for Australia in less than two weeks; I don't know how often I'll be able to go online (or on a computer for that matter) when I'm on the road and I didn't want to leave you hanging. I'll probably post some future-outtakes in a separate story, so if you're interested, put me on author alert. Again, I can't make any promises concerning a timeframe. Just know that there's some more to come.

On another note: I've outlined a New Moon AU plot bunny, titled From Black Moon to Solstice, which I'll be working on while traveling. I'll start posting that one when I've got a few chapters typed out, so bear with me. Jenn (GGSophie on ADF) has graciously made a banner for it already, which can be found on my profile.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who's read, reviewed and rec'd this story. I had a great time writing it and reading your thoughts about it. The various WCs I've participated in are also valued greatly.