After two days of Charlie hovering, Bella was more than ready for a visit from Emmett. He showed up with a couple of pizza pies and a six pack of Charlie's favorite beer.
Bella purposely told Charlie earlier in the day that her head hurt, setting the groundwork that allowed her to stay in her bedroom that night. He didn't seem particularly happy about Emmett visiting in her bedroom, but didn't object.
Emmett brought dinner up to her room and set it up on the end of her bed. Bella scooted forward, taking a quick kiss on her cheek and a slice of plain cheese pizza. His eyes lingered on her face, mostly on the glorious black and blue bruise surrounding her cheek and eye.
"It doesn't hurt as much anymore," she smiled. "Only when I touch it or sleep on it."
"Have you been taking Advil or something for the swelling?" Emmett asked.
Bella rolled her eyes. "Of course. Charlie's got all my medications on a schedule."
Emmett laughed and nudged her plate closer to her. "He said you haven't been eating much."
She obediently took a bite of pizza and wiped her hands on a napkin. "How's Seth?"
He shrugged. "I've never heard anyone whine so much. I figure if he can spend that much energy bitching, he's fine. He'll be in the hospital for a few more days, and then I'll take him home to my place."
"So…what happened to everyone else?" she asked. Charlie refused to discuss with her the details of the case, insisting that she needed to rest.
"They arrested Sam and the guys. They're off the street for now. Billy said they found enough evidence to connect James to Sam, so between that and Seth's testimony, they'll be going away for a long time."
"So Billy's okay, then?" Bella confirmed, taking a bite of pizza.
Emmett paused, and the area around his eyes tightened slightly. "He's…alive. James got off two rounds in him before they took him down. He had surgery but..."
Bella put her pizza down, concerned at his reluctance to tell her. "Emmett?"
"He's paralyzed from the waist down. They don't know how permanent it is, but I guess there was a lot of nerve damage," Emmett told her ruefully. "He's in the same hospital as Seth, so I visit him every day, too. He's got family around here, near Forks, and he's thinking about moving back home."
She shoved her plate away and dropped her gaze to the faded purple comforter. Billy's life would be forever altered because of her and her stupid mistakes.
Emmett silently moved the dinner picnic off her bed, and pushed Bella down to lay with him. He pulled the covers up to their chins and tugged her against him, very careful of her injuries.
"Don't try and make me feel better," she sniffled into her pillow.
"I would never," he said seriously. "Because my girlfriend is far too intelligent to blame herself for a psychopath's behavior, right?"
She sighed and sniffled again. "I'm your girlfriend?"
He kissed the top of her head. "Yup. And I'm not letting you go until you make me. Or until Charlie comes up with his shotgun." He nuzzled into her hair and let out a contented sigh. "I almost had a heart attack when I saw James holding you with the gun."
"I don't want to talk about him anymore," she whispered. "Ever again."
Bella twisted around so she could touch his face, and their sudden closeness struck her with a desperation she hadn't felt in months. She had missed him. She missed the way their bodies fit together perfectly, the feel of his lips against hers.
"Well, what do you want to talk about?" he asked huskily, his lips just inches from hers.
"I don't want to talk," Bella smiled. She touched his lower lip, then rubbed it gently. He stifled a groan and caught her finger between his teeth, giving it a little bite. "I want to kiss you."
"I've wanted to kiss you for weeks," he breathed. "Months."
Bella leaned into him, inhaling him before giving in to the frantic urge to kiss him. He let out a quiet moan when they finally connected, but she could tell he was holding back.
"Kiss me for real," she insisted.
"I don't want to hurt you," he murmured, letting one hand skim up to touch her bruised cheek.
Bella scooted closer so the fronts of their bodies were touching. Emmett groaned, and she smiled knowingly. She reached up to touch his hair; it was longer than she was used to and had begun to curl. He closed his eyes as she played with it, and Bella took the opportunity to press her lips against his throat. Emmett let out another sound of pleasure and his hand dropped to her hip, pulling it forward and increasing the pressure between their lower bodies.
Bella rubbed herself against him, trying to get him to snap, but Emmett began to scale back.
"Stop treating me like you're going to break me," she frowned against his mouth.
"You are breakable," he retorted. His eyes softened as they touched upon her bruises again. Emmett sighed and pressed a gentle kiss to her eager lips. "I want to steal you and take you home."
"Oh, I can't wait for my bed," she agreed, stretching a little. "This one doesn't do it for me anymore."
"Actually, I meant my home. Our home," he corrected himself. "Bella, I want you to move in with me."
She laughed, suddenly feeling lighter than she had in months. Moving in with Emmett sounded like the best idea she'd heard in a long time. "You just asked me out. Aren't we moving a little fast?"
He smiled but it faded quickly. "I don't want to waste anymore time, Bella. I love you. I know what I want, and it's you. Forever. Or, as long as you'll have me."
"What – what are you saying?" Bella asked nervously, finding herself on unfamiliar territory. Emmett sounded like he was approaching dangerous grounds – a proposal. "I don't think – "
Emmett interrupted her anxious stammering with a loud peal of laughter. He rolled off her and grabbed the remote. "Relax. I'm not stupid. I know how you feel about marriage. The look on your face…"
Bella felt her cheeks flush with heat; she felt ridiculous for assuming he was about to propose. She scowled and elbowed him in the ribs. "That's not funny. You shouldn't – "
He had her pinned before she could finish her sentence, and Bella found herself breathless from his sudden weight. Emmett kissed her throat, then the space behind her ear and then soundly on her lips.
"Don't worry - that question is coming," he whispered. "I promise you. But not today. Not right now."
"Emmett," she said warningly.
He grinned cheekily. "And trust me, Charlie definitely won't be in the house when I propose. We'll want to celebrate properly."
She rolled her eyes at his lascivious tone, but couldn't stop her smile.
"Yup," Emmett said smugly. "I thought so."
"Oh, shut up," she laughed.
He nuzzled her throat one more time, still smiling. "Love you."
"Love you, too," she whispered, her own voice tight with emotion.
"Oh, Jasper, get the margaritas going! Bella is going to be here soon!" Alice called, hurriedly fixing the dining room table. "I want everything to be perfect for her."
"I don't think there's enough food," Edward teased, nursing a beer from the doorway.
Alice giggled as she straightened the silverware. Bella's favorites were piled high on the table. "I did go a little overboard, didn't I?"
Edward rolled his eyes but smiled indulgently at Alice. She loved to take care of her friends, and after all, this was Bella's "coming home" party. "I think she'll love it, Alice."
She paused to look at him, catching a somewhat wistful note in his voice. "Edward? Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," he said automatically. At Alice's skeptical expression, he shrugged sheepishly. "Really, I am. I've been overdoing it between school and work, that's all."
"Yeah, you've hardly been by lately," she gently scolded. Finished with the table, she turned and put her hands on her hips. "I worry about you sometimes."
"Don't worry about me, Al," he shook his head. "This whole thing with James was just a little crazy, you know? Something that you never expect to happen to you or your family. It's still kind of unbelievable to me."
Alice nodded, and Edward's didn't miss the flash of pain in her eyes. "Yeah. It puts everything into perspective."
"Makes you appreciate what you've got," he agreed. He took another long sip of his beer. "How did Bella sound? I visited her a few times in the hospital but she was always out of it."
"She sounded good," Alice replied truthfully. "I think being home with Charlie for a couple weeks was good for her."
"Jasper said she's moving in with Emmett," Edward stated.
Alice raised an eyebrow but Edward studied the fine hardwood floor instead of meeting her curious gaze. "Yes."
There was a long pause before Edward looked up. There was a depth to his green eyes that she had never seen before, and it forced her to wonder about his feelings for Bella. She knew they became close after Emmett and Bella broke up.
"I think it's a good idea," he finally said. "Her apartment wasn't in the best neighborhood. Plus, she'll be a lot safer living with Em."
"Edward…" Alice murmured, reaching for his arm.
He smiled sadly and pulled away. "Seriously, Al, I'm fine. One of the guys at work convinced me to go out for drinks this weekend. He's bringing some girls…he said he's tired of me PMSing like a moody chick."
Her lips twitched into a smile and Edward shook his head, hiding his own. He picked at the label of his beer, obviously contemplating something. Alice waited, knowing he needed to get it out.
"I think – I think Bella and I could have been great together," he admitted quietly. "I'm still angry at Emmett, upset that Bella is with him. I feel like she could be mine." He sighed. "But then I think of how happy she is with him, and I know her happiness is what's really important."
"Oh, Edward," she whispered, feeling her throat tighten. It was strange how things happened – how life threw a major curveball in every once in a while. Last year she was hoping and praying that Edward would wake up and take notice of Bella, or at the very least that Bella would somehow get over him, but she never predicted this outcome.
Edward rubbed the back of his neck and leaned back in his chair, sighing gustily. "I've spent a lot of time thinking about it. Our moment passed. I missed it. But it'll work out. Maybe I wasn't meant to be with Bella, after all."
"I bet you'll be ready for the next moment," Alice smiled impishly. "It might not be with Bella, but you'll be ready. You've changed a lot in the past few months…and definitely for the better."
He rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I guess I got my shit together."
Alice opened her mouth to tease him some more, but someone knocked on the front door and the thought of seeing Bella promptly took priority over teasing Edward.
"Bella!" she shrieked, flying to the door. Jasper met her at the door, laughing at her excitement. He opened it and she nearly tackled Bella into a hug.
"Whoa, whoa," Emmett said, throwing out his arm. "Careful of the lady. We're still recovering over here."
Bella rolled her eyes and shoved his arm away. "Oh, please. I'm fine."
"You look so good," Alice said in relief. It was true. Bella looked well-rested, and her cheeks were pink and full, as if she gained the ten pounds she lost after the break up.
"I feel good," Bella smiled. She looked up at Emmett and patted his cheek. "I've had a good nurse, too."
Emmett wrapped one arm around her and dropped a kiss on her head. "Bella is a terrible patient. She makes me cook and clean, feed her, clean up after her and demands that I service her at least twice a – "
A loud thwack filled the room and Emmett groaned, immediately cut off. Alice and Jasper laughed, but the room quieted when Edward appeared in the doorway.
"You do look good, Bella," he smiled. Edward crossed the room and pulled Bella into a quick hug. He turned to Emmett and pulled him into an embrace, also.
"Thanks for everything, Edward," Emmett said gruffly. He thumped him on the back.
"You know I love you guys," Edward replied, his voice just as gruff.
Bella's heart was so full of love and happiness that she could barely contain herself. Her family was back together, and it seemed Edward and Emmett were genuinely on good terms again. She had been hyper emotional lately, and a lump formed in her throat. Before she could embarrass herself Alice grabbed her hand and dragged her into the kitchen for margaritas.
"Dinner's just about ready!" she announced. "Everyone into the dining room."
"Jesus, Alice, I think I love you," Emmett said, dazed by the sheer amount of food. "This is beautiful."
"Back off my woman, McCarty," Jasper grumbled. He grabbed Alice's hand and brought it to his lips for a quick kiss. A flash of light caught Bella's eye, and she stood for a second, stunned.
"What the hell is that?" Bella screeched. She pointed to Alice's hand.
Alice's cheeks flushed and she almost looked demure. She looked at Jasper from under her lashes and just smiled.
"What?" Edward asked blankly.
"Alice!" Bella laughed. "You didn't!"
"What?" Emmett asked impatiently. "What's going on?"
"That," Bella pointed. "Is not Alice's engagement ring. That is a wedding ring."
"We flew the coop!" Alice giggled. "We went to Vegas for a long weekend."
"You went to Vegas?" Edward repeated in disbelief. "But you were so into the big wedding thing…"
"I know, but it didn't seem important after everything that happened," she shrugged.
"It made us realize what we really wanted, and that was to be husband and wife," Jasper said simply.
"Congratulations, man," Emmett grinned, pulling them both into a hug.
"This calls for a toast," Edward declared. He took the pitcher of margarita and poured a glass for everyone.
Once everyone had a glass, Edward raised his. "Alice and Jasper, I wish you a lifetime of happiness. You deserve it, and I've waited for this moment for a long time."
"You guys set the bar for everyone else," Emmett smiled, giving them a nod.
"Oh, God, I love you guys all so much," Bella said tearfully, unable to keep her emotions in check. The boys took full advantage of her tears, teasing her mercilessly.
"Now, wait, wait," Alice interrupted them. "I don't want to mislead anyone. Just because we were married by an Elvis impersonator does not mean there won't be a reception! We'll skip the church ceremony but still plan on having a huge party."
"Surprise, surprise," Emmett muttered with a smile.
"To us," Jasper raised his glass. "To our wonderful family."
They all toasted each other and took a sip of the frosty brew, then sat down at the table to tuck into Alice's feast.
"So, Emmett, I guess this means you can't dance down the aisle at my wedding," Alice smirked, obviously thrilled.
"You could try and do something at the reception," Jasper said thoughtfully. Alice fixed him with a dark glare and he just laughed.
"No need," Emmett said, wiping his mouth with a napkin. He glanced at Bella and grinned. "I think I'll save my dance moves for my own wedding."
"What – do you mean – are you guys?" Alice sputtered, shocked. Jasper and Edward reflected the same surprise on their faces.
"Not yet," Emmett replied, fixing his eyes on Bella. "The question has been posed – numerous time, actually – and I think it's only a matter of time before she gives in."
A brilliant blush colored Bella's cheeks. "We're too young!"
Edward laughed and nodded at Alice and Jasper. "Not exactly."
"Everyone just hush! Today belongs to Alice and Jasper," Bella said, quickly putting the focus back on them. Emmett rolled his eyes, but noted the happy flush to Bella's cheeks. She would say yes.
The conversation turned to the upcoming reception and Alice's ideas.
James and Sam were brought up only briefly, but did not spoil their happy mood. The dinner was a success; their close-knit group was closer than ever, and for once there were no hidden undercurrents of unhappiness. Even Edward, whom Bella had been worried about when Emmett brought up his proposal, seemed genuinely happy for them. He wasn't his usual confident self yet, but bits and pieces of that gorgeous man could be seen when he was speaking, and she had no doubt that he would be back for good soon.
Alice cornered Bella in the kitchen after the wonderfully emotional dinner.
"Bella Marie Swan," she said threateningly. "How could you not tell me that Emmett proposed?"
"This coming from Mrs. Jasper Hale?" Bella laughed.
"Yeah, well," Alice shrugged, smiling. She looked down at her ring and when she looked up, she was glowing. "I'm so happy, Bella. And I'm so relieved everything is okay now. I missed you so much. I missed everybody. I missed our group."
They hugged tightly, and when Bella pulled away Alice was wiping tears from her eyes.
"And what about you?" Alice asked, fixing her eyeliner. "Did Emmett really ask you? Why did you say no?"
Bella smiled, remembering their reunion in bed. "Well, the first time it was more like he told me he was going to marry me. Then the next morning he asked what I thought about it. And then he flat out asked me."
"And why did you say no?"
"I like making him squirm," Bella admitted. "Plus, Charlie told me that if I even bring up the word marriage in the next year he'll have a heart attack. I think he suspects something."
Alice giggled. "Oh, jeez. I think they spent a fair bit of time together at the hospital. How is he with Emmett?"
"They get along really well," Bella said, her voice tinged with awe. "I think he'll actually be happy when I tell him. You know, after I agree to it."
"You can't say no too many times or you'll make him cry," Alice joked.
"Yeah, right. I think he's already asked me twenty times!" she laughed. "I'll make sure his ego remains intact."
Alice let out a happy sigh. She linked her arm with Bella's. "Well, even if you haven't said yes yet, we have a lot of work ahead of us. We need to finish planning my reception and then get started on your wedding and your reception!"
"Oh, God," Bella muttered. "I'll help you with yours, but I think Emmett and I will just hop a plane to Vegas like you guys did."
"No way," Alice chirped. "You're going to have the greatest wedding ever!"
"Baby, are you ready to get going?" Emmett asked, interrupting their conversation.
He looked rumpled and sleepy, and it just made Bella want to get him home sooner. "Yes, let's go home."
"Home," he repeated, a slow smiling crossing his face. He held out a hand. "Come on."
They congratulated the happy couple again and wished Edward good night. Emmett's Jeep was dark and cozy on the drive home to Emmett's house. Her house. A house they now shared.
"I love you, Bella," Emmett whispered. He took her hand and gave it a quick squeeze as he drove.
"Love you, too," she replied, so full of love that it hurt.
One year, three months and two days later…
"Babe, come on, we're going to be late!" Edward called. He looked at himself in the mirror, making sure his tux looked good. A pair of tanned, slim arms slipped around his neck. Tanya stood up her tiptoes to see his reflection over his shoulder, and then straightened his tie.
"Why are you so nervous?" she questioned. "It's just a wedding."
He shrugged. "I know."
She pursed her cherry red lips in annoyance. "You're nervous about that stupid dance, aren't you? I can't believe you're actually going through with it."
"Hey, Emmett's my best friend. I'm his Best Man. If he asks me to dance down the aisle, I gotta dance down the aisle," Edward laughed. Bella was going to kill them.
"Maybe we can skate out of the reception early," Tanya thought aloud. "I'd like to be able to swing by Grace's house for cocktails. Tim is home for the weekend, you know."
Edward swallowed down his frustration with Tanya. It had taken several months for Tanya's true personality to shine through, and he discovered he wasn't a huge fan. They parted amicably two weeks earlier but agreed on attending Bella and Emmett's wedding together.
"You can if you want to," Edward said politely. "I'm staying until we see Bella and Emmett off, though."
"Just an idea," Tanya said breezily. "I think the limo's here."
Edward almost regretted asking Tanya to accompany him to the wedding, but he wanted to avoid being the third wheel. She was oddly quiet on the way to the church, gazing out of the window and politely avoiding conversation with his friends. He suspected she felt awkward, and he felt guilty when he left her in a pew to prepare for the ceremony.
"Don't worry about it," she assured him. "I'll be fine."
Alice grabbed him just as he entered the waiting room off the side of the church. "Edward! You're late, and there's been a change of plan."
His stomach dropped to the floor. "What do you mean?"
"Don't worry about it!" she smiled at his visible anxiety. "Same dance and everything, you'll just have a different partner."
"Best Man walks with the Maid of Honor," Edward said. "You told me that's how it always is!"
"Well, this time the Maid of Honor wants to walk with her husband who is just a lowly groomsman," she giggled.
"So who am I walking with?" he questioned, suddenly terrified. He had been depending on Alice's enthusiasm and bravado to help him through Emmett's ridiculous wedding dance introduction. He hated the idea and was only doing it because Emmett begged. Now he regretted agreeing to it more than ever.
"Ah – oh, there she is! Hey, Angela!" Alice called.
A terrified-looking petite woman turned around, her big brown eyes huge with horror. "Oh, God, Alice. I can't do this! I just can't do it!"
Alice laughed gently. "Edward, this is Angela. She used to work with Bella at Nature's Harvest."
"I remember you," Edward said, struck by how pretty she was. Surely she looked the same a few short months ago? But he didn't remember the svelte young woman standing before him. He remembered her being younger and geekier back then. "You're nervous about dancing?"
"I can't do it," she told him honestly, shaking her head and almost pleading with him. "I had no idea when Bella asked me…I thought I'd just be walking down the aisle, ya know? And then Emmett called me…I'm just not good at this sort of thing."
"Hey, don't worry," he smiled. He grabbed her hand. "We'll do it together, and we'll be fine." He noted with approval that his nerves had all but disappeared, and now he was solely focused on making Angela feel better. He gave her hand a little squeeze and she blushed.
"I'm sorry I'm freaking out," she said quietly. "I'm just not used to all this. The dress and the heels…I'm afraid I'll trip or something."
"You look beautiful. And I won't let you trip, I promise," he replied, aware that his reaction to this girl was quite unusual for him.
Angela smiled and looked down. "Thanks, Edward. I remember you, too, by the way. We always used to talk about how cute you were, and how lucky Bella was to have you as a friend."
Jasper strode up to them and grabbed Alice's hand, leading her away. Angela and Edward never even noticed, engrossed in their conversation, and Alice giggled in happiness.
"Matchmaking again?" Jasper sighed. "You saw how it ended with Tanya. I almost feel bad for her. I can't believe she even came to the wedding."
Alice snorted. "Don't feel bad for her. They just weren't meant to be. Besides, I just watched her get some guy's number. But I have a really good feeling about Edward and Angela."
"Oh yeah?" he drawled. "A really good feeling?"
"Bet on it," Alice said cockily. She tilted her face up and let Jasper kiss her, even though that meant he was messing up her lip gloss. She loved him enough to give up all the lip gloss in the world. "Are you ready to get your boogie on?"
Jasper grimaced and shook his head. "Emmett and his stupid ideas. Bella's going to be so pissed off."
"Maybe, but secretly she'll love it. It's so Emmett."
"It is," he agreed, putting his arm around her shoulders. "So are we ready to go give our friends their happily ever after?"
"Let's do it!" Alice trilled.
Hey guys - sorry about the long wait for the final chapter!
I am an E/B girl all the way, but in this story Emmett spoke to me. He was meant to be with Bella in this story. If you aren't a fan of Emmett and Bella, I thank you for reading and hope the journey of the story balanced out the crappy ending ;)
For everyone who wanted Emmett to win – I know the majority of you guys started out as E/B fans, so thanks for keeping an open mind. I appreciate all of the support and feedback!
I owe two FGB pieces, but Torn is my last real fan fic. After those two FGB pieces are done, I am retiring. One of the FGB pieces is a Torn outtake – if the buyer agrees, I'll post it here.
I feel like I've been in this fandom forever – almost three years now – and I've had such an incredible time. THANK YOU SO MUCH! I love all of your reviews, messages and tweets. Feel free to holler at me anytime
And finally, a big thank you to Tracie (writersiouxchef) for being such a wonderful and supportive beta. I know I've told you a million times, but you really rock. LaShawn, thank you for all of the feedback and your friendship. Also thanks to my prereaders: sadtomato, helina and elyse, mentalist and jamie – you guys have all helped shape this story. Thank you!