Warning: I pretty much devoted the conclusion of this story to giving Bella and Peter the happy ending they deserve after everything I've put them through, so there are lots of romantic scenes and, you know, all that that entails. Still nowhere near as graphic as the fight scenes though, so if those didn't bother you this definitely shouldn't.
I'd also like to thank everyone who's read and reviewed this story; some of you have given me ideas for how it should go, and all of you have kept me interested in writing. This series wouldn't have gone on as long as it did without all of you.
Epilogue: An Unexpected Proposal
Peter and I went home, but things weren't the same - Elle was gone, Claire had taken back her old identity and was readjusting to life as Claire Bennet, and I wished I could do the same, but I couldn't. Bella Swan was legally dead; trying to be her again would be very complicated.
"But you're not the first person to be mistakenly declared dead," Peter pointed out when I explained this to him one morning. "There's gotta be another reason you aren't sure if you want to go back to being who you were. What is it?"
"I guess the real problem is that I can't just go back and pretend the last few months never happened; Charlie will still be dead." A choked little sob escaped me. "And…what would I tell Renee? What could I say to her to make her understand why I let her believe I died too?"
"The truth," he suggested. "But only if you want to."
"I- I don't-"
"Come here." He reached out for me; I moved closer, and he took my hand and teleported to the street outside Renee's and Phil's house. I frowned up at him, wordlessly asking why he'd brought me here when I'd just said I wasn't ready to face my mother. I didn't even know if I ever would be. "Relax, we're invisible. I just want you to take a good look and tell me if you want to go in there to her."
I did as he asked and looked. Renee and Phil were cleaning up their breakfast dishes, talking and laughing. It was a happy, comfortingly normal scene, and I found myself unwilling to disrupt it with all my weirdness and the mess that my life had become since Arthur Petrelli entered it. My mother wasn't the kind of person who would handle it well. "No," I whispered, "I can't go in. I want to - God, you can't imagine how much I want to - but she's over losing me and she's happy. I won't mess that up. Please, let's just go."
We teleported, but not back to our house in Hanover. Instead Peter took us to some beach. I didn't know where we were, but it didn't look exotic, nor did there seem to be any drastic difference in time zones; I guessed we were still somewhere in America. "After everything you've been through, I thought you could use a vacation."
"Here? Where are we anyway?"
"The Hamptons. But if you don't like it, we can go anywhere you want."
"Unless you want a break from me along with everything else." Peter tried to sound like he was only joking, but I knew he still blamed himself to some degree for everything his father had put me through. In his mind, it probably wasn't inconceivable that I might need a break from him.
"That will never happen," I said firmly. "If I'm going to live forever, I want you around for every single day of it."
"Then I will be."
I smiled contentedly; even though I didn't really need reassuring that Peter and I would be together forever anymore, I never got tired of hearing him say it.
We made a quick stop back at our house to get our clothes and other necessary items and tell Claire we might be gone for a while - she wanted to stay at school and said she'd miss us but understood why I needed some 'R and R time' - and then we went back. I almost couldn't believe how easy it was. All my past vacations had involved saving up money for airfare and car rentals, and days of planning and organization - all of which had been my responsibility since Renee couldn't even organize her own closet.
Traveling with Peter cost nothing in transportation; all we needed was somewhere to stay once we arrived, which was when I found out that the Petrellis had their own beach house in the Hamptons. "Nathan and I used to spend almost every summer here when we were kids, but I haven't been back in years," he told me as he showed me around. "It's a little weird, being here without him and Mom and-" He abruptly cut himself off. I made a show of studying the grain of an oak-paneled wall. After a long, tense moment Peter said, "Anyway, my room's upstairs if you'd like to see it."
"Yes," I replied in a carefully neutral tone, "I would."
His room was pretty much like I'd expected it to be, having been in enough of Peter's personal spaces to get an idea of his tastes, except for the rock band posters. "You really haven't been in here since you were in high school, have you?" I snickered.
"No." He frowned slightly. "Want me to take them down?"
"Only if you want to." I sat down on the bed, which was in remarkably good shape for not having been used in years - the mattress had to be pretty old. It was also obviously meant for just one person, but I didn't take up much room. It would be adequate for what I had in mind.
As if sensing the direction my thoughts had taken, Peter commented, "I never brought girls here…until now."
I leaned back, taking my weight on my elbows, and raised an eyebrow challengingly. "And now that you have me here, what're you going to do with me?"
I never actually saw him move, but suddenly he was leaning over me, bracing himself with his hands on either side of my head and one knee between my legs, pushing my thighs apart. "I'll think of something." And then, just as quickly, he was gone. I whimpered in disappointment and sat up, only to see that he was in the process of removing his shirt. "You might want to undress first," he suggested with the merest hint of a mischievous grin, "unless you'd rather I do that for you."
"Tease!" I exclaimed. "You'll be sorry." I jumped up and stripped down to my underwear faster than I ever had in my life, then sauntered over and pressed myself against him. "Kiss me." He did so hesitantly, clearly expecting me to tease him back by pulling away at the last second. I didn't, though; I would get him back, but later, which I could catch him off-guard. "I want to try something new," I said breathlessly when we broke apart.
I licked my lips nervously, trying to think how to word my request. "Well…till now we've mostly kept our abilities out of our…lovemaking." I looked away from his curious stare as heat flooded my face and folded my arms over my partially uncovered breasts, wishing I'd said this before taking my clothes off. Being nearly naked just made me feel more exposed and vulnerable. "That's probably for the best, since you could have hurt me…but now I'm a lot more durable, so I was thinking we could change it up a little. You don't have to hold back that part of yourself anymore when you're with me. I don't know if you've had to make an effort to do that…"
He took a moment to consider it. "I don't know. Maybe I have." He kissed me, gently at first; it always started off that way, then became more demanding and forceful. I flicked my tongue against his lower lip, eagerly encouraging him to deepen the kiss. Instead I felt a sharp sting like an electrical shock on my lips. My head jerked back, eyes widening. Of all the things Peter might do to me now that I'd given him free rein, that had never crossed my mind.
"Where did you learn to do that?"
"It was something Elle showed me. I didn't like it, but I thought you might."
The idea that anyone would enjoy being shocked was absurd…and yet, once the initial burning passed, the tingling in my lips was almost pleasant. "Do that again."
Peter pushed me onto the bed, raised my arms over my head, phased my hands through the headboard - and left them there. I tried to pull free, but without him lending me his intangibility the wood was inescapably solid. I was truly stuck, but I didn't mind. I knew I was safe with Peter and he would free me any time I asked, which I had no intention of doing right away. For now, I was content to put myself under his control.
"I should be dead to the world," I remarked hours later when we finally took a break. "But I don't even feel very tired."
"Injuries aren't all we're able to recover from quickly."
"You and Claire keep the same hours as people who actually need to sleep, though."
I felt the muscles shift under his skin as he shrugged. "It's a habit. Just because we could stay awake for over forty hours doesn't mean we want to."
Forty hours. Wow. "So we can do this all day without needing to rest?"
"I wouldn't know - haven't tried it."
I lifted my head from his chest. "Well, now you have me to experiment with." He put a hand on my shoulder to flip me underneath him again, but I used my force field to push him back down. We had an unspoken rule that whoever was on top - usually him - was in control; this time I decided it was my turn. "I told you you'd be sorry for teasing me."
Four days later, we went out to dinner at a moderately fancy restaurant. In Italy. "Okay, what's the occasion?" I asked suspiciously. "And don't tell me there isn't one - you had me put on a dress!"
"I missed your birthday-"
"We all missed my birthday." Peter had been locked up in Building 26 while the rest of us were trying to get there, and the date had slipped past us unnoticed.
"-So I thought I'd make it up to you."
I looked down at my nearly empty plate and fingered the gold satin band at the waist of my dark green dress. "You're too good to me."
"Well, I didn't buy you any presents."
"Thank goodness for that. You've done so much for me already; I don't need presents on top of all that."
A waiter came out, whisked our plates off to the kitchen, and returned five minutes later with our dessert and coffee. Never having had Italian gelato before, I was sufficiently absorbed in savoring it that our conversation died down for a few minutes, during which time I noticed Peter eyeing me speculatively, a thoughtful expression on his face. It looked like he was weighing some important decision - one that I figured prominently in.
Finally my curiosity got the better of me. I put down my spoon and said, "I can tell there's something involving me on your mind. What is it?"
"I've just been thinking about your…identity issues. You decided not to go back to being Bella Swan, but you don't want to keep calling yourself Isabella Morgan, right?"
"So, since you need a new last name-" he hesitated for a split second "-you're welcome to use mine."
I frowned. "But we're together. If I used your last name, wouldn't it look like we were married or something?"
"So marry me." He made it sound like nothing more than a purely practical suggestion, which was the only thing that kept me from falling out of my chair in shock. I had been well acquainted with practicality all my life.
"That's very nice of you to offer-"
"I'm not just being nice, Bella. I actually do want to marry you, and I thought now that Arthur's finally out of the way you might…" His voice trailed off, neither of us saying what we were both thinking: that there was no way I'd have even considered joining his family when it would have made my worst enemy my father-in-law. "Anyway, you don't have to give me an answer right now. Just think about it."
"What if I say no?"
His mouth quirked upward in a half-smile. "Maybe you'll change your mind in fifty years. Or a hundred."
"So, what, you'd keep asking every few decades until I said yes?"
"Unless you honestly don't want me to."
"Huh." That was the first time I realized Peter was capable of being just as stubborn as me. I sipped my coffee in silence while considering his proposal. On the one hand, I had been raised to shudder at the idea of marriage, and if I ever did get married I certainly hadn't planned on doing it at eighteen. Nineteen, I reminded myself. I'm nineteen now. Still, nineteen was hardly better than eighteen. On the other hand, there was no one left to criticize me now; my father was dead, I was dead to my mother, and I was sure Claire and Elle wouldn't mind if I married Peter. They'd just be happy for me.
Also, I realized that Charlie's and Renee's marriage had failed not just because they had rushed into it, but because they were fundamentally incompatible, whereas Peter and I were perfect for each other. Most guys would have tried to make some grand romantic gesture when proposing; he knew I wouldn't have liked that. He knew everything about me, and he accepted all of it. And I was already planning on spending eternity with him…
I set my coffee cup down, pushed it and the gelato dish away from me, and leaned forward. "Yes."
"You proposed to me, remember? I thought about it, and my answer is yes."
Peter looked as if he wasn't sure whether to believe me. "Bella, are you sure about this?"
"Well, if saying yes now will spare me centuries of harassment…" He didn't quite glare, but he didn't laugh either. I sobered up instantly. "Yes, I'm sure that I love you, and I'm sure I never want us to be apart. Everything else…I can deal with." I held up a cautioning finger. "But I have conditions."
"Of course you do," he sighed. "What?"
"You will not let your mother force me into some ridiculously overpriced dress and shoes I can't walk in or invite everyone she knows to our wedding." Our wedding - it was unbelievably easy to say the words. That must mean I was making the right choice.
"That'll be easy - we can just go to Vegas, and she won't have anything to do with it."
That sounded very appealing, but I cringed as I imagined Angela's reaction. "She'll be furious."
"I bet she will, but I'll handle her. If she tries to give you a hard time about it you can tell her it was all my idea."
There were no words for how grateful I was for that - I really did not want to fight with Angela Petrelli over what my wedding was going to be like.
I smiled to assure Peter that my silence was nothing to worry about. "I'm fine - great, actually. Can you get that waiter back here to bring us the check? I want to get home so we can celebrate."
"What, this place doesn't cut it?"
"Too public." I slid forward so that our knees brushed under the table, letting him know I had a very intimate sort of celebration in mind.
So there it is. I'm considering this the official end of the series, but if anyone's interested I may post some things that I cut out for the sake of not making it inordinately long as a one- or two-shot. I hope you've enjoyed reading this.