Disclaimer: All things Twilight belong to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.

This idea for a one-shot came to me a while ago, and today was a slow day at work so I decided to write it down. Hope you enjoy :)

The Vow

The celebrant's words are a dull buzz. I can't really make out what she's saying over the rush of blood pounding in my ears. I feel my eyelids flutter and suddenly the room darkens and telescopes away from me. Marc's hand clenches around mine, his firm grip bringing me back. I take a gulp of air and look at him. His blonde hair is neat and tidy today, brushed back from his face - he looks different. He's smiling at me but it's a wary smile, confused.

"You okay?" he mouths.

I nod and take another breath. The dress feels tight and uncomfortable. How long now until I can take it off?

I blink a couple of times and try to focus on the celebrant. She'll be asking me questions soon and I'll have to answer. Thankfully we've gone for the simplest of vows. I only need to say I do and repeat a few words. I remember her surprise when we said we didn't want to write our own promises.

"Most people do, you know," she'd smiled at us. "They embrace the opportunity to declare their undying love openly, in front of family and friends." She'd waved her hands around as if she was embracing the cosmos while I'd shaken my head and Marc had shrugged.

"That's not really us," he'd said.

And it isn't.

Marc is French. We met at University and we're friends. Good friends. So when he had visa problems and looked like being sent back home, we decided to get married so he could stay in the US. This works for me because I'm hoping to travel after I graduate. Maybe live and work in other countries. Get away from here. From memories. And this will be easier if I have a husband with a European passport.

So this reciprocal arrangement suits us both.

Well at least I thought it did.

But last night I dreamed of him again. And this morning as I pulled on the plain white dress and grabbed the small bouquet of flowers I wondered if he knew...if his sister had seen this part of my future.

Now my heart gives an almighty thump in my chest and I push the thoughts away again. There's no place for him here. Not today. Not ever.

But now I can't help myself and I remember the conversation I overheard three years ago, when Ben told Angela what he'd seen the afternoon that Edward Cullen left me. Ben's voice was shaky as he'd spoken about being in the woods, collecting soil samples for his science project. He heard an engine, a squeal of brakes and then a car door slam. Glass shattering. He headed towards the dirt track that substituted for a road in the remote area outside town, curious to see what was going on.

It was Edward Cullen's Volvo. And beside it Edward Cullen was stalking in circles, nursing his head, pulling at his hair, sobbing. Ben saw him sink to his knees, his head falling back on his shoulders as he let out a roar that became a wail, an inhuman howl. It went on and on, like an animal in pain. Ben had dropped his soil samples and run. And run. And run. He'd never been so scared. And he'd never mentioned what he'd seen to anyone. Until Angela.

And that had been the last I'd heard of Edward Cullen. After that it was like he didn't exist. But Ben's account had left me more confused and hurt than ever. I couldn't even let myself think what it might mean.

The celebrant is droning on, giving her own interpretation of our undying love. She smiles indulgently at us, giving us a sly wink as she talks about us sharing our joy and happiness with our friends.

Our friends.

There are four people here. Two are Marc's roommates, two are mine, and they all know the truth. I'll tell my parents after the event - it'll be easier that way.

And Jake. I frown, wondering what he'll think of this after I've turned him down twice. But I could never marry someone I love. And suddenly I snicker at the irony of that thought. I love Jake, he's my dearest friend, he kept me together when I was falling apart...but my heart left with him, and though I could easily give Jake what I have left, I love him too much to marry him. He deserves more.

I sigh and glance around at the space where we stand. It's the registry office in the city council building, dressed up to look like a chapel. There are long, pew-like seats set out in neat rows. The walls are white, there's an arched, stained-glass window at one end - though I suspect the glass is just painted. There is a large, bright arrangement of flowers on the podium in front of the window. Soft music is filtering through the speakers set in the ceiling. They'd spouted a tinny version of the bridal march as I'd walked down the short, blue-carpeted aisle a few minutes ago.

The celebrant asks for objections. Behind us our guests are silent. For a split second my mind entertains a vision of him storming in and carrying me off in his arms ... Is that what I want? The answer unsettles me.

I grit my teeth, bite my lip, and think determinedly about the job interview I have next week, my book club meeting tomorrow, and the weekend at the beach that we're all planning as a group. It all sounds good - I could almost think I have a real life.

I fidgit, adjusting my foot in my shoe, shifting my weight from leg to leg. Should it be taking this long? We only wanted the basic legal requirement, but it looks like the celebrant is caught up in the moment. She's waxing lyrical about life's journey. I feel tired now and try hard not to yawn. The stained glass needs a wipeover. There's a cigarette burn in the carpet by Marc's foot. The taped music hitches - it skips and goes back to the beginning and Pachabel's Canon starts over again.

I hear the click of a camera. Someone's taking photos. Good. We'll need photos to show the immigration department, to satisfy their questions about our relationship as we try to prove this isn't a marriage of convenience. That's why I'm in the dress, carrying the flowers - trying to make it look real.

I'm used to trying to make things look real.

The celebrant asks for the ring. Marc fumbles in his pocket. I hold out my hand and he hesitates. I wonder why.

"The other one," he whispers.

"Oh."

I swap my bouquet to my other hand. Behind us there's a snicker. The celebrant looks at me as if I'm the cutest thing. She gives a comforting wink and I fight the urge to roll my eyes. I bristle at being seen as the poor, nervous bride.

Marc slips the plain gold band on my finger. It feels heavy and I flex my hand a coule of times, trying to get used to the feel of it. Like everything else today, it doesn't feel right. But then, if I'm honest, nothing has felt right for a long time.

I look at Marc. He smiles at me. It's a genuine smile and I return it.

"Thank you," he mouths and I nod. He's handsome, in a blonde, blue-eyed sort of way. Not really my type, but that's okay.

The celebrant is talking about fidelity, love and trust. My smile becomes a smirk. I've told Marc he's free to date whomever he chooses, even after the wedding, as long as he's discreet. Actually, I think there is someone he's interested in. Someone who's just started coming to my book club. Interestingly, she's French too, but only here for a year. I wonder how things will pan out for them.

My relationship with Marc has always been, and always will be, platonic. When we divorce in a couple of years or so he'll be a completely free agent. I've told him that one day I hope to dance at his wedding. His real wedding. He has said the same to me. I smiled but said nothing.

Marc knows a little about what happened to me in Forks but we never talk about it. He doesn't even know his name.

I shift my weight again and glance to the side. The celebrant is talking about children and the future. I tune out completely and stare at the painting of flowers on the wall. They're small, purple wildflowers and I stop my memories before they take me back there.

I stare instead at the celebrant's shoes. Black patent leather. Are they called kitten heels? I don't know. My thumb twists the metal band around my finger, trying to get it comfortable. I feel Marc nudge me gently and I hear my name. I look up. The celebrant is watching me expectantly.

Oh! I'm supposed to say something. Is it I do? Or is this the bit where I repeat after her? I bite my lip. She's mouthing something silently, her lips making exaggerated movements.

I Bella, take you, Marc...

She nods encouragingly, as if I'm a small child being offered nasty medicine.

My eyes almost roll of their own accord but I stop myself in time. I open my mouth to repeat the words and...I can't.

I frown and clear my throat and try again.

"I Bella..."

My voice cracks and vanishes. My chest tightens. And suddenly I'm gripped with crushing, unbearable sadness. I can't do this. It's all wrong. There's only one person I could ever make these promises to. And I had made them. Maybe there wasn't a celebrant, I hadn't said the words, but in my heart I had promised myself to him, as surely as if I'd stood before a congregation and declared my vows.

And he'd promised himself to me. In his heart he did. Suddenly, I know this.

I remember his eyes, before that day in the woods. I remember his touch. My own eyes close as the longing and the pain that I've tried so long to bury come burning to the surface. I gasp. My eyes shoot open and Marc is watching me closely.

"Bella?" he asks gently.

"I...I...," I swallow. I open my lips to speak but I don't know what to say. But I don't have to say anything. Understanding has already flooded Marc's expression. He smiles.

"It's okay," he whispers and I can hear his acceptance. And his disappointment.

"I'm sorry," I whisper. He smiles again and nods. He takes both my hands in his and kisses them gently.

"It's okay," he says again.

There's a creak, then a crash as the doors at the back of the room are flung open. There are gasps behind us and the hair on the back of my neck stands up.

I turn and he's here.

Edward is here.

He's staring at me, wild-eyed, breathing hard.

"What...?" Marc begins, but stops. Now everyone watches as Edward Cullen strides down the aisle. His beautiful face is like stone, his jaw fixed hard. His eyes flash and burn into mine.

"Bella," he breathes and I can hear the agony in his voice. Despite his sudden, commanding appearance his hand shakes as it gently circles my wrist. And in his eyes I can seet it. I can see it all.

The love. The pain. The fear.

The truth.

And his question.

"Yes," I whisper my answer as my knees begin to buckle and my body sways.

He gasps, his eyes widen and relief washes over his face, softening the hard, taut lines.

He slides the ring from my finger and I'm vaguely aware of it landing on the pages of the open book the shocked celebrant is holding.

He bends and scoops me into his arms. And I'm back where I belong, pressed close against his chest, feeling his lips in my hair as he turns and strides back up the aisle. The bouquet drops from my hand, petals scatter over the carpet.

He walks through the marble foyer of city hall. Another bridal party, waiting for their turn, shout congratulations. I circle my arms around Edward's neck and hold on, tightly. As tight as I can. His arms are like steel, his body hard. He's looking into my eyes, not where he's going. And I can't believe this is real. I stare at him, not wanting to blink in case this is a dream and he disappears.

And all the anger and pain and hurt I've carried for three years fades away. I wonder, briefly, how I can feel whole and happy again so suddenly. But I don't analyse. I'm done with analysing. For once, everything seems blissfully simple. Did I want Edward to come and whisk me away? Yes. Has he done just that? Yes. End of story.

Or perhaps the beginning.

It's raining outside. He hurries through the downpour, to a car parked haphazardly by the side of the road. It's silver, but not a Volvo. He opens the door and slides me into the passenger seat. A second later he's beside me, pulling out from the kerb and driving away. In the rear vision mirror I see Marc and our friends watching, open-mouthed from the footpath. Amongst them is the celebrant. Her mouth is open too, perhaps more shocked than the rest of them. She's waving the ring in the air, as if to call me back.

Edward holds my hand. Every now and then he raises it so he can brush his lips over my skin. And all the while he watches me, his eyes never leave mine.

And we don't need words. It's all there in our gaze, in the lines of our faces, in the touch of our hands. Every feeling, every apology, every promise. It's all there.

We drive into the countryside. Along a dirt track. There's a cabin deep in the woods. Edward carries me inside, holding me as close as he can get me. It's small, just one room but it's cosy. A fire is burning in the fireplace and there are comfy chairs either side. There are small signs of life - a book lying open on the table, a shirt thrown over the arm of a chair, and I wonder if he's been living here. He sets us down on the rug in front of the flames. I'm wet through, I should feel cold, but I don't. My body is ablaze with heat and warmth. Edward's fingers stroke my face - disbelief and wonder in his eyes. I return the touch, running my fingers along his cheek. He turns and kisses my fingertips. I smile, and he smiles back - and it's beautiful.

I look into his eyes, and I can see...

I can see him. His truth. His soul.

I can see what he wants. What he needs.

And it's what I want. What I need, too.

He takes my hand in his and holds my gaze. He breathes deeply and begins.

"I, Edward, take you Isabella, to have and to hold, from this day forward, to love, honour and cherish, for as long as we both shall live."

He leans in slowly, his nose nudges mine. His lips brush over mine in a kiss of such gentle tenderness I want to weep.

But I don't.

Instead I speak, though my voice trembles.

"I, Isabella, take you Edward, to have and to hold, from this day forward, to love, honour and cherish, for as long as we both shall live."

His smile widens. The power of his joy is overwhelming, and it fills me, matching my own joy, so I feel as though I might explode at any moment from the force of it. And now my tears do come.

His mouth is on mine, his hands pull me close.

On the floor in front of the fire we are a tangle of limbs. We are need, love, affirmation.

He takes me. Sinking into me, moving slowly, carefully. Reverently. His mouth falls open and a long, slow moan escapes his lips. His hands fist in the rug beside us. His eyes flutter closed but just for a second. He opens them again, quickly, not wanting to miss anything. Not wanting to miss me. He takes his lip between his teeth as he moans again. His chest is heaving as his hips begin a slow rocking, back and forth. I curl my legs around him, bringing him closer. He gasps and drops his forehead to touch mine. The muscles in his arms flex and tense in time with his rhythm - his shoulders too. And even though it's all so new, my body responds, my body knows him. I know him. And I'm lost in his eyes, in the sensation of this closeness. I'm lost in the feelings that are beginning to spark like lightning through my body. His every thrust tells me something new...I love you, I am yours, you are mine...and I answer him, my body telling him the same.

Suddenly I arch, overwhelmed with sensation and pure, pure joy. I gasp and cling to him, my nails clawing over his skin as the past falls away and a new future is born.

The room, everything, dissolves, and I am falling, spiralling...and then with a cry I shatter. Edward throws his head back. He roars my name, and God's, and shudders above me. His hands grip my hips, holding on for dear life. Holding on like it would kill him to let go.

Holding on like he will never, ever, let me go.

His head comes forward, his eyes are wide. Then slowly they close. He swallows. I reach up to bring him closer and carefully he lowers himself down to lie on top of me. He covers me, winding himself around me, his breath coming in jagged gasps against my skin.

And now I hold him and I revel in this bliss. His head is against my chest. His breathing begins to deepen and slow. I run my fingers in his hair. He takes my hand and kisses my palm and he looks up at me with eyes that are filled with a love so deep, so transparent, so complete and pure, that I feel new tears begin all over again.

He kisses them away. I hold his face between my palms. He smiles, and as his lips press against mine he whispers a single word.

"Forever."

The End

A/N: Thanks for reading this little one-shot. I hope you enjoyed :)