Bella's hand linked with mine, and she leaned forward to look out the plane window at the landscape below us.
"We should be landing soon." I brought her knuckles to my lips, and kissed the delicate skin between each bone. I smiled as her heartbeat quickened slightly.
Her voice was weary as she spoke. "I can't wait to be home."
I ran my thumb over her knuckles, marveling at the beautiful gift the last few months had been.
Bella and I had repaired the foundation of our relationship and had built something much stronger than what we had before. We both seemed so much more secure with the other; both of us felt good enough. We had learned about each other through shared experiences.
But there were still mountains to climb. A pink elephant still occupied the space between us at times that Bella had only addressed once.
In the darkness of her room, the night after she had graduated, she lay dozing quietly in my arms. A summer rain shower gently pattered against the building, filling the darkness with the soft applause of rain.
She turned in my arms so she was facing me, her sleepy eyes opening to try and see my face.
"Where is this going?"
"What do you mean?"
"Like, where are we going? You can't stay in Florida forever. You can barely come out during most of the day as it is."
"So where does that leave us?"
I sighed and moved my fingers over her cheek. "I can't ask you to rearrange your whole life. You have plans here. Your friends are here. So is your mother."
She licked her lips, and her hand moved between us, her fingers making lazy circles on my chest.
"I've been thinking about taking a year off from studying."
"To do what?"
She shrugged with one shoulder and her eyes couldn't quite meet mine. "I've always wanted to see Europe…and I have some money saved up. You could come with me, if you want."
My hand reached up to grasp hers where it was doodling over the place where my heart should be beating.
"Bella, of course I'll go with you."
"Where else would I be than with you?"
"Thanks." The soft smile that spread across her mouth beckoned me, and I leaned forward to kiss it.
"I love you, Bella Swan." I murmured against her lips.
"I love you too, Edward Cullen." The last part of Cullen was tangled up in a huge yawn.
I squeezed her hand. "You're still so tired. You should sleep."
She bit her lip as if she was struggling with something else to say as I wiped away the small tears on her cheeks that resulted from her yawn.
"Was there something else?"
I waited, patiently at first but then grew impatient as the seconds formed a minute.
"Sorry. I just don't know how to ask about his and I'm trying to say it the right way."
"You can ask me anything."
"Will you promise not to be mad at me?"
"I could never be mad at you." I kissed her lips and looked into her eyes. "Frustrated? Yes." I kissed her again. "An overbearing protective caveman? Yes." Again, my lips met hers. "Mad? No."
"I'm just gonna say it then, before you make me forget with your dazzle, Edward Cullen."
I chuckled and straightened up so I could see all of her face. "Dazzle? I still dazzle?"
A blush tinted her cheeks and she rolled her eyes. Then she took a deep breath and started.
"I know we talked about this before, but over the last few months it's been closer and closer to the forefront of my mind. I don't want to put you under pressure but you need to know that this is where my head is at." She inhaled, and the words came tumbling from her mouth in one long jumble.
"I want you forever and I hope you feel the same way and I want to ask you when you're going to change me because I'm afraid of time running out or getting older or sick or dying or whatever and I just want to be with you like this."
Her words made me pause, unsure how to respond. I had been thinking about this, and whether this was an option that I should consider.
Taking her soul away from her seemed incredibly selfish if it meant just so I could have her with me for the rest of eternity.
What if it was something she wanted too? Was it something I would be strong enough to do? Could I damn her to this life?
Tentatively, I began. "I'm not saying no. I'm saying if. If I did this, there is no going back. You have to be beyond a shadow of a doubt sure that it's what you want. And there are some other things to consider…"
This had not been the way I had wanted to discuss this particular topic but since her cards were on the table, it was time to show mine as well.
"Well…marriage for one."
Her heart rate kicked up, and her breathing paused before picking back up again.
"I want to give you everything of myself, Bella. I want you to know you're my whole world and I want to share all that I have, all that I am with you, but I want you to be sure that it really is what you want."
She blinked as she processed what I'd said, her eyes straying to my shoulder before she blinked again and struggled towards the bedside table.
"What are you-"
"I'm trying to turn the light on, I want to see your eyes."
I reached over for the wire to the small bedside lamp. Flicking the small switch, the room was bathed in soft, warm light.
Her eyes strained at the sudden light, but adjusted as she focused on my face.
"Edward, I've had four years to think about what I want, and more than enough time living without what I wanted. All I want is you. I don't have much to bring to the table-"
"What is mine would be yours-"
I placed a finger over her lips. "No buts."
She pursed her lips and I removed my fingers. "Edward, I want you to be mine and I want to be yours forever. No matter what."
It was my turn to sharply inhale at her words. "You're sure?"
She nodded. "I'm sure."
"Has never been high on my list of things to do, but if it's something that you want then I suppose I could go through with it."
"You say the loveliest things, Bella Swan." I said, my tone dry.
She half-shrugged. "It's just not something I wanted for myself."
I rolled us over until I was once again looming over her, her eyes looking into mine. I dropped a kiss on her lips and traced her chin with my nose before kissing my way to her neck and down to the hollow of her collarbone. She shivered beneath me.
I kissed my way back up to her ear and once there, I whispered. "Trust me, it will be."
"Wh-What does that mean?"
I kissed her earlobe. "I haven't even proposed yet. We'll see how dazzled you'll be then, Isabella Marie."
Her whole body trembled as I used her full name and her hands went into my hair as I moved to capture her lips.
The following day, Bella made arrangements with the University about her grad program, explaining she needed a year off before starting again. Her mentor was disappointed, but understood.
After her meeting, Bella came over to my apartment to look over the plans for our summer. I suggested a few places as I scrolled through the internet: Venice, Paris, Madrid, London, Edinburgh, Berlin, to name a few. Bella's eyes lit up at each name, her eyes lighting up at each mention.
If she'd let me, I'd give Bella the whole world, but for now, for this summer, we would conquer Europe.
I called Alice and with her help managed to plan the entire months of June, July, and August around the sunnier days. Bella was giddy; she practically vibrated with excitement. She called her mother, with whom she had reached a silent truce, and then phoned Chief Swan, who expressed his worries over flying off to foreign countries.
"Be careful, Bella, and make sure you have a way of calling home if you need to."
"I will, Dad. I'll bring you something back."
"Just bring yourself back home safe and in one piece, kid. That's all I want."
Bella paused and her voice was tight with emotion as she spoke. "Love you, Dad."
That summer seemed to go on forever and if I thought I had been happy in Florida, even with the perpetual sunshine, Europe proved to be even more.
Everything had a newness to it, every experience enhanced because she was a part of it. Our love seemed to grow more consuming, more intense, and the pull between us was at times nearly painful.
And now on our return home, the bond between us seemed unbreakable.
At Bella's request, we were flying to Seattle to see Charlie. Unbeknownst to her, I had already spoken with her father who had grudgingly forgiven me after yelling at me for almost an hour before finishing with the threat that I had better be good to his little girl. The or else was implied.
We touched down, and after collecting our baggage and checking ourselves onto a smaller plane in Port Angeles, we were another step closer to home. This was only a shorter hop, and by the time we stepped out of the airport, the overcast September sky began to rain.
Bella was by my side as I pushed the cart with our luggage, her hand in one of mine as our bodies brushed against the other. I grabbed the keys out of my pocket for the rental car and located the Maserati I had requested. Bella shook her head and rolled her eyes.
"A little ostentatious, isn't it?"
I grinned at her. "I'm not a high school kid anymore, or have you forgotten?" I raised an eyebrow at her, and she blushed.
Once en route to Forks, Bella yawned. She covered her mouth and smiled at me.
"I don't even have an excuse to be tired. I just spent the last twenty-four hours sitting down on a plane."
"Do you want to see Charlie first or would you like to freshen up? I have the keys for the old house. Alice sent them through to me while we were in Germany."
"Freshen up first. If that's alright."
I smiled at her face, and felt an almost overwhelming surge of love for her.
"Of course, love. You don't need to ask."
We drove on for a bit, and once we reached Forks, Bella snickered in her seat. When she didn't expand on her laugh I asked her what was funny.
"If someone had told me I would be driving in an Italian sportscar with Edward Cullen down the 101, I would have told them to seek professional help."
That small place inside me which still harbored guilt over what I had done to her and us twisted. I wasn't able to mask my expression before she noticed it.
"Edward, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be so flippant. I honestly didn't. I'm sorry."
Her hand came to rest on my arm, her fingers moving up to my shoulder.
"It's okay. I think there will always be a small part of me that doesn't know how to forgive myself for what I did."
"Edward, I forgave you months ago. Please don't carry around any guilt. It happened but it made us stronger, didn't it?"
I sighed. "Yes, but the thought of all that I put you through, of all that happened…"
"Edward, pull the car over."
"Please pull the car over."
I downshifted, and pulled the car onto the shoulder. Bella opened her car door, her seatbelt making a growling hiss as it retreated. I got out as she stepped onto the gravel and she walked around the front of the car to me.
Before I could speak, she wrapped her arms around me, and pressed her soft, warm body to mine.
I whispered her name into her hair as my arms pulled her tighter against me. The guilty voice faded to a small echo as Bella's heart beat against me.
"Don't feel guilty, please don't. I love you too much for there to be any guilt left. I honestly just want to move on from it."
"Thanks," she murmured into my polo shirt.
We stood like that for several more minutes, the rain soaking my hair, and I worried that Bella was going to catch a chill in the damp air.
"We should probably get going."
"Okay." She raised her chin so she could look me in the eyes. "I love you, Edward."
A smile raised the corner of my mouth. "I love you too, Bella."
Slowly, we untangled ourselves from each other before getting back into the car and driving to my family's old residence in the woods. Bella's hand found mine across the console and held on to me all the way from the road to the driveway.
Once inside, I carried our luggage upstairs, with Bella trailing after me. The house was eerily quiet, and the musty smell of disuse hung in the air.
I opened the door to my bedroom, and Bella followed behind me as I set the luggage down. I gestured to the bathroom. "The hot water heater should be already on, but I would let the water run for a little bit, just in case."
Bella nodded and opened her luggage to get what she needed before disappearing into the bathroom, the door closing softly behind her.
While she showered, I remembered that time in Italy when she had shyly asked me if I wanted to shower with her.
It was the way she had said it: her voice nervous, her eyes barely able to meet mine, her heart beating crazily against her chest…I couldn't say no.
It was the first time we had really explored each other physically.
I smiled at the memory, remembering what had followed…later on.
Still smiling, I reached for a clean set of clothes from my own suitcase. As I changed, I remembered the way Bella had let me towel her dry, her skin flushing as I stole a taste of water on her skin.
My thoughts were interrupted as Bella stepped from the bathroom, toweling her hair. She wore a white cotton summer dress. She dug in our luggage for her blow dryer, and I smiled as she carried it back into the bathroom.
Knowing she would be more than a moment, I quickly dug through my case for the small box that had arrived in the same package with the house keys in Germany. Alice's handwriting had been brief.
Make good use of both of these.
I quickly opened the little box to make sure the ring was as I had last saw it.
Satisfied, I snapped the box shut just as Bella stepped out of the bathroom. I slipped the box into my pocket before she noticed it in my hand. She had finished drying her hair, and it curled softly and naturally around her face.
Bella smiled at me as she pulled a powder blue cardigan from our bags. I helped her put it on, and she slipped her feet into a pair of shoes.
At that moment, Bella's stomach growled and she blushed. "God, that's embarrassing."
I chuckled and looked down at her rosy cheeks. "We should get you something to eat? C'mon, I know a place."
I reached for the key ring for the house and smiled at the Volvo key also attached. I raised an eyebrow at Bella and motioned to the garage door.
"Would you like to take the Volvo for old time's sake?"
"Yeah sure." She shrugged her shoulders, and I held open the door to the garage. I flicked the light switch on, and my eyes fell on the familiar shape of the Volvo under its protective cloth cover. I pulled the cover off, throwing it on Rose's workbench and hit the button to unlock the doors.
I opened Bella's car door, and a thousand familiar scents assailed me; a thousand more memories followed.
The first time she rode in the Volvo when I dropped her off at home after the blood typing scare.
Every time I picked her up for school, the way her scent had burned in my throat, and how my body was so aware of hers next to mine.
Tonight we would make new memories.
Bella sat down, and I gently closed the door and moved to the driver's side. Once behind the wheel, I keyed the ignition and turned on the lights.
Pulling out of the garage, I turned down the road, and we were flying towards Forks. It was an Indian summer, and Bella rolled the window down just as the sun started to set.
She looked over at me, a wistful smile on her face as the breeze blew soft wisps of her dark hair into the air.
"Where are we going?"
I smiled. "You'll see."
I thought about what I was going to do, how far we had come and why I never wanted to live another moment without making Bella officially mine, in every way possible.
Forty-five minutes later, I pulled into the parking lot of La Bella Italia.
Bella snickered and looked at me. "You know, I've heard the mushroom ravioli they serve cures what ails you."
I smiled at her. "You won't be too spoiled after having the real thing in Italy?"
She wrinkled her nose. "No way. This place is total nostalgia."
I parked the car, and Bella waited for me to open the door, used to my habit. She took my hand and I led her up the steps to the front door.
As luck would have it, our table was free, and I asked the hostess to seat us specifically there. As the waitress left with our order, Bella rolled her eyes.
"Some things never change," she huffed.
I raised an eyebrow.
She motioned with her hands. "You…with the dazzling and the flirty waitress who desperately wants you to admit that I'm your sister and that you're very available."
I smiled at her. "You and I both know that nothing is farther from the truth."
She blushed and muttered as she fussed with the napkin in her lap. "You don't play fair, Edward Cullen."
The waitress brought our drinks, and when I ignored her, she walked away with a disappointed sigh. A candle flickered gently on the table as Bella sipped at her drink, and silence fell between us as I struggled to decide when to make my move.
I've waited far too long. Now. I will do it now.
"Bella. I'll be right back. Don't move, okay?"
Her eyes looked confused but she nodded. "Is everything alright?"
I smiled at her. "It will be."
I located the hostess and slipped her a fifty dollar bill. "I would like you to tell our waitress not to bring us our food for the next ten minutes. And on my signal, please bring us a bottle of champagne and two glasses?"
She nodded vaguely, her eyes transfixed on my face. "Uh huh. Don't bring the food, and a bottle of champagne when you say so."
I made my way back to the table where Bella was watching warily. She sat at her end of the booth, and looked up at me nervously as I stood in front of her.
Slowly, I got down on one knee, and her mouth dropped open.
I took her shaking hand in mine, and pulled the ring box from my pocket.
"Isabella Marie Swan, I took what we had for granted. I will never do that again. Our time together will be limitless, but everyday with you will be something new that I will treasure. I love you, and promise to love you every day of forever. Will you marry me?"
Bella was speechless, her face scarlet, and she nodded and whispered a yes as I opened the box to reveal my mother's ring.
"It was my mother's. I hope it fits."
"Oh, my God," she whispered, her hands shaking worse now as I slowly slid the ring on her finger. It fit perfectly, and she stretched her arm out to look at her hand.
"I love you, Edward." She kissed me then, and I kissed her back, a fevered kiss that held the promises we hadn't quite spoken to each other yet.
But we would.
Thank you for reading.
A massive thank you to twilightmomoftwo, snshyne, and lambie for their amazing support.
And a huge thank you to you, gentle reader.
I have finished all of my works in progress as far as fan fiction is concerned, and I'm going to attempt to branch out with original fiction.
The support of fandom has meant so much to me and has got me through some of the most difficult times of my life. For every review, tweet, and DM…they are more precious to me than gold.
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