SM owns Twilight. Thank you abinar and ausgirl123 for cleaning it up on short on short notice. ilu ilu iluuuuuuuuuuuu (I said that like Buddy the Elf!)

A slightly Christmas-y epilogue/future-take.


Oh the weather outside is frightful

But the fire is so delightful

And since we've no place to go

Let it snow let it snow let it snow

It is snowing - big, fat, floaty flakes which reflect the lights from the massive tree at Rockefeller Center. I'm in the back of a toasty cab, idling at a red light. Between the dark of early morning and my extreme fatigue, I have the surreal feeling of being caught in a snow globe.

The ice rink is lit up, equal parts pretty and scary. Edward is going to want to skate on that.

The traffic light goes green and the cab lurches forward.

Just a few blocks to go now.

Two weeks away from Edward is two weeks too long. And the past six months have had too many two weeks away. He may have spent more time in New York than Seattle. It was all fun and games the first couple of times Edward was away; absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that. The reunions were fun too, still are.

The empty nights are too much now.

I don't sleep well without him. And I can't help worrying... so much time apart. Will it take a toll on us?

The cab pulls up in front of the hotel. I've been here with Edward before but the foyer looks slightly unfamiliar, done up for the holidays. The decorations are minimal, modern. A stark contrast from the garish, childish decorations at work, back home. Of course, those were actually made by children, my students. The whirlwind days leading up to Christmas break are dragging at me. My brilliant plan?

I'll sleep on the plane.

Famous last words. Red-eye flights are aptly named.

Two cranky babies and an hour of alarming turbulence put the kibosh on that. I turned to my old friend - caffeine - and am running on its last fumes. I get a key from the uber-professional blonde manning the sleek front desk, pull my ridiculously heavy suitcase to the elevator and jab the button for the eighteenth floor.

Edward is eighteen floors away. I count them down under my breath as the elevator ascends. This trip is important. I know he has a lot on his mind; his job is demanding, hence the near incessant travel. Something has to give though. The scariest words in the language of relationships float through my mind as the light goes from fourteen to fifteen.

We need to talk.

I know he loves me. He tells me all the time. I also know something has been eating at him. He swears it's work, not us - and I believe him. I just want things back to normal. I just want to be with him.

This will be our third Christmas together, Edward and I, but our first with snow. We've always managed to get away somewhere hot and sunny. The first time was kind of necessary; my parents weren't prepared to spend time with Edward and there was no way in hell I was spending our first Christmas as a couple without him. Getting out of Dodge was good for everyone.

Edward has long since charmed the pants off my parents, well my mother, and not literally. He doesn't do that anymore. Well, only to me. Edward charms the literal pants off me almost daily. When he's home, that is.

But I digress.

We went to Greece last year. Mike's wedding was on New Year's Eve and once again, Edward and I felt it better to be out of town and out of the way. So it's kind of a tradition, or a tradition in the making at least. I love it.

Tradition or not, I'm joining Edward in New York out of necessity.

The elevator door dings and rumbles opens. My body wants to hurtle myself down the hall but my legs are actually wobbly with fatigue.

Stupid colicky babies who don't like turbulence.

I let myself into the quiet suite. It's not quite six; Edward must be sleeping. I drop my bags just inside the door and tip toe to the bathroom, shedding coat, boots, my pants and sweater along the way. Quick and quiet, I do my thing and give my teeth a quick brush.

"Bella?" Edward's raspy voice calls out.

He's sitting up in the bed, shirtless, tousled... perfect. His sleepy smile is all the light I need in the dim room. I use the last of my energy to cross the dark space separating us and collapse beside him.

I'm home.

"Baby," he whispers. I missed him so much. He kisses me and everything is okay. For now. We'll talk tomorrow... later today? I can't think. Oh, he's warm...

Edward asks questions between kisses; about my flight, my students' Christmas concert, did I miss him? He missed me and his kisses become more insistent, trailing down along my chin and my neck. I close my eyes in bliss. Edward is on top of me - hard, hot and intent. The bed below me is freakishly soft, I'm sinking into it and this pillow... Edward is the best blanket ever...

There's a strange ripping sound and then the bed shakes. Edward's laughing.

I force my eyes open. "Wha's funny?" I slur.

"You are," Edward answers, still shaking. He's hovering above me all delicious-looking with an amused glint in his brilliant, green eyes. "You were snoring... while I was trying to make love to you."

"I don't snore," I mumble against his bare chest. I breathe deep and sigh happily.

"Oh, but you do. It's adorable." He tips his head to the side, examining me. "Jesus, you are exhausted." Edward clucks like a fretful mother. "Sleep, Bella."

He rolls out of bed and I feel torn. I want him and I want to sleep. Is it kinky to ask him to just go ahead anyway? Is that a thing? Somnia.. something ...philia?

Edward kisses my forehead and pulls the heavy duvet up to my chin. "What'll you do?" I ask. My massive yawn drowns out his answer. He pushes hair away from my face and smiles at me, warming me straight through. I'm already floating away.

"You can sleep," he says. My eyes close. I couldn't keep them open if I tried. I think Edward says something else... but I can't hear him over that ripping noise.

###

Is four hours enough sleep?

I've read the papers, dealt with my email. I even had breakfast brought up, enough for both of us, but when I cracked the bedroom door open Bella was still out cold. She hadn't moved an inch. That was two hours ago.

I sigh, childishly impatient. We leave for St Lucia the day after Christmas. Bella needs her sun - and I like Bella in a bikini. This leaves us three days in New York to be tourists: skating and seeing the tree and the lights and maybe even one of those corny horse and buggy rides through Central Park.

I weigh the risk/reward of waking her too early. I'll let her sleep another hour.

God, I've missed her.

Two weeks is two weeks too long.

It's my fault this has happened. It was a classic case of trying to have my cake and eat it too. Or trying to please all of the people all of the time. The Seattle office is fantastic - I started my career there and I feel a huge sense of loyalty to them. The action however, and the big, big deals are in New York. And I'm called more and more to pilot these projects. Now this tempting offer - a promotion and a team of my own - but I can't do it.

I can't ask Bella to move.

She's already done so much to be with me. Risked the wrath of her parents (or her mother at least), alienated most of her friends (Except Angela. Angela didn't even seem surprised when Bella told her about us), put up with my travel and long hours.

More than that.

We've talked about early on, when she first came back from Japan and took that leap of faith - or folly - by giving me a chance. She really wasn't sure. That hurt more than I let her know. I didn't deserve her trust, not at first. Bella's built a life in Seattle; friends, her job, her family close by. I'm not going to be the one to take her away from it. The best I can do is try to balance out the travel and my time away from her. It's not an ideal solution but I can't ask her to move and I'm risking my career if I turn down every East coast project that I'm offered.

I peek in the room again and see Bella has rolled to the side. I can't see her face. That won't do. "Bella?" I whisper, walking to the far side of the room so I can see her. Nothing. I check my watch. Eleven. I take a seat and try to make myself wait a little longer.

She's cute when she sleeps, all rolled up, her hair everywhere. I study her beautiful face; wide eyes with dark lashes resting on delicate cheekbones. Her lips, slightly parted, full and pink. I twitch just looking at her. I've missed her, everything about her, but right now I'm missing being with her. This is torture. Look but don't touch. An experiment in delayed gratification. I drink her in, from her sweet, sleeping face down over the gentle curve and slope of her body under the covers. My gaze rests on the swell of her hip and I think about how good her hips feel in my hands -

"Edward." My eyes snap to Bella's face. Her eyes are still closed.

She's talking in her sleep.

I hold my breath, waiting for more. I've missed this while I was away from her. Bella rolls to her back, kicks a leg free of the covers and sighs. I sigh quietly too and order myself to not go and kiss her leg. Kiss and lick all the way up that smooth, soft skin until...

"Stay," she sighs. "Don't go. Please...don't go."

Oh.

Fuck.

Bella's dreaming about me leaving. My heart gives a sickening thud. I look at her again - is she thinner? Bella doesn't eat enough when I'm not there. There are dark circles under her eyes too. I know damn well she doesn't sleep enough either when I'm away. I put my head in my hands. What am I doing to her? I asked her to move in with me and then spend half my time away?

"I'm so sorry," I whisper.

In a moment of perfect clarity I realize how selfish I've been. Trying to have my cake and eat it too? Putting Bella second is what I've been doing. I'm such an asshole.

That's it. No more New York.

The decision is easy once I realize what I've been doing to Bella. She sighs again and rolls back to her side, her hair falls over her face. I hate the thought of her dreaming about me walking away.

I walk to the window and crack the drapes. Bella hisses and buries her head in the pillow. I laugh softly. "Time to get up Sleeping Beauty," I say. I know why I want her awake and that makes me feel selfish too. "You can't sleep anymore if you want to get on New York time. Up." I tickle along her side. Bella groans, slowing surfacing. I pull my shirt over my head and get into the bed.

"What are you? Some sort of jet lag expert," Bella grumps. I gather her up in my arms, nuzzle behind her ear. My erection is pressed against her leg and she wriggles and hums, her words at odds with her body's reaction. "Correction," Bella murmurs. "Horny jet lag expert." We smile at each other. The time apart starts to fade away like a bad dream.

"I missed you," I whisper. I trail kisses down her neck. She smells all sweet and sleepy; I breathe deep and roll on top of her. Bella's catching up now, her hands are stroking my back, her legs twining around mine. I press against her, more deliberately, and Bella makes a little sound in her throat. A happy, 'yes, please' sound that echoes inside me. I get harder.

I go to kiss her lips but Bella puts her hands on my chest. She's full awake now, the sliver of light through the curtain shining in her eyes. "You're gonna kill me," she mutters.

"What?" I'm staring at her mouth. I want my kiss.

"I gotta... you know," Bella cuts her eyes toward the bathroom. My blood-deprived mind doesn't get it.

Bella here.

Me want Bella.

I try to kiss her again but she wiggles below me. I lean back to look at her.

She smiles. Bella knows exactly which Edward she's dealing with at the moment. Her eyebrow arches. "Let me up, Edward. Unless you want to pretend I'm a squirter -" I'm off her before she can finish the sentence. She makes a run for it, laughing.

"Jesus fucking Christ!" I'm stunned. Bella doesn't say shit like that. "Bella!" I call. I'm laughing too and hop out of the bed, following in her wake. "That's the... the... dirtiest thing I've ever heard you say!" I didn't even know she knew the term.

I hear water turn on and off, a flush. I'm standing in the doorway so when Bella opens the door I'm right there. I smirk at her squeak of surprise. "Where the hell did you hear that?" I ask, still laughing. I'm not saying Bella is particularly tame but she doesn't go too far out there. She doesn't need to. "You watching porn when I'm away, baby?" I tease.

She's still giggling too. "I read a lot, okay? I learn the strangest things." Bella goes to step out of the bathroom but I'm blocking her. I take a step forward and she backs up. A half-wary, half-excited light sparks in her dark eyes.

Seeing Bella in this particular room has triggered a memory. A good/bad kind of memory. A dirty memory. I'm inspired and reach past her to turn on the shower. Bella smiles a slow smile that makes my chest ache and my cock twitch. "I want to tell you something," I say. My voice is low, already thinking about what I'm going to say and do. Bella's hands are on my chest again, stroking up and down.

"What?" she asks, looking back and forth between my eyes and my lips. I kiss her softly, touching her face, her hair. We both hum with the simple pleasure of it.

"I don't know," I say, teasing again. "It's pretty dirty." I back us up, pulling her camisole up and over her head. "Filthy actually." Bella eyes go wide. I kiss her again, my hands move from her shoulders down her arms to her breasts. I circle her nipples with my thumbs.

"Ah," Bella gasps. She looks from me to the shower. "So filthy you have to tell me in the shower?" I nod slowly. The room is steaming up as we strip completely and get under the spray. I pull her to me, kiss her hard as my hands find her ass. I'm rock hard, painfully hard, my erection trapped between us. "Tell me," Bella says when I leave her mouth to kiss up and down her neck.

Damn. I really didn't think this through. Is Bella going to want to hear this?

"Um, you're beautiful?" I guide Bella under the water. It runs over her, soaking her hair and skin.

"That's not dirty," Bella laughs. Her eyes are dark, her hands on either side of my face. "Tell me," she demands.

I blow out a breath and gird my loins. Literally. "Well," I start. "In a bathroom in this hotel - just like this one - I, uh...it was a really long time ago..." Bella wears an adorably confused expression. I take a deep breath and force my dirty secret out.

"I... uh, fantasized... about you... um, being in... theshowerwithmewhileIgotoffb ymyself."

I'm expecting a giggle at best, an 'ew' at worst and I watch her expression carefully as my babbled sentence processes. I see the exact moment when full comprehension hits her. Bella's body responds at the same time - and I know her body. She breaks out in goose bumps, her pupils dilate and she leans toward me. Bella's not put off by my little confession, not at all.

Bella's fucking turned on.

"Really?" She glances around the spacious shower then back to me, trailing her finger from the middle of my chest down, down. "What did I do?" she asks. I move us so her back is against the wall, pale skin on dark marble. I lean against her, trapping her. Not that she's trying to get away. My hand strokes down her side, across the soft skin of her stomach. Two fingers trail lower, between her legs and then up, into her wet heat. Bella's head falls back and she gasps. "Edward."

I kiss right below her ear and whisper to her. "It was years ago. It was so real, Bella, like you were here with me. I wanted you so badly. You... it was a really long time ago..." She pulls on my hair so I have to look at her. Bella moans softly as I work my fingers in and out of her, slowly. I go on. "It was before you were mine. You were still with Mike - I almost went crazy you know? How did you not know?"

Alternate futures crash around in my mind. What if she'd married him? What if she'd never come back from Japan?

What if we'd never been together? What if I'd never known this amazing woman and this amazing life with her?

Bella senses my mood, she feels my anxiety. She grips my wrist, stilling my fingers inside her. "What... did I do?" she whispers. "This?" she asks, meaning our current activity. I shake my head sheepishly. No, even in my fantasies I'm a selfish asshole. Bella smiles at me wickedly and bats my hand away. She sinks to her knees. "This?" I nod, incapable of speech. Her soft hand wraps around me, strokes me, once... twice. Bella kisses the tip and looks up. "More?" I nod and whimper. Bella's grin is triumphant. She licks along the underside of my rigid cock, cups my sensitive sac in the palm of her hand. I groan loudly when Bella takes me in her mouth, slow and deep; my eyes roll back. She releases me for a moment, licks her lips, and takes me in again, and then again, humming and swirling her tongue with each stroke. I put my hands on the wall behind her, bracing myself as she sucks and licks me. Water streams over us, rolling and steaming. The heat of it is nothing compared to the heat of her sweet mouth.

"Bella, Bella, Bella," I chant. I put a hand on her dark, bobbing head. "I love you, God, I fucking love you." Bella laughs and I think she says 'I bet you do'. She looks up at me with those big brown eyes and it's déjà vu, but better. I never fantasized about loving her this much. I didn't even know this was possible for me.

She steps it up, taking me in further, faster, squeezing my balls just this side of painfully. It feels so fucking good, pressure is building. I'm trying to hold on but Bella is giving the blow job to end all blow jobs. This was the fantasy but there was more.

I want the more.

"Bella, stop. Stop, fuck, you're gonna make me come." I'm panting, holding on to the wall to support my shaky legs. Bella stands, dark wet hair streaming around her shoulders, deep, needy eyes locked on mine.

"What else did we do?" she asks. Her voice cracks with need. I bend to kiss one breast then the other. I suck and bite her nipples, try to get her on the edge with me. My hands are low again and those same two fingers go back where they belong. "Edward, please?"

"Put your arms around my neck," I breathe. "Hold on to me." I stroke her a few times until she whimpers. I brush her clit with the back of my hand as I reach around to grab her sweet ass. "Hold on," I say again as I lift her and press her against the wet marble. Her legs wrap around my waist instinctively, lining us up. One thrust and I'm fully inside her, where I always want to be, her wet, slick skin searing me. I groan against her neck as we start to move together. We find that perfect rhythm, not slow but not yet frantic. Just feeling each other as the heated water rains down on us.

"This?" she asks, her voice a sob. I nod.

"Yes," I pant against her mouth. I lick her bottom lip, sweep my tongue against hers.

My fantasy brought to life.

My fantasy only better because it's real. She didn't stay away or marry anyone else. She's mine. Bella's mine.

I'm struggling for control, gasping as my hips thrust up to hers over and over. "Always mine," I almost growl. I move faster, harder, the sound of our wet skin smacking together echoes around the shower.

"Yes... yes," Bella cries out. Her arms are tight around my neck, her face level with mine. Our noses touch, I kiss her cheek. "Edward," she gasps and I feel the beginning of her orgasm deep inside. She stiffens and my cock gets harder too. Bella clings to me as I drive into her mercilessly.

I know I'm going to come any second and I want her flying when it happens. I shift her slightly to the side and thrust deep, grunting at the new angle. There it is.

"Kiss me," Bella breathes and I do. We crash together, both so close, the kiss the final piece. She explodes around me and I watch her face, the strained concentration melting to a blissed-out expression.

When she whispers my name, I'm done, coming hard as Bella's goes on, trembling around me. She's still clinging to me but I know it's not so much holding on anymore.

She's holding me together.

###

A few hours later, we've had a late lunch from room service and showered again - this times with actual cleansing involved. All my big plans for New York are out the window.

Fuck the giant tree and the skating rink. I want Bella and bed. She's not complaining at all.

"You seem more relaxed," Bella says, taking a magazine out of my hands and throwing it on a nearby table. She sits in my lap and looks at me with a smile. "Spill time, Edward. You've had plenty of time to mull over whatever it is that's bothering you. And you're driving me crazy. Talk." Bossy Bella will not be denied.

I sigh, not unhappily. "I had some work stuff to figure out but it's over now. Decision made, stress over. Bada boom bada bing," I say in my best Jersey Shore accent. Bella makes a gagging noise.

"Don't ever do that again," she deadpans. We sit in silence for a minute. "What was the work thing? It's just... that was really difficult, knowing you were struggling with something but being left out of it. I know that's how you operate sometimes - I can respect that - but now that's it's over can you tell me. So I can put the next Edward funk on a scale from one to ten," she finishes with a wink.

I tell her about the job, the promotion offer, the stream of high-level projects that are only available in New York. I tell her I was trying to do too much, stretching myself thin. I apologize for being away so much and tell her it'll be different now. Bella listens intently, a tiny furrow on her brow growing more pronounced with each of my revelations.

"But if they need you here-" Bella starts. I put a finger on her lips, shushing her. She pushes my hand away and gives me a look. "Did you even consider taking it? Moving here?"

"I wouldn't ask you to do that. And you are much, much more important to me than a job." I mean every word but Bella looks kind of... mad.

"You didn't even ask me!"

"No, I -"

"Edward," Bella sighs. "I can do my job anywhere there are children." She shakes her head at me but she's smiling again. "I'd have to look into it but... I'm pretty sure there are schools in New York."

"Yeah, but you love your school -"

"Yes. I do." Bella searches my eyes. She moves off my lap and turns so we're face to face. "But you can't realize your potential in Seattle." She's all lit up with something. "Baby, you're a star! You need to be here."

"Your parents," I counter. Bella makes a 'pfft' noise.

"Please," she says. "We see them a few times a year. We could still manage that from out here."

"You really want to do this?" I'm smiling. She's still watching me closely; I can see her weighing her next words, trying them out in her head.

Bella puts a hand on my cheek. "Do you think there's any job that would be more important to me than you?" Bella loves rhetorical questions. I shake my head. "Do you think there's any place in the world I want to live if I'm not with you?" Her eyes are all soft and I get it; I've underestimated her. I shake my head again, swallowing the lump in my throat. She looks a bit smug. She knows she's getting to me. "Edward Cullen, I'm about to give you an obscene amount of power over me - I trust you won't abuse it?" Bella climbs back onto my lap and pulls my head down to hers so our foreheads are touching. My sweet girl is still telling me what's what. I don't only hear her next whispered words; I feel them. "You tell me where and when. As long as you want me... I'll be there with you."

I don't trust myself to speak. "Okay," I manage. We sit for a long time, staring out the window. If she notices me shaking from time to time she doesn't say anything.

This is huge. I try to imagine life in New York with Bella.

She's going to love it here.

"You're sure?" I finally ask.

"Yeah," Bella says. We both sigh in relief.

She makes it all so easy. Because it is. Where I saw a problem and twisted myself into a giant complicated knot, she saw... us. She took that knot and unravelled it and showed me it's simply a straight line leading to our future. No complication. It's the easiest thing in the world to take her hand and walk along together. If I wasn't such a self-centred fool I would have seen the answer to all my little insecurities before.

I've missed a step along the way.

I shift Bella off my lap, slip off the couch, kneel on the carpet in front of her.

Bella looks up, confused. "Did you drop something?" What kind of asshole am I that she doesn't think this is a possibility for us? I know I mentioned something, years ago, about not being interested in marriage. I've grown up since then - and I know that I want Bella in my life forever.

"No, I didn't drop anything." I smile and breathe deep through my nose. I'm nervous; not about asking, about her answer. I suddenly want this more than anything. Bella's jaw drops as she realizes what I'm doing.

"Bella, I don't just want to move here with you... I want to be married to you." I frown. "Damn it, I don't have a ring. I didn't think... I'm making a mess of this. Maybe I should-" I move to get up.

"No, no!" Bella puts her hands out to stop me getting up. "No, this is good! This is perfect. Go on. Keep going." She's beaming at me and I'm not nervous anymore. I take her hand in mine, turn words over in my head.

"Bella, you surprise me, over and over. You put up with me," I smile at Bella's cute snort and then see her eyes are bright with tears. "I waited so long for you and I'm glad you made me wait because I want to be worthy of you. I want to protect you," Bella raises an eyebrow at this but she's squeezing my hand and smiling so I go on, "laugh with you, live every day with you. I'm sorry it took me so long to get here; I thought I was afraid of marriage in general but I'm not. Not with you. The only thing I'm afraid of is being without you. So, Bella, please? Will you marry me?"

"Yes," she mouths. A tear rolls down her cheek. We're both still as statues for a long minute, stunned by what we've just done. Then, she's off the couch and in my arms and I'm murmuring 'thank you' and 'I love you' into her hair and she's saying the same against my chest.

I know it won't all be easy. There are a thousand details to work out, a job for Bella to find, things to pack, the demonic New York real estate market to tackle. I know we'll fight, I know I'll let her down sometimes - without meaning to. I also know I'll always make it up to her. With Bella at my side I know I'm one of the lucky ones. Not everyone gets to know this kind of happiness. 'Happiness' isn't a big enough word for what I'm feeling right now. I search for a better word: content, euphoric, ecstatic... All of them close but not quite right, not quite enough. I don't know.

Maybe there isn't a word for me and Bella.

When Bella is in a particular mood, she calls me 'Sunshine'. I've always thought it was kind of silly but I get her point now. She's like the earth and the sea to me. Everywhere. Everything. And that is what I finally say to her as we watch the sun go down over the park in the city that is going to be our new home.

"Do you know that you are absolutely everything to me?"

She's pink and gold in the light of the sunset.

"I really do, baby. I know."


Thanks for reading and thank you for making posting this story so much fun! Coincidence... (not a coincidence) It's Winter Solstice. Get it? Shortest day of the year? ;) Have a wonderful holiday.

Song: Yellow Lights - Of Monsters and Men