Six months later...
"Edward, dude, your tie is crooked." Jacob frowned slightly as he adjusted it. He glanced down and smothered a smile as he noticed Edward's socks didn't match. Edward wasn't colorblind now, but he was still absent-minded when his brain was focused on physics. Even now, Edward had that slightly blank look in his eye which told Jacob he was off on some mental tangent, his brain likely churning with equations or formulas.
"There." Jacob stepped back to survey the results and picked an errant string off the sleeve of Edward's tuxedo. On his lapel was a silk flower made by Alice; the elves had objected vehemently to the idea of killing flowers for simple adornment, and the humans declined to wear flowers with their roots still attached so they could be replanted.
When Nessa insisted she wanted flowers for her wedding, the elves had offered to decorate for her. Nessa had always dreamed of having her wedding in beautiful church, but none of them were members of a congregation, and so they had found an abandoned cathedral in Detroit. Worked out for the best, Jacob thought, because no one minded the blossom-bedecked cherry and magnolia trees that had burst up through the floor to line the central aisle, or the vines bedecked with lush roses that had covered the walls. They had even laid down a carpet of grass that grew thickly over the floor, dotted with tiny purple violets. Because they had to hold the wedding at night to accommodate their nocturnal guests, thousands of candles lit the room.
The elves were even considerate enough to decorate two dressing rooms for the bride and groom. Jacob's room had benches made from wood which had woven itself into furniture. The elves made nothing that was plain or utilitarian. No, these were works of art, the wood curved and curled into elaborate deigns. Kind of strange to sit on a chair and realize it was still alive. Jacob had horrible visions of the things grabbing him and had declined to make himself comfortable.
Jasper had no such qualms. He was lounging on one of the benches, reading a People magazine and drinking a YooHoo. He and Alice had tied the knot a few months ago and Jacob had to admit, Jasper had turned out to be a good husband for Jacob and Emmett's little sister. Jasper was still working at the university, but he'd been promoted to manager of the maintenance department. He and Alice would never be rich, but it was a steady job that paid the mortgage on the little house they'd bought, and provided health insurance for Alice and the kids.
Alice had gotten more steady work in singing jingles for commercials. She'd never be a superstar, but she didn't really want that, anyway. She had finally figured out what she wanted from life, and that was to be happy with her husband and raise her kids. Both she and Jasper still had a lot of growing up to do, but they were working on it together with a therapist.
Edward was muttering something about "lepton isospin doublet," which Jacob wasn't even sure was English, and was pacing while he thrust his hands repeatedly through his hair. Jacob wordlessly retrieved the notebook from his bag he had packed for this very reason and handed it to him. Edward snatched with a grateful smile and began to scribble, his pencil moving across the page so fast that it was nothing but a blur. A pencil, not a pen, for Edward still didn't have perfect control of his strength and he crushed ink pens when he was concentrating. His hands usually bore blue splotchy stains as a result.
Edward flipped the pages rapidly as he filled them up with equations and what looked like representations of molecules surrounded by Greek letters. Jacob smiled and turned back to the mirror to adjust his own tie. The super-speed of vampires had been very helpful in getting Edward's ideas on paper before his brain charged ahead to the next thought.
The university hadn't batted an eye at Edward's new nocturnal schedule, likely because the work he produced was even more remarkable than before. His mind was clearer, Edward told Jacob, and he was better able to see connections between seemingly unrelated concepts.
He was working now on a new theory of physics, one which might end up knocking String Theory off its pedastal. He was still in the early stages, but buzz was growing as his work was passed around in scientific circles. Rose had tried to explain it to Jacob, that it seemed possible Edward might be on track to producing the long-elusive Grand Unified Theory of Everything, a single theory which would explain all of the strange and wonderful quirks in the world of physics.
But one of the first things Edward had done was erase Jessica's memories of Jacob, and of her plotting with Lauren and Tanya. Jessica now remembered Jacob as a boring nerd and her relationship with Alice as a casual fling. She was set to graduate in the summer. All of them would breathe a sigh of relief when she was gone.
The scratching of Edward's pencil abruptly stopped. Edward blinked and his eyes sharpened into focus as he met Jacob's gaze in the mirror. "Where's Bella?" he asked.
Jacob shrugged. "Off doing elf queen shit, probably. Hugging trees or knighting bunnies. Don't worry. She'll be here."
Bella had adapted well to her duties as Queen of the Elves, and what's more, the elves actually seemed happy with her rule, though no one would have ever imagined they'd be pleased to follow a vampire. Instead of the slow and sad exodus of elves to the Alter World, the elves were now returning to this dimension. Bella, with her personally-selected cabinet members, sent them out in groups to "settle" all over the world, reviving the ancient elven hills. And as more of them returned, the power of the elves was growing once more to what it once had been.
Ecologists were amazed to see brownfields begin to bloom once more. In the rivers, the fish populations were beginning to recover as pollution levels inexplicably dropped. It would take time; the elves had hundreds of years of work ahead of them. But it seemed they could help the planet recover from its damage now that their focus and energies were directed toward "making flowers" as Bella had commanded, instead of waiting for the day humans would be decimated. All it had taken was a leader to steer them back in the proper direction. The elves were happy to be doing what nature had intended them to do.
And Jacob was back to doing what he was supposed to do, as well. Edward funded digs for him and paid the outrageous insurance fees (and sometimes bribes to secure the permits.) Jacob had objected to the expense until Edward had explained he wanted to spend his money on things that contributed to the sum of human knowledge. And it's not like he would miss it, he'd said with a shrug. He already had more money than he could spend in multiple lifetimes, and vampires had plenty of time to see long-term investments ripen. So far, Jacob hadn't made any more amazing discoveries like the temple in Catalupa and his papers were snubbed by the world of academia, but Jacob was content that eventually, they'd be accepted, even if it never happened in his lifetime. Edward would see to it that his work was not lost.
Nessa had turned out to be an enthusiastic dig partner and assistant. She did not complain about the heat, bugs or backbreaking labor that yielded only a few pottery shards and she kept Jacob's notes and records so well organized that he didn't know how he'd ever functioned without her. Maybe it was her dayman nature which made her so adaptable to whatever those around her needed, but he believed it was her love for him that made her the best partner a man could hope for.
Nessa had never met her vampire match and had quietly drawn her name from the database. Jacob had objected because he remembered what he'd heard about daymen always feeling an aching void until they found their vampire, but Nessa had shaken her head with a smile as she hugged him. "Nothing is missing from my life. I have everything I need right here to make me perfectly happy."
Jacob still wasn't sure he was good enough to make her happy, but he was going to die trying. He grinned at his reflection. Maybe it was time for him to start reading those romance novels again.
The door opened and Bella strode in. Edward dropped his notebook and his eyes widened as he stared at the vision of beauty before him.
The elves had very firm ideas about how their queen should look, and so Bella was always elaborately coiffed, spectacularly dressed and accentuated with model-perfect makeup. Fortunately for her, the sprites were the ones who did her primping through their subtle magic, using spells to instantly weave her hair into intricate designs or change her gown in a blink of an eye.
For some reason, the sprites adored Bella, and they followed her around in small, glittering clouds. As a human, Jacob only caught occasional glimpses of them out of the corner of his eye, a tiny flash of gold that vanished as soon as he tried to look directly at it, but Edward could see them and said the air around Bella always sparkled with their lights.
The sprites all wanted to dress their queen and style her hair, and so they had decided to take turns. However, sprites aren't too clear on the concept of time, and so each turn varied in length, from hours to only a few moments. Whenever she went out, Bella had to sternly order them not to change her appearance until she said it was allowed again.
Currently, Bella was dressed in a light pink gown that looked as though it had been designed for The Lord of the Rings. The movie had apparently gotten that much right about them: elven fashion sense seemingly hadn't been updated since the Middle Ages. She wore a crystalline tiara that cast rainbow prisms when it caught the light. Jacob had asked about it, because it looked like glass to him, but he'd been told it was actually something called dalla wood, which grew in the Alter World. Crystal trees. Jacob shook his head. Wild.
Bella had with her two elf guards, another thing Bella's new subjects insisted upon. One was a tall, silent creature with white hair, and the other was the pink-haired elf who had healed Jacob. Her name was Petal, and when Bella had wanted to reward her for her kindness, the position of Bella's bodyguard was what Petal had asked for. The other elves had objected, wanting Bella guarded by a second warrior, not a healer, but Bella had refused to be budged. Petal and Jacob exchanged smiles. He liked her. She was a hell of a mean poker player.
"Nessa say she ready," Bella said.
Edward snapped out of his spell and came over to take Bella into his arms. He gazed down into Bella's eyes, helplessly enraptured. Jacob wondered if he looked that sappy when he looked into Nessa's face. He hoped so. Edward and Bella were proof that passionate adoration could last and he fully expected one day to look down at Nessa, her brown eyes surrounded by wrinkles and gray hair, and still be stricken speechless by her beauty and the sheer power of the emotion that swelled within him when she smiled.
"I'll wake up Emmett," Jacob said and went to the back of the room where his brother had flopped down on a patch of soft grass, his arm thrown up over his eyes, snoring. All he'd said about why he was so tired was that Rose kept him up late, but the small, dreamy smile that had accompanied the words explained it all. Rose and Emmett's wedding was planned for the fall.
Jacob had been right about how mad Rosalie would be when she found out after the battle she and Emmett had been intentionally left out of it. When she saw Jacob again for the first time afterwards, she had punched him in the gut and then grabbed him in a fierce, tearful hug. When she'd finally stopped crying long enough to talk, Rose called him a few choice names and then told him: "We're not elves, so I can't pull a binding promise out of you to never do it again, but I swear if you ever leave us behind like that again, I'll kill you myself."
Emmett sat up woozily when Jacob poked him with the toe of his shoe. "Wedding time?" he asked.
"Getting close. We gotta head to our places now." Jacob helped Emmett to his feet and dusted off his tux.
"Ready for this, bro?" Emmett asked.
"I think I've been ready for this all my life," Jacob said. "I just didn't know it."
Emmett clapped him on the shoulder. They headed out the door together.
"Your majesty?" Petal said to the queen and her consort, still enraptured by one another. "Sir? Your majesty?"
Jacob and Emmett exchanged a glance and then laughed. In the hall, waiting for them, was Victoria. As usual, she wore one of her deceased husband's t-shirts, a dark blue formal gown over it. The combination actually looked pretty good, in Jacob's opinion, but he could imagine how much she'd had to argue with Esme over that one. And with Bella, come to think of it, for wearing that taboo color.
Amid her bright red waves, Victoria wore the crown of the vampires, made of blood red rubies - of course - and onyx. There were some who still refused to accept her rule, insisting that Bella was the true queen, but Bella ignored their appeals and said, "Do what Vickra say!" (Bella's English was still imperfect after all this time because she communicated primarily in Quechua and let Edward translate for her into the many languages used by the elves.) Victoria quietly took a seat in the back of the room, among the elves perched on grassy hill that had been created over a pile of the cathedral's debris. She ignored the elves's curious glances, wondering why she chose to place herself among them. But Jacob understood. It had to hurt, watching such happiness when she had lost her own mate. Still, she had come for Nessa's sake and he appreciated it.
Jacob and Emmett headed up to the altar, through the enchanted forest the elves had created in the elegant ruins of the cathedral. There were many of them present, seated on the woven wood benches that had been created in the place of the broken pews, curious to watch a human wedding, and curious about Nessa's friends, the vampires and daymen who took seats on the benches or the grass. Some of the vampires hopped up into the trees beside the elves and made themselves comfortable.
From the corner of his eye, Jacob saw Rose come up to take Emmett's arm and lead him over to one of the benches. They sat down together, holding hands. Jacob had a vision of them, elderly and peaceful, sitting on a porch swing like this, watching the sunset together.
Paul and Angela sat beside them, their hands clasped. They weren't engaged yet, but Edward had a feeling that would happen soon, if the way Paul watched Angela with adoring eyes was any indication. Felix occupied the bench behind them, grinning with such pride and love that you would think he was the father of someone in the wedding party. Alice and Jasper were on his left, Alice snuggled against her husband's side.
Esme was seated in the front row. She had flown in from Paris, where she now lived. Edward said she was dating a French vineyard owner, and he was absolutely delighted that his mother might find happiness again. She smiled at Jacob, a sincere, wholehearted smile and when he put out a hand, she used it to draw him into a hug. When he released her, she had tears in her eyes and she started to say something. He knew what it was and it was unnecessary. "It's okay."
Esme bit her lip, then nodded.
"I'm glad you're here," he told her.
She answered by hugging him again. He broke away when he heard the music start, the soft, eerie tones of elven flutes, played by a trio perched in the trees by the altar. The doors at the back of the chapel opened and Nessa stepped through them. Jacob sighed and felt his face stretch into a grin. The most gorgeous woman in the world was walking down the aisle and, amazingly, he was the one she was walking to.
Nessa appeared to have been groomed by the sprites, and he wondered it it had been willing because her hair was entirely different than the style she'd worn for the rehearsal. Her auburn curls were down around her shoulders, woven into an complicated pattern, held back with a pair of pearl combs. She wore an empire-waist white lace gown with a small train. The sleeves belled out, fluttering around her slender wrists, and as she neared the altar, he saw that her feet were bare against the grass. He smiled even wider, if that was possible.
He'd call it a happy ending, but that wasn't correct. It was a happy beginning.
Edward took Bella's hand as they stood by the altar and watched the ceremony.
"We never had a wedding," he murmured to her in Quechua, so softly the other guests could not hear.
"The elves have been complaining about that," Bella replied. "They don't recognize human marriages because they can be dissolved, instead of a binding promise. It's a scandal for them to have an unmarried queen. They want me to have an elven wedding, and soon."
"Oh?" Edward said casually. "And whom shall you pick for your consort?"
Bella did not tease him in return. "It will be you. Always you. Forever you. I have lived a very long time, Edward, but I never knew love like this existed. You have given me an extraordinary gift, and I would happily bind myself to you for eternity."
Edward was silent for a moment, trying to think of a way to put it into words. So many things to say, but no words for them. "Eternity won't be long enough."
He bent and kissed her, just as Jacob took his bride into his arms and kissed her, too. The sound of the human guests' cheers and applause faded into the background as they both forgot the world again.
No, eternity wouldn't be long enough.
~ Finis ~
A/N: Thank you again, dear friends, for joining me on another journey, and thanks as always for your patience. As I write this, I'm half-way through my third novel, which I'm writing as a NaNoWriMo project. (Can I add today's FF word count to my total, or is that cheating?) Your support, kindness and enthusiasm have meant so much to me. Thank you.