This story is a sequel to my earlier story, Castaway, and follows the same AU storyline. It will not really make sense unless you have first read Castaway. Castaway was an AU revision of New Moon, and this story is an AU revision of Eclipse.
To summarize: a single change in Bella's experience in New Moon - her father taking her to a doctor for help with her severe depression - changed the way the rest of the story played out. There was no Jacob, no werewolves, no trip to Italy. Straight On 'Til Morning continues to follow that altered history through the events of Eclipse.
Alterations in the history result in further changes in both events and characters. Because Edward has never gone through the experience of thinking Bella is dead, he is less obsessively overprotective than in the original novel. Because Jacob never became significant in Bella's life, jealousy isn't really a factor for Edward. Because Edward finally came back to Bella instead of making her fly to Europe and reclaim him, she is a little more confident of her place in his heart. And so forth. The changes multiply and a largely new story results. There is also a slight alteration in the timeline, which I attribute to the same butterfly effect that brought about the new plot.
A secondary alteration was done purely for my own entertainment. Stephenie Meyer used Wuthering Heights as a template for Eclipse. The characters in Wuthering Heights are almost relentlessly selfish, controlling, callous, self-destructive, rash and vindictive; and those in Eclipse are toned-down versions of the same. I wouldn't suggest that Eclipse should be changed, much less Wuthering Heights; but I do sometimes mentally correct the characters in books of that kind, wondering frequently why they don't just sit down and talk things over like civilized people. The angst in my story is reduced to a minimum, and everyone behaves just a little more rationally than the characters in Eclipse. Again, I'm not suggesting my version is better, but it's kind of satisfying to take charge of that unruly story and force all the characters to behave themselves.
Disclaimer: The Twilight series and all its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. This story is nothing more than me playing cut-and-paste with her material.
It was only 9:30, my homework was finished, my studying caught up. Having my very own superhuman prodigy as a tutor helped a lot with that. I had showered and changed for bed, and still had time to myself before Edward arrived for his second, and unofficial, visit of the evening. I picked up my copy of Emma and opened it to the bookmarked page, at the beginning of Chapter 46. The fact that two characters had covertly agreed to marry, and kept the fact to themselves for months, had just come to light, causing hard feelings among their friends and relatives. I finished the chapter and frowned at the book in my hands. I'd never expected to find parallels between my own life and the actions of any of Austen's characters - not their pairing up and marrying, at least. But here I was with a secret engagement of my own.
I sat there, pondering, for several minutes before I looked up from the page to find Edward standing in the middle of my room, watching me. I never seemed to get used to the way he could appear without making a sound.
He smiled at me. "Why so pensive?"
I jumped up, dropping my book, and threw myself into his arms. We'd been apart for over two hours, after all. He laughed and kissed me hello, allowing me to prolong the kiss for a minute or two before gently detaching me. He sighed at the same moment I did. I felt continually greedy for Edward, for...contact with him, since he'd come back to Forks, and I was getting the impression he felt the same, discreet as he usually was.
He moved past me and picked up my copy of Emma. "Jane Austen?" He smiled at me. "Don't tell me this is what put such a grave look on your face. You seemed so concerned."
"Not concerned, really. I was just thinking about..." I stopped, reluctant to bring up the marriage thing. Edward was waiting patiently for me to work through my aversion to the idea of getting married, but it was a slow process.
He sat down on the rocking chair and pulled me into his lap. "About what?" He kissed my temple gently.
"Well, two of the characters are carrying on a secret engagement. Their family and friends are very hurt when they find out."
I frowned at the book in my hands. "Your family won't be upset, will they? That we kept this from them?"
He hesitated. "They'll be very happy with the news, once they finally hear it."
"I suppose that means yes." I sighed and leaned my head against his shoulder.
"They won't be angry, if that's what you're worried about." He rocked me in his arms. "You have to understand, there really are no secrets in my family. It's unusual for any of us to keep this kind of thing hidden. And they'll see it as exceedingly happy news. They will probably find it hard to understand why we didn't want to tell them."
The reason, of course, was me. "I'm sorry. I don't want to hurt their feelings. It's just that..."
"I understand. You need time to get used to the idea." He was idly playing with my hair. "Another situation that was common enough in nineteenth century novels: the proposal being answered by, 'This is such a surprise! You'll have to give me some time!'"
"That's a little different. Those ladies needed time to decide whether they wanted the guy. I don't have any doubts on that score."
"Are you sure?" He asked so quietly, I could barely hear him.
"Sure about you? Yes! Do you even have to ask?"
"It would explain your reluctance."
Charlie could be heard climbing the stairs at that moment. Edward got up, set me back down in the rocker, placed my open book in my hands, and disappeared out the window before I had time to blink. A few seconds later, when Charlie knocked and opened the door, I was sitting in the chair, calmly reading.
"Bella? Just saying good night."
"Okay. 'Night, Dad."
He closed the door. I could hear the water running in the bathroom, then the sound of Charlie walking to his room and closing his own bedroom door. I sat still, going over Edward's last sentence in my mind. I stared at the first page of Chapter 47, chewing my lower lip, until I heard a faint sound and looked up to find Edward back in my room.
"Charlie's asleep already. He must be tired."
I nodded. "He's been called out during the night twice this week." I set my book aside and went to sit on my bed. He joined me. "That's not the explanation," I blurted out.
"The explanation for my, er, reluctance."
"Oh, that. It's all right, Bella. You don't have to explain anything to me. You're free to..."
"No, it's not all right. I don't want you thinking that. Or even suspecting it. I don't...it's not..." I shook my head in annoyance. "Ugh. I'm no good at this kind of stuff."
He seemed amused. "What kind of stuff is that?"
"You know. Talking about emotions and so forth. I take after Charlie that way. It's not really fair to you; you always tell me..."
"Stuff?" he suggested, suppressing a laugh.
"Like how much I love you?" He took my hand and gently kissed the knuckles. "How much you mean to me?" He turned my hand over, kissing my palm, the inside of my wrist.
"Yeah," I said faintly. "Like that."
"How much I long to be able to give you my ring; to call you my fiancée? My wife?"
I gulped, and he laughed at my expression. "Ay, there's the rub."
"But it's not because of you! I want to be with you forever. More than anything. It's only that, when I think about things like engagement rings..." I shivered slightly. "I'm working on it, though."
"I know, love. I can be patient for as long as you like. I impose only one time constraint."
I nodded, knowing very well what he meant. Edward wanted us to be married before I was changed. I respected his reasons, but I wasn't as patient as he was.
"I do appreciate that you're trying to work through this aversion to all things matrimonial. May I suggest something that might help your efforts?"
"I suppose so," I said warily.
"It's a technique my former psychology professor recommended."
"You studied psychology?"
"Once, and only to the B.A. level. It was the result of a bet I lost to Jasper."
"You'll have to tell me about that some time."
"Certainly. But about the technique. It works best when you're in bed, getting ready to fall asleep." He pulled back the bedclothes, and I climbed underneath. "You're to lie back calmly and run through the difficult subject in your mind."
"Difficult?" I adjusted my pillow and settled down comfortably.
"Whatever it is you are afraid of, intimidated by, reluctant to deal with. In your case, anything to do with marriage."
"Okay. And then what?"
"Choose some aspect of the feared entity. Close your eyes. Fix your mind on it. Why not start with the engagement ring?"
"All right. My mind is fixed on just that."
"What does the item suggest to you? What does it remind you of, make you think of? Let your mind wander freely."
"Um...diamonds? Jewelry stores?"
"Make it more personal. What does an engagement ring mean to you? Imagine having one on your finger." I twitched, and he chuckled. "The ring is there." He touched the third finger of my left hand. "How do you feel about it?"
"I don't know." I laughed nervously. "Like I want to take it off."
"Why? Focus on the ring. How does it make you feel?"
He'd absorbed the standard psychologist jargon, apparently. "Kind of...embarrassed, I guess."
"Big, glittery ring. It's like showing off."
"And it means I...I don't know, bought into it all."
"Into what?" His voice was quiet, soothing. I felt as if I could fall asleep without much trouble.
"Getting married. Being the beautiful bride. Having somebody love me forever."
"Tell me why that's embarrassing." His voice made me feel like I was floating, calm.
"It's not what reasonable women are supposed to do."
"Tell me what they do."
"They don't make decisions based on emotions. They don't expect love to last forever." I could almost hear my mother's voice, warning me. "They don't think a husband is the way to be happy and fulfilled. They don't have accidents, and get caught...get stuck in some..."
"What kind of accident?"
"I was an accident." I yawned. "My being born, I mean. I kind of messed everything up. Mom left, and Charlie..." I lost my train of thought.
There was a short silence, during which I half dozed. "Think of a wedding," he said at last. "Think of yourself getting married."
"Mm." I had fallen into a half-waking state. I felt like I could come out of it whenever I wanted to, but didn't feel like bothering.
Think of our wedding."
"Big poofy dress," I muttered, closing my eyes more tightly. "And crowds of people watching. Ugh."
"I don't know. Flowers?"
"What about a bridegroom?"
"Can you imagine him, waiting for you as you walk up the aisle toward him?"
I was silent a moment. Strangely enough, it was one aspect of the wedding I hadn't given much thought to. "I guess so."
"Tell me about him."
I frowned to myself. "He doesn't exactly fit in there."
"He just doesn't. Weddings are so ridiculous. Mom always used to make fun of them. All the pageantry. It would be like I was a character in a play that had nothing to do with me. Everybody in fancy clothes, and my father marching me up there to hand me over like a used car..." I heard him chuckle softly.
"And then, there he is." I could clearly picture Edward as part of my imaginary wedding chaos. "Like…an angel forced to attend a really tacky birthday party. What's he even doing there?" The words were flowing effortlessly, from some usually dormant part of my brain. I'd forgotten that Edward was with me, listening.
"He shouldn't be there, you know, in the middle of all the stupid vows and rituals that don't mean anything. He means everything. He's kind, and loving, and…strong, and brilliant. He makes me so happy; no, not even happy, just...right. I feel like I was only half awake until I met him. He's my...my blessing. My reward. But...a bridegroom? No, it's..." I trailed off again.
I could feel Edward very softly stroking my hair, and my drowsiness overtook me. "You were wrong, you know," I heard him whisper just before I fell asleep. "You're extremely good at 'that kind of stuff'."