This bud of love,
by summer's ripening breath,
May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.

- William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Chapter 6 – A Vast and Endless Future

When Bella Swan was seventeen she fell in love with a tempestuous, mysterious boy.

When Bella Swan was twenty-two, she renewed an acquaintance with the boy, and found that she had been wrong about him. He wasn't a boy at all, but a man, full of wisdom and passion.

Through him, she's discovered the strength inside herself to come to peace with years of what ifs. In return, she gives him the one thing he has always craved: her company. It would be easy to assume she made her choice to be with him, but in the end, that is only one of the long term benefits. Bella made the choice to be with herself, to continue to live her life and explore the world. She would have done that whether Edward chose to come along or not, although she can't hide her delight that he is still here, and shows no sign of running away again.

They are a tempestuous pair; both are stubborn and full of fire and clash often. Bella believes that's why Edward was alone for so long – he had no one to stand up to him. At seventeen, she wasn't ready, but the five years apart allowed her to grow comfortable in her own skin and have confidence in the decisions she makes.

They are not without their moments. They argue. He hovers; she tests the limits. He wants to protect, but she knocks him flat on his back, both with her unwillingness to be coddled and her superior strength.

They are fire and ice, forces of nature who rule their little island paradise with a childish delight. In time, they will begin to venture into the mainland, and Bella will start testing her self control around humans.

Even though the concept of forever is boundless, Bella proceeds slowly in her relationship with Edward. Her first days are spent learning to control her body, simple things like not crushing a doorknob or tearing pair of shorts as she pulls them on. It isn't until Bella is comfortable with her physical changes that they begin to probe around the fringes of something more. It is always with caution and the reminder that five years has gone by, and a base must be built for the desire of forever to be tolerable. They are both careful in their promises, spending hours talking about the things that intrigue them or places they want to see. Instead of living in myths, they take advantage of their constant state of awareness to build a reality that is grounded in fact. They tell each other stories from childhood, little secrets no one else has ever known.

They become friends, and it ends up being so much better than any myth could ever be.

Days and nights come and go, with no sequence or need to count. Once the Volturi were informed of Bella's 'renovations,' as Edward once jokingly called them, they have left them alone. Bella knows this is only temporary, and that sometimes in the not to distance future, she will have to deal with their covetous nature. For now, she pushes that knowledge to the side, and remains in her perfect little world.

The sun is low on the horizon as she lays stretched out on the couch with a book, trying desperately to maintain her self control. On the far side of the island, on another dock she was not aware of, wildlife is being unloaded. Deer, gazelle and goats, animals to "stock the island preserve" or so they say. This is how she'll survive, at least for a few more months.

"They're gone," Edward announces from the doorway. It's unnecessary; for Bella knew the moment they pulled away. The ache in her throat has died, and she feels victorious, stretching her arms over her head in mock celebration.

"Why must you insist on wearing my boxers?" he asks with mock consternation. "You know how I feel about appropriate attire, Bella."

"No," she answers with a smile. "But I have a sneaking suspicion that you really like seeing me in your clothes, and the fact that you like it so much scares you."

He opens his mouth to protest, but her laughter breaks him down, and soon he's laughing with her too. It comes so much easier these days, fueled by the development of healthy understanding and respect. That is what they had forgotten on the first try, and why everything fell apart the way it did. As their relationship develops, the respect is leading to comfort, which, contrary to popular belief, does not bring apathy.

No, not at all.

Edward crosses the room slowly, his ridiculous linen pants that he loves so much swishing quietly. He sits next to her on the couch and Bella props herself on her elbows, intercepting the kiss he meant to place on her forehead with her lips. When he doesn't pull away, she is the one to continue, scraping her teeth across his lower lip.

"Aren't you hungry?" He asks, clearly surprised by her enthusiasm. She is, although it's not for any livestock or wild animal roaming free through the rocks and trees. Bella slips her arms around Edward's neck, pulling him in closer to her, holding tight as she leans back.

They've been testing the limits, pushing farther, but always pulling back. At first it was fueled by Edward's own hesitancy, his concern that she is giving in to the newborn emotions, which rage and roil like an hormonal teenager. As she has gotten those under control, their slow, methodical pace matches the evolution of their intellectual and emotional relationship, slowly building up, piece after meticulously placed piece.

"I'm not going to be able to stop," he whispers against her neck.

Bella laughs, her arms squeezing tighter around his shoulders. "You said that once before, and I have no complaints."

He laughs, which is her new favorite sound, and kisses her again. There is no more resistance. Hands roam as his lips travel down her throat to the hollow above her collar bone. Her beloved Bisons t-shirt is removed reverentially, but that is the only thing. It can't be replaced - it's her one physical link to what was. Everything else? It's just clothing.

The laughter continues, mingled with unnecessary gasps of breaths and other sounds, hums and whispers that create a quiet soundtrack, mixing with the ocean as it breaks on the beach outside.

"Five years, way too many months, and I can't count the days," he whispers in her ear as they move together. "And I have always loved you."

There has been no conversation about his history, just as there has been no more discussion of Riley or her failed attempts to recreate what she lost. Just this, the two of them, finally together, ready to meet the future head on.

The ghosts and demons are finally gone. There will be no more running, no more pretending. As children, they couldn't see past physical splendor and desire to the subtler, nuanced beauty underneath. As adults, they recognize the desire, the longing, the need that drives their actions, and will do whatever it takes to keep this balance.

They will not age, not physically, and it is doubtful they will ever tire of each other. Forever caught in the bloom of first love, they will face each day like it's new, full of curiosity and enthusiasm, and a desire to push life as far as they can go.

"Just remember who said it first," she says, kissing his temple as they lay, wrapped together naked on the couch.

"Me, if I recall," Edward corrects.

And honestly, it doesn't matter who was first. It never really did.


Swear not by the moon by hmonster