Thank you everyone who has read, reviewed, commented, recced or even just chatted with me on Twitter. My lovely FGB team, I forever appreciate the chance to write these two again and your generosity. Kate B, thanks for putting up with my crap and disagreeing with on enough things to keep our friendship so interesting; Kate S, thanks for being a friend and a cheerleader. Famouslyso for always making pretty things, and JaimeArkin, for being the sweetest person in the fandom.
I'm not sure if I'll write more of these two; maybe an outtake or two. I will be writing some non-TBIEH stuff, so if you're interested in that, put me on alert.
I took some liberties with some of the mechanics of one particular thing that happens in this chapter. Call it artistic license, or call it sloppiness, but I hope it doesn't spoil the chapter for you.
Anywayyyyyyyyy, without further ado:
The Best Thing I Ever Did.
"Is it ironic that despite everyone saying that I'm the most commitment-phobic, non-feeling person in the world, I got engaged the fastest?" you ask, dumping clothes from the washer into the dryer.
I shrug. "It's something, but I don't know if it's ironic."
"Maybe it's Alanis Morissette-type ironic."
"Which is to say, not actually ironic at all?"
"Exactly. Oh, Alanis… my sister cynic." You let out a short, barking laughing.
"That makes you sound like sister-wives."
"That's exactly what we are. Except instead of sharing a real husband, we just pass around the voodoo dolls of men we've known to stick pins into."
You joke, but I see it in the way your mouth twitches a little. I see how much you don't want to be that person. And I see everyday how much you aren't that person. Me, us living together, that ring on your finger, it's all proof; you've got so much love in you.
"See here's the thing about you," I tell you, just blurting out everything I'm thinking as I walk over and slip my arms around you from behind. You turn to face me. "You think you're some misanthropic, socially repugnant witch... but you're not. We joke about it, sure but you're not that. At all. You're funny, and you love people in this quiet, ferocious way. You never even have to say 'I love you' to anyone. They just know." I've always known. "That's how strong you do it."
"Edward..." you start, and I love the way you gently push my shoulder away as if to make me stop but then let your hand slide to my chest, where you fist my shirt and pull me back to you. There it is: the way you love me is in that gesture, in that handful of t-shirt that could easily be my heart.
"What you are is a skin-deep cynic," I continue. "A pessimist who is just looking for any chance to be proven wrong. Because then not only is your real, deep-down-inside faith in people is affirmed, but you also get to be grumpy because you hate being wrong but you love an excuse to be grumpy. And I'll always be there to do that."
"Make me grumpy?" you ask, unable to resist teasing me. I never want you to.
I laugh. "Yeah. I'll be there to prove you wrong, make you happy about being proven wrong and then make you grumpy about being happy."
"Edward?" Your lips curve up perfectly and there's something in your eyes, this look; I have no idea what you're going to say next and I can't wait to find out.
"I want to marry you."
I smile and tug on your left ring finger. "Pretty sure you know I feel the same way."
"No... I want to marry you right now."
Like I'm going to say no to that.
The pieces fall so smoothly into place that it's like this is exactly how it is supposed to happen. My parents drive down with Charlie; Renee's already in town; Garrett and Kate cancel their sitter and bring the baby and Alice and Jasper are free. We manage to drag Rose and Emmett away from honeymooning bliss long enough to get them on Skype on Jasper's ever-present iPad and we get an appointment down at city hall. And so, that evening, almost exactly a year to the moment I leaned over and kissed you and started all this, we get married.
You don't walk down an aisle because I'd always rather you be next to me. Your father doesn't give you away because I don't want to take you; I just want to have you. You wear this white dress that is safety-pinned in the back because the last time you wore it, I pretty much ripped it off you—whoops. Nothing about this wedding is planned or traditional, but everything about it is us. It may just be a small, five minute formality at city hall, but it still feels like the most important thing I've ever done.
Maybe other girls cry at their wedding and at their husband's words, but you just smile because nothing I say is a surprise. We've always known this, always known everything about each other, even before that very first time I leaned over and kissed you on what seemed like impulse, but I now realize was instinct.
After that whole discussion about vows, we barely give ourselves time to write them. I tell you this and you laugh. "Wing it," you say, shrugging. Then you smile and it's so devious. "Just know that your love for me will be judged by these words for the rest of our lives."
"No pressure then."
"Ehh, it's just always. NBD."
So when it comes time for our vows, I take your hand and kiss it, holding it to my chest as I speak. "If you're a bird, I'm a bird," I tell you. You start to laugh as Jasper says, "Dude, that's not even your own line! Be original!"
I turn around and tell him to shut up and he grins back. I turn back to you and continue, "As I was saying: if you're a bird, I'm a bird. And if you are a dog, I'm a dog." I can hear the others murmuring, getting a little confused about my vows, but you're laughing so that's all that matters to me. "I can't wait to be married to you for ten years. For fifty years. I can't wait to be married to you longer that I wasn't married to you. And the only thing I want to vow to you is that I'm going to be in love with you for the rest of my life, Bella, and I'm really, really excited to do that."
Like I said: you're not the type to bawl at a wedding, even your own. But a few tears do sneak out, even as you're laughing, and Charlie has to hand you his handkerchief because you're this lovely, ridiculous, perfect mess. You hold up your hand and take a minute before you say your own vows.
And what you say makes me want to marry you a million times over.
"Hi," you say, and we both laugh. "I'm not good with all the sentiments and words. But I—I'm the luckiest girl in the world, Edward. A lot of people marry the person they love most. And yeah, I get to do that but I'm so, so lucky because I get to marry the person I like most in the world." You grin and reach over, grabbing my lapel to pull me a little closer, as if you can't even stand to be even this little apart for the few minutes till we're married. I know exactly how you feel. "And if you'll let me, I'll spend the rest of my life liking you."
Your words are amazing, they really are. But the truth is, your smile is the only vow I need.
When we kiss for the first time as husband and wife, it's kind of sloppy, since we're laughing and there are a couple tears hanging like stalactites on the bottom of your chin. It's still perfect. When we pull apart, I hug you to me, loving how you shriek a little when I lift you off the ground.
"Are you happy?" I ask you. That's all I ever want.
"I'm really, really happy," you assure me as I lower you back to the ground. You wipe at your face with the heel of your palm and give me a huge smile.
"Like 'Surprise! There's actually second tray of truffles under the first one in this box' happy?" I ask you and you burst into laughter.
"Yeah," you say, grinning. "Except way more than that. You, Edward Cullen, are like getting a never-ending box of truffles. For the rest of my life."
It barely makes sense but I know you well enough to know that there couldn't be higher praise.
"Dating for a year, engaged for one day and now married," Mom says, smiling proudly. "You two were always meant to be."
You and I exchange a sly look; we're not rude enough to roll our eyes at my mother, but the sentiment is still there. It's amazing how after we've gotten together, everyone has rewritten history to make it seem like we were always in love with each other.
"I don't know about always," I say.
"The last year," you say. Then shyly, because declarations of emotion are still not your thing, you quietly add, "And every year from now."
I smile at you and tighten my arm around you, kissing your temple.
My mother watches our exchange fondly. "You two are either lying to us or lying to yourselves if you think that how long it's been. It's been much, much longer."
Now I have to roll my eyes. "Oh yeah, I forgot, we exchanged promise umbilical cords in the womb."
"Don't be facetious, Edward," she says, but she's fighting a smile.
I grin back at her. "Don't be hyperbolic, Mom."
"Don't talk back to your mother, Edward," Dad interrupts calmly. Mom beams at him and he kisses her on the cheek. "Even if she is being hyperbolic." She pulls a face, and we all laugh. If every day could just be like this, with my family and my friends and you, I don't think I could want anything more.
"I guess after seven years of being friends, you don't want to waste any more time," Dad says.
You shrug. "It's not that. We haven't ever wasted time, not to me," you say, poking me in the stomach. I recoil because you hit that ticklish spot only you know I have. "Someone once told me," you continue, smiling. "That when you know, you know. And if you know you know then there's no reason to say no." You turn to me. "Y'know?"
I grin because I know. You smile back because you knew I knew.
Mom and Dad walk away, shaking their heads in equal parts exasperation and affection, and Alice herds everyone out of the courtroom. They all head out to go to catch cabs to the restaurant for a celebration dinner but you and I hang back, staying in the room for a little longer. I slip my arm around your shoulder and you slip both of yours around my waist, hugging me tightly to you. We're silent for a few moments as we watch other couples get married. Like we just did. All these people pledging themselves to each other; we're all so different, but for this one thing, we're all here and we're all the same. It's pretty amazing.
As if you're thinking the same thing, you say, "Wow. We got married."
I chuckle. "We did."
"Doesn't change anything, though," you say, stretching your neck to rest your chin on my shoulder.
"It doesn't?" I turn my head to look down at you. You're so pretty in that dress, even though it's totally inappropriate for how cold it is outside. Your lips are red because they're chapped and you keep biting at them. You've got the beginnings of a hickey on your collarbone, remnants of last night, and the way you're smiling at me—god. Your vows were spot on. I like you. I like you so, so much.
"No, nothing's going to change." You go on your tiptoes to kiss me gently. "That's a promise."
I couldn't ask for more.
What you said to my mom was absolutely right; I've never felt like the time before we got together was wasted. It was just us being us. Just like we are now, but with the sex and couple stuff. I guess that's why we work. With you and me, nothing is ever wasted. As long as it's us, Edward and Bella, with our friends or by ourselves, hanging out or making out, in our bar or at our wedding or on our bed, it doesn't matter; it just doesn't get better than that.
In the din of other people's promises of love, I give you silent one of my own, hoping you'll hear it when I lean down to kiss you. In the end, it's just us that matters.
But the best thing is: we're nowhere near the end.
I manage to convince you to walk out the front entrance of city hall, instead of the back where the cabs are. You're protesting, asking me why, never letting me get anything the easy way and I love it. But I have something planned.
When we get outside, it's snowing lightly. You laugh when you hear the music, covering your mouth with your hands as you see the same doo-wop group from the subway harmonizing to the Wedding March. You throw your head back and laugh before turning to me. "Do you have these guys on retainer or something?"
I shrug. I'm not going to reveal my secrets, because it's a hell of a lot more romantic to have doo wop groups show up out of nowhere than explain to you that explain that I have Caius, the half-blind lead singer's phone number.
"Alright, now I'm going to really embarrass you," I tell you.
Your eyes grow wide and you look wary, but not scared. You are finally completely ready for whatever I throw at you. "What is it?"
I nod at Caius and with a signal of his hand, the quartet smoothly transitions into what I told them was our wedding song. I turn you to face me, placing one of your hands on my shoulder as I grab the other one and we begin dancing, right there there, next to the entrance of City Hall, to the melodic strains of… the Thong Song.
You bury your face in my thick coat, but you're laughing so hard I can still feel it through all the layers. When you look up at me, you shrug. "Well, I'm the idiot who said I wanted this as my wedding song."
"Aren't you lucky you have a boyfriend who will do this stuff for you?" I ask.
You grin and lean up on your tiptoes to kiss me quickly, but softly. "Not boyfriend. Husband. And I am."
And there, with half of the street smiling at us, and the other half staring at us like we're crazy as we dance, I am finally as married to you as I actually feel.
Part of me can hardly believe what happened today.
It all worked out perfectly in a totally roundabout way, but that's how it is with us. But it's so fitting that it was today. Valentine's Day means something to everyone else, but for you and me, it's the night before. That's when it all started one year ago, and tonight we've started something new all over again.
We've been celebrating with everyone so I'm a little drunk but luckily not so drunk that I can't act on it. You are a bit tipsy, too, I can tell from your glazed smile. I remember one of the first times I met you—I found those tipsy giggles fucking adorable. Years later, you're still giggling and I'm still adoring.
We stumble into the bedroom, knocking stuff over and not caring as long as some part of me is on you and some part of you is on me. Right now, it's my fingers, sliding your dress up your leg and slipping into your underwear, and your hand in my hair, scratching my scalp.
I think about that first time I kissed you; realizing I wanted you was the best thing that's ever happened to me, leaning in to kiss you is the smartest, craziest, best thing I ever did.
I think I might have known it right then, that night even though I stand by what I thought earlier, what you said. I've never once thought we wasted time being just friends, but still, it feels like that was another Edward, one who was just waiting for something he didn't realize was sitting across from him at the bar most nights or stealing the pieces of cookie dough from his ice cream.
I've been lost in my thoughts, but you, my smart, sweet girl, you're so, so much sweeter, so much smarter than I am. You've gotten rid of most of our clothes because you know the way every single one of my shirts unbutton. You know how to kiss me to make me fall into pieces, with your tongue slowly licking my bottom lip where you've pulled it into your mouth and you know just how to touch me and put me back together again. You know that this is the pair of pants you have to shimmy down my ass a bit because they're tight and I hate them but you love the way I look in them, so I still wear them.
You kiss like no one else, like you're making love—and I hate that term. But that's what you kiss like; when your lips are on mine, it's like we're in a dark room with the curtains drawn and it's just us in this world and nothing else matters. You push me on to the bed on my back, and god, I love you so much. How well you know me, how you put up with me, how you're stumbling as you yank on my pants, trying to get them over my feet, forgetting that my shoes are still on. Before you fall and hurt yourself, I sit up, grabbing your hips and pulling you so you're standing right in front of me. As I toe off my shoes and kick my pants away, I kiss the space below your belly button. Your skin tastes so good; you're so sweet, so beautiful, so warm, so hot. And you're making these noises that are better than anything in my wildest dreams because dreams are fake and you, from your soft, smooth skin to the way you hiccup a little because champagne makes you do that, is so real.
I slide your dress off your shoulders, letting it fall to the ground in a pool of white and hold on to your hips as you step out of it. Then I fall back onto the bed and just look up at you. You grin down at me and I can barely believe it. You're with me, for the rest of our lives. It's strange because I keep waiting to be surprised. First, you went from Bella, my friend to Bella, my girlfriend, but it felt completely natural. Then you moved in with me, but it was almost like you'd been there all along. And now… you're my wife. My wife. And it's just like it was before and it's just like everything else is with you: perfect.
There is something that astounds me about us when we're like this. We have enough sex that it should be gone by now, that utter need to touch you and be touched by you. It should have lessened, but it never does. But as you straddle me, naked and moving in a way that's almost there but not quite, a way that gets me closer with each shift of your hips, each sound that you make, I stop thinking about that. The things your skin, your body does to me are too good to let me think about anything but you.
I go with it, rolling my hips in time with yours, moving the way your body is telling me to. I touch you when that little furrow in your brow tells me you need to be touched, and when your bottom lip disappears under your teeth, I go a little faster with a little more force. It's not that it's all about you; it's that you give me something every time, every day, every moment, and I'd be an idiot not to give something back to you.
Something, anything, everything for you.
When I look back on that night, I'd like to say that I knew it was special. That it was laughing and magic and the best of what was already the best in my life.
But that is pretty much every night with you.
Thanks for reading, guys. You're the best.