"Have I told you how sharp you look in that tux?"
"Yes, I got your subtle hint."
"I was subtle?"
"No, Mom. When are you ever subtle?"
"Aw, Jas, I'm sorry; I shouldn't tease you so. You know how we love Bree, but just go ahead and take your time."
Jasper's eyes cut across the dance floor to where his girlfriend is waiting at the head table while I get to dance with the best man. Jasper's love is written all over his face, and it's a beautiful thing to see.
Jas starts to speak again, then cuts himself off and shakes his head. "I really shouldn't…"
"Shouldn't what?" I ease us to a slow sway so I can read his face.
In one exasperated breath, he spews, "I shouldn't tell my mother before my girlfriend, but I am going to propose tonight."
"What? Jasper Whitlock Swan! Why you…!" I give him a little shove and accidentally snag the edge of his boutonniere.
"Hey! Watch the flower, will ya?"
He rocks me one-handed while readjusting the pins on his lapel. "OW!" His head whips around to find his best friend—the groom. "Dammit, Edward! You just made me poke myself."
"Hey, man. It's not my fault you have to poke yourself. Why don't you talk to that gorgeous girlfriend of yours if you're not getting enough action?"
"Ugh. What do you want?"
"I'm cutting in. Go dance with my mom or something."
"Pfft, as if Manuel is gonna let anyone else near her."
"Not my problem," Edward says, poking his thumb over one shoulder. "Shove off."
Jas shakes his head, and I watch him saunter over toward Bree before turning my attention to one very handsome, tuxedo-clad Edward.
"Well, aren't you the charmer?"
"Hey, a groom's gotta do what a groom's gotta do. Shall we?"
Edward opens his arms and waits, his ever-present alluring grin lighting up his face.
"Meh, I suppose I could force myself."
Edward chuckles as he pulls me into his dance space, closing his left hand around my right, wrapping his hand around my back, and tucking me into his body. "Ah…good times."
"Yes," I answer, a bit more airily than planned.
"So how's Chef Boyardee's new restaurant doing?"
I glance over the sea of swaying bodies and pick out my handsome husband. He and a very pregnant Alice are doing some complicated twist moves, and both seem to be enjoying themselves immensely.
"It's doing well, blowing Boston and Burlington combined out of the water. The French love his 'cook with the chef' concept; the only downside is he's in Paris every other week. I miss him."
Edward puts his lips close to my ear and says, "Hmm, so you're lonely…?"
Having just crushed Jasper's orchid, I hit Edward much lower, catching his cummerbund with the back of my hand. "Oof! Hey!"
"It's your wedding day, Edward Cullen. Don't make me hurt you."
I pull back quickly and give him my sternest don't-fuck-with-me look. He holds up his hands in surrender and laughs. "Okay, okay, you know I'm only teasing."
"You're gonna behave now?"
"Funny, I don't remember you ever being a boy scout."
"No, but if I were, I'd be all over the honor bit. Come on, Biz, gimme another chance. I'll be good."
"You better be—she deserves it. Tell me you're treating her right, Edward."
His whole demeanor changes as his eyes find his bride swaying in her father's arms. "She's my whole life, Biz; you know I am."
"All right then," I agree, slipping back into his embrace.
"Unko Edwah! My tawn, my tawn!"
Edward grins and dips down between us, popping back up seconds later with my two-year-old spitfire of a granddaughter in his arms. "Hey, Mini Squirt! Whatcha doin' out here? I thought you were playing with Poppop and Grampy!"
I glance over at the table where Carlisle and Charlie are offering lame, apologetic shrugs. It's not their fault; Livia's got her mother's unstoppable spirit, and the two grandpas are no match for this little girl, especially when Uncle Edward is around.
"Dance! Dance!" she coos, giggling when Edward obliges her by spinning around like a crazy fool.
"You are such a good dancer, Livvy!" he gushes.
Edward's bride steps up next to me and puts her arm around my shoulders, heaving a contented sigh. "I don't suppose I'll ever get him back now."
I shake my head and laugh. "I wouldn't be too worried; younger women aren't really his thing."
"Lucky for me," she replies with a wink.
Amidst the twirling and bobbing, Edward manages to shoot his wife a happy grin. It's the same expression I'd imagined him wearing when he called me that January night to tell me about his new TA, a law clerk who took his breath away the first day of Criminal Law. He tripped over his words like a litter of brand new puppies spilling out of their cardboard box. He couldn't get the words out quickly enough—how she reminded him of me (only with big sexy librarian glasses), how smart and intuitive she was, how sweet and kind and generous—and then he paused, suddenly worried about my reaction.
That's when I told him about my chef, how Angela and I had gone for a post-New Year's girls' night out, how the new celebrity in town had flirted conspicuously with me in front of the entire group assembled to "cook with the chef," how he helped me manage my tarte tatin crust and later offered me a private cooking session to work on my technique. Our first night alone in the kitchen of Apropos was all it took; I was putty in his hands before the Chateaubriand was set in the oven, and by the time he'd beat the egg whites to a peak for our chocolate soufflé, my heart and my libido were in perfect agreement.
"Is this little one giving you trouble, Edward?"
Speaking of my master chef...
"No, man. We're good, but toss me that bride, would you please?"
My dashing husband turns to us. "Ladies?" I fall easily into his strong arms and firm chest, and Edward takes his wife, crushing Liv between them to her utter delight.
"Mmm, you smell so good," I tell him, burying my nose in his clean-shaven cheek.
His chest vibrates with laughter. "I smell a whole lot better on this side of the kitchen door."
"You smell good everywhere," I assure him, and it's true. He's always been self-conscious about 'bringing his work home with him,' but what wife would complain about a man who smells and tastes like a sumptuous banquet every night?
"You having a good time?"
Silly man. I'm floating in his arms, surrounded by my closest friends and ever-expanding family. A mere four years ago, all of us were existing on our separate islands—Esme in Miami, Charlie and Carlisle together but alone in San Francisco, me in Vermont, and our children scattered all over the country. Here we are today, gathered in this beautiful hotel in South Beach, a unified, admittedly complicated family.
My granddaughter may have an interesting time explaining why she has four grandfathers and five uncles, but Jasper's law school housemates, Riley and Emmett, have become as much a part of our family as Charlie and Carlisle, and it is a beautiful thing to behold.
We've never spoken again about that stolen Christmas we shared, but Edward and I will always have our perfect, shared memory. I keep mine sealed away in a special chamber of my heart and look back fondly every now and then without regret.
"Yes, I'm having the time of my life."
A/N: For those of you who made it to the end, I thank you for opening your hearts and minds to something different (and possibly, not entirely pleasant for you.) Yes, it's really done now...no, they're REALLY NOT together!
Special note of thanks to my highly Inappropriate Team- Shell Shock, Intricacy Alterite, and Chayasara- for their great advice, a whole lot of hand-holding, and for not spilling the beans!
Many of you have ideas for alternate endings. Feel free to do what you'd like with these characters! You may have noticed, I never name Edward's bride or Bizzy's husband, so feel free to assign them the names you'd like (and if it's Bella and Edward, so be it!) I certainly hope the story leaves you feeling uplifted. I like to believe that two people can experience something profoundly love-affirming together that changes them both but does not necessarily end up with marriage, children, and matching rocking chairs. Even more than that, I like to believe that the fanfiction realm can handle a different kind of HEA every now and then. Cheers to you all, and here's to more fun in 2013! XXX ~BOH
LATE-BREAKING NEWS: BI has just been nominated for Twifanfictionrec's Top Ten Fics Completed in December! Woo HOO! If you'd like to vote, here's the link: www . twifanfictionrecs . com