A/N: Well, here we are at long last! I have so many of you to thank for your support. First, a warm, loving thanks to my beta Emerald Star73, because this would have been a much shorter (and not as fun) story and would be bereft of canon details I tend to forget about as well as being riddled with errors, fragments, and other horrors. Also, a huge thanks to my biggest supporters: allidel, littlelizruth, DutchGirl01, stephi910, Bluehummingbird8, luvyateamedward, Wheels2, JavaMasta, Nissa-Cullen, Cullenosopy, and Matthias Stormcrow! There are many others I haven't mentioned, and you've all been wonderful, and hearing from you has put a smile on my face. And just a super huge thanks to you all for sticking with me on this long, crazy journey!
What not to expect in this epilogue (just a little warning): Wedding(s). We've all seen it/read it a hundred times. Been there. Done that.
Edward appeared as though he was trying to contain a smile, keeping his face serious "Bella Swan, I'm going to make sure I haven't misunderstood your intentions and will ask you once again: Will you make me the happiest man on earth and be my wife?"
She smiled, meeting the light in his eyes, imagining feeling the same joy in not only decades but also centuries from now.
"Penny for your thoughts, Mrs. Cullen?" Edward asked, squeezing her back against his chest, the satin from the sheets the only fabric touching their skin.
Bella smiled as the tropical breeze swept through the window. "I was just thinking how happy I am. The wedding was absolutely beautiful." She paused, knotting her fingers into his. "Everything is as it should be."
Somehow, that statement didn't come out as affirming as it should have.
"But?" he asked.
"Nothing," she said. "There's no but. I am married to the kindest, most considerate man in the world, honeymooning on Esme's island, and have spent the happiest weeks of my life here with my husband..."
"But?" he pressed.
She turned to face him, uneasy from the lines creasing his forehead. "I should be happy," she said in a small voice. "Right?"
"Tell me what's bothering you."
"I've been thinking about Renée...a lot...about what she said at Charlie's funeral. At first, I thought it would stop eating at me. She thinks I'm alive, and there's been no closure for her..."
"We can stage your funeral."
"No...that's not what I mean, I...I miss her, Edward. I want to see her. I was her only child, and I want her to know I am still alive."
"Could be tricky," he warned.
"But not impossible."
Alice had seen to every detail, renting a small office in a residential building in Florida and decorating it with all manners of fortune-telling paraphernalia from the dark red velvet draperies to the beads hanging from the doorway. Upon the delivery of some well-placed business cards, Renee had taken the bait and made the appointment. When the bell signaled Renee's arrival, Alice smoothed down the locks of her long, red wig and adjusted the headband across her forehead.
"Showtime," she breathed and then entered the room with a flourish. "Hello," she greeted, shaking Renee's hand with a lacy glove.
"Yes, hi, um... Madame Giselle?"
"You're so young."
"No worries. I've been doing this a very long time." Alice gestured to a wide burgundy arm chair. "Please make yourself comfortable."
"Okay," Renee said, sitting down and placing her purse down by her feet. "I'm only coming to you today because -"
Alice didn't let her finish. "I'll do the talking. When I'm finished, you may ask questions."
She leaned in, taking Renee's hands in hers and closed her eyes. "Your daughter is missing."
"I told you that over the phone," Renee said.
"Yes, that is correct. A young woman - about seventeen. She disappeared from a gas station in Phoenix. You miss her terribly."
Alice popped open an eye to see Renee's head bobbing.
"I just need to know what happened. Everyone says she's dead, but I don't believe it."
"She's not dead." Alice took a breath and closed her eyes, squeezing Renee's hands. "I see...a man was struggling with another...a stabbing. Your daughter ran from the scene but the man took her." A pause. "I see a basement - cobwebs, dusty. Lots of yelling upstairs...gunshots. Bella got out through a window and made it to the police. I see paperwork being handed to her - a new ID, some keys, her hair is shorter now," she said, making a slice with her hands just below the ears. "And blonde, her eyes are a yellowish- gold. New name and new look, but definitely your daughter."
"Bella's still alive! I just knew it. Thank God!"
"That's right. I sense that there is a danger that clouds over her. Like she must relocate at a moment's notice. But she is safe."
Renée's face became hopeful. "Can I see her? I mean, will I see her?"
"Meeting with your daughter presents risks for you both."
"Please, Madame Giselle? Where is she? When can I see her?"
Alice's eyes held Renee's gaze steadily before she spoke again. "She goes by the name Lisa Banes. There is an address... and I see a moonlit walk along the shore of Daytona Beach."
6 months later
"So, now it's official," Jacob told Bella, twirling her around by one arm until her other hand met with his.
"It's definitely official. But, I already considered Sue family long before this. The ceremony was beautiful. Charlie looked so happy. Everything was perfect."
"And you are a beautiful matron of honor," Jacob said. "The ceremony was classy and elegant and all, but, I have to admit that yours and Edward's was unique."
Bella's smile widened. The Northern Lights indeed lent a breathtaking touch to their nuptials; it was hard to beat the glowing waves of changing colors for a background. In her mind, nothing could even come close to the sight of Edward in his designer black tuxedo, reciting his vows under the rise and fall of aqua and turquoise. The night she became Mrs. Cullen was easily the best moment of her life, and she would always cherish the memory of dancing underneath the stars and splendor with her new husband.
During Charlie and Sue's reception, Edward had been stolen from Bella for a few dances, and upon seeing Jacob standing alone off to the side, Bella snatched him up right away.
"Talk to your mom lately?" he asked.
"I emailed her yesterday, but I've seen her twice since she met with Alice. And I talk to her about once every two weeks. Once I was sure she accepted the story that I was in the Witness Protection Program and can deal with the new me, we don't have to worry about all the other stuff."
"'The fact that she's human and you're not' stuff?"
"Right. All that matters is that I keep in contact with her. It doesn't seem to matter to her if the postcard comes from Alaska or New York or even Canada. She's happy just knowing that I'm still out here...and safe."
"I'm much happier."
"When are you going to introduce her to her son-in-law?"
"Actually I wasn't planning to. Once there's a spouse, there'll be dinner invitations and weekend gatherings. Leaving him out of it makes things less complicated. Plus, I won't have to hear about making her a grandma."
"How does Edward feel about that?"
"He's fine with it. But if he decides to meet her someday, then we'll tell her we eloped. Now, how's your dad?" Since Jacob had been spending time with his sisters and dad in La Push, she'd wondered if he'd developed any new interests.
"He's the same. He thought he would try teaching me to cook and let me work on his truck like old times...but as much as he wants me to be, I'm not human and never will be again. But it was nice seeing him. And it's not so bad hanging with the guys...even though they're wolves."
"But that's not what you really wanna know, is it? Just ask me. It's okay. No, I haven't met anyone. Probably never will. I've accepted it. I, Jacob Black, am destined to be alone forever," he said in a mock dramatic tone.
"Aw c'mon. Edward thought he was too."
"Some vampires never find their mates. Look at Tanya and Kate..."
"Well, I don't know...Kate's looking pretty friendly with Garrett over there."
"Yeah, does Charlie even know Garrett?"
"Kate invited him. They met at my wedding. Edward insisted that Carlisle invite all their friends, and ever since she has been spending a lot of time with Garrett...which proves my point."
"I'm not opposed to the idea," Jacob admitted. "It's just that for the Quileutes, there's something called an imprint, which makes love at first sight seem like child's play, and that used to be a legend among my people. And it seems two from my tribe, including my former best friend Quil, have imprinted."
"Do you think it could happen to you?"
"Well, since I'm not technically one of them anymore, I sincerely doubt it."
"I think that you shouldn't give up hope."
"I'm just not gonna hold my breath."
It was just like old times, Bella mused, having the Cullens under the same roof, even if they were dressed in costume. Though the strings of lights and the oversized cobwebs and glow in the dark skulls gave the Cullen home an appropriately eerie look, the festive music added a playful energy to the occasion. A large screen displayed music videos, and a mirrored ball that hung from the ceiling bounced the reflection of hundreds of squares across the large room.
Edward, with a white mask covering the right side of his face and a long cape hanging from his shoulders, made a dashing phantom of the opera. The long curls that hung from Bella's head kept catching on the decorative webbing, and she was tempted to remove the wig altogether. At the time, she thought dressing as Christine opposite the phantom seemed like a good idea, but the white lacy pajama ensemble she was wearing made her self-conscious. However, Edward seemed not to take his eyes off of her...which was just fine with Bella.
"So, is it working?" Bella asked him.
"Your shield is perfection, my dear," he said, using his best Phantom accent. "I can only hear myself think. It's strange, but I can definitely get used to it."
"And so you shall for the whole night," she smiled and curtsied.
Tinker bell aka Alice, had stopped in her tracks, her sight past the strobe lights showering the room. "Oh no," she said.
"What is it?" Edward asked, concerned. This feeling of surprise was new to him.
"It's okay," she said, "let me handle this."
The doorbell rang, and the group flocked to the door, but Carlisle insisted on opening it, gesturing for everyone to step back.
On the other side of the door, she stood there, her features like that of a child, blonde hair hidden inside the black cloak. A smirk rested on her lips as the room full of horrified faces looked on.
"Jane," Bella uttered.
Jasper, dressed as Captain Hook, and a very green, muscular Emmett moved to guard Carlisle. "What do you want?" Jasper demanded.
"What?" she asked innocently, her lips falling into a pout. "I heard this was a party."
"You were not invited," Jasper said, sharply.
At this her eyes opened wide. "As a matter of fact I was, Captain."
Bella stepped forward. "I invited her."
All eyes turned to her, and Jane joined Bella at her side. "That's right. And this is... the best Halloween prank ever!"
The petite frame of Jane morphed into Jacob's tall figure, and he gave Bella a high five as everyone in the room laughed.
"Nice costume," Emmett teased. "A girl."
Jacob frowned. "You underestimate me, Hulk." His body and face then changed into that of Jane's twin brother, Alec. "For I'm not simply one - I am the Volturi."
The doorbell sounded again, and Alice greeted Tanya dressed as Madonna, her sparkling bustier featuring the infamous cones for breasts. She was accompanied by Laurent and Irina who were dressed as Prince and Britney Spears.
"The entertainers," Alice said with a smile, gesturing for them to enter.
Carmen and Eleazar soon followed. Eleazar was a proper Zorro all in black with a mask that covered his eyes, and above his lip sat a thin mustache. Carmen donned a wig of black, straight shoulder-length hair, and an Egyptian garment depicting her royalty.
"Zorro and Cleopatra?"
"We couldn't agree on a couple's costume," Carmen said, the note of bitterness clear in her voice. "He is a handsome Zorro, though, yes?"
"Yes, he is," Alice agreed with a wink, flirtatiously linking Eleazar's arm into hers as Jasper took Carmen's arm in his. "Come in and enjoy."
"I wonder what's taking..." Before Bella could finish her sentence she heard the familiar steps approaching. "Ah, they're they are."
"Santa and Mrs. Claus," Alice said once they approached the front steps. "So clever."
"Tell me you're really surprised," Sue joked.
"I am. I had to promise not to peek, and I'm glad I didn't. You two look great."
Bella had to see for herself. Charlie was jolly old St. Nick with the white beard, wig, red hat, and velvet suit. She guessed they colored his mustache for the occasion. With the exception of their eye color, the two had put some effort into pulling off the look from the stuffing inside their costumes to the facial lines curling at the edges of their lips and corners of their eyes.
"Wrinkles?" Bella asked. "How did you do that?"
Charlie gestured to Sue. "She's a makeup genius."
"There's no limit to what you can do with some flesh-colored latex and YouTube," she said.
"Truly amazing, Sue." Bella was in awe. "You look at least thirty years older."
The strains of the Time Warp played, and Sue elbowed her partner. "Thank you, Christine and Monsieur Phantom. Now, Santa, I think they're playing our song."
"I think I'll sit this one out," Charlie said.
"Not in this lifetime," Sue countered.
With a smile, Bella watched the colorful row of characters dancing to the popular song.
"Do you want to join?" Edward asked.
"Not yet," she said, considering the unintentional gravity of Charlie and Sue's playful costumes. "Do you realize what this means, Edward? This could change everything. Sue and Charlie don't even look like they're wearing makeup."
Bella remained silent as she focused her attention solely on Edward.
Edward's brow rose. "I...can hear your thoughts..." He paused for a moment and almost laughed. "You're thinking that if we look like we're aging, then we don't have to leave Forks...if we're careful."
"I read your mind, Bella, and you were somehow able to block out everyone else's thoughts."
"Again, you are correct."
"That's incredible. When did you realize you could do that?"
"As soon as it occurred to me to try." Her finger ran along the edge of his mask that bordered his right cheek. "Hey do you want to know something else?"
Edward smiled after a moment. "Why, Mrs. Cullen, I had no idea you were capable of such thoughts," he whispered and then set a kiss on her neck that set off sparks all along her body. "I like it and can't wait to get you back to the cottage."
Just the idea of being alone with Edward again was enough to shoot a wave of desire through her, and it was easy for her to block out their surroundings. He then peeled himself away from her. "For now, let's enjoy the company of our family."
Reluctantly she nodded, pushing away the less than tasteful thoughts from her mind. "Dancing now. Unmasking later."
"And Bella, I love you, too," he said, leading her out to join the line of merriment. They took their spot beside Jacob, now as Felix, catching the tail end of the tune.
The First Annual Cullen Halloween Bash had proved to be a success, and as the group looked on and mimicked the figures on the large screen to Michael Jackson's Thriller, laughter filled the air. They danced into the night, their lives rife with possibilities and heady with the realization that the best was yet to come.
# # #
Lying perfectly still, Jacob peered upward from the coffin until after the last heartbeat faded into the distance. The service had been long and heart-wrenching.
She had truly been loved, no mistake about that. The junior class of Forks High and the teachers had been there. When each person had paid their respects to the seventeen year old and whispered their goodbyes, Jacob had felt their loss and heartache in their words and in the small tokens placed inside her casket. This girl was special, and she didn't even realize how much she meant to those around her. And in a very selfish way, he was grateful that her body was not the one being buried - that her face, her smile, the ray of sunshine that was this girl would still exist in his world.
This body that he was portraying - her body, was indeed, the last they would ever see of her. He had Carlisle to thank, of course. A stunt like this could never been pulled off without the Cullens' help, and he knew there was one reason they had done this for him: Jacob had fallen for her, and though he hadn't admitted it even to himself, he knew it was the truth. Imprint, love at first sight, call it what you will, he had been lost to Vanessa from the moment she walked into the classroom.
Her frail human life was being put to rest too soon for a soul her age. Today was the formal goodbye to those who knew her. Today marked the third day of her transformation.
Today was the day of her rebirth.
And today, more than anything he couldn't wait to be there when Nessie awoke.
A/N: And for the last time, thanks for reading, and I hope to hear from you!