This story is Part Three in a series.
Part 1: Castaway - an AU version of New Moon.
Part 2: Straight On 'Til Morning - an AU version of Eclipse.
From there, the story takes two directions. There are two alternate endings to the series.
Part 3-A: Blue Moon
Part 3-B: Forever
You can read the alternate third parts in either order. They are unrelated and independent, although at times they follow a parallel storyline.
When being interviewed about Breaking Dawn, Kristen Stewart said, "Somebody asked me where the story would go, if it were to keep going. If we've done our job right, the rest is boring. They're happy. They're done. There are no more challenges for them, and that's what they've worked so hard to get to." That about sums this story up.
I turned right and eased my truck carefully into place beside the gas pump. The gas station was busy, but nobody so much as glanced my way. Forks was full of pickup trucks, and mine wasn't even the oldest one in town.
I knew, having been tipped off by Alice, that Edward was already choosing the new car that was to be my wedding present. He'd apparently narrowed it down to several ridiculously expensive vehicles with vaguely familiar Italian names: Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Pavarotti, Tortellini... There was a time when the idea of driving a luxury sports car would have made me break out in hives, but I'd moved on. More or less.
My eyes were on the slowly increasing numbers on the digital screen above the gas tank, but my thoughts were elsewhere. My plans for the immediate future were being nailed down, and there was a lot to think about.
There was a wedding on the horizon. Following the wedding, an even more momentous event. I was going to leave my human life behind, become part of Edward's family and be with him forever. I was at the same time overjoyed at the prospect, and a little bit frightened.
A year ago, it would have been the wedding that scared me most, irrational as that may seem, but I'd overcome most of my issues with marriage. It was significant personal growth in a year filled with personal growth. It meant that I was preparing to meet the Cullens and discuss wedding plans with barely a ripple of apprehension.
I replaced the gas cap and hopped back into the driver's seat, pulling carefully out of the lot and turning toward the highway. When I reached a deserted stretch of road, I glanced to my right and was startled to see Edward through my passenger side window. Apart from the fact that his hair was blowing back in the rushing wind, he seemed to be standing still, but I realized he was running, easily keeping pace with my truck although I was driving close to the speed limit. I pulled over, and he hopped into the passenger seat.
"Bella." He said my name as if it were poetry. He smiled at me, and I leaned over to kiss him. I took my time about it; I hadn't seen him since morning.
"What brings you here?" I asked, finally leaning back and catching my breath. "Out for a jog along the highway? It's not exactly pedestrian-friendly, you know."
"Alice saw you coming to the house, and I thought I'd run ahead to meet you."
"I'm glad you did." I pulled back out on the highway. "It's been hours."
"An eternity," he agreed, grinning. We both knew how obsessive we were about each other, and we were okay with that. "I also wanted to warn you that Alice has some wardrobe issues to discuss with you."
I grimaced. "For the wedding?"
"Yes. I gather she's finished your dress."
"Oh. Well, we were supposed to be talking about the wedding tonight. We may as well get the clothing and accessories out of the way at the same time."
"Alice is easier to face when I have the rest of you backing me up."
"I'll do my best, but I may take Alice's side in some cases. She bought lingerie as well."
I blushed. "I won't debate her on that."
"I'm very much obliged." He gave me a mischievous look, and I giggled.
Edward had once been very circumspect about expressing any interest in the physical part of our relationship. Being officially engaged made it acceptable, according to his 1918 sensibilities, to be a little more forward. It was one part of being engaged that I particularly enjoyed.
I turned down the long drive leading to the Cullen house. Edward was at the driver's side and holding the truck's door open for me before I had time to turn off the engine. I gave a slightly apprehensive look at the front door, and he smiled and took my hand.
"I realize this discussion will be something of an ordeal for you," he said, "and I'm sorry for that. But I can't help feeling just…profoundly happy. I'm planning my marriage to the woman I love." He stopped and turned to face me. "Does it really mean nothing to you, that we'll be promised to each other forever?"
"Of course, it means something to me! You know it means everything to me! It's just that…I considered myself promised to you, forever, a long time ago. The wedding itself doesn't seem like such a milestone to me."
He nodded, satisfied but far from happy.
"I'm sorry we see this so differently. But I will tell you one thing," I said. "Whether or not I see this as a mere formality, when I say those vows, I am going to mean every single word. Every syllable. I wouldn't say them if I didn't. That part is as real for me as it is for you."
His face changed. For a second I wasn't sure if he was going to laugh or cry, but then he smiled and took my face gently between his hands. "I see we agree on the essentials. Thank you, love." He kissed me, and we walked to the house together.
"Bella!" Alice appeared in front of me, seemingly out of nowhere, and hugged me.
I exhaled sharply. "Not quite so hard, please, Alice!"
"Welcome, Bella," Esme said, smiling and approaching to kiss me carefully on the cheek. "Have you eaten?"
"Yes, thanks. I had dinner with Charlie before I came." I broke off as Alice grabbed my hand and dragged me toward the stairs.
"Alice!" Edward protested.
"I'll just be five minutes, Edward," she said over her shoulder, pulling me up the steps. "I have to show her the dress before we get started." She pulled me down the corridor and into her room, then flitted into her oversized closet and emerged holding a garment bag. "There!" she said triumphantly as she pulled the bag open. "What do you think?"
I looked. "Wow! That's really…nice."
"Isn't it?" She held the dress up against me, studying the effect. "Such a lovely shade of blue. It suits you, don't you think?"
"It's unusual." The dress was simple, with a wide collar and elbow length sleeves, a fitted waist, and a skirt that fell a few inches below the knees. It was an unusual style. "I don't think I've seen anything like this in stores. It looks sort of old fashioned."
"It is! I bought a dress with the right proportions, and did some renovations. You're looking at an Alice Cullen original."
I grinned, unable to resist her high spirits. "That would explain it."
"I incorporated early twentieth century design elements, for Edward's sake, although it was mostly made with you in mind. But does it work for you? As a wedding dress?"
I studied it more carefully. "Yes. I think it's just right. Thank you, Alice."
Her smile widened. "You're very welcome. Quick, try it on!"
"I want to pin it for alterations. It'll just take a minute!" she added, apparently to someone downstairs.
I quickly slipped out of my jeans and pulled the dress over my head. Alice placed pins faster than I could see, and I carefully removed it again. "There. The fit will be perfect." She led me back down the stairs.
"She likes it!" Alice fell gracefully into Jasper's lap. "And Edward's getting a new suit. You'll make a gorgeous couple."
"Do we need to have the dress ready this soon?" I asked as I took my place on the sofa beside Edward. "I thought the wedding wouldn't be until after we'd moved to New Hampshire." Where I was enrolled, through subterfuge or bribery, at Dartmouth University, along with Edward. The whole family was relocating there, supposedly to keep the Cullens together while the young ones attended college. That was to be the official story.
A few months ago, all this would have been a private conversation between Edward and me, which he would later discuss with his family. Now I accepted the way every Cullen's concerns were the concerns of the whole family, and could discuss personal matters with them as a group, without undue embarrassment. Even before the wedding made it official, I was a Cullen. It had been another big step for me.
"That remains to be seen," Alice said. "Edward had one or two other ideas."
I turned to look inquisitively at Edward. "Ideas?"
He nodded. "I was thinking that we should have it here, before we leave Forks."
"Oh! Why here?"
"So that we could include your parents, for one thing."
I was startled. "Include them? I wasn't even going to tell them!"
"I know, love, but why does it have to be kept a secret from them? I'd like to be able to marry you openly and without deceit, at least as far as we're able. I should approach your father, for example, and ask for your hand."
"Excuse me?" I said incredulously.
Emmett snickered. "You put your foot in it, brother."
"The only person who can give you my hand is the hand's owner! You don't need Charlie's permission to marry me; you only need mine, and I've already consented."
Edward just grinned. As usual, he found my anger charming rather than intimidating. "I don't mean it quite so literally."
"It's only a custom, Bella," Esme told me. "Or it used to be."
"I can see why it died out."
Edward laughed at my indignation. "Even in my day, your consent would be the only one that really mattered. But isn't it appropriate to at least ask for your father's blessing, and his approval?"
"You could have your parents at the wedding if you like," Esme said. "It might be nice for them to be able send you off, knowing you were married and happy."
"I understand, but I don't think they'd take it that way. People don't normally get married at eighteen nowadays, not unless there's something, er, wrong." An unplanned pregnancy, typically.
"It would mean a lot to me, to be able to do this properly," Edward said. "I know a certain amount of secrecy is unavoidable, but I would like your family to be aware that we're married."
I hesitated. I didn't like to refuse Edward something that was important to him. He so rarely asked me for anything. But I knew Charlie would freak if he found out.
Carlisle smiled at us. "Perhaps there is a way to present the news to your father, that will make him less anxious."
He laid out his plan, and I had to admit it sounded good. "Can we inform him then?" Edward asked eagerly. "As soon as possible?"
"I suppose so."
"What? Tonight?" I squeaked.
"We have very little time before we're expected to leave the state. It would be an affront to tell Charlie we're getting married mere days before the wedding. We have to give him a little advance notice."
"Yeah, I can see that." I took a deep breath. "Okay. Tonight."
"But first," Alice said, "we need to figure out the actual wedding. We don't even have a date set!"
"It will have to be soon," Rosalie pointed out, "if we're doing it before we leave Forks."
"Not a problem," Alice assured her.
"But are you absolutely sure you don't want a real wedding, Bella?" Rosalie asked.
"A real wedding? Isn't it going to be real?"
"You know what I mean. A white dress and veil, and flowers, and everything. You don't have to deny yourself, you know. The family's given Emmett and me five white weddings."
"So far," Emmett added.
"It's not like we can't afford it," Rosalie told me. "And your first wedding should be exactly the way you want it."
"But it is the way I want it. I'm not doing anything to deny myself."
"Rosalie's convinced you secretly want a lavish wedding, but are ashamed to say so openly," Jasper explained.
"What woman doesn't want a big wedding?" Rosalie countered.
"I don't. I asked Edward if we could keep it very small and simple. It was the only way I could feel comfortable with the whole thing."
"It's true," Edward confirmed.
Rosalie narrowed her eyes at me. "Would you even tell us if it wasn't?"
"Of course!" She still looked suspicious. "Look, why would I lie? Alice is dying to throw another big party and dress me up in fifty yards of white lace."
"Point de Neige lace," Alice said wistfully. "With a silk tulle chapel veil."
"I don't like to disappoint her, or any of you; but all that kind of thing just makes me uncomfortable. You're doing me a huge favour by keeping it small and not so...bridal."
Emmett laughed. "Maybe you should've run off to Las Vegas. You could be married by Elvis."
I laughed along with everyone. "No, that would be just as bad. I do take this seriously, you know. Being married is important to Edward, and after I thought about it for a while, it was important to me, too. Making a solemn promise…" I caught Edward's eye and broke off, embarrassed. "But the elaborate wedding stuff just feels like a distraction from what's really going on. Elvis would be just as much of a distraction." I looked around at them. "Do you understand what I mean?"
"Certainly we understand, dear," Esme said.
Rosalie seemed convinced. "Fine, then. I thought it might be Edward again, trying to make you fit the preconceived image." Edward looked at the ceiling. "But it's just Bella, being strange." She grinned at me.
I grinned back. "You mean strange in a good way, right?" She laughed.
One of the most surprising things about the past year was the way my friendship with Rosalie had developed. Once I had a handle on what was behind her frequently nasty attitude, her remarks didn't bother me any more. Like the rest of the family, I waited out her bad spells, sympathetic to her struggles with the life she'd found herself in. And something about the way I'd fought to be part of her family had earned her respect. Maybe because she could empathize with a woman who would do absolutely anything to get what she truly wanted from life - even if it wasn't something Rosalie would have wanted for herself.
Alice seemed to be scanning ahead. "Last Saturday in June?"
"Good weather?" Jasper asked.
"Perfect. Heavy cloud cover all day, but no rain. It can't be a sunny day, if Bella's family is coming."
"We'll have to provide food," Esme mused.
"Should I do something?" I asked.
"I doubt Alice would let you, dear. She loves event planning. But what do you think of the date? Edward?"
Edward nodded. "It's fine with me."
"Will it give you enough time?" I asked.
Alice brushed that away with a gesture. "Please!"
"Okay. I guess we have a date." I looked at Edward, who was smiling down at me.
"Then there's just one more thing that needs to be dealt with," he said.
I sighed. "Okay," I said, standing up resolutely. "Let's get this over with."
Edward and I headed out the front door and back to my truck, accompanied by Carlisle and Esme. The rest of the family followed us to the door, calling out words of supposed encouragement - mostly jokes about Charlie possibly resorting to firearms.
Carlisle and Esme followed us in the big, black Mercedes. "I feel like I've got a hit man on my tail," I said, glancing in the rear view mirror.
Edward chuckled. "I imagine a real hit man would know enough to drive a six year old mini-van. Carlisle's car would be too much of a stereotype."
"Is my wedding car a Mercedes, by any chance?"
"No. Nothing so banal."
I parked at the curb in front of Charlie's house, and Carlisle and Esme pulled in behind me. Charlie looked up in surprise when the four of us came through the front door. He turned off the television and stood up. "Hi, Doc. Mrs. Cullen."
"Please, call me Esme."
"Esme," he repeated uncomfortably. "Didn't know you were coming by." He looked at me questioningly, and I avoided his eyes.
"I hope we're not disturbing you," Carlisle said.
"No! Not at all."
"We wanted to have a word with you, if you don't mind."
Charlie frowned, picking up on the serious tone. "Sure. Come on into the living room. There's nothing wrong, is there? I mean, is this a police matter?"
Carlisle laughed. "Nothing of that kind, no."
We all found places, Edward and me side by side on the sofa, Esme beside Edward, Carlisle in the uncomfortable, straight backed chair no one ever sat in, and Charlie in his recliner. "Would you like coffee or anything? A beer, maybe?" He looked at Esme uncertainly.
She smiled at him, showing her dimples. "Nothing, thank you."
"Okay. So, what is it you wanted to talk to me about?"
Carlisle smiled at us. "I believe Edward and Bella have something to tell you first."
Charlie looked at me again. I realized I probably looked very nervous, and tried to calm myself. Edward squeezed my hand gently. "We have some news, Dad."
"Uh huh." He waited.
I cleared my throat. "We're…" I looked helplessly at Edward.
He pressed my hand again and gracefully took over. "I'm sorry I didn't speak to you about this first, Charlie; but I did want to inform you without delay. I've asked Bella to marry me; and she's agreed. I love her with all my heart; and amazingly, she loves me. I can promise you I'll do whatever I can to make her happy and keep her safe. I hope you can give us your blessing."
We all waited. The presence of Carlisle and Esme kept Charlie from giving way to any verbal excesses, but his expression told me he wasn't taking the news well. We sat and watched him change colour. At last he looked at me accusingly.
"I knew this would happen!" He glared at Edward. "You're pregnant!"
"What? No! Of course I'm not! God, Dad!"
He seemed to believe me. "Okay. Sorry."
"It's all right," I said stiffly.
"Then why? Why now, when you're barely out of high school? If you're not…then what's the rush?" He glared at Edward again.
The truth wasn't really an option. I need to get married before I can be turned into one of the Undead? Edward once again stepped up.
"Charlie, we're going away to college together soon. I want to do that…the right way. It's how I was raised. And I don't want to offer Bella anything less."
Good call, I thought. Charlie could hardly object. "But you're so young!" he protested. He turned to Carlisle and Esme. "Are you telling me you think this is a good idea?"
Carlisle leaned forward in his chair. "In all honesty, yes, we do."
"They are very young," Esme said, "but they're both unusually sensible and mature; and I've seldom seen a couple so devoted to each other."
Charlie glanced uneasily at the sofa, where Edward and I were still holding hands. "When people that age get married it…well, it almost never works out. You know that as well as I do."
"True; but Edward and Bella's situation will be a little different from the average young couple's."
"Well...I've informed the hospital, but it's not generally known: I'll be leaving my position here, and taking one in New Hampshire. Esme and I are moving, along with the entire family."
"You are?" Charlie looked at me, and I shrugged.
"Yes. Alice and Jasper will also be attending Dartmouth; and Rosalie and Emmett are enrolled in Franklin Pierce University. We want to keep the family close, and to be there for all of them if they need us."
"Okay." Charlie frowned.
"Also, Edward and Bella already have a house of their own in Hanover."
Charlie looked at Edward. "You do?"
Edward nodded calmly. "Yes. I purchased it with part of my inheritance. It's convenient to the Dartmouth campus."
"Edward probably hasn't mentioned it," Esme said, "but his biological parents were quite well off. His portion of their estate was managed for him until he turned eighteen."
"And he spent it on a house." Charlie nodded.
"A very small part of it," Carlisle corrected. "Not that Edward's wealth would be your primary concern, of course, but I thought you should know that Bella will always be well taken care of, materially. My wife and I have provided for Edward as well, in addition to his parents' legacy. We've been fortunate."
"I see." Charlie looked from Edward to me. "I didn't realize you had so much, uh, security."
"I saw no reason to bring it up," Edward said smoothly, "but I suppose it's relevant now. You may rest assured that I can provide for Bella without any difficulty." I rolled my eyes at the old fashioned statement, and he grinned.
"The reason I mentioned it," Carlisle went on, "is that lack of money is one of the things that can put stress on a young married couple. That is not the case here. They have a home, and a very comfortable income. They will not be completely on their own, either: our entire family will be nearby. If they require help or support, they will have us."
Esme added, "Naturally, you and Bella's mother will always be there for her; but you'll be separated from her once she moves away. I hope we can fill in whenever she and Edward need us. We all just adore Bella, and we'll be so very happy to welcome her into the family."
"Absolutely," Carlisle agreed.
"Under the circumstances," Esme said, "they will be able to start married life in a…a sort of protected environment, while they learn to cope with their new role. They can be like any carefree college students, and only gradually take on more adult responsibilities as they feel able. Although, to be honest, I think both of them are equal to the task."
"Yeah," Charlie said thoughtfully. "I see what you mean. It would be easier for them. But still…" He shook his head. "I knew this was coming. I just didn't think it would be so soon."
Edward caught his eye. "I realize this comes as a surprise, Charlie; but your approval is very important to both of us."
Charlie looked at Carlisle and Esme. "You say you'll be nearby?"
Esme smiled at him. "Always."
He screwed up his face. "Okay. You want my approval, you got it. I can't speak for your mother, though." He gave me a slightly sinister grin. "You'll have to break the news to her yourself."