A/N: And so we come to the epilogue.
Thank you, as ever, to Jen for her assistance and her continued encouragement and support.
And thank you to all the lovely readers out there who've reviewed so diligently through this one.
I'm going to miss this Edward, and of course Eddie as well.
The party at the Cullen house raged on until dawn the night of the wedding. The music was lowered after the newlyweds took their leave but the dancing continued on until sun made its appearance.
Garrett hung on the fringes of the group as it disbanded and watched the already established couples make their own farewells. They'd run off into the forest and return in dribs and drabs as the day progressed but he knew and understood why they were leaving.
He'd craved what he saw around him for so long. Centuries if he was honest with himself, and he thought that it might just possibly be time to admit that he did.
He wanted a mate. A lover at the very least. He wanted company and roots and a place to lay his head at night. He wanted someone to talk to and to share with.
He wanted what his son had.
He wanted what the Cullen's had.
"Are you staying on?" Carlisle asked with a clap to his back.
Garrett hadn't noticed Carlisle's approach and startled at the contact. "I've been asked to," he told Carlisle truthfully.
"I saw you run off with Edward," Carlisle said quietly. "He's a very nice man; he'd be a good friend for you."
"He's asked me to speak with you, if you have the time that is," Garrett hedged, suddenly nervous.
"Does it need to be now?" Carlisle asked thinking about all the guests he'd yet to catch up with.
"It does I'm afraid, I've given my word."
"Sounds important," Carlisle said. "Will it require privacy?"
Nodding just once Garrett motioned towards the forest and at Carlisle's nod of reply they took off back into the woods. They didn't go far, just far enough not to be overheard. Garrett wasted no time with vagaries this time and dived right in to the meat of the matter. "I sired Edward," he announced matter of factly. "I'd watched him for some time and was going to offer him the change when fate stepped in."
Surprised and more than a little shocked Carlisle stared at his long time friend, his mouth hanging open. "You?" he asked finally.
"Me," Garrett admitted. "His mother had already passed on, I assure you. But when I saw the boy laying there I..." he trailed off, unable to articulate his thought processes a second time.
"You took matters into your own hands," Carlisle sighed.
"I did. Right or wrong I did. He was wasting away in that house as he was. He's so smart and his mother was smothering him. I wanted a companion and I liked him. It's the only excuse I have. I liked the boy. He was so lonely and worked hard, he had so much potential and he was just the kind of person I was looking for to have as a friend."
"But you left him there in the throes of his change," Carlisle berated through gritted teeth. "He woke frightened and confused in the morgue!" he raged. "He'd have cut a swath through my hospital had I not worked out who and what he was in time!"
"But he didn't," Garrett countered calmly. "And I didn't abandon him. I stayed to keep watch the whole time through his transition. I left only for an hour or two to feed and when I came back he was gone. I left the area only once I knew for sure you'd found him."
"Why didn't you make it known to us what you'd done? Why not come to me and tell me? Why keep it from Edward himself?"
"Because I couldn't teach him to be anything other than what I am myself," Garrett said softly, so ashamed of the way he'd conducted his life up until that point.
Closing his eyes and doing his best to calm down Carlisle felt intensely protective of his newest son and he saw that bond slipping away now that his true sire had made himself known. The thought was a selfish one and Carlisle shook it off fast.
Thinking back on how hard Edward had fought his new nature Carlisle shook his head and began to chuckle at his own vanity and selfishness. "Do you know what I think?" he asked of his old friend who shook his head at the question, "I think nothing and nobody could've shaped Edward into anything he didn't want to be." Clapping Garrett on the shoulder Carlisle chuckled again. "That boy took his own life affairs into his own hands the instant he rose as one of us, old man. He didn't learn a damn thing from me. It was all Bella. Everything. She taught him to hunt and to accept what he was. She taught him to temper his aggression when he needed to and she showed him how to function inside a family and as a mate. Don't beat yourself up about your nature, Garrett. That boy would've found his own way no matter which of us took him in."
"Did you throw them together?" Garrett asked with a smirk.
"Possibly," Carlisle caged. "Worked out just fine," he laughed.
"Seems like it did," Garrett conceded. "He's asked me to stay on, to get to know him. Do you think I should?" Garrett asked out of the blue, making Carlisle balk.
"That depends on what you hope to get out of the relationship," Carlisle mused. "If you hope to draw him away from us to have as your sole companion I must tell you that you will find that impossible."
"No!" Garrett bellowed into the trees. "No, I'd never do that. He has a mate," he shouted, aghast at the suggestion. "He wants us to get to know one another, that's all, and I'm grateful that he does. I wouldn't ever try to ruin what he has here with you all. And that includes the bond he has with you as head of this coven. He's said that we are family, that he and Bella are my family now. He wants me to learn from him," he said softly and reverently.
Smirking and nodding proudly at the intelligence of his son Carlisle clapped Garrett on the back once more. "Well there you have it," he told his friend. "Get to know our son. Get to know his bride. Perhaps a concerted effort to curb your thirst might be something the two of you could focus on together. And who knows, perhaps family life might agree with you."
Garrett had thought the exact same thing but didn't give it a voice.
The music from the tent was still playing, and there were still couples dancing as Carlisle and Garrett slipped back in after their discussion. Thanking Carlisle for his time Garrett headed straight towards the group of women gossiping at the far end.
They'd rearranged the seating from the ceremony into a rough circular shape and were all facing inwards discussing the 'delectable' Edward Cullen. Clearing his throat as he approached made every one of the women stop speaking. Bowing lowly to the entire group Garrett introduced himself to the group as a whole and then specifically to the woman he'd been watching all evening.
"Would you care to dance?" he asked regally with another slight bow of his head.
After coming to her feet she positively purred her reply into his ear after leaning towards him and running her hand up and down his chest flirtatiously, "I'd love to. Oh, how proper you are, you naughty boy."
Gripping her hand and removing it from his chest he turned it, palm up, and then kissed the inside of her wrist. "Turn it down a notch or two, Blondie, you had me at the purrrrrr," he simpered in a perfect imitation of her voice.
Kate was appalled. She'd never been so insulted. To be called Blondie was downright offensive and to be mimicked so humiliatingly in front of her sisters was just...well it was just. As she thought on it she found that it was actually very exciting. She loved a forceful man. She especially loved one who had a sense of humour and who would stand up to her. She loathed weak men. And this one looked strong, very strong. She allowed the smirk to form on her lips slowly and watched the sparkle in his eyes glimmer as the smile grew. "Well then mister tall, dark and unshaven," she sneered, "are you too proper for a forest floor fuck on a first date?"
Not entirely shocked but highly aroused by her forwardness Garrett bowed again. Rising just enough to stare at her through his lashes he returned her grin. "I'll agree on one condition, Blondie," he sniggered. "If you wish to bed me you'll have to fight for it. I don't do bottoms so if you want to ride me you'll have to fight for the right."
Staring down at him and wondering why she'd never laid eyes on such a beautiful specimen before Kate raised her eyebrows at the name he continued to use for her and the impertinence of the man wishing to strike a deal with her for sex. It had never occurred in centuries. She was always the one to set the tone and to make any rules. But this, this she could get used to. It would certainly break the monotony of her existence to date.
Throwing her open mouthed sisters a wink she returned her gaze to Garrett but addressed the women, "I've been issued a challenge ladies. Don't wait up," she told them and nodded formally at the man who was still bent at the waist before her.
Sweeping his hand across his knees Garrett grinned wider, "Lead on, Blondie," he told her.
Heartstrings opened as planned the day after the wedding.
Lyra and Bella opened on time and were amazed at the influx of customers that were already lined up outside before the set down opening time. Edward, disappointed not to be able to attend himself, kept an open link via Skype the whole time and enjoyed watching his wife flit around and assist customers in between skipping back to the counter to have hushed conversations with him.
They took more in sales that first day of trade than the store had taken for the entire previous month. Immensely proud of himself, and of Bella, Edward accepted the praise of his family and employees as humbly as he could manage.
The store went from strength to strength after that first day and by the end of its first month after renovation it had a steady clientele and a list of backorders for music and books that would keep the old Eddie happily searching ancient catalogues for months to come.
The newest Mrs Cullen slid easily into her new roles. During the daylight hours she devoted half her time to the store and some of the rest to getting to know her mates sire. The trio spent an hour or so together almost every afternoon at the Masen house just 'hanging out' as Emmett liked to call it. The newlyweds asked thousands of questions about his early life and were both fascinated by the existence he'd led as a nomad. In return he asked them thousands of questions about modern America and modern technology.
It was disconcerting at first that the trio was joined so often by Kate but once the initial awkwardness wore off – and Kate came to understand better about what possessiveness for ones mate was truly about – she became if not a much loved, then at least a much liked member of the small family.
Over the months Garrett came to see for himself the quirkiness that had been Eddie Masen Junior in the new Edward Cullen. The teeth brushing gave him endless hours of hilarity as did his sons penchant for having things neat and tidy in his home. Garrett loved nothing more than to remove some random item and place it in a completely arbitrary position within the house. It drove Edward to distraction, which of course was the main draw for Garrett.
Leather bound books found their way into the unused dishwasher and keys found their way into the drawers in the bathroom. An alarm clock was found in one of his shoes and his boxer shorts were often flying like a flag from the front door knob. Garrett loved to scour the local thrift stores and bought up as many pairs of plain black framed glasses as he could find.
Almost every morning for weeks on end Edward could be heard cursing his sire as he slid yet another random pair of prescription glasses onto his nose. He always found his own glasses on top of the mantle in the living room, but he always panicked just a little whenever his vision was blurry before he realised he'd been duped once again.
But Garrett's most favoured of all pranks completely revolved around Edward's piano.
Many an afternoon Bella spent watching the two men wrestling in the backyard because Garrett had switched the wires on a half dozen keys. He'd erased random notes on Edward's sheet music and then sat back and laughed his head off as Edward attempted to play it. He'd slid torn pieces of cardboard under one end of the piano itself so that Edward had to play at an angle and he'd used pillows stuffed into the body of it to produce a truly awful muffled sound too.
Just when Edward hoped that there could be nothing more that his sire could do to his beloved upright he'd surprise them all with something else and the fight would be on again.
Loving to run as much as the mated pair did the trio spent hours exploring the forest that surrounded Forks and even further afield. Edward was still the fastest and it pleased him no end that it frustrated the hell out of Garrett that he couldn't be caught.
They hunted as a trio too, and as a foursome when Kate was in attendance, and they all did everything they could to help Garrett conquer his craving for the human blood he'd consumed for more than two centuries. He hadn't slipped once since taking up permanent residence on the third floor of the Cullen house, but he had come close once or twice in the months since the wedding. Edward and Bella were always there to talk him down and he appreciated it greatly.
Edward still fainted on the hunt now and then. He'd warned his sire but Garrett had still panicked the first time he'd seen it happen for himself. Edward had felt bad for the anguish he'd caused after he'd come around but Bella had seen their bond grow tighter since that first time.
Edward on the other hand went from strength to strength and by the time he'd been a married man for a mere four months he was able to meet with his staff for the first time without fear of hurting them. He was able to move amongst humans without issue and he was proud that he'd not had any inclination to 'slip' since the night at Jacob's house.
Early every evening, without fail, a gathering was had at the Cullen house. Edward and Bella would attend at sundown and the others would come downstairs and into the living room too. Some nights they were quiet and simply read or listened to music as a group. Some nights they watched a movie and some nights they played board games. But anyone who wished to have a leave pass from the gatherings needed a very, very good reason. By the end of Edward's first year as a vampire nobody had been granted such a pass.
At eleven each evening, like clockwork, the social part of the evening was deemed over and each pair made their way to their own suites. If Kate was visiting she joined Garrett in Edward's old room high up in the house and if she wasn't Garrett did as Bella had done for so many years and tried to lose himself in very, very loud music played through modern ear bud headphones.
Edward and Bella would run to their own home and lose themselves in one another's bodies. The sting of electricity when they touched was still there, even a year on from the Declaration of Dependence and both of them hoped it always would be.
When Garrett and Kate announced their engagement at Edward and Bella's second anniversary celebrations Alice and Esme planned and hosted another simple ceremony on the lawn at the Cullen house.
Bella and Edward were once again separated for hours during the daytime to help with the preparations. For three days they hardly saw one another as each of them was dragged away by either the bride or the groom to attend to their various duties. Edward was standing up for Garrett and Bella was standing in at rehearsals and fittings for Tanya, who had drawn the short straw and was remaining behind in Alaska until the very last moment to man the sisters various businesses.
A larger group gathered this time as all of Kate and Garrett's friends and acquaintances came to wish them well for their happy day. When Jasper as the master of ceremonies announced that the newlyweds would be taking the floor for their first dance as husband and wife it was Bella who insisted that Edward run with her into the forest this time.
Hoping he was about to make up for the lost time with his mate he ran with a smile on his face and whistled over his shoulder as he twisted and turned his way through the trees. It wasn't often that they got the chance to run as just the two of them and Edward was determined to enjoy it. So it was disappointing when Bella whistled for him to stop so soon into the run.
Finding her by a large rock when he doubled back he figured they were far enough away from the house to not be heard so he attempted to pounce on her delectable body the instant he got to within a few feet of her.
Bella allowed him to kiss her just once and then shoved him away. "I need to tell you something," she said softly to a startled Edward.
The way she'd said it made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. Licking his lips to get rid of his anticipatory venom he eyed her carefully. He sniffed as subtly as he could but smelled nothing untoward. She carried only his scent and those of the other guests gathered. Her eyes were as topaz as they'd always been and she looked no different to him than she always had. "Alright," he said eventually and settled his backside against the rock she'd paused beside.
Mimicking his pacing almost exactly Edward began to worry as he watched her normally serene features twist while she thought what to say. She couldn't quite meet his eyes as she began and his fear made him shake even before she spoke.
"I went to Port Angeles yesterday to collect Kate's wedding gift for Garrett," she said flatly. He'd known she'd gone there and what for so said nothing in reply. "It was a painting," she said matter of factly though Edward could care less what she'd collected by this point. "The Port Angeles Fine Art Centre is on East Lauridsen Boulevard and next-door is the Crestwood Convalescent Centre."
"Alright," Edward said, confused.
"There were two nurses eating lunch under the trees at the Art Centre when I came out," she sighed before running a hand through her hair just as he did himself when under stress.
"Please, Bella, just tell me what this is about. You're scaring me," he begged.
Biting her bottom lip for a second Bella eventually nodded and continued. "They were talking about Jacob Black and what a waste of a life he was. One of them was saying she had to bathe him every day, Edward. The other one had to spoon feed him three times a day," she all but sobbed. "He's never moved an inch since that night. He's never uttered a sound and he's totally dependent," she said with fire in her eyes.
"I told you what we'd done," Edward told her sadly. "You knew that's what we'd done to him."
"I know," she growled and waved her hand at him. For what reason Edward couldn't fathom. "I went back, last night, while everyone was here for the hen night. I snuck in through a service entrance and waited until the nurses had turned the lights out for the night and then I killed him."
"But your eyes..." Edward began but Bella held up her hand to get him to stop and he did.
"I didn't drink from him," she barked. "I couldn't have. He was evil, Edward. I didn't want any part of him inside of me," she shuddered as she said it and so did Edward at the thought. "I smothered him," she admitted. "I told him who I was and that I was married to you. I told him that he'd been a drain on other people for long enough and that I was going to kill him to put him out of their misery, not his. I smothered him with his own pillow."
"Alright," Edward sighed when she'd finished. "Thank you for telling me."
"That's it?" she railed. "That's all you've got to say on it?"
"No, that's not all I've got to say on it," he told her as he came to his feet from his perch on the rock. Taking her into his arms he held her for a moment and then pulled back so that he could look her in the eye. "Thank you," he told her sincerely and then kissed her, hard.
This time when they made their way back into the tent Bella's dress was torn at the hem and Edward had lost two of the buttons from his dress shirt. Bella had twigs in her hair and Edward wore a grin so wide for the rest of the evening that nobody dared hang shit on them for their very obvious romp in the woods.
They'd missed their own first dance as husband and wife because Edward had needed to confess his sins to his mate. They'd missed his sire's first dance as a married man while Bella confessed her sins to her husband.
Bowing low at the waist as Garrett had taught him Edward stared up at his wife through his copper tinged lashes. "May I have this dance?" he asked, holding his hand out for her.
"I'd be honoured," Bella told him, smiling just as widely as he was.
This time the party lasted for two whole days.
A/N: I will be posting a little something in the next day or so that relates to this story, though quite vaguely.
The delectable Garrett has struck a chord with many readers and I was asked to twist a little tale built specifically around Edward and his sire.
I won't say any more than that here, a full explanation (and a warning for those of a sensitive nature) will be added as a foreword, so keep an eye out for it if you like that sort of thing.
If you don't just know that it's very, very naughty.
Thank you all, again, for reading.
Love and best wishes to you and yours,
Please review and get this sucker to its 1000 :)