A/N: that's it, everyone, the ending of another piece. Thanks so much for those of you who read or reviewed (or both), it means a lot. Leave me one final review if you like the epilogue :)
Hours later, at the safety (and privacy) of my bedroom, it was still difficult to believe it had happened. I didn't take my eyes off Edward from the moment he had slipped through my window. I couldn't stop touching his cheeks, his hair, a random crease on his shirt… and yet, it was still hard to conceive Charlie had chosen him. I tried to keep away the thought of Jacob's defeated expression. He would come around eventually, get over it. I knew he would; I wasn't worried about him. It was something else that bothered me while lying safely in Edward's arms.
"What would you have done, if…"
My voice trailed. It was painful to even utter the question. I lifted my eyes to his, letting the question linger in my stare as it met his. He nodded as if he understood. His arms tightened around me ever so slightly. "I rather not think about it, if you don't mind."
"Fine by me," I muttered, cuddling against him. He began to gently run his hands up and down my back. There was something very soothing and addictive about it. I closed my eyes, giving in to sensation completely, only to open them a moment later when his words pierced the silence in the room.
"I just wonder if it was all worth it."
The motion of his hands stopped, as though he could suddenly feel how tense I'd become. I pulled back so I could look at him. He looked as somber as his statement. He continued before I could even question it.
"In just a few weeks, your father will lose you, and once again, I'll be the one to blame."
Every word stung. I remembered what he had told Charlie at the restaurant earlier. By changing me into a vampire, he would break the trust Charlie had in him, which was fragile to begin with. But the decision had already been made. Every choice had its consequences, and I had chosen not to live without him. "There's no other way."
"Yes, there is." He reached out and swept my hair back. "Eighteen or nineteen or twenty; what difference does it make?"
"You're not allowed to even ask this; you're seventeen."
"Only on the outside."
"And isn't that enough? You'll still look like this when my skin wrinkles and my hair goes grey."
"You're so vain," he said, but not in a way that sounded like an insult. He laughed softly, but his eyes remained serious, boring into mine. "There's so much worth staying human for."
It felt like we'd been going in circles. We'd had this conversation countless times before; I felt like rolling my eyes whenever he had said something like that to me. Now I remembered something he told me just the other night. Humorme. And so I did. "Really? Like what?"
"College is one thing," he reminded me, and now I couldn't help it. I rolled my eyes. I should have known it wouldn't be long before he was back to this argument. "You can laugh, but it is an important milestone in a human's life."
"Like prom was?"
"Yes. You may be too young and inexperienced to see it now, but one day when you're a vampire…"
"Vampires go to proms too. And study in college, for that matter."
"Yes, but it isn't the same. And there's also your father," he continued, as though to stop me from protesting further against his apparent college campaign. "He loves you more than you know."
My heart twitched. I didn't need to be reminded of it. It made me feel like an ungrateful daughter which, in a way, I guess I was. "I'm not like Jacob. I can't stay here for the rest of my life tending him."
"Of course not. No one expects you to do that. But you can't just take yourself out of his life so abruptly. Not when you know how it feels."
He pinned me with a significant look, and for a moment, the hole in my chest was back, pulsing and real and excruciating. I knew he was right. I couldn't do that to Charlie, not after what he had just done for me, for us, this evening. But how could I possibly wait another year, or two, or a decade when I already knew I belonged by Edward's side?
He took my hand in his and gently kissed each finger. "Eighteen or nineteen or twenty; it makes no difference to me."
"This is so unfair," I whispered, feeling myself giving in without saying so specifically.
"You don't have to decide right away. This is just something for you to consider before you rush into something you're not quite ready for."
The words just lingered there for a moment, resonating in the silence between us. They caught me off guard, but why would they? This was what I wanted. I was ready… or was I? Because had I really truly considered the consequences of choosing immortality over my human life? Carlisle, Esme, Emmett, Alice… none of them had the privilege of choice; immortality had been forced on them when they had been the most vulnerable. Was I taking this whole matter a little too lightly just because I had a choice? And what was my choice, really?
His long fingers fluttered against my cheek. I opened my eyes, wondering when I'd shut them. There was this glimmer in his eyes. He shook his head as though he could sense my sudden distress. "Not tonight," he murmured. His thumb brushed against the corner of my eye. I was horrified to realize I was crying. "We'll work out everything else tomorrow, or the next day, whenever. Let's keep tonight about you and me. Alright?"
"Alright," I whispered, unable to say much else.
"Let's just speak about something else," he suggested lightly, in a tone that was almost businesslike, the one he would normally use when he wanted to distract me. But instead of pointing it out and teasing him about it, I suddenly remembered something else he said last night, a promise he made to me. I shook my head no. "You don't want to speak about something else?"
I shook my head again. My face was all warm; I knew it meant I was blushing. I dropped my gaze, but I could feel his eyes on me anyway.
"Are you tired? Do you want me to sing you to sleep?" He asked lightly, if not a little hesitantly, and I recognized uncertainty and frustration in his voice, probably for not being able to read me as well as others.
Thinking he might need a little hint, I smiled and shifted a little so I could wrap my arms around his neck. "I don't want to speak about anything at all."
"Oh, I see," he murmured. For one dreadful moment I thought he would reject me with another excuse about me not needing to exert myself, but not a second later his lips came crushing against mine with the same enthusiasm, the same need as my own.
"You have promised," I pointed out breathlessly when his lips wandered down my throat. I threw my head back to give him better access.
"I have, haven't I?" He asked me, and his cool breath trailed the line of heat that formed on my skin wherever his lips touched. It made me dizzy.
"That's already too much talking," I told him, hissing when I felt his cool fingers against my stomach. This wasn't something he'd usually allow. I thought it better not to question it. The tiniest motion on my side, even one of surprise, might stop him. So instead I pulled him closer, one hand fisted in his hair, the other around the front of his tee shirt.
I should have known, though, my victory would be short lived. About after a minute of heated kisses and hesitant explorations, on his side as well as on mine, he suddenly pulled away from me. "I can't do this," he said hoarsely, and there was real panic in his eyes.
"What are you talking about? Of course you can!" But I could sense it now, as he sat up and ran a hand through his already tousled hair. The moment was gone. I sat up as well, trying not to look too dismayed, focusing on getting my ragged breathing under control. "Is this about what's best for me again? Because I'll tell you what's definitely not good for me, Edward, impatience," I hissed.
It actually made him laugh. Hmm. Not quite the reaction I was after. "Well yes, there's that, but I was more concerned about Charlie being in the other room."
"Are you kidding me? You're... scared of Charlie?"
"No, not scared, just... It just doesn't feel very... private... with him across the hallway, don't you think?" He reached out and tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. The feather touch of the tips of his fingers made me shiver as reality slowly crept back in. Suddenly the room wasn't so warm anymore.
"So I was right," I whispered. "You were giving me false hopes again."
I looked away from him, hoping he couldn't detect the tremble in my voice, but of course he did. His finger came beneath my chin, lifting my eyes to meet his. "Don't you know yet? I will never deny you anything."
"Except for immortality," I grumbled. "And except for..."
But I couldn't finish my rant. In mil second, he took me in his arms. His kissed knocked the breath out of me. It caught me too off guard to be able to respond and kiss him back, and by the time I did, he pulled away and looked at me seriously.
"Just in case it wasn't clear," he said a little breathlessly; it was nice to see the kiss had similar effect on him. I still felt like I was going to pass out. "It isn't that I don't want... that. As I've told you before, I may not be human, but I'm still a man, and you're too desirable for your own good. But not like this. You deserve so much more than this. If we are doing this, when we are doing this, I'm going to do this right."
He kissed me again, softly and sweetly, and I'd become too lost in the kiss to even wrap my mind around what he had just told me, about the meaning of it – did he just promise we would…
"And as for immortality, I will give it to you, if you wish. Reluctantly, I admit, but if this is what you want, it's yours. And so am I."
"Do you promise?"
"Isabella Swan," he murmured, his lips suddenly right next to my ear. "I'm all yours, for as long as you would want me."
"Even for forever?" I taunted him.
"Especially for forever," he replied, flashing a crooked grin at me. "Now, if I'm not mistaken, there was only one way to seal deals in your book, wasn't there?"
I smiled, and nodded, and leaned my face against his palm when he reached over to cup my cheek. And as the night went on, it was about him and me, just as he had asked of me, just as was supposed to be, and would be, for all eternity.